***/**** Image A- Sound C
starring Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan
screenplay by Jonathan Gems
directed by Tim Burton
by Jefferson Robbins When Tim Burton calls in his Hollywood chips, it's usually, to our benefit, to facilitate his darker impulses. 1989's Batman gave him free reign to make Edward Scissorhands, for instance, and Warner Bros. incubated the bitter confection of Sweeney Todd after raking in more traditional bucks on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I daresay one of those Burton Unbound documents is his A-list romp Mars Attacks!, which today gives off strange vibrations that echo forward as well as back. It's a '50s UFO-invasion flick farce, of course, based on a 1962 trading card set illustrated by, among others, comics great Wally Wood. It's anarchic, unexpected ("Wha? Trading cards?" we all said at the time), and darkly funny. It plays in the massive footprint of the same year's Independence Day, and in its more biting moments, it somehow speaks to the great collapses of the subsequent decade.