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...