Ah, the 1980s: A decade of big hair, shoulder pads, heavy synths, and multiple violent robots and androids. Two stood out from the pack though – Robocop and Terminator – and in our latest episode of Vs. we’re going full robot wars, pitting Paul Verhoeven’s ultraviolent black comedy against James Cameron’s groundbreaking and grungy time-travel actioner. Host Mark Ellis (who comes with zero robot parts), will compare the two original films across multiple criteria including box office performance, Tomatometer and Audience Score, the quality of their characters, and more. Who will be the last bot standing? Tune in to find out.
Welcome to Rotten Tomatoes, where we’ve got Bale by the barrel! There’s skinny Bale (The Machinist) and big Bale (American Hustle), edgy Bale (The Fighter) and business Bale (American Psycho). Not to mention two varieties of P.O.W. Bale (Empire of the Sun, Rescue Dawn)! We’ve got cowl Bale (The Dark Knight) if that’s your fever, along with cool Bale (Equilibrium) and magic Bale (The Prestige). Then there’s bard Bale (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) if you’re a person of letters, which we suggest pairing with a biblical Bale (Exodus: Gods and Kings). A Christian Bale, if you please.
Bale’s been nominated for an Oscar four times (winning in 2011 for The Fighter), with the latest in 2019 for Vice. Ford v Ferrari wasn’t nominated for any of its performances, though it did land one for Best Picture. And now he’s in talks to jump from the world of DC to Marvel for a role in Thor: Love and Thunder. Come what may in 2021: First, we’re ranking the best Christian Bale movies (and the worst) by Tomatometer!
Enough with the space jockeys, unqualified cartographers, and people who run in straight lines: How about terrorizing someone who can put up a real fight? Vote on our 10 suggestions below or leave your dream Alien deathmatch in the comments!
Rotten Tomatoes looks at 24 unresolved TV cliffhangers, ranging from poisoned presidents to adrift interstellar spaceships. We couldn’t possibly solve these mysteries. Can YOU?
In the fourth instalment of the Terminator series, we finally see the dark future that we have been hearing so much about in the earlier films. Skynet rules the world and armies of machines seek to annihilate the last few remaining humans. The much-hunted John Connor (Christian Bale) is fighting the fierce fight as a leader in the resistance and the world is basically a post-apocalyptic, dusty grey hell.
In true Terminator-style, the mission is to save Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) for future benefit. Reese might be a scrappy teenager now but when he grows up, he will be John Connor’s father. If the plot gets convoluted, which it sometimes does, don’t worry, there is always something explosive to distract you from the story.
Christian Bale, for all his husky-voiced earnestness, is once again upstaged by a young Aussie actor. Sam Worthington, who plays Marcus Wright, a convicted killer who donated his body to science many years ago, is the stand-out in this film. John Connor may be the hero but Worthington is most definitely the star.
There is no question that Terminator Salvation is missing some of the brilliance that we found in James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, if you separate this film from its golden predecessors and instead view it as a big budget action film in its own right, you can have fun watching the machines go bang.
If you love your special features, be careful which version you pick up at the video store. The standard, single-disc DVD is sadly without any special features whatsoever, not even so much as a leaked Christian Bale rant. They have saved all the good stuff for Blu-ray with a host of unseen footage, a set tour, a great feature on the visual effects of the Moto-Terminator, featurettes, commentaries, cast and crew interviews and Maximum Movie Mode, in which director McG breaks down the movie’s key scenes and sequences.
And if all that doesn’t lure you in, the surreal Arnie cameo is definitely worth the hire.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s fairytale novella of the same name, this cautionary tale warns children everywhere to be careful what they wish for. When Coraline and her parents move into the faded Pink Palace boarding house, Coraline wishes fervently for a more exciting life with more engaged parents.
And it appears that dreams do come true when right there in her own home she finds a doorway to the other world. Here her affectionate, domestically-attentive Other Mother, and suave and dapper Other Father, are waiting to greet her with open arms.
All is not right in this other world, however, and as this creepy tale grows more and more sinister, we are whisked along a surreal ride that combines traditional fairy tale grimness with one of the most original and beautifully grotesque animations of recent times. In fact, in a year which has seen the release of some truly wonderful animations such as Pixar’s Up and Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo, Coraline more than holds its own.
Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), this stop-motion animation is an over-indulgent feast on the senses. The 3-D drags you right into the craziness and both the DVD and Blu-ray come with 3-D glasses and content. Rather than using 3-D for the sake of the technology, Coraline is one of the finest examples of its form. The supporting characters are fascinating and often heartbreaking (Wybie) is a particularly tragic figure), but your heart will go out to each and every one of them. And the fable itself is one that never gets old.
For those who like to explore the mechanics of stop-motion, a substantial making-of feature is included on the disc, covering everything from concept to casting and creation (and guest-starring Neil Gaiman himself). There’s also an interesting feature commentary by Selick.
Australian movies are often deeply personal stories based on quirky characters and family dynamics. Every now and then, however, an Australian film tells a story of national importance and Balibo is one of those films.
In the 1970s, as Indonesia was preparing to invade East Timor, five Australian television journalists disappeared. Those journalists were named the Balibo Five and their story has been largely untold. Balibo redresses that fact.
Directed by Robert Connolly (Three Dollars, The Bank) and written by playwright, David Williamson, this is a very powerful film, and not just because of the important story it tells. It is deeply moving and the fact that it was filmed on location, the first feature film to be filmed in East Timor in fact, brings a strong authenticity to the story.
The structure of the film follows veteran journalist Roger East, played well by Anthony LaPaglia, who attempts to unravel the fate of the five reporters. By flicking between the two plots, some of the intensity is lost, but perhaps that is necessary. There is a lot of anger in this film, as well there should be, and the distance created by seeing the action through East’s eyes, makes it something an audience can watch.
There are some interesting special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray release. There are the usual deleted scenes, commentaries and behind-the-scenes coverage but there are also six contextual documentaries and footage of Greg Shackleton, one of the Balibo Five, reporting from Timor, dated October 1975.
Pickings are indeed slim this week for new releases on home video. While we have the requisite new releases, which include a couple of major pictures that opened earlier this year (Terminator Salvation and Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) and a couple of lesser-known flicks (Paper Heart and A Christmas Tale), the offerings were decidedly lacking in terms of special editions and newly packaged items. As such, we’ve decided to profile a handful of Blu-Ray reissues of films we already know and love (well, most of us, anyway), like Gremlins, The Mask of Zorro, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Check out our complete list and see what tickles your fancy this week!
Way back in 1984, a relatively unknown director named James Cameron introduced the world to an expectant mother named Sarah Connor and the Schwarzenegger-powered robot from the future who was sent to kill her, thereby launching both a beloved sci-fi franchise and a cinematic career known for technological innovation. After spawning two well-regarded sequels and a popular television show, the Terminator series returned for another chapter in 2009 under the direction of McG (Charlie’s Angels), this time focusing on the near future (2018, to be precise) and the grown John Connor’s efforts to unravel the mystery behind mankind’s possible annihilation. Though critics felt that Terminator Salvation‘s special effects and action sequences were impressive, they weren’t as thrilled by the film’s storytelling, which has been solid throughout the franchise. Nevertheless, for those who are fans of the series, and those who enjoy watching a bleak Christian Bale knocking the shine off a horde of evil robots, Terminator Salvation will be a an action-packed addition to the DVD or Blu-Ray library.
Ben Stiller is back as Larry Daley, a once down on his luck night guard turned successful entrepreneur, in the sequel to the hugely successful Night at the Museum. In addition to Stiller, the sequel returns director Shaun Levy (Cheaper by the Dozen), Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan, Robin Williams, and Ricky Gervais as their original larger than life museum icons that come to life at night. After discovering that his exhibits-turned-friends are moving into deep storage and into hostile exhibit territory at the Smithsonian, Larry goes to Washington, D.C. in order to help his friends in their new surroundings. With a new love interest in Amelia Earhart (played by Amy Adams) helping him in this fantasy-filled turf war, Larry finds inspiration again by helping his nocturnal friends. Another huge commercial success, Battle of the Smithsonian is filled with over the top special effects and slapstick comedy directed at its younger audience.
The lines between fiction and documentary are blurred and combined in Paper Heart, which stars Charlyne Yi (also screenwriter and producer) as herself — a skeptic of the fairy tale brand of love, the one subject she doesn’t understand. Charlyne travels across the country interviewing couples, strangers, lawyers, children, and anyone in between to craft a documentary about what love really is in hopes of discovering if love actually exists. Along the way, Charlyne meets Michael Cera, also playing himself and consequently wearing a hoodie, who begins to fall for her on camera, accelerating her need to understand the mysterious subject as she comes face-to-face with her own chance at love. The film was a limited release and questions around what parts of the film were documentary and what parts were fiction seemed to split critics as Paper Heart puts a different face and twist on the representation of a modern love story. You can pick it up on DVD or Blu-Ray this week.
Come Christmas time, the Family Comedy usually erodes from reputably wholesome entertainment into fodder for the critical bonfire. So when a Family Comedy meets a Holiday Film and they love each other very much, supremely rare circumstances may present themselves to allow the Holiday Film and the Family Comedy to produce many happy reviews-as was the super rare case with the ultra-gallic, Yule Tide, smarty fest that was A Christmas Carol. Starring the highest of French pedigree actors (Mattieu Almaric and Catherine Deneuve, the goddess herself), A Christmas Tale watched a family of intellectuals reunite in the interest of saving their matriarch (Deneuve) from a degenerative cancer. The Criterion DVD includes interviews with the stars, an improved English subtitle translation (because we don’t all know French), a booklet featuring an essay by Phillip Lopate (to stoke the geeky-flame) and L’aimee, the doc that director Anton Desplechin made about the selling of his family home.
Most remember The Green Mile for its gauzy and nostalgia-hued view of the depression and institutional corrections (it does take place almost exclusively in a prison). Some remember the bombastic melodrama (Michael Clark Duncan explodes the electric chair!). What we remember best was the animal stunts. Mr. Jingles was played by 15 different stuntmice – 15! Tell me that wouldn’t make a great youtube pet clip. According to reviews, the transfer to blu-ray is a tad dark, in some cases swallowing some of the visual detail, but the extras look to make up for the loss. After the director commentary by Frank Darabont, the dvd features more than 2 hours worth of making-of documentary. This almost dethrones the film’s death-row-like running time, but since the making-of footage likely features a good dose of Mr. Jingles, I think we can let this one slide.
Before RocknRolla, before Revolver, and certainly before his marriage to Madonna got him Swept Away, Guy Ritchie made quite a name for himself with a couple of highly stylized capers that put British gangster films back on the map. 1998’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, the director’s feature debut, and its 2001 follow-up, Snatch, were intricately plotted action-comedies with large casts of colorful characters, oodles of witty banter, and plot twists galore, and critics responded positively to both (71% and 72% on the Tomatometer, respectively). It’s just too bad that the formula didn’t quite work the third or fourth time. With Ritchie’s vision of Sherlock Holmes set to hit theaters later this year, this seems like the appropriate time to release his two best efforts on Blu-Ray, and while there are only a few new special features to be found for either film, the hi-def transfer may be enough to sway fans into picking them up. They both become available this week.
Some films hold up quite well over time, while others end up feeling dated and obsolete. Joe Dante’s 1984 horror-comedy classic Gremlins tends to fall into the former category for most, even if only for its nostalgic value, and you’d be hard pressed to find many other winter holiday-themed movies that are this… bizarre. For those who are unfamiliar, Gremlins tells the story of an inventor who happens upon a mystical creature in a Chinese curiosity shop, brings the creature home as a pet, and discovers that breaking the three rules of rearing the creature yields disastrous results. This week, Billy, Gizmo, and Stripe get the hi-def treatment, and the Blu-Ray disc contains many of the same special features seen on previous editions, including director and cast commentaries and a vintage behind-the-scenes featurette.
Gimme Shelter is the Maysles brothers’ documentary chronicling the events surrounding a free Rolling Stones concert at California’s Altamont Speedway in 1969. Who could have guessed that hiring the Hell’s Angels for security duties at a concert where alcohol, drugs, and public nudity ran rampant would be a bad idea? Oh, wait… Right. While the ensuing chaos (which included an on-screen stabbing) is well known now amongst those familiar with the event and the film, Gimme Shelter loses none of its poignancy upon repeat viewings. This week, the Criterion Collection edition of the film finds its way onto Blu-Ray, and while there are no new special features, the hi-def transfer itself is cleaned up for a tidy picture quality that should make for a more engaging viewing experience.
With a cast that included Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, and a relatively unknown Catherine Zeta-Jones, as well as an entertaining story and loads of action, 1998’s The Mask of Zorro was a critical and commercial success, achieving Certified Fresh status with an impressive 85% Tomatometer. Unfortunately, its sequel, The Legend of Zorro, failed to earn the same respect, despite the return of Banderas and Zeta-Jones. The first was everything a moviegoer could ask for in a period action film, but the shift in tone of the second film (largely to a much more tame, kid-friendly movie) proved to be too much (or too little) for most. Still, the pairing may prove to be a fortuitous one for families; after the kids get their kicks out of Legend, the grownups can put them to bed and find something a little more age-appropriate in Mask. Both are available this week on Blu-Ray, either individually or as a two-pack, and they include special features found on previous editions.
For those of us unsatisfied by the drama-club theatrics present in our run-of-the-mill B-pictures, we always have an extra outlet for it via the commentators of Mystery Science Theater 3000, who see the snarkly, half-sincere, histrionics of schlock films and raise them tenfold. More than just a collection of obscure and low-rent anti-classics, MST3K makes faux-critical non-art out of our inferior genus of native film. It’s half pop-up video and half (non) director commentary slathered liberally on top of films none of us has any legitimate reason to know exist. In the XVI Limited Edition Box Set alone we have: Santa Klaws (and you thought Mom’s plum pudding was dry), Night of the Blood Beast (a good rehydrating agent after Santa Klaws), The Corpse Vanishes (absolutely no relation to Hitchcock) and Warrior of the Lost World (because if Turkey, Brazil, and India have Star Wars remakes, dadgum it, so will America). A blindingly shiny Tom Servo figurine goes along with the kit, like MST3K‘s own little Cracker Jack prize.
For every movie that ends with a hero walking off into the sunset — no matter
how perfect or appropriate the ending — somewhere, Hollywood is thinking of the
sunrise, the following day, the realm of the ever-after, where the sequels live.
“What if Butch and Sundance jumped… into a river!? And made their way down
toward… the jungle!?.” It’s simply not in the nature of the industry to let a
good thing die. Better, one assumes, to let it wither, slowly, in the hopes of a
great and final gasp. And, as if by accident, we are somehow entertained along
the way, perhaps we’ll come along, hopeful yet reluctant, for a fourth, or a
fifth, or a sixth film in any given franchise.
Terminator Salvation is much the same way, entertaining but ultimately
unnecessary, despite the promise of the robot apocalypse we’ve hungrily
anticipated since Kyle Reese first spoke of it to Sarah Connor. And on the
surface, it all makes sense — to illustrate the future war and reveal a portrait
of the world-weary, battle-hardened John Connor, rapidly approaching the time
when he must decide to sacrifice his father in order to save himself.
On paper, the idea of a full-length movie devoted to those too-brief glimpses of
conflict shown in the first and second Terminator films seems like a fascinating
notion. We have the visual effects now to expand upon the future in a way that
director James Cameron never had available to him, and certainly the war between Skynet and the Resistance would provide for an action-packed, visually-stunning
sci-fi/action film. And while the aesthetic reasons to make this sequel — the
first in a proposed trilogy — seem firmly in place, true fans of the franchise
are bound to ask whether there’s a strong enough narrative reason.
Given what we know at the end of Terminator 2 — arguably a masterwork of the
genre — was negating that film’s conclusion in order to set up this
post-apocalyptic vision ultimately worth the potential sci-fi sacrilege? Sadly,
the answer to that question remains unclear.
Score: 6 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=63&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Video and Presentation
The harsh, permanent grays of Skynet’s future are given a solid 1080p transfer.
Image detail is top notch, with every pore on Christian Bale’s pissed-off face
in close-up coming through, and every servo and piston on the Terminators
appearing with photorealism. The dark color scheme and frequent night scenes
would normally create havoc on the black levels, but not the case here. Black
levels are relatively consistent and colors are strong, despite the movie’s
If there are any complaints with this transfer, it’s that they are too digital
in some places and too soft in some scenes. Kyle Reese’s wannabe inspirational
speech inside the Harvester appears muted color-wise, as does a scene where
Reese is outrunning a very mean T-800 model. The transfer’s best scenes are
early on, such as the opening titles and the one-take that follows John Connor
down in a helicopter in the wake of a nuclear blast’s EMP. The Harvester and
Hunter-Killer sequence is the standout showpiece for this transfer. From the
fire reds of violent explosions to the charred skies that the H-K hovers
against, this sequence will make you glad you splurged on Blu.
Score: 8 out of 10 [rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=62&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Audio and Languages
The bullet-ridden landscape and the constant concussion of explosions and
weapons fire provides Salvation with a balls-to-the-wall DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
track. Lossless audio lends itself well to every aspect of the film. Danny
Elfman’s electronic-heavy score hits all the right notes in both the front and
surround channels. John Connor’s first field encounter with a metal torso is
full of bullet pings and the grinding of Skynet tech. And the final
confrontation with Skynet’s pet projects, in a factory that produces nothing but
shadows and sparks, is full of surround activity.
For fans of mixes with heavy bass, then you are in for a treat as this DTS track
literally rattles your face off your skull. Those who don’t like to feel their
guts earthquake while they watch a movie will take issue with being pummeled by
a merciless track that takes advantage of the dynamic sound field. From dialogue
to ambient sound effects, this mix is clear and consistent, just shy of
reference quality. DTS gives Dolby a run for their money here, especially if you
like your action movies to play at 11. And then some.
Score: 9 out of 10[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=61&legacy=1[/rtimage]
Extras and Packaging
Here’s the thing: The extra features on 3-disc sets should never number less
than the number of discs you are paying for. Terminator Salvation is a big
summer movie and yet the lackluster run of extras here are more suited for non-tentpole
With only two featurettes, and a distracting picture-in-picture visual
commentary, Salvation feels like its producers misplaced the bonus feature
budget. Disc One features the director’s cut (which includes Moon Bloongood’s
nude scene and a few more violent cuts to the action). Disc Two has special
features and the theatrical cut and disc three has the digital copy of the
Skynet sends us the following bells and whistles:
McG, for better or worse, hosts the “Maximum Movie Mode” feature, which is
hybrid of picture-in-picture commentary and a timeline highlighting key events
and people within the Terminator universe as they appear. McG stands before two
monitors that provide behind-the-scenes looks at the film’s set pieces and the
various production members responsible for them. The creation of special effects
and this future’s production design are consistent topics of the feature, along
with cast and crew interviews and B-roll from the set. We would prefer a
standard audio commentary, if more nothing more than to hear McG address certain
story faults and overall fan reaction to the film post-release. “Movie Mode”
offers us a peak behind the curtain, but it doesn’t give the man on stage a
chance to comment on his magic tricks.
All of the above cutaway segments are in 1080p and can be accessed on their own
via “Focus Points”.
“Future” is a rushed production documentary, which runs less than 20 minutes and
burns through the development of the film. Little time is spent on
pre-production and the development of the script, with the thrust of the
featurette devoted to many of the topics covered in “Movie Mode.” Various
producers and special effects technicians dominate this feature, and really
enjoy talking about the various Terminators that had to be created (Hydrobots
FTW!) and the task of bringing back Arnold’s Terminator model from the first
film. Surprisingly, the most significant insight gleamed here is the
production’s use of practical effects whenever possible, such as using a mix of
rubber suits and blue screen to create a walking, rubbery T-600 model.
This featurette feels like it should be longer; one would think that a
production as epic as this would have plenty of making-of footage to fill a
feature-length doc that’s customary nowadays. We got more from Internet news
stories and Wired magazine pieces than we get here.
Terminators transforming and rolling out as sentient death bikes is the subject
of “The Moto-Terminator.” Here, we see how CGI and practical effects were
employed to give the movie its standout action sequence.
While we admire the effort to make the main feature here more interactive, we
can’t help but think how a commentary with the talky director would have better
serviced this 3-disc set. Warners should provide more extras given the
pricepoint and the real estate 3-discs afford.
Score: 6 out of 10[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=60&legacy=1[/rtimage]
The Bottom Line
McG’s Terminator: Salvation boasts a very expensive idea at its core – how the
beginning of the Future War unfolds – that could have been a good movie, but
instead falls somewhere below Terminator 3’s mediocrity.
The main character only exists to give John Connor his heart, literally, and
that’s a problem when the “in” to your movie is not the guy responsible for
saving what’s left of humanity from the machines hell bent on wiping them out.
Also a problem are the limited special features on this 3-disc set. Any home
video release that comes with more than one disc should come with more than two
rush-job featurettes and an intermittent video commentary hosted by the
director. No deleted scenes? No standardized extras? Rack your shotgun, Sarah
Connor-style, and target practice on this Blu.
The picture is shiny, the sound is deafening, but the overall presentation is
surprisingly thin for such a robust blockbuster’s Blu-ray debut.
Overall Score: 7 out of 10 (not an average)[rtimage]MapID=1197277&MapTypeID=2&photo=59&legacy=1[/rtimage]
For additional IGN coverage on Blu-ray, including more reviews, news, and
previews, visit bluray.ign.com. And for RT’s
own coverage, visit our Blu-ray