Tag: movie marathon

The 2013 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part II


BUT FIRST! Read Part I. There’s 24 hours of sci-fi overall!

Alright, back from dinner, everybody’s feeling ok, I’m still on a bit of a musical high from The Ghastly Love of Johnny X but I am definitely (always) ready to settle in for more science fiction goodness. One of the coolest things about this year’s Thon is that we were treated to an episode of The Twilight Zone, wholly appropriate since one of the films being shown was written by TZ stalwart Richard Matheson. It was the episode “Time Enough At Last”, which I have often seen referenced and parodied but had never actually watched, so it was great to see the original version. Poor Henry Bemis! He just wants to READ! An interesting short, “Death of a Shadow“, was also shown, which I really liked. It’s beautifully shot and has a fascinating premise concerning a dead soldier caught in limbo, trying to win back his life by collecting other people’s deaths. And I just found out it was nominated for an Oscar this year, so that’s rad! Anyway here are the next four features I watched, from about 8PM to 4AM, to ensure you’re consistently impressed with how much I totally stayed awake.

5 Battle Royale (2000)
It’s no secret I am in love with this movie, and I don’t think there’d ever be a bad time to watch it. The premise may only be lightly sci-fi because of the supposed future setting and a few technological bits, but who cares? THIS MOVIE RULES. While packed with awesome gore and intense action, it also has such a knack for succinctly and lovingly describing its characters, so that you can’t help but feel deeply for everyone. It manages to balance over-the-top situations and a bit of cheese with a believable emotional core, and I think that’s part of the reason I love it. The title links to my original review. And here’s a poster I made for it ages ago.

6 Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
I saw this when it was in theaters last summer but it was nice to revisit it, especially since as far as I could tell a lot of the audience hadn’t seen it (it got a big round of applause at the end). I love Aubrey Plaza here and I think the central story is so sweet and interesting, and I initially came out really enjoying the film overall. I had sort of blocked out how the b-plot of Jake Johnson trying to sleep with an old girlfriend was pretty stupid and sleazy. The title links to my original review.

7 The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
Ok so as far as I can tell the theme of this year’s Thon was HUNKS because here is yet another example of a total babe in the lead. And not only is he shirtless a few times, he also shows off those GAMS, and I’m now fanning myself. Anyway. This movie is actually completely great, it’s not at all what you’d expect from the title. Matheson’s script is gradually paced and introspective, ultimately setting itself up for a metaphorical view of man’s entire existence as the protagonist Scott Carey experiences a mysterious shrinking disease that gives him a shockingly new perspective on life. The performances are great, there’s a bit of action thrown in what with giant spiders and cats, and I was really impressed with the effects. The only thing that bothered me was how at one point a regular-sized actress was used to portray a little person, and it was distracting and I didn’t understand why they couldn’t have just cast an actual little person. It was pointed out to me later that maybe the optical trickery wouldn’t have worked otherwise, since she and Scott are shown side by side as the same size. So I guess that makes sense. Otherwise I was just generally taken in by this film, it’s thought-provoking without being preachy, and it’s exciting without being sensationalist.

8 Phase IV (1974)
This is one of the films I was most excited for, since I knew it was the only feature from legendary graphic designer Saul Bass as a director. I’d read about it on Nuts4r2’s blog ages ago and had been meaning to see it ever since. When large groups of different varieties of ants in the Arizona desert begin forming a collective hive mind, two scientists set up an observation station to observe their developments and determine if they’re a threat. The ants manage to wipe out most of the animals (and some of the humans) in the area and prove smart enough to consistently outwit the scientists, so it soon becomes a standoff between man and ant. And honestly I had no idea who was going to win. What’s great is the movie feels utterly realistic, there isn’t much that’s out there, the main anomaly is that these ants are all working together with a common cause. They don’t have super powers or anything, they’re just really smart and quick to adapt to new situations. I liked the more intellectual, low-key approach to storytelling, but I must say I kind of expected (and wanted) more trippy visuals. I mean, it’s Saul Bass! But still a smart, compelling film, with excellent ant photography from Ken Middleham (who also did The Hellstrom Chronicle) and a kickass finale.

Ok I had to brush my teeth and catch up on my tea-drinking, but otherwise I am doing good! The audience definitely starts to thin out a little, but there’s only 4 more movies left to go, I can do this!

The 2013 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part I

Is it that time of year again? WHY YES IT IS! Every year the Somerville Theatre hosts the 24-Hour Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, which in recent years has also expanded into a festival for new sci-fi films, and the marathon itself now includes a few of the festival picks. So it’s basically a lot of nerds young and old gathered together in a gorgeous and spacious theater, armed with pillows, blankets, laser blasters, and caffeine, yelling geeky jokes at the screen. This year (my fifth in a row!) I’m proud to report that I stayed up actually the entire time- usually I nod off during one or more movies, but I was honestly 100% awake for the whole event, which means I won. The line-up was pretty damn solid this year, which I think helped, though there were one or two uncertain choices in the mix (more on that later). And we had this weird problem where people kept coming in at random times and sitting right in front of us? Like where did they come from? You should stake your claim on a few seats and set up camp, guys! There’s plenty of room! Anyway, the way these posts work is I will break down the 24 hours into three segments, and my memory might get a little loopier as it goes on due to the sleep deprivation. So here we go, erm, BLAST OFF!

1 John Carter (2012)
I missed this when it was in theaters so I was excited to see it here, and it made for a fun opener to the Thon. The somewhat convoluted story focuses on the titular gold-digging Civil War soldier who is accidentally transported to Mars, where he discovers warring aliens and an uncanny ability to leap tall buildings due to the lesser gravity. Overall it’s kind of silly but I found it generally entertaining- great effects and action sequences, imagination, a kickass warrior scientist lady, and a lot of shirtless Taylor Kitsch. Like, A LOT. I think the biggest problem is that it’s way too long. I felt like Andrew Stanton just got really wrapped up in this fantasy world and wanted to hang around in it for a while and really situate his audience within it, which I can understand. It is very beautiful.

I also want a quick shout-out for the well-done “In Memorium” segment that was shown after this, for those connected to sci-fi media who’d passed away last year.

2 Reptilicus (1961)
This was the “so-bad-it’s-good” pick for the night, which allows everyone to get out their wannabe MST3K snark. A Danish production but scripted in English, the film is a goofy monster movie with old European charm and an actually kind of cool dragon-like creature design. The effects are outdated and the acting is laughable, plus there’s a musical number for no reason, but it fits decently inside the mold of so many of those mid-century monster flicks. And it’s got a guy who kinda looks like David Bowie, and he was definitely trying to date the main military dude, so I may have had a little fanfiction going on in my head the whole time, no big deal. It’s enjoyable for how ridiculous it is and I was definitely entertained, but I wouldn’t put it high on a list of my favorite b-movies or anything.
As a movie: 2/5
As entertainment: 3.5/5

3 The Ghastly Love of Johnny X (2012)
This one has really stuck with me, and I think I’m liking it more upon reflection even if I was torn as I watched it. I mean the premise alone suits almost all of my tastes- a black and white rock musical about alien punks who are exiled to earth and the main guy has an electric suit that he uses to save an aging rock star and they’re all dressed like they’re in Grease. The tagline is “They Sing! They Dance! They’re Juvenile Delinquents from Outer Space!”, I mean this movie was clearly made for me. Also the lead guy (Will Keenan) is fucking adorable, even if he’s a dick to his girlfriend at the beginning and I was a little uncomfortable. Mostly I dug the wacky visuals, the 50s atmosphere and characterization, and the splashy musical numbers though the songs weren’t the most memorable. (Still good tunes, though! I just kinda wish the amazing Paul Williams had expanded his cameo appearance and maybe contributed to the score? We could’ve had a Phantom of the Paradise-vibe!) The story’s all over the place but I guess that doesn’t actually matter, since for the most part it was funny and weird enough to keep me watching. It’s like if somebody mashed up Cry-Baby and Matinee and Alien Trespass and maybe Richard Elfman directed it? Kinda? Check out this video about it, that might give you a better idea. Also definitely wins best title of anything at the Thon, easily.

4 War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012)
Ok ok here’s where we cheated a little. After about 15 minutes of this animated steampunky alien invasion movie, we decided to head across the street for some dinner, since it just wasn’t especially appealing. I’m sorry guys, I felt bad leaving a new animated sci-fi movie since usually I’m all into that, it just looked sort of derivative and I didn’t love the visual style. We caught the very end though and uh it looks like the good guys won! Yay humans! And Nikola Tesla was there to help out, thank goodness. I’ve never seen/read War of the Worlds so I’m not sure how it all connected, I believe it’s meant to be a speculative sequel. Luckily we returned in time to catch “Asternauts“, a charming short about farmers who manage to contact alien life, from Marta Alicia Masferrer, who directed the excellent “Conlang”, a short from a previous Thon.

Alright so now that we’re back from Chinese food and really settled in, it’ll be time for Part II! Check back next time for more sci-fi fun, eager young space cadets!

The 2012 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Pt III

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. Read Parts I and II.

Ok, final stretch. I’ve given up on finishing that dang cultural theory essay, but I’m still pretty awake due to my general nervousness. This helps me keep a keen eye on most of the following movies! Also I bust out the secondary pillow for help with my aching butt, and load up on the tea.

Click on for not one but TWO crazed scientists trying to defeat death, planet-hopping bounty hunters, and an alien-themed road trip! Coooool.

9 Frankenstein (1931)
I am woefully under-educated in classic horror, so it was exciting to see the classic Frankenstein whose imagery has so permeated representations of Mary Shelley’s monster. The film itself is sort of slow, but I liked the crazy assholery of Colin Clive as the titular doctor and of course the iconic performance of Boris Karloff as his towering, grumpy creation. I liked it but I find I don’t have much to say about it, I guess. It’s fairly muted at first and then gains momentum as the monster goes on an accidental crime spree, and there are some very cool shots and effects. And I had fun trying to pick out some of the sets re-used for Young Frankenstein!

10 Re-Animator (1985)
Remember how I saw this at the Coolidge Horror Marathon over a year ago? I still haven’t done a full review of it but you’d better believe I watch this movie all the fucking time, because it is goddamned great. Jeffrey Combs just DOMINATES as the adorably insane Herbert West, whose neon green “re-agent” can bring the dead back to life, often with violent consequences. It’s hilarious and campy in the best way, packed with awesome special effects and a kickass theme that I don’t care was stolen from Psycho. I also don’t care that it’s not particularly true to Lovecraft’s original story. I will never get tired of this movie, it’s just perfect. I promise I will write a real review of it… EVENTUALLY.

11 Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2001)
It’s no secret I love Cowboy Bebop- it’s among my top favorite anime series- and I’m a big fan of the film despite its pacing problems. But after fifteen minutes I suddenly realized how tired I was and allowed myself some sleep, missing most of the film and forcing myself to wake up during the final battle so I could go out and grab some Dunkin Donuts. For those who don’t know, though, it’s a fun sci-fi action anime that follows a group of cool bounty hunters trying to avert a deadly terrorist crisis. I was impressed they showed the subtitled version, though I think that the dubbed would have been easier to deal with at that time in the thon, but in the long run I’m just happy to see anime- I hope there’s more in the future! The title links to my full review of the recent blu-ray release at 366 Weird Movies.

12 Paul (2011)
Missed this in theaters despite my love for Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who penned the script and also star as sci-fi nerds on a geeky road trip who pick up a wisecracking, runaway alien named Paul. There are about a billion references to nerd things and a shit ton of cameos from cool people. This is the kind of movie that in theory is aimed directly at me but doesn’t actually work 100 percent. It was too reference-heavy, and most of them weren’t especially clever or new (like, I get it, Star Wars, lol you guys), though that doesn’t mean there weren’t several geeky moments I loved. Also I cannot separate Seth Rogen from being Seth Rogen, so it was really hard for me to buy him in the vocal role of Paul. Also also this movie draaaaaagged which wasn’t fun for a person operating on minimal sleep. Luckily I find its stars so enjoyable (especially since it felt like they were rehashing their roles from Spaced a little bit- mainly Pegg) that it was just entertaining enough.

Well that’s it! After Paul they showed Mission Galactica: The Cylon Attack (sequel to the Battlestar Galactica movie they showed last time) and Folklore, another film from the festival, but admittedly I didn’t especially care about either of those movies and wanted to get some sleep before waking up to finish my homework in the evening. So, a little less than 24 hours of sci-fi, but still pretty good, I think. Til next year, eager young space cadets!

The 2012 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part II

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. Read Part I.

Alright, 4 films down and I’m doing fine! A little hungry but as always I am prepared with snacks (pear applesauce cups, it’s all I need). There are some awesome trailers and such shown, but sadly no shorts like the past few years. I heard there was a great shorts program during the festival portion, and usually they pick a few to screen during the marathon itself. I wonder if the gargantuan Endhiran was too long to allow for extra stuff? Hmmph! Anyway, we continue on with more mad inventors/scientists, along with a some aliens and exploding heads. Press on!

5 Dimensions (2011)
This was one of the festival films so I was glad I got to see it after missing the original screening. A thoughtful time travel drama set in 1920s-30s England, Dimensions has some interesting ideas and lovely cinematography. I liked the main cast (who all got to wear sexy 30’s outfits) and the romantic aspects so central to the sciencey portions as the main character tries to revisit a lost love from his childhood. Unfortunately its script is too light, dragging through what could have been a much shorter story, and the editing isn’t great (all those fading scene transitions were so off-putting). But I appreciated it on a more basic level, especially since I assume the budget was pretty small and it did look good. The director Sloane U’Ren (who previously has been set/art designer for a ton of cool films) was there and did a Q&A but I had to leave to start my reading. Yay for ladies making sci-fi though!

6 Attack the Block (2011)
This I had to sit out for homework time. I totally love it (it’s one of my favorites of 2011) but I’ve seen it twice and the first time was in a theater, so sacrifices had to be made. For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, this is a completely kickass movie with gorilla-wolf motherfucker aliens and a group of resourceful British urban youths who combat them. Great soundtrack, creature design, and casting makes for a fun and decidedly different sci-fi comedy. The title links to my full review from last year.

7 Island of Lost Souls (1932)
So once when I was a kid I was at a slumber party and we watched the 1996 version of this story but everyone else fell asleep really quickly but I watched the whole thing alone and it scared the SHIT out of me. Marlon Brando’s creepy turban/pastiness left an impression. THIS one is a pretty cool movie, more subdued but just as eerie and strange. Based on the HG Wells novel, the film follows a castaway who finds himself unwillingly left on a mysterious, tiny island populated by animal/human hybrids- experimental creatures of the devilishly polite Dr Moreau (Charles Laughton). It’s a careful thriller with a clipped runtime, wonderfully dark subject matter, and some fantastic performances. Laughton is mesmerizing as the tactful, probably deranged Moreau, but Kathleen Burke stands out as the “Panther Woman” Lota, the doctor’s most “human” creation who longs for social interaction. And Bela Lugosi has a small role that led to hilarious Devo references from the crowd! The make-up effects are notable, as well. Good film, though the script felt a bit light at times.

8 Scanners (1981)
Oh, Scanners, a movie that is impossible for me not to love even though it’s got some problems. I saw this last year as part of my personal Cronenberg re-awakening (realizing his 80’s movies are all I need in life) and came to love it. Patrick “Mr Intensity” McGoohan sets telepaths against each other in a confusing and deadly (and Head Explody) battle, it’s perfectly strange and overblown and yet super boring at parts. A weird mix of stuff but as it progresses it gets better and better, and by the time the big reveal comes (which features one of my favorite narrative twists!), I’m hooked. I skipped the first 20-30 minutes to finish reading but I knew what was going on since by now I’ve watched it a couple of times and could hear certain key moments. Still love it, whatever. I hope there’s a Cronenberg at every ‘Thon- we’re 3 for 4 since I’ve been going. The title links to my original review.


The 2012 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Part I

Seen: At the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square. 24 Hours of Science-Fiction, every year!

Yay it’s my favorite time of year! That’s right, the 37th Annual Boston Science-Fiction Marathon! It’s a film festival too but I didn’t get a chance to go to any of those, so if you want reporting on that check out Jay Seaver’s posts. Anyway, this is a time when a bunch of super geeks gather in the beautiful, historic Somerville Theatre for a full 24 hours of sci-fi. This was my fourth year and I feel like I pretty much have it down, though I’ve never quite made it the full amount of time. Unfortunately this time around I was forced to spend some time away from movies so I could get home work done (I had a class presentation the next day), so I felt like a total nerd sitting in the upstairs lobby reading about West German Pop Art and Herbert Marcuse‘s convoluted cultural theory while badass cinema was playing in the next room. But oh well, the good news is the intense anxiety I was feeling about school kept me awake basically the whole time! Good for me!

Also as far as I could tell the general theme was mad scientists/science gone wrong, which is really neat!

1 Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
I thought this looked ridiculous from the trailers and my general lack of interest in any of the “Apes” movies kept me from seeking it out in theaters. It’s got James Franco as an oddly gaunt-looking scientist trying to cure Alzheimer’s but with his new drug he accidentally produces a baby ape with an exceptionally high IQ (eventually named Caesar), and raises him in his home. After several years Caesar is taken by animal control and leads a city-wide revolution along with his fellow primates. This starts off as a thoughtful look at experimental medicine and the line between pet and friend, which was interesting, but it’s basically all just a long set-up for the big action-y ending. I felt these two halves didn’t quite come together, and I could have done with it being just one or the other. My biggest issue is that I didn’t care at all about any of the characters (except maybe John Lithgow as Franco’s sick dad), and that made it boring. It did that thing every movie does, where a lady character is added and then given nothing to do and proves totally superfluous- either write a decent female character or don’t put women in your movies, guys, I’m sick of pretty actresses just floating around aimlessly next to their fleshed-out boyfriends. There are some really cool moments and the effects are fantastic (with the help of Andy Serkis, of course), but for the most part I was ambivalent.

2 Brainstorm (1983)
Now this is more my kind of movie! It’s got Christopher Walken and crazy science and a totally nonsensical plot AND it’s from the 80’s! Sadly, it’s mainly remembered as Natalie Wood’s last movie since she died while it was still filming. Walken stars as an overworked scientist who, along with his totally badass best friend Louise Fletcher, invents a device that can relay sights, sounds, and sensations through a headset, meaning a person can experience a road race or skydiving while sitting in a desk chair. (It’s very Strange Days.) Of course bad people want to do bad things with it because of military vs science problems, etc. Also he wants to get back with his wife (Wood) and there’s sort of a boring romance thing going on. This movie has some awesome ideas but a scattershot execution, leading to a somewhat campy but totally enjoyable experience. Plus Louise Fletcher, come on, she’s so in charge. Also it contains what has become maybe my favorite Christopher Walken moment ever? It’s sort of hard to explain its greatness out of context, but it basically involves a quick shot of Walken carrying a huge bicycle and yelling “SO I WANNA RIDE MY BIKE, BIG DEAL!” You kinda had to be there…

3 War of the Satellites (1958)
Time for some Corman! There’s always room for Roger Corman at the ‘Thon, and this is one of the better ones I’ve seen. It’s got familiar face Dick Miller plus a bunch of other stocky white people. The plot revolves around a pioneering space program that is hotly debated once Earth receives messages from an alien race warning them to abandon space travel. The scientist in charge (Richard Devon) is replaced by some menacing self-replicating alien creature who pushes the mission ahead for his own unclear purposes. I kind of lost what his intentions were, but overall I dug the movie. Miller is strong as a suspicious astronaut who tries to figure out what’s happened to his boss. The script is decent, the run time is short, the sets and effects are adorably 50’s, and I had a fun time. Proper Corman action.

4 Endhiran (2010)
Ok. This is the main super WTF movie of the ‘Thon. Seriously, I’m still questioning what is going on and it’s been a week. Known on the internet as the “Bollywood Terminator“, Endhiran is actually a sort of Frankenstein musical mash-up with Terminator imagery, if that makes sense. It’s got wacky inventor Dr Vaseegaran played by Bollywood superstar Rajnikanth, who creates an advanced android in his own image named Chitti. The robot is a hit within his community and especially with Vaseegaran’s medical student girlfriend Sana (Aishwarya Rai), but after he implants a hormonal emotional program to give Chitti feelings, his creation falls in love with Sana and then gets destroyed and then put back together as a crazy megalomaniacal killing machine. There are musical numbers and comedic side-trips and some insane action stunts (I believe this is the most expensive Bollywood film made to date for the effects), but it’s a really bad movie. It’s over 3 hours, the story and characters are incredibly stupid, and several of the musical numbers are unwarranted (and this coming from a person who loves musicals). One of them features uncomfortable ethnic appropriation that I didn’t understand at all. BUT at the same time there is enough weirdness and a few truly fun and catchy dance numbers that I couldn’t look away. I had to see what the fuck else could happen. Because, seriously, what the fuck?

Stay tuned for Part II of the ‘Thon, it’s got aliens and exploding heads and a new sci-fi movie directed by a lady! A rarity!