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Friday, February 27, 2015

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013)

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears (2013) - WTF! I don't understand.

Swingers Massacre (1975) Horror Swingers

Swingers Massacre (1975) - Originally titled "Inside Amy" this strange little film looking at the psychological effects of on a couple who start spouse trading in a swingers club will get your attention. Charlie Tishman (James R. Sweeney) is a married and bored lawyer who is looking to spice up his marriage. Sadly we see from the brief, oh so brief, love making session with his wife Amy (Joyanne Mitchell) that there is no satisfaction in her love life either. When Charlie suggests that they start going to a swingers club to seek alternative mates, Amy is reluctant but knowing Charlie cums in 20 seconds she realizes she might actually get something out of it. Everyone is sweaty and horny at the swingers club and it is not long before the couple are invited to a private party where partners will be switched. Amy is still reluctant why Charlie is glaring at the other women and seems more open to the idea.
 Going to the private party we see that poor Charlie can't seem to get it up with the attractive wives of the other men. Counter that with Amy who seems to love every advance and performs with any of the men that approached her. I think this is where the original title Inside Amy comes from where for the first time she is experiencing the effects of good sex. Her development is the change in her character where she realizes that good sex is possible. Not the vulgar interpretation that she has every possible man inside her. 
  Really what going to the swingers party does is highlight the inadequacies of Charlie while allowing Amy to be satisfied for the first time since they got married. He is embarrassed by his lack of performance and hits the bottle instead of trying to deal with his issues. He hears the comments about how good his wife is. He is ashamed by the encouraging comments that he can try again. Like in his marriage when he fails to perform for his wife he rolls over giving up; here at the party he hits the bottle drinking himself into a stupor that completely negates the chance of him rising to the occasion. He effectively makes the problem worse. Let's say that when he could not satisfy Amy at home, instead of ignoring the problem he had spent some time trying to digitally stimulate her instead of the more extravagant idea of becoming swingers. He and she could be closer and more involved, but he does not want to confront his issues. Instead the stimulus of swinging seems more alluring instead of say wearing too condoms so he won't cum too fast when with Amy. It is a sad result for a poor plan that drives Charlie just a bit insane.
  This is a story that takes place before the first great slasher films were made. So Charlie becomes more of the crazed mentally unstable killer than the slasher killer. A Norman Bates type with a psyche broken from the humiliation of his wife's pleasure at the hands of others. Charlie cracks and suddenly he is looking to kill anyone who has been with Amy. As the bodies pile up the police begin putting together that there is a group of swinging couples and that they are the ones being killed. Since everyone goes by first names their task is not easily but eventually they get Charlie the lawyer they know at the court house. As they close in on him, he is confronting Amy in what will become the his final climax.
 In the end this film was a bit boring as a horror film. More about the psychological toll of erectile dysfunction than scary. The print I watched although a dvd seemed to be a full screen rendering of a VHS, too dark at times for good viewing. The kills are simple and the ending all too predictable so no recommendation can be made for this film. It is a time capsule piece about the swinger attitudes of the seventies. Not a cautionary tale so much because Charlie was not healthy enough in the head to warrant that. It wasn't this is what could happen if you swing. More it was a warning that if you are having marital woes it is best to spend some time in house taking care of those problems before relying on exotic solutions.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nothing Left to Fear (2013) Horror Cult

Nothing Left to Fear (2013) - The attraction to this film came primarily from the fact that it was produced by Slash who also had a hand in the music. Probably not the best reason to seek out a film. The story itself is one of those "this is why you can't trust small town America" stories. The town has a dark secret and the new arrivals are of course going to be the targets. The first story like this I remember is The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978) with Bette Davis and Rosanna Arquette. The final twist on that one really made it clear that moving to the country was for fools. In this film it is Minister Dan (James Tupper) and his family who are the unsuspecting targets of small town malice. His loving wife Wendy (Anne Heche) two daughters Rebecca (Rebekah Brandes) and Mary (Jennifer Stone) and son Christopher (Carter Cabassa) have no idea that they are part of a long line of sacrificial families. What seems like a struggle to adjust to a small town and the bordom that comes with it soon becomes a fight for survival.
  The story centers around a set of rituals that unfortunately were poorly explained in the film. The current minister Pastor Kingsman (Clancy Brown) and his flock have a ritual that satisfies a demon in their midst. At one point he says that there are no angels to fight this demon so they must do what is necessary to sate it's hunger. This involves blood rituals to call the demon into poor Mary who once possessed will hunt down and kill her family. Like in the film Jug Face (2013), the mythology is left sketchy at best, I guess not wanting long expository dialog to try to fill out the myth they went with this is how it is accept it. It is always hard to accept with something so crazy. In Jug Face the use a pit in the woods to heal the community even though they could get care in town, with the negative side that they regularly have to sacrifice members of the community to the pit to keep it happy. In this film we have a community feeding unsuspecting outsiders to the demon instead of reaching out to the Vatican or what ever and getting help. Its always hard for a city dweller like me to understand why anyone would live in small town America anyway. Always portrayed as insular and singular in their approach to the world, having a real lack of knowledge of diversity of cultures. It makes you wonder why anyone stays. Every scene in these small towns make then look boring and uninteresting.
  Once the plot becomes clear and poor Mary starts doing her deeds, the townspeople huddle in their homes marked in lambs blood like Moses in the old testament had the Jews mark their doors. They will not help because they are willing to sacrifice outsiders to protect themselves. How very Christian of them. Rebecca being led through her part in the ritual by hunky Noah (Ethan Peck) seems to be fleeing but in the end is lead to the final ritual place by her new boy friend. When the cycle completes leaving the orphan Rebecca in the community we realize that this will happen again. The last scene with the newly arriving sacrificial family is a corny add on not really needed.
  Overall this film took way too long to develop running time is 100 minutes and for most of that we have the introduction to the family and small town creepiness. The creepiness comes from the fact that there are really only three people in the town who take the time to get to know the new family. Considering that they town folk know these are lambs to slaughter it makes sense but you would think the family would notice how they are being shunned. When we finally get to the mostly unexplained demon possession you have to wonder how this ritual was built up over the years. Was it Pastor Kingsman who realized there was a demon? Human sacrifice seemed like the thing to do about that? When was the first episode of cutting  and doing the blood ritual to raise the demon? Why not avoid raising the demon, does it come anyway? How did this start? Considering how much time they spent boring the audience with small town family life you would hope they would have explained something about the origins of this creature and how they came to know what steps to take to deal with it.  After the ritual ends and the one family member is welcomed into the new town. Why the fuck is she not finding every gun she can and blowing the heads off these assholes who just killed her entire family? So many questions are left by this story that it is not very satisfying. So I can't really recommend this film as it left me a bit pissed off at the lack of realistic responses to the situation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

KM31 : Kilometre 31 (2006) Horror Ghost

KM 31 : Kilometre 31 (2006) - "KM 31: Kilómetro 31" (original title) This is strange film right from the start with its eerie music and effeciency in getting the story going. A women Agata (Iliana Fox) after an argument with her boyfriend Omar (Raúl Méndez) is driving to stay with her twin sister Catalina (also played by Fox) in the mountains of Mexico. At the kilometre mark 31 she hits a small boy who runs into the road. She screeches to a halt and gets out of her car to check on the child laying in the road. When she walks up to check the child is a transformed specter, a ghost child that causes her to recoil, right into the path of a truck coming up the hill. She goes under the truck a mangled mess. Her sister not far from the site of the accident goes into a convulsion and sees with that special twin connection ability that her sister has been hurt. She rushes off to save her. This is just the set up and only after her Agata has had her legs amputated and is laying in a coma do we start the meat of the story. She is trapped between life and death. Catalina must solve the mystery of the ghost child so save her. The bigger mystery of that marker on the highway looms for her and with the help of Omar and her own boyfriend Nuno (Adrià Collado) she will try to find the secret of the child ghost and save her sister.
 The horror themed music by Carles Cases frames the supernatural mood perfectly. Having worked on some other well scored films, like The Nameless (1999), Dagon (2001) and Darkness (2002) Cases knows how to set a mood. The music and sound design add to the creepy feel of this film, giving the viewer chills at the right times. It helps in the creepy factor of this film which does have a very creepy mood most the way through. Writer / Director Rigoberto Castañeda does a very nice job creating a world that crosses from real to spirit world and back again mixing the fantasy with the events of the characters to create a strange and scary film. The "La Llorona" style plot points are a bit strained at times but in the end we have a dark and chilling film.
  There is a sequel to this film planned for this year, it should be interesting to see what will be done with the material a full nine years after the original. Iliana Fox will be back to raise her parts of Agata and Catalina from the grave and the director is on board but considering the ending I wonder where the story goes after its somewhat final ending.
  Overall this is a decent film with a haunted stretch of highway that has cause many deaths as we learn from the obsessed cop Ugalde (Carlos Aragón) then why is this not a very publicly known phenomena. The real plot hole in the film has to do with the location. When Agata is struck at Kilometre 31 Catalina runs downs the street to the location. So that means she lives on the route not far from the accident scene. So how does she not know about the haunting, or at least all the accidents and deaths at that location. Considering it is the route between her home and Mexico City how is it that she has not had a strange experience or eight. Once the plot delves in the trouble seems to happen every few nights.
  I liked the blurring of reality where the ghost world is merged in at times and the plot twist is one that is dark enough to hold attention. The director does a good job with some interesting visuals to enhance the effects. Particularly in the climax enhancing Nuno's hallucinations with background visuals that help separate his perceived reality from the actual setting he is in.  The ending is more than expected and for this viewer going with the expected route was enjoyable. This is not strongly recommended because the story could have been a lot cleaner. Some themes about Omar, Catalina, Agata and Nuno relationships were touched upon but some of the drama from those ideas were blunted by the ghost plot before fully being explored. Still I would recommend this film as a solid ghost story.

Monday, February 23, 2015

BSFFF Day 8: The Final Day ... for me

  That coughing you heard during the Saturday program was me. I apologize for the flu I passed on to each and every one of you who got it. At the time I though it was just the remnants of a cold I had a couple weeks earlier but it ended up being a full blown flu. This week after the events were over I ran a temperature of 101+ for two days before finally kicking it.  So needless to say I had to miss the Marathon not wanting to spread the plague any further. A sort of sad ending to what has been a really decent week of science fiction. This seems to be the cost of interacting with people for the last couple years I end up sick from whatever bug is going around the community.

One More Day (2014) - Touching little fantasy about a future where euthanasia is required at eighty years old. Sometimes though there is more living to be done and fighting the system is necessary. The short does a really nice job at creating a world where all the choice is removed from character's lives while showing a mask of caring. It also has the cutest golf cart escape you could have. The script is efficient and the emotions of the characters very connectable.
Hemera (2015) - For a 5 minute short this tells a complete story, creates a future and then tells of the interpersonal story of a couple trying to leave earth for the new planet Hemera. Some nice space shots also make this a fine little short.
Love and Other Devices (2014) - Artificial Intelligence avatar the Sirina S-2000--is being unveiled and the designer is having all kinds of issues getting it to work correctly. A commentary on male, female  relationship view points it missed with me although it was a bit funny at times. 15m;
As You Were (2014) - Could have been an advertisement for treating or injured war veterans better. In a not distant future where soldiers returning home with prosthetic limbs need support and understanding but instead are not accepted in society where a anti robotics movement is flourishing. Heavy on the value the wounded warrior and short on stop the wars that created them. Did have Actress Christine Woods who recently appeared on the Walking Dead. 22m;
One Day Some Day (2013) A very interesting scifi premise, what if everyday you woke up in the body of another person. For a day you had to live their life?  Then the next day you move onto another body for a day. The short wonders about the lessons the human race could learn focusing more to the positive ramifications instead of the drawbacks. Writer Director Arthur Cartwright has a very good idea he explores. 21m.

I was a Teenage Superhero Sidekick (2013) - I thought that  I was going to dislike this film more than I did. Not strong praise I know but whenever a title is so long that it is a sentence I become weary of the film that follows it. Hell the title could have been the tagline, but still the film was not as tongue in cheek as I worried and ended up being a nice little relationship film.

An Evening with Douglas Trumbull  - What seemed like a long advertisement for a new theatrical product Trumbull brought a bunch of ideas together in a presentation that was reasonably entertaining. Having worked on some really wonderful science fiction films in his time Trumbull has the gravitas to talk special effects all night. From the unmatched practically produced effects of 2001: A Space Oddyssey (1968) alone he could have spoken the entire night on how they executed the remarkable space effects. He worked also on Silent Running, Close Encounters of the Third Kind,   Blade Runner and most recently The Tree Of Life. Special effects though were just a small part of the nights conversation.
  A few other themes came from the presentation, one a new form of recording and projection that he and his team have been working on. Designed around high frame rates in both filming and projecting it is supposed to be an more natural way to view a film. His western Massachusetts farm, studio is the place to go to see this new process in action, and I sort of want to see it. The application of this new technology is not quite so clear cut. Since theaters and the movie industry have a structure for filming and showing films in place it seems unlikely that asking them to change equipment for the new system will ever go anywhere. Trumbull has that covered too. He is proposing modular theaters that can be constructed inside existing museums, malls etc. as a way to show films made in his new process. Certainly leaving it as a novelty this idea could at least get the process some exposure and thus giving the value a chance to be seen. There is still the problem of churn, where the proposed modular theaters are slated to have 40 or so seats this will effectively limit the length of the films produced for those theaters because the churn necessary to maximize the space will probably be somewhere around 20 minutes.
  Another theme for the night was the Overview Effect a documentary that has people who have been in space talking about the effect of seeing earth from space.

Trumbull who feels the need for us all to look at the Earth as a very small fragile thing floating in the vast darkness of space, showed the video to reenforce idea that this planet is close to a tipping point. We as a people need to start understanding just how little stands between us and the empty death of space.
  Another less enjoyable aspect of the night was the conversation that focused on his team building a mobile UFO hunting machine. I always loose just a bit of respect when people start talking about finding UFOs. So when this part of the talk came up I cringed just a bit. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I will allow that he may be just choosing a course so he can sell a television show, probably to SyFy.
  Overall the presentation showed a man following his interests in his later years. With resources Trumbull can certainly explore more thoroughly than most of us. He is still a smart man with ideas that could be relevant with some backing. The night was entertaining and I look forward to a trip out to see an example of his new filming process.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

BSFFF Day 7:

Boston Science Fiction Film Festival Day 7:

Kindred (2014) - Here is the synopsis from IMDB "A cynical young Indigenous man and his family are abducted by aliens. Leading them on a breathtaking escape, he discovers the aliens' origins, shattering his worldview forever."  What was cool about this is you don't often see an alien abduction movie where the people taken fight back causing the spaceship to crash. Well put together and very entertaining. The ending that is a selling point is not quite so mind shattering as it is being sold but still this is a decent short on the subject.

The Sighting (2013) - Put off by the premise of the film it was difficult to really take this character filmed story seriously from the start. Joshua (Doug Dezzani) a doctorate student working in emotional trauma gets approved to film a trip with his girlfriend Mia (Megan Reinking) to the location of her Mother's disappearance. This is a killer to the plot because that would just not happen in the real world. You would never base your work on someone you are having an intimate relationship with. The boundary issues, your ability to be objective and the patient's ability to to relate to you as a helper are all compromised. Now since this is a film it is necessary to suspend disbelief but this is a tall order.  The second drawback is having the characters film themselves, this is a tired form at this point 15 years after the Blair Witch Project brought the technique into wide use. It is understandable for financial reasons but it makes the viewing experience unpleasant. It is not too much to have a film look good as well as tell a good story.
  Past those substantial hurdles the film does a nice job balancing between what is real and imagined in Mia's story. When she was young she was abandoned by her mother on a desert road near the New Mexico town she lived in. In her memories her Mother was abducted by aliens and with the alcoholism of her father it meant a hard life for Mia growing up in foster care. What is first defined as a yearly depression at the time of year her Mom vanished we get to journey with this couple as they visit the location and the dynamic of the story change. Josh who is at first a sympathetic boyfriend trying to help his girl reconcile her past he become more of an antagonist as Mia's alien abduction story gains momentum. We watch and learn of his inability accept her story and see his agenda is not to learn about her story but instead to help her accept that it is not possible. Mia ends up being the more sympathetic character while Joshua seems like a bit of an ass.
  In the end though this is an alien abduction story so know what to expect.

The Noah (1975) - An interesting choice for the science fiction festival fitting in as an apocalyptic film but could easily have been mistaken for a castaway film. The desire to have this one was because it was a lost film for 40 years before a print was discovered. Garen Daly who puts on the film festival made the viewing memorable by bring writer, director Daniel Bourla on hand to see the film on the big screen for the first time since it's discovery. The film as a whole was just okay a one man act played out with the voice over of the voices in his head. Lead actor Robert Strauss rants and raves his way from lonely stranded soldier to a God and back to a lonely man in an inventive monologue. The cacophony of noise in his head may have or may not have helped him keep his sanity. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

BSFFF Day 6: Doctor Who!

Genesis Ring (2014) Well I really felt for film maker Deigh Kelin after his film finished playing. In attendance unannounced to the audience he got to hear an earful about the work he spent a year creating. Many people were not kind in their opinions of this meditative but thin tale of a bleak future where the characters in the film make a play for a brighter future. Stylish to a fault with long panning shots, minimalist dialog and the most slender of plots, where the viewer almost gets to watch the journey outside the city in real time. The feature could have really used the old film making adage "In late, out early" as every scene was too adoring of color, mood or movement. Mixed in was the idea of immortal beings and how they would view the world. Interesting that one monologue states that originality would be seen as nonexistent. Having seen endless cycles of ah hah moments the immortal would recognized that everything they are seeing has been done before. That it is mortality that allows us to think we are seeing an inspired piece of art. Sadly at only 51 yrs I can say I have seen this film before, a meditation on how to look at art and creativity by someone who has to learn first to tell a story. Hopefully Deigh will take this experience as an opportunity to reach for his next ah-hah moment.

The final two films were a real treat for us old timers and next to the film Blessid probably the best attended films of the festival so far. Made at the time of the first Doctor they are unique little films developed before the idea of regeneration became part of the story. Both of these films star the great Peter Cushing as the doctor, but more a clever earthling than a time lord of Gallifrey. On a personal note, being a fan since public television started air the Tom Baker Doctor in the late 70s it was a real treat to see both these films on the big screen. Neither is more than an entertaining novelty but both were enjoyable.

Friday, February 13, 2015

BSFFF Day 5: Shorts and a feature

Ghost Light (2014) - The story is an alien abduction piece done with the style of an old time horror comic book. All the way to framing a drawing and then having it come to life in the frame. Reminiscent of the Creepshow (1982) film. The style works for the most part in this tale about a father and son in the wrong place at the wrong time. The acting is solid and the pacing good. It does not feel like any new ground was covered in the twenty minutes of running time but what was done was professional and fit the scifi theme perfectly.
Abandoned Planet (2014) - Sad to say I never really connected with this short about an earth abandoned by the wealthy leaving the pleebs on the ground to strip mine the resources and send them to the wealthy's space paradise. Those left on earth always wish to save enough to leave to the space colony Gaia but few ever save enough. The story centers around Corus (William Morse) who has enough to make the trip but after meeting as beautiful rebel Fina (Angela Henderson) is pulled away from his dream on the verge of its realization. So was the earth better with less people, or was the message that women always get in the way of your dreams? Hard to say but I know the premise that the earth would go to shift if most of the population left strikes me as odd.

Valiant (2014) - A very entertaining short adventure about some air pirates who after having a child princess on their plane have a change of heart from cold killing criminals to less cold more warm hearted protectors of a child. Writer Director Robin Phillips pulls all the right strings with this nice little picture.

Memorable Minorities (2014) - Humorous look at how minorities are portrayed in science fiction.

Grave Shivers (2014) - I liked this one quite a bit with three short stories within a film that is only 14 minutes. Writer / Director Brent Sims does a lot in the small amount of running time. First there is the valiant teddy bear protecting his owner. then the dark tale of a pedophile whose attempt to lure a girl scout goes horribly wrong. Finally finishing with my favorite. A dad looking under the bed for monsters gets way more than he bargained for. The shot of the little girl jumping on the bed at the end is a excellently framed final take away.

Indigo Grey (2014) - A very cool mix of Irish step clog dancing and science fiction. (You just don't get to write that line every day) A small boy finds a gas mask that when he puts it on gets to look into an alternate reality. A very neat performance piece, totally worth a watch.

Parallel (2015) - Time travel is a risky but tried and true was into the Sci-fi genre. Risky because there are some pretty hard lined opinions among us Sci-fi geeks about what makes or break this kind of storyline. Can you travel into the past and the future? What if you change something in the past? What happens to the future when a person from the present interacts there? Is it linear where from that point forward the time traveler from the past is included in the history of the future? Or does that fact that the person traveled into the future mean that it is part of a multiverse and a new parallel universe is created by the action? It is a tough nut to crack and every film maker must try to form an idea for themselves, explain it reasonable and the follow the ramifications of that explanation to its logical conclusion. There is also the risk of over explaining so the writer must find a way to give a reason it can happen and the not get so detailed that some nerd out there wants to find every hole in the theory possible.
  In this feature by Keith Nickoson and John Turk there is a reasonable setup for the time travel. Making the inventor a mathematician gives credibility to the idea and also having a time machine physically on screen is a bonus. Just exotic enough to not be seen as a computer but not too elaborate. Artistic alien digits looping up around a large glowing crystal and a base of lights and electronic looking machines below the crystal. The math is never deeply delved into leaving the audience to make the leap on their own, but enough props formulas are scene to make it look complicated.
  At its heart though this is a story about characters. The time traveler Vincent Jefferies (Terence Cranendonk) is a man who has experience loss. He is grieving and unable to move on with his life after the loss of his wife and unborn child in a car accident. His desire as he says in the voice over narration of the letter he his reading her his need, his driving force is to go back in time and change a small thing so that the accident never happened. Vincent eventually gets part of his wish when he discovers a limited form of time travel. It has larger implications because the math that he used was to create this travel just into the future was sent to him by him in the future. So he knows two things from this; one is that time travel to the past will someday be possible  and two he will be there. This second one means he has to travel into the future to make it possible. Very clever. His decision to cut ties from this reality and leap into the unknown of parallel universes is just the beginning. So set on this path Vincent fails to allow the beautiful and obviously interested Kera (Liz DuChez) from denting his cool exterior.
  This time travel idea was more interesting than the often used travel to the past that as unforeseen consequences in the present. Add in some navigation problems and Vincent does not always end up in quite the place he suspected. So then he must seek out the location of his machine in the time he is in and continue his search.
  There is a belief in the world that there is a soul mate for everyone  somewhere in the universe. Many people through chance may never meet that person who is a perfect fit. For Vincent he thinks is late wife was that woman and so the advances of Kera are following on deaf airs. As the then runs into versions of Kera over and over during his travels into time it must mean that this is a person, a soul that should be something more for him, but will he reconcile the past and notice? Still unable to travel to the past he is driven to search the future for the day that reverse time travel is possible. He has so many opportunities to reconcile his tragedy and move on with Kera it got a little bit frustrating waiting for him. All Keras were really patient with him and he is so single minded it got a bit frustrating.
  There are a couple things that drag this movie back from being very good. First the single mood of the score never lets there be enough variance in atmosphere meaning the mood feels like it does not change enough. Second is that not enough physical action takes place this is primarily a talker of a film and could have used something to break up what is a sparse script as far as action. Lastly the level of interpersonal conflict between characters would have made this film better. I think primarily the film is good but there is only a problem to be solved without characters to impede the progress towards solving it. Sure it is designed as an internal struggle For Vincent I just think it would have benefited by more interpersonal struggle. Still overall a decent entry into this years festival.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

BSFFF Day 4: Boy 7 (2015)

 2015 Boston Science Fiction Film Festival:  As a diehard Boston Science Fiction Festival attendee I pride myself on attempting to make every showing. Now realistically this is not really possible. One of the greater challenges in doing this is the New England winter. This winter in particular has been a challenge, three major snow storms in three weeks and another one on the way for the Marathon part of the festival has made getting into and parking at Davis square a real challenge. On the fourth night of the festival, Monday we had an all day storm that at my house in Hudson MA added 15 more inches of snow on top of the 49 we got the previous couple weeks. I spent a good deal of time just gettin my driveway clear so I could venture into town.
  The travel was a bit chaotic coming in on route 2, I saw two separate spin outs coming over the hill in Arlington and sat in traffic waiting for an opportunity to get off the main road and slip and slide up Lake Ave. Eventually I did make it in and with two other brave souls got to watch the feature.

Boy 7 (2015) - In dutch and unfortunately on this night without subtitles made the viewing a bit more challenging but remarkably not impossible. If any part of this is off I apologize but this is what it seemed to be about.Starting on a train where a young man wakes and does not remember who he is. He immediately has to fight and flee against other young people. With the help of a beautiful girl and his own notebook she returns to him he has to piece back together that has happened to get him here. Sam (Matthijs van de Sande Bakhuyzen) is a troubled youth entered into a reform school by his mother. This is a school with secrets though, not your usual department of youth services place. It is a training school for a shadowing group training youth to be assassins. Locked in and really with little chance of escape, Sam is taught to hack computers, fight and in general be a sort of agent for the organization. He befriends Lara (Ella-June Henrard) and the story builds nicely as the Sam starts to figure out what really is going on in the facility. When he discovers that graduating from beginner to second level means receiving a personalized implant in your neck which renders you a drone for the institute he looks for a way to escape and change his fate.
  It is a taught action thriller and the film tells a compelling story as Sam figures out the dangers of his situation and tries to find a way to get out. Now it is possible that not having subtitles and still being able to fallow the story could be seen as a negative. Is the story so basic that it is predictable? To a certain extent this is true, but you could say that about most action type movies. The main character is going to be on a grand journey taking risks and in the end overcoming the obstacles to win the day.  I will try to see this again with the subtitles but like I said earlier it is a pretty decipherable film without them. Since the type of film gives away what is inevitable in the plot I won't talk about it anymore. Safe to say that this one is fun and should be seen. 

BSFFF Day 3: Shorts made the day!

Limbo (2014) - A strange film that could have been made more coherent with a bit of exposition but decent in setting a mood with sound and music. Keeping the audience guessing it is a story that is still waiting to be told since the film did not go out of its way to finish building the world. The plot of three people who enter a limbo world to bring people trapped there back is a cool enough idea. There are these larger ideas about Saviors (The people that bring back stuck folks) as being around for hundreds of years but it is an underdeveloped idea. Shooting on a small budget we don't get the special effects of the fight with the Reapers (never seen creature who attempt to capture people in the Limbo zone). It would have been nice but so be it, they did create nice sound effects for the creatures. We follow David as he gets separated from his other saviors and ends up with a group less than friendly inhabitants. The bullshit ending was a bit unsatisfying because the story was not filled in enough for it to have consequence.  Their Facebook page

Mythica: A Quest for Heroes - I came in late to this piece of predictable fan fiction come to life. So I did not know that it was designed to be part one of a series and so when we finished the first adventure and the film ended I was a bit pissed. Later I learned the whole story and recovered. Fundamentally a live action RPG we watch as young magician Merek (Melanie Stone), trying to improve her lot in life puts together a team of adventurers Fighter Thane (Adam Johnson) Dagen (Jake Stormoen) and Teela (Nicola Posener) to go rescue Teela's sister from a band of orcs. It goes as expected with battles and close calls with the members through shared dangers bonding as a group.

The Hypnotist (2013) - Elijah uses a device to enter the mind of his comatose wife and hopefully pull her out. Playing out like a video game, first he runs to get the key and then from the loonies in the building to find the door. If he fails he starts over again trying to be more efficient. A bit of a fever dream in which although we get his story the antagonist the hypnotist is less defined as she tries to thwart his efforts.

2043(2014) - Gripping future where physical (intimate) contact can kill you and then reanimate your dead body. Very well defined story asking good "what ifs" and setting up a believable world where the main characters are well defined. Their choices are heart felt because of the drawing of that world and those in it.

Soundwaves (2014) - An excellent short looking at the question of how much responsibility do the creators of a technology need to take for their creation. Centered around Daniel who creates a machine capable of creating a human voice almost exactly, he is confronted with the negative side of his technology in a very public way. The smartest thing about the film is the relationship with his wife and how it is used in furthering the idea.

Beta (2014) -  A writer working hard to impress studio executives who would prefer him to be a hack is thrown for a loop by a new technology. Concise and well drawn this short was very competent. May have worked better if we started in the new app and then came out of it, but that's easy for me to say. Giving notes is always easier than creating.

The Brain Hack (2014) - I liked this one in that it created an entire thriller in 20 short minutes. About two creative students who figure out the mechanism for belief. Always a subject this godless heathen likes to explore. It is not tons of science but it is a lot of conspiracy which worked really well. Good job by Writer Director Joseph White.

Desaffection (2013) - Another pretty good short, about a future where the disease we call love has been cured but suddenly a case reappears and a vaccine must be made to cure it. The futuristic would is dark and bleak but with clever sells of future technologies used in passing. This allows the setting of the world without exposition dialog explaining it and really worked well in this film.   Writer / Director Thomas Charles does a really nice job in creating the world and telling a story about a possible future of mankind without over doing it. Small and clean is often good storytelling.

Anagolous (2014) - I just love that writer Eric Limarenko ( I hope that is the right credit, writer was not defined at IMDB) chose New Zealand as the US's next target in its imperial progression through history. A simple connection between two world that are both drawn and connected well.

Artificio Conceal (2014) - A very good high production value short, sort of a thinking man's thriller. Since I can't make myself write the synopsis well Here is how it is described on IMDB. Artificio Conceal is the story of a man who awakens in an Interpol interrogation room to find his mind 'hacked', his memories replaced and his identity lost. As the engineer of the world's most precise Quantum Logic clock, he must discover who hacked his nervous system and stole the device responsible for time itself. His quest to identify the perpetrator leads him through time and space to a thrilling conclusion that even he could never have envisaged. Written by AnonymousI really enjoyed this film and have to say I often find the shorts to be of a high quality.
House Smart or Domestic Technology - Yeah, a bit weird.

Monday, February 9, 2015

BSFFF Day 2: Two Documentaries!

Boston Science Fiction Film Festival Day 2:  Individual tickets are available for all shows during the festival, click the above link and come on out and join me for some great science fiction.  Highlights for day two of the festival were a couple documentaries, one real and another fake.Unfortunately I had to miss a series of shorts in order to watch a feature in another theater but I really want to get into some of the shorts during this festival.

Painting the Way to the Moon (2015) A really cool look at Ed Belbruno, the man credited with the  discovery of how to do ballistic capture. This is a slow speed approach at getting into orbit around an object where thrusters are not needed to slow your vehicle down. More than that this film is the story as told by Belbruno a large personality with a unique approach to the math it took to get this new low energy approach, His story of his painting, drug use and an alien encounter made an interesting film. Director Jacob Akira Okada does a nice job balancing a story that could easily become an ego trip about one man and his obsession. It's an interesting balance because Belbruno is a bit of a hippie who claims his ability to perform the complex math needed in his discovery has origins in drug use. There is a line that has to be negotiated her around how we form our origin stories. The narrative that Belbruno uses like all of our narratives about are past are not exact memories but more the stories as we have formed them over time. Still this loose history of the man made for a very enjoyable film.

The History of Time Travel (2014) This fictional documentary was very clever. Tracing the history of time travel through the man that made it possible and then through several cycle retells the story because the time travel has changed the past. Writer/Director Ricky Kennedy should get a lot of credit here making an entertaining film that is very smart and entertaining. The format of a history channel show telling the story works great for the clever visual continuity gags. In this version of time travel the person who travels back and changes something ripples those changes through to this show. So as the time travelers try to tweak things in their past the show sort of reboots including the changes that rippled from those acts.

The Rest:

Matt Mercury (2014) -  This unfortunately was my first walk out of the festival. Although colorful and with a lot of space special effects the script of this was so flat and immature that I could not get past the 20 minute mark. Not to say that I don't love some campy fun, but this feature did not seem camp or fun enough to suffer through. The danger of seeing so many things in a festival is some of them will be real misses for you and in the case of Matt Mercury it was a complete miss.

With Short: "Tugger the Ship (2014)" d: Kevin Bertazzon A space ship being tailed by a tow truck. Tugger was a joke filled short about so much that one can not even begin to explain the plot. I would say that there was a gag or joke every six seconds or so. Off kilter and funny for the most part it was short enough at 22 minutes not to wear out its welcome. "Hitch Hikers Guide" vibe at times and some ridiculous sight gags this one was worth a view. Don't expect too much but some of it was clever.

Uncanny (2015) A seven day interview session with one of the worlds smartest robotic scientist holds surprises both personal and professional for reporter Joy Andrews (Lucy Griffiths). Assigned to interview reclusive scientist David Kressen (Mark Webber) about the cutting edge projects he is working on Joy is astonished to meet Adam (David Clayton Rogers) a life like robot created by David. Through the course of a somewhat over long week we watch as Joy and David form a relationship, while at the same time seeing Joy is repeatedly put off by the uncanny behavior of the robot. Things in science fiction are never quite what they seem though and when the "climax"  comes there is more to the story than meets the eye. My initial guess on day two had to do with the project financier Castle (Rainn Wilson) and the prospect of  "More human than human" stealing from Blade Runner there but I thought maybe both the Adam and David could be robots. So in order to be surprised I figured the ante would be upped and the girl would also be a robot. So then we see Castle running an experiment in artificial intelligence. It was not so complex but still an enjoyable film. The silly final scene was not really needed as well as being completely immoral in its conception by the character who created the condition.  maybe the film makers wanted to leave us with a quandary at the end. A question think about instead of the execution of the story. They didn't need too the story was decent scifi and it was well executed.

Suicide or Lulu and Me in a World Made for Two (2014) Probably should not of stayed this late because I was really finished after Uncanny. The film itself a black and white science fiction love story with a dark core was more than I could handle. I feel bad skipping out before the Q&A with writer Director and lead Christian Carroll but the hour long drive in a snow storm was waiting and I was tired. This is the problem with seeing most of the material of the festival, it makes it so your head may not be right at times. So I didn't like the film at the time I saw it but after chatting with other viewers the next day quite a few people saw some value in it. The film overly long and drawn out did not help this feeling. In need of a serious script editor Lulu and Me was a chore to get through. A smart enough idea wrapped up in a passionate driven protagonist the film really would have benefited by doing more in each scene and cutting about twenty minutes. The dark turn at the back of the story tried to save the concept but there was just too much movie by that time to get it a good review here.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

2015 Boston Scifi Fest Review Day 1

Too much material to cover on this one man blog, by the end of the second day the realization that writing full reviews of all that can be seen is impossible. Instead I will focus on a film here and there but just write a few thoughts about most things. So since I did a review of The Well (2014) yesterday I will fill out the first day of the festival here and move onto day two in the next post. Two other features played on day one and here are some thoughts. A note: I am pounding the keys rather fast and probably will have several typos in these entries. I will go back and proofread.

Robot Overlords (2014) - Having seen Director Jon Wright's last couple features, Tormented (2009) and Grabbers (2012) I was a bit excited to see what he could do with a bit of a bigger budget and some star power. Tormented although the film could have been better was a decent outing and Grabbers was really good fun with a funny and heartfelt story wrapped up in a monster movie. This new film looks to be maybe a step below mainstream but interesting at first glance. It also runs the risk of being a children's adventure missing the weight of a serious science fiction film. Starring Gillian Anderson (XFiles, The Fall, Hannibal),  Ben Kingsley, who has a hundred credits, good and bad, since exploding on the scene in Ghandi (1982), and Geraldine James from the intriguing BBC series Utopia (2013-14) there was enough acting gravitas to make it good.
 Unfortunately although it exactly what was feared and was a story about how one teenager saves the world from an alien invasion. In this future Robots have come conquered and sedated the population. They are in search of new ideas and using organic life forms to learn and grow is how they operate in the universe. They have sequestered the human race in their homes, each person with a tracker behind its ear so the robots can control their movements. The harsh reality is that for years people are locked up and the even more harsh penalty for disobeying makes life hard to tolerate. We join this world in Ireland where our group of heroes consist of  Sean Flynn (Callan McAuliffe), a young man who desperately wants to know what happened to his father in the war. His friend Nathan (James Tarpey) and Nathan's sister and his love interest Alexandra (Ella Hunt) as well as orphan Conner (Milo Parker).
 When the kids discover a way to short circuit their monitors (at least temporarily) they instead of immediately sharing this information with adult venture out into the robot filled city to find answers, oh and candy. The trouble they are in gets deeper as they over stay the short circuited time period and are captured. Evil Mr Smythe (Ben Kingsley) a human collaborator reveals what the robots are doing on earth.His aim is personal and his desire is possession of Sean's Mom (Gillian Anderson) Sean while getting the life ending treatment has the process interrupted and this interruption changes his relationship with the robots for the good of mankind.
  The adventure that follows is a well worn "teens save the day" story of really extravagant proportions in which the new ability that Sean has, changes the games for the humans and saves the human race from almost complete extinction. The stakes are high and the best way this film knows to make it pay off is to leave the knowledge in the hands of a few competent teenagers while the rest of the world never knows that this gambit is even going on. Not my style of film for sure but still somewhat entertaining. The ridiculousness of the build to the third act is tempered with the knowledge that I am not the target audience.

Alien Outpost (2014) - a.k.a. Outpost 37 is the first feature length picture for Director Jabbar Raisani who has primarily worked in visual effects. A mock documentary about a group of soldiers fighting a war against alien invaders. Going it it seemed that this may be the least of the three movies for the night. Really a metaphor for our decade long wars in the middle east this is some gung ho brothers in arms bullshit about the sacrifice soldiers make in war.  Its a long fight and the higher ups don't care about the impact on the soldiers. They are all noble warriors fighting arm in arm against a foe too adaptable to eliminate. They spill their blood on forgotten outposts in the middle of nowhere and for what? To have to do it all over again day after day.
  In this film though we (the United States) are not the invaders but instead are part of a world wide force struggling to rout out the remains of an alien invasion that failed. Those aliens (terrorists) are adaptable though and getting them is a hard job for the men of the United Space Defense Force. We visit Outpost 37 a base on a hill somewhere between Pakistan and Afghanistan where the men are hard, hard to get along with, hard headed and hard to believe that there are no women in the military. They are the closest to the remaining aliens called "heavies" who are plotting to change the war through a plan that they don't yet know when we join them.
  Although this film looked great and the limited special effects were really cool this is just not in my wheelhouse as far as the material. Someone who likes science fiction and stories about soldiers will probably love this but unfortunately it is not me.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Well (2014) Post Apacalypse Sci-Fi

The Well (2014) - Day 1: The Boston Science Fiction Festival kicks off with this story of a girl at the end of the world and the end of her time in a parched Oregon of the future where water is the only commodity worth your life. Kendal (Haley Lu Richardson) fights the menacing murderous water baron Carson (Jon Gries) and his minions for the possession of her last source of fresh water in her area. After he kills many of the people she loves though she also enacts  revenge on their killers. This film has a horror vibe to it mixed with a western aesthetic in a post apocalyptic setting. Kendal is the strong final girl who fights through death and constant threats to her safety to come out the other side of the story victorious in a battle that in the end will never be winnable.
 Thomas S. Hammock moves from his many credits of production designer to creating a taught film that builds tension and in the end pays off. He even brought his friends from other movies in for bit parts as we see the writing directing team of Simon Barrett (Dead Birds, You're Next) and Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) appear as compound guards.
 The cinematography by Seamus Tierney who worked much in horror manages to capture that western feel with his wide vistas of the desolate landscape. While the unusual music by Craig Deleon adds to the film instead of taking away. First time Writer / Director
 We join Kendal and companion Dean (Booboo Stewart) at the end of their rope. The well the have been getting water from is drying up producing less and less water each day. Danger is all around with desperate people wandering through looking for anything to drink, whether offered or not. Then there is Carson and his gang, pumping the water out of the wells with a religious fervor. He is the "water baron" who wants it all for himself and is not hesitant to kill to remove anyone else who is pumping water out of the ground. For Kendal and dean this means hiding behind a fake wall in the attic of their desolate . It does not help that Dean is dying of kidney failure as we join the story. They have hope in a plane they found that just needs the right distributor cap and they can fly out of the region and look for wetter climates. Kendal risk her life daily to bring them water, and to search vehicles for the part she needs. Will she find it before Carson and his group find them and kill them?
  Haley Lu Richardson is so believable as a competent survivor with a heart, Certainly she kills when she has to but she is not callous or vindictive in taking life. It is a strength of the film that this actress is the lead.  The villains of this film are Carson and his lovely yet heartless daughter Brooke (Nicole Arianna Fox)  his priest and assorted guards. The choice of a religious bent on why they are stealing all the water and killing their neighbors is an interesting decision. On one hand it motivates them to do it from a moral certainty, they are the inheritors of the earth and are righteous in their crusade. Maybe for those characters they needed a cause to allow their murderous behavior so they tip their sanity slightly off center and that lets them live with their decisions. On the other hand it takes away from the immoral acts making the perpetrators slightly less accountable for their actions.
  The plot is a bit inevitable as is often the case with post apocalyptic survival movies. Reminiscent of "The Road" it is about the end of the end of civilization.  Since we know the water is running out, who the bad guys are who the good guys are and the search for the plane part we can guess that there will be a final showdown and who comes away with what she needs. Thing is this film does a nice job getting to the conclusion. Even with the few secondary characters who are only around Kendal to humanize her, Dean who she cares for and the too wise for his age Alby (Max Charles) a boy of 9 years or so surviving on his own, we know that this is really a struggle about her getting to the point where she can try to leave this wasteland. There are some nice surprises like  Barbara Campton as Grace another local farmer and Rena Owen as a wanderer looking for water. Every time the survival aspect of the film starts seeming monotonous there is a spatter of danger to liven it up. Primarily through the music this film creates a tension, hard to describe the sound scape is rich and deep but not quite industrial in its approach.
  In the end the film although character based and well drawn is just a bit too inevitable. I enjoyed the viewing but really never had any doubt where it was going.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Feb. 6-16th Boston SciFi Film Festival Preview 8

2015 Boston Science Fiction Film Festival Feb. 6-16th
"The Boston Science Fiction Film Festival and Marathon (“Boston SciFi”) is an 11-day cinematic event held at the historic Somerville Theatre from February 6th to the 16th. The 2015 edition marks our 40th anniversary as the oldest genre fest in America.
The first nine days consist of a film festival that emphasizes emerging directors with distinct visions from around the globe. The Festival concludes with The Marathon (a.k.a., “The ‘Thon”), a 24-hour orgiastic motion picture endurance test featuring classic, new and schlock films. Think of it as binge viewing with 700 close friends. It starts at noon on the 15th and ends at noon on President’s Day." -
  This year's event schedule is complete and I look forward to seeing as much as possible. I approach the Festival like the Marathon, I want to power through all of it not missing a film. This might not be the case for everyone though. Great thing about this festival is you can approach it a couple different ways. You can buy the Festival Pass as I did and attempt to see lots of features or you can purchase single film tickets, either way you will get to enjoy great NEW science fiction. The Festival pass also gets you into the 24 hour Movie Marathon Sun-Mon 15-16th which is the classic sci-fi fans favorite event.

Valentine's Day and in the past my wife has come in at least for part of the night to view with me. After 30 years of marriage we are not so set to spending every Valentine's day together. This year as in the recent past for the festival we have material geared towards relationships.