Category Archives: terminator

Looper

Looper ~ This is one of those movies that’s hard to explain, and once you explain it, as complicated as it is, you go wow, that’s a great idea for a movie. Looper is like that, only then it turns everything upside down and plays with possibilities. Plus time travel. And it’s awesome.

Loopers are assassins sent into the past to dispose of targets from the future. Eventually their future selves are sent back, killed by themselves, whereupon they are retired and can live happily for thirty years until their loop is closed when they are sent to the past. Got it?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is living the life of a looper, and everything is perfect until Bruce Willis, his older self, shows up, and escapes. That’s when all hell breaks loose. That’s when all the rules of time travel you thought you knew get turned in their ass.

Writer/director Rian Johnson has fun with this time travel twisting thriller, and puts both JGL and Willis through their paces. It’s full of shocks and surprises, and even Emily Blunt comes off looking good. If you think you know time travel, this will put your Terminator and Back to the Future philosophy to the test. Good stuff, worth watching.

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.

Men in Black 3

Men in Black 3 ~ This movie beats the odds several ways. First it’s fun and entertaining, which for a sequel, let alone a second sequel, let alone a second sequel almost fifteen years after the original, and a decade after the lackluster first sequel. To be a good movie, and do well, against those odds is definitely an achievement.

The Men in Black concept is based on the brief and rarely seen Malibu Comics feature by Lowell Cunningham, which is in turn based on the ufology myth of the men in black from the government who cover up alien encounters. Through three movies now, Tommy Lee Jones as senior agent K and Will Smith as junior agent J have protected Earth from the scum of the universe as part of a top secret organization who do what you would expect them to do – kicking alien ass and erasing everyone’s memories of said ass-kicking.

The films have been successful mainly because of Jones and Smith’s almost perfect extreme buddy cop chemistry, as well as the sharp humor of the writing, and of course the cutting edge special effects. Even with all that, the first sequel was a weak entry almost ensuring MIB3 would not happen, but here we are.

The plot of Men in Black 3 bucks the odds even further, as it’s about time travel. The common thinking in Hollywood, even in scifi movies, is that time travel makes people’s heads hurt. Only when it is done well, like in the Back to the Future or Terminator series, does it come off successfully with mainstream audiences. MIB3 does it as well.

An alien villain, Boris the Animal (played by Jemaine Clement from HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords” although you’d never guess it), escapes prison and goes back in time to 1969 to kill K before he can put him in jail. K vanishes from the present, so J must go to 1969 to save him and put time right. And here’s where we hit the third odds-breaker. The younger K, played by Josh Brolin, is Will Smith’s partner for most of the movie. His impression of Tommy Lee Jones as K is dead on, and half the entertainment of the flick. The chemistry is intact despite a new actor in an old role.

This movie is so much fun, captures the spirit of the original, and covers new territory while being funny, exciting, and fresh. The only thing that could have made this better would have been a Will Smith theme song. Recommended. I wouldn’t have thought I would say this, but bring on Men in Black 4.

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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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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Arnold Doppelganger

There’s a new Conan film in the works, and it’s possible the studio has found its new Conan – the closest possible thing to Arnold Schwarzenegger without being Arnold Schwarzenegger.

His name is Roland Kickinger and he’s got a rather interesting resume. He plays a Terminator in the latest film in the series Terminator: Salvation, he is an Austrian native and bodybuilder, and he actually played Arnold in See Arnold Run. It goes without say he looks like Arnold too. Talking about on the nose casting.

There’s no word as to whether the new and as-yet-untitled Conan film is a reboot, a sequel to the two from the 1980s or even a film version of one of Robert E. Howard’s novels – only that it’s in pre-production with a hopeful release in 2010.

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Disney Does It Better


I recently had a chance to visit Universal Studios in Orlando. It was my first time there after visiting Disney World almost a dozen times in the last two decades. I gotta say, I was unimpressed. Universal tries hard, but in most cases not nearly hard enough. It’s all in the attitude.

The rides are fun, but have to stand on their own because the staff just doesn’t support them. Disney characters stay in character and aid to the ‘enchantment.’ I saw a Cyberdyne employee at the Terminator 2 ride chatting with guests about the weather and agreeing with them about how the park’s hours suck. Would an evil corporate employee of an evil mega-corporation about to eradicate mankind really do that?

I personally engaged Doctor Emmett Brown from Back to the Future in a conversation about Kanye West’s new single and how upset he was about the closing of the Adventurers Club, and how he wished he could have “gotten that gig.” Way to break character, Doc. Doc Brown, it should be noted, now that his ride has vanished from Universal, had been exiled to a nuclear-powered tricycle in the vicinity of Mel’s Drive-In from American Graffiti. The fifties, get it? Yep, that’s about the extent of Universal’s originality.

Have you ever tried to get the guides at Disney’s Haunted Mansion to break character? Ain’t gonna happen. You’d have better luck trying to make guards at Buckingham Palace crack a smile. Disney definitely does it better.

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.