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Mars Attacks!

Tim Burton's affectionate, brightly colored hommage to '50s alien invasion movies, pulp sci-fi, comic books and -- of course -- the lurid Mars Attacks! trading cards, leaves no cliche unturned. Martian saucers are spotted spinning their way toward Earth, which prepares for its first contact with aliens. The spacemen -- pop-eyed, skull-faced, spider monkeys with giant, pulsating brains -- claim to come in peace, but whip out their Toys "R" Us-style rayguns at the earliest opportunity, lasering dignitaries, dogs, soldiers and New Age saucer-huggers with equal glee. The cast is a who's who of the hot, the funky, the cool, the famous and the has-been (discretion precludes detailing the breakdown), and the decor is high hipster with Populuxe flourishes. Rude, crude and spitefully vicious, the Martians lay siege to Earth with the glee of monstrous children, cackling cruelly (Ack, ack, ack!) as they topple the Washington Monument, incinerate the Eiffel Tower, knock down the Easter Island tiki heads like bowling pins, and lay waste to the White House. Since the movie is obviously designed to be a larky romp through low-culture cheese, it may seem mean-spirited to complain that in the end Burton's spectacle is a bit hollow. But his genius has always resided in his ability to give depth and a curious, dark richness to the ephemeral fluff of his pop-culture memories -- this is all sparkly surface.