The History of Future Folk


I have very much the same reaction to banjos.

I have very much the same reaction to banjos.

(2012) Sci-Fi Comedy Musical Thingie (Variance) Nils D’Aulaire, Jay Klaitz, Julie Ann Emery, April L. Hernandez, Dee Snider, Onata Aprile, Teena Byrd, Ivan Cardona, Mario D’Leon, Steve Greenstein, Callie Harlan, Dylan Powers, Eddie Privitzer, Billy Lee, Liz Logan. Directed by J. Anderson Mitchell and Jeremy Kipp Walker   

Florida Film Festival 2013

Let’s say you were the biggest badass on the planet Hondo and you were sent to prepare for an invasion of planet Earth by releasing a flesh-eating virus into the atmosphere, paving the way for the Hondonians to take over. What if you heard music for the first time ever on this puny little pipsqueak of a rock? What if the arrangements of tones were so pleasing to your ear that you suddenly realized that this world just might be a world worth saving?

Bill (D’Aulaire) – better known as General Trius on Planet Hondo – is in just such a position, coincidentally enough. He was about to release the virus when he found himself in….a big box store. Awed by the abundance of goods, he hesitated. And then he heard it – music. Well, Muzak to be precise but it was unlike anything he’d ever heard before.

And so the great General decided to spare this world and took up the banjo. He learned how to play and did some gigs around Brooklyn as General Trius, and it was at one of these that he met Holly (Emery), whom he would marry and eventually have a child, sweet Wren (Aprile) with.

But the leaders of Hondo would not be so easily put off. They sent Kevin (Klaitz), an assassin, to get the mission back on the rails. Kevin is the kind of assassin I’d want after me if someone felt the need to punch my ticket. He is good-hearted and not at all good at his profession. However, he discovers he’s a pretty fair guitar player and singer. Thus the duo of Future Folk are born.

You’d think the high muckety mucks on Hondo would have gotten the picture but NOOOOOO. They send yet another assassin after Bill and Kevin with the express directive to wipe out all life on Earth and this guy is a bit more serious about his work. In the meantime Kevin has fallen for the pretty cop Carmen (Hernandez) and the duo have gotten a regular gig at a club owned by Larry (Snider). Can they save the day and get a record deal on the side?

Of all the movies at the Florida Film Festival I saw this year, this one has the most offbeat and genuine charm. Yeah, there’s definitely a hipster element to it but the filmmakers chose not to stress the usual indie clichés that come with the hipster thing. Instead, they take elements of ’50s b-movie science fiction invasion films, 60s hootenanny films and 70s exploitation flicks. The result is kinda kooky, a little retro, sorta out there but completely fun.

Snider, the frontman for Twisted Sister and occasional Celebrity Apprentice contestant is the most well-known face here but the acting is fairly solid if unspectacular. The music is another matter; the songs are pretty damn catchy and the harmonies spot on with some deft banjo and guitar work. There’s a bluegrass-folk element with kind of B movie Sci-Fi lyrics (and yes there is a soundtrack – you can order it right now through Amazon or iTunes – go to the website by clicking on the photo above for details).

Now I love quirky as much as the next man but be warned that some who have low tolerance for that sort of thing might find the music and movie hard to take. However, the movie is so cheerful in it’s obvious love for all the genres it mashes up that I couldn’t help but feel affectionate towards it. Definitely this takes me back to a certain genre of movies that made rainy weekend afternoons tolerable.

This isn’t a movie that’s out to reinvent the wheel. While it plainly wears it’s heart on its sleeve (and a red plastic bucket on its head), the filmmakers do resist the urge to give their baby a heaping helping of kitsch and instead just let you bask in the goofiness. While a lot of film critics need a film to have some great meaning or message in order to get a favorable review, this movie seems bent only on having its audience feel good by the time the end credits roll and at that mission, this movie succeeds. Five hearty Hondos and an Excelsior to this movie!

REASONS TO GO: Long on charm. Great tunes. And of course, Hondo!

REASONS TO STAY: Some might find the offbeat humor overbearing. An occasional over-emphasis on Hondo!

FAMILY VALUES:  There is some mild violence and a few mildly bad words here and there. Hondo!

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Future Folk are an actual band based in Brooklyn who make very similar comments in between songs as they do here; the movie was made in essence to give the band a backstory. Hondo!

CRITICAL MASS: As of 5/22/13: Rotten Tomatoes: 100% positive reviews. Metacritic: no score listed; the jury’s still out on this one which isn’t opening on its limited theatrical run until May 31. Hondo!

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Alien Trespass and Hondo!

FINAL RATING: 8/10

NEXT: Star Trek Into Darkness

Advertisements

O Brother, Where Art Thou?


O Brother, Where Art Thou?(2000) Comedy (Touchstone) George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Charles Durning, Holly Hunter, Michael Badalucco, Del Pentecost, Chris Thomas King, Stephen Root, Daniel von Bargen, Frank Collison, Wayne Duvall, Musetta Vander, Mia Tate, Christy Taylor. Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

Joel and Ethan Coen have become one of America’s finest filmmaking combos, and for good reason. Looking at their portfolio, you see a common theme of understanding the cadences, rhythms and twangs of American speech, and seeing the cracked side of American life. In films such as Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy and Blood Simple, the characters are basically good but not particularly moral — there’s a criminal side to the heroes (with the exception of the Frances McDormand police chief in Fargo) that makes them charming, flawed but still in a realm to which the audience can relate.

Loosely (make that very loosely) based on Homer’s Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou?  begins with convict Ulysses Everett McGill (Clooney) escaping a Mississippi prison farm with his dim cohorts Pete (Turturro) and Delmar (Nelson). They are off to find the loot hidden by McGill from an armored car job before the valley it resides in is flooded by a WPA project. They almost immediately run into a blind seer (Duvall) who predicts that they will find great treasure, albeit not the one they are seeking.

Along the way, they run into a variety of characters, from a one-eyed Bible salesman (Goodman), to a corrupt Mississippi governor running for re-election (Durning) to a blind radio station owner (Root) who records the three convicts singing “Man of Constant Sorrow” which, unbeknownst to the three Soggy Bottom Boys (so dubbed because Delmar and Pete elect to be baptized, to the amusement of McGill) has become a huge hit.

Heck, you even get to meet the manic/depressive Baby Face Nelson (Badalucco). They also run into three larcenous sirens and McGill’s wife, who is preparing to marry a man she considers “bona fide,” which McGill is not. When McGill objects to his wife remarrying and takes issue with her new suitor, he gets soundly thrashed and tossed out of a Woolworth’s, to his humiliation. Indeed, the three Soggy Bottom Boys do find a treasure beyond price, although they don’t realize it at the time.

The Coens capture the period perfectly, and give all the characters enough eccentricities to make them interesting, without making them overbearing. Clooney, in particular — with his obsession about his hair — commands attention. He is not “bona fide,” but that’s mostly bad luck. We root for him throughout and for his two dim-witted sidekicks. This is ostensibly a comedy, but it is a dry wit despite the occasional soggy bottom. The Coens lavish the characters here with interesting eccentricities and the actors repay him with excellent performances.

Refreshingly original, O Brother, Where Art Thou? remains quintessential Coen and those who love their movies, as I do, will love this one. Da Queen and I were laughing till our faces were beet red, particularly during an early train sequence, and at the final performance of the Soggy Bottom Boys near the end of the film. Clooney won a Golden Globe for his performance here, and I think it’s basically from this point he got taken seriously as an actor, as well as one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

The humor isn’t for everyone – some find it a bit too quirky. Still, there are some pretty wonderful country-fried performances from Durning, Badalucco and Root and especially from Goodman, Hunter, Turturro and Nelson and of course Clooney steals the show. I’d never thought of him as a comic actor before this, but he is quite good at it as he has proven in several films since which you can always check out later. In the meantime, enjoy O Brother, Where Art Thou? and anticipate future celluloid from the Coen Brothers

WHY RENT THIS: Hysterically funny in places. Great performance from Clooney. Among the best the Coens have ever done.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: If the Coens’ quirkiness isn’t you’re style you won’t like this.

FAMILY MATTERS: There’s a little bit of violence and a few cursin’ words here and there.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO FEATURES: There’s a music video and a featurette that shows how the filmmakers obtained the golden hue that tones the film.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $71.9M on a $26M production budget; the movie was profitable although given the success of the soundtrack, probably more so than the box office receipts would indicate.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Raising Arizona

FINAL RATING: 10/10

NEXT: Rashomon