Saturday, March 1, 2014

Geek Cred: Rock Jocks & Knights of Badassdom

 Is it a good sign when a movie doesn't yet have any Rotten Tomatoes ratings and I saw it months ago? I guess "leaking" it on the internet was not such a good idea. I readily admit; the only reason I saw Rock Jocks (2012, Paul V. Seetachitt), a scifi comedy meant for geeks, was Felicia Day. Unfortunately, if you extract her, there is no reason to see this terrible terrible movie.

Seetachitt wants to be a new Kevin Smith, creating an irreverent indie movie full of slackers we are supposed to root for when the shit hits the fan. The particular shit is that they may lose their jobs to government cutbacks, a job of shooting asteroids out of the sky. Yes, an idea extracted from an 80s video game, and that the sort of witty point -- everything looks and feels like an out of date video game, as the whole system was designed 40 years ago. The staff actually are slacker gamers so when The Man comes along and wants to shut them down, its up to them to prove their mettle against the expected big rock that shows up.

The movie feels like a long webisode,  low budget and a handful of recognizable faces in supporting roles. You probably haven't heard of the stars, besides Felicia Day. There are a few gems of line, but not much at all to like. Maybe I have matured? Maybe I like some substance to my geek material? I think I just like some wit to my lines and in the absent of presentation, I want brilliance in the scripting, not just sub-par.

Now, if this was a well rounded review, I would come along and say, "Now, conversely, if you want a great geek movie with recognizable people, brilliant acting, a great plot and a Hollywood budget, I would watch Knights of Badassdom (2013, Joe Lynch) !!"  Unfortunately, I cannot say that either.  Harrumph.

I have been waiting for this movie all year(s). The trailers started coming out ... three (?!?!) years ago after debuting at Comic-Con and after the usual production delays, and some apparently nasty post production delays, the movie is coming out.  Soonish. One of the rumors around the delays, is that the movie was taken out of the director's hands and chopped to bits by producers and distributors. Honestly, I think it shows.

This is an exquisitely brilliant ultra-geeky plot. Joe, an ex-D&Der (Ryan Kwanten), now into black metal and car repair, is dumped by his GF. Eric, his best friend and roommate (Steve Zahn) never grew out of the gamer psyche (like many of us) and is a weekend LARPer. He and the third of their triad, Hung (Peter Dinklage), drag Joe off to a weekend of ultimate LARPing so Joe can experience Eric finally levelling his wizard character, and get over his GF. Eric has even brought along a new spell book, to add some authenticity to his spell casting. Said spell book is a real spell book and they summon a demon. As the friends fight it off, they are supported by Summer Glau and Danny Pudi.

Brilliant ultra-geeky plot, you ask? Straight-to-DVD plot more likely, right? Its brilliant in its simplicity, smacking back to the gamer geek's love of 80s horror movies. This is all cliches with sexy demons and lost in the woods characters and overly violent jocks who want to ruin the fun. But this is real LARPing depicted -- not some Hollywood mockery of it. Oh its, mocked, as LARPing is not for every gamer (i hate it, in fact) but its all done lovingly and with knowledge. Everyone in this movie plays true to their roles as pretend heroes having to become real heroes.

But, but but. There is a problem somewhere in this movie. Perhaps the wrong scenes were edited together, perhaps the script wasn't tightened enough and perhaps it was cut short of desperately needed connecting material but something fell flat, something felt missing. So many of the individual parts were great fun and made me smile, but it never came together. This was supposed to come across as a labour of love, done by and for geeks.  It felt almost like they wanted it watered down for the general audience. It ends up failing for both audiences.