Once again, more time travel films than expected (#SFWApro)

Thermae_Romae_posterWithout question the pick of the week was THERMAE ROMAE (2012), a live-action Japanese comedy in which a Roman architect unable to come up with a good design for a new bath-house gets yanked across time to 21st century Japan. As he jumps back and forth he wins acclaim in the past for introducing new designs for bath houses, saunas for the troops, at-home baths with showers and shower caps (the steampunk approach to some of the tech is really funny) while being haunted by the fact he’s just (he assumes) ripping off the culture from some enslaved province rather than creating anything himself. (All rights to image reside with current holder) “I mustn’t cry—they mustn’t sense my feelings of defeat!”

COMET (2014) wants to be a quirky comedy about two wounded birds (brainy, obnoxious Justin Long and marginally more together Emmy Rossum) coming together, breaking up, then maybe reuniting, but the story is a cliche and the players aren’t interesting enough to redeem it.  Despite speculating some of this takes place in parallel worlds (“What if it all turned out differently when I walked out?”) that aspect doesn’t have enough substance to even qualify for the appendix. “How was I supposed to tell you what the story’s about without telling you the ending?”

BRIGADOON (1966) was a TV adaptation starring Robert Goulet and Peter Falk as the Dioscuri who wind up in this weirdly old-fashioned village where the girls are pretty (“I can be coaxed.”) but something very strange is going on … Where the Gene Kelly/Cyd Charisse film cut back much of the play to focus on the stars, this keeps much more of the original and the original songs, making it far more entertaining. It also avoids the anti-modern tone, as the reason for the time-travel spell was to keep Brigadoon from being corrupted by the Scots witch hunts, rather than to “save” the village from modern ideas. Well done. “Come to me/bend to me/kiss me good day/Give me your lips/And don’t take them away.”

MINE GAMES (2012) is the third Horror Time Loop Film I’ve seen (following Triangle and Camp Slaughter) and falls in-between them. The story of road-tripping college grads encountering weirdness at an isolated mine (resulting, we eventually learn, from the fall out from previous time loops) isn’t so much bad as just plain dull. It spends way too much time focused on the generic cast and Oooh, Something Weird Is Happening, and it bored me fast. And even compared to the genre norm, there’s no real reason why any of this is happening. “When they lock you in for the second time they have no intention of ever letting you out.”

MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (2001) is a kind of magical realist anime in which an actress retelling her life story to an interviewer actually drags him into her past; while I’d normally ismiss that as a metaphor, the interviewer is shown as clearly present in her life, as well as appearing in her memories of the movies, so I think I’m counting it. As the woman’s narrative includes performances in a Godzilla flick, a Kurasowa-style samurai epic and a WW II propaganda film, I suspect there are in-jokes a Japanese audience would pick up. “Does a sweet-shop matter more than a nation?”

Moving away from time-travel—FREQUENCIES (2013) is an SF romance that posits all human beings have a special vibration that determines their luck and ability in life, so a romance between a high-frequency girl and a low-frequency boy is a hopeless mismatch—right? This was too stiff and stilted to work for me. “My preliminary research indicates the ironic particles are only activated by the brain when we want something.”

SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (2012) has Steve Carrell decide that instead of marking an imminent asteroid collapse by partying down with his friends, he’s going looking for his lost love, which requires a road trip with flaky neighbor Keira Knightly. But wouldn’t you know, even in the End Times, the road trip has the same romantic effect it does in regular movies. This is watchable without being memorable—it needed more zaniness and less romance, I think. “You have a lot of guns and a lot of potato chips.”

 

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