Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival Daily, 2012.03 (12 February): "Green Card, Please" and Neander-Jin

Today's lesson: Crossing the street, ordering a burger at Boston Burger Company, having it cook, and eating it will not fill the entire two and a half hours between the end of one movie and the start of the next one you haven't seen, which is not a great situation when it's Really Cold Out and greater Boston shuts down early on Sunday.

And then, your reward for sticking around? Neander-Jin. Ugh.

(Saving grace: Ranch Burger at BBC. So, so good!)

"Green Card, Please"

Seen 12 February 2012 in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, video)

This turned out to be an interesting selection of shorts; none that I'd call out-and-out great, but each one managed to have something noteworthy:

"Geners" - This one, for instance, had some pretty darn impressive cinematography and choreography of the fight scenes. That's good, since fight scenes were pretty close to the entirety of the thing after a bit of exposition. Maybe a bit hollow, but very sharply done.

"Mistaken" - An interesting enough premise (rock star thinks the entire world is a simulation) with some nice execution by the two lead actors, but it's a little light in the plotting department: The ending turn seemed kind of obligatory, and there seemed to be a bit of a jump in the story where the characters start to accept things that I feel like I missed.

"Return" - This one got substituted for another in the program (I think to accomodate the director, who was apparently present but didn't make himself known), and it pretty much knocked me out. Nice to look at, but a lot of static imagery.

"Mobius" - Easily the most energetic of the shorts in this package, made by Pullitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent LaForet as part of a Canon shorts program. Looks nice, moves well, and doesn't drag things out once the audience has figured out what is going on.

"Breakaway/Backdown" - A. Lot. Of. Talking. It's a little bit frustrating to watch a short film which is almost entirely descriptions of amazing things the audience doesn't get to see. The story's good, the ideas are good, even the acting is good, but at a certain point, I felt like I'd been filled in on the picture's world, and was ready to see the characters do something in it. The director was present, and talked about how the story had also been done as an audio play and on stage, and it seems like it might be much more suited for them.

Neander-Jin: The Return of the Neanderthal Man

* ¼ (out of four)
Seen 12 February 2012 in the Somerville Theatre Micro-Cinema (Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival, video)

It's one thing to watch a comedy that fails. It happens a lot, and for a number of reasons. This movie is something special, though - it's the sort of movie that makes one suspect that the people making it had heard of the ideas of comedy and storytelling, but had never seen them in effect. I'm sure that's not the case, but Neander-Jin is an object lesson in this funny movie stuff being a lot harder than it looks.

The name "Neanderthal Man" comes from the place where specimens were first found, the Neander valley near Dusseldorf in Germany. Fifty thousand years ago, one (Jon Chardiet) mystically disappeared, only to reappear in present-day Germany, where's he discovered by public-works employee Martin Arnold (Rick Zieff)... And political activist Barbara van Schmerling (Sarah Muehlhause)... And scheming would-be TV producer Marc Armagnac (Milton Welsh)...

Oh, never mind. It's not like the filmmakers care about the story, after all. The movie jumps from here to there to a third place without much in the way of rhyme or reason, often feeling like the script is being warped by some sort of gravitational time vortex that causes some characters to experience weeks in their subplot while others are doing something in a matter of hours. There's mention of some sort of global reality-TV contest, but director Florian Steinbiss and his co-writer Jeff Hixon don't spend any time on it; they've got a mind to say "reality TV is bad!" but can't be bothered to show it.

Full review at EFC.

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