Time travel films of varying quality (#SFWApro)

TIMEMASTER (1995) is a kid’s film in which ET Pat Morita recruits an Earth boy to fight against Morita’s own people, an alien race manipulating human history for their amusement as well as using us in gladiatorial contests (including the boy’s parents Duncan Regehrt and Joanne Pacula). And now the evil leader of the entertainment, Michael Dorn, has decided an all-out nuclear war in 2006 would be such a kick … can the kid stop him? The good ideas are drained by some poor execution, such as a prolonged and uninteresting Old West sequence (and apparently the writers thought the 1800s didn’t even know what “fever” was), and a weak lead (the kid is the director’s son) counterbalances the talents of Dorn, Morita and Michelle Williams. “You are nothing to them but a chess piece.”

TIMEQUEST (2000) has time traveler Ralph Waite visiting JFK on the morning of Nov. 22, 1963 to avert the assassination (which it’s strongly implied was a CIA conspiracy), thereby leading to a future where JFK pulls us out of Vietnam, ends the Cold War and brings the Reds in on the exploration of space, while Bobby worries that history changing could be used to hurt the Kennedies instead of helping them. This isn’t bad, but I don’t feel like it’s as good as it could be—the acting is so-so and the multiple story strands drag it down: the Time Traveler’s back story isn’t that interesting, and the minor arc of Bruce Campbell making a movie about JFK’s adultery never goes anywhere. The future is also a little too shiny for me, and omits any discussion of Civil Rights (I’m guessing the creators couldn’t convince themselves JFK would do anything but punt on that, and didn’t want to say so). Larry Drake plays J. Edgar Hoover. “Next up, noted scholar William Jefferson Clinton, author of the sexy new bestseller A Kiss is Not a Kiss.”

affiche-tempting-fate-1998-1TEMPTING FATE (1998) has Tate Donovan and Abraham Ben-Rubi explore a parallel world where they can finally live the lives they want—Donovan gets his Lost Love, bankrupt Ben-Rubi gets to start over debt-free—only to discover the inevitable darker side of this seemingly kinder, gentler world. This is watchable enough but the mix of cultural and personal What Ifs didn’t work for me—if the world is this different under the surface, what are the odds the leads’ social circles would all be the same? Agents of SHIELD‘s Ming-Wa plays a firebrand trapped with the guys in the alt.world. All rights to image with current holder. “You’re wearing your guilt.”

TERMINATRIX (1995) is proof that a bad film can be fruitful field for analysis—suffice to say the T-69 female cyborg in this soft-core Terminator knockoff plans to prevent the birth of the future’s resistance leader by using vagina dentata to render her father impotent, and gets killed by thrusting an electric dildo into her private parts. Unfortunately that probably makes this Japanese film sound way more interesting than it is. “The future of humanity depends on your penis!”

THE NAVIGATOR: A Medieval Odyssey (1988) has a group of 14th-century peasants digging their way into modern-day New Zealand, where they believe putting a cross on a church steeple will save their village from plague. Which all turns out to be a child’s dream/vision, but as I include It Was a Dream stories, it’s still one for the book. This does a good job playing the anachronistic confusion of The Visitors for shocks rather than laughs, but I still don’t find it as impressive as many people do. “We didn’t leave you in that roadway—you were under it.”

THE ADVENTURES OF TIMOTHY PILGRIM is a 1970s Canadian TV series in which the eponymous homeless orphan (which is played as a kind of happy-go-lucky way to live) is magically taken back in time, befriends a patent-medicine shill and then brings him back to the present. The subsequent adventures are blandly amiable, at best. “From now on I’ll never accuse anyone unless I’m sure.”

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Filed under Movies, Now and Then We Time Travel, TV

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