One of the joys of the ROKU is that it has channels with LOTS of movies. While many of them have the same tired copies of someone’s VHS Tape Library (as old movies exit copyright), others have more current professional moves (often for a fee). There there’s a few channels that have decent movies, with commercials typically, but sometimes from minor studios, foreign films, or other sources that don’t make it to the USA Big Screens or Networks.
It is that last group that has been most fun for me. The semi-professional movies, or the movies made for fun, not just profit. Sometimes it takes wading through some real junk to find the good ones. Sometimes you hit a streak of good ones. This week was a winning streak.
On the OvGuide channel, under the SciFi category, they have 500+ films. I sampled a few, and watched two that were pretty good. ( The Blackout is one you can skip… not bad, well, not too bad – the acting was pretty good. Just very formulaic. EMP takes out power globally, folks go crazy and good people do bad things, power comes back, oh don’t we feel bad…) The good ones were different, and with a particularly tongue in cheek humor to them.
First off, Earthbound. From Ireland. Supported by the Irish Film Board (or whatever the proper name of it might be…) per the credits. Along with lots of small and local supporters.
At first I expected it to be so-so. The basic plot (Alien stuck on Earth makes a go of it with the locals, but destiny requires them to save their planet) being a well used plot device. The reality was a plot well twisted such that you find yourself thinking “Oh, THAT old way out” and then you find out THAT was just another twist. In the end, the story is twisty enough to be new, and not so much as to be a bother.
The Irish accents are a delight. The special effects minimal, but good enough (most of the story is set in contemporary Earth, after all). Much of the meat of the show is in fact a love story. Folks finding each other, finding something special, then special problems, then overcoming them, then more problems. The characters well played.
From the IMDB (which is pretty slim):
Joe is an Alien on Earth. At least that is what his father told him before he died when Joe was eleven. He finds it difficult to adjust, and to find a compatible girl friend.
OTOH, to be more elaborate would be to write spoilers for the various twists and turns. Let’s just say there are other alien agencies involved and it is more than “Lonely Alien looking for love in all the wrong places”…
In the end, I found myself empathetic with the lead characters (in several different situations where their world view changes). They manage to catch that awkward sort of out of place we all feel sometimes, and overcome it. Yet without being stale about it, and with just enough humor included to avoid being maudlin or morose about it. Just when you are leaning toward down, they lift you up with some Alien Sit Com, then when lifted, bring back enough “issues” to feel the contrast.
As you might guess, lots of Australian accents and their quirky approach to things. It reminded me of Mars Attacks in some ways (and not just the green over the top aliens…). Not anywhere near as high budget. Minus the “name names”. Sometimes the actors don’t quite hold character as well as more experienced actors (or the director didn’t order a retake…); yet that adds to the charm of this movie. Like watching a stage play; that you know it isn’t real and isn’t “immersive” is part of the idea.
From the IMDB:
At the age of 10, Australian-born Andi Gibson had what she describes as a close encounter with a flying saucer. Naturally, everyone assumed she was bonkers. That is until one notable evening, 17 years later, when an airborne extra-terrestrial armada launches a nation-wide assault on Andi’s home country and at the same time, for unspecified reasons, kidnaps her mother. To add to the debacle, it seems the other nations of the world are far too insulted by their exclusion from the attack to come to Australia’s aid. Now it is up to Andi, her hypochondriac brother Elliot, retired boxer cousin Keith and documentary filmmaker friend Cam to stop the attack and rescue Andi’s mum. Enlisting the help of Andi’s equal-parts mysterious and cringeworthy father, the gang must battle car-chasing spaceships, martial-arts aliens, giant killer robots and, perhaps most frighteningly, a deluge of family secrets in their fight to save Australia. Bloody hell, this is gonna be a long night. Written by Joe Bauer
Well written, it managed to surprise at the right times and maintain suspense via plot twists up to the end. Even at the end of the credits with an “Easter Egg” bit.
Andi has a delightful way about her with very expressive looks. The supporting actors and actresses all pull off credible performances ( I suspect the UK / Anglo heritage of theatre had influence here and that folks had prior stage work in front of audiences with a good idea what things ought to look like done well…) Even the running jokes managed to stay fresh through it all. (Though I do have to wonder what Australians have against Tasmania… “It isn’t really part of Australia…”)
Special effects were better than I expected. I presume due to computer costs having dropped dramatically since the first Star Wars film was made 40+ years ago. Flying saucers, space aliens, ray guns – all rendered well, if with a humorous homage to the old B&W B Movie SciFi of the 50s and 60s.
Will it win an Academy Award? Nope. Not that kind of movie. No political POV being shoved at you. No “message”. Just a good romp around Australia and laughing at things in the process. The right blend of Evil Villain, Heroic Resistance, and slapstick. It did get lots of other awards though.
In my opinion, well worth watching when you want some light humor and escapism from the negativity of life.
There’s just something special about films that have what looked like (at least to me) brewers or brewpubs in their credits as supporters and lists small shops that loaned them gear or services. When there is a community involved with the film, it is being made by friends for friends.