Grim future in ‘Terminator Salvation’

By Tom Von Malder | Dec 02, 2009
Photo by: Warner Home Video Christian Bale and Sam Worthington face off in "Terminator Salvation."

Owls Head —

Terminator Salvation (Warner, 2 Blu-ray or 1 standard DVD, R/PG-13, 117/114 min.). Christian Bale plays a no-nonsense, grim John Connor, battling to save humanity from the Skynet Terminators in 2018, but meeting resistance from his own leader, Gen Ashdown (Michael Ironside), whose headquarters are in a submarine. Sam Worthington plays Marcus Wright, a convicted felon who, before his execution in 2003, signs over his body to Cyberdyne Corp.

Not knowing initially that he is a new version of a Terminator, or in fact what has been going on since his execution, Wright helps teenaged Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), who, of course, is the future father of Connor. When Reese is grabbed along with some other humans and headed for Skynet headquarters, Wright tries to follow, helping save an ejected resistance fighter pilot (Moon Bloodgood) as he tries to follow. She brings him to Connor and Wright’s true nature is discovered, although he would rather side with the humans than the machines. Meanwhile, Connor has been ordered not to go after the captured humans, including his father, and Ashdown has ordered an air strike on the facility.

In the Blu-ray edition, the extended film is on one disc. The picture is sharp, which helps in this mostly gray, metallic environment. The sound will test your speakers (my power strip died about 20 minutes into the film; not sure if there was a connection). Director McG (the “Charlie’s Angels” films) likes to blow things up, so this is mostly an action film, with some of the aerial stuff quite impressive. The second Blu-ray disc is the theatrical version of the film, but it also has the very impressive Maximum Movie Mode. Occasionally, the director comes on screen, with the film playing on the left side and behind-the-scenes stuff on the right side. There is more than 40 minutes of picture-in-picture commentary (this versions totals 121 minutes), 11 mini-featurette focus points, storyboard comparisons, still galleries and a mythology timeline. There also is pop-up background information.

Additionally, there is the “Re-Forging the Future,” behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film; and “The Moto-Terminator,” showing how the motorcycles that zoom off the giant Terminator’s feet were created. Via BD-Live, there will be a Dec. 5 Live Community Screening with interactive Q&A with director McG. BD-Live also gives access to 10 viral videos from the alternate reality game “Resist or Be Terminated,” the first episode of “Terminator Salvation Machinima Series” and a digital version of issue one of the prequel comic book. Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 4 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Season 4 (Universal, 4 DVDs, 15 hours 30 min.). TV anthology series never got better than this one, hosted by the master of suspense himself. Beyond the crackling. Twisty stories is the fun of Hitchcock’s on-camera introduction and afterwards, most of which take on the show’s commercials in very amusing fashion. For example, one week he is escorted by police into an answering booth to tell how he feels about commercials; another week, he introduces the show while tied to railroad tracks. The show was nominated for 15 Prime time Emmy Awards and won three, as well as capturing a Golden Globe for Television Achievement.

The 36 half-hour episodes here include performances by movie stars Claude Rains, Bette Davis, Steve McQueen, Cloris Leachman (looking so young as the mother of a young boy who can’t keep quiet, even though he must to earn a silver dollar, and yet has his first moral dilemma when he sees an escaped mental patient caught outside in a blizzard, clawing at the window of the temporarily stalled train), Walter Matthau (as a small town cop who sets a unique speed trap and swindling operation and carries lots of attitude), Leslie Nielsen, Roger Moore and Denholm Eliot, as well as television stars Art Carney, Elisabeth Montgomery, Barbara Bel Geddes, Brian Keith and Dick York. Another episode has a man awake on his bed with a poisonous snake sleeping on his lap. He turns to a friend for help and the friend is not too friendly, although a doctor is summonsed. Grade: season 3.75 stars

The Golden Age of Television (1953-1958, Criterion, 3 DVDs, 485 min.). The title is that of a 1981 PBS TV series, which presented -- most for only the second time ever -- Kinescope copies of the popular live television plays of the 1950s that were a combination of theater, radio and filmmaking. The shows usually had three weeks of rehearsals, and the acting is very good. Take for example, the written-for-the-series “Days of Wine and Roses,” starring Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie as two people overly fond of alcohol, who quit their jobs, get married and struggle to raise a daughter, while off-and-on, especially on his part, making attempts to sober up. In fact, the story is told in flashback as Robertson’s Joe Clay gives a speech at a local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Charles Bickford plays the long-suffering father of Laurie’s character. Each play has its introduction from the 1981 series, including interviews with the stars, writers and directors. For “Days of Wine and Roses,” director John Frankenheimer tells how disappointed he was in not being able to do the film version, which starred Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick.

The set also includes the military comedy “No Time For Sergeants,” starring the then-unknown Andy Griffith as Will Stockdale; Rod Steiger’s classic work in the working-class drama “Marty,” written by Paddy Chayefsky; with dialogue that would foreshadow the Method school of acting; Paul Newman, George Peppard and Clu Gulager in the baseball drama “Bang the Drum Slowly”; and Mickey Rooney, Kim Hunter, Edmond O’Brien and Mel Torme in “The Comedian,” a behind-the-scenes-look at live television of the Fifties (also directed by Frankenheimer and written for “Playhouse 90” by Rod Sterling). Sterling, later to gain fame as host and writer of “The Twilight Zone,” also wrote “Patterns,” a critique of corporate America. The final drama is “A Wind from the South,” starring Julie Harris as a young Gaelic innkeeper who struggles for a better life. The set comes with a 38-page booklet with background and chapter titles for each production. Grade: set 4 stars

Life on Mars: Series 2 (Great Britain, 2006, Acorn, 4 DVDs, 468 min.). This set includes the final eight episodes of the brilliant British series, in which John Simm plays police detective Sam Tyler, who is knocked unconscious by a hit-and-run driver in today’s Manchester, only to wake up in 1973, where he becomes a transfer detective in a station house run by the often-brutal and usually-bullying squad chief (Philip Glenister). Until the final episode here -- which is very different from the ending of the U.S. TV adaptation of the series (that one literally took place en route to Mars) -- we do not know if Sam is dreaming in a coma, has time traveled or is insane. A nice twist is his growing attraction/romance with policewoman Annie (Liz White).

During the season, the department recruits its first black detective, who will become Sam’s mentor in the future; Sam believes IRA bomb threats are just a hoax; and Sam and Annie pose as a married couple to infiltrate the party circle of a wealthy businessman who may be a serial killer. DVD extras include a 45-minute documentary on the second series; 48 minutes of bonus footage from three episodes; and a 28-minute look at the series’ wrap-up. This was one series I loved and wished it had not ended so soon. Grade: season 4 stars

Kevin Smith: 3-Movie Collection (Miramax, 3 Blu-ray discs). This nifty little set includes two of writer/director Smith’s classic films, “Clerks,” which tells of one wild day (“I was even supposed to be here today”) for two friends, one a clerk in a variety store and the other a clerk in a video store, and the sequel “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” lifting two of the side characters (director Smith plays Silent Bob) of “Clerks” into the main characters. There also is the problematic “Chasing Amy,” starring Ben Affleck and Joey Lauren Adams as an unconventional couple. New to the Blu-ray version of “Clerks” is a 15th anniversary introduction by Smith and a making-of look at “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.” The latter film itself just features a group audio commentary. The “Clerks” Blu-ray disc also contains both the theatrical version and the “first cut” version, both with audio commentaries, and other carried-over extras. “Chasing Amy” features new audio commentary by Smith and producer Scott Mosier, a new documentary, a conversation with Smith and Adams, and a 10-years-later Q & A session with Smith and the cast. Grade: overall package 3.5 stars

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