TERMINATOR: Dark Fate (2019)

Yeah, it’s fine.

Much more promising at the start with good characters old and new, some absolutely belting fight sequences and a legitimately great evolution of the Terminators into the new REV-9 model.

Gabriel Luna is pitch perfect as a faster, meaner twin machine, and the physicality of the role makes for some awesome battles with Mackenzie Davis’ augmented protector that feel right out of a kids’ imaginary action figure showdown.

Honestly, the main problem is that it goes so big so fast and then doesn’t really have anywhere to go — the stakes have been so protracted and epic action fatigue sets in. There was at least two points where I thought we were at the end only to keep on rolling on again into something more huge and bombastic but the stakes hadn’t upped to reflect it.

For example: Did we really need the whole crashing plane bit? It really desensitised me to the ACTUAL peak of the film some 30min later. Like, I get that everyone played UNCHARTED 3 and that part of the game was fantastic, but I think we’ve done all we can with planes falling out of the sky as a dramatic setpiece now.

Overall, chop out at least one action sequence or condense their more creative parts into one of the other scenes, remove flashbacks so you’re 25+ min shorter and you’d have a much more satisfying ride.

Still, FX are great, it’s an interesting parallel (alternate?) timeline and it’s better than about half of the other TERMINATOR films.

Worth a watch, even if it does drag a bit in the back half.

HAIL SATAN? (2019)

The most fascinating thing about this documentary is that going into it you likely have these very entrenched cultural ideas about what Satanism is, and you very quickly learn that none of it is in alignment with what The Satanic Temple actually practices or stands for.

In fact, many of those who regard themselves as defacto Christians might actually be surprised to know that they have much more in common with a bunch of secular trolls who formed their religion on the principles of humour, postmodernism, performance, absurdism, community, transparency and the time-honoured tradition of Keeping The Bastards Honest.

Aside from a brief history lesson on the modern interpretations of Satanism and the formation of a fledgling religious organisation, the bulk of the film follows the group as they go about petitioning for the installation of a statue of Baphomet alongside a motif of the Ten Commandments that is being built in a public space — their argument running along the lines of religious freedom that no single ideology should take dominance over others, and should the Commandments be removed then they will withdraw their statue in accordance with their own principle.

It’s funny, in a seriously comical way that belies a mischevious streak to those who would call themselves Satanists while advocating for the right of others to call them out on their own bullshit. They don’t want to convert anybody, they just want everyone have the freedom to be themselves.

It’s a complicated worldview and well worth the watch because as strange as a foreign ritual can appear to someone on the outside, it’s actually far less challenging to grasp than you might think.

It’s on Netflix now. Recommended.

FROZEN 2 (2019)

In some ways more charming than the first, in others less inspired.

Kind of a mixed bag — half the songs were forgettable and the overall story felt like a bridging episode between a strong first film and a bigger, more creative third one.

But the visual design is wonderful, painted on an autumnal Scandinavian pallette and the colonialist narrative touched on some darker concepts without really confronting them, which I suppose is understandable as this is still ostensibly a film for kids.

Doesn’t really transform the franchise in any meaningful way despite heaping on new elemental mythology and expanding the world, something that plays more like the setup to a more interesting trilogy rather than a really solid standalone in its own right.

That said, Kristoff’s 80s power ballad backed by imaginary reindeer harmonies is a brilliant bit of tonal anachronism and I like that the fundamental messages are of community support and reparations.

Overall not bad but I assume the next one will be better.

JOKER (2019)

I took a while getting around to this largely because the hyperbole was exhausting, and look, having literally just watched it, I still don’t really see the need for an origin story for a fundamentally enigmatic character, even if this is the best version of that story we were ever going to get.

It’s incredibly well shot and put together, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is fantastic and there are real moments of greatness… but it didn’t really elevate into some magical realm of reverence for me like so much of the conversation about it was trying to convince me that it was.

It’s good, worth a watch, especially if you’re a fan of TAXI DRIVER. It’s a film that people are bound to take the wrong messages away from – every generation has a FIGHT CLUB except this is not quite as dark or brilliant as it wants to be.

SIDE NOTE: I’m interested to see if Matt Reeves/Robert Pattinson’s THE BATMAN is going to pick up in the continuity given this box office success.

PROSPECT (2018)

A post-goldrush story on a micro budget that makes use of every dollar — the spacesuits and tech are charmingly analogue and cumbersome, medical treatment is harsh, the people are cruel and brutal and happy to kill for the possibility of a fortune.

Held aloft by the boundless charisma of a morally ambiguous Pedro Pascal and finding a resourceful lead in Sophie Thatcher, this is a frontier tale with a minimalist scifi angle.

Enjoyed it, worth a watch.

THOM’S TEENIES TV TOP 10

One of the things I struggled with most when compiling my top film picks for 2010-2019 was that the decade saw such a dramatic shift to a gilded era of television, much of which matched and even surpassed their cinematic bretheren.

There’s so much that is now possible in the episodic format that was unthinkable even a decade ago, and truly these last ten years represent a new high water mark.

As such, I’ve given my favourites their own list, in no particular order, here:

Continue reading “THOM’S TEENIES TV TOP 10”

THE WITCHER s01 (2019)

Takes a bit to come together properly, and in the end mostly establishes itself as a good base for more interesting seasons to come.

Cavill is pitch-perfect as the titular Witcher, the gruff and stoic Geralt of Rivera, and this would have worked well enough as a monster-of-the-week style creature feature show.

Better, then, that there is a whole dense world’s worth of politics and history and intrigue and lore running in parallel to all the magic and monsters, even if the arrangement of the first season sees parallel timelines come across a little jumbled.

If you’re a fan of swords and sorcery this is worth a watch, though be aware that it’s far more unabashedly fantastical than say, GAME OF THRONES is, so your mileage will vary based on your taste there.

Good action, mostly solid effects, brilliantly realised background/landscape artwork.

I liked it, I think it will get much better too. Lots of potential.

THE WOUNDED KING — vaatividya / Elden Ring Contest Entry, 2019

 

I’m thrilled to have made it into the Top 100 entries for vaatividya‘s ELDEN RING design contest, especially considering the absolutely staggering quality of the other entries.
You can watch the Top 10 announcement below to be as amazed at the caliber of work as I was:

(My entry appears in the video around the 28:24 mark).
The challenge was to come up with a boss design for the upcoming videogame collaboration between From Software / George RR Martin, ELDEN RING.

CLICK HERE to see the whole entry booklet I made, which includes some lore, battle and environmental descriptions plus a bit of extra detail about the inspiration and such.

Congratulations to the winners!

WATCHMEN s01 (2019)

Mostly lives up to the impossible task of following on from a legendary piece of graphic fiction.

Takes up in the modern day, following the trajectory of the world that was created after Ozymandias teleported an engineered giant dimensional squid into New York to unite humanity against a perceived common extraterrestrial threat.

Yep, this is a continuation of the comics, not the Zack Snyder film adaptation – because while that is a tonally faithful translation of the incredibly precise graphic novel, there are key mechanical differences that are relevant here that land in spoiler territory.

But even in doing an excellent and clever job of expanding the world, it ultimately only manages to be something of a paler imitation of a superior story that was designed to intentionally be complete in and of itself.

Still, plenty to enjoy. A great modernised take on a classic, well executed social commentary and some good turns. Recommended.