04 October 2006

when you think as I do

Malcolm McDowell and David Warner have similar voices. Well, if they try, they have similar voices: sneering, British, "I'm-smarter-than-you" voices. And, really, either one of them makes for a decent villain.

Time After Time - Jack the Ripper (David Warner) is back to continue his ghastly reign of terror; this time, he's found his way to the late 1970s, intent on taking care of unfinished business. H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) uses a time machine to pursue Jack into the future, where he meets Amy (Mary Steenburgen), a bank clerk who teaches Wells about life in the '70s while helping him hunt for Jack.

At the beginning of watching this, I'd forgotten who was going to be who; and the film opens on the Ripper murdering some prostitute (you know, like he does), but never showing his face. We do, however, hear his voice--which I mistakenly believed was McDowell, for all of three minutes until the scene changed to Wells' sitting room where other actors were clearly addressing McDowell as Herbert. Then Warner enters and everyone is calling him Stevenson (and I thought for a moment that they were going to have him be Robert Louis Stevenson so they could pull in the whole Jekyll and Hyde thing to have that be the reason why he's a crazy murderer--even though Wells and Stevenson weren't really contemporaries, since Stevenson was a Scottish Neoromantic and Wells was a younger London sci-fi man--but, anyway, no, his name is John "Jack the Ripper" Stevenson and there's no connection like that at all).

The movie is fun and weird and strangely frank about things you might not expect them to be as frank about with a PG rating. And poor H.G. has ideas about society being some kind of utopia in 1979 (hopes which are mercilessly dashed within a few moments of his arrival in, yes, his time machine).

I forget about the things people did and didn't have in 1979 (wasn't there, was I?)--the non-biodegradable McDonald's containers (yes, Wells visits McDeath), electric tooth-brushes, etc. What they most certainly didn't have was CGI technology. The special effects are typical to the time right before the entrance of CGI, but the cameras are better, so things even out. It's not all the greatest, but we suspend our disbelief, and it works itself out.

Strangely enough, even with the memory of "Alex" in my mind, Malcolm is adorable when he's so hapless and helpless; it's not a faithful portrayal of H.G. Wells, per se, but it's a portrayal that fits the story extremely well. He's a good actor and it's a pity he was type-cast to the villain, though I'm sure it's paid the bills all around. The DVD has a few special features--the writer/director and McDowell comment on the film, and there's a text section entitled "It's About Time" that runs through a fairly good list of the time-travel genre from books to movies.

The message? Screw time paradox and the importance of not tampering with the time-line. Also, screw that useless career. If you fall in love with a time-traveling sci-fi author, just go with it--and him/her back to his/her time, regardless of your inability to deal with the very real social aspects of this situation or the possible diseases with which your body won't be able to deal without the benefits of modern medicine. This is romantic sci-fi, after all, not reality (see: Kate & Leopold). ***1/2

I'm expecting The United States of Leland and the first disc of Angel Season Five today. But more than that!

All new tonight at 9, only on ABC:

Lost - "A Tale of Two Cities" - In the third-season opener, Jack, Kate and Sawyer begin to discover what they are up against as prisoners of the Others. Christian Shephard: John Terry. Sarah: Julie Bowen. Mr. Friendly: M.C. Gainey. Ethan: William Mapother. Goodwin: Brett Cullen.

I love that Jack's father and Ethan keep showing up, in spite of their being quite dead since Season One.

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