Archive | July 2015

Episode Review: Star vs The Forces of Evil (Season 1, Episode 9) – Freeze Day / Royal Pain

The return of Star vs The Forces of Evil with last week’s 8th episode, definitely re-ignited a lot of the fandom’s pent-up energy, and gave us one of the more solid episodes in some time.

As we moved on to episode 9, I will admit I didn’t know quite what to expect from the previews, but enough of my babbling…let’s dive right in!

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-Freeze Day-

-Freeze Day-

When Marco wakes up late, he madly rushes to make it to school in time for his 7:56 AM ritual – to be at his locker as Jackie Lynn Thomas skateboards by. However, with just a few minutes to spare, Marco asks Star for help, and with a wave of her wand, she ends up freezing time.

After partaking in some frozen-time antics, Star attempts to unfreeze time, only to find out that Father Time (voiced by Jim Gaffigan), has stepped off the Wheel of Progress. Star and Marco travel to the Plains of Time, where they find the old man eagerly running around the strange landscape, with little care about wanting to get back to his neverending grind.

I will admit, as soon as Jackie Lynn Thomas came into the picture for this episode, I was hooked. The Jackie/Marco crush story development is something I’ve been curious about for some time. It hasn’t been a constant in most episodes, and any little hints that Marco still pines for his dream girl, definitely make me eager to see more. As well, much like in the Match Maker segment of episode 2, Star is also an encouraging figure regarding Marco’s love life.

This episode was also fun because of a lot of little cameos (we even get a brief glimpse of what Gustav from episode 4 is up to!). Most intriguing to me, was when Star addresses Glossaryck (of Terms), the little creature in her wand’s spellbook. This put to rest one of the questions I had since seeing the episode 6 segment, Mewberty, in which he was introduced by name.

Father Time isn’t the best supporting character, but he does have his moments. Gaffigan voices him like a person who has just come to life, eager to see and do things beyond the smaller scope of his lifetime of simply turning the Wheel of Progress. In a sense, his wild abandon running around the Plains of Time, is almost reminiscent of Star’s romping around Echo Creek Academy when Marco first showed her around in the first episode.

During our visit to the Plains of Time dimension, we get plenty of little tidbits regarding Star and Marco’s past (and a tiny glimpse into the future, perhaps?). Those past glimpses are always welcome by me, as they help add more pieces to the puzzle in my head regarding who these characters are.

Almost every animated show seems to have an episode that deals with time disruption in one form or another, and this looks like it’ll be the one for Star. The use of back-story and character insight for Marco was what definitely drew my attention, as well as getting to get brief glimpses into Star’s past.

Plus, one has to wonder if the episode’s message, might push some to…take a chance?

Final Segment Grade: B

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Or, maybe, now's the time to move on to the next step of your crazy plan!     Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Or, maybe, now's the time to move on to the next step of your crazy plan!"

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Or, maybe, now’s the time to move on to the next step of your crazy plan!”

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-Royal Pain-

-Royal Pain-

After Star’s Mom kicks her Dad out of the castle, the King of Mewni decides to crash at the Diaz’s place on Earth. Though at first excited that her Dad isn’t as overbearing towards her as her Mom, Star soon begins to tire of his presence when he keeps her up at night, let alone leaves his laundry lying around (I’m sure the same scene I saw will also have you shivering in repulsion!).

Things don’t get much better when the King decides to take up residence on Earth, and throw a massive party with other dimensional royalty in attendance.

Much like Freeze Day, Royal Pain gives us a little more insight into some characters, in this case, Star’s Dad. We saw a little of his wild ways in the segment Diaz Family Vacation, in episode 5. Here, it pretty quickly becomes evident just where Star gets some of her wild-abandon in some situations. Marco even makes note of this, though it is a little fun to see that maybe some of Star’s Mom is alive in her as well, given how she wants some order to the chaos her Dad has wrought.

A minor subplot that weaves its way through the episode, involves Marco and wet socks, which I found slightly humorous, because wet socks also bug me in the same way. Fortunately, it doesn’t fall flat like the “mess-up twins” subplot in the Pixtopia segment of episode 6.

Also like Freeze Day, we get quite a few return nods to previous characters, and foreign dignitaries, not to mention a few other new personalities that the King knows.

I wobbled back-and-forth on my feelings for this episode. Much like how Party with a Pony dealt with the typical ‘friend doesn’t like other friend’ storyline, this worked on slightly altering the ‘my relative is driving me crazy and won’t leave’ plotline we’ve seen done in most series. Sadly, it didn’t feel like Royal Pain really did much to make my mind stray far from thinking of how formulaic it was at times.

Don’t get me wrong. It does have its moments, and I did laugh out loud several times, but I felt the story just didn’t hold together as strongly. What does save the story to me, is its comedic moments. Though I did enjoy Freeze Day more, I laughed more at Royal Pain.

A fun moment was when Star panics at seeing her Dad on the Diaz’s doorstep. I will admit having almost the same anxieties when my own Dad visits, and like Star, I usually freak out, making sure the place looks presentable (and most people I know go into the same sort of ‘panic mode’ when their parents come to town).

Final Segment Grade: B

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh."

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Buh-buh-buh-buh-buh-buh.”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by The King of Mewni): *laughing* “The ball's in your court, Salivary!"

Best honorable mention line from episode (said by The King of Mewni): *laughing* “The ball’s in your court, Salivary!”

I didn’t know quite what to expect from episode 9, but it definitely surprised me regarding some of its twists and turns.

Freeze Day looked a little too wacky when I first saw preview clips of it, but turned out to be a little deeper, in how we got to explore some of Marco and Star’s backstory, let alone get some character callbacks.

Royal Pain was definitely the weaker of the two stories, but made up for its shortcomings with the placement of its humor at times. Plus, we get a few more glimpses into other-dimensional royalty, and see Star may have a little bit more of her Mom’s responsible personality than we thought.

One of the most decent episode releases so far, but not as intriguing as the previous episode. I will admit, it’s probably the episode most chock-full of cameos and background characters I’ve seen yet.

*And with Episode 9 wrapped up, we must now endure the torture that is 2 weeks until episode 10. But…episode 10 is most likely going to have everyone eager to see what happens. It’s not only the first episode to have a full 22-minute segment, but it is also going to deal with…St Olga’s Reform School For Wayward Princesses! Will Star’s imaginings of what goes on inside come true? Will it be Star’s Mom that ends up sending her there? Will Flying Princess Pony Head be Star’s Morgan Freeman? We’ll have to hold our breaths, and wait…FOR 2 WEEKS!!!??*

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Audio Commentary Commentation: The Goonies

*With the rise of DVD’s in the late 1990’s, one feature many promised with the addition of Special Features, was audio commentaries. These would often contain dialogue from the film’s crew, or even film historians. In this category, I’ll discuss some of the audio commentary tracks that I feel are rather compelling, and end up being entertaining, in regards to the information provided, and what is being said.*

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Though his name had become synonymous with the words “Director” and “Genius,” Steven Spielberg slowly moved into a new arena of filmmaking in the mid-1980’s, when he adopted the “Executive Producer” moniker.

Under his production company Amblin Entertainment (named for the short film that got him his job at Universal Studios), Steven’s name soon headlined a number of pictures, with the tagline, “Steven Spielberg Presents.” Though the average person would assume that he had somehow directed another picture, in truth, he would moreso be there as a shepherd to the picture, throwing in a few ideas, and having a hand in the creative process.

1985 would be a big year for Amblin, when Back to the Future took the Summer by storm, becoming the biggest film of the year. However, a month before Marty McFly went back in time, another Amblin production had hit theaters: a family film by the name of The Goonies.

Based on a story by Spielberg, and directed by Richard Donner (Superman, Lethal Weapon), a misfit group of friends find a map that seems to promise pirate treasure right in their own backyard (aka Astoria, Oregon). With their stomping grounds threatened to be bulldozed for a new golf course, the friends set out to save their way of life, but soon find a couple of escaped fugitive and their tough-as-nails Mother, also wanting to get at the loot.

Though it didn’t take in as much as Back to the Future, The Goonies became the 9th highest-grossing film of 1985, with $61 million, which was quite good in those days, considering its budget was ‘only’ $19 million.

Over the years, Goonies gained quite a fan-following, and when it came time to convert it to DVD in 2001, some higher-ups at Warner Brothers actually had a great idea!

The studio had already reunited the former child actors from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to record an audio commentary for that film’s DVD release, and decided to apply the same TLC to The Goonies!.

Director Richard Donner was brought in, along with Sean Astin (Mikey), Josh Brolin (Brand), Corey Feldman (Mouth), Ke Huy Quan (Data), Jeff Cohen (Chunk), Kerri Green (Andy), and Martha Plimpton (Stef).

A promotional image of the cast and Richard Donner, taken on the day of the commentary recording.

The commentary track would be a little different than the Wonka one, as an alternate version of the film could be accessed, where the film at times would phase into a corner of the screen, to see the cast and director at the microphones in the studio, talking over the scene.

Of course, with over 8 people in the studio talking about a film, there’s bound to be a lot of stuff flying around. Though Corey Feldman seems to overpower so much of the conversation, there’s plenty of ‘rich stuff’ to be gleaned from the film.

Below are a few ‘choice comments’ that I thought I’d bring up. Don’t be afraid that I’ve spoiled everything. There’s plenty to discover on your own.

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During the course of the commentary, little asides are made to an alternate cut of the film that was never released. Some additional scenes included some gorillas, and even an octopus (which was mentioned by Data in the final cut near the end!),  though noone has really deciphered what that much longer version would have been.

During the opening chase of the film, Sean Astin makes mention of a scene that was filmed, but not included in the final film.

Sean Astin: Do you guys remember the stunt we all got to go and watch, where they flipped the cop car on top of the boat?

Corey Feldman: No.

Martha Plimpton: Yes, I remember that.

Sean Astin: They drove the cop car off-they had a rig where the cop car goes-and it flips upside-down, and the guy gets out and he looks-you didn’t use that.

Richard Donner: No, we didn’t use that.

The scene would have taken place during the Fratelli’s car chase in the beginning, though surprisingly, footage of the stunt did make it into a Making-Of special produced at the time, as seen below.

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Jeff Cohen is one of the most entertaining persons on the commentary. He gives a few insights into his career as ‘a little fat kid’ in Hollywood, but also provides some interesting remembrances from the set, including the ever-famous ‘Truffle Shuffle.’

It was hard to choose something that wouldn’t give away some of the best stuff. One that came to mind, was the scene where Chunk is locked in a storage closet with a dead federal agent (played by stuntman Teddy Grossman).

Jeff Cohen: Now when we were doing some of the takes where the dead guy’s in the um, like this-

Richard Donner: Yeah.

Jeff Cohen: -Dick (Donner) said-you know, we’d improvise. He’d be like, “Smack him in the face, kid. Make sure he’s dead. Make sure he’s dead.”

So I’d be smacking him and smacking him and smacking him, and after 8 takes of smacking Teddy in the face, he finally- he-the dead body yelled, “Cut! The kid’s beating the crap out of me!”

Though getting whacked around by a little fat kid like Chunk probably wasn’t as bad as Teddy’s role as another victim, in Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws. In that film, the shark overturns his character’s boat, and drags him under the water to his death!

Also as an aside, when he was a student at The University of California-Berkeley, Jeff Cohen ran for Class President, using the campaign slogan, “Chunk for President.” Naturally, he won.

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Of course, not all ‘war stories’ from the trenches of filmmaking are great. Some leave deep scars that last for years. Carrie Henn who played Newt in Aliens had a memorable line (“They mostly come out at night…mostly.”) that her friends would often alter in a jokey sort of way. The same thing happened to Kerri Green, during a sequence where Andy freaks out in the caves and starts babbling:

Kerri Green: This is my big dramatic moment. I got made fun of this for 15 years.

*Andy in the movie is babbling, “Don’t I have a beautiful body? Don’t I have a beautiful body?”*

Corey Feldman (mimicking Brand on-screen): You have a great body.

Kerri Green (referring to her character’s babbling): That one. That was the line.

Sean Astin: You were really worked up when you were doing that.

Kerri Green: 15 years, people are like, “Don’t I have a beautiful body? Don’t I have a beautiful body?”

Sometimes it’s fun when actors or actresses confess little things like that. Though this was recorded in 2000/2001, so one wonders if after Kerri aired her grievances, some people backed off from the mockery of her teenage cheerleader’s worryings.

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As the commentary continues, one can’t help but almost want to throttle Corey Feldman as he gives his two cents on every other moment in the film.

Though it seems in truth, he hasn’t changed all that much from when he was younger. During a scene in the wishing well where Stef and Mouth start to argue, Martha Plimpton shares a memory of an encounter with Feldman one day.

Martha Plimpton: Actually, what people don’t realize, is that at one point actually, Corey came to me in the school trailer, and I turned to him and I said, “What?”

And he said, “What?”

And proceeded to copy everything I said, for half an hour, until I became so enraged, that I jumped on top of him, and grabbed his head, and started smashing it against the floor.  Meanwhile, he sat-lay there, laughing maniacally the entire time, making me even more infuriated, with Rhoda Fine (the on-set studio teacher) standing over us going: “You kids stop it! Don’t fight!”

Martha has a few interesting remembrances regarding the production, though this one, she really got the chance to just lay it all out on the table. It’s one of the few bits on the commentary, where no one interrupted her daring tale of Feldman-related Fury.

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The Goonies is definitely an entertaining product of the 1980’s, and I’m sure would rank in the Top 10 of many of the films with Spielberg’s Executive Producer credit on it. The film has had popularity in the last decade, with a couple different action figure lines, and yearly events in Astoria, Oregon for the film. These events have even brought forth some of the cast and crew to join in on the festivities.

When I first started collecting DVD’s, this film’s release was one of my favorites. Though not as chock-full of what I would hope for (no word on that original cut that had gorillas involved!), it gave us plenty of extra features, including Cyndi Lauper’s The Goonies R Good Enough music video, and some promotional materials made for the film. Though of all the materials, this commentary is one of the highlights. It definitely makes me wish some other films could have such an entertaining group commentary.

Currently, the special commentary presentation has been in each version of the DVD and Blu-Ray releases, so you won’t have to shell out $35 for some super-special-edition.

I feel every fan of The Goonies should sit down and watch this commentary. Sadly, we can’t do much about Corey Feldman’s constant mouthing off, but in the end, I’m sure you’ll be pleasantly surprised at what the majority of the cast and Richard Donner have to say.

Episode Review: Star vs The Forces of Evil (Season 1, Episode 8 ) – Blood Moon Ball / Fortune Cookies

And so, the constant stopping and lurching forward of another DisneyXD series, continues. After a month-long wait after 2 episodes, we have finally reached the 8th episode, of Star vs The Forces of Evil. And, if the numerous freak-outs and fan-art I’ve seen generated from its previews are any indication, it might be one of the most anticipated episodes so far from the series.

But enough chit-chat…let’s dive right in!

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starep8-1

-Blood Moon Ball-

While at school, Star is shocked (and annoyed) when her ex-boyfriend Tom shows up, to invite her to The Blood Moon Ball. Star is at first against the proposal, but decides to give Tom a chance, as he claims he’s been working through his anger issues. Of course, Marco is convinced that this isn’t a good idea.

Up until now, many have been intrigued by the enigma that is Tom. Having been seen in the opening credits, and a small cameo in the segment Match Maker, this is the first full appearance of the demon. Rider Strong (Girl Meets World) voices Tom with a suaveness that befits his looks as a teenage bad-boy (why do girls always go for the bad-boy?), though with a tinge of something possibly dangerous underneath.

I will admit, the thought process of the episode reminded me of the Lobster Claws segment from episode 7, given that Marco felt Claws could be good, and Star claimed monsters are just plain evil. In this case, Star is convinced that a demon can get over his anger issues, while Marco doesn’t trust Tom’s words.

This scenario leads to an interesting discussion in the last few minutes of the episode between Star and Marco. It feels like this could become character development, but given most series, it’s hard to say if this is just development within this segment, or if it will carry over into future episodes. That to me is the issue with having two 11-minute segments per episode: getting any form of character development is sometimes hard to decipher.

Even so, the episode ends up showing us a little bit more about Star’s past, while also delving a bit into her relationship/friendship with Marco. Of course, given a few scenes in the episode, we’ll probably have more people making mountains out of molehills regarding where these two crazy kids are heading.

Like most of my previous episode rantings, I do wish Blood Moon Ball had more time to develop the segment. Even so, I was also surprised that it had plenty of decent comedy beats that gave me a chuckle.

Final Segment Grade: B+

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I'm not gonna bathe in unicorn blood, Tom.

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “I’m not gonna bathe in unicorn blood, Tom.”

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-Fortune Cookies-

-Fortune Cookies-

After winning another battle against Ludo and his minions, Marco treats Star to some Chinese food. When they receive fortune cookies at the end of the meal, Marco has a little fun with Star’s inter-dimensional naivete, claiming the fortunes inside are real. Unfortunately, Star soon won’t make any decision without opening a fortune cookie.

Meanwhile, Ludo has grown exasperated after losing to Star and Marco, and decides to hire someone to manage his staff. His new employee comes in the form of a well-suited lizard-creature, who simply presents Ludo with a business card, with one word on it: “Toffee.”

I’ve been a fan of ‘Star-meets-naivete’ plotlines ever since the School Spirit segment, and I was pleasantly surprised with how the writers handled this one. I will also go on record and admit that there have been some fortune cookie fortunes I have actually believed in (one last year seemed to foretell of a job promotion I was finally able to obtain, and it’s still taped to my work laptop), The storyline makes me also feel that the writers may have used their own experiences in crafting a rather entertaining tale.

I was also surprised at just how well Ludo’s subplot tied into the whole episode. Toffee (voiced by Michael C Hall), comes across as a very sophisticated individual, and doesn’t quite operate on the same level of ‘smash-and-grab’ like we’ve seen Ludo and his guys do many times. Toffee’s methods seem a little more cunning. Even his way into Ludo’s employment is through unconventional means.

Given the way the story was structured, a fun character surprise was seeing how Ludo’s minion named Buff Frog, seemed a little unsettled by how quickly Ludo had taken a shine to his new employee. This could possibly lead to some more characterization for one of Ludo’s right-hand minions in the future.

What was most intriguing for me story-wise, was the final 30 seconds of the episode, which gives an ominous feel that reminded me of why I really loved the segment Monster Arm so much. Something has definitely been set in motion by Toffee’s appearance. I have no clue what that might be…BUT I WANT TO FIND OUT!!!

Final Segment Grade: B+

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Next you'll tell me that's how they get the snow in snowglobes!...it's clearly the work of Dark Wizards.

Best Star Butterfly line from segment: “Next you’ll tell me that’s how they get the snow in snowglobes!…it’s clearly the work of Dark Wizards.”

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Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Marco): “Star, never go with a predator, to a second location!

Best honorable mention line from episode (said by Marco): “Star, never go with a predator, to a second location!”

Episode 7 (Lobster Claws/Sleep Spells) was pretty entertaining, but I think that this Episode was more of a win-win with what we got to see here.

With Blood Moon Ball, we finally got to see and know about Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom a little more, and got a little character-building regarding Star and Marco (and of course, some more fodder for the fan-shippers out there).

With Fortune Cookies, an added tinge of mystery surrounds the newly-introduced character named Toffee, though the episode does pretty well giving us the humor with Star’s fortune cookie obsession, and making us wonder just what Toffee’s end-game is.

Both of these episodes I can see getting quite a bit of replay value from me, and I look forward to perusing through the episodes a bit more.

What was a little strange, was the animation quality appeared to change a few times. In one of my previous reviews, I mentioned how Toon City in the Philippines was taking over from Mercury Filmworks in Canada. Though in the credits for this episode, another studio was mentioned: Rough Draft Korea Co., LTD.

My assumption is that Rough Draft may have been brought on board as an 11th hour ‘helper studio.’ I did an internship with an animation studio almost a decade ago, wherein we’d finish some extra work for television commercials, and I could see that maybe being what this studio did. After all, if one notes the quality of animation in parts of Blood Moon Ball where Tom first arrives at Echo Creek Academy, the character styles seem a bit odd, and Star’s animation of dragging Tom back to his carriage, feels a little lower-class than usual.

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*Fortunately, we won’t have to wait another month for the next episode of “Star vs The Forces of Evil.” Next week, we’ll deal with Star and Marco visiting with Father Time in the segment “Freeze Day.” Following that segment, Star’s own father stops by for a visit in “Royal Pain.” One can only imagine what the King of Mewni will do with his time on Earth. Hope next week’s episode can keep up the momentum from this week’s.*

Audio Commentary Commentation: Terminator 2 : Judgement Day

*With the rise of DVD’s in the late 1990’s, one feature many promised with the addition of Special Features, was audio commentaries. These would often contain dialogue from the film’s crew, or even film historians.

In this category, I’ll discuss some of the audio commentary tracks that I feel are rather compelling, and end up being entertaining, in regards to the information provided, and what is being said.*

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It was some time after its summer premiere in 1991, that I was able to watch Terminator 2: Judgement Day. As the years went by, it would be a film that would stick in the back of my head, both for its story, but also for the behind-the-scenes material.

With almost all the talk of the use of computer-generated imagery, the film also was one that combined multiple effects and story tricks. Whereas one scene you’d have a computer-generated T-1000 effect, the next shot would have a practical, on-set one, and given the way the scenes were shot, your mind didn’t realize it.

An impressive 2-disc set for Terminator 2 was released in the late 90’s, with plenty of supplementary material, but it was in the 2003 release of the T2 Extreme DVD Edition, that a first was given for a James Cameron film: the director himself, had sat down to record an audio commentary track!

Along with Cameron, was his co-writer, William Wisher, who traded comments and anecdotes with Cameron over the course of the entire film.

Though it should also be noted, that the version they comment on, is what is referred to as The Special Edition, which has almost all of the deleted scenes edited back into the film, except 2 (one of the T-1000 snooping in John’s room, and another showing an alternate non-Judgement Day future ending).

This commentary is pretty interesting, as well as a little fun. Cameron and Wisher reminisce about the past like a pair of old buddies, and that chummy feel makes the audio work well.

This column is intended to bring a few ‘choice’ comments to the public eye. Here are some that stand out (pared down from a couple dozen I had in mind!):

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“I swear, I won’t kill anyone.”

Arnold was more-than-happy to come back to play the iconic role of the Terminator, but Cameron tells how one stipulation, shocked the Austrian:

Cameron: I remember we had breakfast, and I said: “All right, here’s the deal: you don’t kill anybody in this film.”

He said,”But Jim, I’m ‘The Terminator,’ that’s what I do. I kick in the door with the machine gun. I kill people.”

I said, “Yeah, but you can’t kill anybody in this film it’s critical thematically, that you don’t.”

Then he started to negotiate. He said, “Well, all right. That’s fine. Once the boy tells me that I can’t kill people, that makes sense, but can’t I just kill some people before that?”

I said, “No, no, you don’t understand. You can’t kill anybody!”

He said, “It’s going to be terrible!”

I said, “No, it’ll work.”

Cameron got lucky that the concept worked out. The idea of a future death-machine becoming the subject of ‘a boy and his Terminator’ story, actually worked pretty well. In fact, it went over so well, that it was then re-used in Terminator 3, and also again in the newly-released Terminator: Genisys, .this time with a younger Sarah Connor being the recipient of a future-protector.

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After the film came out, Cameron received an interesting letter. As Sarah’s nightmare plays out onscreen (with a nuclear weapon detonating over Los Angeles), he tells an intriguing tale regarding what was sent to him:

Cameron: I got the strangest letter once. It was from a group of scientists who worked at the Sandia Laboratories, which is one of the the nuclear laboratories, US laboratories. And they said:

“Thank you for Terminator 2. It is the most correct visual representation of the effects of a nuclear weapon ever put on film.”

And I thought, “Well, gee, that’s a really nice compliment, but the fact that this is accurate, is terrifying.”

Cameron often strives for a realism in his films, but it definitely seems a little scary, that the guys who build these things, were praising his accuracy in what would actually happen.

On the commentary, Cameron does mention how seeing the old A-bomb test films as a kid did influence him as a young child, and definitely influenced his thinking when he first started crafting the Terminator films.

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“Stay here. I’ll be back.”

Also at the time the commentary was being recorded, trailers had just come out for Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, a film wherein Cameron chose to not be involved. As he and Wisher were watching the film, the scene of Arnold’s “I’ll be back” line came up, leading Cameron to quip:

Cameron: What do you think? Does that sound better than, ‘she’ll be back?’

Though the commentary stays on track regarding T2, Cameron does give a few asides to the upcoming T3.

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Cameron also has an eye and memory, for specific stunts, and points out a couple that seem rather natural, but were very risky (and almost cost the lives of several stunt-men). Talk of how digital (at the time of the audio commentary’s 2002 recording) could allow more dangerous stunts to be achieved, is compared in a few areas. One of the most notable, is in a wide-shot/one-take scene, that when one looks at what was done, is pretty fearless (and achieved by Arnold’s stunt-double, Peter Kent):

Cameron: Now this is a really dangerous stunt right here. I would never do this stunt now, with digital effects possible. He actually just does exactly what you see. There were no safety wires or anything. He just ran across the back of a pickup truck,and jumped on the hood of a semi.

Wisher: At about 40 miles an hour, it looked like.

Cameron: Yeah. Anything could’ve gone wrong there.

This is just one of several great moments that are mentioned. Another tells about how one of the helicopter pilots named Chuck Tamburro, flew a helicopter under an overpass…a move that the camera crew refused to shoot given how dangerous it was. Of course, when noone else would do it, Cameron found himself manning the camera rig for the scene.

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For those of you that are into knowing how things are done, or learning behind-the-scenes material, the commentary that James Cameron and William Wisher give for Terminator 2, is one of the best I know of. I watch the film several times a year with the commentary track running, and it still never gets tiresome, listening to them talk over the film, and explain their working together on this landmark, 1991 action-drama.

After the Extreme DVD release in the early 2000’s, the audio commentary was ported over when the film made its debut on the Blu-Ray format, on the Terminator 2: Skynet Edition release. The release also contains a feature that gives little facts and anecdotes about the film as it plays, making it one of the best Special Editions of the Blu-Ray releases out there.

Of all the Terminator films, T2 is probably the only one that has an impressive array of behind-the-scenes material. One would almost wish that the same TLC could be applied to 1984’s Terminator film (I’d love to hear an audio commentary with Cameron, Wisher, as well as Cameron’s former wife/screenwriter, Gale Anne-Hurd).

Movie Review: Terminator – Genisys

(Rated PG – 13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language)

In the last decade, film sequels have grown in prominence, as one of the most important types of films in Hollywood. While many lament and complain that the studios should invest in something more ‘original,’ many studios just keep to the old tried-and-true, of making sequels until the series crashes and burns…and when that happens: re-boot!

That was what happened following films like Batman & Robin, Superman Returns, and 2007’s Spider-Man 3. In recent years, a number of films have taken familiar properties from decades before, and toyed with altering their timelines. 2009’s Star Trek took familiar characters, and shifted our viewing of them to an alternate reality. In 2011, the re-imagining of The Planet of the Apes, threw us into an origin story taking place in our own time.

One series that has often been fickle with its timelines, is that related to James Cameron’s Terminator films. With his first two films, Cameron largely kept the idea of nuclear annihilation as a looming threat, but the films made after he chose not to return, just seemed to imply that the public had to get to Judgement Day, and beyond, along with the stipulation that Arnold Schwarzenegger…would be back.

After the success of 1991’s Terminator 2, Hollywood attempted to take the series further 12 years later, with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The sequel performed marginally well, but its 2009 follow-up, Terminator: Salvation, failed to kick-off a new series of films.

6 years spanned between those last two sequels, and now, 6 years after Salvation, a new production team (and film studio), has attempted to make what was old, new again, with Terminator: Genisys.

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The film starts in 2029, wherein we finally see what has often been talked of for over 30 years: the scene in which John Connor (Jason Clarke), sends Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to 1984, to protect his mother, Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke).

To those of us who saw The Terminator, the story starts to diverge from our knowledge pretty quickly. Once he arrives in 1984, Kyle is accosted by a liquid-metal T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee), and finds that Sarah is not a frizzy-haired waitress, but a pony-tailed weapons master…thanks to a T-800 (Schwarzenegger) who was sent back in time years earlier to protect her (by who? Your guess is as good as mine). Sarah also considers this cybernetic organism her guardian, and has nicknamed him, “Pops.”

The T-800, aka “Pops” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Much like Jurassic World, Genisys beckons us in with touchstones and things we’ve seen before. While it may be cool to see an older T-800 battling his younger self, a lot of the timeline shifting soon gets to be a little cumbersome, as we go from 2029, to 1984, and then forwards to 2017.

Kyle is also plagued by strange flashbacks, and thanks to the T-800 having information that he deems ‘classified,’ Arnold gets to spout lots and lots of technical time-travel jargon, that made me long for Doc Brown to come along, and make sense of it all!

Speaking of our main characters, I just couldn’t find myself getting invested in them. No matter how I tried to accept Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke (as well as Jason Clarke), their acting just didn’t seem believable to me. I almost felt like I was watching a community theater troupe, trying to tell the Terminator series in their own words.

Emilia Clarke’s take on Sarah just didn’t cut it (she looks like a little girl playing dress-up at times), and Courtney just seems a little too ‘bland’ regarding his role. The script tries to even give them ‘character-building’ moments where they start yelling at each other, but the film just never makes these little arguments believable (I had to hold back chuckling at a few of them).

Jason Clarke’s role as John Connor also gets tiresome pretty soon, as it seems he just cannot seem to ever shut up! Heck, I don’t think even in his whinier moments, Edward Furlong’s interpretation of John got this eye-rolling.

L to R: Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), Detective O’Brien (JK Simmons), Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke)

The filmmakers try to throw in a small supporting role for actor JK Simmons as well, playing an officer who ran into Kyle in 1984. However, why they got someone like Simmons to play such a thankless role, is beyond me. His character could very well have been written out of the story altogether, and it feels like it wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

Of course, the bean counters know that most audiences could care less about the fate of humanity. If the low numbers surrounding Terminator:Salvation were any indication, it was that audiences would not accept a Terminator film, unless Arnold Schwarzenegger had a prominent role.

The T-800’s role in the film is really the only highlight (and most likely, the main reason millions around the world will be seeing it). Given that he has been among humans for several decades, this T-800 has had plenty of time to acclimate himself, though the film conveniently explains how this cybernetic organism can look like a 67-year-old former California governor.

Arnold definitely gets the meatier supporting role in the film, taking his role as a guardian several steps further than what we remember from Terminator 2. This T-800 seems more like a father figure, as we see him eye Kyle Reese as if he’s considering if the man would be suitable dating/breeding material for his ‘daughter.’

While the first few Terminator films strove to make the threat of Judgement Day seem ominous and threatening, it feels like that ship has sailed a long, long time ago. Such talk about stopping the impending doom seems little more than a joke. As well, the concept of John Connor being the most important person in the world, seems to have also lost its weight on the story.

John Connor (Jason Clarke)

The writers have instead, attempted to make John something that only the early drafts of Terminator: Salvation fathomed (but were too afraid to go through with). Maybe they simply felt they had gone as far as they could with the concept of the character, and in this case, decided to throw him under the bus (literally in one scene!).

Another area where the film suffers, is in its attempts to say that this is ‘just the beginning’ of a brand-new saga for the Terminator series. As such, it makes it hard to really accept that anything the characters do is concrete. As it stands now, the studio is banking on the film doing well enough to do a sequel or two, before the Terminator rights default back to James Cameron, come 2019.

On the note of time-travel, one series that my Dad and I love, is Back to the Future. When we were discussing the three films of that series one day, my Dad stated that he preferred Part III over Part II. His reason? There was too much time-jumping in the second film.

I could see where he was coming from with that thought, and in a sense, his feelings towards Back to the Future Part II, mirrored my thoughts regarding Terminator: Genisys. The film almost feels like it’s afraid to slow down, as if its audience will get bored if it even has any small, meaningful moments. However, in the first two Terminator films, it was those slower moments that allowed us to connect with the majority of the characters.

In the end, Genisys will probably be seen by many as a slate-wiper for the last two Terminator films, much like how Jurassic World wiped out thoughts of Jurassic Park’s two sequels. Even so, it doesn’t really do much besides picking-and-choosing out some of the more memorable moments of the films that have come before, and trying to snap them into something that will hopefully appeal to the most jaded Terminator fans. As well, I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of people real soon, trying to make further sense regarding how these new timeline anomalies tie into the previous films.

If there is one saving grace to the parade of fan-pandering that is prevalent throughout Genisys, it’s that we are spared anyone in this alternate timeline, teaching “Pops” to say, “Hasta la vista, baby.”

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Final Grade: B- (Final Thoughts: “Terminator: Genisys” attempts to rewrite its own future, but comes out as little more than a convoluted excuse to bring Arnold Schwarzenegger back in his most iconic role. The fate of mankind’s future carries little weight, as we get little more than a ‘greatest hits playlist’ of past film moments. It’s an action film that wants to be as thrilling and smart as its early predecessors, but is too deeply mired in its franchise-possible future to succeed)