Thursday, February 26, 2009

The 2009 Boston Science-Fiction Marathon, Pt II

After Logan's Run, it was totally time for some food. Unfortunately McDonald's was about the only fast option. While munching on burgers and a tasty parfait, I took in the next few films of Boston's 24-hour science fiction marathon. (Read Part One.)

5. Alongside the "Aliens Attack" theme, the marathon also honored Michael Crichton (who passed away in November) by screening Runaway (1984). It's the future, robots are everywhere, and Tom Selleck stars as Sgt Jack Ramsay, who specializes in robot-related crimes and has an intense fear of heights (prepare for several moments reminiscent of Vertigo), as well as being a single parent. Karen Thompson (Cynthia Rhodes) is his pretty new partner. Together they uncover a conspiracy involving the evil Dr Charles Luther (Gene Simmons- yes, that Gene Simmons), who has been tampering with domestic robots and turning them into ruthless killing machines, while persistently maintaining a dastardly glare. Ramsay enlists Jackie Rogers (Kirstie Alley) to help find Luther, but in the end it turns into a personal death-defying, high-heights battle between the two men. This movie is awesome. I mean, come on. The synopsis alone is enough. Pure, robotic, mustachioed, futuristic fun. 4.5/5

6. Alien Raiders (2008) is a new film that unfortunately will be straight to DVD. Almost the entirety of its action takes place within a large grocery store which has been taken over by a group of supposed thieves. Led by Aaron Ritter (Carlos Bernard), they kill a few of the shoppers- including a cop- and let several others go, while two of their own are killed in the initial struggle. They stuff the bodies in the meat locker and the hostages left are subjected to a special test, meant to sniff out a certain disease (aka alien infestation) that they've tracked to the store. This test is fairly menacing and painful, and the hostages make various attempts to escape their fates. There are a lot of setbacks and deaths, police interference, and then a big alien monster attacks everyone! It's a really entertaining, well-done movie. My main issue is that the "surprise" ending is pretty foreseeable, but it's still a fun way to end it. Plus, Ben Rock, the director, was there for a Q & A and he was really cool. 4/5

7. During The Thing From Another World (1951), I was starting to get a little sleepy, but I still really enjoyed it. While stationed at the North Pole, a bunch of scientists and military-types encounter a mysterious metal craft buried in the ice. They find an alien creature frozen inside and take it back to their base, guarding it to keep from thawing. Dr Carrington (Robert Cornthwaite) thinks it's a super-intelligent higher being that can impart wisdoms to humanity, while Captain Patrick Hendry (Kenneth Tobey) is all "we can't do anything until 'Washington' tells us to". Of course the creature thaws accidentally and starts terrorizing the inhabitants of the small base, who must use every resource available to stop it. I dug the arctic setting of the story, and the writing was tight, building up a good amount of tension. I was annoyed by the "science vs military" thing, with Carrington portrayed as cold-hearted and impractical, and Hendry as heroic and commanding, but I think that's more an indicator of its time. 4/5

8. Another movie I was really excited for was Repo Man (1984), which was really weird but really fun. Emilio Estevez is Otto, a recently unemployed punk who gets roped into being a repo man by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton). In learning the ropes of car repossession, he runs into an attractive UFO conspiracy theorist, rival repo men, lots of violence, his friends' crime sprees, and a much-sought-after 1964 Chevy Malibu with mysterious forces in its trunk. I dug the surreal, wacky world Alex Cox created. Lots of ambiguities and silly characters, like a more punk rock Gilliam film. I didn't like Otto that much though- he was a jerk and sort of annoying. It was hard for me to really care what happened to him. I also thought the story was a little too all-over-the-place, as if the alien element was an afterthought when it could have been a more exciting part of the plot. Still very good, just not quite as good as I had expected. 4/5

All right, kids, I'll have the final part of the Boston Sci-Fi Marathon coverage next time!