Friday, July 3, 2015


Audacious adrenaline-laced action sequences, a resolute refusal to take itself seriously, and a surprise finale help the new apocalyptic Arnold Schwarzenegger science fiction epic "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (*** OUT OF ****) overcome its flat, formulaic, road show plot with its loquacious pseudo-scientific gobbledygook. No, director Jonathan Mostow's "T-3" doesn't top James Cameron's 1991 classic "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Although "T-3" lacks the narrative depth and complexity of "T-2," this $170 million sequel based on Cameron's characters boasts more than enough muscle, mayhem, and momentum to make it worth watching though not altogether memorable. Mostow, who directed the W. W. II submarine saga "U-571" and the Kurt Russell wife-napping nail-biter "Breakdown,"calls the shots this time and acquits himself well enough, considering how shallow the John Brancato & Michael Ferris screenplay remains throughout its lean, mean 109 minute running time. Aside from brawny Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist, Earl Boen as Dr. Silverman qualifies as the only holdover from previous "Terminator" movies. Warner Brothers dumped Edward Furlong, whose real-life drunken antics  cost him the John Connor role, and the studio replaced him with brooding-looking Nick Stahl of "Bully" and "In The Bedroom." Unfortunately, Stahl lacks any kind of charisma and he shares no chemistry with Claire Danes.  For the record, Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor has taken the long hike, too.

The nuts and bolts John Brancato and Michael Ferris screenplay (their credits include "The Game" and "The Net") picks up the plot about 10 years after "T-2." Leukemia has claimed Sarah Connor's life, and her grown-up son John (Nick Stahl) struggles to blend into the background and lives life "off the grid." He suspects that the future still holds something sinister for him, and he's right. As in "T-2," "T-3" opens with a new Terminator, this time a Terminatrix, the T-X (svelte-looking super model Kristanna Loken of "Academy Boyz"), stalking not only him but also those slated to act as his future lieutenants. Clearly, Mostow and his scribes must have seen Lara Flynn Boyle's mutant bug villainess in "Men In Black 2" and liked the idea. Like Robert Patrick's Terminator in "T-2," this Terminatrix sports a new generation of liquid-metal skin as well as a lethal limb that she can turn into a plasma cannon, stiletto probe and power saw. As villainess go, this bombshell robo-babe is truly bad to the bone! She can crank up parked cars from afar and send them careening off down the road as if they were remote control toys. And she is not out to take prisoners either! This Terminatrix gives new meaning to stereotype about reckless women drivers in an early chase scene when she hijacks a gigantic construction crane truck and demolishes half of Los Angeles trying to run down John Connor. One of those lieutenants on her hit list is mild-mannered veterinarian Kate Brewster (Claire Danes of "Brokedown Palace"). It seems that Kate and John shared a romantic moment together back in their high school days. Actually, it was the day before John’s foster parents were mysteriously murdered. The coincidences get even better. Now, it also seems that Kate's papa is a three-star general in charge of Skynet, an ultra-sophisticated computerized defense system which eventually out-smarts mankind and sends machines out to kill, kill, kill. No sooner has the action in “T-3” unfolded than things go on the Fritz. Least we not forget, in the middle of all this madness, another Terminator shows up in the form of Arnold Schwarzenegger. No, not the same one who died at the end of "T-2," but he is just as obsolete as his earlier incarnation compared with the new Terminator. Nevertheless, Arnold makes life difficult for the Terminatrix.  Kristanna Loken makes a terrific Terminatrix, too.

"Terminator 3: Rise of the Machine" ranks as one of the most physically exhausting movies you'll see. You'll feel bruised and battered, especially after the battle between the two cyborgs in the bathroom. When was the last time you saw somebody tear an entire urinal out of the wall and smash somebody over the head with it? One of my favorite scenes occurred in the police cruiser when the Terminatrix --masquerading as Scott Mason—shoves her fist through the detective’s chest and drives the car. Sadly, "T-3" doesn't provide Arnold with near enough clever one-liners as he had as either "Terminator" (1984) or "T-2," but "T-3" still packs a hugely entertaining punch. Arnold’s favorite like is “Talk to the hand.”  Mostow stages a memorable entrance for Arnold.  He saunters into a bar during ladies night without a stitch on and insists that the male stripper give him all his clothes.  The firefight at Greenlawn Cementery is interesting, too.  When Arnold emerges from the crypt carrying the casket like a stick on his shoulder, the image reminded me of the Spaghetti western hero named Django who drags a coffin behind him with a machine gun in it.  Incidentally, Arnold is toting not only firearms but also John Connor. The worst thing you can say about "T-3" is that it is a high-octane, swiftly-paced, straightforward melodrama with little of its predecessor's wit and wisdom. On the other hand, if you relish break-neck action movies with a high quota of slam-bang auto crashes, trigger-happy shoot-outs, and an over-the-top, face-to-face confrontation between two larger-than-life cyborgs titans, you should catch "T-3" on the big-screen!

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