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"Terminator Salvation"

Directed by McG.
Written by John Brancato and Michael Ferris.
Starring Christian Bale, Sam Worthington, Anton Yelchin and Moon Bloodgood.
Release Year:  2009

Review Date:  5/21/09


Even after I learned that the new "Terminator Salvation" movie was going to get a PG-13 rating, I was still excited to see the next addition in one of the better action franchises of our era...and, in a midnight showing prior to opening night, my boy Rob "Jellybean" Grant and I both thought that the movie delivered the goods.  If it weren't for the "Terminator" lineage--and the fact that you really can't top the second film in the series--this might have been an Opening Weekend.

Three major action set pieces, great special effects, the famous "Terminator" theme music and a strong performance by second banana Sam Worthington make this a film worth watching.  Christian Bale takes over the role of John Connor in the year 2018, 11 years before the future events of the first film and soon after John Connor has become a major force within the human resistance movement against the machines in their ongoing war.  This time around, Connor and his band of merry men and women are out to take down the San Francisco-based HQ of SkyNet, the global war network that has driven humans to the brink of extinction.  But, because Connor knows how vital certain pieces are to the future--which, of course, means the past, which then makes the future stay "intact"--he learns that the machines are on the hunt for one Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), a young man leading the resistance in Los Angeles who is key to Connor's place down the road.  A man who was apparently executed in 2003, Marcus Wright (Worthington), surfaces in a prison breakout and links up with Reese as the two men and another resistance member try to make their way to San Francisco in lockstep with Connor's mission.

What can I say?  Almost everything in the new "Terminator" film works...even as it doesn't completely make sense, given the series' penchant for a moving timeline, machines with odd serial numbers (which is newer, the T-101, the T-1, the T-600, the T-800, the T-X, or the T-1000?  which is better?  which has more advanced technology?  why does one model appear to be based on a fucking ship pirate, complete with old white bandanas on their robot heads??), references to lines that happen in one version of the past ("I'll be back!") but not in Connor's, and an incessant desire by humans to fire bullets at bullet-proof Terminators.  "Salvation" is part thrill ride, part story-driven drama, part horror film...and, given how much I hated McG's "Charlie's Angels" films, I have to give him credit here for generally doing a good job of making a summer action film.

Worthington is probably the biggest surprise here.  I don't think I have seen anything else he's done, but after this, he'll clearly be doing a lot more.  He's half of the new "Salvation" film and, along with Bale, makes for fine viewing and I'm sure the ladies will not be left unsatisfied by the hunks of flesh they have to sit through during the two-hour film.  The other acting is hit-or-miss; Common is terrible as Connor's right-hand resistance man, and Bryce Dallas Howard continues to baffle me.  Even Michael Ironside--who looks like he has essentially been eating since "Total Recall" and "Top Gun" made him famous--is kinda useless here.  But, Moon Bloodgood--so terrible in the recent "Street Fighter" disaster--is serviceable, Yelchin is fine and Helena Bonham Carter has a nice cameo to start the film.

(However, please note--the weirdest cameo of the year so far has to go to Terry Crews, who literally plays the dead body of Common's character in the early moments of the film.  Like, literally, the camera pans over, there's Crews lying there dead, cut back to Bale's Connor, they move on.  No lines, barely a screen shot.  Crews has been a bit player for years now--you can look at his bio here on IMDB--and it's weird to see a recognizable face in a big-budget film with no lines.  It's not even a's like Zac Efron playing a dead guy who gets four seconds of camera time before being zipped up in a bodybag.  Crazy!!)

Anyway, "Terminator Salvation" is a winner.  This is pretty incredible--three straight better-than-average summer action films that all had pretty huge hype coming in.  You KNOW this means that sooner or later, the tide is going to turn.  (My guess?  "Land of the Lost."  That movie looks completely fucking awful.)

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 05/21/09