Mars Attacks! [1996]

It's enlightening to view Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! as his twisted satire of the blockbuster film Independence Day, which was released earlier the same year, although the movies were in production simultaneously. Burton's eye-popping, schlock tribute to 1950s UFO movies actually plays better on video than it did in theaters. The idea of invading aliens ray gunning the big-name movie stars in the cast is a cleverly subversive one, and the bulb-headed, funny-sounding animated Martians are pretty nifty, but it all seemed to be spread thin on the big screen. On video, however, the movie's kooky humor seems a bit more concentrated. The Earth actors (most of whom get zapped or kidnapped for alien science experiments) include Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rod Steiger, Michael J. Fox, Lukas Haas, Jim Brown, Tom Jones, and Pam Grier. The digital video disc features an isolated track for Danny Elfman's score, as well as a few other clever and nasty little Martian surprises. --Jim Emerson

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