Although I’ve been disappointed in Woody Allen’s early 1990s films, MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (2011) shows he hasn’t lost his touch. it doesn’t hurt that Owen Wilson is one of Allen’s best surrogates (he’s clearly in the role Allen would have taken 20 years earlier). During a visit to Paris with his overbearing fiancee Rachel McAdams, Wilson finds himself stumbling into the 1920s, where he gets literary criticism from Gertrude Stein (Kathy Bates), drinks with F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tom Hiddleston) and falls for sexy actress Marion Cotillard who laughs at the idea the 1920s are a golden age compared to the Belle Epoque of the 1890s. A charming film that’s as much a love song to Paris (we get three minutes of Parisian scenery before the title credits) as Manhattan was to the Big Apple, also very much a classic fantasy of living in the past—getting to hang with great artists is the equivalent of imagining we’d be dining with aristocrats rather than the serfs. Nevertheless, Allen avoids the delusion Everything Was Better Back Then, and he gets extra point for not using Cotillard’s Exact Present Day Double to provide a happy ending. “That’s what the present is—it’s a little unsatisfying because life’s a little unsatisfying.
LOOPER (2012) is the story of how hit-man Joseph Gordon-Levitt finds himself in hot water with boss Jeff Bridges for failing to “close the loop” on his future self Bruce Willis, who’s determined to go Terminator and wipe out the crimelord who will murder his wife 30 years down the road. Even buying the premise this is the best way to eliminate inconvenient people, there’s no question it has plot-holes galore; that said, I found it more fun than 12 Monkeys or Donnie Darko. With Emily Blunt in a supporting role “Why don’t you do what old men, do—and die?”
TIME WARP TRIO was a 2005 TV series based on the children’s books about a boy who gets a history book for a birthday present, then discovers it can magically transport him and his best friends to the past; the book being a family heirloom, it turns out the trio’s female descendants in the future are a corresponding trio of adventurers. This has a lot of humor (“We don’t actually make people walk the plank, but after you boys mentioned it we thought we’d try it.”) but didn’t click with me the way say, Mr. Peabody and Sherman do (obviously I’m not the target audience of course). “It wasn’t such a bad place if you like fatty strips of roasted seal meat.”