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Terminator Genisys: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Terminator Genisys (2015) movie poster Terminator Genisys

Theatrical Release: July 1, 2015 / Running Time: 126 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Alan Taylor / Writers: Laeta Kalogridis, Patrick Lussier (screenplay); James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd (characters)

Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Guardian), Jason Clarke (John Connor), Emilia Clarke (Sarah Connor), Jai Courtney (Kyle Reese), J.K. Simmons (Detective O'Brien), Dayo Okeniyi (Danny Dyson), Matthew Smith (Alex), Courtney B. Vance (Miles Dyson), Byung-hun Lee (Cop/T-1000), Michael Gladis (Lt. Matias), Sandrine Holt (Detective Cheung), Wayne Bastrup (Young Detective O'Brien), Gregory Alan Williams (Detective Harding), Otto Sanchez (Detective Timmons), Matty Ferraro (Agent Janssen), Griff Furst (Agent Burke), Ian Etheridge (Skynet - 10 yrs old), Nolan Gross (Skynet - 12-14 yrs old), Seth Meriwether (Skynet - 18 yrs old), Bryant Prince (Young Kyle Reese)

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Terminator Genisys is the fifth installment in a sci-fi action franchise that has blurred the line between sequel and reboot. At its start, this latest adventure feels most like a remake/reimagining.
We open in 2029, with a human resistance movement led by battle-scarred John Connor (Jason Clarke) on the precipice of eliminating Skynet, the technology corporation responsible for billions of deaths and the bleak state of the world. Out of a number of volunteers, Connor picks Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) to be the one to be sent back in time to 1984 to protect Connor's mother, Sarah (Emilia Clarke).

Running around Los Angeles in a pair of pants stolen from a hobo, Reese is not the only time traveler concerned with Sarah's well-being. As part of extended homage to James Cameron's original 1984 movie, we get a fairly ridiculous computer-animated version of Arnold Schwarzenegger's super muscular 1984 Terminator. That villain is soon dispensed by another Terminator, this much less CGI-embellished one bearing more resemblance to Schwarzenegger in his present state at age 67. This Terminator is known and loved as a father figure protector by Sarah, who is not the helpless blonde waitress she was in a past 1984.

To save humanity, the brave Reese and Sarah will have to travel to the future. Reese convinces Sarah that they've got to beyond the judgment day of 1997 all the way to 2017, when Skynet is on the verge of launching Genisys, an operating system that will destroy mankind once and for all. With the "old, but not obsolete" good robotic Terminator, "Pops" to Sarah, passing the time the old-fashioned way to regenerate some human flesh in his hand (and have his hair grow white), the trio reunites in post-apocalyptic 2017, where they reconnect with John Connor and discover the unexpected path that world salvation will take.

Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney play Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese, humanity's last hope, in "Terminator Genisys."

James Cameron declared Genisys the satisfying sequel his franchise has lacked since he turned over the writing and directing reins on 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, but don't pay that endorsement too much mind, even if box office king of the world Cameron, who receives a characters credit and nothing more here, has little to gain from it (until 2019, when rights to the series return to him).

Genisys is penned by Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island, Alexander) and Patrick Lussier (a longtime editor whose few prior screenwriting credits include Dracula 2000 and its direct-to-video sequels). Each is new to the saga and largely unproven in the world of big budget, effects-driven spectacle, but together the pair shows obvious fondness and respect at least for the two Cameron-directed installments. Genisys harks back to the original film both in story and tone, recreating certain semi-iconic moments while also giving us a new perspective of the franchise-sparking events.

At no point can you agree with Cameron that this is the renaissance the world has waited nearly a quarter-century for. Still, Genisys is a passable piece of summer entertainment, buoyed by the return of the still charismatic and otherworldly Schwarzenegger and a reasonably engrossing plot you may or may not be fully able to follow. Though he does a better job for longer than you'd expect, director Alan Taylor (who transitioned from respected cable dramas to film on 2013's pretty good Thor: The Dark World) cannot overcome the fact that there's only so much a person needs to see of one indestructible character fighting another, each bouncing back from seemingly certain death on multiple occasions.

He said he'd be back: Arnold Schwarzenegger reprises his most iconic film role, playing an "old, not obsolete" Guardian in "Terminator Genisys."

If the climactic action does not keep you enthralled -- and even in legitimate IMAX 3D, it lost my interest theatrically --
at least there have been some fun moments along the way, from classic Arnold one-liners to an update of Robert Patrick's once jaw-dropping T2 character to a small but inspired turn from recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons as a veteran police detective whose on-point observations are treated like conspiracy theories by his younger higher-ups.

After seemingly putting the series to bed once and for all, Genisys cannot help but borrow a page from Marvel Studios' lucrative playbook and tease, mid-end credits, a sequel in the least coherent and committed way possible. Paramount Pictures, the fourth distributor to handle this series and one of today's biggest believers in tentpoles, already has untitled, uncast sequels scheduled for May 2017 and June 2018, although those plans seem impossibly optimistic and very much subject to cancellation.

Rated PG-13 like only its immediate predecessor, Genisys is nonetheless chockfull of violent action, albeit the kind with rapid regeneration rather than blood. Of the international cast, only Schwarzenegger gets to embrace his native accent and no one would have it any other way. Courtney's casting is a little strange since it recalls the sour note the universally-panned A Good Day to Die Hard left another treasured, productive '80s action franchise on. Ms. Clarke, reuniting with her frequent "Game of Thrones" director Taylor, cannot altogether hide her English accent or do much to convince us as a badass take-charge heroine. Still the four-personality family dynamic that drives the film is enough to get us to the finish line reasonably engaged and entertained.

Drawing the series' worst reviews to date, Genisys struck out with critics and moviegoers alike. The film ended its 2-month theatrical run with a domestic gross of just under $90 million. That's about as bad as you can expect for a franchise this well-known and a sequel this expensively-produced, heavily-promoted, and released at the height of summer into a slew of theaters. The numbers are just under Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, without adjusting for inflation. It could have been worse: see this summer's Fantastic Four reboot, for instance. But it rarely has been.

Of course, on an action film of this scale, international audiences are of increasing importance. Gensisys fared much better outside of North America, earning $350 million for a worldwide total of $440.6 million, the franchise's biggest global haul since the behemothic Terminator 2 (again not adjusting for inflation). Genisys was especially huge in China (thanks, Byung-hun Lee?), where it grossed $112.8 million. That lucrative market alone likely ensures we haven't seen the last of this franchise, even if those sequels probably do not come as soon as scheduled.

Terminator Genisys: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-rays: Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, DVS)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese; BD movie-only: English for Hearing Impaired
DVD Closed Captioned; Blu-ray Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 10, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $52.99
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Blue Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray combo pack ($39.99 SRP), standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

You are sure to notice Terminator Genisys' potent Dolby Atmos 7.1 soundtrack early and often. This mix, presented in Dolby TrueHD for those who can't support Atmos, commands attention throughout with its distribution of action sounds. It's pure home theater demo material, even if you have mixed feelings about the film. For reference, my cat has never shown greater interest in the subwoofer in her months of dealing with my work. The 2.40:1 picture also delights in the way you expect 1080p video of a big budget movie in theaters just months ago. It's going to be hard to sell people on a visual upgrade over Blu-ray, considering how the masses continue to be just fine with DVD's standard definition.

Everyone expresses delight at having Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the fold in "Family Dynamics: The Acting Ensemble." Director Alan Taylor discusses location filming across from a view of him directing in "Infiltration and Termination."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

All the bonus features are relegated to the standard Blu-ray Disc,
allowing all of Disc 1 to go to the 3D feature presentation.

As the case claims, the all-HD extras -- consisting of three making-of featurettes -- do up to nearly an hour of content.

First, "Family Dynamics: The Acting Ensemble" (15:51) lets the new cast voice their excitement and discuss working with Arnold, while director Alan Taylor and producers marvel at the international talent they have assembled in front of the camera.

"Infiltration and Termination: Shooting in New Orleans and San Francisco" (25:29) takes us inside the location shoots, with looks at the filming of certain key sequences and the sets built for them in addition to cast and crew discussing their exciting and challenging big movie experiences.

"Upgrades: VFX of Terminator Genisys" shows us how 1984 Arnold was recreated using computer technology. The iconic metallic Terminator skeleton makes an appearance on the Terminator Genisys DVD main menu.

Finally, "Upgrades: VFX of Terminator Genisys" (15:07) looks at the post-production phase in terms of bringing the many complicated effects shots to life. Topics include getting to bring back a younger-looking Arnold and other applications of CGI and 3D.

The barebones DVD upholds Paramount's policy of keeping all bonus features exclusive to Blu-ray.
The studio has been doing that too long for it to be negatively affecting business, so I'd take it as the DVD-buying public's ambivalence to extras at this point.

While the Blu-ray streams trailers to stay current, the DVD opens with ones for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Daddy's Home, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation and Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, followed by an anti-tobacco spot. The disc's "Previews" listing runs two promos -- for Spike's Tut and the first four Mission: Impossible movies -- before replaying the disc-opening reel.

On each format, the main menu loops a dramatically scored montage of clips over silver listings that turn red when highlighted.

An insert supplying Digital HD code and directions and advertising a Terminator Genisys app accompanies the three plainly-labeled silver, blue, and gray discs in a keepcase that's topped by an embossed non-lenticular slipcover reproducing the same artwork below.

Jason Clarke is the latest actor to play John Connor, here a battle-scarred warrior. Detective O'Brien (Academy Award winner J.K. Simmons) swears he encountered something similar back in 1984 and he's not wrong.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though it did not revive the series as intended, Terminator Genisys still manages to be a serviceable piece of entertainment, which is no minor achievement for a 31-year-old franchise of modest origin. This reboot carefully builds upon past movies, reworking the lore to fit its needs. It's heavy on exposition and lighter on intelligence than you'd like, but it nonetheless diverts with the fun and hallmarks you've come to expect from this universe.

Paramount's Blu-ray 3D combo pack delivers likely the most dynamic soundtrack you've encountered on the format. It also serves up flawless picture and a fair handful of making-of featurettes. The movie lends more to renting than buying, though, unless you're a Terminator completist.

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Related Reviews:
The Terminator | Directed by Alan Taylor: Thor: The Dark World
Summer Movies: Jurassic World Avengers of Age of Ultron San Andreas Pixels Tomorrowland
Arnold Schwarzenegger: Jingle All the Way Around the World in 80 Days
Jason Clarke: Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Zero Dark Thirty Lawless The Great Gatsby
Jai Courtney: A Good Day to Die Hard Jack Reacher Divergent Spartacus: Blood & Sand

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Reviewed November 14, 2015.



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