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 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.

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

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

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?