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Jonathan Mostow
Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen, Moira Harris
Writing Credits:
James Cameron (characters), Gale Anne Hurd (characters), John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, Tedi Sarafian

The Machines Will Rise.

A decade has passed since John Connor (Nick Stahl) helped prevent Judgment Day and saved mankind from mass destruction. Now 25, Connor lives "off the grid" - no home, no credit cards, no cell phone and no job. No record of his existence. No way he can be traced by Skynet - the highly developed network of machines that once tried to kill him and wage war on humanity.

But, out of the shadows of the future steps T-X (Kristanna Loken), Skynet's most sophisticated cyborg killing machine yet. Sent back through time to complete the job left unfinished by her predecessor, the T-100, this machine is as relentless as her human guise is beautiful. Now Connor's only hope for survival is the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), his mysterious former assassin. Together, they must triumph over the technologically superior T-X and forestall the looming threat of Judgment Day or face the apocalypse and the fall of civilization as we know it.

Box Office:
$175 million.
Opening Weekend
$44.041 million on 3504 screens.
Domestic Gross
$150.350 million.

Rated R

Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1

Runtime: 109 min.
Price: $29.95
Release Date: 11/11/2003

Disc One
• Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow and Actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes and Kristanna Loken
• Audio Commentary with Director Jonathan Mostow
• Theatrical Trailer
• Game Trailer
Disc Two
• Introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger
• HBO “First Look” Documentary
• “Sgt. Candy” Scene
• “Terminal Flaws”  Gag Reel
• Visual Effects Lab
• SkyNet Database
• “The Making of the Video Game”
• “Dressed to Kill” Costume Featurette
• “Toys In Action” Featurette
• Storyboards
Terminator Timeline

Search Titles:

Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (October 28, 2003)

Count me among the skeptics prior to the July 2003 release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. I liked the original flick and adored its first sequel, so fell into T3’s target audience.

However, both of those movies boasted a factor absent from T3: writer/director James Cameron. He helmed the first pair but stayed away from the third. Given the absence of star Linda Hamilton and I entertained even lower hopes for T3. Frankly, I figured the third Terminator flick would offer little more than cheap movie product, just a sad attempt by Arnold Schwarzenegger to regain his prior action hero glory.

To my surprise, I was wrong. No one will confuse T3 for the first two flicks, as it lacks their intensity and style. However, in the competent hands of director Jonathan Mostow, T3 provides an entertaining and exciting experience in its own right.

As mentioned, Hamilton fails to reprise her role as heroine Sarah Connor. We eventually learn of her fate as we get to know an adult version of her son, John Connor (Nick Stahl). Now in his twenties, he lives his life as a drifter and avoids intimate personal connections. Though he and his mom apparently stopped “Judgment Day” in the second flick, he remains haunted by his knowledge and fears the worst.

There’s a good reason for that, as we see a new model of terminator called the T-X (Kristanna Loken) arrive in Beverly Hills. Her mission is to hunt targets who will later become a crucial part of the resistance against the machines. In the meantime, we meet Kate Brewster (Claire Danes) and her fiancé Scott (Mark Famiglietti) as they plan their nuptials. Her father is General Robert Brewster (David Andrews), the head of a project that creates SkyNet, the computer system that destroyed the world in the timeline of the first two movies. Soon after we get to know these folks, a terminator T-101 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) materializes in the desert and heads out on his mission.

The lives of Kate and John intertwine when he gets in a motorcycle accident and breaks into the veterinary clinic at which she works to steal some healing drugs. She comes to the office very early due to an emergency call, and she finds John. Kate tricks John and locks him in a cage, but all hell breaks loose when the T-X comes to the clinic to nail her. The terminator eventually arrives and saves the day, and the movie launches into action.

From there the movie essentially follows two lines. For one, we watch the basic chase in which the T-X pursues our trio of John, Kate, and the terminator. While they attempt to evade her deadly touch, our group attempts to ward off Judgment Day and the end of the world.

If that plot sounds familiar, there’s a good reason: it comes fairly directly out of T2. Actually, T3 often feels like a remake of the 1991 flick with some elements of the original tossed in for good measure. The latter factors mostly come from the presence of Danes as Kate. All the main characters in T2 understood the ramifications of SkyNet and Judgment Day, whereas that was all news to Hamilton in Terminator. Danes basically takes on the Hamilton role here as the neophyte who has to learn the deadly truth and grow to deal with them.

Otherwise, we find a lot of T2 in T3, for good and for bad. A few too many moments feel rehashed. The T-X seems like little more than just a female T-1000. The movie never takes advantage of the opportunities presented by a female terminator. Sure, it’s great to finally see some sexy female nudity after the shots of Robert Patrick and Schwarzenegger in the first two flicks, but otherwise, the T-X comes across as a very similar character when compared to the T-1000. They display very similar abilities, and the movie doesn’t develop her significantly.

The acting takes a backward slide in T3. Actually, Danes fills the Hamilton role fairly well. She doesn’t attempt the toughness displayed by Hamilton in T2 but manages to seem stronger than Sarah Connor from the first flick. That makes sense; as the daughter of a general, I’d expect her not to be too soft. Danes nicely grounds the movie and gives it a sense of emotional contact.

Unfortunately, Stahl fails to bring much depth to John. I always really liked Eddie Furlong’s work in T2 and think he offered a truly great performance, not just a nice effort from a kid. Stahl doesn’t add anything to Furlong’s established character, and he actually makes the role regress into simplicity. From Furlong, we got the feeling of a tough kid who we could believe as a future leader. Stahl offers more of a surfer boy vibe, and he lacks the haunted quality we would expect from John. He simply looks like a pouty puppy dog most of the time.

Schwarzenegger muscled up nicely for the role, and despite some wrinkles that materialized over the last 12 years, he brings the requisite physicality to the part. However, he makes the terminator campier here as he plays up the comedic elements to a greater level than previously seen. This doesn’t work well, and the third film’s terminator seems somewhat flat and without the usual level of menace. Schwarzenegger doesn’t really become a liability, but since he acted as a plus for the first two movies, his performance is a disappointment.

Despite these flaws, T3 mostly works well. Director Jonathan Mostow lacks the style or vision of James Cameron, but he proves to offer a fairly able and coherent take on the tale. The story moves at a good pace, and Mostow executes the many action sequences nicely. The flick includes a lot of distinctive and vivid segments that create their own senses of personality and bring life to the story.

I don’t want to directly discuss it so I don’t spoil it for anyone who’s not seen the movie, but I also have to give Mostow credit for the film’s ending. T3 presents a genuinely daring conclusion that will catch most viewers by surprise. It’s a ballsy move that maintains a feeling of peculiar beauty about it, and it finishes the movie on a compelling note.

Terminator 3 doesn’t approach the heights of its immediate predecessor, and it certainly lacks the grit and creativity of the first movie. Nonetheless, even without the series’ auteur, T3 moves things along in a positive manner. The film achieves a level of involvement and coherence I didn’t expect, and it never feels like a cheap rip-off of the earlier flicks. I’d have been content if T3 simply failed to become an embarrassment, but this generally lively and enjoyable action movie succeeds much better than that.

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B+

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. As anticipated, T3 mostly looked terrific, though a few small concerns knocked down my grade slightly.

Sharpness appeared solid. One or two slight examples of softness manifested themselves in wider shots, but those examples remained very minor. Overall, the image maintained excellent definition and clarity. No issues connected to jagged edges or moiré effects occurred, but I did notice some mild edge enhancement occasionally throughout the flick. As for print flaws, the movie seemed totally free from them. Like many films shot Super 35, the picture showed a bit more grain than normal, but that stayed modest, and no other form of defects appeared.

Color reproduction looked great. Unlike the often bluish tint of T2, T3 favored no tone over another, and it maintained a generally natural appearance. The hues invariably seemed tight and accurate, with no flaws on display. Blacks looked firm and distinct, and most low-light shots portrayed the material well. The early images of John at night were a bit murky, but otherwise, shadow detail seemed clean. In the end, Terminator 3 presented a very positive transfer.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Terminator 3 was even more impressive. As one might expect, it used all five channels to great advantage. Since so many action sequences popped up, the movie got tons of opportunities to work the various speakers, and it did this well. Music emphasized the front but came from all around, with some particularly good percussion from the rears. The effects were accurately placed and blended together smoothly. The various channels displayed excellent delineation and combined neatly. Surround usage was very good throughout the flick. From weapon fire to vehicles to explosions and general mayhem, the rear speakers played a strong role in the proceedings and added much life to the movie.

Audio quality came across without any hitches. Speech consistently sounded crisp and natural. I discerned no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music was bright and dynamic, with tight highs and rich lows. Effects played the most important role, and their reproduction worked well. The various elements seemed accurate and distinctive, with solid clarity and kick. Bass response always sounded tight and firm, as I noticed no boominess in that realm. I found nothing about which I could complain, for the soundtrack of T3 was a winner.

In this two-disc release of Terminator 3, we discover a mix of supplements. On DVD One, we get two separate audio commentaries. The first offers remarks from director Jonathan Mostow plus actors Arnold Schwarzenegger, Claire Danes, Nick Stahl and Kristanna Loken. Mostow and Danes chat together for their parts, but all the rest sit on their own, and the track combines the results of the various sessions. Overall, this adds up to a reasonably informative commentary. We get notes about casting and the training through which the actors went for their roles, adjusting to the expectations and requirements of a big-budget effects flick, and various character issues. As usual, Schwarzenegger tends toward hyperbole as he stresses how everything was the biggest and the best, but he doesn’t come across as too obnoxious, and the others help balance out his mild bombast. Overall, the commentary seems good but unspectacular.

The second commentary offers a solo discussion from director Jonathan Mostow. He provides a running, screen-specific track. Mostow covers a lot of bases in this informative track. He discusses how he became involved in the project, issues connected to working in a world created by Cameron, story and character concerns, effects, sets, locations, and many other topics. The best part of the commentary stems from the detail Mostow adds. Whereas many directors relate locations, Mostow gets into why he chose specific places and information related to them. He provides a consistently interesting and enlightening look at the film.

Finally, DVD One presents two advertisements. First we get the theatrical trailer for T3, presented anamorphic 2.35:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio. In addition, we find a video game trailer for the T3 game.

Now we move to DVD Two, where we open with an introduction by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This 32-second clip has Arnie tell us what we’ll find on the disc. Actually, he discusses the commentaries, which makes me wonder why they put the intro here instead of on disc one.

Next we find a fairly brief documentary about T3. The 13-minute program includes the usual assortment of movie clips, shots from the set, and interviews. We get notes from director Mostow, producers Mario Kassar and Andrew Vanja, creature creator Stan Winston, and actors Schwarzenegger, Loken, Danes, and Stahl. Film snippets dominate this superficial program. Don’t expect much good behind the scenes material, as the show mostly just promotes the movie.

After this we locate a deleted segment. The Sgt. Candy Scene runs 110 seconds and gives us a glimpse at the roots of SkyNet and the terminators. It’s a pretty amusing sequence that’s a good addition to this set. In the three-minute Terminal Flaws: Gag Reel, we get a pretty standard collection of goofs and wackiness; nothing here stands out as particularly interesting.

Up next we go to a section called the T3 Visual Effects Lab. This includes six subdomains. First we see a 153-second “Introduction” from Mostow, Schwarzenegger, and others as they chat about the visual effects and set up the more specific programs to come.

The next four segments examine specific effects elements. “Crane Chase” lasts seven minutes and 48 seconds, while “TX Transformation” goes for eight minutes. “Future War” takes eight minutes and 37 seconds and “Crystal Peak” fills nine minutes, 23 seconds. Each one uses the same format. We find a mix of movie snippets, behind the scenes materials, and interviews. These include Mostow, production supervisor Greg Alpert, production designer Jeff Mann, actors Schwarzenegger and Loken, stunt coordinator Steve Griffith, crane driver Gary Powell, second unit effects coordinator Joe Montenegro, second unit DP Ben Sarisson, visual effects supervisor Pablo Helman, technical animation supervisor Dennis Turner, VFX producer Gretchen Libby, CG supervisor David Meny, creature creator Stan Winston, lead Saber artist Grady Cooper, model project supervisor Brian Gernand, compositing supervisor Jeff Doran, VFX art director Peter Rubin, digital model supervisor Russell Paul, makeup department head Jeff Dawn, motion control technician Seth Rosenthal, animation director Dan Taylor, and computer match mover Jason Snell.

All together, the four programs last 33 minutes and 48 seconds, and they cover the material quite well. Obviously, the emphasis remains on technical issues, but the featurettes rarely become excessively dry. The move quickly enough and mix various elements in a brisk manner so that we get a good perspective on the subjects. The “TX” sequence probably is the most interesting of the bunch, but all four seem informative and entertaining.

The most unusual segment, “Create Your Own Visual Effects” lets you muck around with some different scenes. This allows you to make some minor variations to short sequences. It’s more interesting in theory than in execution, but it’s still an intriguing effort.

Inside the SkyNet Database, we get some character notes. The “Human Central Archive” presents short biographies for John Connor, Sarah Connor, Kate Brewster, Robert Brewster, and Kyle Reese. “Artificial Intelligence Interface” includes information about the Series 850 Terminator, the T-1000, the T-X, the T-1, and the Hunter-Killers. Some interesting tidbits show up here, though since Terminator and T2 are owned by others, no real footage of Sarah, Kyle, or the T-1000 appear. That means they use cheesy faked images instead.

Similar material comes to us via the Terminator Timeline. Essentially his just offers a text recap of the three movies, so it doesn’t present anything terribly useful for fans who already know the chronology.

Once we move to the Storyboards area we find splitscreen comparisons for the film’s climax. This three-minute and 53-second piece presents a decent look at the original drawings and the final product. Dressed to Kill examines the costumes of T3. The 127-second piece features behind the scenes and movie clips, examples of clothes designs, and comments from Mostow, actors Schwarzenegger, Stahl, Danes, and Loken, and costume designer April Ferry. It’s marginally interesting but too brief and superficial to tell us much.

A glimpse of the film’s action figures appears via Toys In Action. The piece includes comments from McFarlane Toys founder Todd McFarlane as he shows us the different toys. We learn a little about the creation of the figures, but this six and a half minute featurette nonetheless feels more like propaganda to sell us toys.

Speaking of which, we now get more information about the T3 game. We find the PC game trailer along with Making of the Video Game. During this eight-minute and 55-second piece, we hear from Mostow, producers Andrew Vanja and Mario Kassar, creature creator Stan Winston, game lead designer/producer JC Boone, Black Ops Entertainment CEO John Botti, game director Jose Villeta, and actors Schwarzenegger, Loken, and Stahl. As with the toy program, some minor information pops up here, but mainly it comes across as a long advertisement.

As a film, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines didn’t make me forget the glories of its predecessors. However, it rose to the occasion fairly well and seemed significantly more compelling and enjoyable than anyone had a right to expect. The DVD presented generally solid picture with excellent audio and a nice package of extras highlighted by two good audio commentaries. A well-executed and exciting sequel, T3 kept the Terminator series alive in fine fashion.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0196 Stars Number of Votes: 102
14 3:
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