Monday, May 25, 2009

#133: Terminator Salvation


Terminator Salvation
Written by John D. Brancato & Michael Ferris
Directed by McG
Released May 21, 2009

To paraphrase Ahhh-nuld from Total Recall, consider this a divorce.

Terminator Salvation sucks robo-cock.

Astoundingly, it's not entirely the fault of hack director Joseph McGinty Nichol, also known as "McG," or almost as frequently as "the bag o'douche who made the two Charlie's Angels movies."

No, for the most part, McG does a serviceable job here. The film has a definite aesthetic (washed out and grainy) and tone (dead serious) and moves at a steady pace that belies it's 2+ hour running time. The sound and special effects are decent (a few scenes, like the one where Christian Bale's John Connor jumps from the back of a plane into the ocean, don't work so well) and there are a couple of memorable set pieces scattered throughout.

Okay, so he's still probably to blame for a few missteps. The main one I want to harp on is the insistence on using call-backs or references to previous movies. Look, we're sitting here paying to watch the fourth installment of a series that really didn't need to exist after the first sequel. Some of us in the audience have even watched your spin-off TV show. We are FUCKING NERDS. We don't need a character saying "I'll be back" in every single movie. We definitely don't need to bring back that terrible Guns N' Roses song that didn't even belong in T2. If I'm sitting in the theater even after the turd that was the series' third movie, that means we're 4 films into this relationship and you can stop bringing up our first date.

Beyond that, the real disappointment here is in the writing, dialog and acting. I have to admit that my interest was piqued when I heard Bale had signed on. Not that dude hasn't made a few stinkers/cash grabs (anyone else remember him as the heavy in the Shaft remake?), but at least it was reassuring that the producers were possibly putting some thought into this endeavor. The addition of Helena Bonham Carter was the cherry on top.

Not so much. Bale punches the clock with a unmemorable performance that makes you half expect for part of his face to fall of and reveal the character to be a cyborg. Bonham Carter fares much worse as the "face" of Skynet. It blew me away when I read they filmed her performance over the course of 10 days, since it plays like she was given 10 minutes and was held against her will at gunpoint.

The script is laughable (one of my favorite moments is when a robot motorcycle launches an attack and a character yells "Moto-Terminators!") and full of insane coincidences like characters figuring out how to make a working radio signal at the precise moment that Connor is addressing them. There's even a mute kid who happens to have on hand the exact item needed at several crucial moments in the movie. I just spilled a ton of gasoline for a getaway and you just happened to have a road flare on hand? This kid is a walking Bat Utility Belt.

I think this thing is heading down the same path of George Lucas's recent Star Wars prequels: a long wait for very little return. My guess is that this series takes at least one to two more movies to get to the very boring conclusion of Kyle Reese finally getting sent back in time to the original Terminator. Six movies to finally show us a time machine.

Patton Oswalt has a great routine about how the Lucas prequels tell a story that we didn't even want. "I don't give a shit where the stuff I love comes from, I just love the stuff I love!"

For more on Terminator: Salvation:
- Movie information at IMDB
and Wikipedia.
- The trailer can be found here.

Sexman disagrees with me:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

#132: The Wrestler


The Wrestler
Written by Robert D. Siegel
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Released 2008 (wide release January 2009)

Look, what can I possibly write that hasn't already been written about Mickey Rourke's performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson in The Wrestler? It's the role of a lifetime for the actor, and not a second goes by where Rourke isn't 100% sincere and believable.

The hype is true; The Wrestler is his glorious comeback (though, for my money, I'd actually place Rourke's comeback a few years earlier with his work as Marv in Robert Rodriguez's Sin City). Everything else that happens in the movie is incidental to his work. He could be fishing or reading the phone book, who gives a shit? You won't be able to take your eyes off that surprisingly expressive slab of meat on Rourke's shoulders.

The real revelation that everyone seems to be ignoring is a real stunner: that Darren Aronofsky can make a down-to-Earth, gritty and realistic film that doesn't feel as ponderous as a bad acid trip in a library of Philosophy textbooks.

If you've ever tried to sit through The Fountain like I tried a few weeks back, you know where I'm coming from. Even Aronofsky's finest hour as a filmmaker, Requiem for a Dream is an incredibly well made but emotionally taxing experience that few people could subject themselves to more than once, if at all.

He must have known full well that he was at the helm of the Mickey Rourke Show, because he goes incognito here and keeps the camera work handheld and -- from what I can tell -- digital. Considering the quick cuts and general business in his other work, his restraint here is impressive. Plus, it's pretty unbelievable that the same guy who made Requiem and Pi could make a scene that prominently features Ratt's "Round and Round" both poignant and romantic.

I enjoyed The Wrestler, but the movie as a whole is nothing compared to Rourke's performance. If you've ever seen a sports movie in your life, you'll be able to pick up the cues on where this is all heading for "The Ram." Tomei is okay here, though she isn't given much to work with. Evan Rachel Wood fares better with the few scenes she has as Rourke's distant daughter. Really though, the most flavor comes in scenes where Rourke mingles with actual wrestlers. The respect and love these guys have for each other behind the scenes really drive home why a battered old man could have such a hard time leaving the life that is destroying him.

For more on The Wrestler:
- Movie information at IMDB
and Wikipedia.

The trailer: