The Time Traveler’s Wife

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Based on the hit 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger , The Time Traveler’s Wife tells the tale fairly well. Director Robert Schwentke (Flightplan), brings Niffenegger’s book to the screen without any splash and hoopla. There are no great revelations and the film takes a surprisingly low-keyed emotional track given the time travel-entangled romantic aspect of The Time Traveler’s Wife. You won’t need the hankies or tissues for this one.

Henry (Eric Bana) is a Chicago research librarian with the ability to travel through time through some genetic anomaly. The episodes happen without warning and he has no control over them. Henry is a young boy about to witness his mother’s imminent death  when the ability to time travel first presents itself. He suddenly finds himself two weeks in the past, still in her loving embrace. And so it goes. Sometimes at moments of stress and other times for no apparent reason, he simply travels.

Bana is convincing and earnest. Henry struggles with the ability, both a gift and a curse. We learn he has gone back hundreds of times to the day of his mother’s death with the hope of somehow preventing it and failing to stop it each time. Many years have passed and perhaps by now he has accepted it but watching your mother die hundreds of times should leave more of a scar then the portrayal brought.

A nice benefit for the female viewers of Henry’s time travel is that he leaves without clothing and arrives at his destination nude. There is a good deal of almost-naked-Eric Bana shots throughout the film.

Rachael McAdams, of The Notebook fame, also plays her character, Claire, ably. When she first meets Henry as an adult, the love beaming in her eyes radiates like high beams on a dark country road. There is no doubt she loves Henry. Through their trials of separation, brought on by his inadvertent time travels, she is seldom troubled. She is merely annoyed when once he disappears for two straight weeks. The romantic scenes play well and the chemistry between the stars feels authentic.

The problem I have with the movie is that a situation such as this should create a lot more stress no matter how much you love someone. Most wives get more than just a little cranky with a husband who is chronically late for dinner. Claire is so accepting most of the time with the time travel and Henry’s disappearances, it just doesn’t feel right.

Time has separated many couples in tales told on the silver screen:  The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher, The Lake House with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock and Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. Each film found a way to change the effects of time so two people can be together, not always with the desired outcomes.

All of these films caused viewers to feel something, to relate to the characters. The Time Traveler’s Wife failed to achieve that result. Without revealing the ending, it can only be said that the sizzling drama the previews promised merely simmered.

Fame 2009

FameThe original Fame (1980) galvanized a generation of youth and made dreaming cool. It had energizing music, characters like none before and a story people could identify with: reaching for your dreams in spite of the odds. The 2009 version may not be as innovative but it’s definitely worth watching and sends the same message.
The newer Fame (2009) does a good job of measuring up to the earlier version. It follows a group of students from auditions for New York City’s School for the Performing Arts or PA, through their senior year. New music including hip hop and rap and a couple of tunes from the original, modern clothing and hair styles and a whole new cast of performers looking for Fame, the movie speaks to a new generation.
The standout performer in this generation of high school star-wannabes is Naurtri Naughton. She portrays a meek classical pianist following the dreams daddy has for her. Along the way, she makes friends, develops confidence and discovers she also has an incredible voice. She sings On My Own, Irene Cara’s solo piece from the original movie and does a knock-out job. The yearning for a dream she as yet does not think she will ever achieve oozes from her song and makes you ache for her. She’s that good.
Asher Book plays Marco, another singer who’s grown up singing and playing the piano in his papa’s restaurant. He has a gift for knowing how to sell a song. His experience and confidence assure him of fame someday. Every nuance, every emotion plays on his face while his voice melts your heart. From the audition day through graduation, Marco has eyes only for innocent and sweet Jenny.
Jenny wants to be an actress. She’s full of intensity and drive but doesn’t know how to relax and have fun. Forced to sing she warbles’s Someone to Watch over Me with all the feeling of bagel. As she matures, she finds not only her voice but her acting chops and learns lessons about the nature of the business from some unscrupulous people. Her relationship with Marco also takes a few ups and downs as she learns that what’s important in life isn’t always fame.
Kherington Payne and Paul McGill portray dancers. Payne is showcased in several numbers and is spectacular to watch. McGill plays the part of an Iowa farm boy who learned to dance in mother’s studio. He’s not quite as good as everyone in the school so we never really get to see what he can do on the dance floor. He faces his moment of truth when in his senior year, he learns he may not have what it takes to turn professional.
The staff is engagingly played by Kelsey Grammer as a music teacher, Bebe Neuwirth as the dance instructor, Megan Mullally as the voice teacher and Charles S Dutton as the drama teacher. All the teachers care deeply about the students and push them to be the best they can. A small role as Principal Simms finds Debbie Allen, the original dance instructor from both the 1980 movie and the television show that followed, returning to the School of the Performing Arts.
In some places, the story feels a little rushed and we don’t get to see inside the kids as much as we’d like but the numbers are energetic and tender by turn. While I missed some of the old faces, there’s a new class every year and these faces will become just as familiar and loved.

Surrogates

SurrogatesSurrogates gives us a glimpse of what life could become if we continue to rely on electronic means for our social interaction.
The movie takes place in the future at a time when society has come to rely on surrogates to live their lives. Humans remain secluded, hermit-like in their homes having minimal contact with one another, even spouses. Their younger-looking, attractive surrogates, robots go to work, run errands, socialize, engage in the equivalent of robotic-drug-taking and even have sex for them.
When a surrogate is viciously attacked and destroyed on the street, his user is also killed through the connection. Nothing like this has ever happened before. Willis, playing an FBI detective, takes on the case, through his surrogate of course. The identity of the user is revealed to be the college-student son of the creator of the surrogates and the case gets underway. Our hero discovers the only way to get to the bottom of things is to venture out into the world himself, sans a surrogate. He hasn’t been outside in years and the adjustment is difficult.
His marriage is in shambles after the death of his son some time back. He longs for his human wife (Rosamund Pike)but she cannot face life without her surrogate.
A group of subversive humans who refuse to accept the new order of things and oppose surrogacy seem to have a hand in things. The movie ambles on, revealing clues and hints, but not really generating intense suspense. In the end, although it’s enjoyable, it’s somewhat predictable.