Friday, February 12, 2016

Strawberries





Strawberries is described by director Rowan Spiers-Floyd as a "short scene study" which means I can probably safely assume that it's definitely not an actual short film, at least not in the sense of having a complete narrative. I can assume this because he goes on to say: "the film was designed not as a complete narrative, but rather as a glimpse into a larger story and world. With minimal dialogue, the short uses rich textures, cinematography and pacing to help convey the story." I don't want to bag on the guy, but... I really think an author/creator should shy away from using descriptive words like "rich" when describing their own projects, because it comes off as either presumptuous or tone-deaf, but maybe that's just me. Anyway, Mr. Spiers-Floyd continues, saying: "My goal was to create a sense of unease. Rather than telling a straightforward narrative, my focus was on bringing a sense of depth and truth to the alternate reality where the story unfolds, leaving the audience to speculate about the nature of this world, what has brought our characters into this moment, and how this scene fits into a large tale.” Okay. Well, that's not exactly instilling a lot of hope in me, but I guess we shall see if those goals were accomplished.

Here's the synopsis: A young woman with unique abilities and her enigmatic care taker await a long expected call. However his agenda may divided them forever.

Okay then...



Hmmm...

You know, often times when I run into an Indie Sci-fi Project--something along the lines of an alien invasion, or a sprawling super-powered conspiracy, or perhaps an adventure on an alien world--things that contain the types of ideas that require serious money and resources to properly execute, I'll say: "They should have gone small. Indie film makers that want to make wild and crazy genre stuff need to be realistic about their limitations, but more than anything, they need to ensure they are able to write and direct a scene that makes two people sitting in a room interesting, before they can hope to do the same with a sprawling space battle."

Strawberries definitely starts out in the right spot, it cuts away all of the fat it can't handle, and focuses on just two people in a room.

Unfortunately, it's just not able to make it interesting.

It's easy enough to figure out what's going on this film and fill in the narrative blanks, but even if it's just a "scene study", it's still too loose with the details, and the lack of context kills any "sense of unease" that might have been created. As a result, any "truth" about this world is basically non-existent. It's all too surface. It's not badly done or anything, it looks fine, it just doesn't pop. Plus, I think the "child-like innocence" take on the super-powered psychic girl is so boring and cliched now, and it takes a rare actress--practically non-existent at this level--to not play that type of character so obnoxiously broad, let alone in an interesting way. 

Maybe next time,
Jon

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Shaman






Our next short film is called The Shaman.

The Shaman was written and directed by Marco Kalantari, whose credits mostly include a handful of his own short films--except for the notable time when he was a Props Assistant on Another Nine and a Half Weeks. I haven't seen any of his other shorts, which admittedly doesn't really mean anything, one thing I've learned after watching a ton of these genre short films is that there is always a buttload more of them out there... but I digress... Like I was saying, I haven't seen any of Mr. Kalantari's other short films, but I do know this one was pretty successful on the film festival circuit.

But does that really mean anything either? I guess we'll see...

Here's the synopsis: The dark year 2204, in a world that has seen 73 years of continuous war. Recently mankind re-discovered the arts of Shamanism. The Shaman’s school of thought believes that every person or object has a soul. During battle Shamans step over into the Netherworld to find and convert the souls of their enemies’ giant battle machines. This tactic enables a single man to overcome an invincibly seeming steel monster.
This is the story of Joshua, a Shaman, who is sent on a mission to convert the soul of a giant battle colossus. He does not yet know that the soul is prepared for his coming and that the deadly psychological soul-to-soul confrontation in the Netherworld will be on eye level.

Man, that is one awkwardly written synopsis...



Hmmm...

All in all, this was a pretty good looking film with a somewhat interesting sci-fi set-up. However, it works way too hard at trying to be complex, which lends itself not only to too much vague exposition that isn't nearly as clever, or as world-building dense, as it believes it to be, and instead just comes off like the mystical/magical version of later Star Trek television techno-babble. Once again, the awkwardness of the synopsis provides a bit of a window as to the film's quality.

Not that it was completely bad, or anything...

In fact, the Shaman was actually pretty cool at times. The action and effects were nice. It certainly looked great. The aesthetic was cool. The problem is, the film trips all over itself trying to build this deep mythology, and despite it's nearly twenty minute length, it just doesn't have the time, or space, or nearly enough meat on those particular bones to pull it off. And the worst part is, it didn't have to be like that. The film is a victim of it's own over-thinking.

But maybe that didn't put me off all that much. In the end, if you've got the time, I think The Shaman is worth checking out. It's kind of cool, it's kind of different, and it's pretty well done.

Check it out,
Jon


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

EXODE





Exode is a short film directed by Kathleen Cartier, Sandrine Gimenez, Nicolas Mrikhi, Baptiste Roy, and Thomas Saez. Well, that's... not a great sign. A virtual army directed this eight minute short film (or more likely six minutes, not counting credits)? Too many hands, people. Too many hands... Y'see, it's been my experience, at least when it comes to short films, the more cooks you have the kitchen, the worse the cake. Let's hope they buck the trend this time. Also, and this isn't meant as a reflection on the possible quality of the short film or anything, but apparently this one is French too. It seems like I run into a lot of genre short film from France.

I don't know why. It's weird. The French love their short films, I guess.

Anyway, here's the synopsis: One march ends, a journey begins. In a desert land, the last breath of a giant creature spurs the exodus of an entire people.

...What?



This was all right. An interesting idea. Nice set-up. Nice world. Good designs, especially the various animals. Bottom line, the film is well executed and good looking, despite the fact it has the distinct feel of a senior film project. It wasn't great or anything, but it was definitely all right. Mostly it was kind of interesting to look at. I liked the idea, and I liked the look, but given the choice, I would rather see that kind of thing merged with an equally interesting story. However, I've got to give some kudos to the Director Brigade for actually devoting almost a full seven and a half minutes of their eight minute running time to the story, which is almost unheard of, so that was kind of cool.

Eh... not bad,
Jon


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Gear



Gear is a short film written and directed by Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander, both of whom have previously worked in animation and visual effects on a bunch of different things--even Pacific Rim, which is cool, even though it disappointed me! So anyway, this short film looks like it may be their first real project together, and as such, the question becomes, will their shared experience translate to a successfully executed short film?

Well, that's what we're here to find out, right?

Here's the synopsis: A young girl flees the city with the help of her only ally -- an old broken down construction robot.

Right from the start, I really like that set-up. It sounds fun. However, I also recognize that this type of idea is just vague enough that it could quickly spiral out of control and spill out over the edges of an eight minute short film. In a nutshell, it's possible we've been here before, people, but hopefully not.

Let's find out...



Well, now... that was pretty good, right?

I really liked this. It was shot well enough, the main actress was good, the effects looked nice, and it was smartly written. I liked how the world was pretty clearly defined, and I was impressed by how it was very obviously part of a larger story, but still gave you enough character insight and story context that it worked as a smaller piece. Plus, I'm a sucker for cyberpunk nostalgia, right--who isn't? And this film was positively dripping with it, so thumbs up all around. This short film is a really good example of what someone should reasonably expect from this type of project. It's show-offy, sure, but it's also aware of its own limitations, and it tells its own story, while still being open enough to continue through some other venue. Good job.

Yeah, I definitely liked this one. I would be interested in seeing more of this project.

There was one thing, of course... It's just a little thing, but it always strikes me as funny when an eight minute short film has two minutes worth of credits, especially when they're all dolled up and fancy and deliberately paced. I mean, I realize a lot of people probably worked on this, but come on... It's not what we're here for. Imagine if two hour long films had a half hour worth of credits. If you ask me, when it comes to genre short films, listing the full credits is what the website is for.

Recommended,
Jon


Monday, February 8, 2016

Goutte d'Or





Time for some classy cartoon nudity, folks!

Goutte d'Or is a stop-motion short film about dead pirates and sea witches, I think. It was written and directed by Christophe Peladan. He's French, I believe, and his IMDB page is somewhat... brief. So, good? Bad? Who knows how this film will turn out... besides us in a few moments, of course. Either way, I do know there's some stop-motion boobies in it, so it can't be all bad, right?

Here's the Synopsis: Goutte d’Or is a fantastic stop-motion short film by Christophe Peladan. A love-story about a pirate and his encounter with the beautiful queen and the annoying octopus. With sword fighting and wonderful music by Les Primitives du Futur.

All right then, let's dive in!

Because ocean... get it?



Ah... L'Amour...

Despite front-loading the film with its own accolades, and having zero dialogue, Goutte d'Or turned out to be a cute and sweet little love story about a dead pirate in purgatory and a mysterious naked woman riding a broomstick and wearing a rather presumptuous octopus on her head. Truly a tale as old as time.

And that's about everything that needs to be said...

Check it out,
Jon


Friday, February 5, 2016

Kara





Just fyi, this is a fan-film.

I know, I know... And I agree. Normally I wouldn't bother posting a fan-film, because they're usually terrible. In fact, they're often overwhelmingly amateurish, hacky, and just plain old stupid. I know this. Add to that, the fact that I have a complicated relationship with Star Wars stuff at this point. Like all aging geeks, I grew up on the original trilogy, and it totally kick-started my creative engine, but at this point... I kind of hate it, each new thing that comes out often ends up feeling stagnant somehow, or it just kind of disappoints me... and yet, I still love the stupid thing. I'm still drawn to Star Wars, its creatures, its trappings, its stars, and its wars... I still love it even though it almost always disappoints me. So why would I bother posting this? Well... sometimes a short film like this pops up often enough in certain places, and you start thinking maybe you should check it out.

So I'm gonna. Fingers crossed. 

This is the cycle...

KARA is a Star Wars fan-film by written and directed by Joe Sill, with a super-nerdy additional writing credit given to George Lucas. Mr. Sill appears to have done a lot of shorts and a lot of visual effects work already, so it sounds to me that at the very least, he might have the experience and technical know-how needed to raise this short film out of the fan-film dumpster, but we shall see...

Here's the synopsis: A veteran X-Wing pilot helps transport a young girl with mysterious powers and her desperate father to an underground Rebel base.

Hmmm, that's not bad. Simple and to the point, and it details a story with an easily identified beginning, middle, and ending. So far, so good. 

Let's see what happens...



That was not too bad, right?

Here's some things I liked right from the start... I liked the female X-Wing pilot. That's something you don't get very often, so it was nice to see that front and center. I liked the Star Destroyer hanging there in the atmosphere, that's just a cool image. I also liked that the film did a really good job of establishing the characters, who they were, and what they wanted. Yes, it was all kept simple, but honestly, this short film did a much, much better job introducing its story and establishing its characters than Force Awakens ever did, better by a long shot. Most of all, I really liked how the film told a whole story. Yes, it was pretty succinct, and more could certainly happen, but writer/director Sill approached it the right way, at least by my definition. He chose a single moment, and told a story with some arcs. Not many short films do this.

So good job, Joe Sill.

Anyway, any complaints I have are just your basic run of the mill stuff that you'll run into when there isn't that much money to spend. The effects were occasionally wonky, and the geography of everything wasn't that clear, but those aren't really deal-breakers in this case, at least not for me. On the Geek side of things, that "rebel base" seemed awfully out in the open to be hidden, and if I'm being honest, I'm pretty much over Star Wars Desert Planets forever. I'd be happy if they never visit another one again. Also, I thought the approach to the Force was all wrong. This film treated it like some kind of mutant super power, and that's not how it is in basically every other Star Wars thing ever. Plus, the whole "she can't control" aspect seemed not only untrue, but unnecessary.

So, small complaints. 

In the end, this was all right, especially considering that it was a fan-film.

Impressed, I am,
Jon

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Traveler





And... I'm back.

Sorry about disappearing, folks. These things happen.

So, anyway, let's get back to it... I've got a couple of short films on deck, some good, some bad, and some kind of meh, all of which I will be sharing with you this month. The first film up is called TRAVELER, and it is written and directed by Simon Brown

Here's the official synopsis: A group of friends build a jet-powered craft to teleport across the universe. It’s only when they succeed that their problems begin

Mr. Brown appears to have done a lot of commercial work before now, and even though this looks like it's basically one of his first longer genre works, he seems to have a nice style. However, right from the start, between the weirdly brief synopsis--which even lacked some punctuation--and the fact the short film is described on his site as "teasing the world of a bigger feature", I'm already getting an all too familiar, and not-that-great, kind of feeling about this one.

Well, only one way to find out...



First off, that looked great.

I liked everything about the look, from the ship designs to the locations to the general aesthetic, it's all real sharp and slick... sure, there's maybe a few too many dutch angles, but hey, people love their flourishes. The point is, I think the guy has the chops to do longer, good-looking, and cool genre projects. And I'd certainly be interested in seeing more from this one. 

However, the problem with this short film is an all too common one. In a nutshell, it's all tease and no substance. There's too much of an eye on grabbing the attention of some hypothetical bag of money that would then finance the larger project, and not enough attention on making a short film that stands on its own. Yes, it's intended as a smaller piece of a large project, but it should still be its own story.

Plus, worst of all, the thing basically stops right when all the interesting stuff starts happening. Why would you do that? Do we really need all that set-up when there's almost zero pay-off? No, and in fact, doing so almost sours all of the good that came before. What this film really needed is less confused meandering at the launch site by a bunch of characters we don't know, and more on the crazy repercussions they stumbled on to. That makes sense, right? I mean, when you're advertising your awesomeness, you should probably focus on the coolest shit you've got.

It's definitely not bad, but it's also not whole enough to be really good either.

Traveling on,
Jon