James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction

DVD REVIEW: 

Street Date 7/28/20;
RLJ;
Documentary;
$34.97 DVD or Blu-ray;
Not Rated.
Featuring James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan, Ridley Scott.

This six-episode documentary series hosted by filmmaker James Cameron should prove a fascinating viewing experience for any fan of the title genre, primarily due to the high-caliber talent on display sharing their insights on the topic.

The series is structured with each episode taking on a different topic within the genre: “Alien Life,” “Space Exploration,” “Monsters,” “Dark Futures,” “Intelligent Machines” and “Time Travel.” They run a shade over 40 minutes each on disc, long enough to fill an hour-long time slot when commercials are added in (the series originally aired on AMC in 2018).

Much of the series follows a typical documentary format tracing the history of the episode’s topic, with analysis from various talking heads in the form of critics, authors, actors and filmmakers. Particular emphasis is placed on the various social, political and philosophical underpinnings of various sci-fi stories throughout history. One primary thesis that arises is the notion that science-fiction isn’t about predicting the future, it’s about choosing our future — an observation that demonstrates why there’s still considerable value to older sci-fi tales that might otherwise seem outdated.

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But the heart of the program involves Cameron sitting for a series of one-on-one interviews with other high-profile directors as they discuss each others work (with no shortage of praise for one another, as could be expected). The stories the directors tell range from the oft-repeated tales that every fan knows, to interesting insights into what guided certain filmmaking decisions, such as how Steven Spielberg adapted much of his childhood into Close Encounters and E.T.

The discussion with George Lucas raises some eyebrows during the A.I. episode, when Cameron says so many movies depict the machines as bad guys, leading to Lucas stating that’s why he decided to depict robots as the good guys in “Star Wars” — the pair apparently sidestepping the fact that Lucas made three “Star Wars” films in which the good guys fought entire armies of evil robots.

Still, the conversations are fun to watch and the various TV and movie clips offer enough nostalgia that any viewer should find something to like.

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The bonus section includes extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Ridley Scott, Christopher Nolan, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Will Smith and Sigourney Weaver. These run about three to four minutes each.

‘James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction’ Coming to Disc July 28 From RLJE

The sci-fi documentary series “James Cameron’s Story of Science-Fiction” will come out on DVD and Blu-ray July 28 from AMC Networks’ RLJE Films.

The series originally aired on AMC Networks in 2018 as part of the AMC Visionaries series.

The show, an intimate look at science fiction’s roots, its futuristic vision and our fascination with its ideas, is hosted by Academy Award winner James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic). It features interviews with ‘A’-list storytellers, stars and others whose careers have defined the field of science fiction movies and television. Interviewees include Steven Spielberg (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial), George Lucas (“Star Wars” franchise), Ridley Scott (The Martian, Blade Runner), Christopher Nolan (Tenet, Interstellar), Will Smith (Men in Black, I Am Legend), Arnold Schwarzenegger (Predator, Terminator) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard, The Sixth Sense).

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Bonus features include extended interviews with Spielberg, Lucas, Scott, Nolan, Guillermo Del Toro and Schwarzenegger.

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.

 

James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ Available on Disney+ at Launch Nov. 12

Director James Cameron’s 2009 box office hit Avatar will be available on Disney+ when the streaming service launches in the United States, Canada and The Netherlands on Nov. 12, followed by Australia and New Zealand on Nov. 19.

Disney+ will be the exclusive subscription streaming home to the film, which will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its theatrical release on Dec. 18, according to a Disney release.

Disney+ is available now for pre-order in the United States for $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year.

Avatar was the first motion picture of its kind to utilize a new generation of special effects to deliver a fully immersive cinematic experience. The Oscar and Golden Globe-winning epic is the second-highest-grossing film of all time.

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Written by Cameron and produced by Cameron and Jon Landau, Avatar, originally released by Fox, takes place on Pandora, where a man embarks on an epic adventure, ultimately fighting to save both the people he learns to love and the place he now calls home. The film stars Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi and Laz Alonso.

Cameron recorded a greeting about the Disney+ debut:

‘Alita: Battle Angel’ Heading Home in July

The sci-fi actioner Alita: Battle Angel will be released July 9 digitally, and July 23 on Blu-ray, DVD and as a combo pack containing 4K Ultra HD and 3D Blu-rays of the film.

Produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau, directed by Robert Rodriguez, and based on a 1990s Japanese manga series, the film stars Rosa Salazar as Alita, a discarded cyborg in a futuristic city searching for clues to remember her past. The cast also includes Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali, Ed Skrein, Jackie Earle Haley and Keenan Johnson.

The film has earned $85.7 million at the domestic box office and $405 million worldwide.

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The DVD, Blu-ray and digital versions, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, now part of the Walt Disney Co., will include four “Alita’s World” motion comics and the featurette “From Manga to Screen.”

The Blu-ray and digital versions will also include four scene deconstructions; a compilation of Cameron’s 2005 concept art; a Q&A with Cameron, Rodriguez and cast moderated by Landau; an “Evolition of Alita” featurette; a “Motorball” featurette; and “Robert Rodriguez’s 10-Minute Cooking School: Chocolate.”

The digital version will also include a “Musical Themes” featurette; a “Streets of Iron City” set tour with Rodriguez; “Allies and Adversaries” vignettes; a reel of 2016 concept art; and theatrical trailers.

The 4K presentation will include high dynamic range in Dolby Vision, HDR10 and HDR10+ formats.

‘Terminator 2: Judgment Day’ 4K Collector’s Set Due July 17

The long-delayed limited-edition 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray collector’s edition of director James Cameron’s sci-fi action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day will be released July 17 from Lionsgate.

The set includes the 4K Ultra HD Combo Pack (with Blu-ray and digital copy) of the film with a replica of a Terminator EndoArm. Just 6,000 of the boxed sets ($174.99 each) will be released in the United States, featuring a life-sized replica of the T-800 arm mounted on a stand with a numbered sticker with James Cameron’s signature.

A standalone version of the 4K combo pack was released in December.

Blu-ray and Digital HD special features include the 55-minute documentary “T2: Reprogramming the Terminator,” featuring commentary from the cast and crew (including Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong); two feature commentaries, including 23 members of the cast and crew; “The Making of T2” 30-minute featurette; seamless branching to view three different versions of the movie; two deleted scenes with audio commentary; and trailers.