REVIEW: TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

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TERMINATOR-DARK FATE (2019)

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Ironically, in Terminator fashion, this new chapter goes back in time to erase it’s past, eliminating, Rise of the Machines, Salvation and Genisys from it’s timeline. The film opens in South America in 1998, a year after the averted Judgement Day was supposed to, but didn’t, occur. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is living there as a fugitive with John (Edward Furlong). They may have misjudged Skynet’s game plan, as another Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives to complete it’s mission. The story then moves to 2020, with a new kind of Terminator, a Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna), appearing in Mexico to hunt factory worker Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes). Arriving to protect her is technologically enhanced super-soldier Grace (Mackenzie Davis). Intercepting Grace and Dani is Sarah Connor (Hamilton) who has been hunting and destroying Terminators since we last saw her decades earlier. The question is…if Skynet was destroyed, avoiding Judgement Day, who is sending new Terminators and why are they after Dani? Worse still, the answers may lie in the memory banks of an old enemy.

Direct sequel to T2 is directed very well by Tim Miller (Deadpool) from a script and story by six people, including producer James Cameron, who returns to the franchise. Usually that many writers is a problem, but the script works very well in explaining how new Terminators are coming from the future when Skynet does not exist. It works very well and Miller’s solid direction, especially in the action sequences, helps get past the familiarities. We are kept in suspense as to why Dani is now a target and are given glimpses of a future that is once again apocalyptic, though for a somewhat different reason. Having Grace upgraded for Terminator combat makes sense and the new Rev-9 makes the lethal machines scary again, despite the whole Terminator of the month feel at this point. The only thing that the six writers didn’t pull off so well, is the reason for Arnold’s T-800 to be an ally. He is now a drapery installer named “Carl” and has an adopted family who haven’t yet figured out he’s a machine. What? He also has developed a conscience being without any guidance from Skynet and want’s to right past wrongs by helping Sarah, Grace and Dani…again, WHAT? Despite this plot hiccup, Arnold has some solid action moments battling Luna’s Rev-9 and does provide some humor that the film needs after all the explosions and bloodletting, this is a hard R, after all. On a production level the effects are top notch, the Mexican and Southwestern US locations give the film a bit of a fresh look and feel and the finale is quite exciting and fitting. There is some crisp cinematography by Ken Seng and Tom Holkenborg provides a good score when Brad Fiedel’s original theme isn’t being used to give it that Terminator flavor.

Miller is supported by a good cast. Linda Hamilton is great as the angrier, older and even more bitter Sarah. Her arrival gives goosebumps and it should, as she is a legendary figure in modern cinematic pop culture. Pretty Natalia Reyes makes an impression as Dani. She starts out a terrified girl and transforms into a fighter over the course of the film, much like Sarah first did over three decades earlier. Mackenzie Davis is noble and strong as Grace. Sort of the “Kyle Reese” part, an enhanced soldier to protect Dani from harm. A welcome addition to the franchise. Gabriel Luna is an intimidating Terminator as the Rev-9. Each film tries to up the game with it’s new model, but here they concentrate more on his lethality than gimmicky abilities. It works. Rounding out, while the story behind Arnold’s T-800 “Carl” being present is the only thing that didn’t click here, It is a return to form in many ways and it’s fun to see him back in action. Still not sure why he’s become the source of humor in this franchise, when he was so formidable in the first flick, but Arnold pulls it off.

In conclusion, it’s still the best Terminator sequel since T2, even if a lot of the elements are still familiar. The script explains well how the story can continue after the events of T2, even if it’s subplot of Arnold as the T-800 comes across as silly and preposterous. Some solid action scenes, a good cast and some excellent effects combined with an intense and suspenseful climax, help it overcome any story issues and also helps one overlook some of the lesser entries that preceded it. At least for this entry, this franchise is back to being a well-oiled machine.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) T-800s.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: GRANDMA and FREAKS OF NATURE

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GRANDMA (2015)

Written and directed by Paul Weitz, Grandma tells the story of cantankerous Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), an aging lesbian poet who has just ended a relationship with a younger woman (Judy Greer). On that same day she gets a visit from her granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner)…obviously, Elle was married once…who needs over $600 for an abortion. The penniless Elle now begins a trek across L.A. to see friends, her ex-husband and ultimately, Sage’s mother, trying to raise the cash for her granddaughter’s procedure and unintentionally raising a little hell and learning something about herself, as well.

The performances in this flick are first rate, with Tomlin ruling the roost with her angry, volatile Elle and the film is well directed with some snappy dialog. It’s the story that fails to really involve the audience as it’s a just another ‘angry eccentric learning something about themselves’ flick. The film also tries way too hard to have all it’s liberal and indie film pieces in place with it’s story of an eccentric, lesbian poet helping her granddaughter get a *gasp* abortion story. It thinks it’s daring, but clear away the controversial topic and it’s just another journey of self-discovery movie about someone realizing they have let their inner pain sully their life. Elle is an interesting character, but one we’ve seen before, who comes to the same realizations that these types of grumpy characters usually do. Adding a pro-abortion element doesn’t make it any more new or daring. Also stars Sam Elliott and Marcia Gay Harden as Elle’s ex-husband and daughter respectively.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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FREAKS OF NATURE (2015)

Dumb and dull horror/comedy takes place in the town of Dillford, renown for it’s rib sandwiches. Also, the community is made up of a mix of humans, vampires and zombies living in an uneasy harmony. When an alien spacecraft arrives, it creates a panic, which in-turn reignites old rivalries. As human, vampire and zombie are once again at each other’s throats, three high school kids, human Dag (Nicholas Braun), vampire Petra (Mackenzie Davis) and zombie Ned (Josh Fadem), are forced to work together to save all from the alien invasion.

This is a silly flick with a very convoluted concept and plot, that could have worked in more capable hands. It all boils down to the same “we can live together despite our differences” message we have seen so many times before and a bland use of it’s oddball story set-up. The film is goofy and gory and that would certainly be fine if it were also clever and funny. It’s just a bunch of ideas thrown in a blender with a half hour plot dragged out over 90 minutes. The action stops for long periods of character moping and once it’s over, you realize it went exactly where you expected it to from scene one. The SPFX are surprisingly good, as is the gore and at least the cast gets the tone of the weak material. As directed  by Robbie Pickering and written by Oren Uziel, the film is basically a ho-hum mess, whereas somewhere inside it there might have been a fun midnight movie buried under all the mediocrity. Also stars Denis Leary, Joan Cusack, Patton Oswalt and the yummy Vanessa Hudgens as Dag’s hopeless pursuit turned vampire vixen.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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