Movie Reviews 46

The Invasion (2007)
The Body Snatcher (Jack Finney, 1955) is more than just a great science fiction novel. The concept alone is the epitome of what we know as classic science fiction and how genre stories are more a reflection on man that any Buck Rogers future. Written at the height of the McCarthy era communist witch hunt of the 50’s, it perfectly captured the consequences of mob mentality and either being part of, or on the outside of greater whole. The principle is simple enough: Aliens have landed and are taking over humans. The humans are replaced by exact duplicates when they go to sleep as a nearby pod germinates and grows overnight to be their doppelgangers while at the same time disposing of the original bodies. The definitive version was filmed as Invasion of the Body Snatchers in 1956 with Kevin McCarthy in his most recognizable role. I longed for a chance to watch a screening of the original movie as a kid without any luck but was lucky enough to see the first remake in 1978 in the theaters. Not only was I was able to see that movie right away but I could then also easily pick up the novel which was being reprinted at the time to promote the remake. Shortly after that I finally did see the original and could easily see why it was not only a great movie but an important story in the annals of SF. A third movie, “Body Snatchers” in 1993 did not fare as well as it predecessors or it’s written source. It was that failed attempt along Hollywood’s persistent tendency to dilute good material by spitting out endless remakes until the well has run dry, that kept me away from The Invasion, this latest remake of the story. Despite star Nicole Kidman, I actually dreaded even the thought of seeing one more remake of this story. So it was with a lot of reluctance that I braced myself and finally watched it. To my surprise and delight I found that it was actually not that bad. I could even embrace the fact that there were no pods at all this time around. The tension and suspicion and crux of the story are all still there, only in a contemporary setting. Kidman does an admirable job and there are plenty of scares as well. It a pretty good movie and I’m sorry I put it off for so long. So long In fact that we’re probably due for another remake.

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
Stephen Chow is my hero-du-jour although I’m a bit late coming to the Kung Fu Hustle party. He’s the auteur (director, writer, and actor) that put together this mini-masterpiece. It’s a lavish 1930’s period piece pitting the dominant Shanghai gangster mob,The Axe Gang, against the inhabitants of a shanty housing project that refuses to give in to the ‘protection’ money demands of the new mob leader. His minions are turfed on their butts when they come knocking at the towns doors. It’s a martial arts tour-de-force that not only has great fighting sequences but is a outrageous comedy with a minor love story thrown in for good measure. As the mobsters send in a series of strike teams they soon learn that the townsfolk have a few elderly fighting phenoms in their midst. At the same time, two lowly street dwellers who impersonate Axe Gang members try to ply their antics on the same housing project. They fail miserably but end up impressing the Axe Gang leader who them officially lets them join the gang. Ultimately the pair must decide if they are indeed criminals at heart or something better. Most of the comedy is provided by the elderly kung fu trio, especially the wife of the landlord who walks around the tenement in a nightgown wearing curlers and smoking incessantly as she badgers her husband (who is also a kung fu master in his own right). This movie must be seen to be believed as it has so many strange elements, but in the end they all work together perfectly.

Pin (1988)
Pin has been on my mind for over 25 years. I distinctly remember hearing about it on the news when it was first released in theaters as it was made locally in the Montreal area. But I never did get to see it and for some reason always imagined it to be some sort of ghost or creature horror story. I recalled the movie poster of someone sitting in wheelchair at the top of a staircase which certainly presented and aura of gothic darkness. But after watching only a few minutes and meeting “Pin” I was no longer sure what was in store for me. You see, Pin is a full size translucent anatomically correct medical model that sits in a doctors office. You can see his muscle and organ body structure through a layer of see-through plastic. But the creep factor sets in when the doctor has his two young kids, Leon and Ursula come into the office and converse with Pin as if he were alive while the doctor clearly simply throws his voice like a ventriloquist to “talk” with the children. The topics for discussion that Pin has with the children furthers the notion that this is one messed up family. But there is a major disconnect as the kids grow older as Ursula has long ago clued into the fact that Pin is only a inanimate object, but Leon has somehow held onto the belief that Pin is in fact alive. When his parents who’ve tried to undo the damage by keeping Pin away from Leon finally die, Leon fully succumbs to the notion that Pin is like everyone else and makes sure that those around him accept Pin as real. Unfortunately this leads to some dire consequences to those that refuse. This is a psychological horror of the highest order and you’ve gotta be a pretty messed up viewer to buy into the notion. But if you can, you’ll be spooked because of the very outlandishness this movie serves.

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