Saturday, July 8, 2017

Worst of the Worst?: The Time Machine (I Found at a Yard Sale) - Bob's View

There are some movies so bad you just can't watch through them alone and keep your sanity. For those times, Al and I have designed Worst of the Worst, where we'll sit down together to watch a film and provide moral support and perhaps a shoulder to cry on when we break. Then, we can each put down our thoughts about the same film. Maybe you'll get two different views!

Or maybe, like today, we'll just both agree the film is horrid.

The Time Machine (I Found at a Yard Sale) is pretty infamous already. Al gives a good coverage of just what it is in his own review, but to recap, it's a low, low, low budget film (albeit one shot on RED because that is apparently vitally important) about a guy who finds a little box that happens to be a time machine at a yard sale and goes home and does unwise things with it.

Also, the main character's name is Robert Moore. Thankfully the last name is spelled differently, or I might have had to take this personally.

I like to start my reviews with compliments if at all possible, so here goes:

  • The main character is better at walking than Rod from Birdemic.
  • The dialog is sometimes delivered with something approaching actual human behavior simulation by the automatons on screen.
  • I kind of like the busted stopwatch that's used on the title screen.

Here's the thing...this idea? You totally can make a low budget film about time travel and actually make something pretty good, if you're otherwise pretty good at making films. What you have to do is restrain your concept. Make a time travel film about a time loop that covers a few days, maybe. Or make one where you travel back or forward only a few years, where things won't have changed much technologically and you won't have a large costume expense.

Don't, say, make a film where you travel several thousand years forward in time. Twice.

And don't rip off the Mutara Nebula fight from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan either.
TTMIFaaYS does not know the meaning of the word "restraint" when it comes to ideas. Nor does it know the meaning of the words "focus on one plot and adequately develop it." It takes what could actually be a perfectly fine idea for a low budget sci-fi film that could let a person show off their abilities in writing or direction or acting or whatever you want, and does it in exactly the wrong way to be of benefit to anything.

It's actually a hard film to review just because it gets too much wrong...but I'm going to pick a couple things to focus on here that were particularly bad.

First up, I've already mentioned it, but the choice of how to use the time machine in this film was just plain stupid for what they were going to be able to accomplish. You do not put yourself in the position of having to get out of portraying a massive futuristic environment. If you are making a low budget film, the words "thousands of years" should simply never show up in your script concept. You are asking for trouble then.

Furthermore, you should absolutely not include the word "spaceship." That is also a no go for a very low budget film. A spaceship, when introduced, needs to be used. When that spaceship is used, it has to go somewhere. Usually that somewhere is space. Making a spaceship move, and making it move through space, are both potentially quite expensive endeavors.

The solution in this film was to use a spectacularly poor 3d model for the spaceship, and take publicly available NASA photographs to use as backdrops that the ship could fly past. That's not a good solution.

First off: At the very least, if you're going for this, get one of the ship models from DAZ or Smith Micro or one of the other 3d art sites. It won't be something you custom made, but many of them can be customized and at least you'll have something with some reasonable textures and shapes rather than kind of a metal pancake.

Second: Don't just use still photographs from NASA as backdrops. That simply doesn't cut it for a watchable film, at least not unless you make a real effort to dress them up in some way and use them logically.

And third: If you're going to use a basic "stars going past" animation for when you're in warp speed, consider at least having the stars move quickly. Every time they show the stars moving animation in this film, things move at such a crawl I thought they were going to have a plot point about engine trouble.

This film just reached too far, honestly. Doing a "far, far future" concept or a "adventures in outer space" concept was just never going to work...and they did both. So what we get is a film that's full of shots of our main characters sitting in a cockpit that consists of....nothing much, just a couple seats, a control stick, and a panel...and staring at the alleged viewscreen off camera and telling us what they see in as unenthusiastic a tone as possible. It's like listening to a book on tape, but with images on screen that are so dull they kill off the imagination you'd otherwise be using to picture what was going on.

You better really get used to this shot. You will see it a lot.
The second major problem? This film goes through multiple plots in its (not nearly short enough) runtime. Robert buys the time machine and gets a basic handle on its abilities, then travels several thousand years forward, then kind of helps a woman (She-Ba) escape what I think was slavery, then travels several thousand years further forward (because it went so well the first time), then finds a spaceship, then joyrides in it, then gets a message that the former owner of said ship was smuggling something for a rebellion and decides to complete said mission, stops at a gem world, stops at a dinosaur world, fights an enemy ship, completes the mission, finds a bunch of diamonds, goes back to buy clothes, gets told that there's another mission, goes on that mission, gets trapped on an ice world, nearly freezes to death when his ship is...shot or something...before he and She-Ba remember they have a time machine (because I honestly think the scriptwriter forgot until this point), then escapes by using said time machine, takes She-Ba to meet his parents, randomly discovers a treasure map, goes treasure hunting, discovers the treasure, goes to chill on the beach, and finally (spoilers!) decides to go back many many thousands of years in the future on an urgent mission to help rebels who are many many thousands of years from even being born yet, which seems to me to suggest that maybe he could take a little while longer to chill on the beach, but apparently She-Ba doesn't agree.

You might be thinking, "holy crap, that sounds like a lot of stuff in that movie." And you'd be right! There is a lot of stuff in this movie. There is too much stuff in this movie. Nothing gets adequately developed.'s what you do. Pick one thing for the movie to be about, as a main plot, and stick with that. You can have a subplot, maybe two, but keep the primary focus on one thing. "Time Machine" is in your title, so I suggest sticking with that, but if you must, get the characters to the spaceship, introduce the smuggling plot, and make the rest of the movie about that mission. Come up with a few problems that can get in the heroes' way, and make the rest of the movie about them surmounting those problems until they can finally get to their destination and deliver the package they were supposed to deliver. You can make a much, much more focused, direct, and interesting plot that way.

It's weird. Watching this film, it felt like they glued several extremely short TV episodes together from a series where each episode has its own mostly independent plot. It's like if you took Burn Notice (apologies to Burn Notice for mentioning it in this review) and took only the bare minimum necessary from five or six different episodes to make a movie length plot, but mostly focused on the stuff from the episode plots instead of the stuff from the season-long plot.

...that would still be so much more interesting than this.

But really...the main problem with all of this is that it is The above problems are major, and fixing them would make a better film, but the overall presentation is just so dull that I'm not sure that there's much of a way to save it. I can blame a lack of special effects caused by a low budget for why the makers chose to focus on the characters in the ship instead of showing us what was happening outside. I can blame a lack of special effects caused by a low budget for why the fight with the enemy ship was so basic and dull. I can blame overreaching on a concept for why the space travel is so uninteresting. I can blame a lack of focus for...well...the lack of focus.

But I can't blame any of those things for why the film chooses to make us watch a man retrieve orange juice from his fridge, pour it, and drink it down as slowly as possible in real time, not missing a single moment of that scintillating spectacle. I can't blame any of those things for the repeated lengthy shots of trees, or gems, or other backdrops with absolutely nothing happening. I can't blame any of those things for that really bizarre scene where we stare at Robert and She-Ba staring at each other and giggling, then they fade and we stare at lake (I guess?) for a full 18 seconds with nothing going on, then She-Ba fades into view and brushes her hair, and then it all fades out again.

Seriously, what was that? I'm guessing it was an extremely awkward way to imply they were sleeping together? Maybe? Was that it?

And lest you think I'm complaining overmuch about the orange juice scene, I just want to emphasize something. He opens the fridge at 6 minutes and 34 seconds into the movie. He sets the empty glass he just drank from in the sink at 7 minutes and 41 seconds into the movie. The movie spends one minute and seven seconds just making us watch a man slowly retrieve a bottle of orange juice from the fridge, pour a glass of orange juice, put the bottle away, and excruciatingly slowly drink the orange juice before setting the glass down in the sink.


Counting the credits, this is an 84-minute film. That means that roughly 1/84th of this film is "man drinks glass of orange juice while staring wordlessly and expressionlessly at something off camera." Now, there may be an optimal ratio for amount of your film taken up by a person just standing there drinking something and staring off into space wordlessly, but I'm pretty sure 1/84th isn't the right one. Cut the orange juice drinking while staring into space content by at least 50%, people. Learn some speed drinking techniques. Just drink it down. One big gulp. You can do it. Or just, y'know, cut at some point, like a sensible person would.

Aside from that...the sound mixing here is just plain awful. The dialog is far, far too quiet in many scenes, so that even if you're trying to be interested in the plot you can't hear what's going on. I had my TV turned up to double the volume I normally watch it at and I still couldn't hear a darn thing in some scenes. And this is when there's not really much background sound at all! When there is background noise you've just got no hope much of the time.

There are things wrong with this film that a little thought could fix - a change to the script, a re-ordering of events maybe, a little more focus, and some of this gets better. But there are things about this film that are just plain bad, and there's no fixing them without utterly changing the directing, the acting, the editing, and...well...everything else about the film.

There are bad movies that are kind of fun to watch, and there are bad movies that are kind of fun to watch together at least because you can get a good series of jokes going between you and your buddy. The Time Machine (I Found at a Yard Sale) is neither of those. It is deadly, deadly dull, and even having Al watching it with me only just made it possible to get through. I cannot recommend it as a watch even for bad movie buffs.

To close, here is a short and incomplete list of some of the films I have watched that I would have rather watched than this movie (if someone held a gun to my head and made me choose):

In another situation, I would never choose to watch any of those films again, and they are all films that I only watched in the first place because I was asked to review them by Al for his birthday or by someone for Project Terrible. To add a few more that I haven't reviewed myself but have seen...Manos: The Hands of Fate, Red Zone Cuba, and Birdemic are all miles better than this film.

This was mind-numbingly dull, unfocused, and just inexplicable. The Time Machine (I Found at a Yard Sale) is one of the single worst movies I have ever seen, and the worst part is that it really didn't have to be. If the people making this film had just paused to think for a little while about their concept, maybe they could have found something that was within their financial means and within their skills. A nice, simple time travel plot set entirely in modern day and just using the time machine to solve regular life problems, as opposed to travelling some 20,000 years into the future and then forgetting the time machine existed, could have made for a decent, watchable low-low-budget sci-fi flick that served as a decent thing to have on a resume.

Instead, we got this.

Don't watch it. Ignore it, and hopefully it will go away.

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