Flying Saucer Rock N Roll

Imagine, if you will, Plan 9 From Outer Space written and directed by someone who not only shared Ed Woods enthusiasm for his chosen genre, but by someone who not only knew what they were doing but also had a sense of humour. And if you can imagine that, you are pretty close to Flying Saucer Rock N Roll.

The film is set in 1957, a happy time (to quote from the synopsis) of big fins, Rockabilly music and innocent teen love. The teens in question are Johnny (Joshua Duthie), the local square who has finally managed to land himself a date with Susie (Shannon Lark).

After a couple of false starts, things finally start to to go right for Johnny. But this cant last and he and Susie are intruded on by Maynard (Elan Freydenson), a beatnik stoner who tells them that the Martian zombies are coming!

Johnny and Susie, of course, find this more than a little difficult to believe until they see the proof with their own eyes and then its up to Johnny to discover his inner cool, rescue his girl and save the world.

It is all very stereotyped, but these are fun stereotypes and they are very effectively brought to life by some very strong performances by the cast. So much so that you find yourself genuinely caring about what is going to happen to the characters, even while laughing at the jokes.

Obviously, being a monster movie, the make-up and special effects do matter and here the film performs admirably. Although the film was made for a very low budget, every penny clearly made it onto the screen and the effects are both effective and (in one case) quite painful to watch.

Music also makes up a large part of the films success with a rockabilly soundtrack – and performances – that manage to capture the spirit of both the film and the era it portrays.

Flying Saucer Rock N Roll is an affectionate, and very funny, tribute to the dodgy science fiction films and monster movies of the 1950s. Writer/director team Joe Eric Callero clearly know and love these films and manage to pay tribute to them in a way that is a lot of fun without needing to descend into overt caricature.

Its well written, solidly acted, and packed with lines that are laugh out loud funny. Id recommend it to anyone.

TV The Movie

Oscar (Oscar Castro) and Brett (Brett Poquette) are a pair of producers – their production being a public access cable TV show. They are also behind on their mortgage – three months behind, and facing foreclosure. Our heroes need to find funds, and quickly.

So begins an absurdist mockumentary about a group of film school graduates, a small time gangster and a Muppet as they try to find a way to keep themselves – and their programme – afloat. Their schemes range from the silly to the surreal until they finally hit upon the idea of making a film about making a cable TV show.

Making a film about making a film is something that has been done before, but what separates this film from similar efforts is that the programme at the centre of events – The Adam Bomb Show – really does exist. The people involved in the film are the same people that are behind the TV show (Im not so sure about the Muppet, though) and this really does add to the sense of camaraderie amongst the characters.

This approach also makes for a unique combination of faux documentary, character comedy and absurdist sketches all of which slot together rather effectively. But what really carries this film forward is the sheer likeability of the two main characters.

The characters of Oscar and Brett are very well drawn and rounded enough to feel like real people and to generate some genuine empathy. The writing is thoroughly brought to life by the two actors who both put in strong enough performances that, even when things start to get silly, they remain both believable and sympathetic.

I found the film is a little hit and miss in places, although at least some of this is probably down to a lack of familiarity on my part with public access TV. However, the jokes do come thick and fast, and there are many more that work than dont.

Overall, this is a fun film peopled with a collection of amiable characters whose circumstances do keep you genuinely interested in how things will pan out. The structure of the film also allows it to take a subtle dig at the accuracy – or otherwise – of more mainstream documentaries and, as a gentle satirist, I think that writer/director T. Anthony Moore could have a great future.

The Road

What goes around comes around. A jogger helps a motorist avoid a parking fine, the motorist helps an elderly woman, and so it turns. One act of kindness leads to another as each person passes their good karma along the chain.

The film has no dialogue and writer/director Owen Thomas demonstrates a real flair for visual storytelling. We know what is happening and what the characters are thinking because we can see it and the plot really does need no explanation.

It helps, of course, that the cast is so strong throughout and able to consistently bring enough personality to their characters to generate some real empathy. The mood of the film is also hugely helped by the soundtrack – a single piece of music that really does set the tone.

Its not just the music though. Everything here, from the cinematography and the editing to the characterisation, comes together perfectly to to tell a straightforward story that is threaded through with a really positive mood throughout.

The Road is a film about life, good intentions and random acts of kindness and one that creates such a genuinely uplifting tone that, when the punchline comes, it is both unexpected and laugh out loud funny.

For a Few Marbles More

There are childrens films and there are childrens films. There are films that reflect the sentimental nostalgia of adults, and there are films that acknowledge and talk – and reflect – the challenges and concerns that children face. For a Few Marbles More (Voor een Paar Knikkers Meer) falls very firmly into this latter category.

The film centres on four children who spend their days playing marbles in the local playground. This is brought to an abrupt end when a pair of drunks decide that the playground is the ideal place to enjoy a crate of beer and force the children to leave.

The kids, as you would expect of a bunch of ten-year-olds, turn initially to their parents for help. Their parents, however, turn out to be useless. Wrapped up in their own concerns, the adults range from disinterested to absent and it is quickly apparent to the children that if they want to take back their playground they will have to do it for themselves.

They still need help, however, and, in desperation, turn to the local tough kid. We know hes tough because he drinks coffee. Black.

Although this is a childrens film there is plenty for an adult audience to enjoy – and I have to admit that I was laughing out loud in places. Both the soundtrack and the superb cinematography combine, with a couple of very deliberate nods to Sergio Leone, to ensure we never forget that For a Few Marbles More is essentially a spaghetti western that happens to be set in Utrecht. With ten-year-olds.

And from this situation, the comedy flows very naturally from the actions and reactions of the, remarkably well drawn, characters.

It helps, of course, that the acting is so strong throughout, with some superbly naturalistic performances from the cast, all of whom manage to portray characters that are both believable and (as far as the kids go) very sympathetic.

Although there are nods towards the adults who will find themselves seeing this film, For a Few Marbles More is a film about and for children. Its a film about growing up and discovering that there are limits to what your parents can – or will – do and about learning to take control of your environment.

Its a great film and a must-see for any ten-year-old.

Altamont Now

Punk legend Richard Havoc (Daniel Louis Rivas) was born in 1969 at Altamont. In fact, he was born during the ill-fated 1969 Rolling Stones concert, documented in Albert Maysles Gimme Shelter. At the height of his fame, in 1998, he vanished. A year later a journalist tracks Havoc and his small band of groupies to an abandoned silo deep in the Californian desert. From here, Havoc plans to put out The Call to the youth of America.

What follows is not only a very effective satire of the way in which alternative youth culture steals its rebelliousness from icons of the past, but also a film that asks what happens when a group of wannabe rebels discover that they cant find anything to rebel against.

What we get is a bunch of asinine rants and inane machismo from a group of people so narcissistic that they are unable to comprehend just how much they are a part of the system that they constantly rail against. For all their self-bestowed coolness and their constant talk of being “loners” (together), they cant bring themselves to stop constantly referring back to mass market energy drinks, dated sitcom catchphrases and all the other commercial ephemera that they claim to be rebelling against. In fact, you are left with a distinct impression that these characters are nor even aware of how influenced they are by the advertising around them.

These are deeply unlikeable characters, but rather than acknowledging their absurdity, the actors all deliver perfectly deadpan performances. And its this completely straight delivery combined with the utter ridiculousness of the attitudes being affected that generates much of the humour in this film.

Such an approach is not without its risks but writer/director Joshua Brown has managed to pull together a cast that is strong enough to make this work. All of the actors put in very solid performances and, although they are all stereotypes expressing clichés, you get a very strong sense that these are fully rounded stereotypes who really do believe in their clichés.

Special mention, though, has to go to Daniel Louis Rivas utterly charismatic performance that manages to walk the very fine line between parody and slapstick. It is a great testament to Rivas portrayal that, while I really did not like Richard Havoc at all, I was also very keen to know what was going to happen to him.

Also deserving of a mention is the soundtrack with which a variety of underground bands manage to generate a truly anarchic atmosphere and give the film a feel that sits somewhere between being a music documentary and an exploitation film.

Altamont Now is a very effective satire of the self-indulgent posturing and angsty whining of a bunch of wannabe rebels who are at a complete loss for anything to rebel against. This is an all-too familiar target and one that Brown gleefully and brilliantly skewers.