Thursday, March 9, 2017

24 Hours of Movies: Back in Time

by Patrick Bromley
It's easy to watch 24 hours of movies when you have a TIME MACHINE.

Because March is my birthday month and the only thing I ever like doing for my birthday is programming movie marathons, I've written a bunch of these 24 Hours of Movies pieces all March long for the past few years. It's a tradition I will be continuing this month, beginning with this marathon of all time travel movies.

For some reason, I really love time travel movies. Like buddy cop pictures and revenge movies, "time travel" is one of those genres in which I'll give any movie at least a shot. Picking the ones to watch over the course of one 24-hour marathon is tough because there are so many that I like, but they're not all movies I would feel like watching under these conditions. Don't be the person who's all "You forgot Primer" or "No 12 Monkeys?" There are lots of good time travel movies and I could only pick some of them. I also set a rule for myself that I wouldn't include either of the first two Terminator movies. I don't know why.

The theme for this marathon was suggested by Frank Levesque (@1frankthetank1). Thanks, Frank!

10 a.m. - The Time Machine (1960, dir. George Pal)
I have never seen this movie! Blasphemy, I know. If it helps, I have seen the Guy Pearce remake from 2002 (it does not help) and grew up watching the 1978 made-for-TV version about which I remember very little except that Priscilla Barnes played a woman named Weena. Oh, the things we retain from our youth. At any rate, I'm a fan of George Pal and have always wanted to see his adaptation of H.G. Wells' classic, so I like the idea of starting off with maybe the definitive time travel classic AND a film that's brand new to me.

Noon - Safety Not Guaranteed (2012, dir. Colin Trevorrow)
While it's true that the majority of time travel movies fall somewhere within the science fiction and fantasy genres, it's an idea that has been explored in action and slapstick comedy and romantic drama and slightly twee indie comedies like this one. I really liked Safety Not Guaranteed when I saw it back in 2012, but I'm a little bit nervous to revisit it now because I fear I will be annoyed that director Colin Trevorrow went from this little movie to the big and terrible Jurassic World and is now being handed the keys to Star Wars. This is petty and stupid, I know, because it shouldn't affect my feelings about his first film. I remember it being charming and sweet and small in a good way. Hopefully all that stuff holds up. If nothing else, it's important to try and break up the monotony of a time travel marathon by programming movies that approach it from different angles.

1:30 p.m. - Time Bandits (1981, dir. Terry Gilliam)
I'm not sure there's a movie that defines my childhood more than Time Bandits. It's a movie I watched with my siblings over and over again every time it showed up on TV. We used to play Time Bandits and pretend the doors in our hallway took us into different time periods. At that time, I had no concept of who Terry Gilliam was or his legacy within popular culture. It's a movie I actually like even better now as an adult, as I can appreciate the weird subversive streak of what Gilliam is doing and just how dark all the stuff with David Warner's Supreme Being really is. In a decade packed with fantasy and science fiction films, Time Bandits remains one of the best.

3:30 p.m. - Escape from the Planet of the Apes (1971, dir. Don Taylor)
While we're sticking on the sci-fi/fantasy tip here, this third entry in the original Planet of the Apes cycle feels nothing like Time Bandits. Or any of the movies in the Apes series, for that matter. It has Cornelius (Roddy McDowell) and Zira (Kim Hunter) -- plus Sal Mineo as Dr. Milo -- narrowly escaping the annihilation of Earth that ends the preceding entry and sent back in time to then-present day Los Angeles, where they interact with modern society who is first fascinated and ultimately threatened by the appearance of super intelligent apes. What begins as something light and a little silly ends as dark, politically charged satire. It's the kind of thing that made this series so special, and while it may send us into the evening on a bummer note it may help set the tone for the next film in our marathon.

5:15 p.m. - Déjà Vu (2006, dir. Tony Scott)
Confession: I really, really like this movie. It's one of my favorite Tony Scott movies even though it's one that's hardly ever talked about. It's a movie I want more people to see, even though programming it within the context of this marathon actually spoils one of its major surprises (if memory serves, even the original marketing didn't give something big away). Sorry about that. It's one of, I don't know, two dozen collaborations between Scott and leading man Denzel Washington and I think it's their best, with apologies to the lovers of both Crimson Tide and Man on Fire. He plays a cop trying to solve the bombing of a literal boatload of civilians using new and top secret technology that allows him to look into the past at a certain place and time. Things get even more interesting from there. I love the way the movie continues to introduce surprises and its mix of detective noir with science fiction that, while ridiculous, is totally grounded in some kind of reality. This is one of those sleepers I wish more people would come around to liking.

7:30 p.m. - Back to the Future (1985, dir. Robert Zemeckis)
I'm not an asshole.

9:30 p.m. - Trancers (1985, dir. Charles Band)
The flagship franchise of Full Moon Features -- in fact, the only property to make the transition from Charles Band's Empire Pictures to getting sequelized at Full Moon -- is a really fun, really cool Blade Runner rip-off in which Tim Thomerson (who should be in every movie) sends his consciousness back in time into the body of an ancestor to catch a maniac who turns people into mindless, murderous zombies called "trancers." The first three movies in the series are all fun in different ways, but the first has the most charm because it's a totally sincere attempt to play inside the '80s genre sandbox. If we can't watch this one on Saturday afternoon, late Saturday night is just as good.

11 p.m. - Southland Tales (2007, dir. Richard Kelly)
Longtime readers of F This Movie! know that I'm a big fan of this, the movie that inspired the term "ambitious failure." It has a huge ensemble cast of unconventional supporting actors -- wrestlers, sketch comedy performers, TV stars, singers, even other filmmakers -- and enough plot for at least four movies. Any film in which you have to read a series of graphic novels beforehand just to understand what's going on is probably not super successful on a narrative level, but I'm such a fan of Richard Kelly's reach that I can forgive his grasp. This is a movie of true, lunatic vision and deserves to be a midnight cult movie. Let's watch it at midnight.

1:30 a.m. - Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992, dir. Anthony Hickox)
I usually like to program horror movies overnight, but there really aren't a ton of horror movies about time travel. This, the sequel to Anthony Hickox's super fun monster mash Waxwork, is an exception. It's not as good as the first film, but there are a lot of things to like, such as an appearance by Bruce Campbell as a guy whose abdomen is ripped open for his running time, or the endless series of homages to classic horror movies -- essentially the raison d'être for the Waxwork movies.

3:15 a.m. - Triangle (2009, dir. Christopher Smith)
I recognize that this pick is something of a cheat, as it's more about time loops than actual time travel. But couldn't a case be made that the two aren't all that different? What is a time loop if not going back in time a few minutes (or, in the case of Groundhog Day, 24 hours) again and again? This film, about a group of friends who end up on an abandoned cruise ship with a murderer on the loose, is often times more interesting than it is totally successful. It's also super well made and should offer a cool head trip vibe in the middle of the night, which is all we can ask for.

5 a.m. - Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann (1982, dir. William Dear)
There are two movies programmed into this marathon that I have never seen (The Time Machine and the next film), but this one might as well fall into that category because it's been so many years since the last time I saw it. My only memories of the movie are of a motorcycle rider in the Old West and a guy getting killed by a helicopter, represented by a pair of shredded, empty boots. That stuff might not even be accurate. I guess we'll find out. I love Fred Ward, I love time travel movies and I love this period in Hollywood when weird little genre movies like this were a regular fixture of studio release schedules. Also, Mike Nesmith -- aka My Favorite Monkee -- is a writer, producer and wrote the score. That's reason enough to slot it into the lineup.

7:30 a.m. - The Three Stooges Meet Hercules (1962, dir. Edward Bernds)
Here's the only other movie in the lineup I've never seen, and while Curly Joe DeRita is probably my third favorite third Stooge, I'm a sucker for the Stooges and want to see them in a time travel comedy even if it was made years past their prime. My expectations aren't high, but the placement makes sense. Even if it's not at all funny (which I can't imagine, as the Stooges are always good for at least a couple of laughs), it will provide a nice breather going into the last two movies and should pair well with the bowl of kids' breakfast cereal we buy specifically for this occasion.

9 a.m. - Looper (2012, dir. Rian Johnson)
One of the best time travel movies of the 2000s, Rian Johnson's Looper works as great science fiction, a great action movie and a great character drama. I may never forgive the movie its Joseph Gordon Levitt prosthetics, but that's easy to overlook when Johnson writes and directs as well as he does. The world-building is great. The performances are great, particularly from Emily Blunt. Even Bruce Willis gives a shit. I even love that Rian Johnson's approach to dealing with time travel paradoxes is to have characters explicitly say "I don't want to talk about time travel." It frees the film up to be about so much more. Including Looper is going to put us over 24 hours, but I couldn't imagine programming a time travel marathon without it. It's so good.

11 a.m. - Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989, dir. Stephen Herek)
I love Looper a lot, but it's not exactly the fun note on which I'd like to end. That job goes to Bill S. Preston, esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan, one of my favorite comedy duos of all time. This is the movie that put Keanu Reeves on my radar as a kid; I have been a devoted fan ever since. He is hilarious in both Bill & Ted movies, as is Alex Winter, as is everything in this movie from its brilliant premise to its sweet, silly execution. The ending of the film, in which Bill and Ted perform their history project on the stage of the San Dimas High School auditorium (I've heard their football rules) as Bricklin's "Walk Away" blares -- aka the most inspirational power ballad ever recorded -- is a total triumph. It's the perfect way to end our marathon.

Be excellent to each other, everyone. Be excellent to each other.


  1. Any marathon with Safety Not Guaranteed, Back to the Future, Looper AND Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure is okay by me.

  2. Great line-up and I love that you love Deja Vu! I had a lot of fun watching that film too and this makes me want to revisit it.

    1. Revisited Deja Vu last night. Yep, that film is straight up fun.

    2. I had completely forgotten about that movie. I rented the video sometime after it came out. It's been long enough that I could probably revisit it like it's the first time again.

  3. So I've never seen Southland Tales - I've heard of it sucking by I didn't even realize it had a time travel angle. That makes me want to see it but I also want to like it. Do you think tracking down at least summaries of the supplemental material could actually help?

    Also I'm starting to realize Time Bandits might be a serious gap in my movie nerd resume.

    Great marathon!

  4. I ask again, when are you guys doing a Southland Tales podcast? This movie needs love

  5. Awesome lineup! I think I will finally check out Deja vu and I'll give southland tales another chance. I just don't think I was prepared for it the first time haha.

  6. Honorable mentions ; Timecrimes & 12:01 -- a nifty little TV movie from 1993 with Jonathan Silverman, Helen Slater & Martin Landau.

    1. Timecrimes is very similar to Triangle. I liked Triangle better as I found it to be a little deeper thematically.

  7. Awesome!
    I've only seen a handful of these and the ones I've seen have been single viewings so far.
    Also scared to rewatch Safety Not Guaranteed as I feel I'm "over" my indie twee phase. Although I love all the main actors in this.
    May have to revisit Deja Vu. Did not like it back in the day.

  8. Anyone else not surprised Patrick found a way to watch his favorite movie of all time again?

    1. His next marathon is going to be 24 hours of plutonium movies.

  9. A couple of other time travel themed movies worth mentioning are
    Somewhere in Time (1980), a romantic fantasy with Christopher
    Reeve and Jane Seymour as a pair of time crossed lovers, and
    Time After Time (1979), a Nicholas Meyer scripted film featuring
    H.G.Wells himself pursuing Jack the Ripper into the 20th century.

    1. Michael GiammarinoMarch 9, 2017 at 7:56 PM

      I love Somewhere in Time and Time After Time. I'm a little skittish about the Time After Time series, although the casting intrigues me.

  10. For time travel movies, I really enjoyed About Time (partly because I think Bill Nighy is always great).

  11. In a weird coincidence I am watching time travel movies this week. Tonight is Looper. Happy B-day, Patrick!

  12. Michael GiammarinoMarch 9, 2017 at 7:54 PM

    Nice to see Deja Vu get some deserved love. I read an interesting article once that called Deja Vu Tony Scott's Vertigo.

    I haven't seen Southland Tales in years. I've been meaning to revisit it. But it'd be more like a first time watch because I remember next to nothing of it. Well, except that bonkers musical sequence.

    I've been hearing Triangle get some love in a few outlets. When I saw it, it just left me cold. Maybe one day I'll give it another look.

  13. Deja Vu is super fun, and a great use of Jim "Jesus" Caviezel. I'd have to include Time After Time, Predestination, and Timecrimes.

    1. I reserved Deja Vu from the library. I haven't seen it since 2006 in theaters. Remember liking it but maybe not enough? Looking forward to a revisit.

  14. Another honourable mention is Time Lapse. It's really low budget, but they do well with it by having the movie set in only a few rooms. The acting is somewhat sub-par, but the story and intrigue is very well paced, and it keeps you guessing.

  15. Seeing Time Bandits mentioned always reminds me of how I saw the last 10-15 minutes or so of it when I was really young and for some reason it scared the bejesus out of me. Really, just the tail end of showdown with evil and the coda. I was too young to get any of the humor and only remembered it as the movie that ends with a kids parents exploding. It seriously gave me nightmares. When I finally saw the whole thing around high school I couldn't figure out why I was so terrified