Thursday, July 2, 2015

Terminator Genisys (2015) - Recap and Review

Arnold Schwarzenegger Guardian Terminator T-800 Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

This post contains spoilers. Readers who are yet to watch the movie might want to skip the review.

The latest entry in the popular Terminator series is a major disappointment. The trailers were pretty accurate in their depiction of the movie. The movie is indeed a damp squib. 

This is coming from a fan of James Cameron's first two entries: The Terminator (1984) and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).

The plot goes like this: John Connor (Jason Clarke) is about to win the war against the machines in 2029. But, the crafty Skynet initiates a counter-offensive by sending back a Terminator to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) in 1984. This is being done with the specific intention of preventing the birth of their current human nemesis.

The evil T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lands in Los Angeles and is received by The Guardian”, an aging T-800 Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who has been Sarah's protector since 1973. This fight between the good but old T-800 vs the young but evil T-800 is brief and not that good either. In the end, Sarah finishes off the bad robot with a sniper shot. So much for Arnold's planned grand return to his glory days through his signature role...

Meanwhile, John also sends his trusted lieutenant, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to save his mother's life. Just as he is about to be transported back, Kyle sees John being attacked by an unknown man.

Kyle also lands in 1984 Los Angeles and is greeted by the not-so-lethal T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee). The Robert Patrick version managed to stab Sarah Connor and beat the pulp out of Arnold Schwarzenneger's T-800, before biting the dust.

This particular version just flays in the air, just close enough to Kyle so that he can make his escape. 

Emilia Clarke Sarah Connor Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

But help is at hand. Sarah is already a female warrior, thanks to the training she has received from “The Guardian”, she affectionately refers to as Pops”. No, she actually does in the movie... She also looks like a teenager with a lot of baby fat. In other words, she lacks the tough-as-nails looks that Linda Hamilton famously had in her definitive performance in the role.

Sarah rescues Kyle from the relatively harmless T-1000, who does kill two cops who are not relevant to the movie anyway. The T-1000 gives chase (as they usually do) and follows them all the way to their secret hideout. There is not much of a fisticuffs going on between the old T-800 and the T-1000. This time too, Sarah plays a major role in defeating the enemy with T-800 chipping in at the end.

With this, the T-1000 goes out of frame and with him vanishes any chance of fun or excitement that the movie might have had.

From here, it is strictly downhill as the teen-aged looking Sarah and bland Kyle travel to 2017 to stop the Judgment Day. This new apocalypse happens when billions of consumers start using Genisys, a new operating system. Best not to think too much as much of the plot does not make sense.

Of course, John Connor is himself a Terminator now, T-3000, an even more advanced nanomachine hybrid. And to complete the party is Detective O'Brien (J.K. Simmons), who is probably the only cop who believes in the concept of time travel and machines being sent back in time to kill humans.

The climax takes place in Cyberdyne's headquarters. Instead of the T-1000 we have the T-3000 on the trail of our heroes, as they attempt to stop Skynet from annihilating mankind (again).

Byung-hun Lee T-1000 liquid Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

If there is one saving grace in the movie, it is Byung-hun Lee as the latest incarnation of the liquid terminator T-1000. Despite his very limited screentime, Lee leaves a strong impression with his stares and body language. Wish there was more of him in the movie.

It is a sad story as far as the rest of the movie is concerned. The casting choices look inspired on paper, but somehow do not work on screen. Emilia Clarke must have looked to be a good choice for Sarah Connor after her performance as Daenerys Targaryen on Game of Thrones. But surprisingly, she is unable to command the role as Linda Hamilton did unquestioningly 24 years back.

Perhaps, it is her girlish looks or her short stature - somehow the aura of a strong female warrior is missing.

Same goes for Jason Clarke. He fared much better as Malcolm, leader of the human resistance in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Here, his role as the leader of human resistance is very less and much of his screentime is spent trying to look menacing as T-3000. And he fails spectacularly in creating any sense of dread, whenever the T-3000 is onscreen.

Jai Courtney does what Jai Courtney does. Nothing more nothing less. And he is as bland a hero here as was Henry Cavill was in Man of Steel. His Kyle Reese shares absolutely no chemistry with Emilia's Sarah Connor. The less said about his acting performance, the better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminator T-800 Terminator Genisys movie poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

At the end of the day, it is Arnold Schwarzenegger who has the most vested interests in the success of this movie. Jai Courtney has Suicide Squad lined up for next year. After this and Thor: The Dark World, Alan Taylor will jump on the bandwagon to direct the next movie in any one of the many ongoing franchises in Hollywood.

Arnold has been struggling to find box office success, since his return to acting after completing his terms as Governor of California. And if this movie is any indication, success is still a bit far away.

Age has caught up with him and he does not have the vigor to pull off the stunts. It does not help that the special effects and the action sequences are dull also. The action scenes, in particular, are unimaginatively executed. This is significant, since James Cameron brought such energy and visual spectacle to the action choreography, especially in T2: Judgment Day.

Arnold might find better success with comedy. Perhaps, the recently announced sequel to Twins, titled Triplets might do the trick. And I would like to suggest one more candidate for a remake/sequel/reboot: Kindergarten Cop.

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Image Sources: Paramount Pictures, Skydance Productions 

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Jurassic World (2015) - Recap and Review

Indominus Rex Jurassic World poster wallpaper image screensaver picture

2015 seems to be the year of rebooting/revisiting old movie franchises. Not one but two of them. And both of them have one excellent movie in them, surrounded by others that range from above average to abysmal.

Before Terminator Genisys hits the theatres on July 01, the latest entry in the Jurassic Park franchise arrived couple of weeks back. Jurassic World has everything a moviegoer can ask for - a hero enjoying a hot streak in popular culture (Chris Pratt), a lot of larger than life special effects (CGI dinosaurs) and abundance of nostalgia to wallow in (courtesy of Jurassic Park and the evergreen John Williams score). It is no surprise that the movie has made gazillion amounts of money and broken several box office records.

But is box office success a true indicator of the quality of a movie...

It is park time again and people are flocking to the latest Jurassic park attraction at Isla Nublar. The man in charge, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) holds the ideals of the founder, John Hammond close to his heart. Dr. Henry Wu (B. D. Wong) and his team of scientists have cooked up a new dinosaur, Indominus Rex that combines the characteristic traits of several animals.

Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the park's operations manager and is too busy with her work to even remember her nephew's names. These lads,  Zach Mitchell (Nick Robinson) and Gray Mitchell (Ty Simpkins) are sent by their parents, Karen (Judy Greer) and Scott (Andy Buckley), so that they can be the movie's dudes-in-distress, to be rescued time and again by Claire and the alpha male, Owen Grady (Chris Pratt).

Chris Pratt alpha male Owen Grady Jurassic World poster wallpaper image picture screensaver

Owen is the trainer of the Velociraptor pack (Blue, Charlie, Delta and Echo). Simon hires him to use his expertise in handling the as-yet-untested Indominus Rex. Like any sensible action blockbuster movie hero, Owen warns the park management that the new dinosaur is a disaster waiting to happen. And like any greedy businessmen would do in a big budget movie, they insist on going ahead with their plans.

Yes, all hell breaks loose and the Indominus Rex escapes its enclosure using a rather ingenious plan. It fools the authorities (including Owen) into thinking that it has already escaped by not only camouflaging itself from the sensors but also inflicting scratch marks upon the gate. Of course, the fact that the gate is still intact and not trampled upon or bent in any way is conveniently overlooked.

Rest of the movie is strictly a by-the-book affair: Lovers are reunited, people realize the value of families and the Evil Dinosaur dies.

Jurassic World represents the typical escapist entertainment that Steven Spielberg has perfected since the 1970s. Ever since he single-handedly doomed the future of Great White Sharks with Jaws (1975), he has been churning out Man Vs Nature nonsense at regular intervals. The most famous example, obviously being Jurassic Park (1994) and its sequel, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997). He did not direct Jurassic Park III (2001), even though that did not stop him from reaping the profits as an executive producer, just like he did on this movie.

Mosasaurus chasing killing eating great white shark Jurassic World poster image picture wallpaper screensaver

Well, at least unlike the unfortunate sharks, the dinosaurs are already extinct. So nature lovers need not fear any public upheaval against these animals. But Spielberg is not done with sharks yet... To show the sheer size of the Mosasaurus, he has the huge lizard jumping out of water and swallowing a fully grown shark whole. This was the money shot used in the trailer to get public's attention right from the start...

As Spiderman's uncle Ben Parker used to say: With great power comes great responsibility. Spielberg's motto seems to be: “Screw responsibility. Demonize Sharks/Nature and with that comes a great fortune”.

Moving on to Chris Pratt... He has to be one of the luckiest actors to work in Hollywood. After earning the lead role in a Marvel movie, now he is the lead actor in the movie that has grossed over 1 Billion USD in 13 days. I am sure Taylor Kitsch must be cursing his luck..

Ron Howard's attempts to make his daughter Bryce Dallas Howard a big star in Hollywood have finally paid off. Bryce has been in a number of high profile movies over the past decade (Spider-Man 3Terminator SalvationThe Twilight Saga: Eclipse, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, Lady in the Water). She must have had a very special Father's Day yesterday.

As to her performance in this movie, it is as bland and unappealing as she has been in the other movies she has done before. Her character is quite unrealistic and can only exist in a movie for the sole purpose of turning over a new leaf and becoming a normal human being by the end.

Scream Kings Nick Robinson Zach Ty Simpkins Gray Jurassic World

The kids in peril role are essayed by Nick Robinson and Ty Simpkins. Nick's character (like Bryce's) does not believe in family relationships and... abracadabra! he has a heart-to-heart talk with Ty's character and they are brothers forever. Cliched scenes and plot development like these abound.

The special effects are adequate and not exceptional as was the case with the original movie 21 years ago. The director, Colin Trevorrow (no doubt under the supervision of Spielberg) shrewdly reuses the memorable John Williams soundtrack at crucial scenes in the movie. There are also other nods to the original movie.

In a nutshell: Resist the need to indulge in nostalgia and revisit the original movie instead. Even better, watch a documentary featuring real animals and enjoy Nature.

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Image Source: Amblin Entertainment, China Film Co., Legendary Pictures, Universal Pictures

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