Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Terminator Salvation

The woman blows on her fingers to warm them. "I'm a little cold." The man sitting a few feet away eyes her, trying to discern the connotation of her comment. She rolls her eyes and moves next to him. "Relax," she says, pulling his arm around her "I just want some body heat." She puts her head on his chest, nestling closer to ward off the cold. Closing her eyes she listens to his heart beating. "You have a strong heart...god I love that sound."

Machines have annihilated most of the human race; a beating heart is a rare sound in 2018. Little does she know that the man whose heart she's listening to may be less man, and more Skynet's latest plan to slaughter what's left of the human race.

Skynet is an artificially intelligent defense system created for the US military. When Skynet became self-aware its creators attempted to shut it down. Skynet then viewed mankind as a threat to its existence and initiated "Judgment Day". In a nuclear holocaust most of the human race was decimated. It is now 2018 and John Connor, the prophesied leader of the Resistance, is on his way to fulfilling his destiny and destroying Skynet. But something is amiss.

Skynet has been trying to kill John Connor (Christian Bale) for years by sending Terminators, killing machines, into the past to murder the future leader of the Resistance. John Connor has been prepared for the future, because of all his mother had told him, but somewhere something changed. And the future is no longer the one she predicted. And this time, mankind might not make it out alive.

Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) is a death row inmate who donates his body to science before Skynet is brought online. Wright awakes years into the future after Judgement Day. Wright knows nothing of Skynet or the Machines and he must reconcile his drive for self-preservation with the desire to make up for his past wrongs by aiding a young Resistance fighter named Kyle Reese.

The new "Terminator Salvation" was probably the most well-conceived Terminator plot yet. The early Terminator films can be called Arnold Schwarzenegger action flicks, with some mind-bending time travel thrown in. As the series went on the films began to take on something that could be called quality. The combination of a Schwarzenegger action style and an ever-more-complicated plot pulled in viewers who couldn't believe the writers could still experiment creatively with essentially the same storyline.

"Terminator Salvation" is a whole new animal compared to its predecessors. It features two male leads, neither of which is Schwarzenegger, and offers a story that's full of great action, that preserves the time-line of the earlier films, and that asks if being human is only a physical quality, or entails something even transcendent of flesh and blood. There are enough machines in the film to ensure that the actual "body count" isn't too high and you won't be traumatized by gushing blood. On the other hand "Salvation" doesn't try to sugar coat the future it portrays. The humans who are alive are dirty, starving, selfish, and embody the spectrum of human nature, often displaying more bad qualities than good. The film takes the classic tale of "Good versus Evil" and turns it around on the audience asking, "What is good?" and "What is bad?"

But don't hold your breath, it really isn't as cerebral as I'm making it sound. John Connor is wonderfully portrayed by one of the most talented actors in Hollywood today, Christian Bale. As much as I love Bale's work, and "Salvation" is no exception, his John Connor spends a lot of time unnecessarily yelling the majority of his lines. Further character annoyances can be found in Moon Bloodgood's character Blair, who is a far cry from the strong, but female, Sarah Connor from the previous films.

The best character in the film is done by newcomer Sam Worthington. His Marcus Wright is the raw and wriggling example of a human being on the hook. He is not an angelic, noble man necessarily. Neither is he all evil villain. He lands somewhere in the middle, as all of us do, struggling between right and wrong, good and evil. On some level don't we all? I can't put my finger on the exact quality that makes his performance so noteworthy. All I know is that Worthington took a Christian Bale movie about John Conner and turned it into a Sam Worthington movie about Marcus Wright. Any actor who can overshadow Bale is one talented SOB in my book.

One of "Salvation's" strongest aspects is the way the writers have worked the story into the original storyline. Skynet's latest scheme in killing John Connor is to murder his father Kyle Reese before he's sent back in time. Die-hard Terminator fans will be tickled to see Anton Yelchin ("Star Trek's Chekov) as a young Kyle Reese, and various other references to the previous films. A version of Arnold Schwarzenegger's Terminator even makes an appearance.

Conclusion: Any fan of the original series, of action flicks, will by default love this film. It's a quality action flick and one of my new favorite films. That means don't waste your time watching anything til you've seen this new installment of the Terminator series.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language.; Rated R for some violence and brief nudity. (director's cut)

See the Trailer here

  • All four 'Terminator' films have had their climactic battle scenes take place in industrial settings.

  • The third Terminator film to have the line, "Come with me if you want to live." In The Terminator (1984), Kyle Reese says it to Sarah Connor at the Tech-Noir club

  • In several scenes, Kyle can be seen wearing Nike shoes. They are strikingly similar to the Nike Vandals he wore in The Terminator (1984).

  • In the original The Terminator (1984) Kyle Reese asks the police "What day is it? What year?" And the first thing Marcus Wright says to Kyle Reese is "What day is it? What year?".

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twilight Sparks But Doesn't Ignite

The human bares her tempting throat to the vampire, who lowers his mouth to her neck, his teeth moving ever closer to her pulsing jugular. As he approaches her soft flesh the tension mounts, but the fanged vamp just kisses her throat and pulls back. He won’t turn her tonight.

This is Twilight, a piece of tantalizing fiction from author Stephenie Meyer, brought to the big screen at the request of millions of desperate fans. The hero of this film literally sparkles, has ‘smoldering” eyes that change color, and says things like, “I hate you for making me want you so much.” Edward Cullen, Meyer’s vampire hero hasn’t necessarily captured the imaginations so much as he has invaded the fantasies of every preteen girl on the planet, who, at the mere mention of his name, sigh and whisper “Oh Edward.”

Twilight stars the lovely Kristen Stewart as Bella Swann, who has just moved to constantly overcast Forks, Washington. When Bella starts school she immediately takes notice of the impossibly beautiful, very mysterious Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson), and soon discovers that Ed isn’t your average high school teen. He’s an immortal vampire. Of course she falls for the vamp, and they decide they can’t fight their love. Unfortunately, their love is punctuated by constant reminders that Edward is a guy who is constantly fighting the urge to sink his fangs into his girlfriend’s neck and suck her blood. When a vampire who hunts humans for sport starts hunting Bella, Edward fears he may not be able to protect her.

Although Twilight the book was an interesting read, the movie is what you’d call boring. Most of the film consists of Bella and Edward staring deep into one another’s eyes, frolicking in the forest, and playing vampire baseball with the Cullen clan while the audience waits for some kind of plot development. In addition to the glacially-slow-moving plot, I should mention the poor casting and poor direction of the four unfortunate actors playing Ed Cullen’s siblings, Jasper in particular. Either Jackson Rathbone (the actor playing Jasper) is a terrible actor, or he was appallingly directed, because throughout the film he appears on the verge of vomiting a small animal at any moment.

Despite its flaws the film isn’t half bad. In fact, the chemistry between Pattinson and Stewart as star-crossed lovers is so raw it’s dripping with the blood and guts of great acting. The couple may be the next Fred and Ginger, the next Depp and Burton, the next long-term cinematic partnership that could have great results.

Pattinson, who portrayed Hogwart’s golden boy, Cedric Diggory, in the last two Harry Potter films, is a rising star in Hollywood. With acting ability far exceeding that of his peers, the Twilight series may be able to catapult Pattinson to the fame and acclaim he deserves. As for Stewart, she starred with Meg Ryan and Adam Brody in In the Land of Women, and worked with Emile Hirsch in Into the Wild, films most people have never heard of, but were critically acclaimed for the actors’ performances. These two kids are packed with charm and charisma, good looks, and serious talent.

Twilight is going to provide both Steward and Pattinson the change to cement their status as gifted actors. Twilight itself may not be a particularly fantastic movie, but its stars are. Even though the story might be a bit dull at times the two lovers make it interesting. It’s the moments between the two main characters that make up for the otherwise egregious casting and the slow plot. Let’s hope that with Stewart and Pattinson at the helm, Bella and Edward turn out to be the next powerhouse couple of cinema.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Quantum of Solace

Tuxedos, martinis, and golden guns belong to the world of the dashing James Bond we know and love.

This is not classic Bond.

Connery, Moore, and Brosnan were suave and gentlemanly, and infamously womanizing; Daniel Craig’s Bond is a rough and ragged representation of the MI6 agent before he became charming or conceived of his infamous “Bond, James Bond” line. A gritty backdrop and a bitter, brooding Bond allow the audience to glimpse the darker side of the British secret agent we once thought we knew. Although I once had misgivings about Craig’s being cast, his performance in “Casino Royale” last year and now “Quantum” have proven him worthy of this newly renovated Bond

.“Quantum of Solace” opens mere moments after “Casino” leaves off. Bond had been enamored with lover Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), who then betrayed her agent boyfriend and committed suicide in front of him by drowning herself. Filled with searing rage at Vesper’s betrayal, but also deeply troubled by his true love’s death, Bond is now smitten with sweet Revenge. Driven by his anger, Bond sets out to get even with the crooks responsible for Vesper’s betrayal and death, and he’ll kill anyone stupid enough to get in his way. Judi Dench plays “M”, Bond’s sensible boss, who finds it increasingly difficult to control an agent who has suddenly and violently turned rogue.

Naturally, Bond’s vengeance is served quite nobly in the end, and naturally his wrath is appeased after shooting, throttling, and killing as many thugs as he can. Just as naturally Bond meets mysterious and angst-filled Russian beauty, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), whom he can’t fall in love with because of Vesper- baggage, but must aid anyway because she’s a damsel in distress out for the same revenge Bond is looking for.

Although “Quantum” has been critically acclaimed for being actionpacked and “gritty” and “raw”, I find myself missing the old Bond a bit, with his “Bond, James Bond” and his famous martini, shaken not stirred, which have been noticeably absent from the new films. “Quantum” does provide a second look at the womanizing James Bond of previous films, allowing a more real, more human James Bond to emerge. Craig’s performances have truly been top-notch, as he exhibits his expansive range of talent. Whether he’s being angry and smoldering, or seductively chivalrous, or killing someone in cold blood, Craig can pull it off.

In fact, Craig’s emotional Bond proves the most interesting aspect of “Quantum” as the story, which centers around a political message, never gets better than boring. But seriously, it has a boat chase, a car chase, evil villains, sultry women, fancy cars, big explosions, and a good-lookin’ hero- what more could you want from James Bond?

Conclusion: If you're an action fan, or you love James Bond, or you can't get enough of Craig's cobblestone abs, rush to Blockbuster asap.

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some sexual content


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