Aubrey Plaza Safety Not Guaranteed

Out of Time

10 Underrated Time Travel Movies You Need to See

Catch the Bill & Ted movies Friday starting at 6P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: FilmDistrict/courtesy Everett Collection

Reading a list of blockbuster time travel movies is like taking a trip back to our childhood. The Terminator. Back to the Future. Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. So many movies we spent countless hours obsessing over. With the Bill & Ted movies airing on IFC this month, we got to thinking about what other time travel flicks are out there that may have been missed. From head scratching comedies to experimental documentaries, these time travel movies aren’t household names, but should be. As you revisit Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey during IFC’s Rotten Fridays, here are a few more films to check out for a most excellent time.

10. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel

This playful yarn, clearly influenced by Shaun of the Dead and the films of Edgar Wright, is worth a Saturday afternoon on the couch. Mixing laughs and heart, the twisty time travel story sees our drunk heroes start their night at the pub where they run into an American girl (played by Anna Farris) who claims to have a time machine built into her body. She’s there to prevent a “time leak,” but ends up involving the lads in a meandering tale that sees them fighting to stop the end of the world. A light trifle of a comedy, it’s got a fun cast fronted by Chris O’Dowd, and enough time travel twists to keep you guessing.


9. Project Almanac

Found footage flicks have sort of run their course, but occasionally one pops up that does something fun with the genre. Dean Israelite’s high school time travel movie doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but he tells a surprisingly gripping story of a kid who sees himself in a home video from his childhood, and then finishes his father’s experiment in the garage so he can make that footage come true. A story about being careful what you wish for, the fun of this movie is in the way it shows what most teens would do if a time machine all of a sudden plopped onto their laps — namely, hit on girls and go to Imagine Dragon concerts, and how that could quickly unravel the very thread of existence. A fun flick for the teen in all of us, Project Almanac is worth a watch when you’re craving some lighthearted time traveling vibes.


8. Predestination

Ethan Hawke has made a career out of vacillating between passion projects and blockbusters for the masses. His 2014 sci-fi drama Predestination, based on a short story by Starship Troopers author Robert A. Heinlein, isn’t easy to explain without giving away spoilers, but if you love the head scratching concept of time travelers creating a past that eventually creates them, this is the movie for you. While it failed to set the box office on fire, its 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes should tell you that Predestination is destined to become a cult classic.


7. Sound of My Voice

A Sundance hit, this indie drama centers on the question of how would you react if someone claimed to be a time traveler from the future with all the answers to life. More psychological thriller than twisty time travel romp, director/cowriter Zal Batmanglij’s film explores the human need to believe, and what that makes us capable of. With a stripped down style that has one foot in sci-fi and another in the spiritual realm, this movie isn’t afraid to challenge its audience, and for that alone it’s worth checking out.


6. Time After Time

HG Wells! Jack the Ripper! Disco! This somewhat forgotten 1979 romp isn’t exactly a masterpiece, but for a goofy trip through the “Me Decade” of bushy mustaches and bulbous bell-bottoms you aren’t going to do much better. With genre standouts Malcolm McDowell and David Warner fronting the movie, and a charming Mary Steenburgen playing the love interest of HG Wells years before she would fall for another time traveler in Back to the Future III, director Nicholas Meyer’s (Star Trek II: The Wrath Khan) film has enough acting gravitas to sell the campy concept and ridiculously cheap thrills. If you’ve always wanted your time travel movies to feel like a Three’s Company episode about time travel and serial killers, this is definitely one to add to your queue.


5. Timecrimes

Timecrimes (or Los Cronocrímenes) is a Spanish-language film about a hapless husband who accidentally travels an hour back in time, and slowly realizes that he may be responsible for some awful crimes as a result of his trip. A puzzle of a film, the joy in watching it is peeling back layer after layer of surprising twists, as our hero becomes a villain and then back again. A truly unique film with a sadistic streak, writer/director Nacho Vigalondo uses time travel to explore why we always seem to be our own worst enemies. David Cronenberg was rumored to be making an English language version of Timecrimes at one point, and if the master of body horror was sniffing around this movie, you know you’re in for a nasty treat.


4. Primer

With a budget of just $7,000, there’s no earthly reason why Primer is as effective as it ends up being. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, this low budget mindbender follows two engineers who accidentally discover time travel. Heavy with the supposed science behind their invention, and delivered with a dry, spare style, this movie’s complex plot is really an excuse to explore a fundamentally human question: What makes you you? Director Shane Carruth, a former engineer with a degree in mathematics, also starred in the movie, wrote it, scored it, and edited it, and the bare bones style is part of the fun here. With a heady plot fans are still debating, Primer is about as far from a dumbed-down Hollywood blockbuster as you can get. You’re going to need your own time machine to watch this gem a few times before it really starts to make sense.


3. Safety Not Guaranteed

Director Colin Trevorrow has become one of the biggest names in Hollywood — helming the recent smash hit Jurassic World and due to direct Star Wars: Episode IX — but it all started with this small, character-based comedy about a man who places an ad in the back of a newspaper asking someone to join him on a trip through time. With few special effects or time travel twists, this movie rests on the backs of its ensemble, a likable mix of Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson. A movie for genre and non-genre fans alike, this one is for the dreamers in all of us, and the cynics who would rather just have a stiff drink.


2. La Jetee

French New Wave cinema isn’t the first thing you think of when it comes to time travel, but this 1962 short film from writer/director Chris Maker takes the conventions of the genre and runs them through a psychologically surreal blender. Set in a post-apocalyptic future, the story centers on a prisoner who’s returned to a traumatic moment from his childhood in an attempt to save the world. Using still imagery and the conventions of a documentary, the film is only 28 minutes long. Still, for such a short run time, it rewrote the rules of the genre, and inspired countless future filmmakers, most notably Terry Gilliam for his classic sci-fi thriller 12 Monkeys.


1. The Girl Who Leapt Through Time

A modern anime classic, this 2006 Japanese film is a sequel to the novel of the same name. Much like Project Almanac, it explores the idea of a teenager discovering time travel, and using it for her own selfish whims. Retaking exams, mastering karaoke and keeping a buddy in the “friend zone” are the motivations here. A highly relatable story with lush animation, this reverse Groundhog Day tells the tale of one girl trying to keep her innocent, perfect high school world the same forever, and slowly realizing that life always moves on.

Catch Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey this Friday at 8P on IFC’s Rotten Fridays!

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Mr. Roboto

5 Reasons Rocky IV Is Too Rotten to Miss

Catch Rocky IV Friday at 8P during IFC's Rotten Fridays.

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Photo Credit: MGM/UA/YouTube

When Rocky IV was released in 1985, the critics were not kind. (While it wasn’t around back then, the film’s 39% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes speaks for itself.) Less of a movie than a jingoistic music video starring a robot and a steroid-addled, monosyllabic Russian baddie, Rocky IV is a far cry from the Italian Stallion’s humble origins.

Still, more than any movie ever made, it exemplifies the whole “so bad its good” genre. This movie was made for us, the great-unwashed masses of the 1980s, who loved the band Survivor and hated those Commie bastards. Before you catch Rocky IV on IFC’s Rotten Fridays, let’s take a look at some moments that make this flick a “too rotten to miss” classic.

5. That Opening Shot

Rocky IV
United Artists

It takes all of 30 seconds for the audience to know they’re in for one ridiculous rollercoaster ride through a Cold War conniption fit of good vs. evil. Gone is the subtle tone and grounded reality of the first Rocky. In its place we see two gloves, one emblazoned with the American flag, the other with the Soviets’, hurtling toward each other. When they collide, sparks fly, and we witness an explosion decades in the making.

In case the symbolism is too subtle for you, director/writer/star Sylvester Stallone is trying to hint that this movie will be the clash of civilizations we’d all been waiting for, but instead of nuclear bombs, a humble palooka from the streets would be duking it out in the ring with the ultimate representation of coldhearted Communism. If it were up to us, this opening shot would’ve won Best Picture all by itself.


4. So Many Montages

Rocky IV has a running time of 91 minutes and 20 seconds. Its eight montages (yes, EIGHT) run a total of 29 minutes and 10 seconds. That is one third of the movie solely dedicated to montages. (Considering Stallone’s contempt for all things Soviet, we have to wonder if he knows it was a dirty Ruskie who invented the montage.)

During one of the many, many montages, director Stallone actually flashes back to a scene that had happened a minute and half prior, creating the impression that he might actually flashback to the montage we were just watching in the same montage. Stallone clearly loves a good montage set to an inspirational ’80s song, and so do we. Which brings us to…


3. A Soundtrack Full of Pumped Up ’80s Jams

Speaking of montages, they are set to the score of some of the cheesiest hits from the mid-’80s. For once, we’re spared tracks from Frank Stallone, with Stallone replacing his rocker brother with synth-y singles from Survivor, John Cafferty and Kenny Loggins. And of course, Robert Tepper, possessor of an ’80s mullet that could topple empires, crooning “No Easy Way Out.” The music in this movie is one step away from being a parody of the music in this movie. If you ever want to know what cocaine can do to the human mind, just listen to this soundtrack.


2. Rocky Ends the Cold War

Rocky IV speech
United Artists

In one of the most misguided, self-congratulatory, and immediately dated moments in cinema history, good ol’ galoot Rocky Balboa single-handedly ended the Cold War four years before the Berlin Wall came down.

To quote the Italian Stallion himself: “In here…there were two guys… killing each other. But I guess that’s better than millions. What I’m trying to say is… if I can change… and you can change…everybody can change!” And just like that the Soviet public, generals and even the Premier himself rose to their feet in applause, realizing what fools they’d been. This guy beat Mr. T for Heaven’s sake. He knows what he’s talking about!


1. Paulie’s Robot

Okay, let’s all take a deep breath and really consider this for a moment. Rocky IV has a robot butler in it. A movie franchise that began back in 1976 exploring the gritty reality of a bum fighter trying to prove himself somehow limped along long enough to turn into a weak Short Circuit rip-off in which an alcoholic mooch with a history of domestic abuse now gets his coffee served to him by a robot. A robot that he has programmed with a “sultry” lady voice!

Stallone was inspired to include the real life robot Sico in Rocky IV because of the work it did to help autistic children like his son Seargeoh. That’s all very moving, but doesn’t explain why he decided to write a scene where Paulie dubs poor Sico “the love of my life.” It’s a testament to Rocky IV‘s “too rotten to miss” status that Paulie’s robot girlfriend/personal servant isn’t even the craziest thing that happens to Rock and the gang.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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Gray's Anatomy

Everything You Need to Know About the Movie That Inspired “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”

Brand new Documentary Now! airs Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom Pictures

This week Documentary Now! spotlights a master monologist with “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything.” Before you tune in at 10P this Wednesday on IFC, check out our guide to Swimming to Cambodia, the 1987 film that captured writer/performer Spalding Gray’s acclaimed one-person show.

Spalding Gray 101

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures

Actor and renowned monologist Spalding Gray spent two years on stage perfecting his Obie Award-winning “Swimming to Cambodia” monologue. In it, Gray tells the story of his eight weeks in Southeast Asia while shooting the 1984 Academy Award-winning movie The Killing Fields. He had a small role, but the experience gave him several anecdotes about hanging out with the film crew and experiencing the local culture, all while searching for “the perfect moment.”

Directed by the Silence of the Lambs Guy

Hannibal Lecter
Orion Pictures/Everett Collection

Acclaimed filmmaker Jonathan Demme took Gray’s two-night, four hour performance and crafted it down to 85 minutes. His use of dramatic lighting, stylish camerawork and a score by performance artist Laurie Anderson was praised by critics and earned the film a cult following. No stranger to groundbreaking docs, Demme also directed the 1984 Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense, which Documentary Now! pays tribute to in this season’s episode “Final Transmission.”

All about the Voices

While it may have been a one-man show, Gray created a repertoire of characters all with distinctive accents. (He portrayed conversations between himself and others just by turning his head.) Our favorite impressions are of his demanding girlfriend Renee and Ivan Strasberg, the South African director of photography on The Killing Fields who, as depicted by Gray, sounds a bit like a Jamaican surfer.

The Original Cranky New Yorker

In one memorable scene, Gray rants about how his noisy upstairs artist neighbors are driving him and Renee crazy. Even in the mid-’80s, there were New Yorkers complaining that the city wasn’t what it used to be.

Show and Tell

Swimming to Cambodia
Cinecom Pictures/YouTube

A big fan of visual aids, Gray used pull-down maps to illustrate his travels. This helped to bring Swimming to Cambodia to life, since he’s basically sitting at a desk the entire time.

Inspired One-Person Shows

Gray’s groundbreaking performances in Swimming and other documentaries like Monster in a Box and the Steven Soderbergh-directed Gray’s Anatomy (about Gray’s struggle with a rare eye condition) paved the way for future one-person shows. (We wouldn’t have everything from Carrie Fisher’s “Wishful Drinking” to Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk With Me” without him.) Even Doc Now! star Fred Armisen got into the one-person show act for his recent SNL monologue.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Spalding Gray when “Parker Gail: Location Is Everything” premieres Wednesday, September 28th at 10P on IFC. 

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Burning Heart

10 Reasons Why Rocky IV Is the Ultimate Rocky Movie

Catch an all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC.

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Photo Credit: United Artists/Everett Collection

Sure, most people love the first Rocky for its heart, gripping boxing scenes and the classic training montage. Or, you might love Creed for being both a return-to-form and a new exploration of the Rocky mythology. Maybe the thrill of seeing Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in the same movie makes Rocky III your top pick. Well, sorry, you’re wrong: Rocky IV is the greatest of all the “Italian Stallion”‘s movies.

Before you watch the all-day Rocky movie marathon this Friday, September 30th on IFC (with Rocky IV airing at 8P as part of Rotten Fridays), check out a few reasons to appreciate the fourth installment as the king of the series.

1. The Greatest Opening Ever

How many openings are able to sum up the entire conflict of the film in less than a minute and without a single line of dialogue? And how many of those movies have exploding boxing gloves? Just try to watch the opening sequence above and not be completely psyched for the pumped-up flick to come.


2. Montages!

We all know that the best part of any sports movie is the montage, and Rocky IV doesn’t give you one measly montage. There’s a recap of the previous films montage, a getting to Russia Montage, two training montages and an ending fight montage. That’s five montages! There’s probably a montage of montages snuck in there, too.


3. There’s a Full James Brown Musical Number

This movie is so packed with memorable moments, it’s easy to forget one of the first things that happens in the film: Apollo comes out to fight Drago dressed as a shirtless Uncle Sam, while James Brown and a full band play “Living in America.” To drive home the number’s patriotism, there are dancers in tuxedos and top hats, weird unitards and bowler caps, and bedazzled showgirls with headpieces for miles. Oh, and don’t forget the giant tentacled dragon statue on the stage. This is how every boxing match should start. Heck, this is how we always want to enter a room.


4. The Soundtrack

The Rocky IV soundtrack doesn’t just feature James Brown — it has rock anthems galore, all of which make you immediately want to hit the gym. From “Heart’s on Fire” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band to “Sweetest Victory” by Touch to multiple Survivor jams, you’ll get pumped and stay pumped. Even the instrumental score rocks! Sure, sometimes it sounds like it was made on a kids Casio, but this soundtrack never quits and — to quote Robert Tepper — never takes the easy way out.


5. Abs!

Rocky IV weights

Every Rocky movie shows off Stallone’s incredible physique, but Rocky IV really ups the game. Not only do we get Dolph Lundgren mostly shirtless looking like a man machine, but we get a wide variety of scenes of Stallone doing impossible tasks. Stallone’s crazy dragon fly crunches, aka a thing no human should be able to do, automatically take this movie to the top.


6. Two words: Ivan Drago

Ivan Drago
United Artists

Not only does Rocky IV explore the global conflict between the US and the Soviet Union, but it encapsulates all of our fears of the Cold War in one perfect villain. Ivan Drago only trains with machines and science and looks like he stepped out of an Aryan Nations recruitment poster. He also only responds in short, cold phrases like “If he dies, he dies,” or “I must break you.” There’s never been a villain who we so clearly want to get the crap beat out of than Ivan Drago.


7. Rocky Makes Chores Look Badass

Rocky saw
United Artists

Rocky doesn’t need to be hooked up to machines to become the perfect fighter. All he needs are huge tires and some outdoor chores to do. No one’s ever looked cooler chopping wood and using tractor parts. Half of his training is lifting an old wagon, probably to fix a broken axle. If anything, this film inspires us to take care of that gardening work we’ve been neglecting.


8. Rocky’s Beard

Rocky IV Beard

Stallone’s beard game is truly on point in Rocky IV. And this isn’t some “I forgot to shave, here’s a little stubble” look. No, we get full out, lumberjack-style beard action. Does any other Rocky movie have our hero looking like an old Russian aristocrat? Another point for Rocky IV.


9. There’s a robot!

Again, there’s so much to Rocky IV, you probably forgot about the robot. Well, Rocky has some money now and he’s not going to spend it on frivolous things for himself. He’s going to buy Paulie a robot! The best part of this scene is how truly disturbed Paulie is by this new technology until he gives it a sexy lady voice.


10. Rocky Ends the Cold War

If you’re still not convinced that Rocky IV is the greatest, answer this question: Does any other Rocky movie bring peace between the US and Russia?

By the end of the film, Rocky rises up to beat the seemingly undefeatable Drago. He fights so well, that even the Russians begin to appreciate his skills. Then, instead of using his victory to prove America’s superiority, he gives a rousing speech of “If I can change and you can change, everybody can change!” The whole crowd goes wild, including all of the Russian government, who we assume give up Communism immediately based solely on Rocky’s words. Stallone’s call for international reconciliation through brutal fighting and a variety of montages makes this if not one of the greatest films of all time, certainly the greatest Rocky of them all.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” movie Rocky IV this Friday at 8P on IFC. 

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