Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Boston Sci-Fi Film Fest 2013 Day 7: The History of Future Folk & War of the Worlds: Goliath

And let's wrap the festival part of the fest coverage up now, before I make the same mistake of resting my laptop on my chair's armrest and watching it fall that cost me my last charger and the use of my laptop for much of the weekend.

I was able to spend much of the day writing, as I was up late-ish the night before and didn't have any need to re-watch the movies showing that afternoon - The Final Shift and Love & Teleportation. And to be completely honest, I was tempted at points to blow more off, as my original read on The History of Future Folk was that it was a genuine documentary on "filk", a sort of fannish-folk singing that goes on at conventions, and I needed none of that. Instead, it turned out to be a fun little movie built around a New York novelty act that turns out to be a lot funnier than I would have expected.

That was followed with War of the Worlds: Goliath, and the temptation was to head home and sleep up before the Marathon, since it was already announced as running as part of that event, but since I was already planning on hitting an 11:50pm movie, there didn't seem to be much point in stopping at home anyway. Not the brightest of ideas, that, but it's the hand I dealt myself. Besides, the original plan was for Goliath to screen in 3D, although from the fact that we were in theater #2 for the first movie and the way the showtimes overlapped, it didn't seem likely we'd be in #5 at 9pm.

And we weren't. The story from the sales agent who served as the guest for the night was that Chinese New Year kept the hard drives with the DCP from getting out of Malaysia in time, which I guess is plausible enough, although that's cutting it awful close. Still, the story about him flying from Berlin to Los Angeles to Boston just to bring a DVD screener with a persistent watermark? Seems fishy. If you're going to do that, at least come back with a clear Blu-ray.

Also, it wouldn't hurt anybody to get your credits up on IMDB in a fairly timely manner. I hate doing this:

WOTWG credits. photo IMAG0307_zps05f0ea40.jpg

... in order to find names for a review.

The History of Future Folk

* * * (out of four)
Seen 16 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-Fi Fest, video)

It's odd but true: These days, an act like Future Folk can be both a local secret and have a national (or international) cult following. Even if both cases are true, a movie centered around such a band has a potentially limited audience, unless it's as whimsical a fantasy as this "history".

In a Brooklyn bar, Bill (Nils d'Aulaire) plays the banjo, singing songs in character as spaceman General Trius. At home, Trius is in the bedtime stories he tells his daughter Wren (Onata Aprile) - where Trius was sent from doomed planet Hondo to find a suitable new home for his people, using a virus to deal with any indigenous life. That plan went out the window when he heard Earth music, though. It's a cute story - except that another Hondo soldier, Kevin (Jay Klaitz), has just landed, looking to get things back on track.

I'm somewhat curious how this came together, as neither writer John Mitchell nor his co-director Jeremy Kipp Walker is in the band (or at least, not on-stage). Things actually wind up meshing fairly well - there's plenty of bluegrass music with quirky lyrics - and I don't think the filmmakers ever annoy the fans by cutting a song short - but not so much that the goofy sci-fi adventure in between feels like a strained, obligatory way to connect those numbers. The story's got other problems - I'm inclined toward forgiving how the scale of interplanetary distances is a matter of convenience, but not a certain bit of "character deliberately does something stupid even for him" plotting - but it's impressive that the movie seems like it would work equally well for fans of the music and folks looking for a sci-fi comedy and okay with there being songs.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

War of the Worlds: Goliath

* * (out of four)
Seen 16 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #2 (Boston Sci-Fi Fest, screener DVD)
(Partly) Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, screener DVD)

There's a lot of reasons to recommend staying away from War of the Worlds: Goliath: Inconsistent animation, a weak script, bland voice acting, etc. On the other hand, it's got Teddy Roosevelt killing Martians, and while that doesn't exactly make up for the other 60-75 minutes, I cannot in good conscience tell someone to avoid that. I just wish that was the sort of thing the rest of the movie emphasized.

Fifteen years ago, during the Martian Invasion of 1899, Eric Wells saw his parents cut down by a tripod's heat ray just before its extraterrestrial operator succumbed to the flu. In 1914, Eric (voice of Peter Wingfield) serves in planetary defense organization ARES, commanding a tripod built from Nikola Tesla's reverse-engineering Martian technology. But with no sign of the Martians' return for fifteen years, the global alliance is weakening - war could soon break out in Europe and the IRA would like to obtain ARES weapons to use against the British. Of course, as U.S. Secretary of War Roosevelt (voice of Jim Byrnes) knows, they shouldn't lose sight of the main threat.

The idea behind Goliath is certainly a lot of fun - steampunk armies against alien invaders in an alternate but still familiar history. And when director Joe Pearson and screenwriter David Abramowitz focus on that stuff, it's a bit of a blast. The Red Baron is on team ARES along with Tesla and Roosevelt, and when the Martians corner T.R. in New York, leading him to hop in a mech and deal with aliens personally, the movie manages a loopy level of high-concept fun that makes a body wonder why the whole thing hasn't been Roosevelt with a heck of a lot more Nikola Tesla and maybe Manfred von Richtofen actually doing stuff.

Full review on eFilmCritic.

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