Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Escape from Tomorrow

Ugh, my plan was actually to get this written up Friday night and posted Saturday morning, but between a whole lot of things, that just did not happen. Suffice it to say, it was an insane weekend (as I'll explain in the next TWIT post) which knocked me for a loop over the next couple of days.

It annoys me, because I go to independent/less-reviewed movies on Friday evening with the intention of getting a review up quickly enough that other folks in Boston can have a reminder to catch it (or not) while it's still in theaters, and Escape From Tomorrow had a crazy-limited window here: Friday was the only day there were shows after 6:10pm, and there were no shows at all on Saturday, as the schedule space for the Somerville Theatre's October "TerrorThon" events wound up coming at this movie's expense. It's available on-demand, at least, but I really did want to get it up before there were just Thursday 4pm/6pm shows left.

I wasn't alone in the theater, and it wasn't close, which isn't always the case for little movies like this (it doesn't hurt that Somerville has its own website while the likes of Boston Common & Fenway don't really have a way to let locals know they're getting something interesting). Like I say in the review, a good chunk of the audience was sort of in screw-Disney mode from the outset, which is fair, if not necessarily for the reasons this movie goes with. Disney's cheerful and upbeat and polished, and there's room for that. The perpetually extended copyright thing...

I have to admit, I wish I had read more than scattered page scans of Air Pirates Funnies that you can find online. I think they've got a fair amount in common with Escape from Tomorrow, in that both use poking the Disney bear as a way to get attention. Which isn't to say either is insincere, just that Randy Moore was pretty savvy in making something that would get the attention of raising Disney's ire but which is just smart enough to not get crushed.

One last thing: I highly doubt that the preview for Saving Mr. Banks was "APPROVED to ACCOMPANY THIS FEATURE".

Escape From Tomorrow

* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 11 October 2013 at Somerville Theatre #2 (first-run, DCP)

Someday, perhaps soon, folks may accuse Randy Moore of selling out. After all, while most of the crowd for the opening-night showing of Escape from Tomorrow seemed to be there to cheer on poking a finger in the Walt Disney Company's eye, it wouldn't be shocking for him to make the jump to big mainstream pictures. As much as this movie is rebellious and satirical, its venom isn't scathing, and it's as much a demonstration of his ability to handle technical challenges as his desire to stick it to the man.

This is the movie which was filmed in Walt Disney World and Disneyland without any sort of permits or permissions (kind of a big deal was made of this when it played Sundance), and it happily uses the name of Siemens AG where a generic corporation would do. There's no denying that there's something genuinely enjoyable about the ballsiness of it; aside from the knowledge that the filmmakers are getting away with something, the fact that what the audience sees on screen is not necessarily a strawman created for the sole purpose of being mocked gives that mockery some teeth. When things do get crazy - which is almost right away - it wedges its way into the audience's real-world experience.

On a technical level, there's little denying that Moore and his cinematographer Lucas Lee Graham have managed something fairly impressive. For all that much of Escape from Tomorrow must have been shot like a found footage film, it doesn't look like one; the camera doesn't shake and the lighting doesn't waver. Most of the effects work is fairly good - there are some scenes that were obviously shot in front of a green screen with park footage added in later, but that's balanced by a couple of pieces that are very slick for a low-budget indie, and others where looking jarring and incongruous is part of the point. The movie is presented in sharp black and white, and that's a clever decision; aside from capturing the feel of old home movies, it gives the movie one unified look, rather than changing as the film moves around the park.

Full review at EFC.

No comments: