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Rating History

Terminator Salvation
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I wanted to cry ?Mercy? several times while watching Terminator Salvation, the latest installment in a franchise that opened with one of the most innovative action movies ever made; followed with a film that redefined the boundaries of special effects with the liquid metal T-1000, which sounded even cooler when described by Ah-nold; and then overstayed its welcome. Terminator 3 was underwhelming, a television show called Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles pushed the series to lower depths, and now Terminator Salvation strips the story down into an endless chase sequence. I lost count of the battle scenes about half way into the movie, and became more and more angered by this film?s total lack of substance towards the conclusion. Many of the action sequences were well made, and could have served as the film?s climax; I just find it had to get excited for action movies when the filmmakers have neglected to include a suspenseful build up to the scene.

If The Terminator made your head hurt, this film will leave you dazed. In the original film, a human-looking machine (if you think Arnold looks like a human) was sent back to kill Sarah Connor, the mother of John Conner, a man who would lead a revolution against self-aware machines in the aftermath of a nuclear war. John Conner sends back his most trusted soldier to 1984 to protect his mother, and this soldier ends up being John?s father. How does that work? Don?t ask. In this latest installment, which takes place before the futuristic events of the original film, the machines are intent on killing both John and Kyle Reese, the young soldier he would eventually send back to protect and impregnate his mother. Reese is captured about halfway through the film, and even logic driven machines make the mistake of keeping him alive. This was funny in the Bond films, here, its just inane. The machines never seem to get their man, and since they are now going after the whole bloodline, why not just dispatch hordes of robots across the paths of history with the hope of killing at least one member of the Conner family. I never asked these questions during the first two Terminators, mainly because they were so damn entertaining and suspenseful. Now that the film has regressed into endless action, I am starting to question the small snippets of plot interspersed.

The legendary John Conner should be the central focus of the movie. He was touted as a great leader by Reese, but the film doesn?t examine his legend very closely. His short wave radio seems to be his main proselytizing tool; he is essential a futuristic radio personality bringing comfort and hope to the masses. He also seems to be something of a reckless gladiator, always on the front lines and willing to go on solo missions against the orders of his commanders. His actions in this movie are the stuff of legend, but he already seems to be a legend because of his sermons. I suppose that he knows he is infallible because letters from his mother told him so. He certainly must live long enough to be able to send Reese, about 20 in this movie, closer to 30 in original, back to create his own legend, provided they thwart the machines? attempts here to kill them both, which they must or else we would have to forget the first three movies ever existed!

The film is not a total disaster. Christian Bale is a great choice to play Conner. He is a great actor who has been hiding behind the Batman mask for too long. He certainly has the right intensity to play a bellicose man like Conner, as evidenced in this famous clip from the set. He nails the difficult moment when he first meets Reese, the significance of which he knows but Reese does not. However, the role could have been better, his leadership examined more closely. The film?s true leader is Marcus Wright, a man who seems to wake up amidst the war, unsure why humanity seems on the verge of extinction. Sam Worthington, soon to be the star of Avatar, plays Wright with a quiet intensity, intent on saving his friend Reese, who is the first person he meets. However, aside from good performances from the two leads and few very good action sequences, this film probably isn?t worth seeing. If you want to see a suspenseful action film, rent The Hurt Locker. If you love this series and have seen Terminator 2 way too many times, I am not sure what to tell you because you won?t be very satisfied with this film.

Moon (2009)
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

I never like to say that I prefer one movie genre to another (when asked what types of movies I like, I usually say good ones. Glib, perhaps, but true), but good Science Fiction movies are the rarest of all new releases. A new horror film seems to battle the latest comedy every weekend at the box office, whereas well executed Sci-Fi movies are released once a twice a year in a good year, and even within the genre, other genres emerge ? horror films (Alien), space operas (Star Wars), philosophical exercises (2001 and Solaris), animation (Wall-E), and even comedies (Spaceballs). Science Fiction films are usually just other movie genres set in space.

Moon is mainly a philosophical exercise. The story itself is not highly original, something of a mix between 2001 and Blade Runner; the best way to describe the viewing experience is fresh, different than most of the films released over the past decade, in a good way. I wanted to see it as soon as I heard of its existence, and then I found out that the underrated Sam Rockwell is the star and that David Bowie?s son Duncan Jones is the director! This fact amazed me. If I had to choose five celebrities as possible alien beings sent to earth to engage and entertain our race, David Bowie would be number one or number two, depending on how strange you find Prince, and now I find out that his spawn is making movies, good movies. This is exciting, and it helps to explain why Moon is a terrific existential film with an atmosphere of both hope and abandonment. I can?t imagine that growing up with David Bowie as a father is a normal experience, but maybe I am wrong. Duncan?s actual name is Zowie Bowie, so probably I am right.

The film is set in a space station on the Moon that excavates Helium-3, which is sent back to Earth as a power supply. Rockwell?s character, Sam Bell, mans the space station and is nearing the end of his three year contract. His only other companion is a robot named Gerty, who talks like Keyser Soze (aka Kevin Spacey) and wheels around the complex like a hovering cable powered streetcar. The obvious reference to 2001?s on board computer, Hal 9000, adds tension; the viewer immediately questions the computer?s loyalty to Sam, who seems to be losing his sanity in the final weeks of his contract and begins to have confusing visions. At this point, a second Sam Bell shows up at the base, and Rockwell gets to shine. He is brilliant in the film. After proving in previous roles to be superb at playing hotheads and maniacs, here, he gets to play both. One of the Sams, the hothead, assumes that he is a clone and spends much of his time trying to prove to the other that they are being watched and kept unaware of secret parts of the base. The second Sam is resistant to these delusions and recedes into his own daily routine. Much like Nicholas Cage?s remarkable performance in Adaptation, Rockwell is able to always make the viewer aware of which Sam Bell they are seeing. Credit Jones as well for setting up scenes in a way to highlight the distinct, but possibly converging, paths of the two Sams.

At a brisk 90 minutes, the film tells an engaging story that essentially takes place in one small space. Had the great Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky made this film, I think it would have been better but much different. Moon is a perfect set-up to examine the human mind as it approaches its breaking point, and I feel that the film rushes to its conclusion, though if Tarkovsky were making films today, the minute a studio executive told him to trim scenes, he would either quit or go mad. Slowly paced Science Fiction seems extinct for now. We saw that a couple years ago with Darren Aronofsky?s The Fountain, a 90 minute movie that crammed too much content into too brief a time frame. Moon succeeds at making the viewer think, but not too much. The film does, however, excel at entertainment. In an interview on Suicide Girls, Jones says that he intends to make a epilogue to the film. Perhaps then, I?ll get more of the philosophy I wanted this film to express.

The Wrestler
The Wrestler (2008)
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

If the murder-suicide involving WWE superstar Chris Benoit was the act that killed wrestling, Darren Aronofsky?s The Wrestler is the trial and conviction of an entertainment medium that has destroyed countless lives. The list of wrestlers who have died before the age of 50 is staggering, making Aronofsky?s sobering tale of an aging wrestler an important look at a once glamorous form of entertainment. As a adolescent, I idolized wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior, tuning in multiple times a week to watch their matches and praying for Saturday Night Live to be pre-empted in place of the always thrilling Saturday Night?s Main Event. I watched Jimmie Super Fly Snooka leap from the top of a steel cage onto a hapless opponent, Randy Macho Man Savage slam a steal bell into Ricky The Dragon Steamboat, King Kong Bundy constantly trying to get the better of Hulk Hogan, and countless other colorfully named He-Men achieving remarkable feats of strength and agility. I always heard wrestling was lie, I just never realized that the lie went deeper than fixed matches and changing alliances. After years on the circuit, these wrestlers were falling apart, literally. Steroid abuse destroyed their minds and bodies, leading too many to an early death.

Enter Randy The Ram Robinson, the remarkable creation of Mickey Rourke, a Hollywood star from the 80s who has used his fledgling career as an inspiration for his portrayal of a wrestler trying to regain his lost stardom. He gets everything right in this role, sauntering from place to place always trying to ease the stiffness in his body and constantly trying to grunt away the pain. Rourke creates the perfect picture of an aged wrestler, barely able to cope with the abuse he has caused his system, and Arnofsky matches him every step of the way. The details in this movie are fascinating. We see Randy the Ram talking with his colleagues about the various moves they will execute during their matches, other wrestlers are always doing some type of weight training exercise, The Ram bonds with the neighborhood kids by boring them with his Nintendo Entertainment System, unable to grasp the newer game concepts explained to him by his young neighbors. Everything about Randy and his world is trapped in the 80s, and though the movie is considerably subdued throughout, the perfectly reflected world of an aging star makes the film brilliant. After watching the film, I found it difficult to recall a character that inspired more sympathy than The Ram. The wrestling world let him down. He should be rich and famous, and retired. He is not, but as a film character, he is unforgettable.

Rachel Getting Married
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

My favourite movie in 2008 was Rachel Getting Married, a film that deals with love's ability to subside anger, with characters that straddle the line between resiliency and despondency as they move forward in the wake of tragedy. By staging the story on Rachel's wedding weekend, director Jonathan Demme uses a joyous occasion to examine a family moving past grief. Rachel's brother has died in a car accident, her drug addicted sister, Kym, caused the boy's death, and their grieving parents are trying to forgive her. In marrying, Rachel is bringing new life into a family feeling drained of happiness. Her finance, his friends and his family are a very musical group, incessantly performing and using their enthusiasm to spread optimism but occasionally intruding on a family's cherished grief, which is all that is left of a son and brother.

Demme, who also directed The Silence of the Lambs, a film that reveals man's animalism as well as any other work of art, here gives us a very different type of movie, one with characters hurting from but surviving on their humanity. In the film's lonely centre is Kym, played heartbreakingly by Anne Hathaway, as both victim and perpetrator of a horrendous crime. She has been living in an institution since accidentally killing her brother and has returned home to see her sister get married. In scenes where characters fondly reflect the past, Kym's act is omnipresent, reminding everyone that the past has also been painful, but the film's remarkable achievement is revealing the moments where the family is beginning to overcome this pain. Kym and Rachel's father, an emotional man deeply in love with each of his children, uses his optimism to ensure that the weekend focuses on the celebration, but even he reaches a moment where his grief rushes back in, and so the bride's family depends on the groom's to carry them through the tough moments, and they do. Their music, their culture, their love, make the weekend, and the movie, a celebration of human togetherness.

When I left this movie, I kept thinking about the groom, and his obvious love and respect for music. I soon found out that he is played by Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio. His performance forced me to listen to their latest album, Dear Science, and it is brilliant. The files are wearing out my iPod. That is the first item I for which I thank Jonathan Demme and his casting directors. The second is for providing Anne Hathaway with a chance to play this role. She has one of the most expressive faces in Hollywood. I think if Ingmar Bergman had have seen her, he would have continually cast her in his movies. She was born to portray happiness and grief, therefore to reflect the most emotional elements of life, and this remarkable performance will likely be the first of many during her career.

The Reader
The Reader (2008)
7 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

In a strangely prophetic guest appearance on Ricky Gervais? sitcom Extras, Kate Winslet indicated that she was starring in a film about the Holocaust to better her chances at winning an Oscar, because that?s what the Academy wants to see. What was a very droll joke at the time may turn into reality at this year?s Oscar ceremony with Winslet?s nomination in The Reader, from director Stephen Daldry.

Winslet?s performance as Hanna Schmitz is very good in the story of a young man, Michael Berg, who meets and begins an affair with the much older Schmitz, and later finds that Hanna, who once disappeared from his life, may have committed a horrible crime during the Holocaust. Hanna seems sure to receive the most severe prison term amongst the group of women who were involved in the act, but the boy knows a secret that could potentially lead to her acquittal and assuredly to a substantially reduced sentence. The events of the affair and subsequent trail are told in Michael?s reflections 30 years after he began the affair as he still questions whether he did the right thing during the trail. His life has become a series of one night stands after his divorce, and his daughter feels that her father has purposely distanced himself from her life. He has never forgotten Hanna, and his affair with her has had a major impact on his life, as fond memories of first love have overpowered the decisions he has made in his relationships. He never lets Hanna go.

As we watch the progression of Schmitz? life, we see a women who will never find peace but seizes opportunities for moments of happiness. Early in the film, she is a woman with an obvious secret, who seems to harbour regret as she struggles to forget her past. Later, as we witness her on trail for war crimes, we meet a woman who has rationalized her acts because she feels that she had no alternative to the action she committed. As her life moves forward after the trail, we witness a women resigned to the fact that she deserves no peace, and instead focuses on overcoming a shameful secret. Schmitz is in many ways a victim, and her explanation of the crime reflects the actions of a woman who held no prejudices against the Jewish people, though her inactions may make her guilty. The film asks tough questions about her trail in scenes where Michael and his classmates review the case in an academic setting. Their professor asks them to explore the meaning of guilt, not German guilt, as was common at the time, but criminal guilt, and a simple answer does not exist. Making a movie about the Holocaust requires respect for the Jewish victims and The Reader does a nice job in presenting the point a view of a child who grew up to write an account of the event for which Schmitz is on trail. Berg, who refuses to ignore Hanna, meets with this victim at a pivotal point in the movie and his actions reflect those of good man, who is trying to do the right thing, perhaps to atone for the one time he may have made a mistake.