Review: ‘Terminator Genisys’ (aka The REAL Terminator 3: Fan Service)

Critics seem to hate it while audiences mostly approve…but why?

WARNING: minor spoilers herein, but little more than you’ve seen in the final trailers.

The year is 2029, and the war against the machines is all but over. Using future knowledge provided by his mother, John Connor (Jason Clark) has led the resistance to victory…but may have already lost. Failing to stop Skynet from using time travel tech to send a T-800 model 101 terminator cyborg back to 1984, John sends his second-in-command Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect the future. As Reese is caught up in the temporal vortex, he watches in horror as someone attacks John and is helpless to warn anyone or stop it; is that why he’s suddenly having new memories that conflict with his own timeline? As a lone terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives in 1984 to kill John’s mother, Reese materializes elsewhere in Los Angeles running from a cop…that turns out to be a T-1000! When the woman he was sent to protect (Emilia Clarke) ends up saving him instead, Reese slowly begins to realize everything has changed…again.

Name someone who didn’t love the original Terminator. Small list, huh? How about T2? Shorter list, right? Then came Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines with Kristanna Loken as “The Terminatrix.” Not a bad start, so-so ending…but no Sarah Connor? Hmm. After watching Edward Furlong’s teen John Connor, Rise of the Machines already felt like it was taking a step backward in showing John as less capable, and casting Christian Bale as the hero of the human resistance didn’t seem to help much, either. Forgetting the fact that the only reason for rebooting or continuing the Terminator franchise is to make money, what essential element was missing from these continuing films?

The plight and tragedy of Sarah Connor, of course.
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Review: ‘Interstellar’ (Deus Ex Cinema)

Is Christopher Nolan becoming the new M. Night Shyamalan?

Dust storms sweeping across the midplains are choking off civilization as crops are going extinct in a global blight. In this doomed future world, government education is pushing for more farmers while denying that science programs ever accomplished anything (ie the moon landings were faked). A frustrated once-aspiring astronaut (Matthew McConaughey) is given the chance to find a habital world for all of mankind after discovering that NASA has gone underground – and they have a plan. Unfortunately, the real problem is one of logistics, and even as one man’s hope for his family pushes him beyond our solar system, the stark reality of what he must do to save his species may be more than any human being should be asked.

Setting his bigger-than-life sights on a high-concept space genre flick, director Christopher Nolan appears to have cribbed the smarter parts of the scripted Lost in Space movie before retrofitting it with The Hand of God. If you can get past this bit of Looper-esque science fiction, the movie isn’t bad so much as it’s overlong. Triumph of the human spirit, survival at any cost, and more end-of-humanity drama than you can shake a stick at is underwhelmed by running time and jumps in the narrative almost as confusing as jumps in space-time continuity. If you thought Inception was tough to follow through layers of dreams, try keeping up with when “now” is from beginning to end.
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Review: ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ (or ‘Mad Maxine: Furiosa Road’)

This is what happens when the creator of the end-of-the-world car-wars movie decides to reinvent his own genre.

In an apocalyptic wasteland, Max (Tom Hardy) is haunted by the faces of people begging to be saved, presumably because he failed to do so or never tried. Taken down by a gang of gearhead wastelanders, Max is kept in captivity for his healthy blood to allow the dying to live a little longer. An opportunity to escape presents itself when he’s taken for a ride to run down a renegade fuel driver (Charlize Theron), but when he discovers the real cargo she’s carrying, he’ll have to decide if risking his freedom and survival is worth helping others who need it just as badly.

With the latest attempt to make the summer moviegoing experience into a theme park ride, Mad Max returns to theaters to declare the apocalyptic wasteland crazy and fun again (for us to watch, not for the characters). The madness is in our face this time, getting a view of the horror behind Max’s eyeballs; you almost hope the end comes quickly for him, but going down without a fight isn’t his style. One particular change is how much screen time is handed over to Charlize Theron, so much so that it’s hard to see her as a supporting cast member; along with the rest of the re-invention, women holding their own instead of allowing themselves to be merely a commodity is central to the plot. Feminist? Absolutely. Detrimental to the film? Not in the slightest.
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Review: ‘San Andreas’ (Tectonic Plates Vs. The Rock)

Rescue dad to the rescue.

Investigating a way to better predict earthquakes, a CalTech professor (Paul Giamatti) finds out his new technology works very well when the Hoover Dam collapses. Unfortunately, his new data is predicting a massive earthquake along the San Andreas fault with almost no time to warn anyone. Helicopter rescue pilot Ray (Dwayne Johnson) is on his way to Las Vegas to assist when a call from his wife (Carla Gugino) diverts him back to Los Angeles. With downtown LA shaking apart, Ray’s daughter (Alexandra Daddario) has no idea that the biggest quake is heading her way: San Francisco.

A by-the-numbers broken family mended by surviving a disaster plot, this bare-bones story works as a framework for lots of cool special effects – seriously, what else were you expecting? To its credit, San Andreas dispenses with ridiculous complications like those employed in 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow. There’s even a bit of the old “trying but failing to save everyone survivor’s guilt trope” here, but just enough to move things along. Yes…yes, it looks like Dwayne Johnson is really ACTING in a few of those sad scenes reconciling with Carla Gugino – hey, it’s Carla Gugino: step it up!
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Review: ‘Jurassic World’ (chaos theory still in effect)

Underdeveloped characters and a meandering middle act culminates into the ending we want to see, but is it worth the 3D ticket and a OMG super-theater sound system? Hells yeah.

After the famous failure of John Hammond’s dinosaur park, the realization of the late entrepeneur’s dream at last comes to fruition: Jurassic World. Bigger than it was originally envisioned, the ten-year old park is losing visitors, prompting the park scientists into thinking outside the genetics box: cooking up their own hybrid creature. When their prize asset escapes, corporate suit Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) enlists the local dino wrangler (Chris Pratt) to find her two nephews missing in the park. Meanwhile, a military-minded slug (Vincent D’Onofrio) decides to take the opportunity to provide a demonstration of using InGen dino-power for future battlefield operations. What could possibly go wrong?

Twenty years have passed since the wonder of Jurassic Park, the ultimate zoo where extinct dinosaurs roam the earth again. With advances in film technology and real-world technology, the new park is a state-of-the-art containment system that allows human meat to look giant predators in the eye and feel superior – until the running and screaming, of course. Mirroring the original story and cast, it felt like a step backward trading a corporate robot for the lady scientist lead and saddling our requisite “kids in danger” with homegrown family issues. Still, the writers clearly knew what they wanted for an ending and that doesn’t disappoint.
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Panels for May 22-25, 2015 #Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas

Kevin A. Ranson – Creator, Writer, Critic

SpookyAuthorImageMay 22-25, 2015: Writer guest (confirmed) at Comicpalooza in Houston, Texas and representing He’ll be on the following panels if you’re in any way entertained by who he is and are so inclined to attend:

  • Friday, May 22 at 11:30AM – The Storytelling of Star Wars (Panel, PG, 1 hour) Panel Rm 03 – 350B
  • Saturday, May 23 at 2:30PM – No-Holds-Barred Critique Workshop (Workshop, PG-13, 3 hours) Panel Rm 21 – 352A
  • Monday, May 25 at 1:00PM – Must-Watch TV: The Best of Fantasy and Horror on Television (Panel, PG-13, 1 hour) Panel Rm 05 – 350C


Review: ‘Unfriended’ (or Jump Scare: the Social Media Movie)

A real-time technological/paranormal twist on the found-footage concept.

On the anniversary of the suicide of her friend Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman), high school senior Blaire (Shelley Hennig) recalls that fateful night by watching a video of the suicide that keeps reappearing online each time it’s taken down. Later when cybering with her boyfriend Mitch (Matthew Bohrer) over a video chat, three friends all join in the conference: Matt’s best friend Adam (Will Peltz), Blaire’s friend Jess (Renee Olstead), and their mandatory gamer/hacker/joker buddy Ken (Jacob Wysocki). Being a convenient evening when none of their parents are at any of their homes at that exact time, an univited blank image appears in the chat conference that won’t go away…just before a direct message appears on Blaire’s screen from someone claiming to be Laura herself, back from the dead.

This probably sounded like a cheap idea on paper – a budget horror film that is literally watching someone’s computer screen in real-time – but what’s impressive is just how effective it is. Insulated behind the relative safety of a digital screen and a web browser, little things begin to go wrong until that safety is turned into a trap when the usual escape of disconnecting is proven fatal. It’s a virtual And Then There Were None story (or Ten Little Indians) where secret relationships are revealed as the body count rises. Of course, if you don’t care what a bunch of snot-nosed whippersnappers are doing to one another over social media (and good riddance to them), you’re probably not going to care if a ghost in the machine is bumping them off. That said, if you let it under your skin and are familiar with the technology, it’s a twisted little tale with a clever in-concept payoff at the end.
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