Day 153: The Thing (2011)

the-thing-movie-2011-poster-1The Thing (2011)
Director: 
Matthijs van Heijningen Jr.
Starring:Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Joel Edgerton, Ulrich Thomsen
Rated: R
Length: 103 minutes
Release: October 14th, 2011
Trailer

Synopsis:
Paleontologist Kate Lloyd is invited by Dr. Sandor Halvorson to join his team who have found something extraordinary. Deep below the Arctic ice, they have found an alien spacecraft that has been there for perhaps 100,000 years. Not far from where the craft landed, they find the remains of the occupant. It’s cut out of the ice and taken back to their camp but as the ice melts, the creature reanimates and not only begins to attack them but manages to infect them, with team members devolving into the alien creature.

My Thoughts:
Undoubtably this movie was doomed to fail in comparison to it’s predecessor. The original “The Thing” (which I will review next) is arguably the most influential creature movie ever made and among the very best in the horror genera. Many consider the original to be the very best of John Carpenter’s work (including the man himself). Likewise, hundreds of special effects artists (especially those who work in practical special effects) sight John Carpenter’s The Thing as the most influential movie they ever watched.

So, that’s a LOT to live up to. There is no way anyone (dare I say even Carpenter himself) could live up to the expectations of the classic. So this review will not be a straight comparison of the two films. To do so would not only be pointless, but grossly unfair to both films. Though they are strongly linked to each other in story…they are both a product of their time.

So, where does that leave THIS movie? The main area you will see a drastic difference is in the increase of CGI effects used. As I said, it’s a product of our time…and not the 80s. With that said, the effects hold up pretty good! You can see where they winked at the original in many of the effects, but unfortunately like so many modern day horror movies, they rely too much on special effects to do the scaring. They are grand, and amazing…but without good scary writing and pacing (which is where great horror movies shine) it just doesn’t work as well as it could. That’s my biggest fault with this movie. The special effects are amazing and the creature itself is great…but it’s missing that pacing and imaginative fear effect that all great scary movies have. That’s what separates the good from the great.

Another important point to make clear is that this is not a “reboot” or a “remake” of the original (which was a smart choice). Part of the charm of the original is that the characters stumble across an incredibly messy situation and they don’t know what happened. If you’re a fan of the original and want to keep that a mystery…do NOT see this movie. Myself, I wanted to know. And in my opinion that’s where this movie really shines the most! The developers of this film went through the “crime scene” of the original in painstaking detail to develop story that explains every  dead body, location of blood and even the infamous ax on the wall and of course the dog. I found that to bring new life to the original movie and appreciate the original more. Story wise…this fits with the original almost perfectly, and that’s very impressive to watch.

Though the ending was a bit less than I was hoping for (it gets a bit off focus when involving the alien spaceship) it was still better than most modern horror movies. It winks at the unresolved ending the original had…but then takes a different approach. Then, they finally bring it around to the beginning of the original which was a real delight to see. Though it doesn’t hold a candle to the original, it has a special place in my movie library because it does a great job setting up the original which made me appreciate both it and the original more because of it. The Thing (2011) gets 3.5 stars out of 5.

Advertisements

Day 152: Terminator Salvation

2009-terminator_salvation-6Terminator Salvation
Director: 
McG
Starring: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin
Rated: PG-13
Length: 115 min.
Release: May 21, 2009
Trailer

Synopsis:
In 2018, Skynet has destroyed most of humanity and survivors have been hiding underground from an army of machines, known as “Terminators”. After a failed attack on a Skynet base, John Connor, the man fated to lead the Resistance is the sole survivor. On the other hand, Marcus Wright, who only remembers being on death row, meets Kyle Reese and it is believed by Connor that he was sent from the future to kill him. Now Marcus and John must unlikely join forces in order to save Kyle Reese and the humans captured by the machines.

My Thoughts:
Keeping this one short.

This is a prime example of what happens when a “fanboy” of a franchise is put in charge…they ruin it.

Is Terminator Salvation terrible?…not entirely. Is it fun?…for the most part, yes. Is it a good movie?…not really. If you are really into action and don’t care much about a plot then this one is right up your alley. The writing is noticeably bad, the acting is mediocre at best (even from Christian Bale), and the story has the thinest of plot lines that breathes little excitement into the gravity of the situation and what is at stake.

With that said, the movie isn’t all bad. There are some incredible action sequences and the special effects are some amazing eye candy. In particular, the recreation of the original terminator from the 1980s was VERY impressive…if only short lived.

In the end, it’s not the greatest sci-fi movie. It’s not even a particularly good Terminator movie, but I did have fun. It gets 3 stars out of 5

Day 151: Terminator Salvation – The Machinima Series

Terminator Salvation The Machinima Series - 2009Terminator Salvation – The Machinima Series
Director:
Tor Helmstein, Kelly Ward and Ian Kirby
Starring: Moon Bloodgood, Cam Clarke and Jim Meskimen
Rated: NR
Length: 74 min.
Release: May 18, 2009
Trailer

Synopsis:
The resourceful A-10 pilot from Terminator Salvation has her own story in this kick-‘bot prequel filmed via the innovative Machinima process that turns video-game elements into a full-blown animated story. Moon Bloodgood reprises her T4 role, providing the voice of Williams as she takes on an explosive mission to track what or who is disrupting comm links during the Resistance’s fierce guerrilla war against Skynet. T-600s emerge, guns blazing. MotoTerminators patrol post-Apocalyptic L.A. Aerostats hover. Hunter Killers rain death. Machinima delivers action and style in a big way. Reboot the future with Terminator Salvation: The Machinima Series.

My Thoughts:
I’m not gonna spend much time on this as it would be a waist of your time to read it…just like it was a waste of my time to watch this stupid collection of lame video game reals with a poorly done voice over dubbed in. Keeping in mind that this collection is really a series of internet shorts created as a precursor to the movie and as a strange promotional of the Terminator Salvation video game. It was a strange promotional that ultimately failed.

The back story on Williams is interesting…but not interesting enough to put up with how poorly the execution of this idea was. The whole time watching it I just couldn’t get past the fact that they used a really bad video game engine to create this waste of space story. The whole video game engine thing doesn’t come off as creative…it comes off as cheep. Really…really…REALLY cheep.

The only reason I sat through this piece of garbage was to write this review. I knew right away it would be bad, but I hoped it would get better…it does not. There is no take away from this story that adequately justifies the need to sit through it. There is no set up to Terminator Salvation that makes this worth your time.

So let this be your warning…don’t waist your time. Seriously…don’t. It’s 74 min. you’ll never get back. .5 stars out of 5.

Day 150: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

terminator 3Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Director: 
Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken
Rated: R
Length: 109 min.
Release: July 2, 2003
Trailer

Synopsis: More than 10 years after ‘Terminator 2’, John Connor now exists only as a drifter – living ‘off the grid’, so no more Terminators from the future can hunt him down. Unfortunately, SkyNet does send another one back – and this one is called the T-X, even more powerful & advanced than the dreaded T-1000. However, another CSM-101 Terminator is also sent back to protect John against the T-X. Now, Skynet is patiently assuming control of civilian computer systems, under the guise of a computer virus. John has also met his future wife, Kate Brewster, whose father – a U.S. Air Force General – is in charge of the military computer systems & is leery of up linking SkyNet. However, when the SkyNet virus infects the U.S military computers & leaves the country open to attack, the machines begin their horrific takeover. Soon a nuclear war will result – and the war against the machines will begin. Can the outdated CSM-101 Terminator eliminate the highly advanced T-X – or will a darker future await man following the nuclear attack?

My Thoughts:
Well, he’s back…again. It was a long time coming, and all the hype just made it impossible to live up to. But, for what it’s worth, I did enjoy this movie. Sure, it’s not nearly as good as the other two films. And yeah, it kind of throws the theme of “no fate , but what we make” right out the window…but it’s an entertaining action movie. A top notch action and special effects movie, and lets be honest…that’s what we expect from a terminator movie.

As great as the special effects and action are there are a few things problematic with this film. First off, this was the last movie Arnold did before he took office as California’s governor, so it’s a little strange seeing Arnold play the same type of terminator while he looks older. In addition, the story seems to fly in the face of a major theme of the first two films. “No fate but what we make” was a critical part of the motivation in the first two films. Without giving away to much, that idea is pretty much thrown out the window making us all ask the question…why would that message be sent back from the future in the first place? But perhaps I’m over thinking it too much. Movies and TV shows that deal with time travel can get ruined real fast by over thinking them. Back to the future is one such example. The terminator series is a great example of that as well.

Another problem I have with the film is how the character of John Connor is portrayed. You would think that, having been raised and trained by such a tuff militarized person like Sarah Connor he would have turned out to be more of a badass. Instead, he seems to be on the run rejecting his “calling” and living more like a whiny little punk. Not exactly the approach I would have gone with, but I guess if he was all big, tuff and ready to take on a terminator he wouldn’t have needed another one sent back in time to protect him.

Though not as intimidating and frightening as the T1000 the TX terminator is a solid antagonist in this movie. It’s unique to have a “female” terminator as well. I wasn’t sure how well it would work having Kristanna Loken go head to head with Arnold, but it worked. She played the cold and calculated assassin rather well. I believed she could stand toe to toe with Arnold’s terminator.

Overall, this was still a fun flick. It did the Terminator franchise justice and it was interesting how it gave us a tast of what John Connor was like as a man before he stepped up and became the great military leader he was destined to become. I’m giving this one 3.5 stars.

Day 149: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

t2dec09Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Director: 
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Rated: R
Length: 154 min.
Release: July 3, 1991
Trailer

Synopsis:
Nearly 10 years have passed since Sarah Connor was targeted for termination by a cyborg from the future. Now her son, John, the future leader of the resistance, is the target for a newer, more deadly terminator. Once again, the resistance has managed to send a protector back to attempt to save John and his mother Sarah.

My Thoughts:
Well well well…T2. Still considered one of the best action movies ever created and full of special effects that paved the way for CGI work. It heralds the return of Arnold as “a cybernetic organism” (insert “I’ll be back” joke here) and gives more life to this beloved character.

There is very little in T2 that doesn’t work well in telling this story. The dramatic change in Sarah’s personality from the first film makes total sense and works very well. Though, the biggest character change that made this whole film work so well is the terminator. Cameron’s choice to make the iconic villain into the next films hero was a stroke of genius. This gave opportunity to explore many interesting ideas regarding the nature of humanity as well as allow Arnold to add a more personal touch on this robotic assassin/body guard. This brings great opportunity for not only action, but drama and comedy as well.

The music is more in line with a traditional motion picture score (no more cheese dated 80s synthesizers detracting from the scene). It takes the musical themes created in the first film and makes it work more long term. It adds to the intensity of the action and ages a lot better.

The icing on this action packed cake is the vilain. The T1000 is, hands down, one of my all time favorite villains. The liquid metal concept combined with the ferocious and tenacious attitude of a terminator…brilliant combination. He is more slick, smooth and stealthy when he needs to be with all that power behind him…and that makes him really frightening. In fact, in a lot of ways, he is the opposite of what Arnold’s terminator is. Simply put…he is the perfect villain for this movie.

Add all that up and you get one amazing action movie. Terminator 2: Judgment Day gets 5 stars out of 5.

Day 148: The Terminator

the-terminator-1984The Terminator
Director:
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: October 26, 1984
Trailer

Synopsis: A cyborg is sent from the future on a deadly mission. He has to kill Sarah Connor, a young woman whose life will have a great significance in years to come. Sarah has only one protector – Kyle Reese – also sent from the future. The Terminator uses his exceptional intelligence and strength to find Sarah, but is there any way to stop the seemingly indestructible cyborg?

My Thoughts:
What is there to say about this classic 80s action/si-fi movie? It was groundbreaking for its time. No question about it. Phenomenal job by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The whole idea came from James Cameron’s head…and what an idea it was. This film launched one of the most iconic sci-fi action characters of film history. The special effects world would not be the same today without this film.

With all that said, the real question is how does it hold up over time? The first thing you will notice is this movie has the 80s all over it. It’s a real product of its time period and proud of it. The hair, the clothes, the cheesy synthesized soundtrack…everything about it screams the 1980s. If you aren’t a fan of that decade…this film is probably not going to hold up in your mind. The music in particular can become very distracting. I must admit, I even have a hard time with it at some points.

Still, there is something very special about this movie. Arnold’s portrayal of The Terminator is iconic and will remain one of (if not THE best) of his career. He really steals the show in this movie and hits all the right notes to convey a machine that is so cold, calculated, menacing and relentless in its pursuit of its target.

There is also something rather creepy about looking back at a film from the 1980s where they talk about the dangers of computers being interconnected to everything and running everything in our lives…and then turning on us. It would almost be prophetic if it weren’t for the whole artificial intelligence thing. Let’s pray that never happens. 🙂

For better or for worse The Terminator is truly a product of the 80s. Though elements of that decade can become distracting (especially the music) the film still stands as an iconic movie with one of the best characters in action sci-fi history. The Terminator gets 4 stars out of 5.

Day 147: Predators

Predators
Director: Nimród Antal
Starring: Adrien Brody, Laurence Fishburne and Topher Grace
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: July 9, 2010
Trailer

Synopsis:
The mercenary Royce; the military Isabelle; the Russian soldier Nikolai; the San Quentin criminal Stans; the Serra Leoa militia Mombasa; the drug lord Cuchillo; the Yakuza Hanzo; and the Doctor Edwin awake in free fall but they succeed to open their parachutes landing in a jungle. Soon they discover that they are on another planet and they are prey of aliens in a deadly hunting game, and they need to join forces to destroy their predators and survive.

My Thoughts:
Created in the spirit of the the first film, Predators is head and shoulders above Predator 2 but still falls short of living up to the original 1987 action classic. I was rather excited that this movie was going to be made. I was soooo disappointed with the last film and felt this franchise had so much more to offer. I really wanted to love this movie, and to be perfectly honest…I loved loved loved…the first half of it. But then we meet Laurence Fishburne’s character Noland…and it all goes down hill from there.

The first half was in the jungle. It reminded me of the first one, but with a fresh twist…this is not a jungle on the planet earth. The characters seemed interesting, some more than others. Adrien Brody isn’t exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger and at first it is hard to see him in this rough and tumble mercenary/military guy, but it grows on you.

Then we meet Laurence Fishburne’s character Noland. What a disappointment that was. Here we are expecting some totally awesome guy who is gonna really be an asset to this rag tag team of tough guys. Instead, it turns out he is just some overweight crazy guy that adds hardly anything to the movie. He explains some interesting back story and plot points…but it would have been better had we cared about his character more.

Then, the ending itself is rather anti climactic.

(Spoiler alert)

Having the predators be divided into two different races is an interesting idea and one with possibilities, but having the main characters depend on and decide to form an alliance with one of them?…just dumb. The first Aliens vs Predator had a similar alliance, but it made more sense as they were both fighting to keep an alien population from getting out of control. Here?…it makes less sense. Cut loose a predator and then say, “I want off this planet,” is apparently all it takes to earn enough respect and make them do our bidding. I just find the whole idea of a man and a predator joining forces to be a bit of a contrast to the spirit of the first movie. It just doesn’t fit in a predator movie.

(End spoiler alert)

That criticism aside, however, the action, the special effects and especially the predators themselves are still absolutely stellar and the ending and a few plot points aren’t so bad that they ruins the entire movie. For continuing to keep the spirit of the original alive but falling short at the finish line to provide a truly memorable climax that is worth watching Predators gets a middle of the road 3.5 stars. Its a fun watch that starts strong but falls very short near the end.