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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: James Cameron

Aliens (1986)

Aliens are pretty scary, but humans can be even worse.

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). And while no one on-board really knows who Newt exactly is, or why she was all by herself on this huge ship, Ripley takes a liking to her and trusts her with all her might. Little does she, nor everyone else know, that there’s literally a huge colony of aliens waiting to get rid of them all and it’s up to these rough and tough soldiers to step up, stand together, and get rid of the threat, because lord knows that if they don’t get rid of it in space, it may just come closer to hitting Earth and causing way more problems than they could have ever expected.

Say what you will about James Cameron, his scripts, his cheesiness, and his knack for going over-the-top, but the man can direct a freakin’ action movie, for gosh sakes. I mean, literally, there’s not a minute in Aliens that isn’t packed with some sort of fun, or intensity, or excitement in the air; it’s literally two-and-a-half-hours of pure, unabashed adrenaline, mixed in with some speed for even better times. While some movies like to pride themselves on being a piece of absolute energy from start-to-finish, very few of them actually are and it’s why Aliens, all of these years later, still reigns supreme as one of the best action movies of all-time.

Okay, so yeah, Jimmy Cameron clearly recycled some ideas.

That said? Is it stupid? Hell yeah, but with James Cameron, it works. See, whereas Alien was much more of a slow-burning horror-thriller, Aliens is way more of a slam-bang action-thriller, where instead of taking our time, feeling the mood, it’s a pure straight-shot from the get-go. While that may sound bad and a downgrade from the original, it actually works in the movie’s favor; we still get to feel the mood, we still get to know some of these characters, and yeah, we still get thrown on the edge of our seats. All the stuff that made the original so great are here still, but they’re just heightened to a point of where they seemed to have been replaced by something far better.

It’s like something we didn’t even know we needed.

But that’s why James Cameron is such a master at his craft – he knows what a movie-going audience wants and absolutely delivers on it all. Sure, he hasn’t met a cheesy one-liner he didn’t like, nor does he seem to stray away from macho-posturing, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s so fun to watch and listen as these goofy characters all talk, scream, and pose their muscles. In other words, Aliens is the perfect movie for a nerd to enjoy and not feel threatened by, but also for the jocks to enjoy and not feel like they’re losing their reputation as one of the cool guys.

In other words, everyone can find something here to love and enjoy and at the end of the day, even get along.

See what I mean?

Now, isn’t that what movies were made for in the first place? Not just entertaining people, but bringing them together, no matter how different they may be from one another? To me, that’s what movies are about and it’s why Aliens, while definitely not the heartfelt, sentimental flick I’m making it out to be, is just a near-masterpiece. It’s got some stupid moments and Paul Reiser’s character, more often than not, feels like an unfortunate villain that the movie just falls back on for unnecessary conflict, but for the most part, every bit of it works.

And mostly, it all comes circling back to Sigourney Weaver in the title-role of Lt. Ripley. See, in the original, while Ripley was still a strong character, she wasn’t quite given nearly as much as she’s given to do here and it’s why Weaver’s performance tops everyone else’s here; she’s got presence and seems like she’s as tough as she makes herself out to be. But she’s also the kind of character that isn’t asking for us to love, adore, and praise her – she’s just a rough and rugged S.O.B. that isn’t afraid to stand up to those around her and speak her mind.

In other words, she’s the perfect woman. But also a little scary.

But that’s fine, because Weaver is great at these kinds of characters. After all, she’s practically made a career out of them and it seemed to have started with Ripley. While yes, even those on the side of her like Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and the late, always amazing Bill Paxton are great to watch and have here, it’s Ripley’s show the whole way through. She reminds us not why strong female characters matter first and foremost, but why strong characters matter in general.

Especially in something that is basically an alien shoot-em-up.

Consensus: While undeniably cheesy and over-the-top, Aliens is also undeniably fun, exciting, compelling, and perfectly directed by James Cameron, that you almost forget how great Weaver is in the lead role.

9.5 / 10

Move aside, fellas!

Photos Courtesy of: Horror Freak News

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The Abyss (1989)

If this was remade today, it would just be called Aliens in the Water, and probably would have made more than Avatar. Don’t believe me? Fine! Just you wait and see….

A nuclear sub crashes on the floor of the Atlantic, and the motley crew of an underwater station attached to an oil rig prepare to investigate just what the hell is occurring. Obviously, as you could expect, problems do mount: a hurricane rages above, a loony marine is on the loose, and captain Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) is forced to work with his estranged wife, Lindsey (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Spousal-disputes aside, shit is still a little wacky under the sea.

What I like most about James Cameron is what he is able to do with any premise. Yeah, he may be a little nutty with his love of the Titanic and Avatar sequels, but the guy knows what can, and just might come out of a simple premise, if you give it the right amount of creativity and fun. Here, he takes what is essentially another boring and lame submarine movie, and somehow turns it into a tense and eerie sci-fi flick that gives you the sense of just how menacing the ocean can be. But the ocean is also a place that Cameron can still let it all hang loose in, no matter what the limitations may be, as you will see with this movie.

After I saw this flick, I did some research on it and found out that the majority of the film was actually filmed underwater in an abandoned nuclear reactor. That’s right: Cameron actually got his whole cast and crew, and made them go underwater to shoot this whole film. Sounds a bit risky when you take ego’s and all sorts of other personalities into consideration, which would also be another example of how crazy and inspired Cameron can be. However, he makes it work. He makes the ocean his own little personal playground where he’s able to do what he wants, when he wants and no studio can stop him because seriously, how are you going to say no to the dude who just did The Terminator and Aliens? Yeah, didn’t think so.

On second thought, maybe the guy isn't so original after all.

On second thought, maybe the guy isn’t so original after all.

This film can be very fun at points but what I liked most about this film was how original Cameron could make it at points. In this flick, we get a cool look at some neat-o ideas that Cameron obviously has had rolling in his head for so long and finally got a chance to reveal to the public. Little details like the cool spacesuits that look like a mixture between the ones from Alien and actual spacesuits themselves, or the concept of having oxygen-infused water that you can just sip on, in order for you to reach superhuman lengths in the ocean, or how the aliens in this flick, aren’t actually mean or evil creatures, they’re nice and love to help out fellow humans. Not only do they look freakin’ cool, but they also show a lot of compassion, sort of like fellow human-beings. It’s a surprise that more people didn’t hop on the bandwagon after this and make more “alien friendly sci-fi movies”, because they could have really worked and turned-on a new generation to making sci-fi movies. Because just juggle this idea in your heads: are they really that mean and terrible?

As usual with all Cameron films, no matter when they were filmed, the visuals are absolutely outstanding. I knew that this film won the Oscar back in 1989 for Best Visual Effects, but that’s 1989 and that doesn’t really mean diddly-squat now. Surprisingly though, the visuals still hold-up today and every time the aliens would show up in the story, everything just started to look so much more beautiful and blue. Probably best combination to have out there: beautiful and blue. It’s something that Cameron works best with, obviously.

As is always the problems with other Jimmy Cameron films, the action and special effects may be rad and awesome, but the scripts always seem to suck, therefore: taking everything else down with them. This film is no exception to that convention, which meant that the eyes rolled pretty much after every single line these characters uttered out their mouths. Every piece of dialogue that tries to sound funny, hip, or cool, just comes off as terribly corny. And even whenever the film does try to get sentimental and show certain relationships between people in this submarine, it fails at bringing any emotions whatsoever. It all just felt so damn 80’s to me (no-brainer), to the point where I just wanted them to be able to do something cool and exciting, without them opening up their mouths. Sadly, they did and that’s when I started getting annoyed.

Probably the worst, and most memorable scene out of this whole flick has to be when a character, not giving away who, tries to revive another character by using CPR for over 10 minutes and then comes back to life, only after that same character yells “FIGHT!” to them. It was such a terribly corny scene and it made me laugh my ass off the whole way through because this film was so serious and even though Cameron knows how to direct: he sure as hell can’t write. Then again, I guess it doesn’t matter to him because the dude freakin’ takes showers in $100 bills everyday, without giving any damn whatsoever. Lucky son of a bitch. Practically stole my life over there.

"Anybody want to start drinking?"

“Anybody want to start drinking?”

It was surprising to see Ed Harris not only play a lead role in a movie, but also play a character that’s likable and considered a hero. Nonetheless, the guy’s still solid as Bud Brigman and makes it easy to root for him whenever he seems like he’s done for good. You need that in a hero, even if it never seems like he makes any drastic-decisions that could potentially harm the rest of his crew in anyway. He always seems to know what to do next, and it kind of got bothersome after awhile, since we pretty much knew that nothing could stand in this guy’s way. Not even a shark. Then again, highly doubt they would be able to do anything to a submarine. But I digress.

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio is fine as his ex-wife, Lindsey, but her character is so annoying and bitchy that I got to a point of where I wanted her to just get killed off somehow. And trust me, there were a couple of close calls for her character in this movie. Not close enough in my opinion, but that’s just me. Cameron-regular Michael Biehn is also here as the completely psycho head SEAL and it makes me wonder just where the hell this guy has been after all of these years. Dude needs to team-up with Cameron again for these countless Avatar sequels that were apparently getting, as it will probably get his career back on the high-rise. All of the performances that I’ve already mentioned, along with plenty of others, are good but the script tears them down to pieces after awhile, and makes it seem like everybody just got out of a stage-play for Shakespeare.

Consensus: The Abyss suffers from some terrible writing (that’s James Cameron for ya), but still has plenty of inspired ideas straight from Cameron’s goofy head, exciting scenes that seem to all take place underwater, and a bunch of beautiful visuals that still hold up today, even against Avatar. Actually, no: Avatar looks better. Lot better.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Well, if we die soon, wanna rekindle the marriage and go out swinging?"

“Well, if we die soon, wanna rekindle the marriage and go out swinging?”

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Poster to the right: just another sign of how awesome this film is.

A bigger, better Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is gunning for a shape-shifting T-1000 (Robert Patrick) who’s out to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong), the son of Sarah (Linda Hamilton), the original Terminator’s nemesis.

After watching T1 and realizing that it’s still one bangin’ sci-fi action film, I realized that this one is not only bangin’ as well, but one of the best sequels of all-time.

The story is the same thing again but the catch here is that Arnold is the good bot this time around and the villain is a dude, who’s body is made liquid metal which practically makes him invincible. This is what leads into plenty of robot vs. robot action sequences, which are just freakin’ awesome,

Writer, producer, and director James Cameron makes everything work amazingly well here because he just has that perfect sense of style and taste to make almost every single piece of his film work. Each action sequence is about 25 to 30 minutes long but each one is better than the last one that came before it and as the bullets get blown, death rates go up, and cars go BOOOOOOOOM it never feels dumb. This is just action that is meant to be here in this film and that’s what makes it really awesome.

The special effects that were ground-breaking at its time, still actually look a lot better than some of the big-budget, 3-D piles of junk that we have come out nowadays. The morphing sequences that the metal dude does is totally cool to see and I wonder how cool it would have been to just have seen all these special effects happening at once. A very good movie to look at I must say, which is something not said much about action films.

There’s also some very good moments of humanity within this film that actually work when they do pop-up but my problem with this film was that there wasn’t enough of that which may seem a bit odd and strange to say about a film about two robots beating the shit out of each other. There is a powerful message about life and humanity in the end but it’s not actually brought up that much throughout the whole film to actually have a huge effect on you when it’s over. This may seem like a dumb complaint but I think with just a bit more human scenes, T2 could have actually been one more step above your ordinary action flick.

To say the least, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the freakin’ man in this film as the good Terminator now. Although he may not be able to keep it in his pants in today’s world, Arnie at one time owned just about every single action film he showed up in because he has that muscular body that fits so well, that blank stare that just scares the shit out of you as soon as you see it, and that same tone he uses for almost every scene and made me totally believe him as a robot. It’s crazy to think that we’re talking about the same dude who’s “The Governator of Kellyfornia” but he is just the freakin’ man no matter what and this film is the perfect example as to why.

It’s a shame that the rest of the cast didn’t actually do much after this, and right here may have been their only real shining moments. Linda Hamilton does a total 180 from this perm-wearing, cutsie bootsie 80’s gal to this totally spiked-out, G.I. Jane looking figure and she does a great job with it too but she’s rarely ever seen in today’s world of Hollywood. Edward Furlong is good as lil’ John Connor and got arrested awhile back for releasing lobsters from a seafood restaurant but he was in American History X so that kind of makes up for it all. And Robert Patrick, as the bad Terminator, is good here but shows up here and there but most famously in that train-wreck they call, The Marine. Basically, John Cena sucks.

Consensus: Terminator 2: Judgment Day may have needed more human moments to convey that emotional depth it wanted to, but the action is amazing, the visual effects will have your eyes pop-out even today, and the stylized direction from James Cameron make this one of the best sequels of all-time.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

The Terminator (1984)

If all robots look like The Governator, we’re all doomed.

In the post-apocalyptic future, reigning tyrannical supercomputers teleport a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to snuff Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is destined to lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony. Meanwhile, the human-resistance movement dispatches a lone warrior (Michael Biehn) to safeguard Sarah. Can he stop the virtually indestructible killing machine?

James Cameron is a guy that a lot of people don’t like because of his attitude, but say what you will, this guy knows how to make a good film. If you read that synopsis up above, it’s pretty laughable but it’s Cameron who doesn’t let that get him down and relies on many action scenes that keep the pace up and running. When you watch these action scenes, it’s awesome to see what Cameron does with such a low-budget and how he makes this type of film-making so much fun.

The action scenes are awesome and running at a brisk pace but the whole film is a great blend of all sorts of genres which makes it even better. It’s action, it’s sci-fi, it’s a little bit of romance, a little bit of horror, and a tiny hint of black comedy that all works so well. But when all that action is done, these characters actually are talking about something and I have to say that I liked the love story, no matter how corny it may have seemed.

My problem with this film is that like a lot of 80’s films, this does seem a bit dated. The visuals for the time we’re state-of-the-art, but looking at them now, I have to say they can be pretty laughable. The low-budget feel of this film made it seem very naturally made, but those special effects don’t stand the test of time at all. Also, there are many moments of random 80’s cheese, but I think when reviewing a film from the 80’s, that’s practically a given.

Even though many people are hating on him because he can’t keep it in the pants, Arnold Schwarzenegger is the man! The role as The Terminator he takes is perfect because he fits the look of a souless gun for hire. His chopped up hair, big shades, and 80’s punk look, make shim look like the Incredible Hulk if he went to down-town New York. Linda Hamilton is great as Sarah Conner who fits the convention of a girl-on-the run, and doesn’t get annoying one bit. Michael Biehn is OK here as Kyle Reese and is very good at playing that loner that is so angry and troubled, but still you want to see live on.

Consensus: Although the special effects may be dated, The Terminator is a great sci-fi action film because James Cameron keeps the film moving at a good pace, and has plenty of fun with what he’s making, and that leads to the viewer having an even better time.

8.5/10=Matinee!!

Terminator Salvation (2009)

Awesome memories of Terminator 1,2, and 3……Terminated!!!

All grown up in post-apocalyptic 2018, John Connor (Christian Bale) must lead the resistance of humans against the increasingly dominating militaristic robots. But when Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) appears, his existence confuses the mission as Connor tries to determine whether Wright has come from the future or the past — and whether he’s friend or foe.

So when I look at Terminator 1,2, and even the 3rd one, I just say “wow these movies rock, and totally introduced me to great sci-fi action”. Probably the first bad sign that this movie was going to blow was that it wasn’t directed by James Cameron, who did the original first two. And although he didn’t do the 3rd, it still looks fucking great compared to this junk. The movie was directed by some dude named McG. In all honesty, what the fuck!?!? Like there’s no normal name for you, you have to make a nick-name considering your only claim to fame was Charlie’s Angels. I guess it’s a good thing that Cameron didn’t get involved with this one probably because he had his sights set on something a lot, a lot, better.

The one semi good thing about this film is that the action, and the visuals look good. The problem is, is that they have made these terminators, so indestructible, that nothing, and I do repeat nothing, can destroy them. So the action scenes, are just repetitive, because these things never go away. It looks good, but after awhile I just start to think it’s a sci-fi remix of The Book of Eli look. And yes, I know Eli came out later, it just looks so the same, and Eli does better in my opinion.

The biggest bummer with this whole film is the fact that the whole story is slow as hell. The action starts off from the get-go, but we get the same story that we saw, just more sci-f, Skynet mumbo jumbo we don’t care about, and “John Connor” is probably mentioned about 1,000 times. The whole script just seems tired, bored, and doesn’t want to do anything new or inventive, just blow shit up.

Christian Bale is absolutely terrible in this film. He does that “Batman” deep throat mumble thing that annoys the crap out of me, and almost every five seconds he’s just yelling, or whispering, never talking. But his best performances was defiantly off-screen (haha I love this audio every time). Sam Worthington is at least watchable here, and brings a lot of emotion to his character, and it just sucks that he is the character I cared for more than the one who actually saves the world. Common’s in this. Why? Who cares, he doesn’t change anything in this movie. I also love how they just put the naked version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, luckily it wasn’t really him, or somebody would have defiantly lost some credit on the man-o meter.

Consensus: There may be some good visuals, and action, but overall Terminator Salvation, is a piss poor attempt to bring back a classic trilogy, while having no heart, and none of the energy the originals did.

3.5/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

Avatar (2009)

One of the best ways to spend my Christmas day!!

The story is that Jake Sully, played by Sam Worthington, is a paraplegic who goes to a world known as Pandora. Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) tells Jake that if he can get everyone on Pandora to evacuate so that they can get a substance known as unobtanium, he will get Jake some new legs. So Jake uses an Avatar of himself to gain the native’s trust and hopefully get them to evacuate. But after living amongst them, Jake feels a bond with the people and decides to fight back against the colonel in an epic battle.

James Cameron has been going around talking a whole bunch of shit of how great this is, and you have never seen anything like this at all. Now that I look at it, damn he wasn’t kidding.

If you are going to see this movie, definitely give it a try in IMAX in 3D. There really isn’t any other way to see this, and if you choose to you won’t be in this world they call Avatar. This is a technical breakthrough for all the world of technology. At first I felt like I was going to be annoyed by the 3D, but I soon found myself so fascinated with the way the film looked, that it simply went over my head. Cameron really does have a knack for these beautiful visuals, the effects are even better once you see the way this whole world looks, with its creatures, plants, and overall look of it is just fascinating.

The story has a lot of similarities to Star Wars, but really doesn’t match up to it very much. The story is all way too similar, but the way it is done keeps you hooked on from the beginning. The action will keep you on your feet, as it mixes in with the beautiful visuals you are taken away by how you are excited but also taken away by its beautiful visuals.

The film has an original story, not one of those action block busters that are based on a comic book series or another film. And it creates this world where immersed in it visual, so you almost forget that its unreal and you start caring for the characters, and the whole story.The script is kind of corny and obvious, but I soon just totally forgot about that and cared for more of the story and characters.

Worthington gives a very effective performance here as Jake, and you cheer him on as the main protagonist, and just want him to win it all. The others in the film do great with this motion capture element such as Zoë Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang, all do great in each of their respective parts. I mean as creepy as the creatures look, you actually feel like these are real people, and care more for them, then some of the other humans in this film.

If there was one problem in this almost unproblematic film, was that its central message became a pain. The real central message behind this whole film was that it was about how we are causing global warming, and by doing so we are killing ourselves. Now the first time I got it, but after that about forty times they kept bringing it up and up again, to where I was just saying “OK, I get it!”.

Consensus: Avatar has beautifully enchanting visuals, very effective performances, and an exciting if done before story, that has us forgetting about the real world we live in, with such a beautiful way.

9/10=Full Priceee!!!!!!