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Terminator Salvation (2009)
I usually don't write "in reaction" to seeing a movie, however, on a number of levels, I've come to some clarity on how I feel about Terminator Salvation.
First (and this really helped me to be okay with my hesitation to embrace this film), I left the theater asking myself "what do I think of this movie, how do I feel?" and it dawned on me that having to ask is the problem - with previous Terminator movies (yes, even T3), it wasn't hard to decide, based on feeling alone, yeah or nay. The Terminator was just a whole lot of fun in a way previous sci-fi movies hadn't been able to achieve; T2 was a breathtaking statement with remarkably poignant scenes, while at the same time delivering special effects and action that changed things fundamentally; T3 was, for me, provocative, and the more I thought about it, the more I grasped some remarkable things. In all three, how I felt was clear, and I enjoyed them.
Which brings me to my next issue with Terminator Salvation: it fails the "KISS test" ("Keep It Simple, Stupid").
A good comparative to this is with the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The original trilogy was not only groundbreaking, not only an epic saga, but it was simple enough for a kid to get. The prequel trilogy was so complicated it takes real thought for me to figure out all the new characters and plots and conflicts; it became a mess, exactly the opposite of what it originally was.
By the time I arrived at the end of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, I got the idea, and even chuckled to myself. I said "the franchise is complete, we've come full circle. You can't stop the war, we knew that, the terminators came back because they were losing the war."
But we knew enough - John Conner would lead a resistance, the machines would calculate that they were losing and hatch this crazy plot, going back in time, in a ditch effort to eliminate the source of their demise, the mother of John Conner. But, John Conner would not be killed in the past, our present, so that time would remain in an endless loop where machines neither won out or were prevented from existing at all. And such would be the conundrum of a movie based on the non-entity of time travel.
So, at the end of T3, I had no need for a sequel. While I wanted "more terminator", I had a sense of peaceful resolution that "the story", such as it was, had been told.
Then I heard a T4 was in the making, and I was really excited. "Ok," I thought, "so we're going to go into the future and see the world from which Arnold and Robert Patrick came, somewhat as it appeared from Reese's telling in T1." We had visions of humans scraping to get by, HKs in the black skies and dog-fearing terminators infiltrating human dwellings, eyes like laser sights piercing the squalor...
I thought that we had a simple story to stick to.
Terminator Salvation was anything but. A new main character we knew nothing about, and which was used questionably to advance on the simple story that had somehow manages to engage us for 3 previous films.
Characters who demonstrate no development at all. Very little in the way of endearing emotive connections, no intimacies or anything remotely smacking of the human compassion and conditions for which humans were supposed to be fighting anyway, save for one scene where a woman says she feels a man's warmth, only to find out...well, although I warned there'd be spoilers, when you see it you'll appreciate how odd it was that this be the place and the characters to provide emotion, where in previous it was between Sarah and Reese and Sarah and John and John and the Terminator and Sarah and the Terminator, you know, the main characters.
From what I gathered in that article, the original script wasn't much better.
It seems that, any way you slice it, the original simple story was of such perfection that there was no place to go; which is supported by the fact that both the original script and this dog's breakfast of a re-write both fail monumentally.
Terminator has had such an impact, and set the bar so high, it really was unreasonable to expect that level could be maintained.
The Number 23 (2007)
not as bas as critics suggest
SPOILER ALERT - Only read this review after you have seen the movie. In my opinion, you would not be wasting your time in seeing it, but if you do, reading this review will help confirm that, contrary to what so many others might argue.
Jim Carrey continues to infuse his work with a hint of religious or moral message - this movie ending with a Bible quote may have triggered sub-conscious rejection by all those who out and out hate on this movie, which does have a pleasant ending.
The ending, by the way, has the protagonist saying something to the effect that "this may not be the ending you want, but it's the way it should be," as they protagonist did "the right thing" at his own cost.
The movie isn't really about the number 23, although on the surface everyone wants to make it out as such. That's the problem - it's disappointing if the issue is supposed to be about the numerology, weak as it may be.
This is a film about a disturbed fellow who killed someone, hid the body, framed an innocent man who went to prison for the murder; wrote a confession which one of the psychiatrists who dealt with his treatment took possession of and rewrote as a novel. That novel manages to end up in the protagonist's hands, and as he reads he can't help but recognize parallels in his own life that begin to awaken the repressed memories he had of his real life before the attempted suicide.
The madness in which he wrote the book; the re-write that obscured some of the real connections, and his own psyche are the reasons the protagonist had to go through the process the movie follows.
Ultimately, upon remembering everything that happened, what he did, etc., his decision to "make things right" by admitting to the crime, freeing the wrongfully convicted, and being sentenced to serve time for his crime, all on the basis that as a father who wants to send a clear message to his son about justice, this was the right thing to do, is satisfying.
The meandering path the movie followed to get to that point may not have been perfect, and the somewhat preachy tone of the narrative followed by the imposing Biblical quote from Numbers 32:23, "your sins will find you out," may rightly have left a bad taste in some viewers mouths.
But, the resolution that a crime that had not been properly solved was now clear and a person who owns up to his guilt and anticipates a life of clarity after facing his consequences with the full support of his family appeals to one's inner sense of rightness and goodness and honesty and justice.
Perhaps we've become so jaded and cynical in the current state of affairs in our world today that such purity can't be taken at face value.
I would suggest, however, that the manner in which the protagonist's mental condition was presented is a tad curious. Could someone go through such a change of condition over time, from a confused young man from a home with a father who commits suicide who kills his girlfriend in a jealous rage, buries her, frames an innocent to take the fall, writes a convoluted confession infused with pseudo-numerological rantings and then jumps to his intended death to a psychiatric hospital for therapy who leaves the institution "cured" even though he has no recollection of what happened? What life could he possibly have? He settles down in a job which he keeps, has a beautiful wife, a cool teen kid for a son, and mental and emotional stability with no relapses, no recurring nightmares that seem oddly real, no nothing until the book shows up through "providential" circumstances? Are we really to believe the dog saw him bury the woman, understood this to be wrong, and showed up at the restaurant knowing the protagonist would be along and would allow the dog to lead him to the grave, which triggered no recollection in his mind at the time? And, why would his wife remove the bones of the girl? If she knew nothing of his past, she'd have no motive to "protect him" from anything, since she would not have assumed the bones had any connection to him.
There are not a few questions that pull at the over-all execution of the story in film. A perfect movie this is not.
But I've seen plenty stupider movies get much better reviews than this one, and that seems odd to me. A movie with a moral message needs to be given the benefit of the doubt, in my opinion, because too much time is spent on senseless entertainment that often must pander to the lowest sensibilities (toilet humor, sex, violence for the sake of it) and leaves nothing to inspire any sense of higher ideal. This movie attempts to do so. Maybe poorly, but the attempt itself is worthwhile.
Pulp Fiction (1994)
A study in redemption
Warning - mild spoilers.
For Tarantino, this seems to be an idea he is contemplating (thorugh various analogies and story lines in various of his movies).
Those who are easily distracted will miss it. Although violence is a hallmark of Tarantino films, that's not what it's all about. In this one, 6 people are entwined in a collision course with redpemption. Some will be changed, some will not. The two primary characters who develop are Jules and Ringo. They are surrounded by a number of characters who do not display any real development, yet themselves experience situations they are drawned into and emerge on the other side having been redeemed.
Redemption is the final aim of the entire Godfather series, which many consider to be among the greatest movies of all time. And, another, Shawshank REDEMPTION, again explores this theme. And hey, isn't that what "Return of the Jedi" was all about? Clearly, the idea is deep-rooted and forms the basis for a good storyline.
Tarantino's process is masterful, artistic, challenging.
Double Indemnity (1944)
This film is great fun. Sxity years later, it's as taut and engaging and beautiful as any contemporary story.
It simmers, it sizzles, the tension between Neff and Dietrichson is positively palpable. But, as the tension between Neff and Dietrichson fizzles, the tension between Neff and Keyes heats up.
It's as pure a sample of classic film noir as there is, and it does it with unparalleled style.
This is what movie-making is all about. It's not a labrynth of characters and trick endings and gimmicks. In fact, the movie starts with our tragic hero admitting he's the who whodunit...what are we left with?
The story of how and why he dunit, of how he was intoxicated and bewitched, yet came to his senses, not soon enough to save him legally, but at least to come to terms with his own failure.
The Bone Collector (1999)
some great, some bad, some ugly
I wasn't going to bother writing a review of this film until I saw some of the reviews already posted, and was then compelled to set the record straight. One disclaimer - I am commenting on the movie, not the book. Those who've read the book all seem agreed that the Lincoln Rhymes character is great, the stories are great, and most of the problems with this movie, for them, appear to stem from the fact that this movie strays from the book in significant respects.
Some people are comfortable writing a review even though they obviously didn't pay any attention to the film, leaving their comments misleading at best and downright ridiculous in some instances.
THE GREAT: As a forensics expert, Rhymes is brilliant. He did NOT immediately interpret the clues in all instances, and needed plenty of help from his trusted and trusting assistants, all of whom have worked with him, read his works, and know the guy is good. It's a well-functioning community where all respect each other's roles on the team. Watch Ed O'Neil's character Sellito to see this in the clearest action.
The development between Rhymes and Donaghy is half-baked, the book will no doubt supercede what they cooked up on screen. In fact, the development of Donaghy herself is half-baked, although Jolie does a great job of showing internal conflict that evolves into a new sense of self-discovery and purpose, which reflects the change we are made to understand also happens for Rhymes.
The manner in which Rhymes and his team collect and then analyse the clues is pretty nifty, seems close to authenticity. After all his years on the job as well as his academic merit, the subjective skill of interpreting the clues becomes abstract, so that he CAN make those jumps - see Se7en as another example. And, as in real cases so often, once your science gets you into the ballpark, it's often a stroke of luck that breaks it open. Nothing I could see difficult to accept here.
The relationship between Rhymes and his nurse Thelma (ably conveyed by the beautiful Queen Latifah) is excellent. She is strong, devoted, loving, and thank merciful heavens she doesn't end up a jealous murderous madwoman as Donaghy and Rhymes clearly connect. No no, Thelma is genuine, and their relationship is pure. I'd say more, but that would spoil it.
THE BAD Rooker plays the political cop boss guy, such a tired cliche. Rhymes is well-read, widely written, proven, he travels and lectures all over the world, and some city cop is lording over him, as though they are not all on the same team. So tired, so trite. Not compelling at all.
THE UGLY The "bad guy" and his development in this film absolutely stinks. His modus operandi is so absurd it's beyond insulting. Don't want to spoil anything, so if you want, email me and we can talk about it.
A FINAL CONSIDERATION...(MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS) Not sure it's fair to say there is a high degree of similiarity between this film and Se7en, but there are a few very strong connections.
1. Both main cops (Washington/Freeman) are leaving the force in about a week, for different reasons.
2. Both main cops are extremely insightful. Washington for his academic intellect, Freeman for his experience on the force.
3. They both take on a a protege, so to speak, and interpret clues left by a killer who is planning to "come out" at the appointed time
4. both follow a false trail left by the killer based on false finger prints.
5, 6, 7...there are other parallels, but I don't want to spoil it.
All in all, a decent film.
The Ant and the Aardvark (1969)
fond memories of a great cartoon
Whether Saturday morning cartoons or the 4:30 pm showing after school back in the 70s, the Pink Panther Show was great, and The Ant and the Aardvark were a great part of it.
The ant was cool, always just a step ahead of the aardvark. They both would talk to the camera with humour and witticisms. The voice of the aardvark, with his attitude, was among the best in cartoon history.
Somehow, these great cartoons have got to be archived, if only they could be retailed in a collector's series or something, I'm sure I'm not the only one who'd be ready to buy in an instant.
They sure don't make cartoons like they used to.
The Muppet Movie (1979)
Timeless Fun for the Whole Family
The mature one-liners come with machine-gun rapidity right from the start.
Man in boat: I'm lost. Kermit: Have you tried Hare Krishna?
Kermit: That's pretty dangerous to be building a road in the middle of the street. If frogs couldn't hop, I'd be 'gone with the Schwynne."
Fozzie: The dancing girls are off tonight. Kermit: The crowd is getting ugly. Fozzie: You think the crowd is ugly...you should see the dancing girls.
Fozzie: I don't know how to thank you. Kermit: I don't know why to thank you.
The visuals are a real treat for the kids - will we ever forget seeing the muppets with real legs? Kermit riding his bike, Fozzie dancing...
Perhaps the screenplay can't compete with the modern use of computers (Shrek, Monsters Inc., Ice Age, Finding Nemo are sumptuous visual feasts); but the charm and timing of the Muppet Movie hearkens to a simpler time that warms the heart.
The response to this film would be warmer had it not been for the monumentally substantial act of Terminator 2 (hereinafter referred to as T2) that it had to follow. The campy fun of The Terminator (T1) was absent in T2, which took a dramatically dark tone. It was longer, more philosophical, probed many intellectual themes and generally changed the way action films are done, by offering more than just shoot-em-up and car chases.
Anyway, I LOVED T3. It brought back a little of the campy fun of T1 while offering a stingingly direct approach to some issues that were dealt with in a more indirect artful way in T2.
WARNING - THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW - SEE the film and then come back for the rest of this review.
By the end of T2, we really thought that "it was over," that they had taken action to change the future.
Here in T3, the T-800 tells an incredulous John Connor "it can't be stopped, it is inevitable." We, the audience, join John in not believing, and hope they are able to stop SkyNet's assumption of control... at the end of the film, the screenplay really is genius, as we join John and Kate Brewster in the numbing realization that, indeed, no matter what they do, judgment day cannot be averted.
It's really a funny slap in the face for us sitting in our seats watching this film. Although time travel is currently understood to be at least inaccessible to us at this time, (if not altogether impossible), we all missed something very simply - way back in T1, we saw that the world had been overrun by the machines, and they were losing to the resistance, so they sent a terminator back to kill the mother of the leader. Clearly, judgment day had happened, and the resistance did form, fight, and turn the tide. So, everything in T2 still couldn't avert judgment day...we already knew in T1 that, somehow, despite Sarah Connor's efforts with help from the T-800, the resistance would still have to fight in a post-apocalyptic period to overcome the HKs and T-800 infantry...yet we still wanted to believe the "real story" was about averting it.
Now we're seeing that the "real story" will take us beyond judgment day, to the brink of the end of humanity, when a resistance force will be lead by Neo...oops...John Connor (yes, we all see the similarity in themes between these two films...!)
In T3, Arnold's acting in the character of the T-800 is really amazing. He tells John (and the audience in so doing) that he is NOT the same "personality" as the T-800 in T2, that they roll off the assembly line (setting up a T4 with MULTIPLE ARNOLDS!!!!)...this T-800 did show some "memory" (zero casualties, keys in sun visor), but that's only because the chip was somehow either retrieved or a copy was not destroyed when they blew up Cyberdine, I missed it specifically).
Whatever, this T-800 must relate to John differently than it did in T1 or T2...and Arnold did bring across a sense of distance, very abruptly offsetting the intimacy shared between John and "his terminator" in T2 -- far from a bad acting job, this is sheer acting brilliance, in my opinion!!
When Cameron did T1, he may not have realized the franchise he'd stumbled into...T2 was so much more than just a sequel, so much more than just an action movie...and also not the shortest film ever made.
T3 was quite short, and ends with a cliff-hanging "stay tuned" not seen since Star Wars, Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back - it's OBVIOUS this installment was just a necessary bridge towards the next installment, beyond judgment day. I suspect Cameron may get back into T4...but even if he doesn't, Mastow did well in trying to carry this franchise forward with a nod to its heritage (like bringing back Earl Boen's Dr. Silberman character - the way that scene was shot shows clearly Mastow knew his audience, I joined the folks in the theatre laughing at merely the recognition of his voice, before his face was finally shown on camera - perfect!)
BRING ON T4!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
the franchise is growing
There used to be a time when the word "sequel" was anathema, but these days we've come to expect the sequel to be better. While a few sequels of late have been throwbacks to that previous era when they were poor, the recent trend has been that the sequels are better, and such is definitely the case here with X-men 2.
If you actually read Marvel comics and know "the X-Men" story/characters, you'd enjoy some of the nifty things that were tossed into this movie (may be considered SPOILERS by some, but check out LebowskiT1000 comments, especially his PS notes...)
This movie was pretty good. My personal incling is that Xavier is a tad naive and foolish, because his students seem far too docile when he could have quite the army at his disposal (for example, -- again, possible spoiler -- Iceman really only made one contribution to their struggle throughout the entire movie, hardly a "superhero" but perhaps they were somewhat influenced by the fragile "becoming" concept they developed with Spider-man).
Anyway, the story is good, the action is good, and it has been released at a good time (before Matrix Reloaded and Terminator 3, which are far darker, less feel-good movies but will land with a more resounding thud in the action/tension category).
One interesting note - Derrick Dunn (IcebergGucci21@aol.com) mentioned that this movie has become his favourite sequel, replacing Blade 2 as his favourite comic book sequel. I find this interesting...and here's why...
For those who loved The Matrix, watch Blade 1 which was released before it, and you'll see very clearly that some of our most beloved and copied "Matrix scenes" (the fashion, the bend-backwards-to-avoid-bullets, etc) were in fact ripped from Blade 1, yet it gets no credit for it...??
So, as my wife and I walked out of the theatre after watching X-Men 2, I commented that the plot followed the Blade 2 concept of the good guys and bad guys having to mistrustingly join together to fight a more lethal common enemy that threatens them both. Again, Blade 2 continues to be a key influence/trendsetter on major action flicks, and chances are that, again, X-Men 2 may be remembered for it while Blade 2 is forgotten...why? I dunno, but I see a pattern here.
(for those who haven't seen them, trust me, Blade 1 and 2 are about the best most-underrated comic book action films ever made - in fact, I didn't read a lot of either series, but the screenplay in Blade is absolutely sumptuous, you can see clearly it is a comic-turned-live, it's so well-done).
In closing, yes, X-Men 2 was fun, some heavy characters had short scenes (Colossus was awesome, and is BEGGING for more screen time!), but overall it was a real blast.
X-Men 3 should be a real blast, can't wait!
Panic Room (2002)
Looking over Fincher's products to-date, I'd say I'm a fan. I liked Alien3 for what it was, and it was very ambitious of him at that early stage to take on such a heavy franchise, and go in somewhat a different direction.
I liked Se7en. I didn't like it at first, but have grown to really appreciate it, having begun to understand a little more about the character Somerset as somewhat of a modern-day Joe Friday (I realized it was deliberate when I saw his office # is Joe Friday's badge number).
I liked the Game.
So, when Panic Room came out, I expected I'd like it too. Au contraire.
Sorry folks, but there were far too many times my wife and I had to say out loud "that's so dumb." Granted, I don't know how sharp I'd be under such stress, but have you ever noticed how "people" in movies live as though they've never watched a movie in their lives? We all sit in a theatre and say "you know how in movies this happens? Don't do this" but people in movies seem to have never seen a movie, so they don't know NOT to do it.
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD Among the many things that totally destroyed the credibility hence the tension in the film is the scene where the husband shows up. First of all, the man with the plan thinks he can just say "sorry things didn't work out fellas, I'm outta here" and literally just walk out the front door. Obviously, he doesn't understand the psychology of crime.
But, as the remaining two are arguing, the husband is standing at the door...he claims his wife's call "scared the sh-- out of him" and he did call the cops...but as scared as he claims to have been, he certainly didn't do the smart thing and wait for the cops (who, for so many to show up at the end, seem to take a long time in getting there). Anyway, if he really was scared, why not show him peaking from a corner of the doorway? Naturally, he'd see all the blood right where he was standing, surely he'd be bright enough to understand that something is going down, stay in the shadows, call the cops again on his cell phone and say "hey man, lotsa blood, get here quick" but no - he's got to stand straight up in the middle of the door frame, asking nay begging for what was coming to him.
And, for the record, I expect that Jodie Foster is a tad petite to really haul around a sledge hammer, but if adrenaline has given her that "lift-car-off-daughter" strength, then a guy who gets hit with said sledge hammer, AND then falls headlong down a storey who has already had his hand crushed by a steel door that's 4 inches thick, just doesn't get up and physically beat up anyone. Sorry. Stupid.
Can anyone tell me why Raoul was even there? And, why the gun? Whitaker's character had all the brains of the operation, and no one was supposed to even be there, so two guys could easily have walked in (as they did) and taken care of business.
Back to the psychology of crime for a moment. From the first demonstration of what kind of guy Raoul was, my thought was "they oughtta shoot him, he's out of control." SPOILERS HERE - truth be told, Whitaker ultimately did have to shoot him. Crime psych says when planning an operation, you calculate the odds of certain things happening and decide before they happen what your course of action would be. This helps you by providing both a clearer rational mind not bent by the stress of being in the situation PLUS the advantage of having the opportunity to procure resources to support any possible decisions you had planned that you might have to make. You want as few variables as possible, constants are what you want to work with. Whitaker should have stuck with his first reaction to people in the place by indeed walking out.
Anyway, an out-of-control teammate threatens your chances of success, so they must be removed from the situation. Bottom line, had Whitaker removed Raoul earlier, they'd probably have gotten away with it. As it stands, Whitaker was on his way to freedom and a morality attack brought him back inside, where he finally dealt with Raoul, but at what cost to him? Eliminate variables when you are in control, not when things are out of control. Unfortunately, Whitaker wasn't prepared and hadn't made a prior decision based on reason on how to handle such a variable.
And as for Junior, again, crime demands commitment. There is no "walking out the front door" once it's on.
I'm no crook, but I've watched a few movies and read a few newspapers in my time. Clearly, the writers of this movie wanted us to watch a story of some bumbling grown-up Home Alone goofs make enough mistakes to buttress at least the public service announcement "so remember kids, crime does not pay" when in reality, a few simple rule observances could have made them $22 million dollars richer.
If there's ANY redeeming quality, it's that, as films today are becoming so perfect, so dependent upon a priori knowledge and plots so twisted that the "truth is stranger than fiction" saying is almost disproved, it's a tad refreshing that there are still idiots out there that make mistakes and aren't nine-lived cat slick art thieves and special agents who never die. (see Hackman, Lindo and DeVito in Heist for an interesting balance of both bumbling and plan execution excellence).