Hidden Netflix Gems – Earth Girls Are Easy

Hidden Netflix Gems is a new feature designed to help readers answer that burning question, “What should I watch tonight?” It will be updated every Saturday before the sun goes down.

In an oddball blend of ’50s science fiction classics like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Day the Earth Stood Still, combined with much stronger elements of beach musicals and screwball comedy, director Julien Temple‘s Earth Girls Are Easy explores interplanetary sexual politics with a light and infectiously fun touch. This is one of those ’80s movies, much like The Lost Boys, that is objectively silly and perhaps unimportant to the history of cinema, but is nonetheless one of my favorite movies of all time.

Valerie (Geena Davis) is a sort of ditzy manicurist who works at beauty parlor in San Fernando Valley with her gloriously superficial and oversexed friend Candy (co-writer Julie Brown). After discovering her physician fiancée, Ted (Charles Rocket), attempting to cheat on her with a nurse he brings home, she kicks him out and wrecks most of his belongings in a musical montage of destruction and bittersweet flashbacks of the better times they spent together. Of all the film’s musical numbers, this is the weakest, but still great visual fun and prime ’80s nostalgia, as when Valerie shoves a box of Ted’s cigars into the VCR, or when she sends a bowling ball crashing into his Commodore 64 computer. As if her relationship troubles aren’t bad enough, the next morning a spaceship full of furry, horny aliens lands in her pool, and Valerie has to figure out how to keep them secret until they can fix their flooded ship and head back to their home planet.

The aliens are Mac (Jeff Goldblum), Zeebo (Damon Wayans) and Wiploc (Jim Carrey), and of course the solution to the problem of how to hide their alien identity is a makeover. Candy assists, removing the aliens’ colorful fur and revealing “three major cute guys” underneath. Valerie falls for Mac in particular, becoming enamored with his innocent, childlike ways, a result of the culture clash experienced by all three aliens, which is a major source of the film’s comedy. In perhaps the funniest scene in the movie, Zeebo and Wiploc, en route to a beach trip with Valerie’s aging surfer pool cleaner, Woody (Michael McKean), take his suggestion that they pick up “bread and junk” for sandwiches very literally. Brandishing a realistic toy gun accidentally stolen from a child earlier, they tell the frightened cashier, “Give us bread. We need junk.”

Though Earth Girls Are Easy could fairly be labeled predictable and certainly inconsequential, it has an undeniable charm, and only the severely humor-deficient will be unable to find something to like about it. For whatever reason, this movie is actually something of an addiction for me, a film I have to rewatch at least once a year or so in order to feel that all is right with the universe, to remind me that even with all the problems of the planet earth, at least its female humans don’t play too hard to get.

  

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Seen Your Video: Music video directors who made the jump to the big screen

music_video_directors

It was not along ago that there were only a couple paths to the director’s chair on a studio lot. Many went to film school and did time toiling for Roger Corman, while others jumped over from another profession within the industry. (Joel Schumacher, for example, began as a costume designer.) In the ’80s, there suddenly was a new way to get into the game – use a music video as your calling card.

Now, of course, we’re at the point where people receive job offers after posting a clip to YouTube (Lasse Gjertsen, who made the live stop-motion clips “Hyperactive” and “Amateur,” has received several offers of employment, but has turned them all down), and the music video path is now a well-worn road. Indeed, there are two movies coming out in the next few weeks (“Never Let Me Go” and “The Social Network”) that were helmed by men who got their start telling rock stars to act like rock stars, which inspired us to take a look at the more prominent directors of the music video world and track their success. The lesson we learned: even when someone has so many small successes, it only takes one big disappointment to kill them. (Big, big shoutout to the good people at the Music Video Database for helping to clear the cob webs, as well as opening our eyes on just how prolific some of these directors were.)

Julien Temple

You know it’s a Julien Temple video when: The entire piece looks like it was filmed in one giant tracking shot. (Look closer – the edits are there.)
Breakout video: ABC’s “Poison Arrow,” and the short film “Mantrap” the band made in conjunction with their (spectacular) album The Lexicon of Love.
Big screen debut: Temple is the only one on this list whose feature film debut came before his music video debut, though some would argue – and we wouldn’t disagree – that the movie in question, the Sex Pistols “documentary” “The Great Rock ‘n Roll Swindle,” is actually just a long-form music video.
Best Temple video you never saw: Paul McCartney, “Beautiful Night,” from Macca’s Flaming Pie album. Gorgeous, and the tune is a good one, too.

Russell Mulcahy

You know it’s a Russell Mulcahy video when: Dozens of extras are wearing body paint, or when a prop nearly kills Simon Le Bon. In slow motion.
Breakout video: Mulcahy was arguably the first “name” director of the music video world, helping clips for Ultravox, Kim Carnes and the Tubes – and, let us not forget, the Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” the first video MTV ever played – but it was the clip for Duran Duran’s“Hungry Like the Wolf,” along with the other videos he shot for the songs from Rio, that made him a household name…with music geeks like us, anyway.
Big screen debut: “Razorback,” a monster movie about, yep, a bloodthirsty Australian pig. Mulcahy’s luck on the big screen changed two years later when he made the cult classic “Highlander”…then lost some luster when he made “Highlander II: The Quickening.”
Best Mulcahy video you never saw: “The Flame,” the overlooked third single from Duran Duran spinoff group Arcadia. Le Bon is in full Barry Bostwick mode as he attends a fancy dinner party and the hosts try to kill him Agatha Christie-style.

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RIP Malcolm McLaren

The legendary inventor of the Sex Pistols and therefore to a large degree punk rock — give or take The Ramones — has sadly passed on from a rare form of cancer at age 64. He was most definitely a showman at heart and the man for whom the phrase “shameless self-promoter” was pretty much invented was, quite naturally, attracted to the movies.

Below is a longish but intriguing and funny scene from the film that Pistols fans felt he somewhat hijacked, Julien Temple’s “The Great Rock and Roll Swindle; it’s somewhere between a documentary and an entirely fictitious musical comedy. But how can a star hijack his own movie, anyway?

And where does an old publicity hungry inventor of an subversive art form intended to destroy culture as we know it end up in his delayed adulthood? Hollywood, where else? What’s he doing? Selling out, but on his terms — another concept he kind of invented.

  

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The Kinks to become celluloid heroes

As reported by Screen Daily via Monika Bartyzel, a new biopic is in the works about the Kinks — the great British Invasion band everyone seems to forget about even as songs like “Lola” and “You Really Got Me” and “A Well Respected Man” rank favorably with anything put out by the Who and the Stones.  The director is Julien Temple, whose a filmmaker I have mixed feelings about but who certainly knows how to shoot a musical sequence. Anyhow, the band, which was riven with sibling rivalry between leadsinger/songwriter Ray Davies and lead guitarist brother Dave Davies, seems like a great subject for a movie and I for one am already tired of waiting. (Sorry.)

Anyhow, it’s high time the Kinks were honored by a movie. They’ve honored the movies, after all.

Yes, tourists take note, that’s what the Hollywood fairyland actually looks like.

And how are these for words of show biz wisdom?

Everybody’s a dreamer and everybody’s a star
And everybody’s in show biz, it doesn’t matter who you are.
And those who are successful,
Be always on your guard,
Success walks hand in hand with failure
Along Hollywood Boulevard.

I’ve got live Kinks performances after the flip.

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