Terminator Salvation Lives Up to Expectations, Good and Bad

Ever since I saw the first trailer for Terminator Salvation I had mixed emotions. I wanted it to be good but I could not imaged how it could be. There are 25 years of history in this time traveling anthology. The series has used the time between movies as a plot device. We have seen John Connor grow up. The previous three movies have all played in the present. This fourth engagement starts with a flashback to just before the end of the third movie (5 years ago) and then flings us forward 15 years into our future.

We already know the future history of John Connor: he’s the leader of the resistance and the savior of mankind. This movie does not try to tell the whole story. It is simply telling us the genesis story of John Connor. Unlike the genesis story of Batman or Superman, everyone involved knows that John claims to be the future savior. Some believe him, some do not. We are not even sure if John believes it himself. In that way John is more like Matrix’s Neo.

The world in 2018 still has a human military infrastructure that seems to be led by a council of generals on a sub. We see Russian, Chinese, America, Arabic and Indian generals making decisions for all of mankind. As a plot point this means that this council has to be destroyed before John can rise. That is the purpose of this movie.

The story also serves to introduce Kyle Reese, who is as we know, John’s father. Kyle is just a teenager. That means this is probably 10 years before the first movie subjective to Kyle’s timeframe. We know that this movie is not going to end well.

The movie shows us the T-600s and T-800s. There’s an extended cameo by the governor of California in the form of a computer generated cyborg. I also like the variety of terminators that we get to see. They infect the water and the skys. They dominate the land. The motorcycle terminator are very cool. The action is right up with the other terminator films. We get the obligatory truck chase of course.

In the end the movie left me feeling like something was missing. I think the problem is that John Connor as portrayed by Christian Bale is too tough. Come on, he’s Batman. Sarah Conner in the first movie was frail and vulnerable. In the second movie she’s tough but John is weak. Even in the third movie, John is slight and has to use his mind more than his might. In the fourth movie John should have remained portrayed by an actor not know for his physical presence. Without that, it is hard to identify with him. Why would the military not naturally fawn over his charisma.

That was my complaint. It does not neutralize the virtues of the film. As a whole, the film works. It is superior to the third installment and fits nicely into a five movie series. By that I me I would like to see a fifth and final installation. In that move we would see the time traveling Arnolds and the eventual defeat of Skynet. I don’t want to see the series drag on for too many more movies. Just one more.

Kitten Found, Free to Good Home

My wife was driving down the back country roads near our house when she spotted something tiny in the middle of the road. She swerved to miss it then turned around to go back and investigate. She stopped traffic and found a small bundle of fur in the road. She took it to the vet to get checked out for leukemia and aids. She is currently now bottle feeding it. It was aged at only 3 weeks old. His eyes are open but he can barely walk.

We already have two cats and cannot add another one. Now begins the process to trying to see who wants him with the caveat that he must be neutered and remain an indoor cat.

Star Trek Shakedown Cruise Proves Cast Has the Right Chemistry

I got into Star Trek when The Wrath of Kahn was first released in the theater. I have saw the initial release of about half of the ten movies in the theater. Likewise, I have enjoyed about have of following series. Season 2 of Next Generation has to be the pinnacle of the all the TV shows. I never got into Deep Space Nine. I even liked Enterprise. Enterprise suffered from one fatal flaw that it shares with any prequel — we already know how the story is going to end.

When I first heard about the new Trek movie the rumor was to star Matt Damon. Damon would make a perfect Kirk except for one thing, He’s too old (my age). If you are going to reboot the series then you need to go back and start with a younger captain on his first command. Chris Pine was born after The Motion Picture was released. Then I heard that J.J. Abrams was attached to the project. I like Lost and even Cloverfield so I know I was not in for the usual Trek adventure.

The story opens with a Lieutenant Kirk on a starship facing a bad guy. This seems like any other Trek movie with updated computer-generated special effects. Looks like we have graduated from models like the later TV shows did. The story progresses through a checklist of things that they must complete and characters we need to meet. It seems to be plodding along checking off each item.

There are several small references that are probably lost on non-Trek fans. For example when Kirk is speeding down the back roads in the Corvette he passes his older brother George on the side of the road. George appears later in the original TV series.

There are also difference from the original canon. For example, Trek lore states that the Enterprise was built in space yet we clearly see it being assembled in Iowa. I think we can relax on this point with the following arguments: (1) it was never actually specified in any of the movies or TV shows that constitute the actual canon of Star Trek, (2) the very nature of the time travel story allows for the variance, perhaps the construction was moved to honor a certain captain who died 26 years earlier. (3) it was a dramatic element the J.J. Abrams used to help his story along. You get to pick which of these choices you like better.

The story moves on. Kirk meets Spock. Spock meets Uhura. Kirk meets Bones, and so on. By this point J.J. Abrams has started to throw little twists at us. The commercials make us think that Uhura and Kirk would get intimate which is not true and just a bit of clever editing. Each actor has taken a TV character and given it more dimensions without changing the character so much that it is unrecognizable.

I love the xenolinguistics conversation between Uhura and Kirk. Uhura is clearly more than a switchboard operator. Her contributions to the plot are critical. I also liked her love-interest in the story. Imagine that this happened in the original timeline and now knowing it recasts several scenes from the original TV show.

All the characters are spot on. Simon Pegg’s “Scotty” is believable and very enjoyable to watch. Sulu and Checkov are deeper than their stereotypes. I know we did not see Checkov until the second season of the original series. See the above option for how you plan to deal with this inconsistency. We never saw Checkov meet Kahn either, so deal.

Karl Urban usually plays dark characters. It was nice to see him lighten up. Two things bugged me about his portrayal of our favorite doctor. He was the only one who seemed like a parody DeForest Kelley playing the character. And his eyes never really engaged the other characters. These may actually be the same complaint. Perhaps his performance will grow on me in a later viewing.

At one point in the story the main bad guy is on screen. We see Nero full screen. Usually the bad guy is very stilted in his commands to our beloved captain, but not Nero. He says “Hi Chris”. I was taken aback. Who is this Nero. Is he from Heavy Metal or what (think “She dies, you die, everybody dies”)? This was the first sign to me that J.J. Abrams was not playing by the rule book. He planned to complete the obligatory checklist but then he was on to do his own thing.

At one critical point in the story Nero fires a weopon toward Vulcan. My mind race to fit this into the timeline. I immediate whispered to a buddy “Vulcan has no moons” which is a statement from the original series that is contradicted by a scene in the first motion picture when Spock looks up from Vulcan at the moon. I assumed the J.J. Abrams was attempting to reconcile these two versions of canon. He wasn’t. I watched in horror as I realized that J.J. Abrams had just taken my beloved canon and flushed it right down a black hole. I watched in horror as a recurring character from the TV shows and movies died.

The tag line and subtitle for this new movie is “The Future Begins”. This clearly was the moment for me in the story when J.J. Abrams had completed all the character genesis items on his list and made a complete left turn in the canon. The future is wide open. There are no rules. This is the only way the series could survive. Without a future history of Star Trek, future films can reveal that history to us without consequences in the timeline.

Pepsi Throwback — Now with Real Sugar!

For years the little bottling company in Dublin, Texas has been selling Dr. Pepper made with Imperial Pure Cane Sugar instead of High-fructose corn syrup. There is no comparison. The real sugar tastes better. It also cost more. A case of the good stuff will set you back $10, about twice the “regular” stuff. For the small 8 oz bottles you are looking at $16/case. Six 8 oz bottles cost $6. It’s well worth it. It turns Dr. Pepper into a treat instead of just a drink. Coca-cola too can be found in classic formula sold in bottles. It is usually found with a Spanish label. Now Pepsi is advertising that between now and June, you will be able to get Pepsi and Mountain Dew made with real sugar.

Pepsi Throwback
Calories: 150
Sodium: 30mg
Carbs: 41g
Sugars: 41g

Caffeine: 38mg
Potassium: 10mg
Phosphorous (mg): 53mg

Calories: 150
Sodium: 40mg
Carbs: 40g
Sugars: 40g

Caffeine: 38mg
Phosphorous (mg): 60mg

What I find funny is the marketing engine surrounding selling something that is made the way it should be made. I liken this to when you look at an orange juice carton labeled “not from concentrate”. It’s sad that they have to tell you when something is made the way it should be made. It is now the norm that orange juice is made by mixing frozen concentrate with HFCS and water. Instead of explaining why things are made using natural ingredients, food manufacturers should have to explain why they are not using sure.

Of course, the reason is simple: money. HFCS is cheap and the price is predictable. There’s not enough sugar cane to satisfy the US’s sweet tooth if they were forced to use real sugar. If you want to see what the ingredients for a soda made with “natural” ingredients would look like, just visit Pepsi‘s web site and look at Pepsi Natural: SPARKLING WATER, SUGAR, NATURAL APPLE EXTRACT (COLOR), CARAMEL COLOR, CITRIC ACID, CAFFEINE, ACACIA GUM, TARTARIC ACID, LACTIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOR, KOLA NUT EXTRACT. Keep in mind that “Natural Flavor” is intentionally vague.

I’ll be interested to see what the public reaction to the Throwback products will be. I think it is a step in the right direction (like KFC offering Kentucky Grilled Chicken).