TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES

July 30, 2015

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DIRECTOR: Jonathan Mostow

May Contain Spoilers!

Terminator 3 was always going to be a poison chalice. No one beside James Cameron was ever going to produce a film which would be able to live up to the director’s signature work, least of all the director of Breakdown (1998) and U-571 (2000). But I always felt that this film was much better that it was received at the time.

Granted, Cameron’s vision and style was glaringly absent and the tone was refreshingly lighter but as a sequel, this defies Terminator 2’s (1991) success as one of the most honest sequels to date, never shying away from where the story should have gone. But what we do get is a film which visually, at least, packs more of a punch, certainly where the robot vs. robot action is concerned.

But this pretty much all this film has to offer, besides the clichés. The action and pacing are kinetic and are helped along with some decent special effects, certainly for the day and even though this is a shallow sequel, certainly compared to T2, it’s the most entertaining entry of the franchise to watch. We’re not bogged down with any serious time bending paradoxes or psychotic mothers, we just have a lighter version of The Terminator (1984), with a futuristic assassin hunting down members of the resistance and a protector (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent to protect John Connor (Nick Stahl) and his future wife, Kate Brewster (Claire Danes).

There’s no doubting the ground breaking natures of both The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but this is not trying to compete with them, well I certainly hope not, but what Mostow has achieved, is a PG-13 actioner revolving around robots smashing each other to bits. Well, there must have been a market for this because just four years later Transformers (2007) exploded on to our screens.

Recommended, not as great addition to the Terminator franchise but as a very enjoyable action film. And one of Arnie’s last films before entering politics.

*Originally Posted 2013

 


MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION

July 30, 2015

Mission: Impossible is back today, with the fifth instalment in 19 years. Years, just short of 20 years since Brian De Palma’s reboot/sequel or soft reboot of the original hit 1960’s TV series blasted its way into theatres in the summer of 1996. It held its own against Independence Day (1996) and has become the rescue vehicle for Tom Cruise’s fluctuating career over the past two decades.

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John Woo’s Mission: Impossible II (2000) arrived at a time when Cruise needed a blockbuster after several less ego driven roles, even though Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia (1999) saw him receive an Oscar nod, M:I III (2006) (J.J. Abrams) resuscitated him after the whole couch jumping incident and Brad Bird’s Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011) followed a slow spell. Tom Cruise’s ego can’t allow that. But the beauty of this franchise is that it is genuinely good. Cruise as producer has controlled this franchise from day one and has hired different directors with varied styles to make their own films, as long as Cruise’s Ethan Hunt is basically a superhero, let alone a super-spy.

The quality has varied but the standards have been high throughout and even though M:I II was the weakest of the bunch, it is still a superior action movie.

So, following on from the final line in Ghost Protocol, “The Syndicate is real…”

…and on another note, take a look at this great set of posters which have been commissioned for the entire series…
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TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY

July 29, 2015

terminator_two_judgement_day1991 – THEATRICAL VERSION

1991/1993 – SPECIAL EDITION

1991/1993/2008 – EXTENDED SPECIAL EDITION

DIRECTOR: James Cameron

May Contain Spoilers!

The Future Coda: That is one of the two added scenes which make up the Extended Special Edition of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Only available on the Skynet Edition of the Blu-ray, this additional version is a novelty at best, offering a different ending to a film which was almost perfect in its Special Edition form. Here we see an alternate 2029 in which Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is a content old woman (sporting some pretty bad make-up, indicative of the early 90’s) and John Connor is senator… blah blah blah! Rubbish!

“The future is highway…” final monologue is perfectly ambiguous and works great in order to conclude one of cinemas best written and executed sequels. This, along with the Star Wars: Episode V: Empire Strikes Back (1980) set the bar for what a sequel could and should be. The natural extension of what has come before, in this case taking the normal, decent Sarah Connor which we met in The Terminator (1984) and picking her up a decade later to find her to be a very troubled 29 year old who has been committed to and asylum.

The waitress is gone. John Connor is in care, though be it clearly too old but anyway, and Sarah is now basically insane, driven so by the nightmarish knowledge that the world she and everyone else inhabits is effectively dead, it just hasn’t happened yet. This is the very real and plausible premise for her entire character arch in this movie, one which will turn her into the very thing she hates and has dedicated her life to destroy, a Terminator.

It is a mortal battle between the future Skynet, who has again dispatched Terminator, a liquid metal T-1000 played pitch perfect by Robert Patrick and Sarah Connor, who is just as intent of destroying her foe before it is created. And having discovered the location of Skynet’s creator, Myles Dyson (Joe Morton), she sets out to murder him before he can create his doomsday machine.

But enough of all that. This plot is only the second half of the film. That’s right, the first hour is Terminator 2, in which we find out that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s T-800 is now the good guy and all three of them must evade the T-1000 in order to survive, before they embark on their counter-mission to destroy Skynet.

The effects are so good that even 24 years on, the T-1000’s liquidity effects are still astonishing, developed from Cameron’s seemingly forgotten The Abyss (1989), the plot is still viable and relevant with timeless themes but nothing beats the integrity of a film which takes The Terminator (1984) to its natural conclusion and well beyond. Sarah Connor is unlikable, a fanatic who will stop at nothing to fulfil what the rest of the world perceive to be deranged fantasy.

And it is played so well that if we did not know about the Terminators first hand then we probably would not believe her and that is the magic. Take away the rest of the action and focus of Sarah Connor’s potential psychosis and we are left with a decent enough psychological thriller in its own right and this is just small part of an epic plot. This is, like most of Cameron’s work at this point, a well conceived multi-layered narrative, with thrilling action, great ideas and near perfect execution.

The Terminator (1984) must not be ignored but Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the epitome of story development, understanding as few do, that having faith in your own vision and not pandering what you think your audience want is the route to creating a classic. Surely nobody would have wanted Sarah Connor to turn out like this, any more than we would want Arnie to be good guy, right? It would have been like Luke Skywalker going mad and Darth Vader joining the rebellion… wouldn’t work, or would it?

Well, it did hear and the rest, is well, sort of history.

To access the ESP version of the film on the Skynet Edition Blu-ray, you must enter the five digit code, 82997… which is of course Judgment Day.


THE TERMINATOR

July 27, 2015

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DIRECTOR: James Cameron

May Contain Spoilers!

Isn’t James Cameron a genius! Often given credit for his original story for The Terminator, so many forget that it was actually the much early work of Science Fiction, a script by Harlan Ellison, which is claimed to have served as inspiration for this classic 1980’s and franchise starting flick. Ellison, who is well-known for his work on Star Trek, is responsible for no less than two The Outer Limits (1960’s) episodes which lay out the basic plot points which drive this film, that being “Soldier”, the story of two soldiers being sent back in time from a future war and less predominantly “Demon With A Glass Hand”, both from series’ second and final season.

But whether Cameron is solely responsible for the core plot of this film of not, he can claim credit for its heart and soul. Taking the established concepts behind the horror/slasher/stalker genres which were dominating 80’s cinema, he manages to flesh it out with a real science fiction story, a fluid and well paced screenplay and some really good performances, which are in many ways, leagues above what is expected for films such as this.

Standing as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s breakthrough role, he is often criticised for his literally “mechanical” performance, but having watched this with fresh eyes, not having seen it for over a decade, I am forced to disagree. Yes, the dialogue is sparse, but effective and if anything, he acting is a little too animated, certainly in comparison to later portrayals of the T-800’s, from Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003) and The latest instalment, Terminator: Genisys (2015) 

And what happened to Michael Beihn? He was a great 80’s everyman action hero but one who barely made it into the 1990’s, certainly not in the mainstream, but why is beyond me and his naturalistic performance and exposition of a complex future seems to have been dismissed and I think it need to be re-examined as it was he who set the tone for the entire, now bloated franchise.

Basically, The Terminator is the Horror/Action film for the whole family to enjoy, it has it all, as is generally Cameron’s trademark. Brad Fidel’s score is iconic and rightfully so and only adds to the grand scale, not of the action so much but the enveloping epic plot and sense of forbidding with almost a romantic allure. As if the Judgement Day of the then future, August 29th 1997, was a real event and it has, thanks to Cameron’s first two films, become as real a fictional future as The Planet Of The Apes (1968), as something which has evolved into the cultural Zeitgeist.

How did he do it? He made it real.

Presented it as fact, as any real storyteller does. He believes it so we believe it and it is that faith in this low-budget stalker flick from the 1980’s, playing for the late night video crowd, which has elevated it into a bona-fide Sci Fi classic.


ANT-MAN (3D)

July 24, 2015

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DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed

CINEMA REVIEW

May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? YES

Ant-Man marks the end of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe’s Phase 2, a conclusion which was expected to be Avengers: Age Of Ultron, but as the universe is growing in leaps and bounds, this latest addition simply demonstrates the new direction which Marvel is heading. The days of Tony Stark and I suspect Thor are clearly numbered as the new Avengers as established in the second movie, are the future, along with Ant-Man and what a  prospect that is.

This was fun, simple, 80’s/90’s style fun. A film which is nothing less than a mission statement as to where Marvel sees itself over the next few years, as DC is gearing up to bring us, as they often have, the deeper, more brooding comic book action, Marvel is about escapism, action and all round family thrills.

I doubt that they’re aiming for anything with the longevity of more than decade or so, leaving the director driven narratives to others but here we have the big screen serialised action which we can follow year by year, whether it be on TV or the pearl screen, putting bums on seats, keeping us hanging around to the final credit and having us talking for months after about the Easter eggs with litter the simple narratives, which in this case was the Spider-man reference which was not as veiled as think it was.

Ant-Man feels old school, not dated, but successfully harking back to a simpler time when we liked our action heroes to be light-hearted and entertaining, with simple thrills and three act plotting, where the bad guys dies in the end and the hero lives to fight another day, relatively unscathed by the ludicrous events of the film.

And this is crazy, there is no doubt about that. Full size Thomas The Tank Engines aside, the notion of controlling legions or Ants is actually more outlandish than shrinking a man to the size of one! But who cares, the laughs are plentiful and the plot is telegraphed to the point that we can simply relax for two hours and enjoy the show.

Spectacular, the action is not and the overall look could have benefited from someone with a grander cinematic vision than the director of cheerleader comedy Bring It On (2000) but Marvel get what they pay for and I’m sorry, but Peyton Reed is hardly known for his action directing, but neither where Anthony & Joe Russo, and there work on Captain America: The Winter Solider (2014) was amazing so it is a gamble but not one that has paid off here I’m afraid.

So, as we leave Phase 2 and begin the build up the third and possibly final phase to feature the original Avengers line-up, Ant-Man is a refreshingly entertaining addition to the universe and Paul Rudd is defiantly a good choice for the titular role and it is always nice to Michael Douglas who has still got it…

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YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN

July 22, 2015

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DIRECTOR: Dennis Dugan

May Contain Spoilers!

Not being a fan of Adam Sandler or his movies, you can imagine that I was not expecting much from this, a film about an Israeli assassin, turned New York hairdresser with a ludicrous high kick! But I was wrong, as was my decision to wait until 2015 to watch this bizarrely funny screw-ball comedy.

It is a much a parody of action movies, fish out of water comedies and the real life situation in The Middle East but I would be loathed to use the word satire, even though it comes close. It addresses the ludicrous nature of the age-old conflict in The Gaza Strip whilst successfully giving as much credence to those fighting in the conflict as it does ridicule them, using the time and test model use doing Hollywood action movies and pushing it to the extreme.

The Zohan, (Sandler) is an invincible super hero/assassin who loves sex almost as much as he loves himself. But like most of his movies, is this meta? Is this just Adam Sandler playing himself but with an Israeli accent and socks down his pants? You decide but for me, off the wall though this comedy is, it is fun, puerile fun through and through an why not?

At least it knows what it is and casts Sandler in a likable role for a change.


THE IMITATION GAME

July 20, 2015

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DIRECTOR: Morten Tyldum

NOT A PART OF OUR COLLECTION

May Contain Spoilers!

Will we be adding this to our collection? MAYBE

Oscar bait. Sorry, maybe not the best way to start a review but this is what is, pure and simple. That is not to say that this is a bad film because it is not but it also is not anything more than what I would expect to find on Television at 9:00pm on a Sunday night. This highly inaccurate and almost fictional drama charts the project led by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park to crack the Enigma Code during World War Two and the invention of the prototype computer to complete his task.

Or was it about the troubled soul who had to confront his demons in order to break down so many obstacles along the way to cracking this code and saving up to 14 million lives? At times, presenting a character who would be more at home on U.S. sitcom The Big Bang Theory; Sheldon Cooper anyone?

Or was it that he was a homosexual who in the 1950’s, after playing such a crucial role during the war effort and supposedly inventing the computer single-handedly might I add, was convicted of indecency, the term used to persecute homosexual men in England during that time and after opting for a drug therapy known as “Chemical Castration” rather than a two-year prison sentence, he took his own life year later in 1954.

imitation-game-2014-001-group-around-benedict-cumberbatch-on-enigma-machineTo start with, whilst the framework is true, the story has been heavily perverted in favour of portraying Turing as a lost soul fighting the good fight, single-handedly inviting and creating modern science to help the Allies bring down the Nazis, whilst dealing with his homosexuality and his complete social ineptness in the process. This is simply not true. For a full and extensive list of the inaccuracies in this film simply Google them, but it is clear that this film was so intent on creating a British propaganda story that it has lost sight of its own integrity and possibly, even its own sense of decency.

Casting characters in a bad light, omitting others and manipulating those which it included, this is designed to tick all the right boxes required to win Oscars, BAFTA’s and any and every other award available this season. Because of this, it not can not decide which track to take, so it tries to do all three and this is where the film continues to let itself down and becomes muddled. I work at The University Of Manchester where Alan Turing spent his latter years so I am well aware of his legacy, certainly at this institution.

As you would expect, this film is packed with strong performances but they were dropped into a screenplay which could not decide where the focus was and the cynic within me suspects that this was a deliberate attempt to offer the award juries as many treats as possible, basically the snob equivalent of a crass blockbuster throwing as much action, sex and explosions at the screen in order to put bums on seats. The polar opposite of Michael Bay’s Transformers series perhaps?

Alan Turing (1912-1954). Private Collection. (Photo by Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)But here, I feel that with a bit more focus on any one of these plot lines, the other two could have easily have fallen into place. The film obviously plays into the secret battles taking place in WW2 and this, along with Enigma is interesting enough in its own right, so is the controversial plot surrounding the horrendous civil rights abuses which were taking place during England at this time. Though it is important to remember that the world was a different place, though it is refreshing to see that this battle is along way towards being won by 2015, this, what is now seen as aberrant behaviour, was acceptable back in the 1950’s.

The odd nature of Turing, his antisocial character is well-played and Benedict Cumberbatch, who is as brilliant as ever but he is an actor who is running the danger of becoming so consistently good that his becomes a bit dull, as has happened to Denzel Washington, as we expect excellence they deliver every time, it becomes difficult to identify their best performances. 

Overall, this is a solid film but not particularly theatrical and when it tries to leave the labs and school rooms and show us the war itself, it feels forced and may I say, cheap. But it does tell a set of interesting stories, but as it is trying to tell three at once, they all lose something in the confused process. Also, the myriad of contrivances and historical inaccuracies make this, as has happened to almost every film which has tried to tackle Enigma on-screen (U-571 (1999), Enigma (2000), to be a token gesture to the work of these real-life heroes.


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