House Logo
Explore categories +

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (#110 of 10)

Summer of ’91 James Cameron’s Terminator 2

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ’91: James Cameron’s 	Terminator 2: Judgment Day

TriStar Pictures

Summer of ’91: James Cameron’s 	Terminator 2: Judgment Day

James Cameron has built his reputation on being a director who shows audiences something they’ve never seen before, and won’t see delivered with the same artistry and confidence ever again. Twenty-five years after its release, Terminator 2: Judgment Day is still a prime example of that audacity, as both spectacle and a downcast meditation on humanity’s future.

The original Terminator is, itself, a curveball of a film, using hardcore apocalyptic sci-fi as the framework for what is, essentially, a low-budget horror film about two kids running from an emotionless killer. But even compared to wrapping a story about men versus machines around a story not far removed from an average Friday the 13th entry, T2’s opening act plays Boggle with the status quo in ways that may never fly again in high-budget sequel cinema—a lesson Hollywood learned fast just a short year later when Batman Returns and Alien 3 were released. Brave but gentle Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is now a dead-eyed, doomsaying survivalist, locked in a sterile psychiatric hospital after attempting a terrorist attack on a computer factory. Her son, John (Edward Furlong), the heralded savior of the future yet to come, is the archetypical suburban white-kid rebel in a hip-hop shirt who listens to Guns N’ Roses while playing video games at the mall.

Summer of ‘89: The Abyss

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ’89: The Abyss
Summer of ’89: The Abyss

James Cameron was on Charlie Rose recently to talk about his journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Rose asked him about The Abyss, and about the short story he wrote in high school that would later become the basis for the movie. Cameron described it:

It was about scientists who are leaving a submerged base, kind of similar to what I eventually made into the movie. And they’re going down a wall on a dive, deeper and deeper into blackness, and they don’t come back. And the ones that are left behind wonder what happened and go after them. And one after another they keep going into the darkness, and they don’t return. And the last man goes, the last diver goes down to find out what happened to his buddies. And he gets to the point of no return, and his curiosity overwhelms his caution and he keeps going. And that’s how the story ends.

If only the movie could’ve been that simple. Instead, The Abyss is a big-budget, 1980s blockbuster, the plot of which was contorted in order to allow for elaborate set pieces and expensive, state-of-the-art special effects. The story goes: Amid Cold War tensions, an American nuclear submarine crosses paths with a mysterious, underwater, alien spacecraft (which looks a lot like the aboveground alien spacecrafts from Close Encounters of the Third Kind). Its radar system deactivated due to the UFO’s aura, the sub strikes a reef and crashes to the bottom of the sea, at precisely the same time that a hurricane begins swirling overhead.

Summer of ‘88: Red Heat

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘88: <em>Red Heat</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Red Heat</em>

What the hell are film critics actually talking about when they speak of “craftsmanship”? Walter Hill’s relatively recent status as an auteur may have been stymied by his unwillingness to take on sprawling, pretentious, or overstuffed shots or edits; for him, the somewhat anonymous vocabulary of the studio picture was one well enough worth perfecting. The gains of 48 Hrs., Hill’s biggest hit by a substantial margin, were lost almost immediately on his follow-up, the post-apocalyptic doo-wop musical tent-pole Streets of Fire. The film’s financial loss was profound; in career terms it scaled the writer-director right back down to where he was before, directing lower-budget studio actioners and comedies for the rest of the ’80s.

Enter Arnold Schwarzenegger. If Hill was tasked with writing and directing Red Heat on the basis of his legendary pairing of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte, it’s not hard to imagine the limitless possibilities that the bigwigs at Carolco—Schwarzenegger’s financiers of choice—saw for the superstar’s first-ever comedy. In both form and content, the film is lopsidedly, irrevocably dictated by his participation; the opening 15 minutes are exclusively in Russian, introducing Schwarzenegger’s Captain Ivan Danko as an impenetrably stiff juggernaut, nakedly infiltrating a sleazy cocaine ring encamped in a traditional Russian bathhouse. The scene’s dominant textures—buttressed by composer James Horner’s radiant, ominous synthesizer keys—are stone, flesh, smoke, steam, and ultimately snow, as the inevitable brawl between Danko and the Georgian mobsters explodes through a window out into the frozen hillside. Hill’s Moscow is nothing if not tough.

Sinful Cinema Fair Game

Comments Comments (...)

Sinful Cinema: Fair Game
Sinful Cinema: Fair Game

“You wanna watch headline news with me? No? It’s not gonna kill ya.” This is what Miami attorney Kate McQuean (Cindy Crawford) says to her cat just before clicking on the the television, detonating a bomb that leaves pussy and apartment incinerated, and sends Kate soaring over her balcony and into a boat-filled inlet. It’s one of countless bullet-to-the-brain lines in 1995’s Fair Game, a damsel-in-distress disasterpiece that marked Crawford’s big screen debut. Not to be confused with Naomi Watt’s 2010 C.I.A. vehicle, which, by comparison, looks like some kind of espionage classic, this second adaptation of Paula Gosling’s novel (the first being the 1986 Stallone dud Cobra) is the sort of movie that shocks viewers as they learn it’s in no way aiming for camp. When I recently rewatched it at home (yes, I own it), and got to the scene in which Kate seduces a computer store employee who’s “fiddling with his joystick,” my partner did a whip-around from the next room, demanding to know if this movie was for real. “Just wait,” I replied. Kate goes on to tell Adam, the dumbfounded nerd in this technologically ancient flick, that she’s not interested in software, but “hardware,” and that she “was hoping to demo [his] unit.” Granted, this is one of few scenes in the film that, however puerile, is intentionally ironic, but it’s also one of many to highlight Crawford’s outright horrendous acting, which is defined by line readings that seem punctuated by periods. “I’m. out. I’m. gone. I’m. just. going. to. get. away. from. all. of. this!” Kate barks in monotone to Det. Max Kirkpatrick (William Baldwin), the cop who winds up protecting her from a team of Russian assassins. That’s right: Crawford, it turns out, had the jump on the meme generation in regard to “Best. _____. Ever.” accentuation.

Summer of ‘87: Adventures in Babysitting: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter

Comments Comments (...)

Summer of ‘87: <em>Adventures in Babysitting</em>: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter
Summer of ‘87: <em>Adventures in Babysitting</em>: Don’t Fuck with the Babysitter

My first screen crushes were Linda Hamilton’s studly Sarah Connor in Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Elizabeth Shue’s feisty Chris Parker in Adventures in Babysitting, polar opposite composites of strong yet emotionally complex women who both actively protect children in distress. At the tender age of ten, I remember being in awe of their impressive durability, their resolve to keep moving forward through unpredictable landscapes despite escalating conflict and hopelessness. Each relied on brains and improvisation more than charm or beauty, embracing the chaos around them in order to survive it. A little personal history: I experienced Adventures in Babysitting on VHS around the time T-2 was shredding my synapses on the big screen in 1991, hence the palpable character dichotomy.

15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

Comments Comments (...)

15 Famous Bad Movie Cops
15 Famous Bad Movie Cops

Oren Moverman’s Rampart arrives in select theaters this weekend, adding Woody Harrelson to the pantheon of actors who’ve taken on crooked cop roles, playing officers who uphold the law about as well as a cheerleader holds her liquor. For decades, films have been infiltrated by serve-and-protect types who play both sides, abuse their powers, and leave behind paths of destruction. “The most corrupt cop you’ve ever seen on screen,” reads the tagline on Rampart’s poster. These 15 badge-defilers would beg to differ.

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions Makeup

Comments Comments (...)

Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Makeup
Oscar 2011 Winner Predictions: Makeup

It’s weird to think that this category has only been around since 1981, when Rick Baker won for his iconic makeup effects for John Landis’s An American Werewolf in London. His competition at the time? The late Stan Winston for Heartbeeps, not the worst film nominated for an Oscar that year, but still. Proving once again that they can look past the crap to see the beauty, AMPAS’s makeup branch rewarded Baker this year with his 11th nomination for his special makeup effects for The Wolfman—work that I found rather crude when I saw the film last February, though I’m willing to concede that my initial negative reaction should have been directed entirely at the film’s visual effects team. The Wolfman may not have the “prestige”—high or low—of past Best Makeup winners (among them Amadeus, Bettlejuice, Driving Miss Daisy, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day), or even its fellow nominees (the furrowed foreheads of The Way Back and Barney’s Version, by some accounts a worse film), but let us remember that previous winners in this category also include Harry and the Hendersons, The Nutty Professor, Men in Black, and Dr Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas—all work by Rick Baker.

Will Win: The Wolfman

Could Win: The Way Back

Should Win: The Wolfman

Review: Avatar

Comments Comments (...)

Review: <em>Avatar</em>
Review: <em>Avatar</em>

James Cameron’s Avatar is through and through his baby—it promises a lot and, though it has very little in the way of stamina, it initially delivers in a big way. In the first hour, Cameron lets loose a barrage of technical wizardry that makes the film’s world one of the most dazzling and consistently engrossing cinematic fantasy lands of recent memory. Avatar doesn’t try to break any new ground with its generic story of a group of corporate commandos who seek to steal an indigenous alien population’s natural resources. At its core, the film is a cookie-cutter story of a soldier who switches sides once he finds out, as a lanky nude smurf, how green the grass is. Cameron is all too happy to be so conventional. He has the technology and knows he only has to use it to build a better jungle world of noble alien savages. He’s not the genre messiah, but clearly it doesn’t hurt to hype him up as such.

Cameron knows the viewer will recognize Avatar’s story from elsewhere, whether as the love affair between John Smith and Pocahontas or almost all of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (don’t judge me) and so tries to dazzle the viewer with “shock and awe,” as one scientist-cum-soldier puts it, laying bare both the film’s political context and aesthetic strategy. From there, once it’s successfully dazzled the viewer with enough technological firepower to keep Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay busy for several lifetimes, it’s mission should be, ahem, accomplished.

Looking for One New Value But Nothing Comes My Way: An Interview with Film Critic Glenn Kenny About David Foster Wallace

Comments Comments (...)

Looking for One New Value But Nothing Comes My Way: An Interview with Film Critic Glenn Kenny About David Foster Wallace
Looking for One New Value But Nothing Comes My Way: An Interview with Film Critic Glenn Kenny About David Foster Wallace

One doesn’t need to dig deep into his body of work to see that the late novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace had sincere ambivalence about mass media—his much-heralded 1,079-page novel, Infinite Jest, features a science fiction conceit where a lethal videotape known as “The Entertainment” is so addictive, its viewers lose interest in anything other than endless repeat viewings of the film.

But his fascination with pop culture extended beyond a critique of hyper-consumption, and always found its way back toward what it means to be a real human being despite our grotesquely materialistic culture. And his work was often incredibly funny. The three pieces Wallace wrote for Premiere Magazine in the mid-to-late 1990s, about subjects as diverse as David Lynch, Terminator 2, and the Adult Video News Awards, offer wide-ranging commentaries on their subjects. Within the notorious high word count is a mosaic of diverging thoughts and feelings, and an attempt to reconcile them.

The editor for all three pieces was Glenn Kenny, who had what he describes as a “generally positive and indeed collegial working relationship” during their first line edit. Some of the Wallace pieces sparked internal controversy at Premiere for a variety of reasons, and Kenny is able to provide a firsthand account of what happened. He and Wallace had mutual interests in film and literature, and Kenny was given the opportunity to not only have a back-and-forth on the shaping of each piece for the magazine, but also went into the field with Wallace to do research during the A.V.N. Awards.

Even after he vowed never to write for Premiere ever again, Wallace and Kenny maintained a friendship and correspondence until Wallace’s suicide on September 12, 2008. Now that some time has passed, I asked Kenny if he would be interested in sharing some memories of Wallace. He spent a fair amount of time laughing, since Wallace was an incredibly funny guy, though he still feels stunned by this sudden loss of one of the great writers of our generation.