Hello, friends in time, and welcome to the final month of Time Out, a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. I’ve seen a whole hell of a lot of time travel movies this year, but even watching one or two a week isn’t enough to knock ‘em all out. So, in the last month of 2013, I’m watching at least 31 movies and giving each one a quick paragraph on what I thought of it. How did these specific flicks end up on the bottom of the pile? By fitting at least one of the following criteria: 1) There’s time travel in them, but only in one or two scenes. 2) They were not favorably reviewed by critics and fell into obscurity. 3) They were made for TV, which I haven’t been counting until now. 4) Their legitimacy as time travel stories is questionable. 5) It’s my list and I’ve still seen more time travel movies than you, so ha. Anyway, here’s Week 2.
FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)
Oh, this movie. So first of all, I saw Field of Dreams as a kid and couldn’t remember any time travel in it, but I also couldn’t remember why any of the shit that happens to Kevin Costner makes any sense. Well, I can now confidently confirm that 1) yes, there’s time travel in it, and 2) none of the shit that happens to Kevin Costner makes any sense. On top of the creepy whispering God voices and the cornfield baseball ghosts, there’s a scene where Kev goes for a nighttime walk and oops, it’s 1972. No portals or special effects, he just notices that all the movie marquees, election posters, and license plates have changed. And it’s all so he can meet a dead baseball player that James Earl Jones’s character is a fan of, because I guess there’s a limit to how many ghosts God can fit in a cornfield. And then when Kevin’s back in his own time, the young version of the same dead baseball player is hitchhiking for some reason? I’m amazed critics ate this shit up, but I guess they get nostalgic over illogical and needlessly complicated plots about faith and bullshit that lead up to obvious payoffs. I mean, baseball.
Filmmaking Tip: Definitely remind your audience of a movie they’d rather be watching.
THE LAST MIMZY (2007)
I feel like I’m not supposed to tell you that there’s time travel in The Last Mimzy, but since the poster doesn’t seem to give a fuck, hey, time travel. So these two kids (Chris O’Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) find what appears to be the Hellraiser cube on the beach, and inside it is a smiling bunny doll and weird pieces of glass. The boy gains the ability to sing to spiders, which makes them weave webs of the same 12th century mandalas that Rainn Wilson has been dreaming about– Jesus, is this Southland Tales for kids? Oh, wait, the bunny tells the little girl that the world is going to end, so it’s more like Donnie Darko for kids. Anyway, all this baffling hippy dippy shit builds up to the reveal that the box comes from the future, which seems pretty obvious from the very beginning, but I guess I shouldn’t have expected a competently directed film from the businessman that founded New Line Cinema.
At least these spiders understand the importance of structure.
TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE (1983)
Yes, Twilight Zone: The Movie is an anthology film, but there’s time travel in the segment known as, um, “Time Out.” Directed by John Landis, the film’s only original story focuses on Bill Connor (Vic Morrow), a horrible bigot who repeatedly finds himself on the receiving end of some of history’s cruelest acts of racism. There isn’t a whole lot to analyze in terms of time travel rules or narrative; he just bounces around in time and takes some abuse until it’s over. He appears to the audience as a white guy throughout the segment, so it could be a Quantum Leap body swap scenario or some personalized hell dimension. The movie as a whole, while certainly ambitious, probably would have been better if Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks had kept up their improv road trip for a full ninety minutes.
“Do you vant to see somesing really scary?”
THE THREE STOOGES MEET HERCULES (1962)
I was very worried that a feature-length film this late in the Stooges’ career would be utter crap, but I say with great soitenty that The Three Stooges Meet Hercules is a lot of fun. Even though the boys typically seem to just exist in whatever time period some laughs can be mined from, this movie goes through the trouble of using an actual time machine to transport Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Joe DeRita back to Ancient Greece, along with a couple of stragglers (Vicki Trickett and Quinn K. Redeker). On top of some great gags and hilarious ultraviolence, even the time travel is interesting, with the film being essentially an immutable account of “true” events that history recorded incorrectly. Of all the films on this week’s list, you’ll probably enjoy it the most, Stooge fan or not.
Plus it wins the “Time Machine Made of Random Shit Slapped Together” award.
THE NEXT ONE (1984)
I hate when a movie has a great premise and stops there, but since The Next One commits such a crime, I’ll throw up a SPOILER ALERT that it doesn’t deserve before I tell you exactly how it ends. (Scroll until you see man-butt if you’d like to avoid hearing the big twist.) So Keir Dullea of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame washes up on a beach in Greece. He’s got a tattoo that reads “01313-1,” two heartbeats, and no memory. He befriends Adrienne Barbeau, they get stoned and fuck (the perfect thing to do with someone who can’t remember if he has a spouse or kids!), and suddenly he remembers that he’s an advanced time-traveling robot something-or-other. Anyway, blah blah blah, nothing interesting for a while, eventually we learn that he has healing powers, and then it’s revealed that another traveler also came back and landed… wait for it… about 2,000 years earlier. Boom! Robot Jesus. The movie then ends with a little kid hyping up this guy’s adventures, which is honestly a pretty poignant critique of the Bible, but the majority of the movie is a load of pretentious religious symbolism centered on an amnesiac dude just kinda… wandering around.
ROMAN SCANDALS (1933)
The oldest time travel film I’ve covered so far, Roman Scandals is a musical comedy that focuses on a poor guy named Eddie (Eddie Cantor) who gets kicked out of West Rome, Oklahoma and somehow ends up in Ancient Rome. Some sources claim the whole trip is just a dream, but how can Eddie fall asleep while walking? Fantasy or not, it’s even lighter on plot than The Three Stooges Meet Hercules, but I’m not complaining, as it’s mostly an excuse for Eddie to quip and sing his way through Rome. The comedy’s good and the musical numbers are catchy, which is all you want from a movie like this. Plus, enjoy the cringe factor of “Keep Young and Beautiful,” a jaunty little tune about a woman’s “duty to be beautiful” if she wants to be loved. Sorry, uggos, you’re worthless until you hit the gym and slap on some makeup! The only way this scene could possibly be more offensive is if…
Goddammit, old movies. Goddammit.
TIME TRACKERS (1989)
Yeah, don’t get too excited by that bitchin’ poster, this Roger Corman-produced suckfest is unbelievably boring. The title, the advertising, and the first act all make you think they’ll be tracking the villainous Dr. Zandor (Lee Bergere) all throughout history, but when they get to what I’m pretty sure is just a Renaissance festival, they keep the budget down by filming there for the rest of the movie. The time travel rules are all over the map; it’s demonstrated pretty early on that the timeline can be altered (and even memories undergo the ripple effect on a five-minute delay), but SPOILER ALERT FOR A REALLY BORING MOVIE, it’s revealed that the scientist that invented time travel is actually a descendant of his own daughter, auggghhh. Yeah, they pulled a Timerider incest loop and managed to somehow make it even dumber with conflicting mutable and immutable timelines.
Also, Ned Beatty.
31 Days of Time Travel – Week 3
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