DIY Film Fest: 6 time-travel flicks you’ll go back to (sorry) time after time

I’m Talking Time Travel Movies on John Rabe’s Off-Ramp. You can listen now… or in the future. No Time Machine required, just click below.

LISTEN HERE:  http://www.scpr.org/programs/offramp/2016/05/24/49154/diy-film-fest-6-time-travel-flicks-you-ll-go-back/

By: Tim Cogshell

Off-Ramp has been after me asking me to do another DIY film festival, and I’ve been asked to talk sci-fi flicks with the sci-fi nerds over at the DigiGods podcast.  They have a great audience and I know they are going to want to talk time-travel movies. Sci-fi nerds always want to talk time travel movies. So let’s kill two birds with one stone.

1. “LOOPER” (2012)

Let’s start with a modern film that’s fast becoming a cult classic. The nerds love Director Rian Johnson’s 2012 time-travel thriller “Looper,” and so do I.  It stars Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon Levitt as the same guy from different moments in time. What I like most about Looper is that it’s a love story wrapped in a thriller hidden in a time-travel movie.  And that it’s Johnson’s own original script. He worked it all out beat-by-beat in his head and “Looper” is tight as a drum.

2. “THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT” (2004)

Sci-fi nerds love Ashton Kutcher movies. Plus, it’s a pretty good flick. Like “Looper,” “The Butterfly Effect” is actually a love story, this time wrapped in a drama hidden in a time-travel movie.  And it almost gets Chaos Theory right. There are several alternate endings for “The Butterfly Effect.” All easy to find. Some of them happy.

3. “TIME AFTER TIME” (1979)

Malcolm McDowell and David Warner in "Time After Time"
Malcolm McDowell and David Warner in “Time After Time”

For something vintage I usually go with director Nicholas Meyer’s “Time After Time.”  Weaving together the Jack the Ripper mystery with an H.G. Wellsian time-travel adventure and a contemporary romance, it’s Nick Meyer’s directorial debut. With Malcolm McDowell as H.G. Wells, a pre-“Time Bandits” David Warner as the Ripper, it’s surprising how well this classic straddles time from its settings in 1893 and 1979 right through to the present day. And it will premiere as a series on the ABC television network in the fall. It’s certainly a debut film, but the Nick Meyer who would go on to write and direct the more cerebral “Star Trek” films is definitely in there.

4. “SOMEWHERE IN TIME” (1980)

Christopher Reeve in "Somewhere In Time," the time travel date flick
Christopher Reeve in “Somewhere In Time,” the time travel date flick

I love Jeannot Szwarc’s “Somewhere in Time,” a time-travel romance starring a young Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour and a beautiful John Barry score.

5. & 6. “LA JETÉE” (1962) & “TWELVE MONKEYS” (1995)

Chris Marker’s “La Jetée” and director Terry Gilliam’s “Twelve Monkeys” are in some ways the same movie at different moments in time. “La Jetee” is a short film constructed almost entirely from black-and-white still photos, voiceover and the atmosphere of time and place.

It’s the specific inspiration for “Twelve Monkeys.” Aside from being a flat-out brain freeze of a time-travel movie, it’s a different kind of Terry Gilliam movie – austere, stark and character driven. Plus, the film has Brad Pitt in his first Oscar-nominated performance.

Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in "Twelve Monkeys"
Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in “Twelve Monkeys”

Those of you paying attention will note that both my first and last picks star – yep – Bruce Willis.

OK, I think I’ve got the sci-fi movie nerds covered.  Mix and match to build a DYI Time Travel Film Festival of your own. And remember, if you go back in time, don’t change anything!

 

Tim Cogshell, film critic for KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, has joined Off-Ramp’s team of commentators. Cogshell blogs at CinemaInMind.

 

How Hollywood can make more money: Cast women of color…

by Tim Cogshell | Off-Ramp

Listen here: How Hollywood can make more money: Cast women of color

Film and culture critic Tim Cogshell, of KPCC’s Filmweek and Alt Film Guide, has joined Off-Ramp’s team of commentators.

I’m now going to name almost all of the women of color in or on TV (or a TV-like platform). And that’s a big problem.

On the heels of #Oscarsowhite, the Nina Simone controversy, the whitewashing controversy, and every other diversity issue Hollywood is facing, it’s an important question: how many women of color are on TV and on platforms like Amazon and Netflix and Hulu? So here’s an almost complete list of women of color in the industry who are the boss, storyteller and/or hero who saves the day and gets the boy — or girl.

At the top are the one-namers — Oprah and Shonda. You know Oprah. Shonda Rhimes is the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal” and executive producer of “How to Get Away with Murder” and “The Catch.” She’s a black woman who owns a night of network television. Steven Bochco once owned a night of network television. And I had to say both of his names.

TV executive Shonda Rhimes
TV executive Shonda RhimesMS. MAGAZINE

Then there’s Cookie on the hit series “Empire,” played by the Academy Award-nominated, Emmy-nominated and Golden Globe Award-winning Taraji P. Henson.

Cookie is an archetype — not a parody — of a particular type of African-American matriarch that’s seldom, if ever, portrayed on American TV: a self-made, outspoken, rich and sexy mom who will do anything for her children. Cookie is outrageous — but J.R. Ewing was outrageous, and we loved J.R. And he was a lousy father.

Let’s get back to our list.

There’s Regina King on HBO’s “The Leftovers,” Uzo Aduba on “Orange is the New Black,” and Danai Gurira, the sword-wielding lead in “The Walking Dead.” Lucy Liu is the Chinese co-star of “Elementary.” And then there’s Indian-American Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project,” Gina Rodriguez of “Jane the Virgin,” Cristela Alonzo on “Cristela,” Eva Longoria in “Telenovela,” and Kerry Washington and Viola Davis on the Shonda Shows.

These shows and characters are popular across a broad swath of American audiences, which puts the lie to the old myth in Hollywood greenlighting suites that women of color — as attractive leading ladies and authority figures — won’t be accepted by American audiences, that they need to be mammies, hookers, best friends … or non-existent.

I’ve always known this was a myth. I grew up watching Pam Grier above the title in major motion pictures, where she kicked ass just like Steve McQueen, and with more personality. In the early ’70s, the late Teresa Graves became the first African-American woman to star in her own hour-long series, the cop drama “Get Christie Love.”

To me, a black woman on TV was beautiful, tough and smart. Which was a reflection of my mother, my grandmother, my great grandmother, my aunties, my big sister and ultimately my wife. All beautiful badasses not to be underestimated, like Christie Love — and Cookie.

It’s true that compared with the movies, TV is doing better. But it’s still not acceptable that I can name everybody in four minutes on the radio.

If you’re the kind of person who greenlights things in Hollywood, and you’re not investing in diversity in every possible way, you’re stupid. Because you’re not only contributing to racial and gender inequity, you’re leaving money on the table.

FilmWeek: ‘Money Monster,’ ‘The Lobster,’ and more

Listen here: FilmWeek: ‘Money Monster,’ ‘The Lobster,’ and more, plus a film festival circuit

 

 

 

Tim is Critic At Large for Alt Film Guide (http://www.altfg.com/blog). Twenty years of his reviews are archived at:  http://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/tim-cogshell/

On Fan Films: EXILE – EP 1 (A STAR WARS FAN FILM)

Review: Exile – Ep 1 (A Star Wars Fan Film)

By: Tim Cogshell

 

Fans films, frankly, are not something that I generally review, or for that matter, often think about. I’m savvy to fan fiction in all its forms; literary, graphic novels, there are even people who do fan films using nothing but Legos – which is fascinating – but it’s the use of the Legos that’s the point of those projects, rather than the films themselves – generally. Then there are fan films that are purely about the source material – the thing the fan is – most deeply – a fan of.  Such that they create an element of that beloved film themselves, complete with all the accoutrements of the source material.

On the heels of the reboot of the Star Wars series (again), a plethora of fan films have blossomed and I’ve got one here that I found particularly interesting for a few reasons. It’s good, for one, and for two and three, its features some very capable black actors – who are not British. Which – is kind of a thing.

In anycase, for Exile – EP 1, the on-going Star Wars saga is the source of the fandom, and the universe in which these capable filmmakers have set their unique SW narrative. Set after the Clone Wars, with references to classic figures (including Obi-Wan), Exile is the 15 minute and 50 second story of an Empire plot to turn young Jedi’s to the to the dark side of the Force.  An “Inquisitor” called Quinlan Vos (Sal Perales), has been dispatched to engage those Jedi particularly sensitive to the dark side, and bring them over.  One such Jedi Padawan is Makal Lori (Noel Braham).  Makal attempts to marshal forces and repel the Empire’s plan, but when he faces the Inquisitor (alongside his Master, Boemana Tora), his heart may betray his deepest desires, which may be darker than even he knows.

Exile – EP 1 opens with a bracing action sequence. Imperial soldiers and someone who looks like Boba Fett track Makal thru a dark forest. Laser blasts zip all round as the Jedi deflects and evades before landing deft light-saber strokes on his pursuers. Then the scene gets even darker.  Maybe a little too dark for the PG-13 viewers the Star Wars films are usually directed at, but that’s a matter of taste and parental guidance, especially since anybody can just click on the link above – and watch the whole movie anyway.

Which I recommend.

Exile – EP 1 is very well done. I won’t pretend to be an expert on Star Wars iconography, but I know movies and everything in this one is awash in production value. The style and scale of the Star Wars universe space ships zipping across the sky, the costumes and props and performances – all detailed and well done. The dialogue is a little on-the-nose for my tasted, but so was George Lucas’ in the original film so this may be a true fan’s deliberate choice.  To my mind  Lawrence Kasdan wrote the only really good Star Wars movie dialogue, including the Empire Strikes Back and much of the recent reboot.

Exile – EP 1 is an action driven, darkly hued take on one battle in the Star Wars universe of films.  It’s a fan film with heart and filmmaking chops – and I must admit – I’m impressed by both.

__________________

Directed by Pokey Spears and Noel Braham. Written by Noel Braham.  Starring Noel Braham, Georginna Savoye, Sal Perales, Pokey Spears.

Produced by Mario Contini, Georginna Savoye. Director of Photography Mario Contini. Edited by Ryan Stevens Harris. Visual Effects Supervisor Bryan Gonzales. Sound Design Michael Kao. Costume Design by Elizabeth Rage. Music by Ryan Leach.

Review: Captain America: Civil War

By: Tim Cogshell

civil war 2

Image courtesy of the Disney Company – 2016

April 21, ’16, 9:53 a.m. – I was sitting down to watch an early screening of Captain America: Civil War on the Disney Studios lot in Burbank, California. I received a text inquiring if I’d heard the news. As a number of noted critics and studio types filed in – all immersed in their devices, we confirmed the news for each other – Prince was dead.

One noted critic, whose name I will not mention because she may not want you to know she cusses like a sailor, posed the question aloud, “How the fuck are we supposed to pay attention to this now!?” It was a goddamn good question. I said in response, voice cracking, “No shit, I’m all fucked up!” As it happens, I cuss like a sailor, too. They started the movie.

Over the next two hours and twenty-seven minutes, the film’s full runtime through the end credits, Captain America: Civil War made me forget that Prince had died. It’s that entertaining – that good a piece of summer distraction, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be. And let’s not forget that it’s a film fresh on the heels of the Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice fiasco; oddly, one whose narrative is virtually the same as that of the Marvel film.

Both Civil War and Dawn of Justice are about opposing camps of superheroes facing off – for one reason or another – in a battle to the death until a greater threat reveals itself. Batman v Superman was directed – which is to say “stylized” – by Zack Snyder; it’s exactly that, a Zack Snyder film. Which is to say, bloated, bombastic, self-consciously serious, philosophically juvenile, and downright silly.

Captain America: Civil War is directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the brothers behind Captain America: The Winter Soldier and who will helm the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War – Part I and Avengers: Infinity War – Part II. The key difference between Batman v Superman and Civil War is that the brothers Russo are not stylizers, but rather storytelling filmmakers whose work is varied in both format and tone.

From cult films like Welcome to Collinwood (2002), You, Me and Dupree (2006), and even culty-er TV shows like Arrested Development and Community, the Russos are journeyman filmmakers with no personal agenda in their efforts other than to make a really entertaining movie. That makes sense – and it’s good.

That’s what they have done with Captain America: Civil War. It’s good enough to make me forget that Prince had died – even if only for 2 hours and 27 minutes.

Submission to authority? Tony Stark vs. Steve Rogers

Civil War opens with an action sequence. A combination of Avengers that includes the Capt. (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), and Natasha (Scarlett Johansson), among others, but notably not the Hulk, who is not in this movie. The mission goes badly, thus increasing pressure on the Avengers to come under some sort of authority. On the heels of events in New York, Washington, D.C., and the fictional land of Sokovia, nations have come to wonder if these superheroes are worth all the mayhem their protection provides.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is shaken by an encounter with the mother of a young man who was killed during one of his heroics in a scene similar to one in Batman v Superman – but done better here. Long story short, Tony wants to submit to an authority that the league of nations has endorsed. Captain America does not. Avengers align.

Meanwhile, a darker plan unfolds, none of which will be revealed here.

Fanboys hate spoilers, but I wonder if the irony in the framing of Civil War will go unnoticed by the superhero movie fans who will make this movie a worldwide box office hit. I wonder if they will get that billionaire Tony Stark, an Ayn Rand archetype of a self-made man, would not be inclined to have his individual authority usurped; while Captain America, a soldier, by default a member of and subject to the authority of government, would never refuse what is effectively a direct order from his superiors, the elected officials of the American government. Which is the point of being a Captain – a dutiful soldier.

I wonder.

In any case, Civil War, though technically a Captain America sequel, is really a Marvel Universe sequel that uses this clash of heroes to introduce new characters, including Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa (a.k.a. the Black Panther), king of the fictional land Wakanda; and to reintroduce Spider-Man (Tom Holland), along with a new take on Aunt May, who is played by the age appropriate and incredibly hot Marisa Tomei. Yep, Aunt May is hot.

In addition to a few other characters, who round out the fight on both sides. Yet in the end it all comes down to a showdown between Tony and Steve, and let’s face it, they never liked each other anyway.

The fact that Captain America: Civil War is this good is surprising. There have been several of these films of late and their relative entertainment value has been hit-and-miss for all but the most staunch Comic-Con-type fans. Guardians of the Galaxy and Deadpool were good, the previously mentioned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and a couple of those Iron Man films I could have done without.

I don’t need any more Thor films, either. Not to mention any number of Marvel and DC TV series, from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Agent Carter, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil to Gotham, The Flash, and Supergirl – each vying for their own galaxy in the Marvel and DC universes.

So, chances are that for me to consider Captain America: Civil War a good movie – good enough to make me forget Prince had just died – it must be pretty good indeed.

Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016).
Dir.: Joe and Anthony Russo.
Scr.: Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. From the comic book by Mark Millar, and characters created by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.
Cast: Chris Evans. Robert Downey Jr. Tom Holland. Scarlett Johansson. Sebastian Stan. Jeremy Renner. Daniel Brühl. Chadwick Boseman. Paul Rudd. Marisa Tomei. Anthony Mackie.Elizabeth Olsen. Don Cheadle. Paul Bettany. Emily VanCamp. Frank Grillo. William Hurt. Martin Freeman. John Slattery. Hope Davis. Alfre Woodard.