(On DVD, September 2018) For science fiction fans who like the genre for its take on fact-based extrapolations, anticipation of the future or explorations of the possibilities of science, it can be a bit hard to make a space in the SF tent for the unusually robust sub-gene of time-travel romance, in which the mechanics and possibilities of time-travel take a distant back seat to star-crossed romance. Rachel MacAdams has a trilogy of such films in her filmography, but the genre is considerably older than twenty-first century views can expect, and one of the references in that steam is 1980’s Somewhere in Time. The time-travel mechanism is incredibly flimsy—just wish really hard!—although to the film’s credit this becomes a climactic plot point. But the justification is not the point—the point is to allow a young playwright the opportunity to go back a few decades in time to meet and romance an actress. The wish fulfillment is baked into the plot, as is the unrepentant nostalgia presented as unabashed good by the film. It’s a specific kind of film, and I suppose that it does have its audience. Christopher Reeves is noteworthy as the romantic protagonist, ably supported by Jane Seymour with Christopher Plummer playing the heavy as only he can. Somewhere in Time pulls no stops on its way to a timeless tragic romance, so know what to expect. It’s not bad, but aspects of it will strike a few hardened cynics—I plead guilty—as irremediably silly.
(Second viewing, On Blu-ray, September 2018) And so the Roger Moore Bond years begin in Live and Let Die, without SPECTRE, but with tarot, voodoo and tons of Blaxploitation. The globe-threatening antics of previous films are reduced to a drug trafficking movie, albeit with a considerable amount of early-seventies flair. Moore’s performance is not quite Moore’s Bond yet: His approach is still more intense than debonair, his quips are restrained and he still feels like a holdover from the Connery era. The film around him, however, is a clear relic of its time: I happen to like Blaxploitation a lot, so it’s not as if its intrusion on Bond territory is not welcome—on the other hand, this is clearly a black-focused film written by white people, so the folkloric aspects of black culture are played up and character stereotypes abound. It’s also missing a lot of what made Blaxploitation feel fun—no funk, no going up against the man on behalf of the black man. Oh well; we couldn’t really expect much from such a combination. Elsewhere in the movie, the ludicrousness abounds: there’s an uncomfortable aura of supernatural floating around the film, even when you can explain most of it rationally through dramatic plotting, impossibly clever schemes and an impressionistic final shot. It does dovetail with the increasingly silly nature of the Bond series going into the Moore years, especially when tarot and voodoo are used as exotic window-dressing for the series’ globetrotting. Speaking of which: It does feel like an overdose to go back to America in back-to-back Bond movies, even if New Orleans isn’t the same as Las Vegas. (I saw Live and Let Die as a teenager, but I had forgotten all about Bond’s detour in New York City. I did remember the tricked-out card deck, though.) I’m not particularly impressed by the film’s action showpieces, especially the boat sequence which, while containing some spectacular moments, doesn’t seem to build to something as much as it just strings stuff along until it runs out of its budget. Jane Seymour is one of the most intriguing Bond Girls as Solitaire, but I’m not sure that she actually fits in the Bond universe. Yaphet Kotto is not bad as the villain, although one wonders how busy his agenda is in-between the ruling, the trafficking and the evil plotting. Among bit players, David Hedison is great as Felix Leiter, Geoffrey Holder is terrific as Baron Samedi, Madeline Smith is cute as the Opening Bond Girl and Gloria Hendry is welcome as the Bad Bond Girl. Alas, Sheriff Pepper is intolerable, Q is missing and the plot is a bit dull, suggesting once again that the Bond series is at its silly best when it goes bigger-than-big. Speaking of which, Paul McCartney’s title song is terrific, probably my favourite of the series. Otherwise, Live and Let Die is a formula Bond movie, perhaps more interesting as a period piece and as a transition point for the series rather than by itself.
(On Cable TV, January 2014) I have some affection for dumb comedies, and that sometimes translates into a satisfied shrug to describe a film that’s objectively bad. So it is with Freeloaders, an unchallenging comedy about a group of moochers forced to move out of a Los Angeles house when their rock-star host decides to sell his home and move to New York. A few episodic sequences ensue, followed by a tackled-on ending that the protagonists don’t really have to work for. Structurally, the script is a mess and the characters barely deserve any sympathy. But if you’re in the mood for this kind of comedy, Freeloaders fits expectations: It’s not meant to be smart, but it has a few celebrity cameos (Olivia Munn has an unflattering walk-on, Denise Richards only has to be nice, while Richard Branson is asked to look bemused) and The Counting Crows’s Adam Duritz, who also produced the film- is the house owner being so kind to the titular freeloaders, ends up concluding the film with a spirited performance of “Hanginaround” that you will be humming for days. Freeloaders features actors doing their best at being likable and lays on the jokes until a few of them sticks. Dave Foley is most remarkable in a heavily self-deprecating role as himself, while Jane Seymour gets a few laughs as a high-powered real estate agent. Otherwise, it’s a bunch of cheap jokes and irresponsible behavior that make up most of the film, with a few ill-advised romantic moments meant to bloat the film up to 77 minutes. Still, it has a bit of charm and charm is often enough to make a difference in low-budget, low-wit comedies. Freeloaders will make you grin if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s worth remembering that it’s not going to be a particularly good film and that better comedies are likely to be available from the exact same sources that will rent, show or stream this film.