Category Archives: james cameron

Enthiran – The Robot

Enthiran – The Robot ~ This is a film whose reputation precedes it. Called the Avatar of its country, reputedly this is the most expensive film made to date in India, and also its highest grossing film. Not strictly a Bollywood film, but more accurately a ‘Kollywood’ film as it was made in Tamil Nadu, it is s work of science fiction, but as with all Indian films, it is truly a creature of mixed genre.

Also known as Robot, and Robo, and Enthiran, and a dozen other titles and spelling variations worldwide, this is roughly a Frankenstein story – a scientist makes a man in his own image, scarily Elvis-like, which tries to be human but eventually is looked upon as monster. The Robot, Chitti, is played by award winning veteran Indian actor Rajinikanth, who also plays his creator. His deadpan performance as the Robot is both fearsome and hilarious.

Written and directed by Shankar Shanmugam, or simply Shankar, the film has changed the way the world views Indian science fiction. And as the film is called the Avatar of India, similarly Shankar is called its James Cameron. No doubt he is one of their greatest visionaries.

The music is by A.R. Rahman, who also did the music for Slumdog Millionaire, Couples Retreat, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and dozens of Indian movies, among others – but this soundtrack was a worldwide instant blockbuster. That’s the popularity power of this flick.

The real star here is the special effects. CGI and animatronics from a company called Legacy Effects, the brain child of special effects wizard Stan Winston. From the robotics that make up our hero to the evil robot rampage to the outrageous cartoonish but reality based feats later in the film, as the evil robot fights everyone, and of course, the climax, the effects are king. More cars and guns than you have perhaps ever seen on the screen. Mind boggling. Matrix and Terminator, step aside.

This movie has everything. Adventure, romance, comedy, musical sequences, violence – both cartoonish and realistic (lots of gunplay and a very scary and racially offensive attempted rape scene, so it’s not for the kids), it’s all here. In many ways it’s a superhero movie sans costumes. This three hour long Tamil science fiction masterpiece, like Avatar, must be experienced at least once. Recommended.

Galaxy of Terror

Galaxy of Terror ~ I remember this flick from years ago but had never seen it, nor had the desire to see it, until I saw it on a list of the worst movies of all time. When I saw that it was Roger Corman produced, and starred Sid Haig and Robert Englund, as well as a grown up Erin Moran, Joanie ‘Shortcake’ Cunningham from “Happy Days” – I had to see it. It’s just as bad as you might imagine.

The movie also stars Eddie Albert and Ray Walston, and roughly follows the plot of the first Alien film. They’re on a rescue ship and when they reach their destination, an unspeakable horror picks them off one by one. It’s horrible. It’s not even worth the MST3k treatment, it’s that bad. Making sure that they can rip off as many movies as possible, the monster changes into whatever you fear the most.

Sid Haig is kinda cool, for the short time he’s in it, but even he can’t save this mess. Sid Haig hated his dialogue, so he asked Corman if he could play the role as a near-mute. Corman agreed, and Haig barely says one complete line. Robert Englund is more Willie from “V” (but not as cute) than Freddy, and Erin Moran is less than a poor excuse for Ripley, no matter how hard she tries.

Both James Cameron and Bill Paxton worked behind the scenes on this flick. At least they both went on to better things later, including Aliens, the sequel to the movie Galaxy of Terror ripped off most. And if you dare watch this terrible flick – beware the Mothra rape scene. Otherwise, avoid this movie at all costs.

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Terminator Salvation

Terminator Salvation ~ Despite frequent and extreme action sequences I really found myself quite bored by this sequel/prequel/reimagining of the Terminator films. I like McG a lot but he’s no James Cameron and the flick suffers much by its father’s absence. I also much disliked the use of the Technicolor OZ process which creates that gray/silver drab world on film. I get it, things are depressing in the future, but show me in other ways than adjusting the camera lenses.

It’s hard to watch this film without remembering the incidents which marred its making, most notably Christian Bale losing his mind and verbally abusing a cinematographer. I personally was bothered by Bale in that he has a perfectly good, grim, and humorless voice here, which he could have used for Batman instead of that unintelligible growl in The Dark Knight. I wish we could have had more of Common, and lots more of Moon Bloodgood – she is always excellent in everything she does.

There are a few bits that are bonuses for fans of the previous films and even the TV series, but that’s about all those familiar with the mythos get. This is a new vision, only set barely in the trappings of what went before. There are no real surprises. If this was the first Terminator film, it would have no sequels. Worth viewing only as a curiosity.

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Oscar Thoughts and Predictions 2010

First up on the agenda is the wild number of films up for the best Picture Oscar. The Academy is rather transparent in this ploy. Open it up to some super-popular blockbusters and maybe more folks will be interested, root for their favorites and tune in. Ratings equal money, awards for accomplishments be damned – this is America after all.

No matter how many hope for their favorite ‘popular’ movie, it’s probably not going to win. That’s just not how the Academy works, thankfully. It’s how their publicity people work, but not the Academy. Yeah, Up and Avatar are in the mix, but no one’s voting for them over The Hurt Locker or Precious, trust me.

And there are important oversights this year. Most notable is Sam Rockwell with his acting tour de force in Moon. Oh yeah, I forgot, with rare exception, the Oscars are only for films that came out in the last two months of the year. Oh well, the ‘rules’ eliminated that one, but what about Anthony Mackie in The Hurt Locker? He acts the ass off Jeremy Renner who is nominated.

And I bet Julia Roberts is steaming that Sandra Bullock cleaned up this year with roles that Roberts turned down, and may even win an Oscar for one. I really hope Julia is on hand for candid reaction shots Sunday night.

Nothing for Watchmen. Wow. I’m really surprised, especially after the way the Academy kissed the butt of one of the worst superhero movies ever, The Dark Knight last year. You’d think they’d have a little something for one of the best. And speaking of genre films – where was Ponyo? Not in foreign or animated. Damn.

Well, enough rambling and bitching. Here are my picks – and let’s keep in mind, these are who I think will win, not who should win…

Best animated film – As much as I’d like to see The Princess and the Frog take it, it’s Up all the way. It’s easily one of the best films in some time. Of course, had Ponyo been here, it would have won.

Best documentary – I think the politically correct Academy will bow to the Health Nazis this year and give it to Food, Inc.

Best song – This one depends on other awards I think. If Jeff Bridges doesn’t get best actor, they’ll give it to “The Weary Kind” to make up for it. And if Up doesn’t get best animated it will take the song here, probably with “Down in New Orleans.” My bet is “New Orleans.”

Best original score – I’m a huge Michael Giacchino fan so my heart leans toward his score for Up but I also think Hans Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes blows it away. Why wasn’t Giacchino’s Star Trek nominated? That was the best soundtrack of the year easily.

And as much as I’m tempted to pull a Bill Murray from the classic days of “Saturday Night Live,” I do think these categories matter…

Best supporting actor – This is between Christoph Waltz’ chilling Nazi in Inglourious Basterds and the ever-talented Stanley Tucci. I think the Academy will count Tarantino against Waltz and give it to Tucci. Not the way it should be, but the way it will be.

Best supporting actress – No question, if we can’t have the Nazi villain as a winner, we’ll take the evil mother. Mo’Nique is a definite here.

Best actress – I think that Gabourey Sidibe has good odds, but I also think this may be Sandra Bullock’s year.

Best actor – It’s between Jeremy Renner and Jeff Bridges, although it might go to Morgan Freeman for body of work. Renner is young and it’s about time for Bridges. My money is on Jeff Bridges.

Best picture – The Hurt Locker. It’s a hell of a film, powerful, well acted, and brilliantly shot. Kathryn Bigelow deserves it.

Best director – James Cameron, for Avatar. It’s a hard call, but he’ll get it for advancements in film and special effects. But then again, if that were actually how things worked, the Wachowski brothers are owed a few direction Oscars for Speed Racer and the Matrix trilogy. But who says these things are fair. And if I’m right on these first two awards, it should be a happy night in the Cameron/Bigelow household.

There you go, folks, place your bets. See you late Sunday night!

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The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker ~ This is a guy movie, and a damn good one – but I think if it wasn’t set in the topical Iraq War, it probably wouldn’t be nominated. That’s not to say it’s not a good film – it’s a great film. But we all know that politics –especially politically correct politics- always sways the Academy. The Ministry soundtrack of anti-war, anti-Bush music hits the point home where the film’s heart is.

The Hurt Locker is something we haven’t seen in some time, a war movie, and that’s probably because currently, we are at war. And it’s a new age war movie. The way that films like Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Steel Metal Jacket changed our perceptions, The Hurt Locker will as well.

Performances by Jeremy Renner and especially Anthony Mackie, who was ashamedly not nominated for Best Actor, are top notch, and overshadow easily veteran actors like Ralph Fiennes and Guy Pearce. It was directed by James Cameron’s wife Kathryn Bigelow at her husband’s urging – and now she might beat him for the Best Picture Oscar.

This is an intense, no holds barred, war movie for our time – and highly recommended – my odds-on favorite to win the Oscar. So far.

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2010 Oscar Nominations

The Academy Award nominations for this year were announced this morning. You can view them here.

A couple weeks back, I posted some of my guesses about what would be nominated at my Twitter. I was right on with a few and dead wrong with a few – and of course there are some outright exclusions and some WTFs that made it.

I’ll post my thoughts later. For the moment, though, enjoy the nominations…

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Avatar

Avatar ~ Movie fans have waited a long time for a new film from writer/director James Cameron, and I’m sure many haven’t been disappointed with his newest reputedly $280 million offering Avatar.

This is a good movie, a really good movie, but I think the hype may have killed it for me. I had friends rave when they initially saw the trailer. I read much about the money spent and the effects process involved. I was impressed, yes, but I’m unsure if the product really lives up to the hype. Based on box office (phenomenal, but surely not as phenomenal as the producers might have expected, or wanted), I have to wonder if I’m alone.

The plot has Cameron taking a pseudo-political stance, and its preachy bits are one of the places where he loses me. The human race in 2154 is strip-mining the planet Pandora where the indigenous population is psychically linked to every living thing on their world. A paraplegic takes on the role of one of the genetically created inhabitants to live among them and learn more about them – and eventually leads them against the human oppressors. I’m not giving much away, as predictability is one thing Avatar excels in. That’s not bad though, there’s a lot that makes up for it.

Other nitpicks would be that the deus ex machina at the end is a literal deus ex machina, which is a bit of a letdown. I like to see characters triumph against impossible odds on their own – after all, that’s what makes them heroes. And the prayer scenes almost made me break out in laughter as I was reminded of old kaiju eiga – the way they were chanting I kept waiting for Mothra to show up.

It’s not all bad though, by no means at all really. Visually, Avatar is stunning. The special effects of having actors shine through their CGI forms is mind-boggling. Truly alien constructs display and react as the real actors would and look like their puppet masters flawlessly while maintaining their fantasy forms. The backgrounds like the floating islands are staggering. I wouldn’t recommend not seeing this film in IMAX or 3D – it must be seen in full effect.

This is an outstanding film, a definite must-see for the eye candy alone, but the battle sequences go on much too long and my eyes really started rolling when the it got preachy. It’s no Terminator or Aliens or even Titanic. I’m glad I saw it, but in hindsight, I wish I’d seen Sherlock Holmes Christmas night instead, or maybe even The Squeakquel.

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Avatar – Sneak Peek

Here’s the new trailer for James Cameron’s first new film since Titanic. Avatar opens December 16th, 2009.

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Terminator 3

WAS THIS FLICK REALLY NECESSARY?

A Film Review of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Copyright 2003 Glenn Walker

Why? Other than money, I mean. Why was this film made? A quick look at Terminator 2: Judgement Day will show you a sequel is both unnecessary and impossible. The future that created the Terminators was prevented and will never come to be. That dark future was averted thus no more Terminators and especially no more sequels.

Money ($170 million to be precise) was obviously the motivation, but not enough of it apparently. Rumors say Arnold Schwarzenegger offered up a portion of his salary to guarantee the notorious and notably boring fifteen minute crane chase scene was filmed. Money was not enough to secure original director James Cameron even though he stands to make quite a chunk of cash anyway due to his ownership of the Terminator characters.

Instead the project was given to novice director Jonathan Mostow who really has only Breakdown and U-571 under his belt, hardly a resume worthy of directing the third Terminator film. His constantly bouncing and moving camera obscures most of the fun special effects and great action scenes. Mostow made me almost fall asleep during the big chase scene. Where he attempts to pay homage to scenes from the first two films it comes across hokey rather than foreshadowing. Mostow’s direction is pitiful.

Casting was another problem. While Schwarzenegger returns as does Earl Boen as Dr. Peter Silberman (the only two to appear in all three films), the rest of the cast does not. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is described as having died to explain her absence. The unconvincing Nick Stahl replaces Edward Furlong (missing because of drug problems) as John Connor. Claire Danes efficiently proves she is not an action heroine and newcomer Kristanna Loken effectively plays the new female Terminator but neither were the original choices for those roles.

The plot (if you can call it that) has holes big enough to drive a rampaging crane through. There is no backstory throughout the beginning of the film. It is all just hang on for the ride, gee, we hope you saw the first two movies. Later on when the characters are on a timetable to save mankind there is endless explanation and stopping for exposition. There are many flaws, too many to list here.

This is the worst film I’ve seen this year. Do not waste your time or money.