Saturday, February 20, 2010

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, Days 10-11: The Marathon

I did some live-tweeting during the marathon, and since I've seen most of this stuff (and even written longer reviews for many of them) before, this will just mostly be a bunch of links.


* * * * (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "Have now seen "Moon" with appreciative fesival audiences at #sxsw and #sf35. It remains '09's best."

And truth be told, I think I liked it even more, seeing it again, than I did at SXSW, and I wrote about it twice: Once the day after I saw it, and again a couple weeks later. A year ago, I half-suspected that I liked it as much as I did because it's the sort of movie I'm naturally inclined to love. Seeing it again, with a second large, packed auditorium enraptured(*), I realized: Yes, it really is that good.

(*) Except for the guys yelling "Mark!" whenever that rover's name was mentioned. I can lack patience with the 'thon's sillier traditions even when they seem vaguely appropriate, but mess with Moon...

Colossus: The Forbin Project

* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "Colossus" looks much better in 35mm than the P&S DVD played at the Brattle last year.

Colossus at the Brattle last spring may not actually be most disappointed I've been when going to see a movie in 2009, at least where presentation is concerned, but it's up there. There was no indication that the film would be presented on video as opposed to film, and an ancient cropped DVD at that. Fortunately, the 'thon managed to scrape up a nice 35mm print, and even though that doesn't excuse some of the severe stupidity inherent in the story (would anyone who has actually used a computer seriously build one that could not be turned off or debugged? The things being infallible is something that no-one with experience seriously considers!), it's a major improvement, especially considering how many shots in this movie take full advantage of the full Panavision screen.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: So, anyone still object to #sf35 including "9" on the grounds of it being a "kiddie movie"?

There had been some kvetching about that on the Boston Sci-Fi message board, with Garen actually using "kiddie film" to describe it in the introduction, which seemed to indicate that these people had not actually seen the movie. I found myself liking it a little more than I did back in September. Maybe I was comparing it with itself rather than with the half-remembered (but brilliant) short. It's got its problems, but it's eye-poppingly amazing. I also find myself wishing that this had been made in 3-D; it seems to be one of the few CGI movies that wasn't, and it's too bad, because that would have really suited this film.

The Giant Gila Monster

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "They came back, but the start of 'Giant Gila Monster' emptied the balcony." and "I don't support excessive violence, just enough beatings of people with laser pointers to send a message."

The first really not-good movie of the marathon, and with the film starting at about quarter past five, maybe folks felt that this would be a good time to go get some supper or fresh air. It became a ghost town up in the balcony. The folks still in their seats downstairs kept some chatter up, though, including using laser pointers, which seems to cross a line that mockery doesn't. Maybe because the guys auditioning for Mystery Science Theater 3000 are at least ostensibly reacting to what they're seeing honestly, while the jerks with the pointers are just saying "look at me!"

As bad movies go, though, The Giant Gila Monster is pretty inoffensive. It's just too darn cheerful and lacking in cynicism to really hate.


* * * (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "Jim Henson was a cinematic anarchist of the first order."

Which isn't as good as what I said when I last saw Labyrinth in 2005: "Labyrinth is a good film in spite of the many ways in which it is really, really awful." Jennifer Connelly is not yet anywhere near a place where she can elevate a bad script, and Henson and company ain't giving her much to work with. They do, however, surround her with new Muppets and give David Bowie the David Bowiest role imaginable. It's crazy in the way the best Henson stuff is: Lovable, full of broad slapstick, utterly chaotic and paced in such a way as there can be no complaints.

Man, I miss Jim Henson.

I then proceeded to leave the theater for a couple hours, as they were doing the trivia contest (I'm shocked there were only three perfect answers. Most everyone in the auditorium had access to Box or something similar, capable of sucking any information off the internet through the air and into your hands) and a reprise of Thursday night's program. I opted for dinner at Mike's across the street (Boston Burger Company had just closed), and found out that apparently a "Meat & Cheese Calzone" there includes spinach. Yuck.

District 9

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "'District 9' - still pretty decent, once you get past the #spoilers motor oil mutating a human thing."

and: "I mean, MOTOR OIL. Made without knowledge of the human race it works perfectly on!"

... seriously, doesn't this bother anyone else? I mentioned that last August, and I guess it still kind of bugs me. One thing I noticed is that this time around, I was seeing it much more as an action movie than any kind of commentary on South Africa and/or apartheid.

District 9 was followed by the Alien Mating Call contest, which needs to end, and a set of performances by the Black Cat Burlesque. Honestly, that was a bit disappointing. Maybe if I were up closer, it would have been more impressive, but the thing that sticks out the most was that the dancer seemed to have problems with her costume, having to sit to get the boots off.

The Thing

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I think I last saw this a couple years ago, and damn if it isn't still a sort of perfect horror movie. The environment wants you dead, there's monsters, there's paranoia about your fellow man, a creepy Ennio Morricone score, amazing creature effects...

There's apparently a remake or prequel or something being made, and I have to laugh at the folks who complain that a remake can't possibly equal "the original". They make the wrong point: This is, more or less, a remake of The Thing from Another World, and it's clearly superior, but the fact that this is such a great movie is what makes a new edition such a tall order.

The Lathe of Heaven

* * * (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35, video projection)

I tweeted: "If I'm dragging during Carpenter's "The Thing", "Lathe of Heaven" will demand caffeination."

And... Honestly, not so much. It's not as visceral as The Thing, but it's a darn good movie, with shocks and surprises of its own that were as amazing as anything else we saw during the marathon. Enjoyment was hampered by some issues with the digital file being projected. If I were the type to make call-outs, I might have gone with "It Just Works!" every time we saw the conspicuously Apple-labeled screen that appeared when the movie froze and had to be restarted. An Apple-loving crowd might not have liked that, though.

It was weird to see young Bruce Davison, though. These days, he's got a very specific niche he fills: Silver-haired, somewhere between a father figure and an authority figure in cheap sci-fi productions. He was the father on the recent Knight Rider revival, and he always seems to be doing some variation on that. Still, he was really good here, in a movie that for the longest time was just as famous for its unavailability as its quality.

Night of the Creeps

N/A (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "Rats. I slept through a bunch of 'Night of the Creeps', despite it looking like more fun than the usual schlock homage."

... and there's not much more you can say than that. It was 4am, I had just about reached the end of what I could take, and this is where I dozed through no fault of the movie. Maybe I'll catch up with it sometime, but I kind of figure that the 'thon is the ideal environment for it; much more so than watching it at home.


* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "Love 'Rabid', but think it would have been funny to play it right after the burlesque for the mixed message."

... because one minute, we're supposed to be enjoying unabashed sexuality, and the next, terrified by it. Although I re-iterate what I said when reviewing it a couple years ago when the Brattle did a grindhouse series: What's terrifying about Rose in Rabid is not that she attacks during sex, but that she's most poised to strike when she hugs someone. That's just even worse; we're not supposed to feel guilty about that.

The Day the Sky Exploded

* ½ (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I tweeted: "'The Day the Sky Exploded' sets a benchmark for how boring global catastrophe can be."

This movie is seriously boring, from the opening where a space mission goes awry after being presented in the dullest possible way almost through to the end. The acting is terrible, the danger is kept too abstract... Nothing works.

Night of the Comet

* * (out of four)
Seen 15 February 2010 in Somerville Theater #1 (SF/35)

I think I'd seen bits of this twice - once on TV when it was relatively new, and a few years ago when it popped up again as co-star Robert Beltran had resurfaced in a similarly thankless role on Star Trek: Voyager (but, then, wasn't everything about that show pretty thankless?). It's not good, and in a frustrating way, because it has a pretty likable star in Catherine Mary Stewart, a couple good and scary ideas, and a potentially nifty hook.

For me, it just doesn't come together. The tone always seems to be just off, or the acting on the part of the leads isn't quite up to what writer/director Thom Eberhardt is trying to do.

I think I'd really like to see this one remade, and not because I'd like to take a crack at the screenplay. It seems like there's something there, but it could be done so much better.

... And once this ended, I left. I considered sticking around for Sleep Dealer, but if they were just going to run the same commercial Blu-ray that they did a week earlier, well, crap, I was tired and hungry. And so I went home, made myself a burger, and then somehow kept from crashing until about 3pm, at which point the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks.

Kind of like now, with it nearing midnight after a mere four movies within twenty-four hours.


Jason said...

Honestly, [Black Cat Burlesque] was a bit disappointing. Maybe if I were up closer, it would have been more impressive,

Nope. I was up close. I like SF and I like burlesque, but I've never understood why the need to combine the too and I've never liked Black Cat. IMHO Boston's best burlesque (by FAR) is the Boston Babydolls. They've got a show this Sunday at Oberon -- You going?

Jason said...

Not likely; I'm not really a huge burlesque fan (probably just haven't seen the right one). Also, Bong Joon-ho is at the Harvard Film Archive that night, and I hope to get to that.