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Posts Tagged ‘James Cameron’

Point Break (30th anniversary revisit)

Monday, July 12th, 2021

July 12, 1991

Hot on the heels of James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY came the other most important action movie of summer ’91, Kathryn Bigelow’s POINT BREAK. Cameron was famously married to Bigelow at the time, and is credited as executive producer, and the film has parallels to his in its technical perfection and intensity of action. The pair had reworked an original script called JOHNNY UTAH by W. Peter Iliff (PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), co-story credit to Rick King (director of PRAYER OF THE ROLLERBOYS), with Cameron doing a last minute pass to improve the action scenes before immediately shifting to T2. “She basically is 100% responsible for the final film from that point on,” Cameron reportedly said at a convention in ’91. And clearly it’s Bigelow’s combination of impeccable craft and counterintuitive artistic choices that made POINT BREAK a hit, then a cult favorite, then an enduring classic.

The choice that seemed crazy at the time, and prophetic now, was her insistence on casting Keanu Reeves as the college football legend turned overachieving FBI rookie Johnny Utah. By all accounts Bigelow had to fight for Reeves, because producers wanted someone else. That’s understandable – he’d been in the dark indie thriller RIVER’S EDGE and the period piece DANGEROUS LIAISONS, but was best known to the world as Ted from BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE, with whom he inescapably shared a lovable stoner airhead sounding voice. On the other hand, when the movie was almost made by Ridley Scott a few years earlier he’d had Matthew Broderick in the role. You’re telling me that made more sense!? (read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (30th anniversary revisit)

Thursday, July 1st, 2021

July 3, 1991

There are a few interesting summer of ’91 movies – STONE COLD, THE ROCKETEER, HARLEY DAVIDSON & THE MARLBORO MAN – that I skipped in this series because I’d already reviewed them in a form I felt satisfied with. If I had more time I would’ve like to revisit them for completism, but you know how it is.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY is one I wrote about in 2007 (with a pretty good comparison to E.T.) and more definitively in 2017 on the occasion of its 3D re-release. But when I decided to do a summer of ’91 series I knew it was the summer of T2 and it had to be included. So this is meant as a supplemental review about its place in 1991, but I think I’ve come up with some pretty meaty stuff to discuss (in addition to silly stuff about toys and video games and crap if you’re more interested in that).


(read the rest of this shit…)

The Terminator

Thursday, June 24th, 2021

“Your world is pretty terrifying.”

Summer of ’91 origins: THE TERMINATOR

The only review I’ve written of the original THE TERMINATOR was in 2007 – so out of date it was combined into a review of the “trilogy” and framed as a response to THE TRANSFORMERS. There are some good observations and funny lines in that review, but I’m a smarter person now and I think there’s way more to say about the movie. So I thought I should take another crack at it before we get to its sequel in this Summer of ’91 retrospective.

In the fall of 1984, director/co-writer James Cameron exploded into filmgoer-consciousness with a stylish and imaginative little sci-fi chase movie called THE TERMINATOR. Made on about a fifth of the budget of the recent hit GHOSTBUSTERS and released by outsiders Hemdale (VICE SQUAD, TURKEY SHOOT) and Orion Pictures (MAD MAX, THE HAND, ROCK & RULE), it nevertheless immediately announces itself as a force to be reckoned with. The quiet, world-establishing text, the nightmarish glimpses of futuristic combat between man and machine, the absolute all-timer of a theme by Brad Fiedel (JUST BEFORE DAWN) and the slow reveal of the logo (title design by Ernest D. Farino, who later did GODZILLA 1985, CRITTERS, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS, ALIEN NATION, THE ABYSS and NEMESIS) all set the mood for a genre movie of unusual ferocity. Not bad for a guy who had only directed PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING. (read the rest of this shit…)

Rambo: First Blood Part II

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

May 22, 1985
(yes, 35 years ago today!)

RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART II was a phenomenon. And an unlikely one. It’s right there in the title: FIRST BLOOD PART II? How the hell do you do a FIRST BLOOD PART II?

Sure, the makers of FIRST BLOOD famously went with the ending where Rambo didn’t die, as he did in David Morrell’s book. But the character doesn’t exactly lend himself to a rousing second adventure. He wasn’t your typical action movie protagonist, a hero who comes along and saves the day. He was a drifter who was mistreated and fought back hard. Went on a rampage. Single-handedly waged a war against law enforcement (one guy died falling off a helicopter), wrecked a whole town, finally broke down about his experiences in the war and then turned himself in. A great movie because of its simple, character-driven story mechanisms, emotional center and excellent, largely internal and physical (and finally blubbering) performance by Sylvester Stallone.

So what’s Rambo gonna do, get out of prison, try to go straight, and get hassled by some other sheriff? Nope. They figured we got a perfect killing machine, let’s plug it in. Let him out for a dangerous mission, a one-man DIRTY DOZEN.

(read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator: Dark Fate

Monday, November 4th, 2019

I love THE TERMINATOR, but I love TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. To me it’s one of the all time greats of sequels, summer event movies, action movies, movies in general. It came into the world at the right time to knock me on my ass, and has only grown with me. We’d never seen a movie like it; the technology had not existed for a character to do the things that the liquid metal T-1000 did, and no woman, not even Ripley in James Cameron’s own ALIENS, had returned to the screen as thoroughly transformed into an indelible badass as Sarah Connor.

At the time it seemed like the biggest, loudest, most over-the-top and technologically advanced action spectacle we’d ever seen. Now there’s a certain quaintness and groundedness to it. The then-show-stopping computer effects are only for a little bit of morphing – now we notice the huge amount of real stunts involving a semi-truck, motorcycles, a helicopter and various pyrotechnics that would never be so real in a modern movie. And the story is built on characters and emotions in a way that’s much more resonant to me than most subsequent movies of this type. (read the rest of this shit…)

Alita: Battle Angel

Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Man, we’ve been hearing about James Cameron doing this manga/anime adaptation since 2005, well before AVATAR. We’re talking Obama’s first year as a United States Senator, Christian Bale’s first year as a Batman, three live action Spider-man actors ago, before the Marvel Cinematic Universe even started, when Chris Evans was still The Human Torch, George Lucas was still making Star Wars movies, Saddam Hussein was still alive, the word “sexting” was just invented, Youtube was just starting, and Twitter didn’t exist yet. A long time ago.

So I can’t say I was thrilled when, after that decade plus of hopes, Cameron announced “Just kidding, Robert Rodriguez is gonna direct it.” Fresh off of SIN CITY 2. But also I wasn’t stupid enough to scoff at it. Cameron co-wrote and produced the thing. The only other time he did that was STRANGE DAYS, and that turned out pretty good. (read the rest of this shit…)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

In the part of my brain dedicated to Favorite Movies, James Cameron’s TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY sits on the top shelf with all the best and strongest. It was the definition of knock-you-through-the-back-of-the-theater summer blockbuster when it arrived in 1991, and my love for it has only deepened in the intervening quarter century.

Some big budget FX movies arguably get by on technological gimmicks that lose power as years pass, but not this one. It matters nothing that the groundbreaking, reality melting digital effects of the liquid metal T-1000 (Robert Patrick, THE MARINE) no longer cause jaws to drop, because in fact T2 is more impressive as a document of the time before computer imagery largely replaced old school stunts and sets and locations. No matter how many times and ways people and vehicles and buildings and cities and countries and planets have been elaborately destroyed by computers in the summers since, the thrill of T2 is not gone. For example the semi vs. motorcycles, helicopter vs. truck and other attempts to quash the relentless pursuit of the T-1000 are still exhilarating.

Rewatching every few years doesn’t wear out T2’s spectacle. Instead it amplifies the themes that animate the movie’s soul. (read the rest of this shit…)

Battle Beyond the Stars

Monday, July 6th, 2015

tn_battlebeyondFuck a star war – what about a battle beyond the stars? I know a battle is smaller than a war, it is only one of the units that makes up a part of a war, but maybe that’s better. More intimate. More focused. And then it’s beyond the stars instead of within them, as a mere star war is. Beyond is better. This battle has transcended the fucking stars.

Admittedly, it doesn’t seem like BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS takes place further away from here than any of the STAR WARSes. In fact, it is for sure closer, because people have heard of the planet Earth, and one guy is from there. His name is Cowboy, but not the pioneering rapper from the Furious Five who coined the term “hip hop.” He’s actually George Peppard a couple years before The A-Team and he wears a cowboy hat, plaid shirt and insulated silver space pants. He always shows off that he likes westerns and exotic Earth liquor. Obviously he’s the Han Solo character, and he’s entertaining, but most of his scenes are alone in his ship, so there’s a Chewbacca-sized hole next to him. (read the rest of this shit…)

This Ain’t Avatar

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

tn_thisaintavatarThey got this new extended cut of AVATAR coming out on the DVDs and blu-rays today. On the ad they showed Jake Sully in a crowded earth city, which I’d like to see. I’ve seen AVATAR twice – once in Imax 3-D when it first came out and a second time in Imax 3-D when they re-released it in the Extended But Not As Extended As the Upcoming Extended DVD and Blu-Ray Cut.

I believe that’s where they introduced the fact that the N’avi fuck by plugging their ponytails together. I didn’t really care about that though, I just liked seeing the movie again because I hadn’t given it much thought since the first time and I forgot how exciting it was gonna be when it gets into the big battle and all the great badass villain moments and everything. It’s no ALIENS but it’s a fun movie and a unique spectacle.

But because I enjoyed it so much that second time I think I need to give it more of a waiting period before I check out the new, longer version. I don’t want to wear out AVATAR. So now I’ll stick to something that is not AVATAR, and THIS AIN’T AVATAR, due to the title, is the only movie I could feel 100% confident was not gonna be AVATAR.
(read the rest of this shit…)

Avatar

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

tn_avatarWhen I came out of AVATAR I had a nice free feeling that I wasn’t even gonna write a review of it. I figured what it excels at is self-evident and what it fails at isn’t really worth dwelling on, and every motherfucker with a computer already wrote way too much about this thing anyway so what’s the point? I wouldn’t have much to say.

Then a couple days later I had written this behemoth. Hopefully there are one or two things here that haven’t been said before. (read the rest of this shit…)