Saturday, September 26, 2009

Jason drinks Guinness, goes to a drive-in for "Mythbusters", slips into a Vortex for HEAD, and watches PARANORMAL ACTIVITY

Best four-part Thursday night mini-adventure in San Francisco ever.

First up, happy 250th anniversary to Guinness, that sublime blend of Bog Water and Chocolate Syrup (thank you, "Simpsons"). I joined a few friends to celebrate at the Irish Bank and had a few regular Guinness Stouts and a couple pints of the special 25oth anniversary Guinness. A good dark stout like Guinness, but actually carbonated (instead of nitrogenated). Yeah, a Guinness but you can taste the bubbles in it. Rather good.

Well, then I hopped into Ira's car (still dusty from Burning Man, that stuff never disappears) and headed over to the MobMov mobile movie drive-in. Last Thursday they were at an empty parking lot at 17th and Folsom. They played a short old Max Fleischer "Superman" cartoon and then the main event--the season premiere of "Mythbusters" (the rest of you suckers have to wait for October 7th to see this). They the classic Freshman Physics myth that if you drop a bullet and shoot a bullet perfectly horizontal from the same height they'll hit the ground at exactly the same time. After some slower tests (including proving that paintballs aren't aerodynamic enough to work) and some fiddling around with the mechanism to synchronize the start of the fired and dropped bullet, they got them to land in the same frame within 39 mS of each other--pretty darn close. Gravity isn't just a good idea--it's the law! Meanwhile, the build team tested the idiom "knock your socks off". Can you knock Buster out of his socks without killing him. Of course, this is just an excuse to abuse Buster, and eventually we get to the explosives. There's never any doubt this would be busted, but they sure had a lot of destructive fun trying to confirm it.

While there, we met a lot of cool MobMov people, but the coolest by far were the ones who were cooking pizza on a barbecue grill in the parking lot. People who feed me are cool. They still have some work to do on the technique, getting the toppings (the classic mozzarella cheese, tomato sauce, and basil) cooked without burning the crust. But it was still the best parking-lot barbecued pizza I've ever had. Thanks, guys!

Then adventure #3 of the night, over to the Vortex room for a martini and HEAD. Ummm, that is HEAD, the movie starring the Monkees. It's a weird, stream-of consciousness bit of psychadelia. I can't really tell you what it's about. Partly because I slept through quite a bit of it, but mostly because it makes no sense and is completely stream of consciousness. It's the Monkees being weird, and riffing on their personae (including how they're a manufactured pop band).

And finally, adventure #4 was over at the Castro, where there was a line around the block for a midnight sneak preview of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. That is, it was supposed to start at midnight, it actually started ~12:45. For some back story, this movie played at Slamdance last year, where it was bought up by DreamWorks to remake it. As a result, it was pulled from other festivals who had programmed it. Or, at least, DreamWorks asked that they pull it. Cinequest did, Indiefest did not. So I got to see it back then, and here's what I wrote about it back then:
Then it was back to the Roxie for "Paranormal Activity". This movie is fucking awesome! On the surface, it's a simple ghost story [note: that should be "demon story]. A young couple moves into a new house (in San Diego, but that's not really important). All was well until the wife Katie believes the house is haunted, possibly by the same spirits that haunted her as a kid. To assuage her fears, her husband Micah sets up a video camera in their bedroom to watch them while they sleep. This movie is all made of their home videos (new trend hitting the mainstream, what with "Cloverfield" and "Diary of the Dead"?) And it's a slow buildup. There's a good 30 minutes before the first "scare", and that's a door moving 2 inches back and forth [Note: I exaggerated, it moves a couple of feet]. Could be the wind, but all the windows were closed! But the sloooooow buildup continues, and without giving anything away I'll say by the end it was kicking everyone's ass. The slow build is absolutely vital for building up the realism, and although 30 minutes of not much happening might sound boring, it's absolutely vital. I haven't heard real screams like this in a theater in quite a while, and this is a jaded Indiefest midnight audience. Wow!
I also wrote an open letter to DreamWorks at the time:
Gentlemen, you've picked up a wonderful property, now please don't fuck it up! I'm not a hard-liner who's against remakes. Honestly, I'm curious to see how you will handle this material (I have a hard time believing a major studio will give the audience enough credit to go 30 minutes just to see a door move back and forth as the first "scare", but we'll see how it goes). I liked the original enough that nothing short of universally awful reviews will keep me from seeing your remake. With that said, please don't keep the original version hidden forever. I'm still displeased you got it pulled from Cinequest. I was looking forward to running around Cinequest telling everyone to see it, now I'll have to run around telling everyone how awesome it was and how they should cry because they don't get to see it. Anyway, I just want to beg you (seriously, I'm on my knees as I type this), please please please pleeeeease! After you've had fun with your remake, please release the original version in some form. Perhaps a special edition DVD with both versions? Because this movie is excellent, and if you hide this away the world of cinema will be missing a treasure. Thank you for listening to me.
Well, then DreamWorks was bought by Paramount, and they're releasing the original version (with some small changes, more on that later). I assume/hope the remake idea is shelved, and they'll let this movie thrive in distribution. And while I'm on the subject, they're doing something a little different with the distribution--they're letting the Internet buzz determine where it gets played. If you want it to play near you, click here to go to the film's website and click on the "Demand It!" button and enter your location. Cities that get the most demand, presumably get the movie on the big screen.

But back to last Thursday's screening. As I said, it was supposed to be a midnight movie, but it didn't start until well after. Luckily I was on Indiefest's list, so even though the line was around the block I did get to cut enough of the line to still get my front row center seat. There were a couple of guys there to introduce the movie, and then film rolled...

Starting with Harry Knowles annoying face talking about how he freaked out at every sound in his house at night after seeing it. Whatever. Perhaps I was just tired, pissy that the movie was starting late and kicking myself because I'd get hardly any sleep before going to work the next day, but all I could think of was 'get this fat sack of shit off the screen so we can watch the fucking movie already!'

And then the movie started, and I was immediately glad I was there. They changed very few things for the most part. There's one note of Paramount thanking the participants in this movie that obviously wasn't there before. I'm pretty sure they added the keys scene, and maybe her smile when she decides to stay home instead of fleeing to a hotel. I did notice that Micah is a kinda giant douche-bag. I think that was always the case, but it definitely stuck out more in my mind this time. And then the ending--that was changed a lot. No spoilers here, but it's now more Hollywood. It's still effective, but very different (and allows for the possibility of a sequel...okay, that's the closest you get to a spoiler). And although I like the original ending better, seeing it once like that was really cool because it gave someone like me who's seen it before something to make me jump.

As for the rest of the audience, just like last time a jaded midnight audience was screaming. Awesome. This movie totally works.

And then home, 2.5 hours of sleep (it was worth it), and then off to work. What a Thursday night!
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