Tag Archives: cinema saturday

Cinema Saturday, 2/27/21 : Terminator Edition

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Runtime: 1h 47m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn

“Hey, buddy. You got a dead cat in there, or what?”

>POSSIBLE RESPONSE: >YES/NO
>OR WHAT?
>GO AWAY
>PLEASE COME BACK LATER
>FUCK YOU, ASSHOLE
>FUCK YOU

Initial: This is one of those movies that my parents owned on Beta video tape. I’ve probably seen it around a dozen times.

What Did I Think:
There are particularly two things that Cameron and Hurd do really well writing-wise in The Terminator that cause it to hold up pretty well in my opinion. (And maybe it’s mostly Cameron, because I see these things in Strange Days as well.)

First, expositional info dumps happen after the audience has been shown action. The audience is actually asking, “What is going on?!” before the movie tells us what is going on. And it seems to me, that if you need to info dump, that’s how you do it.

Second, character information is conveyed through the look of the character. Michael Biehn’s Kyle Reese is a beat up dude. He’s got scars. We’ve seen Schwarzenegger get chronoported and walk away like it’s nothing. Reese is a huddled mass, post-chronoport. We know immediately who is the more squishy of the two.

Aside from those things, the film is also really well-paced and the effects aren’t half bad. I mean, this is 1984…


Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Year: 1991
Runtime: 2h 17m
Rated: R

Director: James Cameron

Writers: James Cameron, William Wisher

Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong

“We’ve got company.”
“Police?”
“How many?”
“All of ’em, I think.”

Initial: I do believe I first saw this movie in the theater with my sister for her birthday. Later, it became one of the first DVDs I owned.

Production Notes: Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton had a minor roles in The Terminator. Jenette Goldstein had a minor role in T2. All three were in Cameron’s Aliens (1986) and Kathryn Bigelow’s Near Dark (1987).

What Did I Think:
I didn’t like it as much as I remembered liking it. I’d say it is at it’s best in two instances. First, when it’s playing with audience expectations. The trailer pretty much lays out the “twist” of the movie, but it still plays coy when showing us the T-1000’s chrono-portation and it’s still pretty chilling in both scenes when John and Sarah see the original Terminator for the first time. We have enough empathy for these characters to know a little of their fear and the movie plays these scenes straight. Maybe, we think for a moment, he isn’t the good guy.

Second, the semi chase scene in the culvert is really good. Later action scenes run long and are maybe superfluous, but this one works really well. It has narrative, it’s exciting, and you know what’s going on the whole time.

Otherwise, the pacing of T2 is a little off. It kind of drags here and there. But it does do a decent job of being the sequel to a very popular, quite good original. And the effects were a massive improvement.


Terminator: Dark Fate

Year: 2019
Runtime: 2h 8m
Rated: R

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: David S. Goyer, Justin Rhodes, Billy Ray, James Cameron, Charles H. Eglee, Josh Friedman, Gale Anne Hurd

Stars: Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis

“What are you doing?”
“Future shit.”

Initial: I’ve seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) (I think…), but never got into The Sarah Connor Chronicles and skipped Terminator Genisys (2015). I really hadn’t intended to watch Dark Fate, but I saw a Tumblr gif set of a scene that seemed interesting, and it’s on Hulu, so… what the heck, I thought.

What Did I Think:
I’d heard that is was an okay movie, and that’s pretty much what it is: okay. Dark Fate ignores anything past T2, so it’s set up to be a more direct sequel to that.

I like how they decided to “level up” our combatants: a composite Terminator and an altered human, even if I found Grace’s necessary-for-the-plot weakness pretty dumb. The young cast of Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, and Diego Boneta bring the feel of young Linda Hamilton and Michael Biehn to the movie, which is needed. Unfortunately, the story of Dani Ramos kind of gets subsumed by the Sarah Connor/Terminator story. There is a criticism that this movie feels like Terminator fan fiction, and it sort of does. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s probably not what you want to base your blockbuster on.

You might think that 28 years would reap better special effects, but not really. The Terminator effects are fine, but the Rev-9 is only slightly better rendered than the T-1000. The action scenes were decidedly worse. I’m sure the whole sequence on the crashing plane could have been very cool, but I couldn’t keep up with who was doing what where.

Cinema Saturday, 2/6/21

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

Year: 2015
Runtime: 1h 33m
Rated: R

Director: Osgood Perkins

Writer: Osgood Perkins

Stars: Emma Roberts, Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton

“I look for Him in the unlikely things that happen. Little coincidences.”

Initial: Figured I’d watch Oz Perkins’ first movie (the only one I hadn’t watched yet).

Production Notes: The original title of this film was February. I watched it on January 31st.

What Did I Think:
I can safely say that I like Osgood Perkins as a writer/director. His movies are probably not for everyone. They are slow and ponderous, but in only the best way. They’re unsettling and claustrophobic. The Blackcoat’s Daughter has more plot then I Am the Pretty Thing…, but is maybe the least interesting looking of the three movies Perkins has made (the other being Gretel & Hansel). Honestly, the problem cinemagraphically was that the cuts were too fast. I’ve become to used to the camera in Perkins’ movies lingering much longer than expected. With a contemporary setting, it is the movie of his that has stuck with me the longest, making my uneasy late at night.

One annoyance, plot-wise… (spoilers ahead)
Joan didn’t look older than the other girls to me. I guess that’s good for ambiguity’s sake; the plot twist is reliant on paying attention. But I ended up confused for a while because I thought I mis-heard a line of dialog.

Cinema Saturday, 1/30/21

Money Monster

Year: 2016
Runtime: 1h 38m
Rated: R

Director: Jodie Foster

Writers: Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, Jim Kouf

Stars: George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Jack O’Connell

“Once again, it all boils down to good old-fashioned fraud.”

Initial: With George Clooney starring and Jodie Foster directing, this movie has been on my TBW list for a while.

What Did I Think:
Believe it or not, I watched this movie on Tuesday before the whole GameStop nonsense really hit. This film has little to do with the current situation other than being about the stock market and involving high frequency trading.

George Clooney has done a lot of very solid *good* movies. Money Monster is one of those. Clooney plays a charismatic/smarmy Jim Cramer-like character, the host of a Mad Money-like stock advice show. Chickens come home to roost for Clooney’s Lee Gates when a disgruntled viewer takes him to task for advice Lee had given about a stock whose value had nose-dived due to a algorithm “glitch.” What had gone wrong? Lee really didn’t care…until he’s forced to. His director Patty (Julia Roberts) and the CCO of the tanked company (played by Caitriona Balfe) work the mystery from the other side of the camera. Sometimes the tone of this movie is a little off. It’s not quite satire, like Network, so the humor maybe falls flat. The cast, though, is excellent. I hope George Clooney and Julia Roberts had fun in this movie, because I’d love to see them together in more films.


Audition

Year: 1999
Runtime: 1h 55m
Rated: R

Director: Takashi Miike

Writers: Ryû Murakami, Daisuke Tengan

Stars: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki

“Words create lies. Pain can be trusted.”

Initial: Well-regarded Japanese horror film.

What Did I Think:
(possible spoilers ahead)
I thought this movie was a little more of a video-dating-gone-wrong situation, but instead our male victim, Aoyama, is more deceptive, using his position as a film producer to “audition” girls to be his potential new wife. He is smitten with Asami, a young woman who, according to her CV, lost her ballet career due to a hip injury. She is not who she seems to be. She is in fact a very damaged woman, bent on sharing the pain that’s been inflicted on her with unsuspecting men. The interesting thing about Audition is that Asami isn’t taking revenge on Aoyama for his deception; she’s just angry at all men. The movie is trippier than I expected. Though there are no supernatural aspects, the audience is (maybe) given information about Asami in a way that feels more like Aoyama having nightmares. Negative points for cramming a dog into this story, its only purpose to be killed off late in the film…because *that* is what assured us that Asami is unhinged.

Cinema Saturday, 1/23/21

Eastern Promises

Year: 2007
Runtime: 1h 40m
Rated: R

Director: David Cronenberg

Writer: Steven Knight

Stars: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Armin Mueller-Stahl

Sentimental value? Ah. I’ve heard of that.

Initial: Re-watch. As my husband noted, “I remember that being a solid movie, but I don’t remember anything else about it.”

What Did I Think:
You know, barring some of his more recent movies that I haven’t seen, this is probably the most normal of David Cronenberg’s film. It’s really just a gangland drama. Don’t get me wrong, it is well done; this is a solid movie, but it lacks that extra Cronenberg weirdness. I guess that can be either a bug or a feature depending on your point of view. And, yeah, I didn’t really remember much of the plot. I enjoyed it like the first time I watched it!



In & Of Itself

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 30m
Rated: N/R

Director: Frank Oz

Writer: Derek DelGaudio

Stars: Derek DelGaudio

Initial: I had heard numerous magicians on numerous podcasts talking about how good Derek DelGaudio’s stage show was, but, dang, the Hulu summary makes it sound painfully pretentious.

What Did I Think:
Listen, In & Of Itself is probably best watched cold, without knowing anything else about it. If you have Hulu, maybe you want to delay reading the rest of this until you’ve watched it.

In & Of Itself is the teleplay version of DelGaudio’s very successful one-man show. DelGaudio combines personal narrative and storytelling with some really impressive magic effects. One of the most interesting things to me is the variety of magic during the show, throughout only six set pieces. If a magician got up on stage and just rapid-fired the tricks, they wouldn’t hold together as a show. Instead, DelGaudio makes an anthology of them with a gentle wrap-around narrative. He is an extremely proficient card handler, but it’s the non-corny mentalism at the climax of the show that is outstanding—mostly because it wears none of the trappings of mentalism.

Cinema Saturday, 1/16/21

Surfing with the Enemy

Year: 2011
Runtime: 56m
Rated: NR

Director: Scott Braman, Adam Preskill

Writer: Adam Preskill

Stars: Lance Henriksen (narrator)

We’re all like family, like brothers. I imagine this happens with surfers all over the world. I think this is what happens with surfers. I hope so.

Initial: So, while puttering around on Letterboxd, I realized that I had seen a mere 10% of Lance Henriksen’s films. The man is a working actor, yo. So I thought I’d see where his filmography might take me. #LanceHenriksenProject

What Did I Think:
Last year I took a Coursera course called (something like) Sports and Society. This documentary would fit its syllabus perfectly. In a country that is paranoid about its citizens defecting by swimming/boating away, there is a surf scene. It’s small and underground, but with enough potential that the surfers kind of hope the government makes them an “official” sport so they can have freedom to train and freedom to compete. I love hearing people talk about what they love and are passionate about and that’s all over the place in this documentary.


Gretel & Hansel

Year: 2020
Runtime: 1h 27m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Osgood Perkins

Writer: Rob Hayes

Stars: Sophia Lillis, Samuel Leakey, Alice Krige

Say that again and I will turn your tongue into a flower, to remind you how pretty and dumb and temporary you’ve chosen to be.

Initial: I had watched I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, also directed by Perkins, back in April. I was pretty intrigued by him doing a “Hansel and Gretel” adaptation.

What Did I Think:
This is only the second film by Oz Perkins I’ve watched, but after I Am the Pretty Thing…, I felt I had a good idea what to expect: slow, intentional film-making. Happily, Gretel & Hansel has more plot going on to balance out every autumnal shot that’s held just a moment longer than expected. My goodness, this is a beautiful movie, which isn’t something I say often about horror films. This retelling focuses on Gretel, being the one that needs to out-wit the witch by allowing herself to be powerful. So, yes, there is female empowerment in this movie, but not in a preachy way. I also really like the soundtrack which has a strong Goth/synth vibe. It also gives the film an anachronistic feeling. It’s a timeless fairy tale.

Cinema Saturday, 1/9/21

Hollows Grove

Year: 2014
Runtime: 1h 21m
Rated: R

Director: Craig Efros

Writer: Craig Efros

Stars: Matthew Carey, Sunkrish Bala, Bresha Webb, Matt Doherty, Lance Henriksen

Initial: If I have a “guilty” pleasure, it’s Ghost Hunters-type TV shows. This movie riffs on those.

What Did I Think: (may include spoilers)
Hollows Grove isn’t a bad movie. It does pretty much what it sets out to do—a ghost-hunting team that relies on set-up scares meets actual, vengeful ghosts. But it doesn’t really try to reach beyond fairly mundane scares. The young cast of characters starts off almost aggressively annoying, but I did warm to most of them before they are picked off in the second half. I almost wish the first third of the movie would have been an episode of their show, to better illustrate how the characters work together, before showing how it goes entirely wrong when the ghost come into play.

Not great, but if you’re looking for a movie to fill hours during a Halloween movie-a-thon, you could do worse.


Network

Year: 1976
Runtime: 2h 1m
Rated: R

Director: Sidney Lumet

Writers: Paddy Chayefsky

Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch

“…this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people…”

Initial: One of those 70s movies that I knew by reputation, but had never watched.

Production Notes: Peter Finch, who plays the doomed Howard Beale, died of a heart attack several months after the movie’s debut. He was nominated and won an Oscar for the role posthumously.

What Did I Think: (may include spoilers)
Sometimes, satire doesn’t seem so far off from reality… While I don’t think we’ve ever gotten to on-air suicides or homicides, much has been done for the sake of ratings and clicks. I seriously wonder sometimes about our appetite for true crime stories.

Yes, well-written and well-acted, but I’m never one for, even in satire, pessimism regarding forms of media. And the late 70s were filled with this kind of pessimism about television. And we’re seeing some of the same now about the internet/social media. I’m also not thrilled with the main “villain” of the piece being female. The end of this movie kind of ends up being a bunch of middle-aged men shaking their heads at Faye Dunaway’s character and saying, “If only she had a heart… If only things were like they were in the olden days (before ambitious young women)…”

Cinema Saturday, 1/2/21

Little Woods

Year: 2018
Runtime: 1h 45m
Rated: R

Director: Nia DaCosta

Writer: Nia DaCosta

Stars: Tessa Thompson, Lily James, Luke Kirby

“Your choices are only as good as your options are.”

Initial: Nia DaCosta is the director of the upcoming Candyman reboot/remake, which I’m cautiously optimistic about. I figured I’d check out her feature debut.

Production Details: Won the Nora Ephron award for “excellence in storytelling by a female writer or director.” (In this case, both.)

What Did I Think:
One of the things I found interesting about this story is the extra layer of dread that pervades each scene due to the main characters being female. On top of all the things that could go wrong for Ollie or Deb, they are women moving carefully through a world of men. They are characters with agency, though. Their problems are their own and their choices are their own. This movie hangs on Tessa Thompson and Lily James and they rise to the occasion. It’s a shame Little Woods didn’t get much attention when it came out. It’s currently available in the US via Hulu.


Strange Days

Year: 1995
Runtime: 2h 25m
Rated: R

Director: Kathryn Bigelow

Writers: James Cameron, Jay Cocks

Stars: Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis

“People finding out… seeing… that the LAPD just flat out executed Jeriko One. Jesus. Maybe they ought to see.”

Initial: Rewatch on New Year’s Eve. Figured it was appropriate.

Production Notes: Bigelow spent a year designing the cameras for the first-person POV scenes due to hand-held being too shaky and steadicam being too steady.

What Did I Think:
I feel like I just wrote about Strange Days, but I guess I didn’t. According to Letterboxd, I watched it last on the third of January 2019. This is one of my favorite under-appreciated action films. It’s not based on a franchise or even a Philip K. Dick short story! The dialog is pretty clunky sometimes, but Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett can make it work. And I feel like there is a sad quaintness to the notion that seeing racism played out so blatantly could be immediately world-changing.