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.

Documentary Review: The Rise and Fall of WCW (2009)

Release Date: August 25th, 2009
Directed by: Kevin Dunn
Cast: Magnum T.A., Arn Anderson, Ricky Steamboat, Lady Blossom, Jim Crockett Jr., David Crockett, Ric Flair, Bill Goldberg, Mike Graham, Shane Helms, Chris Jericho, John Kap, Joe Laurinaitis, Dean Malenko, Tyler Mane, Vince McMahon, “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Dusty Rhodes, Jim Ross, Dr. Harvey Schiller, Michael P.S. Hayes, Kevin Sullivan, Bill Watts, Paul Wight, Eric Bischoff, Hulk Hogan

WWE, 105 Minutes

Review:

I recently revisited and reviewed The Rise and Fall of ECW documentary and I really enjoyed seeing it again. So, I thought that going back and watching the WCW version of their rise and fall would also be a good experience.

It was and it was neat going back down memory lane, as I lived through just about everything covered in the film, going way back to the National Wrestling Alliance and Jim Crockett eras up through Vince McMahon buying WCW and absorbing them into the WWE.

My only real complaints about this are the same complaints I have for a lot of WWE produced documentaries.

Firstly, it’s told from the WWE’s perspective and isn’t always 100 percent accurate and without bias. I mean, that’s fine and understandable, as long as the gist of the story told is pretty close to what happened and in this case, I feel that it is.

Secondly, this would have benefited from more interviews with more of the people that lived through these experiences. WWE tends to leave out the opinions and insight of wrestlers and executives that they have beefs with and thus, these things are typically only presented by talent that is on good terms with Vince McMahon.

Additionally, this, like many WWE documentaries, features a lot of archive interviews clipped and edited into the larger tapestry. While that’s fine, it’d be nicer hearing more direct answers and insight from guys like Eric Bischoff and Hulk Hogan, as opposed to just using material from old interviews.

Needless to say, this is well edited, well presented and it goes through the timeline quite superbly. While not on the same level as the ECW documentary, this still gives you a pretty solid history on World Championship Wrestling and a clear understanding of how it was mismanaged into oblivion.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other WWE documentaries on the legacies of past wrestling promotions.

Documentary Review: Special When Lit (2009)

Release Date: October 1st, 2009 (Raindance Film Festival – UK)
Directed by: Brett Sullivan
Music by: Brett Sullivan
Cast: Roger Sharpe, Rick Stetta, Sam Harvey, Steve Epstein, Gary Stern, Lyman Sheats Jr., Tim Arnold, Josh Kaplan, Pat Lawlor, Steve Ritchie, Steve Kordek, Steve Keeler, Raphael Lankar, Koi Morris, Al Thomka

Stream Motion and Sound, PBS International, 97 Minutes

Review:

I’ve always been a fan of pinball and arcade games in general. When I grew up in the ’80s it was hard not to be captivated by these things as gaming machines of all types were everywhere you went, even in a small town like mine.

Because of that, I was excited to see this documentary back when it first came out. It also came out in a time when pinball and video game documentaries were at an all-time high, probably due to the 2007 cult hit The King of Kong.

This delves into the history of pinball and it covers a lot of ground but it is mostly focused on the mid-’70s and beyond. It touches on the history before that but I actually would’ve liked to have seen more of its early history, as well. But there are other documentaries that cover that.

For the most part, this is simply talking head interviews edited together to tell a story. It’s well organized and edited and the whole documentary runs smoothly, as it looks at the fan side of pinball, the corporate side and the competitive side. All bases are pretty much covered and everything is given a good amount of time.

Now I don’t know how much this will resonate with everyone but if you’ve got an interest in the subject, it’s certainly worth a watch, as it’s full of colorful, entertaining characters and it’ll probably make you want to go collect your quarters and find the nearest machine to play.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: other documentaries about pinball and arcade games, many have been reviewed here already.

Film Review: The House of the Devil (2009)

Release Date: April 25th, 2009 (Tribeca Film Festival)
Directed by: Ti West
Written by: Ti West
Music by: Jeff Grace
Cast: Jocelin Donahue, Tom Noonan, Mary Woronov, Greta Gerwig, Dee Wallace, A.J. Bowen, Lena Dunham (voice)

Constructovision, RingTheJig Entertainment, Glass Eye Pix, MPI Media Group, Dark Sky Films, Gorgon Video, 95 Minutes

Review:

“During the 1980s over 70% of American adults believed in the existence of abusive Satanic Cults… Another 30% rationalized the lack of evidence due to government cover ups… The following is based on true unexplained events…” – title card

This was recently featured on Joe Bob Briggs’ The Last Drive-In and he called it one of the best horror films of the last few decades. He’s not wrong.

I hadn’t seen this since it came out and the first time I watched it, it didn’t grab me. The problem though, is that I was drunk at a party with a bunch of other drunk people watching horror movies. Despite loving the fact that this had Tom Noonan and Mary Woronov in it, I never had much urge to revisit it.

I’m glad that I got a second chance to see it though, as I loved it. And I think I loved it for the reasons that most people seem to not like about it.

It’s slow but it’s wonderfully slow. Some people get bored with this old school way of building up suspense but if you just sit through this, uninterrupted by drunk degenerates around you, it pulls you in, tightens its grip and doesn’t let go until its ready to throw the kitchen sink right at your face.

The payoff in this film is well worth the wait and even if Sam, the victim in the film, gets free of her bonds way too easily, the final sequence in this film is pretty damn satisfying. Granted, it does go for a Rosemary’s Baby ending and I thought that was a bit derivative but the movie still has a hell of an effect on the psyche in that final act.

One thing that really is the glue in this picture is the sound. Between the score by Jeff Grace and the little bumps and scratches you hear throughout the creepy house, you can’t help but to be on edge and to feel yourself in Sam’s shoes.

This is one of those cerebral horror movies. Not in a way that makes you think too hard and takes you on a mindfuck of a journey but in a way that takes over your senses and sort of throws you to the wolves right when it is damn good and ready.

Perfect pacing, incredible sound management and the cast was damn good.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: good, old school horror films of the late ’60s through early ’80s: The Changeling, Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, The Exorcist and The Shining for example.

Film Review: Solomon Kane (2009)

Release Date: September 16th, 2009 (TIFF)
Directed by: Michael J. Bassett
Written by: Michael J. Bassett
Based on: characters by Robert E. Howard
Music by: Klaus Badelt
Cast: James Purefoy, Max von Sydow, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Pete Postlethwaite, Mackenzie Crook, Alice Krige

Davis Films, Czech Anglo Productions , Wandering Star Pictures, Metropolitan Filmexport, Optimum Releasing, 104 Minutes

Review:

“If I kill you, I am bound for hell. It is a price I shall gladly pay.” – Solomon Kane

At times, this felt like two different films. I liked a lot of the stuff in this movie but it had issues with pacing and tonal shifts.

Still, this had some real badass moments and I loved the character design between Solomon Kane and the two big villains, Malachi and the Masked Rider.

The opening ten minutes or so of this film were great and got me excited for what was to come. However, after the intense and fantastic opening, things slowed to a crawl for quite awhile. The energy didn’t really pick back up until the Masked Rider appeared and started doing some evil shit. Man, he just looked sinister and cool as hell, almost like a powerful Sith thrown into a Robert E. Howard story.

Malachi also added a lot to the picture and was a nice antagonist for Solomon Kane, a hero that walks the line with one foot in Hell and the other on the side of God.

The ghouls were also pretty cool and provided a lot of intense moments, as did the ghosts in the mirrors and the big demon beast in the big finale.

I thought that the cinematography was good and the film is very well shot. It looks great, even in the moments were CGI is very prevalent.

I just wish that the film wasn’t bogged down by some of its inconsistencies.

Every part in the picture was well acted, though and that certainly boosted the overall quality of the film. James Purefoy was perfection as Solomon Kane and even if he’s not a widely known star, I can’t think of a bigger one that would’ve pulled off the character as well as he did. Frankly, I wish this had done better because I would’ve liked to have seen him return to the role for other movies. And maybe it’s not too late but it’s been almost a decade since this came out and I haven’t heard anything about a follow up. It’ll probably be rebooted sometime in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect before watching this. On one hand I was pleasantly surprised and on the other, I was bored for half the film. But the positives definitely outweigh the negatives.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other films featuring Robert E. Howard heroes: all the Conan movies, Kull the ConquerorRed Sonja and other sword and sorcery films.

Film Review: Star Trek (2009)

Also known as: Star Trek XI, Star Trek Zero, Corporate Headquarters, The Ernest Castelhun Chronicles, Untitled Walter Lace Project, Star Trek: The Future Begins (working titles), Star Trek: The Beginning (South Korea),
Release Date: April 6th, 2009 (Austin premiere)
Directed by: J. J. Abrams
Written by: Robert Orci, Alex Kurtzman
Based on: Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast:  Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Leonard Nimoy, Bruce Greenwood, Eric Bana, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr., Rachel Nichols, Deep Roy, Tyler Perry, Victor Garber (scene cut), Brad William Henke (scenes cut)

Spyglass Entertainment, Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 127 Minutes

Review:

“Don’t pander to me, kid. One tiny crack in the hull and our blood boils in thirteen seconds. Solar flare might crop up, cook us in our seats. And wait’ll you’re sitting pretty with a case of Andorian shingles, see if you’re still so relaxed when your eyeballs are bleeding. Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence.” – Dr. Leonard ‘Bones’ McCoy

I’ve loved the Star Trek franchise as long as I can remember. However, nothing has really resonated with me since the end of Enterprise in 2005. This film was an attempt at rebooting the franchise and altering the timeline so that it wasn’t forced into having to work within the framework of already established canon. I wouldn’t call that the best idea, as Star Trek has such a rich mythos that it doesn’t need to be rebooted, there are unlimited ways to tell stories within a franchise this large. But a reboot is what we got because Hollywood is gonna Hollywood.

That being said, for what this is, Star Trek isn’t a bad motion picture. It’s an unnecessary one but I did want to give it a shot because if this was all the Trek I was going to get, I wanted to try to make the best of it.

This could have been better though. They hired the wrong guy to direct, as he just wanted to make Star Wars movies, which he would later do, and wasn’t a fan of Star Trek and didn’t really understand what it needed to be in contrast to what Star Wars is.

The director, J. J. Abrams, also made some strange stylistic choices in how he made the Enterprise look and how he went absolutely ape shit with the use of lens flares and lighting. The film is almost headache inducing at times.

As far as the story goes, the altering of the timeline really seems moot, as there are things that are different before the moment of that alteration. I’m specifically talking about the time Enterprise was already in space before Kirk showed up, as well as Spock’s previous service on the ship and Captain Pike’s role in everything.

Additionally, the story really seems to be a rehash of Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, which Abrams would also heavily borrow from for his first Star Wars movie, Episode VII – The Force Awakens. But this is the same guy who also borrowed heavily from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for his picture Super 8. It all kind of makes me wonder what his next Star Wars film will heavily borrow from.

In the realm of Star Trek movies, this is better than the worst films that came before it but it doesn’t come close to the greatness of Wrath of KhanThe Voyage HomeThe Undiscovered Country or First Contact. As its own film, separate from the series, it is a fun, space action movie. I will give it that. It is a good adventure and a better than average popcorn movie but we’ve seen this all before and done much better.

In retrospect, I’m pretty happy with most of the casting. I never liked the idea of anyone else ever playing the original crew but that bad idea is salvaged fairly well with most of the cast choices. I like Pine as Kirk, Quinto as Spock and Urban as Bones. However, I just don’t see how they will ever have the chemistry that Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley had. But since this series was cancelled after the third film, I guess we’ll never see what develops between the three men over the long haul.

But this film also diminishes McCoy’s importance, as the relationship they focus on is just between Kirk and Spock and not the trinity we all came to love on the original television show and the movies of the ’80s. And that’s a shame, really, as I love Karl Urban’s commitment to the McCoy character. He just nails it so well. I think he actually understands the role much more than Abrams, the man behind the camera.

I’m probably coming off as harsh but I’m just calling it like I see it. I did enjoy revisiting this, as it was a quick paced, exciting film. It did have some heart in the moments where Leonard Nimoy, as the older Spock, came into the story. But it did lack the right sort of emotion to make me feel for these characters.

do like this for the most part but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just a framework for something that could have been richer and more intimate. A lot of the pieces to this puzzle were good and while some connected, it’s as if the filmmakers gave up about halfway through and just threw all the pieces back into the box.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Kelvin timeline Star Trek films: Star Trek Into Darkness and Star Trek Beyond.

Documentary Review: The Phenomenon: The Comic That Changed Comics (2009)

Release Date: July 21st, 2009
Directed by: Eric Matthies
Cast: Malin Åkerman, Billy Crudup, Carla Gugino, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Zack Snyder, Gerard Way, Dave Gibbons, Len Wein

Eric Matthies Productions, Warner Bros., 29 Minutes

Review:

I believe that this was originally included on the DVD release of Watchmen back in 2009 but I never owned the original DVD so I’m not sure.

This documentary is very tied to the movie, however, as most of the interviews are with the actors from the film, as well as its director, Zack Snyder. But we also get to hear from some comic book personalities, such as Watchmen artist Dave Gibbons, as well as Len Wein and Gerard Way.

Cast aside, this is not a documentary about the film adaptation, it is about the original comic book, which many consider to be one of the all-time masterpieces in comic book history. Carla Gugino even refers to this as the Citizen Kane of the comic book medium. She might not be wrong there and frankly, I’ve found few people that weren’t moved by Watchmen in some way.

This is a shorter documentary than it should be, as this great work deserves to be explored for more than 29 minutes. But still, it is informative and really gets into the messages within it, its philosophy, its style, the art and its cultural impact.

I’m not sure if there is a longer and more comprehensive documentary on the Watchmen comic but this is fairly satisfactory until one eventually gets made. Maybe HBO will do it, as they are now coming out with a Watchmen TV show.

If you love the comic, which you should, this is definitely worth a watch.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the 2009 Watchmen movie and other recent comic book documentaries.