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Running Time:
1 hour, 57 minutes

Rating: PG-13 Parents Strongly Cautioned.

Rating Explanation:
for frightening sequences of sci-fi violence and disturbing images

Jimmy's Buzz Guide Review:
This is without question one of the best disaster movies of all time, but not one of the best pictures.

Additional Info:
DVD Features: Interviews with Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise; Pre-Visualization: discover the artistry and imagination behind the film's spectacular action sequences; Designing the Enemy: tripods and aliens; War Chronicles: on-set production diaries; The H.G. Wells Legacy.

War of the Worlds
Based on the famous novel by H.G. Wells, previously adapted by Orson Welles (who scared the nation with his 1938 radio broadcast) and filmed by George Pal in 1953; this updated version has been set in contemporary working-class New Jersey. Tom Cruise stars as Ray Ferrier, one of those self-absorbed types who lives a selfish and solitary life when ex-wife (Miranda Otto) drops off their two kids for a weekend with dad. There's uncommunicative Robbie (Justin Chatwin), a sullen teenager and neurotic pre-teen Rachel (Dakota Fanning). When a horde of aliens emerge from from under the city streets in giant space vehicles and begin vaporizing every person in sight and crushing everything in their paths with their disintegrator rays. Somehow Ray and his kids survive the initial onslaught and manage to flee town in the only working car in the area, heading to Boston so they can be returned to their mother. However, the invading forces grow in numbers and Ray and the kids are trapped in the middle of enormous firestorms and they survive only by a combination of luck and the fact that they're the stars of the film, and the stars rarely die. Eventually, Ray and Rachel wind up underground, holed up in the basement of a seemingly Good Samaritan (Tim Robbins) who gradually begins to show his increasingly deranged ways as the invaders close in. Up to this point, Steven Spielberg's latest epic has been a surprisingly effective thriller. Having given us numerous pleasant and friendly visitors from other worlds in “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.” and “A.I.: Artificial Intelligence;” but he seems to delight in producing these much deadlier outer space creatures this time. And again he demonstrates that he's the best director around when it comes to the use of special effects, and razor-sharp editing. Working with longtime collaborators such as cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, editor Michael Kahn and composer John Williams, Spielberg not only give us these dazzling visions, he does it with such ease that it almost seems to have been simple to do, although it must have been fiendishly difficult. And yet, like many of Spielberg’s best films, “War of the Worlds” is more than just a technological showcase. He and co-writers Josh Friedman and David Koepp cleverly invert the usual sci-fi formula, focusing only on the central characters and only revealing the events that they witness themselves. Tom Cruise is outstanding as Ray, who for the vast majority of the film is an unsympathetic father, taking his kids to Boston not necessarily to save them, but to get them out of his life. Sure, he gets his triumphant moment in the end but for the most part, he's more a heel than a hero. Sadly, once they get into that basement, in the last half-hour, the film begins to unravel, as did A-I. Of course, the notion of a group of people staving off an alien attack in a basement will remind many of you of “Signs,” one of the many films over the years to borrow from Welles’s original version. What will really remind you of “Signs,” however, is the way that “War of the Worlds” suddenly falls apart once the aliens are revealed, their plans are revealed and their weaknesses are discovered. This is still probably the most entertaining film Spielberg has made in several years, and the box-office results should be overwhelming.

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