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.

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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

Kingsman: The Secret Service


Viewed – 19 June 2015  Online rental

The spy spoof is nothing new, but placed in the hands of Matthew Vaughn who breathed a welcome injection of rebellious attitude to the costumed hero genre, with Kick-Ass and probably made one of the finest X-Men to date in First Class, I’d say we were in safe hands.  A troubled teenager who just so happens to be related to a former Kingsman secret agent gets the chance of a lifetime to join the top-secret British agency just as a megalomaniac internet billionaire (Samuel L. Jackson) prepares to cause mass genocide.  Cue plenty of gadgets, tailored suits and before you can say Mark Hamill cameo it’s all action, intrigue and tongue planted firmly in cheek.

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Colin Firth, everyone’s favourite swarve English gent is perfectly cast as Galahad, the Kingsman’s top agent who single handily takes said troubled teenager Egsy (Taron Egerton) under his wing and helps him crawl out from under his Asbo lifestyle and housing estate surroundings to become someone capable of saving the world.  Jackson plays a little against type as an (annoyingly) lisping villain but is clearly having a ball – even if his character is a tad too cartoony for my liking.  The whole training stuff also gets rather predictable. Add to this a budget clearly spent on it’s decor, Michael Caine and designer-suits rather than decent effects (honestly, CGI blood, CGI explosions.  Who ever said that crap looked any good?).  But such shortcomings aside, director Vaughn pulls out all his nudge-nudge wink-wink tricks, bending and breaking genre conventions to throw in the odd surprise and a few slam-dunk gags (land of hope and glory?)..

It lacks the venom of Vaughn’s earlier Hit-Girl scene-stealing tour-de-force and clearly struggles with over ambition (the international locales can look noticeably fake, and action relies more on fancy camera trickery than genuine fight choreography).  Enthusiasm counts for a lot though, and the cast, crew and excellent soundtrack (a fight played to the tune of “Give It Up” by K.C. & The Sunshine Band?  Oh yes!) still make this worth a watch.  Bond has nothing to worry about though.

Verdict:  3 /5

Mad Max: Fury Road


Viewed – 04 June 2015  Cinema

I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the Mad Max series, other than a few memories of catching glimpses of the movies growing up (I’ll always remember the sight of a razor sharp boomerang being flung and slicing off someone’s fingers) and well, that Tina Turner song.  However I went into this fairly blind but knew I was getting a fairly high-octane post-apocalyptic action movie.  By high-octane however I wasn’t quite prepared for just how bat-shit crazy this film actually turned out to be.

mad-max-fury-road-tom-hardy-charlize-theron

Everyone’s favourite chiselled hard man Brit actor Tom Hardy plays the wondering hero Max, who as we meet him gets captured by a vicious gang and taken to a settlement where a psychotic overlord keeps the peasants in line by restricting the water flow and well, doing unimaginable things to the women (a milking farm?).  That is until one of his best soldiers, Charlize Theron’s Furiosa steels a convoy vehicle and heads off into the wasteland, with some of the evil overlord’s finest women hidden inside.  Thus sets up the biggest chase in movie history as this guy send all hell after his women of which one is pregnant with his child.

MadMax-FuryRoad-ImmortanJoeThis is a wild and unrestrained viewing experience … from the get-go it’s full on, in your face, chaotic and pretty damn overwhelming.  I had a bit of a tough time holding on for the ride as we get speeded up editing that made me dizzy and more screams and nut jobs and cars exploding than I think I’ve ever seen before.  The sight of one vehicle with several nutty henchmen beating big base drums on the back, whilst on the front some metal god strums an electric guitar – and I knew I’d been transported to a world truly in the eye of a mad genius.  Director George Miller, who also made all the previous Mad Max films, is on blistering form and this is an intense explosion of energy and visual spectacle that rarely lets up.  Theron is very good as Furiosa with her cool look, complete with robotic arm and skull-cracking attitude – the whole movie centres around her plight and you do care for her and her entourage of pretty young things.  Of course we can’t conclude without talking about Tom Hardy’s Max, which he plays as the grizzled loner troubled by visions of his dead daughter, yet bar a bit of narration and a few words here and there, grunts his way though the whole movie – which makes him a bit sidelined, surprisingly.

The movie’s unrelenting pace and intensity did get a bit much, and the story failed to bring anything to the concept that we haven’t seen many times before.  So see this if you want to be shaken in your seat from a roller-coaster of excitement.  See it for some stunning visual spectacle.  Maybe not so much for everything else.  Welcome to the apocalypse.

Verdict:  3.5 /5