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DirecTV movie grist

Posted by Wesley Morris  August 3, 2009 11:00 AM

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For a couple of years, DirecTV has been using our nostalgia for certain loud, effects-y science-fiction (among other genres) to seduce us into subscribing to its satellite awesomeness. The ads I'm thinking of are cool on the one hand and sad on the other.

A heavily made-up Craig T. Nelson turned back the clock for a "Poltergeist" redo that crassly, if aptly, also exploits the late Heather O'Rourke (what, no Zelda Rubinstein?). Robert Patrick contributed a few seconds to the "Terminator 2" spot. The redoubtable Sigourney Weaver, of "Aliens," returned to the construction armor she used to flush that creature into the galactic void ("This is going to feel almost as good as when I got rid of cable"). Michael Clarke Duncan, in the most problematic of them all, reprises his role from "Planet of the Apes" but in what looks like a hostage negotiation from a "Die Hard" movie. Yesterday I saw a new one with Naomi Watts, mildly annoyed, atop the Empire State Building in King Kong's hand. (More apes.)

I'm sure there's a perfectly lucrative explanation for everyone's participation. Let's hope Kathy Bates was well-compensated for her admittedly funny "Misery" spoof. You can imagine many actors begging their agents to get them in one of these. Richard Dreyfuss and Emilio Estevez must be calling someone about getting back together for a "Stakeout' riff, while Whoopi Goldberg plots another shot at "Ghost."

But the complete collapse and conflation of mediums is striking. DirecTV seeks to praise the blockbuster not bury it. But the democratizing effect of so many screens is that size no longer matters. Ubiquity does. Now the movies live anywhere and everywhere. The DirecTV ads are blips of movies reimagined as TV commercials for watching movies at home.

What's neat about them is how, for a moment, they trick into a kind of cognitive dissonance: Wait, when did Ellen Ripley take a break from the end of "Aliens" to articulate the virtues of direct broadcast satellite television? Being the consummate professional, Weaver actually appears to be giving a performance, which leads to what's a little dispiriting about them: the conflation of very-goodness in "Aliens" with junk like "Planet of the Apes" and TV's "Baywatch," starring a typically game Pamela Anderson, for the sake of advertising, makes every movie seem like recyclable junk. It's highly sophisticated "Scary Movie"-izing.

With that in mind, here is a clip of the best of these ads. It's in Spanish, sets a Christmas Carol to recreations of some of movie evil's most famous faces, and is a lot more aggressively imaginative than the aforementioned spots. If we must have these at all, more like this please.

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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.

Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.

Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.

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