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.

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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.

Day 146: Predator 2

Predator 2
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Starring: Danny Glover, Gary Busey and Kevin Peter Hall
Rated: R
Length: 108 min.
Release: November 21, 1990
Trailer

Synopsis:
LAPD lieutenant Mike Harrigan and his cocky detective partner Jerry Lambert soon realize that what seemed a bloody feud between voodoo high priest King Willie’s Jamaican gangs and Ramon Vega’s Colombian drug gang is actually the work of a scary third party. Peter Keyes’s federal team shields the crime scene even for the LAPD. BUt after forensics proves it must be an alien, who keeps making victims, the chase brings them all together.

My Thoughts:
If the first Predator movie were to be a prime cut of the best quality beef money could buy…then Predator 2 would be all the left over ground up chunks of crappy meat, fat and whatever else was lying around in the butcher shop to make a salisbury steak for a frozen TV dinner. Simply put…this one is bad…really…really…bad.

Are the special effects great?…absolutely. Does it have big stars?…yes it does. Does it have a good musical score?…once again, yes it does. So what’s wrong with it? Everything else.

I’ve always said that (as a general rule) in order to make a great hero you need an amazing villain. Predator 2 is proof that some times the opposite is also true. In this case, they have a great villain, and a very weak and un impressive hero. This does not make me invest in the story. I mean come on…they gave the lead to Danny Glover!?!? He is most certainly NOT a lead action hero! Yeah sure, he’s got the Lethal Weapon series, but he only looks good as an action star along side another GOOD lead action star like Mel Gibson. Glover was not a strong enough action star to carry this film and make it believable that he could go toe to toe with a predator, especially after Arnold barely made it in the last one! To be honest they almost set the bar too high. I mean, how do you top Arnold? The conflict just didn’t seem very strong after facing off against Arnold and, to be quite honest, Glover was not very believable as a cop with an attitude and balls of steal.

And don’t get me started on the script/story. It’s total crap. I mean, a Predator in the “urban jungle” sounds like a good idea on the surface and many of the new toys they gave the predator were really cool, but they just couldn’t come up with a story and dialog that really pulls it all together. It all seems far too forced and over the top. You can tell they are trying too hard to top the first one, and it gets too bogged down with all the gang war stuff and then the gangs vs cops and then for some reason its really hot. Not sure why it matters…but it is.

Really the only take away from this is the predator special effects. Again, it’s some of Stan Winston’s best stuff. It’s just too bad it was squandered by a tiresome story and characters you could care less about. Predator 2 gets 1.5 stars out of 5.

Day 145: Predator

Predator
Director: John McTiernan
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers and Kevin Peter Hall
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: June 12, 1987
Trailer

Synopsis:
A team of special force ops, led by a tough but fair soldier, Major “Dutch” Schaefer, are ordered in to assist CIA man, George Dillon, on a rescue mission for potential survivors of a Helicopter downed over remote South American jungle. Not long after they land, Dutch and his team discover that they have been sent in under false pretenses. This deception turns out to be the least of their worries though, when they find themselves being methodically hunted by something not of this world.

My Thoughts:
Arguably one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best films! The thing that makes Predator work so well is that it starts out as a typical brainless 80’s military action hero shoot-em-up pow pow kind of movie. Find a thin excuse of a plot to motivate big military guys to go shoot guns and blow stuff up. But then the second act hits…and this typical pointless shoot em up action flick takes a decidedly different turn into the world of the Sci-Fi, and it’s for the better.

The most brilliant move of this movie is the casting of Arnold as the lead. As an audience we are so used to seeing him as a fearless action star taking on the bad guys without much fear or regard for his own safety. Seeing him play his typical tough guy military character but actually afraid and running for his life as HE is hunted (while trying to learn about, and how to defeat, this very different and intelligent enemy) is a nice twist. It makes for a much more intense and eerie feeling through much of the film as we see the Predator plotting his next move.

While the special effects are a little dated, they still pull it off rather well. This is a fantastic example of some of Stan Winston’s best work as Hollywood’s special effects gooroo! Seriously, any top notch special effects movie from the 80s and 90s is almost guaranteed to have his influence.

Overall, this is one of the best action movies of the 1980s and in my top three best Arnold Schwarzenegger films of all time. If you are an action movie fan and have not seen this film…well then you probably aren’t as much of an action movie fan as you would like to believe, because I can’t  think of a single action movie or Arnold Schwarzenegger fan that hasn’t seen this film. If you want to call yourself an action movie/Schwarzenegger fan then you MUST see this movie. For being one of the best blends of action and sci-fi Predator gets 5 stars out of 5.

Day 144: Jaws

Jaws
Director: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfuss
Rated: PG
Length:
Release: June 20, 1975
Trailer

Synopsis:
When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

My Thoughts:
Considered one of the best movies ever made, Jaws is by far in my top ten favorite movies of all time. Seeing as it’s “Shark Week” I felt it was only appropriate for me to review this Spielberg classic.

Does this mean I plan to review the three atrocious sequels? Absolutely not. I don’t own them (see the rules in my “About The Goulson Movie Marathon” page) and I couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to have them as part of their movie collection.

So, why does this movie work so well? Could it be because of the perfect cast?…yes. Is possible that the stellar job by director Steven Spielberg might have had something to do with it?… absolutely. Could it have been the good old fashioned true Hollywood special effects all blockbusters to follow were birthed from?…without a doubt.

All of these things contributed to the success of the first ever Hollywood “blockbuster,” but the key element that truly makes this movie work so well is the music. John, William’s theme that has haunted every person who has gone swimming in the ocean since 1975 takes this move from good suspenseful creature movie to totally spellbinding creature horror movie. The music creeps in and you know Jaws is in the neighborhood. It’s so eerie…I love it.

The best part of this movie is that you don’t even need to see the shark through much of the movie to still get the idea. Much of the back story as to why the physical shark isn’t in the movie more is because it quite simply wasn’t working. A true blessing in disguise as the techniques they were forced to use ended up working beautifully and making the film an instant classic. Jaws gets 5 stars out of 5! Happy shark week!!!

Day 141: Doom

Doom
Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Starring: Karl Urban, Rosamund Pike and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Rated: R
Length: 100 min.
Release Date: October 21, 2005
Trailer

Synopsis:
A frantic call for help from a remote research station on Mars sends a team of mercenary Marines into action. Led by ‘The Rock’ and Karl Urban, they descend into the Olduvai Research Station, where they find a legion of nightmarish creatures, lurking in the darkness, killing at will. Once there, the Marines must use an arsenal of firepower to carry out their mission; nothing gets out alive. Based on the hugely popular video game, “Doom” is an explosive action-packed thrill ride.

My Thoughts:
I must admit, this is one of the movies in my collection I am not proud to admit I own. I have a feeling I got it really really cheap on a Black Friday sale for like maybe $2.00 and since I hadn’t seen it since I saw it in theaters I had forgotten how bad it was. Two bucks blown…no doubt.

Still, this movie does have a little special place in my heart because it was the first movie I ever went to with the woman I am now married to. We went with a group of friends, and I was rather taken back that she was willing to go to what is most assuredly a “manly movie.” I think it’s safe to say my final crush started then. Anyway, enough of this sentimental mumbo jumbo…on to the movie.

Soooo…Doom. What is there to say about this movie?…It’s bad…really really bad. And if you are a fan of the game(s)…it’s even worse. Ever heard of Director Andrzej Bartkowiak? I didn’t think so. That’s because he’s not a director. Well, not a good one anyway. He’s done a respectable job in his role as cinematographer and you can see that work in such films as The Devil’s Advocate, U.S. Marshals, Falling Down and Speed. But as a director, the only other movie you are likely to have heard of is Romeo Must Die from back in 2000. It was his debue as a director and not a particularly terible film…but not exactly a great one either.

Concerning the movie Doom, perhaps the biggest problem most gamer fans have with it is how much they screwed up the monsters. In the game you are facing off against demons that are coming through a portal directly from hell. That’s a rather creepy concept if you ask me. That would have made for one scary and action packed film. Did Andrzej Bartkowiak use this creepy idea in his movie?…of course not. He abandoned this creepy and awesome idea that was already well established (minor spoiler alert) for a concept that more closely resembles that of Resident Evil. It just was not what I was hoping for when I went into this movie.

The acting is acceptable given the mediocre dialog they had to work with and the music gets the job done…but the story never really delivers a truly Doom story arch. There are moments when it kinda feels like the game, but just for a moment. One sequence that actually goes into a classic FPS (First Person Shooter) screen shot is really cool…but it’s done during one of the worst possible moments in the movie! During that whole sequence I’m thinking, “This is cool, but for this particular moment in the movie it would be better to take a step back and let us see all the action.”

All in all, it has tons of action and great special effects, but that’s really about all it has going for it. The fact that there are no “demons” from hell that you are facing off against really sucks a lot of the Doom feel right out of the film. Ultimately that takes it from a potentially decent movie adaptation of a classic video game to an absolute joke of the sci-fi, horror and/or action genres. Doom gets 1.5 stars out of 5.

Day 98: Godzilla

Godzilla
Director: Roland Emmerich
Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jean Reno, Maria Pitillo, Hank Azaria & Kevin Dunn
Rated: PG-13
Length: 139 min.
Released: May 20, 1998
Trailer

IMDB.com Synopsis:
Following the French atomic bomb tests in the South Pacific, an unknown creature is spotted passing eastward through the Panama Canal. Scientist Niko Tatopolous is called in to investigate the matter, and he quickly arrives at the conclusion that a giant, irradiated lizard has been created by the explosions. Godzilla then makes its way north, landing at Manhattan to begin wreaking havoc in the big city. Even with the combined forces of the U.S. military to fight the monster, will it be enough to save the people of New York?

My Thoughts:
When it comes to the Americanized Godzilla I am a bit of an anomaly because I am one of the few that actually enjoyed it. I know I’ll get a lot of crap for that…and I don’t care. It’s a great sci-fi/monster popcorn movie. Grant it the special effects didn’t age well and it’s nothing like the original Godzilla films…but I don’t care. I hated the original Godzilla movies. They were laughable, they really were. Even the “Godzilla 2000” film was simply atrocious. The Americanized Godzilla was exactly what I was expecting and hoping for…less cheese and BS special effects, a more intresting and engaging story and a much better cast.

Yet, this film has gotten so many bad reviews. To many it was a “flop.” At the Japanese premier Heisei Godzilla suit actor Ken Satsuma walked out of film early (after the helicopter chase sequence) saying “It’s not Godzilla, it does not have the spirit.” I agree 100%…and I thank God for that. Never mind the fact that it grossed over $380 million worldwide when it was released in theaters. Yeah…some flop.

I also like the little jabs at the USA/French relations and cultural differences, the jabs at Siskel and Ebert by giving the air-head Mayor and his assistant their names, and the little wink at the “Godzilla” vs “Gojira” pronunciation (Gojira was the name of the first “Godzilla” movie released in 1954). They all make it quite entertaining.

Also, like in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow and more recently 2012, Roland Emmerich stays true to form by demolishing several iconic buildings and landmarks like Madison Square Garden, The Brooklyn Bridge and the Chrysler Building among others, and who doesn’t like that…right?

Is it a spectacular film?…no. Is it a ground breaking special effects movie…no. Is it a fun American interpretation of this classic monster that makes him more believable and keeps him grounded in reality… absolutely. If you have never liked the originals (like me) then you will have a better shot enjoying this one. I’m giving it 3.5 stars out of 5.