No amount of Terminator scholarship is too much if you’re me. So just as the new Terminator: Dark Fate (which bombed over the weekend, but you people keep buying tickets for those The Fast & The Furious movies, so there’s no accounting for taste) is a follow-up to 2015’s Terminator: Genisys (sic) that’s really a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day,…
As in every Terminator movie, the new Dark Fate offers no explanation for why the A.I.—SkyWho? It’s called LEGION now—dispatched only a single cyborg assassin to this time period, or why the human resistance sent only one bodyguard. The answer, of course, is that the one-on-one conceit is just more compelling and dramatic than a platoon representing each faction would be.
My NPR review of Terminator: Dark Fate, a these-were-canon-those-were-not half-reboot in the tradition of Superman Returns and Halloween (2018) is here.
Panzer Kunist is, as I’m sure I need not tell a cinephile and aesthete as refined and discerning and educated as you are, an ancient cyborg martial art that has largely died out by the mid-26th century. More importantly, Panzer Kunst has the satisfying hard consonants of words that were forbidden on 20th century television. It seems like it could work as any part of speech, which makes it especially panzer to kunst as kunst as possible. Panzer Kunst!
On the new Alita: Battle Angel. My review is here.
Most of Black Panther is set in the imaginary African nation of Wakanda, a technological utopia whose monarchs have for centuries observed a strict policy of isolationism, keeping would-be colonizers at bay by hiding their nation’s wealth and scientific advancement from the outside world. We’re told in the movie’s very first minute that Wakanda’s prosperity derives from its abundance of Vibranium, and that this bounty was delivered via meteorite long before humans walked the Earth.
And for a resource they’re trying to keep secret, the Wakandans sure talk about it a lot.
Even more than the characters in Avatar (Remember Avatar? Nominated for nine Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director for my boy James Cameron? Still the highest-grossing movie in the history of movies?) speak the much-derided name of that movie’s extraterrestrial miracle metal, Unobtanium.
The Terminator is one of my favorite movies. When my Windy City pals Adam Kempenarr and Josh Larsen announced the other week that they would make writer-director James Cameron’s low-budget, high-concept sci-fi classic the subject of one of their “Sacred Cow” reviews, I knew that the likelihood that Josh—a critic who generally seems to dislike action films, with the bizarre exception of the Fast & the Furious franchise, which to me represents the genre at its most derivative and least inspired—would rain on it. He hates Predator, people! Predator! A film I saw last year at the Library of Congress!
So I took action. To paraphrase Al Capone, you can get farther with a kind word and a quote from The Terminator than you can with a kind word alone. And the threatening voice mail I left for Josh opened last week’s episode. Continue reading →
For NPR, I wrote this fond remembrance of the actor Bill Paxton, a man who lived but one colorful life but who died onscreen an absurd stupid lot of times, in some of my all-time favorite film. He was in great big movies like Aliens and Titanic, he was in not-great big movies like Twister, he was great in little movies like One False Move and Traveler and A Simple Plan. He was great, basically.
I strongly endorse the episode of WTF with Marc Maron on which Paxton appeared only three weeks ago. He spoke at least as much about his upbringing in Texas as about his 40-year career in movies, but it was a wonderful interview, warm and revealing. But please read my piece, too. I literally ripped a sleeve from emphatic typing while working on it. Continue reading →
I was thrilled to get an invitation from All Things Considered to blab briefly with the great Audie Cornish about one of my favorite movies on the 30th anniversary of its release: SpaceCamp. No, it was ALIENS. Duh. The segment aired at the very end of an ATC that started off with live audio of the “Roll Call Vote!” chant from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. They’re coming out of the goddamn walls, just like Private Hudson said.
You can hear the segment here. I had more to say than they could use, but that’s radio, and hey, this is a show primarily devoted to, you know, real news. One of the first pieces I ever wrote for NPR was largely about ALIENS. I have a narrow range of interests, I guess. And Fox just released a new batch of stills and behind-the-scenes photos from the movie, many of which even I have never seen before, so I’m posting those, too. Enjoy.
I Skyped in from the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in beautiful New London, CT to dissect Terminator: Genisys (sic) — the underwhelming reboot of/fourth sequel to one of my favorite movies — with Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon. While I was taking in this movie in the “Luxury Seating” equipped Waterford 9 Cinemas, several of my fellow Critic Fellows, all ladies, were next door enjoying Magic Mike XXL. My proposal for a double feature was summarily rejected.
I haven’t seen the by-all-accounts underwhelming Terminator: Genisys yet, because since I’ve been busy being a “Critic Fellow” at the one-of-a-kind Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center in the wilds of Connecticut. But I did indulge in some quippy dramaturgy on the wandering-ronin Terminator franchise, for NPR.
The Deepsea Challenger (Mark Thiessen/National Geographic)
My review of Deepsea Challenge 3D, the new National Geographic documentary about James Cameron’s historic March 2012 dive to the bottom of the deepest part of any ocean on the planet in a one-of-a-kind sub he co-designed himself, is on The Dissolve today. When he isn’t busy being a real-life Steve Zissou, Cameron is still one of my favorite filmmakers. And I didn’t even like Avatar all that much.
The “mimetic pollyalloy” T-1000 in its transitional state.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day originally had a sunlit coda set on the National Mall in the no-longer-grim future of 2029 with Linda Hamilton in unconvincing old age makeup. Director James Cameron was right to cut it.
My essay about the movie’s villain that ran on The Dissolve last week originally had a rambling 500-word introduction. My editor, Keith Phipps, was right to cut it.
I’ve very proud to have contributed the concluding essay of The Dissolve’s Movie of the Week coverage of Terminator 2: Judgment Day, long one of my sentimental favorites. My piece examines how cowriter-director James Cameron’s decision to disguise the film’s mysterious villain, the advanced T-1000 Terminator played (mostly) by Robert Patrick, as a uniformed Los Angeles police officer anticipated our growing discomfort with police in general and the L.A.P.D. in particular at the start of the 90s. It also explores the film’s ironic connection to the tragic beating of Rodney King by four L.A.P.D. officers near one of T2‘s key locations while the movie was in production. Read the essay here.
I enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past,Bryan Singer’s return after a decade-long absence to the surprisingly resilient superhero franchise he originated. This movie is based on a 1981 story from The Uncanny X-Men comic book that I first read when it was reprinted in probably 1989 or 1990.
The movie alters the tale as necessary to unite the cast of 2011’s 60s-set X-Men: First Class with the players from the earlier X-pictures, set in the present day — or rather, as a title card at the top of 2000’s X-Men tells us, “the not-too-distant future.” I’d feared this timeline-straddling — Days of Future Past is set in some unspecified year in the 2020s, -ish, and in 1973 — might make the movie as dull and incoherent as the Star Wars prequels, but it’s funny and light on its feet.
Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson in “About Time.” After holding this expression for three grueling months of shooting, both actors had to have their faces amputated.
That’s disingenuous. Plenty of critics have called Richard Curtis on the way his new movie About Time cheats already. My take, which you can read on Monkey See now, is somewhat unique, I hope.
Backstory: I saw About Time on vacation in London Leicester Square about two months ago, several weeks before it opened here in the States. (Fancy!) With the exchange rate being what it is, two tickets cost me the equivalent of $50 — double the freight of a first-run movie here in Washington, DC. I would’ve been steamed to spend that much on a film I disliked. As I suspected I would, I enjoyed the film unabashedly, but I felt even guiltier for liking it than I’d felt for liking Curtis’s other sappy movies, but especially Love, Actually, which was particularly egregious. About Time‘s handling of its time-travel conceit was just so lazy and… unfair.
Admittedly, ALIENS is a film I’ve loved unconditionally since I was a kid. I need very little prompting to think about it, and only a little more prompting than that to write about it. But a deleted scene from that 27-year-old movie highlights what is, to me, the sole flaw in Alfonso Curaon’s still-fantastic new space movie Gravity, and how audience expectations have changed in the generation since ALIENS. This is the subject of my first piece for Slate, which you can read here.
Edward Furlong and Arnold Schwarzenegger get close in 1991’s “T2.”
Over in today’s Criticwire survey, I make a Sophie’s choice and present my surprisingly concise rationale for why Terminator 2: Judgment Day is the superior of James Cameron’s two Terminator joints. And I begin flogging my imminent Village Voice piece about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt at a comeback in The Last Stand. That should be online Wednesday or Thursday. Rest assured I will let you know.
Sam Worthington with his Pandoran alter-ego from Cameron's Avatar.
I was among the 3D-specs-wearing dweebs who visited an IMAX-equipped cineplex last Friday evening for a 15-minute preview of Avatar, James Cameron’s first feature since Titanic 12 years ago. Offering a free, extended look at a movie that won’t come out until mid-December is unusual, but then again, it’s also unusual for a studio to gamble $200 million-plus on a film not based on a comic book, toy, or historical event. Also, Fox can’t love that M. Night Shyamalan has his own film coming out next summer based on an animated TV show called Avatar: The Last Airbender. More than one media-savvy person I know has confused Cameron’s film with Shyamalan’s.