Saturday, March 14, 2009

SXSW Day One: Monsters from the Id and Ong Bak 2

Saw two movies yesterday; will see more today. The plan is Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Bomber, Objectified, Moon, The Last Beekeeper, and Black.

Monsters From The Id

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 13 March 2009 at The Almao Drafthouse Lamar #3 (SXSW Spotlight Premieres)

1950s science fiction is known for being paranoid and downbeat, tinged with fear of atomic doom and the potential for infiltrators to be anywhere. Filmmaker Dave Gargani argues that this should not, necessarily, be the case, or at least not the whole story. As much as those themes are present, he argues, there is great optimism to be found in them.

He sets out to prove his point in Monsters From the Id, which takes is name from Forbidden Planet, one of the films offered up as evidence. Also featured are Invaders from Mars, War of the Worlds, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, Them!, and the "Tomorrowland" segments of the Disneyland television series. These films are discussed by five experts, Professors Leroy Dubeck and Patrick Luciano, Luciano's co-author Gary Coville, film critic Richard Scheib, and retired NASA engineer Homer Hickam. The film ends by pondering what changed between then and now and what that means for the future.

In general, the films roughly match with a theme - 20,000 Fathoms is used for atomic fears, Invaders from Mars and The Day the Earth Stood Still to show how children had a large role in these stories, War of the Worlds to demonstrate the level of trust accorded to scientists and the military at the time. It is, thankfully, not a rigid correspondence; movies will pop up in multiple segments to demonstrate that this is, in fact, a pattern, rather than Gargani trying to build a case via widely separated data points. The ideas involved aren't especially complicated, but the voiced articulate them fairly well, although they do have a habit of making the same points, rather than attacking the question from different directions.

Continued at EFC, with one other review.

Ong Bak 2

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 13 March 2009 at The Almao Drafthouse Lamar #1 (SXSW Presents Fantastic Fest)

I can't give this a full review, because it was roughly 12:30 by the time this movie started, which is 1:30am Eastern time, and I was already kind of worn out by a day of air travel followed by walking around Austin. So it's quite possible that the film is more than a complete mess broken up by some incredible fight scenes. The ones that serve as the film's finale are amazing, with Tony Jaa's Tien fighting off wave after wave of warriors, incorporating an elephant into the incredible stuntwork.

One thing the film is not, however, is a sequel to Ong Bak; it takes place in the 1400s, with the only connections I can see being Jaa starring and (perhaps) the same Buddha statue appearing in both films. I honestly can't say the plot for sure; something about Tien being captured as a kid and raised to be an invincible warrior by the man who murdered his family? Sure, it leads to some inventive beatdowns, but I found myself not really who was supposed to be Tien's enemies and allies.

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