Terminator Genisys

Posted on June 30, 2015 at 5:15 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and often graphic peril and violence, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 1, 2015
Copyright Universal 2015
Copyright Paramount 2015

“I’ll be back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger said in the first “Terminator” movie. He had the title role but only 16 lines, with about a total of 80 words. But those three words have become a legend. It now appears he meant it more than we thought, as he appears four decades later in a fifth “Terminator” movie, with two more in the pipeline.

The storyline is about how a network of computers called Skynet took over and all but destroyed life on earth, except for a small group of rebels led by John Connor. Given the time travel that occurs in the films, they in effect act as their own prequels and sequels. This is more of a side-quel, presenting some of the same characters and events in a sort of alternate, butterfly effect universe. Some changes are explained, including why a robot that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger now looks so much older than he did in the first one. (I didn’t say it was explained persuasively, just that they recognize someone has to say something about it.) Many changes are not explained, and I am not just talking about the fact that the characters are, other than Schwarzenegger, played by different actors.  Some of those changes are good. Some are not.  And some are just dumb.

Here’s a good one.  In the first film, we learn that John Connor has sent Kyle, his top rebel colleague back in time to protect Sarah Connor because the Terminator (Schwarzenegger) has been sent back to kill her before she can even become pregnant with Connor, to eliminate him so that he can never be born and lead the rebellion against the machines.  In this film, we see it happen.  John (Jason Clarke) explains that, as we already know but Kyle does not, Sarah is not yet the tough, resilient woman she will become by the end of #1 and really show us in #2.  She is “scared and weak.”  She is also, John tells Kyle, a waitress, though since Kyle was very young when Skynet took over and declared humanity a pestilence that had to be eradicated before it contaminated the earth beyond repair, he has no idea what that is.

But then we see Sarah (now played by “Game of Thrones'” Emilia Clarke, no relation to Jason), and she is not the frightened, inexperienced girl Kyle expected.  Plus, she has Terminator of her own (Schwarzenegger) who is protecting her, not killing her.

Even by the very low standards of blockbuster sci-fi, the mumbo-jumbo here is pretty over the top, with plot holes bigger than the school bus that hangs over the side of a bridge in one of the film’s showiest action sequences.  We have not quite reached nuke the fridge status yet, but we’re teetering on the brink with unanswered questions and outright subversion of some of the series’ core precepts.  And it is one thing to make reference to the earlier films; it is another to wink at them and at us.  Make a character we trust untrustworthy. Okay. Age the Terminator.  Well…okay.  Call him “Pops.”  Sort of okay. Have him fake smile.  Okay.  Have him keep a cache of sentimental tokens.  Not okay. This is not Pinocchio, and he is not going to become a Real Boy.

But hey, this is summer, and we don’t need think-y movies, right?  So  let’s drive right through those plot holes, enjoy seeing Arnold now fight a CGI Arnold circa 1984, hang that school bus off the bridge, and keep going, without looking back.

NOTE: Stay past the credits for a scene that will not surprise you about what’s in store for #6.

Parents should know that there is extensive and intense peril and violence throughout the film, just under the R level, with characters injured and killed and some disturbing images.  There is also some discreet nudity, and brief strong language, with a couple of mildly crude sexual references.

Family discussion: If you could go back in time to make a change, what would it be?  What is the best way to prevent a Skynet-type machine takeover?

If you like this, try: the first two “Terminator” movies

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3D Movies -- format Scene After the Credits Science-Fiction Series/Sequel Thriller

Sabotage

Posted on March 27, 2014 at 6:00 pm

sabotage-movie_poster-261x400“Sabotage” begins with two painful images.  A woman is being horribly tortured.  And Arnold Schwarzenegger, as the man watching it happen on video, is trying to act.

As generic as its title, “Sabotage” wastes no time or effort on such, um, expendables as character, plot, dialog, or making sense.  This is all about gut-wrenching (literally) violence, as in entrails-out corpses and sliding around in pools of blood.  It is often said of middle-grade movies that if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film.  Not in this case.  If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen a better film than the one playing in theaters.  The trailer makes it look like a story of DEA agents vs. drug cartels.  And it makes it look like a story with a plot.  Ticket buyers might want to contact the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising on both counts.

In Training Day, screenwriter David Ayer had two advantages missing here: galvanizing performance by Oscar-winner Denzel Washington and some emotional heft to the storyline, with Ethan Hawke as the audience’s entry point to the soul-destroying world of combatants in the drug wars.  Since then, the soul-destruction has come more from watching his subsequent films than from the degrading violence-for-the-sake-of-violence stories on screen.

Schwarzenegger is no Denzel Washington.  And this story has no deeper resonance.  Schwarzenegger plays Breacher, the leader of a group of badass DEA agents.  They all have tattoos and tough handles like “Pyro” and “Grinder and mad SEAL-level combat skilz.  And after they mow down a houseful of presumed bad guys (sparing the children), they say quippy things like “Cleanup on aisle 3.” (This is one of perhaps a dozen sentences in the film without the f-word.)  And of course they have the kinds of tight bonds you only get from risking death and killing bad guys together, exemplified and reinforced with visits to strip clubs and lots of high-testosteronic insults about people’s mothers and what everyone’s private parts have been doing.  Plus intrusive product placement (apparently) of PBR.  Fun for everyone!

Our merry team of marauders lifts a cool ten million from some bad guys, but then it gets lifted from them.  So now everyone suspects everyone.  As a Justice Department official warns in a typically heavy-handed exchange, trust is like virginity — once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.  Breacher’s bosses don’t trust him.  The drug dealers they stole from and the other drug dealers they’ve busted over the years want them dead.  And, because the gang never got the money, they begin to lose trust in each other.

This gets more volatile and intense as, Ten Little Indians-style, the group starts getting picked off, first the “that guy” actors whose faces look vaguely familiar, and then working up to the bigger stars, one of whom may be behind all of this.  The cop investigating the murders is Caroline (Brit Olivia Williams attempting a Georgia drawl), and her sidekick Jackson (Harold Perrineau, apparently visiting from some other, better movie and a welcome bright spot in this one).  Oh, they’re all quippy, too, but more adept.

There’s a lot of uninspired, mind-numbing, standard-issue bang bang with ludicrous turns — a corpse nailed to a ceiling, a car chase and shootout in a public place with apparently no interest whatsoever by the local police, an experienced law enforcement officer who neglects to bring back-up to a meeting sure to turn lethal, a woman who finds Schwarzenegger enthralling.  He isn’t, and neither is this movie.

Parents should know that this film includes extended and extremely explicit and graphic violence, including rape and torture, with many disturbing images, characters injured and killed, crude and explicit sexual references, nudity, strippers, constant strong and vulgar language, drinking, smoking, drug dealing and drug use, corruption and murder for hire.

Family discussion: How do the experiences of Breacher’s team make them work more effectively together? How do the same experiences divide them?

If you like this, try: “Training Day” and “Internal Affairs”

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Action/Adventure Crime

Escape Plan

Posted on October 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

THE TOMBAt 90 minutes or less and with some sense of its own silly preposterousness, the aging action stars might have made this prison break movie work. But at almost two hours, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger seem a little out of step with what makes a man-against-the-system crashes, punches, artillery, and explosions movie work.

Stallone, with so much scar tissue and Botox that his face no longer moves, plays Roy Breslin, whose job is breaking out of prisons to evaluate the vulnerabilities of their security and advise on making them escape-proof. He gets sent to prison undercover, only the warden knowing who he really is, and then he has to find a way to escape.  Over the past seven years, he has been “inserted into every maximum security facility in the system” and managed to get out of all of them.  You need three things for a prison escape, he explains (twice): understanding the layout, understanding the routines, and help, either from outside or inside.

A beautiful (of course) agent from the CIA (of course) arrives to offer Breslin and his obsessively hand-sanitizing partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio, looking like he needs a soul-sanitizer) double their usual fee (of course).  “After ending extraordinary rendition,” she explains, “the Agency is looking for alternatives.”  A new prison has been built and they want Breslin to check it out.  It contains the worst of the worst (of course), the kind of people who are captured and kept without any access to lawyers or the justice system.  Over the objections of his colleague (a slumming Amy Ryan), he accepts the job, with three guarantees of his safety.  He gets a tracking chip implanted in his arm so his office will always know where he is.  He has the name of the warden who knows his true identity.  And he has an “escape code,” a sort of safe word that is the prison break specialist equivalent of “olly olly outs are in free.”  Of course, all three are immediately gone or useless.

The prison is a vast, futuristic place with glass cages suitable for Magneto and guards wearing riot gear and identical black masks.  Breslin is ignored by most of his fellow inmates, but one prisoner seems curious and even friendly.  His name is  Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).  Pretty soon they are frenemies, fighting each other to get into solitary (where they are tortured with heat lamps) so Breslin can figure out where they are and learn the layout.  Faran Tahir stands out as a fellow prisoner.  And James Caviezel is the kind of psycho warden who wears beautiful suits, speaks quietly, especially when he is threatening prisoners, and listens to classical music as he impales butterflies.

There are one or two good twists but several bad ones.  Most of the time, it veers between dumb (the entire concept) to dumber: at one moment, Breslin says, “I didn’t see that coming,” and several members of the audience called out, “We did!” and the part where the doctor consults a book prominently titled “Medical Ethics” brought catcalls.  And in the big shoot-out, the escapees’ running and ducking seems to be more effective against automatic weapons than the guards’ protective gear.   There is some mild pleasure in seeing Rambo and the Terminator throw down with each other and the usual bang-bang thrills.  Schwarzenegger in particular seems to be enjoying himself, especially when he gets to give a couple of Burgess Meredith-style pep talks.  But these guys have done better and they should know better.

Parents should know that this film has constant action-style violence with some graphic images, guns, explosions, punches, knives, abuse and brutality, and strong language including bigoted epithets.

Family discussion:  How did Breslin’s three required elements form the basis of his escape plan?  Why did it matter that the prison was privately controlled?

If you like this, try: “Under Siege,” “Lockout,” “Terminator,” and “Rambo”

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The Last Stand

Posted on January 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm

The NRA should forget that ad about the Obama girls and use this movie instead. The entire storyline can be summarized in the words of NRA head Wayne LaPierre: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Or, in this case, a ragtag bunch of good guys with many, many, many, many guns.  It’s basically a co-commercial for the NRA and AARP.

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns from his decade detour into politics to play Ray, a former LA cop turned sheriff in a sleepy Arizona border town.  With most of the residents out of town for a high school basketball team away game, he is taking a day off.  A dangerous prisoner escapes while being transported by the FBI and hops into a souped-up supercar.  “It’s a psychopath in the Batmobile,” says the furious agent in charge (Forest Whitaker).  And he’s taken a hostage with him, another agent (Genesis Rodriguez).

But just like the “Manhunt” episode of “The Andy Griffith Show” where the state police think that the local law enforcement are a bunch of rubes who can’t handle an escaped prisoner, Sheriff Ray has some surprises in store.  And a lot of firepower, thanks to Johnny Knoxville as the town nutball-with-a-gun “museum,” an excuse for stockpiling all kinds of exotic weapons, including medieval spiked battle flails and WWII machine guns.

The bad guy is a third generation drug lord (handsome Spanish actor Eduardo Noriega) who has sent an advance team to build a bridge over a narrow canyon between Arizona and Mexico.  All that lies between him and escape is Sheriff Ray, his young and beautiful deputy (“Thor’s” Jaimie Alexander), the comic relief deputy (Luiz Guzmán), the drunk and disorderly prisoner (think “Andy Griffith Show’s” Otis, except young, handsome, ex-military, and the ex of the beautiful deputy), and the crazy guy with the arsenal.  Can they stop the head of a drug cartel with unlimited resources, a paramilitary operation, a car that goes faster than a plane, and all of the freedom from doubt that comes from being a sociopath?  What do you think?

It’s set-piece after set-piece, with many capably staged showdowns and lots of macho posturing (several “let’s play”-style comments), plus numbingly predictable dialog with a few winks at Schwarzenegger’s age.  Audiences may be less enthusiastic about the entertainment value of whole-sale carnage these days, less able to suspend any thoughts of what the reality looks like.  I hope so.

Parents should know that this film features major non-stop carnage with constant shoot-outs, chases, and fights, many characters who are injured and killed, and strong language.

Family discussion: How does the movie acknowledge the real-life circumstances of its star? Who is right about what kind of life to choose, Ray or Jerry?

If you like this, try: “Con Air”

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Action/Adventure Crime
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