Video Event of the Week: Is it Fox's Blu-ray version of the Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway slasher flick chick comedy Bride Wars? Could the Severin Films DVD edition of Patrice Leconte's 1990 romantic fantasy The Hairdresser's Husband possibly make the cut? Or against all the odds, could Paramount's new Blu-ray set of the first season of the original Star Trek -- with both the original broadcast episodes and the new versions with enhanced CGI effects -- possibly be The One?
All worthy, to be sure, and in the case of Star Trek, more than obviously relevant, because for my money, the winner has to be Paramount's expanded 10th anniversary reissue of the ultimate Star Trek parody/homage -- the incomparable Galaxy Quest, with Tim Allen, Alan Rickman and a majestically Wonderbra'd Sigourney Weaver!
In case you don't know the premise, GQ is about a bunch of washed-up actors whose moment of glory came years earlier on a TV space opera suspiciously like the original Trek. When the movie opens, we find them, sniping at each other and filled with self-pity, reduced to doing conventions and shopping mall openings, but then a bunch of real aliens -- who've mistaken them for genuine intergalactic heroes-- beam them onto their real starship, where they have to face a real giant insect villain with a Death Star who's out to kill them and basically conquer the universe.
Here's the trailer to give you an idea of the what a pitch perfect and affectionate insider's take-off the whole thing is.
Basically, everything about this one works, starting with the special effects. More to the point, the cast is brilliant -- Rickman, as the Shakesperean actor who hates his Mr. Spock-ish character, has never been funnier and Sam Rockwell (as the wonderfully monikered Guy Fleegman, a glorified extra who appeared in a small part in just one episode of the show within the movie and is thus convinced he's expendable in real life) comes damn near close to stealing it from canny pros like Allen and Weaver. And don't even get me started on Tony Shalhoub as the zoned out has-been who plays the ship's engineer; the look on his face when he goes into a clinch with an adorable alien babe and her tentacles suddenly come out is worth the price of admission all by itself. Most important, however, the script is clearly the work of folks who genuinely love the charming fatuousness (in Clive James' apt phrase) of the real Trek; at the end, when good triumphs over evil and the intrepid crew of the NSEA Protector defeats the alien bad guys AND resuscitates their TV careers, even non-Trekkies are guaranteed to get a lump in their throat.
Paramount's new anniversary edition begins with a flawless new transfer (and yes, you have the option of watching the entire film dubbed in Thermian, the language of the good guy aliens, which is really a hoot). There are also all sorts of neat bells and whistles, including a couple of above-average making-of documentaries (the one on the special effects is especially interesting), deleted scenes, and a rap -- yes, a rap -- by Weaver that, as they say, has to be seen and heard to be believed.
Bottom line: An exemplary presentation of one of the best American comedies of the last decade -- you can (and definitely should) pre-order it here.
Okay, that said, and because things will be relatively quiet around here till Monday, here's an obviously relevant little project for us all:
Best Alien Being(s) From Outer Space in a Theatrical or Made-For-TV Feature!!!
And my totally top of my head Top Five is:
5. The Brain From Planet Arous (Nathan Juran, 1957)
A large floating beachball with eyes -- what's not to love? Incidentally, when this was broadcast on the old Million Dollar Movie on a local station in New York on August 27 1964, it actually pulled higher ratings than the three major networks -- who were airing the Democratic National Convention -- combined.
4. The Man From Planet X (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1951)
Another six-day wonder from the incomparable Ulmer, AKA the Poet of Poverty Row, this was shot on sets for the 1948 Ingrid Bergman film Joan of Arc. The impassive white-faced titular alien is one of the eeriest in 50s sci-fi.
3. The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby, 1951)
That's a pre-Gunsmoke James Arness as the creature, who incidentally inspires perhaps the greatest single piece of dialogue in sci-fi history: "An intellectual carrot...the mind boggles."
2. The Crawling Eye (Quentin Lawrence, 1958)
The title may be depressingly literal, which is to say the alien in this case is in fact a giant eye (from outer space) that crawls around the top of a mountain in Switzerland (menacing Forrest Tucker). The film itself, however, is a very effective mostly power-of-suggestion B-horror, and the lovely Janet Munro is one of the most fetching genre ingenues of all time. There's a Mystery Science Theater version, of course, which is very funny, but I confess to preferring the original.
And the coolest ET of them all, and that includes the one who phones home in that overrated Spielberg claptrap, obviously is...
1. Project ALF (Dick Lowry, 1996)
That's ALF, as in Alien Life Form, as in Mr. Gordon Shumway of the planet Melmac, as in the hit TV sitcom. Project ALF makes the list because ALF is just generally funny, but in particular for one of the great pop culture jokes of all time (as you'll see in the clip above).
ALF (at a pay phone): Murph, is that you?
Murph (on the other end): ALF...where are you?
ALF (looking around): I'm standing on a corner somewhere in Arizona -- not a fine sight to see. Hold it, there's someone slowing down to take a look at me.
Murph: Yeah, right -- a girl in a flatbed Ford, huh?
ALF (amazed): How did you know?
Awrighty now -- what would your choices be?