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Movies With Dave

 

Well it’s November now, which means the beginning of awards season for films.

It also means, every studio is trying to cram their movies in theaters before the year is out. Which is why I ended up watching five movies last weekend, and I’ll probably see at least five next weekend.

Oh well. I never did care for sleep anyway.

This week we’ve got yet another film in the long running “Terminator” franchise. The latest film from acclaimed Koren director Bong Joon-ho. A film starring, written, and directed by Edward Norton about a mobster detective with Tourettes. And finally a historical drama featuring one of America’s most heroic figures, Harriet Tubman.

Let’s get to the reviews.

***

First up is

“Terminator: Dark Fate.”

More than two decades have passed since Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) prevented Judgment Day, changed the future, and rewrote the fate of the human race. Dani Ramos (Natalia Reyes) is living a simple life in Mexico City when a highly advanced and deadly new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) travels back through time to hunt and kill her.

Dani’s survival depends on her joining forces with Grace (Mackenzie Davis), an enhanced super-soldier from the future, and a battle-hardened Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton). As the Terminator ruthlessly destroys everything and everyone in its path on the hunt for Dani, the three are led to a T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from Sarah’s past that may be their last best hope.

Six.

That’s how many movies are in the “Terminator” franchise now.

You know how many of them have had the same basic story? You know, a machine being sent to the past to eliminate a foe while they’re most vulnerable, and a savior being sent from the future to protect them.

Well this film makes five.

Oh sure, they’ve all had their twists.

Heck, back in the 90s, before the formula became so stale, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” did a fantastic job taking the concept from the first movie and not only turning it on its head by sending a reprogrammed Terminator to protect the future savior of humanity, but it also went a step further by allowing Sarah Connor to change the future itself. Preventing Sky-net and judgment day from ever happening.

Sarah spat in the face of destiny itself and made her own future.

Of course this all becomes undone in the next movie. Destiny is suddenly unavoidable in “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Forget about “no fate but what we make.” Instead it’s more like “fate is inevitable and there’s no point in even trying.”

“Terminator Salvation” is the one movie that doesn’t fit the typical “Terminator” time travel mold. Instead it follows an adult John Connor battling machines in the far off future world of 2018. And while I applaud it for at least doing something different for once, I found the movie itself pretty unremarkable.

Then of course there’s “Terminator Genisys,” which is by far the biggest retread of them all, not to mention the lowest point in the franchise.

So I guess that brings us to “Terminator: Dark Fate.”

Right off the bat, the movie does the smartest thing it could have possibly done, and pretends “Terminator” 3-5 didn’t exist. Something many of us wish we could do ourselves.

Still, it’s the same basic story we’ve all seen before.

This time the evil Terminator is basically two machines slammed together. It has the traditional Terminator skeleton, along with a skin made of a liquid metal like the T-1000 in “Terminator 2.” It’s similar in design to the T-X “Terminator 3,” but this guy can actually separate itself into two functional robots.

Our savior from the future isn’t a T-800 for the first time in awhile, so that’s something different I guess.

Grace is actually human, though significantly enhanced with a few cybernetic alterations. And with those augmentations come some pretty debilitating limitations.

If she spends too much time fighting, she suddenly becomes weak to the point of fainting. And every so often she has to inject a cocktail of prescriptions just to stay upright.

Not exactly the person you want defending you against a relentless and unstoppable killing machine. Personally I’d take Arnold over her anyday.

Then of course there’s Dani, our Terminator’s target. She’s okay I guess. Though personality wise she’s definitely no Sarah Connor.

The story is one you already know if you’ve watched the first “Terminator.” Even the supposed “twists” can be seen coming a mile away.

The only changes are the setting. This time all the action takes place in Mexico and Texas.

Plus there’s the addition of some old faces.

And I’ll admit, it is nice to see Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger on the big screen together again. It’s interesting to see what’s become of them over the years. Especially Arnold’s T-800, even though this is a different model than we saw in “Terminator 2.”

As for the action itself, it’s fine. Good even. It’s competently shot, fairly well choreographed, and largely entertaining.

Look, I’m not gonna say “Terminator: Dark Fate” holds a candle to the first two “Terminator” movies. But as far as the series goes, it’s one of the better ones.

If you’re looking for a fun action movie with a large dose of nostalgia, this certainly fits the bill. At the very least it didn’t attempt to brutally murder the franchise like Genisys did.

“Terminator: Dark Fate” is rated R.

***

Next is “Parasite.”

Meet the Park Family (Yeojeong Jo, Sun-kyun Lee, Ji-so Jung, Hyun-jun Jung), the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family (Kang-ho Song, So-dam Park, Woo-sik Choi, Hye-jin Jang), rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity.

But as a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families, the Kims’ newfound comforts become jeopardized, and a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.

I don’t have the opportunity to watch many foreign language films. In fact, I had to go out of my way this week to even watch this one.

But considering the waves this movie has been making in the film critic community, I knew I had to make an exception.

“Parasite” isn’t just being touted as a good movie, heck it’s not even just being called the best film of the year. I’m hearing people say “Parasite” is one of the best movies of the decade.

If word of mouth like that doesn’t get someone like me off their butts to go all the way up to the AMC Theater in Quail Springs Mall to watch a film, I don’t know what will.

And so I did just that. And yeah, they were right. This is indeed one of the best movies I’ve seen all year.

There is not a single throwaway moment in this film. Every scene, every captaving shot, every seemingly insignificant line of dialogue ends up meaning something more in the grand scheme of things.

The characters here are all absolutely fascinating in their own ways.

Despite essentially being a family of scammers, the Kim’s are impossible not to love. I love their family dynamic, and the dialogue between the four of them makes for some surprisingly hilarious moments throughout the film.

Make no mistake though, “Parasite” is no comedy. Or at least it’s only one part of the time. Other times it a thriller, and it even adds horror to the mix as the movie drifts closer to its climatic conclusion.

Through it all is a deeply intertwined message about class and the divide between the poor and wealthy.

It’s almost subtle enough to miss at first. But once you start noticing certain details, it’s impossible to ignore the movie’s brilliant, yet heartbreaking message about social inequality, expertly woven together by the film’s writer and director Bong Joon-ho.

And unlike another movie the wealth divide released earlier this year, you can tell the film’s underlying meaning had some thought put into it and wasn’t just carelessly thrown in the script in an attempt to appear more intellectual. I’m looking at you “Joker.”

The only reason I wouldn’t recommend this movie to absolutely everyone remotely interested in a dark comedy, horror, thriller is because the film is entirely in Korean.

In fact, I’m certain I would have enjoyed it much more myself if I could have just heard the dialogue instead of reading every single line. It can be a chore, especially if you’re not used to it.

And it’s a shame that reading subtitles will keep so many from watching this incredible film. Because a story like this one is well worth the trouble.

If you love cinema, this is one movie that can’t be missed. Heck, If you love cinema, this is one movie that can’t be missed. Heck, if you can get past the foreign language aspect at all, I’d say this movie is a must watch.

Don’t be surprised when the 92nd Academy Awards roll around and you see “Parasite” buried in nominations. If this movie doesn’t at least get a nod for Best Picture, I would be flabbergasted.

Go see it. Even if you have to drive all the way to the AMC at Quail Springs Mall like I did. I promise it’s worth it.

“Parasite” is rated R.

***

Fourth is “Motherless Brooklyn.”

Lionel Essrog (Edward Norton) is a small time gangster who doesn’t let Tourette’s syndrome stand in the way of his job. Gifted with a few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel sets out to solve the murder of Frank Minna (Bruce Willis), his mentor and only friend.

Scouring the jazz clubs and slums of Brooklyn and Harlem, Lionel soon uncovers a web of secrets while contending with thugs, corruption and the most dangerous man in the city.

You know, it’s not every day they come out with a mobsternoir movie, starting a man with Tourettes. Guess it was my lucky day.

I didn’t know much about this film going into it, but about halfway through it struck me that this movie must have been written by Edward Norton.

After all, who but Norton would write a character like this, a man’s whose sole purpose in the film it to be constantly told how quirky yet brilliant he is.

Sure enough, not only was Norton the film’s screenwriter, but he directed it too. Zero surprises there.

I’m not gonna say Edward Norton isn’t a great actor. He is. But he also has a reputation of being an incredibly difficult man to work with when it comes to making movies.

He has a very bad habit of rewriting his roles, whether the filmmakers like it or not. And in the case of “American History X” he even made the production reedit the movie. And though the film is generally well reviewed, it resulted in a final product the movie’s director didn’t even want his name on.

Luckily for Norton, he didn’t have to worry about any of that for this movie.

He could make it as long and as self flattering as he wanted. And boy did he.

This film clocks in at nearly two and a half hours, and the time doesn’t exactly fly by. That said, it did end up being an experience I enjoyed, at least for the most part.

At its heart, the film is an old fashioned noir detective movie. Constant moody narration and all.

Though Norton’s character starts off as a gangster flunky, he morphs into an incredibly competent private eye about 30 minutes in. And not long after that, he steals a reporter’s press pass and instantly becomes the most approachable journalist in New York.

All this, despite his random vocal tics and odd mannerisms.

To the surprise of no one, Norton’s character is the most interesting thing in this movie. He definitely made sure of that.

But even though I think Norton is a talented actor, and even a competent filmmaker, I think he bit off a bit more than he could chew here.

The movie isn’t bad. There’s just too much going on. Too many things that don’t serve the story. Things that probably shouldn’t have even made the screenplay in the first place.

It was a struggle towards the end to keep characters and their backstories straight. Some of which feel completely pointless looking back on the whole thing.

Luckily for me, despite its flaws, I really like stories about brilliant people who manipulate everyone around them through their sheer wit and charisma. And Norton’s character here fits that bill pretty well.

It definitely could have been a good 30 minutes shorter, but at the end of the day I still liked it pretty well.

I think if you enjoy noir detective movies, and you don’t mind the odd addition of a private eye with Tourettes, you’ll probably have a good time too. Just make sure to use the bathroom beforehand.

“Motherless Brooklyn” is rated R.

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