Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Boston Sci-Fi Film Fest 2013 Day 5: Love & Teleportation and 95ers: Echoes

Where did I spend Valentine's Day?

Boston Sci-Fi Sign photo IMAG0302_zpsd91baf10.jpg

Appropriately enough, the 5pm show was Earthbound, which I'd seen on Sunday; from what I gather, they showed the screener DVD again. It made for a full slate of romance-related pictures. Earthbound was probably the best, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how capable 95ers: Echoes was. Its trailer wasn't particularly impressive and it flails a bit toward the beginning, but it builds, and by the end, it's done well enough for about half its length that I realized, hey, I actually care how this ends. Beats the heck out of Love & Teleportation, which anyone not asleep has probably figured out from the start.

I do somewhat wonder about 95ers's franchise ambitions. That title does, as I point out in the review, have a colon in it, and though it's sold in a few asian markets and will probably, when all is said and done, make back its sub-$1M budget, what does it need to do to make a sequel viable, especially one that expands its world? I wouldn't be shocked if it wound up doing OK; that title will be bounced up do the top of alphabetical menus when it hits video on demand. That apparently counts for more than you might expect; several movies have been renamed after being picked up for distribution to take advantage of how much scrolling with a remote control sucks (personal favorite: "Think of Me" becoming "About Sunny").

Love & Teleportation

* ¾ (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-Fi Fest, video)

There are times when I watch movies and it's not the obviously bad science itself that bothers me so much as the ignorance about the people and processes involved. It's not the only discipline filmmakers seem to not bother researching, or even the one I know best and can thus most easily call B.S. on, but it feels egregiously abused here, and I don't get why. this is a thoroughly mediocre romance without the science fiction, so why not use those details to make it more interesting rather than silly?

Things start with Brian Owens (Jan Van Sickle), a former professor of quantum mechanics at an Ivy League university who has been reduced to teaching entry-level physics course at a community college. A somewhat nosy but well-meaning old lady (Adair Jameson) has just moved in next door. It's not all bad; the school's art teacher, Shelly (Robin DeMarco), seems interested in him. Initially, though, both are distractions from his goal of finishing a teleportation machine, and he's borrowed a lot of money from a loan shark to fund its development.

I'll accept a teleportation device; Lord knows I've accepted it in other sci-fi movies just because it's convenient. I might even believe that the prototype will run off the power grid in a residential neighborhood. I've got a little more trouble believing that Brian's prior employer wouldn't have retained the rights to the work he's done there, but who knows; that university may act differently than every modern institute where research is done. And maybe someone, somewhere, will see a demonstration of even half-baked teleportation and not be impressed. This goes double for Brian himself; science is a series of incremental steps, and a veteran researcher like Brian despairing when everything doesn't go perfect the first time is a major wrong note hit early, one that persists through the rest of the movie.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

95ers: Echoes

* * ½ (out of four)
Seen 14 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-Fi Fest, video)

Considering the colon in its title and the way that certain bits of the movie's fantastical elements are not given a whole lot of explanation, I had 95ers: Echoes pegged as part of a larger franchise, maybe a transmedia thing with online videos or comics or the like. Right now, though, it seems to be just this, which still isn't bad at all.

Ever since she was a kid, Sally (Alesandra Durham) has had a unique ability; she can relive the last few seconds of her life. Perhaps ironically, the man who would later become her husband, Horatio Biggs (Joel Bishop), studied wormholes and other sorts of theoretical physics, but had no idea of her ability. Today, she's an FBI agent and a widow, probably overdue to go on maternity leave as Christmas approaches, but she can't help but be drawn in by a series of strange events that have been happening up and down Interstate 95 since her husband's death, especially since she's started seeing glimpses of him. "Meanwhile", in the future, a group monitors the way probability changes around her, considering when and if to intervene.

The credits for 95ers: Echoes contain the name "Durham" a lot - Alesandra Durham stars; James Durham co-writes, composes the music, and handles the sound; Thomas Gomez Durham co-writes, directs, shoots, edits, and works on the visual effects; many other (presumed) family members produce and otherwise work on the movie in one capacity or another, as do several other people. On the one hand, it's actually quite impressive how such a small group can put together a film with the kind of ambitions and relative polish that this one has; on the other, there are times when it maybe could have used an outside voice saying this could be clearer or that scene should be cut. At times, it feels like the world could do with a lot more explaining to those of us who aren't a part of the group while character-building could use less exposition and more example.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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