FUBAR: Season 1

STREAMING REVIEW:

Netflix;
Action;
Not rated;
Stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Monica Barbaro, Milan Carter, Gabriel Luna, Fortune Feimster, Travis Van Winkle, Fabiana Udenio, Jay Baruchel, Barbara Eve Harris, Aparna Brielle, Andy Buckley.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first scripted series finds him in his comfort zone, in an action comedy playing a CIA agent on the verge of retirement who is lured back into the field for one last mission.

Schwarzenegger plays Luke Brunner, who is looking forward to a peaceful retirement with his family after years of lying to them about what he does for a living. They think he works at a fitness supply company, which is actually a cover for his role as a secret agent for the CIA. However, the deception has taken its toll on his personal life, having resulted in a divorce years earlier. But he still loves his ex-wife and hopes to reconcile with her once he retires.

Before he can step down, he is tasked with one final assignment for which he is uniquely qualified — to extract a compromised undercover operative from the organization of an international arms dealer named Boro (Gabriel Luna) who Luke once knew as a child. Years earlier, Luke had infiltrated the criminal empire of Boro’s father in order to kill him, and tried to provide for the boy before he eventually broke bad. The plan is for Luke to resume his cover identity to gain access to Boro’s compound to rescue the endangered agent and find out what Boro is up to.

To Luke’s surprise, the agent turns out to be his daughter, Emma (Monica Barbaro of Top Gun: Maverick), who is equally surprised to learn her father also is a spy. They then have to work together to stop Boro from creating a miniaturized nuclear weapon to sell on the black market to terrorists, forming the central arc of the first season’s eight episodes.

The premise is essentially the sequel we never got to Schwarzenegger’s True Lies (the original 1994 movie, not CBS’s awful reboot series that just got canceled), with a few tweaks by creator Nick Santora (“Scorpion”) to make it its own thing.

One of the primary plot threads of True Lies was the subterfuge between an agent and his loved ones, which is also one of the main story elements of “FUBAR.” Emma at first resents her father for lying to her for years and causing so much anguish for her mother, but soon comes to realize she and her father are all too alike. Luke, on the other hand, must come to terms with the fact his daughter has taken up his profession, and cautions her against making the same mistakes he made, particularly when it comes to the boyfriend (Jay Baruchel) she has to constantly lie to about being out of town on business.

“FUBAR” also offers a lot of laughs in between the action, as the series also serves as a tongue-in-cheek homage to Schwarzenegger’s entire career with plenty of references for fans to enjoy.

By its very existence, however, the show also serves as a reminder that a proper American True Lies Blu-ray release is long overdue, let alone a 4K release. While it pops up on a streaming service or cable occasionally, the only domestic disc release True Lies has ever received is the old DVD first released in 1999, and it isn’t available for digital purchase either — an oversight that this show provides the perfect excuse to rectify.

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Terminator: Dark Fate

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Street Date 1/28/20;
Paramount;
Sci-Fi Action;
Box Office $ 62.25 million;
$29.98 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $44.99 UHD BD;
Rated ‘R’ for violence throughout, language and brief nudity.
Stars Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mackenzie Davis, Natalia Reyes, Gabriel Luna, Diego Boneta.

The “Terminator” films at this point are not so much as a franchise as they are a premise that keeps rebooting itself.

The 1984 original and its 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, otherwise known as the ones directed and co-written by James Cameron, are considered classics in the sci-fi and action genres, and exist well enough on their own as a self-contained duology ruminating about the nature of fate and the increasingly complicated role machines play in our lives.

Without Cameron guiding the franchise, subsequent sequels fell back on the same basic premise of robots from the future hunting a younger version of someone whose destiny is to lead the resistance against the artificial intelligence Skynet and its machines taking over the world. The only wrinkle was in crafting the action scenes and finding new variations of the Terminators hunting the main heroes — usually Sarah Connor and her son, the future resistance leader John — and finding a way to fit the original Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, into the plot.

Needless to say, with each installment, fans became less enthused about revisiting the war against Skynet.

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While 2003’s Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines was the most similar to its predecessors in terms of setting, at least 2009’s Terminator: Salvation pushed the mythology forward by setting the story after the nuclear armageddon of judgment day. But after negative audience feedback for that installment, producers tried a reboot in 2015 with Terminator Genisys, which again tried to put a new spin on the core premise, without much luck (though it did get a thumbs up from Cameron).

Counting the “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” TV series, Terminator: Dark Fate marks the fourth attempt at a direct sequel to Terminator 2 (with Salvation fitting in more or less as a direct sequel to Terminator 3). Key to the latest installment is the return of Cameron to an active role in the franchise as a producer and co-writer, while directing duties were handled by Tim Miller, who established his action bonafides with 2016’s Deadpool. And Linda Hamilton, the original Sarah Connor from the first two films, would return as well.

But after all the hoopla, the end result just seems like another pointless reboot, plugging in a new set of characters into the roles of the original film and adding some overt political subtext.

The film posits that, with the foundation for Skynet eliminated in Terminator 2, that a new AI will eventually cause judgment day and wage war against humanity. So a new Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent to kill the young version of the new resistance leader, Dani (Natalia Reyes), while the future resistance sends a protector for Dani, named Grace (Mackenzie Davis).

Meanwhile, remnants from the averted Skynet future, such as an older Sarah Connor (Hamilton) are still around too, and find a way to join the effort to protect Dani.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

Luna’s new Rev-9 model is an interesting design, able to separate his liquid skin into a second killing machine for maximum carnage. The fights and action sequences are pretty good. But the main curiosity factor of the film is just seeing how the writers decided to redefine the franchise’s mythology.

Dark Fate has plenty of interesting ideas about the franchise’s mythology, but so did all of the other sequels that it overwrote. By now there are enough alternate versions of what happens next that fans can take or leave them as they please (with most probably preferring the TV show’s take on it).

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In another sign of the times, a sizeable portion of the film’s bonus materials are available as digital exclusives, meaning disc collectors will have to access them through the redemption code included with the Blu-ray. (Buyers of the standalone DVD will get nothing beyond the film itself in paltry standard-def.)

The Blu-ray still contains a hefty amount of extras, particularly a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes that run more than 50 minutes in total.

The 20-minute “A Legend Reforged” deals with creating the new story, while the 33-minute “World Builders” focuses on the production of the film. While these are pretty standard for these kinds of videos, they should satisfy fans of the film looking for more production details.

The Blu-ray also includes nine-minutes of deleted scenes, some of which are alternate set-ups of what’s in the film and others that add a few insights into what happens to the characters.

Two more videos focus on specific sequences: an eight-and-a-half-minute look at the making of the climactic dam fight, and a two-and-a-half-minute visual effects breakdown of creating one of the film’s fictional vehicles.

The digital version includes a full-length commentary with director Miller and editor Julian Clarke, which hints at some of the publicized story disagreements Miller had with Cameron and other members of the production. Millers introduction to and commentary on the deleted scenes also is a digital exclusive.

Rounding out the extras on the digital side are a five-minute featurette about creating a new Terminator villain, a two-and-a-half-minute vignette comparing the various robotic characters of the franchise, and animated pre-visualizations of three of the film’s action sequences.