Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday's Featured Film - 6/5/09

New movies are usually released to theaters every Friday, but who’s got 10 bucks these days to drop on a movie that may well be a load of crap? Given those odds, each Friday I offer an alternative on DVD that you can rent at your local video store (or in some cases, avoid at all costs). Some will be new releases, others you may have to hunt for, but all of them are available to light up your small screen should it be a lazy Friday night.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

A couple weeks ago, the Terminator franchise re-launched with the much-publicized Terminator Salvation, starring Christian Bale as John Connor as he wages the future war with the machines. After the first three films and the (sadly) cancelled TV series, Heather and I are big Terminator fans and are excited to see the series’ new direction. For this week’s featured film, I figured I’d point those of you who have never experienced the Terminator saga to it’s best volume, 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. T2 is a terrific sci-fi film, and more accessible than the original in my opinion. If you’re looking for an entry point into Terminator, then it’s the place to start.

In the first film, Skynet, the self-aware supercomputer that seeks to annihilate humanity, has sent a cyborg called a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor, a woman who will become the mother of John Connor, the future leader of humanity’s resistance against the machines. John sent a protector back for his mom, a soldier named Kyle Reece, who defended her against the Terminator and destroyed it, while also becoming John’s father (don’t think about that too hard) before being killed. T2 takes place 15 years later, with Sarah (Linda Hamilton) now confined to a mental hospital because of her paranoia (so others think) about the future, and John (Edward Furlong) as a rebellious 11-year old living with foster parents. Skynet has sent another Terminator (Robert Patrick) back to kill young John, but this time future-John has sent a new protector back as well – a reprogrammed Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the same model (though not the same actual machine) that hunted them in the first film. Together, John and the Terminator seek to stay alive, rescue Sarah, and stop Skynet from ever being created.

This is the last Terminator film to be directed by James Cameron (The Abyss, Aliens, Titanic), and his masterful touch is evident. While the movie has its fair share of action (which holds up amazingly well even 18 years later), don’t expect a thin plot or bland characters. This is an epic sci-fi saga, and one with surprisingly more heart and brain than you probably expect. The premise (save for the time-travel paradoxes that you’ve just got to go with) is incredibly cool, the script is expertly crafted and it leads to a movie that is exciting and well-paced, and the finished product is a blast to behold. Say what you will about Ahnold’s acting ability, but this is his defining role for a reason, and he’s great to watch. Hamilton is excellent as a woman teetering on the edge of sanity, Patrick is just plain creepy as the liquid metal T-1000 (which is a landmark in the history of CGI special effects), and while Furlong isn’t an award-winner by any stretch, he’s serviceable as kid-actors go. This is a landmark sci-fi film, a landmark action film, and perhaps the movie world’s first true blockbuster. If you haven’t seen it, go rent it before you head out to see Salvation and perhaps you’ll understand why the new film is getting so much hype. - ***1/2 (out of 4)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is rated R for strong sci-fi action and violence, and for language.

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