Monday, August 2, 2021

Fantasia Film Fest 2021 Reviews: Alien on Stage & Strawberry Mansion

As we've already written, Fantasia Film 2021 has quite the collection this year. Here's some of the films we've seen so far.
Alien on Stage

It's such a different world in England from what I know, even after watching quite a lot of contemporary  British television. Did you know they have Christmas plays that have nothing to do with Christmas?  No, me neither. And if you did, well aren't you special. But, for the rest of us; called pantomimes, they just do a fun play for charity. And we follow a group of bus drivers, of all people, as they try and pull of a stage play of Alien. And it's just a silly romp of seeing them trying to get their play ready for England's version of Broadway. Not the biggest theater there, but way more than an amateur adaptation of Alien might get.

What an easy-going experience of a documentary. No big problems with the actors or in-fighting or drug problems, though these bus drivers do smoke quite a bit. But really, it's a just a charming adventure to see an amateur group pull of a genuinely funny adaption of Alien and for charity. The biggest problem might be just remembering their lines.

Also, just a pleasure to see the handwork that went into make the props and sets, but you can tell that the people making it just enjoyed doing it.

I mean, I can't think of a documentary I've seen with such little drama. And that's not bad, it's kind of refreshing.

Before you ask. You have to wait to the end to see the key scenes of Alien, but they're all in there and hilarious to watch.

Strawberry Mansion

Oh, boy did I want to love this movie. The trailer made it look like so much fun. I watched Videodrome right after it with a friend to see a far better version of it made almost 40 years ago. Great concept with middling results has us in a world where dreams are taxed. It's a world where 1950's style doesn't seem to have stopped. Your dreams are recorded in you sleep. Now they record them on mini SD cards, but before that, you're dreams are taped on VHS. And it's quite a fun start. Then, you really don't connect with the characters and it ends like a forgettable dream.
Enter taxman James Preble (Kentucker Audley) who has to tax a woman who hasn't been paying her dream taxes possibly all her life. Bella played by both Penny Fuller (old) and Grace Glowicki (young) takes James through her dreams to a realization that seemed pretty obvious that something isn't right with people's dreams now-a-days.

So many problems arise from this film that make it mostly kind of a slog and not even as so-bad-it's good film. The actors either by script or by their own ability aren't memorable. The film doesn't want to lean into being either too serious or too silly. And there doesn't seem to be a payoff to a realization of bad dealings in dreams.
I'm not gonna give credit past the start for the dream sequences, because some just fizzle out, while other just had me bored and wanted them to end. And it has nothing to do with cost. Either something is entertaining or it isn't and the previous film Alien on Stage did far less than this film when it came to art direction.

There's great ideas in the film like dream advertising being popped into your head as a friend. And then, what if that malfunctions, like an Adblocker tries to get rid of something on your screen, but can't right away. That just gets muddled into some sort of dream logic scenario that is neither clever or makes me care more about the film.

And the one bit of commercialism for a horrible KFC knock-off was a delightful concept at the start, but there's no payoff.

Even the title is a poor choice as strawberries and a small "mini-mansion" are in the film, but don't really reflect much to the actual story. I wanted to enjoy this film, but go to far into it and your dreaming of Videodrome, which is a much better watch than this.