A couple of years ago I would have ignored Netflix’s ARQ (2016) but I couldn’t pass up a time-travel film, even one I correctly guessed would be mediocre. The story of a post-apocalypse scientist defending his lab from looters may have been inspired by Edge of Tomorrow (stock SF premise hybridized with a time loop) but in practice its as thuddingly repetitious as Retroactive. I give them a point for the ending having a couple of twists, but it’s not worth sitting through to that point. “Why doesn’t the data also reset?”And I’ve also started watching the CW’s Frequency and NBC’s Timeless, but I’ll give them a few episodes before I review them. Though it confirms my view that movies and TV do better emphasizing personal story over the actual time travel that Frequency had the stronger start.
Moving on to films without time travel, THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) are respectively Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef and Eli Wallach as competing outlaws seeking a fortune in buried Confederate gold (Eastwood being “good” only by comparison). But of course the McGuffin is irrelevant and the plot is almost the same as the real matter is the set pieces and dramatic moments such as the two minute climax where the trio simply stand and glare at each other without being boring for even a second (though TYG was less than impressed). Still, I think of Eastwood’s Man With No Name trilogy, Fistful of Dollars remains my favorite. “There are two kinds of people in this world, my friend—those with loaded guns and those who dig.”
I don’t know why Woody Allen set so many of his 21st century films in England, but YOU WILL MEET A TALL DARK STRANGER (2010) is one such, with a cast including frustrated author Josh Brolin, randy senior Anthony Hopkins, womanizing gallery owner Antonio Banderas, lonely divorcee Gemma Watson and put-upon daughter Naomi Watts struggling to attain happiness by love, adultery, plagiarism or Tarot readings only to have their hopes come to naught; unlike Crimes and Misdemeanors, the message isn’t that bad guys win out but that the game is so rigged, only the completely delusional can end up happy. Jokes about the noirish injustice of life go back to Allen’s early sketch-comic films, but he can’t make it work in drama, plus the characters are too unsympathetic for me to care much about them. “You will write another successful book but it may be in another incarnation.”
THE CHAMPIONS was a 1960s TV series from Britain in which three agents for Nemesis, an international security agency, are on a mission in Tibet (trying to block a Red Chinese bio-warfare project) when they’re granted fantastic power by a lost Tibetan city of mystics. Cliched though that is, the premise for the trio’s gifts is good (there’s one person in any field who exceeds everyone else—now the protagonists are at that level in everything) and as Commander Benson says, their heightened strength and abilities are handled very matter-of-factly (as opposed to the Intense Stare and Dramatic Lightning so many characters in 1970s SF shows would employ at the crucial moments). Unfortunately while a few episodes are very good (e.g. The Interrogation, in which a Nemesis official tries to learn the secret of the trio’s uncanny string of successes) most of them are recycled from every other international-intrigue show of the day. A shame, with better scripts this could have been awesome (I haven’t finished all the episodes, but as I don’t know when or if I’ll bother, I figured I’d post now).