Terminator Genisys (2015)

Directed by: Alan Taylor
Starring: Arnie, a pair of Clarkes, Jai Courtenay and a very frustrated JK Simmons

Terminator Genisys is not a terrible film. It’s also not a particularly good film. Which is a shame, because this has now probably killed off the franchise now. Well, that is until Skydance Productions realise the rights are expiring and rush out another poor effort.

Time travel films are one of five things:

1. Ridiculously simple – just time travel from one timeline to another (original Terminator)
2. Simple – creative use of minor aspects of timelines/paradoxes (Back to the Future)
3. Complex – not muddled and uses timelines/paradoxes logically (Timecrimes)
4. Unnecessarily complex – all over the show with timelines/paradoxes, mostly poorly written (most stuff)
5. Primer

Needless to say, this falls firmly into category 4 and chokes a franchise with essentially treating this as a retread of the original film crossed with the excellent TV Show The Sarah Connor Chronicles.

Once you realise that it’s not a remake, it should be time to actually propel the story forward. Instead, it goes down the action tent-pole route of blowing shit up with a series of what are essentially “boss-fights” whilst the story depressingly catches up with it and takes a massive dump on the whole franchise. It’s one of those films where you cannot judge it on its own merits because it is clearly trying to be part of franchise canon. As a time-travel action film, it’s just about passable. Decent action etc.

But, as a Terminator film, it brings absolutely nothing new to the table – and this is simply because it refuses to leave the stories of the Connors and Reese as completed. For all its faults, at least Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines had a different angle when it came to who we met in the past. And again, Terminator Salvation kept everything in the future so as not to retread old ground. It really is just is rehash of the previous Sarah Connor focused material.

There are some neat ideas in there and the Genisys idea itself was one of them. It’s certainly not original, but had there been more focus on this then it could have had an element of social commentary about social media and inter-connectivity without even moralising over it. Yes, basically, it could have been a Black Mirror episode with Terminators. But no, its the Connors & Reese and a few new Terminator models – including one that seems to age.

It’s all a big mess, with John Connor turned into a Skynet slave Terminator in some attempt to bring a new angle to the franchise. It would have been so easy to take the Genisys idea and still produce an action tent-pole. Instead, it was a bunch of muddled ideas, too much time travel, the same old characters and all in all, a complete mess. Easily the worst film in the franchise.

Just leave the Connors alone now.

Overall: 4/10

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Battleship (2012)

Directed by: Peter Berg
Starring: Him from that thing, Alexander Skarsgård, Rhianna, Rob Roy

There are clearly three camps when it comes to making films from toys/games:

Camp 1: Toys (Lego, Transformers, My Little Pony)
Camp 2: Board Games (Clue)
Camp 3: Computer games (Let’s not go there)

Battleship is so loosely based on the game that it barely belongs in Camp 2, but let’s fucking put it there to finish off this clumsy opening to a film that barely deserves any words written about it.

When you think about the game Battleship, the first thing that would come to mind when hearing that a film is being made about it would be a tense sea battle set during a war. The last thing that you would think about is it being an alien invasion film. Okay, perhaps that wouldn’t be the last thing and maybe kamikaze puppies riding flying unicorns into narwhal ships piloted by kittens might ACTUALLY be the last thing you’d think of, but really, I know that this is “loosely” based on the game but I wouldn’t have thought of it unless a joint effort between Taito and Hasbro had been announced called “Battleship vs Space Invaders”.

Because this is EXACTLY that fucking film. And it could have been an absolute blast had it been done right.

Sadly, for such an expensive tentpole of a film, it seriously lacks the Viagra it needs to avoid it becoming a long drawn out non-penetrative tantric journey to a disappointing climax. [end: sex metaphor]

In general, Peter Berg has a pretty decent track record as a director, despite not actually directing a true classic – Friday Night Lights is probably his most well known work. He actually walked away from Dune to direct this, so perhaps we have something to be thankful for because that would almost certainly have been an utter disaster. Still, Battleship does seem out of place for him when compared to his other films.

Hasbro obviously misjudged the popularity if the risible but hugely profitable Transformers films. I half believe that they have warehouses full of unsold Travel Battleship that they would hope to shift with a post film popularity surge.

Obviously, that never happened as this flopped and basically sunk without trace. And it’s easy to see why when watching it on the small screen. It tries so hard to be a character driven film at times, that when the action scenes do come, you’re barely woken from the comatose state you’ve been in. Yes, great, they’re nice visual FX, but come the fuck on, did these aliens seriously come here to play some fucking game?

The concept of some of the world’s navies convening in the Pacific for some war games is quickly discarded as soon as the aliens plummet to Earth. It is also the same point that any chance of credibility goes. What follows once the 45 minutes are done is just a loud 90 minutes of explosions and splashes with the odd grunted line.

OF COURSE THEY’RE GOING TO WIN! Of course they’re going to beat a vastly superior pre-invasion force that have travelled across the stars with some contrived method to beat their defences. Because America, fuck yeah!

That’s it basically. A film that cost over $200m to make that brought in a little over $300 and probably more in vain attempt to market it. At the very least, they could have made it fun, but it wasn’t. It was painfully turgid and felt like what I would imagine falling asleep on a train toilet whilst constipated would feel like. Really, they should have gone with the kamikaze puppies idea.

But, as they didn’t, I now own the rights – and even if Roger Corman buys them from me, it would still be better than this utter shite.

2/10

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London Has Fallen (2016)

Directed by: A man directing carnage via semaphore & interpretive dance
Starring: SPARTA!, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman and the 2016 champions of the Terrorist Glee Club

Straight off the bat, this is not the worst film ever made. It’s bad, oh so bad, but it’s not even SPARTA’s worst film. Whilst Law Abiding Citizen spunks its premise all over the wall of abject misery, London has Fallen falls at the first hurdle, gets up, hits the next one, falls down a pit, climbs out and somehow manages to stumble over the finish line having delivered what it set out to do: be a functional sequel to Olympus Has Fallen and provide a few actors with a contractually obligated paycheck.

Apart from SPARTA! – this kind of shit is his bread and butter. When a film has the SPARTA mark of quality, you know what you’re getting into. He’s basically the gruff Scot to Jason Statham’s faux cheeky Cockney.

Basically, the whole film is just one big revenge flick played out on a grand scale in London, which destroys great chunks of London and obviously has a high ranking British guy as an insider that assisted the terrorists (who were apparently from “Fuckheadistan” according to SPARTA’s character). Because of course.

Over the years, we’ve become accustomed to action stars being indestructible, shaking off bullet wounds like it’s a mere scratch, surviving falls from heights without a broken limb. There’s no difference here, except whereas the action films of the 80s or 90s much of this was made semi-believable because of carefully choreographed action set pieces played out for reals, this is just another in a long line of tiresome action scenes where any sense of danger is eradicated in favour of visual FX. So, when SPARTA! and President Eckhart survive what is shown to be an absolutely catastrophic helicopter crash, you shrug it off just like they do as they run away from the scene as if they crash a helicopter a day.

This kind of scene is not the fault of London Has Fallen – this is endemic to today’s action films. No time for long and gruelling shoots: get them done and dusted, and then let the visual FX people take over. Most of the big set pieces were in the trailer – these looked atrocious on the big screen, but on the small screen they somehow looked even worse. At times, it looked like a war zone in Trumpton. It all had a model village look to some of the overhead shots of things blowing up.

You could forgive some shoddy FX if the action scenes were up to scratch, but apart from one half-decent car chase, everything else was all head-shots & CGI blood, or post-Bourne shakey-cam fight scenes. It’s just plain awful, but like I said, functional. It doesn’t try to moralise on anything. It’s sincerely dubious with its own morals, but it’s not lecturing you on anything. Some will say that it’s deeply racist, but in the end with a British mole, and a seemingly endless supply of corruptible Western mercenaries, it wasn’t as bad as many other films in this genre.

Still, it all ends well. President Eckhart survives, all the bad guys seem to die, no one ends up in courts tying up the criminal justice system and no one’s tax dollars are spent keeping the bad guys in jail for years. Everything is done and dusted and SPARTA! can go back to his family until the same shit happens to the same guy for a third time in the next instalment, The Planet Has Fallen, which will be an alien invasion flick. For reals.

Overall: 3/10

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The Last Stand vs Sabotage

The-Last-Stand-Soundtracksabotage-arnold-schwarzenegger-poster-

Let’s face it, Arnie has never been a great actor. He’ll be the first to admit this if I ever dared to say it to his face. However, it cannot be denied that he was once a great action star. From 2003 and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines to 2010 though, he was barely in anything and was clearly concentrating on his political career. The roles he did have were small non-action roles. Then Stallone came along and gave him a cameo in The Expendables and an extended role in the two sequels. Since then, it’s been pretty much all action.

As these two appeared on Netflix, it was time to investigate. None of The Expendables did it for me – I mean, If I fucking wanted The Dirty Dozen then I’d fucking watch The Dirty Dozen and not some half-baked, humourless and convoluted attempt at updating them.

Thankfully, Night 1 of the 2 Night double bill proves that Arnie can still make good choices when it comes to films. The Last Stand is Kim Jee-woon’s first Hollywood film. You may not know his name, but you might have seen one of his three most well known Korean films (A Tale of Two Sisters, The Good The Bad The Weird and I Saw the Devil). The Last Stand was never really going to exceed any of these, but at least it knows its limitations and gives you a fun ride. It is as close to one of Arnie’s 80s action films as you would hope. In terms of humour and ridiculous overblown characters, it is not too far removed from Commando. The balance between humour and violent action is just right – it never goes too far and is never gratuitously nasty (although Harry Dean Stanton’s unceremonious execution early on comes close). The supporting cast are good fun, especially the indestructible Luis Guzman and another polished rent-a-psycho performance from Peter Stormare. If there was one complaint about the film it’s that the bad bad guy is, well, a bit shit. Nothing against Eduardo Noriega who is a fine actor, but he just doesn’t seem bad enough and his attempts at being a psychotic drug cartel leader are the wrong kind of comical. Otherwise, this is a pretty solid film and a Arnie’s best for years.

On the other hand, Sabotage is an utterly risible piece of shit. It’s a nasty piece of work that is pretty close to gratuitous exploitation. The problem is is that it takes itself so seriously that it just comes across as mean spirited revenge (and at times, torture) porn. The poster states “From the Writer of Training Day and the Director of End of Watch” and you might think that you would be in for something akin to those. How wrong you would be. This is more like Law Abiding Citizen. In fact, it’s even worse than that. It’s one of the worst films I have ever seen, perhaps the worst now I’ve had a week to think about it. By setting up Arnie’s team of DEA Agents as dirty cops, it attempts to make you feel little sympathy for them as they are picked off one by one in bloody and vicious ways. Obviously you don’t, but after the first couple of deaths it just gets boring. There is absolutely no fun to be had here. There is very little action and when there is, it’s just shambolic and poorly orchestrated. There’s no real humour and when it attempts to be funny, it comes across as that one joke a comedian regrets. It also takes itself far too seriously. I know it’s a complete work of fiction, but the seriousness against the gratuitous gore just gets tedious quickly. Basically, fuck this film.

The Last Stand – 6.5/10

Sabotage – 0.5/10

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Irrational Childhood Fears #3 – “Rollercoaster”

Death by vomit!

Death by vomit!

In which a psychopathic killer played by Timothy Bottoms decides to make Americans shit scared of another thing by blowing the crap out of them. It was probably most noteworthy for being one of the few films to be released in “Sensurround”, which probably actually caused significant anal leakage throughout the film. It was one of those “disater” films that you just had to watch when it clogged up a 3 hour slot on ITV on a Sunday afternoon (which granted, is still an hour shy of the 4hr slot that gets taken up by “The Swarm”). It’s absolute rubbish, but in a good 1970s small-scale disaster flick way. Unlike the spinoffs and sequels it spawned, “Dodgems”, “Flume Shark” and “Rollercoaster 2: On the Rocks”.

BUT…

It gave me a completely irrational fear of anything fun. No, seriously. I lived in morbid fear of anything slightly fun being sabotaged with me as the sole target. The phrase “Do you want to go to Alton Towers?” was replaced by me running away in fear and hiding in a corner like a gibbering wreck before I reluctantly agreed to go as long as each ride was inspected before I went on them (even the Swan ride). Of course, nothing ever happened, but I was still struck by my internal fear. For instance:

  1. I dared not turn the light out at night. Without realising it I was leaving a shiny beacon for the psychopath attempting to sabotage something fun in my bedroom while I slept.
  2. I would check the swings in the local park (or any park for that matter) just in case they were primed to snap when I reached peak height. I failed to realise at the time that a bomb would have wiped me out anyway.
  3. I feared the goalposts when playing football. It did not help that my normal position was goalkeeper. This probably led to letting the ball through my legs in the last minute of a game. Well, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
  4. When I did go to a theme park and ended up going on a rollercoaster, every noise was doom, every shady looking person was the psychopath and if I saw one thing out of place then I just wanted to leave. It made for a miserable trip.

Looking back now, I realise that this was probably one of the most irrational fears that I suffered. When you think about it, why the fuck would anyone attack a rollercoaster? Well, apart from disgruntled ex-employees of a theme park or random psychopaths. The norm really. I now haven’t been on a rollercoaster since 1996.

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Irrational Childhood Fears #2 – “Jaws”

We lost the shark around about Manchester....

We lost the shark around about Manchester….

If you don’t know the story of “Jaws”, I’m going to assume that you have only recently starting watching shark based films in the wake of the likes of “Sharknado”, “Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus” and “Sharkback Mountain”. It’s the story of man vs shark in hand to dorsal fin combat, with the occasional bit of boat involved. It has some superfluous sequels where the action escalates into a full on sea war between humans and sharks (Note: the dolphins win) and eventually Michael Caine rescued us from further sequels. I loved these films, even the shit ones.

BUT…

God help me but I spent every waking hour living in morbid fear of a shark attack. Now, this would have been perfectly understandable had I lived my life on a well stocked raft drifting through shark infested waters with my only companion being some kind of hideous fish person (possibly Kevin Costner). But I was living about 50 miles from the sea at the time and the nearest water was a small brook outside of our house which only housed two known terrors: a) rats and b) super-rats made stronger by a probable nuclear/chemical spill from the local megalomaniac complex. No sharks. Still, my irrational fear manifested itself in a number of ways. For instance:

  1. I dared not turn the light out at night. Without realising it I was leaving a shiny beacon for the potential shark patrolling the neighbourhood looking for unsuspecting children.
  2. I would not use an inflatable lilo when in the sea. I’d go IN the sea, but not on a lilo. That’s because they slow you down and I would have ended up being THAT kid who died in a fountain of blood near the start.
  3. There was a shark behind everything. The sofa, the car, any tree.
  4. There was a shark in every cupboard large enough to house it. Under my bed, under the stairs.

I realise now that one of the major flaws of my irrational fear, well, the ONLY major flaw – sharks AREN’T land creatures! I know! It floored (and practically cured) me when I realised this. There I was sitting in my bed 5ft above the floor on the first floor of our house fifty miles inland at an approximate elevation of 200 metres above sea level fearing a shark attack. What the hell did I expect? A land shark????

Oh shit!

Oh shit!

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Irrational Childhood Fears #1 – “Two-Minute Warning”

"You maniacs!"

“You maniacs!”

To date, this is the only film I know of that serves as a pro AND anti-NRA PSA. It basically follows Charlie Heston and a SWAT team tracking down a sniper played by a no-mark actor that doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page that likes to reign terror during the “Two-Minute Warning” period of American Rugby games by firing willy-nilly at a bunch of cliche-ridden disaster film characters. It’s right up there with the best of 1970s magnificent cheese.

BUT….

It gave me a massive irrational fear of being sniped. In any location. I think I was about 9 or 10 when I saw it and probably did not think through my sniper avoidance tactics when the irrational fear struck. For instance:

  1. I dared not turn the light out at night. Without realising it I was leaving a shiny beacon for the potential sniper on the garage roof, or the houses at the back of our house to target through my curtains.
  2. I thought I was safe on higher ground, so where possible, I would seek it. I neglected to realise that it is absolutely feasible to fire guns upwards and a professional marksmen would have no problem hitting a small child on elevated ground that had failed to seek cover.
  3. I tried to avoid bell towers, spires, book depositories and open top stadia where possible. I forgot that any self respecting sniper would not restrict themselves to this narrow spectrum of perches.
  4. I wore a cap. Not a bulletproof helmet. A cotton cap. Maybe I thought the attempt at disguise might throw any sniper that had me in their cross-hairs. If so, why didn’t I go full fancy dress and put a fake chin and wig on? I will never know.
  5. I pretended I had a gun. Granted, this was only made of two fingers and a thumb, but this had proven effective in games of cops and robbers, so I was confident that when the time struck that it would strike a fatal blow to a sniper that I only noticed at the very last second. It was that confidence in my reaction time and poor calibre weapon that would surely have got me killed.

To this day I still walk around with a suspicious eye on the skyline, looking for the dreaded silhouette of a man with a powerful rifle waiting to pull the trigger and snuff me and ONLY me out of existence. Why? Because of “Two-Minute sodding Warning” that’s why.

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