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.

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: Lost in Space

I didn’t watch the original Lost in Space TV series, but I did watch the movie that came out a few years ago, and I remember liking it enough. It was a little space adventure movie with some interesting twists and turns in it. I don’t know how much it stuck with the original tv series, but the movie was okay.

So this week we watched the new series on Netflix. Same family; mom, dad and three kids. Same premise of being lost at space. There’s a robot that says “Danger, Will Robinson,” some aliens, and some danger for the family to get out of. But all the details are brand new.

First I’ll give you my over all reaction, no spoilers.

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy it at all, but I can’t say that I liked it. There were some good scenes.  loved the robot. Beautiful design, nice practical effects mixed in with some CGI (yes, that’s a guy in a suit, that’s why the neck is weird.) The locations (mostly CGI) are beautiful, with wonderful alien atmosphere to them. Each of the main Robinson family, and a couple of the other colonists, have a story arch with some character growth. Some were more profound than others, but at least each of them grew as people.

The science was bad, even for a tv series. I can overlook this most of the time, it is a TV series, after all, but some of the science was really bad. Everything was done for dramatic effect; what can go wrong here? Oh this! And it get’s thrown at the characters for them to survive, even if it doesn’t really make sense. Most of the situations they found themselves in would have been solved early on if people had just been honest with each other. That fact alone was enough to make this series feel like a teen drama (like Pretty Little Liars) which only has tension because of all the secrets and lies the characters have.

And for the biggest problem I had with the entire series; for a family of geniuses they sure do some stupid things. While the youngest has a reason since he has had an overly protective mother since birth, the rest of them, especially the mother, have fewer reasons for their bad actions. This disappointed me because I have come to really love Netflix original content, and this show felt like it fell short of the mark. The writing just wasn’t as good.

On the plus side they did show the problem with the “strong, independent, woman” trope. She kept pushing aside her husband, ignoring his advise (a trained Naval seal who had been in many dangerous places) and undermining him to his children. It wasn’t long before one of the children pointed this out, and she started trying to work with him instead of proving she didn’t need him. When there are difficult situations like war, natural disasters, or being lost in the middle of no where, it takes a team effort to get through things. I thought that part was rather nice. Until she started working with him I kind of hated her as a character.

Overall if you go in not expecting much more than a drama in space then you’ll be fine. But it isn’t hard science, and it isn’t a comedy (though there were a few moments I laughed out loud.) It’s more of a teen drama that follows Murphy’s law on a planet far far away. Still not bad to watch….as long as you know what you’re getting into.

Now for some spoilers beyond the cut:

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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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Review: Bright

A bright is a being that can hold a magic wand without exploding. Magic wands are so powerful that only a few people can touch them, and everyone else wants to control it because of the immense possibilities of it. And if you get all five in one place you can summon the dark lord, and enslave the humans once more.

So when a wand turns up on the wrong side of town everything goes wrong, and there are only two cops standing in the way of the destruction of an entire city.

The premise had me from the first commercial. An orc cop? Yes, please! Fairies stealing from bird feeders? Okay! Elves and centaurs on LA streets? Sign me up!

I was not disappointed. The story line was good, even if the ending was a bit predictable. The main characters were well fleshed out, and I loved the interaction between the orc and main cop. Of course the orc has problems of his own since everyone wants him gone, especially other cops.

If there was one disappointment it was that magic was mostly window dressing. There are a few integral scenes where magic plays a roll, and the orc civilization is fairly fleshed out, but we know very little about elves (other than they are rich snobs) and other races are only briefly mentioned or seen in a couple frames standing still.

Overall worth watching, and I hope for a sequel.

Review: The Orville

I grew up on Star Trek. I loved watching Kirk battle the monster of the week, especially if the monster was himself. I welcomed The Next Generation when it came out, and LOVED it, even i the first year was a little rough around the edges. I didn’t care, I was able to travel across the galaxy with a sentient android, and various crew members from different races.

I use to watch Voyager every night when I got home from work. I watched many episodes twice. I loved Janeway’s get it done attitude, and Checoti made a wonderful counterpoint to her sometimes blind desire to get the crew home.

I’ve also watched a lot of the fan made series on you tube, some of which are really good!

What I’m saying is….I LOVE STAR TREK! I love the messages, examining each story, seeing allegories in modern life, and the shear fun of monster of the week mayhem some days. Sometimes a bug is just a bug and you have to kill it.

Now there is a new Star Trek, and it’s locked safely behind a paywall, so I haven’t seen it yet. I’ve heard mixed reviews. Some love it, some find it a little too preachy. The fact that the writers specifically said their Klingon’s are modeled off “Trump supporters” gives me some reservations, but I’m willing to give it a shot. After all, the original Star Trek often comments on society, and ways to improve it. Maybe this one will have some good insights as well.

But for now, since I’m not going to pay for a paywall till the full season is out, I am watching The Orville.

I caught a glimpse of the Orville while at work and thought the design, space, and ship looked a bit like Star Trek, though not quite. I also saw that it was advertised as a comedy. Of course I had to try it.

What I found wasn’t quite a sitcom in space, and it wasn’t quite a Star Trek space opera. It was something in the middle, with enough parody to keep it from tripping copyright, and enough space opera goodness to quench my craving for the cheesy experience.

The juxtaposition of cliche modern language in a space ship that is supposed to be from the future is kind of absurd, but it works. The ex husband and wife team cause just enough strife to keep everyone on their toes, but they also work well together because they know each other. The two pilots often say inane things that remind you they are two dudes from this world, and this time line, that got to play a role on their favorite space opera. Their reactions often would have no place outside a college dorm, or a sports party. And yet it works.

The first few episodes have ship to ship and hand to hand battles. There is character growth, unusually characters from other cultures, and even some important discussion of two cultures colliding, and not seeing eye to eye.

And while all of that is what I expect from a space opera style show I can also see that it’s campy, throws in jokes that aren’t always appropriate to the time period, and setting. But that’s the charm. The original Star Trek had bad fx and latex masks, The Orville has cheesy jokes at odd places. It works.

Now, I it isn’t perfect. The writing is still rough, but I think it’s showing some potential. I also like that it doesn’t spoon feed you a moral. On the third episode dealing with a child that was born the wrong gender, and dealing with the sex change of the child, the answer wasn’t handed to you neatly packaged as “this is the truth”, rather it was “this is what’s happening, but we feel uncomfortable about it even if this is how it has to be…for now.” And we, as the audience, are allowed to decide for ourselves why these things happened the way it did, and the ramifications of it all.

I’ll be watching more of The Orville, and I hope they will take us to many places far far away, with interesting characters and species from the edges of the galaxy.