Most of the time it hasn't been much of a question, as it's pretty much taken for granted that we have no right to be arrogant enough to assume we're the only ones around. The questions are, why haven't they made contact and who is trying to cover up their existence? At least, these are the questions if your name is ''Spooky'' Mulder.
The X-Files, the movie that is, is sort of an extended, special edition episode of the TV-series with the same name. All our favorite characters are present. At least, I think they are. OK, I admit it: I fell asleep during this one. After 45 minutes of David Duchovny walking around looking sullen and moody, moving backwards into shadows and generally behaving like a schoolboy who's had his sweets stolen by beefier lads, I could feel the blanketing warmth of the cinema seat engulf me. The soft patter of popcorn being dropped onto the floor, the gentle swash of carbonated drinks in paper cups, and the bubbly music of Mark Snow carried me off to less boring settings, so I'm not quite sure what happened in the film, though I'm told it was all a government cover-up, in any case. Oddly, not one person I've talked to can remember anything significant of the film -- I smell a conspiracy ...
Much more engaging is the story of Contact. This follows Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) one of the researchers on the SETI project. After years of pointing sensitive listening equipment at the skies, one day, a signal is detected that is not a natural phenomenon. After some frantic activity, the signal is amplified, decoded and displayed. Confusion, alarm and panic strikes as people try to decide which is worse: The fact that they now know they are not alone in the Universe, or the realisation of who became the first ambassador of the human race.
Much of Contact explores the large philosophical questions, along with the boundary between science and religion, which is not surprising considering that Carl Sagan not only wrote the script, but pretty much supervised the filming until his death. The opening sequence of this film is absolutely stunning -- it is subtle, gradual, yet it had an entire 9 o'clock audience in Linköping, Sweden, stunned into absolute silence and awe within 20 seconds as it slowly dawned upon those present what was taking place. Any film that manages that is worthy of praise.
The effects are great, the story is interesting, and the acting generally very good. Someone unfortunately decided, presumably while suffering a mild stroke, to cast Matthew McConaughey in one of the starring roles, resulting in the most unlikely priest since ... well, ever, in fact.
While on the subject of theology, the more traditional dialectic view of the Universe has Good battling Evil at every opportunity. More modern and updated versions of the subject can be seen in films like Mortal Kombat and Spawn. Not being familiar with the comic book of the same name, nevertheless Spawn was good, solid, over-the-top fun. It chronicles the life and after-death of a contract killer, working for the baddest employer on Earth, but who slowly realises that the world is a much more fun place if it still exists. The toys are great, but the hours are hell!
The copy I rented was a ''director's cut'', followed by a segment of
Todd McFarlane, creator of Spawn, patiently explaining that this
video release has all the nasty bits that were deemed too horrible for
cinema audiences, but that all are absolutely necessary to the story.
Still, lovers of gratuitous violence will find many Hallmark moments.
Again, the opening sequence is juicy, but the best bit has to be the
funkiest credits since Seven, along with a really pounding
soundtrack. Special bits also include the most grossly obese John
Leguizamo ever likely to appear on film, gorgeous hardware and a mean
While on the subject of contract killers, and straying from the garden path for a moment, The Big Hit is worth seeing. In many ways, this film is what Face/Off should have but never quite succeeded in being. Juvenile in places, once you realise that you shouldn't take it too seriously, it becomes one wonderfully funny film. Like Spawn, although vastly different, this features Mark Wahlberg as a killer who wants out, but finds it easier said than done. After all, it's easy to get comfortably used to a particular lifestyle. Stupendous action scenes in places, hilarious in others, this should be available on video right about now.
Alternative life forms are closer to home sometimes. Who knows what the legacy is of the several hundred tests of nuclear weapons during the cold war? Well, one result is Godzilla: It may be alive, it certainly isn't intelligent, it's not from outer space, and I haven't even got to the lizard yet. The end product of radiation-damaged Hollywood minds is alarming: The film cannot quite decide whether it's a serious action-adventure movie for adults or a kiddie-flick, ending up somewhere in between and at times looking more like a video game than a film. Unfortunately, for the audience, you're not issued with paddles, there is no interactivity and you cannot switch to Carmageddon instead.
Jean Reno is the only one who rises above the sludge and supplies most of the comic relief. However, not even he can save the film from turning into Jurassic Park Jr. towards the end.
The X-files doesn't register on the Red Bucket system: You've got to be awake for that. Contact collects a solid $1/2$ Bucket and almost all of that could have been avoided through recasting certain clerical roles. Spawn scores somewhere in that territory too, for general amusement value, while The Big Hit is not quite as solid and ends up with a tad more. As for Godzilla, well, we're talking buckets of an altogether different kind. For that film, size matters ...