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Comes a Bright Day,
five more movies,
and a TV show

 The Neverending Film Festival
#88

Dim the lights and pass the popcorn. Today we're watching:

• Airtight (1995)
• Comes a Bright Day (2012)
• Continuum (2012-2015)
• Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel (2009)
• Happiness (2017)
• The Noah (1975)
• Not Wanted (1949) 

Best of show is clearly Comes a Bright Day. If you have time for binging a good TV show, check out Continuum, and if you have only four minutes, it's Happiness.

— — —

 Airtight (1995)

Pollution and radioactivity have become so common that breathable air is a precious commodity, and high-altitude air — somehow still pure — is pumped through pipes into underground cities. Air shutdowns are the biggest crises these cities can face, and cops (called the "Air Force") are hunting down terrorists that might disrupt airflow.

That's kind of a cool setup, a bit different from any movies I can remember. 

And then the movie does nothing with the idea. It seems to be little more than a series of arguments between boring characters.

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Comes a Bright Day (2012)

Sam is a junior concierge at a pricey hotel. He's shy and uncertain, but he's just met Mary, a pretty blonde who works in a jewelry store, so he goes to the shop, hoping to find her and ask her out.

Instead he's greeted by the store's owner, a grumpy old man, and while they're talking, robbers suddenly burst into the place. 

It's their first robbery, and the bearded bad guy is nervous and quick on the trigger, so the heist goes horribly awry, and it becomes a hostage situation.

For the rest of the movie, Sam, Mary, the shop owner, and the two gunmen are in a delicate and dangerous dance. It's a tense, effective drama, but there's more going on than just that. There's dark humor, with the delightfully dour Timothy Spall (This Time Away, The Last Bus) as the shop owner, and with Sam and Mary getting to know each other while they could be shot at any moment, it's sometimes a strange romantic comedy.

Don't be expecting Dog Day Afternoon. This is a British movie, which is a different sensibility than Hollywood. Americans should expect lower-keyed and higher-IQ performances, subtler dialogue, less rowdy language, and fewer explosions and gunshots. 

Written and directed by Simon Aboud, his first feature film, and it's a great debut. Knowing nothing about his next movie except that it's his next movie, I've added it to my watchlist.

Verdict: YES, and very nearly a BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Continuum (2012-2015)

Science fiction is maybe my favorite genre, and I especially like time travel stories. Continuum grabbed me from the first episode.

In a not-too-distant future, corporations have taken even more explicit ownership of government than they have now. A gang of eight revolutionaries, calling themselves Liber8, have tried to topple the corporations from power, by any means necessary.

The Liber8 Eight have been captured, convicted as terrorists, and they're set to be executed, but instead they make a daring getaway through time, back to 2012. And it wasn't part of their plan, but almost as human shrapnel, one cop who tried to stop the getaway gets blown back in time with them.

It's a one-way escape, though. There's no getting back to their time, so the show is about nine characters from the future, stuck here and now. Here being Vancouver BC, because it's a Canadian show.

The revolutionaries are a wacky bunch that squabble and argue a lot, and as a team and individually they start causing trouble, maybe hoping to change the path of history and prevent the corporate takeover of everything, or maybe trying to get rich and live easy in our good old days.

The cop is Kiera Cameron (Rachel Nichols), and since police work is all she knows, she goes to work for the Vancouver PD, where she's partnered with a lovably stubble-faced detective. Together they battle the baddies from the future.

Sure, it sounds hokey and sometimes it is, but Continuum is frequently smart. Allegiances might switch, alliances might be made. The plot twists keep coming, because with time travel, everything is fluid.

It's occasionally sympathetic to the revolutionaries, because yes, they're terrorists, but if you believe in democracy they're on the right side of history, and Kiera, an officer of the corporate state, is arguably on the wrong side. Surprisingly for television, it grapples with philosophical questions like that, though always in the background. Mostly it's intrigue and action and pretty good special effects for a 10-year-old TV show.

My recommendation is not to watch all of it. The first season is quite good, and the second season is OK, but sometimes it's cops and robbers more than sci-fi. The third season is when everything comes together and the show really gets too good to even think of clicking it off. It's complicated all along the way, though, so no cheating — you gotta start at the start, season one, episode one.

You can and should skip the fourth season, though. The ratings had been iffy, and by the third year they weren't sure that there'd be a fourth, so the producers tied up most of the loose threads with an absolutely smashing third season finish.

And then, when the show was renewed for a fourth season, they really had no worthwhile stories left to tell, so it just sorta sits there.

Verdict: YES, but seasons 1-3 only.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Frequently Asked Questions about Time Travel (2009)

Yup, we're time traveling again.

Chris O'Dowd, remembered with a smile for The IT Crowd, stars as a science-fiction geek like me, who's especially fascinated by time travel books and movies.

At a bar with some buddies, their trip to the urinal becomes the most consequential piss in all of history, as two competing time agents pop in, leading to the destruction of the bar, and then of all civilization. Anna Faris is one of them, but isn't given much chance to be funny.

Virtually every scene in the movie includes inside jokes and/or deep sci-fi nerd talk, so anyone unfamiliar with the conceits of time travel fiction would probably be lost. If you are into such stuff, though, FAQATT is a snappy, well-versed play on the genre. The comedy is funny, and the science fiction is sci-fi-ey.

Written by Jamie Mathieson, who penned the excellent Doctor Who episode "Flatline."

"Are you nappy-wearing motherfuckers ready to lock and load and get it on?"

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Happiness (2017)

This is a short cartoon by Steve Cutts, following rats in the rat race as they pass through the maze and grind of daily life. These rodents wear neckties, ride overcrowded rat subways, and run past incessant advertising on the walls of their maze.

One of the billboards shows a smiling rat and says, "Be the better you. —Rodenté." All the ads are selling happiness, via various liquors, pharmaceuticals, a shiny red car, or a thousand other enticements, but the choices and the maze always lead back to the rat race.

Set to classical music, it's quick and delightful, and it's amazing how much can be said without saying a word.

Never heard of Steve Cutts before, but now I want to see everything he's done.

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦

The Noah (1975)

A retired military officer has a long talk with a deep-voiced, unseen entity, possibly God, but the voice never tells him to kill anyone so probably not.

This is odd enough to be intriguing for a while, but it's almost half over with nothing but the guy and the voice talking, before either of them says anything interesting. After that, a woman, then a kid, then a whole crowd full of voices join the conversation.

The protagonist, the only person we actually see, is very military, barking orders as much as chatting with the unseen cast of characters. He's difficult to like, but it's a one-man show and he's the man.

You could do worse than this, and I do see the point of it all, but it plays like a so-so episode of The Twilight Zone with an hour's worth of padding to make it feature length.

Verdict: MAYBE.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Not Wanted (1949) 

"This is a story told one hundred thousand times each year."

From the brilliant Ida Lupino, this is a serious drama about unwed motherhood.

The story is told mostly from the woman's perspective, but it's sympathetic to both parties. She's not a sleeparound, and he's not a prick, and abortion was illegal (just like now) so it's not even mentioned.

It's heavy stuff, no laughs to be had, and it builds to an ending that's kooky, but also believable.

Pre-marital babymaking was a brave topic to tackle in the 1940s. It's a taboo that's mostly gone today, so anyone younger than 60 might be baffled, but back then getting knocked up without a ring was about the biggest shame imaginable, for women. For men, of course, it meant maybe fifty bucks to buy an abortion, or worst case scenario, a rushed marriage.

Leo Penn (father of Sean) plays the papa who can't be proud, because he never even knows. 

Verdict: YES.

  10/9/2022 

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twentyplex, you're missing out.

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Top illustration by Jeff Meyer. No talking once the lights dim. Real butter, not that fake crap, on the popcorn. I try to make these reviews spoiler-free, but sometimes screw up, sorry. Piracy is not a victimless crime. Click any image to enlarge. Comments & conversations invited.   

 

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