MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION

Go Rogue

Director
Christopher McQuarrie

Starring
Tom Cruise
Rebecca Ferguson
Jeremy Renner
Simon Pegg
Ving Rhames



IMF agent Ethan Hunt [Cruise] has been off-the-grid for a while tracking supposedly unrelated acts of mayhem and destruction. He believes these actions are linked by a group of ex-secret service agents from around the world, dubbed The Syndicate. Unfortunately for him, the head of the CIA, Alan Hunley [Alec Baldwin] is hell-bent on dissolving the IMF for its reckless methods, despite its perfect success record. After being captured, Ethan encounters Ilsa Faust [Ferguson] who appears to be working for the Syndicate but is in fact an undercover British agent. Without breaking her cover or incriminating the other IMF members (Jeremy Renner as Brandt, Simon Pegg as Benji and Ving Rhames as Luther) Ethan does everything in his power to hunt down and expose the Syndicate’s enigmatic leader Solomon Lane [Harris]. But is Ethan’s quest little more than a personal vendetta against his espionage equal?

**Severe plot spoilers throughout this paragraph**
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation is serviceably directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who previously helmed the unappreciated The Way Of The Gun and the deservedly ignored Jack Reacher. But with all the set pieces, rushing from location-to-location, secret compartments and an overall time-limit threat, not to mention the hijacking of government officials to uncover national secrets, it quickly occurred to me that this feature breaks away from simple spy action drama and in my opinion is in fact a National Treasure film minus Nicolas Cage and the spurious but ultimately questionable history references. And while that may sound preposterous to begin with, let’s break it down. Ethan Hunt wants to clear the name of the only family he has (the IMF), so goes off the radar then, with the help of his wise-cracking techno friend, kidnaps the Prime Minister so he can stop an evil Englishman from getting his hands on tonnes of money that rightfully belongs to the government. Seriously! How is that not National Treasure 3: The Red Box!? But I digress.

Aside from McQuarrie’s decent direction and Robert Elswit’s pleasing cinematography, Mission: Impossible suffers from a general air of silliness. Some might say ‘fun’ but I say silliness. Firstly, in each and every Mission: Impossible release, Tom Cruise proves that he desperately wants to end his life in the most elaborate spectacle possible but he also wants us to know that he and his character are on the same page. Not only can both of them dish out an exceptional amount of punishment but they can take it too. And that’s where the silliness element comes in. I’m all for over-the-top effects and stunts that really push the suspension of disbelief but Hunt is literally impervious to damage. It’s absurd, he survives so much with next to no negative fallout. But what every audience member and critic has to acknowledge is that, for the most part, all of this looks spectacularly good; mostly because it’s real. See, the fact that the film takes so much care and attention to highlight when dangerous effects are practical (which is greatly appreciated by the way), it makes the CGI additions feel even more fake. Blockbuster cinema is all about spectacle and while Rogue Nation proves to have that in spades, it also falls into the classic pitfalls of computer generated effects – unavoidable but when done right/sparingly, necessary and commendable. But with the motorbike chase and the car flipping in defiance of the laws of physics, audiences can tell (at least I hope they can) when it’s not real and it really sullies the final product. It’s like taking the time to hand make a beautifully decorated cake only to wheel out a cardboard replica and say, “Here, eat this! It’s just as delicious.” And you are fooling no one, Mission: Impossible!

So with amazing effects and a plot that, while a bit stupid, is followable and entertaining, how are the performances? I think we can all agree that outside of cinema, Tom Cruise is a mental little gremlin. But professionally speaking the man is a titan. He will push himself more than any actor, give more to the audience and goes above and beyond for the sake of art. On top of that, he’s committed himself so completely to being the best at everything that when it came to the driving stunts, the stunt crew told Pegg that Cruise would be driving because he was better than anyone on the stunt team. And for a director, this is both amazing because of the shots you can achieve and terrifying because your lead actor could effectively kill himself and then you’d be the guy that let Tom Cruise ride that crazy cinematic-autoerotic-asphyxiation train into the clouds to whatever he believes comes next. Other than Cruise we have the usual mix of fellow agents with one interesting surprise. Jeremy Renner has been wheeled out once again just to play Jeremy Renner; which is a damn shame, in The Town he gave an outstanding performance but of late it’s like producers keep saying, “Let’s just get that Hawkeye guy. Make him be Hawkeye here.. but without the bow and arrow.” Ving Rhames, Alec Baldwin and Simon Pegg give the respective performances one would expect, not a negative comment as such but there’s nothing of specific substance for them to spread their legs with. And Sean Harris serves as a great bad guy, in the vein of Blofeld and Moriarty, but unfortunately never really lives up to those inspirational sources. The interesting addition is Swedish actress Rebecca Ferguson as British double agent Ilsa Faust. Too many times we’ve seen love interests and fellow female agents paraded through these films with no real personality or presence, so investing in any of them is an act of sheer futility and tedium. But Ilsa is a genuinely interesting individual – for the most part. Acting as a female Ethan, she is capable of doing everything he can but is limited only because she is a mere mortal, whereas Hunt is the “manifestation of destiny.” Seriously. The film’s own words right there. Somehow Ferguson manages to play the two dimensional sexy femme fatale role as well as the ass-kicking action heroine with complete and utter ease – many have tried, many have failed. But whether she will follow the path of her fellow male counterparts and return for another release remains to be seen.

Rogue Nation’s real strengths lie in the technical achievements. The camera work and editing are fast paced but clearly executed but the audio work is stellar. From the design, to the mix, everything that can produce sound does so with distinct resonance and brilliantly makes use of the cinema’s surround sound systems (which several releases seem to ignore for whatever baffling reason). On top of that we have a really impressive score from Joe Kraemer, who previously worked with McQuarrie on The Way Of The Gun as well as several other things that don’t seem worth mentioning. Taking the opportunity to bleed a well-known theme with exotic locations means a range of tones, instruments and styles; all of which are utilised to great effect. I’m not entirely sure the repeated use of Nessun Dorma works as well as hoped but it’s an interesting touch and doing something unexpected in a film of this magnitude is ultimately noteworthy.

The Mission: Impossible releases make up a very unusual series which completely varies from film-to-film. This one feels like the closest thing to a direct sequel, directly referencing events from the first and fourth films. But we should really ask ourselves, is this a good thing? Other than the central anchoring of Tom Cruise and Ving Rhames, each instalment displays a dramatic shift in direction and overall style. Meaning that every release is a sort of standalone and prior knowledge and call-backs are few and far between – if you exclude the self-referential homaging of lowering people on wires and motorbike chases and mask reveals, etc. But this film closes with a few open-ended threads that imply franchise logic more than anything else. And as we know, franchises are all the rage. So can we expect more like this? Never-ending missions, returning bad guys, tied in plots? Who knows? If handled well, go for it, if not.. we’ll see.


Release Date:
31th July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
Well into the second act, we experience a weird shift in tone with the introduction of a single character. Amidst all the “whose side are you on?” stuff, we finally get to meet the head of MI5 and while Simon McBurney plays him excellently, he feels like he’s just walked out of a John Le Carre novel. Which is great until you realise how thoroughly out-of-place that makes him. It might work in certain contexts but when you’re paralleling it with a US agent jumping onto the wing of a moving plane or beating up a roomful of guards, the subtle counterespionage allegiance thing seems a tad odd. Sort of like when American sitcoms cut to something happening in Great Britain and it’s always Parliament Square and the entire population are wearing bowler hats.

Notable Characters:
Tom Hollander plays the Prime Minister of England in a rather minor role but it got me wondering. I don’t think we ever got to hear the Prime Minister’s name, so I’m openly assuming it was Simon Foster. This means the Mission Impossible universe is in the same universe as Armando Iannucci’s In The Loop. This pleases me, the idea that there’s this hyper manic intelligence organisation and it’s arguably being overseen by characters like Malcolm Tucker and Selina Meyer. You know what? I’m going to go one step further and suggest that also means this is in the same universe as John Adams. Why not?

Highlighted Quote:
“Join the IMF and see the world.. on a monitor.. in a closet”

In A Few Words:
“Jovial, upbeat and admittedly fun, Rogue Nation is a step above the first three MI films but feels like it’s very much in the shadow of its immediate predecessor”

Total Score:

3/5

INSIDE OUT

A Major Emotion Picture

Director
Pete Docter
Ronaldo Del Carmen

Starring
Amy Poehler
Phyllis Smith
Kaitlyn Dias
Bill Hader
Lewis Black
Mindy Kaling



Inside Out focuses on the internal emotional workings of a young girl named Riley [Dias]. Her head is dominated by living embodiments of Paul Ekman’s six core emotions (although for the film ‘surprise’ has been dropped): Joy [Poehler], Sadness [Smith], Fear [Hader], Anger [Black] and Disgust [Kaling]. These emotions experience the world through Riley’s eyes and do their best to take control of a situation, reacting how they see fit. It’s a very simple analogy for how our feelings control our actions and reactions but it’s very effective. Riley is a very happy, content and sheltered only-child with strong friendships, a love of hockey and clear bonds with her mother and father. All of this changes when their family move from Minnesota to San Francisco and Riley has problems adapting. Incidentally, that’s the whole story: ‘a young girl has a bad day at school and decides to run away from home.’ But internally there’s so much that needs to be processed – which is true of all characters and stories throughout cinema, we’re just not used to being exposed to every incremental stage of the thought process. All of Riley’s memories up until this point have been categorised as predominantly fearful, sad, happy, angry or disgusted. But as she gets older, Riley’s once happy memories are tainted by sadness and in trying to keep everything in working order, Joy and Sadness are sucked from the control centre and deposited in the young girl’s endless labyrinth of long-term memories, jump-starting the odyssey element of the story.

I don’t know if Walt Disney set out to produce films about princesses, I think he was just producing animated versions of classic European fairy tales (which happen to feature princesses) but either way, Disney will forever be associated with dictating how we see princess characters. Pixar is no different. There are a few renegade films but by-and-large they focus on the world unseen; the fantastical day-to-day mechanics of things we take for granted. And what’s more they’re extremely good at it. That is up until 2011 when Pixar started flailing, punching out Cars 2, Brave and Monsters University, all of which were rather lacklustre and disappointing. And while Inside Out isn’t exactly an original property (things like Herman’s Head have been reincarnated for decades) it’s treated as such and brings something thoughtful, inspirational and touching back to the cinemas. So is Pixar’s future back on track? With the upcoming releases of the overly cutesy looking The Good Dinosaur and the completely unnecessary Finding Dory, I’m not entirely confident. But regardless of that, Pete Docter has three directorial credits to date which are Monsters Inc, Up and Inside Out; arguably three of the finest Pixar releases. In truth, Inside Out is a very refreshing and heartfelt release that, like Up has no qualms about dealing with uncomfortable situations and frankly upsetting the audience. As with most western animated features, everything is very on-the-nose and obvious, leaving little to nuance and ensuring the key messages aren’t misinterpreted (but they will be, they always are). But it’s so expertly executed that we can almost forgive that and knowingly wade hip-deep into the sentimental mire laid before us.

I genuinely worry that we take Pixar’s beautiful animation for granted. There are many studios pumping out stellar animated releases but Pixar haven’t really put a foot wrong visually – yes I’m including the Cars films in that statement. The external world which Riley inhabits is very decently designed and simplistically presented, melding realism with a cartoon stylising. The characters and locations in Riley’s head are equally simplistically presented: a central control tower with a single panel, producing orbs containing memories, which are then catalogued and processed at the end of each day. The various sections of the psyche are portrayed inventively but straightforward enough to be easily interpreted. Michael Giacchino continues his run of subtle and moving Pixar scores, offering clear themes that thrill and resonate throughout. But the key to this film’s success is the amazing cast. Each of the voices fit their role greatly and whereas these caricatures would usually be seen as two dimensional and blunt, their depth and range is apparent thanks to the acting talent breathing life into these beings – that and they represent one specific emotion, so they are intentionally somewhat two dimensional. Another bonus is that this film is led by three strong female individuals without ever feeling like a forced or blatantly marketed decision.

One could argue that this isn’t appropriate subject matter for a family film, that the complexities of a person’s inner workings is too despondent for a children’s adventure movie. I say ‘one could argue’ because this seems to be at the head of the majority of negative feedback about this film: too depressing and too complicated. I hate these kinds of reviews. Those that say what is or isn’t appropriate for a kid’s release. Not every child is the same and I personally feel that the fact that almost 90% of kid’s films rely on fart jokes is more inappropriate than a film being challenging or maudlin. The other key point of contention I wish to address is that people experiencing only one clear emotion at a time is inaccurate. And while that’s a fairly valid point, I think the film clearly addressed this when explaining the effects of the aging process, which complicates matters and creates a melding of emotions; essentially introducing children to the concept of the bittersweet sensation that they couldn’t process at a younger age. Through the anthropomorphisation of these emotions, Inside Out explains some very abstract and difficult subjects in a way that children (and let’s face it, a lot of adults) can understand. And most crucially, the moral as the film progresses is not the value placed on one over the other but the complex harmony and blending of all these sensations. As such, with a strong moral message, exceptional visuals, memorable characters and great voice acting, Inside Out is a wonderful family release that feels a cut above the standard fare.


Release Date:
24th July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
More of an observation than a specific scene and one I noticed from the very first trailer. The emotions in other people’s heads are all one gender and manifest various physical traits of the individual they.. inhabit? Control? Not sure what they correct word is. Anyway, at the end of the film we get a glimpse into the heads of various other people (no doubt to illustrate the endless worlds of potential stories and dramas carrying on without us even realising) and they mimic this aforementioned formula. All except for Riley, who has a mix of male and female internal workings. I find that curious. I’m sure it’s just a simple directorial/writing decision to balance the cast from a single gender affair but it could easily be construed as something deeper than that. Maybe I’m reading into it more than I should or just projecting, or remembering that Herman’s Head series again wherein there is a sole female character who represents Herman’s feminine side. I imagine we’ll never know but it’s food for thought.

Notable Characters:
The pairing of Poehler and Smith as the vocal polar opposites is great. Both actors deliver relatable and engaging performances that could have been so easily mishandled in a lesser release. For all intents and purposes it could actually be said that both actresses have been typecast due to their appearances on long-running shows but owing to how much the film benefited from their presence, it’s a fact I’m willing to overlook.

Highlighted Quote:
“Congratulations San Francisco, you’ve ruined pizza. First the Hawaiians and now you”

In A Few Words:
“Beautifully crafted release that tells both kids and adults alike that sometimes it’s ok to be sad”

Total Score:

5/5

SOUTHPAW

Believe In Hope

Director
Antoine Fuqua

Starring
Jake Gyllenhaal
Rachel McAdams
Oona Laurence
Forest Whitaker
Curtis Jackson



To my mind there are six decent fighting films: Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, Cinderella Man, Warrior, The Fighter and Rocky. Everything else may have their merits but ultimately imitate and homage so much that they fail to surpass these greats. But to be fair, it’s truly difficult for a genre film to stand out from its peers and predecessors. Who doesn’t see a boxing montage and think of Rocky, or a savage life outside of the ring and recall Raging Bull? It’s only when you do something different that you achieve something great. While Southpaw does its best and offers a spectacular central performance, it delivers an acceptable but predictable bout from start to finish.

Billy Hope [Gyllenhaal] is the undefeated light heavyweight boxing champion but his methods are relatively unorthodox; in order to generate the rage to secure a win, Hope allows his opponent to administer a severe beating before properly retaliating. This stems from a tough life growing up in a New York orphanage and his success is considered a real rags to riches story. Unhappy with the increasing injuries that he is incurring, Hope’s wife Maureen [McAdams] convinces him to step away from the boxing life, if only for a while, to spend time with his young daughter, Leila [Laurence]. Whilst leaving a charity gala, raising money for the very orphanages he came from, he is confronted by a potential contender and goaded into a fistfight. In the chaos, Maureen is shot and dies in Hope’s arms (that’s not a spoiler, it’s in every trailer). Unable to cope with the death of his wife, Hope is haemorrhaging money and signs a deal for three prize fights which are lacklustre and cancelled after he assaults the referee. Due to his violent nature and intoxication (I’m going to say alleged and get back to that later) he loses his house and his daughter is placed in protective custody. With his licence suspended, Hope approaches Titus Wills [Whiatker], the owner of a small gym in a rundown part of New York, to train him but Wills has strict rules and a regimen that Hope will have to follow.

At the forefront of this film is a cluster of decent performances and two outstanding ones. But even this positive serves to highlight a very serious flaw with the film. No matter what people think of this release, you’d be hard pressed to find a critic or audience member who would slate Gyllenhaal. Excluding the physical training to get into the necessary shape to convincingly portray a boxing champion, Hope is a deeply troubled individual and bringing that across on screen without feeling trite is a task which Gyllenhaal is more than up to. However, the actual character of Hope himself is a bit hollow and to be honest, I wasn’t rooting for Billy Hope, I was rooting for Jake Gyllenhaal. Additionally, young theatre prodigy Oona Laurence brings Leila to life with more talent than a lot of her adult colleagues and consistently delivers in all respects. McAdams and Whitaker are decent enough with the material they’re given but it’s not enough to produce anything truly noteworthy. Because no matter how decent the portrayals are, they all stumble thanks to the script.

**Stupid amount of spoilers in this paragraph’s second half**
As a fan of Sons Of Anarchy, I have a fair amount of respect for Kurt Sutter but it’s evident this is a troubled script. Originally, Southpaw was written as a production for Eminem, drawing a parallel with his own life while serving as an unofficial sequel to 8 Mile. Wanting to focus on his music, Eminem left the project and the movie was transferred to a different director (and a different studio if memory serves) and the script had to be altered heavily. The title refers to left-handed boxers, which is a reference to Eminem’s own left-handedness and success in the hip hop world as a white rapper. Southpaws are a bit of an oddity in the boxing world (even to other left-handed fighters) because most fighters lead with the right, making them unpredictable and unbalanced opponents. And while this film has Hope learn to block properly and raising his shoulder as a defence, at no point does his left-handedness really come into play as much as it should, which feels like a simple loose end that was neglected in later drafts. But this issue isn’t the only random string that feels forced or underdeveloped. The film does nothing to offer any closure to the film’s major turning point: the death of Maureen. The killer is never apprehended and other than Hope seeking him out early in the film’s running time, it’s never really even mentioned again. Furthermore, we get a glimpse of the rough life Hope came from but never actually explore it. Even when Hope starts training at Willis’ Gym, learning that one of the impressionable kids has been killed by his father, it feels like a tacked on emotional spur. “Oh, by the way, Hoppy is dead. Thought you should know so you can get angrier and train harder. Doesn’t this random undeveloped character’s death motivate you to win?” What’s more, we’re led to believe that Hope has sunk into a pit of drugs and alcohol but there’s no real evidence of either. I’m not expecting to see him waking up amidst a sea of empty bottles and scattered pills but if we were supposed to get that from slurred his speech and aggressive tendencies, it’s already been established he’s an aggressive fighter who takes a lot of beatings, how can I be expected to separate that from usual behaviour? And as a final jab, midway through the story, one expositive line of dialogue is dropped to imply that, while Hope is a great fighter, his manager has been rigging certain matches. There is no other evidence of this happening and it’s never brought up again (not exactly). It doesn’t need to be spelled out bluntly for the audience but a little reinforcement of this suspicion/claim would have been appreciated.

I usually bad-mouth the crap out of James Horner but he’s achieved something fairly impressive here; aggressive and relentless at times, soft and tender at others. With no real hint of cannibalism or recycling of old themes, it’s the most un-Horner-esque score and while it doesn’t stand out as perfectly memorable, it does the job more than serviceably. In addition to the surprisingly commendable score, Fuqua has united once again with Mauro Fiore whose cinematography is an impressive mix of dark contrasts and vibrant arena set pieces. Unfortunately, the direction is standard fare but gets the job done. In Raging Bull, Scorsese created something spectacular with his direction, moving the camera in and out of the ring, through the ropes, depending on Jake LaMotta’s performance which was innovative, unique and impressive. While shot and edited nicely enough, Southpaw never demonstrates that level of skill or creativity.

Ultimately, Southpaw suffers in the same way that most biopics suffer: an extremely impressive central performance with middling technical and supporting elements. The problem is the wall-to-wall clichés mean that we all know what’s coming and how it’s going to happen, every step of the way. There are no surprises, no twist developments, just a passable script running out the clock, which is a damned shame.


Release Date:
24th July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
I should probably tag this as a spoiler but as I’ve mentioned earlier, this is such an obvious set piece that to call it a spoiler is a touch insulting. Having trained diligently for weeks, Hope is facing off against the man who has basically replaced him. The fight goes the full twelve rounds and just as the audience would expect, Hope summons something from deep within to impress his daughter and the honour the memory of his late wife and to restore the confidence of his grizzly trainer and blah blah and lands a perfect uppercut, taking his opponent off his feet and plummeting to the ring in sloooooow moooootioooon. We all knew it was coming but the build-up is so rushed it doesn’t connect with the intended resonance. Instead the audience just processes the information and waits for the final assessment of the match to be called so the credits can roll.

Notable Characters:
Rita Ora. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Rita Ora but she’s a singer whose name was reasonably high up in the credits list. As such I was curious what kind of role she would play in this story, what kind of character she would embody to expand her small selection of cameo appearances in other films. Oh, another cameo? Standard crack mom in a grotty flat? Great. Does she come back at all? No? Just the one minute scene? Fair enough.

Highlighted Quote:
“I have to be there. If I’m not then you can’t do it”

In A Few Words:
“Acceptable release but absolutely no deviation from the standard sports drama formula”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #146

[19 July 2015]


Winning Team:
Fresh Green Lantern Tomatoes At The Grand Blue Lagoon
The French Green Lantern and his girlfriend Emmeline go to the Whistlestop Café in Fiji and have some healthy tomatoes
Genre –

Runners Up:
Babe: Pigment In The City
The ghost of Leonardo Da Vinci possesses a talented pig, causing it to spew multi-coloured effluent over drab east-end London
Pretty In Pink Panther
Buffalo Bill’s daughter (played by Molly Ringwald) skins the pink panther to look pretty in pink at her prom
The Blue Quiffs
Lynch-esque
Even More Blue
Sequel to the smash hit art film Blue, in which the screen is just blue with the sounds of dying animals
Red Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes
Spiritual successor to Orwell’s Animal Farm
Raiders Of The Lost Lark
A bromance buddy movie starring Bill Oddie and Chris Packham


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button was adapted from which F. Scott Fitzgerald short story?
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
2. Pixar’s Brave is set in which country?
SCOTLAND
3. What is the title of the third James Bond film to feature Daniel Craig?
SKYFALL
4. What is the title of the sequel to Tron, released in 2010?
TRON: LEGACY
5. The Iron Lady portrays the life of which British politician?
MARGARET THATCHER
6. What was the title of the X-Men prequel released in 2011?
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS
7. What are the respective subtitles for The Hobbit trilogy instalments? (one point per correct answer)
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY / THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG / THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES
8. The character General Zod appeared in which three Superman films? (one point per correct answer)
SUPERMAN / SUPERMAN II / MAN OF STEEL
9. Which film tells the story of a widower who moves his house to a place called Paradise Falls and finds his childhood idol, Charles F. Muntz?
UP
10. Which fictional alien hunts humans using an array of weapons, invisibility technology and thermal imaging?
PREDATOR


ROUND II: Filming [Films with colours in the title]
1. What is the Red October in The Hunt For Red October? A plane? A tank? A submarine?
A SUBMARINE
2. What is the name of the death row inmate played by Michael Clark Duncan in The Green Mile? William Wharton? John Coffey? Hal Moores?
JOHN COFFEY
3. In Joe Carnahan’s The Grey, Liam Neeson and an oil drilling team survive a plane crash but are hunted by what animal? Wolves? Bears? Snakes?
WOLVES
4. Who directed Blue Velvet? Oliver Stone? John Cassavetes? David? Lynch?
DAVID LYNCH
5. Pretty In Pink was released in which year? 1984? 1986? 1988?
1986
6. What are the names of the heiress twins impersonated by Shawn and Marlon Wayans in White Chicks? The Wilsons? The Hillmans? The Miltons?
THE WILSONS
7. What is the name of Prince’s character in Purple Rain? The Man? The Artist? The Kid?
THE KID
8. In Orange County, Colin Hanks decides to become a writer after reading a novel by a professor played by which actor? Michael Douglas? Kevin Kline? John Lithgow?
KEVIN KLINE
9. During the closing credits, the cast of Black Swan were credited both with character names and the corresponding characters from the Swan Lake ballet. Winona Ryder plays the role of Beth MacIntyre and which other credit? The Dying Swan? The Queen? Little Swan?
THE DYING SWAN
10. George Harrison was the only Beatle whose speaking voice featured in Yellow Submarine. True or False?
FALSE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. The following quote is from which film, “Look how they massacred my boy”?
THE GODFATHER
2. How many Rocky titles feature the character Apollo Creed? FOUR
3. Which Ocean’s film featured Catherine Zeta Jones?
OCEAN’S TWELVE
4. What is the name of the fictional bird which plays a large part in The Hunger Games films?
MOCKINGJAY
5. Who directed Mimic, Cronos and The Devil’s Backbone?
GUILLERMO DEL TORO
6. Which 2012 film, directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, is a remake of a 1980’s TV series?
21 JUMP STREET
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Five total strangers team up for the perfect crime. They don’t know each other’s name but they’ve got each other’s number”?
RESERVOIR DOGS (despite the fact that there are 8 criminals, 6 of whom use aliases)
8. Which film starred Olivia Thirlby Lena Headey and Karl Urban?
DREDD
9. The original and remake of True Grit were released in which respective years? (one point per correct answer)
1969 / 2010
10. How old is Mark Zuckerberg at the start of The Social Network?
NINETEEN


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Of its ten nominations, how many Academy Awards did Gravity win? 3? 5? 7?
SEVEN
2. In Ron Howard’s Rush, where does Niki Lauda’s accident take place? Japanese Grand Prix? German Grand Prix? Italian Grand Prix?
GERMAN GRAND PRIX
3. What is the name of Ryan Gosling’s character in Only God Forgives? Julian? Billy? Charlie?
JULIAN
4. In Water For Elephants, Robert Pattinson plays the role of Jacob Jankowski, who plays the old version of Jacob? Sam Waterston? Terence Stamp? Hal Holbrook?
HAL HOLBROOK
5. In the 2013 science fiction Oblivion, Earth is divided into sections overseen by numbered towers. The bulk of the film focuses on the technician of which tower? Tower 37? Tower 49? Tower 52?
TOWER 49
6. Which event is targeted for a suicide bombing attack at the end of Four Lions? London Marathon? Crufts? Brixton Carnival?
LONDON MARATHON
7. Which film starred Gerard Butler and Jamie Foxx? White House Down? Gamer? Law Abiding Citizen?
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
8. Which of the following did not feature in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln? David Oyelowo? Andrew Garfield? Jackie Earle Haley?
ANDREW GARFIELD
9. A Single Man, starring Colin Firth, takes place over a single day in 1962 (admittedly peppered with flashbacks). Which day is it? 30th November? 15th March? 19th July?
30th NOVEMBER
10. Before being a Will Ferrell comedy, Talladega Nights was originally pitched as a sequel to Days Of Thunder starring Tom Cruise. True or False?
FALSE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World / Twilight / Into The Woods
Poster: Paranorman
Actor: Anna Kendrick


ANT-MAN

Heroes Don’t Come Any Bigger

Director
Peyton Reed

Starring
Paul Rudd
Michael Douglas
Evangeline Lilly
Corey Stoll



When studios aren’t concerned about a property they hang back and let the creative talent do all the leg work. If the film is a success, they make money and proclaim themselves geniuses, if it fails, who cares? No skin of their noses. And yet after a few successes studios can’t help but interfere. Suddenly they worry that audiences won’t return for this original and unique product unless it resembles everything else on the market. So they beat it and break it and mould it into the same generic crap we’ve been force-fed for years. Again, if it works (which it arguably will because the brand is now established) they make money and proclaim themselves geniuses, if it fails, they blame the property and say ‘this genre is dying out’ and pour less money into the franchise. Because as clever as they may think they are, producers are in no way prophetic, absolutely NOBODY knows what will be the next big thing and unfortunately Ant-Man feels like the stupid start of that interference. If it stops here, we can just pick up the pieces and move on, if not, it could be seen as the beginning of the end. A little dramatic, I know but this is a comic book film, we need a little impending doom somewhere.

In the late 80’s scientist Hank Pym [Douglas] confronts the top brass at SHIELD about replicating his shrinking technology, warning of the potential dangers this power could bring about then pugnaciously tenders his resignation. In the present day Pym has been undermined by his estranged daughter, Hope [Lilly], and former protégé Darren Cross [Stoll] both of whom are close to producing a similar shrinking formula, intent on pursuing fiscally rewarding military applications. We soon learn that Hope is effectively a double-agent and is staying close to Cross on the off chance he succeeds. Not wanting to risk his daughter’s safety, Pym surreptitiously contracts a recently released convict, Scott Lang [Rudd], to break into Cross’ lab and sabotage his operation. But don’t worry, Lang isn’t a real criminal, he never hurt anyone, he’s just a happy go-lucky Robin Hood kinda guy. So no need for any dimensional character building, outside of him trying to provide for his young daughter.

Ant-Man is a massively important release for Marvel for a handful of reasons. Originally this was going to be a small-scale breath of fresh air aside and unconnected from all the universe building that Marvel have busily been working on for nearly a decade. Avengers came out and with it a bit of fan blustering that two of the key components in the Avengers comic history were absent from the film universe: namely Hank Pym/Ant-Man and Janet Van Dyne/Wasp, especially as Pym was responsible for creating Ultron. Crossovers and cameos ensure more money and sales of toys so, of course, Ant-Man was absorbed into the MCU. And with that came studio approved rewrites and with that came the departure of the original writer (Joe Cornish) and director (Edgar Wright). The fans were pissed off, the public was concerned and the studio placated everyone’s fears with.. Peyton Reed; director of bland two dimensional crapola like Bring It On, The Break-Up and Yes Man. At one point, an Ant-Man feature may have been a great idea but since then the debate on superhero diversity runs rampant and this now feels like a waste of a decent release slot. But like The World’s End there was an overwhelming obligation to deliver on a previous promise, as if someone muttered behind closed doors, “Well we said we’d make this film, we’ll just have to punch something out.” Before everyone checked their watches and realised the deadline was fast approaching.

In fairness, Ant-Man breaks the standard Marvel formula (which to date has been a glorious success) but unlike the hit Netflix series Daredevil, replaces it with a toothless paint-by-numbers affair which lacks originality and strong helming. One can glean the original script that Wright and Cornish were working on and how it’s been shoehorned into the shared Marvel cinematic universe and for the most part, these touches work with surprising efficiency. Certain name drops feel a bit silly but nothing is completely out of place. The real problem is that the script isn’t very smart. Developments are predictable from start to finish, the dialogue is weak and expositive and the pacing is just completely off. Furthermore, to my mind, the comedy doesn’t work. Sometimes it produces a smile or two, maybe even a faint laugh (backtracking ants pushing sugar cubes, say) but overall it relies too heavily on stupid setups that ultimately fail to deliver. On the technical side, the visual effects are, for the most part, impressive with only a handful of ropey shots. But even then the direction is so vanilla and lacklustre that even the most inventive of fight scene elements fail to impress. And to top that off, Christophe Beck, whose score for Edge Of Tomorrow was absolutely superb, offers up little more than the standard background fare with a glimpse of a throwback b-movie theme.

Not wanting to admit defeat, Marvel will recycle Ant-Man until people like him. Fortunately, Paul Rudd’s inoffensive face and generally cheery presence ensure that a fair amount of heart and average-joe sincerity courses throughout and he will work well alongside the current roster. If I’m honest, I would have preferred a time-travelling Hank Pym because Michael Douglas is flat out fucking perfect in this role – but I’ll expand more on that later. But what about the peripheral characters that make up this movie? How do they fare? Badly is the short answer. Like many other Wright flicks, the f female characters are bloody awful. Evangeline Lilly does a great job but the script treats her like the unwanted daughter in a Spartan household and backbenches her in every way. And to make matters worse they turn 180 and make her a fucking love interest! “Hope’s been running around with Scott for a while now.. why aren’t they making out? Someone fix that.” Then they took an amazing and hilarious talent like Judy Greer and pulled a Jurassic World writing her as a 3-4 line background support? Utter waste of talent. And outside of the kid acting as Lang’s daughter, that is the extent of the female presence. To add to the diversity train wreck, Lang has a trio of criminal contacts who boil down to little more than backward ethnic stereotypes: a black guy that says ‘damn’, an eastern European guy who speaks in broken ‘nice to be meeting you’ English and a bumbling inept Latino guy. Admittedly these guys get the job done (in their way) but they’re not loveable scamps, they’re negative clichés, which would be sort of tolerable if Lang wasn’t so goddamned honest and noble. Acting as opposition, we have Stoll giving a menacing performance but he is disposed of so quickly and efficiently that it’s almost comical; not to mention the fact that he falls into every villain trope that should have been expelled from cinema the moment it was so sharply highlighted in The Incredibles. Oh and finally, Anthony the flying ant. Fuck Anthony. Stupid. Just.. helicopter scene, falling wing, fucking.. just.. painfully dumb.

I don’t like to mention the post credit monk’s rewards because I find them to be irrelevant to the review; the film is a standalone piece and we shouldn’t be making the biggest fuss over the final thirty seconds of tacked on footage (no matter how enjoyable or exciting they may be). Nowhere is this more prevalent than here. As the film closes we are served up a statement which we were expecting from the minute Hope Van Dyne was introduced and the other feels like an accidental clip, like watching a videotape that briefly serves up a random snippet before resuming back to what it was supposed to be showing. At this stage in the Marvel movie machine process, a passable release simply isn’t good enough. The higher they climb and the more they succeed, everyone is basically waiting for the superhero bubble to burst and Marvel to fail – because if there’s one thing the public love more than a rising star, it’s one that crashes and burns. And you’re not doing yourself any favours by releasing run-of-the-mill flak. Sure, this is undeniably better than most releases and had it been put out around the time we were seeing Iron Man 2 and Thor it would have been a sensation. But it wasn’t and it isn’t.


Release Date:
17th July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers abound in this paragraph**
Two scenes for you. The first is the opening flashback to 1989 with its subtle nods to the history of the Marvel universe and an amazing piece of CGI work shaving decades off the ageing Michael Douglas (bar a few frames when his head moves a little too fast). The second is the 2001: A Space Odyssey quantum realm scene. Early in the film, Pym explains to Lang that if he messes with the regulator he will keep shrinking until he passes into an existence where time and space defy our normal-sized laws of physics -which theoretically is scientifically accurate. Of course, this is a classic b-movie setup: warning “if you press this button the world will be unmade” only to later shout, “press the button that unmakes the world, it’s our only hope.” Get it? No? I have a better parallel: don’t cross the streams. So in order to defeat Cross, Lang turns off his regulator and enters the quantum realm. But how does one present this visually? Well you start off by just showing microscopic entities as huge orbs and then it gets difficult. What you need at this point is a surrealist artist. But instead they seemed to fire up an old computer from the 90’s and imitate its screensavers. And then after a few fractal images he’s just floating in some smokey nothingness. AND FIXES THE FUCKING PROBLEM WITH IMMENSE EASE AND NO NEGATIVE SIDE-EFFECTS! Fuck you, movie! Lazy!

Notable Characters:
I’ve never liked Hank Pym, every time he turns up in a comic I roll my eyes and hope he’s going to rapidly exit the way he came in. And yet Pym gives us something that the Marvel universe lacks: an arsehole. It’s common comic knowledge that Pym is a notoriously difficult guy to work with and even assaulted his wife, Janet Van Dyne. Can you imagine that guy in the mix with the Avengers? A dude who argues with the group before undermining his own wife and smacking her about the face? It would be shocking and challenging and admittedly exploitative but it would add to the nature of imperfect heroes and highlight the arrogant instability of so-called genius. Like a drunk Tony Stark with none of the roguish charm. And who better to play that guy than hothead Michael Douglas? The man was born to be Pym. He’s cantankerous, quick to anger but at the same time authoritative and commanding. He’s the kind of casting no one could understand but when seen makes clear sense. Like Kevin Costner as Jonathan Kent.

Highlighted Quote:
“Did he just say ‘Hi, my name’s Scott’?”

In A Few Words:
“While it has its redeeming qualities, Ant-Man is a clichéd, lazy and wholly disappointing rushed assembly of mediocrity”

Total Score:

2/5

SELF/LESS

God Created Man. Man Created Immortality.

Director
Tarsem Singh

Starring
Ryan Reynolds
Natalie Martinez
Matthew Goode
Ben Kingsley



This is going to be a difficult film to review. Some may think that finding new ways of decimating a bad film is a tough task – it’s not, it’s the easiest – others may believe that praising a film can be taxing, running out of inventive ways to say “this attribute was above average” – arguably true but easy enough to work around. In truth, the hardest thing for a critic to do is to talk about a film that is flat out moderate. Nothing to overly praise or criticise, just a slew of admissions that the key components were acceptable and the final product could have been better but equally could have been worse. But I shall endeavour to deliver a review that doesn’t emulate the film itself, with some sort of energy and vigour.

Ruthless business tycoon, Damian Hayes [Kingsley] has months left to live but still feels he can control his destiny. He is anonymously put in contact with a secretive company, run by the cool and calculating Professor Albright [Goode], which offer a select and very expensive procedure: transplanting Hayes’ consciousness into a new, younger body. This blank vessel is played by Ryan Reynolds and it takes some time for Hayes to acclimatise to his new physique and the prepared scripted biography. For a time, Hayes is happy with his new lease on life, while still feeling a semblance of attachment to all that he left behind. Thanks to missing a single dose of his specialist prescription, Hayes suffers painful hallucinations which feel more like memories. Unhappy with Albright’s explanation, he investigates the imagery from his visions and stumbles across a truth which questions the innocence of the procedure. The body has memories. He’s living in another dude’s head. I’d say that’s a spoiler but every trailer and almost every poster kinda establishes that. Sorry.

The first thing to note is the decent cinematography, no matter how the film progresses or plays out, it looks beautiful. This is thanks to the work of Brendan Galvin, who worked on Tarsem’s last two films. Executed with a Fincher-esque palate, the on-screen drama screams professionalism. Then we have Dudu Aram and Antonio Pinto’s score which ranges from something very chilling and unsettling to a throwback to the nineties. I can’t quite decide whether it worked or not but it fit the film decently enough. Which is a statement I could also say of the editing; all very functional and acceptable but with a trace of nineties retro which both feels oddly cheap but makes a change from the standard contemporary shaky mess. It’s only when we step outside of the technical aspects that things start to break down somewhat. As stated, this is a straightforward thriller with a simple science fiction element, there are as many of these releases as there are horror films but you rarely hear about them as they tend to go straight to DVD. It’s not an offensive film in any way, it does its job and is entertaining enough from start to finish but it lacks memorability. Any potential (and there is a vast amount with this subject matter) is executed with mediocre drive, as if everything from the cast, to the crew, to the story itself has been somehow neutered or reined in. And the fact that this film is so down-the-middle and uncommitted is probably its greatest sin. So do we blame the film or the studio for this? It could easily be a bit of both but without certainty the only culprit is the script. Expositive and a little clunky it manages to deliver a reasonably paced story with plausible characters and clichéd but credible developments. Having said that, the film fails to really explore the mechanics of the science it creates and all we get is a surface reaping, meaning every interesting facet to the procedure is almost entirely covered by a synopsis/trailer. Once you have a general gist of the plot, you can pre-empt the events like a clearly marked map. And with no mystery or evolution to the thriller, all we have is the chase.

I genuinely like Ryan Reynolds as an actor, I think he has exceptional talent and charisma. I think Ben Kingsley is a bit of a nut in real life but as an artist he’s a very commendable individual who seems to find himself in some of the best and worst pieces in development. Unfortunately, there’s no link between Kingsley and Reynolds’ version of Damian. No similarity in inflection, delivery, personality, drive, aside from a single character motion of tossing a set of keys flamboyantly behind one’s back to a nearby sofa. I can’t tell which actor is to blame but it doesn’t help to sell the science part of this science fiction. I’m always impressed by Matthew Goode. He’s a bit of a polarising individual but I believe he can be wonderfully menacing and really suits the deceptively villainous role; Stoker being a good example. Natalie Martinez and Victor Garber do their best with what they’re given but ultimately they are simply wheeled in and out of scenes to act bewildered. But as with most aspects of this film, the performances never deviate into hammy or grating territory.

Walking out of the cinema, the first thing that came to mind is that Self/Less is the most un-Tarsem Singh Tarsem Singh film he’s ever done. All his signature visual flare and subversion is kept to a minimum and feels more akin to a Danny Boyle release – which is not meant as a slight against either talent but the nature of the story is one I would associate more with Boyle than Singh. But I’ve come to think that might be the point. Despite the fact that I enjoyed Immortals and Mirror Mirror, other critics and the general public were less enthusiastic and this film feels like a statement piece, as if to say, “See? I can do a vanilla flick if necessary. Happy now?” Granted, it’s a step above a lot of the pap that gets released on a regular basis but really lacks the spark which invigorates and captivates an audience. Were this a release by a small independent group or a feature debut I would have easily notched it up another point but in light of past achievements of those involved, you can’t help but wonder why everything felt so banal.


Release Date:
17th July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilery stuff within**
Not even a scene, just a single shot to draw to your attention. Damian takes refuge at a colleague’s residence and soon discovers that he is also linked to Albright’s procedure, having undergone the process with his young son. There’s very little that’s really sinister about the kid but the way the reveal is shot, you half expect him to be malformed or a fully grown adult. Instead it’s just a child but living in the mind of another little boy. The shot that got to me though is the peripheral nature that Tarsem so expertly captures. Damian is carrying his host’s daughter down a corridor and the little boy calls out a goodbye while waving. The camera cuts to a POV, pulling away from the room, the boy in focus but not fully framed, so that his face is partly out of shot and all we see is the slowly waving hand and his right cheek. It’s very simple, very subtle but curiously unnerving. More of that would have been greatly appreciated.

Notable Characters:
All involved do a commendable job but I was very impressed with the levels of credibility and simple emotional attachment from Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen who neatly sidesteps that precocious child actor bit and stays well away from flat school-play deliveries.

Highlighted Quote:
“I’ve just had my legs ripped off and been burned alive, give me the gun!”

In A Few Words:
“A very basic science fiction thriller that walks a very thin line between entertaining and trite”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #145

[05 July 2015]


Winning Team:
Ben Hur-bie
Genre – Sequel to ‘The Passion Of Christine’ where a possessed car gets healed

Runners Up:
A Fistful Of Torah’s
Genre – A kosher western
Indiana Jones And The Bailout Of Greece
Genre – Depressing action adventure without a happy ending
Despicable Us
Genre – Spoon Chasing
The Yogis
Genre – Family


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the title of the 1996 live-action remake of 101 Dalmatians?
101 DALMATIANS
2. Alien 3 is the direct sequel to which release?
ALIENS
3. Slumdog Millionaire is set in which country?
INDIA
4. Who played the lead role in The King’s Speech?
COLIN FIRTH
5. Who directed Bad Boys and its sequel Bad Boys II?
MICHAEL BAY
6. Which flower features predominantly in American Beauty?
ROSE
7. What is the name of the 1992 release in which Whoopi Goldberg portrayed a lounge singer hiding in a convent?
SISTER ACT
8. Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman play brothers in which film?
RAIN MAN
9. Which five actors play the role of Tony in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus? (one point per correct answer)
HEATH LEDGER / JOHNNY DEPP / JUDE LAW / COLIN FARRELL / ZANDER GLADISH
10. A Man For All Seasons focuses on the life of which British monarch?
HENRY VIII


ROUND II: Filming [Religious Artefacts]
1. Arthur and his knights are questing for which artefact in Monty Python And The Holy Grail? The Turin Shroud? The True Cross? The Holy Grail?
THE HOLY GRAIL
2. The titular mask in 1994’s The Mask belongs to which god? Anubis? Loki? Hades?
LOKI
3. In Star Trek Into Darkness, Harrison is hiding out on the home-world of which species? Klingon? Romulan? Cardassian?
KLINGON
4. What is the name of the priest played by Ian Holm in The Fifth Element? Craterus? Claudius? Cornelius?
CORNELIUS
5. In Hellboy, Kronen’s lair is under a cemetery near which city? Berlin? Moscow? Rome?
MOSCOW
6. In Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Indiana travels to which country looking for Abner Ravenwood? China? Sri Lanka? Nepal?
NEPAL
7. How old was John Constantine when he committed suicide in Constantine? 15? 16? 17?
FIFTEEN
8. In Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, what is the name of the castle that Henry is being held captive in? Innsbruck? Brunwald? Steyr?
BRUNWALD
9. The following quote features in which film, “Everybody else we’ve bumped into has died, why not you?”? The Mummy? The Mummy Returns? The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor?
THE MUMMY
10. Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom’s original title was Indiana Jones And The Cult Of Death
FALSE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. How many men make up Sergeant William James’ unit in The Hurt Locker (excluding him)?
TWO (Sanborn and Eldridge)
2. No Country For Old Men is set in which year?
1980
3. The following quote is from which film, “You sit there with a mass murderer. A mass murderer. Your heart rate is jacked and your hand steady. That’s one thing I figured out about myself in prison. My hand does not shake, ever”?
THE DEPARTED
4. The English Patient was released in which year?
1996
5. What role did Roger Deakins perform on Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind?
CINEMATOGRAPHER / DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
6. What type of animal is Tai Lung in Kung Fu Panda?
SNOW LEOPARD
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Moving at the speed of life, we are bound to collide with each other”?
CRASH
8. Who plays the role of Princess Isabella of France in Braveheart?
SOPHIE MARCEAU
9. Million Dollar Baby made $216million at the box office, what was its budget?
THIRTY MILLION DOLLARS
10. How many months is the munitions factory in Schindler’s List in operation?
SEVEN (and doesn’t produce any usable armaments)


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Out Of Africa starts off in which country? Sweden? Austria? Denmark?
DENMARK
2. What is the name of the town in Unforgiven? Daggetsville? Big Whiskey? Yuma Peak?
BIG WHISKEY
3. Who directed Patton, Planet Of The Apes and The Boys From Brazil? Franklin Schaffner? Robert Altman? Ken Russell?
FRANKLIN SCHAFFNER
4. Who played the male lead, opposite Audrey Hepburn, in My Fair Lady? Dean Jones? Oliver Reed? Rex Harrison?
REX HARRISON
5. Midnight Cowboy was an adaptation of which medium? Play? Novel? Comic?
NOVEL
6. Which of the following films did not feature both David Niven and Shirley MacLaine? The Matchmaker? Ask Any Girl? Around The World In 80 Days?
THE MATCHMAKER
7. Who wrote the screenplay for Argo? David Goyer? Simon Kinberg? Chris Terrio?
CHRIS TERRIO
8. An American In Paris was released in which year? 1941? 1951? 1961?
1951
9. The following quote is from which film, “It’s that Godless lot. They brought this on me. I bring ’em God’s word and heathens they are, they brung me God’s scorn”? 12 Years A Slave? Amistad? The Crucible?
12 YEARS A SLAVE
10. There isn’t a single zoom shot in The Artist, as there was no zoom technology at the time. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Three Amigos / Planes, Trains And Automobiles / The Pink Panther
Poster: Housesitter
Actor: Steve Martin


TERMINATOR GENISYS

The Rules Have Been Reset

Director
Alan Taylor

Starring
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Emilia Clarke
Jai Courtney
Jason Clarke



In the year 1997 mankind was almost wiped out when a computer programme called Skynet became sentient, deemed humanity the world’s greatest threat and launched every nuclear weapon. Yes I’m explaining the whole bloody thing! Sit down and listen! Where was I? Oh yes, those that survived called the attack judgement day but then spent the next three decades rising up against an army of machines hell-bent on exterminating all human life. A young man named John Connor led this resistance with amazing insight and intelligence which eventually saw the machines close to defeat. At the final hour, Skynet sent back one of their infiltration devices, a killing robot covered in human tissue, to kill John Connor’s mother, Sarah, in the year 1984 before he was even born. In an attempt to prevent this, John sent back a lone soldier, Kyle Reece, to protect Sarah Connor. Dun-dun dun dun-dun! Terminator Genisys opens with the same setup, the war is almost over, John [J Clarke] and his forces are launching their final attack when the infiltration terminator is sent back in time. Kyle [Courtney] volunteers and knowing that Kyle is in fact his own father, John agrees to send him back. Only this time, Kyle arrives in 1984 to a very different series of events, he’s immediately hunted by the advanced shape-shifting T1000 unit and Sarah [E Clarke] isn’t the once helpless damsel in distress, now accompanied by her very own reprogrammed terminator, affectionately dubbed Pops [Schwarzenegger]. Kyle explains various rewritten memories that he has experienced and our human heroes use a makeshift time displacement device to move forward in time to 2017 (the newly appointed judgement day). Upon arrival, taking down Skynet is more difficult than initially predicted as the machines have somehow found a way to seemingly corrupt the beacon of humanity’s hope: John Connor! Dun-dun dun duh-fucking-dun! Well at least they didn’t produce a child terminator (which I swear is still coming at some point).

A lot of positives and negatives to cover here. The first observation is that Terminator Genisys lovingly and loyally recreates elements from the first film and seems to genuinely respect the world that James Cameron created – it specifically doesn’t make the mistake of portraying the future as a sandy daytime dustbowl. But it respects the Terminator universe in the same unhealthy way that a crazy old spinster loves her twenty-plus cats. For the first twenty or thirty minutes everything starts off pretty well but then quickly descends into a very messy, unravelling, nonsensical bosh. First and foremost, Skynet’s plan is nonsense. They’re like any successful celebrity who simply runs out of ideas before rehashing their former success: I made my fame marketing beetroots, now beetroots are all I have to work with. Every time a plan fails, Skynet’s answer is to just fling more terminators into the time vortex (see the Invader Zim episode Bad Bad Rubber Pig). I know people moan about Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines but it made sense to me. One could argue the notion that using an operating system called Genisys as the basis for Skynet is a really cool and clever idea (and it is) but T3 already highlighted that. Furthermore, T3 states that in order for John Connor to be born, Kyle Reece has to travel back through time, so the machine’s rise to power and judgement day are eventualities that can be delayed but need to happen in order to complete the timeline. Which also made sense but a lot of people couldn’t get behind it. Then along came Terminator Salvation and fuck me was it awful. I won’t retread that release, I’ve got a review on this site already. Suffice it to say, it tried something new but completely ignored everything that came before it and was utterly dire. So where do we go from here? Time travel reboot! It worked for Star Trek and X-Men, it can work for Terminator! Wrong. No. It can’t. For one simple reason. The difference between those films and this one is there was a plot outside of and before the time travel, it played an integral part but wasn’t the only thing the film had going on. Terminator Genisys (every Terminator release in fact) has nothing but the time travel and thus the causality and effect of Kyle and Sarah’s hopping backward and forward through time is discussed endlessly with no real cohesion or credibility.

Despite the terrible dialogue, convoluted plot and general lack of life-threatening suspense, this film was surprisingly well acted. Emilia Clarke was a nice hybrid of Linda Hamilton’s dramatically different performances in the first two movies, Jai Courtney side-steps most of Michael Biehn’s portrayal of Kyle Reece (there’s no way I believe this character is a virgin) but finds his own path, despite being far too hench for someone surviving in a wasteland and Schwarzenegger is on point throughout – but that’s hardly saying much. These are new iterations of the characters we’re familiar with but they naturally pale when held in comparison to the originals. Clarke isn’t nearly as feisty as Hamilton and Courtney doesn’t display an ounce of the psychological scarring and fatigue that Biehn exuded. I’ve expanded on Jason Clarke’s role and performance below and everyone else sort of just feels like either a nod to the first two movies or a setup for the two pending sequels. Speaking of nods to the original, Lorne Balfe’s score is a medley of subtle 80’s synth and Zimmer-esque drums and strings. But it suffers in the same way as Giacchino’s Jurassic World themes: narrow frame of operation with no distinctly new memorable elements, relying heavily on nostalgia. Like the acting it’s acceptable but far from impressive.

Once he steps out of the recreation/homage phase, Alan Taylor brings very little to the film visually. Apeing and imitation throughout ensures there isn’t a great deal of original sequences and the CGI is pretty appalling. But admittedly CGI is a hard trade off. With it we can accomplish things physically risky, time consuming or impossible but in doing so we lose a lot of base reality. How can you show off the terminator’s strength? Have him lift something extremely heavy with ease. But when you do that with CGI, if the item picked up loses its base physical quality (I.e. a car being swung around like it’s made of polystyrene) everything else looks fake by comparison. And this film suffers from this from start to finish. Any time a terminator shows up and starts ploughing through walls or walloping enemies with metallic objects it’s somehow unimpressive. It lacks the desired impact and we’re left sitting through an ‘action’ sequence devoid of any real action, consequence or peril.

In truth, Terminator Genisys is everything I thought it would be; entertaining at times but all-in-all a bit of a waste of my time. The depressing sinking thought that keeps circling my brain, however, is the notion of helplessness in the face of continually marching fate. No matter how this film performs at the box office or critically, there will be two guaranteed sequels and they will be completed and released before 2019. Why, you ask? Because in 2019 the rights to the Terminator franchise revert back to their owner, James Cameron. And while that would usually be cause for celebration, let’s look at what James Cameron has done these past seventeen years: diddly fuck buggery all… and Avatar. So, basically, we just have to ride it out, people.


Release Date:
3rd July 2015

The Scene To Look Out For:
The obvious highlight would be the replication of the original Terminator scenes but in all honesty these are just bastardisations and no matter how well they compare they serve only to remind you that something original existed and now it’s being duplicated and coated in sparkly tat. So if all of that is out, what’s left? I’ve honestly got nothing. Amazingly and somewhat absurdly, the film has decent enough pacing but jumps from dialogue to fight to chase with little effect. They fight Connornator and manage to lose him, they talk about some quantum theory gumpf and JC somehow appears from behind a door monologuing like a moron. It’s truly baffling. But in the interest of highlighting something let’s go with the helicopter chase because that was all kinds of dreadful.

Notable Characters:
I don’t get John Connor. He’s like any off-screen legendary character or hero that’s been mentioned time and again; we’ve only ever heard of his exploits but never properly witnessed them. It’s like audiences were clamouring to see John Connor the powerful resistance leader but then you realise no actor can pull off that kind of magnitude. He’s a legend that suffers from over-hype but in Jason Clarke at least I can see a glimpse of what these characters have been referring to for the last thirty years. Right up until the point he gets terminatorafied and travels back in time to kill his own parents because, “fuck it, nothing means anything, time travel yadda yadda, none of it means shit.” I mean, that’s not verbatim but it’s flat out implied.

Highlighted Quote:
“Goddamn time travelling robots, always covering their tracks. Damn it”

In A Few Words:
“A step up from Terminator Salvation but a step down from Terminator 3 but that’s hardly saying much”

Total Score:

2/5