Thursday, December 15, 2016

Hodgepodge 47/365 - Time Travel Movies

We went to see a movie this evening that messes with time-as-we- know-it (i.e., linear, chronological). That got me thinking how much I love the mind-bending nature of time travel, especially in movies, which move faster than books and leave you more breathless. And full of questions.

Tonight's film was not strictly about time travel—but never mind: that's the most obvious way to look at the idea of messing with time-as-we- know-it. And so I thought: another list! Yes!

And of course, there are lists galore on the Internet. So here's a sampling, cobbled together from a couple "best of" lists. The ones I haven't seen I've asterisked, for my own purposes.

Back to the Future, parts I, II, and III (1985, 1989, 1990): Who doesn't know—and love—these?

▹ *Primer (2004): Two friends build a time machine—but then things go awry.

Groundhog Day (1993): Bill Murray is stuck in a time loop in Punxsutawney, PA, awaiting the groundhog's appearance—and we all end up the better for it. (This is one of the very few DVDs I actually own.)

Time Bandits (1981): A young boy takes up with a crew of renegade space-time repairmen who cruise through history stealing riches—only to get caught up in the plot of a reality-manipulating sorcerer. (dir. Terry Gilliam)

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991): A human-killing robot is sent back in time to save John Connor (see below), but another one is sent back as well, and this one can turn into liquid—and he has no intention of saving John Connor.

Donnie Darko (2001): One day, Donnie Darko wakes up in a tangent universe, one that will collapse in on itself in a few weeks and potentially destroy the world in the process. Donnie has to learn about time travel theory and God’s plan for him in order to save the world and find some inner peace.

Looper (2012): Set in the near future where time travel is outlawed but still used by the mob. A Looper is a hit man who waits for future bosses to send back whomever they want to kill. The Looper’s job is a short one, however, as they all eventually end up “closing their own loop” and killing their future selves to keep things tidy for the people in charge. But eventually one (Bruce Willis) gets away, and it’s up to the younger version (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) to hunt him down.

12 Monkeys (1995): Based on the classic French 24-minute film La Jetée (dir. Chris Marker, 1962), Terry Gilliam’s dystopia is set in the 2030s. Humanity has been almost completely wiped out; their only hope is to send prisoners on likely suicide missions back to the 1990s in an effort to stop the plague.

Terminator (1984): A human-hating killing machine is sent back in time to kill the woman who will one day give birth to John Connor, the savior of humanity in the future human vs. robot wars.

▹ *Predestination (2014): No idea what this one is about (the Wikipedia description is long and convoluted), but it apparently involves time travel!

▹ *Brigadoon (1954): Gene Kelly stumbles on the magical town of Brigadoon in the Scottish Highlands, which only appears one day every 100 years.

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989): Two high school kids are gifted with a time-traveling phone booth from the future, so they can ace their school project.

Midnight in Paris (2011): Owen Wilson is a struggling writer who looks for solace on the streets of Paris—and mysteriously winds up back in the Jazz Age with all his literary heroes, including F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway. (dir. Woody Allen)

▹ *Timecop (1994): Jean-Claude van Damme is a member of the future time-traveling crime-fighting organization Time Enforcement Commission (TEC).

▹ *Timecrimes (Los Cromocrímenes, 2007): Nacho Vigalondo’s exceptionally creepy time-travel thriller. It all starts when a man catches a bandaged bandit in the woods spying on a woman undressing.

Time after Time (1979): The father of the time travel story himself, Herbert George Wells (Malcolm McDowell), is the hero of this film, in which he pursues Jack the Ripper to the year 1979. And meets Mary Steenburgen, whom he—McDowell, not Wells, though that would be an interesting time-travel trick—married the next year. (After their divorce, Steenburgen married Ted Danson, to whom she remains married. The things you learn on the Internet!)

▹ *Peggy Sue Got Married (1986): After suffering through a bitter separation with ex–high school sweetheart Charlie (Nicolas Cage), Peggy Sue (Kathleen Turner) faints at her high school reunion and wakes up in 1960, seemingly transported back to the most transformative year of her life.

*Déjà Vu (2006):  In order to stop a bomber, ATF officer Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) gets mixed up with a program called “Snow White,” which allows people to see 4 days, 6 hours, 3 minutes, 45 seconds, and 14.5 nanoseconds into the past, a technology that of course is so much more than it seems.

*Flight of the Navigator (1976): A little boy is abducted by a UFO and jettisoned into the future where everything sucks and his big brother is now a teenager and no one understands him. So what does he do? Escape with a bad-ass spaceship and a new best-friend alien.

 ▹ Kate and Leopold (2001): A duke (Hugh Jackman) travels through time from 1876 New York to the present and falls in love with Meg Ryan, plucky as always.

The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey (1998): A 14th-century boy believes he can save his fellow townsfolk by tunneling into the Earth. When they emerge on the other side, the ancient people have been transported to 1988 New Zealand. (I remember liking this movie. It's in my Netflix queue; maybe I'll move it to the top and see if I still like it.)

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