Coming this Month: September 2014

Right now, things have gotten busy offline. My senior year in college has started and with that comes senior project. To recap, I’m making six short films about how I perceive the world as someone on the autism spectrum. Think of it as Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould but with far fewer films. That said, my proposal has been approved and I’ve been working on it since then. Currently, one short has a rough cut.

Needless to say, there won’t be many movie reviews unless Film Club has a movie I haven’t seen yet or I have free time to see something in theaters. If I do get the chance, I might review a sync involving a Beatle and a fictional empire.

Since summer has ended, I might as well cover my Best/Worst Films of Summer 2014 in this post. Not including the ones seen before my records were deleted, I’ve seen roughly 174 films with repeats. Keep in mind that these will be films that I have seen for the first time, regardless of how new they are. Some, not all, of the ones that are under the “Worst” list might require a second viewing in the distant future.

Best Films of Summer 2014 (in no particular order)

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • Some Like it Hot
  • Her
  • Chicago
  • Spirited Away
  • Total Recall
  • The Night of the Hunter
  • The Truman Show

Worst Films of Summer 2014 (in no particular order)

If I don’t see you later, good afternoon, good evening, and good night.

Sync or Swim: Plan 9 From Outer Sync

It has been stated that The Day the Earth Stood Still, a great science-fiction film, would sync with “A Saucerful of Secrets”. However, I wondered what would happen if it worked with another film about flying saucers, but considered one of the worst films of all time? One test later proved surprising.

Start the album an movie at 0:00. Loop until the end for nearly two whole plays. Discovered by me on August 3, 2014.

Points of Interest

  • The word “saucer” in the album title.
  • Traditionally, most movie syncs have an album (or three depending on the complexity) that matches with a great movie or two. The “secret” with this one is that this defies convention for what is considered good cinema.

Act I

Let There Be More Light

  • The instrumental introduction sets the mood during Criswell’s “prediction” and ends when the credits begin.
  • “Far, far away” as the title is shown, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
  • “Something in my eye.” The mourners weep at the grave.

Remember a Day

  • The saucer lands in the cemetery, a place of remembering those who had once lived.
  • “Free to play along with time.” The continuity error of going from day to night is shown for the first time.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

  • The mellow nature fits the mood of the scene as the police inspect the cemetery in the fog.

Corporal Clegg

  • The police find one of their own has fallen.
  • “Mrs. Clegg, you must be proud of him.” The wife is present at the funeral.
  • The kazoos accentuate the cheesy nature of the “special effects”.
  • The stock footage of the armed forces roll in during the final march.
  • An armed forces officer inspects the sky, possibly another corporal.

A Saucerful of Secrets

  • Part I, “Something Else”, plays as the armed forces discuss just what it is they’re fighting. It’s something else not of this world.
  • Part II, “Syncopated Pandemonium”, sees the saucer squadron leave the mother saucer and begin to cause said pandemonium.
  • Part III, “Storm Signal”, has the plane go after the saucers. The last part takes place in a cemetery. This also happens in The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • Part IV, “Celestial Voices”, has the Bela Lugosi stand-in attack in the bedroom.

See-Saw

  • Some instrumental parts fit the mood.
  • One can argue that the light continuity “see-saws” between day and night for no reason.

Jugband Blues

  • “And I’m most obliged to you for making it clear that I’m not here.” Sums up the constant switch between Bela Lugosi’s character and his stand-in.
  • “I don’t care if the sun don’t shine.” Again, lighting continuity.
  • “What exactly is a joke?” This entire movie.

Act II

Let There Be More Light

  • It’s nighttime, lack of light save for the moon.
  • One policeman asks for a light when he tries to read the inscription at one grave.
  • The tape recorder plays the music during the board meeting.
  • The officers’ expressions while they hear the music are priceless. They don’t know what exactly they heard.

Remember a Day

  • “Hide from your little brother’s gun.” There’s no gun in sight until the end of the song.

Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun

  • The alien commander waits for orders to “set the controls for the heart of the sun.”
  • This song takes place at night for both movies.

Corporal Clegg

  • Another officer has fallen, but he’s fine.
  • “Will they laugh at me?” Yes they will for all time.
  • Yet another corporal shows up at the cemetery in this song.
  • The odd sound effects come from the random instruments inside the saucer.

A Saucerful of Secrets

  • Part I fits the mood in the cemetery.
  • The rest of the song is the long-winded exposition between the aliens and humans. The secrets are revealed.

See-Saw

  • We see the dead officer carry the woman in a similar fashion to Gort.

Jugband Blues

  • The odd sound effects play during the end credits of a very odd movie.

OK, so maybe this was a half-baked concept. The fact that a good portion of the movie is exposition affects the experience. If it had some more action, I’d give it a better grade. As it is, it’s OK at best but it’s a clever and surprising secret.

Sync grade: C+

Farewell, My Captain

8/12/14, 6:30 AM. I flip through the newspaper when I saw the news placed with the local obituaries. I didn’t see this coming, but then again, who could? All of my news feeds were filled with condolences. The entire day was cold and gray with some rain showers; it could’ve been a coincidence but I like to think otherwise. 24 hours later, it struck me that watching Aladdin will be more emotional than usual.

I’ve only seen six films with Robin Williams; Aladdin, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Robots, Dead Poets Society, and Good Will Hunting in that order. Out of those, Aladdin and Dead Poets Society stick out the most. I should be more well-versed in his filmography but I haven’t had the time. I’ve heard that some are hit and miss but I’ll find that out for myself.

As a kid watching Aladdin, I saw the Genie as someone who was comedic and just all-around fun. Sure, a lot of references flew over my head but as I grew older and more familiar with pop culture, I began to understand what he’s talking about. I had seen his image the most for a trailer for the third Aladdin movie on one of my tapes.

With regards to Dead Poets Society, I’m certain that it’s required viewing in a high school English class. I ended up seeing it in two separate classes in high school. As a sophomore, it was shown during a poetry unit. To me, it was a guarantee that for the next three or four days, there would be no classwork. I walked away from it under the impression that it was a good film.

Flash forward to senior year. My creative writing class teacher thought it’d be best to put this on as a way to kill time during a poetry unit (odd how similar the circumstances were). The initial reaction was surprisingly positive. This was the first serious movie my peers had looked forward to watching. I’d wish that if we had the chance, we’d stand on the desks if it weren’t for the computer monitors underneath.

In college, I met a guy who collected movie props and autographs with a penchant for Robin Williams. At one point, he obtained one of the facial masks from Mrs. Doubtfire. I’d link the site but it’s no longer active. Right now, it’s probably one of the most, if not the most valuable collectible in his possession. I know for a fact it’s not for sale and probably will never be.

Hearing how he died, the thing that came to my mind is Pink Floyd’s “Keep Talking”. A sample of Stephen Hawking states that “It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need to do is make sure we keep talking.” If only. If you need help, seek it. Talking about feelings does a lot more than keeping it to yourself.

I know it’s not much of a tribute but it’s something that I needed to say. Farewell, my captain.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

 

Looks like yellow is the new black, according to these prisoners. Just wanted to make that joke before I forgot. I guess you had that thought as well if you’ve seen at least this picture or any of them in prison garb.

An eclectic group of beings band together try to stop the end of the world.

After seeing the trailer, I figured it was one film I should see over the summer just because of how fun it looked. Since then, I realized that I didn’t want to see it in a traditional theater, but rather the drive-in. I went last night as a way of treating myself to one of the few final moments before summer’s end. It was doubled with Into the Storm but I suppose it was worth the wait, especially after I found out that this was to be shown on film. It made the overall experience very enjoyable.

I must confess that I am not literate with the comic book world, whether it’s Marvel or DC. The first and last superhero film I saw since the boon of superhero films was The Avengers, only because I knew Joss Whedon. I’ve listened to friends discuss these movies many a time, only to be left out as a passive listener. I know I have some catching up to do, but that will have to wait.

What we have is a film that’s tongue-in-cheek; it knows that it’s not supposed to be serious all of the time, especially when you have a crew that includes a raccoon and a talking tree. I came to this movie knowing this and was not disappointed. The pop culture references, whenever presented, mostly hit their mark. I know some art buffs were in the audience that night when Peter Quill talked about how dirty his ship is.

It even has time to at least address each of the Guardians’ backstory. While the stories are not presented in the same way, each one is touching in some way, all connected through loss. I’m sure they’ll work their way into the sequel at some point, at least for those who don’t read the comics. I wish each one had equal screen time, but that would’ve slowed the pace.

As for the characters, I figured all would have at least an equal or proportionate share of screen time. Speaking as an outsider to the Marvel universe, I didn’t fully understand why Gamora’s sister wasn’t explained as well as Gamora herself. To that extent, it seemed like she was a mini-boss before the final battle. Same with Thanos and The Collector.

With Rocket Raccoon in particular, I felt that he was definitely present in the same space as the actors. In recent times, the CGI characters in live-action movies have lacked a certain weight, mostly though minor exaggerations in movement and the fact that it was composited into the scene. Here, I felt like I could interact with him if it were possible, despite him being a CGI character. This is a good thing.

I was worried that the editing during the action sequences would be an incomprehensible mess. No worries here. I was able to follow most of the action and still make it out in one piece. That’s a success in my book.

Some scenes were a little dark in terms of lighting. I think the projector bulb was not at full power but there were moments where it was hard to discern things on screen, regardless. It’s a small peeve of mine but the moments were brief.

I enjoyed watching this, even if I went alone. I am eager to watch the sequel when it comes out in a few years. It’s a blockbuster that helps end summer on a high note. In the meantime, I’ll have to catch up with Marvel.

P.S. The post-credits scene is worth watching, if nothing for the pleasure of seeing someone from the Marvel universe be recognized again.

7/10

Movie Review: Into the Storm

 

It baffles me how documenting a dangerous event is sometimes placed higher than self-preservation. I don’t care how wicked that storm looks or how many hits you’ll get, save yourself!

In the span of a day, one town gets hit with several tornadoes.

So, this is supposed to be a found footage movie, complete with random filming, shaky camerawork, and supposedly real people in real events. Problem is, some of the shots should not exist because there is no camera. I’m not kidding. Now, one could argue that some were provided by a news helicopter but there’s no indication.

Unlike The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, there’s nondiegetic music during the film. As some of the characters prepare to drown in the abandoned paper mill, somber music comes in out of nowhere. I’m sorry, but last I checked, I didn’t hear random music flow into whatever room I was in during an intense moment. It goes against the conventions of found footage in a way that detracts from the overall piece.

“But Thomas,” you may ask, “isn’t found footage as a whole implausible in that someone decided it was a good idea to release a film where bad stuff happens to real people?” Yes, but that’s not the point. Once you accept the premise that this “actually happened”, you just go along for the ride and might get sucked into the film.

In terms of plot, what little there is for surviving real weather, I questioned the graduation ceremony as a whole. While it was planned in advance, why did they not have a back-up location in case something like this happened? Better yet, why didn’t they choose to be indoors in the first place when the weather report stated that there’d be storms rolling through at the same time as the ceremony?

The lighting was far too dark for where I saw this film, a drive-in. Some of the colors projected on the screen matched the sky behind it, with little contrast. Ideally, this probably wasn’t the right way to see it, whatever that is. True, this is supposed to be all-natural and whatever but it doesn’t hold tension.

The visual effects were nice, but the former animation major in me saw a well-made wind and particle simulation. This mindset is rather cynical but at this point I didn’t care what happened to everyone involved, despite how predictable it is. There is one other good shot involving the eye of the tornado but that’s about it.

I enjoy a bad movie every now and then, but I like them to be incredibly corny. This could’ve used more sharks. It’s a movie with sound and fury, but ends up meaning nothing.

3/10