Twice Upon a Terminator (Terminator 2: Judgement Day, 1991)

Terminator_2_PosterAfter the Terminator, James Cameron proved it was not a fluke with the sequel to Alien, Aliens, and the Abyss.  Cameron determined his idea for a sequel to the Terminator was a technical possibility.

Picking up ten years after the first film, we find that Sarah Conner is locked up in an asylum and John Conner is now in the foster care system.  John is a bit of a delinquent, using the skills his mother taught him before they were torn apart by the government.

One evening, two men appear…one a sleek killer and the other a familiar face. We find the threatening villain of the first film is now a Terminator sent back to protect John from a more advanced Terminator.

John quickly establishes some rules for his new protector when it almost kills two men who think John is in trouble and come to his rescue. Particularly, John commands the Terminator to never kill a human. These commands lead to several moments where the Terminator carefully shoots people with non-lethal precision (at one point telling John, “He’ll live”).

They break Sarah out of the asylum just as the T-1000 arrives, so there is an exciting escape sequence.  As the trio run from the T-1000, Sarah picks the Terminator’s files to find out how Skynet still came to pass, and determining she must kill the man who creates Skynet.

From here on out, I will use the popular moniker T2.  Cameron loves to push technical limits and this sequel is no different in that way.  Expanding on the morphing tech used in the Abyss for the water tentacles and created the liquid metal T-1000.  Able to form bladed weapons and imitate various people it comes in contact with. When combined with a cold inhuman performance from Robert Patrick, the T-1000 is menacing.

The T-800 is more of a quippy action hero, but it really works here.  The film spends a fair amount of time building the relationship between John and his Terminator, so that by the end both John and Sarah feel a real connection to the machine, who seems to also have genuine concern for John.

The film also plays around with the premise of who is worse.  Sarah becomes determined to kill Miles Dyson to prevent the creation of Skynet. When she nearly succeeds, she finds herself facing his young son begging her not to kill him, Sarah freezes, as she realizes she was being more like a Terminator than a human. The evolution of Sarah from the frightened waitress of the first film to a hardcore warrior barely holding on to her humanity is effectively done.

While the film tries to end on an open note, it really throws off the perfect loop of the first film.  That criticism is made of later films and the television regarding the timeline is pretty much a problem the minute you make a sequel. Still, this is a fun and exciting flick with some solid humor and emotion.  My preferred version is Cameron’s extended cut, which includes some great little touches, such as the reveal that near the end, the T-1000 is glitching. T2 is well loved because it is great at what it is trying to be. The action is intense, the drama effective and the effects pretty amazing.

A Wrench In Time (The Terminator, 1984)

The_Terminator_PosterIn 1984, James Cameron was a genre vet, but not quite the guy we think of.  He had no mega-hits…yet. Cameron came up out of the Corman school and made his names with technical and special effects….especially stretching the low budget effects.

His one theatrical film before the Terminator is Piranha II: the Spawning, and then his next film is…

In 1984 a mysterious massive stranger appears in a crackle of lightning in an alley.  He has a singular aim and will.

Elsewhere, another man appears in an alley (less gracefully). Disoriented he asked when he is. He, like the more ominous stranger has a goal…in fact they are both here to locate Sarah Conner, a young woman of immense importance to the future.

Both men are from the future, one where there is a war between man and machine. When the machines realize they are about to lose, they send back a Terminator, a large massive robot covered in human flesh to allow them to infiltrate human encampments and kill a target. The Terminator’s target is the mother of the man who will rally humanity together to defeat the robot oppressors.

Kyle Reese has been sent back to protect young Sarah Conner from the Terminator.

The Terminator is a shockingly good second film, showing that Cameron had a real vision as he made the film.  It is a sci-fi horror film that keeps everything simple.  By the team it ends, we have a perfect circle of time, so it is not confusing or asking you to make any bigger stretch than accepting time travel.

Cameron is as committed to his characters as much as effects and action.  Sarah is believable and sympathetic as an everyman finding herself in an impossible situation and rising to occasion.  Considering the biggest ask is that we believe she falls in love with Reese overnight, and Hamilton and Biehn have enough chemistry to make it work.

Arnold Schwarzenegger had already made a mark as Conan, but this time he has a real menacing charisma that sells the notion that a massive cyborg is walking the city.

The effects remain an outstanding achievement. Sure, you can see the stop motion models and the rubber heads…but they are such well crafted effects, you do not mind and they are downright pleasing to watch.

The Terminator is a film that has withstood the test of time and such an incredibly impressive effort for someone’s second film.

Whatever Time’s the Charm?? (Terminator Dark Fate, 2019)

Terminator_Dark_Fate_PosterTerminator Genisys was intended to kick off an all new trilogy following the exploits of Sarah Conner, Kyle Reese and Pops trying to stop the new version of Skynet. Of course, Terminator Salvation was supposed to kick off a new trilogy following the war against the machines leading to Kyle Reese going back to save Sarah Conner.  Which was a sort of continuation of Rise of the Machines.

Sort of.  Each sequel starting with T2 tried a twist, though the twist became the trope.  Arnold was moved from the “bad Terminator” to the “friendly Terminator”. This has never bothered my all that much, the way it was handled in each film usually worked okay.

And honestly, Pops was the thing I enjoyed most about Genisys. The failure of Genisys to revitalize the franchise left the series kind of lost. People got excited when there was talk of Cameron returning. And then they took the now popular strategy of making a sequel that ignores all but one or two of the earliest films. This time, they are picking up after T2: Judgement Day.

Sarah Conner tells us how she saved the world from Skynet, then the film reveals a shocking twist. We then are introduced to Grace who appears in Mexico, followed by the new Terminator, a Rev-9. He is in pursuit of Dani and Grace is there to protect her. They meet up with Sarah Conner and try to escape, ultimately reaching out to Carl, a Terminator who is displaced after the erasure of Skynet.

Carl is kind of an interesting character and honestly have no problem with it, as the second film established them capable of learning and adapting. I also, for the most part, like tough and bitter Sarah Conner, much like Jamie Lee Curtis’ updated Laurie Strode in 2018’s Halloween.  I also liked McKenzie Davis as Grace and Natalia Reyes as Dani.

The Rev-9 feels a lot like a slightly advanced T-X from Rise of the Machines.  A liquid metal coating over an exo-skeleton, except the two can work independently of each other.

The visual effects are solid and the action scenes are great. And yet, this is a Terminator film that kind of fundamentally betrays itself in a way the franchise really has not before. The big twist at the beginning has a major impact on the power of T2’s narrative. In a not good way.  It undermines this film and raises some big questions that the film never clearly establishes.  As an action film, this is a fun watch. As a Terminator film? It is not the fix that people were hoping for.

The Children of the Corny Part 1

Children_Of_The_Corn_1984_PosterSo, originally, I was going to review each of the Children of the Corn Films. But frankly, I did not feel like writing detailed reviews of all ten films…because…well…

The Franchise is pretty awful. Please note, I will not be avoiding spoilers and am just going to express thoughts about each film very briefly.

Taking place pretty much in 1984, the first film opens with an absurd narration from a kid explaining how one day, the child prophet Isaac led his child followers to slaughter the adults in town per the command of “He Who walks Behind the Rows”.

As I noted, the opening slaughter contains a child narration that really undermines the film. It could have been a horrifying moment if they had simply stepped back and let it all play out silently. A few years later, because somehow nobody noticed a town went and killed all the adults, Burt and Vicky are traveling across the country. They find themselves in Gatlin where they run afoul of Isaac and his cult. They plan to sacrifice the couple to He Who Walks Behind the Rows, but they manage to escape and not be killed by the a red storm cloud.

Children_Of_The_Corn_2_PosterAnd then, about eight years later, just in time for cheap CGI, the first sequel arrived. John and his son Danny are driving cross country and get stuck in Gatlin, apparently right after the first film.  The remaining kids are being taken to the next town over and reporters and police are everywhere, since everyone now knows the kids all killed their parents, they let them wander around town.

John is a reporter and decides to stay in town for the story.  And I am pretty sure for the owner of the bed and breakfast they are staying at. He and Danny do not get along.  And so, Danny resents this whole “stay in town” thing…until he meets Lacey.


Danny also starts hanging out with the creepy Micah, who, unknown to everyone else has become possessed by He Who Walks Behind the Rows. In a super early 90’s CGI sequence.  This begins a trend of terrible CGI in the franchise.

One of the weirder aspects of the film is that while it is clearly supernatural, the film provides a naturalistic explanation.  Why? We all know that HWWBtR is real and some sort of monster. What is the point in suggesting it is all due to some hallucinogenic fungus? I mean, there is a setup that the infected corn is going to be shipped all over the country and that adults were in on it…for reasons?

Anyways, In the end, Micah gets shredded and the heroes get away.  Another weird thing with the film? It takes place a day or two after the first film. Which was 1984.  Yet there is no attempt to tie them together, both films behave as if the story takes place in that present. And while the first film played the mayhem more seriously, this film goes for comedic deaths. One woman is crushed under her house with a Wizard of Oz moments before her death.

Children_Of_The_Corn_3_PosterThree years later, we get Urban Harvest. Shortly after the events of the second film, Eli and his older brother Joshua are adopted by a couple and move to the big city.  There, Eli starts to convert kids to his cult and plant s a corn field in backlot of their apartment building…because that would not look weird.

Joshua is a bit less into the whole HWWBtR deal. People die crazy supernatural deaths anytime they start to interfere with Eli and HWWBTR.  Eli’s corn is super tasty and so  his step dad plans to try and get it sold all over the country.

Eventually, all the kids gather in the corn field to pledge themselves to HWWBtR, apparently after several killed their parents.

This is the first film to show us HWWBtR and it is…uh…it is…how do I put it?

Absolutely awful.


Probably the only notable thing in this film is an early appearance by Charlize Theron.


Apparently, it was successful enough that we got Children of the Corn IV: The Gathering a year later.  A film starring a Pre-Respectable Horror Naomi Watts.

Children_Of_The_Corn_4_PosterIn the film, she returns to her small town home to help with her agoraphobic mother (Karen Black). She works for the local doctor and the town finds themselves under siege by Creepy Kids.  This film tries to reign back the comedy, aiming more for creepy kid killings. But it is also just not much of a stand out.

That is the hard part. While they try and go in a more serious direction, it ends up being kind of boring.

I don’t know if Mirimax was pulling the same idea as their Hellraiser approach and just making sequels to hold on to the IP, but two years passed and we got Children of the Corn V:  Fields of Terror.

Children_Of_The_Corn_5_PosterThis one has an early role for Eva Mendez, as well as a pre-transition Alexis Arquette. Again, creepy kids abound, but this time, an inexplicable trend is introduced.  An adult who seems to be leading the cult. It does not make any real sense with the mythology, but each film kind of does whatever it wants.

And frankly, part of the problem is that there really is just not much to do with the idea of a cult of killer kids in rural America. I don’t mean, you could not tell a totally scary story based around creepy kids. But as a franchise, it really has its limitations. How big can the cult be? How does HWWBtR find new kids? By the fifth film, we are already seeing a tired cycle and honestly, we have yet to have a good film in the whole lot. Maybe that is yet to come?

The Bigger They Come Part 10 (King Kong Lives, 1986)

King-Kong-Lives-PosterA direct sequel to 1976’s remake of King King, we discover that that Kong did not die from being shot up and falling from a tall building.  He merely went comatose.

Linda Hamilton plays a surgeon who was part of a team seeking to save Kong, but they need a blood transfusion before performing a heart transplant and it could only come from another giant ape.  Hamilton tells her boss that they need a miracle.  Queue Miracle as adventurer Brian Kerwin who discovers a giant female ape that is dubbed Lady Kong.

The heart transplant is successful and the two apes get free.  The Kongs run off together and the chase begins.  At least Kong is interested in a lady ape this time around.  The film has the typical adversarial relationship that grows to romance between Hamilton and Kerwin.  It kind of works, because it becomes clear that Kerwin is far less the craven opportunist he initially seems to be and is genuinely interested in protecting King and Lady Kong.

The film is, oddly, less exploitative and campy than the 1976 remake.  It’s tone is actually much more serious.  But this does not really serve the film in anyway.  It never really rises above mediocre.  The ape suits look okay, but this does not make for a good story.  And that is where the film falls flat.  The story becomes an extended “Capture of Kong” story in which he and the lady try and escape the military to make a happy home.

There is a scene ripped off from Jaws where drunk guys get in boats to try and catch Kong.  So, I guess that is something.

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