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Cruise is in fine form, but the movie is entirely forgettable and lacks the retro charm of its predecessor., 17 January 2017

The first "Jack Reacher" film, by Christopher McQuarrie, was a pleasant surprise. It was a retro, '70s-style action thriller in the vein of "Dirty Harry" with old-fashioned stunt work, tangible special effects (the car chase is one of the best in years and more "Bullitt" than "Fast and Furious"), and a fun turn from Tom Cruise, who clearly relished being able to play an unapologetic bad ass - he's usually tasked with playing good guys who are so cookie-cutter American Hero that they would never spit dialogue such as telling their enemy that they wish to drink their blood from the bottom of their boot.

The sequel, alas, is pretty generic. McQuarrie is gone, replaced by Edward Zwick, who at one time was fairly distinct behind the camera, but the aesthetic approach of "Never Go Back" is that of a TV movie. Devoid of the sleek noir vibe of McQuarrie's film, Zwick has fumbled the ball here.

Most action films would be given props for having strong female leads. This happened in Cruise's awesome 2014 blockbuster, "Edge of Tomorrow." But Colbie Smulders isn't given much to work with here, and frankly, the entire appeal of these Reacher books (at least as far as I have been told by its avid readers) is that Reacher is the main protagonist. The movie mistakenly sidelines him in favor of a not-entirely-convincing dynamic shared by Reacher, Smulders, and a girl who may or may not be his daughter. The movie deserves credit for trying to create supporting characters, especially strong female roles; but they just aren't developed well enough for us to care, and since Cruise is so good in this role, whenever they are stealing screen time it really does become a bit frustrating.

The movie isn't bad, per se. It's pretty much textbook mediocrity -- Cruise is great, he clearly loves playing this character and I'd be down for another serving with someone like McQuarrie back behind the camera, but unfortunately it's pretty clear that Zwick either wasn't given full creative control here and the studio cut his film to shreds -- or, conversely, was given too much freedom and didn't understand what made the character/previous film appealing to audiences. The result is a movie that just exists, destined to be played on late-night rotation on TNT and generate merchandise sales for the studio, but one that will never catch on with home video audiences the way the 2012 film did.

8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:
Gibson has made a superb war film. Even Vince Vaughn and Sam Worthington are great in this!, 5 November 2016

Say what you will about Mel Gibson - because much can be said and much has been said - but at the end of the day, he is an undeniably talented filmmaker. Even his most flawed films, like "The Passion," are ambitious and hard to ignore. He isn't someone who rests on his laurels or takes paycheck gigs, and "Hacksaw Ridge" is imprinted with as much of his DNA as a filmmaker as any of his other movies.

Combining the visceral nature (as well as the literal viscera) of "Apocalypto" and "Passion" with the grandeur storytelling of "Braveheart," this true story is without a doubt a movie riddled with issues: the first half, though compelling and with fine performances, does at times border on the sentimentally hamstringed and predictable.

And yet it works, mostly because of the performances and the direction. I read a review stating that everyone in this film was miscast; I couldn't disagree more -- this is a fine example of how perfect a cast can be. Andrew Garfield is exceptional and deserves an Oscar nomination. Teresa Palmer does the best she can with a relatively one-note love interest; she manages to actually make the character stand out more than on paper.

Hugo Weaving gives perhaps the finest performance of his career, another award-worthy supporting turn as Desmond's father. But the real surprises here are the straight-to-video actors who usually seem devoid of charisma: Sam Worthington does career-best work here, while Luke Bracey, the nobody actor from the "Point Break" remake that no one asked for, is memorable as a stoic soldier whose skepticism of Desmond gradually evolves as the film progresses.

Finally, there is the revelation of Vince Vaughn's drill sergeant, who already ranks up there with R. Lee Ermey (if that sounds hyperbolic, it really is that fine of a performance). After his failed comeback with True Detective's miserable second season, and bomb after comedy bomb, it's nice to see him returning to his roots as a character actor. He's simply great here.

At the end of the day this is likely to be overlooked at awards season simply given Gibson's baggage and the unfortunate shadow it casts over his work, but my hope is that voters will be able to see past that and approach the film on its own terms. It features some of the most gruesome and unforgettable war scenes ever captured on film, and yet none of it seems particularly excessive or undeserved: to really appreciate the sacrifice and the heroism that the real Desmond displayed in battle, you almost have to be thrown right into the worst of it to be able to place it in a proper context. This is not "Enemy at the Gates" or "Behind Enemy Lines." Mel Gibson has made one of the best war films of all time, and he, Garfield and at least two of his supporting actors all deserve recognition for this come Oscar season.

"Love" (2016)
0 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Starts off great, then devolves into a major vanity project for the star/co-creator, 9 October 2016

I really enjoyed the first half of "Love," binging the series over the course of two days; but as it progressed, it seemed more and more like the show didn't have as much to say as I'd hoped for; furthermore, it was very negatively impacted by Paul Rust giving himself the leading man role.

Look, I know it's been mentioned here in other reviews already, but he's just wrong for the role physically. I'm not someone who's going to judge someone based on their appearances; but I've been in LA, and attractive women have so many guys to choose from, an awkward-looking guy like Rust would need to have a really fun personality to have all these attractive women fawning over him.

And early on in the show, it seemed to be heading that direction, which I thought was nice: he was kind of awkward and naive, and the female lead liked that about him, because she was used to guys who were scumbags.

But then he basically became a scumbag, and his personality changed from one episode to the next. He goes from being a very affectionate, clingy, naive, nice guy (suffocating his ex - who, by the way, it should be noted was also way out of his league!) to suddenly being really vain, narcissistic, and overly neurotic (to the point where it was no longer cute or awkward, but he seemed to be aggressively irritating). I think the turning point for me was the episode where he takes Gillian Jacobs' roommate out to dinner (oh, she's really cute, too! what a surprise!), and he is neurotic to the point where it seems like he's a major jerk. Then, after she accidentally texts him by mistake, he becomes deliberately bull-headed and arrogant to "bomb the date." For that scene to be funny, based on just a very basic understanding of comedy beats, he would have had to have been nice and pleasant early on in the date; instead, it was simply him going from the level of "neurotic a-hole" to "aggressively neurotic a-hole." And ultimately, this scene made even less sense because his character's behavior completely deviated from what had been established earlier in the show, when he was meek, awkward, and afraid of confrontation and avoided being assertive.

Nevertheless, I kept with "Love," hoping it would improve. But then we got to the episode where the drop-dead-gorgeous blonde from his fictional "Witchita" TV show (which Rust's character has a peripheral role in, as an on-set tutor for child actors, so it's not like she's pursuing him to advance her career -- which would have been perhaps a funnier and more realistic angle!) starts pursuing him and sleeps with him. And Jacobs' character turns up to his apartment during their semi-date and the two of them are basically vying for his attention...then she shows up to the set next day and stalks him across the set and gets into a fight over the other girl... I'm sorry, but it's just absolutely ridiculous.

And I forgot to even mention the threesome scene with him and the two cute girls (whom of course he has strip naked for the scene, which is totally gratuitous; I'm not at all a prude and I'm very used to casual nudity in premium TV shows these days, but the whole sequence was tonally out-of-place, out-of-character and really served no point at all).

I'm sorry, but the whole thing just reeks of a vanity project by Paul Rust. To reiterate: I'm not saying unattractive people don't deserve attractive spouses or that it doesn't happen sometimes in real life. If the show had stuck with the angle that she was a more experienced and cynical person, and she saw the good nature in him, then it would have made sense and it would have worked. But by turning him into a confident, arrogant jackass who's constantly in situations where girls far out of his league are falling all over him for no reason, the show makes a serious misstep and descends into a path of mediocrity and narcissism on Rust's behalf. If someone like Paul Rudd were in this role, someone with charisma and charm, then it would make sense. He's a fairly average-looking guy, but you can see why women would fall for him because of that charm. But Rust has none, and the fact that he's the co-creator/executive producer/etc. just makes it all too apparent why he wrote this fantasy out for himself and cast himself in the lead.

It would have made more sense to put someone like Rudd in the role, someone who may not necessarily be a walking Abercrombie model, but someone who you'd at least remotely buy in these situations and someone whose personality isn't so egregiously unlikable, aggressively neurotic and self-centered.

10/24/16 EDIT: After receiving 13 "unhelpful" votes on this review, all within the span of an hour, one would not be at fault to consider that Mr. Rust's apparent ego may extend to monitoring the IMDb reviews for his own series. ;)

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Starts off well, falters in its second half and is never able to recover., 25 September 2016

"Brother Nature" is reminiscent of countless comedies, ranging from "What About Bob" to "The Great Outdoors." It's one of those classic formulas where a straight-faced, straight-laced guy (in this case, Taran Killiam, from "SNL") encounters someone who is obnoxiously wacky and has a potential mean streak that no one else ever seems to notice (Bobby Moynihan, also from "SNL").

Killiam's character becomes more and more exasperated, and there are hints at times that Moynihan's character is deliberately sabotaging him a la "The Cable Guy." The first half is quite funny -- Killiam is a weak lead, but Moynihan is hilarious, and has a number of moments that made me laugh out loud.

But they don't really go anywhere with the idea that Moynihan is subversively destroying Killiam (the film seems to hint at it, and then promptly drops it); they also opt for a safe conclusion by fundamentally changing the nature of Moynihan's character, as, in the first half, he's an obnoxious goofball who no one would ever like, but towards the end he's suddenly a calmer, more sympathetic version of the same character, as if his apparently intentional attacks on Killiam earlier in the film never happened.

Whether this is studio intervention (the ending certainly seems like something that would be tacked on after poor test screenings), who knows, but ultimately this movie goes from a 7/10 to a 5/10 simply because its second half egregiously missteps and the movie is never able to recover from it.

Those early scenes with Moynihan, though, reveal great potential for the actor.

5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Surprisingly strong comedy with obvious but respectable social commentary, 4 June 2016

The original "Neighbors" was a bit of a pleasant surprise for me. It revealed Zac Efron's natural comedic talents (under-utilized in his straightforward "leading man" roles), and featured a surprisingly strong female role for Rose Byrne. Despite ostensibly being a "frat bro" comedy (especially given its subject matter), it actually had a lot to say about arrested development, maturity, and the male id. It was a nice, agreeable R-rated comedy that was sold on its novel premise but ultimately was not in any way screaming for a sequel.

But it was a hit, and hit comedies always spawn sequels, primarily because they're able to be produced on such low budgets. Sequels, more than any other genre of film, tend to see huge critical and attendance drops, but because they're so cheap, the studios can still generate profit even if they only recoup half of the original film's intake.

And that's why "Neighbors 2" exists, two years after the original, and indeed, it opened to roughly half of the dollar amount of the original film in its opening weekend. It would be standard to accept that it's an inferior piece of filmmaking, most likely regurgitating its predecessor's plot points. Most comedy sequels do this -- just look at the Hangover movies, or Ted 2 -- but Neighbors 2 deserves some credit for actually managing to spin the sequel concept on its head.

At first, things seem to be headed for a repeat: Efron's character is back in his frat (now a sorority), he's once again helping to create chaos for his ex-next-door-neighbors (Rogen and Byrne). But then the movie takes a surprising detour, by turning into something of a feminist piece, and the second half really has fun by dissecting the first film's steps while still managing to pay homage and toy with them (as such, when the airbag gag is recycled, it seems playful and refreshing rather than repetitious and predictable).

Nicholas Stoller has made a couple duds (he wrote Zoolander 2, which was one of the worst comedies of this or any recent year), but he's often very, very good at writing or presenting female characters (as seen in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Five Year Engagement, etc.). At first glance you can roll your eyes at a woman like Byrne being married to a shlub like Rogen, but as in the original film, there's a lot of time devoted to exploring their relationship and convincing you that there's more to it than just the leading man having an attractive wife -- she's just as fleshed-out a character as he is, and that's pretty rare to see in mainstream American comedies, especially those that are seemingly targeted towards guys.

To be fair, there's still tons of genital jokes and crude humor, and there's a couple stretches in the film that become just a bit ridiculous (like the whole subplot where they try to steal the sorority's drug supply at a tailgate), but overall, I was totally refreshed by how strong a sequel this was -- especially relative to other comedy sequels. The characters are well-written and well-acted, and as such, there's a sense of justification when certain things happen -- unlike Brothers Grimsby (a film I saw close to this one) where the characters seem to exist solely for disgusting bodily fluid jokes, the characters in Neighbors 2 are likable and three-dimensional and it makes a lot of the gross gags land much better when they involve characters we believe in and can relate to.

I'm not saying this is a high water mark of American cinema or anything, but at the end of the day it's way better than it had any right to be, and its commentary on feminism and sexist double- standards was way under-represented in the ad material (which may well explain why so many people who went to see it opening weekend gave it mixed reviews - I can't imagine the average male American college student going to see this and enjoying the experience of basically having their id subverted).

I'm not sure I want a Neighbors 3, but at this point I wouldn't kneejerk disregard it, if it's half as funny or intelligent as the first two films.

Knock Knock (2015/I)
4 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
One of the worst films of the year., 17 October 2015

A film like Knock Knock defensively positions itself as a comedy to cushion against any criticisms. If someone is offended or disgusted by the subject matter, the film's fans can simply claim that it is in on the joke of it all, and that that's "the point."

Some "meta-bad" films earn this cushion. Last year's The Guest, starring Dan Stevens, would have been quite poor if sold earnestly, but it had a devilish sense of humour about itself, and paid homage to '80s films with a wink and a nod without just becoming a giant piece of garbage.

Knock Knock is a giant piece of garbage. A giant piece of garbage made by a man who has little to no evidence of talent. I've always felt that Eli Roth looked extremely creepy, something Tarantino capitalized upon by casting him as a sociopath in Inglourious Basterds. It's not fair to judge someone's personality or self-merit based upon their looks. However, it's fairer to judge someone based upon their art, and Roth's -- consumed with body-horror, torture porn (remember he helped jumpstart the craze with Hostel), and grimy sexual antics -- seems to paint a disturbing portrait indeed. The fact that he cast his considerably younger wife in the lead role of this film, and then put her name above the title next to Keanu Reeves, is Hollywood nepotism at its finest. As a critic, I try to remain objective, and there are truly few actors or filmmakers I just downright dislike; there are some whose personal lives may disappoint me (e.g. Polanski), but I separate the art from the artist. But Roth's art is vile, and goes hand-in-hand with my perspective of him as someone who gets off on all this filth. I don't think there's ever been any kind of true social or political commentary to his work -- which the best gross-out horror films tend to have, including the film he attempts to shamelessly rip off here, Funny Games.

No, Roth gets his kicks from getting his wife naked on camera, having Keanu Reeves -- who looks regretful in every scene, and not because he's in character -- bullied, bloodied, raped and tortured.

The dialogue is terrible, the cinematography is shoddy (it basically went straight to video, which is what you'd gather from the way it's shot), the story is stupid which would be OK if the film had something clever to say, but instead Roth presents this all in a transparent attempt to shock and outrage while being too lazy to have any commitment to the material, instead hiding behind the "irony" angle and playing it out as a borderline farce.

Reeves, who gained so much goodwill with last year's John Wick, gives one of his worst performances here; Roth's wife, whose name I do not recall and don't care to, is a coarse screen presence; and Ana de Armas just seems like she's being exploited here.

I only gave this a chance because of Reeves, but I should have known better when I saw Roth's name attached. It is a great mystery as to why this man continues to have a film career.

2 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
Stands with "Mad Max" as one of the best action films in years., 2 August 2015

Fast and Furious gets attention for being one of the rare series to completely reinvent itself over time (to both critical and financial success), but with Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation, it has become clear that it is the latter series that has more firmly reinvented itself and finally found its footing. What started as a typically subversive and visceral Brian De Palma film, disguised as both a star vehicle for Tom Cruise and a high-budget adaptation of a television show, then transformed into a cheesy John Woo vehicle, eventually settled down into a more straightforward action picture with the underrated M:i3. To this point in time, each Mission had been drastically separate from its predecessor, every director leaving his impression on the same general premise: disavowed agents, the IMF going rogue, etc. But the negative effect of this was that the character of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise), along with his ever-changing roster of IMF crewmembers, was forced to continually adapt to the drastically altered aesthetics of each installment. So while the films were serviceable and fun, there was never really a sense of character building or continuity beyond Cruise and Ving Rhames appearing on screen together.

That changed with the third film, which placed an emphasis on Hunt's home life, his marriage, and introduced the character of Benji (Simon Pegg), who was initially the M:I version of James Bond's Q, but has since transformed into a major supporting player.

And it was with Ghost Protocol in 2011 that the series truly seemed to find its footing, carrying over the story continuity and characters from M:I 3 while still allowing its director, Brad Bird, to mold the film in his own style.

With this all said, Rogue Nation, directed by Christopher McQuarrie, is closer to Ghost Protocol than any of the other films, and by now we feel as though the Ethan Hunt we are seeing on screen has become something of a fully-formed and consistent character, as much as an action film may allow him to be. At the end of the day, this isn't Cruise wildly diverting from his usual on screen persona, but there's a warmness and self-deprecation to Ethan Hunt here that we didn't have in the transition from, say, the first film to the second, where he was just a generic glorified action figure who was way too cool to show any self-awareness or wit.

Despite rumours of troubled production (McQuarrie was reportedly still working out an ending to the film when the studio decided to push it up to a summer release from its original Christmas opening), you wouldn't know it from the look of this picture. This is something it shares in common with George Miller's Mad Max Fury Road, a long-delayed picture whose negative press had many convinced it would be a dud, but which turned out to be one of the more strongly-reviewed action films of the decade.

And here's something else Rogue Nation shares with Miller's film: a strong feminine role, one that almost threatens to steal the picture away from the leading man. Paula Patton did some fine work in Ghost Protocol, but her replacement, Rebecca Ferguson, is a revelation. McQuarrie and Cruise were reportedly in search of a "Golden Age" star, someone whose look reflected a bygone era, and they found her. (It almost seems a winking nod that part of the film takes place in Casablanca.) This is a star-making turn, and it's a rare sign of humility for Cruise, 53, to allow a supporting player to potentially upstage him.

Speaking of ensemble casting, even more so than Ghost Protocol, this is a team piece. Jeremy Renner, once touted as a possible successor to Cruise, is largely relegated to sideline scenes with Alec Baldwin, but these work more effectively than I imagined they might, and when he eventually reunites with the rest of the gang, it feels a bit more poignant. And it's strangely satisfying to see Rhames back (apart from a cameo at the end, he was absent altogether from Protocol), his oft-referenced history with Ethan another example of the series' sudden turn towards stressing its continuity.

And if you're just here for the action sequences, well, there are plenty of those, too. Some of them are the best of the series: the motorcycle free-for-all in Casablanca is breathtaking, for example, and if Mad Max had not come out this year, it would be safe to say Rogue Nation had the best chase sequence in recent memory. It makes the CGI-laden Furious films look weak by comparison.

Deftly blending practical stunt work with minimal CGI, McQuarrie's film is closer in tone and spirit to a traditional spy film than any of the other movies. A sequence at the Vienna Opera isbfluid and beautiful to look at and funny (McQuarrie enjoys riffing on Cruise's stature as an action hero) that it could easily rank as one of the better Bond set pieces. And without spoiling anything, the movie sets itself up nicely for a direct sequel, something none of the other movies have ever really bothered to do.

Action films don't get much better than this, especially for a series that is almost 20 years old and has starred the same actor for every installment. This is one of those movies where you're swept up in the momentum from beginning to end, and any weaknesses are easily ignored because of how much fun you're having while you watch it unfold.

Ted 2 (2015)
6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:
Not bad per se, but lacks the novelty, likability of characters, storyline, and strong female role of the original., 11 July 2015

I'm not the biggest fan of Mila Kunis, nor am I a huge fan of Seth MacFarlane. But despite my hesitations, I liked the original Ted quite a bit, for a variety of reasons; despite its obvious crudeness, it had some character development and poignancy that the film medium was able to afford MacFarlane that a TV cartoon wasn't able to. As much of an ostensibly "bro" movie as it was, it had some subversive commentary on the male id, and Mila Kunis' character was written quite well; she didn't come across as the harping, shrill female stereotype so often seen in movies about male arrested development (see: "Saving Silverman"). For every time Wahlberg and his teddy bear seemed to have a valid reason to continue their destructive friendship, she had an equally valid reason that they shouldn't.

How disappointing, then, that Ted 2 opens with Kunis' character lazily written off, discarded by Wahlberg's character as "the wrong woman" (or something to such an effect) so that MacFarlane can introduce a new love interest in the form of Amanda Seyfried, who is a fine actress in better written roles but simply isn't given the same level of material to work with here.

The other memorable aspect of Ted was simply the novelty factor: "potty-mouthed teddy bear." This was a simple premise that appealed to everyone everywhere, which is why it was one of the rare blockbuster comedies to make a lot of money overseas.

But now we have Ted 2, and the novelty is worn off. The balance of the first film is gone, too; the crudeness there was offset with surprisingly sweet, character-driven moments; here, because we don't really believe the characters from the onset (see: Kunis' character being shrugged off), there really aren't as many tender moments. None of it really rings true, it just seems like a typical sequel going through the motions trying to replicate the original but inevitably failing to do so simply because the appeal is a one-off (it kind of reminds me of the Hangover sequels).

Like the Hangover sequels, this isn't as bad as the critics might lead you to believe. It's not a terrible film. It's safe to say that, if you liked the original Ted, you'll at least find this an entertaining enough diversion for a one-time viewing. I also dug that they brought back Giovanni Ribisi, the best part of the first film, despite the fact that his inclusion made no sense whatsoever.

But this simply isn't as clever, funny, well-written or - frankly - surprisingly tender and sweet as the first movie. It's a decent rental but I hope there's no Ted 3.

18 out of 38 people found the following review useful:
How much did they pay James Cameron to talk this up?, 29 June 2015

I love Arnold Schwarzenegger. I love the first two "Terminator" movies. I was incredibly excited (or optimistic) when it was announced by Megan Ellison that he would be stepping back into his iconic role for what she described as a definitively R-rated, direct sequel to the original films.

Ellison is the producer heir who has recently thrown money behind lots of hard-sell films (from P.T. Anderson to Kathryn Bigelow) and has had almost all her gambles pay off. When she departed the project shortly before production and left it to her brother, the less-revered of the siblings (she produced Foxcatcher; he executive-produced GI JOE 2), I saw that as a bad sign. I'm not happy to say that I was right.

Many are upset that this is PG-13. While it doesn't bode well for the integrity of the film itself (especially when Megan Ellison boasted about it being a return to adult filmmaking after the PG-13 Terminator Salvation in 2009), I think fanboys in particular tend to be rather petty when it comes to ratings. It is what it is, and there have been many, many excellent PG-13 action films made in the last couple decades. A movie doesn't *need* gratuitous violence and language to be inherently good, and there have been plenty of films that include those elements that ended up being total garbage.

Just look at Die Hard 5. It killed John McClane, it killed the Die Hard franchise, and yet it was rated R; the PG-13 Live Free or Die Hard was not only a financially more successful film, it also scored much better with audiences and critics.

How apt, then, that the supposed co-star of Die Hard 5, Jai Courtney, is also present in Terminator: Genisys. This is a "movie star" who is so devoid of screen presence, so empty and so boring, that it's a wonder why Hollywood has decided in the last couple of years that he should be forced down our throats as the Next Big Thing. He is a poor man's Sam Worthington, and I actually feel bad for Worthington by even saying that. I generally don't ever take a strong dislike to actors, and I'm inclined to give most a chance to prove themselves. But everything I've seen from Courtney has been offensive, from his lazy performances to his arrogant comments off-camera (he had a few choice quotes during the Genisys press tour that I found rather telling of both his lack of respect for the series and his ego), and I went into Genisys hoping it would be the film to prove me wrong about it. Spoiler alert: it wasn't.

This guy is supposed to be the new Kyle Reese, previously played by Michael Biehn and Anton Yelchin in the first and fourth films respectively. Terminator Salvation has very few fans, but you know what? It had a strong cast, Yelchin made the character his own to the degree that he could while still honoring Biehn's interpretation, and the movie at least *tried* to give its own spin on the Terminator mythology.

Genisys backtracks. It plays with the mythology but doesn't really provide a unique perspective.

The movie opens with the future war, which is crammed with plenty of poor CGI sequences. (Another victory for Terminator Salation was that it had a surprisingly cool opening shot of Christian Bale in the helicopter as it crashes and is attacked by a Terminator. This movie doesn't even have that much.)

You know the drill by now: Connor sends Reese back in time to save his mother... only when he arrives, everything has changed, and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) is now a war-ready action heroine, and they are immediately pursued by an Asian T-1000.

I won't recap the plot anymore because I will inevitably run out of my 1,000 word limit (Word says I'm getting close). What I will say is that it's here where Arnold comes "back," and yes, he is by far the best part of the film. One almost wonder whether they deliberately sabotaged the movie with two charisma-free leads in Clarke and Courtney so that Ahnuld wouldn't be upstaged.

But as much as I love the guy, I had the same issues with him here that I did in Sabotage, the film I thought was most likely to reinvigorate his career until I actually saw it. Simply put, he hasn't aged particularly well, and this shows pretty clearly in the fight scenes; in many, he seems to have been lazily digitally imposed over stunt men, and it's distracting more than anything. He has kind of a creaky, croaky screen presence (something he tried, and failed, to put to good use in Maggie), and although the filmmakers attempt to capitalize upon this by making the new Terminator a "Guardian" Father Figure for Sarah (she even refers to him kind of obnoxiously as "Pops" throughout the film), we're constantly reminded of how much more fluid and convincing he was in the first two films, both as the menacing, horrific cyborg and as the reprogrammed father figure to John.

And that's the ultimate problem with Terminator: Genisys. It has nothing new to say. Despite all its claims to the contrary, it's ultimately spinning the same tale through the prism of the older films, doing nothing other than to remind us of how superior they were. John Connor being turned into the villain (which isn't even a spoiler now since it's on the poster and in the trailer) isn't much different than the original ending to McG's film. The "Guardian" being a father to Sarah is no different than the Terminator being a father to John in T- 2. It's not a reboot so much as an homage-packed retreat, following the same beats but lacking the heart and technical ingenuity. This isn't a horrible film, but you know what? T3 was better.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
One of Soderbergh's best films., 27 June 2015

Supposedly no studio wanted to touch this because it was "too gay" (an aspect of film trivia that will probably be looked back upon 50 years from now with incredulity), but, like Brokeback Mountain, this is not a "Gay Movie" (if there even is such a thing). This is a tragic romance with two superb performances, stellar direction and a great script.

I am not always Matt Damon's biggest fan, I think he's quite hit or miss, but when he hits he often hits it out of the park, and that's what he does here. Whether playing a young man surprisingly well or playing the drug-addled version of the same man years later, this is one of his most honest, believable performances.

Michael Douglas is phenomenal as Liberace. Watch this movie, then go on YouTube and look up Liberace interviews. If you close your eyes you'll be hard-pressed to find any differences in the cadence of his voice. If this film had been released theatrically he would have almost definitely won an Oscar nomination.

I'm not always Soderbergh's biggest fan either, but lately he's been impressing me, as he's moved further away from the mainstream stuff that distracted him for a few years. He directs this film with pure class, and the ending is perfect.

This is one of the better films I've seen in years.

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