Review: Nerdcore Rising

“Nerdcore Rising” is a
documentary following the first national tour of the Godfather of so-called
“Nerdcore Rap”, Damian Hess, a.k.a. MC Frontalot, and his band.
Featuring interviews with figures such as Prince Paul, “Weird Al” Yankovic,
and Jello Biafra, this film spends some time upfront explaining and
justifying Nerdcore as a genre. From the beginning I was skeptical, and
honestly, I’m not exactly sure when a genre becomes ‘real’. In fact, I
suspect some of the musicians themselves are equally skeptical of the label,
but I guess in modern marketing, everything needs a classification.

Frontalot’s songs lean towards the witty and clever, but as Prince Paul
points out at one point, originally rap was about clever rhymes and
outsmarting your fellow MCs. Their tour resembles many bands first tours,
playing to sparse clubs, but computer nerds tend to be loyal to their own,
and there always seemed to be someone at each show who knew the songs.
There is a solid mix of live footage with backstage/van interviews, as well
as with other musicians and comedians.

I’m still not sold on the viability of Nerdcore in general, but that
doesn’t really hurt the film. Frontalot is charming if awkward, and his
band is a pretty fun funk unit. They are an amusing lot on and off the
stage, and this film does a great job of presenting it’s story.

Review: Big Man Japan (Dai-Nipponjin)

“Big Man Japan” is a
faux-documentary which follows a year in the life of the current “Big Man
Japan”, Masaru Daisatou. Japan has employed a members of Masaru’s family
for several generations as the first line of defense against the plague of
giant monsters attacking Japan on a regular basis. Through a process
involving an electrical substation, Masaru’s size is increased until he is
towering over tall buildings. Unfortunately, while Masaru’s predecessors
were treated like heroes, Masaru is practically discarded.

The special effects in this movie aren’t great, but neither were the
rubber suits they are replacing. The movie isn’t quite logical, but it’s
fun. The various monsters that Masaru has to battle are hilarious, and the
“data sheets” that appear before the battles are great as well. Masaru is
greeted by the public with indifference at best, and he seems to exist
outside of society. The ending ups the nonsense level to 11 and leaves you
wondering if you were actually supposed to understand what was going on.

This movie isn’t for everyone, but if you enjoyed Toho-style monster
movies, you should definitely be entertained. Even if you are annoyed by
the ending, the time leading up to it is full of gems. This isn’t a movie
you need to hunt down, but when it’s available on Netflix, give it a
spin.

Review: Second Skin

“Second Skin” is a
documentary focusing on gamers who play Massively Multiplayer Online
Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs). It follows a few small groups of gamers
distributed around the country, all playing either World of Warcraft (WoW)
or Everquest II (EQ2). All are rather committed to their games, some
consider themselves addicted, with one entering himself into a 12-step
program to try and break is addiction

Given how easily these subjects could have been played for laughs, I felt
this movie was surprisingly even-handed. There were clearly some moments
where humor was at the expense of the subjects, but they were few and far
between. It was suprising in the Q&A with the filmmakers after the
screening that the first question was basically a complaint that the film
showed gamers in a negative light. It seemed clear to me that this person
was just bringing their own baggage to the event.

That’s not to say that the movie didn’t have it’s flaws. The
“storylines” of the various sets of subjects were intercut, and at times it
was difficult to keep track of the relationships and who the various players
were. I also would have liked to see more information about the rehab
facility. The woman who ran the facility seemed to have a very negative
opinion of gamers, accusing them of feigned helplessness and laziness. She
didn’t strike me as emitting the kind of energy that someone in recovery
really needs. And as far as I can tell from the film, her only
accreditation is that her son was an addicted gamer. The film presented her
as a very negative character, and I wonder how true that is.

Online gamers are often dismissed as anti-social losers, but this look
into the lives of gamers and the relationships built between them is an
interesting counterpoint to conventional wisdom.

Phew

This has been a pretty intense movie marathon for me. Since Wednesday, I’ve seen 14 movies, with only one left to catch tonight at the Coolidge. By Sunday night I started to feel all that sitting in my back and eyes; I felt like my eyes were going to melt when I went to bed that night. I’ve seen some great films, though, and have only really been disappointed by one of them. My goal is to write a review for all 15 of the films over the next few days.

FUMN is this weekend, and I have to say that the back-to-back movie marathons might prove to be a bit much for my sanity. As long as people enjoy themselves it will be worth it. Hopefully people in CSH actually are still interested in FUMN and aren’t just humoring an old man. :)

Review: Transsiberian

The Independent Film Festival of Boston opened yesterday at the Somerville Theatre with the new Brad Anderson film “Transsiberian”. Anderson has a pretty good record so far, with Next Stop Wonderland, Session 9, and The Machinist, so I was rather excited to see his new work.

Transsiberian follows Jessie (Emily Mortimer) and Roy (Woody Harrelson) as they return from an aid mission in China. Roy, as a huge train nerd, wants to take his wife on a bit of an adventure, so they take the Transsiberian railway from China to Moscow. They share a cabin with Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), a couple who appears to have some secrets. As you may guess, some bad things ensue during this week-long journey.

The previous paragraph sounds makes this film sound cookie-cutter, but I’m happy to report that every time I felt I had the movie figured out it threw me a great curve ball. There were times where I felt the pace bog down a bit, but just as I started to think about it I would get surprised by a twist. These twists didn’t feel contrived, they weren’t bricks over the head, they were subtle surprises that drew you further into the story.

The movie wasn’t perfect, but it was really good. Mortimer was clearly the star, and she delivered a fantastic performance. The supporting actors were all solid as well, although Harrelson’s character was more of a caricature, being the comic relief in a rather serious film.. Unfortunately, his levity felt shoehorned in at times… When the film ended, my first instinct was that it needed about 10 minutes trimmed, but I think this was a kneejerk reaction. In all reality, if it weren’t for the moments of feeling slightly bogged down, I don’t think the payoff of the twists would have felt as special.

After the film, the director, co-writer, and Sir Ben Kingsley himself did a very nice Q&A session, even in the face of some rather rude audience members who were talking over them and getting up and leaving en masse mid sentence. But the three of them gave pretty good, considered answers to all of the questions asked.

Independent Film Festival of Boston 2008

Here’s what I’m seeing this year at the Independent Film Festival of Boston

Catching up

My birthday was bad-ass, really went above-and-beyond to make me feel like my birthday lasted forever. She had already gotten me Rock Band earlier in the month, which we’ve been playing the hell out of. She also threw me a killer birthday party, where a bunch of people joined us for a bit of the game as well as the final “Greatest Action Movie Showdown of All Time” between “Die Hard” and “The Bourne Identity”. Coco has maintained for quite some time that Bourne was superior, but we all know the truth. I think everyone had a blast.

On my birthday, Corinna got me yet another birthday present, a Japanese Peace Lily. Admittedly, I was unable to identify the plant on my own, but as soon as she clued me in I started dying. I got a bunch of other gifts as well, including a meat manual and a few more seasons of South Park from the fam.

Other than that, the baseball season has finally fired up. The Sox opened the season in Tokyo a week ago, which meant for very early games here in the States, 6am. To help celebrate the Great Day, I woke up at 4:45am and whipped up 40-sum pancakes (from scratch) and 3.5 lbs of delicious bacon. 10-12 people joined us in watching the Sox win. Afterwards there was Rock Band to be played and we took a trip to Kelly’s Roast Beef for the goodness. Sorry if I wasn’t able to invite you, but our living room is only so big and it was tough enough managing three electric griddles…. I was pretty much at the limit of my pancake fabrication abilities (18 pancakes at a time).

Tomorrow I’m heading out to Austin for the nuptials of Nate and Lilly. I’ve never been to Austin before, and I’m expecting it will be more enjoyable than that of my other trips to Texas.

2007 Films in Review