Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “Terminator Genisys”


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Patrick Lussier just can’t catch a break.

Think about it : after toiling away in tinseltown as an editor for a couple of decades, he finally hits it semi-big as a director with the (go on, admit it) deliriously fun and sleazy 3-D remake of My Bloody Valentine in 2009. Since then? Well, shit — it’s all been downhill.

Apparently he was then considered Hollywood’s new “go-to guy” for 3-D flicks for all of about five minutes, but when his next one — the (again, go on and admit it) flat-out awesome Drive Angry tanked at the box office in spectacular fashion, it was back to the editing room (or, as is most likely the case, laptop) for poor ol’ Pat. And again, most of the movies he worked on — like the criminally-underappreciated Apollo 18  — were way better than their tepid reception among audiences and critics (but what do they know, anyway?) would indicate. Other projects his name was attached to, like Halloween 3 (and no, I’m not talking about Season Of The Witch), failed to materialize altogether.

Then comes another big break — hell, the biggest break of all — out of the blue. The long-shelved script he wrote (or co-wrote, as the final credits would indicate, since it was later tinkered with by Laeta Kalogridis) for yet another Terminator sequel/reboot was “back on” at Paramount, with Alan Taylor of Thor : The Dark World  “fame” slated to direct. It even had a name : Terminator Genisys. And Lussier would be getting an executive producer credit on this big-budget blockbuster as well.

So what happens? It absolutely tanks at the ticket windows. And so the hard-luck saga of Patrick Lussier continues. I predict we’ll next see him as an editor on Paranormal Activity 9 or Insidious Chapter 6.

All of which is one heck of a shame because, once again contrary to popular belief, Terminator Genisys is actually pretty damn good stuff.

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Damn good stupid stuff, to be sure, but so what? Apologies to all the James Cameron fans out there who don’t like to acknowledge this simple fact, but  1984’s original The Terminator had much more in common — both in budgetary and stylistic terms — with the Roger Corman fare that the future director of Titanic and Avatar cut his teeth on than it did with the billion-dollar bonanzas for which its auteur would eventually become famous. In point of fact, it’s essentially one of the last low-budget sci-fi exploitation pictures that didn’t go straight to video. And it’s absolutely awesome.

I’m not here to tell you that Terminator Genisys is as good as that was. Shit, it’s not even close. But it is much closer to the original in spirit than it is to the later, much-more-lavish sequels/prequels — the last two of which, Terminator 3 : Rise Of The Machines and Terminator Salvation, were positively atrocious. This, at least, feels like a “proper” Terminator flick again.

Are there plot holes big enough to plow an armored tank through? Absolutely. But that’s just part and parcel of the goings-on with a movie of this nature — and besides, they engage in this sort of “timey-wimey” gimmickry on Doctor Who all the time these days, and it’s praised as “quality” television rather than the cheap and obvious stunt it is (and speaking of Doctor Who, don’t blink — sorry, couldn’t resist! — or you’ll miss Matt Smith in this). I’ll take it served up as it is here without any pretense towards faux-intellectualism, thank you very much. And anyway, are people really complaining about getting to see present-day Old Arnold Schwarzenegger duking it out vs. CGI-reconstructed Young Arnold Schwarzenegger? Where’s your sense of fun, folks?

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I guess it all just depends on who you ask. While Terminator Genisys currently “enjoys” a rather atrocious 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics hold court, it’s faring much better on the IMDB scorecard, where the fans have their say, with a perfectly respectable 7.1 out of 10. In other words, real people like this movie.

And what’s not to like? We’ve got “liquid metal” T-1000s squaring off against Ah-nuld’s earlier T-800 model. We’ve got cheesy one-liners galore. We’ve got a new plot twist involving John Connor (here played by Jason Clarke) that’s actually interesting. We’ve got a reasonably dashing new hero in the form of Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney). We’ve got Oscar winner J.K. Simmons doing the “old man tilting at windmills who no one else will listen to” role that he’s perfected down to a science (when he’s not selling his soul to Farmers Insurance, that is). We’ve got explosions, aerial battles, and likable good guys vs. suitably despicable bad guys. We’ve got an amped-up version of the internet that’s out to destroy the world, with requisite Luddite authorial sympathies attached. And, oh yeah, we’ve got this grin —

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My only gripe is that Emilia Clarke just plain can’t cut it as Sarah Connor. She tries her best, sure, but she’s no Linda Hamilton. Consequently, her love story with Courtney’s Kyle Reese ends up falling a little flat. But that’s small potatoes compared to everything Taylor and company (including, of course, Lussier) get right here — rather than trying to one-up the original, which never really worked anyway, they just set out to add a worthy celluloid appendage to it. When looked at that way, Terminator Genisys is — against all odds and the loud chorus of naysayers out there — a tremendous success indeed.

Val’s Movie Roundup #1


I wanted to write about two gems today, but I don’t feel well. Today is as good a day as any to start this series of posts. I watch a lot of movies and I just can’t write full posts about each and every one. Instead, I am going to do little roundups like this from time to time. Here we go.

Talking Skateboard

The Skateboard Kid (1993) – When I was a kid, a piece of wood on wheels could make you cool. Studios knew this, so many stupid skateboarding movies were made. This was one of them. But this one has a twist. Ready for this? The skateboard talks! And it flies! To make matters worse, Dom DeLuise voices the skateboard. Stay away! Watch the Francis movies instead.

Another Talking Skateboard

The Skateboard Kid II (1995) – What do you do when a bad movie about a talking flying skateboard comes out? Make a sequel of course! But this one has two things different about it. One, the skateboard becomes possessed by Turhan Bey. Don’t recognize the name? He actually dated Lana Turner back in the day. Also, the movie was executively produced by Jim Wynorski. He made Chopping Mall back in the 80’s and the softcore porn film Sexually Bugged! in 2014. Haven’t seen the first one yet, but the second one stinks to high heaven. No wonder he directed it under the name Sam Pepperman. This Skateboard Kid is actually better than the first if you can believe that.

Time Barbarians

Time Barbarians (1990) – The movie starts in olden times. There’s a stupid warrior, a stupid amulet, stupid bad guys, and it takes an hour or so for all three to wind up in Los Angeles. It’s like waiting for Godzilla to appear in the 2014 version. Once they get there it gets as dumb as you think. He not only can block bullets with his sword, but bullets fired from an automatic weapon. That’s some fine work! Can you believe this actually came out before The Beastmaster did the same thing with it’s sequel?

Howard The Duck

Howard The Duck (1986) – Yeah, I finally watched this movie. I don’t know why it has the reputation it does. Maybe people were not familiar with what a bad movie truly was at the time or they made the mistake of worshipping a director. I’m leaning more towards the second since you see people spend years trying to find ways to defend bad movies made by otherwise good directors. It’s not good, but it’s stupid campy fun. Harmless. The major issue with the film is that they tried to make it like E.T. in that it’s almost all about getting Howard back home. I think audiences would have preferred more of the wisecracking fun and much less of the child friendly material. Still, I enjoyed it more than Iron Man 2 & 3 so it’s a better Marvel movie than those and they have received praise.

They’re Out There: IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (1953)


it1 IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE was Universal Studio’s first foray into the realm of science fiction (excluding the execrable ABBOTT & COSTELLO GO TO MARS). The studio was known for its classic monsters like Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman, but by the 1950s times had changed. The Atomic Age had been launched and reports of UFO sightings filled the tabloids. Science fiction films were the latest rage in screen scares, as was the then-new process of 3-D. Universal covered all the bases on this one, including a script based on a story by sci-fi titan Ray Bradbury.

Astronomer John and his fiancé Ellen witness a crash landing in the Arizona desert. Thinking a meteor has struck, they go by helicopter to investigate. The object has created a giant crater near an old mine. John goes down to inspect, and gets a glimpse of what looks to be an alien spacecraft. A weird, glittering trail has been left near the craft’s perimeter. A sudden rockslide forces John to scramble back up to safety, leaving the spaceship hidden from view. When he relates his story, everyone from the sheriff to the press to the Army scoff at him, thinking he’s nuts. Even his fellow astronomer Dr. Snell refuses to believe John.

Driving down the highway, John and Ellen are startled by an ethereal vision. They pull off to the side of the road, but see nothing. Meanwhile, the audience can see through the alien’s “eye” as it spies on the young couple. Further on down the road, they come across telephone linemen Frank and George. The workers claim they’ve seen nothing, but Frank has heard some strange noises over the line. John listens in and hears them, too. The linemen leave their job site headed for home, when they’re attacked by the mist shrouded monster.

John and Ellen find the abandoned truck with blood on the door. They cautiously go out into the desert and come across Frank. He’s acting and sounding very odd. John sees a hand sticking out from behind a rock and the couple heads into town convinced something is not right. In truth, the linemen’s human forms have been duplicated by the aliens!

Other townspeople are being duplicated, including a trio of miners and Dr.Snell. John encounters Frank and George in town. They break into a hardware store. John confronts them, and the duplicates tell him they wish no harm. They’re only trying to repair their spaceship. “Trust us. Give us time”, they say.

Frank’s wife and George’s girlfriend go to the sheriff complaining the two men are not acting themselves. John tries to convince the sheriff about the alien landing party. He’s still skeptical but slowly comes around. Ellen drives alone towards home and is stopped on the highway by the duplicate Frank. She too is captured by the extraterrestrial being. The aliens call John and tell him they’ve got Ellen. They want him to go to the mine alone, but the sheriff insists on accompanying him. When they arrive, John sees Ellen dressed in a gorgeous black evening gown. Not realizing this is a duplicate Ellen, he follows her to the mine. The faux Ellen tells him they are repairing their ship and will hold the others hostage until they’re finished. John demands to see the creature in its true form. The alien obliges, and of course its a hideous, one-eyed, big-brained monster!

it2  John tells the sheriff the aliens intentions, and the lawman immediately wants to take action. They fight and John takes off in the sheriff’s car to warn the aliens. A posse is formed. They set up a roadblock just as the duplicate Frank is coming down the highway. The posse fires a barrage of bullets and the alien dies in a fiery crash.

John has gone back to the mine and is confronted by the duplicate Ellen. She says he cannot be trusted because he’s brought the posse on them. She shoots a ray gun which misses him. John now understands this isn’t really Ellen, and guns her down. Going deeper into the mineshaft, he stumbles upon the alien crew, including a doppleganger of himself! The aliens are ready to destroy their persecutors, but John manages to negotiate the release of the hostages in exchange for buying more time for the space crew to fix their ship. The humans leave the mine, and John seals it off with a blast of dynamite, just as the angry mob has arrived. A rumbling shakes the area as the spaceship blasts off into the unknown. “It wasn’t the right time for us to meet”, John says at the film’s conclusion. “But there’ll be other nights, other stars for us to watch. They’ll be back”

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is a worthy successor to the Universal horrors of the 30s and 40s. There are some genuine scares here, and the alien creature is appropriately creepy looking. The film has an eerie mood and atmosphere, helped greatly by the theremin music on the score. It’s the first in a long line of Universal sci-fi flicks, followed by THIS ISLAND EARTH, CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, TARANTULA, and many more. The 50s was a grand time for science fiction movies, especially if you like them in the pulp mode like I do.

The cast is great. Richard Carlson stars as John, and he was a staple of 50s sci-fi. His resume includes THE MAGNETIC MONSTER, RIDERS TO THE STARS (which he also directed), CREATURE FROM THE BLACL LAGOON, and VALLEY OF GWANGI. Carlson starred in the series MACKENZIE’S RAIDERS, and later appeared in numerous episodic TV shows.

Barbara Rush makes a beautiful Scream Queen. No stranger to episodic TV herself, Barbara was a regular on the primetime soaps PEYTON PLACE and FALCON CREST. The actress also costarred in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, played a villainess in TV’s BATMAN, and appeared in the cult TV-movie MOON OF THE WOLF with David Janssen. Her last acting gig was a recurring role in the series 7TH HEAVEN. As of this writing, Barbara is still with us at age 88.

There are plenty of other familiar faces in IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE. Charles Drake plays the skeptical sheriff. Joe Sawyer  of TV’s RIN TIN TIN is Frank, the older of the linemen. The younger is played by Russell Johnson, probably the most familiar due to his role as the Professor on endless reruns of GILLIGAN’S ISLAND. it3

Director Jack Arnold worked with Johnson on 26 of those episodes. Arnold was Universal’s science fiction go-to guy in the 50s, sitting in the director’s chair for CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON, REVENGE OF THE CREATURE, TARANTULA, THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN, and MONSTER ON THE CAMPUS. Never a household name, Arnold wasn’t a flashy auteur, but got the job done in a respectable and entertaining manner. You could do a lot worse than rediscovering the works of this fine director.

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE holds up well today. The fear of the unknown is a universal one (pun intended!) that today’s audience can surely related to. Besides, it’s a fun and fast 90 minutes of science fiction scares from a more innocent era. If you get a chance to see it, don’t hesitate. If not, don’t worry. As John states at the film’s ending, “They’ll be back”.

Lisa’s Early Oscar Predictions for July!


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It’s shaping up to be a strange Oscar race.  Here we are halfway through the year and, yet, there are no front-runners.  Some very acclaimed films have been released this year and yet, few of them seem to be getting the type of buzz that usually accompanies a surprise Oscar nomination.  Last year at this time, there was cautious buzz for Grand Budapest Hotel while almost everyone felt pretty safe assuming that Sundance favorites like Boyhood and Whiplash would be players in the Oscar race and many of us were highly anticipating the release of films like Birdman and The Imitation Game.  (For that matter, a lot of people were also still convinced that Unbroken would win best picture.  The buzz is not always correct but still, the buzz was still there.)

This year, some people are hoping that Mad Max: Fury Road will somehow break through the Academy’s aversion to “genre” filmmaking.  (And seriously, the Doof Warrior deserves some sort of award, don’t you think?)  Quite a few are hoping that Ex Machina will not be forgotten.  Personally, I have high hopes for Inside Out.  The buzz around Bridge of Spies is respectful, largely because it seems like the type of film that usually would be be nominated.  (That said, this film also seems like it could bring out the worst impulses of both Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, leading to a movie that will have more in common with The Terminal than with War Horse.)  Carol was beloved at Cannes.

So there are definitely possibilities out there.  When I made my Oscar predictions for this month, I didn’t quite have to blindly guess as much as I did way back in January.  But still, it cannot be denied that — as of right now — this race is wide open and there’s a lot of room for surprise.

Below, you’ll find my Oscar predictions for July.  You can also check out my previous Oscar predictions for January, February, March, April, May, and June!

Best Picture

Black Mass

Brooklyn

Carol

I Saw The Light

In The Heart of the Sea

Inside Out

Sicario

Suffragette

The Walk

Youth

Best Actor

Michael Caine in Youth

Johnny Depp in Black Mass

Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs

Tom Hiddleston in I Saw The Light

Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl

Best Actress

Cate Blanchett in Carol

Marion Cotillard in MacBeth

Sally Field in Hello, My Name Is Doris

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn

Lily Tomlin in Grandma

Best Supporting Actor

Albert Brooks in Concussion

John Cusack in Love & Mercy

Benicio Del Toro in Sicario

Harvey Keitel in Youth

Kurt Russell in The Hateful Eight

Best Supporting Actress

Joan Allen in Room

Helena Bonham Carter in Suffragette

Jane Fonda in Youth

Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight

Rooney Mara in Carol

Best Director

John Crowley for Brooklyn

Todd Haynes for Carol

Ron Howard for In The Heart of the Sea

Denis Villenueve for Sicario

Robert Zemeckis for The Walk

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And Here’s The Trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice


The trailer for Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice premiered earlier today at Comic Con.  Now I have to admit that I don’t really know much about the whole Batman/Superman mythology thing but I do know enough about social media to know that people are really freaking excited about this trailer!

Personally, I think it looks okay.  I still have bad memories of Man of Steel, which also had a trailer that everyone got excited about.  But you know what?  Right now is not the time for naysaying.  Right now is a time for optimism so I’ll just say that I hope this film turns out to be good as a lot of my fellow film lovers are expecting it to be.

And who knows?  If it turns out to be a good movie, I might even dress up like Gal Gadot for Halloween…

For everyone who has been hoping for an Omen/Psycho crossover event…


…there is hope!

A&E, the network who produced Bates Motel, a sorta prequel to Psycho, is now producing Damien, a sorta sequel to the original Omen.  (Apparently, all of the sequels and the remake are being ignored.)  So, I guess would have a cross-over event where Norman Bates met the son of the Devil.

But until that happens, here is the trailer for Damien.