Mini-Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

TerminatorGenisys_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Absolutely zero.

onehalfstar


Terminator: Genisys goes to great lengths to craft a story that can serve as both a reboot and a sequel to Cameron’s original movies, and while this is initially promising, it quickly becomes ridiculously convoluted and lost in a sea of nearly unending exposition and nostalgia hooks. In the end, I felt rather indifferent about the whole thing. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it, but it was entertaining in a generic science fiction manner (and I always enjoy watching Arnold do pretty much anything). It’s really missing the feeling of dread and inevitable apocalypse that permeates Cameron’s films, though, so it only feels like an approximation of a Terminator film and not an honest continuation.

The story begins in the Future War era in the hours before John Connor’s final assault on Skynet. Spoiler Alert: They destroy Skynet a few minutes into the movie! Woo hoo, that was easy! Roll the credits! But right before that happened, Skynet sent a T-800 to 1984 to take out Sarah Connor. Yes, this is the same Arnold Terminator that we all know from the original film. He said he’d be back, and he wasn’t lying! Anyway, mid-way through the 1984 Terminator’s encounter with the punks at the Griffith Observatory, an older Arnold Terminator comes over and starts blasting him with a shotgun! Whoa, what’s going on?

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

This is just one of many direct connections with the Cameron originals, but before too long Terminator: Genisys moves in an entirely new direction. Unfortunately, this brings about a barrage of exposition that continues for most of the movie. It’s never a good sign when a movie explains tons of stuff to the viewer — film is a visual medium and all that — but Terminator: Genisys is mostly explanation! Which is weird because it’s also mostly action. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There’s a scene where the heroes get their mug shots taken to the Cops theme Bad Boys, for God’s sake. What am I supposed to say to that?

Terminator: Genisys is just a strange film, and one that’s hard to understand no matter how you look at it. On one hand it’s an entertaining, inoffensive sci-fi action movie, but it’s also horrendously convoluted and without an ounce of character chemistry or heart. I give them kudos for going in an interesting direction with the franchise (as opposed to just following the basic Terminator framework like T3), but all it does is expose how they shouldn’t really be making any more Terminator movies.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is… some cameos! If I knew better I’d just skip these and move on to other things, but I don’t know better! I am going to speed it up by just doing Quick Take reviews of them, so Arnold will continue to hit these digital pages for a little while longer. Up next is Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, a 1974 TV Movie starring Lucille Ball and Art Carney, the Ivan Reitman film Dave, and a starring turn for Arnold’s lifelong friend Franco Columbu called Beretta’s Island! See ya then!

Quick Takes: The Wolf of Wall Street, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Zombie

wolf_1The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)
threehalfstar

Starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Kyle Chandler, Rob Reiner, Jon Bernthal, Jon Favreau, Jean Dujardin, Joanna Lumley, Cristin Milioti, Christine Ebersole, Shea Whigham, P. J. Byrne, Kenneth Choi, Matthew McConaughey
Directed by Martin Scorsese

In my teenage years, when I getting serious about my film obsession, Martin Scorsese was one of my favorite directors. The years haven’t been too kind to our relationship, though, as Scorsese hasn’t made a single film since Kundun that I’ve flat-out loved. The Wolf of Wall Street still isn’t quite there for me, but it is a finely made film that is incredibly entertaining and watchable even at a full three hours. Most importantly, Scorsese successfully dredges up that exuberant energy that made his earlier films sparkle. Leonardo DiCaprio proves (once again) that he deserves one of those coveted Oscar statues, in one of his best performances yet. But honestly, it was Jonah Hill that surprised me the most. Hill is a surprisingly good actor, I guess “surprisingly” because I always wrote him off as “one of those dudes in modern comedies that I don’t like.” While most of the movie is best described as vapid exuberance, it does end up relating something insightful about the American psyche and the power of money. If you’ve been cold on the last few Scorsese films, The Wolf of Wall Street is the real deal.

Dawn_1Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston, Terry Notary, Karin Konoval, Judy Greer
Directed by Matt Reeves

I liked Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but for me it was a big step down from the first one. A lot less emotionally engaging, and all the human characters were cardboard and boring. The story didn’t really grab me either, although I don’t know what else this movie could’ve been about. It’s a movie about the dawn of the war between apes and men, so you kinda have to show why they’re angry at one another, but I think it could have been far better executed. A good majority of the FX work is outstanding, but alongside the amazing stuff are chimps with faces that look flat and completely fake (such as Caesar’s son). I don’t understand why, because Caesar, Koba, Maurice and a good majority of the other apes all look near-real most of the time. Whatever… apes with machines guns made me smile. And they ride horses! The third movie will likely be a pretty hefty action film, but I’m not going in with great expectations after the so-so showing here by director Matt Reeves (who is also directing the third one).

Zombie_Flesh_eatersZombie [Zombi 2] (1979)
AKA Island of the Flesh-Eaters, Zombie Flesh Eaters, Zombie 2: The Dead are Among Us, Island of the Living Dead

twohalfstar

Starring Tisa Farrow, Ian McCulloch, Richard Johnson, Al Cliver, Auretta Gay, Stefania D’Amario, Olga Karlatos
Directed by Lucio Fulci

Zombie is surprisingly dull for the most part, except when the zombies come around with their muddy, worm-ridden faces. The characters — if you can even call them that — do some really dumbass shit, and the “story” is like a vague premise with dialogue attached to it. It’s seriously not much more than: A woman searches for her father on a strange island where the dead rise from their graves. And the search for Daddy isn’t even that big of a deal, as it’s pretty clear from the first scene what happened to him. The last half hour or so is pure zombie killin’ entertainment, though, and the gore throughout is awesome. Lots of great flesh-rippin’ bites and other gruesome sights, especially the bit where a splintered wood beam pierces through a character’s eye!

White House Down (2013)

whitehousedown_1Starring Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Clarke, Richard Jenkins, Joey King, James Woods, Nicolas Wright, Lance Reddick, Jimmi Simpson, Kevin Rankin, Michael Murphy, Rachelle Lefevre

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Expectations: Pretty low, but I like the leads enough to watch them in a dumb action movie.

threehalfstar


To call White House Down a variation on Die Hard is an understatement. White House Down IS Die Hard in the White House, but while shameless rip-offs and recycling of storylines is usually a bad thing, White House Down is so much fun that I hardly cared that I had seen this same setup before. Besides… Die Hard is awesome. There are definitely times when the nods to Die Hard are too on-the-nose (such as using Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony instead of the Ninth, with no other context but as a Die Hard reference), but even these moments made me smile instead of groan. And that’s the key thing in a dumb action movie like this: the tone is light enough and the action is furious enough for all those little annoyances to simply roll off your back. White House Down is definitely a whole lot of dumb, but that never stopped ’80s action movies, and it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying one of the best modern “old school” action movies I’ve seen in a while.

As you might expect from the title and the poster, White House Down is about a terrorist capture of the White House and one man slinking around and messing up the bad guy’s plans. Doesn’t get much more simple than that. Unfortunately, because this is 2013 it takes a while to actually get to the plot that matters. Director Roland Emmerich spends nearly 40 minutes setting up the characters and the inevitable takeover of the President’s home. Modern films just can’t seem to get down to business so I expected this, but what I didn’t expect was that once the pin is pulled, this grenade of a movie explodes into pretty much non-stop action and thrills. It’s intense, ridiculous and incredibly enjoyable.

Continue reading White House Down (2013) →

Lawless (2012)

lawless_1Starring Shia LaBeouf, Tom Hardy, Jason Clarke, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain, Mia Wasikowska, Dane DeHaan, Chris McGarry, Tim Tolin, Gary Oldman, Lew Temple, Marcus Hester

Directed by John Hillcoat

Expectations: Low.

onestar


There is such a thing as “too star-studded.” I’m sure on paper Lawless looked like a sure-fire winner. With a cast like this how could it fail? Apparently, it can fail in numerous ways! It’s a shame because a lot of the production design is well-realized, and the locations look great. Director John Hillcoat’s camera often finds a nice image to linger on, the only problem is that the majority of these images aren’t artistically deep or resonant to the overall film, they’re the wide establishing shots. Lawless is the cinematic equivalent to one of my friend’s favorite Raymond Chandler lines (from the novel The High Window), “From 30 feet away she looked like a lot of class. From 10 feet away she looked like something made up to be seen from 30 feet away.”

The story that Lawless tells is apparently based on the true story of three outlaw, moonshinin’ brothers in Franklin County, Virginia. Like all outlaw stories, they start small and their business gets increasingly bigger over the course of the film. Of course, there’s a detective gunning for the brothers’ business (played by Guy Pearce), but Pearce’s guide for the character must have been Jeffrey Combs in The Frighteners because this dude is like a goddamn comic book villain. Anyway, they go back and forth throughout, and every once in a while Gary Oldman comes in to look badass.

Continue reading Lawless (2012) →

Subscribe via Email!

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,593 other subscribers

Ongoing Series

Top Posts & Pages