Saturday, February 15, 2014

Boston Sci-fi Film Festival day 04: Bunker 6, Dragon Day

Some folks I know were pushing the 5pm show, Science Team, on Facebook, but I want able to make that one - work, you know. It at least sounds like it was a lot more exciting than Dragon Day, and I hope that this wasn't a case of Garen and the folks who put together the schedule not knowing what the good stuff was. Then again, as I sat outside the Micro-Cinema eating my takeout from Boston Burger Company, all I was hearing from inside were nasty sound effects, and not a whole lot of people with lines.

Those filmmakers had a Q&A afterwards, and it sounded like there must have been some crude humor in the movie, because party of the exchange seemed to be them trying to politely say that they found a masturbation gag funny when someone asked why it was in there.

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Greg Jackson, director of Bunker 6, came out to introduce and later answer questions about his movie, one of the best in the festival. A lot of it involved talking about the real bunker meant to safeguard the Canadian government in the case of a nuclear attack that they shot in, and you can't blame folks for asking about that; it's a genuinely cool location that adds a great deal to the feature. Some of the rest was spoiler stuff which I won't get into because there's not really a need to do so; there twists bit they are pretty evident. It might merit a second watch, though, and I certainly won't complain if it plays Fantasia and fits into my schedule there.

After that... Dragon Day. You know not to expect too much when even the program describes it as a "Red Dawn knockoff", though Garen revised that to "Red Dawn with twists" when introducing it. All I can say is that I want my twists.

Bunker 6

* * * 1/4 (out of four)
Seen 10 February 2014 in the Somerville Theartre micro-cinema (Boston Sci-fi Film Festival, DVD)

With a little fiddling, you could probably push Bunker 6 into the future or find a way to fit it into real-world history, but there would be little gained from that; any positives would likely be countered by the audience waiting for a Twilight Zone-style twist and being disappointed with the finale they get. So writer Christopher Ball and director Greg Jackson end the world right off the bat, making it easier to enjoy their Cold War throwback of a post-apocalyptic thriller for what it is.

The world ends in nuclear fire on 30 October 1962, although young Grace, whose father is somewhat high up in the Canadian military, makes it into a "Diefenbunker" fallout shelter just in time, and mere chance saves her from not being sealed in an irradiated corridor with her parents. Years pass, and when the man who raised her dies and entrusts her with the keys that can open the blast doors, seventeen-year-old Grace (Andrea Lee Norwood) is maintaining a decaying bunker and being pulled in different directions: Eric (Jim Fowler) is ready to get out, while Alice (Molly Dunsworth) doesn't shrink from the harsh truth that this is almost certainly a death sentence. For now, friendly Joe (Glenn Matthews) and maternal Mary (Shelley Thompson) side with Alice, but everything is falling apart, building and human alike.

Jackson and Ball have a few tricks up their sleeves that they will reveal as the movie goes on, and while they may not necessarily surprise, there is nothing in the script that seems impossible or unfair. Like most of the best stories structured as mysteries or otherwise featuring important discoveries relatively late in the action, Bunker 6 should reward a second viewing; it's a tight story that nevertheless doesn't allow the puzzle-box aspects to overwhelm the emotional core.

Full review at EFC

Dragon Day

* 1/2 (out of four)
Seen 10 February 2014 in the Somerville Theartre micro-cinema (Boston Sci-fi Film Festival, DVD)

In some ways, I almost wish Dragon Day was more laughably jingoistic and ready to set up an "us vs. them" paradigm, even if that made it something truly ugly. At least then it might have a pulse and those of us who were inclined to could loudly mock it's politics. The trouble is that along with being a bland but of sub-direct-to-video fodder, it lacks an "us". It wants to rail against something but has no identity to take pride in.

We're meant to identify with Duke Evans (Ethan Flower), I suppose, a laid-off NSA techie moving into the California house he recently inherited from his grandfather with wife Leslie (Åsa Wallander), daughter Emma (Hope Laibach) and sister Rachel (Jenn Gotzon) in tow. He finds a Mexican immigrant (Eloy Méndez) in residence, but soon there are bigger problems, like a massive cyber-attack from China. The People's Republic apparently intends to repossess the United States, which has refused to pay down their national debt to prop up China's sagging economy.

Put aside that it seems hard to believe that such an action would make economic or political sense to anybody but the most paranoid; it turns out that a bigger problem is that this whole plan turns out to be pretty boring, at least from co-writer/director Jeffrey Travis's chosen vantage point. We see some planes going down and some fires in the distance, but China is an almost literally faceless villain; one almost-silent officer (maybe two) toward the end an a bunch of close-ups of circuit boards marked "made in China" accompanied by the hilariously overwrought soundtrack does not a threat make. There's a sort of proxy threat in turncoats who have decided to throw in with their new overlords, but their actions just seem nonsensical.

Full review at EFC

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