The BEST Terminator in the Franchise

I can’t remember the last time I told someone this about a movie but if you plan to see the new movie Terminator: Genisys DO NOT WATCH THE TRAILERS! Also avoid even seeing pictures of the movie and don’t even look too hard at the poster. And it goes without saying do NOT talk to your chatty friend who LOVES to tell endings until after you have seen this movie.

I am going to – obviously – avoid telling you anything that will give pertinent facts away. I will tell you this was a surprise plot. Up to now I think my favorite Terminator of the series was Number 2. The first was a very innovative sci fi story.

Term 1 poster Term 1

Boy meets girl. Boy is from future to save girl from deadly robot also from future. Terminator 2 takes place about 14 years after the first and puts in some clever twists.

Poster Term 2

New boy, son of original boy and girl, original girl, and surprise guest go up against a new terminator from the future out to kill everybody.

Then there were three and four which were, in order, kind of boring in the former place (not a small trick when it is about the end of the world) and creepy and depressing in the latter.

It is tough to review this newest addition (or perhaps a better word – and you’ll see what I mean when you see the movie is – EDition) to the “family” without giving anything away. I will tell you that while Genisys is a stand alone it could not have existed without straddling the shoulders of at least the first two movies.

If you have not already I recommend you see numbers 1 and 2 before seeing Genisys. If you HAVE seen them at some time and you are a hard core sci fi buff (or just have some time to kill while healing up from getting your wisdom teeth removed or lying on the beach on a vacation) it would be worth it to watch them again before seeing newest one. Three and four are optional though I submit that the first two and the last look even better when compared to how badly a franchise can be screwed up.

I looked carefully at the available pictures for Genisys to find one that would not give anything away for those few – those happy few – who will go in not knowing anything about the movie, and I think it is safe to say that it is no spoiler to reveal that there is a TERMINATOR in the movie. Cue signature percussion DAH-dum—–dum-DAH-dum.

Genisys poster

WARNINGS: There are a few significant profanities and a smattering of smaller offenses in this movie but no sex. There IS full Monty nudity of both genders though it is neither gratuitous nor salacious and with the tactful positioning of cameras nothing inappropriate is seen. And – in case you having been living on an island and never even heard of these movies – they are quite violent. Most of it is, however, cartoonish in fighting with robots and some sci fi “icky” stuff. Older teens minimum definitely, but, as usual, check it out yourself first. is always helpful.

Smaug Does Shakespeare???

Hamlet - dinner tableAbsolutely not!!!!!

In 1982 there was a movie called My Favorite Year about a fictious appearance by Errol Flynn in the shank of his career appearing on the Sid Caeser variety show. Only Errol Flynn, in the movie, was called Alan Swann and was played hilariously by Peter O’Toole. And the Sid Caeser show was called King Kaiser. At one point in the movie Swann is called upon to perform before a live audience. Understanding his own thespian limits he panics, bellowing:My Favorite Year “I’m not an actor, I’m a movie star!!!!”

In the Hamlet we saw with Mr Cumberbatch, about the time our depressed aristocrat delivered his iconic “to be or not to be” speech my husband turned to me and uttered his ultimate complement about a performer: “He’s an actor, not a movie star”.

I’ve seen a lot of Shakespeare. I’ve always been fond of it but started to take it seriously when our homeschooled children were quite young. I remember taking my then two oldest at 6 and 8 in 1996 to the 4 HOUR Kenneth Branagh uncut, unabridged, unaltered version of Hamlet at the movie theater.Branagh In preparation we had read over some of the key speeches with them. But, sensibly, I brought backpacks for each of them including: snacks, crayons, a coloring book and a small flashlight so if they got really bored we could forestall an early departure as long as we could. They never even unzipped the bags. At intermission, 2 hours in, right after his “fight for a plot [of earth]…which is not tomb enough and continent to hide the slain” speech I turned to each and asked if they understood what was going on. They each gave a wide eyed and excited version of the plot: that Hamlet’s uncle had killed his father and now Hamlet was REALLY mad. And they couldn’t WAIT to find out what happened next. Well, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to me. Shakespeare, as I explain to anyone who will hold still long enough, was the Steven Spielberg of his time. Playing to large audiences of the common man, he understood the need to entertain in an accessible way. But Shakespeare also respected the average person’s ability to understand a heightened language which afforded a verbal pallet 4 times richer than that used by other of even the most educated and talented writers of his time. No – literally. He used a vocabulary of 17,000 words – 4 TIMES that of the educated of his peers. He INVENTED 1,700 words!!! in that he was the first one to use them, changing nouns into verbs and verbs into adjectives, accessing and plumbing the depths of the Latin language which was competing with the relatively new English one at the time, to invent new ways to say things: metamorphize, equivocal, fashionable, hurried, obsequiously, ode and varied being only a few of his gifts to the future Messeurs Merriam and Webster as well as the learned at Oxford and Cambridge.

I LOVE Shakespeare. And I’ve seen, to date, Hamlet played by a range from brilliant to terrible by: Ethan Hawke, Mel Gibson, Derek Jacobi, Kevin Kline, David Tennet, Lawrence Olivier, Nicol Williamson (only part of this one – it was pretty bad) and the BEST: Kenneth Branagh. Plus I have seen reduced, condensed and spoofed Hamlets. This one with Cumberbatch was innovative, fresh, dark, and clever. Hamlet - GertrudeHamlet - OpheliaHamlet - LaertesCumberbatch was amazing bringing new insight into the character just when I thought I was able to get all I could out of it (referring to my limited analytic talents, not a limit on the facets of the character). Hamlet w GertrudeHe managed to show me another variation, another explanation of the foundational reasons for Hamlet’s makeup by word and gesture of which I had never thought. And, while using all the original language (though with some rearrangement of scenes and some cropping of dialogue — I mean, it IS a VERY long play) Cumberbatch makes you believe you have never heard these words spoken quite this way before.

Hamlet - red coatThis Hamlet is an ill-fated man in a prolonged adolescence,Hamlet - poster internalizing and mentalizing all the righteous anger which should have spilled over into action, tragically prolonging intervention and responsibility until it is far too late. The analogy to the modern self-indulgent, overly spoiled, responsibility and moral dodging Baby Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y -ers are painfully, honestly, bravely and deservedly tweaked.

At one point Hamlet bemoans the challenge his life now requires he overcome and laments: “Oh cursed spite that ever I was born to set it right.” Well Cumberbatch was indeed born to set this role right, in one of the two most gripping versions of Hamlet I have ever seen.Hamlet - Yorick

Hopefully it will be out on DVD soon. Keep and eye on National

The Martian – MacGyver in Space

The Martian - aloneThe Martian reminds me of a MacGyver on Mars. You remember the old tongue-in-cheek  1980’s TV show about a secret agent who can make anything out of — well, anything. MacGyverThe old joke is that he could make a bomb with  some Scotch tape and a stick of chewing gum. Now that is NOT to denigrate The Martian in any way.

So maybe I should better go with the more obvious analogy —- BourneBourne in space, though if you say that without thinking you’d assume it was about a generational ship. LOL

I thought The Martian was a good story, well acted and kept me on the edge of my seat. The premise is that one Mark Watney (played beautifully by Matt Damon), astronaut, is part of an exploratory landing crew on Mars who (and this is not a spoiler as nothing you wouldn’t see in the trailer) is thought killed and left behind in an emergency evacuation.

Now, I might quibble with this premise as I have a hard time believing people smart and resourceful and careful and well informed as people who can get other people to Mars and back can not check – the weather? I also can not believe that, even if in the decades to come, we STILL can not *sigh* predict the weather properly (nor cure the common cold I presume) that the geniuses (and I do not use this term here loosely) who got them to Mars would not have anticipated the kind of situation our astronauts find themselves in and provided for it. In short: a bad storm comes up which makes their tower-shaped rocket begin to tip so badly that they must leave their landing site MONTHS prematurely and abort the entire mission!! Somehow I find it unlikely that the future equivalent of NASA would not have provided for an alternative which would have: kept the tower stable OR allowed the crew to come back down in a different spot OR let them telescope the entire rig down to a structure at least less vulnerable than a water tower. (I stayed through Hurricane Rita and I can tell you our city’s water towers were still there the next morning.)

HOWEVER, I usually give any movie at least ONE unbelievable premise as part of their needed McGuffin (the “THING” – whatever it is – without which the plot can not happen) to move things along. Because if everything was routine there likely would not BE a movie. And the emergency take-off and ENTIRE ABANDONMENT of what must have been YEARS and bazillions of dollars in the making ALL because of bad weather —- is the one gimme I’ll give it.

Now, the best parts of The Martian had to do with how Mark Watney  decides to fight to live. There is one line that sums up his character and it is a philosophy to which one should aspire. Faced with accidental abandonment on a planet where nothing grows he has to find a way to stretch his food supplies from a few months to years. He has to create water. He has to live in and keep repaired for years a habitat meant for a few months. He has to keep his waste and oxygen recyclers working with minimal equipment other than what was left behind in the emergency evac and some crew mementos. Reviewing the obstacles before him as he videos his assessment of his circumstances he could have (and I might add justifiably) broken down in despair. And for just one moment you wonder which way he is going to go. Then he states with the air of someone simply planning a challenging science project:Martian at video “I’m gonna have to science the **** out of this.” Lt. Gen. Harry W.O. Kinnard, when offered surrender by the Nazis during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944, responded: “Nuts”. When General George S Patton heard about this he famously quipped: “A man that eloquent has to be saved.” So I similarly and immediately felt about Astronaut Watney. Whether he is or not – saved – I wil not spill, but suffice to say that, regardless of the outcome, the struggle made by Watney to not only survive but to do so with grace and courage and OPTIMISM was worth the watching and frankly inspirational.Martian making rows

This is the point at which I heave a small *sigh* and divulge a wish.

What I wish The Martian had been was more Robinson Crusoe on Mars. Now — hold on — there really WAS a movie with that EXACT name R C on Mars posterwhich sought to update the current myth of Robinson Crusoe and place it on Mars – only Mars had breathable air and the intrepid survivor ended up with a man Friday. R C on Mars w FridayIt’s very dated, but very quaint and an old classic flick.

But THAT Robinson Crusoe on Mars is not what I’m talking about. In the ORIGINAL story written by Daniel Defoe published in 1719 Crusoe was an adventurer and slaver, embarking on sea voyage after sea voyage against his family’s wishes. During one of his trips to transport slaves he is shipwrecked and left alone on an island for 17 years. He too learns to survive on an inhospitable “planet”, just as our astronaut Watney does. But one thing the first Crusoe did which our modern astronaut does not is repent and turn to God. R C - cross R C - bible

Once again, as I mentioned in the blog about Interstellar happens so often in today’s sci fi stories, in The Martian science becomes god. While the determination to “science the s*** out of —” something to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles is a worthy sentiment, it is not enough. No amount of science in the world will allow you to do more than stave off the inevitable – as Watney discovers (and no I’m not giving anything about the ending away because these set backs come throughout the movie).

The situation for our main character is extremely dire. The man is stuck in space 140 million miles away from Earth and the only people who have even a chance of saving him YEARS from now do not even know he is alive. Mark goes through his friends’ personal effects, he inventories supplies, he plays his captain’s disco music and he even scavenges the wood from a crew mate’s crucifix — but even here only a superficial nod is made to assistance from God for this desperate man’s plight. From a realistic POV I would imagine there to be a lot of discussion with God – and I also imagine not all of it very happy. I would understand anger and grief but ultimately the seeking of solice from and acceptance of God’s Will would have fit in with Mark’s efforts and his thoughtful sangfroid personality.

The Martian suffers from the same flaw as other recent movies about desperate people left adrift (one way or another) without the usual resources (family, equipment, communication with home) needed in a dire situation: likeInterstellar - 1 astronaut Interstellar andCastaway Castaway.

Gravity - wombGravity was much more akin to the original Robinson Crusoe and the original Robinson Crusoe’s themes, because the main character there was struggling with her atheism as an analogy for the isolation she felt from God in the face overwhelming obstacles and baggage of personal tragedy.

The seemingly deliberate avoidance in The Martian of any but the most tenuous and brief of nods to an acknowledgement of man’s need for help from his Creator is a disappointing affront to this and other worthy film efforts.

From an educational POV there is MUCH to be gleaned from Mark’s experiments and projects in biology 101: What is needed when one has almost nothing but sterile dirt to grow food? How DO you make large amounts of water when all you have is air? How do you cope when even your air is in limited quantity? Mark’s solutions are clever and realistic But they COULD have been – with a simple exercise in humility – profound.

Small warning – there is ZERO hanky panky. But the language can get a bit raw, though not at all gratuitous given Mark’s predicament. And given the positive nature of the themes and educational values, worth enduring. The plot is, obviously, quite tense. So I would suggest your initial consideration would be for mid to older teens. But definitely check it out yourself first or access on The Martian for a helpful guide.

Photo credits:

Interstellar – Too Much Empty Space and Not Just Between Planets

  Space Interstellar Water planet InterstellarInterstellar is an interesting movie. Faint praise, perhaps, but it had so many ups and downs that reviewing it I feel like Tevya in Fiddler on the Roof – on the one hand —, but on the other hand —, but then on the other hand —. To start with the basics, the acting is – if not stellar (sorry, couldn’t resist) then excellent.

Farm InterstellarMatthew McConaughey (a name along with Rhys Ifans I can never get right off the top of my head) plays Cooper, a once pilot now farmer on an ecologically dying planet Earth.

Now – you see here, right at the start I have an issue with this. They never explain WHY Earth is supposedly dying. Plus the fact that, contrary to the goof balls in the Flat Earth Global Warming cult, there’s not a blessed thing we could do to destroy Earth permanently even if we all tried — real — hard. I wish we COULD influence the meteorological balance that much because had we that much power we could stop the many MANY hurricanes I have lived through.

ANYway – taking a deep breath and accepting the dumb premise (which my brother always calls a McGuffin – the “thing” that propels the story but which isn’t in and of itself necessarily very important and could be substituted for something else – as here it could have been diseased humans, alien invasion or a zombie apocalypse and the story COULD have played out about the same) I note the acting is quite good — and even distracts you from the ridiculous McGuffin.

Hathaway InterstellarAnne Hathaway, whose acting skill rocketed in my esteem exponentially having been blown away by her Fantine in Les Mis, plays Amelia, lady astronaut and daughter of one Professor Brand, played by Michael Caine (whose presence would have made this movie palatable even WERE the McGuffin about a zombie apocalypse). Brand thinks there is a way to save Earth BUT, given the time it will take and the risks of failure involved and what is at stake (the future of all humanity and its culture, blah, blah) he sends Amelia, Cooper, some fertilized eggs, the summation of culture of Earth and a variety of red shirts (Star Trek fans will know what I mean) TO INFINITY AND BEYO—- oh wait wrong movie.

OK now I have to stop being so snarky.

If you access Everything Wrong with Interstellar on Youtube you will get a hilarious verbal map of plot holes large enough to fly the Starship Enterprise throughBlack hole Interstellar – but you will ALSO get some scientific points on gravity and its effects which Interstellar got RIGHT. Now – be advised Jeremy Scott has a habit of using very salty adjectives. Many are pointlessly asterisked and bleeped out – pointless because it is quite obvious what that word is supposed to be. And frankly I wish he would use more family friendly and creative alternatives (there is a book available of Shakespearean insults, for example AND the movies dating back before the 60’s usually managed quite well without MOST of what we hear now as expletives) because it is this one unfortunate attribute that prevents me from recommending these Youtube videos more often.

For  Everything Wrong with Interstellar Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson does a guest spot-co-host for this Youtube video and points out what they DID do correctly. Which brings me to the positives. The visuals are absolutely stunning. They feature both a frozen planet and a planet “near” a black hole and what those worlds might be like. Both planets are shown as shocking and terrifying and gorgeous all at once. (Great places to visit maybe but ——-) There are also some visuals concerning a fifth dimension which is dumb in concept, completely and illogically paradoxical and really cool looking all at the same time.

As for the language in Interstellar itself there is one use of each of the two worst of the profanities and a very small sprinkling of the lesser offenders. For more detail check out Screen-it on Interstellar. (You have to be a member to access all the info but it is definitely worth the $7.95/month OR $47/year. There are dozens of times a year I am quite happy to have had the subscription – they give good reviews and almost agonizing detail on everything from “jump scene” content to scary music, profanity and issues to discuss after.) No sex, but some very disturbing family issues appropriate enough to an end-of-world cataclysm movie. So who you think appropriate for this movie should be considered carefully.

BUT ———

I have seen the world and it is hollow (apologies to Star Trek for this rough paraphrase*):

While the science is fun, the visuals outstanding, the acting quite good and the overall idea of the story make it quite entertaining, I have one really big problem with the movie. In all the catastrophe going on, no one seeks any comfort in religion. This is both religiously biased and extremely unlikely. Personally I’d be heading for the nearest priest, but even for the agnostics and atheists – well, as my Dad used to say, there are NO atheists in fox holes and the whole world in this movie is IN one big fox hole. And while it is reasonable to believe that there could be some hold outs, I would say that inasmuch as the vast majority of the Earth’s population believes in a Supreme Being, that there would be SOME theological expressions. But – nope – their god is science. If you have enough of it we can: save the world, or at least save humanity, or seed the cosmos with our genes or—- whatever. That as long as our fertilized eggs are still around with a copy of the Mona Lisa then all’s right with the — Universe.

This made an otherwise, at least INTERESTING movie, to me feel quite hollow and empty as —- as —- as well, what is in Interstellar space.Black hole Interstellar 2

And HEY – I think I wrote this one without a single important spoiler!!

  • I was referencing the title of the eighth episode of the third season of the original series: “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”    —–OK, OK, it seemed like a close paraphrase to me at the time!!!