Category Archives: Genre: Action

2009 DVD Blitz!

I had initially planned on doing separate reviews for all of these DVDs I watched over the last couple of weeks, but I decided it was wasting too much of my life.  I need to focus on my studies and my novels more, and less on blogging.

Maybe I’ll eventually get around to reviewing them in full on 7Tavern.  But for now, here are some brief reviews.

The Taking of Pelham 123

I expected a bit of a stinker and my expectations were fulfilled. John Travolta was a shocker in this one (simply swearing a lot doesn’t make a villain cool or menacing or interesting), and Denzel feels the same as always. There were a couple of decent moments and flashes of excitement that prevented the film from being a total disaster, but on the whole this was one to forget.

2 out of 5

Never Back Down

Teenage mixed martial arts movie with all the expected crap that comes with it – average acting, bad dialogue and predictable flow. Good fight scenes though. Cam Gigandet’s evil smile reminded me of a chiseled Hayden Christensen.

2 out of 5

Redbelt

I was getting my MMA fix.  Hard hitting, both physically and emotionally, in true Mamet-style. For once a martial arts film that deals with more than just punching and kicking. Keeps you wondering where it would take you next. Awesome.

4 out of 5

Whatever Works

Look, it’s not a bad film. It’s just that Larry David is annoying enough for half an hour on Curb, so Larry David for 92 minutes straight gets a bit…

And it’s hard to ignore the fact that the movie is written and directed by Woody Allen, and surprise surprise, it’s about the relationship between a misunderstood old man and a girl that is far too young to be married to him. Thankfully, it’s not his daughter. 

2.5 out of 5

The Hangover

Maybe I expected too much. The Hangover is pretty good but not as gut-bustingly hilarious as I thought it would be. That said, it could have been way worse. Ken Jeong is an absolute classic.

3 out of 5

Lost Boys: The Tribe

Long awaited sequel to the 87 classic went pretty much according to script. B-grade all the way, but that doesn’t mean it was destined to be crap. I liked the tongue-in-cheek moments but there was too much serious stuff mixed in there which made it uneven. It could have been worse, I suppose.  RIP Corey Haim.

2 out 5

Michael Clayton

Oozes class all the way through. A tremendous opening sequence, an intriguing plot, and handled with style and precision. A well-made, gripping thriller.

4 out of 5

Fool’s Gold

Should have been simply titled “Fools”. Horrible plot (where is the adventure? People sit around, talk, and figure out where the treasure is?), annoying characters, and action without excitement. And it’s 110 minutes! And the ultimate killer blow? Matthew McConaughey.

1.5 out of 5

Did I mention I’ve been kinda busy lately?

Late addition – can’t believe I saw this film but totally forgot about it!

Vantage Point

Pretty clever idea and a great cast, but unfortunately they didn’t nail it. Despite the gimmick, in the end it turned out to be a rather pedestrian thriller plot. That said, there were some exciting scenes and at 90 minutes, the film didn’t outstay its welcome.

3 out of 5

Movie Review: From Paris with Love (2009)

Taken was one of my favourite films of 2008, and one of the best action movies I had seen in years.  From Paris with Love has the same director (Pierre Morel), and Luc Besson worked on both screenplays, so needless to say, expectations were high.

Unfortunately, From Paris with Love is not even close.  It tells the story of James Reese (played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a personal aide to a US Ambassador in Paris, who is drawn into a wild terrorist plot thanks to his crazy new partner Charlie Wax (John Travolta).

Well, From Paris with Love has some fairly good action scenes, but it’s far too loud, noisy and repetitious.  It’s all guns blazing, fast cars, explosions, and f-bombs.  However, most of it is wrapped in humour, and because of that, it lacks that edginess that Taken had.

Like Taken, the film is totally preposterous, but at least in Taken, you could allow yourself accept the reckless carnage because Liam Neeson was a man on a mission to save his daughter.  But in From Paris with Love, Travolta’s Wax just comes off as an over-the-top nutjob who simply wants to kill everyone.

I don’t know what the deal is.  Travolta as Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction was perfect.  He was cool, charming, and likable.  But for some reason, being a gun-toting, wise-cracking bad ass in his two recent films, From Paris with Love and The Taking of Pelham 123, just doesn’t work for Travolta.  Perhaps it’s the dialogue or the appearance – either way, Travolta feels obnoxious and looks like he’s trying too hard.

That said, From Paris with Love is not all bad.  Some of the jokes do work, and there is occasional excitement.  Plus Jonathan Rhys Meyers is excellent as always, making Reese’s relationship with Wax an enjoyable focus of the movie.  But none of that really makes up for a sub-par film.

2.5 out of 5 stars!

Movie Review: The Hurt Locker (2009)

The Hurt Locker isn’t a film that jumps out at you as a front-runner for the Best Picture Oscar while you are watching it.  It has the feel of a small-scale film, focused on a specific subject in a specific setting, with largely unknowns in the lead roles.  But don’t let that put you off.  It is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year.

I would call The Hurt Locker an American war suspense-action-thriller.  Directed by Kathryn Bigelow (K-19: The Widowmaker, Point Break – yes, that’s right!  Point Break!), it tells the story of an United States EOD (Explosives Ordnance Disposal) team in post US-invaded Iraq.  To many viewers, it will be a world that is as foreign as Pandora from James Cameron’s Avatar.

The Hurt Locker a cut above most other post-911 war movies for several reasons.

First of all, it is probably the most suspenseful film in recent memory.  The thrills come in waves, but when it comes, the tension is so unbelievably high that it made me forget how to breathe.  Full credit must go to Bigelow, who combines life-and-death situations with documentary-style shooting to create an atmosphere that makes the audience feel like they are right there in the pressure cooker with the EOD team members.

Second, the script by Mark Boal is outstanding.  Boal is a freelance journalist who actually spent time with a bomb squad in Iraq.  This experience, coupled with his ability to create intriguing, well-developed characters, makes The Hurt Locker the most authentic-feeling Iraq war movie to date.

Third, the acting is first class.  The three main leads (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) are considered relative no-names in Hollywood, but all deliver performances that bring their respective characters to life.  Renner (28 Weeks Later) is particularly excellent and is well-deserving of his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.  He brings a brooding arrogance and obsessive quality to Sergeant First Class William James that makes the already-tense environment even more explosive.  Renner’s face reminds me of a pudgier Jason Bateman, but his screen presence (according to a friend) is reminiscent of a young Mel Gibson (before he went off the rails, of course).

Lastly, I really enjoyed the subtlety of The Hurt Locker.  It may be an anti-war movie at heart, but it doesn’t ram any political messages down your throat.  There’s no American hero bravado or that ‘Americans are evil’ sentiment.  There’s a telling image here and there, but for the most part, you can simply enjoy the movie for its intense action and ignore the underlying message.

Having raved about the film, it isn’t quite perfect.  At 131 minutes, The Hurt Locker is probably 15-20 minutes too long, and partly because of this, the last third of the film isn’t quite as exhiliarating as the first two-thirds.  However, these are only minor complaints in an otherwise superb film.  The only thing really preventing The Hurt Locker from getting full marks from me is that I simply don’t think it is memorable enough.  It may be one of the best films of the year, but it’s unlikely to be one of those classics people will easily recall years down the track.

4.5 stars out of 5!

[PS: I now think The Hurt Locker has a pretty good chance of beating Avatar for Best Picture because of this new preferential voting system.  That said, I’m sticking with my prediction of Avatar for Best Picture.  The one with the bigger chance of an upset could be Bigelow over her ex-husband James Cameron for Best Director.  This is one of those years where voters seem to rally around a cause, and this year the stars may be aligned for the first ever female director to take the prize.]

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

I admit I don’t know a whole lot about the Sherlock Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  I may have read a few story books or seen a couple of TV shows about the super sleuth as a child, but on the whole my memory is pretty fuzzy.

Accordingly, when I watched the new film Sherlock Holmes directed by Guy Ritchie, I didn’t have a pre-conceived notion of how the character was supposed to behave.  I understand a lot of old school fans may be quite appalled at the way Sir Conan’s creation has been butchered in this ‘re-invention’ (in the same way I was devastated with what Hollywood did with Astro Boy), but I didn’t have such a problem.

With that in mind, I quite liked it!  That’s saying a lot because I haven’t liked a Guy Ritchie film since Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (and I didn’t even like that very much).

(Read the rest of the review by clicking on ‘More…’)

Continue reading Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes (2009)

Movie Review: Avatar (2009)

How do you follow up the highest grossing movie of all time?

Spend 15 years and more than $230 million dollars to make a technologically groundbreaking blockbuster!  Well, that’s exactly what James Cameron did with his latest sci-fi action masterpiece: Avatar.

In one word, Avatar is a ‘spectacle’.  Do yourself a favour and watch this movie in 3D because it is an unbelievable experience.  While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that the special effects were entirely ‘photo-realistic’, it was pretty darn close.  My wife thought some of the computer-generated characters and creatures were partly built with models and make-up (as opposed to 100% CGI), and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one.  The computer-generated alien world was stunningly beautiful, and at times it was impossible to tell whether it was real or not (because some of it was real and filmed in New Zealand).

Without giving away too much of the plot, Avatar is set in a futuristic world on a distant planet called Pandora.  The title is apt but I won’t say anything more than that.  I was very disappointed with the previews, which, as always, gave away waaaaay too much.  Avoid them like the plague.  The film is predictable enough as it is without a start-to-finish synopsis of the entire storyline.  And besides, it really kills the ‘wow’ factor.

Avatar is the first genuine 3D film that I’ve seen.  The purpose of the 3D is to enhance the movie experience, not to act as a gimmick.  In movies like The Final Destination 3D or My Blood Valentine 3D, the 3D was all about making things fly at you at every opportunity, and it gets old quickly.  But in Avatar, it’s there to bring an amazing fantasy world to life, and it really works.  You become immersed in it.  You start to believe it is real.  The excitement becomes more exciting.  The thrills become more thrilling.  The characters become more believable.  It works.

New Aussie superstar Sam Worthington plays the lead character Jake Sully, and it’s easy to see why Cameron picked him (and recommended him for Terminator Salvation) out of thousands of ‘unknowns’ at the time.  He has this unassuming quality about him – an easygoing, down-to-earth disposition that makes it easy for you to root for him.  The rest of the cast is also solid – Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi and Stephen Lang as the imposing Colonel Miles Quaritch.  Each hold their own, though at the end of the day none manage to steal Worthington’s thunder.

I believe the critics have been less harsh with Avatar than they were with Titanic, though there are certain to be cynics out there.  Yes, it’s easy to point to the character designs and say they are a rip-off of the Smurfs (!).  Yes, the dialogue and jokes are cheesy (though some of it is intentionally tongue-in-cheek), it has stock-standard secondary characters, and the plot is entirely predictable.  And yes, it has the audacity to contain thinly-veiled but uninspiring messages about the environment, nature, and political greed (in particular American arrogance and self-righteousness).

But none of that really matters.  Don’t look too far for a deeper meaning when watching Avatar – just enjoy it for what it is – an awesome, utterly spectacular movie experience.  The action sequences, especially the lengthy final climax, are sure to go down as some of the greatest ever.  Despite being almost 3 hours long, I never once looked at my watch – my trusty yardstick for how enjoyable a film truly is.

Just days into its release, Avatar is doing exceptionally well, and may lead to the development of planned sequels, though I’m not sure that’s such a great idea.  That being said, I am already planning a second helping of Avatar – this time, of course, on IMAX!

4.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: 2012 (2009)

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2012 (the movie not the year) is pretty much what you would expect from a US$200 million blockbuster about the end of the world directed by Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow).  Eye-popping special effects, an epic storyline, a multitude of characters, cliched dialogue, bad jokes, cringe-worthy moments and cheesy one-liners.

And yet, for all its flaws, 2012 is surprisingly absorbing.  It is somewhat overlong at a whopping 158 minutes, but it’s never easy for such films to be short these days.

The plot – well, pretty self-explanatory.  Do I really need to say anything?  I am glad to say that they didn’t try to milk the whole Mayan calendar thing.  It was not much more than a passing reference in the end.

The science of it all was sketchy in my opinion, but I’m not sure they really cared.  As the film rolled along, it became clear that suspension of disbelief was imperative to an enjoyable experience.  Too many things were either implausible or impossible or simply didn’t make sense.  The sooner you realised that this was going to be the norm the better.

Of course, epic movies like 2012 require a lot of characters.  Sure, most of them were cliched and cardboard stereotypes (especially the minor ones), but what I liked about it was that they were all linked in one way or another.  It wasn’t just a random bunch of people who had nothing to do with each other.

The characters were portrayed by a great ensemble cast led by Chiwetel Ejiofor and John Cusack, together with Amanda Peet, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, and a bizarre appearance by Woody Harrelson.  The only notable weakness was Danny Glover as the President of the United States.  It was just a laughable performance.  Think of an old and tired Barack Obama who has lost his voice and charm after being disillusioned with being in office for 30 years straight.

Although entirely predictable, sentimental and silly, 2012 still managed to eke out some thrills and excitement.  As I said before, if you can suspend disbelief and just go along for the ride, the film is pure pop-corn fun.  Even if you can’t, there’s at least the special effects to enjoy.  More impressive than Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, Deep Impact, Armageddon, The War of the Worlds and The Day the Earth Stood Still, the visuals in 2012 are the most spectacular I’ve ever seen.  If 2012 (the movie) turns out to be prophetic, none of us will have the time or mood to witness the destruction of the earth, so this film is the best opportunity we have.

3.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

gi-joe-int-poster

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the type of summer blockbuster that is fated to be panned by critics, regardless of whether it actually deserves to be reviled.  In my humble opinion, if you know what to expect with this type of film (and come on, you should if you go to see it), it’s not actually all that bad.

First of all, it should be noted that while I may or may not have played with the Hasbro action figures (which may or may not have been cheap rip-offs) when I was younger, I am not very familiar with the G.I. Joe ‘story’, if there is one.  Nevertheless, that isn’t very important to this movie.

I won’t reveal the plot because there’s really no point – take a guess and you’ll probably be close.  You don’t need me to tell you that the film revolves around the ‘Joes’ who are trying to stop their evil enemies from world domination.  Trust me, it’s predictable – even the so-called twists are.  It’s also likely to be the first of many G.I. Joe films to come, depending on the success of this first one.

Anyway, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is pretty much what you’d expect from a film of this kind.  It has a superb cast: Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonathan Pryce, Arnold Vosloo (the Mummy!), Brendan Fraser (cameo) and Ray Park (Darth Maul!).  It also features some sub-par acting, at least by these actors’ standards.

Also as expected, the film is extremely loud and relentless, with non-stop action and all types of battle scenes, from the ground to the sky to the sea, from hand-to-hand combat to exhilarating sword fights, from bullets to hi-tech blasters to ninja stars, and of course the obligatory car chase scenes – you name it, you got it.  All of these sequences are filmed with the subtlety of a sledge-hammer, and while some of it was exciting, it still felt like something was missing.  Perhaps it was the predictability, the apparent invincibility of the characters, or maybe it was just a lack of heart.

The special effects go without saying.  It’s seamless and often eye-popping.  However, it is the stuff that doesn’t rely on special effects – the hand-t0-hand and particularly the sword fights – that really steal the show.  They are meticulously choreographed and there’s no over-use of quick-cut editing.  Oh, and there’s also the cool technological gadgets, weapons and machinery.  If you can suspend all disbelief then you may think they are pretty cool.

So far so good.  Unfortunately, as expected, the good parts also come hand in hand with the appalling dialogue, the cheesy one-liners and horrible jokes that only generate laughs because they’re so bad.  Cringeworthy bad.

There you have it.  G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is what it is.  As long as you don’t expect something else then you may find it quite enjoyable, though even then, it has its limitations.

3 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Public Enemies (2009)

public-enemies-poster-0

When my sister told me not to waste my money on Public Enemies (starring Johhny Depp and Christian Bale and directed by Michael Mann), calling it long and boring, I knew I had to go and watch it.  And I’m glad I did, because Public Enemies is an excellent movie.

The film centres around the true story of John Dillinger, back robber and public enemy no. 1 during the Great Depression.  Johnny Depp delivers a sensational performance in the lead role, full of quiet confidence and oozing the charisma that made Dillinger an iconic hero in the eyes of many.  You really have to hand it to Depp, who at 46 can still look cool with a dodgy 1930s haircut and a seedy mustache.  He makes Dillinger real and likable despite the fact that he’s really the bad guy.

On the other hand, Christan Bale puts in another low-key but steady performance as FBI agent Melvin Purvis, the man after Dillinger and the other bank robbers of the time.  You don’t really find out much about what Purvis is like as a person, but Bale does a solid job.

Academy Award winner Marion Collitard plays Dilinger’s girl, Billie Frechette.  About halfway through I thought the romance was the weakest part of the movie, but by the end I was convinced that it was an important and integral part of the film.  And Collitard really demonstrates her acting chops towards the end.

Those are the three lead characters, but I was shocked how many big names and familiar faces were in the cast.  Actors such as Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi, David Wenham, Stephen Dorff, Channing Tatum, Leelee Sobieski, Emilie de Ravin, Lili Taylor and Shawn Hatosy pop in and out, but they all add to rather than distract from the film.  One the best casts I’ve seen in a major film.

Director Michael Mann has put together a stylish film which meticulously recreates the essence of the 1930s.  I don’t know how much of the film is fabricated, but it feels real – from the sets to the clothing and the cars and even the blazing guns.  The drama is engaging, the action is exciting, the chase is thrilling and the plot unpredictable.  At 2 hours and 23 minutes it is a pretty long film.  Personally I would have preferred it had they tightened some scenes to cut the running time by around 20 minutes, but overall it is a top notch film.

4 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

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I’ll tell you a conversation I heard in the men’s room straight after the film between two young boys (that probably just hit puberty) that sums it up pretty well:

“Man, what an awesome movie!”

“Yeah!  But what I didn’t get was why they had to [spoilers].”

“I didn’t get that either.  And who was the robot that [spoilers] and the one that [spoilers] in the end?”

“I’m not sure.  I think it was [spoilers] and [spoilers].”

“Really?  I thought it was [spoilers].”

“Who cares?  Megan Fox was hot though.”

“And the cars and robot fights were really cool.”

“Yeah, what an awesome movie!”

Overview

The second film (there will inevitably be more) of Michael Bay’s Transformers series is bigger, louder, longer and dumber than the original.  So if you’ve seen the first, expect more of the same except with everything magnified.  For some, like the teenage boys described above, that’s awesome.  For most others, it’s downright unbearable.

As for me, I went into the film with sub-zero expectations because everything I’ve come across about the film shreds it to pieces.  And while the film does fail miserably in most departments, it is not a complete waste of time and money.  Some parts were exciting.  Some were a little funny.  So if you can put up with the rest of the parts that weren’t (and those were in the clear majority), then you might find it okay.

What’s it about?

Next.

The good

There were 2 things in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (let’s just call it Transformers II) that improved on the first film: (1) robot fight scenes; and (2) special effects.

One of my gripes about the original Transformers movie was that you couldn’t tell what was going on in a lot of the fight scenes between the Autobots and the Decepticons.  All you could see were some quick flashes and giant balls of metal rolling around before one of them would stand victorious.

Transformers II rectifies the problem in a big way.  The camera pans back this time and stays on the robots long enough for audiences to see and appreciate the action.  So much so that kids can probably recreate the battles with their licensed Hasbro toys afterwards.

Seriously, the robot action was a lot smoother and more fluid this time.

Less noticeably, perhaps, were the special effects, which also improved from the original.  Apart from the robots themselves, many of the fight scenes involved destroying well-known landmarks.  This was done with amazing realism.  Further, the robot transformations were even more intricate and visually impressive than last time.

The bad

Yep, there was a lot of bad.

For starters, the movie was way too long, clocking in at 2 hours and X minutes.  I wouldn’t have had a problem had the film felt shorter, but it didn’t.  It felt like a really long movie.

Secondly, the plot.  It’s hard to know where to start with it so I won’t even try.  I hadn’t expected it to be original but this was derivative to the point that you couldn’t simply ignore it.  Let’s just say they could have put a little more effort into disguising it better.

Even the jokes were bad this time.  There were some decent laughs too, but many of jokes in Transformers II fell flat.  Like bad ‘Scary Movie’ jokes flat.  Especially when it tried to be ‘cool’, it turned out to be lame.  The twin Autobots were the prime culprits.

The film took a turn for the better when John Turturro arrived.  Like the first film, he was the comic highlight, but although he had some good lines he had limited screen time and dare I say even some of his antics wore a little thin at times.

The ugly

Transformers II has some of the worst editing of any film I have seen in recent times.  It’s not bad to the extent that you don’t know what’s going on, but it provides plenty of ‘WTFs?’.  For a major blockbuster like this, there’s no excuse.  To me, it reeks of laziness.  It’s as though the makers only cared about the cars, the action and the girls, and forgot about everything else.

Case in point – you know how when lead actor Shia LaBeouf injured his hand in a motor accident in real life and Bay said that they would work that into the movie?  Not really.  They just kind of fudged it – the idea wasn’t awful, but the execution was.  If you’ve seen the film you’ll know what I mean.

The performers

The majority of the main cast from the original returned.  Shia LaBeouf is getting over exposed these days, so he may be losing his charm, but he still does a reasonable job as the hero.  There were a few scenes where he demonstrates that his head hasn’t gotten so big that he’s unwilling to be ridiculed.

Megan Fox returns to play another sexy role as his girlfriend and doesn’t do much other than trying to look and sound appealing.  She’s actually not bad, but for some reason really looks like she could use a nice long bath.

The key new addition is the new roommate, Leo Spitz, played by Ramon Rodriguez, who is the primary comic relief until John Turturro returns.  Both men provide a spark to an often sagging film, though their jokes can be uneven.

On the military side, Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson return to their rather useless roles.  If they wanted to trim the fat off this movie then these guys should have gone first.

Final word

Michael Bay didn’t try to cater for all audiences like say JJ Abrams did with Star Trek – it’s very clear from the first few minutes that Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is nothing more than a bit of brainless fun targeted at overly excited teenagers.  However, even if you accept the film for what it is, it doesn’t necessarily succeed.  It’s still far too long and disjointed, and everything other than the special effects and action sequences feel extraordinarily lazy, as though they didn’t think anyone would notice or care if they put no effort into it.  That said, if you can put all of that aside…

2.5 stars out of 5!

Movie Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

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I went to see Terminator Salvation with reasonable (albeit guarded) expectations, but the film absolutely exceeded them.  In my humble opinion, it’s the second best film (out of four) of the great Terminator franchise.  Bearing in mind that I thought Terminator 2: Judgment Day was one of the best action movies and sequels of all time, that’s a pretty big compliment for the new film directed by McG and starring Christian Bale and Sam Worthington.

As per usual, I’ll keep plot details to an absolute minimum.  All that needs to be said is that the story revolves around a grown-up John Connor (Christian Bale, or Edward Furlong from T2 and Nick Stahl from T3).  If you’ve seen the previous 3 films or have a vague idea what they are about, then no further explanation is necessary.

However, you don’t need to have seen any of the previous Terminator films to appreciate this one.  It stands up well as an independent feature, and is significantly different in style to its predecessors.  It’s substantially more dark, grim and gritty, capturing the pessimistic mood of the world perfectly.  But when it comes to action sequences, of which Terminator Salvation has plenty, it doesn’t do too shabbily when judged under the high standards set by the franchise.

While I said the story revolves around John Connor, the movie really belongs to new character Markus Wright, played by Aussie Sam Worthington (who will be appearing in Avatar later this year and will play Perseus in the remake of Clash of the Titans).  Worthington is arguably the lead character of the film, and shares just as much as screen time as (if not more than) Bale – and he has the more interesting story.  This is the second time in a row Bale has been relegated to second fiddle despite being the supposed ‘lead character’ for a major film (the first, of course, is when Heath Ledger’s Joker upstaged his Batman in The Dark Knight).  Maybe that’s the real reason Bale went American Psycho on the set!

While Bale and Worthington hog most of the minutes, Anton Yelchin absolutely steals the show as a young Kyle Reese.  He is terrific in this role, and I have become a big fan.  Also solid is Moon Bloodgood, a Resistance soldier, and Jadagrace Berry, too cute for her own good.  Michael Ironside grunts his way through the film for his paycheck, but it is Bryce Dallas Howard that has the most thankless role as as Kate Connor.  She really got short changed.

When people hear a guy named McG directed the film (you may remember him from such films as Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle), they cringe and refuse to give it a chance.  Poor guy, but that’s the nickname he was given from birth because too many relatives had the same names (real name: Joseph McGinty Nichol).  However, McG does a splendid job in Terminator Salvation, creating a realistic, believable world, keeping the action thrilling and dynamic (with creative camera angles and movements), while managing to add in some cool homages to the previous films.  I thought they were cool anyway.

The special effects were superb, but audiences don’t expect anything less than seamless these days.  Although there were some highly creative sequences, none of them were as iconic as those from T1 or T2.

I was surprised how relatively little fanfare accompanied the release of this movie, which was the first in the franchise without Governor Schwarzenegger in the lead.  I’m not sure if it was because I was hidden from the world during my studies, but to me, Terminator Salvation had none of the hype that surrounded the release of other recent major films such as Star Trek or Angels & Demons.  Of course, there was that infamous psychotic Christian Bale rant on set that made headlines all around the world, but I don’t believe it had anything to do with the unexpected low-keyness of it all.  Then again, that didn’t stop the early reviewers of the film from spoiling the many wonderful surprises in this underrated blockbuster (if you haven’t seen it yet, dear reader, then I hope you had more success than me in avoiding them).

Okay, now the verdict.  In my opinion, it’s better than a 4-star film, but not quite good enough to warrant 4.5 stars.  Hence, I will have to settle for 4.25 stars out of 5!