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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Boston SciFi Festiaval Tuesday

 Tired from the first night but willing to head over to the Festival for a second night of science fiction. Somerville was in better shape with roads down to pavement and some parking. After a big storm parking is a challenging  thing in a city and it is no different here. Ensuring my spot in a local lot I headed in find to the theater to again be surprised that the schedule was not going to hold. The local shorts program never arrived so we had a lively discussion of what we could fill the slot with. The winner was the film. When all was said and done we settled in for another night of movies and some good conversation between the features. Here are some of my thoughts on the films.

The Final Shift (2012) - Well this film was a bit of a mess, not that it did not tell a coherent story but just the execution was really not up to snuff. Cardboard performances were served more than coffee in the diner where most of the action takes place. Written, directed and acted in by John Depew he should get some credit here for making his dream come true. Although not the best pulled off film give credit where it is due. making a movie is a difficult process and without the efforts we as an audience would be worse off.  The film centers around Frank (Depew) as an aging hit man who, to his good fortune saves a genetic experiment Margot (Vanessa Leigh) during a job. Her father Colonel Maslow (Robert Miano) not only experimented on her but on her sister Alpha (Nicole Trychon) and many other women but they were the only two to survive. Frank can't leave the girl there strapped to a table so going against his normal behavior he frees her. The two bond and become a team, he the wise veteran showing her the ropes she the genetically engineered fighting machine both deadly and sexy.
  Some clumsy writing brings them back into contact with Maslow and Alpha some six years later in a small diner. There Maslow is finally going to get his hands on the paper about his experiments and then I don't know create an army of hot deadly soldiers. Unfortunately the crew he is going to buy the box of papers from foolishly end up killing someone in the diner and then taking everyone hostage? Again unfortunately, this time for the crew, they happen to have both Frank and Margot in the place so things won't end well for them. Adding to the mix is Alpha who has a unique ability that gets her into the action in trying to meet Maslow's needs. If I could see this movie again with a few things changed, they would be. Some smoother acting, whether it was the line or the actors a lot of the performances were stiff. The long setup that got Frank and Margot together could have been shorter. Sure back story is important to character development but it took a long time from when Margot and Frank meet to them ending up in that diner. Finally and most importantly I think fight coordinators with more experience, as well as some better camera work during the action sequences. The action was really tough to watch and pulled you out of the film with its clunky delivery.

Juan in a Million (2012) - One of the hardest things to pull off is a film where the main character is alone. How do you hold the audience when it is just watching one guy go about in an empty city. Juan in a Million has to do this and only succeeds at times. The story is simple butthe reasons not really explained in the film. Juan Pablo Garcia (Sergio Allard) lives in Chile and is desperately trying to get to Harvard to follow his girlfriend. He goes to bed on summer night in December to rest up for a party only to wake with a harsh hangover. He soon discovers that everyone in the entire city is gone. Not gone in that the stove is on and the cars are crashed but gone in the safest way possible. Everything is in place like humans were there but that they shut down everything that could cause a problem, put the city on autopilot and vanished. He is alone and so we see him at first trying to figure out where people have gone and then searching for anyone left in the city. Not alot happens for a while as we see Juan systematically search the city for signs of life. Yeah and where are all the pets? birds? squirrels?
  Juan finally sees a firework on New Years Eve and rushes to see who set it off but the other young man flees when he sees Juan. This is Cristobel (Eusebio Arenas) and we follow his story which is similar to Juan's except for Cristobel the end of people is not sitting well and he spends his time drinking and doing drugs to deal with the loneliness. All until it ends up taking his life in a drug induced fall. I think we in the audience were happy to see anybody else in this film even with the sad ending to the character. There certainly was a missed opportunity in not having the characters meet and interact, Allard who also penned it could have gotten more from the interaction I think than he did from their missed acquaintance.
  There is a turn in the film that is a bit long and gives new meaning to the phrase "You don't choose Harvard, Harvard chooses you." that uses up the third act. The clarity of the ideas is a bit muddled which leaves the ending anticlimactic.  A decent effort but not fully mined Juan in a Million doesn't fully satisfy and probably could have used a couple more drafts to flesh out what the conflicts should be in this situation to bring a wider character arc to Juan.

I will do a fuller review on the last feature El Xendra, since the writer Director Juan Carlos Fanconi flew all the way from Honduras to do a Q&A with us after the showing. His efforts should be recognized and appreciated by us fans with a bit more thought. That's all for now...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Boston SciFi Fest Monday

A real Nor'easter blew through New England leaving about 24 inches of snow most places and leaving the schedule for the Boston Science Fiction Festival in shambles. Friday and Saturday were completely adrift with snow and wind being the issues everyone was dealing with. Sunday I hear there was a showing but the digging out process was still going on in Somerville so getting there and parking was an issue. So we get to Monday and the opportunity to start anew.
Monday Feb 11:

5:00 PM MARS ET AVRIL  - Love and life meaning are explored through a love triangle between Muscician Jacob Obus (Jacques Languirand), his instrument designer Arthur (Paul Ahmarani) and the muse who enters their lives photographer Avril (Caroline Dhavernas). Tied together through the interaction of the characters and a important moment in time for this future Montreal, the first mission to mars, the film explores what it is to love and be honest. The film I think mostly if not entirely shot on green screen shows a futuristic world where the primary advances in society are strange clothes and hair cuts... okay I am being a but unfair. I am always a bit put off by crazy hairdos and dress when looking at a scifi film. There are some very science fiction set design features that allow the viewer to be transported into the future. A visually effective film with fine music it was definitely worth the view.

7:00 PM FOUND IN TIME - A time traveling "collector" in a futuristic world that looks exactly like modern day NYC this obviously lower budget film is one of those multiple outcome pieces that takes a bit too long to reach a resolution. The main character Chris (Macleod Andrews)is a psychic who makes a living selling things he finds to people on a street corner. He works this corner with a mixer, RJ (Derek Morgan) a guy who types words on a typewriter and sells coffee to customers, and a spinner Ayana (Mina Vesper Gokal) who weaves small pieces of psychically charged cloth. Each has a story of how they became the psychics they are. They are the lower rungs of society and with that comes the hassles of cops who force them to share their powers by giving them leads. Chris is being manipulated by his girlfriend Jina (Kelly Sullivan) who is a scientist studying the possible outcomes of time travel. Her and her cohort Anthony (Eric Martin Brown) seem to think that they can use the psychics to predict the future but too many variables and Chris's unpredictable behavior slow the progress of their experiments. I struggled with the repeated scenes of various outcomes to the events set in motion in the second act. The film is fine for what it is but my personal enjoyment suffered with the length of all the possible outcomes.

9:00 PM WHEN TIME BECOMES A WOMAN - Now I have to say I was a bit tired going into this film. My day had started at 4am so by 9pm I was not looking for this film. It is a seventy minute one location conversation between a revolutionary Zad and I am guessing a woman who is Time. Guessing because thirty minutes into their conversation I left... I was done and could not read subtitles for another second. It seemed to be going in the direction that he had failed to win his revolution and so some how found this woman who could help him. Help him if he could convince her to. At some point I will revisit this film but on this night it was not to be.
Premiere! From Jordan
 The night as a whole was a mixed bag for me....

Friday, February 8, 2013

Roman (2006) Horror Drama

Roman (2006) -  This film although a piece of horror is at its heart a love story, a totally fucked up one but a love story just the same. The titular character is a sad sack lonely welder played well by Lucky McKee. Working hard all day he spends his evenings all alone in his drab apartment, looking out the window, waiting for the chance to see his lovely neighbor (Kristen Bell) walk by. There is something a bit disturbing about Roman. The fact that he plans to be in front of his window at just that time just to watch for this particular girl. Director Angela Bettis uses close up and flashes of Roman's thought to build the sense that this may not be the healthiest man around. We flash into his workday where he is thinking of this lovely smiling woman through the sparks of his welding torch. Furthering our discomfort is seeing Roman with his coworkers, awkward detached the director Bettis with writer Lucky McKee effectively foreshadow the flaws that bring so much pain for the character and those he interacts with later in the film.
  We journey with him as he builds up the courage to almost talk to her. When they have a chance encounter on the roof of the building finally we see there could be a spark between them. She is a free spirit who although his uncomfortable nature is drawn to the quirky innocence Bell captures the right tone of interests with fleeting looks of bewilderment when Roman says something a bit strange. We can see in her the desire to get to know him and her internal brushing off of his stranger comments with that goal in mind.  They do connect but increasingly he makes her a bit more uncomfortable. His boundaries with what information to share and not share are blurred. When the incident with Bell's character spiral out of control Roman is reminiscent of Steinbeck's Lennie in "Of Mice and Men" holding onto the little girl's dress his mind not thinking quick enough to extract himself from the situation. No malice intended but dire consequences for his actions. It is a compelling first act.

  Slightly less compelling is the after effects of the incident with its possibly not professional actors as neighbors and police. They did not fit as neatly as McKee and Bell and just seemed a bit out of place. The necessary voice over helps to move the story forward, the linking of what Roman obsesses on eating and drinking as well as his routine to keep his secret shows the effects of his depression. These scene really only a few minutes in length establish his post incident life. They show his struggle to keep it together. The moving of the couch in his apartment was really a smart move. Early in the film it faced out with the living room window in full view when sitting on it. The spot to view Bell's character "The Girl" from. When that relationship closed we have Roman in the same room but with the sofa turned to face into the apartment, the curtains pulled shut because there is nothing out there for him. we watch his care of the place decline as his focus is inward.
  The introduction of  Eva (Nectar Rose)into the picture turns the story again. She like "The Girl" before her is a nymph, playfully enticing Roman out of his shell. Where roman was the obsessed one with the girl this interaction with Eva brings all kinds of feeling that make his uncomfortable. The use of close up in these interactions is very effective when combined with Roman's expressions to relay his discomfort, yet attraction. bringing back the dreamy shot of sparks and a face, but this time with Eva as the face reminds us how women dig themselves into his damaged psyche. We are being setup here, rebooting if you will. The second act is about the new relationship, a chance for Roman to succeed where once failed. He will struggle with not wanting to put his foot into the water again but boy she is persistent. He still is trying to hold onto "The Girl" while slowly being drawn in by Eva.
  He also must come to terms with his mistakes of the past. To let go of the past and fully embrace his possible future with Eva. This is his struggle and his solution is one that seems to work for him. Little by little the past is discarded and he learns to know and love Eva more and more. She although an energetic and loving person, has feeling as dark as his. She is both  a way to a future for Roman and a reflection of the darkness inside him.They of course must have some conflict to move their relationship forward and it is her private obsession reminds him of "The Girl" way too much to tolerate. There fight is also an opportunity for Roman to grow and he does just that finally making the decision to let the past be the past. To move on and try to reestablish something with Eva.
  The final act is surprising even though if you had paid attention you would have seen it properly foreshadowed. Roman come out of his shell and begins to live. Eva is just the right medicine for him and then the final turn completes what is a wonderfully sad story about love , love lost, love and ... well you get the picture and not go see this movie.
  Lucky McKee is plays the awkward protagonist well, his tall lanky body fits enhances his innocence, and clumsiness with women well. Both women are significantly smaller in stature and juxtapose his size well. Both women are excellent in there roles as muses to lighten Roman's world. As stated earlier the rest of the cast seemed less accomplished and took  away from the story in the small parts they played. Angela Bettis keeps this quiet story tight and quiet, probably how it should be constructed. The use of close up and flashbacks are effective throughout the film. It is a well done job on her part. You will have to excuse the one out of place comedy piece in the film, whether intentional or not it did not fit.
  Roman is certainly a dramatic horror piece that should be seen and you should seek it out. He is a flawed man who Like Steinbeck's Lennie he must meet the consequences of his actions even if they were committed without harmful intent. All acts are paid for in the end as the crowd gathers at Eva's apartment, symbolic of George telling Lennie about the rabbit before his end and Lennie responding "Let's go there, let's go there now.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Boston SciFi Festival Detailed Schedule

Festival Shows and Times

The schedule for this year's Festival is as varied as ever. There are numerous premieres with topics ranging from space travel to time travel to alternative universes as well as weird creatures including a sentient mold and a diabolical rubber duck. Then there is The 'Thon.
Tickets are available for the entire Festival, just The'Thon as well as tickets for specific shows.
Click on the film title. It will take you to a page where there is a description of the film, a trailer and a place to buy a ticket for that show.
You can buy tickets for the entire Festival or The 'Thon at the THE SCI-FI STORE. Mechanidse is also available there.
If you do buy a ticket for an individual show, please print your receipt and present at the box office for admission.
Thank you.
Friday Feb 8:
East Coast Premiere!
Please note: director Martin Villeneuve got called away and will not be attending. Sorry
Locally made!
Saturday Feb 9:
7:00 PM WAR OF THE WORLDS: The True Story
Festival Premiere
Premiere from Ireland!
Sunday Feb 10:
Monday Feb 11:
Premiere! From Jordan
Tuesday Feb 12: Films from the Americas
Premiere! From Chile
Premiere! From Honduras
Wednesday Feb 13: Sci-Fi Mysteries!
Premiere! From New Zealand/Hong Kong
Thursday Feb 14: Valentine's Day Science Fiction
9:00 PM 95ers: ECHOES
Friday Feb 15 - Weird Critters
Premiere! with George Takei
Premiere! Q&A with Director & Crew
Saturday Feb 16
Sunday - Monday Feb 17-18
Noon to noon