Bill & Ted

“Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure" (1989)
Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted “Theodore” Logan are Wyld Stallyns in Stephen Herek’s minor classic, a sprightly, irreverent time-travel comedy about two slackers who couldn’t do anything right until hooking up with the otherworldly Rufus. The time-hopping chuckster gifts them with a phone booth that allows them to complete their class project on time, as they leap from one period to another, procuring history’s greatest figures, from Socrates to Joan of Arc. The history lessons are straight out of Mad-Libs, but the film skates by on the noted charm and chemistry of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter as the title’s somewhat brain-dead rockers, two best friends who are united by both their love of rock, but also their unspoken support system keeping either of them from falling into an abyss of bad grades, unsupportive parents, and dead-end futures. [B+]


“Timecrimes" (2007)
Sort of a dizygotic twin to Shane Carruth's no-budget "Primer," Nacho Vigalondo's "Timecrimes" retains some of the smarts but keeps things from getting too talky/dry in a way that only someone named Nacho can do. Starring "Biutiful's" schlubby Karra Elejalde as Hector (who's more Joe the Plumber than the actual Joe the Plumber), this Spanish micro-indie kicks things off sleazily, having the protagonist pursue a naked vixen he glances in the woods surrounding his property. Suddenly attacked by a bandaged man on his way in, Hector escapes into a mysterious lab and is swindled by its resident scientist into a time-traveling gizmo. Emerging an hour earlier in the timeline, things get a bit complicated: this Hector must force Hector #2 to follow the same path he did, thus making a full-circle. Of course, nothing's that easy, and eventually another Hector appears to disorder things further. With three now vying to be the one-and-only, you've got yourself a fairly immersing thriller and one of the more fun examples in the genre. Vigalondo could've used the multiple Hectors as some sort of insight into a single human being's various facets, but he'd rather play than philosophize. Thankfully, the typically convoluted plot elements are easy enough to keep track of but hard enough to invoke that good ol' problem solving self-satisfaction as you figure it out. Polished with breezy pacing and an occasionally goofy sense of humor, the filmmaker is no Duncan Jones or Neill Blomkamp, but will probably be helming smart genre pictures just the same in due time. [B]

Happy Accidents

“Happy Accidents" (2000)
The third film from director Brad Anderson proved to be his first excursion into the kind of flawed, fascinating genre oddities that have dominated his career ever since. Sold as the kind of quirky rom-com that was ten-a-penny in the indie world even a decade ago, it comes as something of a surprise when the major flaw of Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio), the charming new lover of Ruby (Marisa Tomei), turns out to be that he claims to be a 'back-traveler,' from the year 2439. The film fully embraces its science-fiction elements, sketching out a future world that owes a little to Woody Allen's "Sleeper," but it's blended with a genuinely sweet romance. Both leads are charming -- D'Onofrio in particular makes you lament that he's spent so long in the "Law & Order" wasteland -- and there's a psychological realism that lifts it above other rom-coms. It might be a minor work, but it's also one of Anderson's most satisfying. [B]

The Jacket

“The Jacket" (2005)
Surviving the Gulf War despite major head trauma, veteran Jack Starks (Adrien Brody) tries to go to a home that may not exist. Instead, he finds himself involved in a hoary shooting incident that gets him sentenced to a mental institution, where he is locked in an experimental straightjacket at night that allows him to jump forward in time to romance the daughter of one of the victims of his violence. Long in-development as some sort of big studio film, the small, intimate, often willfully incomprehensible “The Jacket” spotlights a jagged series of connections between violent acts that features no direct answer as to what Starks is experiencing. Brody is suitably haunted in the lead, and Keira Knightley is affecting as the lonely woman he romances, but look out for a very pre-Bond Daniel Craig as one of the paranoid, disturbed institution members eager to get a look into Starks’ head. [B+]