Reviews of “Terminator: Dark Fate” and “Parasite”

Daniella Ramos (Natalia Reyes), her friends call her Dani, works at a car assembly plant in Mexico City. She struggles to keep her job, support her YouTube-singing-sensation-in-training brother Diego (Diego Boneta) and make sure her father gets to his doctor’s appointment on time. She doesn’t know her importance to a post-apocalyptic future will make her the target of two time travelers. Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is an augmented human soldier sent to protect her from a Rev-9 terminator (Gabriel Luna), sent to kill her. Grace’s augmentations only allow for short burst combat. If she can’t kill the terminator quickly, she will likely die. The Rev-9 has a liquid metal exterior and a metallic internal skeleton that can separate, allowing for a two-pronged attack. When the Rev-9 is about to kill Dani and Grace, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) shows up with high-caliber guns and a rocket launcher, giving Grace and Dani a chance to escape. While hiding out in a hotel, Sarah explains how she and her son John changed the future, saving billions of lives, and Grace explains how an A.I. called Legion, designed for global warfare, tried to wipe out humanity and unleased terminators to finish the job. Dani asks Sarah how she knew to be on that part of the highway at that time to save them. Sarah tells her how she receives text messages with coordinates, date and time. She shows up and kills what ever arrives. Grace traces the messages to Laredo, Texas, where they find a T-800 model that calls itself Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Carl has learned to mimic humanity, developing his version of a conscience, and agrees to help protect Dani and try to kill the Rev-9.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the sixth film in the “Terminator” franchise. Arnold Schwarzenegger has appeared in all six in either a primary role or via digital manipulation. Linda Hamilton has appeared in three. All the other surrounding characters have been different or played by different actors. From James Cameron to “Deadpool” director Tim Miller, there have been some impressive people behind the camera, producing and writing all these films. And yet, they can only think to rewrite the same story over and over again. While this film has put much of the old band back together, “Terminator: Dark Fate” shows how his franchise is just a rehashing of a one-hit wonder.

The thing that bothers me the most about the film is the utter lack of logic. I know you must throw common sense out the window when you’re talking about a film whose central tenets are time-travel and sentient killer robots, but there are a few things that should be central to your storytelling. For instance, they only send one evil Terminator to kill the target. Why not send two or 10 or 100? You have the technology, why not make sure the job gets done? Same goes for the good guys that learned sending a human back in time to fight a Terminator isn’t the best idea after getting lucky the first time. And the evil A.I. should understand that if the timeline doesn’t change the instant your cybernetic killer disappears, it failed, and send another. Also, I know the time-travel gimmick requires the characters to show up naked, but shouldn’t they at least have a plan to acquire the weapons they need to defeat their enemies? Guns, grenades and other standard weapons only slow Terminators down, so find what you need to kill them quickly. Of course, this means the movie will only be about 30 minutes long, but you could do other things, in the dystopian future for example, to lengthen the film. I know I’m wasting characters with these thoughts, but this is the kind of thing that takes me out of a film like this.

Otherwise, “Terminator: Dark Fate” is a decent action/sci-fi film. It’s nice to see Hamilton and Schwarzenegger together again. Arnold is in fine form playing against type as Carl discusses the fine art of interior design with Dani. Sarah and Grace dislike each other on sight and that makes for some entertaining threats of bodily harm. While her transformation from scared waif to badass warrior occurs a bit too quickly, Natalia Reyes gives Dani a nice grounding in reality. She’s a hard-working young woman, dedicated to her family and thrown into an impossible situation. Reyes gives the role some much needed authenticity. Having Mackenzie Davis’ Grace saddled with a clear weakness is a departure for the series. Of course, it shows up at the worst time but doesn’t it always. Gabriel Luna’s Rev-9 is more advanced and more dangerous than the other Terminators as he’s a better mimic of human emotion. Playing a Terminator may be a great job on your resume, but it probably isn’t one for the actor’s highlight reel as it doesn’t call for a great deal of emotional range. Luna is very good in a role that doesn’t ask much of his talent.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R for violence throughout, language and brief nudity. There are a great many deaths in the film from shootings to stabbings to car crashes. There is blood and some gore, but it isn’t over the top. Most of the fights occur between the two time travelers, with Luna’s Rev-9 having his liquid metal exterior peeled off in various violent ways. The nudity is when both visitors from the future arrive naked. We see mostly backsides and no frontal. Foul language is scattered.

There are several big action scenes and fights. A couple of military planes are destroyed, multiple cars crashed, a turbine at a hydroelectric dam is blown up and more. The fights between Rev-9 and Grace are mostly CGI and merely time fillers. We know both are going to be there at the end as that is how every version of the “Terminator” franchise has gone. Racking up worldwide ticket sales approaching $2 billion (unadjusted for inflation) means these films will keep coming. However, with an opening domestic weekend gross of an estimated $29 million (one of the lowest of the franchise) and a production budget north of $185 million, perhaps “Terminator” fatigue is setting in. Producer James Cameron is working on his 50 sequels to “Avatar” so he may not have had the time to fully devote to this project. Whatever the reason, perhaps this is a sign to let this franchise meet its dark fate.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” gets two stars out of five.

A family of grifters lives in their small, semi-underground apartment in a South Korean city. The oldest son, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik), hears of a job teaching English to the teenage daughter of a wealthy family. He gets his sister Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam) to create documents on a computer to make it look like he’s in college and qualified to teach. Ki-woo is hired by Mrs. Park (Cho Yeo-jeong) under the name Kevin to teach her daughter Da-hye (Jung Ji-so). Mrs. Park brags about the artistic ability of her young son Da-song (Jung Hyun-joon) and Kevin says he knows of a brilliant teacher named Jessica who is actually his sister Ki-jeong. Mrs. Park is impressed by Jessica’s stoic and disciplined teaching style and hires her immediately. Soon, the Kim’s get both Mr. Park’s (Lee Sun-kyun) chauffer and their housekeeper, Gook Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun) fired, replacing them with Mr. and Mrs. Kim, both with fake names. The Park’s go on a camping trip celebrating Da-song’s birthday, and the Kim’s stay in the Park’s huge modern home, eating their food and drinking their alcohol. They party is interrupted by the arrival of the former housekeeper who says she needs to pick up something she left in the basement. That’s when everything changes.

“Parasite” is directed by Bong Joon-ho, the director of “Snowpiercer,” “The Host” and the Netflix film “Okja” among others. He’s a film maker that’s highly respected for his style and the ability to quickly and believably shift the tone of his films from common, everyday life to the absurd. “Parasite” is no different in this regard. While the family that’s the focus of the movie is shifty and looking to make a quick buck, they are nonetheless a regular family. It’s when a secret is exposed, and plans begin to unravel that the film takes a dark turn. “Parasite” might be the best film I’ve seen in a very long time.

You will be unable to determine the path of “Parasite” by watching the trailer. It looks like a slow-burn horror film, but it isn’t. It’s a domestic comedy focusing on class differences and the vapid nature of those wrapped up on their wealth, until it isn’t. Then it becomes a tense thriller, until it isn’t. “Parasite” is a film that must be seen to be believed, and even then, you might not believe it.

The entire cast is amazing. Choi So-dam plays the English teacher and is also the semi-leader of the family. Many of the grifts and cons the family attempt are his ideas and he prepares the family for their roles. Park So-dam plays the sister and she may be the most dangerous member of the family. She is cold, calculating, and has a level of anger just below the surface. While her brother is the brains of the operation, she is smarter and more conniving. The focus of the film is on these two characters and how their actions drive the story forward until it is all upended by a revelation two-thirds of the way through the movie.

There isn’t much I can tell you about “Parasite” as I don’t want to spoil it for you. There are twists and turns that must be enjoyed from ignorance. It is best to see the film with as little knowledge as possible so it can spring on you like a wild animal and change what you believe you know. It’s the kind of film that sticks with you and makes you think about it long after you leave the theater. I cannot recommend the experience highly enough.

“Parasite” is rated R for language, some violence and sexual content. The violence is minimal but is jarring as it is unexpected. There is some blood. There is a scene of a couple engaging in foreplay on a couch. There is no nudity, but there is some graphic feeling up and language. Foul language is scattered.

“Parasite” won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival earlier in 2019. It has also won various awards for acting, writing and directing at other film festivals. However, the best reward it can get is at the box office where, worldwide, “Parasite” has earned over $106 million as of this writing. You should hunt it down in your community, ask management of a theater to show it if it isn’t in your town, or add it to a wish list on a streaming service. The film is in Korean, so you will have to read subtitles, but don’t let that get in the way of a rare and unique moviegoing experience.

While this review is short, it is not an indication of my feelings for “Parasite” as it is one of the best films I’ve seen all year and possibly ever. Move Heaven and Earth to see it. You won’t regret it.

“Parasite” gets five stars.

Four new films open this week and I’ll see at least one of the following:

Doctor Sleep—

Last Christmas—


Playing with Fire—

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Reviews of “Magic Mike XXL” and “Terminator: Genisys”

Summer is the season of school being out, vacations, spending time at the pool or lake or ocean or whatever body of water you might be near and braindead movies meant to pass a few hours between warm weather activities. Few films this season will probably be as braindead as “Magic Mike XXL” and “Terminator: Genisys.” I saw them both and could feel the death of grey matter as they both progressed. One was responsible for more synapse-cide than the other.

Mike Lane (Channing Tatum) has left the male stripper life behind and is now building and selling custom furniture. He gets a call from former fellow stripper Tarzan (Kevin Nash) telling him their old boss and MC Dallas (played in the first film by Matthew McConaughey but only mentioned in this film) has died. Mike travels to a motel where a wake is supposed to be held but finds Tarzan and the rest of his old crew of Ken (Matt Bomer), Richie (Joe Manganiello), Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) partying around the pool. Tarzan admits he lied and Dallas isn’t dead but left them on their own to go start another club overseas. The gang is headed up the coast to Myrtle Beach for the annual stripper convention for one last ride before they all hang up their G-strings and try for some kind of normal lives. They ask Mike if he wants to go but he says no as he has a life, business and responsibilities there. That night, he hears a song he used to dance to and does an impromptu routine in his work space. The next day, he meets with the guys and agrees to go on one last ride. An accident disables their ride and puts Tobias in the hospital with a head injury, standing them until their converted food truck van is repaired. Mike decides to approach his old boss Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) who runs a private club for women in a house where male strippers are scattered around performing shows. While unable to convince Rome to be their fill-in MC, she does give them access to a car and has Andre (Donald Glover), one of her performers, give them a ride. Things are looking bleak as the troop heads to their last convention with no MC and not much of a plan.

“Magic Mike XXL” looks like a movie that didn’t have a completed script when it went into production. The story is very fragmented and jumps around like a child playing hopscotch. The only cohesive section of the film is the road trip until Tobias gets hurt; then, the section with every fortuitous turn imaginable begins. People who won’t help suddenly appear to do exactly what the boys need. There’s no slot during the convention for them to perform but that suddenly opens up. All their plans, thrown together in what appears to be a matter of hours story-wise, work out perfectly leading to a triumphant conclusion. It appears the only thing you need to live a charmed life is washboard abs and bulging pecs. Anything resembling everyday life is left behind once Mike decides to rejoin his buddies in Stipper-ville. “Magic Mike XXL” is a silly fantasy about shallow people living lives filled with as much instant gratification and recreational drugs as they can find. Of course, we discover they are all much deeper than we suspect and all they really want is just an average life with someone to love…except the New Age healer/actor/singer who realizes his dreams of stardom are likely never to be fulfilled but tells Mike, “I’m still pretty.” There were times in this film that I wanted to smack ever character on screen for being so petty.

About the only saving grace of the film is a scene involving Andie MacDowell as a divorced, modern southern belle hosting some friends at her home when Mike and the guys show up. It turns into a session of discovery and revelation that, while ridiculous, was interesting to watch. It seems like the only scene in the film that actually had a little thought applied to it. It also is one of those aforementioned fortuitous turns helping the boys get to Myrtle Beach. The film is also saved (somewhat) by the charisma of Channing Tatum. Tatum plays characters in most of his films that seem like decent people. Tatum comes off in interviews like an average guy that just happens to make movies. It’s his appeal as an everyman that keeps “Magic Mike XXL” from being an insufferable experience.

“Magic Mike XXL” is rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use. Most of the dance scenes involve simulated sex acts. The only nudity I remember is Joe Manganiello’s bare backside early in the film. There are also some exposed cheeks when the boys are wearing their stripper gear. The guys are shown smoking weed and taking capsules that are referred to as Molly. Foul language is common.

While this film certainly isn’t aimed at me, “Magic Mike XXL” still manages a few laughs with the antics of the male strippers and a cameo by Michael Strahan as one of Rome’s dancers. While the humor and the charisma of Channing Tatum provide some bright spots, “Magic Mike XXL” feels like it was made from an unfinished script that left me feeling at times confused and then finally uninterested.

“Magic Mike XXL” gets a fully clothed three stars out of five.

John Connor (Jason Clarke) and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) along with the rest of their troops are on the verge of destroying Skynet and ending the extinction of the human race. One team is hitting a facility where Skynet is based by Connor and Reese lead a team against a facility that contains the time machine used to send Terminators to the past. Skynet is disabled and all the robots shut down; but the time machine has been used to send a T-800 model back to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke). Kyle Reese volunteers to go back and protect Sarah. John knows if he doesn’t he’ll never be born. Kyle begins the process of time travel but sees John being attacked by someone in the crowd. Kyle shows up in 1984 and is almost instantly attacked by a liquid metal T-1000 model (Lee Byung-hun). Hiding in a clothing store, Kyle is saved by Sarah Connor driving an armored truck. In the back is an aged looking T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). Kyle tries to shoot him but the old T-800 knocks him unconscious. When he wakes, Sarah tells Kyle that the Terminator she calls “Pops” has raised her since she was nine. He’s there to protect her. Kyle is suspicious and doesn’t trust Pops. Things have changed from the history Kyle was told by John. Kyle also has memories of being a child and telling himself that Genisys is Skynet. Nothing is making sense.

I don’t want to give away any more than that brief synopsis as I often get yelled at for telling too much. Besides, the whole story of “Terminator: Genisys” is far more complicated as time is twisted into knots and histories and futures are as fluid as water. Nothing you know about the “Terminator” universe stays completely unchanged from film to film so this shouldn’t be a big surprise. That the timeline can be manipulated and changed was one of the most appealing aspects of the film. It also means there can be endless sequels since the past can be manipulated like soft clay and molded into whatever the next writer wants.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the star of the film even though his is more of a supporting character. Pops is given the job of putting the science of the film into words. It seems like a risky idea considering Schwarzenegger’s thick accent. Still, he manages to deliver explanations for the various timelines that at least sound like they have a scientific basis. Schwarzenegger also provides much of the film’s humor. His scary dead-eyed smile is usually delivered at the perfectly inappropriate time and his lack of emotion and understanding of emotional expressions means lines that aren’t funny take on a humorous context.

Most of the film’s action is created through CGI. While many scenes look pretty good, including the film’s climax, some look bland, particularly a helicopter chase amongst the skyscrapers of San Francisco. There are shots that look flat and unfinished like the nighttime setting would hide the flaws. It doesn’t. This is a brief scene compared to others but it stuck out. One highlight of the CGI is the fight between old and young Schwarzenegger. An Australian bodybuilder with matching physical measurements to 1984 Arnold was used as a body double then had Schwarzenegger’s young face digitally stitched to his head. It works surprisingly well and looks almost completely natural. Oddly enough, the digital Arnold face actually has a brief flash of too much emotion.

I believe the studio made a tactical error in releasing a major plot twist in one of the film’s trailers. It caused a bit of a stink on the Internet but I didn’t think that much of it at the time. Having now seen the film it was a much larger mistake than I originally thought. This kind of surprise (which I won’t tell if you don’t already know) is the kind of major story event that can raise the audience excitement for a film and give it enormous word-of-mouth buzz. Since it was revealed in the trailer, the reveal is ho hum. According to press reports, director Alan Taylor didn’t know about the spoiler being in the trailer and is quoted as saying he wouldn’t have revealed it before the film came out. Since the film is underperforming at the box office in its opening days, this may actually be costing the studio some money. It also doesn’t help that “Inside Out” and “Jurassic World” are still performing strongly this late in their runs; but people talking about that surprise might have driven a few more patrons the film’s way. The trailer reveal seems at best short sighted and at worst incompetent.

“Terminator: Genisys” is rated PG-13 for gunplay throughout, brief strong language, intense sci-fi violence and partial nudity. Guns of various types are fired throughout the film, most frequently at non-human characters. Those humans that are shot show very little blood. The fights between the various types of Terminators involve lots of bodies getting thrown around and through walls and ceilings. The flesh gets beaten, burned and ripped off the T-800 models in various ways. The nudity consists of those people who travel in time as they must do so naked. The most we see is bare male backsides. Foul language is intermittent.

If you don’t think too hard about the twisty timelines (or know anything about actual physics and the improbability of time travel), “Terminator: Genisys” is a fun action flick with plenty of nostalgia for those of us old enough to have seen the first film in the series. Seeing Arnold in his various forms saying his most famous “Terminator” lines in completely different contexts brings a smile to those of us who have aged along with the T-800. Resetting the timeline also opens the door for more films with two already planned and getting 2017 and 2018 release dates. It would appear Arnold is telling us, “I’ll be back.”

“Terminator: Genisys” gets five stars.

Horror, sci-fi, a sex romp and little yellow helpers are all on tap at theatres this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following.

The Gallows—


The Overnight—


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