Thursday, February 28, 2013

Boston Sci-Fi Film Fest 2013 Day 8-9: The Marathon

As much as I will often claim that it's not really that hard to keep a bunch of different movies straight during a film festival - and it's really not - something like the Marathon is a different beast altogether; there's enough drifting in and out of consciousness (and not always at the times you'd expect), audience participation that becomes intertwined with the movie in one's mind, and potential sameness among the movies that it all sort of blurs together.

I began keeping a diary early on, both as something to put on the blog and just because the activity of writing helps to keep me awake. I certainly don't miss big chunks of movies any more, although I may want to come up with a new gimmick sometime soon.

Anyway, as usual this year, I arrived not long before the start of the marathon, hot chocolate in hand. I've heard that most of the festival passes actually go to people who want early entry into the theater on 'Thon day, but I need that morning sleep (not that I got much this year, having hit the midnight show of Lost in Thailand on Saturday. I took a fairly familiar seat, in the center of the back row of the front of the balcony, and settled in. A short was already playing...

11:35am - "I filed my plans at the patent office; the clerk was a dullard." (punches Einstein) OK, I may have to hunt this "Dr. Fang" short down later, even if that's the only really good moment in it.

11:53am - Somehow, I managed to lose my Atomic Fireball between the door and my seat. I don't actually mind; those things are awful.

12:02pm - Announcement time - Motivational Growth will be taking the place of The Hands of Orlac (which itself was a replacement for Woman in the Moon) in the 4am slot. I'm mildly annoyed, because I just saw it at the festival. There is no ironic cheering or dread that I can see.

12:05pm - "Duck Dodgers, in the Twenty-Fourth and a Half Century!" You can't argue with tradition, I guess

12:13pm - John Carter of Mars

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, DCP)

Full review on EFC.

12:18pm - After five minutes introducing the villains, we're given a prelude set in 1881 New York City.

12:24pm - After six minutes of Daryl Sbarra as Edgar Rice Burroughs, we start the main flashback to 1868 Arizona.

12:30pm - So, why does Carter save the officer while seeming content to let the enlisted guys die? Is it some weird 19th-century class thing?

12:32pm - At last, John Carter's on Mars!

12:38pm - Lily Collins is dropping a whole lot of exposition here, although I'm kind of surprised that they can get away with just this much.

12:51pm - A translation miracle! It's always funny to see just how much effort writers will put into saying "screw it!" when this obvious problem comes up.

1:00pm - Dejah Thoris is pretty awesome, and Collins is pretty great in the role. If they'd called this "A Princess of Mars" and put her more front and center, I think the movie would have done a lot better.

1:15pm - See? "A Princess of Mars", right in the dialogue!

1:42pm - Good dog/monster/thing!

2:06pm - Morteverybul. Writing in a darkened theater is hard! I suspect that I was suggesting they end the movie then, and maybe forgo the "Carter being an idiot" necessary to set up a cliffhanger that sets up a second movie that will likely never happen.

2:15pm - Roll credits.

Seeing it for a second time, I definitely feel like this got a pretty raw deal last year. I'm not demanding a sequel or anything, and I think shaving the ends off would have done this film a lot of good, but this is a fun, entertaining movie. I also think I liked it better in 2D from a little further away, versus my close-to-the-front IMAX viewing last year.

2:27pm - "In Memorium"

2:32pm - Okay, that's enough.

2:37pm - Call me heartless, but that was kind of awful, especially since it often took on the feel of a guessing game ("what person who died to these clips have in common?"), and the honoree occasionally didn't even appear in the trailer used.

2:49pm Reptilicus

* * (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, 35mm)

2:56pm - I'm not sure why the paleontologist in this film works in an aquarium, but it sounds awesome in Danish. Say it with me - "Akvarium"!

3:01pm - "Ya, he will be busy." - INNUENDO! isn't quite as much fun when it's so obvious, but I think it's the best part of the old, not-so-good movies.

3:06pm - Ha, you thought the amazingly stupid-looking redneck was going to be the one to screw things up, but the movie zigged when it could have zagged!

3:08pm - "Brigadier General Mark--" Oh, hell.

3:08:02pm - "MARK!" Ah, my least favorite Marathon tradition. It's only funny for Planet of the Vampires, people (and really not then)!

3:16pm - Amusing inevitability when the idiot handyman and the electric eel are on screen, although the response of "something happened!" when the alarm goes off is among the most absurdly obvious lines of dialogue ever written.

3:17pm - It's not the movie suddenly taking a side trip into American General Mark & scientist's daughter Connie doing a little Copenhagen travelogue that strikes me weird as much as it is that Mark does most of the narration.

3:30pm - Rubber Monster time!

3:34pm - Wait, was that bit of FX done with obvious paper cutouts... Yes, yes it was. wow.

3:41pm - INNUENDO!: "I'll stay with you!" ... "I'm firm!" Really, it seemed vaguely dirty at the time.

3:54pm - You suck, soldier manning the drawbridge. You suck more than any incompetent soldier who has ever appeared in a monster movie before or since. Really, you're just the worst.

4:10pm - May have zonked out a bit for the end there, because I've got no memory of how they got from Denmark's worst soldier dooming a bunch of civilians to bombing the hell out of the monster.

As these things go, Reptilicus is okay. I don't really enjoy the "laugh at the crappy B-movie" section of the Marathon (or any SF event) as much as others; I didn't grow up with drive-ins or creature double features on TV and watching something just to mock its incompetence strikes me as little but mean-spirited. It's the sincere and unexpectedly good parts of these movies I respond to, and for this one, that's kind of rare.

4:27pm - The Ghastly Love of Johnny X

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, DCP)

Write-up here.

Oh, it's in "GhastlyScope"! I love GhastlyScope!

4:35pm - Say this much - De Anna Joy Brooks, the actress playing Bliss, can vamp it up with the best of 'em.

4:37pm - Aaaand it's a musical. Somehow I'd missed that.

4:58pm - Puppets, too. OK...

5:18pm - I may have rolled my eyes a bit at the singing earlier, but the talking is terrible. The monologues and expositional conversations that don't have to be set to music are kind of brutal.

5:36pm - Hey, it's Paul Williams! That's kind of cool!

6:00pm - Credits roll, and I learn that the cute girl in the second half is Kate Maberly. She's worth keeping an eye on (and, apparently, starred in a much-loved version of The Secret Garden twenty years ago).

I'll probably give this a a more thorough review when everything else is caught up. It's kind of cute, with some fun songs and surprisingly decent performances. The script is a mess, though, and it's a real shame that a movie that prides itself on using the last of Kodak's Super-X black & white film stock to shoot had to be shown on video.

6:13pm - War of the Worlds: Goliath

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

Full write-up here.

Well, that's actually when Garen got up on stage and made the announcement that they would be running the movie off the screener DVD again, trying to make it sound like this was a special treat. It sort of solidified my decision to head across the street for some supper, though.

First, though, it was time for the trivia contest, and this year it went from a piece of paper you handed in to shouting out questions and calling on raised hands, a final surrender to the reality that everyone at a sci-fi film festival is going to have a smartphone and can check IMDB before turning it in.

6:37pm - I got seated quickly at Boston Burger Company because I was by myself while the folks in front of me were told there was a half-hour or so wait for their groups of four and six. So, uh, yay for coming to events alone?

I had myself a King (bacon, fried bananas, peanut butter) burger. It was, as always, delicious, although I must admit to being terrified of trying to replicate it at home.

7:30pm - Did I make it back in time for the movie's good part?

7:34pm - Oh yeah, Teddy Roosevelt is killin' Martians.

7:39pm - Man, I really hadn't noticed just how phallic come of the Martian tripods' guns were. Positioned right between the two front legs and pointed somewhat upwards!

7:54pm - Garen gives the movie a Gort for "Best Animated Feature". Note: It is the only animated feature.

I'd seen it the night before, so I didn't mind skipping out on this one. I've seen much worse, but also much better.

7:59pm - "Asternauts"

* * * (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, Blu-ray)

Starting early, I see. It's unusual for an event like this to run ahead!

8:00pm - Hey, is that Matt Frewer... No, it's not. But it could have been.

That was a quick, 10-minute short, but a pretty good one. I liked that it could have easily been something that made fun of rural folks but mostly backed away from that. Also had fun with the sexy girls swarming on the asteroid crash site being surreal, but not exploitative.

8:16pm - Batoru Rowaiaru (Battle Royale)

* * * * (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, Blu-ray)

Previous write-up here (smaller one here).

8:18pm - The opening minute of this movie is great, just encapsulating the whole idea without making the rest redundant.

8:47pm - This thing just flies; no chance to really put down thoughts.

8:48pm - Kitano eating Shuya's cookies is just great casual bastardy.

9:14pm - I've heard that Chiaki Kuriyama was, for a while, more well-known in the US for Kill Bill than she was in Japan. Crazy, considering what an impression she makes in a relatively small role here.

9:24pm - As great as this movie is, it's got its weak moments, like characters saying "I can't tell you until later", which is cheating.

9:38pm - The lighthouse sequence is amazing - exaggerated but true-to-life for teenagers. Shows what BS The Hunger Games was.

9:52pm - Mitsuko's flashback is just f---ed up, even if it is almost conventionally twisted.

10:02pm - Kitano winks at the audience here. That's awesome.

I love this movie. It's harsh, but smart, and never loses sight of its central idea of how kids should distrust authority, even as there's a certain amount of understanding of why the grown-ups are clamping down on the kids so hard.

10:28pm - The Alien Mating Cry is, always has been, and always shall be lame. Gotta wonder if the crowd would have been kinder later if they realized that the MC directed Motivational Growth

10:32pm - Safety Not Guaranteed

* * * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 17 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, DCP)

Full review here.

10:34pm - I swear I heard the basic set-up for the movie (a classified ad looking for a second for time travel) years ago, as the premise of an old sci-fi novel, way before this movie or the real-life ad that inspired it came out. Searching for it online just gets me a lot of information on this movie, though.

10:47pm - Obligatory question of why Mark Duplass has not been cast as a relative of Nathan Fillion's character on Castle or something else.

10:55pm - You know, I'd forgotten just how funny this movie was.

11:21pm - "This is f---ing intense!" / "This is 15 miles an hour." As I said, funny.

11:37pm - The crowd did not expect Kristin Bell.

11:51pm - That "time machine" is beautiful.

11:53pm - Great moment when the movie sort of shifts into less reality. You can feel it change, but not too much.

11:54pm - And the audience loves it.

It's funny, I gave this a really high star rating the first time I saw it, and second-guessed it almost immediately - I enjoyed it, but it's kind of slight, isn't it? A second time through, yeah, it's not Big and Dramatic, but it's very funny and well-done, and I feel like I got it right the first time.

12:07am - The Twilight Zone: "Time Enough at Last"

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, video)

12:08am - The jackass in front of me is starting to lean back and stretch into my personal space a lot. In related news, it's probably my bedtime and I'm getting a bit cranky.

12:30am - Some guy down in the orchestra section just yelled "break the glasses already!" Ass. I hope the folks nearby pounded him into unconsciousness.

Despite crowd issues, I enjoyed this quite a bit, and really should start going through that 24-disc set of the series on Blu-ray sometime. That guy toward the end does represent what I hate most about 'Thon callbacks, though - why not just experience the movie, as opposed to trying to make yourself the entertainment?

12:34am - The Incredible Shrinking Man

* * * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, video)

Full(er) write-up here.

12:40am - INNUENDO! - "People don't just get smaller!" / "We'll go back to the doctor, surely he's got a pill for it." Maybe it wasn't innuendo back then, but it's funny now.

1:06am - Bad kitty!

1:51am - Expected nap confirmed!

Fortunately, I saw this back during the Universal series at the Brattle, and pretty much retain the same opinion: It's pretty darn good, maybe not in an absolute sense, but in terms of clearly having more ambition than other science fiction movies of its time and not letting the B-movie aspect undercut that.

2:00am - "Death of a Shadow"

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, DVD)

Full write-up here.

I wrote "time to see if this is less nonsensical than I remember" here, and... Yeah, still not a big fan. I really do think it's the kind of fantasy that makes the audience feel like they've seen something special but doesn't really have much to it.

2:18am - Phase IV

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, 35mm)

Full review at EFC.

Darn right a Saul Bass movie starts with striking imagery.

2:29am - Up to now, all ants, and it's creepy.

2:40am - Oh, yeah, piss off the ants - great idea!

3:11am - A shrieking noise makes the audience stir.

3:26am - Phase III begins. I'd say it gets weird, but let's face it - this whole movie has just been downright strange.

3:41am - Aw, bring on the weird trippy ending!

Seriously, get that weird ending on a special edition Blu-ray. I want to see it.

3:47am - It strikes me that the villains over the past few hours have gone from Martians in big tripods, to kids, to a cat, to a spider, to ants. Next up: Mold.

3:50am - Motivational Growth

* * ¼ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, video)

Full write-up here.

3:56am - The audience is audibly grossed out by the disgusting bathroom and the Adrian DiGiovanni's Ian folivor dropping trou to take a crap.

3:59am - I check to see that The Mold does, in fact, have a mouth shape even before Ian's head trauma.

... and soon after that, I head to the restroom myself, though it's been a while coming. I sort of hang out in the lobby for a while after that, talking with a few folks who walked out, some of whom actually walked out during its Friday night screening. Kind of funny; I didn't notice anyone disliking it then, but I think both then and during this screening, the loudest voices got heard the most.

5:06am - Man, this movie is vomit-intense.

5:25am - The audience really hates this movie, and it seems to have poisoned them to how great Jeffrey Combs's last monologue is.

Can't much blame them; it's got issues. But I can't really hate it; it's at least got a little ambition, and I think I'd rather see something like this than mock Reptilicus.

5:30am - V for Vendetta

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, B34-ray)

The title cards for this have fake film scratches, which seems weird; I don't immediately remember it as having that sort of style.

6:14am - Well, that can't have been a long nap; Natalie Portman still has hair.

6:28am - I never read the comics; was Stephen Fry's character basically Stephen Fry in them?

6:37am - At the time, I wondered if this was shot in HD, because even for Blu-ray, it looks video-y to me, like the production values are sub-par. It's the same sort of "this doesn't feel right" vibe I got off the HFR version of The Hobbit. Later, projectionist Dave Kornfeld would tell me that it's just projecting Blu-ray which doesn't have the ability to reproduce the movie's dark blacks.

7:43am - Wow, we're running like a half-hour ahead of schedule as the movie ends!

Had the same feeling as when I first saw it; fairly well-done, but heavy-handed and a little too concerned with symbols, though not as intellectual about it as Alan Moore tends to be in his original works.

8:00am - Well, we're running 15 minutes ahead.

8:07am - "La Luna"

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, 35mm)

Full write-up here.

Yeah, this Pixar Short is still pretty great.

8:10am - Escape from L.A.

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, 35mm)

8:13am - "2013: Now" title on the screen. Movies set in the current year but made when it was the future should be a regular part of the marathon, I think.

But, wow, that mid-1990s CGI!

8:25am - Speaking of, they certainly 90s up Snake's wardrobe a bit, don't they?

8:44am - Obligatory use of that Randy Newman song.

8:46am - Bruce Campbell and the crowd goes crazy!

8:58am - As much as Snake Plissken is meant to be a badass, he's kind of like James Bond in Skyfall here, isn't he? Looking tough and occasionally doing something cool, but more or less failing from one thing to another.

More or less just watched the movie after that. It's fun and goofy, and while it's full of things that make a mess, I do kind of get the vibe that it's some of the most sheer fun John Carpenter and Kurt Russell have had making a movie.

9:50am - Final announcement time, which includes making excuses for Motivational Growth that the audience wasn't buying and saying that the movie was getting a Gort Award as much because director Don Thacker showed up and it would hopefully encourage more visiting filmmakers. I don't think it really works that way, myself.

10:02am - The Fifth Element

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 18 February 2013 in Somerville Theatre #1 (Boston Sci-Fi Marathon, 35mm)

Full(er) write-up here.

10:10am - That spaceship is so Moebius.

10:24am - For some reason, Dallas's cat watching TV cracks me up.

10:36am - The picture looks OK to me, but I see Dave running into the booth to ahead of a splice just to make sure.

10:44am - Ever seen film actually melt in the projector? The folks near me (where we were close enough to smell it) hadn't. Someone made snarky remarks about film versus digital. Lucky Dave was too busy darting up from his seat to hear them.

11:11am - Why, exactly, is the tag on Dallas's door moved? It seems random but useful.

11:19am - Well, this crowd likes Ruby Rhod!

11:29am - Milla Jovovich just has a great expressive face that I don't think anybody has really made great use of since.

11:40am - Luc Besson loves his cross-cutting and does it well.

11:45am - Two melts. Dave did warn us that it was a crappy print on the festival message board.

11:58am - All the money spent on this movie, and the detonator in the climactic scene is a combination lock.

12:10pm - Time to roll credits, go home, take a shower, and try and stay up the rest of the day.

Pretty darn good movie still (though it's not a particular surprise that my opinion hasn't changed much in a couple of months). A pretty excellent note to leave on, too.

1 comment:

Alex said...

While I didn't feel the same way as you about everything, it was really fun to read your thoughts! It's interesting, like experiencing the Thon from a different perspective than my own. I'm glad note-taking helps you stay awake, that's a smart idea though I've never been a good at it myself. I get too caught up in the movies!