Tag Archives: james cameron

Avatar

Avatar is your standard story of a white guy who finds a new race of people with their own distinct culture and lifestyle, and he gets accepted into the group and becomes the most awesome one. You’ve seen it in Dances With Wolves, you’ve seen it in The Last Samurai, and now you can see it again in Avatar. The twist in Avatar is that the new race of people are giant 10-foot tall sparkly blue aliens.

Some directors make movies. James Cameron makes blockbusters. He ruled the ‘90s with Terminator 2, True Lies, and Titanic. And then he disappeared for a long time and casual moviegoers forgot about him. Then in 2009, he reappeared with a little flick called Avatar. It broke all kinds of box office records and ultimately made over $2,782,275,172 worldwide. In layman’s terms, that’s a fuckton of money.

It’s 2154 and humans have used up all of the Earth’s resources, so we started going to the stars and using up their resources. That’s how the humans ended up on Pandora, a jungle moon orbiting a gas planet. Pandora is the only known place where the valuable unobtanium mineral can be found. There are only a few setbacks to mining unobatanium: Pandora’s atmosphere is poisonous to humans and the Na’vi, a species of 10-foot-tall sparkly blue cat-like hominids that resent the humans for invading their home.

A greedy corporation has established the Avatar Program to create human/Na’vi hybrids to explore Pandora and set up relations with the Na’vi. Growing an Avatar is a huge investment, each Avatar is genetically matched to its driver and each driver does through years of training. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is a paraplegic marine with a dead twin brother. Jake’s brother was a driver in the Avatar program, and Jake is asked to take his place so they don’t waste the Avatar.

Jake jumps at the chance of a lifetime (not really, because he’s in a wheelchair), and he joins the Avatar Program and heads to Pandora. He meets the head of the program, Dr. Grace Augustine (Sigourney Weaver), fellow driver Norm Spellman (Joel David Moore) and a few other characters.

On his first assignment, the crazy Pandora creatures cause Jake to become separated from Grace and Spellman. He’s alone in a dangerous jungle and almost dies a few times before getting rescued by Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Neytiri gets a sign to take Jake back to her clan. Her mom is the spiritual leader of the tribe and they decide to initiate Jake Sully into their society.

Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang) asks Jake to gain the Na’vi’s trust and find out about Hometree, which stands on a large supply of unobtanium. Jake agrees to help him out. He spends his days as an Avatar, learning about the Na’vi, appreciating nature, exploring his Avatar abilities, and falling in love with Neytiri. He spends his nights recording a video log for Grace and supplying intelligence to Quaritch.

Jake begins to feel conflicted the more time he spends running around the jungle. He’s changed. He’s not the same person and he starts to turn his back on his society. He’s gone native and he’s not coming back.

I’m assuming you’ve seen the movie, so I’m not going to go into all the details, but the Na’vi get attacked, Hometree gets destroyed, they blame Jake, he has to get their trust back, and when he does they have a climatic battle to save the Tree of Souls (the Na’vi have a lot of magic trees). The good guys win and the bad guys go home and Jake goes to live in his Avatar body full time.

This movie has a cliché plot, but you can’t stop watching. There are lots of plot holes (like the sudden emergence of all the other Na’vi tribes), but everything flows and fluidity is key to keeping entertained.

Avatar is unintentionally racist. All the main human characters are white. Most of the Na’vi actors are either black or Native-American, as if James Cameron couldn’t decide which race he wanted to suppress more. All the Pandora animals are slaves too. You just take your ponytail-tentacle thing and make a connection with him and he does everything you want.

James Cameron created an amazing world. Pandora is beautiful, you want to live there. There are pretty plants and majestic trees. Flora is cool, but it’s all about the fauna. The Avatar animals are awesome. There are flying animals and stampeding ones and tree-swinging ones.

This is the highest grossing film of all time. That doesn’t mean it’s the best. It just means that a lot of people saw it, liked it, and saw it again. It was a breakout hit in a time when people are supposed to be illegally downloading movies. It meant that if you made a movie worth seeing, people would gladly pay for the experience. It showed that 3D could be more than a gimmick if you do it right. It makes it more immersive, it makes it more magical. Avatar is entertainment. You can’t deny that.

Critically Rated at 15/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Terminator 2 is a perfect sequel. It takes everything cool about the first one and ups the ante and becomes a better movie than its predecessor. Not only is it a perfect sequel, but also it’s one of the best action movies of all time. James Cameron doesn’t just make movies, he makes blockbusters. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays another T-800 Terminator sent back in time, Linda Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor, and Edward Furlong plays a 10-year-old John Connor.

The move takes place eleven years after the first one. Sarah Connor is in a nuthouse, because that’s where you go when you tell everyone about killer robots from the future. Her son John is the future leader of mankind and our only hope of survival against the killer robots, but for now he’s stuck living with foster parents. It kind of sucks when your mom’s insane and your dad hasn’t been born yet, and so John acts out and is a preteen rebel.

Skynet sends back a T-1000 model robot (Robert Patrick) to track down and kill John Connor. The future John Connor sends back an older model T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect kid John Connor. The T-800 is the same model as the killbot in the first movie and the T-1000 is liquid metal and can shapeshift and make stabbing weapons. When this movie came out, it was a big twist that Arnie was a good robot and that the other guy was a bad robot.

The T-800 rescues John from the T-1000. John realizes that his mom isn’t crazy and he and his new robot bodyguard go to free her from the nuthouse. Sarah Connor is in the middle of her own escape, and they have a happy little reunion. Sarah gets over her trust issues with the T-800 pretty quickly and they go on a road trip to Mexico.

Arnie tells Sarah and John all about Skynet and the end of the world. Sarah thinks the only way to avoid Judgment Day is to murder Miles Dyson (Joe Morton), the engineer most directly responsible for creating Skynet. She tries to kill him but can’t. When he learns about Judgment Day he decides to join the team and help Sarah prevent the end of the world. He takes the Connors and the T-800 to Cyberdyne to destroy everything related to Skynet, included the microchip and robot arm from the first movie.

The T-1000 shows up and there’s and epic battle. And the two robots fight and punch each other and you understand what it going on, unlike Transformers. Spoiler alert: they beat the T-1000. The T-800 learns human emotion and sacrifices himself to avoid Judgment Day.

Having a 10-year-old John Connor as one of the main characters could have been disastrous without the right casting. Kids are annoying and stupid and don’t belong in action blockbusters. Edward Furlong pulls it off though. He has a cocky street kid attitude that suits the role perfectly. Compare his performance to Jake Lloyd as Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace. When you leave the theater you want to punch Anakin in the face and you want John Connor to save you when the robots come.

This is a great action movie. Every scene leads into the next one, they all are relevant and they all advance the plot. There’s a great flow and pacing and the action scenes are awesome. This was made in the glorious time where when you see a helicopter chasing a truck, you know that it’s a real fucking helicopter chasing a real fucking truck. The CG effects were cutting edge at the time, and even though they look cheesy now, the story makes up for it. It was a great action flick when it came out, and it still is over 20 years later.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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The Terminator

What if a killer machine from the future was sent back in time to kill the mother of mankind’s only hope? And what if he had an Austrian accent for some reason? Well, we find out in James Cameron’s The Terminator, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as the titular Austrian killbot, Linda Hamilton as the unlucky mother of mankind’s only hope, and Michael Biehn as the time-travelling protector/impregnator or the mother of mankind’s only hope.

The Terminator is a less of a sci-fi flick and more of a chase movie that involves robots and time travel. In the future, machines have taken over the world and a guy named John Connor leads mankind in a war against them. The machines send a Terminator back in time to kill Sarah Connor before she can give birth to John Connor, with the goal of wiping out their main enemy before he’s even a fetus. Future John Connor takes offense to this attempt at preemptive abortion attempt and so he sends back a soldier named Kyle Reese to protect his mom. The Terminator and Kyle both arrive in 1984 Los Angeles and both try to find Sarah Connor before the other one. Kyle finds Sarah just in time and saves her from the Terminator, and he tells her about the future and that the Austrian that tried to kill her is actually a robot assassin.

The Terminator comes back and there’s a car chase and they escape again. Kyle and Sarah get picked up by the LAPD. And then the Terminator comes back and Kyle rescues Sarah again and they go to a hotel. They make bombs and have sex and then the Terminator comes back again. And there’s another car chase. The Terminator gets caught up in an explosion and stops looking like an Austrian tourist and more like a shiny metal robotic skeleton. Sarah kills the Terminator and drives off to Mexico to begin the rest of her life as the mother of mankind’s last hope.

This is the start of the best franchise about time-travelling killer robots from the future. It wasn’t Arnold’s first movie, and it wasn’t James Cameron’s first movie, but it was the movie that made them household names. Arnold Schwarzenegger became a star, even though he hardly says anything and half the time his character is onscreen it’s a phony looking dummy or a robotic exoskeleton. The action scenes are still exciting, but the special effects are laughable. Stop-motion robots aren’t menacing. It makes the film seem very dated. The story makes up for it though. It’s a cheesy B-movie in a lot of ways, and that adds to the retro charm. James Cameron can make an exciting action movie without much of a budget. And when he has a budget, he makes some of the biggest films of all time. This guy knows how to manipulate an audience. I don’t know why a robot needs a laser site though.

This movie gave us James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Terminator 2. For that, we must always be grateful. It also gave us “I’ll be back”… one of the greatest movie lines ever. One way to tell the significance of a movie is how often people quote it. Even today, jerks across the world spout that line before they embark on a beer run. Cheesy special effects can’t deter an interesting story and a master storyteller with an Austrian puppet from creating a cinematic icon. The Terminator is a classic.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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True Lies

True Lies. What a great title. That might be the best part of the movie. James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, Terminator… seriously, how do you not know James Cameron?) directs Arnold Shwarzengger in another blockbuster event. This time Arnie plays Harry Tasker, a family man with a wife and daughter who think he’s just a computer salesman… but he’s really a government super agent.

This is an over-the-top action film that doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s a celebration of action films, complete with elaborate deaths and comical one-liners.

Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger) is a premier agent on the Omega Sector counter-terrorist task force. He hangs out with Tom Arnold riding horses through downtown buildings stopping terrorists from terrorizing. His latest foe is the Crimson Jihad, lead by a guy named Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik). His wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) and daughter Dana (a young Eliza Dushku) don’t know that he’s a spy, they think he’s just a regular guy.

His wife Helen thinks that he’s so boring and predictable that she decides to cheat on him. She is interested in a sleaze ball named Simon (Bill Paxton) and Harry gets jealous. He decides to spice things up a bit, but his plan backfires when members of the Crimson Jihad kidnap him and Helen.

Helen learns about Harry’s secret life as a spy and is hurt and betrayed, but gets over it pretty quickly when he starts killing terrorists and kicking ass. They learn about the Crimson Jihad’s master plan, which involves a nuke and a US city. Helen and Harry get separated, and Helen and Tia Carrere have a limo catfight. Harry saves Helen, and just when things look like they will be ok, they find out that the terrorists kidnapped their daughter.

Harry jumps into a Harrier jet and goes to rescue his darling daughter Dana. There’s some explosions and close calls and ultimately the main terrorist Aziz ends up walking around on the Harrier with an AK-47 before Schwarzenegger makes him fall off the jet, he gets stuck on one of the missiles, and Arnie fires the missile and blows up a helicopter full of terrorists with their fearless leader. That’s symbolism. He was mad.

Arnold Schwarzenegger does it all in this movie. He rides horses and Harrier jets. He tells terrorists how he’s going to kill them, and kills them that way. This movie is almost a spoof of action films. Jamie Lee Curtis drops an Uzi down the stairs and somehow kills ten terrorists. Everyone is so witty right before they murder somebody.

James Cameron knows how to direct. The story and premise aren’t believable. Arnold Shwarzengger is not a good actor. But that doesn’t matter. Every scene is entertaining. The movie flows, it gets you hooked, it rarely drags or gets boring. If you accept the world that he’s established within the first ten minutes, you will appreciate the rollercoaster ride that he takes you on. It might not be a good movie, but it’s a fun movie, and having fun is good.

Critically Rated at 12/17

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Titanic

James Cameron is one hell of a filmmaker. This is a movie where you know the ending. You know that the Titanic is going to sink. You know that it is doomed, but you don’t care. This was the first movie to make over a billion dollars at the box office, it just kept making money. Everyone and their mom saw this movie. It was everywhere. It didn’t even open at number one, people just saw it and kept coming back and it blew up by word of mouth.

This movie has it all: romance, adventure, death, destruction, DiCaprio…. The special effects are a little dated, but they still hold up because the story holds up. Everyone likes to make fun of this movie. They are ashamed they saw it three times in the theater and still get mad when Rose lets go. The fact is that a movie can’t make an absurd amount of cash if people aren’t going to see it. Titanic is like Nickelback, you shit on it in public, but you know every word by heart. They write some amazing songs guys.

Titanic has a case for being the best film of all time. It won eleven Oscars out of fourteen nominations. It made over 1.8 billion dollars. It was the number one film for fifteen weeks straight (until Lost in Space came out, remember that gem?).  Of course it’s not the best film, but that’s really beside the point. This movie was a sensation, it was an event. And it’s coming out in 3D so get ready for that.

Titanic really launched Leonardo DiCaprio’s career. It wasn’t his first movie, but it was bigger than anything anyone had done before. It set the tone for the rest of his filmography; he would never do a paycheck movie. He would chose quality scripts and even if they weren’t box office sensations, at least he was always good in them. Kathy Bates gets a shout out for playing the Unsinkable Molly Brown. She had a bit part, but stands out. Billy Zane steals the film as Cal. He is a very compelling actor, and I wish he starred in more films. He’s wearing a hairpiece in this film; he’s been bald since the early ‘90s. Kate Winslet did a decent job as Rose, but it was really amazing to be a kid and see full on boobs and nipples in a PG-13 movie. Maybe that’s the secret to box office success: titties for kiddies! 

There’s a lot of corny lines that get quoted often, but the most quoted is, “I’m the king of the world!” The thing is, when you go back and watch the movie again, that line is not corny. It is spontaneous, real, and a triumphant line. All those scenes at the front and the back of the ship are cliché, but they work because Cameron makes them genuine. He knows film, and he knows how to manipulate emotions. None of his stories are unique, you’ve seen them a thousand times before, but you haven’t seen them presented like this. It’s grandeur, it’s spectacle, but it’s also relatable. You try doing that.

The Titanic hits an iceberg and begins to sink. And then you see the best and worst of humanity. You see the greedy and corrupt lie and cheat their way onto lifeboats. You see others who have given up and decide to go out on their terms. You see mothers gently caressing their kids. You see people working together and fighting each other. The best and the worst often go hand in hand.

And of course there is that ambiguous ending. Is Rose dead? Is she dreaming? Will the top stop spinning? Does it matter?

Critically Rated at 12/17

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