FlixChatter Review – Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

Hollywood has pretty much given up on producing any kind of original ideas when it comes to big budget event films. Franchises are the big money makers these days and one of the franchises that never quite make the jump to the $1bil club is The Terminator series. Three high priced sequels were made after T2: Judgement Day but none of them were box office hits. Yet somehow the studio executives are willing to write big checks to make more films in the series. The latest in supposed to be a true sequel to T2 since James Cameron is officially part of the production, he came up with the story and produced this sequel.

Sarah Connor is back!

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and her son John (Edward Furlong) has stopped Judgement Day and Skynet never happened. Unfortunately, the war between machines and humans are inevitable and a new threat has emerged. A lone warrior from the future name Grace (Mackenzie Davis) has been sent back to our time to protect our new savior named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from the new evil time travel Terminator (Gabriel Luna). With the help of Sarah and T-800/Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Grace must figure a way to keep Dani alive and kill the more advanced Terminator. That’s basically the story, there’s nothing new here, if you’ve seen the previous Terminator films then you know how it goes. Lots of big chases and shootouts and machine hand to hand combats.

Arnie’s back to the role that made him a superstar

According to Cameron, we’re supposed to ignore the last three films, and this is a true sequel to Judgement Day. I didn’t care for the last three films and was curious as to what kind of story he came up with. Well as it turned out, there’s not much here that we haven’t seen before. It’s same storyline, there’s no creativity or any sort of effort in trying to create anything that resembles originality. I’m not a fan of McG’s Terminator Salvation but at least that film tried to come up with something new and move story forward to new territory. Here Cameron and his writers just rehashed the same tired storyline from the previous films and updated with new characters. It’s quite surprising how lazy script was to me.

Gabriel Luna as the evil Terminator

Director Tim Miller didn’t help much with his lackluster directing skills. He basically tried to mimic Cameron’s style and he failed on every level. The action scenes were huge but lack any excitement and I’ll say it again, it lacked creativity. Miller’s background is in art direction and design and the film looked great. But he’s not a good film director, he’s one of those Hollywood directors that can shoot beautiful shots but can’t put scenes together to make a compelling story.

Mackenzie Davis + Natalia Reyes

The only thing that saved this from being a complete disaster are the actors. It’s great seeing Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor and Arnold can play The Terminator role in his sleep. Just like the last film, he’s basically the comic sidekick. Mackenzie Davis is becoming one of my favorite actresses in Hollywood. She’s great here as the new action hero and she even able to deliver some corny lines with believability. I’ve never seen Natalia Reyes in anything before but she held her own against the more veteran actors. As for Gabriel Luna, well he didn’t have much to do except to look like an evil Terminator, basically he’s similar to Robert Patrick’s T-1000 in T2.

I’ve said in my review of the last film Terminator Genisys that this franchise needs to be terminated and I stand by that statement. There’s nothing new or exciting in this latest sequel and I would be happy to never see another Terminator film in the future.

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So have you seen Terminator: Dark Fate? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review – ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL (2019)

So apparently James Cameron has dreamed of making this movie, an adaptation of Yukito Kishiro‘s “Battle Angel Alita” manga, for over 20 years! It was before he made Titanic in 1997 and Avatar in 2009, and it’s his commitments to the latter that made him relinquish his directing duties to Robert Rodriguez. I have to admit though that my initial reaction to the first trailer was that the huge, Manga-inspired eyes are creepy looking. I read some Manga as a kid (specifically Candy Candy) but in the printed comics, of course they never bothered me, that’s how all Mangas are drawn. But cinematically, they can be quite eerie.

Now, I decided to see the movie anyway, two weeks before it’s open to the public in Feb 14. As it turns out, the eyes didn’t really bother me once the movie starts. It actually didn’t have the ‘cold, dead eyes’ effect like in Polar Express. Of course they can still be a bit disturbing at times, but for a character made up of cyborg parts, she’s pretty lifelike.

There are plenty to like about Alita. In fact, I immediately sympathize with this cyborg creature trying to discover her identity. It’s an action-packed coming-of-age story of a young girl who’s trying to piece together the mystery of who she is. Set in the 26th century, 300 years after ‘the fall’ where ‘the haves’ live in a floating city called Tiphares and the rest down below in Iron City. The story starts when a man found a still ‘living’ severed head in a junkyard, where the Tiphares dumps its trash. I thought Christoph Waltz as her father figure Dr. Dyson Ido is inspired choice, and at first you don’t know if he’s good or bad, which the Austrian actor portrayed really well.

The father/daughter relationship between him and Alita is actually one of my fave parts of the film, and the way Dr. Ido tried to protect her from the new world she’s thrusted into is endearing. It’s once Alita (Rosa Salazar, terrific in her first performance-capture role) discovered rollerball-style game (and also ‘puberty’ it seems) thanks to a boy named Hugo (Keean Johnson) that the action switches into high gear.

Before long, we, along with Dr. Ido and Alita herself, discovers who she really is. It’s not a spoiler as it says right there on the title, she’s a formidable killing machine, basically an ‘angel of death’ despite her seemingly innocent appearance. She’s able to fight a bunch of vicious Hunter-Warriors, sometimes all at once, even a huge one that looks like what Fantastic Four’s The Thing mixed with a Transformer. Knowing that she’s virtually indestructible kind of lessen any sense of suspense, and the more bombastic the fighting scene the less impactful it becomes. The first time we see the gladiatorial game of Motorball in this huge arena filled with cheering crowd was cool, but the second one just feels indulgent in the parts of the filmmakers. Yes, the action and special effects are cool, but it gets tiresome real fast too. In fact, at times it reminds me of all the loud metal clanging of Transformers, which is NEVER a good thing.

I’m not that familiar with Robert Rodriguez’s work, having only seen Desperado and Sin City. I think this movie is as much a James Cameron movie as a Robert Rodriguez one. We’re treated to a video interview with the filmmakers and some of the cast after the movie and it’s clear that Cameron was Rodriguez’s mentor throughout and Rodriguez helped fulfill Cameron’s vision. As we all know, Cameron is a perfectionist, so I doubt there’s really much ‘creative liberties’ the ‘chosen director’ would have if it clashes with Cameron’s vision.

What? You’re not impressed by my Damascus blade? How about my chiseled face?

In any case, it’s no surprise that Cameron, who co-wrote the script with Laeta Kalogridis (Altered Carbon), loves cross-species, star-crossed romances. I kind of roll my eyes every time I see Alita gets all giddy over Hugo, even going so far as giving him his heart, literally! Most of the supposedly-romantic scenes end up being unintentionally hilarious. There are moments that remind me of Titanic, perhaps intentionally so? What’s genuinely funny are the scenes involving Hunter Warrior Zapan (Ed Skrein), a cyborg obsessed with his pretty face, the only ‘fleshed out’ part of his cybernetic being. The tall, lanky British actor relish on his character’s narcissistic vanity. It made me think that he might have imbued a much-needed dose of humor had he been cast in Altered Carbon instead of Joel Kinnaman!

The actual villain of the movie is never actually seen (played by a famous actor we haven’t seen in a while). We only know it lives in Tiphares and could actually ‘possesses’ other beings to communicate with people down below. I feel like Mahershala Ali and Jennifer Connelly are pretty wasted here as their characters are pretty thinly-written. As the protagonist, Alita’s backstory itself isn’t as deeply compelling it could’ve been. It’s a missed opportunity really, as her relationship with Dr. Ido and Connelly’s character Chiren could’ve been explored more. It’s clear the filmmakers focused heavily in the spectacle of it all. After all these years, the technology (thanks to Weta Digital) finally caught up with Cameron’s vision of Alita, at least the way he envisioned to do Kishiro’s world justice. Yet all that money spent (about $200 mil) is kind of hollow when it’s just another ‘style over substance.’ I think science-fiction is the perfect genre for a ‘what does it mean to be human’ commentary, when humans would co-exist together with robots in the future. But unlike sci-fi classics like Blade Runner or Terminator, Alita doesn’t really add anything new to that concept.

Alita going googley-eyed over pretty boy Hugo

Visually speaking, it also didn’t really inspire that sense of wonder the way I did with Cameron’s previous creation Avatar. I recently rewatched that movie and I still had that ‘awe-struck’ reaction when we first saw Pandora in 2009. The floating mountains and that mountain banshee flight sequence still made me go ‘whoa,’ which I never felt while watching Alita. I’m not sure of its replay-ability value as right now, I don’t know if I’m eager to see this movie again nor do I care to see more of Alita’s adventures.

As I never read the Manga books, I’m curious to see the reception from their fans, especially in its native Japan. As a Southeast-Asian blogger, I’m not bothered that they hired a Latina actress to portray Alita as Kishiro supposedly didn’t even set the world of Iron City in Asia, it’s just supposed to be a melting pot type of futuristic dystopian city. I think the cast is quite diverse and the actors get to speak with whatever they’re most comfortable with (Waltz with his Austrian accent, Skrein with his Northern London brogue, etc.) I do think it’s funny that Alita made a comment about the many languages spoken in the city when I never heard of any other language being English being spoken in the movie [shrug].

Should you go see it? Well, if you like a sci-fi action adventure, I’d say it’s well worth seeing on the big screen. I don’t normally like watching 3D movies with those pesky glasses, but the effects and visuals look cool in IMAX 3D as the movie was optimized for such technology. I skipped Ghost in The Shell (just didn’t appeal to me at all) and I think Jupiter Ascending is absolutely rubbish, but this one has enough going for it for me to recommend. Just don’t expect a sci-fi classic or even something emotionally gratifying, just enjoy the ride for the high-octane action adventure that it is.


What do you think of ALITA: BATTLE ANGEL? Are you excited to see it?

FlixChatter Review: Terminator Genisys (2015)

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I initially had no desire to see this new Terminator flick; from the trailers that I saw I thought it lacked creativity and originality. But then a couple of weeks ago, James Cameron gave his blessings and said fans of the franchise will enjoy it. Being that I’m a fan of Cameron and love his two Terminator flicks, I decided to give this new sequel a chance.

Ignoring the events of the previous two films, things kick off in the future where John Connor (Jason Clarke), his best pal Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a bunch of soldiers are battling the evil Skynet’s cyborgs. Connor has found a way to defeat the cyborgs and shut down Skynet permanently. But Skynet has a plan in place to win the war, they have created a time machine and sent one of their terminator cyborgs back in time to 1984 to kill Connor’s mom. In order to stop the cyborg and help Conner’s mom, Reese volunteered to go back in time.

Basically this opening scene was meant as a prologue to the first film. Then the film jumps to 1984 where they recreated the opening scene of the first film, we see the Terminator (young Arnold Schwarzenegger) just arrived in L.A. and was just about to kill the three punks but an older Terminator (old Arnold) came to their aid. A fight between the two Terminators ensues and then the younger cyborg was put down.

TerminatorGenisys_ClarkeCourtney TerminatorGenisys_OldNewTerminator

We then see Reese arrived at another location in Los Angeles; he’s also met with another Terminator, the T-1000 (Byung-Hun Lee). When he’s about to get killed by the T-1000, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) and the old Terminator came to his rescue. If you’ve seen the trailers then you pretty much knows how the rest of the movie will play out, our heroes gets chased by the evil cyborg and they have to destroy Skynet. The only difference here is that Sarah already knows what’s going to happen and she’s already prepared for Judgment Day. This is one of those films that think it’s smarter than it actually is. The writers came up with alternate timeline and time travel and just assume that the audiences have seen the previous movies. Sadly none of it made any sense and frankly I just didn’t care. The point of a reboot is to come up with something new and refreshing, here they just rehash elements of the first two films and threw in some “new” ideas. None of it worked and I was bored halfway through the movie.

TerminatorGenisys_Clarke TerminatorGenisys_Lee

Even though he gets top billing, Arnold was just there to be the action hero and comic relief. The main leads are Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke. We’re supposed to care about these two characters like the first film but the two actors have zero chemistry. Jai might be the blandest actor since Hayden Christensen; he’s one of the current young actors that Hollywood is trying to make into the next big action hero. Clarke is no better, she’s trying to channel the brave and tough version of Linda Hamilton’s Sarah from the second film, but sadly she couldn’t convince me that she’s badass. As for the main villain, well if you’ve seen the trailers then you’ve already know that John Connor is the antagonist in this one and he’s also quite bland. If there were a great example of miscasting actors in prominent roles in a big film, this would be it. None of the actors fit into their respective roles. The only person belongs in the movie is Arnold and he’s great.

TerminatorGenisys_JohnConnor

On the technical side, the movie is flawless. Director Alan Taylor and his cinematographer did a great job of capturing look and feel of Cameron’s previous Terminator pictures. The 3D effects were very effective; the action scenes were well staged and best of all, no hand held shaking cam action sequences. Speaking of action, the franchise is known for its long action sequences but Taylor somehow decided to edit down the length of each action scenes, with the exception a helicopter chase, many of the action scenes were short and not really creative at all. Again here they tried to rehash elements of Cameron’s films and nothing else.

I guess the trend of this summer’s big films are reboots/sequels and Terminator Genisys is no different. While I thought the concept worked for Mad Max: Fury Road, it didn’t work for this movie. If you’re fan of the franchise then you might enjoy it, for newcomers you might get confused by all the references to the previous events in the past films. My two-and-a-half stars are only for the movie’s excellent Dolby Atmos surround sound and very cool 3D effects. I think it’s time for this franchise to get terminated.

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So have you seen Terminator Genisys? Well, what did you think?

Music Break: Top 10 Favorite Scores by James Horner

RIPJamesHorner

On Monday night I heard that Mr. James Horner was unaccounted for when a plane registered to him crashed in St. Barbara, CA, I prayed he’d turn out ok. I started listening to his music all night long and was amazed at how many of them I love. Before I went to bed, I already picked my top 10 list thinking that I would dedicate this week’s Music Break post to him as a tribute. When I turned on my iPad in the morning, I read the news came that the 61-year-old composer was the pilot of the plane and he was indeed killed.

It saddens me to hear about his tragic death. He’s one of my favorite composers of all time… so many of his scores resonated with me. He’s such a phenomenal and versatile composer. Looking at his filmography and listening to a bunch of his work, there are a variety of motifs that he used throughout his illustrious career. Even within the same year he could create two VERY different scores that somehow fit perfectly to its respective film (i.e. in 1994 and 1995, see below for the year next to the film title). He’s credited for over 150 projects as composer on IMDb, received seven Oscar nominations and won two for Titanic (for Best Original Song and Best Dramatic Score).

There’s such a beautiful, romantic and ethereal feel about some of his dramatic scores like Legends of the Fall and Braveheart, but I also love his more energetic and up-tempo scores, i.e. Rocketeer. He can convey the sentiment and tone of the film so perfectly. I think some of my favorite scores are the ones that are so evocative that it take you to another time and place. I’m always taken back to the glory of the doomed ship whenever I hear Take her to sea, Mr Murdock score.

JamesHorner_CameronHorner collaborated several times with James Cameron and he wrote a nice tribute to him posted on THR. He shared his experience working with him on composing for Titanic, “I asked if he could write some melodies. I believe that a great score really consists of something you can whistle. If that melody gets embedded in your mind, it takes the score to a different level. I drove over to his house and he sat at the piano and said, “I see this as the main theme for the ship.” He played it once through and I was crying. Then he played Rose’s theme and I was crying again. They were so bittersweet and emotionally resonant. He hadn’t orchestrated a thing, and I knew it was going to be one of cinema’s great scores. No matter how the movie turned out, and no one knew at that point — it could have been a dog — I knew it would be a great score.”

As my tribute to the late composer, here are 10 of my favorite scores from James Horner (in order of release):

The Land Before Time (1988)

The Rocketeer (1991)

Legends of the Fall (1994)

Clear and Present Danger (1994)

Braveheart (1995)

Apollo 13 (1995)

Titanic (1997)

The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The New World (2005)

Avatar (2009)

Thank you Mr. Horner for your amazing work…
your music shall live on…


So what’s your favorite James Horner score(s)?

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Question of the Week: Are you looking forward to AVATAR sequels?

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It just dawned on me that it’s been over four years since AVATAR was released. I remember it was quite a big deal back in 2009. I remember getting advanced screenings (this was before I was on the press list, mind you) and I was soooooo excited! I even had a countdown post like I did before Man of Steel came out. I had barely any blog followers back then either, so most of you probably never read my review of the movie. Yes, I actually loved it. Yes I know it’s basically the story of Pocahontas with blue people, but I couldn’t help being caught up in the spectacle of it all. Visually, it was a thrill that at the time, I hadn’t experienced before. My hubby and I even went to the Avatar exhibit at EMP Museum in Seattle, so yeah, I was obviously a fan 😀

But it seems ages ago now. I haven’t even rewatched it in a couple of years though we did get the Blu-ray. It’s not as exhilarating visually when you didn’t see it on 3D or IMAX, and this is one of those movies where the visual does matter. In any case, I sort of have forgotten about this movie, but yesterday I saw a bunch of tweets about Arnold Schwarzenegger possibly joining Avatar 2 as a villain.

I’d think Arnie’s probably playing a general/leader role similar to Stephen Lang. It’s been a while since he collaborated with Cameron in those Terminator movies and True Lies (which I’ve been wanting to rewatch for some time!), though at this point I don’t really care. Heck, I used to actually like Sam Worthington, he was even on my list of 10 Notable Foreign Actors to Watch, but apart from maybe The Debt, I don’t really care for him as an actor anymore. Yeah, blame it on the abominable Clash of the Titans!

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The Abyss

What I am curious about is if Avatar 2 would actually take place underwater as was reported early this year. This is what Cameron said to LA Times Hero Complex about what the setting of the sequel,

Part of my focus in the second film is in creating a different environment – a different setting within Pandora. And I’m going to be focusing on the ocean on Pandora, which will be equally rich and diverse and crazy and imaginative, but it just won’t be a rain forest. I’m not saying we won’t see what we’ve already seen; we’ll see more of that as well.

Of course they’d use the latest technology for the motion capture and stuff, that’d be interesting to see how that’d work underwater. The Abyss is one of my favorite sci-fi, which was filmed underwater. Surely the technology has improved tremendously since 1989 that we should expect something even more breathtaking.


So what do you guys think about AVATAR sequels, are you a fan of the first film? 

Weekend Roundup: Side by Side Documentary Review

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope y’all had a nice weekend. I skipped the cinema again this weekend as it’s quite a hectic one with my hubby Ivan’s triathlon on Saturday morning and we also had people over for dinner this weekend.

But Friday night we had a chance to check out the documentary we’ve been wanting to see for a while. I posted the trailer a while back, check it out if you haven’t already.

Keanu at Berlinale

This is an insightful and thoughtful documentary produced and narrated by none other than Keanu Reeves. I’ve always thought that Keanu is one of those actors who are far more intelligent than meets the eye, and despite his stoic style, I quite like him as an actor and enjoyed a lot of his movies. Here he collaborated with Christopher Kenneally who previously worked with him as production manager in Henry’s Crime to direct the film. I think Keanu is the perfect person to conduct all the interviews, not only has he worked with a variety of directors in over 50 films, he’s also got that friendly, laid-back personality that would help make all the directors feel at ease discussing this hot-button issue. It’s nice to see Christopher and Keanu’s passionate curiosity on this topic as they asked some honest questions on both sides of the spectrum.

Oh I’m sure Nolan would be happy to continue making more 70 mm films, but man those are expensive!!

Does digital kill film?? That’s the key question that’s running through the vein of this film as it investigates the history, process and workflow of both digital and photochemical film creation. It was certainly insightful for people like me who don’t really know much about the technical aspect of film and just what it took to get a film from the set all the way to the reels being delivered to our local cinemas. It does get quite technical at times which went over my head a little, but it’s always fascinating and they did a good job presenting it in layman’s terms with simple charts and graphs. There are also some footage from participating directors shown as examples.

Keanu had a pretty impressive list of filmmakers discussing digital vs. film, George Lucas, James Cameron, David Lynch, David Fincher, Steven Soderbergh, Danny Boyle, the Wachowskis, Martin Scorsese, Christopher Nolan, etc. as well as famed cinematographer such as Wally Pfister, Vittorio Storaro, and Anthony Dod Mantle who won an Oscar for his cinematography work in Slumdog Millionaire. There’s also a fascinating interview with Anne V. Coates who edited the 70 mm film of Lawrence of Arabia! I read in Movieline.com that apparently Nolan was the toughest to get for this film, but he got a kick out of Keanu’s snail mail letter using an old-fashioned typewriter. So Nolan agreed to be interviewed during filming The Dark Knight Rises in L.A.

As a cinephile, of course the best part is listening to the arguments each of the filmmakers makes on each of the two form. It’s no surprise that Nolan and Pfister would be the biggest defense of celluloid and that Lucas and Cameron are the champions for digital. But most of them realize the art and beauty of traditional film, but yet can’t deny the power of digital, not to mention the financial benefit and convenience of being able to film scenes that were impossible to do before. For instance, Danny Boyle shared the filming of the exquisite Westminster Bridge scene [undoubtedly one of my favorite scenes in London], and how it’d have been impossible to film those without the use of digital cameras. Scorsese seemed gleeful at the infinite possibilities storytelling could go with digital technique, having just been immersed in 3D technology with HUGO. Seems to me that according to this documentary, there are more filmmakers who are more pro-digital, even David Lynch likes the fact that digital cameras allows him to film for more than 10 minutes at a time.

The film seems pretty comprehensive in discussing the merit of the two forms, it even went briefly into related aspects such as coloring and archival process. Yet it seems to gloss over what it’d all mean to the local movie theaters and the effect of the digital process affect them as more movie studios are pushing to abandon 35 mm film. My dad used to work as a projectionist before he got into film, but that’s surely going to be obsolete now, as most films are going to be projected digitally in no time.

Wherever you are in the film vs. digital debate, this documentary is a must-see for you. No matter how articulate one’s argument about 3D though, I’m still not fond of it until they can figure out how people could see 3D films without those pesky glasses. And for me, whichever form they go with, the most important thing about a movie is still and will always be, the story. I sure hope no matter how advanced film technology goes, filmmakers won’t ever forget the art of storytelling.

4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen this film? Thoughts on the digital vs. film topic?

Random Question: Which movie did you watch most often in the theater?

Sometimes an idea of a post just presents itself when you least expect it. I was just chattin’ with one of the web programmers at work via email about a project, and somehow our conversation turned to movies. He candidly shared to me that he had seen James Cameron’s ALIENS 12 times! Yep, you read that right, TWELVE times! He said he probably saw it 4-5 times with friends/family, and then the rest was just on his own. I asked him what was so special about it that warrant such a high number of repeat viewing, and his reply was that the groundbreaking special effects at the time (in 1986), coupled with the fact that he was in his early twenties had something to do with it. I pressed him if he had a huge crush on Sigourney Weaver as Ripley and he said no, but her presence certainly didn’t hurt. Ha!

Interestingly enough, James Cameron’s other movies seem to prompt repeat theater viewings, I think Avatar‘s success benefits from repeat viewings and of course the biggest one of all being Titanic. According to its Wiki page, ‘The normal repeat viewing rate for a blockbuster theatrical film is about 5%. The repeat rate for TITANIC was over 20%.” No doubt the ‘Leo-mania’ at the time was the major factor (DiCaprio was certainly the Robert Pattinson of the late 90s). I think I saw Titanic twice in the theater and I’ve got to admit, I was a bit bitten by the Leo bug at the time as well 😉

In any case, I was quite flabbergasted that someone has seen ANY movie in the theater more than three times. I think that’s probably the most often I had gone to a cinema to see the same exact film (I’m not counting a re-release that happens years later), and that was Superman: The Movie. I was a wee kid and I was so fascinated by a man who could fly that I had to see it again and again. I’ve seen the VHS and DVD version countless times after that of course, but to this day, I still can’t fathom watching that, or any other of my favorite movies for that matter, more than three times in the theater. But I’m curious now if someone out there have actually beaten my friend’s record.


Well folks, do you share my sentiment or perhaps you have actually beaten my friend’s record or close to it? If the latter, please share which movie you’ve seen the most often in the cinema and what do you love most about it.