Monday, April 19, 2010

The Interstellar Adventures of the Steely-Eyed Moviegoer

For a guy who declared that April was a lousy month for movies, I sure have seen a lot of them of late.

Granted, that's partly because I spent the weekend at the theater,  not catching up with new releases, but with a lot of mostly older ones. I went to the Ohio 24 Hour Science Fiction Marathon, which is exactly what it sounds like. And yes, that's a full day of movies in a theater, when the wee hours become the long hours.

I've been to eight or nine of these now and have had tremendous fun at all of them, At some I've even gotten to see, in person, sci-fi luminaries in front of and behind the camera. I saw Phil Tippett, best known for his stop motion effects on the original Star Wars movies, like the space chess pieces and the AT-AT walkers. I also has the great pleasure of listening to Patricia Neal, who is a goddess among sci-fi fans because she played the female lead in The Day the Earth Stood Still. (I would add she's a movie goddess period, for her stellar performances in movies like A Face in the Crowd  and Hud.)

In addition to the feautre-length movies themselves, the marathon also plays an impressively wide array of trailers and shorts. They have so many of these, in fact, that one year, the marathon was devoted to 12 hours of just trailers and shorts - everything from "Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2 Century" to the trailer for something as goofy as Disney's Moon Pilot. Hell, even this Disney nut had never heard of that one.

Here was the film line-up this year, along with the approximate times:

Noon - Blade Runner: Actually, the very fine 2009 film Moon was supposed to open the festival, but for some reason, a print failed to come through. So instead, we watched Blade Runner. That was a surprise in itself, but the even bigger surprise was that it was NOT the more widely screened directors cut, but the original 1982 version, complete with narration. This version was better than I remembered, but the "happy" ending is as lame as a guy with two broken legs, and the narration makes the film come across like "Blade Runner for Dummies." Yes, I know, the narration is like the old noirs, but what kills it is the fact that Harrison Ford was bored out of his mind when he recorded the lines under protest - and it sounds like it. Bogart was never that detached.  GRADE: B+ 

2:30 - Ink: The crowd seemed to like this bizaare Ohio premiere that felt like a weird cross between The Matrix and The Elephant Man. If only it were as inventive as that sounds. The plot and the logic are all over the map, as if the writers never bothered to sit down and work out the logic of their world and just made it up as they went. Many in the crowd liked it, and there were some clever visuals, but in the end it was a pretentious, indulgent mess. GRADE: C-

5:30 - Richard Garriott: Man on a Mission: Very entertaining documentary about the video game designer who got to follow in his astronaut father's footsteps and make a trip into space. A little dry, but enthralling overall. GRADE: B+

It was somewhere in here the marathon had its annual costume contest. Typically, this is won by either the cute kid or the girl showing the most skin. Disappointingly, we got neither this year.  The winner was someone in a King Kong costume who actually made a little mock-up of the Empire State Building on which to stand Although  I rather liked the guy who held up two pen lights and said he was "the assistant responsible for J.J. Abrams' lens flares" (in Star Trek).

8:20 - Sleep Dealer: Of the two feature-length premieres, this was by far the better of the two. Sort of a Mexican Strange Days, if you can believe that. It seemed to have far less of a budget than Ink, but it had more imagination.

11:00 - Godzilla vs. King Ghidora: In the myriad of "Godzilla vs. (Insert silly giant creature here) movies, this one was sort of disappointing. It was too serious to be silly and too silly to be serious. And yes, you can say that about a movie that has a monster with three heads. GRADE: C

1:15 AM - The Lost Skeleton Returns Again: Some of you might be wondeirng when I slept. The answer would be here. I zoned out periodically on some of the previous titles, but this was the only one I missed wholesale, and that was kind of an purpose, because I never saw the film to watch this is a sequel, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. So zzzz.

3:15  - Battle in Outer Space: Another cheeseball Japanese film that just wasn't  cheesy enough to keep me awake. More zzzzs.

5:30 - Star Trek (2009): Well, that woke me back up! Still ridiculously entertaining. One question, though: Since when was this film subtitled "The Future Begins," as stated in the program? GRADE: A

8  - Galaxina: Wow. Just ... man. Imagine if Star Wars were directed by a bunch of horny drunks on a combination of mushrooms and Quaaludes and you'll get the idea of what this abysmal dreck is like. It has some notoriety now mainly because it stars ill-fated Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten as a robot, and I won't comment further on her, because it is impolite to speak ill of the dead, and downright rude to speak ill of someone who was brutally murdered. So instead I will marvel at the fact this was badly shot by Dean Cundy, who went on to shoot all three Back to the Future movies, Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Apollo 13, among others. And this was made AFTER he shot Halloween! Juat  .. wow. GRADE:  F

10 - 2010: The Year We Make Contact: Hmm. Can't imagine why they wanted to play this. (Kidding, folks.) It hasn't exactly aged gracefully (we still hate the Soviets, huh?) but as far as a sequel to the best science fiction film of all time goes, it works surprisingly well.  GRADE: B

And guess what? I'm still not done with April movies!  Coming soon - quick takes (or better)  on The White Ribbon, Diary of  a Wimpy Kid, The Runaways, and Kick-Ass.

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