Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines


Viewed – 28 July 2015  Blu-ray

Following in the wake of the seminal classic Terminator 2: Judgement Day was not going to be an easy task.  Director Jonathan Mostow however, whilst not being James Cameron, has managed to deliver a decent if flawed entry in one of my favourite movie franchises.

terminator 3

John Conner (Nick Stahl) is a loner drifter who ten years following the events of T2 has seen Judgement day come and go without a Nuclear War and thus chooses to live off the radar.  That is until a female Terminator known as a T-X arrives in town, hell bent on tracking down a series of targets, including veterinary doctor Catherine (Claire Danes).  As before however, another cyborg follows and this time ol’ Arnie is out to protect John Connor and Catherine and goes up against the most advanced Terminator yet.

This continues but fails to innovate on the Terminator lore, with several copycat sequences borrowed straight from T1/T2 but given corny jokes or silly updates that prevent this movie gaining it’s own identity.  Kristanna Loken is effective and subtly-sexy as the female Terminator (that arrival…) and proves a worthy villain, while Danes adds some good female feistiness in the absence of Linda Hamilton.  Stahl however can’t fill the boots of Edward Furlong and lacks all of his charisma and personality; delivering a character who, however pivotal to the plot, is difficult to like or even sympathise with.  Schwarzenegger thankfully looks like he’s having a ball, even if his line-delivery and the sheer-bad-assery of previous (and even the latest) movies is lacking here.  As a competent director though, Mostow does manage to fill the movie with some terrific action (a huge, multi-vehicle chase thatJohn Connor obliterates many shops and buildings comes to mind…) decent effects and a good pace.  It’s just a shame then that with all such ingredients intact, we still get a movie that brings no real surprises and is stuck with a rather limp ending.  That said, on it’s own merits, this was still a fun, action-packed experience with a few stand-out moments.  Even as the weakest of the franchise, T3 is by no means a disaster.

The Blu-ray may lack a bit of punch in the image quality, but makes up for this in a hefty Dolby True HD soundtrack that really comes to life during the action sequences.  However it’s in the extras where this release impresses most, with several featurettes spanning all aspects of the making.  Most notably we also get a cast & crew commentary and a special cine-chat talking heads feature that plays along as you watch.    Not too shabby for a still enjoyable also-ran.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  3.5 /5

Chappie


Viewed – 21 July 2015  Blu-ray

I must admit I’m becoming quite an admirer of South African director Neill Blomkamp’s brand of sci-fi action thrillers.  His debut, the acclaimed District 9 certainly impressed, and his follow up the underrated Elysium was one of my favourite movies of recent years.  So sitting down to this latest, albeit somewhat more personal effort I’ll admit I was excited.

Chappie

A robotics scientist at a company that builds and runs an android police force, creates the first true artificial intelligence and installs it in a test robot fresh off the battle field.  However on-route home to do more tests, the robot is stolen by a group of desperate thugs who subsequently adopt it and name it Chappie.

Set in a near-future Johannesburg, Blomkamp’s movie stars Slum Dog Millionaire’s Dev Patel as the scientist, Hugh Jackman as a rival scientist and Sigourney Weaver as the head of the company.  Playing against type, Jackman is good fair and seems to be loving time out from Wolverine.  Weaver on the other hand get’s a rather limited, thankless role considering her Sci-Fi credentials, so it’s left up to Patel who is very good and a bunch of lesser-known but intriguing co-stars to carry the movie around a brilliant creation.  Blomkamp regular Sharlto Copley (The A-Team, Maleficent) does a stellar job voicing the robot, instilling a naivety and energy to the character that really brings it to life.  We follow Chappie’s exploits from frightened child to becoming a hanging-with-the-homies gangster, whilst all the time being manipulated by gang leader Ninja and befriended by surrogate mother ‘Yo-Landi’.

YolandiThink a cross between eighties classic Short Circuit (Number Five is alive!) and genre favourite RoboCop (not the lacklustre remake) with some blatant borrowing of that movie’s key ideas even down to an Ed 209 look-a-like.  The story’s most fascinating aspect however; Chappie’s learning felt rushed, for a robot who has to pretty much grow up before our eyes (…how’d he know lying?), and the clichéd thugs / locales were straight out of the post-apocalyptic handbook.  Yet Blomkamp threw in enough stylish action and energy to keep this viewer smiling and entertained throughout – and that ending was sheer class.

On this evidence, I can’t wait to see what he does with Alien.

Verdict:  4 /5

Terminator Genisys


Viewed – 02 July 2015  Cinema

I went into this with fairly low expectations.  Even though a Terminator film had never completely let me down, with the weakest entry being Terminator 3, much of the early word on this wasn’t good.  Add to this a trailer that seemed to show way too much … and I’ll admit I was nervous.

Terminator Genisys

Luckily then the final movie is anything but a let down.  Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the hero of the original movie is shown being sent back in time to 1984 to protect a young Sarah Connor, a supposedly naive waitress who is about to be hunted by an unstoppable killing machine.  But twist alert!  When Kyle arrives in the past, Sarah is already prepped for his arrival, and has her own personal Terminator bodyguard.  You see, a new timeline has replaced what went before, and now the battle to destroy Skynet once and for all begins anew as our heroes embark on a time travelling quest that takes them to an alternate 2017 where Skynet is known as Genisys, a Windows-like operating system on the brink of going on-line.

T GenisysI appreciated this new spin on the Terminator lore, and it worked brilliantly with respectful nods to the previous movies, whilst adding plenty of it’s own ideas.  I loved getting to finally see the time machine used by Skynet to send the T-800 back, and nostalgia and some fan-service does this movie a real justice.  The cast including Game Of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke, Die Hard 5’s Jai Courtney and Dawn of the Planet Of The Apes’ Jason Clarke all do a stellar job, and as a return to the franchise, ol’ Arnie is simply excellent – charismatic, funny and his aging status is well handled by the plot.  The action may not be quite as well done as Terminator 2 (it gets a bit mad) and the effects work, whilst decent hasn’t got that ground-breaking edge – but regardless this movie was exciting, imaginative and a lot of fun..  Emilia Clarke is perfectly cast as Sarah Connor, bestowing the character with just the right balance of vulnerability and ballsy attitude.  I also welcomed a small appearance by J.K. Simmons.  The new twists on the time lines also breathed life into a starting-to-get-tired concept, and overall for me … this was the best movie in the franchise since T2.

He said he’d be back, and oh boy is he back!

Verdict:  4 /5

Sin City 2: A Dame To Kill For


Viewed – 01 July 2015  Netflix

Brace yourselves, this might get kind of rant-like.  I was a fan of the original Robert Rodriguez / Frank Miller directed Sin City, a comic book adaptation that broke the mould and helped pioneer a new way of making movies.  Yet converting a gritty, noir-ish graphic novel to the screen was never going to be easy, especially due to Frank Miller’s distinctive monochrome art-style, and although the overly bleak tone prevented the movie for me being a stone cold classic, the end result was still an incredible achievement.

sincity2

This long awaited sequel however struggles almost from the start to reclaim that movie’s refreshing style or energy despite bolting together a series of plodding stories with characters that, apart from a few returning faces, fail to linger in the memory.  I was shocked to find Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Eva Green and Josh Brolin being cast, faces that I had immediately imagined as perfect for this dark, violent world; delivering performances that felt either clichéd or half-assed.  I mean Green has to get naked for the majority of her storyline to make much of an impact, and her femme-fatale character just seemed tiresome.  The same could also be said for Brolin, who looks the part and indeed plays the part, but is pretty much what Mickey Rourke’s character was all about in S C #1, and when you consider we still have Mickey Rourke’s Marv here (how…I mean, really – how?) his whole existence seems pointless.  Don’t get me started on the re-casting of Miho.

So the movie finally puts all it’s money on the slow burning revenge plot of young stripper Nancy (a still hot, feisty Jessica Alba) whose plot at least has some real drive, but by then it’s a strong case of too little, too late.

Rodriguez who has been off his game for a while now, does fill the movie with plenty of (white) blood, gore and some cool, if short lived action and the whole comic-book visual style still works a treat.  With better writing and more fire in it’s belly, this could have equalled … no, surpassed what came before.  But as it stands A Dame To Kill For was just poorly thought out and mostly forgettable.  A genuine shame.

Verdict:  2 /5

Project Almanac


Viewed – 27 June 2015  Online rental

A gifted college student (Jonny Weston) stumbles upon his late father’s secret project in the basement of his house, and soon realises he has a time machine in his hands.  So with the help of his sister, his two friends and the hot girl, the group embark on a dangerous experiment.

Project Almanac

I have always loved time travel movies, harking back to my complete admiration of the Back to the Future series and other titles like Twelve Monkeys and The Terminator.  It’s a very intriguing concept every time, and this entry is no different.  Yet putting such technology in the hands of a bunch of kids is er, risky at best – but one’s a gifted science student, so that’s ok then …. you’d think.  You see for all the good intentions and the following of the rules (don’t change too much, be careful who you interact with) it’s soon all about going to parties they missed, acting carelessly and handling the life changing (world changing?) consequences afterwards.

Shot in that already tired hand-held found footage style, this was certainly fun and at times quite exciting.  Some of the effects when the gang jump through time are very good, and the little differences and alterations they cause are implemented well.  Sadly then the focus on these students and their annoying, rushed, arguing behaviour let’s down what is otherwise an often enjoyable little movie.  They are only marginally likeable and even the main character proves his own worst enemy.  Some of the time travel details are also difficult to get one’s head around, and the ending just confused me.

For a time bending, mind bending piece of entertainment, this remains worth a watch… but the concept has been done better, many times before.

Verdict:  2.5 /5