Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The 2009 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Pt I

24 hours of straight science-fiction, hell yes. That is what happens at the historic Somerville Theatre every President's Weekend. This was my first time at the so-called "'Thon" and it was pretty rad. The theme was "Aliens Attack!" and 13 films were shown. I sat through them all except one. Lots of trailers and shorts were placed between them, which I really dug. Now, watching so many movies in a short period of time means it all sort of runs together, so I'm not going to give like 12 in-depth posts dedicated to each individual film. Instead you'll get short reviews based on what I can remember/decipher from the sleepiness-induced hallucinations.

1. First up was Alien Trespass (2009), which hasn't actually been released yet. It's a very well-done send up of 50's alien invasion movies. Eric McCormack plays Ted Lewis, a happily married astronomer who is perpetually smoking a pipe. His body is taken over by Urp, a recently-crashed alien who must stop the replicating, man-eating creatures that followed him to earth. He enlists the aid of Tammy (Jenni Baird), a surprisingly capable waitress, to defeat the imminent invasion. The story also follows Lewis' wife, some curious teenagers, and the inept police department (one of whom is played by Robert Patrick aka T-1000). It's very funny, with some great sight gags, allusions, and misunderstandings. Definitely one of my favourite movies shown at the marathon. It gets a limited release on April 3. 4.5/5

2. Then came It Came From Outer Space 3-D (1953), which I've wanted to see for a while ever since resolving to watch every movie referenced in the opening song to Rocky Horror. It was pretty good, but I hated the 3-D thing. It was with those old school red/blue cellophane deals, and it hurt my head to wear over my regular glasses. The 3-D wasn't used particularly well in the film, either, but there were some times I thought I might be hit by falling debris. Based on a Ray Bradbury story and directed by Jack Arnold, it follows John Putnam and Ellen Fields as they investigate a supposed meteor crash and several ensuing missing persons cases. Putnam discovers that aliens have landed and are trying to inconspicuously repair their ship by taking on the appearances of various townspeople. They're willing to be peaceful, unless someone tries to interfere. A good premise, but a little slow-moving. 3.5/5

3. Chrysalis (2008) is the only movie I really didn't like, and most of the audience agreed. Taking place in an ambiguously chaotic, military-regime future and also based on a Bradbury story, it details the events of a botanical research facility with only three residents. When Smith (Glen Vaughan) suddenly sinks into a coma and begins to form a moss-like cocoon around his body, Dr Rockwell (Darren Kendrick) is called in to find a cure. They all stand around watching for a few days and at some point military people come. Rockwell thinks he'll wake up to be some sort of savior, while Hartley (John Klemantaski), the head of research, thinks he'll become a monster and constantly tries to kill him. The movie was really slow moving and overall pretty dull. I think it would have been more interesting as a short film, or they could have expanded upon the events of the outside world, which seemed to be experiencing some sort of epidemic and lots of rioting. It's labeled as being in "post-production" on imdb, so maybe they're still tweaking it. I just don't think this story warranted a full-length movie. It looked pretty good though, considering this (presumably) had a very small budget, as a first-time directing/writing/acting situation for several main players. 2/5

4. One of the movies I was most excited for was Logan's Run (1976), which overall I really enjoyed, but found way too lengthy. Based on the book of the same name, it chronicles the trials of Logan 5 (Michael York) as he discovers his seemingly utopian world is decidedly sinister. Everyone (on earth? in America? it is unclear) resides in a technologically advanced, hedonistic city that is completely walled off from the outside. Its residents are all quite young (and for the most part, quite white) because when they hit 30, they sacrifice themselves to be "reborn" to maintain equilibrium. No one knows what old age is, and no one really understands actual death. Logan is a "Sandman", hunting down any who try to run away from the city when their time comes. He is charged with finding Sanctuary, the alleged safe haven for escaped runners, and enlists Jessica (Jenny Agutter) for her connections to the underground rebels to help him find it. As he learns more about the inner workings of the system, Logan desires to actually run away. But even if he and Jessica make it, they may find the outside to be much different than they expected. It's a well-done dystopian tale that manages to be consistently engaging despite its length, though it does drag at the end. I haven't read the book so maybe the filmmakers just wanted to keep as much of the original tale as possible. Visually it was grandiose and imaginative, except some of the female fashions were revealing to the point of making me nervous. 4.5/5

That's it for now. You'll discover the following four films next time!

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