TRUE BLOOD 4.5 – “Me and the Devil”

That hoodie must be getting aromatic now, he's been wearing it weeks!
This week, Bon Temps gets religion.  We have good honest existentialist angst, an epiphany, prayer, an exorcism and rather too much gospel singing!

We also get a lot of dreams and flashbacks this week!

We get some extra screen-time for some of last week’s B stories.  We also learn an important life-lesson about gators!

Meanwhile, we spend the most time yet with Marnie in her Moon Goddess Emporium. The problem with this storyline, so far, has been that we, the viewer, don’t fear of witches.  But Pam does!

This was not a Good Face Day for Pam
After one brief appearance last week, Terry and Arlene and their cute little possessed moppet have their own little sub-plot.
See ... See ... Cutest little demon ever!
Oh, and Sookie sleeps with Eric!

Well, NO ONE expected this ... Did they!
All the details and my review in full here: On What Culture!

I have been asked not to re-print my What Culture reviews here so, for the time being, following the link will be your best way to resume normal service.  Don't panic, my cinema reviews will still be appearing here!


This is a film (based on the novel of the same name) about a teenager called Oliver, awash on a sea of hormones and confusion.  This is not, it’s fair to say, unexplored territory.  From Catcher in the Rye via The Breakfast Club to Juno, you will find many brilliantly observed and painfully true depictions of the terrible teens.

There are so many rites of passage films depicting the shedding of childish things that you’d be forgiven for thinking there was nothing new to say about it but, as with silly love songs, we don’t seem to have had enough.  And I am grateful for that because Submarine is wonderful!

The movie that I was mostly put in mind of is Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl (1981).  And that’s about as fine a complement as I can pay a British teen movie.  Part of the reason for the comparison is that Submarine seems to be set in the eighties.  There’s nothing that overtly tells you this … But the absence of mobile phones and laptops and the presence of video tapes and Paddy Considine’s mullet would seem to suggest that!  Also, it is that point in the eighties when some people still hadn’t quite got over being in the seventies.

Thing is, that’s the time I was trudging through the ignominies of teenage.  So, unlike y’r modern teen who LOLs and LMFAOs their way through life, experiencing everything vicariously through their constantly updating social networks whilst growing a thick skin of cynicism; I remember having to make my mistakes myself and having to figure out how and why I’d made them alone.

We were a sadly solitary lot, the teenage boys of the 1980s.  Similarly, Oliver (Craig Roberts) lives in an isolated world largely of his own imagining.   He agonises about being invisible to girls but, in his mental experiments, he imagines being dead would be a good career move because he would then, in his absence, become the centre of everyone’s attention.

Rather like Adrian Mole (also from the eighties) Oliver is well-read and erudite but has no life experiences to elucidate with his wide vocabulary … So, in the absence of an incident-filled life, he makes things up.

As children will, he tries a bit of everything.  Tired of being bullied, he tries a spot of bullying himself, just to see if it agrees with him and will impress Jordana, the girl on whom he fixates.  He has the ability to rationalise any behaviour to himself – including spying on his parents to the point when he knows, to the day, when they last had sex … Some seven months previously.

So far, the film probably doesn’t sound especially new or unusual … But writer / director Richard Ayoade (who you will, of course, know as Moss in the I.T Crowd) has created a beautifully visualised depiction of mundane alienation.  There is a clever economy of shooting here and Ayoade even allows the editing to carry the gag occasionally.  That shows real maturity but, it’s worth mentioning, whilst this is Ayoade’s first movie, it isn’t his first time in the director’s chair:  His first screen credit, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was as co-writer and director as well as co-star!

Whilst the whole film is seen from Oliver’s perspective, making him very much the centre of things, he is surrounded by great oddball characters:  His rigid, perpetually-embarrassed middle-class parents (played by Noah Taylor and Sally Hawkins), Graham, the mullet-wearing Ninja neighbour (Paddy Considine) and, of course, the frosty presence of Jordana herself (Yasmin Paige).  All of these characters are layered and complex and portrayed with the lightest of touch by an inspired cast. 

Visually, the film is full of unobtrusive but beautiful tracking shots, with the camera flowing effortlessly through the wintery Welsh wilderness, making it look quite magical; even if this does lead to some rather self-conscious referencing of Francois Truffaut.  Hey it’s nice, for once, for someone to not be referencing Spielberg or Tarantino!

Oliver’s eccentric, experimental relationship with Jordana, conducted almost exclusively out-of-doors in duffle-coats, is made up of perfectly conceived vignettes, often gathered together in delightful little montages.  Like any miniature, the details are absolutely crucial in this small film, the humour is gentle and heartfelt but the themes, they’re universal, and here played out to the accompaniment of Alex (Arctic Monkeys) Turner’s simple, soulful songs.

As the film progresses into its third act, we do begin to lose sympathy with Oliver.  His rationalisations become quite cruel and self-serving, but this is because he is still a child, unfamiliar with and unsure of how to cope with the emotions he feels.  It is quite brave of the film to not gloss over this and not try to idealise Oliver. 

What about that title, then: Submarine?  Well, apart from the submarine Oliver has painted on his bedroom wall, this is mainly a reference to his discovery of sonar.  Using sonar we can detect what is going on inside a hard metal object.  Oliver’s fear is that there is no sonar for people, no way of being able to detect what is going in on in the human heart.  Of course, we do develop that sonar: It’s called empathy.

One has to experience teenage traumas in order to develop that empathy.  That is the point of a coming-of-age story and that is the key difference between a child and an adult.  We can enjoy the humour, understand the human drama and be moved by the emotions precisely because we have been through that rite of passage and can now empathise with those who are still struggling through it.

Fortunately, watching this film is very far from a struggle.  It may just be my film of the year!


Audio Commentary – This is the best extra by far.  Featuring Ayoade, of course, as well as the original novelist, Joe Dunthorne (I love it when novelists get this involved in a movie adaptation) and Director of Photography, Eric Wilson, who does extraordinary work with the seemingly impossible task of making midwinter Wales seems like a place you actually want to be.  A great excuse to watch the film again straight away!

Through The Prism – 16.00

This is the self-help video that Graham T. Purvis (the Ninja neighbour) flogs at his ‘seminars’ and parts of which we see peppered through the film.  It is essentially Paddy Considine improvising in character.  A bravura performance, to be sure, but the joke does wear thin.

Message From Ben Stiller – 2.00

A heartfelt pep-talk video from Ben Stiller, sitting in sun-kissed LA, sent to the film-crew entrenched in Wales in the rainiest month on record.  He certainly feels their pain.

Interviews – 24.30

EPK (Electronic Press-Kit) interviews with all the main stars.  Feel free to add your own questions then howl with laughter as the cast answer a completely different question.

Deleted Scenes – 9.40

One of the joys of the film is its cracking pace and economy.  These scenes would, almost without exception, have slowed things down.  They do, however, fill-in some of the details about Oliver’s dad who is, to be frank, only sketched-in as a character in the film.

Extended Scenes – 4.50


London Comedy Festival Q&A – 10.00

Seemingly shot by an iPhone, this gives an impression of what the Festival screening must have been like, for those people trapped at the back who couldn’t hear.

Glasgow Film Festival Q&A – 11.40

This one is better and more coherent, although Ayoade does seem to be a bit nonplussed at being asked questions about his film.

Camera Test – 3.50

This is a run-through of the key under-the-bridge scene, with different hair and an unattractive mack instead of the duffle-coat.  Those tiny details really do matter!

Piledriver Waltz Video – 3.20

The video for one of Alex Turner’s songs, made up of seemingly unused montage material from the film.  Quite delightful!


So, you have an opinion on Matthew McConaughey, don’t you!  Everyone does.  After the better part of a decade appearing in films which are, at best, undemanding and, at worst, just plain awful, he has become something of a joke around Hollywood because he just can’t seem to keep his nipples off screen. 

Now, aged 42, McC (as I’ve decided to dub him) clearly thinks it is time to be taken as seriously as he fifteen years ago so, once again, he has slipped into a lawyer’s loafers for The Lincoln Lawyer.  Mick Haller is a slick, cynical wheeler-dealer of a defence lawyer whose office is the back seat of his thirty year old Lincoln Town Car (with the number plate NTGUILTY) because, like the shark he resembles, he has to keep moving and all his clients, whether they did it or not, walk free after hiring him.

Except one.  The one case that will come back to haunt him is that of Jesus Martinez, who was found guilty of a brutal murder and was destined for Death Row before Haller’s manoeuvrings had him committed for fifteen years instead.  He considers that a result, initially, but events eventually make him reassess.

And when I say ‘eventually’, I mean it!  Boy, does the first hour of this film drag.  We spend far too long being introduced to his complicated life and the wide range of characters who live in it with him.  The film is written in such a way that every single incidental character and every single off-hand line of dialogue will come in handy during the film’s second half.  The problem with that is that the astute viewer or experienced fan of courtroom dramas will know where and why a lot of this detail will matter.

"Wow, you mean you don't have to take your shirt off in this one, either, Marisa?"
But worse than the confusing structure of the first hour is the fact that McC plays Haller as a total dick throughout.  Then at the mid-point, when he gets his epiphany (right on cue) he changes; he realises he made a big mistake with the Martinez case and has to do something about it.  Problem is, we’ve spent a whole hour not liking or not caring about him, so McC suddenly has to work doubly hard to earn our sympathy.

TV shows like Shark and Boston Legal and, before that, The Practice, have shown that you can take the overly-familiar trappings of court-room drama and turn them out weekly, yet still make them compelling.  A major motion picture has to step-up to this high bar and get over it in pretty impressive style.

The twist is that Haller so dislikes his client that he actually wants to lose the case, but still has to do his best work.  Hang on, though, wasn’t that also the case with Al Pacino in … And Justice For All and, for that matter, Jim Carrey in Liar, Liar?

So, you see, with McC struggling to be taken seriously and the story struggling to feel original, it’s an uphill struggle.  It’s to his credit that we do give a damn by the film’s closing act!  And it could all be saved if they could just pull off that moment we wait for in all court-room dramas, that tingle of excitement you get when the canny cross-examiner springs his trap: The ‘You Can’t Handle the Truth’ Moment.

Do they manage it?  Almost.  Does this lift this film above the mediocrity of being just another mid-list drama?  Not quite.  Is the revelation worth two hours of watching Marisa Tomei wandering around in the background wondering what she’s there for?  No.  Is it worth it for the brief glimpses of Michael Paré (who, apparently, isn’t dead after all), or William H. Macy or Bryan Cranston without his beard; or even for another one of John Leguizamo’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameos?  No, no, no and no.

"Don't complain, John - At least this isn't Repo Men ... At least you weren't digitally removed!"
Are the extras on the disc worth it?  Well, let’s have a look, shall we:


To their credit, the extras concentrate on Michael Connelly, the writer of the source novel, and he is a fascinating individual … Not quite as eccentric as Eddie Bunker or James Ellroy, but heading that way!

Making The Case: 13.30

This is an interesting but fairly standard telling of how the novel became the film which considers the age-old problem of turning a 400-odd page novel into a 120 page script and how much of the novel must be lost.  McC has a nice way of encapsulating this when he says the film is like the ‘greatest hits’ of the novel.

Is it just me, or does Michael Connelly look like an older, scarier Mark Kermode?
Michael Connelly – At Home on the Road: 10.00

This accompanies Connelly as he drives around his beloved LA, introducing us to the locations that inspired the book (as well as the apartment that he bought because Raymond Chandler once lived there).

McC and Connelly – Face to Face: 5.30

This is a smarmy love-in which is almost as uncomfortable to watch as Connelly clearly feels about being in it.

Deleted Scenes: 4.40

Although these do explain why Earl, Mick’s driver, disappears in the middle of the film, and where the rap music we keep hearing actually comes from, these don’t add much especially important to the film.  Sadly, they aren’t the only scenes that should have been deleted from this overly-long, overly-formulaic drama.

Over-all, then, the extras are nothing to write home about.  There’s no audio commentary, very-little on-set footage and very little insight into the process.

And for those keeping score:  McC Nipple Count: 1!


Now the photos of The Dwarf Company have been revealed, you can see them all here, Peter Jackson's Hobbit Facebook page follows with a third production video - hot on the heels of the second.

Here we see all the Dwarves in action.  It's important to get used to them because there are thirteen of them!  They've succeeded in giving them all a different look, I have no doubt they will all have their own distinct personalities.

And then you get Rivendell.

And a shot of the actors with their diminutive doubles.

And John Rhys Davis.

And make sure you stay to the end for a special treat!

Be careful, though, there's at least one moment when Aiden Turner is caught smiling.  And the fabric of the Universe was not rent asunder.

It's nice that Jackson himself can't quite believe his luck, to be re-visiting Middle Earth ... Looking at it from the perspective of a mere mortal, I know how much I want to go there!

Don't know about you but I didn't think I could be any more excited about this film ... Turns out I was wrong - I can!


They have now released the Photoshop fix-up of all the individual photos gathered together as one group.  Nice.

So, okay, here they all are:

RICHARD ARMITAGE as Thorin Oakenshield,
KEN STOTT as Balin,

Photo by James Fisher.

Balin's Dozen (click to enlarge - a bit)

TRUE BLOOD 4.4 - "I'm Alive and On Fire"

This blanket? ... Louis Vuitton! And yes, red IS my colour.
Not the most action-packed episode yet, as reflected in its shorter running-time (fifty minutes as opposed to the 57 or 58 minutes of the previous three episodes) – but there are some interesting themes developing and plenty of eye-candy to keep the audience’s juices flowing.

So, Alexander Skarsgård’s Eric’s just killed Snookie’s Fairy God Mother. The blood makes him giddy, bouncing around like a ten-year-old on a cola high and pinching Sookie’s butt in his fetching hoodie and baggy shorts. She protests, but she clearly enjoys this. After all, there wasn’t a lot of spontaneous tomfoolery when she was with Bill.  I like this Eric!

He runs off to play in the woods and she feels she has to go rescue him, like she’s his mother. She finds him skinny-dipping in the sunlight and loving the sensations he hasn’t enjoyed for millennia … But, as with Sookie’s blood last year, The Fairy Blood only works for a short time and Eric is soon smoking. She covers him up in a towel and sends him off home and, like an overly-excited ten-year-old, he protests, but there is real pathos in his “I don’t want to go back to the dark” Aw, bless.

Bill played the wounded little vampire boy for two seasons – and it worked a treat on Sookie.  Eric is, inadvertently, having the same effect on her by, essentially, being the same as Bill was, all vulnerable and full of pathos.  I’m pretty sure that Eric’s tenure as the doe-eyed victim will be far shorter than Bill’s though and, when he does slick his hair back again and return to his (very) old self – he and Marnie the hippy witch are going to have some serious unfinished business to resolve!

Fiona Shaw praying to the Gods of Melodrama that she can be even more over the top!
Of course, Bill (Stephen Moyer) has changed. He and Eric have, in essence, swapped roles – at least temporarily. When Pam confronts her King, she observes “All of your subjects are learning how ruthless you are.” Her contempt for Bill has grown in proportion to his status.

However, we do get a brief glimpse of the old Bill – the Bill we met in the first few episodes of series one – as he goes home with Portia (Courtney Ford) to meet her grandmother, the matriarch of the family. Bill gets to be his old self – charming the ladies – and discussing their history which, of course, he’s witnessed firsthand. We learn that Portia is Sheriff Andy’s sister. Bill learns that Portia is actually distantly related to him. Suddenly he realises that he’s been having incestuous sex and so immediately ends the relationship. But I’m thinking the damage is done.

Not least because this also means that Andy is also related to him … And having a V addict in the family is not going to look good on King Bill’s resumé.

As Nan (Jessica Tuck) ominously points out, Kings don’t get to retire! Of course, Bill’s major distraction is the witch’s coven. He conveniently mentions - “The Spanish Massacre” and the witch they burned 400 years ago. There is also a suggestion that the Salem Witch Trials were vampire work. So there is real history between witches and vampires and it hasn’t been pleasant. 

Cue flashback – via Marnie’s dream - to The Spanish Witch being burned at the stake whilst reciting an incantation. Marnie (Fiona Shaw) is a strange character! She is looking increasingly ineffectual, being unable to cast any useful spells until she is possessed by the spirit of (presumably) The Spanish Witch, at which point she becomes almost overwhelmingly powerful and dangerous to vamps – but only for a few seconds. It seems likely that her visitations are going to last longer in upcoming episodes!

Sam seems to be back to his old self, his ‘anger management’ is clearly working.  Indeed, he goes for another ‘session’ with Luna, meets her delightful daughter and is told that Luna’s ex (the little girl’s father) is a werewolf – well, in the soap-opera that is now Sam’s life, you just know that’ll come back and bite him!

And, whilst we’re on the subject of werewolves … Alcide (Joe Manganiello) turns up just to strip off. It seems that Sook is getting used to having young naked men around her. It happens a lot. The woods are full of fit naked people running around, mostly in the forms of animals. 

The show is becoming more and more polymorphous perverse – with naked people turning into beasts left, right and centre. Indeed, the only half naked man in Sookie’s life who doesn’t transform into something deadly is Jason (Ryan Kwanten ) and it looks like that might all be about to change!  His deeply distressing story arc has, I fear, further depths of depravity to explore.

Breathe ... She's not interested, mate ... Hasn't even noticed.
Similarly, along with the naked flesh on display throughout, we also get another hint of incest, with The Hot Shot Clampett’s use of terms like “My brother-husband” and “Tell uncle-daddy”; all of which sound quite funny … Until you think about them.

As Alcide points out, Sookie has danger on the doorstep every five minutes and, just when she’s in serious danger of giving in to Eric’s floppy-haired, doe-eyed charms – which is, again, kinda incestuous since she’s spent the whole episode mothering him -  Bill turns-up at her door. Initially it’s like old times, they forget where their relationship is now, but then they gradually remember that they no longer trust each other and Sookie stands up to him and flat-out lies to him for the first time. That feels like a point-of-no-return. I can see that their enmity is going to grow, possibly with the same ferocity that their love grew before it.

Lafayette, Tara and Jesus (Nelsan Ellis, Rutina Wesley and Kevin Alejandro) are pretty-much passengers this week, but that’s okay, with so many other major plot-threads proceeding, it would be annoying and distracting if some were not given the werepanther’s share of the screen-time. 

Leaving just time for one little scene of Terry and Arlene (Todd Lowe and Carrie Preston) – but it’s a scene that’ll remind you straight away of The Shining! That baby really is the cutest reincarnated serial-killer ever!

All-in-all, this is a fairly lightweight episode, but one that is full of light and shade and some interesting potential-filled developments.


With Battle: LA unleashed on Blu-Ray this week, Falling Skies debuting on TV last week and Super 8 due out in three weeks … I decided to gather together my Brains Trust and have a conversation about Alien Invasion Movies.  It very quickly became obvious that there are more of them, and a wider variety of them, than you might think.

Firstly we found ourselves breaking them down into five sub-genres: 

The Small Town Invaders: These invasions begin small in some hick town in the armpit of nowhere and begin to build a bridgehead that way. 

The Worldwide Invaders: often arrive more publicly and aren’t shy about landing on the White House lawn. 

The Solo Invader: arrives by itself, often by accident, but promises to take over the world eventually anyway. 

The Friendly Invaders: means us no harm and generally finds that the sentiment is not reciprocated and, finally:

We Are the Invaders:  In this latter category, we humans are out of our comfort zone (i.e. our home planet), the proverbial fish out of water!

Then we realised that there are two distinct types of invader – Dumb and Smart.  The Dumb Ones work purely on instinct, they aren’t plotting to overthrow the human race, they’re just doing whatever they do to survive and we happen to be in the way.  The Smart Ones, they regard this Earth with envious eyes and slowly and surely despatch a fleet of flying saucers to whup our collective ass.

Some of the films fall into more than one category, of course, so I’ve listed them in the one I think they best represent.  I've also decided to illustrate the films in question with a Behind The Scenes photo, wherever possible, or an interesting poster if not.  Just cos you probably don't see these pictures too much!

So, here they are – The Top Twenty-Five Alien Invasion Movies, arranged by category:

Small Town Invasions:

Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter enjoy an idyllic slice of 1950s small town Americana ... Right before it is despoiled by invading alien clones.
1:         Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1956 – There’s obviously something very powerful about this notion, since they can’t seem to stop remaking this film.  The fear of the time was of Communists in our communities (the reds under the bed) and that you couldn’t tell them apart from ‘us’.  This tale of perfect, identical ‘clones’ grown in pods was to articulate that fear better than anything else.  The spores start off Dumb but, once they’ve seeded the pods, the pod-people are very Smart and organised.
Far more chilling than John Carpenter's disappointing remake.  But, never fear, Mr. Carpenter is well represented elsewhere in this list!
2:         Village of the Damned – 1960 – Based on John Wyndham’s novel The Midwich Cuckoos  – in which a mysterious silver UFO is seen in the village – an element missing from the film!  This depicts an invasion from within – as every woman in the village gives birth to an unearthly child.  Without the novel’s UFO, the aliens are absent and it is left to the viewer’s interpretation whether or not this invasion came from outer space, but the children produced are preternaturally Smart!

Frank Darabont (on the right) and what looks like a wax dummy of Stephen King
3:         The Mist – 2007 - The invasion emanates from another dimension rather than outer space.  As with many of those 50s monster movies which writer/director rank Darabont so loves, military experiments create the problem – in this case by creating a doorway to another dimension.  The spectacularly Dumb monsters that walk through it could hardly be more alien and, of course, they evoke the still unsettling spirit of H. P. Lovecraft.

Probably the bizarrest advertising strap-line ever on, to be fair, one of the bizarrest films of the period.
4:         Invaders from Mars – 1953 – Released in vivid, garish colour rare for the time), in this film the aliens do mean us harm – they want to stop our atomic rockets before we can be a threat to them.  Like The Wizard of Oz, this film is seen from a child’s perspective and ends with the ‘It Was All a Dream … Or Was It?’ ending.
And where's Joaquim in his tinfoil hat?
5:         Signs – 2002 – Okay, so the invaders are Smart, but their plan for world domination … Galactically Dumb: They’re allergic to water … Earth is 75% water! Nevertheless, this film introduced the scary, paranoia-inducing alien invasion to a whole new generation.

Worldwide Invasions:

Philip Kaufman (on the right) making the most of the fact that Jeff Goldblum always looks fairly alien.  Nice to see Nimoy with desceptively normal ears, mind.
1:         Invasion of the Body Snatchers – 1978 – Unlike the original version, which hosted this attack on American values in a small, idealised town, this invasion takes place in the big city, with the industrialised production and distribution of pods clearly showing that it is actually world-wide.  Leonard Nimoy proves once and for all that he isn’t Spock, by playing a coldly logical and emotionless pod person.  The ending traumatised a generation!
I love the way that this Martian is plugged into the mains!
2:         War of the Worlds – 1953 – H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel wasn’t the first alien invasion, but it was the first of its kind and pretty much set the template for every Smart invasion that followed.  The George Pal-produced, Byron Haskin-directed film version boasts the most beautiful and original alien vehicles put on film, until Alien came along twenty-five years later, and the best sound effects ever.  The special effects rightly won that year’s Oscar!

Keeping 'em peeled for bug-eyed monsters.
3:         They Live – 1988 – Come on, say it with me: “I came here to chew bubble-gum …”  … The most fun film in this countdown!  This biting satire of American consumerism and corruption was released at the perfect moment – just as I was studying Sociology and becoming incurably cynical!  The aliens are already here – and they already own yo’ ass!
You see - THAT's how you market a non-sequel, non-franchise movie!
4:         ID4: Independence Day – 1996 – Politically almost the binary opposite of They Live, this is the ultimate, wrapped-in-the-flag gung-ho pro-American movie.  Written and directed by a German!  It brought back the disaster movie and the traditional 50’s-style invasion movie.  It’s cheesy and preposterous and I still love it.

Bernard Cribbins has his first crack at the Daleks.
5:         Daleks – Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. – 1966 – Well, it wins the award for having the most punctuation of any film title in this list.  Its Blitz-like setting also gives what is unambiguously a children’s film a much darker edge, as the parents of the kids who watched it upon release would remember all-too-well when there was a real danger of Britain being crushed under a war machine.  The Daleks might act Dumb, but this is an attempt at a Smart invasion!

Honourable Mentions –

Superman II - 1980 – just ’cos it’s ACE!!  And Kryptonians are aliens!

Night of the Living Dead – 1968 - It is suggested that the dead start walking as a result of alien radiation coming from a satellite returning from Venus, a Dumb invader that makes us all equally dumb.

Solo Invaders:

You've gotta be fuckin' kiddin' me ...
1:         The Thing – 1982 – Many people consider this to be Carpenter’s masterpiece.  The ultimate Dumb Invader, The Thing behaves much like a viral infection, therefore the fact there is just one creature doesn’t mean it won’t reproduce and eventually consume all life on Earth.  But it reckoned without Kurt Russell!
They ain't got time to say "Cheese"
2:         Predator – 1987 – initially derided as just another meat-head action movie, this film has grown in stature over the years.  The Predator is here for the sport and, as is indicated in the later Predator 2 (1990), his kind have been here, picking fights, for quite some time.  A very Smart Invader, this warrior picks his targets carefully, ignoring anyone who can’t give him a good fight.

I'm of a mind that there should be room for Ray Harryhausen in EVERY movie list.
3:         20 Million Miles to Earth – 1957 – Hatching from an egg brought back from Venus, the Ymir starts off as one of the cutest invaders ever, as it scuttles around on a desk-top but, as is the way with these things, it quickly begins to grow, eventually tearing apart The Coliseum in Rome.  The Ymir is Ray Harryhausen’s first great animated creation, it does more than just destroy, it has its own characteristics and personality – unheard of in a movie monster at that time.

James Arness being rigged with smoke for the Let's Set The Alien Vegetable on Fire scene.
4:         The Thing From Another World – 1951 – In this version (quite different to the original story and the later remake) the monster is a vegetable and, like many plants, the bits that are cut off plant seeds and reproduce.  The paranoia of the age was reflected in this film’s conclusion that this solo invader was likely just the vanguard of a much bigger invasion force – summed-up in its now legendary last line of dialogue: “Keep watching the skies!”.  Given the plethora of alien invasion films which followed, this was, in a way, right. 

See, this is how you do a remake - take a film that was RUBBISH and make it GOOD ... Not the other way round.
5:         The Blob – 1988 – The original version was the first starring role for some young guy called Steve McQueen.  This version was co-written by Frank Darabont and features some delightfully over-the-top gory effects.  The invasion begins with a little meteorite cracking open and the titular substance leaking out and attacking people.  It is another one of those Dumb aliens that consumes all in its path and grows as it does so.

Honourable Mentions

The ‘Lonely Death of Jordy Verrill’ segment of Creepshow – 1982 – Stephen King wrote and stars as the dim-witted farmer who finds “meteor shit” in a broken meteorite and inadvertently starts growing the wrong sort of grass.

The Hidden – 1987 – This is a typical 80s action/cop film, with the added twist of the alien symbiote who takes control of various characters as it sees fit.  The film does surprising well with an unpromising premise and cast.

Friendly (i.e.VERY Smart) Invasions:

Spielberg playing the keyboard solo for Dark Side of the Moon.
1:         CE3K: Close Encounters of the Third Kind – 1977 – Now, if I had to take just one of these films as my Desert Island Alien Invasion movie … This would be it!  Having recently re-watched my Blu-Ray, and sat through all three versions, I have fallen in love with it all over again.  Y’know, this film is actually better than Star Wars!  Shush.  Don’t tell George.  This is one of the very few alien invasion films that believes we humans may be mature enough to actually communicate with aliens, not simply try to nuke them.  Sadly, Spielberg doesn’t seem to believe this himself any more.

James Cameron ... He CAN change the laws of physics.
2:         The Abyss – 1989 – This was the film where Cameron emerged as the most despotic, most visionary, most ambitious film director since C.B. DeMille.  The crew took to wearing t-shirts proclaiming: You can't scare me, I work for Jim Cameron’.  The film itself is a master-class in structuring an action/adventure movie.  It has visuals unlike anything seen before or since and, at least in the full-length version, it actually makes sense!  The only problem is that there is so much going on in the film, the aliens almost come across as an afterthought.

Funny, I thought you was bigger?
3:         Day The Earth Stood Still – 1951 – The second oldest film in this list (it was released about six months after The Thing From Another World) is also one of the calmest and most thoughtful.  It is a film that acknowledges that science is the language with which we will most likely be able to communicate with other intelligences, but warns that that same science might be our undoing.   It weaves in Christian symbolism with good old American values, a brilliant robot, an awe-inspiring musical score and a career-defining performance from Michael Rennie.  Oh, and that catch-phrase: “Klaatu, barrata … ehm … neck-tie”!

And for those of you who think there's anything new about 3D ...
4:         It Came From Outer Space – 1953 – This film plays with the conventions of the fledgling genre quite early in its development.  It is a rare early anti-war invasion movie.  Here the aliens, whilst appearing malicious, are merely using the local humans to help them rebuild their spaceship so they can go home.   Credit for that innovation must go, I feel, to the great Ray Bradbury who wrote the original treatment and, depending on who you believe, also provided the full script.
So I was just enjoying the view when this giant Dennis Muren head just reared up infront o' me ...
5:         E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial – 1982 – The ugly spud-faced guy with light fingers wasn’t invading deliberately, he was here to do a spot of gardening and got stranded and, in the process, helped a lonely kid deal with his parent’s divorce.  The phenomenal, unprecedented success of this film pretty-much ruined Spielberg for the next decade, as he became obsessed with seeing the world through children’s’ eyes.  Not in a creepy serial killer way, you understand …

Honourable mentions –

The Fifth Element- 1997 – Milla Jovovich’s Leeloominaï is, in many ways, just as innocent as ET (though, obviously, less spud-like) but she isn’t an alien so much as an alien device constructed to save the universe, pursued by an invading force of gruesome, big-eared Mangaloreans.

We Are The Aliens:

Interesting that they chose to make this poster more about cleavage than aliens.
1:         Quatermass and the Pit – 1967 – Standing in for any and all iterations of Quatermass, any one of which deserve places in various categories.  Although I think this film version is slightly less impressive than the 1959 TV series on which it is based, it’s easier on the eye.  It concerns an alien invasion that occurred five million years ago and resulted in what SF author David Brin calls ‘uplift’ of the human race from apes to humans.  The influence the long-dead demonic Martians have over us shows that we haven’t evolved all that much in all those millennia.

See, even Kubrick's behind the scenes photos are damn-near symmetrical ...
2:         2001: A Space Odyssey – 1968 - Much like Quatermass, this film postulates, first, that we were visited way back in the mists of time by friendly aliens who uplifted us from apes to men.  The film then proceeds to have us as the aliens, en route to meet those who helped us.

Eccentric German poster (East German, I'd say at a guess) for the Soviet film.  Click to enlarge!
3:         Solaris – 1971 – This film, something of a companion to 2001, tells of the ultimately futile attempts to communicate with an alien ocean, which is apparently sentient, but does not respond in a coherent way to communication.  It is based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem, who wrote often about failures of communication.  Tarkovsky’s adaptation dwells more on Kris Kelvin’s developing ability to communicate with himself, to understand his own motives and emotions and come to terms with them.  As with Quatermass and 2001, the Smart or Dumb status of the alien is unclear.

What?  You mean Robbie WASN'T a real robot?  I'm devastated.
4:         Forbidden Planet – 1956 – An extra-ordinary piece of film-making from MGM, the studio more at home producing frothy musicals.  This film is as visually stunning as any made at the time.  It also has some very disturbing ideas buried just below its surface – rather as the endless galleries of subterranean computers lie below the surface of Altair IV.  As with Quatermass and 2001, these alien artefacts have been left by a long-departed or long-extinct alien civilisation.  This technology unleashes the Disney-animated Id Monster – one of the most sophisticated monsters ever put on film.  Like Solaris, this film uses outer space as a metaphor for the inner space of the human soul.

5:         First Men in the Moon – 1964 – Made some five years before Man actually first put foot on the Moon, this film adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1901 novel, scripted by Quatermass’ Nigel Kneale - is absolutely Imperial!  Once again there is a lot going on beneath the surface of a Heavenly body, in this case Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion Selenites.  Once again communication between invaders (us) and invaded (them) breaks down and ends in violence.  They start out relatively Dumb, but get wise to our violent ways pretty quickly!

So, THAT's what Lunacolor looks like!

Honourable mention –

Martian Chronicles – 1980 – This isn’t a movie at all, but a TV mini-series, based on Ray Bradbury’s Silver Locusts stories of man’s arrival on and occupation of Mars.  We, of course, destroy their culture (and our own) and the series ends with Rock Hudson and family, stranded on Mars, with no Earth to fly back to, gazing at their reflection and realising that they have become The Martians.

And that’s it … This list doesn’t include every alien invasion film but, to my taste, they are the best or most significant.  If I’ve missed any absolutely essential movies, I’ll rely on you to tell me.

Meanwhile: Thanks to my Brains Trust: Mark and Jason, Rose 3, Phyll, Other Mark, Dave, Howard, Andi, Chris, Steve, Sean and My Beloved, Linda.