Thursday, December 28, 2017
”THE TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY” (1991) Review
Seven years following the release of the 1984 movie, ”THE TERMINATOR”, James Cameron wrote, produced and directed the first of three sequels called ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY”. Like its predecessor, the film starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton. It also became one of the most highly critical and successful action films of the 1990s.
Although released in 1991, the movie is set in 1995 – eleven years after the first one. John Connor (Edward Furlong) is now ten years old and living in Los Angeles with foster parents. His mother Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) had been preparing him throughout his childhood for his future role as the leader of the human Resistance against Skynet. Unfortunately, was arrested after attempting to bomb a computer factory and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane under the supervision of Dr. Silberman (Earl Boen), the psychiatrist who had examined time traveler Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) in the first film. Skynet sends a newly advanced Terminator, a T-1000 (Robert Patrick) that assumes the identity of a police officer, back in time to 1995 to kill John. Meanwhile, the future John Connor has sent back a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), identical to the one that attacked Sarah, to protect his younger self.
Like the first film, ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY” is a thrilling and tense action film that made breakthroughs in the area special effects in film. And like in the first film, Cameron and his co-writer, William Wisher Jr. (sans Gale Anne Hurd, who only served as a producer for this film), created a story that centered around a future cyborg sent back in time to prevent a certain John Connor from ever becoming the leader of the Human Resistance against the future self-aware computer system, Skynet. Perhaps I should have said one of the storylines. Thanks to information garnered by young John’s Terminator protector, the Connors learns that the man most directly responsible for Skynet's creation is Miles Bennett Dyson (Joe Morton), a Cyberdyne Systems engineer working on a revolutionary new microprocessor that will form the basis for Skynet. This particular storyline lead to one of the film’s more interesting scenes that feature Dyson’s reaction to the consequences his work and a great performance by Joe Morton. Another favorite scene featured the Terminator’s first rescue of John Connor from the T-1000 that had been sent to kill the latter. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s interactions with Edward Furlong not only provided some laughs in these scenes, but also a great deal of poignancy, as the two quickly form an immediate bond.
If I have to name one sequence that struck me as the movie’s pièce de résistance, it had to be the one that featured John and the T-800’s attempt to rescue Sarah from the Pescadero State Hospital, during one of her escape attempts. The entire sequence began with John convincing his T-800 savior to rescue his mother from the mental hospital in case the T-1000 came after her. John’s decision came at a time when Sarah decided to make her own escape after Dr. Silberman had rejected her request to receive a visit from her son. This exciting sequence culminated in a bizarre moment that featured Sarah’s first terrified glimpse of the T-800 coming to her rescue. By this time, the T-1000 had arrived at the hospital, killing anyone who stood in its way. This is probably one of the finest action sequences I have ever seen on screen in the past decade or two. And it is not surprising that it is the one sequence that many recall when speaking of the movie.
The movie had received a great deal of accolades for its special effects. Did it deserve it? In regard to the Industrial Light & Magic’s design of the T-1000, I would say yes. As for Stan Winston’s effects, I thought he did a good job. But I could find nothing to get excited about.
The movie also featured some pretty solid performances from the cast. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave a better performance in this film, considering that he was allowed to project more emotion than he did in the 1984 film. This is not surprising considering that the T-800 he portrayed in this film got to learn a great deal about human emotions from the 10 year-old John. Robert Patrick found himself in the same as Schwarzenegger was in the last film – portraying a remorseless and efficient killer with little emotion. And frankly, I found him just as scary. I had commented earlier on Joe Morton’s performance in a very important scene featuring his character, Myles Dyson. Not only do I stand by my comments, I would also like to add that I was impressed by his acting altogether. It was nice to see Earl Boen reprise his role as Dr. Silberman, the police psychiatrist who had examined Kyle Reese in the first film. My only gripe is that the movie never mentioned his first meeting with Sarah, back in 1984. Linda Hamilton had certainly wowed many fans of her transformation of the Sarah Connor character. In this movie, her Sarah is a tough and ruthless woman determined to ensure her son’s survival at any costs. And from the moment the camera first focuses upon her doing arm lifts inside her hospital cell, the audience gets a strong idea on how much Sarah had changed. But for me, the movie belonged to Edward Furlong, the first actor to portray future Human Resistance leader, John Connor. Furlong was around 13-14 years old at the time. And he did a superb job in combining the different aspects of the 10 year-old John’s personality – the child who had clung to his T-800 protector as a father figure, the bold and wayward delinquent that robbed from ATM machines and the tough street kid taught to survive by his high strung mother. It is not surprising that Furlong ended up winning both a Saturn Award and a MTV Movie Award for his performance.
Is ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY” perfect? No. In fact I have more than a few “quibbles” about the movie. Let me start with my first problem with this film . . . Linda Hamilton. Yes, I realize that I had complimented her performance in the previous paragraph. There were some positive aspects to it. But it also annoyed me. I had read that it was Hamilton who suggested that Sarah Connor become psychotic in the intervening years after her encounter with the Terminator in 1984. Frankly, I wish to God that Cameron had NOT taken her advice. I realize that fans loved this new aspect of Sarah’s personality. I did not. I saw no reason to turn her into a borderline psychotic in order to make her seem tough. And the movie never really explained why after so many years, Sarah had mentally gone around the bend. My second problem with the movie centered on the T-1000. I had no problem with Robert Patrick’s performance. I did have a problem that the movie’s main villain managed to disappear from the screen for nearly an hour. After Sarah, John and the T-800 managed to evade him following Sarah’s escape from the mental hospital, he simply disappeared, while they a) headed south toward the U.S.-Mexico border and then b) returned to Malibu and met Myles Dyson; and c) helped Dyson steal the central processing unit(CPU) and arm of the 1984 Terminator.. At least 45-50 minutes had passed before the T-1000 appeared on the screen again. And my biggest problem with this film centered around the finale and the T-1000’s attempt to use Sarah to capture and kill John. Why do I have a problem with this entire sequence? It was TOO . . . DAMN . . . LONG!! It was too long. Why did Cameron forced the audience to watch the T-1000 chase down and attempt to kill John for nearly a half hour? It was not necessary. And why on earth did Sarah believe or even hope that following the destruction of the CPU, the old Terminator’s arm and the 1995 T-800’s sacrifice; Judgment Day may have been averted? She had proof standing next to her that it would happen – namely her son, John. If they had really averted Judgment Day, John would cease to exist. Without Judgment Day, Kyle Reese would never have a reason to travel back to 1984 and meet Sarah Connor.
Do not get me wrong. I enjoyed ”TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY” a lot. It was a first-rate continuation of the original movie’s plot that involved one time traveler trying to prevent John Connor from becoming the Humans’ resistance leader and another time traveler sent to act as a protector. And in this movie, the protagonists also try to prevent Judgment Day. But there were times when I felt that its reputation as one of the finest science-fiction films ever made is overrated. I did not care for the psychotic turn of Sarah Connor’s character. The T-1000 managed to disappear from the story longer than necessary. In fact, the showdown between the Connors, the T-800 and the T-1000 dragged the film’s last half hour. But I would still recommend this movie to anyone who asked about it.
Wednesday, December 27, 2017
Below is a list of my favorite movies set during the Christmas holidays:
TEN FAVORITE MOVIES SET DURING THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS
1. "On Her Majesty's Secret Service" (1969) - George Lazenby starred in this adaptation of Ian Fleming's 1963 James Bond novel in which the British agent's search for the infamous terrorist Ernst Stravos Blofeld leads him to a clinic in the Swiss Alps. Directed by Peter Hunt, the movie co-starred Diana Rigg and Telly Savalas.
2. "Die Hard" (1988) - Bruce Willis starred in this adaptation of Roderick Thorp's 1979 novel "Nothing Lasts Forever", in which a New York City police detective is trapped inside a Los Angeles office building, when his estranged wife and her co-workers are held hostage on Christmas Eve. Directed by John McTiernan, the movie co-starred Bonnie Bedalia and Alan Rickman.
3. "The Thin Man" (1934) - William Powell and Myrna Loy starred in this adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's 1933 serialized novel about a retired private detective and his socialite wife who are drawn into a murder case that involves a missing businessman. W.S. Van Dyke directed.
4. "Trading Places" (1994) - Dan Ackroyd and Eddie Murphy starred in this comedy an upper-class commodities broker and a homeless street hustler whose lives cross paths when they are unknowingly made part of an elaborate bet by the broker's bosses - a pair of wealthy brothers. John Landis directed.
5. "Lethal Weapon" (1987) - Richard Donner directed this buddy cop tale about two mismatched LAPD detectives whose investigation into the death of a young prostitute leads to a well organized drug ring led by a former military intelligence officer. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover starred.
6. "Iron Man 3" (2013) - Tony Stark aka Iron Man deals with a ghost from the past, who has found a new and dangerous method to create super soldiers. Directed by Shane Black, the movie starred Robert Downey Jr. as the armored super hero.
7. "The Santa Clause" (1994) - Tim Allen starred in this holiday classic about an ordinary man who is slated to become the next Santa Clause after he accidentally causes his predecessor to fall from a roof on Christmas Eve. John Pasquin directed.
8. "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" (1990) - Bruce Willis starred in this second "DIE HARD" film, an adaptation of Walter Wager's 1958 novel, "58 Minutes", in which terrorists take control of the Dulles Airport control tower. Renny Harlin directed.
9. "Home Alone" (1990) - Macaulay Calkin starred in this holiday hit about a Chicago boy, who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for their Christmas vacation, is forced to contend with a pair of would-be burglars. Directed by John Hughes, the movie co-starred Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
10. "The Ice Harvest" (2005) - Harold Ramis directed this adaptation of Scott Phillips' 2000 novel about a shady Midwestern attorney and his partner, who plot to swindle the local mob on Christmas Eve. John Cusak, Billy Bob Thornton and Connie Nielsen starred.
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Below are images from the new action movie, "2 GUNS". Based on the graphic novel of the same title and directed by Baltasar Kormákur, the movie stars Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg:
"2 GUNS" (2013) Photo Gallery
Sunday, December 17, 2017
"BLANCHE FURY" (1948) Review
I suspect that many fans of costume dramas would be fascinated to know about the series of period dramas released by the British film industry during the post-World War II era. A good number of those films were released by a British film studio known as Gainsborough Pictures. But not all of them were released through this particular studio. Some were released through other studios or production companies . . . like the 1948 period drama, "BLANCHE FURY".
Based upon the 1939 novel written by Marjorie Bowen (under the pseudonym of Joseph Stearling), "BLANCHE FURY"told the story of two lovers during the 1850s, who become embroiled in adultery, greed and murder. More importantly, Bowen's novel and the movie was inspired by a real-life case involving the 1848 murder of an estate owner and his adult by a tenant farmer trying to stave off a bad mortgage. The story surrounding "BLANCHE FURY" proved to be a bit more complicated and melodramatic.
The story begins with a beautiful impoverished gentlewoman named Blanche Fuller, who is forced to serve as a domestic companion for a wealthy woman (think of Joan Fontaine in 1940's "REBECCA"). To Blanche's great relief, she receives an invitation to become governess for the granddaughter of her rich uncle Simon Fuller. Upon her arrival, Blanche becomes romantically involved with Simon's only son, the weak-willed Laurence. She learns that her uncle and cousin have assumed the surname of Fury, which belonged to the previous owner of the estate, the late Adam Fury. She also meets Philip Thorn, Adam's illegitimate son, who serves as the estate's head groom and resents Simon and Laurence's possession of his father's estate. Blanche decides to marry Laurence for the sake of security and wealth, but becomes dissatisfied with her marriage. She and Philip also fall in love and quickly drifts into a sexual affair. Longing for possession of both Blanche and the estate, Philip drags Blanche into a plot that leads to double murder.
The first thing that caught my attention about "BLANCHE FURY" that it is a beautiful looking film. Producer Anthony Havelock-Allan, director Marc Allégret and cinematographers Guy Green and Geoffrey Unsworth really made use of the Technicolor process. And if I must be brutally honest, I could say the same for the costumes designed by Sophie Devine, who created some colorful outfits for leading lady, Valerie Hobson, as shown below:
Despite my admiration for the photography and costumes, I was not that impressed by the set designs and especially the production designs. Well . . . let me take some of that back. I had no problems with John Bryan's production designs for scenes featured in smaller rooms - Philip's quarters and a private bedroom or two. But I was not impressed by scenes in large rooms - you know, the drawing room, foyer or library of the Fury manor. Quite frankly, these "sets" resembled badly made matte paintings instead of lived-in rooms. Lifeless. An individual museum room with a collection of paintings looked warmer.
But I certainly had no problems with the story. The latter begins with Blanche in the process of giving birth before it flashes back to her days as a paid companion. Thanks to the screenplay written by Audrey Erskine-Lindop and Cecil McGivern, audiences received several glimpses into Blanche's mindset - her frustrations as a paid companion and later, as wife to the weak-willed Laurence Fury; her sexual fascination with Philip Thorn and the later realization that she had bitten off more than she could chew, thanks to Philip's murder plot. For me, the most memorable scene in the entire movie featured an argument between the unfaithful Blance and the arrogant Laurence, who had insisted that she interrupt her rest to entertain a guest who had arrived with him and his father in the late evening. Blanche's blatant refusal to blindly obey her husband nearly caused me to stand up and cheer, despite the fact she had spent the last 24 hours cheating on him with Philip. I had an easier time understanding Blanche than I did Philip. He seemed to have this attitude that the Fury estate should have been given to him, despite being born on the wrong side of the blanket. And the fact that he was willing to destroy the Fuller-Fury clan (with the exception of Blanche), including Laurence's young daughter, left me feeling cold toward him in the end.
"BLANCHE FURY" featured some very solid performances, despite a penchant for some of the cast to nearly drift into slightly hammy acting. I could never accuse Valerie Hobson of overacting. Mind you, her performance did not exactly knock my socks off, but I thought she did a pretty job. Her best moments proved to be the Blanche/Laurence quarrel and Blanche's horror over Philip's arrogant behavior following the deaths of her husband and father-in-law. I had recently come across an article suggesting that Stewart Granger was not exactly the most skillful actor. Recalling his performances in movies like "KING SOLOMON'S MINES", "SCARAMOUCHE" and "BHOWANI JUNCTION", I found this opinion hard to accept. But a part of me could not help but noticed that his performance in "BLANCHE FURY" - especially in the movie's last half hour - threatened to wander in the realm of the melodramatic. Otherwise, I found his performance satisfactory. Michael Gough fared just as well as Miss Hobson as Laurence Fury - especially in the memorable Blanche/Laurence quarrel scene. Though, there were moments when I thought he would go a little overboard. Sybille Binder, who portrayed the Furys' stoic housekeeper Louisa was just that . . . stoic. I thought she would play a major role in the movie. But in the end, I felt that her time was more or less wasted. Susanne Gibbs made a very charming Lavinia Fury, Laurence's young daughter. But I thought the best performance came from Walter Fitzgerald, who portrayed Blanche's no-nonsense uncle (later, father-in-law) Simon Fury. I found it rather interesting that Fitzgerald could portray such a blunt character with great subtlety. He seemed to be the only cast member who did not threatened to become melodramatic.
I may have had a few problems with "BLANCHE FURY". But if I must be honest, I found it entertaining and rather satisfying. Thanks to Marc Allégret's direction, Audrey Erskine-Lindop and Cecil McGivern's entertaining screenplay, Guy Green and Geoffrey Unsworth's photography and a solid cast led by Valerie Hobson and Stewart Granger, I found the movie more than satisfying.
Friday, December 15, 2017
While watching my DVD set box for Season Four of "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER", I came across this Thanksgiving episode called (4.08) "Pangs" and wrote the following article about it:
"BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" RETROSPECT: (4.08) "Pangs"
Season Four has never been that popular with fans of "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER". It was the first season that did not feature the vampire Angel as a regular character. And it marked the beginning of Buffy Summer's romance with university teaching assistant/Army demon hunter Riley Finn. And many fans were not that thrilled by the Initiative storyline. I have never had a problem with Season Four. Mind you, I would not count it as among my top four out of seven seasons. But it featured at least two of my favorite "BUFFY"episodes of all time. And one of them is the holiday-themed "Pangs".
While preparing a Thanksgiving feast for her close friends in the absence of her mother, University of California Sunnydale student and vampire slayer Buffy Summers encounters the restless and vengeful spirit of a Native American, called Hus, whose people - the Chumash tribe - were wiped out by Spanish and American settlers. Hus's spirit was released during a groundbreaking ceremony for U.C. Sunnydale's new Anthropology building. Hus managed to murder the Curator for the building's museum and a local priest who had attending the ceremony. During her frantic efforts to prepare Thanksgiving and deal with Hus, Buffy is unaware that former boyfriend Angel has returned to Sunnydale to keep an eye on her, after a friend of his (former regular character Cordelia Chase) has received a vision of her being in danger. She is also unaware that soon-to-be boyfriend Riley Finn is part of an U.S. Army program called the Initiative, which hunts down and experiments on demons. One of the Initiative's victims turned out to be Buffy's current nemesis, vampire Spike, who had managed to escape from his Initiative prison in the previous episode, (4.07) "The Initiative". Due to his inability to feed upon or commit violence against humans, Spike is slowly starving. He first seeks help and refuge from fellow vampire Harmony, who refuses to have anything to do with him. Desperate, he turns to Buffy and the other Scoobies for refuge in exchange for information about the Initiative.
"Pangs" did provide a few problems for me. One, the episode's writer, Jane Espenson, erroneously stated that the Chumash had been wiped out. Despite the Spanish, Mexican and American governments; the band still exists. Two, Buffy informed her friends that her mother Joyce left Sunnydale to spend Thanksgiving with an aunt. Why did Buffy, who was eighteen at the time, stay in Sunnydale? Why did she fail to accompany her mother for what was obviously a family gathering? Did Buffy have something against this particular "Aunt Pauline"? Three, during her last fight with Hus and the Chumash spirits he had summoned, Buffy unsuccessfully used her knife on Hus and claimed that he and his fellow spirits do not die. Yet, in a scene later, Angel managed to break the neck of one Chumash spirit and impale another with a knife. Hmmmm . . . I smell inconsistency in the air. And four, Angel's visit to Sunnydale led to the "ANGEL" Season One episode, (1.08) "I Will Remember You", which I loathe with every fiber of my being.
Aside from these narrative hiccups, "Pangs" remains a personal favorite of mine. At first glance, it seemed like a stand-alone episode that had nothing to do with the season and series' plot arc. As it turned out, it did."Pangs" marked the first time Spike would hang out with the Scoobies. It led to another setback in Buffy and Angel's relationship. It marked the first time that the Scoobies became aware of the Initiative, thanks to Spike. And it provided another chapter in Buffy's growing relationship with Riley Finn. This seems like an awful lot, considering that this episode mainly focused on Buffy dealing with a Thanksgiving feast and a vengeance spirit - two topics that were quickly resolved by the end. But Espenson and director Michael Lange. But the best things I can say about "Pangs" is that it featured superb performances and some incredibly funny dialogue and camera visuals.
I tried to think of some of the best dialogue found in the episode and came across several lines. Among my favorites featured Buffy's ability to remain focused . . . or obssessed with her feast, while discussing their problems with Hus. However, one should not be surprised that Spike was responsible for the funniest moment in the episode in a scene that featured both Buffy and her friend Willow Rosenberg's reluctance to destroy Hus, due to their guilt over the country's past with Native Americans:
BUFFY: Will, you know how bad I feel. This is eating me up -- (to Anya, who holds up the bottle of brandy) -- a quarter cup, and let it simmer -- (to Willow, as Anya goes back) -- but even though it's hard, we
have to end this. Yes, he's been wronged, and I personally would be ready to apologize...
SPIKE: Oh, someone put a stake in me!
XANDER: You got a lot of volunteers in here...
SPIKE: I just can't take this mamby-pamby boo-hooing over the bloody Indians!
WILLOW: The preferred term is --
SPIKE: You won! All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do! That's what Caesar did, he's not going around saying "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it!" The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, you massacred them, end of story!
BUFFY: Well, I think the Spaniards actually did a lot of... not that I don't like Spaniards...
SPIKE: Listen to you! How are you gonna fight anybody with that attitude?
WILLOW: We don't want to fight anybody.
BUFFY: I just want to have Thanksgiving.
SPIKE: Yeah, good luck.
WILLOW: If we could talk to him --
SPIKE: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick.
James Marsters really acted the hell out of that scene. And I am not surprised. To this day, I believe that his portrayal of Spike was one of the best television performances I have ever seen . . . period. And he was really marvelous in this episode. So were Anthony Stewart Head, who did a top-notch job in giving a comic twist to a Rupert Giles who found himself manipulated by Buffy into holding the Scoobies' Thanksgiving feast at his apartment; Alyson Hannigan, who was also superb as best friend/witch Willow Rosenberg, who did not hesitate to express her conflict between dealing with Hus and her guilt over the region's ugly past in dealing with the Chumash people. Nicholas Brandon and Emma Caufield gave fine support as Buffy's two other friends, Xander Harris and former vengeance demon Anya Jenkins. Marc Blucas was charming as Buffy's soon-to-be boyfriend, Riley Finn. And he was ably supported by an exuberant Leonard Roberts. Mercedes McNab displayed excellent comic timing in scenes that featured recently sired vampire Harmony Kendall's encounters with Spike and Xander. David Boreanaz took a break from his new series at the time, "ANGEL" to give an intense, yet at times funny performance as Buffy's ex-vampire squeeze, Angel. But the real star of this episode was Sarah Michelle Gellar. She gave both a hilarious, yet poignant performance, revealing Buffy's somewhat obssessive determination to make her Thanksgiving a success. In fact, I believe I enjoyed her performance even more than Marsters. And that is quite an accomplishment, considering that Marsters is a natural-born scene stealer.
Yes, "Pangs" had a few problems. And its main narrative surrounding the dangers of a Native American vengeance spirit did not exactly strike me as memorable. However, I do believe that the narrative made an interesting comment on how conflicted Americans have become in viewing our county's history. More importantly, Spike's comments on the cirumstances that led to Hus' path of vengeance is a brutal reminder of how monstrous human beings can be - a foreshadow of the Scoobies' future behavior later in the series. Thanks to Jane Espenson's hilarious script, Michael Lange's direction and a superb cast led by Sarah Michelle Geller, "Pangs" remains one of my favorite "BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER" episodes to this day.
Sunday, December 10, 2017
Below are images from Season One of the BBC drama, "INDIAN SUMMERS". Created by Paul Rutman, the series starred Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Nikesh Patel, Jemima West and Julie Waters:
"INDIAN SUMMERS" (2015) Photo Gallery