Friday, July 17, 2015

Terminator Genisys (2015) movie review

Overall verdict: 7/10

The Good: Strong cast chemistry, filled with homages to the previous films and TV series, top notch special effects, continues themes of James Cameron's original films, actualises scenes and concepts that were previously cut in prior films.

The Bad: Mediocre music, stale lead characters, uses the "alternate universe" concept as a cop out, lacks any sense of tension despite the "chase" plot, 

3D Readiness: Post filming 3D conversion.

"An unknown future rolls towards us". This was a quote from the award winning classic science fiction movie TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY. But if poor Sarah Connor could only look further into the future, maybe she might not be facing it with a sense of hope. In THE TERMINATOR (the first movie), we end off the ominous quote "There's a storm coming"; an insanely accurate self-prophesy about the multimedia franchise that Terminator would become. A storm of half baked sequels, cliche ridden comic books, meandering novels, and a TV series cut down in its prime. Come 2015, the latest downpour in this storm rears its noisy head: TERMINATOR GENISYS.

With TERMINATOR GENISYS, the franchise goes back to basics. You know the drill: The future war ends in victory, the defeated machines send a killer back through time, good guys send a protector, killer and protector die while young protagonist accepts destiny and prepares to fight the future. But wait, there is a twist! That twist begins with this wooden piece of man named Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, the guy destined to be sent back through time to protect Sarah Connor. Courtney, looking bored and buff, lacking all sense of intensity and nuance that Michael Biehn had, tumbles into 1984 with mysterious new memories more unexpected twists. He is pursued by a shapeshifting liquid metal creature in the form of some Korean dude and is saved by......Sarah Connor and her pet robot Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I want a robot Arnold Schwarzenegger too, just not one that looks like a grandfather and grins like a moron. This is not your grandfather's Terminator. This craps all over your grandfather's Terminator. GENISYS shows us that James Cameron's first two films could have ended in a fraction of their run time. It does this by having our protagonists dispatch the terminators, who for the longest time were the epitome of "unstoppable killing machines", within this movie's first act.

Does that make this a bad movie? Not exactly. It is genuinely enjoyable, both for new fans and for followers of the franchise. For the latter, you have more references and homages to all past Terminator media, in some form or another. I admit, picking out all those homages was part of the fun of watching this. Adding to that is how this movie finally brings to the big screen scenes and concepts that were left on the cutting room floor in the past movies. Think of this as "Terminator: The Deleted Scenes". We get to see the final future battle with humanity capturing Skynet's time machine (cut from Terminator 1), we get to see two Arnold Schwarzenegger Terminators duke it out (original concept for Terminator 2), we get to see a terminator made out of cybernetic nano particles (a "gaseous" terminator which was a planned concept for T3 to continue the theme of "solid" in T1 and "liquid" in T2). And even if you never knew all this useless trivia (now you do) the spectacular special effects would leave you stunned.

Emilia Clarke and Schwarzenegger shine here. They share good chemistry between a joyless Sarah Connor resigned to her fate and an increasingly human Terminator cyborg dubbed "Pops". Kudos to the writer for continuing the strong theme of "family" that James Cameron had in his movies. Pops is the over-protective dad, Sarah is the rebellious teen daughter and Kyle Reese is the new boy who is destined to date and bed daddy's little girl. That chemistry between the cast gives their characters' relationship a good deal of weight and lends itself to some genuinely humorous scenes. The same can't be said for the wooden Jai Courtney or Jason Clarke's hammy over-the-top John Connor who looks like his face met the wrong end of a rake.

Story-wise, the whole "alternate universe" thing is such a cop-out, ripped from JJ Abram's STAR TREK. Yes it invalidates T3 and T:Salvation, but it also invalidates T1 and T2: Judgement Day. The direction by Alan Tylor is a bit of a mess here. Action gets a little hard to follow and the erratically paced plot never maintains its sense of tension. Unlike previous films, you don't really feel like our protagonists are in any real peril. In the past films, the protector is barely able to knock down the killer, and gets nearly killed each time they go one-on-one. The obsolete "old" Pops seems able to hold his own perfectly well against the new deadlier killer cyborg.(which thanks to a retarded advertising campaign, everyone knows is John Connor himself).

Where the director does nothing special with the camera, the writers at least try to continue the theme of blurring the line between man and machine. This theme is actualised in the new John Connor cyborg himself; a machine who is 100% the human it is designed to mimic. Then you have Pops. The most inhuman, rigid, machine-like cyborg who can't even mimic a proper smile. Slowly but surely, his knowledge of humanity grows right up to a simple but emotionally powerful climax where you realise that a machine, a Terminator, could finally learn to love.

I would rank this just ahead of Terminator Salvation and right behind TERMINATOR THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES. It is by no means as groundbreaking as the first two movies, but it is not as insipid as the third nor does it deviate from established themes like the fourth. A director that favours spectacle over character development and a musical score that remixes Brad Fiedel's original music in the style of Steve Jablonsky makes TERMINATOR GENISYS a slight disappointment for me. Until a worthy successor to the Terminator brand comes along, I'm going back through time and I am going to watch James Cameron's Terminator 1 and 2 all over again.

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Entertainment: B+
Story: B-
Acting: B+
Characters: B+
Music: C-
Replay value: B+
"Brains": B+

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Batman Unlimited: Animal Instinct (2015) direct to video animated movie

Overall verdict: 5/10

The Good: occasional smooth animation, superb voice acting, a touch of nostalgia

The Bad: generally sub par production values for a direct to video movie, juvenile script, laughable art and designs, forgettable music, animation short cuts,


Remember those 1970s and 80s cartoons that were created just to con kids into buying toys? Well the trend is back, and Batman is jumping on the bandwagon. Sporting a brighter coloured new suit, a colourful supporting cast and equally multi coloured villains, BATMAN UNLIMITED: ANIMAL INSTINCT is based on the recent colourful toy line by Mattel. Very colourful.
You all know the drill: hero team vs villain team. In this case, heroic Batman and pals vs the evil "Animalitia" in a citywide caper that sets the "kindness to animals" campaign back by a decade or so. The Penguin, Silverback, Cheetah, Manbat and KillerCroc are evil and want cheating now, that would be a spoiler. They want to do crime, so enter Batman N Pals Nightwing, Robin, Green Arrow and the Flash. Each one sporting a sharp pointy new look with "cool" spiked hair and diamond sharp chins. Not exactly a kid friendly toy design seem to like this sort of thing.
A lighter tone and story for Batman can work if done well (see BRAVE AND THE BOLD). Unfortunately this is not done well. Whether intentional or not, the script sounds like it fits right in with the worst episodes of the 80s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sans the pizza. They might as well have left the pizza in though because the script is cheesy as heck. Jokes aren't funny, humour feels out of place, but the excellent cast do a fantastic job with the sub par material at hand.
Roger Craig Smith reprises his role of Batman after having played the character in some of the "Arkham" series of video games. I like his batman voice. Almost like a young Kevin Conroy. What I did not like was the horrible character design of Batman (or most of the characters for that matter).
Looking like some bad Gatchaman cosplay made with Power Ranger pyjamas, this new batman design is hilarious! The supporting cast ain't any better either; Everyone looks "stretched" and I already mentioned the silly hair. Batman has got multiple suits (and no doubt a toy for each suit "each sold separately"), everyone gets a cool weapon or gadget and the "money shot moment" where they get to show it off, while daddy gets another toy or two to add to junior's "Christmas wish list". Maybe it's not the production team's fault for the silly designs. Blame Mattel.
It is the production team's fault for the sub standard art and animation. Characters barely have any shadowing or shading on them except in the extreme close-ups, just lazy flat colouring otherwise. The backgrounds have this techy futuristic vibe that reminds me of BATMAN BEYOND but they are equally flat and look worse off than Batman Beyond's lower quality episodes. The animation is barely better with its inconsistent nature. You have scenes that are smooth moving, an easy feat thanks to the simplistic artwork. But you have a good number of scenes that look like a flash animated Internet browser game. Robot animals don't transform much less "melt" from animal to motorbike. And i absolutely hate that cheapskate tactic of blurring key frames to create the illusion of movement! Some parts seem to be drawing from the worst excesses of Japanese anime with the speed lines and freeze frames, just more lazy animation at work.
Just because kids don't mind doesn't mean you give them animation on the cheap. If JLA TRAPPED IN TIME was the new millennium's "Superfriends", then BATMAN UNLIMITED is this decade's rehash of the 1970s "adventures of Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder". With production values of a TV series episode, perhaps this movie would be more suited as a pilot for a Saturday morning cartoon. Compared to other direct-to-video animation, this is ignorant fun for kids and a Cheesy, sub-par curiosity for adults who yearn for the nostalgic days of cartoons that sell toys.

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Entertainment: B-
Art: C-
Animation: C+
Story: C+
Voice Acting (English): A-
Characters: B-
Music: C
Replay value: D+
"Brains": D-