What's in Your Queue?

Category:  Film
Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 at 12:12 PM
What's in Your Queue? by Mark Toriski

For your viewing pleasure, three films ripped from the Erie Reader Queue.

A Town Called Panic (Comedy/Animated)

The entire concept of doing reviews based off films streaming on Netflix was born out of randomly viewing this odd Belgium cartoon one night with friends. Based on a series of shorts broadcast around the world, “A Town Called Panic” is the tale of Cowboy, Indian, and Horse—three roommates preparing to celebrate the birthday of the latter by building a barbecue pit. What results is home destruction, music classes for farm animals, pointy-headed wall thieves, journeys to the center of the earth and across the frozen tundra, snowball engineers, a parallel underwater universe, and parachuting cows all in the pursuit of…well, it’s never entirely clear where this movie is headed. And that’s part of the fun of “A Town Called Panic.” It’s so utterly bizarre (and so crudely animated in a stop-motion manner that makes “Robot Chicken” look like Pixar), it’s one of those films that constantly makes you question what the creators were smoking when they thought it up. This movie should greatly benefit from the exposure it gets on Netflix and enthusiasts of Adult Swim’s programming should have no problem getting behind this film.
Grade 4 Stars

200 Motels (Musical/Sci-Fi)

A film by Frank Zappa—you just know this is going to be epically strange. Starring Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, the Royal Symphony Orchestra, and other musicians of the era, “200 Motels” is part rock opera, part science-fiction odyssey, and extremely heavy on the psychedelics, as the film is loosely set around a band losing their minds in the midst of touring. “Touring makes you crazy,” is the phrase uttered early in the film, and so will watching this movie. Frank Zappa plays Frank Zappa, Ringo Starr plays Frank Zappa, a rag doll plays Frank Zappa…“200 Motels” is often disorienting and confusing with its directionless storytelling, editing tricks, and cheapened effects (it’s almost reminiscent of today’s works by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim). And much like his music, there is so much beneath the already-bizarre surface of this film that repeat viewings may be required. Zappa uses the film to voice his distaste with music—taking jabs at everything from orchestras to then-modern rock acts of the time. But ironically, it is the music, not the visuals, that is the highpoint of the film.

Grade 2.5 Stars

Life in a Day (Documentary)

If only I could remember where I was on July 24, 2010. It would put this National Geographic documentary in better perspective. More than 4,500 hours of amateur videos were collected from more than 190 countries, all shot on a single day. There is no straightforward narrative or overall theme here just vignettes that give us a brief glimpse into life on a July day. This means we are treated to a near overload of striking visuals, while occasionally treating us to compelling stories when the documentary decides to give us more than 30 seconds of footage. But the briefness of everything will often leave you wanting more—especially in the stories of a young family dealing with a mother’s fight with cancer and a Korean man who has spent the past nine years biking the world. Despite no real direction, “Life in a Day” is great at displaying the extremes of the human condition and how any one day can be full of humor, sadness, celebration, destruction, and even death.  

Grade 3 Stars

All titles are currently available for instant streaming on Netflix.

Erie Reader: Vol. 6, No. 25
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