Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

t3_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Expectations: I remember liking the crane chase and the ending… and not much else.

twostar


If you’ve seen Terminator 2, you will know that by all accounts there shouldn’t be a Terminator 3. They destroyed everything related to the Terminators and Skynet, averting Judgement Day and saving the world from a future robot war. “But what if–” said the greedy executive, “What if they only pushed Judgement Day back?” Herein lies the foundation of Terminator 3, and it’s a rocky, unstable one at best. So understanding that this is where the film is coming from, it makes complete sense that it’s something of a mess.

What’s a little harder to take as a Terminator fan is how the film gives John Conner amnesia about the terminators. He actually asks Arnold’s T-800 if he remembers him! Remember him? John, don’t you remember the Terminator that came to save you as a teenager was lowered into a vat of molten lava? This one’s completely different! I can understand a normal person making this kind of error, but the future leader of the human resistance that has supposedly been educated and trained specifically in all things Terminator since birth? Come the fuck on! I get that the scene is there to help the first-time audience members or ones that don’t have a great working knowledge of the Terminator mythology, but we don’t need to make the main character forget something so integral to the series just so Arnold can explain it to us. Ugh.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator_2_posterStarring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: I’ll be back.

fourstar


You shouldn’t need me to tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is an incredible movie. One of the greatest blockbuster films of all time, T2 is a total thrill ride that, like the Terminators themselves, never stops. It is expertly paced and written in such a way that it is both a perfect sequel to the original film and completely self-contained and accessible to anyone in the audience. And does it hold up nearly 25 years after its original release? No problemo.

T2 brought revolutionary FX to the screen, and honestly they still look fantastic to me. Due to the limitations of the time, the CG is used exactly how it should be: to augment real footage to create incredible illusions of fantasy. The grounding in the real world makes the unreal feel all the more real because it’s seemingly happening in the same world we live in. The physical FX work is top-notch as well, with the scene when Arnold tears off his skin to show Miles Dyson his cyborg endoskeleton remaining my favorite. It blew my mind when I was a kid, and it still looks so real to me. I guess that’s what you get when your movie has a crazy budget and you’ve got Stan Winston on the case. Practical FX work may have gone out of style, but I stand by the claim that it does and will continue to age much better than CG.

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Quick Takes: The Dentist, The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself, Rise of the Legend

dentist_1The Dentist (1996)
threestar

Starring Corbin Bernsen, Linda Hoffman, Michael Stadvec, Ken Foree, Tony Noakes, Molly Hagan, Patty Toy, Jan Hoag, Virginya Keehne, Earl Boen, Christa Sauls, Mark Ruffalo, Lise Colleen Simms
Directed by Brian Yuzna

If there’s one thing that the majority of people hate, it’s going to the dentist. Now imagine visiting a dentist who just found out his wife is cheating on him, yanking away the last straw holding together his sanity. Sounds fun, right? Dr. Alan Feinstone has had a busy morning, so by the time he arrives at his office it’s a few hours late and the waiting room is full of eager patients. But he’s a professional, he can pull it together and get the job done. Or not. Feinstone’s lapse in sanity makes him kind of wig out when he’s looking at people’s teeth, seeing their mouths as festering maws of disease and decay in need of major restorative work. Corbin Bernsen is wonderfully deranged as Dr. Feingold, and the FX work induces so much intense mouth trauma that I felt like I was actually in the dentist’s chair myself. Especially effective are the large-scale models for the mouth interior closeups, allowing us to see every bursting root and tooth drilling in stunning detail. It’s not a perfect movie by any means, but it’s well worth a horror fan’s time.

dentist_2The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself (1998)
AKA The Dentist 2: You Know the Drill

twohalfstar

Starring Corbin Bernsen, Jillian McWhirter, Jeff Doucette, Susanne Wright, Jim Antonio, Lee Dawson, Wendy Robie, Ralph P. Martin, Clint Howard, Linda Hoffman
Directed by Brian Yuzna

The Dentist 2: Brace Yourself has what is perhaps the greatest, most pun-tastic sequel title of all time. The film doesn’t quite live up to expectations this brings, but it’s still a great sequel to the original film. While it continues to present a similar “festering mouths of bad hygiene must be punished” structure, the sequel actually goes off in a different direction that changes the tone. In the original film, Dr. Feinstone was progressively more and more batshit crazy, but in the sequel he has moments where we can sense the man underneath the madness. There are shreds of regret and thoughtfulness that endear the character, making you actually kind of root for him in this one. It’s not as effective a horror movie, but it is a great sequel that explores what makes the character tick.

RiseOfTheLegendRise of the Legend [黃飛鴻之英雄有夢] (2014)
threehalfstar

Starring Eddie Peng Yu-Yan, Sammo Hung, Wang Luo-Dan, Boran Jing Bo-Ran, AngelaBaby, Tony Leung Ka-Fai, Feng Jia-Yi, Byron Mann, Wong Cho-Lam, John Zhang Jin, Julius Brian Siswojo
Directed by Roy Chow Hin-Yeung

There’s a lot of modern filmmaking techniques (such as quite a bit of CG, some Matrix bullet time, etc.) that should make me not like Rise of the Legend, but damn if I didn’t enjoy the hell out of this movie. This is the first Wong Fei-Hung feature film since 1997’s Once Upon a Time in China and America, but you should really do your best to put Jet Li’s interpretation of the character out of your mind before beginning this film. This is not your standard Wong Fei-Hung, instead it’s like a prequel of sorts (in a different way than Iron Monkey), and this version of Wong Fei-Hung bears little resemblance to the folk hero we’ve come to know and love. Has Wong Fei-Hung ever decapitated a guy on-screen? Well… he does in Rise of the Legend (and it’s quite a stunning decap, too). The more recognizable character does eventually emerge in the third act, and with it my big goofy grin also came to the party. Even the Wong Fei-Hung song made an appearance! The action is fun to watch, with great choreography by Corey Yuen and some really incredible wirework in spots. It’s a very visually modern film, and parts of the fights are awkward because of this, but the choreography shines through to entertain handily. Eddie Peng is great as a young Wong Fei-Hung, and Sammo Hung is his stalwart, badass self as the villain. Tony Leung Ka-Fai (AKA Big Tony) also plays a wonderful Wong Kei-ying amidst a superbly well-cast film. If you dig Wong Fei-Hung, I say check it out!

The Terminator (1984)

terminator_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen, Rick Rossovich, Bess Motta, Earl Boen

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: Super high. Can’t wait to see it again.

fourstar


Everyone already knows that James Cameron’s second feature The Terminator is an incredible, groundbreaking film. Even if you don’t like it (for shame!), you still have to give it credit for the undying fan support it has garnered over the years; as Elvis would say, “50,000,000 fans can’t be wrong.” I’ve seen this film and its sequel more times than I could possibly count, yet it remains a perennial favorite.

This time around I noticed a few things I never had before. The most notable thing is that the film is almost purely visual during its first half. Hell, even a good portion of the second half is largely driven by pure action and carnage too, but its the first half that I want to focus on. The film begins with a quick scene of the future war. These scenes have always had a deep effect on me; I remember being absolutely riveted to them as a child. This ultimate manifestation of the post-apocalyptic, war-ravaged city ignites the fires of imagination, and even though we have little context for what’s happening on-screen, we cannot deny the power of the imagery being used. I mean, who saw this as a kid and didn’t remember the tank treads crushing human skulls?

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