movie reviews July 2015

terminator genisysme and earl and the dying girllove & Mercyamythe gallowsmagic mike XXL inside outant-mantrainwreck

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Reviewed by Beck Ireland

It’s usually not difficult to tell whether Amy Schumer is in on the joke. On her Comedy Central sketch show “Inside Amy Schumer,” she’s clearly in charge of the spoof despite portraying characters who, more often than not, are guilty of the behaviors her writing skewers. She’s admitted she likes playing dumb and obnoxious, but with a subversive punchline payoff.

Unfortunately, in Schumer’s first feature film, shanghaied by producer/director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up), her part in the parody is less incontrovertible.

Schumer wrote the screenplay for Trainwreck, but how much of her personal life she embedded in the lead is irrelevant. Both she and the character are named Amy, but whatever grounding the autobiographical elements she used were supposed to provide — the scenes with her and her on-screen dad Colin Quinn feel the most authentic — they’re overridden by the lampooning of the tropes of romantic comedy (not that different from last year’s They Came Together, starring Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd, which offered nothing more than empty satire of the genre), and then an abrupt reversal in which the movie follows the rules.

Schumer’s on-screen Amy is a writer at a men’s magazine with implausibly good editorial prospects and a “sick” New York apartment that those in her profession can afford only in romantic comedies. Her fear of intimacy, drilled into her psyche by her dad early on, drives her compulsion for binge drinking and serial one-night stands. This changes when Amy’s editor, portrayed by Tilda Swinton in a convincing burlesque of the cosmopolite, recognizes the brilliance in assigning Amy, who hates sports, to a story requiring her to interview surgeon Aaron Connors (Bill Hader), whose specialty is restoring the knees of sports superstars.

It’s not difficult to distinguish some of Schumer’s contributions from Apatow’s. She reprises and refines sketches from her show for both a baby shower and an editorial pitch meeting, surrounding herself with comedians adept at improvisation. Apatow provides the clout for a seemingly endless parade of cameo roles, led by LeBron James and John Cena, their roles fixated on tucking their hyper-masculinity between their legs, which is not Schumer’s usual brand of double-edged, transgressive comedy. Cena’s homoerotic threats in a movie theater are of particular concern, making Amy’s departure to avoid both that and the incongruent movie-within-the-movie more than justified.

Even more perplexing is Amy’s absence in the last half of the movie. Like the proverbial friend who disappears once she get a boyfriend, the clean and sober Amy who is finally capable of letting others love her disappears from her own movie, only to return in an embarrassing incarnation —imitating a cheerleader — which leaves nothing to cheer about. (R) Rating: 2.5 (Posted on 07/26/15)

Reviewed by Mike Ireland

After a series of increasingly bloated and ponderous blockbusters, it's refreshing to get a Marvel corporate release that ratchets down the size and tone a bit. Like last summer's Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man looks to bring a little comic book fun (remember when Batman was a crime-fighter, not the Dark Knight?) back to the comic book film while taking a few swipes at the genre in the process.

Sure, the plot is standard Marvel stuff: average Joe receives great power and must harness it for good to protect the world from destruction. But the script by Adam McKay and star Paul Rudd, based on an earlier story and script by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and Joe Cornish, entertainingly crosses genre boundaries, rendering the film part superhero origin, part caper flick, part Rom-Com, and part The Incredible Shrinking Man.

Rudd plays Scott Lang, an electronics whiz out on parole for Robin Hood (or Edward Snowden)-style corporate hacking and determined to show his ex-wife and daughter that he can be a good man. Unable to find a straight job, he's pulled into one last heist that leads to a mysterious suit and to Dr. Hank Pym.

While Lang provides the film's origin story, Pym — the first Ant-Man and an original Avenger — provides the mythology. Rudd's goofy awkwardness, while amusing, is distinct from the more cynical humor of Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, lending Lang a rare earnestness. And as Dr. Pym, Michael Douglas provides critical gravitas to ground the absurd notion of a suit that shrinks the wearer to insect size, increases his strength, and allows him to telepathically communicate with ants.

As the story unfolds, the film increasingly undermines the superhero tropes it's built on. In the hands of director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, The Break-Up), the requisite training montage in which Lang learns to control the suit and develop his fighting skills becomes an opportunity for slapstick. A borderline maudlin scene between Pym and estranged daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) is undercut when the camera pulls back to reveal an embarrassed Lang looking on awkwardly.

This subversion finds its ultimate expression in the film's climactic battle between Ant-Man and nemesis Yellowjacket. The fight has all the power punches, martial art moves, and laser blasts of any standard Marvel rock 'em-sock 'em finale until an abrupt long shot reminds viewers that all this is taking place on a Thomas the Tank Engine playset in a young girl's bedroom.

In fact, shifting scope may be the film's secret weapon, providing opportunities for humor, but also, as Lang soars atop a winged Carpenter Ant or sprints through towering blades of grass amid his insect brothers-in-arms, a sense of wonder. You know, the stuff of comic books.

Sure, Ant-Man still reflects the antiquated ideology of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in which only males matter and ethnic characters are played (in Michael Peña's case, quite successfully) for laughs. But in its best moments — and that is frequently — this Marvel film doesn't feel like a Marvel film at all. (PG-13) Rating: 3 1/2 stars (Posted on 07/26/15)

Inside Out
Reviewed by Day Lybarger

Inside Out answers a question that probably every parent of a teenager has had: Why is my formerly happy child so sullen and despondent?

Because the film has been masterminded by Pixar’s Pete Docter (Up), and the seemingly mundane subject is handled with a sense of wonder and wit that all the dinosaurs in a Jurassic sequel simply can’t match.

The movie may concern a child, but there is a remarkable amount of adult thinking behind Inside Out. Docter and his cohorts are keenly aware of children can sense something is amiss with their parents, even if they don’t understand what bothers them yet.

In this case Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) joins her parents (Diane Lane and Kyle McLachlan) as they leave Minnesota to try a new venture in San Francisco. Riley is already distraught because all of her friends and her favorite activities are in the Land of 1,000 Lakes. She can also overhear her dad lamenting how his new business is getting off to a shaky start.

It also doesn’t help that her emotions are becoming out of balance. Up till this point Joy (voiced by an appropriately perky Amy Poehler) has dominated the controls of Riley’s brain, while the well-meaning Sadness (Phyllis Smith) keeps touching Riley’s core memories and inadvertently adds a blue tint to them.

If Joy takes a break or Sadness is off in some corner, Riley can be dominated by Fear (Bill Hader), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) or Anger (perpetually cranky comic Lewis Black, an obvious but nonetheless perfect choice).

The trio wind up completely in charge of the girl when Joy and Sadness get accidentally sucked up into the serpentine filing system that runs through Riley’s head. To her parents, the once vibrant Riley is now strangely despondent.

With Anger occasionally at the controls, she mouths off to her parents more frequently. In addition, running away from home in the vain hope of restarting her life in Minnesota seems strangely logical.

Throughout her journey back to the control room, the overbearing Joy learns that the quiet, sullen Sadness is as essential to Riley’s well being as she is. Without a little glum feeling every now and then, Riley can’t feel empathy.

Docter depicts all the emotions as dynamically as if they were people instead of ideals or vices. As the film demonstrates, there are times when even Anger is needed for survival, and thanks to mortality, Fear helps us all prolong our eventual embrace of it. It helps that Poehler and Smith have enough range to play for laughs as well as tug on heartstrings. Even the minor denizens of Riley’s mind are vividly realized. Richard Kind is downright lovable as Riley’s almost forgotten imaginary friend Bing Bong.

Docter and his compatriots have actually examined how neurology works in order to give their fanciful environment some weight. Even with the scientific and psychological data worked in, Docter has managed to create a universe as imaginative as 2001: A Space Odyssey.

With all of the detail, Docter demonstrates far more insight into human nature and the place we hold in the world than most filmmakers who cater to adults. Perhaps filmmakers who long to tell more sophisticated and worthwhile stories might want to set up shop at Pixar or another studio that refuses to underestimate the intelligence of the children of the grownups who are watching with them. (PG) Rating: 5 (Posted on 07/13/2015)

Inside Out

The most fascinating
place on earth may be the mind
of a pre-teen girl.

Magic Mike XXL
Reviewed by Beck Ireland

In 2012 director Steven Soderbergh titillated, and by turns implicated, audiences with a double-edged look at male strippers. Notwithstanding its hyperbolic title, the sequel, directed by Soderbergh’s longtime first assistant director Gregory Jacobs, takes a smaller view of the subject matter.

Writer Reid Carolin again provides the screenplay, but is no longer concerned with the downside of working in the sex industry. The seediness, embodied in the first movie by Matthew McConaughey in one of his campiest but insidious roles, is replaced with untroubled male bonding among the remaining cast members and free-form routines meant to somehow be more authentic by eschewing the typical policeman-fireman-cowboy routines and empowering women by treating them like bendable Gumby toys.

When audiences last saw Channing Tatum’s Mike Lane he was walking away from the exploitation inherent in being a male entertainer. But it doesn’t take much to get him back three years later. A reunion with the guys and a coincidentally timed airing of Ginuwine’s “Pony” is enough to persuade him to gyrate on stage again. There’s also the mention of not being able to afford health insurance for his one employee at his custom furniture business, but that smacks too closely of the coercion exposed in the first film. The biggest difference between Jaconbs and Soderbergh is that Jacobs doesn’t want anything to ruin a good time, even if that does leave the drug dealer literally driving the bus.

For a version meant to be lighter than its predecessor, the sequel is surprisingly talky. The moments of male bonding seem improvised, with vocal tics, awkward silences and mundane observations leading to dead ends. Likewise, the dance scenes aren’t nearly as thrilling — or even as musical — as the more cliché originals. There are essentially two dance set-pieces; one in a Gothic bordello and the other at an imaginary male stripper convention but neither of them offering much by way of choreography. It’s made clear that the supporting cast has no moves beyond imitation boy band fare so to compensate So You Think You Can Dance alum Stephen “Twitch” Boss and rapping comedian Donald Glover have been brought in as two different sides of the same coin, or token, if you will.

As editor and director of photography, Soderbergh remains involved in the making of the movie, and some scenes use his particular brand of non-intrusive filmmaking. The first time Mike meets new love interest Zoe, played by Amber Heard, they’re shot in shadow on a dark beach — a bold choice for a mainstream movie that’s depending on its stars’ pretty faces to draw in the crowds. In their next scene together, Mike and Zoe flirt casually and uneventfully in one-shots while sexual tension and chaotic and absurd conversation go on in the next room. (R) Rating: 2 (Posted on 07/13/15)

The Gallows
Reviewed by Mike Ireland

The found-footage horror genre gets a pretty bad rap, and rightfully so. Since its popularization by The Blair Witch Project over fifteen years ago, the technique has been so overused that it barely makes an impression on viewers anymore.

Originally intended to suggest that audiences were seeing actual amateur footage, it has too often become a dodge for filmmakers with skills, scripts or budgets too meager to create something competent.

Inexplicably released by Warner Bros. and low-budget horror producers Blumhouse in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, The Gallows may represent the nadir of this declining trend.

The film's prologue introduces 1993 VHS footage of the Beatrice (NE) High School stage production of "The Gallows" — a costume drama apparently intended for thespian groups that can't afford rights to "The Crucible." Shaky-cam footage, including whispered commentary from the parent-in-the-audience videographer, comes to an abrupt halt when an actor, in a malfunction of the inexplicably functional stage gallows, is actually hanged.

The film picks up 20 years later (Yeah, it apparently took a couple of years for this stinker to get picked up for distribution.) as Beatrice High is in its final day of preparations for a tribute performance of the play, complete, again, with functioning gallows. No need to go into the million-and-one reasons none of this would happen; after all, it's just a horror film.

For reasons pointless to explain, three students break into the school theater that night to destroy the set and, hence, stop the show. They run into a peer already there and quickly find themselves locked in with the lights out and someone — or something — stalking them.

Having set up the ridiculous premise, co-writers and -directors Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing have little idea what to do with their characters besides having them run through the ludicrously labyrinthine high school, screaming, bickering yet recording the proceedings on Smartphones that periodically fizzle out or power down.

Chief Smartphone videographer is loudmouth jock Ryan Shoos (get this, played by Ryan Shoos), whose obnoxious insults and wisecracks are so relentless the audience can't wait for him to bite the dust. Unfortunately, this takes far too long. Ryan's cohorts are little more than names: Reese Mishler (Reese Houser), Pfeifer Brown (Pfeifer Ross), and, in an attempt to generate at least a little press for this disaster, Kathie Lee and Frank Gifford's offspring Cassidy as Cassidy Spilker.

In the meantime, the lo-fi Smartphone cams shake, rattle, and roll except when the filmmakers have a set piece to deliver, for which the camera abruptly stops and frames the shot. Likewise, while the sound for the VHS prologue is appropriately garbled, the cell phones these students are toting have thunderous sound response. Also distracting from any vérité feel are scenes viewed first from one student’s phone then repeated in their entirety from the POV of another’s.

In other words, Cluff and Lofing can't seem to decide if they are working with the found-footage premise or not. And if they aren't, then all the shaky-cam action just seems like a smokescreen for amateurish filmmaking.

Sure, there are a few genuinely startling moments. But none you haven't seen before (particularly a reveal lifted from John Carpenter's “steadicam” horror classic Halloween) and only enough to fill a preview trailer, which is probably how this clunker got picked up in the first place. (R) Rating: 0 (Posted on 07/13/15)

Reviewed by Beck Ireland

If ever there were another public figure deserving of director Asif Kapadia’s (Senna) sympathetic posthumous treatment, it’s Amy Winehouse. It’s been almost four years since the English singer/songwriter died from alcohol poisoning at age 27, and Kapadia seeks to liberate her abbreviated but resonant musical legacy from the pathetic caricature written about in the tabloids.

With the indispensable talent of editor Chris King (Exit Through the Gift Shop, Senna), Kapadia constructs the story of Winehouse’s life, starting around age 15, using photos and footage shot mainly by former manager Nick Shymansky and childhood friends Juliette Ashby and Lauren Gilbert, as well as from chat and awards shows. This alone would make the film more actuality than documentary, but Kapadia adds voice-overs from interviews and even voice mail messages left by Winehouse on her friends’ phones.The result of this assemblage is often too direct in its cause and effect.

The filmmaker, working backward with the benefit of hindsight, rigs pivotal moments with an eerie prescience that couldn’t have possibly been meant in the conversations at the time. He then doubles down on that effort with dramatic slowdowns and snippets from Winehouse’s songs, the lyrics scrawled in a girlish script on screen, postulating that the works were strictly biographical as well as clairvoyant.

Despite Kapadia’s manipulations, it’s clear the gift of second sight belongs not to Winehouse. If it had perhaps she wouldn’t have speculated earnestly against her prospects of gaining worldwide popularity in an early interview and been more prepared for her runaway fame, thus possibly changing the course of her ultimate fate. It was Shymansky, recognizing the potential chanteuse in Winehouse at the age of 16 when he was an upstart 19-year-old A&R rep, who possessed an uncanny foresight. The real tragedy is that he, along with Ashby and Gilbert, saw where Winehouse was headed and could do nothing about it.

Those expecting to continue to ogle Winehouse’s last train wreck years as pure spectacle will be disappointed, and may even find themselves pulling for her despite the foregone conclusion. Kapadia certainly points fingers at ex-husband Blake Fielder, manager/promoter Raye Cosbert and Winehouse’s father, Mitch Winehouse, who, absent during Winehouse’s childhood returns to her life after fame with a taste for it himself.

But his main interest is in using the wide-ranging access granted to him by friends and family, and even a sincere and candid interview with Tony Bennett, with whom Winehouse recorded her last song, to be kind, an approach that often wasn’t granted to her during life. (R) Rating: 4 (Posted on 07/13/15)

Love & Mercy
Reviewed by Dan Lybarger

Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson’s life and music are so intricately and delicately constructed that a conventional biopic wouldn’t’t do them justice. In his nearly 73 years, Wilson has written dozens of indelible melodies. His sense of harmony is so acute that he put together chords that would be dissonant to just about any other composer.

That’s not bad for a guy who’s deaf in one ear.

If his compositions seem magical, his personal life has been anything but. His father Murry Wilson beat the future composer and may have caused him to go deaf in his right ear. Wilson has also outlived both of his younger brothers (fellow Beach Boys Carl and Dennis) and spent many years trying to medicate his mental illness.

Wilson may never make another album as breathtaking and emotionally engrossing as his 1966 Pet Sounds, but who else has? One album like that is more than enough.

Wilson’s unique gifts are still a marvel to discover. His background harmonies make Neil Diamond’s “Delirious Love” a feather in both performers’ caps, and his recent retooling of George Gershwin’s songs allow him to be both an admirer and a peer of the previous composer.

Because Wilson’s life doesn’t’t fit into comfortably into typical rock star tropes (he thankfully has not gone out as one critic quipped “in a blaze of vomit”), Love & Mercy manages to celebrate his legacy by revealing how hard Wilson and the people who loved him fought to achieve it.

Director Bill Pohlman, who's best known for producing 12 Years a Slave and Brokeback Mountain, has a lot material to work with but wisely focuses on what are arguably the two most dramatic portions of Wilson's life: the 1966 recording of Pet Sounds and time he spent in the late 1980s under the domineering and manipulative therapist Eugene Landy (played to perfection by Paul Giamatti).

In the earlier scenes, the baby-faced Paul Dano, who's actually a decent singer, plays Wilson. His take on the musician is a fellow whose odd habits are tolerated because his unique instincts for harmonies and arrangements enable him to practically mint money. OK, so he writes songs on a piano set in a sandbox and is so terrified of performing live that he has panic attacks on planes. His seemingly inexplicable decisions make perfect sense in studio headphones.

If Wilson, his brothers, his cousin Mike Love (Jake Abel) and his entourage have become wealthy because his compositions, he understandably wants to pen songs that are more musically and lyrically demanding than his previous odes to cars, girls and surfing.

Because Wilson never mounted a surfboard (his brother Dennis was the only surfer in the band), his desire to put away childish things for more mature ideas and sounds is understandable. Nonetheless, the record label, his overbearing, downright abusive father Murry (an appropriately creepy Bill Camp) and his bandmates are reluctant to risk the family business on Brian's more imaginative and ambitious tunes for Pet Sounds. Feeling rejection only makes his fragile sanity weaker.

John Cusack plays the 40-something Wilson with an empathetic sense of paranoia and ably captures Wilson's disarming honesty. His willingness to share every thought in his head, no matter how dark, wins over a friendly Cadillac dealer named Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks). Banks projects a sense of intelligence and compassion that make Melinda's redemption of Brian not only believable but inevitable. She can hold her own against the formidable Giamatti and still emerge triumphant.

Love & Mercy was co-written by Oren Moverman, who penned Todd Haynes' multi-layered Bob Dylan tribute I'm Not There. In effortlessly juggling Wilson in his 20s and his 40s, Moverman proves as adept with dealing with biographical fact as he is with mythology. You really can't make up somebody like Brian Wilson.

Pohlman manages to keep the pacing just about right so that viewers can get used to watching two actors playing the musician (equally well, I might add) without the device getting stale or distracting. It also doesn't hurt that Atticus Ross, who teamed up with Trent Reznor for the scores to several recent films by David Fincher, ingeniously reworks the songs Wilson and the other Beach Boys have written into an eerie portrait of the composer's mental state.

In the end Pohlman and company effortlessly lead viewers to appreciate Wilson's current survival and all that he may still have to offer. If you crank up a Beach Boys song again, you'll more easily hear the complicated mind and soul behind it. (PG-13) Rating: 4.5 (Posted on 07/07/15)

Love & Mercy

Brian Wilson gets a
film as quirky and brilliant
as he can become.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Reviewed by Dan Lybarger

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is a charming film about a teenager whose primary goal in life is to avoid emotional connections. Somehow the movie manages to create the sort of bonds that Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann, Project) tries so strenuously to avoid.

It’s probably easy to follow Greg’s quest for near anonymity because that the lad has a unique way of making his point. As Greg explains life at his Pittsburgh high school, director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (Glee) cuts to title cards and bits of stop-motion animation.

Greg has gingerly worked out a way to mingle with just about any clique at the school without every committing to any particular one. To Greg, the word “friend” is his personal F-bomb. Whenever he refers to his sullen pal Earl (RJ Cyler), he uses the term “coworker” because the two make a series of bizarre parodies of classic films.

Never mind the fact that the two are about the only ones in the school who associate with each other despite the fact that Earl is black and lives in a rundown neighborhood and Greg’s dad (Nick Offerman) is a college professor so successful that he doesn’t’t seem to have to work anymore.

Greg’s hermetic bliss (or more likely numbness) comes to a crashing halt when his mother (Connie Britton) forces the shy teen to spend time with Rachel Kushner (Olivia Cooke), who has just been diagnosed with leukemia. Greg barely knows her, but his mother is implacable.

In his own awkward way, Greg manages to befriend Rachel, but he winds up facing a crushing dilemma. If he gets closer to her, the two aren’t’t likely to have much time together. The only thing worse than having a friend is losing one.

Gomez-Rejon's genial tone helps counterbalance the increasingly grim nature of the story. It also doesn't hurt that Andrews' material is quirky but genuine. Greg's fear of emotional engagement, while futile, is understandable. Nobody likes being hurt or disliked. Mann looks appropriately flustered by what fate is throwing Greg's way, and he knows how to play vulnerable without coming across as whiny.

Similarly, Cooke brinks a vitality to Rachel that makes her someone a viewer would miss. Andrews also avoids going out of his way to make her endearing. Rachel already has a biological gun to her head, so there's no point in trying to make her more likable. Impending doom is already compelling enough.

There's also something endearing about a movie that features the filmmakers loudly declaring their love for the medium. The parodies, the stop motion sequences and the repeated meta-discourse could get old, but Andrews and Alfonso Gomez-Rejon find enough new angles to keep the self conscious narrative from wearing out its welcome.

Also because there are life and death stakes to go with the heartache, there is a sense that something of value could be lost that's often missing from indie films. Several seem to expect viewers to like them merely because they're twee or cutesy. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl was actually filmed in Andrews' high school and boyhood home, as a result, there's a sense of authenticity that counterbalances the surreal touches.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl won the Jury and the Audience prizes at Sundance this year. Obviously, it makes the sort of connection with viewers hearts that Greg is trying to avert (PG-13). Rating: 4 (Posted on 07/06/15)

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Any film where teens love
Aguirre, The Wrath of God
is OK with me.

Terminator Genisys
Reviewed by Mike Ireland

Terminator: Genisys is the latest example of Hollywood's cynical approach to remakes in which the studio resurrects not just a film but also an entire franchise. Like the recent relaunches of the X-Men and Star Trek film series, this Terminator installment is not so much a remake as a mash-up of earlier films, mixing and matching familiar characters and storylines with enough in-jokes, self-references, and cameo roles to ingratiate itself to fans of its predecessors. Ignoring all but the first two films of the series, Terminator: Genisys is an earnest homage to James Cameron's original dystopian vision but an ultimately non-engaging reboot for the franchise.

Cameron's first film presented a relatively straightforward plot (at least as time-travel films go): faced with defeat in its attempt to exterminate humankind, the evil computer network Skynet sends a T-800 terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) — a robot assassin in human skin — back to 1984 to assassinate the mother of resistance leader John Connor while the humans sends back soldier Kyle Reese to protect her. The sequel created more wrinkles: having failed to keep John Conner from being born, Skynet sends a next-generation liquid-metal T-1000 (state-of-the-CGI-art in 1991) to kill young John Connor while the resistance sends the re-programmed Schwarzenegger for his protection.

Genesys takes the plotline back where it started, opening with the final assault on Skynet (only narrated in the first film) and Kyle Reese's trip back to 1984 to save Sarah Connor.

But it turns out the past ain't what it used to be.

In this altered version of 1984, Sarah Connor (Game of Throne's Emilia Clarke) has spent a decade preparing for the assault and is protected by an aging T-800 (apparently, a terminator's fleshy exterior ages) played by Schwarzenegger, who right away squares-off with his digital doppelganger from the 1984 film. Then along comes the T-1000 from Judgement Day, only to be upstaged by the latest upgrades in the killing machine line, the T-3000 and T-5000.

Early on, director Alan Taylor, who helmed the Thor sequel The Dark World, constructs superb recreations of sequences from Cameron's 1984 film, sometimes virtually shot-for-shot. But it doesn't take long for the action to settle into the familiar groove of most current action blockbusters with a non-stop series of CGI set pieces: chases, car (and plane and bus and helicopter) crashes, explosions, and endless robot slugfests.

Lost in the action shuffle is any sense of what's at stake. The future of humanity hangs in the balance but only receives lip service. And the couple we're supposed to care about pale in comparison to their counterparts in the original movies. The casting of Emelia Clarke turns Sarah Connor from the self-sufficient yet vulnerable woman of Cameron's films into a spunky fifteen-year-old, who looks barely out of braces. And the intelligence and sweetness Michael Biehn brought to soldier-from-the-future Kyle Reese in the first film is utterly lost in Jai Courtney's lunk-headed portrayal.

Ironically, the only character that displays a bit of inner spark is Schwarzenegger’s aging robot. Perhaps this is because Arnold has spent so much time with the character or maybe because the actor is beginning to relate to the machine's need to prove it is "old, not obsolete."

Ultimately, Terminator: Genisys offers little more than the standard CGI-laden action film, relying on nostalgia to move its audience in ways the actors and script can't. PG-13 Rating: 2 (Posted on 07/06/15)

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