A couple of excellent movies Monday night:
First up, MARS, a funky, funny, animated sci-fi flick about the first manned trip to Mars. A pair of American astronauts, Hank Morrison (Paul Gordon, also the director and star of HAPPY POET) and hotshot Charlie Brownsville (Mark Duplass) team up with New Zealand scientist Casey Cook (Zoe Simpson), in a race to be the first people on Mars. Really, it's no competition, as the other team is an unmanned artificial intelligence robot launched by the European Space Agency. But the really prize is to be the first to find life on Mars. There's plenty of evidence it's there (in the world of the film, at least). Ever since the Beagle 2 was lost there, the ESA has continued studying the planet from the Mars Express. Of course, the crew finds danger...and love (it's an odd romance, but it works). Oh yeah, and Kinky Friedman is the President of the United States. I should also mention the cool look of the film--live action in front of a green screen, then lavishly rotoscoped with custom made software. This look perfectly complemented the playful, easy comedy and science-geeky fun of the story.
Back in college, a common "what if?" people asked was "What if you had the opportunity to go to Mars and live there for the rest of your life, but there was no way to return--you had to stay there for the rest of your life? Would you go?" I always answered, "Hell yes!" And people took it as some insult that I would leave them behind without a second thought. I would still answer yes, and to all my friends I just want to say, "It's not about you, it's about how freakin' awesome it would be to go to Mars!" I've come to terms with the fact that I won't be able to go (if someone goes in my lifetime, it'll be someone who is in way better shape than me). So maybe the closest I'll ever get is watching MARS. And that's good enough for me.
Then I saw an excellent horror serial killer film, A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE. The setup sounds like it could be the start of a standard slasher flick--psycho serial killer Garrick Turrell (A. J. Bowen) escapes from prison. Sarah, the girl who put him away (Amy Seimetz), has started a new life in a small town. Of course he's going to chase her. But there's more brains than that. Rather than a cartoonish serial killer, he's a guy battling his addiction to killing. She's got her own addiction (alcohol), and the parallels are fascinating. Oh, and it's got indie icon Joe Swanberg (Indiefest alum with KISSING ON THE MOUTH and LOL) in a wonderful role as Sarah's new boyfriend.
Total Running Time: 168 minutes
My Total Minutes: 221,974