Review: Terminator Dark Fate

I loved the terminator franchise. It, like Alien, RoboCop, Star Trek and Star Wars, shaped my view of science fiction and action films. Sometimes gritty, often funny, with fantastic fight scenes and eye catching special effects.

Of course when they announced Terminator Dark Fate I watched the trailer hoping for a great new movie….and it failed to compel me. All of the things I wanted, action, special effects, a touch of humor…not there. What they did have was an all female cast. That was the important point they had to tell me in this trailer. We aren’t protecting a guy who will save the world, no, this time it’s a WOMAN. The blatant “for women” mentality behind the advertisement completely turned me off. I’m not looking for girl power, I want a good story!

But when my roommate bought us tickets I didn’t say no. The three of us went off to the theater. I hoped for a decent movie, but my expectations were not high after the trailer.

Watching the movie I have to say that the trailers did not do the film any favors. The movie is a decent enough popcorn flick. Lots of action, a few great laughs, but no real meat to the film. It was a solid okay.

A few minor spoilers beyond, but I try not to be very specific.

A few things did bother me about the movie. One, they absolutely ret-conned a large section of the franchise. This is a series that deals with time travel, so it isn’t unheard of, but the way they did it felt like they were just dismissing all the previous movies as if they didn’t matter.

In fact when the new female hero finally meets up with Sarah Conner her reaction is…. “Who are you?” She has never heard of Sara Conner, effectively overwriting the previous history.

The best part of the movie was actually Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had the funniest lines, giving them in his usual dead pan terminator style. His action sequences were some of the best. He fought off the new terminator while the person they were rescuing stood by with wide eyes watching everything happen.

On that note, let’s talk about the new cast. We have Grace, the augmented human from the future who isn’t half bad. She’s kind of a bad ass, and kicks some butt. However, I felt like we didn’t get enough time to really get to know her as anything but a body guard. She hides the reason she is helping Dani until the end, and by then I just didn’t care enough.

Then there is Dani, the person Grace was sent to save. She almost seems to go from scared little girl to inspirational leader in five seconds flat. She lets others fight her battles for her. She keeps trying to run back into danger when she knows it will kill her. Over all she wasn’t an effective character. She isn’t going to be this inspiration just because future girl says so.

When I saw the original Terminator I felt like Sara Conner was an amazing woman who dealt with the bad hand that she was given, and made the best of it. She was scared at first, but she made every effort to fight for her life, and for everyone else’s life. She didn’t keep running back into danger, or stand around staring at everyone else fighting. She ran when she needed to, and she fought when she had to. She grew into something amazing so that she could inspire her son to do the same.

Dark Fate had the same problem that a lot of modern movies seem to have. The characters don’t grow over time, it’s more of an instant thing. Something happens, or a flip switches in their head, and all of a sudden they are a new, better version of themselves, if they grow at all. It’s unrealistic, and abrasive.

The last part that I found really cringy about the entire movie was the whole “they want you for your womb, not for you” part. Yes, I get it, Conner is pissed off at the world because her life was messed up, but the whole “we want you for your womb” part was over the top and reaching. Conner was a great character because her strength inspired her son to become who he was. That was the point. Without her he would have been nothing.

Still, the cringy parts are short, and easily overlooked if you just want a nice popcorn flick to get you through the weekend. It did have some great fight scenes, and the new terminator was kind of cool with the combination metal skeleton and liquid skin. And, of course, Arnold was fantastic.

Joker….

We finally saw the Joker today. I say today, but it’s the first time in a long time that we’ve gone to a movie within the first week of it coming out.

I’m going to tell you my thoughts about the movie in general, without spoiling anything, then go a little more in depth with it from behind a cut, so if you haven’t seen it yet, and you don’t want spoilers, don’t click the link for more.

The basic overview is, I liked it. It’s a slow burn movie that slowly amps up the drama and action as it goes until you’re in the thick of things and you didn’t even realize it.

This movie is not a “super hero movie”. There are no super powers, no amazing acts that couldn’t be explained, no huge fight scenes nothing like that. Just a man, and the slow decent into madness. And certainly no heroes.

But parts of the movie are rather brutal, and at times the imagery is unsettling. The way Joaquin Phoenix moves his body, and laughs for no reason, just set your nerves rattling. He is absolutely the star of this movie, able to do something so absolutely horrifying by just being there.

Is it worth seeing in theaters? Yes, if you don’t want spoilers because there are bound to be some online. There are no super amazing FX shots, or grand beautiful sets to watch. On the contrary it’s visceral, dirty, and dingy throughout. But sitting in a dark theater with others around you wall you watch this mans life turn into a beautiful train wreck….there’s something amazing about it.

Lastly, before the spoilers, The Joker is more thought provoking than most super hero flicks. There is no true moral, no clear path through the plot line. There are more questions at the end then answer, and it is all an amazing thing to watch, and may draw you in to see it again.

Now for the spoilers.

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Review: Dark Phoenix (no spoilers)

We just got back from the Dark Phoenix and… it was okay.

There were some great action scenes. I loved a lot of the special affects. The actors did a great job with the story they were given. There were, however, a few things that didn’t make sense. Unfortunately the part that made this just okay, and not amazing for me was the character development. It really didn’t have time to develop as we hopped around from one place to another so that Fox could bring in all of their licenses characters with impunity.

I feel like the Phoenix Saga could be an amazing series, or a trilogy that is allowed to develop and mature. Let the audience fall in love with the characters, see their pain and turmoil. Don’t just cram it all into two hours and say “there’s a movie for ya.”

I actually thought Sophie Turner did an amazing job of playing Jean Grey. I wasn’t sure it would be a good fit since I had only seen her in GoT before, but she did very well, and very shortly into the movie I just saw her as Jean Grey instead of Sansa. But the plot was clipped together, with large parts of her story left feeling…unfinished. This wasn’t Turner’s doing, but rather the stiff formatting of the film.

This could easily have been broken into either two or three movies. First section would be her getting the power of the phoenix and disappearing. Second would be her coming to terms with everything. That would have fixed a majority of the problems in the film.

The cringiest part was Raven saying “maybe this should be the X-women.” She conveniently forgets that Nightcrawler and Quicksilver did most of the work and complains to Xavior that the women are doing all the saving of the men. So ridiculous. There’s nothing wrong with girl power, but please can you respect the other people that help you regardless of their sex? (The rest of the story had nothing to do with women power, it was just a throw away comment that stood out for how terrible it is.)

There were a few other sections that felt stilted, or off. A lot of it boiled down to rushing the plot and not giving time to develop the intentions and transition of peoples ideas. One second they want to kill someone, the next they decide to save her. The switch happens so quickly that it was unbelievable.

Overall it was an okay film. It did have some cool scenes, and I enjoyed seeing the phoenix effects on the big screen. I probably wouldn’t watch it again though.

Review: Incredibles 2

I loved the first Inredibles movie so it wasn’t difficult to go see this new one. It starts off the day after the first movie ends, and everything has changed for our heroes. Mr Incredible no longer has a job. They no longer have a house. And supers are back in the limelight again… for good or bad? Only time will tell.

What I loved about the first movie, and now this movie, is that the story revolves around the family more than their super powers. In the first movie it started with Mr Incredible sneaking around behind the families back and dealt with their lives as a family trying to live without their super powers. I could relate to that. Maybe I don’t have a super power but I do have a talent and something I love. Something that I wasn’t able to do for years. And when I was finally able to use that talent again, to really dive into it, I felt so much relief. Like a flood gate opening. I imagine that’s what the supers felt when they were finally able to use their powers again. The thing that made them special.

So when they are given an opportunity to work as supers again of course they jump on it. But…there’s a catch. Isn’t there always?

I loved that they focused on the family so much. When the start at the beginning Mrs Incredible tells Mr Incredible she will go to work, he’s done his time and she knows how much he hated it, now she’ll take her turn. This is something that happens in many families where times get tough and mom and dad have to sacrifice what they want so that the kids can just eat, and go to school. I also loved the fact that this is one of the few Disney (through Pixar) movies where both parents are there, love each other, and working together even if sometimes they fight. It’s almost like they are a real family.

There was also a lot of great action in the movie. A lot of new super heroes with different abilities. And a really great villain with a perfect back story.

I also love the fact that their heroes aren’t perfect. They make mistakes, miss their shots, or break things. Like real people.

Overall a fun movie that I enjoyed seeing. If you liked the first one you’ll probably enjoy it too.

Review:Cloverfield

I am going to admit that I love the Cloverfield series right here. I like how they blend different genres and styles. The first one had a found footage feel with a Godzilla origin. The second had a thriller/horror vibe with an alien invasion, and the third has a science fiction action adventure and lost in space feel. And yet all work together in the same universe. As a story creator myself, I LOVE THIS!

Now, I admit there are a lot of plot holes, and some big science aspects that really miss the mark, especially in the third one. Still, I enjoyed the actual story. I liked what they did with the main character. I like the mystery of what’s happening. And I think it fits in this…universe…?

For a non spoiler review: Don’t go into this expecting the best picture you ever saw. That’s not what this is. Don’t go into it expecting Godzilla monsters. That isn’t what this is. Don’t go into it expecting hard sci-fi with absolutely flawless science to back up what’s happening on screen. That is DEFINITELY not what this is.

What you should expect is a survival adventure on a space station slowly falling apart. And it does an okay job of being that, as well as expanding upon the universe of Cloverfield a bit. There are some good special effects, some interesting character moments, and as a survival space movie it is good.

If you’re trying to bridge the gap between Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane then you might get annoyed. Don’t watch it for that.

Now, for the spoilery stuff. You’ve been warned:

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Thoughts on Star Wars the Last Jedi

Is been a few weeks since I saw the new Star Wars movie, and I had to think about it because I wasn’t sure what I thought about it at first.

On the positive side, there were some cool new creatures. Crystaline wolves, fish people, and porgs (that were flavor to the set rather than integral to the story, which I liked.)

I loved the final battle scene. The beautiful reds and whites playing off each other, and marking every move made in the field.

I really liked the development of Rey and Kilo. Tense hatred, punctuated by bitter betrayal, and a risk finding answers for both of them. I almost felt their story line was a little rushed to add in bits for other people, which disappointed me.

I even liked the bomb run. It had a very ww2 vibe to it, risking everything to stop the enemy, which is what the original SW fight scenes were based off of.

So, there was a lot to like in the movie, and even love.

But let’s get into the things I didn’t like as much. Here there will be spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

The biggest problem I had with the movie is that while we were watching I would be really into what was happening, on the edge of my seat, and then something would happen that just pulled me out of the scene and ruined it for me. I thought about it too much, stayed analyzing and trying to figure out why it didn’t fit, and it took me a while to get back into it. There weren’t a lot of those moments, but they were sometimes big moments.

In writing one of the worst things you can do is throw a reader out of the story. It becomes less likely they will pick the book up and continue reading. There were other things that pointed at bad, or sloppy writing. No foreshadowing, missing continuity, sub-plots that lacked cohesion with the main plot (casino planet?). You probably want specifics, but it’s been a few weeks since I watched it so I can’t give you a very detailed list of anything. But I can tell you why I think the purple-haired-lady was such bad writing.

In a story you have to make people care about characters. Make them hate the character, or love the character, but make them FEEL something about them. Either you see them a lot and grow accustomed to them, or they save a puppy, or kill a puppy…SOMETHING happens to make them endearing or hated by you, and then when they die you care. Either you cheer, or you’re sad. It really impacts the audience. But you have to SHOW that they are worth caring about, not tell us.

If I said “hey, that dude over there killed a puppy,” you might look at him a little sideways, but you’re probably not going to believe me. If I show you a video on youtube of the guy tying up a helpless puppy, putting it in a sack, then throwing the sack into a deep, fast moving river…you’re calling the cops more than likely. Showing has far more impact than telling ever will.

In this case they introduced a character, told us she was some great commander that did some awesome thing, then she promptly told Poe (someone we really liked) to get lost. She keeps telling him to get lost, and has no meaningful interaction until the very end. Even then she tries to destroy the one chance we, the audience, can see of the rebels survival by trying to capture Poe. Then after she’s destroyed all chance of anything good happening (from what we see) someone finally speaks up and says “oh, she had a plan.”

We spent no time with purple-haired-lady. We knew nothing about her, other than Leah said she was a good general. We did not see her kiss a kids boo-boo, rescue a puppy, or teach some young trainee to shoot. She did NOTHING except stand there and tell Poe to sit down and shut up, over and over again.

I saw a video from I Hate Everything that said we also didn’t care about Admiral Akbar, so it wouldn’t have mattered if they would have switched it out. I disagree. The fact is Admiral Akbar has been a staple meme of Star Wars culture. “It’s a trap!” is imprinted on us. We quote it, time and time again. We see his face, hear his voice in countless videos, pictures, and jokes. We knew him. No, he didn’t save a puppy either, but he did try to save the fleet, on screen, while we watched, and that resonated with us. We watched as the ships were decimated, and we knew Admiral Akbar tried to save them, but it was too late. If he had been the one on that ship to sacrifice his life than it would have meant something. Instead we got a “and Admiral Akbar is dead too” from some lady we didn’t know, or care about. They didn’t even have the decency to show him die.

You know what it felt like? What a lot of the movie felt like? The director said “how many women can we cram into this movie” and he cut out as many men as he could, making their rolls insignificant if he couldn’t out right cut them. Unless they were the bad guy. Notice that most of the fighter pilots they showed were women? Or that all of the generals were women? Poe was cast as even more of a screw up maverick than the first movie, and Fin was painted as an idiot at times. Mostly due to sloppy writing. I try to imagine this is because most of the men already died in battle and all they have left is women, but it’s still awkward that they make the male’s in the rebel group look so damn incompetent. Even Luke had become a coward, though I was glad to see he learned from it.

Lastly, the way they destroyed the ship at the end was kind of bad ass, I’ll admit. It was beautiful imagery, and looked amazing…and it left a lot of questions. Like why didn’t they sacrifice any one of the other three ships that were being destroyed before that? Oh, I can see not sacrificing a ship unless you had to, but you’re already dead. Why aren’t you doing something heroic instead of letting yourself get blown up? And how did purple-haired-lady know it would work? Was she really the first person to even think of doing it? Even so, it was a beautiful scene, and I think with a little bit more story they could have made it fit in better.

And no, I’m not talking about the casino planet. Let’s just forget that ever happened, okay?

Overall I loved the imagery, and the battle on the salt planet was beautiful. I even liked the end of Luke, it was fitting. I thought the dice on the mirror were kind of dumb, but what can you do? There was sloppy writing, and inconsistencies, and it kind of didn’t fit entirely in the Star Wars universe, but it was a really good space adventure film.

Would I watch it again? Maybe, if it was on late night cable or netflix. I’d probably even like it more the second time. If you believe the film theorist watching something repeatedly makes us like it more. I will probably even go to the theater to see the next movie in the series…and hope it has a better writer next time. Or the director stops trying to make it so female-centric. Whichever.

5min – Movie review – Split

I started this morning with checking emails, and going down the rabbit hole of reviews and twitter messages. Not a productive morning. Or maybe it was. I guess it depends on how you look at it. Social media is a necessary evil of trying to get people to notice you, so there is that.

Last night we watched Split finally. It is a movie about three young girls that are kidnapped by a man with multiple personalities. They talk about how a person who has to go between personalities will sometimes have physical differences depending on which personality s/he is in at that time, and they describe it as “taking the light” from the others. being an M Knight Shyamalan story we were waiting for the twist. But there really wasn’t one this time. It lays out the movie from the beginning, and I could see the ending coming. I don’t know if this makes it better or worse for that. The “twist” might have been the cameo at the very end from an earlier movie.

I liked the story, and the ending made sense. I am glad they were very subtle about the abuse of the main character in her past, but you knew it was there. Not good. But integral to the story. Split was a little slow for my taste, taking a very long time to get to certain things. But that’s normal for a Shyamalan story. Signs, the village, and lady in the water were the same way. Slow. Meticulous Calculated. That’s Shyamalan for you.

But overall I enjoyed it.

And that’s my five.