Tag Archives: David Bowie

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

the man who fell to earth

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 6 out of 10

4-Word Review:  Alien looking for water.

Thomas Newton Bryce (David Bowie) is a humanoid alien that has come to earth looking for water to bring back to his drought stricken planet. He works under the disguise as an inventor who uses the advanced technical knowledge of his home planet to patent many new inventions that eventually turns him into a millionaire head of a giant conglomerate. He even meets Mary Lou (Candy Clark) a hard-living, earthy girl who he falls in love with. Fuel technician Nathan Byrce (Rip Torn) suspects that Thomas may not be human and takes a secret picture of him with an X-ray camera that reveals his alien make up. Nathan then tips off the government and when Thomas tries to return to his home planet in a spaceship he built himself he is seized and taken into captivity and interrogated.
Director Nicolas Roeg has always had an incredible visual flair and able to take simple stories like Walkabout and Don’t Look Now and turned them into flashy masterpieces. I admire the way he can create atmosphere and attitude with every shot and tell a narrative in fragments and yet still have it come together into a fluid whole.

Watching this movie is particularly fun and the variety of music used is terrific. Whether it is a country oldie or new wave techno it fits and is always lively. The scenes are intoxicating and Roeg seems to be challenging himself by trying to come up with a unique way of capturing everything he shoots.

However, the story is light and proves to get even lighter as it goes along. The first hour, although fun, goes nowhere. The second half has some twists, but they are predictable. There are also tons and tons of loopholes with a letdown of an ending that explains nothing.

When compared to sci-fi films from the past it seems progressive, but in hindsight it is a victim of the 70’s era as it oozes too much with the irreverence of that period. Its main purpose seems to be turning-the- tables on all those sci-fi classics where the alien was always the threat by instead portraying the alien as the gentlest person in the picture. Yet they still could have made this message while giving it a more fleshed-out story and legitimate sci-fi leanings.

The overall glossiness maybe enough for some as it certainly does seem intriguing and promising at the start. Bowie is a perfect choice for the lead and unlike most rock singers, his foray into acting seems solid and almost like he is a natural.

Candy Clark is also outstanding. She is the perfect embodiment of a small town southern girl simple, sweet and generous yet also very to-the-point. Buck Henry is also good playing a part that most resembles his true self and his line describing his father’s advice on how to look a gift horse in the mouth is priceless.

My Rating: 6 out of 10

Released: May 28, 1976

Runtime: 2Hours 19Minutes

Rated R

Director: Nicolas Roeg

Studio: Columbia

Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video

Labyrinth (1986)

labyrinth 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: Lost in a maze.

Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) is a fifteen-year-old girl forced to stay home and babysit her fussy baby brother Toby (Toby Froud). In order to try to get him to go to sleep she starts telling him a story, but conjures up Jareth, The Goblin King (David Bowie) who kidnaps Toby and threatens to turn him into a goblin unless Sarah can rescue him in thirteen hours by getting to a castle that is in the middle of a long and winding labyrinth.

Initially I wasn’t too excited to see this film as it was produced by George Lucas, directed by Jim Henson and starring Bowie, which is three big egos too many and in most cases usually amounts to a lot of creative clashes and a disjointed, mishmash of a  product that has a big budget, but no soul. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film managed to be captivating with a good distinct atmosphere. The special effects are excellent and this is the first film to ever show a computer generated animal, which is in the form of an owl. I probably enjoyed the puppet characters the most. I was afraid they would resemble the muppets, but they are much more creative and varied than that and sometimes pop up in the most unlikely places and times.

Connelly is excellent in the lead. In fact without her presence this film wouldn’t have worked at all. Not only is she cute, but can hold her own amongst the crazy effects and weirdness while showing confidence and poise.

labyrinth 3

Bowie on the other hand seems quite stale. His songs do little to enliven anything and the film could have done just as well without them. The character has no flash or campiness. A kid’s movie always needs a memorable villain like Cruella De Ville, or the wicked queen in Snow White, but this guy doesn’t even come close to those and is never frightening or scary.

There are a couple of ill-advised song routines that do nothing, but bog the film down and take away what little tension there is. The song number that features a group of creatures with removable heads is the only time that the special effects look fake as it is clear that the characters are being digitally matted onto the backdrop. Bowie’s routine in which he dances around with a bunch of puppets and the baby look laughable and embarrassing. I also thought that the Swamp of the eternal stench, which featured noises quite similar to flatulence and formations resembling rectums, was much too explicit for a film aimed at children and preteens.

Overall though this is an imaginative variation of the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme, but the film could have gone a lot further with it. I would have liked a few darker elements, some genuine tension or scares (of which this film has none) and less formulaic to the kiddie crowd. The ending also leaves a lot to be desired, but for most children as well as those that are young-at-heart it is an agreeable time-filler.

labyrinth 2

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: June 27, 1986

Runtime: 1Hour 41Minutes

Rated PG

Director: Jim Henson

Studio: Tri-Star Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video