Quick Movie Review: The Terminator (1984)


It’s a little dated, but 1984’s The Terminator is nevertheless jam packed with entertainment. The effects seem cheesy by today’s standards, but are impressive considering the lower budget. And the movie’s impact on modern day action films is undeniable.

In The Terminator, a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) from the year 2029–when machines rule the earth–is sent into the past to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son will lead a human rebellion against the machines. One human from the future, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), is hired to follow the cyborg into the past and save Sarah from assassination.

While I’m not a huge fan of James Cameron’s writing when it’s comes to dialogue, he always has really deep premises. And often times I feel as though he casts actors because of their look rather than their acting ability. The Terminator is no different. The dialogue is painful at times, but the themes are still relevant and the narrative is consistent. And Biehn’s poor acting is utterly distracting. Luckily Schwarzenegger has limited lines.

I also wish that Sarah and Reese’s chemistry had been a little more realistic. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. Their dynamic feels a little forced and sudden with no buildup.

There are a few plot holes and paradoxes in the film, but we can’t expect anything else from an 1980s time travel film.

Although ahead of its time, it comes off as more ordinary when compared to modern action flicks. Possibly because it influenced most of them. But the ’80s setting makes for great nostalgia when viewed today.

Twizard Rating: 92


Quick Movie Review: Minions (2015)


What makes the Despicable Me films so engaging and attractive is the fact that they have a lot of heart. They feature an evil villain who changes his life because he has found love–not in a soulmate, but in 3 girls that he adopts.

This prequel movie tells the origin of the minions and how their journey up until they meet Gru. They can’t seem to keep a villainous master, but then then they meet Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), who is the baddest of them all. She hires the minions as her henchmen and orders them to steal Queen Elizabeth II’s crown.

The minions are adorable and hilarious, but there’s more to a movie than that. We need that extra dynamic that Gru (Steve Carell) provides us with in Despicable Me. He plays the straight-man to the minions’ ridiculousness. Bullock didn’t work well as the voice of Scarlett Overkill. There was no playing off of each other between her and the minions. She was actually quite annoying. The first act was really entertaining and funny, but once they start working for Overkill, the film drops the ball a little bit.

Among that, the script has a few obvious plot holes and head scratchers, and the plot is really scatterbrained in general. And without the smooth score of Pharrell Williams, Minions just doesn’t have that charismatic oomph of the Despicable Me films.

Minions is funny, but does so without the emotional attachment of its source material. I felt very disconnected to the characters. Obviously, we’re rooting for the minions, but there isn’t really anything at stake. It simply just acts as an origin story and nothing else.

I do applaud the direction for the impressive coherence despite not being able to understand the minions due to the fact that they don’t speak English. But overall, we see that as adorable as the minions are, we need the whole package.

Twizard Rating: 74

Quick Movie Review: San Andreas (2015)

san andreas

Who doesn’t love a disaster movie? The villain is nature, who has no weakness and will always win. It makes humans the most vulnerable, as they know they can’t stop any of it. And despite this genre of film typically having terrible dialogue, the movies are still pretty awesome in every other way.

In San Andreas, California is experiencing a statewide earthquake that goes on record as easily the biggest earthquake in history. Dwayne Johnson plays Ray, a helicopter pilot who is trying to find his daughter (Alexandra Daddario) amidst the chaos.

San Andreas is full of cliches and stupid character decisions, but it’s so enjoyable. In the very first scene of the movie, there is a rescue mission where the fire department uses a helicopter to save a girl  who is trapped inside a car that is dangling off a cliff by a tree branch. But oh yeah–the helicopter has exactly 5 minutes worth of fuel left, so the rescue team has to be ridiculously quick! How awesome is that?!

This movie is great mindless entertainment. There is nothing offensive about it, and the script is so cheesy it’s enjoyable in a The Fast and the Furious type of way.

The acting is pretty mediocre, but the highlight is Carla Gugino, as she shows us once again how she’s able to shine no matter what script she is given. And she gives us honestly one of the best on-screen cries I’ve seen.

It actually tugs on your heart and, despite lack of depth, attaches you to the characters. It’s truly one of the great blockbuster films of the past few years.

Twizard Rating: 82

Quick Movie Review: Ted 2 (2015)

ted 2

Ted 2 will satisfy most fans of the original. In great Seth MacFarlane fashion, the script is full of irreverence and a variety of joke types for every taste. We all know he is going to have inconsistency in his script–so that’s expected. In fact, I feel like he does this consciously–as I’ve expressed in my past reviews.

The film is about Ted, the talking teddy bear, and his quest to become human in the eyes of the law so that he can get married and adopt a child.

While the first film has less of a plot, it’s high-concept premise really drives the film as it acts as more of a hang-out movie. But in Ted 2, we have a plot that aims to clear up a lot of our curiosities about how the rest of the world views Ted’s existence. Despite it’s fuller story, we feel like the plot is being stretched thin much of the time–especially towards the beginning where we get an tiresome helping of Family Guy-esque interstitials to fill in space. In 2012’s Ted, there is less of a story, so there isn’t really any plot to stretch, and the concept is so new that we just want to see anything having to do with a talking teddy bear. But when we are already used to the ridiculousness and we have a premise that we want to see through to the end, it’s more obvious when there are filler scenes.

Ted 2 is equally as funny as the first movie and has just about as much heart, but it is filled with quite a few more plot holes and often times sacrifices sensibilities for a cheap laugh. Nonetheless it’s pretty enjoyable.

Twizard Rating: 77

Quick Movie Review: Inside Out (2015)

inside out

Pixar may have outdone themselves conceptually with Inside Out–which isn’t necessarily a good thing. While I definitely appreciate its uniqueness, it’s quite heavy for a kids movie. Sure, your children will be into the bright colors and anthropomorphizing their feelings, but everything else will go WAY over their heads. In fact, I personally was feeling anxiety trying to comprehend its involved concepts. With such a deep premise, it leaves itself open for a lot of over-analysis. Sometimes simplicity is underrated.

Inside Out shows us inside 11-year-old Riley’s mind. Her emotions–Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust–help her make decisions and act upon the world around her. The film takes a look inside a child’s mind and gives them the true benefit of the doubt.

The story begins at Riley’s birth when, in a control room inside her mind, the emotions are learning their role as her conscience. However, when Riley gets older and life starts to change, the emotions panic and have to learn a lot about themselves as well.

At the beginning I became claustrophobic inside the control room of Riley’s mind. But I do have to say that the anxiety of the first half was the worst part of this movie. The second half ventured outside the main headquarters and was much smoother. It played very much in line with Pixar’s finding-your-way-home modus operandi used in many of their films.

But the uneven narrative isn’t the only thing that doesn’t work well. While there are some similarities to Toy Story, the comparison doesn’t favor this film. The dialogue isn’t as finely tuned and some jokes fall flat. I grew tired of some of the puns. It’s not far enough separated from our world for the puns to feel creative enough.

Also, the characters aren’t as lovable. While you do have Joy (Amy Poehler), who is a happy-go-lucky caretaker of Riley, the nature of the others makes them more annoying. It’s not enough to say that I only like Joy, but that I don’t really like the other emotion characters either. Disgust (Mindy Kaling) feels like an unnecessary 5th character. They would have been better off with just four–Joy, Sadness, Anger, and Fear. Disgust is more of a hybrid emotion. If they’re going to have Disgust, why not also have Pride or Anxiety or Humbleness? But of course I’m more critical because it’s a Pixar film. If it were made by Blue Sky or Dreamworks I would have probably set the bar lower in the first place.

It’s awesome when we finally get to see the world outside of the control room. The mock-movie set where Riley’s dreams are produced is brilliant; along with the cellar of the subconscious, where all of her deepest fears get locked up. Another highlight is the presence of Riley’s former imaginary friend, Bing Bong, who cries candy.

Honestly I really do like the film though. It’s filled with great themes and messages for younger people. It teaches us that sometimes we have to look inside of ourselves for the answers. And without sadness we might not get to experience all of the joy.

What I find interesting is the depth expressed of a character who isn’t even seen a whole lot (Riley).

It’s refreshing to see a movie–especially an animated one–that’s not cliche in its premise. The second half of the film is better than most movies’ entire 3 act structure. I just wish that the first half of this one had been more enjoyable.

Like I said, I did like the film. It’s just that it may be at the bottom of my Pixar list with Cars 2–but that’s not a bad list to be on in the first place.

Twizard Rating: 93

Quick Movie Review: Boogie Nights (1997)

boogie nights

It’s an authentic capturing of an era so much so that we forget that it was released in 1997. Boogie Nights is not for everybody, but avid cinephiles will be satisfied in knowing that it’s a well-made film.

Telling the story of Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg), a young man who enters into the world of pornography in the 1970s and garners instant popularity.

Paul Thomas Anderson does such a great job putting his imprint on everything he releases, and this is no exception. The details of the time period are so unerring.

Although it’s not my cup of tea, that’s about the only complaint I have. Everything from the acting to the energetic script to the brilliant characters make this film a technical masterpiece.

The whole piece is about change and finding yourself. And it’s even present in the most self-assured characters.

One of the standouts in this film is Julianne Moore who plays Amber, a confused-on-the-inside motherly figure for Dirk. She exudes so much confidence to everyone she knows, meanwhile twinkling some of her own confusion out of the corners of her eyes for those that aren’t so wrapped up in their own lives.

It praises hedonism, but at the same time carries a disdain for it. Almost like it believes that one must experience the good and the bad in order to make their own opinion. But is it correct? Or can we learn from the prime examples that are set by the characters in this film?

Twizard Rating: 84