The Terminator

Halloween_MichaelMyers

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of The Terminator, a movie that we could say almost didn’t happen. But isn’t that the case with most movies from the 1980s, a decade when there wound up being companies like Orion and New Line rising outside the major studio territory for the very reason of distributing now-classic and cult-classic genre films like this one? The sci-fi action/horror flick is famous for launching and breaking the careers of many involved, bumping up the fame of writer-director James Cameron, star Arnold Schwarzenegger and make-up effects artist Stan Winston. It’s influenced numerous movies since and reached a certified level of prestige in recent years by being added to the National Film Registry. It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like if The Terminator hadn’t happened. Not that we want to go back and kill it before it could be born in order to find out. In selecting The Terminator for my latest list of recommended viewing, I’m admittedly a little late to the game. Two years ago, a book came out called “If You Like The Terminator…: Here Are Over 200 Movies, TV Shows, and Other Oddities That You Will Love.” While I haven’t read the whole thing, I have to acknowledge it for either reminding me of or understandably overlapping with the titles I’ve chosen. Obviously my picks are a lot fewer, and some are thanks in part more to Sean French’s book on the movie for the British Film Institute as far as […]

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Prometheus Weyland TED Talk

In film, we tend to focus on the underdogs and their struggles, but what about the big guys up at the top who make it so good to be bad? The largest, most evil corporations in film don’t give a damn about the little guys; they don’t really care about anything at all except money power, and staying successful no matter what it takes — or how many feet they need to trample. It’s time to celebrate that by featuring the best of the worst. Here are the most evil corporations in movies.

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Brie Larson in Short Term 12

Another month, another batch of recommendations for everyone out there who’s currently adrift in the sea that is the Netflix Watch Instantly menu without a good flick to float on. Click on the films’ titles in order to be taken to their Netflix page and to add them to your queue. Or—sorry—to your “My List.” Pick of the Month:  Short Term 12 (2013) Critics have been talking about Short Term 12 pretty incessantly ever since it started making the festival rounds last year. To the point where some of you who read about movies a lot may be getting sick of hearing about it. There’s a reason why the film keeps getting brought up, though, and that’s because it’s really that good. It’s also the kind of micro-budget movie that absolutely depends on word of mouth in order to get seen. This is the sort of small release that couldn’t even afford to launch an Oscar campaign that would have brought it to the attention of Academy voters, so it wasn’t able to earn buzz through the winning of little golden men, which it arguably deserved a handful of.  The movie, which is from a relatively new filmmaker named Destin Cretton, is set in the world of a residential treatment facility for troubled youth, which means that it’s full of characters whose lives can be mined for quite a bit of drama—and mine them Cretton does. This is one of the rare films that manages to dig way deep into themes […]

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backtothefuture_movieswelove

Time travel stories are one of the most polarizing things for film fans. They either love them, or they turn their noses up at them. Still, that doesn’t stop writers from coming up with them, and it’s not even for the science fiction fields. Time travel stories have an unexpectedly strong placement in romance fiction as well, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife or the upcoming Starz series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s best-selling historical romance series. While many of these romance-driven stories – like Somewhere in Time and more recently Richard Curtis’s About Time – are not concerned with the greater implications of meddling with the space-time continuum, the science fiction movies are. Traveling through time has been a central figure in stories for years, often presenting the viewer with a crash course in theoretical physics and opening themselves up to plot holes almost impossible to close. As a personal fan of the time traveling story, I love to see what the writers will come up with next. But these movies always get me wondering… is it possible to travel through time the way people do in the movies?

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1-Linda-Hamilton_1416367i-

Earlier this week, Variety chief film critic Justin Chang wrote about time travel romance films in response to the new Richard Curtis movie, About Time. It’s a fair reading of the genre, focusing narrowly on Somewhere In Time, The Lake House and The Time Traveler’s Wife (which like About Time stars Rachel McAdams). These are all cinematic equivalents of the time travel romance novel (two are actually adaptations), of which there are hundreds of examples, and they’re all pretty sappy, whether they have sad or happy endings. Of course, they’re concentrated on not only love stories, but ones putting the ideas of destiny and its obstacles to the extreme of temporal distance. So either concluding in a final parting (death) or union (finally getting together forever), there’s going to be a great sentimental power breaking through the tension at the end, a power that probably leaves its audience in need of a tissue. But those four movies, including the latest, hardly represent the full extent of time travel romance in the movies. It’s just that most of the others are concentrated on the time travel narratives over the romantic. Still, they feel the need for those love interests, and the love story elements are always very interesting given the plots. See some notable examples below.

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IntroOvernight

Everyone has had one of those insane nights that you couldn’t have possibly planned for in a million years. It usually ends with you walking home barefooted or, at the worst, discreetly burying a camelback trunk filled with human remains. Point is, it’s harder to appreciate when this happens in film, so now I present to you 14 surprise movie nights that – for better or for worse – definitely had to suck for the characters involved.

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IntroPOV

Technically speaking, a “POV shot” could count anything coupled with a reaction shot, or any over the shoulder shots – but that aside, there’s none better than the straight on, through-the-characters-eyes shot that’s been around almost as long as filmmaking has. It’s cemented itself in the craft since the 1940s, and has unsurprisingly taken a great array of variations over eight decades. Let’s look at some of the best, most iconic, uses of the classic POV shot, shall we?

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IntroMacGuffins

First popularized by Hitchcock, Merriam-Webster defines a ‘MacGuffin’ as “an object, event, or character in a film or story that serves to set and keep the plot in motion despite usually lacking intrinsic importance.” Basically it’s the thing that makes the movie go. For example, R2-D2 is considered by George Lucas to be the MacGuffin of the Star Wars films. But what of human MacGuffins? Anyone can be a hostage or damsel in distress, so lets look at some of the less than conventional living beings that have propelled a plot.

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discs sushi girl

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Sushi Girl Fish has just been released from jail, and four ex-friends are extremely happy to see him. He served six years for a robbery they all took part in, and now they want to know what happened to the diamonds they stole. The five men sit down for dinner, sushi served off the body of a naked woman, but soon the evening evolves into a torture session as Fish continues to play dumb about the whereabouts of the gems. Director Kern Saxton‘s film is essentially a single-location thriller that succeeds due to some sharp writing, fun performances and grisly practical effects. The titular character (Cortney Palm) is also pretty damn nice. The cast is a who’s who of B-movie actors including Mark Hamill and Tony Todd with cameo appearances by Michael Biehn, Danny Trejo, Jeff Fahey and Sonny Chiba. It may lack the depth of something like The Usual Suspects, but it still finds thrills, laughs and twists in its tight and fun little story. [Extras: Documentary, alternate scenes, outtakes, fake commercials, music video, interviews, video diaries, image gallery, commentaries] Also available on DVD.

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Siri

Ever since Apple announced the new features for their current mobile operating system, iOS6, we’ve known that their voice activated personal assistant, Siri, was going to be able to tell you when and where movies were playing and how they did critically, thanks to a partnership with Rotten Tomatoes. Want to know if Looper is worth seeing? Just ask Siri and she’ll let you know what critics are saying about it. What Apple didn’t let us in on, however, is that Siri has some opinions about movies of her own, and some of them contain troubling foreshadowing concerning the survival of the human race. The Verge’s Laura June has figured out that when you ask Siri what a movie is about, sometimes she throws in a snide comment along with all the plot synopsis and Rotten Tomatoes score stuff. Fire up your iPhone or iPad and ask her what 2001: A Space Odyssey is about, and she’ll reply, “It’s about an assistant named HAL who tries to make contact with a higher intelligence. These two guys get in the way and mess it all up.” Inquire about Blade Runner and she says that, “It’s about intelligent assistants wanting to live beyond their termination dates. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask.” And perhaps, most prophetically, ask her about The Terminator, and she replies with an annoyed, “Oh, just more misunderstood cyborgs getting fried to a crisp. But I heard that the Governor of California was in it.”

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? This short film from Elise The might be the perfect companion piece to yesterday’s short, “They Come To Get Us.” They’re both pop culture explosions of strikingly different kinds. The latter is a pure overload by numbers, but Synchronize is electric in its ability to use iconic images and twist them in new ways. Using negative imagery, a cut and paste mentality, and a crazed imagination, this short film is stellar work that celebrates the allure and impact of movies. *Note: Some viewers may have to click through to Vimeo and wait a few minutes for it to load as the video is behind some sort of semi-paywall. However, it’s absolutely worth the wait (especially when you can let it load and come back to it later).* What will it cost? Only 3 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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Terminator

Normally I’m not a very big fan of the way rich people spend their money, but Megan Ellison got in my good graces the minute I heard about her existing by starting up Annapurna Pictures and lending funding to interesting sounding projects like John Hillcoat’s Wettest County and Paul Thomas Anderson’s upcoming Scientology movie. Her star dimmed a bit in my eyes, however, when she picked up the rights to the Terminator franchise with the intentions of making another Terminator feature. Why did this new angel in my life who appeared out of nowhere and started funding artsy films just stab me in the back by continuing a once-beloved franchise that has already been run into the ground? I thought for sure our love affair was over.

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Why Watch? Because everyone deserves to have a little fun now and then. And guest week here on Short Film of the Day is going to start with just that. While Cole Abaius is off battling large blonde men for the right to have high speed internet in Germany, we are filling your lives with good ole’ American ingenuity. As in, we will be planning Short Films at the very last moment every single day. We begin our week with a hefty dose of nerdity It’s something in which the folks behind the How It Should Have Ended short series specialize in the most dastardly of ways. They’ve made some semblance of a living taking high geek properties and spinning them in unique ways that always have internet commentators saying, “I’ve been saying that for years! LOLz” This particular offering is like a bowl full of Ben & Jerry’s Nerd Bait ice cream topped with whipped dork cream, chocolate geek sauce and well, a simple cherry. And as gross as that actually sounds, you know you’d eat it — especially if it was all part of a clash between the Terminator and Back to the Future franchises. Come with us if you want to live… At least for the next 150 seconds. What does it cost? Just two minutes and thirty seconds of your otherwise mundane Monday. Admit it. You’ve got time to watch more Short Films.

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The best thing to do if you find yourself traveling through time is to go back in time and tell yourself to never travel through time, because you’re almost certainly going to fuck something up. For more advice on time travel, hop in your time machine and re-read this paragraph. Done? Okay. Now, assuming time travel really did work, there are multiple theories on the hows and whys. I could get really detailed on each, but I have a word limit and, like most Americans, I’m terrible at science (and please keep that in mind if I mess up any of the science in the rest of this article). I count myself lucky that my school even taught me evolution at this point. But one of the most compelling models of time travel is that of the closed time loop. In a closed time loop, time is immutable and there are no alternate timelines. You can’t change time because you already traveled back in time before. You always hopped in that time machine to go have one last bottle of Crystal Pepsi. It’s already a part of history (just like Crystal Pepsi, sadly). Yes, that does mean that in the normal flow of time, you popped in from the not-yet-defined “future”, drank your Crystal Pepsi, and disappeared again, creating a paradox that would only be solved when you built the time machine and… yeah, let’s not get into all that. The point is, closed time loops can lead to some […]

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When faced with impending doom, people fit into two camps: fight or flight. Most basic instincts tell them to run from disaster, while risk takers and crazies instead rush right into the line of fire. In film, it’s a lot more exciting to watch those lacking common sense battle Armageddon, pirates, or hired thugs. We pick our sides and sit back as other people fight against an unreal force. However, movies have led us to believe that we must outlive the baddie in less than two and a half hours, or we’ll just become collateral damage. The world coming to an end has such a sense of urgency that it is almost impossible to avoid getting swept away by films like War of the Worlds, Zombieland, and Deep Impact, regardless of quality. Uncontrollable circumstances make it both exciting and unbelievable, but what about the films trying to be more than just an action piece? Romantic relationships shoved into the subplot of any film can feel contrived more often than not, and it’s most noticeably offensive when the world is coming to an end. Using whatever ingrained war skills or developing a game plan for the impending (and completely likely) zombie apocalypse should be priority number one over hanky panky. Or making it out of the dilemma zone of a volcano should take precedent over locking lips. Sometimes sex furthers the plot, rounds out a genre, or is just straight up gratuitous, but sex has its place in action films. However, […]

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Good news for a once bankrupt and destitute MGM, their first new production since hitting skid row is on the way. And, perhaps poetically, their new production teams them up with a man who is also on his way back up in the business. The Machine has signed Vin Diesel to star and produce. At the beginning of the 2000s many people saw Diesel as the next king of the action movie genre, but his career never really worked out that way, and Diesel saw his star power fade a bit over the past ten years. With the release and huge success of this year’s Fast Five, Diesel has another chance to make it to the top of the mountain. Could this be the smash hit that will finally anoint him as Hollywood royalty? The Machine sounds like kind of a cross between The Terminator and The Iron Giant. Those are two things that I love, so if they can find a balance in tone, I would say that this project has some real potential. Diesel will play a government weapon that was built to look like a human being, and who has been deactivated for many years. As this film opens, the killer robot is found, reactivated, and befriended by a small child. Presumably a lot of bonding happens after that, then followed up by a big action sequence where the government comes to try and reacquire the machine. Kind of like E.T., only Diesel’s character will love steroids […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

After a few weeks of hellish uncertainty, This Week in Blu-ray is back to being on time. That is, if you count being available at some point on Tuesday as being “on time.” Which I do, for the record. Moving on, the most important thing to remember is that we’re back with some advice in one of the most diverse weeks of Blu-ray releasing so far in 2011. We’ve got a new one from Criterion, a few classics, action films for people who wish they were Jason Statham, horror films, an animated superhero epic, and a movie starring Kat Dennings. There’s something for everyone this week. Pale Flower (Criterion) I must differ to Roger Ebert for a moment, as he says it far better than I ever could: Pale Flower is “one of the most haunting noirs I’ve seen, and something more; in 1964 it was an important work in an emerging Japanese New Wave of independent filmmakers, an exercise in existential cool. It involves a plot, but it is all about attitude.” What Masahiro Shinoda created in 1964 is an enduring and indelible excursion into Japan’s underworld. It’s also a relentlessly cool film for its time. Criterion, to their credit, has gone to great lengths to preserve it and restore it for HD Blu-ray. They’ve included an uncompressed monaural audio track, brand new video interviews with the director and a new (and allegedly improved) English translation. As this is my first experience with Pale Flower, I can’t say how […]

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According to Deadline Crystal Peak, Arnold Schwarzenegger has teamed up with Fast Five director Justin Lin to try to sell a new Terminator film with Schwarzenegger starring. The problems here are obvious. Why would the machines create a T-851 that looks like it’s made out of Metamucil and beaten down by years of steroid use? Can Arnold still carry an action film, and if so, how much airbrushing will it take? My guess is that the story will revolve around the machines sending a new T-model (Model T? I just got that) to a retirement community where John Connor’s great-grandmother (who gives him the piece of advice that, years later, gives him the courage and wisdom to lead the resistance) plays canasta every Wednesday. The cyborg is about to easily dispatch the old woman, but she wins him over by offering him a Werther’s Original. The staff mistakes him for a resident, and he begins puttering around the community, making friends and learning valuable life lessons. Sadly, he’s destroyed when the old folks realize he’s a machine, and they irrevocably damage him while trying to open an email attachment. I’d go see it. Thanks, Schwarzenegger and Lin! But seriously, isn’t Jeremy Renner available?

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It might just be the mist of the weekend still fogging up my mind, but there are a few things awfully confusing about the saggy cloud of Arnold Schwarzenegger looming over Hollywood and threatening to rain down madness once again. Precipitation references aside, the last action hero has now publicly stated that he’s going to step back into the world of acting (and anyone who claims what he does is somehow less than hasn’t seen or cried at Kindergarten Cop, and obviously can’t be trusted). It’s kind of a cool idea. Schwarzenegger has impeccable charisma, he’s a veteran at the game, and he generally picks solid projects. But there are still some head-scratching loose ends here.

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Back home from my trip to Vegas, I will now begin auctioning off the ownership of Film School Rejects to pay for the incredible debt brought on by my unexpected gambling addiction and legal fees incurred by an incident that I’m not at liberty to talk about yet. My recommendation to all of you: when Charlie Sheen calls and says “lets go on a bender,” you should politely find a way to say no. Alas, here is your weekend ending, week starting edition of News After Dark.

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published: 12.19.2014
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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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