Archive for the Time Travel Category

LOOPER (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, LL Soares Reviews, Science Fiction, Suspense, The Future, The Mob, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by knifefighter

By L.L. Soares

(SCENE 1: Somewhere in the future. L.L. SOARES has a bag over his head and jumps into a weird pod-like machine. He’s out of breath from escaping from a bunch of thugs and pulls the sack off his head just as the machine activates and sends him hurtling through time…)

(SCENE 2: MICHAEL ARRUDA stands in the middle of a field, holding a large gun. In front of him is a tarp spread out on the ground. He looks at his pocket watch to confirm the time)

(Suddenly, LS appears on the tarp. MA lifts his gun, then stops)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but it’s L.L.

MA: I don’t understand. I was supposed to shoot whoever came back from the future…

LS: Well, you can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be any more Cinema Knife Fight column. Right?

MA (hesitates): I guess so. But I have my orders.

LS: Screw your orders. (he gets up and walks toward MA). I’m here to review the new movie LOOPER, have you seen it yet?

MA: No, I haven’t. Did you come from the future to tell me about it?

LS: Yes, exactly. (points to his gun) So we’re cool, right?

MA: Yeah (puts down the gun)

LS: Sucker! (pulls out a gun from his waistband and plugs MA)

(As LS laughs, we go back to the future, where LS enters a pod, out of breath, and pulls that sack off his head again. The machine activates, and we spiral down a corridor of time)

LS: Uh oh. I think I got trapped in a time warp this time. My karma has finally caught up with me.

(Looks at audience)

Well, looks like I’ve got some time on my hands. Might as well do that LOOPER review I mentioned earlier.

LOOPER a clever science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. I actually wasn’t all that excited about it going in. It looked like just another gimmicky sci-fi film, and I felt like I’d seen the whole story based on the trailer. But thankfully, I was wrong. For once, I was surprised and LOOPER was much better than I expected.

The story is told from the point of view of Joe (Gordon-Levitt) who explains that he is a Looper. In the future (30 years from now, to be specific), time travel is illegal, but it’s used by organized crime. Also, due to various tagging methods, it is also near impossible to get rid of a body after killing someone in the future. So the gangsters of the future use time travel to kill two birds with one stone. They’ve sent an emissary to our time named Abe (Jeff Daniels) to set things up. He recruits people to be assassins called Loopers. Victims from the future are sent back in time, the Loopers shoot them and then dispose of the bodies. And it seems to be a very effective way to get rid of unwanted people.

Except every once in a while someone finds that the person they’ve been hired to kill is him or herself, sent from the future to “close the loop.” It’s then that they’re given a big payday and forced to retire, knowing that in 30 years, they’re going to die.

Get it?

Joe’s doing quite well. He’s got money, girls and lots of some weird drug he applies with eyedrops and that keeps him happy. Then one day he goes out in the abandoned field where he kills his victims, and comes face to face with an older version of himself, who he calls Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe isn’t bound and his head isn’t covered, like most of the victims. He is able to keep from getting shot—since he knows what his younger self is going to do—and cold cocks Joe. When Joe wakes up, Old Joe is long gone and he’s in a world of trouble with his bosses. If he doesn’t track Old Joe down and get rid of him, all hell is going to break loose. But Joe’s superiors are going to think he let his older self go on purpose (some guys just can’t bring themselves to kill their older selves when faced with the prospect), so he’s going to have elude them, too, while he tries to set things straight.

Oh yeah, there’s another subplot in the mix. Aside from Loopers, there’s also a group of evolved people called TKs (as in telekinetics). Most of them can’t do much more than float quarters with their minds, but there’s some guy in the future called the Rainmaker, who can do a lot more than that, and he’s taking over the crime gangs. Which is why so many loopers lately have been coming face to face with their older selves and being forced to close the loop.

That’s the background stuff. But LOOPER is so much more than just a concept. It’s about characters – characters who are pretty well fleshed out for a big budget gimmicky science fiction movie with an A-list cast. This isn’t your average futuristic crime movie. LOOPER is smart, well-written, and well acted.

Aside from Gordon-Levitt (who just seems to get better and better in each movie I see him in) and Willis (people in the audience were actually cheering during any scene where Willis got ahold of a gun), there’s also Emily Blunt as a woman who takes the wounded Joe in after he’s ambushed by his fellow loopers. Her name is Sara and she takes care of a little boy named Cid, who is a lot more important to the story than he first seems. Blunt is excellent here, and Pierce Gagnon is really good as little Cid, who seems smart and inquisitive sometimes and other times is just plain scary.

The rest of the cast is solid and includes Paul Dano, Piper Perabo and the always reliable Jeff Daniels (as I mentioned before).

The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson  Johnson also made the very interesting “high school noir” flick BRICK (2005), also starring Gordon-Levitt (and it’s so odd, it’s worth checking out), and directed episodes of AMC’s BREAKING BAD and the short-lived FX series TERRIERS. He’s made a compelling little movie with LOOPER and I think he’s going to be someone worth watching in the future.

Because one of the stars is Bruce Willis, and it involves his character being sent here from the future, I guess comparisons to Terry Gilliam’s TWLEVE MONKEYS (1995) are unavoidable, but the stories are very different. They do, however, share the fact that they’re above-average for Hollywood sci-fi films.

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was smart and riveting throughout, and it even had a dark humor to it at times. I thought Gordon-Levitt and Willis were terrific here (there’s even one scene where Willis grabs a gun and goes on a rampage in the bad guys’ lair that reminded me a lot of Chan-wook Park’s OLDBOY, 2003).

I give LOOPER, four knives.

(LS is still spinning through time, when he suddenly lands on top of that tarp, in the middle of a field again. MICHAEL ARRUDA stands before him, aiming a gun)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but don’t shoot. It’s L.L.

MA: I feel like we’ve done this before.

LS: Put the gun down. You can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be a Cinema Knife Fight column anymore.

MA (hesitates): Why do I have such a hard time trusting you?

(CLOSE-UP of LS’s eyes, pleading)


© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives LOOPER  ~FOUR knives (out of five).


Cinema Knife Fight Coming Attractions for SEPTEMBER 2012

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Based on a Video Game, Based on Comic Book, Based on TV Show, Coming Attractions, Science Fiction, The Future, Time Travel with tags , , , , , on September 7, 2012 by knifefighter

by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(The Scene:  A carnival.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are standing in front of various trick mirrors that make them look incredibly short, amazingly tall, exceedingly fat, and with humongous oversized heads.)

LS:  So, what’s with all the trick mirrors?  (looks at his reflection which gives him a huge head.)  Are you trying to tell me I have a big ego or something?

MA:  Too obvious.  No, these mirrors symbolize this September’s movies.

LS:  How do you figure?

MA: Well, there seems to be a lot of deceit and trickery in this month’s movies, so I thought this carnival would be the perfect setting to have us tell the folks what we’ll be reviewing in September.

LS:  Really?  Well, there’s no trickery in the month’s first offering, THE IN-BETWEENERS, which opens on September 7.  At least I don’t think so. It’s based on a British TV show, and is about four nerdy kids who will do anything to have sex while on vacation. It looks like it will try to push the envelope like the HANGOVER movies. I can’t really tell if it will be funny or just plain embarrassing. The teen protagonists look incredibly annoying.

MA:  I like British humor, and I’m looking forward to this one.  I’m just not sure how wide a release this one is getting, and so it may not be playing at a theater near me.

If this proves to be the case, I will most likely review something else, as there are a couple of other movies opening this weekend.

There’s THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY, a new thriller starring Henry Cavill, the star of IMMORTALS (2011) and the next Superman in next year’s MAN OF STEEL, as a young man whose family is kidnapped while they’re on vacation, and he learns that his father (Bruce Willis) works for the CIA.  It doesn’t sound all that exciting to me, mostly because it doesn’t seem all that original.

The one thing that I am looking forward to regarding this one is that Sigourney Weaver is playing the villain, so that might be worth something.

It also has a pretty bad title.

The other film of interest that opens this weekend is the science fiction thriller BRANDED (2012), another conspiracy story, this one about a futuristic society in which people are deliberately brainwashed by product ads by an evil corporation, and one man’s attempts to buck the system and fight back.  This one stars Max Von Sydow as the baddie.  Could be good.  Could be unoriginal and uninspiring.

LS: I remember seeing the trailer for that awhile back. Once again, a movie that might be in limited release. I think I’d rather see BRANDED over THE IN-BETWEENERS. But I guess it’s possible we might see neither the weekend of September 7th. I’m getting sick of movies only being in limited release. So it may be a surprise which ones we end up reviewing this weekend.

I wonder how many movies we’ve announced in COMING ATTRACTIONS that we said we were going to review, but never did because the movies never played anywhere near us.

MA: I’d say quite a few.  It’s a pain.

On September 14, we’ll be reviewing the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie, RESIDENT EVIL:  RETRIBUTION (2012).  And it’s in 3D.  Oh joy!

While I like the RESIDENT EVIL movies, I’m hardly excited by them.  Why?  I find their stories to be a bit of a bore.  For instance, in this one, what do we have?  We have Alice (Milla Jovovich) once again fighting the evil Umbrella Corporation.  Ho hum.

Granted, Jovovich is very good in these movies, and she’s the main reason I like them, but she can only carry them so far.  The trailer for this one makes it seem like a rip-off of TOTAL RECALL as it goes on about everything she ever knew in her life being fake, an implanted memory, blah blah blah.

It’s written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson.  This is the third RESIDENT EVIL movie he’s directed, and he’s written all five of them.

LS:  I remember liking the last one okay. That was in 3D, too. But it ended in such a blatantly obvious way—right in the middle of the story—that you knew a sequel was already in the works. Talk about flogging a dead horse. End this damn series already! It’s starting to get tedious. Even if I agree about Jovovich—she’s the only reason to see any of these movies—I really don’t understand why anyone continues to go see them.

MA:  On September 21, I’ll be reviewing DREDD (2012) solo, since L.L. will have that weekend off.  I can’t say that I’m looking forward to this one either, but it’s an action movie based on the comics’ character, so there’s hope for it I guess.  And not to be outdone by RESIDENT EVIL, it’s also coming to us in 3D!

It stars Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, and I have to admit I’ve enjoyed this guy’s performances in recent years.  He was excellent as Dr. McCoy in the J.J. Abrams reboot of STAR TREK (2009), and he was the only good thing in the awful horror movie PRIEST (2011) as he played the villain Black Hat.  So, if he’s allowed to act and not just be a special effect in one fight scene after another, this one just could be good after all.

LS:  I actually want to see DREDD, since the character (who originated in British comic book 2000 AD) is pretty cool. Unlike that lame Sylvester Stallone movie from the 80s. I bet you the new movie is a big improvement, if they stick to the source material. Maybe I’ll see it afterwards and provide a follow-up review to yours, if it’s worth seeing.

And then, on September 28, I’ll be reviewing LOOPER solo as it’s Michael’s turn to have the weekend off.  This one could be interesting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hit man who kills people for the future who are sent back in time for elimination. But what happens when the guy he’s supposed to kill is an older version himself? With Bruce Willis as Levitt’s older self. This might be one time travel flick worth seeing. I hope.

MA:  As much as I like time travel stories, based on the previews, this one doesn’t excite me, so I’m not unhappy I’ll be missing it.  I do enjoy Bruce Willis though, who seems to be popping up in a new movie every couple of weeks these days!  So maybe— maybe I’ll see this one afterwards and then write my own follow-up review to yours.

LS:  Copycat!

MA:  So, that wraps things up for the month of September.  Sadly, none of the movies this month do much for me.

LS:  Yeah, it’s sounds like a mediocre month at the movies.

MA:  Personally, I could be just as entertained by these goofy carnival mirrors.  And I wouldn’t have to pay extra for 3D glasses!

LS:  That’s just like you to suggest something boring and then think it’s fun!  What are you going to do?  Sit around here all day and watch people look at themselves in these mirrors?  That’s creepy!

MA:  No, what’s creepy is when someone looks into one of those mirrors and sees something they’re not expecting to see.  Hmm.  That gives me an idea.  (whispers in LS’ ear.)

(CUT TO: Several little kids laughing at their images in the carnival mirrors, but when they get to the fourth mirror, they scream and run away.  Camera reveals the mirror is missing, and in its place, in the center of the empty frame, stands LS in horror make-up with blood dripping from his lips.  Camera pulls back to see MA wearing a top hat and speaking into a megaphone.)

MA:  Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and see the hideous monster in the mirror.  More hideous than Freddy Krueger, scarier than a PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movie, one look and you’ll scream in terror!  (aside to camera) We have to earn a living somehow!


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares


Posted in 2012, 60s Television, Aliens, GIANTS!, Irwin Allen, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Remote Outpost, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2012 by knifefighter

Remote Outpost by Mark Onspaugh

Hello from the Outpost, located on a small planetoid that is actually a dead generation starship which is hurtling out toward the edge of the galaxy… And we’re all out of Poptarts™ and peanut butter……And now back to the science fiction shows of Irwin Allen!

Our third entry from Irwin Allen was my favorite show of his, THE TIME TUNNEL. Ironically, it is also his least successful, lasting only one season from September 9, 1966 to April 7, 1967. The Time Tunnel is a secret government installation under the Arizona desert, code named Project Tic-Toc. The only way inside was via a large secret panel in the desert floor; when it opened, a car could descend into the complex. The Tic-Toc base was a futuristic series of complexes 800 floors deep and employing over 36,000 people (“12 thousand people in each of those complexes”). Its design was inspired by the complex of the Krell in FORBIDDEN PLANET.

In the pilot, a senator tours the facility and concludes it is a waste of money—he is going to shut it down. To prevent this, headstrong young physicist Anthony “Tony” Newman, dressed in slacks and a swingin’ green turtleneck, powers up the giant device all alone and plunges in—and lands on the deck of the Titanic. (Ironic horn sound effect here). Tony tries to convince the Captain that the ship is doomed, and is thrown in the brig.  Dr. Doug Philips is outfitted with a suit from the period and sent after Tony. He is successfully placed on the Titanic, armed with a newspaper that shows the Titanic sank (Remember, the DVD with Leo and Kate hadn’t been invented, yet). The Captain (Michael Rennie of THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 1951) throws the newspaper away, and throws Doug in the brig as well.

Tony and Doug do manage to escape and help evacuate the sinking ship—just when it seems like our heroes will perish, the crack team of scientists at the Time Tunnel pluck them from the icy waters and send them tumbling through psychedelic corridors of time, to land in the next historically-vital time and place. They never land somewhere insignificant or devoid of people; they never run into anyone that doesn’t speak English; and their clothes were always clean and fresh (Doug’s even update to a more modern look). And, since Irwin Allen was at the helm, they run into their share of aliens. Allen  seemed especially fond of spray painting people silver and putting them in a spacesuit or metallic garb – voila, alien!

THE TIME TUNNEL starred James Darren as Tony and Robert Colbert as Doug.  James Darren was a handsome fellow who was in a lot of GIDGET movies before becoming lost in time… He later found himself working as a cop on a series called T.J. HOOKER (1982-1986), opposite some unknown named William Shatner.  Robert Colbert (no relation to Stephen) was a workman-like actor who appeared in films like MACABRE (1958) and guest-starred on about a zillion series.

Back at the lab, always reliable Whit Bissell was Lt. General Heywood Kirk, John Zaremba was Dr. Raymond Swain and the lovely Lee Merriwether was Dr. Ann MacGregor. Whit Bissell is best remembered for turning Michael Landon into a Lettermen-jacketed lycanthrope in I WAS A TEENAGE WEREWOLF (1957), but he was also Dr. Frankenstein in the same year’s I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN —clearly, a bad influence on teens. Whit also appeared in THE TIME MACHINE (1960) and SOYLENT GREEN (1973).  John Zaremba appeared in EARTH VS THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957).  Lee Merriwether was Catwoman in the BATMAN movie of 1966 (she was neither as sexy as Julie Newmar or Eartha Kitt on the subsequent TV series). She, like the others, did a ton of TV, but I seemed to confuse her with Mariette Hartley, who seduced Mr. Spock in “All Our Yesterdays”.  Sorry, Lee.

Dr. Ann was in love with Doug, but tried to hide her feelings—though very skilled at her job, various men usually pushed her out of the way with impatience to “get the job done.” THE TIME TUNNEL relied on the notion that “the past is immutable and cannot be altered,” a notion that most of us geeks deny. Every week, Dick Tufeld (who voiced the Robot in LOST IN SPACE) would intone: “Two American scientists are lost in the swirling maze of past and future ages, during the first experiments of America’s greatest and most secret project, the Time Tunnel. Tony Newman and Doug Phillips now tumble helplessly toward a new fantastic adventure, somewhere along the infinite corridors of time.” Not so infinite, THE TIME TUNNEL only lasted thirty episodes, and the finale put Doug and Tony back on the Titanic… How’s that for a nice one finger salute to the loyal audience?


Irwin Allen’s final excursion into 60s sci-fi was LAND OF THE GIANTS, a series that ran two seasons from September 22, 1968 to March 22, 1970. LAND OF THE GIANTS takes place in the “futuristic” year 1983. Passengers are flying from L.A. to London on the sub-orbital vehicle The Spindrift. The Spindrift passes through a strange cloud and the group crashes on what is either a parallel Earth or an unknown planet in our own solar system (this is never definitively stated and the science is even sloppier than other Allen productions). Anyway, everything on this unknown planet is twelve times larger than our heroes are used to. (If this were a roast on Comedy Central, now would be the time you’d send your kids out of the room.)  Apparently, other Earth ships have crashed here before, and the Giants (as our heroes call them) are on the lookout for “little people.” It seems our technology is ahead of theirs, yet the Giants seemed to have mastered cloning and teleportation… Huh?

Our heroes consisted of Captain Steve Burton, Co-Pilot Dan Erickson, Stewardess Heather Young, surly engineer Mark Wilson, pretty Valerie Ames Scott, young boy Barry Lockridge (and his dog Chipper) and the somewhat mysterious and villainous Commander Fitzhugh (a bank robber on the lam). Allen really tried to appeal to all markets with this one—all the men except Fitzhugh were handsome, Valerie wore low-cut tops and mini-skirts (a bit impractical for jungle life and adventurin’) and the relationship between young Barry and Fitzhugh was pretty much identical to Will and Dr. Smith on LOST IN SPACE.

Gary Conway was Captain Steve, and he was the pimply monster in I WAS A TEENAGE FRANKENSTEIN, mentioned above.  He also appeared in HOW TO MAKE A MONSTER (1958).  Co-Pilot Dan was played by Don Marshall, who was Boma in “The Galileo Seven” on STAR TREK TOS (the officer who mouths off constantly to stoic Mr. Spock) and was a doctor in THE THING WITH TWO HEADS (1972), where the head of rich bigot Ray Milland is sewn onto the already-headed body of death row inmate Rosie Grier – why this never became a sitcom, I don’t know. The rest of the cast had many series credits, as actors in Irwin Allen series tend to do, but I would be remiss to all my knife-fightin’ pals if I did not give you a most amazing credit for actress Deanna Lund, who played pretty Valerie Ames Scott.  In 1989 Lund would have a role in the movie ELVES, which has this synopsis on IMDB:

“A young woman discovers that she is the focus of an evil Nazi experiment involving selective breeding and summoned elves, an attempt to create a race of supermen. She and two of her friends are trapped in a department store with an elf, and only Dan Haggerty, as the renegade loose-cannon Santa Claus, can save them.”  Wow.  And again, wow.

(NOTE: By the way, they apparently took a lot of “cheesecake” photos of Deanna Lund with a model of the ship, but nothing of the men—sorry, girls! As far as I can tell—ah, the pains of research—they didn’t do this for any of Irwin Allen’s other shows…)

Beyond the premise that the planet was filled with super-sized people, pets, appliances and breakfast foods, the writers didn’t delve very deeply in the culture, history or politics of the place. The society of the Giants was totalitarian but not very oppressive or militaristic, and most episodes concerned the castaways trying to get home, someone getting caught that had to be rescued, or the Captain preventing them all getting home because the method in question would also allow the Giants access to our world.

The budget per episode was $250,000, which was a record at the time. John “Johnny” Williams wrote the score, which I think may be his worst work—it’s not at all memorable (I could recall the other themes without playing them). The show was cancelled after 51 episodes, and ended without a cliffhanger or the castaways returning home. Despite the presence of Deanna Lund, I grew bored with the series and after just two or three episodes I looked for better fare… I’m sure you did, too. (Looking at the schedule for Sunday nights in 1968, I probably just waited for The FBI, followed by The Smothers Brothers…)

Outpost… out.


(Static… garbled swearing… feedback) Just a second! Before we lose contact again, I wanted to comment on a modern-day series, AWAKE, the Jason Isaacs series that was cancelled after one season.

(SPOILER ALERT) As you know, the series concerned a police detective who survived a terrible car accident and lives two realities—in one, his wife survived and his son died. In the other, his wife is gone and his son lived.  He goes to sleep in one reality and wakes up in the other. He has a different partner in each, and a different therapist, each trying to tell him the other world is but a dream.  Often, insights gained in one help him with a different case in the other.  I loved this show—it was creative, well-written and had some wonderful actors.  My wife (the lovely Tobey Crockett) had the theory that Detective Michael Britten was in a coma—I loved that—and someday he would wake to find both his wife and son alive… Perhaps the conspiracy behind the accident (involving heroin and other cops, including his Captain) would be real, and he would have solved the whole thing while unconscious… beautiful.

So what was the conclusion? IT WAS ALL A DREAM!… Both realities were dreams within a dream that he had in one night – he woke to find his wife and son alive, no accident, and presumably no conspiracy.  Show creator Kyle Killen said he always considered one of the realities a dream, but hadn’t decided which one when the cancel order came on down.  Now, I am a forgiving, easygoing feller – I liked the conclusion of LOST while others wanted to hunt down everyone from the creators to the caterers… But this… A dream, really?  Ack—at least give us a dream while the guy is on a ship to Mars, ala the American version of LIFE ON MARS (2006-2007).  I expected more from you, Kyle, who gave us LONE STAR (2010) and who is supposed to reboot Daredevil… A dream—SHEESH!

Outpost… out. (This time for real)

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

Pickin’ the Carcass: THE CALLER (2011)

Posted in 2012, Madness, Michael Arruda Reviews, Murder!, Pickin' the Carcass, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2012 by knifefighter

By Michael Arruda

In THE CALLER (2011), a recently divorced woman is terrorized by strange phone calls. No, it’s not a telemarketer on the line. It’s a crazed woman who’s somehow calling from a different decade.

Upon the heels of a messy divorce, Mary Kee (Rachelle Lefevre) moves into a new apartment where she receives a phone call from a woman asking to speak to a man who supposedly lives there. Mary assumes it’s the wrong number, but when the woman, who says her name is Rose, identifies the number and the address of the apartment, Mary tells her that obviously the guy has moved out. The woman insists however that she’s right, that she just saw the man there that very day. At this point, Mary figures the woman is crazy and hangs up.

But the woman continues to call. For a while, Mary is sympathetic towards her, as Rose is sad and depressed, because the man she claims lives in the apartment had promised to marry her. But when she says she’s living in 1979, Mary again figures the woman has flipped her lid.

But then strange things begin to happen. Things Rose does in the past begin to affect things in the present, and it reaches the point where Mary can’t ignore the possibility that something bizarre is going on. She turns to her boyfriend John (Stephen Moyer) for help, and he thinks it might be her creepy ex-husband Steven (Ed Quinn) playing tricks on her, and Steven is creepy, and then some. He’s a big-time jerk and a creep who regularly ignores the restraining order against him and taunts and threatens Mary at his leisure.

Sure, it could be Steven, but when Rose goes “psycho” on Mary and threatens Mary’s friends, carrying out these threats in 1979, it changes Mary’s present. Mary realizes Rose and her threats are the real deal and suddenly she finds herself fighting for her life.

Yep, it’s SINGLE WHITE FEMALE (1992) meets THE TIME MACHINE (1960), and sadly, it sounds much better than it actually is, because in reality, THE CALLER isn’t a very good movie.

I had trouble with THE CALLER from the get-go. Its initial image is that of a big, black rotary phone, which in itself is a good thing because it immediately brought to mind Alfred Hitchcock’s DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954). When the movie opens and Mary has an old-fashioned rotary phone in her apartment, I’m thinking, this is a period piece, but it’s not. It takes place in the present. I found this strange, and I couldn’t get past the fact that in this story, Mary hardly uses her cell phone, which raises several interesting questions.

For example, when things start to go wrong with Rose, why doesn’t Mary just disconnect her phone? She has a cell phone! Use it! Why doesn’t she use the cell phone when she’s in her apartment? We see her use it elsewhere. And who uses rotary phones anymore? Even if you have a land line, it’s not a rotary phone with a dial, but the one in this movie is, and there’s no mention that it’s some neat antique. It’s just there, in the apartment. This bugged me throughout the whole movie.

Also, even if Mary wanted to keep a land line, why doesn’t she just change her phone number? Or, here’s a concept: call the police!! Mary does none of these things, which seems like just an excuse to keep the story going. There were plenty of ways Mary could have gotten rid of Rose before all the SINGLE WHITE FEMALE psycho stuff started happening. There was some lazy writing in this one.

At first, I was intrigued by the concept of Mary receiving phone calls from someone living in 1979. I was eager to learn where this was going to go.

However, as the movie moves along, the explanations falter because there are a lot of holes in the plot. When Rose takes action in 1979, it affects Mary in 2011, but these actions and results don’t always make sense. If Rose were to murder someone in 1979, someone who Mary had already met in 2011, would they suddenly be dead in 2011 after Rose murdered them? I’m not sure if that’s how it would work, and this happens several times. It’s all so neat and convenient, it didn’t really ring true for me.

Plus, how is it that Rose can find these people who Mary knows now in 2011 so easily back in 1979? They’re still all living in the same area? Really?

Also, Rose’s voice on the phone sounds like she’s an old lady, like someone in her 70s. She’s supposed to be 41. This would make sense if Mary is speaking to Rose in 2011 because that’s the age she would be now, but initially, Rose says it’s 1979. Why would Rose lie? Again, lazy writing. I mean, at times, THE CALLER is on the verge of being a very clever movie, but each chance it gets at accomplishing this feat, it drops the ball.

The cast isn’t bad. I enjoyed Rachelle Lefevre in the lead role as Mary Kee. She had a very likeable personality, and she’s good-looking to boot! She would have been good enough to carry this movie had the story been better. One drawback to her performance is, for someone who’s being threatened, she makes Mary awfully passive.

The same can be said for the whole movie. There’s something very passive about it. It definitely lacks intensity.

Stephen Moyer is okay as John, Mary’s boyfriend, but he’s another passive, rather dull character. Ed Quinn does a nice job making Mary’s ex-husband Steven a complete creep and a jerk, but ultimately he’s stuck in a wasted subplot. Lorna Raver plays Rose, and we don’t get to see her until the end of the movie. She’s okay, but she’s certainly not a good enough villainess to carry this movie, so ultimately, she’s a disappointment.

The same can be said for both the directing and writing for this one. THE CALLER was directed by Matthew Parkhill, and although there are some nicely shot scenes, the movie as a whole lacks pacing and urgency. For a thriller, it’s awfully mild.

The screenplay by Sergio Casci has a lot of problems, mostly associated with its time shift/alternate universe plot, which really needs to make more sense. The threat against Mary also needs to be greater and more detailed. The story and the writing as a whole need to be much tighter.

I was interested in the premise of THE CALLER, and for most of the first half of this movie I was into it, but I expected better explanations and resolutions, and some thrills and chills along the way would have been most welcome. The ending is also a disappointment, as things wrap up way too easily.

As it stands, THE CALLER is a mediocre thriller that never gets into a groove or hits its stride. This is one call you’d best hang up on.


© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda


Posted in 2011, Action Movies, John Harvey Reviews, Quantam Physics, Science Fiction, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 5, 2011 by knifefighter

SOURCE CODE: A Cunning, Intelligent, Science Fiction Thriller
By John Harvey

Director Duncan Jones seems to have found his niche in science fiction films that eschew massive spaceships, menacing aliens and  huge special effects budgets, in favor of character and story development. His only previous feature film credit is the thoroughly enjoyable MOON (2009 starring Sam Rockwell), which provided a more cerebral breed of science fiction.

The difference between SOURCE CODE and MOON, is that SOURCE CODE provides a warmer, more personable tone that is more inviting to the average viewer. Though a wonderful film, MOON’s mood and environment is much more emotionally distant and cold (an intentional effect).

In SOURCE CODE, Air Force Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up on a train approaching Chicago. Across from him sits Christina Warren (Michele Monaghan), a fellow commuter in mid-conversation who obviously knows him well. But Stevens has more pressing problems than nodding off mid-chat with a pretty woman; he doesn’t know who she is or how he got there. His last memory is flying combat missions in Afghanistan. In a panic, he dashes to the bathroom compartment and the mirror reveals a face that is not his own. Stevens’ efforts to discover what has happened to him are cut short when a massive bomb explodes, killing him and everyone on the train.

But not really.

He regains consciousness again in something resembling a cross between a cockpit and a sensory deprivation chamber. Via a small monitor, Air Force officer Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) and an emotionally-distant scientist (Jeffrey Wright) ask questions about the train and the people on it. From here, the film slowly reveals that he is part of an ambitious government science project called “Source Code.” Combining quantum physics and time travel, this technology puts his consciousness into the body of a man who died on that commuter train, but only during the last eight minutes of his life. His mission is to relive those eight minutes over and over until he figures out the bomber’s identity, which will allow authorities to stop a much more devastating attack later that day.

So, let’s get one thing straight here. The “science” in SOURCE CODE is a big steamy pile of horse poo. It’s a blatant MacGuffin that exists solely to allow the filmmakers to explore ideas, move the plot forward and focus on the characters. If you’re prone towards hand wringing when filmmakers don’t display an adequate knowledge of string theory, then this movie will drive you out of your skull. On the other hand, if you can ignore bad or even silly science in a film, then you’ll be fine here.

More accurately, SOURCE CODE resembles what would happen if Philip K. Dick sat down with Rod Serling and said, “Smoke this and then let’s talk story.” It’s mind-bending and taut, while having a distinct sense-of-wonder inherent to old time sci-fi.

But at its core, SOURCE CODE is a thriller with a dash of mystery whodunnit. Every time Stevens repeats those last eight minutes, he competes against the clock to shake clues out of his environment and the other passengers in order to avert disaster. Each trip also forces him form stronger attachments to his fellow passengers (Christina in particular) and ask questions about the nature of his own existence and how he got there. Though the scientists insist that what he experiences is not time travel, but rather shadows from alternate universes, Stevens develops stronger doubts each time he repeats the cycle. Add to that the growing tension as he begins to suspect that his Source Code handlers aren’t telling him everything about his own situation. It’s a deft balance between the mission’s twists and turns and Steven’s own internal struggle.

While concept and plot in this movie work very nicely, it is perhaps at the detriment to character depth (though the acting all around is fine). This is a trade-off to the fact that there’s a lot going on in this film and at a very frenetic pace. Even with these minor flaws, SOURCE CODE provides an original and intelligent story that provides both action and psychological thrills.

And, in the end, SOURCE CODE delivers the goods and wraps up nicely. Though perhaps the ending veers even more sharply away from science into pure fantasy, which may put off some viewers. I got over it and would recommend this film.

– END –

© Copyright 2011 by John D. Harvey

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you want to hear an interview with SOURCE CODE screenwriter Ben Ripley, then check out the Slice of SciFi’s podcast #309: .

Directed By:
Duncan Jones
Written By:
Ben Ripley
Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright
Run Time:
1hr 34min

(Editor’s Note: If you’re a fan of John’s columns, do yourself a favor and check out his amazing novel, THE CLEANSING, published by Arkham House Press. I can’t praise this one highly enough).