Film Review: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Also known as: T2 (promotional abbreviation)
Release Date: July 1st, 1991 (Century City premiere)
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Nikki Cox, Michael Biehn (cameo – Special Edition and Ultimate Cut)

Carolco Pictures, Pacific Western, Lightstorm Entertainment, Le Studsio Canal+ S.A., TriStar Pictures, 137 Minutes, 153 Minutes (Special Edition), 156 Minutes (Ultimate Cut)

Review:

“[narrating] The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor

When I was middle school aged, this film hit theaters. At the time, I thought it was just about the best movie ever made. At that age, it appealed to me more than the superior original but I think that’s because I was roughly the same age as John Connor and I was living vicariously through his experience in the film.

The thing is, this is still an utterly stupendous motion picture and one of the best that James Cameron has ever done. But, as an adult, I can’t put this over the masterpiece that is the original film.

Still, it is an incredible film and a great thing to experience, even for the 38th time watching it. Honestly, I may have seen it more than that as my VHS copy broke years ago.

It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this classic, though. But this was the first time I watched the Special Edition, which added in new scenes and longer cuts. The most important of those is a scene where Michael Biehn returns as Kyle Reese in a dream Sarah Connor has while still locked up in the mental hospital.

There is also a cool scene that shows John defy his mother in order to spare the Terminator that is protecting them. It’s actually a good character building scene that probably should have been left in, as it shows John’s natural leader personality come through and it also amplifies Sarah’s paranoia about working with a Terminator.

The only other notable addition is a scene that shows Miles Dyson and his family. This probably should have been cut but it is nice to see him trying to balance his personal life and work life.

Everything in this movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not be as impressive in 2019, they don’t look bad and for the time, they were lightyears ahead of what anyone else was doing. And it was those great digital effects that made the villainous T-1000 exist and frankly, he is still one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. But I have to give credit to Robert Patrick for that, even if its the effects that allowed him to come into being.

All the practical effects are top notch too, from the opening sequence of the war from the future and all the makeup, prosthetic and animatronic work they had to do for Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second half of the film.

But getting back to the acting, it’s a mixed bag, really.

Linda Hamilton has never been better. Also, Schwarzenegger is pretty perfect but this version of the Terminator character is written in a way that doesn’t require much from him other than what is naturally present in his real personality. That’s not a knock against Arnold, as much as it is a nod of respect to James Cameron for giving us a more human cyborg that is trying to become something more than just a killing machine. The script and the dialogue written for Arnold enhance his strengths and don’t force him to have to deal with his weaknesses. Frankly, it enhances the overall experience.

Now Edward Furlong did okay, being that this is his first film but I felt like his performance could’ve been fine tuned more. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit, I thought he was cool. As an adult, I see some of the problems with his acting but at the same time, he’s far from terrible. Where it sometimes doesn’t work really isn’t his fault either. James Cameron should’ve just stepped in more and helped the kid. But then, I also don’t know how many takes were shot and its possible that these were just the best they could get and had to move on.

I mentioned that I like the first movie the best but this one does a much better job of world building and in that, this feels like the most complete and overall satisfying film in the franchise. Where the first film feels more like a sci-fi slasher movie with guns instead of knives, this feels more like something akin to the epic world building of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.

This film certainly has the most to offer in regards to the franchise as a whole. And since nothing after has really come close to its greatness, there isn’t much reason to watch the films that follow. Besides, they all start contradicting each other and this franchise has been rebooted three different times because it became a giant mess.

Eventually, I will get around to the other films just to review them. I already reviewed Terminator: Genisys when it came out back in 2015 but I haven’t revisited Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation since they were in theaters. Plus, I’ve still got to watch the TV show but I’ve heard that it’s actually pretty good.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: the first Terminator film. Ignore the sequels after this one.

TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (2015- )

Original Run: August 23rd, 2015 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Atticus Ross, Paul Haslinger, Danny Bessi, Saunder Jurriaans
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Colman Domingo, Michelle Ang, Danay García, Daniel Sharman, Sam Underwood, Dayton Callie, Lisandra Tena, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman

Square Head Pictures, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 48 Episodes (so far), 43-65 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Walking Dead really didn’t need of a spinoff. But as these things go, when you’ve got a cash cow, you’ve got to milk it until the teets come off.

What made this spinoff intriguing, however, was that it started when the zombie outbreak started. In The Walking Dead, we follow Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma and enters a zombie infested world, months after the outbreak. Fear the Walking Dead starts on any given normal day and then the shit hits the fan. The first season shows society crumbling and how the main characters respond to it.

That rookie season was good but a somewhat unsatisfying origin story for The Walking Dead world. But once the show moved beyond the initial chaos, it got more interesting.

The sophomore season was broken into two halves, like a typical season of The Walking Dead. This show would follow that formula going forward. And while that season was a bit rocky, it found it’s footing in the second half, once our characters got off of the boat they lived on for eight episodes.

Season three switched things up quite a bit and by this point, a lot of the main characters were already wiped out.

But season four, the current season, is where the show really reinvented itself in a bold way. By the time you get through the first half of the season, only one person from the pilot episode is still alive. Additionally, Morgan from The Walking Dead comes on the show, officially crossing over, connecting this show directly to the events of the more popular parent show.

The fourth season also brings in a bunch of new and interesting characters and to be honest, it’s a completely different animal than what Fear was when it started out.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this show, which I have also had with the regular Walking Dead series, but it’s moving in a really cool direction.

It’s hard to tell where this will end up but I find it to be the more enjoyable of the two shows, right now. But being that this is The Walking Dead, that could change at the drop of a hat.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Walking DeadDeadwoodSons of Anarchy and Hell On Wheels.

 

TV Review: The Walking Dead (2010- )

Original Run: October 31st, 2010 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs, Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Danai Gurira, Michael Rooker, David Morrissey, Melissa McBride, Scott Wilson, Michael Cudlitz, Emily Kinney, Chad L. Coleman, Lennie James, Sonequa Martin-Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Alanna Masterson, Josh McDermitt, Christian Serratos, Seth Gilliam, Ross Marquand, Robin Lord Taylor, Alexandra Breckenridge, Austin Amelio, Khary Payton, Tom Payne, Katelyn Nacon, Steven Ogg, Pollyanna McIntosh, Corey Hawkins, Audrey Marie Anderson, Denise Crosby, Samantha Morton

Idiot Box Productions, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 115 Episodes (so far), 42-67 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Do I even need to review The Walking Dead, at this point? Everyone in the world has seen it by now, right? Everyone already has their own opinion of it, yes?

Well, there are a lot of people that quit years ago and it seems like the ratings have been going down the last couple of seasons. Granted, it is still AMC’s biggest show and rakes in higher numbers than nearly anything else on cable but it’s been on for eight friggin’ seasons, which is a whole hell of a lot in this day and age where decent shows get cancelled all the time.

It’s hard to review the show for the fact that it has been on for so long and that it hasn’t been very consistent from season to season. But at least the show mixes it up and tries new things, reinventing itself every 2-3 seasons. The gist of it is really the same but it’s done a decent job of evolving with the timeline in which the show is set.

However, it sort of ignores some of the real world threats that would be happening in a post-apocalyptic United States. Things that a simple comedy like The Last Man On Earth was smart enough to explore. Things like explosions at unattended nuclear power plants, spewing really bad shit into the air.

I have stuck with this show through thick and thin because as cheesy as it sounds, you grow to know these characters as if they were real people and you care about their story, especially if you’ve toughed it out through the good and bad points of the show.

There have been moments during this show’s run that I thought about giving it up but there isn’t much else to do on a Sunday night and their eight episode half seasons are pretty quick to get through. If this show had 23 episodes a year like most programs, I couldn’t stay committed to it. Plus, there was that part of me that was just waiting for the war with Negan to start. That war wasn’t what I had hoped it would be but I was satisfied with how it wrapped up and am interested in what’s to come in the upcoming season, as there are a lot of changes and a time jump happening.

For the most part, The Walking Dead has been a good show. Sometimes it feels as if it has already ran its course but for whatever reason, I can’t seem to walk away from it like some others have. But that could change with Rick, the main character, leaving the show soon.

In the end, The Walking Dead isn’t a show about zombies, it’s a show about exploring human nature and that’s more interesting than the undead.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: Fear the Walking DeadDeadwood and Hell On Wheels.

Film Review: Terminator Genisys (2015)

Also known as: Terminator 5 (informal title)
Release Date: June 21st, 2015 (Berlin premiere)
Directed by: Alan Taylor
Written by: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier
Based on: characters by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Lee Byung-hun

Skydance Productions, Paramount Pictures, 126 Minutes

Review:

“God damn time traveling robots! Covering up their god damn tracks! I knew it.” – Detective O’Brien

*Written in 2015.

What a shitty movie. But it was, at certain moments, a fun movie.

To start, Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day are classics and close to perfect blockbuster films. They are a measuring stick. However, just like every other film in the Terminator franchise after T2, this one doesn’t measure up.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was horrendous, Terminator Salvation was dog shit and this one fits right alongside those two films. I would say that Terminator Genisys is the better of the bad films in the series and it at least attempts to be more inventive and original than the other bad sequels.

The saving grace of this film is Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is great as always in this role, he seems comfortable as this character and his wit and humor are perfect. Granted, the one liners and quips aren’t as great as they were in T2 but maybe that is because T2 is the first time anyone experienced a humorous T-800 and it has been a staple in pop culture now for 24 years. I loved every time that the T-800 was on screen in this film but he was underutilized and overshadowed by the other iconic characters, who were generally portrayed poorly.

Another positive is Jai Courtney, who I enjoyed in something for the first time. Playing Kyle Reese isn’t an easy task and he did fall short of living up to the iconic status Michael Biehn gave to that role. That’s not Courtney’s fault, however, and no one else that has taken on that role has succeeded. I didn’t hate him in this, so I guess that’s a plus.

Jason Clarke was okay as John Connor but I don’t even know who John Connor is anymore and I have watched all the films and portions of the television show featuring the character. The problem is that John Connor isn’t a character people can relate to, as every time you see him, he is played by a different actor – seven, in fact, and that isn’t even counting video games or infant actors. And every actor plays him completely different. Clarke plays it safe and gives us a generic sort of future hero turned suped-up robo-villain. Yes, John Connor is the villain. That plot point was ruined in the trailer and would have been a much bigger and better reveal had the studio not spoiled their own film with desperate marketing.

Emilia Clarke, who I don’t think is related to the aforementioned Jason Clarke, plays Sarah Connor. Clarke, who is most famous for sad eyes, great boobs and playing with dragons, walked into a role that set her up to fail. I wouldn’t say that she is a great actress by any means, at least she hasn’t wowed me yet, and her portrayal of Sarah Connor didn’t help her case. I can’t blame her though, as she had immense shoes to fill with what Linda Hamilton did with the role. Clarke just couldn’t pull off that badass bitch shtick anywhere near as close as Hamilton did.

Now J.K. Simmons, let’s talk about him. The guy is great in everything he does, whether as J. Jonah Jameson in the original Spider-Man films or as the guy in the Farmers Insurance commercials. He was awesome in this film but like Schwarzenegger, was a bright spot that was underutilized.

I was glad to see Matt Smith find work in a big film now that his Doctor Who run has ended. He was barely in the film but he was in a pretty pivotal role, even if that role evolved into being the face and shape of Skynet’s evil yet lame A.I. – now renamed Genisys, which was just some Trojan horse in the guise of a smartphone app everyone in the film was obsessing over.

And that brings me to the plot. While the film took a different route, it was pretty weak. There were multiple timelines, shifting timelines, lots of time traveling and the T-800 giving clunky explanations of the science in the film. It is just one of those movies where you need to embrace suspension of disbelief and just not think too hard about it. Just roll with it or you’ll go mad. Although, I wouldn’t mind seeing Schwarzenegger giving physics talks or having a science show where he explains complex concepts poorly.

Also in the realm of bad science was the physics of the film. Just watch the big helicopter battle, which is the major action sequence before the big climax. Actually, just watch the whole film, there are several times you’ll see things happen that are physically impossible. And why did they have to flip the school bus? And it would never flip like that. Ever since the infamous semi-flipping scene in 2008’s The Dark Knight, blockbusters have been trying to recreate that magic moment.

The special effects in this film are a combination of spectacular and atrocious. The scene with the MRI machine ripping apart John Connor was beautiful and just looked amazing. Then there was the helicopter chase scene that looked like a bad cartoon, completely ignoring physics, plausibility and came off as rushed and unrefined.

I thought the score was pretty good but the iconic Terminator theme never blasted through the theater speakers in its full glory. Well, not until the credits rolled. Talk about a wasted opportunity.

The problem with this film and all the films and television shows in this franchise after Terminator 2: Judgment Day, is that there isn’t a real continuity from film to film. The plots completely shift things around, the actors are never the same and you just don’t care about these characters or events because everything that happens in these movies is easily wiped away and rewritten with each new installment. It makes all the previous work sort of moot. It also disrespects what the previous filmmakers have done before it.

At face value, this is mediocre film with some good effects that is a fun ride. But it is a “one and done” fun ride. I’ll never have the urge to watch this again, as I have never watched any film in this franchise more than once since T2. For the record, I watch T2 almost annually, if not more so.

I had higher hopes for Terminator Genisys, especially since James Cameron, the director of the first two films and the creator of the franchise, gave this one the thumbs up. But maybe, like John Connor, he’s no longer the hero.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Terminator movies but is better paired to the films after Terminator 2 a.k.a. the shitty ones.

Film Review: The Terminator (1984)

Release Date: October 26th, 1984
Directed by: James Cameron
Written by: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd
Music by: Brad Fiedel
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Earl Boen, Bill Paxton, Brian Thompson, Chino ‘Fats’ Williams

Hemdale Film Corporation, Pacific Western Productions, Cinema ’84, Orion Pictures, 107 Minutes

Review:

I got to watch this on the big screen. Okay, not in an actual theater but at a friend’s homemade theater with a twenty foot screen outside under the stars. He was testing his new projector, put up a giant sheet between the trees and decided that we’d watch The Terminator. I couldn’t argue with that.

I’m glad I got to see this thing huge, like it was originally intended by James Cameron, a man who used to make fantastic cinematic masterpieces until that pile of shit Titanic made more money than the GDP of all the EU countries combined.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is also pretty much a masterpiece but nothing compares to this, the first film. While it isn’t technically considered a horror movie, it is. This is a bonafide slasher flick where the killer carries big ass guns instead of bladed objects.

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays the Terminator. If you don’t know, he is a killer cyborg from the future. He is essentially a clean cut Jason Voorhees that dresses like Rob Halford from Judas Priest. He’s got more guns than John Rambo in the sequels. He is a relentless killer, that will keep coming and coming until he murders his target or he is somehow destroyed. Good luck with that!

Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn also star in this. Biehn, a favorite of Cameron, is great as the future hero sent back to protect Sarah Connor from the Terminator. Hamilton is her most famous character, the aforementioned Sarah Connor. She isn’t the bad ass heroine that she would be in Terminator 2 but she did a good job in this picture, evolving from the damsel in distress type to the powerful strong woman that was on the verge of raising future super bad ass John Connor, the man who would defeat the Terminators in 2029.

Seriously though, Linda Hamilton is so damn good as Sarah Connor that the best way to spot a crappy Terminator sequel is to see if Linda Hamilton isn’t in it. Her voice over cameo in the fourth film doesn’t count. She has to be in the film, as flesh and blood. She is only in the first two movies and for me, that is the story. I ignore everything after part two.

This movie is dark and it is balls to the wall bad ass. It gets going and it never slows down. Even when you think the heroes are safe for a minute… nope! Next thing you know, the Terminator is driving a car through a damn police station and shooting up dozens of cops. You blow up the Terminator in a gas truck… too bad, his skeleton will chase you! You blow up his skeleton… too bad, his head and arms will crawl after you!

This was some of James Cameron’s best work. For a low budget film in 1984, the special effects are pretty friggin’ stellar. This certainly redeems him from that Piranha II movie and it set the stage for his greatest picture Aliens in 1986. The Sarah Connor character was a good prototype for what Ellen Ripley would become in the Alien franchise. Then on the flip side, Ripley became the template for the more evolved Sarah Connor in Terminator 2.

The Terminator is incredible. I can’t imagine what it was like seeing this in the theater in 1984. It probably would have blew my mind but I was five years-old and my mum probably took me to something like Footloose, she liked dancing movies and I always got dragged along.