Day 151: Terminator Salvation – The Machinima Series

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

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
Jonathan Mostow
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken
Rated: R
Length: 109 min.
Release: July 2, 2003

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
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Rated: R
Length: 154 min.
Release: July 3, 1991

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
James Cameron
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Rated: R
Length: 107 min.
Release: October 26, 1984

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 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

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 144: Jaws

Director: Steven Spielberg

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

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 140: A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore
Rated: R
Length: 138 min.
Release Date: December 11, 1992

A U.S. soldier is dead, and military lawyers Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee and Lieutenant Commander JoAnne Galloway want to know who killed him. “You want the truth?” snaps Colonel Jessup (Jack Nicholson). “You can’t handle the truth!” Astonishingly, Jack Nicholson’s legendary performance as a military tough guy in A Few Good Men really amounts to a glorified cameo: he’s only in a few scenes. But they’re killer scenes, and the film has much more to offer. Tom Cruise (Kaffee) shines as a lazy lawyer who rises to the occasion, and Demi Moore (Galloway) gives a command performance. Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, J.T. Walsh, and Cuba Gooding Jr. (of Jerry Maguire fame) round out the superb cast. Director Rob Reiner poses important questions about the rights of the powerful and the responsibilities of those just following orders in this classic courtroom drama.

My Thoughts:

Okay, now that we have that out of the way…

A Few Good Men is easily one of the best examples anyone could give of a good “court room drama.” Not only does it poses an absolutely stellar cast (see the synopsis above) that delivers amazing performances all around and a fantastic director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally…, The Princess Bride) but it has an amazing script that gives the director and the cast a lot to work with.

In a drama (especially a court room drama) the pacing and overall arch of the story is absolutely critical. The unveiling of certain facts as well as tension of the relationships and what is at stake is all critical to gaining an audiences interest and keeping it through the entire film and A Few Good Men does that beautifully.

You realize very quickly that these people should not be working together and they have no chance at all of actually winning this case given the facts presented and what they are up against…yet you know they are right so you find yourself desperately rooting for them the entire time.

The film deals a lot with Guantanamo Bay which always has had a shroud of controversy surrounding it. But I have to say, watching this movie now post 9/11 is really interesting.  The film really touches on deep political questions that are even more relevant today than they were back in 1992. One of the major questions being, to what extent do we turn a blind eye when people in charge of our safety are effectively keeping us safe? I’ll leave the answer to that one in your hands…but it’s interesting to see the question raised in the context of Guantanamo Bay that far back.

Because of the brilliant acting, directing and writing…this one is getting 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s the perfect example of a classic courtroom drama.