Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Time Machine (That I Found at a Yardsale) (2011)

I've been putting this off and putting this off and putting it off because I knew it was going to be a slog. So here I am, and I'm finally going to do it. I'm going to not only watch this film, but I'm going to give you a blow-by-blow and I know it's going to blow but here we go.

You see, I found this thing while looking for George Pal videos. Dan and I were talking about Tubby the Tuba, so I was checking out all these George Pal cartoons and on the side-bar it said THE TIME MACHINE (I FOUND AT A YARDSALE) FULL 84 MIN. VERSION. I thought maybe they meant they'd found a copy of the "The Time Machine" at a yard sale and it had some footage I'd not seen before. Excited by that possibility, I clicked the link.

Oh, but it is not what I thought.

There are others who have covered this thing. I have not read their reviews. I watched the first ten minutes, but had to stop, but then Danno dared me to watch the rest of it. As I've done some blow-by-blows for other movies, I figured I could do this as well.

So, I've got a box of crackers, a nicely chilled bottle of pino grigio, and a wedge of fromage d'affine. Let's do it.

It can't be all that bad, right?

The movie starts innocently enough with a 60 Minutes style intro: ticking stop-watch. The music isn’t bad and hints at the mysterious and fantastic. Actually, the music reminds me a little of Justin Beiber slowed down 800%, which is beautiful in a sort of "Sigur Ros soundtracks angels watching you realize how beautiful life is" kind of way. OK. Opening credits are out of the way. That's 2 minutes down.

Look ma, no helmet laws.

We start with a pretty good sequence, actually. I had no problem with this, and its John Williams style introduction to a boy and his bike. Personally, I'm a little jealous, as I can't ride one. Our hero is tootling around on his bike, having a nice day--it looks like a nice day--and he sees a yard sale. Being the inquisitive type, he pedals up to see what's up.

The yard sale in question is about ten things on a blanket in a driveway. It looks like someone took the family silver outside so it could enjoy a little sun.

One of these things is not like the other.

Our hero picks up the VERY OBVIOUS THING. Seriously, it's like watching an old Warner Brothers cartoon and Bug Bunny is standing next to a rock, so you know he's going to pick up the rock. It's like that. This is very simple story-telling.

A very badly mic'ed yard sale owner tells our hero the box is real gold, will cost him exactly what's in his pocket ($17), and that it's only for sale to the person who's supposed to have it. This line would have a lot more import if we could hear it. An inaudible warning and our hero is off.

Here is the scene in question, if you doubt me.

Look at this for two minutes.

Now, we come to the first of many frustrating sequences in the flick. Our hero gets home, opens his gate, closes his gate, checks his mail, unlocks this kitchen door, sets the box on a table, and goes to get himself a drink. When I say to look at the above image for two minutes, I'm not kidding. That's what you're going to look at if you watch this movie.

Now look at this for two minutes.

Our hero gets a drink. We go through every loving step as he opens the fridge, gets a glass, pours the juice, puts the juice back in the fridge, drinks the juice, looks at the box, drinks the juice and...

We're only 7 minutes into this movie. This is where I gave up the first time around. This is really hard and I'm wondering what kind of internal dialog was supposed to be going on here (that they forgot to mic) and it hurts me to see something reasonably well-shot but poorly edited.

FINALLY, our hero opens the box. It's got lights inside and a Speak and Spell (that is very well dubbed) that has some sort of effect on clocks. He runs them faster or backwards and we get a FULL FIFTEEN SECONDS EACH to take in that magic. Fifteen seconds may not sound like much, but it sure feels it.

By now, it's nighttime outside, because who needs a consistency editor? Our hero narrates how he has a time machine and wants to know what the future holds for him and "Connie". For us, it means hearing a human voice again after four full minutes of whatever that was.

For some reason, he decides to see what life would be like tens of thousands of years in the future. Because that's really going to tell you how things with "Connie" work out.

I just wanted to get an image of that poster to prove it was real.

Our hero goes back to his apartment to pack for the future. So... it's Connie's house? Why is he picking up the mail and drinking her her juice? I can tell you what the future holds: Connie getting a better boyfriend.

All right! 11:00 in and we get a green screen! Let's see what you got.

Good thing he brought a phone charger.

Leaving from Hollywood Boulevard, our hero finds himself in a local park, surrounded by frogs. This pleases me, that frogs have not gone extinct or changed in any way in the tens of thousands of years it took for civilization to fall and our great cities crumble to dust, over-run by nature.

We spend a lot of time watching this guy take his jacket off. We spend even more time we'll never get back watching this guy wander around in the "jungle". He adjusts his backpack (never putting his arms through BOTH straps, because why would you do that?). Frog noises give way to bird noises.

It's an air-vent for the Teletubbies underground. Again! Again!

14:00 and we find a mysterious pole. No, we're not in Narnia, but I suspect it's a nod to that. Our hero almost touches it. After some more wandering, he sees a pyramidal frustum. Well, why not? Let's go wander over near that now.

Oh, great. It's a Margret Atwood novel.

15:00 and we finally see some other people. I think they're supposed to be picking berries, but you can never tell. One rushes past our hero. He chases after her in a very lackadaisical sequence and finally catches up with her to confront her.

I'm glad they still have Mary Kay in the future. Stay classy!

Oh, that wasn't the soundtrack, it was an alarm. Glad they still have English in the future, albeit from the bottom of a well. The girl asks O.H. if he passed a column and explains there's an alarm going off.

Now, this is a strange thing about this flick. We have a lot of external shots: people wandering around in the park, running, whatever...but, whenever people stop to have a conversation, we go to a green screen. If the intention of moving the dialog inside was to get better sound quality, then they've totally failed in that regard. It's disconcerting. The BBC—in their most budget-constrained productions—never got this bad.

Oh! Our Hero's name is Robert. Good for him. That was 17 minutes well spent. Her name is Sheba.

Ugh, this conversation. I had the A/C on, and the quality here is so bad that I had to put on headphones. Sheba complains about the law-enforcers, but Robert says he has the power to prevent them from ever taking her back and uhm...Question?

Robert, I don't want to rain on your parade, but did it ever occur to you that you might have time traveled into a high-security prison? I know that might be a little out there; but in the future, maybe, they might have a slightly more humane approach to that and maybe it's not a police state. Maybe it's just, ya know, a prison? That could happen right? And she's not being so badly oppressed that she can's afford a little eye-shadow, ya know? Just a thought that might make this film a little more interesting. I'd like too see her turn on him, SCUM Manifesto and all that, and maybe we'd know what she's in for.

Not really knowing anything about Sheba or what's going on, or even how his time machine even works, Robert agrees to take her farther into the future.

Marvel at...THE FUTURE.

Now that we're maybe thousands of years in the future, Sheba makes an interesting pronouncement.

"Since I'm not a slave anymore, I shouldn't look like one. I'll be right back."


Robert stands around while something happens off-screen. This movie needs an editor so bad; but then, it wouldn't be a FULL 84 MIN.

Sheba comes back in a blue suit. "I kept this secret, for the day I would be free. I made it myself." Glad to know she's got a bra under there, as we can see the strap. She takes off her slave bracelet, looks at it, and decides to keep it, "to remind me". Also, it might be worth something, ya know? I'm just waiting for this woman to betray everyone, please god.

Sheba grills Robert on his living situation and where she's going to stay. I think from here, we can deduce that the house with the juice wasn't Connie's place, but his mom's. He also says he has no woman he cares about right now, so I'm wondering what's up with Connie? Maybe I misheard it (easy to do in this flick), but I'm not re-watching that to find out.

And this is where Robert tries to mansplain the Internet. Dude, she is from the future. She speaks English. I'm pretty sure she's heard of the Internet. You are embarrassing everyone.

We get a cute "let's go climb that hill" sequence and I have to say, I do like the music.

Actually, it's the gift shop.

Once at the top of the hill, Robert sees a "spaceship". He has to go see it. It looks like it's been there a while, so Robert claims salvage rights on it and they go inside to check it out.

IMPORTANT NOTE: don't ever chroma-key people onto a black background when they have a flashlight aimed at the camera.

In the crew's quarters (which we can't see), Sheba notes they did not make their beds. Robert says they must have left in a hurry.

I swear I thought that was a sink before they came into frame.

They make it to the control deck, which is "cool". Sheba says they should not be there. Robert is totally "this is ours now" because he walked in and MAYBE THEY JUST WENT TO THE STORE, HUH? Robert is such a dick, it's making me nuts. I have no sympathy for this guy and I'm just waiting for him to get his face eaten off.

He sits in the "very comfortable" chair and fiddles with the joystick. Sheba says he should give her the time machine and she'll wait outside. Oh, please, make my dreams come true and screw this guy over. Instead, he tells her to sit down, stop worrying, and "what could go wrong?" Well, now that you've said it, just about anything.

Robert manages to get the ship turned on and we have the interminable "putting on your seat-belt" sequence. It pains me to see these things happening over and over again, where people just fumble around on screen for forever. We're 27:00 into the picture and it feels like a countdown to freedom.

I'm going to quote Macbeth here, "[I]t is a tale. Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." This is the best description of the spaceship taking off I can muster. We see it from the point of view of a control room with no widows.

28:40 and Robert makes a noise. Sound and fury, folks. Sound and fury.

Quick! Slap some CGI on a still from a BBC nature series!

Sheba asks Robert how he won't get lost. He explains how a spaceship works and does so in the most cocksure manner possible. I loathe him. I really do. All I can think of at this moment is all the things I'd rather be doing right now other than watching this movie.

Sheba asks what a button does, then flips it, because that's what you do. An alarm goes off and a voice asks "Seven" to get supplies to the resistance as soon as possible. Just for once, I'd like a voice I can hear clearly. Sheba says they need to go and Robert waffles because it's convenient for him to do so at this juncture.

just cause
No reason for this shot. It's there just cause.

"Wow, that was fun!" "Yeah, that was fun!"


31:08. I have to take a break and go...vomit or something.

Let's look at this for a minute. A whole minute.

Robert decides that after the "fun" they had, they need to get back on course and so he wants to put the ship into warp. "Wow, look at this!" (See above picture.) "This is fantastic!"

"Yes," Sheba says, not sounding fully convinced.

"We're traveling at warp seven," Robert explains. "Seven times the speed of light. Very fast."

And it's stuff like this that make me especially sad. I had to stop here and talk to the roomie, who's a rocket scientist (for reals!). His first question is, "Where is the ship headed?"

I say I don't know, so he says, "Well, let's say they're going to the closest star: Toliman. It's about four light years away."

"So, at seven times the speed of light," I say, "it should take them about six months."

"And that's not counting time dilation due to relativity," he says.

"Considering this movie is about a time machine," I point out, "they might have tossed relativity out the window."

"Relativity, causality, or faster-than-light travel," the roomie says. "Pick two."

"What if it's just a really bad movie?" I ask.

"Oh," he says, "If the pacing is anything like what you've been complaining about from the other room, it will be another ten minutes."

Now, let's look at this for a full minute.

Sheba wants to fly the ship now. "I've watched you. I can fly it." Yes, let the agrarian slave fly the space ship. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG?

"This is really fun!" Sheba says. Robert agrees, then says he's going to take a nap and for her to wake them up when they get there, so he can land it, because he's got so much experience flying a spaceship.

Finally, we've arrived on the planet of GIANT CRYSTALS.

36:00 in and we're here. "According to the planet map, we should be close to the place marked on the map."

I have no idea. This just happened. No one was talking.

And we're back on the spaceship then and I don't know why. They're going to another planet? OK, that's another six months in space and who am I kidding?

I do want to say that Sheba, for a slave from ten-thousand years in the future, has a better grasp on things than our buddy Robert. She sees a planet that's the fourth from its sun; she surmises that's why it's called D. OK? She picked leaves for a living and does not know how to put on eyeshadow, but she's got a firm understanding of naming systems. Please GOD, let her be a space pirate in disguise.

Ah, the forest moon of D.

When I post these pictures of nothing, I'm not being super-selective. There is so much nothing in this movie that it really does not take any kind of timing on my part to grab a screen shot where nothing is happening. It's like that quote from Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles where he talks about if a Martian probe had landed in the Sahara and therefore the Martians had decided there was no life on Earth. It is so like that in so many ways and I'm not even kidding.

Robert and Sheba say the planet is beautiful. He says he's going to get his backpack. She says she won't walk far. They both walk away, leaving on opposite sides of the screen. We get to look at an empty screen for another full minute before Sheba wanders on-screen and picks up some dried flowers. Finally, at 40:00, there's a noise. Could be an animal. Sheba runs off screen.

The horror. The horror.

It's a dinosaur. It's a badly rendered one, but that's what it is. Sheba freezes, Robert (oddly, sans backpack) mouths to NOT MOVE. Aw, it's not like Grumpy and Alice are going to cause you any trouble. They're just dinosaurs, on another planet, thousands of years in the future. No biggy.

The well-trained dino does not move. Robert pulls out a cute little Beretta-wanna-airsoft and aims at the dinosaur, but a sound effect distracts him and his target gets away. Sheba hugs Robert and says she was frightened. Robert says he now knows what the D stands for.


41:37 and I can't believe this is only half over. Maybe we should break for lunch.

I really thought this was another title card until they wandered into frame.

The movie has decided to do that for us. Robert and Sheba go to the local all-you-can-stand Mediterranean buffet, where two guys in name-tags (George and Rafik) seat them at a table and say the show is about to start.

And then there's the belly-dancer. She's only so-so, but it's obvious her dancing has nothing to do with the music being played. There are other belly-dancers you can watch, and they are easy to find.

46:00 and another guy with a name-tag (Mr. Agassiz) shows up. Our hero, Robert Moore, introduces himself. Agassiz laments that "Seven" could not meet him, but you two totally random people who I've never met before seem totally legit, so here's some damning evidence. He hands Bobby a slip of paper he just happens to have on him, even though he has no idea if they're spies or whatever (weird, considering he just said there were spies everywhere).


As Bob and Sheba aren't "from around here", they need some exposition and this guy fills them in on how the government is oppressive and many people have disappeared and blah blah blah.....You wouldn't happen to be selling any diamonds, would you? The question is very out of the blue. "Seven" always had diamonds to sell.

Aaaaand we're back on the spaceship. "It's too late to turn back now," Sheba says, forgetting they have a time machine.

50:36 and an alarm goes off. No one knows what it is. I'll tell you what it is. It's the only thing in this movie that's seen a microphone. It’s loud in these headphones!

Oh, look! Other spaceships. And they have guns. That fire. And make noise. In space.

"I'm going to drop to sub-light speed and find a place to hide," Robert says. Too bad he already dropped to sub-light speed a minute ago (yes, a full minute) so he could "look around".

As that does not work, Robert's next big plan is to "slip" into a nebula.

Slip on, you crazy totally not diamond. We don't have any of those, but we'll talk to Mr. Agassiz if we do.

"Maybe we lost them," Robert offers.

"No," says Sheba. "I can sense they know we're here."

gripping Gripping gripping action.

She argues that she can "sense" them, and offers to steer the ship. I'm not going into any great detail on this and neither is this movie.

And thus begins a game of sleeping cat and dead mouse. They manage to "slip" by the other ships, resulting in a cheer. Now, it's off to the other planet. Oh, but now that they'd had a shoot-out with one star cruiser, there may be others looking for them.

I guess you could call it a homage, but please don't.

They bury the supplies on the other planet, because no one came to meet them. That totally makes sense.

It's here we break from the ACTION to have an in-depth philosophical conversation about predetermination vs free-will. Not that anyone uses those words, per se, but that's what it's about.

Sheba says she wants to travel and "Oh, while you were digging, I was cleaning, and I found..." A BAG OF DIAMONDS. Sheba wants to buy new clothes on Damaar. Guess we're going to go see Agassiz again.

Aw, crap. An hour in and I ran out of cheese.

Look at this while I reload the plate.

OK, I got some sausage to go with the leftover crackers and we're moving from the pino to a port. Onward.

Robert's wearing a red shirt, which I suppose he had in his backpack. It's not too terribly wrinkled, so I'm also guessing he had an iron and one of those universal power adapters. Sheba shows up in a pink outfit and he compliments her on it.

Robert mentions that Agassiz is still interested in any diamonds they have, and I have to wonder if this conversation is happening before or after they sold some because how did Sheba have the money to get a new dress?

I'm really happy that everyone speaks the same language, in the same form, because I tried reading Beowulf in Old English once and that wasn't even five-thousand years old, let alone tens of thousands of years. This makes things much easier for the viewing public.

Now that they don't need money, they discuss the possibility of doing a job for Agassiz: namely, picking something up on one planet and bringing it back there. But it's not anywhere near that dinosaur planet. Agassiz said it's not dangerous, but it will pay TEN THOUSAND CREDITS. Because they don't have to worry about money anymore, remember?

Look at this city on a hill for a minute.

Back on the ship, Robert enters the coordinates. Sheba wants to do the take-off and he says he does not care. Glad to know that you're invested, Robert.

I would have put the camera somewhere else.

One hour and two minutes. ROBERT ASKS SHEBA TO MAKE HIM A SANDWICH. I'm going to cut someone. He just said, "I'm getting kinda hungry. Do you think you could go to the galley and make us a couple sandwiches and something to drink?" Why didn't you get any Levantine cuisine at Agassiz's all-you-can-eat? You could have grabbed some pita or hummus or at least a side of tabbouleh.

And she says OK. Because she's an agrarian slave. Let's not forget that.

A minute later, she returns with two sandwiches. Robert puts it on auto-pilot. He—at the very least—has the decency to thank Sheba for the sandwich.

"This is like having a motor-home in space," Robert says. "I need to put cup-holders in this thing." Sheba never asks what a motor-home is.

It takes another full minute to land the ship, as it always does. Once again, we only see this from the point of view of on the bridge but not looking out a window. There is less and less of this movie I can show you that I have not already shown you. I could start recycling screen-shots and you would never know.

Robert never packed a sweater.

We spend too much time walking in the corn-starch to a "cave", where Robert picks up a box (which you will never, ever, ever know the contents of). After discussing how they aren't dressed for this, they hear a noise and decide to go back to ship, a journey that we get to watch in painful detail.

Oh, thank god. Something happened.

"I thought there weren't supposed to be any Imperial ships around here," says Sheba, nonchalantly.

"That's what he said," Robert answers, dutifully, never suspecting a set-up. "Well, it was fun while it lasted."

Sheba says they're going to die. Robert says the sun is going to go down in two hours. Good for you, Bobby. You never land on a planet without knowing all about it. I'm glad someone is keeping up.

Sheba regrets that she never got to meet Robert's mom and sister, as she wanted to leave a good impression. Sheba, girl, don't value yourself off what others think of you. Get a little self-respect. You're about to freeze to death, so do it with a modicum of dignity.

And hey! They never went to check the ship out, ya know? They just saw a little smoke and sat down to die. That's pretty easy. I mean, if that's all it takes, I dunno. I'd at least try to do something with the ship, like maybe, get inside and put out the fire or not freeze to death. Just a thought. I don't plan on being poignant when I go.

Oh! Hooray for Sheba. She remembers that this movie has the words TIME MACHINE in the title and she asks Robert if said device is in his backpack. He can't remember. But it is! They're going to be OK! Just a mild paradox, nothing to worry yourself about.

And then we're in someone's back yard. What happened?

Sheba has earned herself a pair of pants and we're back on Earth! In Robert's time! Oh, it's his Mom's! They are so lucky they didn't wind up in someone's hot water heater or something.

Everyone hugs. Robert's mom and sister are a little too happy to see him. Maybe they're happy he's got a girlfriend. What ever became of Connie?

"We are so happy for the both of you!" exclaims Robert's mom. Did they get married?

Hang on! No, they can't get married. She's from the future, remember? She doesn’t have a birth certificate or social security number or driver's license or anything. I know we've got a lot of folks railing on about the "sanctity of marriage" and stuff, but those are also the same folks who are pretty tough about immigration and marriage just happens to be one of the things that's really, really effected by those laws. I'm just saying....


And now we have a very painful conversation with Robert's mom. Sheba grew up in Hollywood! Aw, but her parents died when she was young. She used to work in produce! In berries! But she quit when she and Robert "crashed" into each other. Why, he just swept her off her feet. I'm pretty sure this scene is supposed to be played for laughs, with knowing glances and all that, but it falls flat.

1:10:00 and we're back on the ship! Oh, that wacky couple! They're going to have all kinds of great adventures in their "motor-home".

Now we can track where Not-Me left the body.

Back on the ship (How is there still 13 minutes of movie?) and Sheba found a treasure map. It even says "treasure" on it. Wow. They land on some planet and we look at rocks for a minute. I'm not bothering with a screen-shot. You know what rocks look like. Go look at one for a minute. They wander around in front of pictures of rocks for a while. Lots of establishing shots.

We haven't seen the last of these two, sadly.

Now they're in the canyon. Spoooooky. More walking around in front of pictures of rocks.

They enter a cave and there's a hole in the cave and there's music in the cave and there might even be a cliff in the cave we can hang off of because that's really how this is feeling. I swear, if that treasure is a mirror, I'm going to throw something.

"According to the map, I have to go down here," says Robert. "Stay right here."

So she does. For a full minute.

Robert returns with a sack of diamonds. "There must be hundreds down there. I'll be right back." Why, they're just like the bag of diamonds they found earlier on the ship! The kind of diamonds that "Seven" was always willing to sell Mr. Agassiz. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?

I bet that red shirt stinks.

And now we're on the beech. Your guess is as good as mine. Apparently, they brought their own cups off the ship, but no idea on those lawn chairs.

"At some point, we need to help the resistance," Sheba says. Yes, well, that will have to happen in another movie. But thanks for trying to set that up, nonetheless.

Say, you don't think the old dude at the yard sale was "Seven" do you? Poor old dude, just looking to retire, but willing to sell a life of adventure to some young dick for $17? Will you do that to me, movie? Will you cut back to an old man, winking?

No, we go one step dumber. Robert decides to flip a coin to see if they leave immediately to help the resistance or in a week ( have a time machine...). He flips, looks at it, and shakes his head. "Oh, man...."


Finally, we get the closing credits. We also learn this movie could only afford one font.

There are other reviews of this "movie" online. Everyone pretty much has the same complaints. However, I'd like to float something past you.

This is the movie Floating Weeds and if you have not seen it, you should. You can rent it off Netflix (and that link's to the full 119 minutes, not the 89 minute version).

I may have mentioned to you guys before, but I'm an art-fag and I like artsy movies and I can sit through a lot of things that take their time. I've got Qatsi-levels of patience. You want to show me 15 minutes of a flickering screen? Yeah, I'll watch it and talk about the Zen qualities of living in the here and now and experiencing a thing for experience's sake, forgoing the hustle and bustle of a goal-oriented need for beginning, middle, and end.

And if you bother to watch Floating Weeds, you're going to see some weird things. Frequently, characters are positioned in the dead-middle of the screen, and they speak directly to the camera. It's disconcerting when it happens, because you can't tell who they're talking to, but they're talking to you, the audience. When you watch this movie, you will see that happen time and time again, even though all your film classes say to not do that. Be bold. Do what you want!

And if you watch Floating Weeds, you're also going to see pillow shots, Yasujiro Ozu, who directed Floating Weeds had this thing he did.

They just exist, for no reason. They don't further the plot or establish any kind of setting or character. They actually kinda slow down the film. They put a new pace on it.

And so, when you're watching a film, and you see shots of rocks, or trees, or the stars, and those shots last a full minute, like so much of the footage shot for The Time Machine (I Found at a Yardsale), I want you to think about Yasujiro Ozu, and Floating weeds, and how boring this crap is when done wrong and how you're never going to get that time back.


Now look at this rock for two minutes.

I watched this so you don't have to.

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