I love this J.J. Abrams produced movie because I am mean spirited.

It starts out with a bunch of young, attractive, New York 20-somethings having a party and complaining a little too much and having the bulls**t drama that 20-somethings hold so dear...all this, of course, in a very well decorated apartment. This sequence isn't very long but it feels like two hours.  One of the partygoers is the hippie from True Blood (Lizzy Caplan), who has made an art of being both ditzy and somehow intimidating.

Then a monster invades New York.

Not a brain surgeon in the bunch, as they all think heading to the roof is a good idea after what could have been an earthquake. But No! It gets worse! Explosions! Flaming Debris! Screaming! Fleeing! Poor decision making! Mutants! All of these American Apparel models are going to die!! Obviously, the party breaks up, and we follow a smaller group of people who decide to take Rob (Michael Stahl-David ) on his ill-advised plan: Cross the freshly-made downtown combat zone to see about a girl.

You probably already know that Cloverfield is a standard Monster-Invades-New-York scenario told from the perspective of everyone else. You know those guys on the boat that brought the thing, or the shady government organization that's known about it for years? Not them.

When is the government going to realize we wouldn't need universal health care if they'd just stop bringing ultra destructive monsters into our population centers?

It would also be easier to cover up, since everyone and their mother has a video-equipped cell phone these days. Imagine how much money it takes to police up and erase all that footage filmed in glorious Shake-o-Vision.

One of the silliest things about this movie is just how seriously screwed the main characters are and the decisions they make despite this. Prime example: there's a 30 story tall something trashing Manhattan, and one of three on screen characters decides he needs to  cross the newly made demilitarized zone for a girl he apparently slept with once. Once.

So they go there. They encounter trials and tribulations, like mutant snow crabs and whatever diseases they're carrying, and the 30-story 'something', and it's all pretty pulse pounding. The movie clocks in at a fat-free 85 minutes and barely leaves time to breathe.

Really, this movie gets everything right in terms of straight presentation, cinematography and style. Unlike a lot of other directors, Matt Reeves makes it a point to have almost no signature on his work when necessary, which lends a great deal of credibility to what's going on. Where John Woo has his doves and his fire, Tarantino has his feet and DePalma has misogyny, Mr. Reeves appears to have authenticity; he'll certainly be one to watch, with his remake of Let The Right One In (titled Let Me In ) coming soon.

That being said, you could really have a great time with this movie and any number of "documentary" style horror films with simple "WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT?!" humor.


Nicolas Cage movies generally fall into in two categories: intentionally funny (Raising Arizona), and unintentionally funny (The Wicker Man). However, Knowingis neither of these. Knowing uses Cage as a regular actor to portray a regular guy...and that, my friends, the least entertaining path to take.

It all begins with in 1959 with a Wednesday Adams look-alike (the painfully cute Laura Robinson), withsad eyes and a large forehead, looking very worried. When her teacher presents a time capsule project for her class, the girl hears voices (of course) telling her to write down a series of numbers, instead of drawing the future like she was told.

Fifty years later, physics professor Johnathan Koestler’s (Cage) smarter-than-average (read: amazingly argumentative) son Caleb (Chandler Cantebury) gets the numbers, and things start getting nuts. Koestler figures that a lot of the numbers are the dates and body counts for natural disasters,but he’s not sure what the other numbers mean... yet.

By now we’re expecting a classic Nic Cage style freak-out ("HOW'D IT GET BURNED!?! "), and instead we're disappointed by him actually doing a rather decent job with a well-realized character. Koestler and his son have a strained relationship, as his wife died in a hotel fire, and naturally they both miss her dearly. They never talk about things like “emotions” outside of a painfully sweet exchange in sign language exchange, being men and all.

Koestler throws himself into trying to solve the mystery using the "Single Barrel" Research Method, which involves crawling into a bottle and watching the newsfor any headlines matching the numerical pattern.  After doing this all night, he sleeps through a whole day and wakes up to his son calling, saying he has afternoon car-pool. CRAP! Off he goes to get stuck in highway traffic, still contemplating what all the numbers mean when he realizes, after looking at his GPS, those other numbers are map coordinates: latitude and the one he’s on right NOW. A few seconds afterthis realization, a 747 crashes,dipping its wing into the Earths’ crust and cutting a trench through that very highway.

Koestler tries in vain to help these people, and we still don't get that freak out we've been waiting for! His next step is to seek out Diana Wayland (Rose Byrne), the daughter of Worried Wednesday from the opening. She too has a daughter (Robinson again). Koestler tries to get Wayland to open up about her dead crazy mother and reveal the secret to life, the universe, and everything.

The exchange begins poorly, of course, but later they hit it off just in time for Koestler to figure out that there’s a massive Solar flare heading for Earth and everyone’s going to die unless. . . well, nothing. You can’t really stop the sun from reducing the Earth to a heavy metal album cover, but the movie still has forty-five minutes to go. What happens is a half interesting, half Deus-Ex Machina-but with a fiercely depressing twist.

Overall, this movie suffers from a case of “Not Quite Enough-itis.” While director Alex Proyas (I, Robot , Dark City ) is not short on directing skill or adorable brunettes in various stages of life, the plot is pretty much "figure out the code, realizeit's hopeless and do NOT give us a Nicolas Cage Freakout in spite of this."  It’s competent enough, but asks heavy questions and presents some crazily optimistic answers, playing it fairly straight the entire time with no zany antics and few ludicrous moments. As such, it might not work for a Cavalcade, so go with NeXt instead.

Day the Earth Stood Still, The

How do you make a Sci-fi movie these days? 1 oz super powerful aliens, 1 oz environmental message, shake well, garnish with nanomachines.

Everything goes to hell the day astrobiologist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly) summons the Goblin King to take her son (Jaden Smith) away. Instead, she gets Klaatu (Keanu Reeves), who doesn't take the child, but rather decides it’s time to wipe out humanity to preserve the Earth. He doesn’t even sing about it, which is kind of a bummer.

Klaatu shows up in a rubber organic space suit, and some idiot decides the best way to communicate with a brand new life form is with a bullet. This pisses off a giant Sentinel thing and sends out a wave of pain, giving the unarmed people a chance to medevac the alien before it molts into Keanu Reeves. Klaatu then has a meeting  with the Secretary of Defense (Kathy Bates), who finds that while he’s not openly hostile, he doesn’t recognize that Earth belongs to humanity. Turns out all this polluting we’ve been doing is bad, and somewhere there is a council of beings who aren’t too happy about it, as the number of planets in the universe that can support complex life is quite limited.

The fact that this never seen council even thinks that shows the screenwriter did his job. The dialogue is sharply written and well delivered, and they also didn’t do anything stupid like cast Tara Reid or Denise Richards as scientists. It’s pretty fascinating to see a believable sequence of events that may surround an alien encounter. This is embodied in the performance by Kathy Bates, who accuses the alien who just landed on earth-you know from another galaxy-of violating U.S. air space. Yeah. Not seeing the big picture. The second time she says that historically, when two civilizations meet, the more primitive one is either enslaved or destroyed. Now you’ll pardon me, but if a super-advanced alien race gave us the option, I’d vote for enslavement and immediately begin planning a Spartacus. Pick you battles, I say. But I digress.

So Klaatu meets with his contact, an operative who has lived on Earth for 70 years and the dude pretty much says, "yeah, wipe out humanity, except that I lurv them, and you’ll never understand." This conversation is mostly in Chinese, and Reeves shows that his accent is quite impeccable.

The rest of the movie is more or less Klaatu learning what love is so he will spare humanity from a nasty death by nanomachines. There are a few veryeffective scenes, and some more good acting from Jaden Smith, but really it's just sitting through one boring-as-crackers effects sequence after another to see how they arrive at the conclusion we all know is coming. So while It's is pretty well done, it has a heavy-handed seriousness (John Cleese even makes an appearance that doesn’t involve being funny). but with the right crowd you’ll probably be able to pull some laughs from the material. Professional Cavalcaders only need apply.


I didn't heed the warnings. I didn’t see the writing on the wall.

I. Watched. Ultra. Violet.

A movie is a balancing act, and a good one can have a few bad elements. Ultraviolet, on the other hand, is nothing but bad elements. The opening sequence sets the stage, with stills of comic book covers featuring a character that we don’t actually care about yet, and never will. balance

Kurt Wimmer, the mastermind behind the totally great 1984-with-ninjas-concept movie Equilibrium, got a little big for his britches and made what is likely the worst action movie of the decade. The film features Milla Jovavich as Violet, and Milla Jovavich’s abdominal muscles . Seriously, they should get second billing. They’re in almost every scene, because some tool-shed costume designer didn’t put his foot down and say “An invincible-super-ninja-vampire would not wear a mid-riff baring shirt.”

The movie starts out with a terrorist faction of government-made vampires being launched via some sort of ball-bearing delivery system into an office building. So far, so good. The ball-bearing-ninjas get owned by the local security after chopping up (with no blood spatter) some scientist. Then we introduce our heroin, and little too late for anyone to care.

She narrates the amazingly stupid plot for a little while, and to her credit, she tries really hard to sound serious. It almost works except for phrases like “and so began the blood wars.” We meet the world’s germaphobic ruler Vice Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus (Nick Chinlund), who is so scared of germs he even keeps his personal sidearm hermetically sealed, and begins the movie-long of trend of characters not actually talking like people. That wouldn’t be so bad if it was well written, but it’s not. Daxus actually says “A courier is retrieving to bring here to the arch ministry as we speak.” That’s verbatim, I swear. Hurts, doesn’t it?

The movie is pretty much one long action sequence that demonstrates the Inverse Ninja Law. One ninja is unstoppable, but two or more might as well be Dodge Ball champions facing off against a battle-mech. The five Ball-Bearing Ninjas get owned by corporate security, while a lone warrior ninja kills everyone and everything that stands in her way.

Violet nabs a dimension-bending Macguffin that’s actually full of that Creepy Kid who always plays a Creepy Kid in everything he's in (Cameron Bright ), and who may or may not hold the key to killing all the vampires. Or he's the key to killing all the humans.Or the he's key to really great lobster bisque. I really have no clue. What I do know, is that the main character uses “flat space technology” so she can wear skin-tight clothing at all times and whip out a goddamned arsenal without it having to make sense.

More action ensues as Violet attempts to bring an end to the reign of the Grand-High Germaphobe. Some crappy gun-kata rip-off happens, and the credits roll. This movie is like a bad relationship, you feel like a bad person because you tolerated it for so long.

That being said: CAVALCADE THE HELL out of this picture.  It deserves everything you can throw at it. Mock it, make lewd shadow puppets on screen, it has it coming. Pair it up with Fist of the North Star for a Dystopian Double-Up.

Most importantly, AVENGE ME!

Army of Darkness

Third movies are tricky, even when filmmakers have a trilogy planned from the start.  As it stands, I have yet to see a third superhero film that was anything less than dreadful.  Spider-man III and X3 , I’m looking at you!

Unfortunately, it is no less difficult with the third film in a horror series (though oddly enough, the 4th is usually a better one in the series), and it’s usually after a great second film.  Most do not appreciated Saw IIIeveryone hates Child’s Play 3 (even the director), and need I even mention reactions to Halloween III?  So, when a filmmaker nails a third act as Sam Raimi does with Army of Darkness, it's worth noting.

By the beginning of AoD, Ashley J. Williams (Bruce Campbell) has already had a rough couple of days.  On the first day of his vacation, his sister, girlfriend and two other friends all become possessed by Kandarian demons who can only be stopped through total bodily dismemberment.  I’ve heard worse Spring Break stories.  After barely surviving that, he had to cut off his own hand, deal with more possessed people and summon the inner strength to become the baddest-ass force for good in horror film history

After “defeating” the evil in the present, Ash was sucked back in time to medieval England, which looks an awful lot like California.  Cavalcade Fun Fact: England, medieval or otherwise, has never had deserts!  Ash is tasked with defeating the Deadites, including an evil version of himself, in the past in order to return to the future.  It’s a good thing he had a chainsaw attached to his right arm and his trademark “Boomstick.”

One cannot undervalue the skill of Sam Raimi as a director.  After showing what he could do with a budget on Darkman , Raimi was able to command just a little bit more money to bring a “big” budget Evil Dead to the big screen.  All of Sam’s trademarks are present: “Sam-O-Cam,” “Ram-O-Cam,” excessive amounts of blood, and, of course, entirely too many Three Stooges references.  To be honest, AoD does suffer in comparison to the earlier films.  Where Evil Dead was “the ultimate experience in grueling terror,” and Evil Dead 2 is one of the greatest horror-comedies produced, AoD is really just a comedy.  Granted, a comedy with chainsaws, but still, the movie is not neither scary nor particularly gross.  This is not necessarily a complaint, but for those that enjoyed the horror elements of the previous two films, AoD could be viewed as quite a departure in tone.  However, this drawback is more than excused since it allowed an even bigger, crazier performance by our hero.

Despite his every effort, most of us recognize that Bruce Campbell is Ash.  Well, he would be if he were put in that situation…and exposed to gamma radiation.  More than any other role, Campbell is identified as Ash with no small part due to his performance in AoD.  Playing not only Ash, but also Evil Ash, Campbell makes almost every line of dialogue quotable with his trademark sarcasm and over-the-top awesomeness.

I highly recommend watching the first two Evil Deads so you can get the full effect of Campbell and Raimi’s development of the character and mythology, but AoD is one of those sequels that can truly stand on its own.  Which is impressive for any third act in a trilogy.

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

This movie is clearly a sign of the times.

While the first two Universal Soldier movies were already low budget, they were at least silly enough to be fun. Reanimated soldiers with cyborg bits duke it out in the desert? Sure! Hell, one of them even starred Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that's the definition of fun, right? Universal Soldier: Regeneration, on the other hand, taps mixed martial artist Andrei 'The Pit Bull' Arlovski as the dour tool of various villains.

The flimsy plot starts with a rebel faction that nabs the Russian president's kids with the aid of a snazy black SUV with a roll-cage welded on and some AK-47 assault rifles. The leader of the rebels calls for freedom, and talks about blood and blah blah blah. It doesn't matter what the hell he says, as it's all in Russian and like all Russian speeches it sounds like the Communist Manifesto. Long story short, he's going to blow up a disused nuclear reactor. Wait, one guy's a terrorist and the other guy is the President of Russia? Who exactly are we supposed to root for here?

Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), that's who! Unfortunately, Deveraux is in rehab with a psychiatrist (Emily Joyce) whose teaching him how to be a normal dude again. It's not really working out very well, as he beats the hell out of a guy in a cafe in Sweden for looking too Russian.

Meanwhile, the Americans and Russians assemble a joint strike force consisting of two platoons: one Russian, and the other American, plus four Universal Soldiers who somehow made it through the last two movies. The Bull Dog promptly beats the living hell out of the "UniSols" in a fine mixed martial arts exhibition. He then shoots the rest of the platoons, inflicting roughly a 97% casualty rating.

Eventually, the Russian president surrenders to the terrorist's demands, but the scientist who actually controls The Pit Bull kills the rebel leader,  resurrects Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), and restarts the bomb countdown, adding about twenty more minutes to an already over-long movie.

The good guys get around to sending Deveraux after shooting him up with some Hollywood Science, and while he's fit, he still looks beat to all hell and downright morose in places. This all culminates in a pre-final-battle battle between the two original soldiers, before the extra-stupid final battle between Deveraux and the Pitbull. Neither of these fights match the cheesy energy of the original and the second one completely disregards a major plot point.

Both Lundgren and Van Damme are looking worn down throughout the whole picture, and are a little too much like the reanimated corpses they're playing. You know, they really should have graduated to playing small, but important roles in the genre some time ago, a la Sonny Chiba playing Hatori Hanzo in Kill Bill . The Pit Bull, while a skilled fighter, makes JCVD look like Laurence Olivier .

I really can't recommend this movie for anything. It's so drab and brutal-being filled with depressing landscapes and dull action set pieces. There are tons of other movies with both Van Damme and Lundgren that are actually fun, such as Hard Target and Masters of the Universe respectively.

Repo Men

Repo Men deserves some kind of award, as it very nearly succeeds in making an entire movie by taking pieces from nearly every critical or commercial success from the past decade.

Opening with a radio broadcast about the economy crashing, the war going on, and how life generally sucks, the film establishes its dystopian setting cheaply. From there the film focuses on Remy (Jude Law), a "Repo man" (read: assassin) who, in a rather bloody opening collects a liver from an unfortunate guy who defaulted on his payments to the sinister megacorporation, Union.

Remy works with Jake (Forest Whitaker), his best friend from childhood, and has barbecues with his rough-tough-tattooed-blue-collar co-workers.  It's never really explained how Remy has a Cockney accent if he grew up in Anytown, U.S.A., but it certainly adds weight to the whole “I’m a working-class bloke” vibe, where the motto is, "a job's a job."

Their manager, Frank (Liev Schreiber), is as oily as they come. Part used car salesman, part sleazy home loan officer, Frank speaks in that generic movie ‘Merican businessman accent, and is an undemanding boss. He sells people new organs with meaningless buzzwords and platitudes, then coldly orders the "Repo" when the customer's can't pay.

Remy’s life goes completely south when he tries to repossess the heart of a music producer, TBone (RZA), and destroys his own heart with a malfunctioning defibrillator and then waking up in a hospital with a metaphor jammed into his chest. Naturally, with this new liberal heart, he can no longer do his job because he has new-found sympathy for the clients. Eventually he meets Beth (Alice Braga), a lounge singer with a  heart of gold (presumably her own), and more replacement parts than a NFL player retirement home. We'll let you guess if they do the Dirty Boogie at some point.

Following the rules of action thrillers, the other Repo Men are sent to hunt them down, leading to several fight sequences, one very much like the fight from Oldboy (hammer and all), followed by a scene where they each have to scan their robot parts to get themselves out of the system. It’s filmed like a sex scene, except that they're slicing each other open, so it's all kinds of wrong. This all culminates in an ending that, while it's the film's one saving grace, is still ripped straight from Brazil.

Overall, the movie is solid, but borrows too heavily on other films without bringing anything new. There are some nice twists, and the production is top notch. The soundtrack mixes six decades of pop culture, much like the visuals. The actors are giving it their all -especially Whitaker- and the jet black humor helps smooth things over. However,y derivative, it never finds a voice of it’s own. Finally, since we all know what's going to happen up to a point, the audience spends most of the time just waiting to get there.

Come to think of it, Gamer was ALSO really derivative and make for a  decent pairing with this movie. Sort of a, “we liked it better when they did it in 'X.'”

Repo: The Genetic Opera

I have to admit to a certain fondness for musicals. Fred Astaire was an idol of my childhood, as was Gene Kelly. Especially when he danced with Jerry Mouse (of Tom and Jerry). Though as much as I like a good musical, which is essentially a play/movie with more than a few dance numbers thrown in, I can't bring myself to dig operas. With every line of dialog done through song, my patience wears thin long before the story comes to a close. As such (and much to the dismay of my Grandmother), I always steered clear.

But hey, I like a good disembowelment as much as the next guy! Which brings me to Repo! The Genetic Opera, and the source of our discussion today.

Weaving a tale of betrayal, murder, corruption, insanity, and implied incest, this film is wholesome family fun, pure and simple. Taking place in a very dystopian 2056, it's been 26 years since an epidemic of organ failures crippled our society. Paul Sorvino stars as Rottissimo "Rotti" Largo, the billionaire industrialist who eventually saved the world by manufacturing and providing organ transplants for any and all who could afford them, eventually creating predatory financing plans to bring them to the poor.

Talk about your sub-prime loans.

Anthony Stewart Head is Nathan Wallace, who was Largo's chief rival for the affections of Marni (Sarah Power ) 17 years prior to the story's beginning. When Marni left Largo and married Nathan, and eventually became pregnant, the distraught industrialist poisons her. Nathan, at a loss as to why his wife is dying, carves out his daugher Shiloh (Alexa Vega) and raises her in a tower, a prisoner to his own grief.

Meanwhile, having been convinced by Largo that he was responsible for his wife's death, Nathan becomes the lead Repo Man, an assassin who's job it is reclaim organ's who's owners defaulted on payments. This burden, combined with his own guilt over Marni, causes his personalities to fracture. One is the caring/obsessed father that is Nathan, the other is "the Monster"-the personality that takes over when it's time for daddy to go to work. Whew! This is not a story afraid of melodrama.

I haven't even gotten to Rotti's children, who serve as the primary comic relief. When a Serial Murderer (Bill Moseley), Serial Rapist (Nivek Ogre), and a drug-addicted spoiled Daddy's Girl addicted to plastic surgery (Paris Hilton) are your comic relief...Well, let's just say you're in some dark territory. Even so, the plot has a breezy pace, punched up by a couple of really great musical numbers that mix traditional rock power ballads with a bit of Marylin Manson-style Industrial. Tony Head in particular, who last flexed his pipes on screen in a few episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, belts out his songs with a gusto while he hunches over, knawing on the scenery like a dog with a bone. In most rock operas, you're lucky if you like 3 or 4 songs. There are 16 here that have found permanent residence on my iPod.

A campy, blood-soaked joy of a picture, it's highly recommended for any viewing, Cavalcade or otherwise. Pair with Cannibal: The Musical, or Forbidden Zone for an event featuring fucked-up musicals. Or compare it to Repo Men, which has a LOT of similar elements, but slightly less gore.


You have to hand it to any movie that can make a man who kills hundreds of people a week the most sympathetic character in the story.

That's more or less the goal of Gamer, a movie where a killing machine with a heart of gold, branded as Kable (Gerard Butler) by the evil corporate video game he is trapped in, must kill his way to freedom.

The game, called "Slayers," takes convicted felons and throws them into a penned off combat zone where they are controlled by over-privileged, over-wired 17-year-olds. If they are successfully piloted for 30 games, they win their freedom, something that's never happened, though Kable has come close.

In between lessons on how to keep fight sequences from getting dull, because they're most of the movie, there's lacerating satire. In fact, the opening sequence has people actually bunny hopping and tea-bagging their opponents like those jackasses you see all the time in online games.

Topping that winning combination are supporting characters of pure uncut greatness, including Michael C. Hall chewing on scenery with a Southern drawl and using phrases like "a cock-solid 68%," as Ken Castle. He even has a song and dance number to Sinatra's Under My Skin that blends into a fight sequence.

Kyra Sedgwick plays Gina Parker Smith, a journalist loyal only to herself. While  Ludacris rounds out the cast as Humanz Brother, the leader of the rebel faction bent on bringing down the system that allows Slayers, and it's Second Life-like counterpart-"Society", where people go for this world's version of cybersex-to exist.

Like The Running Man before him, Kable isn't getting off as easy "30 games and your out," as Castle is needs Kable dead-or at lest under his control-so he can essentially control the world with Nanex, the micro-machines that allow all this gaming goodness to happen. Nano-bots being to modern sci-fi what "nuclear" was to sci-fi in the 50's.

While the plot needlessly diverges in places, there are some truly great moments. One in particular stands out: After a punishing match filled with bullets and bodies, they jump-cut to thousands of people around the world cheering. It's a grotesque sight that left me feeling queasy, as good satire should.

One of the best parts of this movie is spotting all the cameos. John de LancieAllison LohmanTerry Crews all make appearances. But the cherry on top: Milo Ventimiglia as Rick Rape, a latex fetishist that gets Bane-broken over Kable's knee.

While most of the "social commentary" the film has to offer has been done before, and done better (RollerballDeath Race 2000), if you check your brain at the door, this is a sweet blow-some-shit-up action fest.  You could easily pair it with the another Gerard Butler absurd-violence-vehicle like 300 or  Law Abiding Citizen. If you wanted to go a more cerebral route, you could go with another surprisingly subversive film, Josie and the Pussy Cats(Really?-The Management)

Monsters Vs. Aliens

This is precisely the sort of movie I would make if I wanted something kids could watch in awe, while the adults laugh themselves silly.

Starting out with some SETI-style researchers-who only took the job because they wouldn't have to do anything-end up having their plans foiled when they detect a U.F.O. It turns out to be a meteorite that crashes into Earth, specially on top of Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon), turning her into a 50-foot-tall woman.

Oh, and ruining her wedding.

In short order, the usual black helicopter goons show up and whisk Susan off to the secret government lab, where she meets all the great b-monsters of the 1950's. B.O.B the blob (Seth Rogan)-a lovable pile of sentient goo, Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie)-a not-too-subtle reference to The Fly, The Missing Link (Will Arnett)-who is more Creature from the Black Lagoon than walking ape, and Insectasaurous-the requisite giant monster that resembles nothing less than the product of an unholy union of a gerbil, a puffer fish, and a ladybug. These characters are wardened by the hysterically funny Gen. W.R. Monger, played with verve by Keifer Sutherland-who, quite frankly, sounds like he wrestled a bull by the horns, took said horns, and carved them into the microphone he used to record his voice over.

Apparently the Monster crew has been sequestered for some time, only to be released when the world is accosted by the (slightly) intelligent alien warlord, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson ). Their mission: Defeat Gallaxhar's terrifying probe robot, then his army of very stupid clones, and finally Gallaxhar himself. I'm not really spoiling anything when I tell you they win. It's a kids movie after all. That's not really the point, it's not that they win, but how.

Full of hysterical sight gags, clever bits of dialogue ("This place is an X-file, wrapped in a cover-up and deep-fried in a paranoid conspiracy!"), a dash of satire, and a surprising number of adult contemporary hits. Phrases like "Code Nimoy! Code Nimoy!" are frequently mixed-in with references to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Beverly Hills Cop-nevermind the fact that the entire movie is a nod to Dr. Strangelove. Even so, there's a good balance between the referential pop-culture humor and jokes that stand on their own. It doesn't hurt that the supporting voice cast is top notch as well, with Stephen ColbertPaul Rudd, and Ed Helms all contributing.

The icing on the character cake is Susan, who does the full Sarah Connor/Ellen Ripley Hero's Journey: going from delicate flower to destroyer of robots and stomper of alien ass. More importantly, she realizes she doesn't need a man to make her happy. You go, girl!

We don't do "family" movies on the Cavalcade often, but when one comes down the pike that has so many nods to the movies that inspired our love of schlocktacular cinema, we have to take a look. Fortunately, this movie's great on all levels. If you were to Cavalcade it, feel free to mix and match it with one of the fore-mentioned 50's romps, Monsters Inc., or Bolt-which has even more nods to Hollywood b-movies.