Pod People

Body Snatchers is an invasion you’ve likely never heard of. I always thought there was just the original and remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. So I had to watch this version as well, that I knew nothing about. Body Snatchers is the only version that bares the name of the book. It’s vastly different from the previous adaptations. Though it does utilizes ideas present in each version. Like the 1956 original, the lead narrates the story and a boy claims that his mother is not his mother. Like the 1978 remake, the “pod people” are naked as their host bodies decompose and they let out a high pitched scream to alert other pods. Aside from those similarities, Body Snatchers now takes place on an army base. Which seems to be suggesting that soldiers are like pods. In the way that both are emotionless drones. An agent of the EPA is sent to the base along with his family. Another change of pace is having the lead be a teenage girl. Marti just wants to be a normal teen, but the invasion happens so fast that it barely registers. Really the only name actors in the movie are R. Lee Ermey and Forrest Whitaker. Both of whom are barely in it. Instead Body Snatchers is more focused on the many people that end up being body snatched. They’re clearly taking more advantage of the R rating by having a lot more naked pod women. The ending is sort of a mix of both downer and hopeful. Everyone Marti loves turns into a pod, but the military is able to blow the pods up. Body Snatchers works best as a more human examination of the invasion.

3. BS

Marti falls asleep

Remake of: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

*High Pitched Scream*

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) is often considered to be one of the greatest remakes ever made. I’m not sure I share that sentiment, but I get why people feel that way. My mom always told me she preferred the original. So I wasn’t sure what my opinion was going to be. I’d say that it works better as a 70’s horror film than a thought provoking thriller. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) takes the basic pod’s from deep space invasion and takes it to the bigger city of San Francisco. Dr. Bennell is now a health inspector and played by Donald Sutherland. He and colleague Elizabeth seek to investigate a series of emotionless loved ones. With the help of a very young Jeff Goldblum, pre-Alien Veronica Cartwright, and Spock himself Leonard Nimoy. The biggest difference between versions is its more intense. The effects on the “pod people” are a lot more icky. We also see what happens to someone after they’ve fallen asleep. They decompose and their pods wake up fully naked. Another more devisive decision was having the pods scream and point whenever they spot a human. The remakes most stand out moments would have to be Bennell’s terrified phone call (“I didn’t tell them my name!”) or the disturbing mutation of a homeless man’s head on a dog body. I’ll also admit that I genuinely wasn’t expecting a cameo from the original Dr. Bennell. Still running and warning people after all these years. Although I was expecting the twist ending. Which is kind of hard to avoid. SPOILER ALERT! Bennell is revealed to be a pod when he lets out a high pitched scream at the very end. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) takes paranoia to a whole new level.

2. IOTBS

Dr. Bennell screams

Remake of: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

They’re Here Already! You’re Next!

Invasion of the Body Snatchers is deep-seeded paranoia on an extraterrestrial level. Another one of my mom’s all time favorite sci-fi horror movies is the 1956 original version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A movie my brother and I first saw with her at a young age. The very idea of having your loved ones replaced terrified me. It’s a classic that still works very well today. Even though its themes are very much of the era. The alien invasion is really in place of deeper themes such as fear of McCarthyism, Communism, and conformity. Science fiction is really the best medium for political subtext. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is told through flashbacks by Dr. Miles Bennell. He recounts how his small town of Santa Mira was secretly invaded by a race of plant-like aliens. It first began with multiple patients claiming that their loved ones were replaced by emotionless duplicates. Then Bennell and his girlfriend Becky discover its origin. A series of sea pods that descended from space are creating emotionless “pod people” when an individual is asleep. It’s not long before the entire town is overrun by them. Leaving Bennell and Becky as the only ones left. They can be fooled, but Becky has trouble supressing her emotions. By far the most terrifying scene for me was when Bennell kisses Becky, only to discover that there’s nothing there. It leads to the famous ending where a frantic Dr. Bennell tries desperately to convince people of the invasion. “They’re here already! Your next! Your next!” It would have been a chilling note to end things on, but it was changed to include a prologue and epilogue. Making things a bit more hopeful. Whether hopeful or not, Invasion of the Body Snatchers is both a classic and a cautionary tale.

1. IOTBS

Dr. Bennell and Becky run from the pod people

Fowl Notes

The Trumpet of the Swan is the third and final children’s book written by author E.B. White. Yet unlike Stuart Little or Charlotte’s Web, it’s likely you’ve never heard of it. The same can be said for the 2001 animated movie. Which has the lowest reception out of any of the theatrically released E.B. White films. It’s from the same guy whose directed a countless number of Swan Princess movies. I guess he’s got a thing for swans. The Trumpet of the Swan is about a trumpeter swan named Louis (like Louis Armstrong) that needs a trumpet to speak, as well as attract a mate. His father steals one for him, so Louis sets out to earn enough money to pay it off. Louis’s trumpet makes him rich and famous. Effectively solving all his problems. The biggest criticism with The Trumpet of the Swan is its inability to follow the source material. If you know E.B. White you’ll be able to tell that they played things too safe. Although even the stuff that they did follow from the book is kind of weird. I get why this isn’t his most talked about story. The lesser animation studio shows as well. While the jazzy tunes aren’t all that memorable. The voice actors are probably miscast too. The Trumpet of the Swan plays one too many foul notes to make an impression.

7. TTOTS

Louis plays his trumpet

Terrific, Radiant, and Humble

Charlotte’s Web (2006) is the equivalent of a modern live-action Disney remake. Bare in mind that this is still a Nickelodeon movie. I just find the similarities to be too much to ignore. While E.B. White’s other story Stuart Little was first done in live-action, Charlotte’s Web was a different story. Instead they chose the easier route of animation. So several years later in a move that surely drew Babe comparisons, a live-action remake was released. I was immediately on board with seeing it, but I didn’t for a very frustrating reason. My brother’s fear of spiders made it impossible for us to go see the movie. Then I got really upset when he told me he saw the movie in school with no problems. Needless to say we watched the movie the very same day. Charlotte’s Web (2006) isn’t a musical. It also uses CGI for characters that are a bit trickier to train in real life. Specifically Templeton and Charlotte. Charlotte’s appearance is actually a lot less creepy than you’d expect. She only has 2 normal sized eyes with the other 6 being smaller. As I expected, Dakota Fanning plays Fern. She takes care of Wilbur until he’s old enough to go to Zuckerman’s farm. Although Wilbur maintains a child’s voice. The barn is made up of a surprising amount of talent with the likes of Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Kathy Bates, Robert Redford, Oprah Winfrey, and Cedric the Entertainer. Julia Roberts is a pleasant surprise as Charlotte. And her web of messages for Wilbur is just as miraculous in live-action. Her death hit me just as hard as the original. Charlotte’s Web (2006) and its simple tale of a spider’s love for an innocent pig works in any medium.

6. CW

Wilbur meets Charlotte

Live-Action Remake of: Charlotte’s Web (1973)

Bucket of Slop

Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure is the equivalent of a lousy direct-to-video Disney sequel. In the way that it continues a much older movie nearly 2 decades later. Only with lower quality animation, storytelling, and voice acting. I first discovered the so-called sequel on a Nickelodeon VHS tape that I owned. That’s who markets the movie now that Hanna-Barbera isn’t as big as it used to be. Charlotte’s Web 2 has nothing to do with anything that E.B. White wrote. All the deep themes of the original story are ditched in favor of a juvenile kiddie story. The animation doesn’t help. It’s way too stylized with an overuse of bright colors. The worst character looks are Charlotte and her three daughters Nellie, Joy, and Aranea. Who for some reason have human hair. Amanda Bynes as Nellie is the only recognizable voice in the movie. Charlotte’s Web 2 is about Wilbur, Charlotte’s kids, and Templeton trying to save a black sheep named Cardigan from a dastardly fox. Then Wilbur spends almost the entire rest of the movie as a dirty wild pig covered in nature. I think I’ll take the honest depiction of mortality in Charlotte’s Web over the lazy adventure in Charlotte’s Web 2 anyday.

5. CW2WGA

Wilbur plays with Cardigan

Preceded by: Charlotte’s Web

Some Pig

Charlotte’s Web is the original talking pig who just wants to live movie. It’s one of the most beloved children’s books of all time. I know I enjoyed reading it when I was young. Written by author E. B. White, the 1973 adaptation was the only one of his stories released in his lifetime. He was less than pleased, but the same can’t be said for everyone else. Charlotte’s Web is one of a few older animated movies that I loved just as much as a Disney movie. It was actually the first original movie released by Hanna-Barbera Productions. You can tell by the quality of animation. Which looks more like a saturday morning cartoon the more I think about it. White’s main criticism was directed towards its Disney style songs. They’re a mixed bag, but perfectly harmless. Charlotte’s Web is all about runt of the litter Wilbur. Who like every other pig, is in danger of becoming dinner. The farmer’s daughter Fern keeps this from happening at first, but only for so long. It’s only at Zuckerman’s barn that Wilbur meets Charlotte A. Cavatica. A loving spider who along with a chatty goose and hungry rat Templeton, decide to help Wilbur. Charlotte spins four different miraculous messages in her web for Wilbur. He’s “Some Pig,” he’s “Terrific,” “Radiant,” and “Humble.” The messages work, effectively saving Wilbur’s life. Sadly that’s not the end of the story. Charlotte passes away at the fair when all her hard work is done. The only time I’ve ever cried over a spider. Which is only helped by Debbie Reynolds beautiful vocal performance. Thankfully Charlotte’s spirit lives on in her children. Charlotte’s Web goes to show that life is precious no matter the creature.

4. CW

Wilbur meets Charlotte

Followed by: Charlotte’s Web 2: Wilbur’s Great Adventure

Skunk Smell

Why does Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild exist? It has nothing to do with E.B. White’s book. Instead they just make up a story set in the not so great outdoors. Stuart Little 2 and Spider-Man were such big hits for Sony that they both received short lived computer animated shows. Maybe they would have lasted longer if they didn’t have such bizarre animation. It wasn’t just computer animation, it was crossed with some kind of cel shading technique. Bottom line, it didn’t look right to me. So I wasn’t exactly keen on checking out the so-called third movie that came out 2 years later. Even if Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, and Michael J. Fox all returned, there’s still a distinct lack of Nathan Lane. Sadly this was Fox’s last movie role for nearly a decade. And this wasn’t even a theatrical release. Instead the quality is greatly decreased, the rating is lowered to a G, and the actors are given nothing to work with. Stuart Little 3 is just about camping. Along with Snowbell being kidnaped by a cougar in the wilderness. What’s worse is the fact that Stuart befriends a skunk whose just a walking stereotype. Stuart Little 3 ditches charming fun in favor of a childish cartoon.

3. SL3COTW

Stuart at camp

Preceded by: Stuart Little 2

Little Hey, Little Ho!

Stuart Little 2 picks up 3 years after Stuart was adopted into the Little family. Since the oddity of a talking mouse has worn off, Stuart’s new problem is proving that he’s not too small to accomplish big things. Which is difficult to do with such an overprotective mother. Everything changes when Stuart meets Margalo. An adventurous young bird that crash lands into his car. One thing that Stuart Little 2 does different than the first is stick a little bit closer to the original E.B. White story. Margalo is a book character that was previously omitted. She teaches Stuart to seize the day not knowing that she’s tied up with a villainous Falcon. Michael J. Fox and Melanie Griffith are a welcomed pair, but James Woods is a perfect voice actor no matter what he does. When Margalo disappears, it’s up to Stuart and a reluctant Snowbell to find her in the big city. Leaving George to cover for him with crazy excuses back home. Nathan Lane was funny before, but now every line Snowbell gets is hilarious. In some ways, I prefer Stuart Little 2 to the first. I remember my theater going experience very clearly. I loved the greater emphasis on adventure. Stuart now flies in a toy airplane that he uses in a final confrontation with the falcon. Stuart Little 2 is bigger, but it never loses the heart that made this little hero such a favorite.

2. SL2

Stuart says goodbye to Margalo

Preceded by: Stuart Little & Followed by: Stuart Little 3: Call of the Wild

Little High, Little Low!

Stuart Little is the tale of a little mouse with big dreams. It was based on the first children’s book by famed author E.B. White. Though it wasn’t the first to receive a movie adaptation. Stuart Little is one of many beloved movies from my childhood. I saw it in theaters and many times after on VHS. That being said, I never read the book. So I had no idea it was vastly different from the movie. Apparently the Stuart Little in the book is born to human parents and just happens to be small with a mouse appearance. Needless to say the movie makes a lot more sense. You know as much sense as a talking mouse being adopted by human parents can make. Directed by co-director of The Lion King Rob Minkoff and co-written by M. Night Shyamalan (what a twist!), Stuart Little focuses on the Little family. A cheerful little family made up of Geena Davis, Hugh Laurie, and 90’s “it kid” Jonathan Lipnicki. While at the adoption agency, the Little’s meet Stuart. An optimistic talking mouse fittingly voiced by Michael J. Fox. His new brother George is less than enthusiastic at first, but he warms up to him eventually. The same can’t be said for their cat Snowbell. Since that makes Stuart a mouse with a pet cat. Nathan Lane is the clear scene stealer voicing the feisty feline. Stuart has many ups and downs, but he always maintains a positive attitude. Whether he’s winning a boat race or dodging a mob of cats in a motorized toy car. Stuart Little goes to show that a little optimism goes a long way.

MSDSTLI EC006

Stuart introduces himself

Followed by: Stuart Little 2