Future Shock; Führer Schlock


A movie primed to make grown men cry, the time-travel thriller Frequency comes on like a sensitive-jock older brother to the cutely paranormal alt-destiny reveries Sliding Doors and Me Myself I. Set in two intersecting time periods and under a cloud of moist manliness, the film uses fanciful cosmological chicanery to hatch a doleful, soft-boiled paean to absent fathers and baseball-kindled nostalgia (think Back to the Field of Dreams).

John Sullivan (Jim Caviezel) is a Queens cop whose firefighter father (Dennis Quaid) died on the job in 1969. Now in his mid 30s and irreversibly scarred by this early ordeal, John discovers Dad’s old ham radio, and—thanks to a meteorological fluke (an electrical storm sparking aurora-borealis-like fireworks in the night sky)—finds himself talking to his father, Frank. It’s exactly 30 years ago, mere days before Frank will perish in a warehouse fire. By predicting the outcome of a World Series game, John convinces his father that his receiver is picking up signals from the future, and persuades him, at the fateful moment, to ignore the instincts that would prove fatal.

The first third of Frequency plays like the entirety of a generic time-travel movie. But the screenplay, by Toby Emmerich (a New Line exec), lingers stubbornly on the hazardous domino effect of rewriting history. John learns to his dismay that, in saving his father, he unwittingly paves the way for the grisly murder of his mother (Elizabeth Mitchell). Separated by three decades, father and son collaborate to catch a serial killer. Frank’s preventive measures in 1969 resurrect long-dead victims in 1999; each time a new parallel universe is created, freshly minted memories compete for space with old ones in John’s increasingly addled brain. The mindfuck potential—through the roof given the younger Sullivan’s alarmingly mutable surroundings—goes untapped (as does the implicit surrealist comedy; the premise cries out for a Jonze/Kaufman remake). Instead, Emmerich and the reliably unsubtle director Gregory Hoblit work so hard at smoothing out any Möbius-strip complications that only the tidiest slipknots remain.

Caviezel, the dusky, serenely haunted transcendentalist of The Thin Red Line, is, against all odds, sympathetic and believably depressed, though neither he nor Quaid can withstand the climactic tsunami of treacle. At heart a shameless go-getting parable (the obligatory joke about time-travel prescience concerns the acquisition of Yahoo! stock), Frequency dispenses with the notion of time traveler as arrogant meddler. The movie’s fantasy hyperspace offers amusingly absolute control. (The critical rule: Mess with history all you want, and don’t even think of stopping until everything is exactly as you want it.) If nothing else, Frequency succeeds as a testament to the power of oblivious, tick-like tenacity and an inflated sense of entitlement.

More male bonding: Bruce LaBruce’s Skin Flick, a sequel of sorts to his queercore staple No Skin Off My Ass, is a porn spoof that supposedly also functions as porn, a halfhearted act of skinhead fetishism and a feeble critique thereof. Take your pick. LaBruce trains his camera on gay Nazi thugs on the rampage in South London, switching between grainy exteriors and harshly overlit (i.e., knowingly porn-like) sets for indoor fuck sessions. As in porn, the film (original title: Gang of Foreskins) is structured around, and subservient to, a series of sex acts—though this is the “softcore” cut, with no penetration; an uncensored edition, presumably the one commissioned by the film’s German producers, exists. The idea that Skin Flick (or this version of it, at any rate) works as pornography or sociocultural deconstruction is laughable. You could argue that the film is making a point about either the allure of fascism or the dangers of fetishism, but the come shot that results in a stained copy of Mein Kampf sets the tone: Skin Flick is so methodically and stupidly tasteless that it ends up devoid of both shock value and meaning.