Thursday, July 2, 2015
1/2* out of ****
Most folks I know think that this movie looks bad, simply based on its trailers. I'm here to tell you that it's worse. I'm not a big Terminator fan, but I am certain that this fifth entry in the series will be the most insulting of the needless sequels to follow the first two quality productions by James Cameron.
I've never been able to get behind these movies due to their bad time travel logic, but Terminator: Genisys takes the concept of time alteration to a new nonsensical level where someone or something at every story turn is one step ahead because of another time alteration, essentially taking away any sense of tension. Without any rules, people can be saved or destroyed at the liberty of the incompetent writers with convoluted explanations intended to justify an impending action scene.
The plot mainly revolves around the concept that the events of the original 1984 film have been altered, which puts the movie's most engaging parts at the beginning. We finally get to see the futuristic events leading up to what led John Conner (this time Jason Clarke) to send Kyle Reese (this time Jai Courtney) back in time, thus revealing what a time machine that allows a naked man to arrive in a glowing electrical sphere actually looks like on the other side. You might be able to see the same thing more explicitly in Magic Mike XXL, but that's your choice.
Then Sarah Connor shows up, now played by Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, in perhaps the least intense version of the role ever played. In this timeline, a reprogrammed Terminator (always Schwarzenegger) rescued her when she was a little girl and has raised her since, to be prepared for the cyborgs and the arrival of Kyle Reese.
I'd write more about Jason Clarke as John Connor and the major plot twist spoiled in the trailer, but I won't give it away here, even though I can't stress enough that you should not even bother seeing the movie. There's no point in continuing to pay attention once this plot element comes into play.
It's a terrible story, and that's not the worst of it. Along with the last two sequels, it tramples on a revered sci-fi classic, getting the tone all wrong, except this time we've entered the age of CGI dominance, where unrestrained levels of computer generated imagery rob us of the sense that anything we're seeing is real. It's not even that the effects are objectively low-quality. Once again citing the brilliant Cracked.com article, so many movies today utilize and display CGI in a way that diminishes its impact and usefulness.
This movie's effects artists have infinitely better tools at their disposal compared to what it took to make 1991's Terminator 2: Judgement Day groundbreaking, but when CGI is used to substitute for vehicles, stunts, environments, and cinematography, what sort of wonder are we supposed to feel when we see a man who can break down his molecular structure? All that does is give us the impression that the movie's artificial environment is having some sort of glitch (There's a Matrix joke in there somewhere).
If there is an amazing special effect in this film, it's in seeing a digital recreation of young Schwarzenegger (We got a cool glimpse of him in Terminator: Salvation) take part in remade shots from the original film to fit in with the modern cinematography. However, once he starts fighting in what is supposed to be a major set piece, nothing about him seems real anymore.
The film's dialogue by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier is rather insufferable, as is the idiotic comic relief that tries to lighten the tone of a franchise that has always been steeped in militaristic survivalism. Sorry, but when I see people in black leather with big guns, you might be able to convince me that they're heroes, but you'll never convince me that they're emotionally relatable. I'm not even going to get into how much I despise big studios irresponsible tendency to make PG-13 movies filled with HEAVY gunplay and no bloody consequences.
The film is directed by Alan Taylor, whose TV career is quite respectable, but so far this film and Thor: The Dark World, show an ineptitude in giving big budget spectacle a sense of weight.
Following Jurassic World, this is the second movie of the summer to seem satisfied in working with some meta subtext to affirm itself. Jurassic World had Bryce Dallas Howard talking about how dinosaurs aren't enough to impress people anymore, motivating the new park to create a hybrid monstrosity - which was the filmmakers' way of saying that the promise of lifelike dinosaurs in a movie isn't a big deal anymore, but come see this movie because we promise it to be an unrestrained beast of mayhem.
So what does Terminator: Genisys do? It has the aged Schwarzenegger Terminator, known us "Pops," constantly remind the characters, that as his mechanical abilities begin to ail, he is "..old but not obsolete." Good one Arnie. So this movie simply exists for you to take us on a PG-13, CGI-filled nostalgia ride?
Look, it's cute when a movie is self-aware, but that's not nearly enough to make it a good movie. For all we know, it's an artificial being gearing up to lead an all-out purge of movie projects intended to produce REAL feelings.
*** out of ****
**1/2 out of ****
After ignoring his creations for about a year, I'm disappointed to report that Seth still follows that FOX TV comedy tradition, which believes that being mean is funny. He also follows the Farrelly Brothers' tendency to go for witless gross-out gags. Look, these things can be funny, but when MacFarlane and Co. build up to Mark Wahlberg being doused in semen with total predictability, there's nothing to laugh at.
In this movie, Ted, now married to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), feels that having a child would be a nice change to bring love to their fragile marriage (in real life, this can be a mistake), but finds his legitimacy as a legally protected person - who can marry, adopt a child, or even hold a job - called into question by the authorities. This begins a vague little allegory for same-sex marriage.
I continue to insist that the worst thing about MacFarlane is how he pretends to care. The first Ted wasted time trying to treat a relationship story with sincerity, climaxing with a wedding as the movie's happy ending. This time, the movie opens with Wahlberg's character divorced so that he can conveniently behave like a manchild with Ted again and meet another serious woman. This time, the serious woman is a lawyer, played by Amanda Seyfried. Even though this new love interest shows more comic compatibility by sharing a love of marijuana - and is hilariously ignorant of anything pop-cultural - she's still there to help him grow up a little... again.
I still think of Seth as a friend who pisses off my other friends, putting me in an awkward position. His work is still a hodgepodge of comedy after my heart, brought down by forced cruelty colliding with false sentimentality. I just wish he'd stop having his characters "grow up a little" and start doing it himself.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
*** out of ****
Michael Giacchino's new score conveys excitement, but fails to use John Williams' original music creatively. Sometimes it's just awkward where you hear the original themes (Yes, themes. Williams was so awesome back in the day, that you left the theater with more than one melody dancing in your head). Giacchino is one of the better composers working on major films today, but it's sad how seldom his work has a big impact.
Thursday, June 11, 2015
*** out of ****
Gil Kenan's (Monster House) 2015 remake of Poltergeist is almost as good as the original - a film I've always found to be overrated - so I guess that's not a big compliment.
The original movie made some kind of undefined cultural commentary about the excess of suburban life during the dawn of yuppie culture, but the artistic confusion between its director Tobe Hooper and producer Steven Spielberg resulted in a movie that succeeded in entertaining but had little to say beyond its broad messages about materialism and television infecting the modern American family. However, the movie was filled with product placement and one too many needless special effects scenes.
Naturally, the remake doesn't have any new filmmaking techniques with which to impress us, but Kenan understands how to achieve the same tone the original movie had. Sam Rockwell and Rosemarie DeWitt are well cast as the imperfect parents in a family, haunted by a presence in their suburban home. And Jared Harris plays a ghost-hunting reality TV star signifying the filmmaker's wise unwillingness to find a Zelda Rubinstein surrogate.
The remake has some lame touches, such as a whiney smartphone-fixated teenage daughter, which may be a stereotype inspired by reality, but not one worth re-enforcing through cinema. Marc Streitenfeld's creepy music is no match for Jerry Goldsmith's, but whose is? There's also a stupid scene, late in the film, involving a toy drone being used against the spirits, begging us to wonder why they don't start controlling it as they have every other piece of home electronic equipment earlier in the film.
Writer David Lindsay-Abaire (whose suburban drama Rabbit Hole seemed like the right kind of experience for this project) seems to miss out on the original films emphasis that the then-new subdivision homes worked as an unlikely place for a haunting. In this movie the suburbs look old and decayed, coming off as haunted to begin with. As silly as this sounds, I would have found it very interesting if the family were haunted by ghosts from the early eighties.
The movie still has enough intrigue and genuine scares for me to recommend it for anyone who doesn't feel like watching a movie made in 1982.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
**1/2 out of ****