Tag Archive for 'Time Travel'

Doctor Who, Series 2

Doctor Who, Series 2 (9/10/15) Netflix (2005-06 ***1/2) Created by Sydney Newman, starring David Tennant, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and Penelope Wilton as Harriet Jones. 14 episodes, originally aired 12/25/05 – 6/8/06. A time-traveling alien and his companion, Rose Tyler, go about the known universe, and history, getting into trouble and doing their best to sort things out. First off, I understand that David Tennant is considered to be one of the favorite Doctors, but I felt like I had just gotten used to Christopher Eccleston in the role and it took me a few episodes to warm to Tennant, who I felt tended to over-act at the drop of a hat. I’ve heard from a number of people that the “new” Doctor Who series starts out rough but at some point the production values should start to reflect bigger budgets. I found the on-screen “values” to be widely varying over the course of the season, though there’s a general sense that they’re “doing the best they can with what money they’ve got.” I haven’t watched any of the old Tom Baker-era episodes since I was a teenager, but they evidently made an impact on me: There was something about the 4th episode, “The Girl in the Fireplace,” that really, really felt like an episode from the late-1970s. It had this whole “shot in the studio” vibe to it, from beginning to end. I have no idea if that was intentional or not. This second season / series also started digging into the old show in a big way, featuring appearances by K-9, The Daleks, The Cybermen and even Sarah Jane Smith, one of the Doctor’s previous companions. As I explained in my review of the first series, I started watching the show on Netflix while by wife was out of town, not sure if I would really commit to it. But I think I actually may have crossed a certain threshold fan-wise: At some point the Daleks went from being ridiculous tin cans with irritating voices to being mildly scary creatures. Does this make me a “Whovian?”

Doctor Who, Series 1

Doctor Who, Series 1 (8/31/15) Netflix (2005 ***1/4) Series created by Sydney Newman, starring Christopher Eccleston, Billie Piper, Camille Coduri, Noel Clarke and John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness. 13 episodes, originally aired 3/26/05 – 6/18/05. A Time Lord picks up a 19-year-old companion named Rose Tyler and takes her on a whirlwind tour of time and space, leaving a trail of dead bodies in the wake of his TARDIS. Even though my wife and I had watched the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood in its entirety, I had deliberately put off watching the parent show. But with my wife out of town on her long European holiday and having run low on things to watch, I figured: “Now’s the time.” I had heard from various friends that the “new” Doctor Who reboot (which is ten years old now) starts out very cheesy before settling into something more serious. Consequently I wasn’t entirely surprised by the flatulent extraterrestrial Slitheen family and things of that nature. I also had a memory from my teenage years of watching a handful of Tom Baker episodes of the old show, and, from what I could tell, the new incarnation had a great deal in common with it. I can see the appeal of the show. But am I down with watching another seven seasons? I don’t know. On another note: Sometimes I’m embarrassed by my inability to make even the simplest of connections, but I didn’t realize until after watching most the first season that Billie Piper (who plays Rose) also recently played Frankenstein’s third creation Lily in Penny Dreadful.

Interstellar

Interstellar (7/29/15) Norwegian Airlines: OSL -> LAX (2014 ***1/4) Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, John Lithgow, Matt Damon and Michael Caine. On a planet seemingly set on the hostile rejection of its human inhabitants, mankind’s only hope may exist on the other side of a conveniently-placed wormhole. While I avoided spoilers, I had heard mixed things about this movie. In particular I’d heard things like “I liked the first half.” or “I enjoyed it up to a certain point…” This film is what would be considered for the silver screen as hard-core science fiction. One of the fundamental things it asks of its audience is an understanding of relativistic physics and what that means in terms of time passage at different frames of reference. Put simply, you must accept the ramifications of spending too much time around black holes. While I refrain from being specific enough to give anything away, I will say the film contains a sequence that — while I understood what was happening — was just abstract enough that it nearly lost me as an audience member. However, I will ultimately judge Interstellar by how it affected me emotionally, and I did find it to be emotionally satisfying overall.

Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland (6/22/15) DWA Screening (2015 ***) Directed by Brad Bird, starring George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie and Raffey Cassidy as Athena. A teenage girl discovers a lapel pin that gives her a glimpse of a Utopian futuristic world. By now the verdict on Tomorrowland is already in: It’s a dud, both critically and at the box office. This is unfortunate, especially since Brad Bird (Iron Giant, The Incredibles) is such a beloved figure. And while we may never get to see his San Francisco earthquake film 1902, he had proven his ability to helm a big-budget action film with Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol (2011). For me, Tomorrowland started strong, with a good first act and the first half of the second, but then at the midpoint its fuse fizzled out and it ended weakly. I loved the message: That there was a time not so long ago when the future was seen as an amazing place, filled with wonders limited only by the imagination. On an intellectual level, I appreciated the elegance of pitting Utopian versus dystopian versions of the future against each other. Unfortunately, for Tomorrowland, that conflict was presented almost too literally, and what action there was in the film’s climax didn’t feel especially meaningful.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/1/15) HBO (2014 ***1/2) Directed by Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen and Peter Dinklage as Dr. Bolivar Trask. Wolverine’s gotta get “back in time” to rewrite history and save both humankind and his fellow mutants from a dystopian future where the main economic driving force is enslavement. This film (which I watched for the second time) was really a treat for fans of The X-Men. Not only was it great to have Bryan Singer back in the director’s chair, it was also terrific fun to see the old and new X-Men “collide,” continuing the worlds from X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and X-Men: First Class (2011). In addition to that, I very much enjoyed the 1970s-era setting for the film, and Peter Dinklage (whose star power has risen thanks to Game of Thrones) was a creative choice to play Dr. Bolivar Trask.

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge of Tomorrow (2/18/15) HBO (2014 ***1/4) Directed by Doug Limon, based on the novel All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, starring Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt and Bill Paxton. An American Army Major in London fighting an alien invasion gets the ability to reset time by dying. I kind of get why this F/X-heavy (and I mean wall-to-wall F/X) film with a budget of $178 million only made $100 million domestic. Clearly Tom Cruise no longer has the star power he once did, though he was quite good. The main problem was that the film’s complicated plot was not for the faint of heart. Hell, I barely understood it, and had a teensy bit of trouble with the idea that getting splattered with alien blood would give you the ability to master time. But enough about box office performance speculation. I very much enjoyed the film and enjoyed Cruise in it. And there was something fun about the Groundhog Day (1993) meets Starship Troopers (1997) plot. Is it for everybody? Probably not, but if you’re a fan of machine guns, alien guts and smirking A-holes getting their comeuppance, this is the movie for you.

The Philadelphia Experiment II

The Philadelphia Experiment II (2/6/15) Movieplex (1993 **1/2) Directed by Stephen Cornwell, starring Brad Johnson, Gerrit Graham, James Greene and Marjean Holden. A mad scientist attempts to recreate the 1943 experiment that sent David Herdeg into the future, resulting in a dystopian alternate universe in which the Nazis won World War II. I don’t have definitive proof, but I would bet money that this sequel’s production was motivated in large part by the success of Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future trilogy, which was released in 1985, 1989 and 1990. Certainly TPE II wasn’t nearly as good as any of the BTTF films, and while its story was based on time travel resulting in a parallel universe, it didn’t play with time travel concepts all that much. I will say one thing, though: the F/X were vastly superior to the 1984 original, which were, as I pointed out in my review from (1/9/14), pretty laughable.

Torchwood, Season 2

Torchwood, Season 2 (8/19/14) Netflix (2008 ***1/2) Created by Russell T. Davies, starring John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Kai Owen, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori. 13 episodes, originally aired 1/26/08 – 4/4/08. Captain Jack Harkness and his band of time-traveling alien hunters take on whatever the Cardiff, Wales dimensional rift dishes out. In the second regular season of Torchwood, we’re introduced to the flamboyant Captain John Hart (played by James Marsters), who appears in the season’s bookend episodes. Other highlights of the season included: a WWI soldier who’s awakened every year on the same day, an alien the size of a warehouse, another alien with the ability to implant false memories, a visit by Doctor Who alum Martha Jones, a second Resurrection Glove (They come in pairs, you know), an alien pregnancy, and a major physiological shift for one of the Torchwood team. As I watched the second season, one thing that consistently impressed me was the quality of the ideas for the individual episodes, which seemed particularly inventive and often thought-provoking.

Torchwood, Season 1

Torchwood, Season 1 (8/9/14) Netflix (2006-2007 ***1/4) Created by Russell T. Davies, starring John Barrowman, Eve Myles, Kai Owen, Gareth David-Lloyd, Burn Gorman and Naoko Mori. 13 episodes, originally aired 10/22/06 – 1/1/07. Cardiff, Wales Policewoman Gwen Cooper joins Captain Jack Harkness and his merry band of double top secret dimensional rift cleaner-uppers. I’ve been meaning to give this series a watch for a long time and finally got around to it. I knew about it primarily through friends who were into the show enough to travel to Cardiff, Wales and shoot a video of a walking tour of Torchwood locations. As for the show itself: The first season started off cheesy, belying its anagram-erific parent series Doctor Who, then settled into a more consistently serious tone. Highlights of the season included a life-giving gauntlet, a sex-addicted alien, the secret of Ianto’s girlfriend, the return of a recently-deceased Torchwood member, a ghost with an alien’s eye, three visitors from 1953, a trip back to 1941 and a less-than-cordial visit from Abaddon, the Great Devourer. Though I don’t consider myself to be a superfan, I can see why the show developed a following. In addition to its tongue-in-cheek sci-fi premise, the show also contained an interesting subtext: Over the course of the first season, all the members of Torchwood exhibit — at one point or another — varying degrees of bisexuality.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men: Days of Future Past (5/25/14) Glendale Pacific 18 (2014 ****) Directed by Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence and Peter Dinklage. To prevent a Terminator-like extinction of mutants, Wolverine must travel back in time fifty years to shaggadelic 1973, baby! Back in 1981, a young teenage boy living in Omaha, Nebraska bought Uncanny X-Men issues #141-142, which was written by Chris Claremont and illustrated by John Byrne and Terry Austin, the two-issue story on which this movie was based. There’s some small irony in the fact that the dystopian future in the comics was 2013, last year. Given the number of well-known actors involved, making this film must have been a major juggling act, requiring lots of creative scheduling. It could be compared to Star Trek: Generations, in that it linked two different “generations” of The X-Men, though in the case of Days of Future Past, the banner was not passed forward so much as passed back. Regardless of the production history, I loved this film, all the more surprising because I had such high expectations for it. Hugh Jackman’s (technically) seventh appearance as Wolverine was the lynchpin of the story, and it was nice to see a callback to his brief cameo in X-Men: First Class (2011). It would have been a terrific storyline anyway, but the addition of the well-executed period fashions and production design just added to my enjoyment. In spite of the current controversy involving Bryan Singer, I still owe him a debt of gratitude for making the first X-Men movie in 2000. In my opinion, it was the first superhero movie that “got it right,” by just translating the comic book characters directly and assuming the audience was intelligent enough to follow along.