TORONTO AFTER DARK FILM FESTIVAL 2015: NIGHT 2
I have somehow managed to avoid most publicity for the films this year at Toronto After Dark, which makes for a nice cinematic blank slate going into this year's fest (apart from a few locally grown features that I heard about through the grapevine). Of course, it's always preferred to watch a movie with absolutely no biases going into it, so it's a good way to start, but then, unfortunately, someone told me that Synchronicity can be compared to Blade Runner. That person be damned because that immediately plummeted my expectations, because in the words of Sinead: nothing compares to you, Blade Runner.
Synchronicity (screened with the short film Nihil)
Synchronicity follows a brilliant scientist named Jim Beale and his crew as they try to crack the secrets of time travel, all while avoiding an evil corporation owned by Klaus Meisner (played by my one true god, Michael Ironside, who routinely makes me squeal like a tiny baby when he's on screen). Once the machine is in use, a mysterious dahlia appears from the future, which sends Jim into a whirlwind of betrayal and deceit, all circulated around him, Meisner, and a femme fatale love-interest named Abby Ross. This film is guilty of some grade-A cheesy dialogue once the love plot-line is introduced, giving groan worthy lines about romance that seem more suited to a Nicholas Sparks novel than a gritty neo-noir. Although the idea of a time-travel love story could be interesting if executed properly, Synchronicity is so hyper-serious that it becomes downright silly and ironically enjoyable. As far as Blade Runner influences go, it's fine for a movie to have homages or winks and nods to films that inspired the creator, but this movie wears Blade Runner on its sleeve so prominently that it warrants a laugh at many points, specifically when Abby first appears in a black broad-shouldered silhouette, smoking cigarettes.
Synchronicity screened with a short animated feature called Nihil, which is a striking, surrealist story about a woman wandering through a strange utopian landscape. Although intentions in plot feel a little unclear (but truthfully, it might be my film-fest brain that's distorting reality), it is a good looking film that is a perfect fit for a science fiction night.
Lazer Team (screened with the short film Chasing Death)
Having known a little about the people involved with Lazer Team because my little sister is a huge fan of the online collective Rooster Teeth, I suspected that this bosom-buddy space comedy wouldn't be my cup of tea but would be a fan service treat for everyone in on the joke. Fortunately, this movie offers a lot more than just a bunch of inside-jokes that might make people out of the demographic feel confused or excluded. It follows a rag-tag group of men who stumble across an alien battle suit that the government had possession of in order to defend against an imminent attack from other worlds. Although the initial intention of the suit was to go to a Captain America-esque super soldier who had been trained since birth to defend the human race, the group of men who find the suit decide for no good reason to put on a part of the suit each, which promptly attaches itself to them for good. The government immediately apprehends them, and informs them that now that the weaponry is attached, they must be the ones to defend the universe. This is a charming and goofy comedy that will market well to broader audiences, as it makes no attempts to be subtle (apart from a couple cheeky winks and nods to Rooster Teeth fans, which I was proud to catch onto), it is instead laden with goofy dick jokes and fun-loving crudeness.
Lazer Team screened with the short film Chasing Death, directed by Alex Mullen. This hilarious story follows a police officer who has set up a trap so that he can catch the Grim Reaper himself. After he has apprehended the Reaper after a lengthy chase, he asks him to give one dark favour for his freedom. What follows is a strikingly emotional twist, and although it is far different than the silly tone to the beginning of the film, it works perfectly.
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