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 Can the outdated CSM-101 Terminator eliminate the highly advanced T-X – or will a darker future await man following the nuclear attack?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.

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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 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 136: Quantum of Solace

Quantum of Solace
Director: Martin Campbell

Starring:  Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Amalric and Judi Dench
Rated: PG-13
Length: 106 min.
Released: Nov. 14th 2008
Trailer

Synopsis:
Is there solace in revenge? Bond and “M” sniff a shadowy international network of power and corruption reaping billions. As Bond pursues the agents of an assassination attempt on “M,” all roads lead to Dominic Greene, a world-renowned developer of green technology. Greene, a nasty piece of work, is intent on securing a barren area of Bolivia in exchange for assisting a strongman stage a coup there. The CIA looks the other way, and only Bond, with help from a retired spy and from a mysterious beauty, stands in Greene’s way. “M” wonders if she can trust Bond, or if vengeance possesses him. Beyond that, can anyone drawn to Bond live to tell the tale?

My Thoughts:
Finally…the Bond movie era of the Goulson Movie Marathon comes to a close. Now I can finally write about something else…like…Finding Nemo or something. Not sure what yet, but is not going to be the start of another collection and it will not be about explosions and car chases.

Anyway, what a journey the James Bond franchise has taken. Quantum of Solace didn’t get as many rave reviews as Casino Royale did, but I feel much of that is because the film is not intended to be a stand alone movie. The Bond films through the 80s and 90s where all about wrapping it up by the end of the movie. They stood on their own, but to understand the new direction the franchise is taking with Daniel Craig you need to view each film more as a chapter in the larger story that is unfolding. Quantom of Solace is a chapter…a very chritical one that sets up all the other films to come. It doesn’t stand much on its own, but when we connect it with Casino Royale and the movies to come I can only imagine we will come to see how it plays a more important role in setting up the story for an epic battle between MI6 and a new villainous organization…Quantum.

The film ties in a lot with Casino Royale, picking up right after the previous film’s end. Great chase scenes, fights and explosions…but still very grounded like Casino Royale. Though the villain isn’t as memorable in this one, you need to keep in mind that this film is setting up the larger picture. This villain is just a small fry. He’s big enough for the story at hand, but he has others he is reporting to and it’s good to keep that in mind.

It also raises some interesting questions about the nature of revenge, the consequences of living a life of violence as well as governments and businesses working with unsavory people for political or financial gain. One of my favorite lines is “Yeah, right…we should only deal with nice people.” It’s a funny line, but actually speaks to a very sad truth.

Really the only irritation I have with Quantum of Solace is that it raises far more questions than answers. We see Bond snap pictures of all these major players in this new secret organization…and have no clue who they are or what they want exactly. We don’t know why it exists in the first place…just that they “have people everywhere.” Watching it makes me want to see the next chapter that much more, because this organization looks far larger and more devious than anything Bond has faced yet.

It reminds me a bit of the earlier Bond films where Bond faced off against the evil Soviet organization “SPECTRE.” Now, it isn’t fair to compare the two exactly, but it is fun to see the big bad antagonists of each film slowly reveal more about the larger enemy much like in the olden days. I can’t wait for the head of this organization to finally show us their face and see Bond take him/her on directly.

For a while it seemed as though the franchise was over with Quantum of Solace to be it’s last film. Luckily that will not be the case.  There will be another Danial Craig Bond film called Skyfall coming out in 2013 and I can’t wait. For being a good set up story for the films to come and making me excited to see Bond take on this new villain…Quantum of Solace gets 4 stars out of 5.

Day 135: Casino Royale

Casino Royale
Director: Martin Campbell

Starring:  Daniel Craig, Eva Green and Judi Dench
Rated: PG-13
Length: 144 min.
Released: Nov. 17th 2006
Trailer

Synopsis:
Actor Daniel Craig assumes the role formerly occupied by such screen greats as Sean Connery, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan to set out on the character’s very first 007 mission. James Bond has earned his “00” status by masterfully executing a pair of death-defying professional assassinations. Now assigned the task of traveling to Madagascar to spy on notorious terrorist Mollaka (Sebastien Foucan) for his maiden voyage as a 007 agent, Bond boldly goes against MI6 policy to launch an independent investigation that finds him traversing the Bahamas in search of Mollaka’s notoriously elusive terror cell. Subsequently led into the company of the mysterious Dimitrios (Simon Abkarian) and his exotic girlfriend, Solange (Caterina Murino), Bond soon realizes that he is closer than ever to locating well-guarded terrorist financier Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), the man who has personally bankrolled some of the most prevalent terrorist organizations on the planet. When Bond learns that Le Chiffre is planning to partake in an upcoming high-stakes poker game to be played at Montenegro’s Le Casino Royale and use the winnings to establish his financial grip on the globe, M (Judi Dench) assigns beguiling agent Vesper (Eva Green) the task of watching over the fledgling agent as he plays against Le Chiffre in a covert attempt to destroy the nefarious gambler’s well-established monetary stronghold in the underworld once and for all. Bond will need more than his legendary gambling skills in order to win this dangerous game, though, and after allying himself with local MI6 field agent Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini) and CIA operative Felix Leiter (Jeffrey Wright), the endlessly suave super-spy puts on his poker face for a high-stakes game of cards in which the stakes are not measured in dollars, but human lives.

My Thoughts:
So we finally come to Casino Royale and the new James Bond…Danial Craig. At first thought I wasn’t sure how to take this movie since it is such a departure from the rest of the Bond films. Though Martin Campbell returns to the directors chair and since I am a huge fan of Goldeneye I had my hopes up. In Casino Royale the franchise finally tackles Bond’s first mission as a 00 and Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. In all honestly this was the perfect time to reboot the series.

And that is the real heart of this film. Casino Royale  is not a “prequel” or “sequel” it’s a total re-envisioning of the Bond Franchise. United Artist took the liberty to start the series over from scratch and they hit the ball out of the park. If you ever get the chance to watch the special features there is a really cool documentary following the odd journey this Bond book/film has taken to get to this point. Ironically, the last official Ian Fleming novel to be made into a movie…was the first Bond book he wrote. Talk about taking the long way around, but it was well worth the wait.

Casino Royale is not the typical over the top carnival action the franchise had been known for. There’s no Q branch, there aren’t explosions every five minutes, no odd villains with absurd characteristics like a guy that can’t feel pain or a giant with metal teeth. Honestly it’s closer to the Jason Bourne movies than the previous films of the series.

I thought I would really miss the lack of gadgets…but to my surprise, I didn’t miss them at all. It’s so raw and honest in it’s portrayal of Bond. It’s a much more serious portrayal of the character making him easier to connect with. There is more emotion in this film, and it makes the twists and turns feel that much more personal. That’s what makes this film so much different. As a result it makes me totally forget that there are no “gadgets” in this movie. In fact if it did have gadgets they could easily become distracting and detract from the more serious and emotional tone that makes the film one of the best in the series. Casino Royale  gets 5 stars out of 5.

So, agree…disagree? What was your reaction to Casino Royale and the new direction of the Bond franchise?

Day 134: Die Another Day

Die Another Day
Director: Lee Tamahori
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry and Rosamund Pike
Rated: PG-13
Length: 133 min
Released: November 22, 2002
Trailer

Synopsis:
Pierce Brosnan makes his fourth appearance as suave super-spy James Bond in this espionage thriller, the 20th film in the official Bond series. While on assignment in North Korea, Bond is captured by government agents, where he’s imprisoned and tortured for over a year. When Bond finally wins his freedom, not everyone is certain 007 is still capable of doing the job, but after Zao (Rick Yune), the North Korean operative who snared Bond, is discovered to be in cahoots with unscrupulous entrepreneur Gustav Graves (Toby Stephens), Bond is back on the case, and he finds the two men have sinister plans which could decide the fate of the world. As Bond hops from England to Cuba to Korea to Iceland in pursuit of his quarry, he (as usual) makes the acquaintance of two beautiful and mysterious women, Jinx (Halle Berry) and Miranda Frost (Rosamund Pike). Judi Dench and John Cleese return in Die Another Day as, respectively, Bond’s superior M and gadget-master Q; Madonna contributes the film’s theme song and makes a cameo appearance as a fencing instructor.

My Thoughts:
So had I written this review in 2002 I probably would have given this 2.5 stars. Watching it again, this Bond film has really surprised me! It seems to be a really under rated Brosnan Bond film. After the disaster of the last film I can imagine many people thought the series was loosing its mojo. I know I did, thus I didn’t really give this film much of a fare shake when it originally released. However, it aged much better than many other Bond films and is now tied with Tomorrow Never Dies for my second favorite Brosnan Bond film.

The villain is done in the spirit of classic bond bad guys and the car is absolutely amazing! It’s not exactly the most realistic…but amazing none the less. John Cleese makes a nice addition as the new Q bringing the right amount of wit and humorous banter that is required when shooting the breeze with James Bond. It also takes a wink at several of the classic gadgets in prior Bond films.

Halle Berry brings a nice addition to the role…some of the time. She is a far better actress than other Bond Girls, but she isn’t the most dynamic character in the movie, but that isn’t exactly her fault. Several lines come off as corny and I don’t know how anyone could deliver them without it sounding bad. In particular I’m thinking of a “your momma” line. That just made me shake my head.

Great villain, great car, great action, but the best part of this film has to be primary plot point of Bond working as a disavowed agent. Conversations between M and Bond almost hint at similar conversations during Licence to Kill but are far better and far more serious with better actors and better dialogue.

When thinking of Brosnan Bond films Die Another Day rarely seems to come to mind but it is well worth the watch. It’s a hidden jem in the Bond films that often gets overlooked. I’m giving it 4 stars.