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 Can the outdated CSM-101 Terminator eliminate the highly advanced T-X – or will a darker future await man following the nuclear attack?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 111: Men In Black II

Men In Black II
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones
Rated: PG-13
Length: 88 Min.
Released: July 3, 2002
Trailer Synopsis:
Kay and Jay reunite to provide our best, last and only line of defense against a sinister seductress who levels the toughest challenge yet to the MIBs untarnished mission statement: protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. It’s been four years since the alien-seeking agents averted an intergalactic disaster of epic proportions. And now it’s a race against the clock as Jay must convince Kay-who not only has absolutely no memory of his time spent with the Men In Black, but is also the only living person left with the expertise to save the galaxy-to reunite with the MIB before the earth submits to ultimate destruction.

My Thoughts:
I was anticipating this movie so much when it came out. I went in with such hight hopes that it would deliver just like the first one. As it turns out, it has everything the first film had…and that’s it’s problem. This movie had such great potential but just couldn’t deliver an original idea. It literally had all the same jokes, plot points and so on. It was really sad.

The comedic chemistry between Jones and Smith also had some issues. They just didn’t have it in this one. I think part of the reason is because the mentor/mentee dynamic was all out of wack through most of the film. It just wasn’t the same witty humor from the last one. First Jay is “in charge” as Kay has no memory for half the film and then when he gets it back there is this strange power struggle issue about who’s in charge. It made for a couple half way good jokes, but most of the jokes didn’t work as well because of that strange dynamic.

Oh, and don’t get me started on the villain. She had potential, but that was all. It wasn’t the perfect blend of “The Bug” in the first film.

Another thing I hate is when a trailer uses all the best material from the movie…especially jokes!!! If you haven’t seen the trailer yet…don’t. Yes, I know I put a link up for those who just “have to” watch it. However, I have a feeling the movie will be FAR better without the jokes being ruined by the trailer.

Just about the only thing it this that was a real “treat” to watch was Frank the dog. Sure, his jokes seemed a bit juvenile at times, but with that adorable dog dropping those lines and taking on the role of an “agent” it totally worked. It was a lot of fun to see him get a more prominent role.

Still, it was an entertaining movie. Not as good as the other one, but still okay. There is a third film being worked on right now that will be in 3D and released in 2012. Rumor has it the plot will deal with time travel. Seeing as how I’m a sucker for time travel plots I can’t help but be a little excited. Lets hope they learned from MIB II and give us something more original. This one is getting 3 stars out of 5.

Day 110: Men In Black

Men In Black
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Tommy Lee Jones & Will Smith
Rated: PG-13
Length: 98 min.
Released: July 2, 1997
Trailer Synopsis:
Men in Black follows the exploits of agents Kay and Jay, members of a top-secret organization established to monitor and police alien activity on Earth. The two Men in Black find themselves in the middle of the deadly plot by an intergalactic terrorist who has arrived on Earth to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies. In order to prevent worlds from colliding, the MiB must track down the terrorist and prevent the destruction of Earth. It’s just another typical day for the Men in Black.

My Thoughts:
When I saw this movie in the theaters I had no idea what it was about. Come to think of it…this was the first movie I ever went to see in the theaters without knowing a thing about it. I don’t do that very often. I was glad I did with this one. It turned out to be my favorite movie all year. I saw it three times in the theater that year, and had it on VHS and watched it over and over. To this day I can still quote most of the movie.

This movie just works on so many levels. It’s highly entertaining, great special effects, action, story/plot and the actors were cast perfectly. Jones and Smith have perfect comedic chemistry. Their mentor/protege  relationship is so much fun to watch. But all of that wouldn’t work nearly as well without a great villain…which they have. The villain in this film is the perfect blend of creepy, discussing, intimidating and hilarious. The whole film has a great balance of action, menace and  comedy, but the best example of that is seen when watching “The Bug.”

This film has also aged well too. Now over a decade old, it’s still a highly entertaining action comedy. You can probably guess I’m giving this one 5 stars out of 5. More accurately I’d like to call it a 5 star popcorn flick. It’s just such a fun movie to watch. Tomorrow is Men In Black II…

P.S. On a side note, who could forget the hit song and music video of Will Smith’s Men In Black song!!! LOL It’s such a classic 90s hit!!!

Day 101: Renaissance: Paris 2054

Renaissance: Paris 2054
Christian Volckman
tarring: Daniel Craig
Rated: R
Length: 105 min.
Released: September 26, 2006
Trailer Synopsis:
Paris, 2042: a dark Rotoscope world of shadows and right angles. Ilona Tasuiev, a brilliant young scientist, is kidnapped, and her employer, Avalon, a major health and beauty corporation, wants her found. Karas, a jaded police captain, is assigned to find her, fast. He seeks help from her sister, Bislane, and they are soon uncovering identify theft, missing files, and hints that something back in 2006 may explain what’s going on. Ilona’s mentor, Avalon’s vice president, a Japanese researcher, an underworld boss, and Bislane’s drug connection all figure in the mix. So does an attraction between Karas and Bislane. What’s behind the kidnapping? Who’s the victim?

My Thoughts:
I had the privilege of watching this movie at the Chicago International Film Festival for my Birthday back in 2006. It was only one of three screenings in the US…and I just loved it. I’m really not one for French films. No it’s not in French…it’s in English, but it was made in France. French Director, crew, motion capture actors…and so on and so on. On occasion they come out with a movie that just blows me away. This is just such a film.

The main thing that turns people off about it is the very stark contrast of the animation which took me a couple minutes to get use to it. To be honest, I think that’s the best part of this film. Not only is the entire film done with ground breaking motion capture acting…the color scheme is done entirely in black and white. There is only a few key placed elements of color and little gray. The fact that they can pull off an entire film with such a sharp contrast was mind boggling. It was such a unique idea.

The use of Daniel Craig for the lead voice was a fantastic idea too. It was a very smart choice on the part of the casting director. The film was released in time to build on the hype of him being the new James bond (which was also a great choice) and gave the English and US audience a point of familiarity to connect with and draw them in.

The story itself was incredibly engaging, action packed, suspenseful, entertaining and it has a thought provoking surprise ending. It is a great film that most people have never heard of…and I highly recommend it. This one is getting 5 stars out of 5.

Day 98: 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 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.