March 10, 2011

MRQE Rewind: Aliens Invade America!

Coming out this weekend are two sci-fi, extraterrestrial flicks: Battle: Los Angeles and Mars Needs Moms. The first is a documentation of UFO sightings across the world and the battle that soon ensues in Los Angeles. The latter is an animated flick about a young boy whose mother is taken by Martians, who must then do everything in his power to get her back. Aliens invading, humans running, rescue missons: it's a story we have seen before, though we are never bored watching. For the last sixty years Hollywood has been attempting to define what it may be like if aliens were to invade America, and often the United States is the backdrop to these films. So, strap in and follow us in our cinematic road-trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic of how aliens have invaded America!


Northern California: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) - MRQE Metric: 92
We start our road-trip in Northern California, the setting for E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, one of the most classic films of all time, as well as, one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest works. Spielberg first developed the idea for this film in 1960 after his parent’s divorce when he aspired to have a friend like E.T. This film was produced on a $10 million budget, yet grossed almost $800 million – not bad sales for a film that’s out of this world.

San Fransisco: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - MRQE Metric: 83
Next stop: San Fransisco, the setting for '78's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the remake of the classic flick from 1956. It is based on clones that literally take over human’s identities one by one. These clones are emotionless and highly aggressive – they are thirsty of the human body and that is all they want. Plus, who can forget Donald Sutharland's crazed stare?

Los Angeles: They Live (1988) - MRQE Metric: 63
Taking a quick stop in Los Angeles, is the 1988 flick They Live written and directed by John Carpenter. This film could fall under many categories, anything from dark comedy, to sci-fi, or to fiction horror, as the main characters are actually aliens, playing humans. The aliens manage to broadcast subliminal messages to the mass media. A very eerie storyline, it makes one question, how do we know our news anchors are not aliens?

San Fernando Valley: Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) - MRQE Metric: N/A
Off to the Valley with classic B-flick Plan 9 from Outer Space, as extraterrestrials attempt to save the universe from humans producing a doomsday weapon in the only way Ed Wood can tell.


Area 51: Independence Day (1959) - MRQE Metric: 65
While Independence Day took place across the U.S., it was at Area 51 where the spacecraft stopped, and where the Army takes its final action. The 1996 Dean Devlin production, which became a blockbuster smash grossing over $817 million, also put Will Smith on the map as a true Hollywood actor and lined him up for future July 4th releases, known as “Willie Weekend.” And although this flick takes place all over the USA, it wouldn't have mattered if Area 51 did not exist.

Glen Canyon: Evolution (2001) - MRQE Metric: 55
After this we go to the 2001 film, Evolution, set in Glen Canyon, Arizona. When a meteor crashes into the canyon, a team of students with a college professor and a geologist begin discovering what happened to this meteor and how it goes here. Though, they are yet to discover that this meteor has life – extraterrestrial life - living inside!


Las Vegas: Mars Attacks! (1996) - MRQE Metric: 61
On to the City of Sin! Mars Attacks! is one of those classic Tim Burton films which shows his wit and talent, even if few people "got it." Produced in 1996, this was Burton's take on an Ed Wood film, and its packed with A-list stars from Jack Nicholson to Pierce Brosnan to Glenn Close and Sarah Jessica Parker. In a main backdrop of the Luxor Las Vegas hotel, Jack Nicholson’s character Art Land is a real estate developer in the middle of the madness; from Vegas he needs to call the shots and is the middle man for negotiations. A battle soon ensues in Vegas, and the city is all but leveled, but not before they were able to get singer Tom Jones out of there!


Devil's Tower National Monument: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) - MRQE Metric: 87
Next is the legendary film Close Encounters of the Third Kind directed by Steven Spielberg. Clearly a strong director and writer in the sci-fi genre, this flick follows a blue collar worker who encounters a UFO and his life is changed. The story points to Devils Tower National Monument--a 1,267 ft. mount in the middle of Wyoming--the site is where the alien UFO lands and where the government begins to communicate with the aliens through light and sound. On only a $20 million budget, this film made $303 million and was nominated for numerous awards including the Academy Awards, the British Academy Film Awards, and the Golden Globe Awards.


Snowfield: Phantoms (1998) - MRQE Metric: 43
You may want to bundle up for our next stop, though the Martians won't mind because they can't feel cold. Taking place in Snowfield, Colorado, Phantoms, the 1998 Ben Affleck film, is a both a horror and sci-fi film. It is about a small, peaceful town that has been wiped out completely; people do not know what or who is killing everything. Though eventually as Affleck’s character, Sheriff Bryce Hammond begins to investigate this mysterious situation more and more people continue to die. Not necessarily about aliens, but about creatures as a whole, this flick will make the hairs on the back of your neck raise!


The Invasion (2007) - MRQE Metric: 44
We're approaching Texas, watch out! This is where the first martian debris was discovered in the 2007 flick The Invasion, starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. About aliens crashing back down to Earth, this film is just as toxic to your brain as the chemicals the aliens are spreading. A film that ultimately flopped in the box office, The Invasion does successfully embody the fact that when a mysterious epidemic occurs, the only place you may be able to look is to extraterrestrial creatures.


Critters (1986) - MRQE Metric: N/A
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” was far from the mind of the aliens that took over a small town in Kansas in the 1986 cult sci-fi flick Critters. The first of four, this film is about small creatures from outer space wreaking terror on a family in a rural town in Texas. Quite similar to the film Gremlins, writer Stephen Herek argues this script was written far before that of Joe Dante’s 1984 classic.


Chicago: Target Earth (1954) - MRQE Metric: N/A
Moving on, we're headed to the hotspot for alien invasions - the good 'ol Mid-west. Starting in Chicago, the 1954 film Target Earth focuses on robots from Venus that attack Chicago to only leave a few humans are left to survive. The film stars Richard Denning and Kathleen Crowley and was originally based off the 1953 short story “Deadly City” written by Paul W. Fairman.


Herrington High School: The Faculty (1998) - MRQE Metric: 58
Continuing through the great Mid-west is the 1998 Robert Rodriquez flick, The Faculty. The student body at this school is taken over by aliens who inject parasitic organisms into the student's ears - weird. Eventually this parasite takes over the human body. Though, the smart little scholars they are - the students discover that the faculty is doing this to them and that they are the aliens! It is a case of ultimate betrayal.


Bensalem Township: Signs (2002) - MRQE Metric: 69
Now pulling up to a small Pennsylvania farm, Signs, the 2002 Mel Gibson flick, is all about crop circles and suspicious activity. It is one of those sci-fi films that has such a suspenseful beginning but as the film trails on, the result of the climax becomes more and more contrived. The suspense of whom or what is doing it all comes crashing down when produced/director M. Night Shyamalan shows multiple clips of the alien figures and drains the imagination from the audience of "What could be doing this?"


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - MRQE Metric: 81
On to the nation's capital, right where aliens landed, next to the White House. These aliens, in particular their leader Klaatu, played by Michael Rennie, come to speak with the most powerful heads of nations. Though, due to the world's political stance this meeting is not an option, so Klaatu at 12 o'clock puts the world on an electrical hold until someone will listen to him. I guess aliens know too, actions speak louder than words.


Bayonne: War of the Worlds (2005) - MRQE Metric: 73
We head to Bayonne, just over the Hudson, close to Manhattan, where a small family from New Jersey is seen with a big problem when aliens begin to attack. Starring Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, this 2005 film brought much critic acclaim for Steven Spielberg’s again success at making a blockbuster smash, which grossed almost $600 million. This film is successfully suspenseful, well produced, naturalistic, and quite enchanting in a terrorizing kind of way.


Manhattan: Cloverfield (2008) - MRQE Metric: 71
We end our tour in New York, the city that never sleeps, and neither do the aliens that invade it. We first find ourselves in Manhattan's TriBeCa with Cloverfield. Produced by J. J. Abrams, this flick, told in the first-person, follows a group of 2o-somethings as they try to head uptown to evade a monster taking over Manhattan. From Central Park to the Statue of Liberty, the city is terrorized, and no place is safe. Through strong visual effects and detailed editing Cloverfield was a blockbuster smash!

Queens: Men in Black (1997) - MRQE Metric: 74
And, we finally turn the engine off in Queens, with Men in Black and its momentous ending in Flushing Meadows Park that answers the question as to what those strange towers are in the first place. Not only is the film one of those blockbuster sci-fi flicks anyone can enjoy, it is a truly a bench-mark in alien invasion films. Here the main character Agent J (Will Smith), and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), are not trying to erase the alien race, they are playing the role of policemen and so-called federal agents, who protect the Earth from alien scum, and harass UFO witnesses to be quiet about what they have seen.

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