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Josh Reviews Terminator: Dark Fate

November 4th, 2019

The latest Terminator film ignores the events of Terminator 3, Terminator: Salvation, and Terminator: Genisys, treating only the first two films, the ones written and directed by James Cameron, as canon.  Terminator: Dark Fate picks up in 2019, decades after Sarah Connor stopped Judgment Day and the creation of Skynet (in Terminator 2: Judgment Day).  But now a new Terminator has come through time.  This time, its mission has nothing to do with Sarah or John Connor.  Its target is a young woman living in Mexico City: Daniella “Dani” Ramos.  A new protector has come from the future as well: Grace, a woman augmented with Terminator-like tech.  Sarah sees in Dani the woman she was so long ago, and joins with Grace in an effort to protect Dani and ensure the defeat of the machines.

Terminator: Dark Fate is a solidly entertaining film!  I had quite a good time watching it!

Now, I do have to say that this is not a film that has much of any reason to exist.  It doesn’t really have anything to say beyond what James Cameron’s first two Terminator films said.  Although there are new characters and new action sequences, the basic framework of the story follows many of the beats laid out in those first two Terminator films.  (This was likely intentional — more on this below.)  We get a new Terminator, but it’s not all that different from the nearly unstoppable T-1000 we met back in 1991’s T2.  We get a new threat from the future that has a new name (“Legion”) but is basically just Skynet.  We get a new human resistance fighter from the film who goes through basically the same story arc as Kyle Reese in the first film.  We spend much of the movie in familiar territory.

But in many respects I think that works in the film’s advantage!  Terminator: Dark Fate is clearly designed to try to recapture the series’ glory days: those first two James Cameron films.  There were a lot of nice touches that indicated the filmmakers’ desire to put us back in touch with those original films.  I loved opening the film with the recording of Sarah’s rantings, while in the psych ward, from T2.  I loved that, after a monologue from Sarah Connor, we got to glimpse an action sequence set in the post-Skynet world, just like we did in the first two Terminator films.  And, of course, not only did this film bring back Arnold Schwarzenegger, but we also got Linda Hamilton back as Sarah Connor for the first time since 1991’s T2.

It’s glorious to see Linda Hamilton back on screen, and I am delighted that she’s not … [continued]

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Josh Reviews Terminator: Genisys

In my review of Jurassic World, I commented that the problem with all of the disappointing sequels to the great Jurassic Park is that they’ve basically been the exact same movie retold over and over again.  The Terminator has also had disappointing sequel after disappointing sequel, but for the exact opposite reason.  Both Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator: Salvation, and now Terminator: Genisys have gone in wildly different directions.  Each has been a (failed) attempt to kick-start a new trilogy of Terminator films. Rather than being frustrating because these films feel like the same film over and over again, they are frustrating because they are so all-over-the-place, removing any sense of narrative flow or continuity from this series.  Neither Terminator 3, Terminator: Salvation, nor Terminator: Genisys are absolutely terrible.  There are some good ideas and good moments in all three films.  But none of them are able to come anywhere close to James Cameron’s amazing original two films.

The best thing I can say about Terminator: Genisys?  It’s not as horrible as its title.


Terminator: Genisys actually has a decent idea at its core.  The film begins by showing us what we never got to see in James Cameron’s original films: the day John Connor and his resistance defeated Skynet, found the time displacement center, and sent Kyle Reese back in time to save John’s mother Sarah Connor from death at the hands of a Terminator.  Kyle is prepared by John to encounter the Sarah who we met in the first film: an innocent waitress with no idea of the danger she’s in or her importance to the future.  But when Kyle arrives back in 1984, he discovers that the timeline has been changed and a T-1000 is there waiting for him.  Now it’s Kyle who has to be rescued by Sarah — not the damsel in distress he was expecting but a tough warrior-woman (reminiscent of Linda Hamilton’s depiction of the character in T2) — who has been raised since youth by another Terminator to prepare for this day.

While I dislike the idea of erasing the events of the first two films, I can get behind this idea as a way to tell more Terminator stories when things had seemed pretty wrapped up by the end of the second film.  (All three subsequent sequels have really had to struggle to continue the story beyond the end of T2, in which Sarah and John destroyed Skynet before it could be born, thus preventing Judgment Day and the destruction of mankind.)  Indeed, the most fun to be had in Terminator: Genisys is the way the film, in the first half-hour, recreates so many iconic moments from … [continued]

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News Around the Net

Here’s a fascinating/hilarious article assessing the Ghostbusters‘ Risky Business Plan.  Those of you in finance, take note!  And, speaking of Ghostbusters, here’s a link to 50 Reasons Why Ghostbusters Just Might Be The Greatest Film of All Time.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles show-runner Josh Friedman has a lengthy, funny, and sort-of-sad assessment of the cancellation of his show that is worth checking out.

Here’s an interesting piece about the Seven Director’s Cuts That You Didn’t Realize That You Wanted.   I DEFINITELY would love to see an alternate cut of The Fountain!

I loved this article about the 10 Most Polarizing Films of the Last Decade.  I strongly disagree with some of his opinions (I really enjoyed both Watchmen and Fahrenheit 9/11, while I had absolutely no patience for Eyes Wide Shut), but I was THRILLED to find someone other than me who loves the criminally underrated Vanilla Sky!!  Follow the link and join the debate.

Here’s another great list: The fine folks at DVDActive.com (one of my favorite DVD-related web-sites) have put together their list of the 10 Franchises That Deserve Better.  It’s a great read, and I am in full agreement with most of their choices.

Did you happen to catch William Shatner’s appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien last month?  Check out the clip on Trekmovie.com.  It’s worth watching for the insanity of the last 30 seconds.

Have a great weekend, everyone!  See you back here on Monday!… [continued]

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News Around the Net

Good news, everybody!  Futurama lives!!

So Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) is joining the cast of 24 next season?  Time for the Battlestar Galactica actors to learn what the members of the ensemble from The Wire have discovered: they’ll never again be in a TV show as good.

Did you see The Daily Show’s John Hodgman’s uproariously funny speech at the 2009 Radio and TV Correspondents’ Dinner?  Not to be missed.

A nice farewell to Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles can be found on Composer Bear McCreary’s excellent blog, as he lists his 15 favorite moments from the show.  (They are all excellent choices.)  This show had its flaws, to be sure, but I am really disappointed that we won’t be getting a third season.  (By the way, Bear was also the composer for the reinvented Battlestar Galactica throughout its run.)

Speaking of The Terminator, the fine folks over at filmschoolrejects.com have posted an interesting list of 20 Things We Didn’t Like and 10 Things We Did about Terminator: Salvation.

I don’t play videogames, but I must admit that this trailer for Lucasarts’ new Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer is ridiculously cool.  I wish we’d seen half that much bad-assery in the prequels…

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog has made his first appearance on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien!  Watch him make fun of some hippies here.

Have a great weekend, everybody!  See you back here on Monday!… [continued]

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“If you are listening to this, you are the resistance” — Josh Reviews Terminator: Salvation

Bottom line on Terminator: Salvation — It’s not as good a Terminator movie as I would have hoped for, but don’t believe the reviews, it’s not nearly the catastrophe you’ve been lead to believe it is.

Ever since James Cameron’s original masterpiece The Terminator (made in 1984, can you believe it??), we’ve been teased by glimpses of the post-Judgment Day future war against the machines.  With Terminator: Salvation, we’re finally being given a movie that is set entirely (except for a short prologue) in this post-apocalyptic world.  

The year is 2018, and things are looking pretty grim for mankind.  Most surviving humans are just focused on their own survival, but several small, rag-tag groups of resistance fighters are attempting to fight back against the machines.  John Connor is amongst them, but while his mother’s messages to him have provided him with valuable guidance, this John Connor has not yet become the leader of the resistance (nor has he sent his buddy Kyle Reese back in time).  Reese, meanwhile, is not yet a member of the resistance — he’s just a tough teenager trying to survive.  While Connor and Reese get a lot of screen-time, surprisingly, neither one of them is really the main character of the film.  That would be death-row inmate Marcus Wright, who signs his body over to Cyberdyne systems in 2003 and then wakes up in 2018 in a Skynet lab.

The way I see it, the film has three major weaknesses:

1.  Clearly this is a film written with the intention of focusing on a new character (Marcus Wright).  But when Christian Bale signed on to play John Connor, his role was significantly expanded.  The result is a movie that is split rather unevenly between those two characters and their storylines.  The film aspires to be an epic war-movie, telling multiple interweaving stories… but instead winds up losing the audience’s focus by not giving us a clear character in whose story we can emotionally invest.  Similarly to the way I can watch J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie and see clearly the way the character of old Spock was shoe-horned into the movie (Imagine that movie’s plot without old Spock — it would be NO DIFFERENT.   Kirk gets ejected onto the ice planet, finds Scotty, and utilizes Scotty’s engineering expertise to get himself beamed back to the Enterprise), I can clearly see how this film was not originally intended to focus on John Connor.  That explains why, despite Connor being in a lot of action scenes, he doesn’t have any real story-line in the film.  This isn’t a movie about his rise to the leadership of the rebellion, or about him running away from or facing … [continued]

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“Will You Join Us?” — Josh Reviews Season Two of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

April 14th, 2009

In my review of season one of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as well as my review of the season two premiere, I indicated that while there was a lot that I enjoyed about the show, I also felt that it was far from living up to its potential.

Now that season two has drawn to a close with the airing of “Born to Run” this past Friday (which just might turn out to be a SERIES finale, not just a season finale, as the Fox has not yet announced whether it will renew this ratings-challenged show), do I still feel the same way?

There is so much to enjoy about this exploration of the Terminator franchise.  The acting is solid, both amongst the main cast (particularly, to my great surprise, 90210‘s Brian Austin Green as Derek Reese, brother to the ill-fated Kyle Reese from the first Terminator film) and a high caliber group of guest actors that includes Richard Schiff (Toby from The West Wing), Dean Winters (Oz, 30 Rock) Stephanie Jacobsen (Battlestar Galactica: Razor) and, in the finale, Joshua Malina (Sports Night, 30 Rock).  The action and special effects are terrific, quite consistently impressive for a weekly television series.  We got to see a lot of great Terminator-on-Terminator combat, and some exciting peeks into the post-Judgment Day devastated future.  

The writers were ambitious in their story-lines, bringing back all sorts of characters and story-threads from the first two Terminator films (the show’s continuity ignores the third one), and taking viewers along on some fascinating explorations of the Terminator world and mythos.  I was overjoyed when the very first episode of season two introduced a new liquid metal T-1000 (like Robert Patrick’s fearsome character in T2).  That was a development I never expected to see.  One of my favorite episodes of the season also had one of the show’s most direct ties to the Terminator films — “The Good Wound,” in which a grievously wounded Sarah Connor hallucinates visions of the long-dead Kyle Reese. I mentioned above that we got some fascinating looks at the post-apocalyptic future that was briefly glimpsed in the two Terminator films, and I loved that the show wasn’t afraid to explore that time-line along with Sarah and John Connor’s adventures in present-day.  Stand-outs in this respect would be the episodes “Allison from Palmdale” in which we learned some of the background of Cameron, the female Terminator played by Summer Glau, as well as the really excellent two-part “Today is the Day,” which depicted an ill-fated submarine expedition lead by a Terminator that had been reprogramed by John Connor.  Or so everyone thought.

What was … [continued]

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The Chronicles Continue

September 11th, 2008

Since I decided to write an in-depth dissertation on Season 1 of Terminator: The Sarah Chronicles a couple of weeks ago (back on August 29th), it seems like I also should weigh in on the season premiere that aired this past Monday.

Over-all, it was a lot of fun — although since so much of the episode was SO good, the few parts of the show that were dumb were VERY annoying.

What did I enjoy?  The episode was INTENSE — right from the terrific opening sequence, picking up seconds after the end of season one’s finale, the show never stopped until the final moments.  Cameron, the Terminator protector played by Summer Glau, has had her control chip damaged, and she reverts to her primary programming: kill John Connor.  That was a great twist, turning the dynamic of the show on its ear.  There was some great action — several sequences with various cars and trucks getting mangled really were exciting.  Most of all, I really liked the DESPERATION of Sarah and John in this episode.  They were alone, injured, and on the run from an unstoppable Terminator for almost the entire hour.   I liked how everything they tried, until the end, failed to work.  About half-way through the show they’re able to knock Cameron out with an electrical surge, and John tries to pry open the panel in her head to remove her chip which, as we saw in other first season episodes (and in the extended version of T2), would shut her down.  Watching that, I thought — oh, so that’s how they’ll make Cameron a good guy again, that’s sort of lame — but IT DIDN’T WORK, and Cameron gets right back up and begins chasing John again.  That was a nice surprise.

Props to Summer Glau.  In some respects, as enjoyable as I’ve always found her to be, she has sort of played variations on the same not-quite-human character in Firefly, The 4400, and now in Terminator.  But her protrayal of the now-evil, damaged Terminator in this episode was really impressive.  Watch the way she moves — so different from the stealthy, lithe model she had been portraying in season one.  She really created a different character.  And she was scary.  Very impressive.

I should also add that I was really excited to see a new, somewhat familiar character be introduced in the closing moments of the show.  A GREAT introductory scene.  I really can’t wait to see where that goes.  

So what didn’t I like?  Well, I mentioned above that I enjoyed Sarah and John’s desperation in this episode — alone and on the run.  Part of what contributed … [continued]

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Chronicling the Chronicles: Season 1 of The Sarah Connor Chronicles Reviewed

Most of the sci-fi franchises that I grew up loving haven’t been doing too hot this past decade.  The lame AvP movies.  The disappointing Star Wars prequels.  And there hasn’t been any truly great Star Trek around since Deep Space Nine (by far the best series of the franchise) went off the air back in 1999.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached The Sarah Connor Chronicles.  I caught a bunch of the episodes last spring, and this week watched (in pretty short order), all nine episodes now available on DVD.  My reaction?  Well….sort of middle-of-the-road.  Actually, I feel about this series almost exactly the same way that I felt about the third, James Cameron-free Terminator film: there’s a lot to enjoy, and it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d feared, although its still a long way from the brilliance of the first two films.

The series starts off with a bang, with a cool apocalyptic vision of what will happen if Sarah and John fail to stop all the robots — nuclear armageddon, with a metallic Terminator robot, wreathed in flames, choking the life out of Sarah after having just shot John.  Of course, its just a dream — but its a pretty great way to kick off the series.  Not only does the sequence clearly remind the audience of what the stakes are, but its also a chance for the show to showcase some pretty snazzy effects.  I was rather impressed with the visuals throughout the first season — there’s a lot of great action stunt work (car chases, Terminator battles, etc.), and the show is able to show the fully robotic Terminators (as opposed to the ones clothed in flesh that can be played by an actor without special effects) a lot more often, and more convincingly, than I’d expected.  (I have no way of knowing, but I wonder if the show’s effects artists haven’t been able to capitalize on the groundbreaking work in this area done by the folks over at Battlestar Galactica.  They’ve been able to beautifully incorporate the full metal “toasters” into their live action shots for years now.)

Unfortunately, after the kick-off, things slowed down for the next several episodes.  We spend time with a computer programmer Andy Goode, whose chess-playing computer nicknamed “the Turk” may or may not be a first step on the road to Skynet…and with John and Cameron (his female Terminator protector, played by Summer Glau from Firefly) in school…and none of that really held my interest.  While there was some interesting serialization beginning to happen (Andy and the Turk’s storyline played out over several episodes, for example), there was also a paint-by numbers … [continued]