I can only see one small select audience loving 'This Is Not A Movie' and its remarkably bold message – paranoid conspiracy theorists. I didn't believe these sorts of paranoid and overly suspicious people really existed outside of that Mel Gibson/Julia Roberts movie until I started noticing my cousin Ryan's Facebook statuses. They are few, but they're out there – enough, in fact, to get a movie made just for them.
'This Is Not A Movie' opens with the following quote from William S. Burroughs: "A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what's going on. A psychotic is a guy who's just found out what's going on." In the movie, Edward Furlong plays a character not all that different from his screen mother Sarah Conner in the beginning of 'Terminator 2.' Pete Nelson has amnesia most likely caused by his mental instability. Referencing the Burroughs quote, he's a paranoid (probably schizophrenic) on the brink of becoming psychotic who has locked himself away in his Las Vegas hotel room, which is where 99 percent of the movie takes place. He has become so obsessed with his thoughts that he is literally going insane; this we know from the movie's long rant-filled pre-title card opening sequence. After (what feels like) 15 minutes of incessant and insignificant banter about mankind, Las Vegas, drugs, money, society, the government, Area 51, and nuclear testing, we feel like we're pounded over the head with the same repetitive nonsense. We get it! Pete is paranoid and crazy! Enough already! If you can make it this far without wanting to turn the movie off, then you'll be able to make it through to the end. But if this is as maddening for you as it was for me, you'll probably want to quit here. The incoherent strings of paranoid thoughts never stop.
As the movie progresses, we keep jumping back to shots of a computer monitor counting down the time remaining until the end of the world (which is exactly what I did - I stared at the clock waiting for this movie to end). We don't know what will happen when the ticker reaches zero - which is 48 hours away at the beginning of the movie - but it probably won't end well for Pete. This is meant to create a source of uncertain tension, but it really offers something to look forward to - the end of the movie.
After the long intro rant and a few shots of the doomsday clock, we meet the first of the side characters – Pete. Huh? What? Wait a minute. Yes, Pete has multiple personalities. "Real Pete" is a scared paranoid. Pete #2 is a partier. With the clock ticking, he wants to fill his final 48 with debauchery – gambling, causal sport sex, booze and drugs – but because he's only a figment of Real Pete's imagination, an un-externalized element of Real Pete's psyche, he can't go out seize the day all alone. The next character we meet is Pete #3, an islander version of Pete with a bad long wig and a funky goatee. This Pete is bound to the shore of some tropical paradise and appears via a picture-in-picture box, like a live satellite feed. Not only does this character make Furlong look like a bad actor, but he brings the movie to a screeching halt. Pete #3 breaks the fourth wall, constantly rambling about how this whole weird scenario that they've placed themselves in has got to be a movie. The dialogues that ensue feel like they were written by a film school dropout turned paranoid druggie who locked himself in a camper for a week with nothing more than a typewriter, water, and 50 tabs of acid. Hell, he even writes himself into the script – not as an on-screen character, but as the author of the movie that Pete #3 believes they are in. The next side character only makes things worse.
Meet "The Ghost of Jimmy," a '70s-ish guy who is definitely not an aspect of Real Pete's psyche. How do we know? Because he's black, has never meet any of the other Pete's and he shows up out of nowhere in a ghostly transparent fashion. Only Pete #3 has an explanation for his reason of being there – Ghost of Jimmy is a character from one of the screenwriter's failed scripts. While the screenplay he was once part of is now a dead work, his character was one of the writer's favorites, so he has transplanted him into to this one. As exemplified by Ghost of Jimmy, 'This Is Not A Movie' tries so hard to be clever that it comes across as the opposite – dumb and effortless.
In an attempt to keep the movie from getting stagnant and making you stir crazy, it is broken up into sections that are separated with fake movie trailers, commercials, and music videos that echo the craziness from Pete's mind. The formula for the movie is like this: a long rant and a (not-so) satirical video exemplifying the rant. Repeat. Over and over again. The videos brutally bash all forms of religion, media, entertainment (including movies, which seems taboo since we're watching one) and politics. Another odd thing is that it bashes "celebrity" and the keen eye that the media places on the entertainment industry, yet all of the Petes are heavy into pop culture. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the two inseparable?
Filmmaker Olallio Rubio has some balls for writing and directing a movie like this, but it doesn't mean that it's worth watching. Nice try though! His experimental style is reminiscent of something Richard Kelly would do – only even less entertaining than Kelly's last few flops. But there's one thing that Rubio somehow managed to get right – hiring Slash (of Guns 'N' Roses) to score his movie. I don't know how this miracle came about, but I'm glad it did. Slash's guitar-driven score is the best part of this movie.
'This Is Not A Movie' is supposed to be an awareness-raising call to arms in support of a revolution, but the only pitch forks and torches it's going to inspire will be against Rubio for making us sit through this movie. There's a reason you've never heard of this movie and why it sat on the shelf for two years. In plain words – it's bad. Unless you believe that man never landed on the moon, that UFOs are government experiments from Area 51 and other strange cover-up beliefs of shared by radical fanatics, then steer clear. The title of the movie should be 'This Is Not A Movie That You Should Ever Consider Watching.'
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Color me surprised. I did not see this Horizon Movies title being placed on a BD-50. The '80s-ish cover art reflects the awful nature of the movie. It advertises Slash's name by slapping in on the front of the case. "Music by Slash" is printed in a larger font than "Edward Furlong." Printed on the back of the artwork insert is a nice detailed close-up shot of Furlong's face that can be seen through the inside of the standard blue keepcase. There are no forced pre-menu trailers, just a an FBI warning and a Horizon Movies vanity reel.
Despite being placed on a BD-50, this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer has one frequently reoccurring issue – banding. Aside from this flaw popping up in every fade-in/out transition, the transfer is actually much sharper than anyone would expect from an unheard-of flick like this.
As the movie opens with Pete's voice-over monologue describing the sinful state of Las Vegas, we are shown aerial nighttime shots of the strip that aren't too impressive. Sharpness is low. Images are soft. Blacks are mild. Colors are muted. A thick layer of grain covers everything. Fortunately, all of these problems only exist in this (presumably) stock footage of the Vegas skyline. Once we enter the small set that the rest of the movie is confined to, everything changes.
90 percent of the footage in the hotel room is shown in black & white. Colors are only visible on the hotel room's television screen, on Pete #3's picture-in-picture box, and whenever the drapes are opened, as if the colors from the strip were bleeding into the room. The colors that wash over the hotel room from the windows are just as strong and vibrant as those found in the interstitial videos. One clubbing sequence features over-saturated colors, but it's most likely a directorial decision. Details are strong within the B&W footage, pores, hairs and textures being clearly visible. The black levels are deep, never appearing gray, and shadows delineation is great. Just as much detail can be seen within the shadows as outside them.
The only other compression flaw that exists, besides banding, is a small amount of minor aliasing. Artifacts and noise aren't issues and neither edge enhancement nor digital noise reduction have been applied.
Like the video, the audio quality has a few issues that shadow the great high points. Please note that while the audio specs, as listed on the back of the case, claim that the single audio track is only in "stereo," it's really a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.
Slash's score is done justice with this mix. His guitar riff-driven music is dynamically spread throughout the channels. During a few scenes, it carries a nerve-racking nightmare/fever dream quality that effectively conveys the desired mood of given scenes. Unfortunately, the effects and vocals are not as great.
All vocals carry a slightly hollow sound. Luckily, it is so minor that your ears adjust to it quickly and it soon becomes unnoticeable. The vocal track is also slightly lower in volume – compared to the music – than it should be. There are a few times where the music drowns out the dialog and there isn't a subtitle feature available to assist you in catching up on missed lines.
The effects track is decent, but misses quality opportunities to shine. For example, one video vignette shows us a gigantic robotic head with chomping jaws. The shot has us move forward into the flames in the robot's mouth. As we pass through the jaws, great imaging effects of the bassy chomping metal shifts seamlessly from the front to the rear channels. However, the flame effects are only heard through the front channels as we pass through them too. Many scenes offer great chances to use the surrounds speakers, but 50 percent of the time they're confined to the front. Had these effects been mixed better and the vocal volume been raised higher, this would be a noteworthy track.
'This Is Not A Movie' is an uninteresting blend of paranoia and conspiracy theory that feels like it was made to show you your impending doom at the hands of the government, religion, and the media. It tries being clever, but comes across as half-assed. The video quality is surprisingly strong, only falling victim to high amounts of banding and a little aliasing. The lossless audio mix would be great were it not bogged down by low vocal levels and some lacking effects. While there are a great number of disc-filling special features, not one of them is worthy of watching. All in all, this is one of those discs that is better than it should be. Movies this bad don't deserve these good Blu-rays.