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 145: Predator

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

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 143: My Kid Could Paint That

My Kid Could Paint That
Director: Amir Bar-Lev
Starring: Marla Olmstead, Laura Olmstead and Mark Olmstead
Rated: PG-13
Length: 82 min.
Release: October 18, 2007

Four year old Marla Olmstead from Binghamton, New York became the sensation of the art world for her abstract artwork, which have sold for thousands of dollars per piece. The showing of her work started off as a lark, but when the paintings sold without the buyers knowing who the artist was, the media began to run with the story. Through it all, Marla’s parents, Mark Olmstead and Laura Olmstead, want to be grounded in what is best for their daughter while exposing her to whatever positive may come from the experience. But some negative and big name media also surfaces, some questioning whether Marla is the real artist behind the work, and some questioning exposing a four year old to such infamy. Regardless, the fact of this art selling brings up the legitimacy of abstract art being quantified as “quality”, especially if a four year old can produce it but can’t express the emotions or rationale behind its creation. Or is art truly in the eyes of the beholder? Regardless, money, in the art world as is much in life, becomes the great equalizer.

My Thoughts:
Right up front I have to say I love this movie. This is one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. It’s the type of film that you could watch with friends and have a very interesting conversation about the film afterwards…and I love that. It presents both sides of an issue, raises solid questions about that issue and lets you decide what side you fall on in the end…and that’s what a documentary should do.

I love how the controversy unfolds in the film. The story starts out about an infectiously adorable girl Marla and her amazing paintings, then (after a story put out by 60 Minutes) the focus of the story changes to the parents, and towards the end the movie starts to focus more on the director himself found caught in the middle of all of this controversy as he tries to make the documentary impartially but finds himself having doubts about Marla being the lone artist of these paintings.

Whatever the real story is (which is left entirely up to you to decide) there is controversy as a result. If Marla didn’t paint them entirely on her own then clearly this is a big scam providing a story behind the truth of the paintings that isn’t true. If it is true and a 4 year old did paint them…what does that say about the modern art world in general. How authentic is the emotional expression and depth behind the art if a 4 year old can do it with no thought of artistic abstract expressionism.

Perhaps the funniest thing about that question is seen in the reaction of those who do love the paintings, believe Marla is the real artist and are willing to pay thousands for them. They say there is some kind of “spiritual” force that moves through her to provide the abstract expressionism they see in the paintings. In my opinion, people will see what they want to see. Instead of realizing either Marla had help or the entire idea of “abstract expressionist” art is a load of crap…they make an excuse that justifies to themselves why it’s still worth the thousands they are willing to pay for the painting. People are dumb.

There are several fools all through the movie, but perhaps the biggest is seen in the morons willing to pay for this art.  The truth is either Marla had help and the history of the painting is a load of crap making it not worth the money…or she did make them and the entire concept of abstract art is a load of crap also making it not worth the thousands people are paying. That’s just my opinion, but never the less I found this documentary very very intriguing and a fantastic discussion starter for those interested in the art world even a little bit. My Kid Could Paint That gets 4.5 stars out of 5.

Day 141: Doom

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

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.