Film Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

Also known as: Terminator 4, Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins (working titles), T4, T4: Salvation, Project Angel (working titles)
Release Date: May 14th, 2009 (Hollywood premiere)
Directed by: McG
Written by: John Brancato, Michael Ferris
Based on: characters by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Danny Elfman
Cast: Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin, Moon Bloodgood, Bryce Dallas Howard, Common, Jane Alexander, Helena Bonham Carter, Michael Ironside, Linda Hamilton (voice – uncredited)

The Halcyon Company, Wonderland Sound and Vision, Columbia Pictures, 115 Minutes, 118 Minutes (Director’s Cut)

Review:

“This is John Connor. If you’re listening to this, you are the resistance. Listen carefully, if we attack tonight, our humanity is lost. Command wants us to fight like machines. They want us to make cold, calculated decisions. But we are not machines! And if we behave like them, then what’s the point in winning? Command is going to ask you to attack Skynet. I am asking you not to. If even one bomb drops on Skynet before sunrise, our future will be lost. So please stand down. Give me time to protect the future that all of us are fighting for. This is John Connor.” – John Connor

While this is the best Terminator movie since the outstanding Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the franchise has had a pretty low bar since that 1991 masterpiece.

Terminator Salvation isn’t necessarily a bad motion picture, it’s just an absolutely dull one with no substance to speak of.

At this point, I guess they decided to finally have a movie take place after Judgment Day. This was also supposed to kick off a new trilogy with stars Christian Bale and Bryce Dallas Howard, contractually attached to two sequels. None of that panned out, however, as Bale wasn’t this franchise’s savior, despite The Dark Knight coming out less than a year before this.

I remember people being stoked when Bale was cast as an adult, war-weathered John Connor. But the fact of the matter is that he was boring as hell, way too dry and looked just as bored in the film as the audience did watching it. Where was that emotion from his famous meltdown from the set that became a massive meme during this movie’s production?

No one else really seemed like they wanted to be there either, except for Anton Yelchin, who actually put some passion into the role of a young Kyle Reese. Yelchin was the best thing in the film and unfortunately his role was greatly cut down from the original script, as Bale joined the cast later and had the film reworked to feature him more.

Sam Worthington, a guy I don’t like in anything, was so lifeless that it was fitting that his character was actually already dead.

The film looks as dull as its actors’ faces. It was filmed in a boring desert with late ’90s style edgy boi lens filters that tried to add some grit but the film ended up looking like a straight-to-DVD low budget ’00s Jean-Claude Van Damme flick instead of a tent-pole blockbuster with a 200 million dollar budget.

The big finale sends John Connor into a Terminator factory where he faces off with a Terminator that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger. It isn’t really Arnold, however, it’s just another actor with a really bad Arnold CGI face superimposed over his visage. This shit looked so bad that they shouldn’t have done it or wasted money on it in the first place. Just use the jacked actor to play the big cyborg. It was distracting as hell, takes you out of the movie and it looked worse than facial CGI effects from almost a decade prior.

I’m done. Fuck this movie. I doubt I’ll ever watch it again. I only watched it this time in an effort to review it before going on to the latest film in the shitty saga, Terminator: Dark Fate. I’ll watch and review that one in the fairly near future.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: the other shitty Terminator movies, so everything after Judgment Day.

Film Review: Diary of a Madman (1963)

Also known as: The Horla (working title)
Release Date: March 6th, 1963
Directed by: Reginald Le Borg
Written by: Robert E. Kent
Based on: The Horla and other stories by Guy de Maupassant
Music by: Richard LaSalle
Cast: Vincent Price, Nancy Kovak, Lewis Martin, Chris Warfield, Elaine Devry, Ian Wolfe

Robert E. Kent Productions, Admiral Pictures, United Artists, 96 Minutes

Review:

“Murderers. They’re all the same. Humanity would be much better off without them.” – Police Captain Robert Rennedon

Vincent Price really could do no wrong in the ’60s. He was on a tear, especially with the Edgar Allan Poe adaptations he was in and all the other films he fit in between those shoots.

Unlike those Poe films, this one wasn’t directed by Roger Corman and it wasn’t a Poe story at all. However, this feels very close in visual and narrative tone to those other movies. This is Price’s most Poe feeling of his non-Poe pictures.

The plot is based off of a few stories by Guy de Maupassant, a French author who was considered to be a master of the short story. This primarily adapts a story called “The Horla”, which features an invisible supernatural being referred to as a Horla. This being haunts and possesses human beings and uses them to do terrible things, such as murder.

Vincent Price’s Simon Cordier becomes the newest victim of the Horla, as he comes into contact with it after visiting a prisoner, who is awaiting the guillotine after murdering four people. Upon this man’s death, the Horla sets its sights on Cordier and drives him to madness. However, Cordier continually fights back in an effort to destroy the Horla and to release the truth behind all the crimes by writing all the details in his journal.

I really love this movie and outside of the Poe ones, this was a Price picture that left an impression on me at a young age when I was just discovering the actor. The story is really good and Price delivers in every single scene, making you feel sorry for the peril he’s in, as he’s truly a nice and innocent man, forced to do heinous things.

I thought that the director, Reginald Le Borg, really created one of the best Price pictures of the ’60s, even if this one isn’t as fondly remembered as many of the others. He was no stranger to horror, having directed one of the Mummy movies for Universal, as well as directing other legends like Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Basil Rathbone and John Carradine. While Le Borg could have just been emulating the style of Corman’s Poe movies, the end result, here, is quite good.

Diary of a Madman deserves more praise and notoriety than it has gotten over the years. It’s interesting, even if it’s not wholly original, and it does pretty much everything right.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other 1960s horror films with Vincent Price, especially his collaborations with Roger Corman.

Comic Review: Ravage – Kill All Men!!, Issue #1

Published: 2019
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Benjamin L. Henderson, Mike Baron
Art by: Jimbo Salgado, Bryan Arfel Magnaye, Eric Weathers

Cautionary Comics, 36 Pages

Review:

Ravage – Kill All Men!! is one of the first comic book projects that I backed on Indiegogo, a few years ago. I was excited to get my hands on it, as I’m a fan of Chuck Dixon and Mike Baron’s work and because the art looked great from the sample pages I saw.

Unfortunately, there were problems with the physical copies I ordered and after a lot of back and forth with the publisher and emails about the book being on its way to me, I never actually got it. I did get a refund and a digital copy but I really wanted to own the physical copy and never got one in my hands.

I downloaded the digital file and had it on my computer for awhile before reading this. I realized that I hadn’t reviewed it, so I decided to give it a re-read to freshen my memory and give it a proper critique.

Overall, this was fun and Dixon’s writing reminded me of his G.I. Joe work, as he conveyed great camaraderie between the two main characters and also gave us a tale of high adventure in a beautiful and exotic setting. Plus, his ability to write action has always been top notch and this just has a good flow and a good balance between developing the characters and setting up the story.

This really is just a single issue, though, so it ends very abruptly without any real conclusion. I’m not sure how many issues this was going to stretch over but based off of everything at Cautionary Comics kind of falling apart, as several others didn’t get their comic as well, I’m not even sure if this is going to continue on or if this is it for the story.

If more came out, I wouldn’t back them based off of my experience with this campaign. While I did get a refund, I didn’t back it to keep my money; I backed it to support the campaign, the comic, the creators and this new company, who looked to be putting out some cool stuff.

I’d like to be able to finish the story and review it as a total body of work but the future of Ravage doesn’t look good. If I did get a future release, at this point, I’d rather just get the whole story in a larger trade paperback.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other adventure comics that emphasize sex appeal like Jungle Comics.

Book Review: ‘Relentless Optimism: How a Commitment to Positive Thinking Changes Everything’ by Darrin Donnelly

I’ve never been big on reading self help sort of stuff. I certainly write about the subject, though. I like to help other people and I’m often told about how I give good insight and I’m easy to talk to and usually give solid, rational advice. I’m no therapist, however, and even if I can help people deal with their own shit, sometimes dealing with my own can be a bit taxing. But you have a very different perspective when you’re really close to a problem.

Being that I’ve been overwhelmed by mental clutter lately and because that doesn’t help when I’m a person that has battled severe depression and anxiety my entire life, I’ve been in a really negative, cynical head space, as of late. So I felt like I needed to inject some optimism into my life and while searching for books on my Kindle, I came across this one.

To put it bluntly, this is one of those books that is legitimately life altering, at least from my point-of-view.

The author’s advice and examples of how to apply it are all told through a story about a struggling minor league baseball player. The story isn’t real but it helps frame what the author is trying to convey in a way that’s easy to understand and digest.

While I understand that many people don’t give a crap about sports and that this is written to help athletes, the lessons and ideas expressed here just work in life, regardless of whether or not you’re a baseball player, an office workers or in a creative field.

I really enjoyed this and actually read it in one sitting within a few hours. I plan to read it again and keep it to reference in the future.

I also discovered that this is the third book in a series of five, so I think I’ll start giving the other volumes a read as well. Because even if they’re only 50 percent as effective as this book was, they’d still be way ahead of similar books I’ve read in the self help realm over the years.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: I’m assuming the other four books in Darrin Donnelly’s Sports for the Soul series. I’ll probably read the others in the near future, based off of how much I enjoyed this one.

Video Game Review: Chip ‘N Dale: Rescue Rangers 2 (NES)

While my experience with the first game in this series didn’t live up to my fond memories of it, this game, one I’ve never played, actually improved on its predecessor and was more fun to play, overall.

The game graphics, sprites, controls and playing style are the same as the first Rescue Rangers outing. However, the level design is better and smoother and this feels like it’s closer to a final, solid draft, where the other one needed some corrections.

I also felt like the boss battles here were better and not as repetitious as the first game. Granted, none of them were all that memorable or great.

I like that this allows you to take very different routes. While the first game employed that, it was done on more of a minor scale and this one actually opens up different options that may inspire you to play through it a couple times in an effort to have different experiences.

This series is okay. It’s not as good as the DuckTales games but those were a blast and set a really high precedent that all other 8-bit Disney games would be unfairly compared to.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: its predecessor, as well as the other Disney games for the original Nintendo.

Film Review: Dirty Harry (1971)

Also known as: Dead Right (working title)
Release Date: December 21st, 1971 (San Francisco premiere)
Directed by: Don Siegel
Written by: Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, Jo Heims, John Milius (uncredited), Terrence Malick (uncredited)
Music by: Lalo Schifrin
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Robinson, Harry Guardino, Reni Santoni, John Vernon, John Mitchum, Debralee Scott, Albert Popwell

The Malpaso Company, Warner Bros., 102 Minutes, 99 Minutes (cut)

Review:

“Uh uh. I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?” – Harry Callahan

Going through my list of film series I haven’t yet reviewed, I was surprised when I came to the realization that I hadn’t covered Dirty Harry yet, as it is one of my favorite action crime franchises. Plus, it stars the always badass and intense Clint Eastwood, as the greatest character he ever played after “The Man With No Name” from Sergio Leone’s The Dollars Trilogy.

This also stars Andrew Robinson as the purely evil Scorpio Killer. He’s a guy that I love in just about everything and a solid character actor that, frankly, should’ve been in many more movies.

The story follows “Dirty” Harry Callahan as he tries to take down the Scorpio Killer, who has been using a sniper rifle to pick off his victims throughout San Francisco. What I like about the bad guy is that he is just a severely fucked up piece of shit and more like a force of nature than someone with a real plan. He creates fear and panic and in an effort to take him down, Harry skirts around the rules and takes the law into his own hands. This backfires on Harry, as even after he takes down Scorpio, the guy is released because of legal red tape. Ultimately, Harry says, “Fuck all this shit!” and he doubles down, finally killing Scorpio and then throwing his badge into the river as the ultimate “fuck you” to the system.

Dirty Harry is definitely a film of its time, similar to Death Wish, which would also spawn four badass sequels. These movies were a critique in rising crime rates in the U.S. and the inability of the police and the legal system to clean up the streets and make the public feel safer. Movies like these wouldn’t fly today due to society being so sensitive and butthurt over everything. Hell, look at the total shithole San Francisco has become in 2020. It’s not as violent but the West Coast softies let bums shit in the streets and throw dirty heroin needles all over the place.

Films like Dirty Harry are great because they are unapologetic and bitchslap the crybaby pussies that try to constantly justify the terrible behavior of shitty human beings. That’s also because those people are shitty human beings.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is meticulously shot with superb shot framing and cinematography. All of the scenes atop buildings are fantastic and give you a true feeling of scope and distance, especially in regards to how the sniper sees things from above, searching for his victims.

I also like all the dark and gritty parts. The big fight in the park underneath the giant cross is a real highlight in all the things I just mentioned about the film’s visuals.

The action is also captured tremendously well from the early street shootout to the rooftop shootout to the confrontation in the park at night to the bus scene and the final showdown.

The picture is well written with good pacing and it has more energy than most films from the time.

Dirty Harry is just a great action thriller that features a character that deserves his legendary status. And just like with Death Wish, I was fine with nearly a half dozen sequels even if the quality started to wane. 

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: the four other Dirty Harry films, as well as the five original Death Wish movies.

Comic Review: Batman: War Games: Book One

Published: 2004-2005
Written by: various
Art by: various

DC Comics, 515 Pages

Review:

This is one of the giant Batman sagas I hadn’t yet read. So I was pretty stoked to pick it up but ultimately, I was left pretty disappointed, as it’s slow, dry and honestly, not that exciting.

Being that I am a fan of Stephanie Brown a.k.a. Spoiler, I did like her parts in this, as it is a major turning point for her character and because it helped to fill in some of the blanks I had with her character’s development. I really dug the hell out of her time as Batgirl before they took it away from her and gave the identity back to Barbara Gordon.

This collection doesn’t feel much like a large cohesive story. There are plot threads that stretch the duration of the book but it is mostly a few short arcs stuffed into a massive volume to collect the tales of the era.

I guess the main common thread is that this mostly focuses on combating Gotham City’s street level crime but this book sort of just sets the stage for what I assume will be a more action heavy second book.

For the most part, I liked the art but some of the stories felt like a waste of time. But I guess I’ll have to see how things play out in the second and final volume of this “saga” before being too harsh.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other Batman stories of the late ’90s and early ’00s.