Tag Archives: the terminator

Eternity’s Music, Faint and Far: Nate’s Top Ten Time Travel Films

I love a good time travel film. There’s something so purely exciting about opening up your story’s narrative to the possibility, and once you do the potential is almost endless. From the mind stretching nature of paradoxically puzzling storylines to the sheer delight of seeing someone stranded in an era not their own and adjusting to the radical development, it’s a sub-genre that always has me first in line to buy tickets. Here are my personal top ten favourites:

10. Nicholas Meyer’s Time After Time

How’s this for a concept: H.G. Wells (Malcolm McDowell) chases Jack The Ripper (David Warner) around 1800’s London, through a time machine and all over 1970’s San Francisco. This is a brilliant little picture because as sensational as this high concept is, the filmmakers approach the story from a place of character and emotion rather than big style SciFi spectacle or action. McDowell plays Wells as a compassionate, non violent fellow while Warner’s Jack relishes in the ultra-violent nature of the time period. This is also the film where McDowell met Mary Steenburgen and shortly after they were married.

9. Rian Johnson’s Looper

Time travel gets monopolized by the mafia in this stunning futuristic tale that is so specifically high concept it requires a near constant expository voiceover from Joseph Gordon Levitt so we can keep up. Playing an assassin hunting his future self (Bruce Willis), this has a vaguely steam punk feel to it, an uncommonly intelligent and surprisingly emotional script as well as scene stealing work from Emily Blunt, Pierce Gagnon, Paul Dano and a scruffy Jeff Daniels.

8. Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits

A young boy tags along on one hell of a epic adventure with a band of time travelling dwarves on the run from both the Devil (David Warner for the second time on this list, how nice) and God himself (Ralph Richardson). This is an exhilarating, lush example of what can be done with practical effects, from a giant walking out of the ocean to a Lego castle somewhere beyond time and space to a recreation of the Titanic. Not to mention the cast, which includes cameos from Gilliam’s Monty Python troupe regulars as well as Ian Holm, Shelley Duvall, Jim Broadbent and Sean Connery in several sly roles.

7. Robert Zemeckis’s Back To The Future

“Great Scott!!!!” Man, who doesn’t just love this film. It’s practically it’s own visual aesthetic these days, and spawned two fun sequels that couldn’t quite capture the enchantment found here. From scrappy antihero Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) to demented genius Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) this just hits all the right notes and gets a little taboo in the process as we see what would happen if someone ended up in the past and got hit on by their own mom. Yikes!

6. The Spierig Brothers’s Predestination

The less you know about this tantalizing, twisty flick going in the better, except to know that it will fuck your mind into submission with its narrative. Ethan Hawke plays a rogue temporal agent who’s been pursuing a relentless terrorist through time since he can remember, and finally has a plan he think will work to end the chase. Featuring Noah ‘exposition in every other SciFi film’ Taylor and the sensational new talent Sarah Snook, this is not one to miss and you’ll need a few viewings to appreciate it fully .

5. Tony Scott’s Déjà Vu

Scott’s trademark visual aesthetic blesses this kinetic, elliptical story of secret FBI technology used by keen ATF agent Denzel Washington to find and stop a mad bomber (Jim Caviesel) who has already slaughtered hundreds in a riverboat explosion. Adam Goldberg and Val Kilmer are welcome as agency tech experts but the real heart of this film lies in Washington’s relationship to a survivor of the incidents (Paula Patton) and how that plays into the fascinating central premise that doesn’t start *out* as actual time travel but gradually becomes apparent.

4. Gregory Hoblit’s Frequency

A father son relationship is the beating heart of this tale of cop Jim Caviesel (again!) and his firefighter dad Dennis Quaid. They are able to communicate across a thirty year gulf of time and the barriers of death itself via a miraculous HAM radio and some pseudo science involving the aurora borealis. This provides an exciting, involving and heartbreaking dual experience as the son races to find ways to save his dad from several different grim fates and take down a nasty serial killer while he’s at it. This film has aged so well mostly due to the genuine emotion felt between the family including mom Elizabeth Mitchell. The yearning to escape perimeters of linear time and reconnect with passed loved ones is especially prescient for me nowadays days based on my own recent experiences and as such the film holds extra weight now. A classic.

3. James Cameron’s The Terminator

Artificial intelligence works out time travel for itself in Cameron’s ballistic gong show of an action classic that sees freedom fighter Michael Biehn, civilian turned survivor Linda Hamilton, homicidal cyborg Arnold Schwarzenegger and a few hundred short lived cops engaged in a bloody, brutal fight for the future. I picked this over the sequel because the notion of time travel in the saga overall feels freshest and most well worked out here, despite my love for T2 being just a smidge higher on the gauge. Perhaps it’s also because the excellent Biehn makes damn believable work of convincing us that he’s a weary, distraught soldier from a different era, and sells the concept with his beautiful performance.

2. John Maybury’s The Jacket

Hazy, experimental, haunting and atmospheric, this was not a critical hit and it’s chilly vibe is evidence of that, but beneath that there’s a heartfelt story of confused gulf war vet Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) trying to make sense of his shattered psyche while surviving a gnarly mental institution run by a madman with a god complex (Kris Kristofferson). Somewhere along the way he discovers he can jump through time and uses the phenomena to investigate his own death and prevent others from happening. Featuring a low key, emotional turn from Keira Knightley and fantastic supporting work from Daniel Craig, Kelly Lynch and Jennifer Jason Leigh, this is a harrowing psychological thriller that gradually reveals itself as a meditation on life, death and the realms in between.

1. Terry Gilliam’s Twelve Monkeys

Gilliam gets two on this list, lucky him! He deserves it though, this is a curious film with unbelievable production design, a deeply felt performance from Bruce Willis and one from Brad Pitt that kind of defies description and erases doubts of his immense talent from anyone’s mind. Willis is a convict sent back in time from a bleak future to discover how and why a deadly virus wiped out most of earth’s population and sent the rest into subterranean caves. It’s not the film you’d expect and the sad, eerie resolution at the end is something that will stick with you for a long time.

Once again thanks for reading! There’s many that didn’t make the list as it’s tough to just pick ten, but I’d love to hear some of your favourite time travel films!

-Nate Hill

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Anyone you can catch, kill and eat: Remembering No Escape with Michael Gaylin by Kent Hill

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Gale Anne Hurd, the producer of Aliens and The Terminator, headed the charge back in the early 90s toward the adaptation of a book written by Richard Herley titled, The Penal Colony.

Set in 1997, it tells the story of how the British Government runs island prison colonies as a means to stem the tide of an overflow in mainland jails. There are no guards, no cells, and the island is monitored via satellite surveillance.

We follow the  a character named Anthony Routledge, who is brought to the island for a sex-crime that he did not commit. He soon discovers that under the guidance of a charismatic leader, a community on the island has evolved.

Now if that’s not the ideal film to make here in Australia, (if your are aware that it is pretty much how our nation began) then I don’t know what is. The production would hire future Bond director Martin Campbell, along with stars Ray Liotta, Lance Henriksen, Stuart Wilson and Ernie Hudson.

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Then a screenwriter named Michael Gaylin, a man who had slaved away in obscurity in Hollywood for more than a decade, would come into contact with a colleague of Hurd’s. He went for a meeting and, finally, after a career of false starts and forgotten promises, he was going to be writing on a film that would eventually, make it to the big screen.

After a long wait, I finally had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Michael about his career and his experiences during the making of No Escape or Escape from Absolom (as it was released over here). What I discovered, during our conversation, was not merely an insight into a film I heartily enjoy, but also the story of a resilient writer who finally had one script break through. A real life story very much akin to the journey of the hero of the film; who would take on all conflicts and eventually overcome them . . .  and escape.

It is a great film in the grand tradition of Franklin J. Schaffner’s Papillon.

Ladies and Gentlemen . . . Michael Gaylin.

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A Chat with Michael Biehn: An interview by Nate Hill

 
 

  I am unbelievably ecstatic to bring you my first interview in quite some time, this time with legendary badass Michael Biehn. Michael has played the fearless Kyle Reese in The Terminator, the cavalier mercenary Dwayne Hicks in Aliens, and appeared in countless other fantastic films including The Abyss, The Art Of War, The Seventh Sign, Stiletto, Michael Bay’s The Rock, Grindhouse, Tombstone, Mojave Moon, and many more. He is as iconic as he is magnetic on screen, a powerhouse of a performer with a legacy that I was honoured to quiz him on. Please enjoy our brief chat!
Nate: At what point did you know you wanted to become an actor? 
Michael: Since I was very little I was acting in school plays and community theater from productions like Pinocchio, rags to riches, Alice in wonderland and I just never stopped.

Nate: You have forged an impressive lineup of tough guys and take no prisoner badasses with your roles. Did you see yourself becoming that kind of Charles Bronson/Lee Marvin style, old school guy, or did the direction your career took surprise you? 
Michael: I really never had a plan for the direction my career would take, you really can’t control the roles you get when you start out. I was fortunate enough to keep getting cast in these roles. They just ended up being a consistent thing for me.

Nate: I’m trying to keep these questions about things you don’t normally get asked about, but I gotta bring up Terminator- how was that experience for you. You created a believable, vulnerable, visceral action hero that holds up today and is a classic dude in the genre. What was your mindset going into that role?
Michael: I read a book for my preparation. It was on the soldiers that had to fight for survival in the sewers against the Germans. And it took a very long time for the Germans to find all the soldiers and destroy them. This book gave me a mental investment that this role was about survival. It was the best investment I made for myself to portray that character.

Nate: The Seventh Sign- Always been one of my favourites, especially the devastating final scene in the hospital.. How was creating that character for you, your process, acting with Demi and especially Jurgen Prochnow? (He’s a favourite of mine as well). 
Michael: Demi, and Jurgen are great actors. They really have a good professionalism around them. We were really able to act with each other, present and in such truth. You can’t just go into this kind of movie reading the script and winging it. You really have to lay a foundation. And research your part to develop what you need. That’s what we all did.

Nate: Stiletto- a highlight for me in your roles, and a nice reunion for a lot of early 90’s action guys (Berenger, Forsythe, Russo, Sizemore etc, a dream cast). How did you get approached for that, and did you enjoy playing that lively psycho Lee? 
Michael: We had a lot of fun on set. There were a lot of serious scenes to deal with so its hard to break character and interact in-between. But it was still enjoyable.

Nate: You and Jennifer have quite a legacy these days with BlancBiehn Productions. How are you enjoying the work with that and the incredibly original lineup of films that you’ve been doing?
Michael: It’s a Blessing. Not only to have the ability to produce films we like but to do it together. It has made us stronger and the films are coming out great!

Nate: If you had to pick a few roles that you’ve played that you enjoyed the most for whatever reason, what would they be? 
Michael: I really enjoy all the roles ive played, and I really like working with Cameron. Anything I film with him has been amazing.

Nate: Another very memorable role for me was on Law & Order CI, in a heartbreaking role that went to some sad places and for me is a standout in your career. How was that experience for you. 
Michael: It was a difficult scene particularly because I am not a method actor and the emotions that I was working from were pulled from current situations and events In my own life. It’s always hard to open yourself up to such vulnerability but if you don’t you will not create and develop an honest scene and then it just looks staged. As difficult as it was I enjoy those character roles very much.
Nate: Thank you so much for your time Michael, it’s phenomenal to be able to chat with you. Best of luck in the future with all endeavours, including your fantastic work with the production company!