January 30, 2004


Butterfly Effects

Timeline posterTimeline
starring: Billy Connolly as the professor, Paul Walker as Gilligan, Frances O'Connor as Mary Ann, Ann Friel as Ginger, Gerard Butler as someone too charismatic to be stranded in this movie, David Thewlis as Bill Gates, and Marton Csokas. He's everywhere! "Directed" by Richard Donner.
running time: 116 minutes
MPAA says: PG-13, for intense battle scenes and brief language. MPAA has a different idea of "intense" than most people.
Release date: November 26, 2003. Soon to be available at your local video/DVD store.
Seen at: Discount Cinema 8—$1.50 for adults, $1 for kids, $2 on Fridays and Saturday. No stadium seating—it's pretty much a flat floor—but with only a half dozen other people in the theatre, seeing over heads was not so much of an issue. This is a Coke-product, cash-only establishment. Heavily air conditioned, so bring a hat—a lot of body heat radiates out through your head. Really. Wear a hood when you go time travelling.

Lost in spacetime Kramer (Matt Craven, left) under-explains the premise to the would-be time travellers. Others, from left to right: Frank Gordon (Neal McDonough) is the Marine with a tricky conscience; Chris (Paul Walker) is bland but determined; Kate (Frances O'Connor) is spunky and can climb things; Andre (Gerard Butler) is an archaeologist who likes to play with mediaeval weapons (as if that could ever come in handy); Josh (Ethan Embry) is a physicist and computer geek (ignore him). François (Rossif Sutherland) is the tall guy in the back who speaks French, which turns out to be more dangerous than you might think.

I wanted to see this in first release. Not because I thought it would be any good, but because I'm a sucker for time travel movies. Put a modern person in the past, or a past person in the modern age, and let the mayhem begin! Plus, I was hoping it would be exquisitely bad, and therefore really really good. It's not exquisite. But it's better than Time Tunnel, and many episodes of Dr. Who. You get better production values on Quantum Leap. To be fair, Quantum Leap never had to stage a night battle with flaming catapults.

Lost in Spacetime

Maybe wecan find the script...The technobabble is silly, but the movie kicks off with a fun mystery: A group of five good-looking archaeologists in a previously unexcavated monastery in France discover a bifocal lens and a six-hundred-year-old note begging for help written by missing Professor Edward Johnston (Billy Connolly). Soon they learn that the reason their zillionaire benefactor (David Thewlis) has so many tips for them on where to dig is because he has been sending scouts into the past through the accidental discovery of a way to "fax" living beings to one particular place in time—the Hundred Years War during a pivotal battle between England and France. As long as the traveller is wearing a special homing beacon, and, as explained when the plot requires it, as long as you're standing with enough clear space around you, when you press the homing beacon you'll be faxed back to the 21st century. Or, possibly, your entire group of fellow travellers will be faxed back to the 21st century. Or only if they're standing close enough. That also depends on what the plot requires. Naturally, our group end up seven stranded castaways in the past.

Yes, seven. They bring along two ex-Marines for protection, in case, say, the Hundred Years War turns out to be violent or something. In short order we learn that Marines are remarkably easy to kill. Fortunately, the cute heroes are not.

And away we goChris (the missing professor's son) is "not really all that interested in the past" and "romantic warrior crap." Kate wonders, as she explores the monastery in the present, why someone would smash through a beautiful wall fresco. Andre marvels over a sarcophagus depicting a knight and his lady holding hands; he thinks the past is "where it's at" and loves to play at archery and swordfighting. Josh is an ace with techno-gizmos. François is afraid of going and stands around like a bunny in headlights. The events in the past hinged on the fate of a single woman, and the first person they meet in the past is... I think you get my drift. To its credit, the movie does, once, attempt some misdirection on one of these otherwise blatantly obvious set-ups. Judging from the lax direction and air of improvisation to the dialogue, I might have guessed that the director took a group of actors to France, told them to think up something they'd like to do when their character gets to the past, then filmed the second half of the movie based on the improv in the first half. But, in fact, this movie is based on a novel by Michael Crichton. In fact, all that heavyhanded foreshadowing leads to recognisable Crichton cadences, characters, and killings.

Building a better fax machine

Frank (McDonough), on the zillionaire's payroll, has remarkable blue eyes, and a remarkable ability to infuse his thinly defined character of the reluctant heavy with a few ounces of reality, even when his plotline (improvised by David Thewlis? everything else seems to be made up on the spot) quickly evaporates. Andre (Butler) runs off after a love interest and runs off with the film. He looks like he's having a good time and gets the best costume off the Time Traveller's ready-to-wear rack. Several characters attempt "I can't believe I just killed a man" moments.

The movie gets a few things right. It remembers that people from the present will seem unusually tall in the past, and it makes good use of pointing out that fact when casting the mediaeval Bill Gates (Michael Sheen as an English warlord hungry for new technology) and a mysteriously tall knight hulking around the battlefield (oh, come on, are you really worried about spoilers?). This provides for some additional bad guys, some technobabble about the dangers of faxing a fax of yourself, and an opportunity for Billy Connolly's character, deciding the timeline has already been altered, to try to keep himself alive by aiding and abetting the would-be losers in the battle. Glimpses of subtlety peek out here and there; mistaken assumptions and misreadings of history lead to mistaken assumptions about how much they are altering the timeline. The movie is a bit too disorganised for these points to shine through, but if you squint you'll see them. Then we get to the silly battle scene (it plays like You sank my Battleship!), and the implausibly romantic heroism, and the virtuous but easily confused French archers. Everybody fights!

We like the ScotsIl y a une bête noire ici

The French characters remember to speak French amongst themselves, providing the opportunity for some typos in the subtitles ("alright"—that makes me almost as crazy as "it's" for "its"!). Modern French, but peppered with ye olde archaic terms. The mediaeval Englishmen speak modern English, laced with attitude. Oh well.

I believe this movie primarily uses French and Canadian production teams, which explains why we don't like those pesky English, but are rather fond of the Scottish.

La la la

The soundtrack is actually not half bad. I have the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack on endless loop in my head at the moment, so I can't recall Timeline's very clearly, but I do remember enjoying sitting through the credits. (I always sit through the credits, in case of any end-of-the-reel cleverness, so that you won't have to. No end-of-movie cleverness to be found here.)

To See or Not to See

Sure. Why not. If you groove on time travel and don't require profundity. It's better than any of the recent SciFi Channel original movies and miniseries. See it for cheap, see it for a rental. Have friends over. Keep score of how many of the plot developments you can predict in advance.

Outside Food: Odwalla-brand red fruity drinks. I'm experimenting with a liquid diet to travel back in time to when I was a healthier weight.

Previews: Not so much previews, as commercials for the concessions stand and trailers for other movies now showing at the discount theatre. Two Coke commercials, one inspirational message of some sort that had no impact on my memory whatsoever, a commercial for a red and sporty car that can apparently fly, and Altoids as part of the strongman act at a Freak Show. Just the other night at fencing I'd mentioned that I was undefeatable because I'd had two cinnamon Altoids and felt curiously strong....

Matrix: Revolutions: I heart Hugo, I'm curious to see how it ends, it'll only cost a dollar-fifty. Will saving Zion involve saving all the battery people? Will the battery people get to live in a human-run Matrix instead of claustrophobic, oily Zion? Do I really care that much whether I ever find out?

Missing: Tommy Lee Jones gets grizzled as an estranged father helping his daughter rescue her daughter, kidnapped by a brujo (witch) headed to Mexico. A perky kid actress, and Cate Blanchett. This one completely missed my radar when it was in first run. I'm not a fan of Westerns as a genre, but I might try this one. For a dollar-fifty.

Honey: Flashdance 2003, hip-hop version. Proving once again, if you're skinny and pretty you will go far in the world. Mekhi Phifer is in it, because he is in everything that doesn't have Marton Csokas.

Gothika: Halle Berry and Robert Downey Jr. slumming it in a spooky thriller. And is that Bernard Hill I see? Theoden King? Maybe this movie isn't such a slum, after all.

Love Actually: People seemed to like this holiday flick. I think I'll go see it. But can I bear to go alone to a movie all about handsome people falling in love with other handsome people? On second thought, I'll give it a miss, actually.

Timeline Photos © 2003 Paramount Pictures Posted by OutsideFood at January 30, 2004 12:00 PM

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