Terminator 2 at 20

03-Jul-11 12:35 PM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the release of one of the greatest films of all-time. I am speaking of course of Terminator 2: Judgment Day. I already sang this film's praises on the tenth anniversary of Judgment Day, so I won't again fawn over its intricate plot, layered characters, and stunning action. But I will offer this creative amalgamation of line art and stop-gap motion in tribute to the best sequel ever:

Judgment Day

29-Aug-07 11:28 AM by
Filed under Films; 6 comments.

Three billion human lives ended on August 29th, 1997. The survivors of the nuclear fire called the war Judgment Day. They lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines. The computer which controlled the machines, Skynet, sent two Terminators back through time. Their mission: to destroy the leader of the human resistance, John Connor, my son. The first Terminator was programmed to strike at me in the year 1984, before John was born. It failed. The second was set to strike at John himself when he was still a child. As before, the resistance was able to send a lone warrior, a protector for John. It was just a question of which one of them would reach him first.

Thus begins one of the most kickass films of all time.

I may be perceived as a stereotypical, testosterone-driven ape when I declare the explosion-laden Terminator 2 to be one of my favorite movies ever, but only the superficial viewer would make such a judgment. T2 is a film about perseverance, courage, family, and free will. It has moments of introspection that are both poignant and terrifying, not just for the audience but for the characters, leading our female protagonist to break down in tears when she realizes she has become that which she most abhors. She is not alone, as we all see our own fears played out in this film: not only our own internal struggles, but also that artifact of the Cold War: the futility of resistance against total annihilation, depicted in what several U.S. federal nuclear testing labs unofficially declared "the most accurate depiction of a nuclear blast ever created for a fictional motion picture."

Even now that the film's special effects are not as groundbreaking as they were in 1991, or now that the jaw-dropping twist — when the hero and villain reveal their identities, shattering our expectation of who to root for — is well-known, this film still stands the test of time, with a title character who is both a hero and villain for all ages.

So happy tenth anniversary to the realization of your worst nightmare. May you live only to face a new horror…

To Serve and Protect

01-Jul-07 12:49 PM by
Filed under Films, Television; 6 comments.

Speaking of top films lists, Entertainment Weekly has published, in preparation for Transformers: The Movie, "our 10 favorite mechanical men (and fembots) in movie history". The list honors good guys such as the Iron Giant (a hero after my own Superman-inspired heart, and the subject of scrutiny in the film studies course I taught), Data, and R2-D2 and C-3PO (who I'd never consciously realized to be an Odd Couple) — but also appropriately celebrates the persistent destruction wrought by darker cyborgs, Robocop and the Terminator (the latter described as "an all-purpose golem").

These two futuristic deathbringers represent possibly my favorite action films ever: the original Robocop film and the second Terminator. The former is a haunting tale of a man robbed of his family, his memory, even his emotions — everything but his career. He uses that sole connection to give his life purpose and, eventually, his audience a TV series that I actually enjoyed. The latter is a villain sent from the future to alter the past… but for better, or for worse? Plot twists, character dynamics (especially the humanity of the Terminator and lack of same in Sarah Connor), and awesome action sequences make this a film that's more than meets the eye.

Too bad these two robotic icons never encountered each other… or did they?!

Joystick Nation

19-Jun-07 5:22 PM by
Filed under Films; Comments Off on Joystick Nation

Considering the name for this site is derived from another, Gamebits, it's not surprising that I find the union of movies and games to have powerful potential. Even abominable amalgams such as the Bob Hoskins/Dennis Hopper vehicle Super Mario Bros. has its value — such as making Mortal Kombat look good. (MK is by far the best video game based on a movie, for whatever that's worth.)

But not everyone feels their beloved medium of electronic entertainment has been fairly or even effectively represented on the silver screen. Gaming site Gamesradar.com has a feature on the "Seven stupidest videogame scenes in movies". What films employ gaming to the worst effect? Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx earns this tongue-lashing: "When people complain about the way videogames are shown in movies, this is exactly what they're talking about: blank stare, madly waggling thumbs and atonal bloops and bleeps that haven't been used as game audio since 1976." I can certainly agree that the portrayal of games as a killing simulator used to breed the next generation of soldiers was not what we needed to avoid a moral panic.

Yet I persist in believing that even the bad can be good. The Wizard, Tobey Maguire's silver screen debut (it's true!), inspired legions of loser gamers, dreaming of being popular and successful — especially at next year's Nintendo World Championships. It didn't matter that The Wizard had such cornball lines as, "I love the Power Glove. It's so bad." And the scene where Christian Slater wakes up to find his father, Beau Bridges, has overnight become a Nintendo geek is every boy's dream come true. Finally! My parents can relate to me! (Even Mr. Bridges' jerky controller motions closely approximate my own paternal unit's efforts to play Tetris.)

But what about the cameos? Gamesradar has completely overlooked some classic films. In Terminator 2, moments before he first encounters the T-1000, young John Connor is playing Missile Command — a foreshadowing of the apocalyptic Judgment Day he then sets out to avert. If that isn't masterful, I don't know what is.

Surely there are even more blessed unions I'm missing. What are your favorite spottings of games on screen?

(Note: Gamesradar's article is the closest I've ever come to seeing an Uwe Boll film. Even that was too much. Pardon me while I find a red-hot poker with which to extinguish my eyes…)

Prepare To Be Regurgitated

13-Feb-07 1:42 PM by
Filed under Films, Television; 10 comments.

Terminator 2, added this week to the iTunes Store, is one of the three best films ever made. Intense action sequences, gut-wrenchingly authentic emotions, and surprising, jaw-dropping special effects (for 1991) warrant T2 being the only film I've purchased on DVD more than twice.

I made a point of watching the film on August 29th, 1997, the supposed Judgment Day. If only the franchise had ended there: Terminator 3 is best summed up in the final words of my review. "A great movie? Yes. A great Terminator film? No."

Now, the blasphemy continues: the tenth anniversary of the war against the machines will be commemorated with The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a television series detailing the years between the second and third films. (News courtesy of StarTrek.com)

I question Terminator's capacity to exist in this medium. Are we looking at an Incredible Hulk-type "wandering hero" format, with Sarah and John Connor, on the lam from the future, doing good deeds until a robotic Mr. McGee catches up with them? Will it have the budget for action sequences that made the first two films so legendary? How will the show tie into next year's supposed Terminator 4 film? Never mind that this show will be the first incarnation of the series to omit Arnold Schwarzenegger. But hey, it worked for Predator, right? Err…

I can't think of any movie that has successfully spun off into a television series: My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Uncle Buck… well, okay, there's Buffy. So maybe the rule of thumb is that, between a movie and a TV show, at least one will bite. If so, Terminator passed that threshold long ago.

Though I'm thrilled at (and jealous of) the opportunity of an actress from my hometown to attach her name to as geeky a franchise as this, I'd rather the series had been terminated gracefully sixteen years ago.