Tuesday, August 25, 2015

From The Future With Love







Written and Directed by K-Michel Parandi, another in a long line of short film Directors that I've previously been unaware of, From The Future With Love has been floating around the Internet since around 2013 or so. I don't know if there's a ton of in-the-know short film fans out there reading this right now, but fair warning just in case.. You may have seen this one before.

Here's the synopsis: In a very familiar future, squads of privatized police officers from various corporations, walk the streets of New York and sell protection plans to citizens.

Ah, I see... what we've got here is a good old fashioned sci-fi commentary on the dangers of out-of-control corporations. A "very familiar future" is right... All right then, that's cool. Whatever, it's an oldie, yes, but it's still a goodie.

Let's watch...



Not bad. I liked this one.

Those cop costumes were pretty awesome. They were a little regressive in design, sure, not very reflective of extrapolations on current types of body armor, but there's nothing wrong with the classic future cop look. I especially liked the placement of the red and blue lights, that was pretty clever. Having the computer say out loud what it's doing as it's doing it is always a bit of a heavy-handed choice, something that they avoid nicely in some parts of the film, so it's a little jarring in the other parts where they do not.

I mean, why show information scrolling across screens in most of the film, but not this one part?

Weird choice. Maybe it was added after a Test Screening...

I also liked the idea of different private police forces having their own areas, and living a daily reality of jealously guarded turf and bloody competitions for New Clients. That was cool. Actually, I really liked the world building in general in this film. It was good looking and interesting, but most all, a lot of it was just shown as the film's reality, and I really like that approach. I appreciate them ditching the usual laborious and unnatural (both in fiction and in reality) dialogue explaining "the state of things" to a character that supposedly lives that reality every day, for the most part. They do do it a little in this film, which is disappointing, and like always, it comes off as awkward. I mean, how often do you find yourself explaining to someone why you're putting gas in a car?

Hint: Never.

Of course, this approach can bite you in the ass a little sometimes, like when it came to the whole Robot cat/Goggle guy/Body hi-jack scene... I mean, I understood what was happening, but why was it happening? It wasn't a big failing or anything, but maybe the scene could've used a little more context, Either way, I firmly believe that en media res is always the preferable route, rather than spoon-feeding explanations to the audience. That just slows things down. Keep up or get left behind, that's how I like my fiction. Let me be smart while watching it. Letting me figure shit out as it's happening, giving me a glimpse of the story's greater world, this is a rewarding experience as a viewer/reader. This is why people love lines like "I've seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion," it fires the imagination. That's what they've done here, and I really enjoyed that.

So yeah... in the end, sure, there really wasn't a whole lot going on here that could be called a new idea, especially not when it came to any hints of a social allegory. It also didn't have a lot going on when it came to character or narrative arcs, either... BUT... it was well done and it looked good, and it was kind of interesting, so...

Thumbs up, 
Jon


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Timelike



Timelike is a short film from Experience Everything Productions, and it is written and directed by Rich Boylan. According to his IMDB, he hasn't really done much except for a couple of short films, and I haven't seen any of them, so I can't tell you anything about his work. Also, I looked around the web a bit--even employing a much broader spectrum of Google Semantics than usual--and there doesn't seem to be any screen caps of this film out there. Not even a poster! At least, not that I could I find. That's kind of odd, honestly. Usually there's no end to the extra bits and promotional shots floating around. I mean, some of these people put out so much Behind-the-Scenes type stuff that it ends up being longer than the actual film... Some no-name sci-fi short film on Vimeo... like anyone could give a fuck. In the time that I've been posting these short films, it's been my experience that the creation process for a lot of these folks could generally be best described as "Cart Before Horse."

But not in Rich Boylan's case apparently, so... good on him, I guess.

Anyway, the synopsis is somewhat intriguing, right? Madeline and her boyfriend are enjoying a quiet evening at home when they are interrupted by a visit from a stranger bearing a message from Madeline’s future self.

I don't know about you guys, but I love messages from my Future Self, even if they're usually somewhere along the lines of: "You probably shouldn't have eaten that..."

Let's watch...


Well, huh... I really liked this one.

Quick and clever and low-budget. The idea of the Catastrophic Time Loop was really well executed. The film starts leisurely, but quickly dives into a frenetic pace that draws you in a lot more than you would expect. The tension built by the over-lapping and disjointed repeated scenes is very effective, as was the way the technological limitations of old VHS tapes were used, and the little changes in the scene each time were very clever. All around, this was pretty good.

The actors weren't half-bad either, always an amateur short film pleasant surprise.

I mean, sure, the usual Found Footage problems dominate the film, i.e. Why the fuck is the guy still filming once the Shit Hits The Fan? More than that, why the fuck is he filming at all? I get that she just got accepted into college, but is he really toasting this moment with her while filming with a camcorder at the same time? And following that thread makes me question why the film was even done in all Found Footage to begin with. I get that part of the idea is that this tape survives whatever the big brouhaha is, and is then used by the future to pinpoint a target date to return to in order for them to attempt to change the past in some way, just like I also understand the main reason is probably the fact that the Production had basically no money, but seriously, why not go half and half? Half Found Footage, half Traditional? Or maybe just show that the male character is recording the moment before the door knock, and then he sets the camera down? I don't know, maybe it's just me, maybe I'm focusing on it too hard, it's just that the appearance of the Traditional Found Footage Problems (which I discuss here) always throw me out of a movie.

Other than that...? Not bad. Not bad at all. Give it a look.

Nitpick: All Black Converses in 1993?

Me again,
Jon

Friday, August 14, 2015

Momentum








Today's short film is called Momentum. It's another Proof of Concept trailer. I've mentioned some of these before, like The Leviathan and Chasseur for example. It's by Gadget-Bot and Shyft Productions, with the created by credit shared between Robert Simons, Mark Yang, and Peggy Chung. They've all worked in some capacity on some pretty recognizable projects. Michael Chance is the Director. He was the guy behind Project Arbiter, a WWII cyborg super soldier short film that I was luke-warm on here about a year and a half ago. 

Momentum is a sci-fi film as well, but this one is set in the future, and it looks like it's basically going to be a cross between Deathrace 2000 and the early-era Playstation One Game called Wipeout, which is probably the most 90s game ever made, I think. It was fun, but, come on, man... it was featured in Hackers, for God's sake. "Well, it looks like I'm on top," said Crash Override, as he cinched the high score, and Acidburn clenched her shapely jaw...

Anyway, here's the synopsis: In a high-stakes world of hover-car racing, a single father must figure out if his family life is worth the unlikely chance at fame and fortune.

Let's watch...



It's hard to judge a Proof of Concept trailer in the traditional way, because it doesn't have the same pacing as a regular trailer, and it isn't trying to tell a complete story like short film would. If the acting is wooden, and the scenes seem a little cliched, well... this isn't the real product, they're painting in broad strokes here, because this is just to net possible investors. What they're trying to do here, is sell the idea... the concept, as it were. So that's what I'll judge it by. Unfortunately, looked at from that angle, I think they failed. Mostly I think this is due to some wrong decisions as to what they should be showcasing, but honestly, it's also due to the special effects.

First off, they're trying to sell this idea to make it into a feature, right, so what's your big selling point? Is it the continued efforts of a broken down single father to redeem the mistakes of his past and repair his relationship with his estranged and self-destructive daughter, but... y'know... in a sci-fi setting? Or is it a really super fucking fast and ridiculously dangerous race in futuristic hover sleds?

Hmmm... I wonder...?

Which brings us to the second problem, and that is, when they did show us the racing, I didn't feel the speed at all. In fact, while watching the trailer, these racing hover sleds seemed kind of slow. I realize this whole thing was probably made on the cheap just to show off the ideas--they did use a Kickstarter after all--but that's just it... this is meant to SHOW OFF THE IDEAS, that's literally why it exists, and for me, it just didn't pull that off. Some of the CGI looked really awkward, which could be excusable because of budgetary restrictions, but still, you have to do your best to mask that kind of thing. It basically needed to be faster, and maybe dustier, in order to cover that awkwardness. In short, I felt that the race needed tension, and that it just didn't have any.

Not sold,
Jon


Thursday, August 13, 2015

State Zero








This one looks interesting...

State Zero is the debut film of writer/director Andree Wallin. He's worked in the art department of films like Oblivion and on the upcoming Star Wars films too. Check out his website. I did, and right away I liked his whole general aesthetic, but the thing that really hooked me about this particular short film is probably easy for you long time readers out there to guess... That's right, State Zero takes place in a post-apocalyptic setting, Sweden specifically. The Sweden part isn't what really drew me in, of course, I'm just generally into a bit of ruin-porn, all right? I'll admit it. Not to mention I'm a sucker for some dystopian sci-fi, so yeah, I'm excited to watch this one. Shocker.

What's it about, you ask?

Here's the official synopsis: In the near future, the capital of Sweden has turned into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. we join four soldiers on a routine mission in 'zone 3', with the assignment to investigate an old surveillance tower that just went offline.

Sounds good to me, let's watch...


All right.

That was definitely all right. Good looking, but not great. It built the world, the scene, and the tension really well, but it kind of all built to nothing, right? I mean, I enjoyed it, and it was certainly cool looking--who doesn't love the Aliens/Halo riff they had going on--but in the end, it felt very big on ideas, but very light on the narrative. There was set-up, yes, and a definite tension at the start, but very little follow through in the end. What little character work there was was kind of wasted.

Did it matter that Christian Guy was Christian? Or that Asshole Guy was an asshole? There was no point to the mention, no resolution to their early conflict. Why show the Experiment Guy and a picture of his family? What significance did the bracelet hold? What was Last Man Standing Guy supposed to do with it? We know they were there to fix a "surveillance tower", but only because the synopsis told us that. Why fix it? What do they need it for? What happened to this world, and what was the big Dome at the end?

I mean, I can fill in the gaps: Secret Government Project lacks morals and experiments on humans, shit gets out of hand and breaks containment. City is abandoned for Fortified Safe Zone. Creatures evolve, while humans become more insular. Lone soldier given the key to exposing the truth? Maybe? I don't know, I'm guessing, because we weren't shown or told. That's what the film is missing, the "who, what, and why" of the story.

And honestly, tacking "To be continued" on the end of your short film is cheating, especially when you haven't really gotten us to a point of caring yet. If we don't care, we're not going to bother watching the next episode. So far, all we've got is: "Generic soldiers in a generic post-apocalyptic urban setting versus some kind of lab-created bio-weapon vampires." And yeah, that's a cool setting, and the effects and costumes certainly looked great, and at times it was shot really well too, but why should I care? Why should I bother returning? Especially when your actions scenes are mostly too dark, and really, kind of unexciting? Action or Story, my friend. You gotta have at least one or the other, ideally both, but at least have one or the other, especially in a Short Film.

In the end, State Zero is a damn good looking film, but the story is just too thin.

Disappointed,
Jon