The VHS Files: Yesterday’s Target

Today’s VHS File is a dusty old SciFi time travel flick called Yesterday’s Target whose plot I just couldn’t get a handle on, despite it having some cool ideas, ambient atmospherics and neat set pieces. It stars one of the Baldwin brothers, and you pretty much know what you’re in for when they headline something. Daniel Baldwin is an unassuming factory worker who is recruited by a shadow organization because of his untapped psychic talents, targeted by a mysterious rogue military scientist played by Malcolm McDowell in one of his classic mega villain roles but he’s curiously restrained and relaxed here. Baldwin basically goes on a cross country road trip to find other psychics like him including a clairvoyant (Stacey Haiduk), a short order cook who is a firestarter (T.K. Carter from The Thing in this film’s liveliest performance) and others. They’re pursued by McDowell’s top man, a cowboy hat wearing Levar Burton in a bizarrely cartoonish performance that doesn’t work and brings the film somewhat down whenever he’s onscreen. There’s an absolute deluge of expository mumbo jumbo, arbitrary subplots and just garbled SciFi clutter here including some secret society that travels through time to prevent people from having shitty lives, a child prodigy, Vegas card sharking, McDowell’s random personal life with his wife and all sorts of interludes that muck about until I really wasn’t sure what this film was even about beyond a vague idea of ‘time travelling clairvoyants.’ Still, it’s very atmospheric and some of the performances are a lot of fun. It’s also quite muted and laidback and even when there’s gunplay or a pursuit it feels just… hushed and soothing somehow. There’s a deliberately anticlimactic ending as Baldwin and McDowell standoff only to surprise each other with revelations regarding identity, time loops and serendipitous phenomena that again, I wasn’t clear on, but allows Malcolm to inject some real poignancy into an otherwise standard villain role, if even for a brief moment when all is almost said and done. It’s worth a look but nothing special. I have no memory of where I even got the VHS tape but it’s another one of those screeners that nobody is supposed to sell yet somehow find their way to good homes. I see this is also streaming on something called Tubi though, if anyone is at all curious.

-Nate Hill

The VHS Files: Yesterday’s Target

Today’s VHS File is a dusty old SciFi time travel flick called Yesterday’s Target whose plot I just couldn’t get a handle on, despite it having some cool ideas, ambient atmospherics and neat set pieces. It stars one of the Baldwin brothers, and you pretty much know what you’re in for when they headline something. Daniel Baldwin is an unassuming factory worker who is recruited by a shadow organization because of his untapped psychic talents, targeted by a mysterious rogue military scientist played by Malcolm McDowell in one of his classic mega villain roles but he’s curiously restrained and relaxed here. Baldwin basically goes on a cross country road trip to find other psychics like him including a clairvoyant (Stacey Haiduk), a short order cook who is a firestarter (T.K. Carter from The Thing in this film’s liveliest performance) and others. They’re pursued by McDowell’s top man, a cowboy hat wearing Levar Burton in a bizarrely cartoonish performance that doesn’t work and brings the film somewhat down whenever he’s onscreen. There’s an absolute deluge of expository mumbo jumbo, arbitrary subplots and just garbled SciFi clutter here including some secret society that travels through time to prevent people from having shitty lives, a child prodigy, Vegas card sharking, McDowell’s random personal life with his wife and all sorts of interludes that muck about until I really wasn’t sure what this film was even about beyond a vague idea of ‘time travelling clairvoyants.’ Still, it’s very atmospheric and some of the performances are a lot of fun. It’s also quite muted and laidback and even when there’s gunplay or a pursuit it feels just… hushed and soothing somehow. There’s a deliberately anticlimactic ending as Baldwin and McDowell standoff only to surprise each other with revelations regarding identity, time loops and serendipitous phenomena that again, I wasn’t clear on, but allows Malcolm to inject some real poignancy into an otherwise standard villain role, if even for a brief moment when all is almost said and done. It’s worth a look but nothing special. I have no memory of where I even got the VHS tape but it’s another one of those screeners that nobody is supposed to sell yet somehow find their way to good homes. I see this is also streaming on something called Tubi though, if anyone is at all curious.

-Nate Hill

Space Operatic: An Interview with Stephen van Vuuren by Kent Hill

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I applaud anyone who makes their way on this crusade, some might say foolish crusade, to make a film. It can be a long, arduous, laborious. And thinking on that word laborious, now consider making a film that has to be stitched together using over 7 million photographs with animation techniques pioneered by Walt Disney on Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. No CGI. And I know that sounds sacrilegious in this day and age where a film without CGI is like a day without sunshine.

However, the film that Stephen van Vuuren has, albeit laboriously, constructed In Saturn’s Rings, is a unique master-work that is as beautiful and immersive on the small screen I watched it on as I can imagine it being played in its large format form.

Sparked by Cassini‘s arrival at Saturn in 2004 and the media’s lack of coverage, van Vuuren produced two films. Photos from space missions — including images of Saturn taken by Cassini — were included. But van Vuuren was not satisfied with the results so he did not release them.

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While listening to the Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber one day in 2006, van Vuuren conceived the idea of creating moving images of Saturn based on a pan-and-scan 2.5-D effect. The technique involves creating a 3-D perspective using still photographs.

After discussion with audiences at IMAX conferences, van Vuuren decided the film title Outside In (the title of the short version) was not a good match for the film’s sensibility. The Giant Film Cinema Association had been publicising the film and surveys it conducted supported this. It was during a discussion in 2012 about the film’s climax where he was describing Earth “in Saturn’s rings” that van Vuuren realized he had found his new title.

Although narration had originally been removed in 2009, by 2014 van Vuuren realized that a sparse narration was necessary for the film. This amounted to 5 pages and about 1200 words in total. After listening to many voice actors one stood out and he asked LeVar Burton (Star Trek: The Next Generation) to be the narrator for the film.

The culmination of these elements, plus a lot of hard work, has resulted in something that is essentially more than a film. Like Kubrick’s 2001 which inspired him, van Vuuren has crafted an experience of what it may by like to drift through the far reaches of space to the planet that has always been the physical embodiment of his childhood fantasies. And I for one am grateful he stuck to his guns and made a movie that, even though it’s not a tale from a galaxy far, far away, it is the universe at its most wondrous…