Thursday, February 25, 2016

Terminator Genisys

He’s back.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned to the role that had made him famous back in 1984 as the unstoppable killing machine, but here, as it’s been since T2, he’s the hero and thanks to the ever-evolving technology of special effects in movies, we actually have a couple of versions of Arnie in here, at different age ranges to match the time-bounces shown and referred within this film.

I’ll admit, I’m a big Terminator fan and will probably see anything related to the franchise.  I love all the movies—regardless of the plot-holes in Terminator 3 and Terminator Salvation—as well as “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” which was the short-lived television series that had aired on Fox for about two seasons from 2008 to 2009.  I’ve even read a few books that ventured into alternate timelines and collected a number of comic books based on what might’ve happened after Terminator 2. 

So, you can just imagine my glee when I had heard the announcement a couple of years ago that they were going to start filming another chapter in the series.  My imagination went wild, thinking about where they can take the story and what they can do to make things better.  Because one thing I’ve always thought about, since the day I had seen the first movie in theaters back over 30 years ago, was how awesome it’d be to see an entire Terminator movie set in the future.  Showing everything Kyle Reese talked about in the first movie would be incredible if they were to give us that vision.  Well…they gave us a taste of it…a little more than we’ve seen in previous movies.

As the future war against the machines comes to a close with Skynet being destroyed, the leader of The Resistance, John Connor (Jason Clarke), has to send back one of his men, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) from a cyborg Skynet was able to send back in time to the year 1984.  But when Reese arrives, things don’t turn out as he’d thought they would.

It seems as if continuing on from James Cameron’s story has always been an impossibility.  The third part was just a rehash of part two and Salvation was just a blow-em-up flick written by someone—or a few someones—who just didn’t do their homework.  I’d mentioned the comic books I’d read in the 90s, taking the story from part two and going in a crazy—yet original—direction…why couldn’t they borrow from that?  For instance, the arm that the cyborg breaks off and leaves stuck in the giant gear (in Terminator 2) is discovered, not to mention the government had been watching and backing up Dyson’s work, and multiple terminators had been found, nonfunctional, all of the world, as if they were failed attempts from Skynet trying to send back a machine to kill Sarah Connor.  There was so much more, so many ways they could’ve expanded the franchise, taking place both in the present and the future.  But the problem was the story took place right after T2 and would’ve required Schwarzenegger and Hamilton to reprise their roles right away, before Father Time took over.

But what we’ve got here is a good flick that’s head-and-shoulders above the last two outings. Though the excuse of how the machine’s flesh ages just like a human’s is very convenient to include today’s Arnold Schwarzenegger into the cast.  I, for one, would’ve been all right with a different person (or multiple people) in the role of the killing machine.  Besides, the cyborg we’ve gotten in all these flicks have been the model number 101…what about all the other models?  Maybe model number 96 looks like Dwayne Johnson…or 104 looks like Brock Lesnar…or 46 looks like Terry Crews...or just stick in some other body builders and have them speak limited lines throughout the movie.

Well, suspending disbelief aside, I guess you can go with this cyborg that has been around since the 70s and is the equivalent of a forty-something-year-old at the beginning of this flick to a sixty-something-year-old in the second half.  So, with that out of the way, you may be able to enjoy this movie.

What the movie does, in a clever way, is to sort of make this into a reboot of the first film, but making it its own here.  We get the view from the future, how The Resistance beat Skynet and was able to gain access to the inside of its workings, finding the time displacement machine and making it work to send back Kyle Reese after figuring out that Skynet sent back a terminator right before it was shut down.  So, as we’re watching this, we’re still in very familiar territory, albeit with a minor surprise that comes to light later in the movie.

The filmmakers do a fabulous job of recreating the Terminator’s entrance into the year of 1984.  I almost thought they put in the footage from the original movie here, but it turns out they recreated every aspect of it.  The digital mapping of Schwarzenegger’s face onto a digitally-created body is magnificent and makes you want to pause and rewind here to take it all in.  The monumental scene of Schwarzenegger’s naked body walking to the edge of the Griffith Observatory to take in the Los Angeles cityscape is there, although altered for a PG-13 audience, and it’s amazing.  The altercation he gets in with the three delinquents begins here as well and that’s where the fun commences between the older Arnie with this new arrival.

Kyle Reese’s entrance into 1984 is reestablished just like the original film—he steals the pants from the homeless man, ends up in the department store to retrieve the Nike sneaks and trench coat, but is changed up here as well with the inclusion of a T-1000 (played by Byung-hun Lee) disguised as a cop.  The tables are turned when Sarah Connor shows up to save Reese instead of the other way around.

So from here on out, it’s an original story and may take a viewing or two to completely understand how everything happens and fits into the franchise’s history.  But it appears to be an alternate timeline, different from the first films we’ve seen thus far, and basically gives the filmmakers reason to get away with changing everything we know.  They kind of borrow from the “Sarah Connor Chronicles” with the time jump they attempt in the film and gives them the same reason to have this film take place in the present (or near future).

So…the good:  Schwarzenegger jumps right back into the role he’d made famous so many years ago with gusto and determination, giving us that grim-demeanored and robot-like performance that we’ve enjoyed over the years.  Yet, he still insists (and I’m sure Arnie did) to include a little too much humor into the role.  It wasn’t as much as his T3 outing, but enough to make you groan here and there (ugh...the smiles...we don't want to see the smiles).

The bad:  I really didn’t see the chemistry between Jai Courtney and Emilia Clarke like I had with Michael Beane and Linda Hamilton all those years ago.  I know that they’re different characters in this one, reacting to a whole different situation as we see that Sarah’s already supposed to be a strong-willed fighter and doesn’t want to take shit from anyone.  But even when it seems Sarah’s softening up to Reese, it doesn’t feel real.

More good:  Jason Clarke as John Connor seemed to be a good fit and I’d wished we’d gotten a little more of him as the leader in the future.  What we do get is credible enough and you can go with him being able to lead these soldiers into an impossible battle with machines at the beginning of this story. 

My final “bit” on Terminator Genisys?

Though the film is interesting on how they handled the recreations throughout the beginning of this film—in fact, they’re phenomenal—the film just goes into the same old plot on trying to stop Skynet from forming and taking over.  However, the film is packed with action and newer special effects, introducing us to a supposed deadlier cyborg—James Cameron set the bar so high with the introduction to the T-1000, there really hasn’t been anything to beat it.  All in all, the movie is fun and exciting…hell, it even garnered a blessing from Cameron himself (which he’d never done with T3 or TS, so it’s definitely worth a watch.  But as a diehard Terminator fan, this film leaves a lot to be desired and you’ll certainly see a lot of plot holes the first time you see Terminator Genisys.  I still enjoyed it for what it was and really didn’t have many problems with it.  Though, if plot holes are not very important to you and/or you’re not a Terminator extremist as I am, just sit back with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Visit

If there’s any one director out there who’s had a rough decade of criticism—some I agree with, some I don’t—it would be M. Night Shyamalan.  The acclaimed and admired director of The Sixth Sense would fall flat, with critics, a mere seven to nine years later (depending on what movie was cited)  and was peddled as never returning to his glory days.

I’ve agreed with most of the critics when discussing Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender, or After Earth, but I still stand firm on The Happening being not such a bad movie as most people think.  And even out of the three I thought were terrible, I don’t think you can really blame Shyamalan for After Earth, but rather fault the father/son performances of Will and Jaden Smith (more from the latter and not so much from the former).

Last summer, Shyamalan produced—as well as directed one episode of—a ten-episode mystery television show called “Wayward Pines,” which was based on a book series by the author Blake Crouch.  The show had a great dark atmosphere and every episode kept you enthralled and wanting more.  I was mildly surprised by the success of it and found that Shyamalan deserved more chances behind the camera for theatrical features, in my opinion.

So, almost as a follow-up to the TV show, September of 2015 brought us Shyamalan’s first motion picture since 2013’s After Earth called The Visit.

Agreeing to give their mother, Loretta (Kathryn Hahn), a vacation break with her boyfriend, siblings, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould), go to visit their grandparents for a five-day stay.  Having never met their grandparents due to a falling out their mother had with them fifteen years prior, they decide to film the visit as a documentary.  Soon after Becca and Tyler meet “Nana” (Deanna Dunagan) and “Pop Pop” (Peter McRobbie), they start to witness abnormal behavior from both grandparents, becoming more and more disturbing each day.

At first, I was a little taken aback that the film was presented in the “found footage” category, with the siblings each video recording everything.  More often than not, that type of sub-genre fails and makes the feature seem less enjoyable.  But Shyamalan was able to present this nicely, making you forget about it soon after the movie begins.  Especially when the brother and sister get to their grandparents’ house, the story gets so interesting, you don’t even think about that aspect anymore.  You begin to see it—if noticed—as a directed set-up of shots (which I’m sure that’s exactly what they were—I doubt Shyamalan just gave these kids a couple of camcorders and told them to shoot whatever they wanted).  The views exhibited what you needed to see and gave you just enough to make it credible as shots filmed by these children.

With the exception of one, the cast kept me very interested up until the end of the story. 

I’ve got to give props to Peter McRobbie and especially Deanna Dunagan for their performances.  Shyamalan really had to tread softly on the subject of dementia and senility because this could’ve gone terribly wrong if the performances were a little overblown.  But, as demeaning as the portrayals were, the two elder actors pulled it off. 

Even though we don’t see much of Kathryn Hahn in this flick, her short interviews conducted for the documentary were moving and felt authentic.  Seeing that I only know her from her comedic roles in Anchorman, Stepbrothers, and We’re the Millers, I kind of doubted we’d feel any empathy for her, but she’s a more versatile actress than I give her credit for and felt her performance really helped the story.

Olivia DeJonge as the older sibling had a huge responsibility in this film, being the one to express the needed narrative throughout the story—disguised as the documentary’s exposition—and she was well cast in the part.  If we’d gotten your typical teen (one that’s consumed with one’s looks, fashion
or the popular boy bands), this film would’ve went downhill fast.  But because she was articulate and was shown as a well-adjusted adolescent, more concerned about her future than the here and now, she served as the film’s catalyst and helped with keeping the audience’s interest as the film went on.

Now, let’s talk about the thorn in everyone’s side—in my opinion—of the movie, the character of Tyler…the little 13-year-old rapper who had gotten on my nerves from minute one.  Whose idea was to have this kid pretend he was some rap master?  How does it help the story?  Because I can tell you how it hinders the story.  I cringed every time this little white-bread urbanized sprog opened his mouth to speak as it was, so having him spit rhymes here and there was ridiculous.  I didn’t see this film in theaters, but I’m sure the audience groaned every time this kid started with his raps.  However, regardless of those setbacks, I thought he did fine as the concerned little brother with mysophobia.  And let me say, that fear of germs gets put to the test at the end of this film…don’t eat while watching the climax.

You know, the one thing everybody knows M. Night Shyamalan for is that he includes ingenious twists at the end of his movies—the ending for The Sixth Sense was really the only one, with Unbreakable and The Village having only derivative twists at best—and although this film had one, it still wasn’t up there in shock value like the 1999 film had achieved.  I can’t say that I saw it coming here in The Visit, but I had kind of gotten the gist of it.  And even though I had, it still was a very satisfying ending.

So, what’s my final “bit” on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Visit?

The director seems to be back on track, writing better dialogue and does a great job bringing in the eerie vibe into this flick.  The movie will keep your interest as you’ll want to know where everything leads and how it’ll end.  With the exception of the one character’s musical representation, all the cast meshes well together and you can believe you’re really experiencing these accounts as it unfolds.  I’m very happy for Shyamalan as I really didn’t think he was washed up, only tried to put too many titles on his plate.  Hoping he stays on track, I’m looking forward to his next film, Split, as well as anything he’ll come up with after that.  I highly recommend The Visit so take a gander and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016


Being a comic book collector for a good portion of my life, any time a film adapted from one of the series I’ve enjoyed certainly brings a smile to my face.  I had already been delighted in 2002 when Spider-Man was brought to life and even more ecstatic when it was announced the character was going to be placed within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so the ultimate possibility had already happened.  However, the comic book character of Deadpool was an interesting one that I’d appreciated as well and never expected any studio—especially Fox—to give this character a stand-alone movie. 

In 2009, I’d thought that scrutiny would be unearthed in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but the character was a far cry from what fans saw in the pages of their favorite issues.  At first, it seemed like the film was going in the right direction, presenting a pre-costumed Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) as he showcased his skills with a couple of Katanas, deflecting bullets and killing the bad guys with them.  All the while, Reynolds gave a perfect performance as the Merc with a Mouth, cracking one-liners here and there, as us fan boys were just waiting for him to put on his signature red and black costume.  But he didn’t and the character was ruined in more ways than one (see my 5/6/2009 review here for more details) during the climax of that film.

Things started looking good back in 2014 when some leaked test footage was introduced into the World Wide Web and to the public, giving us an idea of what a Deadpool movie might’ve looked and sounded like.  The footage was a complete motion-captured animated reel of the title character—voiced by Ryan Reynolds—in an exciting scene where he jumps from a freeway overpass to go after some bad guys.  Although the action is intense and fast, it still featured a bit of comedy from Reynolds, but that’s exactly what us comic book fans saw in the series of books over the years.  Well, the gamble paid off (obviously someone purposely leaked this footage to have the fans voice their desire to get a movie made) and Fox greenlit the movie.  Only one little item needed to be announced—at least to most fans of the character—and that was the decision on whether the film would be rated PG-13 or R.  It wasn’t until April 1st, when a video was released to the public showing Mario Lopez interviewing Ryan Reynolds about the movie (a nice April fool’s joke that you can see here) when they announced the film would be rated R.

So here we are, almost 7 years later since the first abysmal incarnation of Deadpool was shown in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and we get the film we’ve been waiting for.


A former Special Forces operative turned mercenary, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), is subjected to a rogue experiment that leaves him with accelerated healing powers, adopting the alter ego, Deadpool.

The film is helmed by Tim Miller, who has really never had much experience in directing, only directing a couple of short films before taking the job to oversee this movie.  Miller has worked on some special effects in video games and was an assistant director in the opening sequence to Thor: The Dark World, but not much else—but hey, you’ve got to start somewhere.  That, along with the miniscule budget, tells you the confidence Fox had in this film (not much) and it kind of scares me when I think about what they might do with the sequel (which has already been given the greenlight).  But, for now, let’s just talk about Deadpool.

From the moment the movie begins—and I’m talking about the opening credits right after the 20th Century Fox logo and fanfare—it is hilarious.  Instead of seeing “starring Ryan Reynolds,” you read stuff like, “starring some hot guy” or “produced by a bunch of ass hats” and many others I can’t recall right at this moment.  Knowing the source material, I was expecting a lot of humor and got more than I’d expected.

Ryan Reynolds, for one, is completely in his element here—his natural motor mouth, spitting out humor, where in other movies you’d wish he’d shut up, but here, you want more and more of it.  You can tell he’s really trying to please the comic book fans and completely doesn’t give a shit about who he might offend.  He’s constantly mouthing off about how little the budget is for the movie, as well as poking fun of the X-Men franchise, which is pretty brave seeing that the franchise’s movie rights are owned by Fox…who is producing this movie. 

The humor is all very self-referential and you have to be in on the joke, especially when you hear Deadpool poke fun about the actors who play characters in the X-Men movie universe.  I know…it doesn’t make too much sense, but you have to just sit back and enjoy this ride and not worry about the logistics of anything said or done in this flick.  The movie borrows a lot of these themes from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, where the main character is always narrating straight to the audience, breaking the fourth wall, but completely keeping everything in check.  The only difference in Deadpool is that it goes beyond that, pointing out that this is a movie and the main hero is self-aware of that fact.  A scene that hits that home is when Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic, motion captured by Greg LaSalle) is trying to bring in Deadpool, telling him he needs to brought to Professor Xavier and he asks, “McAvoy or Stewart? These timelines can get so confusing!”

In between the comedy is a lot of great action that can get quite gory at times.  We see Deadpool jumping and flipping around, shooting bad guys dead, sometimes using one bullet to shoot three guys at a time through their heads…it’s all such a rollercoaster ride that you may want to see the movie again just to catch what you’ve missed. 

You can see that Reynolds really has a bone to pick with the first time he’d played Wade Wilson as he makes quips about how there’ll be trouble if the lead baddie, Ajax (Ed Skrein), sews his mouth shut.  The film even goes as far as to feature an action figure of that sad rendition of Deadpool from that first stand-alone Wolverine movie.  Also, most of us had heard his comments in the trailer where he says, “please don’t make the super suit green…or animated,” obviously poking fun at the Green Lantern film he’d starred in a few years ago.

It was interesting that the filmmakers decided to feature Colossus in this story, but depicted the character as he’s portrayed in the comics instead of just bringing in Daniel Cudmore to reprise his role from the X-Men movies.  In the comics, he’s a huge guy and has a Russian accent and that’s how he’s shown here.  It just makes me wonder what they’ll do with the X-Men franchise now.  Which Colossus will they feature?  The smaller American?  Or the big Russian?  Thinking that it was only going to be a cameo, I was also mildly surprised that Colossus had such a big part in this story.  And not only him, but Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) also had a bit of screen time as well.  Reynolds’s scenes with her are so funny and memorable, it’s a wonder Hildebrand was able to keep a straight face in those scenes.

So, my final “bit” is…YES.  Go see this movie!  You’ll get a bit of X-Men, a lot of humor and laughs, action galore, a bit of romance…everything you’ll want in a movie.  I had a great time with it and I expect that the superhero movies coming up are going to have a tough time beating Deadpool at the box office.  So what are you waiting for?  Go now!

Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bone Tomahawk

As a child, and even to this day, I’d never really enjoyed western-themed films of the 50s or 60s, as they’d always seemed boring to me and I had never really seen what was the big deal about them.  I know John Wayne is “The Duke” whom everybody thought of as the epitome of the movie cowboy, even giving him that moniker in real life, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a movie in which he had starred.  It wasn’t until the decade of the 1980s that I’d take notice and a liking to that genre, when Young Guns was released in 1988.  Maybe it was because the film featured actors close to my age or maybe it was because they were actors I’d enjoyed in other films that brought familiarity to that western…I don’t know.  But what I do know is that Young Guns was the gateway film that led me to look into other westerns, whether from years before or new films being released at the time.

Now I’m not saying I’m now a bona fide western film enthusiast, but I’ve seen my fair share of them to honestly say I’ve given them a chance and that the genre is worth its salt.  I’ve now seen all of Clint Eastwood’s westerns and still have quite a few on my Netflix queue, so I’ll get there.

With that said, when a new western comes out, you can bet I’ll give it a chance, and when it’s a western mixed with a subgenre—say, like horror—I’m all over that.  So when I had heard that Kurt Russell was going to star in such a film—interestingly called Bone Tomahawk—I placed it in the queue, right away, receiving it yesterday, and watched it.

After a drifter named Purvis (David Arquette) shows up in the little burg of Bright Hope, then is subsequently arrested after being shot by the town’s lawman, Sheriff Hunt (Kurt Russell).  The town’s doctor, Samantha O’Dwyer (Lili Simmons), is called to the jail cell to tend to Purvis’s wound, being watched over by one of the sheriff’s deputies.  When Hunt, with his deputy, Chicory (Richard Jenkins), goes to investigate where they think the drifter buried some items they believe he’d stolen, Samantha, Purvis, and the deputy go missing.  Told by a local Native American, The Professor (Zahn McClarnon), that the two were abducted by cave-dwelling savages, the sheriff and Deputy Chicory get a posse together—including Samantha’s injured husband, Arthur (Patrick Wilson), and John Brooder (Matthew Fox), the local educated womanizer—to go look for the missing people and rescue them…but they have no idea what they’re in for.

The film starts a little violently, showing the crimes Purvis and his partner, Buddy (Sid
Haig), perpetrate as they slit the throats of some sleeping cowboys to steal their money and belongings.  But right away, we get a little taste of the horror side of this tale, showing us a mysterious figure killing buddy as Purvis is able to get away.  It’s a little unexpected and hooks you into the movie pretty quickly.  

We’re then introduced to Sheriff Franklin Hunt and his deputy, Chicory, seeing that they have a good respect for each other.  I was mildly surprised to see the chemistry between these two actors as they worked well in the film.  I’ll always watch a movie Kurt Russell stars in, so it was a no-brainer for me to dive into this flick.  Now in his twilight years, the man is still a “man’s man” and has that grizzled look about him which is perfect for someone playing a lawman in the old west.  I guess it helps that he’s known for playing Wyatt Earp in Tombstone some 20+ years ago, but Russell holds his own here. 

I wasn’t sure how it was going to play out for Richard Jenkins, seeing as he’s usually cast as an overlooked supporting actor or, lately, for comic relief in such films as Me, Myself and Irene or Stepbrothers.  Maybe it helps that he’s nearly unrecognizable with the scraggly beard and graying hair, but he was perfectly cast here as the loyal aging deputy.

Matthew Fox seemed to be channeling Val Kilmer’s role as Doc Holiday from Tombstone—minus the drunken antics—in this flick as John Brooder and turns out to be quite the bad-ass in this role.  One such scene has two men stumbling upon their camp, seemingly having no ill intent.  Kurt Russell’s character as the sheriff agrees to let the men forward so they can talk, but suddenly Fox’s character just shoots them to death without a second thought; his claim was that the men were sizing them up for others to ambush them later—he might’ve been right.  Fox is likable here, standing out in this role, and being that he’s acting alongside Kurt Russell, that’s high praise.

Patrick Wilson, as Arthur O’Dwyer, does a fine job as well, and I sort of feel bad for him because of the believable physicality he put into this role.  Wilson’s character is introduced in this story as having a previous injury he’s healing up from.  But when his character and others have to travel by horse, and then by foot, you can see he puts his all into it.  With the primitive crutch he uses to get around, he must’ve had some tiring takes to contend with throughout this shoot.  But his drive to keep on going to find his wife is convincing as his character never gives up.

The thing that surprised me about this film is how they steered away from your typical movie formula on who lives and who dies.  As the men near the land of the savages and attacks are eminent, you’ll probably start taking guesses on what character is going to survive and which ones will die.  The writer and director, S. Craig Zahler (who’s quite the newbie in this position, only working as cinematographer and other minor titles in the movie business), definitely turned the basic principles on its head as he went through this story.

Now, the cave-dwelling savages?  Even though they’re just actors in costume, not any type of creature per se, they’re presented frighteningly at first as we only get quick glimpses of them when they first attack.  The screeches that they use to communicate are unnerving as well and pretty interesting once you find out how they create those sounds.  Once the characters are up close with the savages, you get a very cringe-worthy scene that some may turn away from—the scene is quite violent, but is needed to show exactly what these beings are all about.

So what’s my final “bit” on Bone Tomahawk?

It’s a nice little western tale, but made better with the horror aspects added to it.  The characters are very likable and the story has very good character development as it moves along during the traveling scenes.  My only peeve is that we really don’t see too much of the landscape, which is something I enjoy in westerns—it usually gives you a
firm aspect of the time period—but you get enough here that you won’t have to suspend disbelief.  Some may feel a little anxious because there is sort of a slow burn to the film, but once we get into that third act, shit gets real.  You’ll notice a couple of cameos—Jamison Newlander (of The Lost Boys fame) plays Mayor Porter and Sean Young plays his wife, Mrs. Porter.  Overall, if you’re a western and/or horror movie fan, you’ll enjoy this film.

Well, that’s all I’ve got today…thanks for reading.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


We all know Arnold Schwarzenegger as the big action hero, the one to save the day who has no time to emote any sentiments one way or the other, just to kick ass and to spit out a few funny one-liners.  I mean, come on, the one big role that made him a star was to have him play a robot that barely speaks.  So would you ever think of casting him in a dramatic role of a father who has to go through a range of emotions?  Maybe it’s his age, how he’s matured since his time as governor of California a few years back, where he’s taking a more responsible role in life, as well as his movie roles.  Perhaps it’s just the changing of the movie era where we really don’t need cheap action movies anymore with a leading man who presumably can’t get hurt and constantly spits out cheesy witticisms, one after the other. 

I really can’t put my finger on it.

Certainly, most movie-goers don’t think of Schwarzenegger as a well-rounded actor who can render his feelings without words, and I was one as well, but there was a movie a while back that sort of changed my mind.  The movie was The Last Stand, where Arnold played a sheriff of a small town near the Mexican border where a drug cartel leader had to travel through to get out of the country.  The movie was your typical action-drama fare and was pretty forgettable.  But there was one little scene within the film that made me take notice and had me realizing that Schwarzenegger had some acting chops.  It was just a quick little scene where one of his deputies was in the back of a police cruiser a, dying, and Schwarzenegger’s character opened up the door to see about getting him into the hospital.  Although you couldn’t see the deputy or knew if he was alive or dead, but because of Arnold’s facial expression, he was able to tell us how bad the deputy was without saying a word.  I thought it was a powerful scene in that forgettable movie and it changed my opinion of Mr. Schwarzenegger’s acting credibility.
So, this brings me to 2015’s Maggie, a dramatic zombie movie…and here’s the synopsis per…
A teenage girl in the Midwest, Maggie Vogel (Abigail Breslin), becomes infected by an outbreak of a disease that slowly turns the infected into cannibalistic zombies.  During her transformation, her loving father, Wade Vogel (Arnold Schwarzenegger) stays by her side.

You may remember Abigail Breslin from another zombie movie a few years back—Zombieland—so this would be her second film of said genre.  She was also the cute little girl from Signs who collected all the water in glasses that helped in the climax of that movie.   She’s really grown into a fine actress and holds her own here in this film alongside Schwarzenegger.  The chemistry is palpable between them and believable in every sense, especially the love he has for her and how he conveys the difficulty he’s facing, realizing that he’s going to have to eventually deal with his daughter when she finally turns.  Most zombie films show characters not having a problem with taking out someone who turns, but you can see—and understand—his apprehension.

Unlike most zombie films, the victims in this one take days to turn, giving friends and family time with them which makes it harder to accept.  You can see that, not only in Schwarzenegger’s performance but in other supporting performers as well.  And that’s where this movie might lose some people, that they might expect this to be like Dawn of the Dead or World War Z…but it’s a drama first and foremost, not a full-fledged zombie flick.  As a matter of fact, I really don’t understand why they had to make the epidemic a zombie infection…it could’ve—and maybe should’ve—been something more rational, like some returning plague from centuries ago.  Having it be a contagion where people return from the dead gives the film a unrealistic approach and takes away from the melancholy the characters are going through.

The filmmakers also may have provided themselves a disservice by introducing that zombie theme to this, as audiences would probably want to see some “Walking Dead” type of tropes to it and being let down when discovering it’s more about the family drama than zombies.  With all that in mind, you have to go into this movie understanding what it is and how it’s going to play out, because it’s a slow burn for sure with not much of an exciting payout at the end.

But back to what I’d mentioned about Schwarzenegger and his evolved acting abilities, we see it here throughout and I was pleasantly surprised.  Although I’m always taken out of the movie at first with his thick Austrian accent, very quickly I went with it here and enjoyed his performance
throughout, really feeling what he, as a father, was going through.  Even though it’s really not a real life sickness, you can substitute zombism (or the "necroambulist infection" as it’s called in the movie) for any terminal illness and you can put yourself in his place with the further addition that he was going to have to euthanize his daughter—or, at least, condemn her into a quarantine zone where she'll sufferat some point in the near future.

So, what’s my final “bit” on Maggie?

I liked the film a lot, although it took a little time to realize I wasn’t going to get a traveling zombie-hunting flick.  You have to go into this movie understanding it’s a family drama about the relationship between a father and his terminally ill daughter.  The zombie aspect is just a visual backdrop that is not important to the story besides to set up some scares and to give the supporting characters reason to be apprehensive towards the main character’s illness.  The dynamic between Schwarzenegger and Breslin is what this film is about and should be viewed with that in mind.  I recommend this film for that reason alone.

Fun fact:  Schwarzenegger loved this script so much that he agreed to do the movie for free.

Anyway, that’s my review…thanks for reading!