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.