Film Review – Terminator Salvation

Is Christian Bale the guy movie execs go to to restart their former money making franchises? The “Batman” star along with “The Village’s” Bryce Dallas Howard, Anton Yelchin, and Helena Bonham Carter are just some of the top actors chosen to reinvigorate the Terminator legacy. Director McG (known for ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and ‘We Are Marshall’) takes a stab at the series that launched Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom. The result is a loud, nonstop, battle movie with a few of the franchises’ key one liners tossed in just for fun. It revolves around the now grown up and married John Connor and life on Earth after the “Judgment Day” event. It is definitely worth seeing in theaters because of the tremendous visual effects, but is it a movie that’ll be up to the “Batman” standards we are used to from Bale? Well, read on if you want to live … or if you’d rather just finish reading the review (P.s. Possible spoilers ahead as well)!

- Not So Cheesy – An aspect of sequels that can be annoying, especially from movies with such notable one liners, is that the writers feel they have to repeat these well-known lines like it’ll be cute or something. The writers for “Salvation” did not however over do it with the numerous famous zingers from the original three films. There are a couple throughout the movie, but they are very subtle and the actors delivering the famous quotes don’t ham it up either. Great job!

- Visual Effects – The CG is incredible! Like another highly anticipated summer sequel “Transformers 2” – this movie would not exist without CG – it creates a believable habitat devastated from “Judgment Day” but it is still a location that is recognizable and familiar. The visual artists also did a great job making the Prisoner Transport machines realistic by seamlessly combining the CG with a perfectly replicated set for the actors.

- Won’t Be Left in the Dark – It has been awhile since I’ve seen any of the original “Terminator” films. If you’re like me, fear not, you won’t be left totally in the dark because McG was considerate enough to refresh our memories of the events that occurred during the previous movies at the beginning of “Salvation.” Thanks McG!

- Bryce Dallas Howard – As Conner’s pregnant wife, she and John work great as a tough team plotting against the machines as well as protecting their own people.

- Batman Voice Cameo – The only nit picky aspect of the “Batman” movies that I don’t like is Bale’s voice when he’s Batman (versus his normal voice as Bruce Wayne). It sounds unnatural. And, sadly, the Batman voice does come back like a T-800 throughout the film.

- The "Rebar Through The Chest" Trick – A common movie magic trick film makers like to use is this: the main character is relieved he’s finally defeated every last one of his enemies when one of them surprises us all by using his last bit of energy to impale our leading dude through the chest with an object. But, as in typical badass fashion, our hero does not die from his incredibly serious injury, oh no, low and behold he WALKS away alive and ready to be badass another day. John Connor + Rebar + Chest + Walks Away = Me Feeling Cheated by a Cliche

Honestly, there are more Pros than Cons for “Terminator Salvation,” which is not what I expected. The lack of clichés (minus the one mentioned above) and corny references to the other movies is pleasantly surprising. The dialog and plot are cohesive and believable. It’ll keep your attention, won’t confuse you with references and the acting isn't over done. I am definitely looking forward to the next installment, so keep an eye out for the review of “Terminator 5” due in 2011, because…

I’ll be back!
(hehe – I couldn’t resist!!)

Do you think “Terminator Salvation” upholds the key aspects of the original three “Terminator” films? What do you think is in store for the next two installments? Anything you particularly loved or hated about “Salvation?”

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

Read more!

Theater Review – Wicked

The national tour of “Wicked” is in town and I was lucky enough to score tickets! My expectations were very high from the get go because the traveling cast features one of the original Broadway actors as well as Tom McGowan seen on “Frasier,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Bad Santa” and others, so the talent was sure to be incredible! “Wicked” absolutely lived up to my expectations. It is full of technological magic, creative and funny songs and the actors are energetic from start to finish! If the tour comes to your area, don’t miss this one of a kind show! You’ll laugh and smile and be taken in by the stories of Galinda and Elphaba.

- The Sets – Next to “Les Mis,” “Wicked” has one of the most impressive sets I’ve ever seen. To start with, there’s a movable, light-up dragon at the top of the proscenium arch, there’s a re-creation of the infamous Wizard of Oz floating head, Emerald City’s flashing lights and glimmer, Glinda’s traveling bubble and much more!

- The Songs – Both catchy and memorable. It’s a good thing they sell the soundtrack in the lobby because you’ll want it as soon as the curtain call is through.

- Galinda (yes, that's correct) – Helene Yorke, ‘
Galinda/Glinda’ in the version I saw, is so darn cute and full of energy! Her role was originated by Kristin Chenoweth, which can clearly be seen in the mannerisms and quirky voice requirements of the role. But Yorke also brings a great sense of comedic timing and a truly beautiful singing voice to the stage.

- The Make-Up – I really want to know what type of make-up is used to make the Wicked Witch of the West green – from head to toe! She touches people, I’m sure the actress is sweating a little, and it never smears or comes off! Amazing!

- Learning the Back Stories – Not only are the stories of the Wicked Witch and the Good Witch revealed, but “Wicked” also tells us how the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man come about.

- The Second Act – Although everyone in the show is talented, the second act is just a bummer! The songs seem to drag, everything is gloomy, Elphaba’s intentions are all misunderstood, and it just gets to be draining.

“Wicked” is a terrific and imaginative show that the audience and actors really seem to enjoy. The national tour was as high a quality as any Broadway show would be. The actors are extremely talented and have beautiful voices. It’s obvious that everyone involved puts forth 110%! I’d see it again without thinking twice!
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DVD Review – Chaplin

Lately I’ve been on a “classic” movie kick. So, to expand my “classics” library (and to feed my crush on Robert Downey Jr.) I watched “Chaplin.” I know little about the real Chaplin except the obvious, that he was undoubtedly one of the most influential physical comedians of early film and that he preferred silent movies to “talkies.” “Chaplin” was made in 1992, and is synonymous with the Iron Man actor, which peeked my interest in it. “Chaplin” had me stop everything and received my full attention - it’s that good. Based on Chaplin’s real autobiography and with an incredible line up of actors (including Chaplin’s own daughter Geraldine Chaplin portraying Chaplin’s mother), it’s a movie made with all the necessary aspects of great movie making.

- The Narrative – Told mostly in flashback while Chaplin (Downey) is refining his autobiography with fictional editor played by Anthony Hopkins, he reminisces about everything from being a small child and his first experience performing, to working with his brother, to Vaudeville, to moving to America. The flashback storytelling is effective because it provides an opportunity to bring the audience back to “real time” with Chaplin’s running commentary on his life.

- The Entire Cast – I know I do this a lot, but it really impresses me when such a long list of well established actors come together for one project. So here’s the amazing line up that made “Chaplin”: Robert Downey Jr, Moira Kelly, Geraldine Chaplin, Dan Aykroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Kevin Kline, Penelope Ann Miller, Marisa Tomei, Nancy Travis, James Woods, Diane Lane, Kevin Dunn, Milla Jovovich, David Duchovny, and Michael A. Goorjian!

- The Visuals – Although the movie was released in 1992, the creators did a remarkable job of recreating the 1910’s, 20’s and 30’s. They show us what movie studios looked like, what the trains were like and (my favorite) the clothes!

- Robert Downey Jr. – You can’t have a Pros list about this movie without mentioning its star. I don’t think you can mention RDJ without mentioning this movie. Anyone can pull off a “Neo” or the fast driving, cliché spouting drift enthusiast, but to portray a real person is the true test of an actor and their capabilities.

- Old Chaplin – The movie goes between present time and Chaplin’s memories. While in present time, the makeup and voice used to portray the famous man are not very subtle or realistic, but more distracting than anything else.

- Unnecessary Nudity – Adding to my list of movie pet peeves is nakedness that isn’t necessary. The beginning of the movie shows Chaplin working in a Vaudeville theater and he helps his co-performers, women, zip up. The door to their dressing room is wide open so the women are seen in all their…I’m not sure “glory” is the right word.

“Chaplin” is a well-put together picture that helps those of us who may not be familiar with the innovative movie maker – more familiar with his influence and dedication to the industry. “Chaplin” is a movie that can be appreciated for many different things: the writing, its pace, production quality and, of course, the acting. For me, only seeing it recently, it’s a diamond in the rough during a time of sequels and explosions as the boring norm. It’s a biopic that showcases the hard work of one of the movie industries’ leading men portrayed by one of the modern movie industries leading men.

What did you think about “Chaplin?” Is it Robert Downey Jr.’s best film? His best performance? Is the movie even appealing these days since Chaplin’s (the man) hey days were over quite some time ago?

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.
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Wrapping Up “Lost” Season 5

Well the official count down to the end of the best TV show is on. The fifth season of “Lost” ended this past Wednesday with an explosive finale that unveiled a host of new information and created more questions – as per the usual Lost way. The sixth season was decided a few years ago to be the last, so the producers and writers have 17 episodes to fill in A LOT of missing pieces. The producers promised more answers instead of questions this season – and they held up their end of the bargain. So let’s flashback on Season 5 to some of the top time spinning “Lost” questions that we now have answers to (sigh of relief) as well as some of the best moments!

Questions that Now Have Answers

Question 1 - Season 5 was all about getting the Losties back to the island and uncovering why they needed to go back. One of the biggest mysteries presented at the beginning of season 5 was HOW were the survivors going to get back to their island. In episode 6 “316” we learn that the Oceanic 6 must board Ajira Airways Flight 316 and recreate as much of the original flight as possible including dead Locke representing both himself and Jack’s father, Hurley carrying a guitar, which, I think, represents Charlie, and the pilot who was SUPPOSED to be flying Oceanic Flight 815. And it works!

Question 2 – The island moved?! That’s right, and in the very first episode of Season 5 “Because You Left” we learn what the consequences of Ben pushing the donkey wheel really are. Juliet, Sawyer, Locke, Daniel, Miles, Charlotte and additional Losties and Freighter folk see a bright light then start skipping through history at random.

Question 3 – How did Locke die? In the episode "The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham" the Season 4 cliff hanger – Locke in a coffin – is resolved. After what can definitely be considered a bad day, Locke tries to kill himself, but is interrupted by Ben, who gets important information out of Locke and subsequently kills him.

Question 4 – Who is Jacob? For a while now we’ve been hearing of this Jacob. I don’t know about you, but I thought that Jacob was using Christian Shephard’s body as a way to move, speak, etc. But we found out that, like Ben, we’ve never actually seen him before – until the season finale.

Question 5 – How does Eloise Hawking, Daniel Faraday’s mother, know so much about traveling to and from the island? – in “Jughead” we are introduced to Ellie (a.k.a. Eloise Hawking) as being an Other in 1956 when Daniel, Charlotte and Miles are captured by them and brought to the site of a hydrogen bomb.

Key Moments
– “This Place is Death” – Convinced he needs to leave the island, die and bring the Oceanic 6 back, Locke turns the same time warping donkey wheel that Ben turned (the only difference – Locke does it with a compound fracture to the leg and sees Jack’s dead father who asks Locke to tell his son “hello” for him).
– “The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham” – After multiple failed attempts at trying to get the Oceanic 6 back to the island, learning his former love is dead, getting contradictory information from both Ben and Widmore, Locke attempts to hang himself. He’s interrupted by Ben, who talks him down only to murder him a few minutes later.
– “He’s Our You” – One of the most surprising moments in the season occurs after an innocent meeting between Young Ben and Sayid. Forming a quick bond, so Young Ben thinks, Young Ben unlocks Sayid from a cage so that they can escape the Dharma camp together. But while running away, Sayid acts on what he thinks is his reason for coming back to the Island – he shoots Young Ben in the chest.
– “The Lie” – Although this moment didn’t really have a large effect on the show’s story, it was a great way to express the loveable character that is Hurley. In “The Lie” the Oceanic 6 have been off the island for only a little while and pure hearted Hurley is distraught about having to lie about his life there. In one breath, Hurley unveils everything to his mother - who believes him.
- “The Incident” – While discussing whether or not to detonate a hydrogen bomb and reset history Jack and Sawyer get into a brutal fight including a well timed, comical yet bad ass leg kick to the groin.
What were some of your favorite moments from this season? What questions are you looking forward to being answered in the show’s final season?

"Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” – Frank Sinatra
So may the prayers, tranquilizers and JD be with you and see you next time.

Read more!