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.
I am always grateful for an invitation to rub elbows with the Pop Culture Happy Hour crew. All your favorites are there around the table this week: Intrepid host Linda Holmes! Indefatigable regular panelist Stephen Thompson! Inexhaustible other regular panelist and Pal-for-Life Glen Weldon! And then there’s me. The four of us merrily dissect the paranoid charms of Mr. Robot, showrunner Sam Esmail‘s much-discussed USA Network series about a brilliant but also probably off-his-rocker sometime-vigilante computer hacker involved in an anarchistic conspiracy.
I think I got to say more or less everything I meant to about the show, though none of us had seen the season finale when we recorded the episode, as it had not yet aired. Wait, no: I didn’t mention how clever I think it is that we, the audience, are cast as Elliot-the-hacker’s paranoid delusion. In voiceover, he addresses us as “you” while acknowledging that we’re imaginary. Smart. I also like that he disguises his data archives of the people he’s hacked as home-burned audio CDs. The fake labels he Sharpies onto them often suggest a connection between the album and the person: His psychiatrist’s archive is labeled as the Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues, for example.
You may recognize the Coney Island Wonder Wheel, featured prominently in Mr. Robot‘s pilot episode, from this very website. Continue reading →
I just got home from attending a two-week criticism institute, wherein I was one of 14 working arts journalists, aged twentysomething to fiftysomething, to benefit from the instruction of critics for The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, The Guardian, and other influential publications. That’s where I was on Wednesday morning when I got a mass e-mail from Scott Tobias indicating that The Dissolve was shutting down, effective immediately. In its two years of life, that site had firmly established itself as the best place on the web to find smart, enthusiastic, formally inventive writing about movies new and old, famous and obscure. I’d declined a review assignment from Scott only days before, citing my wall-to-wall schedule during the institute.
Scott’s e-mail came just as I was heading into a session on restaurant reviewing conducted by Sam Sifton, the Times’ food editor. I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder about food coverage. I don’t usually read it, and I often find it precious and/or pretentious when I do. To me at least, it’s obvious that food is not art. Yes, it’s an important component of culture. Yes, cooking is an admirable skill. But a meal cannot express emotion. An entree cannot communicate an idea. There are sad songs and sad paintings, but there are no sad foods, unless you’re buying your dinner at a 7-Eleven. Continue reading →
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 Future, 1992. It wasn’t the “Alien 3” we wanted, but maybe it was the “Alien” 3 we needed?
In 2012’s “Skyfall,” Sam Mendes undid the reboot 007 had gotten in “Casino Royale.” Sort of.
“Batman: The Movie!” ’66! (Emphasis! Mine!) Canon, or Not Canon?
“Superman III,” 1983. Never happened, per Bryan Singer, which is a shame.
“Well, everyone knows Ripley died on Fiornia-161. What this ALIEN movie presupposes is… maybe she didn’t?”
I have a long, long “Exposition” essay up at The Dissolve today inspired by (uncertain) reports that District 9 director Neill Blomkamp’s upcoming Alien movie may be a ret-con scenario that undoes the events of 1992’s Alien-little-three, or Alien Cubed – anyway, the one where Ripley died. The piece is about retconning in fiction in general, and why it doesn’t much impair my ability or inclination to suspend my disbelief at all.
If you’re quite comfortable in your chair, and you’re stout of heart and nerdy of temperament… Onward!
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.
In “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” Linda Hamilon’s Sarah Connor swaps roles with the titular cyborg.
Ricardo Montalban’s Khan was the grandest of “Star Trek” villains.
“A boy and his Terminator,” writer-director James Cameron told T2 cowriter William Wisher.
Spock’s final farewell to his old buddy Jim, from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.”
Tom Cruise in “Minority Report.” Spielberg’s most Hitchcockian film was all about not being able to trust your eyes.
It’s only July 1, but thanks to the ever-accelerating start date of the summer movie season — it kicked off the first weekend of April this year, when Captain America: The Winter Soldier came out — summer movies are done. I still want to see Snowpiercer, which will roll out to Washington, DC this week, but the less-than-enthusiastic early notices from critics I respect has tempered my enthusiasm for that. There’s no Dark Knight coming in two weeks. There’s no Terminator 2: Judgment Day opening at midnight tomorrow night. Does that sadden me? It does, a little! Shut up.
Anyway, I was honored to be one of a dozen critics who determined — through three rounds of voting — the 50 Greatest Summer Blockbusters for The Dissolve.Numbers 50-31 were posted yesterday; 30-11 went up today. Tomorrow you’ll all find out what we deemed the Top Ten.
I had the honor of writing the entires for three of my favorites: Steven Spielberg‘s Minority Report, from 2002, which placed 46th; Nic Meyer‘s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, from 1982, which placed 37th; and at lucky no. 13, James Cameron‘s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, which is probably my personal all-time favorite summer movie. (I still love you, Jaws, but so does everyone else, and you arrived before I did. Whereas I had the experience of discovering T2‘s greatness at the same as the rest of the world.)
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.