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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Folks who were upset that Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected the governor of California in 2003 despite numerous allegations that he had been Hollywood's most flagrant ass-slapper may take a perverse delight in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) — ol' Arnie gets his ass spanked repeatedly, and by a chick who looks hot in leather. Directed by Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown, U-571), the third (and possibly final) installment in the Terminator series finds reluctant hero John Connor (Nick Stahl) living "off the grid" 10 years after he, his mother Sarah, and a T-101 Terminator destroyed Cyberdyne Systems, thereby preventing the activation of Skynet, which was expected to become self-aware in 1997 and launch a global holocaust. For John, "off the grid" means there are no public records of his existence or whereabouts — he simply moves from job to job, while occasionally knocking over pharmacies to support his pill-popping habit. But when he breaks into a local veterinary hospital, he's unwittingly corralled by Kate Brewster (Clare Danes) just moments before the arrival of a "T-X" Terminator unit (Kristanna Loken). Has the advanced cyborg come to kill John Connor? Actually, he can't be located — the machines of the future have put Kate, the future wife of John Connor, on their hit list. Of course, a "T-101" Terminator (Schwarzenegger) comes on the scene at nearly the same time, assigned to protect both Kate and John. There's good news for fans who have enjoyed the previous Terminator spectaculars: T3 is more of the same, managing to deliver an efficient, explosive, effortlessly watchable bit of sci-fi matinee fare. But while the project manages to avoid the jinx of most sequels (i.e., it isn't flat-out awful), it also isn't afraid to recycle a lot of material. Once again, we are served up a massive truck chase through the streets of L.A., Arnie in pursuit on a motorcycle, plenty of gunplay, and two Terminators going mano a mano until the bitter end. At least the project gives a few winking nods to its forebears — Arnold's famous naked arrival in a biker bar in Terminator 2 is given a new twist, along with those famous sunglasses. As the T-X, newcomer Kristanna Loken gets the Terminator vibe down, appropriately conveying most of her role through physical gestures and facial expressions. Meanwhile, Nick Stahl and Clare Danes are an attractive pair of leads, despite the fact that Danes screams so much during the first half of the movie one suspects she watched The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to research her part. And if the brief, 36-hour adventure (which stars essentially just five characters) seems like a great deal of sound and fury signifying nothing, give the script (by John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, and Tedi Sarafian) due credit for not being afraid to end the film on a somber note — the coda is remarkably resonant, somewhat daring for a summer movie, and thematically consistent with the previous Terminator franchises. Warner's two-disc release of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines comes in separate anamorphic (2.35:1) and pan-and-scan editions with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Both offer identical supplements: Schwarzenegger, Danes, Stahl, Loken, and director Mostow are all heard on a commentary (recorded separately and then edited together), Mostow then offers his own solo track, and trailers are included for both the film and video game. Features on Disc Two include an introduction from Schwarzenegger, an HBO "making-of" featurette (12 min.), a deleted scene, a gag reel (3 min.), a "Visual Effects Lab" with an intro and four featurettes, a "Skynet Database" of weapons and character files, a Terminator timeline, storyboards, and featurettes on wardrobe, toys, and the making of the video game. Dual-DVD slimline keep-case.
—JJB



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