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

The Water Diviner

Posted on April 23, 2015 at 5:58 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for war violence including some disturbing images
Profanity: Brief language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Wartime violence with battles and terrorist attacks, characters injured and killed, graphic and disturbing images, suicide, mercy killing
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: April 24, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B00WFNPPVY
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers
Copyright 2015 Warner Brothers

Before it detours into not one, not two, but at least three preposterous Hollywood twists, “The Water Diviner” is an absorbing drama about Joshua Connor, an Australian farmer (Russell Crowe, making his directing debut as well) who travels to Turkey to find the remains of his three sons, all killed in the battle of Gallipoli, so he can bring them home for burial. We first see Joshua dowsing for water. He selects the spot he is drawn to, then digs with skill, focus, and determination, until he hits water. He has a well.

He returns to the house where his wife tells him to read a bedtime story to their three sons. It is too much for her to accept that they are long gone to war and killed in battle. Finally, she is so overwhelmed by grief that she commits suicide. Joshua insists that she be buried in the church cemetery, and then leaves to bring their sons home and bury them next to her.

Crowe’s greatest asset as a director is himself as leading man, and his performance is powerful, with a muscular masculinity and sense of honor, but shredded by the loss of his family and by his fears that he may be responsible because he “filled their heads with heroic nonsense.” The clash of cultures and the unthinkable tragedies are intriguing. The best part of the film is the depiction of the way the defeated Australian command must work with the Turkish nationals to bury their dead as respectfully as possible, the tensions are inevitable. Was the end of the battle a “retreat” or an “evacuation?” “You killed my sons.” “You sent them. You invaded us.” Both, of course, are right. When one says, “I don’t know if I forgive any of us,” the other side has to agree.

“Four years ago you’d have given me a VC for shooting that bastard,” one of the ANZAC (Australian/New Zealand) officers growls. “That bastard” is Major Hasan (Yılmaz Erdoğan). The former enemies must work together on a task of unimaginable sadness and defeat, creating a sacred burial ground for thousands of dead soldiers, who will remain for eternity in the site of their defeat. “This is the first war anyone has given a damn,” to do even that much, says an ANZAC officer. Previous war dead were piled into pit graves with the horses.

Joshua finds a place to stay — or rather, it finds him, as a boy takes his bag and runs to the home where his mother and uncle have established a small hotel. They do not want an Australian there, but they need the money, so they gingerly make him welcome. The boy’s mother, Ayshe (Olga Kurylenko), is still insisting that her husband will return from battle, to keep her son’s hope alive more than her own, and perhaps also to protect her from the pressures put on a single mother to remarry. Joshua is forbidden from going to the burial ground, but Ayshe helps him find a way. Once he gets there, no one wants to help him. But “because he is the only father who came looking,” they grudgingly allow him to look through the piles of bones.

And then it starts to get Hollywood. The water diviner somehow uses that same skill to locate the remains of two of his sons. And then it may be that the third is still alive. The last section of the film takes a turn that even Indiana Jones would find daunting and a romance even Nicholas Sparks would find improbable. It is too bad that the earlier part of the film’s appreciation of conflicts and complexity is followed by a fairy tale ending.

Parents should know that this movie features wartime scenes of battle violence and terrorism with some disturbing and graphic images and a suicide and a mercy killing. Characters are wounded and killed. In addition, it includes some strong language, domestic abuse, sexual references, drinking, and smoking.

Family discussion: What did Joshua and Major Hasan have in common? What do we learn from the flashback to the sandstorm? What should Arthur have done?

If you like this, try: Gallipoli and “A Very Long Engagement”

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Drama Inspired by a true story Movies -- format War
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