Terminator Genisys blasts onto Blu-ray while My Fair Lady gets a welcome restoration
By Jim Bray
In this summer of the sequel and/or reboot, it has become easy to be jaded about the offerings coming out of Hollywood. Jurassic World was a fairly lame, though entertaining, effort a rebooting an extinct franchise, Marvel's Avengers Age of Ultron was fun but inferior to its predecessor and Mad Max Fury Road turned the Road Warrior's exploits into an exercise in political correctness.
That made Terminator Genisys a welcome surprise. Oh, I don't think it's as good as the first two Terminator movies, but it's a worthy entry into the series and far more satisfying than the third and fourth films that preceded Genisys. It's surprisingly fun and entertaining and even manages to include some interesting food for thought about today's increasingly connected world.
Arnold is back, in various guises, and he's really quite good. In part, he's the real comedy relief here, as his old Terminator (old, but not obsolete is the catch phrase) is on hand to protect Sarah Connor from the evil machines that followed and in some ways, thanks to the twisting of the timelines that goes on here, predated him.
It's as much of a reboot as it is a sequel, much like J. J. Abrams first Star Trek movie breathed new life into an old and tired franchise. I'm not sure I want to see more Terminator movies, but at least they're off on a good tangent here. And if there are no more Terminator movies, I'm glad they went out with this one rather than the last one, Terminator Salvation, which didn't really do much for me and, unlike the first two movies, didn't hold together logically.
Genisys starts with a quick look at Judgement Day, because they had special effects dollars left over, followed by a trip to the future war where humanity's remnants are fighting for their lives against the machines. John Connor (Jason Clarke) is leading his rebel force on an attack that's designed to end the war once and for all but, not surprisingly for this early in the movie, it doesn't work out as planned and he decides to send his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back to where he went in the first Terminator - to save Sarah Connor so she can give birth to John, the saviour of the future. Ah, but just as Reese is about to head back, he notices something happen to John that, like the timeline change in Abrams Star Trek, changed the past and therefore made his trip a lot different from what he expected.
When he arrives in 1984 it's obvious very quickly that the timeline, and therefore his mission, has changed and he ends up being taken under the wing of an already-fighting Sarah Connor and the Terminator that had been sent back to save her even earlier than in the original film's timeline that Reese thought he was joining.
From there, they have to jump back to the future, to coin a time travelling movie phrase, to a time where the evidence available says they will still have a chance to nip Skynet in the bud. Ah, but which timeline and while future do they need to visit, since there's evidence to support going to different ones?
It's a neat roller coast ride, written and conceived well and with good performances from the case. And unlike the first two movies this one is rated so that younger people or those with more sensitive dispositions can enjoy it as well. It's great to see Arnold Schwarzenegger again, in his most iconic role. Here we get to see him in 1984 shape (thanks to some great CG) as well as his more contemporary look, thanks to the twists and turns of the plot.
The disc features exquisite 1080p picture (we got the 2D version but it's also in 3D), immersive Dolby Atmos audio (which dumbs itself down to 5.1 well) and a plethora of interesting extras. The disc also comes with a DVD and download.
The extras include Family Dynamics, which focuses on the ensemble cast, Infiltration and Termination (which looks at the major sequences' sets, how New Orleans filled in for 1984 Los Angeles, and more), and Upgrades: VFX of 'Terminator Genisys', which even drags James Cameron away from his Avatar and world saving adventures to give some insight into the history of the films' effects.
I expected Terminator Genisys to suck, but it was head and shoulders better than I anticipated and I encourage Terminator fans who were nervous about this latest trip back to the well to check it out.
Doolittle done right….
Meanwhile, Paramount has also released a gorgeous restoration and remastering of the classic musical "My Fair Lady," the 1964 film whose eschewing of Julie Andrews as its star helped launch her Oscar-winning film career as Mary Poppins. Andrews originated the role on Broadway and in London, but Audrey Hepburn was cast for the film and she does a really good job except that I know her singing was dubbed and I can never really get around that during the songs.
Still, can't condemn Hepburn for a management decision.
This new Blu-ray is apparently the second such kick at the Doolittle can. I never saw the original but reviews I read said it left a lot to be desired. This new version, however, has been restored in 4K from 8K scans of the original film's 65 millimetre version and it is, well, loverly. In places, it looks as if it were shot recently, except for the fact that so many of the cast's movers and shakers are recently or long dead.
If you've been waiting for the definitive My Fair Lady on high definition disc, then, "Just You Wait" until you get a load of this superb Blu-ray.
As anyone who hasn't spent the last half century living under a rock will know by now, My Fair Lady tells the tale of Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle, who becomes the subject of a bet between pompous "phoeneticist" Professor Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison's Oscar-winning recreation of his stage role) and fellow linguist Colonel Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White). Their bet is that Higgins can transform Liza's ugly duckling into a beautiful and eloquent swan fit to mingle with the upper crust of society.
Higgins treats Liza like dirt, but despite his abuse she manages to blossom like one of the flowers she once sold, eventually falling in love with the oblivious professor - an early incidence of Stockholm Syndrome? Higgins looks upon Liza as merely a project until late in the film, after the transformed and confident Liza leaves him to his books and recordings and he discovers to his chagrin that he's "become accustomed to her face." This is about as close to a declaration of love this "ordinary man" who refuses to let a woman in his life can make, but as it turns out it's enough. In an ending guaranteed to have feminists picketing the stores selling the disc, Liza returns to Higgins who, in "gratitude," orders her to get him his slippers.
Which she should have then shoved down his throat, but didn't.
The movie scored eight Academy Awards in 1964, including Best Picture and Best Director, and it probably deserved most of them. It's lavish and lush in the best Hollywood tradition, with a terrific cast, great sets and Lerner and Loew's most famous songs.
The widescreen 1080p picture on the Blu-ray which also comes with a second BD of extras plus a DVD of the feature) is beautiful and the Dolby TrueHD audio is about as good as one could expect from a film of this vintage.
There's also a second Blu-ray of extra materials, including a "Then and now making of", footage from premieres, Rex Harrison featurettes, highlights of the Oscar night at which MFL scored its statuettes, Hepburn's original vocals (the film used Marni Nixon to replace Hepburn's vocals, which left me in a real quandary: while Nixon's voice is clearly superior - she "dubbled" a variety of "non-singing" stars including Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" - but Hepburn does a pretty credible job on her own and I would have loved to see the whole film with her voice untouched). There are photo galleries, trailers, and more as well.
It's a fully featured package of a feature that deserves such a package. Naturally, the movie itself is the most important aspect of this set - extras are, as their name implies, bonuses - and in this particular case Paramount has given this classic musical a classic restoration that is Truly Scrumptious (oops, wrong musical!).
Copyright 2015 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.