Terminator Series Commits Suicide, McG to Blame

The new film Terminator Salvation is not just bad… it’s absurd, ridiculous, boneheaded and an absolute atrocity.  The producers of this film should be vastly ashamed for not just killing the series (Terminator III already started the slow death, this one just deals the final blow), but for making me lose all interest in any Terminator film or storyline ever again.

I had a hint that this film was in a sad state when it seemed that McG, the “visionary director” behind this enormous waste of time had forgotten that he showed the name of the film once in the opening credits.  It’s truly baffling.  It’s as if he was totally not paying attention or, as I said to my friend upon exit, he just wanted us to be really sure we wanted to sit through this disaster.  The opening credits have the typical summer blockbuster 3-D titles swirling about in the background… yeah, those letters that you know will eventually come together to spell TERMINATOR SALVATION.  But uhh, before that, a white font pops up on the screen to tell us that.  Then after a few more names, the letters finally do what you expect: they come together to form the title of the film again.  TERMINATOR SALVATION.  It reminded me of a flight attendant who starts every flight with an announcement of the final destination and advises that if this is not your final destination, you should deplane at this time.

Take my advice and deplane.

I didn’t, so I sat through the rest of this cinematic diarrhea with my expectations lowering with each passing frame until there just weren’t any left.  I’m not going to bother detailing the plot because A) I hate spoilers and B) there’s no plot to detail.  There is what seemed to be the germination of a half-baked good idea, but then when McG gets the budget from the studio and an A-list dramatic actor like Christian Bale he just goes to town in an effort to prove himself.  Someone please drag his punk ass back to Drew Barrymore‘s house and let them spend inordinate amounts of time trying to figure out Charlie’s Angels III.

I mentioned Christian Bale, so now I must deal with him.  I read once that Christian Bale almost deplaned from this trip and I wish he had.  I have lost so much respect for this guy that I could care less if I ever see him again.  Jonathan Nolan should probably take note and start looking for a new Bruce Wayne.  Christian Bale is so full of himself in this film that he makes that cheesy growling voice from The Dark Knight seem like Oscar material.

The action sequences in this film aren’t that bad but they feel very stitched together.  It’s as if the continuity person walked up to the director every couple of days and said, “Uhm, it’s only been 4 or 5 minutes of film time since we blew some shit up, so we should probably do something about that.”  The end result is action sequences when you least expect it and violence that goes on far longer than it probably should.

Kudos also to the cinematographers of this work who have taken great pains to come up with creative shots for just about every action scene.  Someone took some camera lessons from the Coen brothers here, perhaps.  Either that or they were trying to shoot a Terminator film in the vein of Raising Arizona to let film buffs know that they feel this movie is just as absurd as you do (in a subtle kind of way, of course).

There is one particularly exciting sequence involving a gas station, expendable humans and one seriously large, pissed off Terminator.  I highly enjoyed this scene and it stands out in my mind as a real hallmark of the film’s technical achievements.  However, after that scene, do yourself a favor and walk out.  The ending of this film is not only absurd, it questions whether or not anyone was thinking through this fertilizer at all.

To tell you the truth, even Danny Elfman‘s score was forgettable.  Usually I’m a fan of Danny Elfman’s work but this was clearly not his typical, fast-paced orchestral tour de force that I am used to.  I scarcely remember a note.  It could be because there was just too much shit blowing up all the time, but who knows.

Christian Bale is absolutely pathetic as the “oh woe is me” John Conner.  Helena Bonham Carter is dreadfully awful as… some weirdo doctor who wastes my time.  Sam Worthington plays a character who could have had a decent impact on the mythos of the Terminator canon but he blows it just like everyone else.  Moon Bloodgood is the female side of the film who doesn’t talk much… probably because she knows it’s better that she just phone this one in and pick up the check.

I cannot encourage you enough to withhold your money on this one, folks.  As a matter of fact, I’m so outraged by this film and how bad it is that I simply had to sit down and write a blog post about it before any more of you go out there and give these idiots one more cent of your hard earned cash.  Stay at home and write a nice letter to James Cameron instead.  He’ll need the positive thoughts after seeing what these people have done to his baby.

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Missed Opportunities in Star Trek

Star Trek fans Joe Latrell (L), in a Star Trek...
Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

FOREWARNING: SPOILERS.  IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN STAR TREK, STOP READING NOW.

While I’ve been on a trip for the day job this week in downtown Dallas, TX, some of us found time to check out of the action and head over to catch Star Trek a second time.  It’s purely logical that a few NASA geeks want to check it out again, yes?

We found an awesome theatre in downtown Dallas somewhere on Inwood St., I do believe.  What was so awesome about it is that all of the seating were mega-comfy couches and love seats.  We all tossed ourselves into a lounge seat and soaked up the movie for the second time.

This time around I was able to confirm some feelings that I walked away with when I saw the movie first.  While I absolutely love J.J. Abrams‘ work and I absolutely adore what he’s done for the Star Trek franchise, there were a few directorial errors that I felt were pretty glaring.  I hope he’s able to correct them in a director’s edition on DVD.  Just in case he happens to read this blog and care about my opinion (because it’s right), I’ll share it here with you.

  • There could have had some very crowd pleasing moments at the end.  Kirk’s vengeance against Nero could have been exploited to rousing applause.  Why wasn’t it?  Don’t want to show Kirk as a monster?  You could have gotten away with this due to the character’s maturity level, I believe.
  • Movie is far too short.  There should have been some exposition to explain the back story of a few subplots, but I feel like it was sacrificed either for A) pacing or B) to keep Kirk painted in a certain light.  For instance – I’ve heard that Kirk’s hack on the Kobeyashi Maru succeeded because he was seducing the green-skinned chick, who worked on the simulation.  That should have been left in.  Again, perhaps it wasn’t because it may show Kirk objectifying women… and again, due to the character’s age, I think that would have been acceptable and realistic.
  • Overall, the Kobeyashi Maru scene was disappointing.  It would have been much more interesting if Kirk had played the simulation better and acted his part even though he knew the final result.  Having the computers flicker was also a pretty sad call.  I believe viewers could have figured out what happened if the previous explanatory scene regarding the hack had been left in.

Let’s remember folks – Kirk was a kid in this film.  Everyone knows that Kirk’s “I don’t like to lose” mantra always comes first, which is partly why we liked him.  Let’s also remember that he objectified every single female alien in the Federation even when he was older, so why couldn’t we have dealt with that in this new version?

Overall, great film – but at least you know what my version would have looked like too 🙂

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First Video Podcast Released Today

Today I had the honor of putting together the first “real” video podcast for The DVD Marquee, a DVD/movie podcast site run by Jeffrey Rosado.

Those of you who know me very well know that I’ve been dreaming of putting together a new media company.  Jeff, a longtime friend of mine, shares this dream.  He had the notion to fire up a quick video podcast for the Oscars this year and, despite the extremely tight deadline, he managed to land equipment and a location.  He shot from 10:00pm til 1:30am, then came over to my place to spend another 5 hours in editing.

The end result is what I’m proud to say is our first video podcast produced under the Red Abstract Productions banner.  It has a few rough spots, but I think it’s a good start.

For anyone who is curious – this was shot with a Sony miniDV cam with available light in the movie theater (yeah, I know, we’re working on lights!).  It was all color-corrected in post and edited with iMovie ’09 and Soundtrack Pro on a Mac Pro 8-core with 4gb of RAM.  We had intended to use all of the pro tools (Final Cut Studio 2), but being under the gun for time, we stuck with the basic editor because that’s what we know the best right now.

You can pick up the video podcast here.

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Is it time to rate online video?

An example of a typical ESRB content descripto...Image via Wikipedia

As the parent of two children (soon to be three) and knowing the types of films that I would produce if I could – a question came to my mind while doing the dishes tonight.

Earlier I had been engaged in working on a script for an online short that I think will just be fan-damn-tastic, but admittedly would garner quite the R rating if it were to be shown in a movie theatre.  Knowing that, it makes me wonder how far it’s going to get around Youtube before someone finds it offensive.

Logically, that lead my thoughts down the path of questioning.  Should the online media industry be rating itself?

Again, I’m a parent.  My kids use the net.  My 15 year old has rarely been shielded from anything (ever), so there’s not too much worry there.  But my son who is quite a young age probably shouldn’t be entirely exposed to some of the grit and grime that is available on the net today.  All of these videos can be pulled up without warning to the viewer or parent and consumed almost instantly over broadband.  Do we have a responsibility for rating that content?

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m the last person in this world that would advocate censorship.  But I do think it’s a good idea to let people get clued in to what they’re about to be exposed to.  The MPAA sets a poor model for rating films in my opinion.  The ESRB seems to have a somewhat better reputation, but I’m sure that if I spent some time reading up on gaming circles there are people who just absolutely cannot stand the ESRB.

Ultimately, it’s a fallacy to ask any one group or agency to deem what is appropriate or inappropriate content for the entire world; not that it stops the Americans from trying to levy content controls.  But whatever.  I don’t pretend to think it’s a good idea that some group based in the US or France, for that matter, deciding what is appropriate for my 4-year-old son to watch.

I think I would propose a standards organization that would define criteria and some time of letter system that is able to quickly point out that there is harsh language, sex, brutal violence and strong gore in a short film, for example.  Utilize the standards process that has… cough… worked so well for so many other Internet-related activities in the past… well, okie, depends on who you ask… but you get the idea.  Have a standards council made up of multiple countries that agree to define criteria by which responsible-minded producers can rate their own media and provide a slate containing that information.  I’m sure that later down the line, media players and web browsers could understand that rating and adjust the viewing of the content appropriately.  I’m well aware that there is a content rating system for web pages, but it is poorly used and implemented and I suppose I would rather see it embedded in the media file itself rather than on a web page or in the HTML code.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?  As I move forward with trying to start my own media company, I will certainly be including some type of information about the content of the videos.  Because honestly, some of the videos we plan to produce are not fit for a 4-year-old to consume.

Interesting thoughts, nonetheless.  Wonder when a real discussion will form on this subject, since hardly anyone reads this blog?

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Guest spot on The DVD Marquee

Just a heads up, in case you give a damn. I’ve occasionally been guesting on a podcast named “The DVD Marquee” with Jeff Rosado. Last night we hammered out a scheduled 30-minute-but-really-1.5-hour-broadcast on The Dark Knight.

If inclined to listen to the discussion, you can catch it here. We talk pretty much at length about the production including the script’s themes, the acting and everything else relevant to a film.

Hope you enjoy it!

Indiana Jones review

Three words: Consistent and fun.

The historical “situation” he gets wrapped up in is pretty funny this time around.

Good film, lots of fun. Don’t expect enlightenment, but expect fun.

Jin and Sun as Figures of Tragedy

I feel like I can always count on episodes of Lost that are centered on Jin and Sun to bring tears to my eyes. There’s a subtle, consistent thread that exists about these two; they are figures of traditional tragedy, especially tonight.

Okie, that’s all I’ll say plot-wise, because I know some of you may have DVR’d it. I’ll try to express this without giving it away.

The story of Jin and Sun has an inherent overtone of tragedy. Sun’s secrets have always made the story quite tense and Jin’s undying devotion to his wife just makes it all the worse. It’s sad to see them struggle with their lives and relationship.

In many ways I feel like this couple is also an homage to Asian cinema. I have yet to run across a truly happy Asian film. Most Asian cinema is just really, really damn sad. If you want a feeling of complete despair, I challenge you to check out Farewell, My Concubine or Raise the Red Lantern (MGM World Films). Don’t get me wrong, this is good, hard stuff, but it’s really tragic.

I didn’t really understand them to be an homage to Asian cinema until I pointed out tonight that every Jin/Sun story in Lost is quite tragic, leading up to what will surely be quite a tragic end to their plot thread. My wife simply smiled and summed it up, “They’re Asian.”

Wink wink, nod… yes, they’re Asian, and it’s entertainment, so by design, I expect their story to have a terribly tragic ending I’m sure. I’ll applaud all the way to the Kleenex box.

A Podcast Debut

This morning I was informed that the podcast roundtable was posted. I participated in this roundtable last week. Our discussion went on for a good hour and twenty minutes or so, but Jeff managed to whittle it all down to 23 minutes. I’m not sure how he managed that, but I’m looking forward to hearing it.

Just in case you’re curious, hit the podcast here. In case you’re wondering, it’s an Oscars roundup. If you have no interest in the Oscars, at least you were warned 😉

The Oscars

So I finally get to sit and watch what amounts to the last half of the Oscars. It seems like I didn’t miss much. I was trying to watch it live on the net, but my son was forcing me to play Super Mario Party 8 on the Wii while he ate dinner (a regular ritual around here).

Now I’ve picked it up and started watching. I really thought Ellen Page was going to win for Juno, even though I have yet to see it.

I’ll just keep updating this post as the show moves on, so keep hitting refresh. I dunno why my feed won’t update when I update the post, but I sure don’t feel like hacking around to figure it out right now.

Update: okie, well, there wasn’t much in the way of updating to do because my spawn of Hell 3-year-old won’t give me enough time to focus on anything but the missing tires on his Lego ambulance.

It seems that No Country for Old Men winning for Best Director and Best Picture is a bit of an upset. I saw this film and while it’s a fantastic (and unusual) film, I’m not sure I agree that it was Best Picture material. I suppose I need to see it again. I will own it, I know this much – it’s a Coen Brothers film after all. But the first impression of this film left me quite uncomfortable. Of course, one could argue that it means the film was effective. You’d probably be right.

But I think that most people expected There Will Be Blood to win. I suppose I’m a little surprised myself. Frances McDormand looked all worlds of happy in the audience, so I’m sure one of the Coens will be getting laid tonight for sure. Good on ’em.

Cloverfield

OH. My. GOD.

That’s the best adrenaline rush I’ve had in a LONG time.