Skip to main content

Review: Terminator Salvation, Love the Beast, Fugitive Pieces, JCVD and In Search of a Midnight Kiss

By July 11, 2009December 31st, 2013No Comments

Terminator Salvation poster’Tis the sea­son to reboot tired fran­chises and this week we get an explos­ive new look at James Cameron’s beloved Terminator. Set only nine years in the future (when open-air bat­tle­field heart trans­plants will be de rigeur dur­ing la guerre), the Judgement Day of T2 has des­troyed most of the West Coast of the USA and only a hardy band of ill-equipped rebels are keep­ing the mon­strous Skynet at bay.

John Connor, proph­esied future saviour of the human race, is a only a sol­dier in the rebel army but his reg­u­lar radio broad­casts bring hope to the scattered, ragtag freedom-fighters. In a battle to res­cue some human pris­on­ers his entire squad is killed – but he does man­age to release the mys­ter­i­ous Marcus Wright (Aussie boof­head Sam Worthington) who may hold the key to the defeat of the machines.

Director McG (Charlie’s Angels) knows how to frame a shot but not how to pace a scene and the effects have a deli­ciously real-world phys­ic­al­ity about them. Meanwhile, Christian Bale (Connor) and cine­ma­to­graph­er Shane Hurlbut may be “done, pro­fes­sion­ally” but it’s pretty clear which of them does the best work: Bale’s one note, Batman-voiced per­form­ance eli­cits no sym­pathy while Hurlbut’s pho­to­graphy is always arresting.

In the end, Salvation is just a Terminator movie but after a ser­i­ous mis-step with Rise of the Machines in 2003 this film has done the job and cre­ated some interest in a Terminator 5.

Love the Beast posterEric Bana is best known now as a Hollywood lead­ing man, but he he got his show­busi­ness start as a Melbourne stand-up com­ic and his dry humour is on dis­play in his first film as dir­ect­or, Love the Beast . A love let­ter to his first car, the Ford GT Falcon Coupe: a car he has rebuilt three times, most recently to race the Targa Tasmania, a bru­tal 5 day road rally. Using his own affair with the Falcon as a start­ing point, Bana tries to invest­ig­ate exactly what it is that men see in their cars and chats to some oth­er celebrity car nuts like Jay Leno, Jeremy Clarkson and (ahem) Dr Phil.

Surprisingly effect­ive, Love the Beast is going to be the per­fect Christmas present for a par­tic­u­lar brand of father-in-law but is worth a look at the pic­tures too. Full cred­it to Bana for often show­ing him­self at less than his best: the look on his face when Clarkson tells him his Falcon looks like a Hillman Avenger is price­less but he gets told a few home truths by all of his guests as the very well-structured film goes along.

Fugitive Pieces posterThe excel­lent World Cinema Showcase is look­ing less essen­tial by the week as its con­tent con­tin­ues to get a wider release: this week Fugitive Pieces and JCVD make it in to loc­al cinemas. The former was one of the thin­ner Showcase titles – based on a Canadian best-seller about a young Polish jew who is orphaned by the Nazis and adop­ted by a Greek schol­ar who even­tu­ally emig­rates to Canada. The young man struggles to deal with the psy­cho­lo­gic­al effects of his trauma, fail­ing to build or sus­tain rela­tion­ships but man­ages to write sev­er­al nov­els suc­cess­ful novels.

The per­ils of try­ing to por­tray inner tur­moil and con­flict without much extern­al action is well illus­trated here – no mat­ter how beloved the source mater­i­al it should have stayed a book.

JCVD PosterJCVD is a strange and inter­est­ing film, more suc­cess­ful in con­cep­tion than exe­cu­tion. Action hero Jean-Claude van Damme is on the skids – huge leg­al fees from a failed cus­tody battle and a los­ing career battle with Steven Seagal have pushed him to the edge. When he gets caught up in a failed bank rob­bery in his Brussels home town is this an oppor­tun­ity to be a hero for real? Despite the fatct that he looks like crap throughout(and dis­play­ing his ‘softer’ side), this is still a vehicle for Van Damme’s titan­ic ego and thus is not much more than a van­ity pro­ject for an act­or with no sense of humour.

In Search of a Midnight Kiss posterFinally, an anti-romance for the twenty-somethings: In Search of a Midnight Kiss fol­lows depressed failed screen­writer Wilson (Scoot McNairy chan­nel­ling Steve Buscemi) on a New Years Eve date with crazy act­ress chick Vivian (Sara Simmonds who looks enter­tain­ingly like the edit­or of this very pub­lic­a­tion). Effective black and white cine­ma­to­graphy provides cov­er for the low-budget and the film show­cases down­town Los Angeles at ped­es­tri­an level for a change. Some people will see their own lives reflec­ted back at them here, and will there­fore get a kick out of it. I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery.

Printed in Wellington’s Capital Times on 10 June, 2009.

Notes on screen­ing con­di­tions: Midnight Kiss, JCVD and Fugitive Pieces were time-coded pre­view DVDs. Love the Beast was digit­ally pro­jec­ted adequately at the Paramount off DVD. Terminator Salvation was at the Embassy where all films this big should be seen.