GIVE THEM GAMES, Or The Real Problem With GAME OF THRONES

Game of Thrones has been, without a doubt, one of THE best shows on television. A standard bearer in our platinum age of TV, the George RR Martin HBO adaption is one of the network’s biggest money makers. It’s IMDB’s top television program of all time, based on fan ratings, with a 9.5, tied with Breaking Bad. The show, once criticized for often being too misogynistic or for straying too far from the books by eliminating important characters (Lady Stoneheart!), is now getting new scrutiny. The production values and acting are still fine, of that there is no doubt. The writing has taken a drubbing, especially since season 6; the first of what many, including Martin himself, are calling fan fiction.

It’s no secret the show has passed what Martin has published. The writers are now working off Martin’s notes and outlines as they move forward. The result has been a mixed bag. I could spend all day listing grievances. The dialogue we get is obviously not Martin’s, and often it isn’t even Martin-esque. The pacing has been rushed. Characters are acting against established type. Oh, and who can forget the latest misgiving with the seventh season’s penultimate episode having an apparent disregard for the laws of time and space. People also blame it on the shortened seasons, trimming off three from the typical ten this year and four with a six episode season projected for its final season. I hate to tell you this, but these are all surface wounds, the root of the alleged bad writing goes much deeper.

GAME OF THRONES hit the cable boxes in 2011, hiding its fantasy roots under the guise of a political drama. Audiences quickly bought into it and propelled the program to the forefront of MUST SEE TV shows. Word of mouth spread quickly. I didn’t jump on board until season 3, myself, playing catch up, binging the first 2 seasons as quickly as I could. The one thing I noticed is you never saw a battle, you only saw the outcomes. No massive movements of soldiers on a battlefield, no epic trials on the field of honor. The fourth and fifth season finales upped that ante some, giving us glimpses into that arena. But it wasn’t until the sixth season that epic battles started taking precedence on the show.

The Battle of the Bastards last season gained high praise as one GAME OF THRONES best offerings. It’s also one of the laziest episodes of the series, from a writer’s perspective, and the root of all that is wrong with season seven. This pattern will most likely plague the eighth and final season. Essentially a recreation of the Battle of Cannae, wherein the legendary General Hannibal was defeated by Rome; the Battle of the Bastards is epic in scope but short on dialogue.

What we’re getting now is a televised interpretation of panem et circeses. Bread & Circuses, or more simply put, they’re giving us games to distract us from the real problem. It’s not going to get any better people. So far this season we’ve had naval battles, dragon battles, zombie battles. Next season we can expect more of the same as things wrap up. You see, I’m of the opinion that Martin didn’t give HBO shit to work with other than cliff notes on the back of a napkin. As a result, the writers are struggling to find content. This is why the dialogue sometimes sounds “fake.” But more so, it is why we are getting so many battle scenes and special effects shots. How do you distract people? You do it with explosions and big epic battles, Transformers style. Michael Bay has been hiding bad movies behind explosions for decades, and with great results. His coffers are full as a consequence, regardless of how shitty the movies actually are. The problem is GAME OF THRONES has become just that, a money maker for HBO, hiding its weaknesses behind epic battles. The witty dialogue and political intrigue are gone, replaced by a record setting 73 live fires and 20 live burns in episode four’s dragon attack. DRAGONS! LOOK! OOOOO! DRAGONS!

Full Circle

I want to take a walk down memory lane with you, today, if you don’t mind, dear reader. There’s a reason we’re taking this trip, and when you get to the end, you’ll shake your head in as much disbelief as I have the past couple days. To say that everything in life comes full circle is the understatement of a lifetime. So sit back, light a smoke or whatever it is you may do, and come with me on this journey through time. My memory is weird son of a bitch. I forget little details and and lose a lot in translation when I process stuff, bits of pieces here and there lost forever, fed to the demon I call ADHD. In spite of this condition, I can recall specific circumstances and events from my past like they happened yesterday.

Since I can recall I’ve been a voracious reader. I would wait with anticipation for the book mobile to come to my grade school, a picturesque suburban facility named after the road it sat upon, Smith Road Elementary in North Syracuse, NY. When I was in first grade I bought both Dracula and Frankenstein at the book mobile. I carried those books everywhere with me and family. I’m sure they thought the paperback were simply security blankets, but they weren’t. I actually read the books. I didn’t retain much in the translation, after all I was only a six year old first grader, and when questioned about what I had allegedly read in the books, I clammed up and replied with, “I don’t know.”

I loved going to my school’s library. And it was on those shelves, in 1975, my second grade, that I discovered a book. The blue cover caught my eye, the art a collage featuring a girl half transformed into werewolf, a cowboy, alien crabs, and a pterodactyl. I read the book cover to cover within a few days. Then I read it again. It was called “More Science Fiction Tales: Crab Things, Crystal Creatures and Other Weirdies.” The book was edited by Roger Elwood and featured short stories from various authors I had never heard of, and have forgotten since. But man, did this book strike my imagination and fed my pre-teen muse. It made me want to write.

So write I did. Little story after little story. I wrote a sequel to the crab aliens story featuring an underground sea base. I wrote a sequel to the werewolf girl story, with a werewolf boy. I fondly recall bringing my notebook and pencils to a family friend’s house, and writing by their fireplace on an ugly corduroy covered hassock. My Mom’s friend, Joyce, was amazed at how focused I was on the writing. Her surprise wasn’t unwarranted. I was a horrible kid. The worst you can imagine. It’s not that I was bad, it’s that I was disruptive, and distracted easily. I was loud, I was a holy terror. But dammit, wasn’t I a different person all together when I wrote, or read; quiet and serene, focused on the task at hand, and ever eager to share the story with any adult in the room.

I soon discovered Edgar Rice Burroughs through the book Back to the Stone Age and the graphic novel adaptation of The Land That Time Forgot.  The same year, my Mom took me with her when she went to get her hair done. I stayed in the car to read. I popped open the glove compartment and discovered a copy of Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot. I read the opening and was terrified, and it started a secret obsession with King for me.

In 1977, we moved from North Syracuse to Canastota, NY. In fifth grade I read Raise the Titanic and The Amityville Horror. Then I found a Conan novel, the Ace paperback featuring the story RED NAILS. Soon after, my Aunt Pat gave me a copy of The Sword of Shannara. I became fascinated by sword and sorcery and high fantasy. When I reached 7th grade my Mom and Dad bought me the collected Stephen King Paper backs. And I was on my way to becoming a horror fan. I was blessed, having a supportive mother and father that encouraged my writing, and a neighbor, Mary Kielbasinski, that fostered it as well, bringing me to her house and helping me learn how to write. She taught me about action and pacing. And I applied it. My English teachers caught on to my blossoming skills as a writer, and they also nurtured my interest.

The Stand came next, followed by my discovery of Frederick Pohl’s Gateway. To this day I believe this to be the greatest Science Fiction story ever told. Then came Richard Adams’ Watership Down. Soon after I found Martin Cruz Smith’s Nightwing, and David Seltzer’s novelization of Prophecy, the mutant bears horror movie, and his novel of the Omen. To this day Prophecy is one of my all time favorite horror movies.

My parents wouldn’t let me go to the movie theater to see horror movies, but they let me read the novelizations. Outland. Alien. Halloween. The Thing. Star Wars books. I learned to love Alan Dean Foster’s prose. To this day you can see his hand in most anything I write. He was the man and is probably the second most influential person on my writing, just by the association of his prolific body of work adapting movies to the printed page.

I wrote a ton of bad sword and sorcery and high fantasy during this time. But I also ran an ongoing D&D game with my neighborhood chums. The stories were dark and terrifying, and I spent much of my creative focus on these. It was during this time period that I came up with the idea of a chosen warrior of God champion, wandering the wastes of a world that may have been in our past, or a dark future, ala Thundarr the Barbarian. I wrote about him in a few stories, that, as time has gone by, I realize were pretty good.

I joined the army, and Asa Drake’s (aka C. Dean Andersson) Warrior Witch of Hel books enthralled me, as did the military science fiction tales of Alan Cole & Chris Bunch’s hero, Sten. And then I discovered Michael Moorcock after my first stint in the Army as a journalist ended. I dropped out of AIT, my un-medicated ADHD had become a problem, and I started drinking. A lot. So the Army sent me home. I was becoming much like some of my heroes, rebel writers that quit college to do it their way.

That winter into the next spring I spent a considerable amount of time at the Oneida Library and found the John Daker Eternal Champion book. All bets were off. Michael Moorcock was the antithesis of everything I had read before by Brooks and Howard. My ideas became darker, and they fused with my chosen warrior of God, merging in aspects of the Eternal Champions of Moorcock. That led to an epic D&D campaign lasting a few years with my friends. Blending aspects of Moorcock with elements of Star Wars in a fantasy setting, the campaign was a huge hit with my friends. Out of this Joe Giordano’s character Candor was born, the central focus of my fantasy stories to this day. Later, when I moved to Glens Falls, Ami Nightswan, my Eternal Champion, came into the fray, birthed in a Ravenloft gaming session.

I went to college at ACC in Glens Falls. We ran a Shadow Run game there, an other Epic game, but it wasn’t as important as something else, a cathartic point in my development as a writer was about to come into play. In 1991, one of my class mates, who also played in my Shadow Run game, Mike Timko, brought an anthology book called SPLATTERPUNKS, edited by Paul Sammon, to our broadcasting class one day.

My life hasn’t been the same since.

He let me read an early story in the collection, a story called “The Night They Missed The Picture Show” by an author I’d not heard of before, Joe R, Lansdale. To this day, it stands out to me as my introduction to Splatterpunk and extreme horror. He let me borrow it and I read it, cover to cover, in a matter of days. The extreme horror on those pages twisted my imagination. The next week, Mike brought The Book of the Dead, edited by John Skipp & Craig Spector, with him to class. I in turned borrowed it and read it cover to cover as fast as I had Splatterpunks. It was David J. Schow’s “Jerry’s Kids Meet Wormboy” that hit me hardest.

In 1992, I moved back to Syracuse. The day I arrived I stopped at the newly built Carousel Mall and found my way to Waldenbooks. On the shelf was a new release: Animals, by the editors of Book of the Dead. I bought it. To this day I can still see the dead thing in the road. Though I had been writing for a couple decades, I learned how to write that week as I read Animals. Soon after, I found every Skipp & Spector novel out there. That lead me other splatterpunks like Nancy A Collins,Poppy Z Brite, Phil Nutman and more David J Schow. I started writing graphic, violent fiction, blending genres. Later on I discovered the Hard Sci Fi horror of Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, and then came Brian Keene’s The Rising.

The first thing I wrote out of this period was a direct attempt to write like Joe R. Lansdale. It ended up becoming my first published piece of fiction, nearly 20 years later, a little story inspired by the neutering of my dog, Doc Holliday, called “Nuts.” Edited by my friend and mentor, Giovanni Valentino, he printed it in the Alternate Hilarities: Vampires Suck anthology in October 2013. This led to a series of vastly different stories published through Giovanni’s small publishing house, Small Musings Press, in various thematic anthologies.

During this time I also wrote for various websites, including This Is Infamous, as well as producing a podcast for the aforementioned site. I mostly wrote about horror properties at the site, on top of pro wrestling. But it was the horror articles that allowed me an associate membership in the HWA. This led to me wanting to do a horror based podcast at This Is Infamous, which the editor in chief, Billy Donnelly, shot down. I took that demo to Jess at the former Project iRadio, which he loved. The podcast became what we now know as the Necrocasticon. That all led to an mentor-ship at Rue Morgue under Monica Kuebler. Last year, I went to Scares That Care 3, with the intention of meeting some of my heroes and looking for ways to further my desired fiction writing career, while covering the Charity Weekend for the magazine. I got far more out of the trip than I could have ever imagined. It was immeasurable. I went to as many author readings and Q&A’s as I could. I wanted to learn. And I decided that weekend I wanted this to be a part of my life.

I met my heroes like Brian Keene and Joe R. Lansdale and did everything in my power not to mark out on them. I succeeded, mostly. On a challenge from author Kelli Owen, I forced myself to write more than just short stories. I took one of my ideas for a longer piece and worked it into a novella length, which quickly became a novel. But it was horrible. The pacing was off, the narrative didn’t flow. It was a mess. Thirty thousand words later, I was utterly disappointed in myself

Then my Dad died.

I kicked myself for not finishing a book for him to read before he passed. I was so angry. I took a few weeks off from writing to gather my thoughts. And then I wrote a story for my Dad, a 12,000 word short novella entitled “Good Boy,” which is essentially Watership Down meets the Plague Dogs with zombies. I’ve hired on one of the best editors in the horror field to insure this story is as good as I believe it to be. I’ll be self publishing it this fall, and will be including all of my short fiction to date, previously published or not, in the collection.

This year I returned to Scares That Care for its fourth edition. I met John Skipp, and Craig Spector, another bucket list accomplishment checked off. At said gathering, I participated in a writer’s workshop taught by Tom Monteleone, his daughter Olivia, and John MacClay. I had met Tom the year before, attending his Q&A and reading session, wherein he deep fried journalists. He’s the owner of a popular and well respected small press in the horror community, Borderlands, so when I learned he was having this workshop, I felt it imperative that I participate in it. He must know what he’s talking about, right? Plus I had heard Olivia was the Iron Lady of horror fiction, that she was a person you needed to impress. So I went with both feet first, presenting my four pages of a WIP anonymously to be ripped apart by a dozen peers. I’m so glad I did. It was the best thing I’ve ever done to further this mad obsession. I made friends, and business associates (Wile E. & Skip!), but most of all I learned how to self edit. The entire experience was cathartic.

Earlier this week the owner of Project Entertainment Network that hosts my podcasts, author Armand Roasmilia, sent out an email asking some of the show hosts what their Top Five favorite books were as a kid. My mind shot right back to 1975 and More Science Fiction Tales. I forgot the editor’s name, and researched it with a quick search on Google. Then it occurred to me to check the names of the authors in the collection.

I about shit myself.

Thomas F. Monteleone wrote about half the book under his own name or pseudonyms.

I have gone full circle, my friends. From 1975 to 2017. And now the next portion of my strange trip begins. I hope you all are along for the ride.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, or How to Make Tom Cry Like a…

James Gunn kicked me in the balls this weekend. He didn’t do it to me, intentionally. Shit, he doesn’t even know me, let alone who I am. Well, I can’t say that, he is aware that I exist. I interviewed Oreo Raccoon’s handlers for my old gig at This Is Infamous back when I got started in this industry. Oreo was the living breathing raccoon that was scanned and animated for Rocket’s CGI mastery. Yep, I interviewed a raccoon. But I digress, my ADHD is leading us away from our topic at hand. Where were we? Oh, yes. For all intents and purposes, Gunn pulled his leg back and let it swing forward and connected with my family jewels when he wrote Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. And he did with such skill and precision I might not be able to bring myself to watch the second chapter of this film arc in the Marvel Cinematic Universe again.

I’m a Star Wars guy through and through, I was 10 when the first film hit theaters. I loved Han Solo, my favorite character. The rogue, the bad guy that gets the good girl. Now, when Han Solo died in The Force Awakens, it hit me in the feels. But I didn’t cry. My emotional attachment to Han wasn’t strong enough to bring me to tears. You see, it’s because Han was fundamentally only an archetype. He was an image to me, of something that I aspired to be, and nothing more. His death was part of the story and its placement in the narrative made perfect sense.

When Guardians of the Galaxy came out in 2014 I immediately fell in love with it. I felt the same wonder and awe that I felt with Star Wars, but there was something more. A connection to Peter Quill that I didn’t have with any character in Star Wars. On the surface, you can say why, because he had a Walk-Man? Why yes, even something that superficial can help an audience bond with a character. I’d say in this case, that the Walk-Man and the accompanying music were the glue that bound it all together.

I don’t know who my biological father was. My father, my Dad, whom passed away in February, married my Mom when I was 6 months old and adopted me some time later. I don’t think I was more than 2 or 3. I do know I remember going to the lawyer’s office on the day that, in hindsight, I determined he finalized the deal. It was a big office with a large bow window overlooking the city. A man in a suit, that my mind has morphed into former Syracuse mayor Lee Alexander, asked me who the man in the room with me was.

“My daddy,” I replied.

The man smile and said something to my father about me, they laughed and some papers were signed. I had no idea what they were for. I learned he adopted me when I turned 13. I rebelled against him and we had some trying times, much of it was my fault, we’ll leave it at that. As time went on, we appreciated one another more. At one point, the rebel in me imagined what my bio-dad would be like, much like Peter Quill did. I didn’t have a David Hasselhoff, my fantasy father was always different, sometimes an adventurer, sometimes a musician or writer. But as time has moved on, I’ve lost any desire to seek out my biological father, he’s someone I don’t care to ever know. Yes, I realize Episodes IV, V & VI of Star Wars deal with a child who lost their father, then found him. But Darth Vader was a dark villain, and I never saw my father or Dad in him, same as I didn’t feel a bond between myself and Han when Ben killed him.

Fast-forward to February 5th of 2017. Losing my Dad who was by my side nearly 50 years, that’s something different. This year has seen the worst thing that has ever happened to my family, the passing of Jack Clark. He was the glue that held us all together, the voice of reason in chaos. He was our leader, our back bone. He fought that godammed disease for 5 years until he couldn’t fight it anymore.  Fucking prostate and bone cancer.

James Gunn couldn’t have known that my Dad would die in February, 3 months to the day before his movie would be released. He had no idea of knowing that a fan of his film would share similar character traits with his lead protagonist in an ensemble piece, I’m sure there’ plenty of peeps out there who don’t know the identity of one or more of their bio-parents. He couldn’t have known that his movie would bring forth such an emotional response from someone like me, or anyone for that matter. He made his art and he unleashed it on the world, the end result a whopper of a kick, right in the balls.

Every emotion I felt in February came back as Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’s final act came to a close. At first it was silent, subtle, a tear in the corner of my eye. Then it grew into a full on cry as my mind found every correlation between the story’s themes and my life. I sniffled and snorted, tears swelled in my eyes. I’m sure the families to my left and right wondered why this middle aged man was blatting like a baby, but I didn’t care. Yondu’s Ravager funeral had as much impact on me as the pipes playing at my Dad’s service

Is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 a good movie? You bet your sweet ass it is. It has all the charm and fun of their first adventure, with the added bonus of focusing on the characters and breathing more life into each of them, more so than any other Marvel property. No film has ever brought forth such an emotional response from me. Ever. Should you see it? Absolutely. Should I watch it again? I don’t know if I’m ready to, yet. At least not alone.

Earlier this year, Gunn said Yondu’s portrayal by Michael Rooker is Oscar-worthy. I’m going out on a limb here to say I’m down with that. But my opinion is soured by bias. Yondu became everything to me that Han Solo never could. He became an artistic representation of my Dad, Peter Quill’s adoptive father. Wait, he’s not Quill’s father, that’s right.

He’s his Daddy.

Cue tears.

What Gives, Man?

I’ve got this blog and I don’t use it. I mean, it’s here, I’ve always had it. I pay for the domain name and the fancy template. Yet, I don’t use it. Why? Is it a victim of the 115 characters you get on Twitter or the social cesspool that is Facebook? Is it a result of complete laziness? Do I blame the current political administration? Who is to fault here? Netflix and the binge worthy television program? Hearthstone or any number of other video games? Someone or something is to blame! Or are they? Wait! It’s got to be the podcasting, right? Nope. Not one of those. No one is to blame but me.

With the exception of a few instances, I took the last year off from writing about movies, TV, music or other mediums in long form to focus on my fiction. I wrote more short pieces than ever in my life. A cursed rocking chair, a camping trip gone wrong, a twist on I Am Legend with (gasp!) zombies, a mermaid in love, a girl’s favorite band. I’ve chronicled all of these the past year. I began work on my first novella that quickly became a novel and now needs a major re-write, for the better. It’s been a ponderous project, acclimating myself to thinking outside the traditional box of tropes, finding subjects to write about. As it is, life has provided me with more than enough material.

My family, especially my grandson. He’s a joy to me and I’ve often considered using his name as my pen name, C.W. Hyatt has a bad ass ring to it. My pets, a pair of Jack Russell dogs and a ten pound killer rabbit. Combined, they are a constant reminder to me that life is precious. Especially with the horrors that lurk in our darkest corners. I lost my cat last fall, his kidneys failed. It broke my heart. I’m not a cat person, but Bacchus and I were tight. Then, just before Christmas, a former associate smashed a woman’s head in with a brick, which led to the narrative changes in my novel. But ultimately, it was my father passing away that has had the greatest effect. Without a doubt, it has been the most cathartic experience I’ve gone through in my life. As a result, it’s become a catalyst for what I believe is the best thing I’ve ever written.

You see, I’m pissed I dragged ass on my novella, thinking that my Dad would be here for it when my assumed finish date, sometime this year, came. I could never have been so wrong. He fell in the bathroom on Superbowl Sunday and cancer finally beat the toughest Irishman I ever knew. I learned, instead of writing something for him to read, I must instead write something to honor his memory. I decided not to let his death defeat me in the same manner learning of his illness had once before. I wanted to write something that he would have enjoyed, something that spoke of my Dad.

And I think I found it. It makes me cry while I write it. That says something, right? It’s an idea that started in my mind as a joke, as something my Dad might have said while sitting at the campfire. I’ve never had a narrative speak to me in the manner this one has. The characters, the story, all of it is a perfect package. One part Richard Adams, one part Brian Keene, one part Greek myth… straight up without training wheels.

On the same token, my opinions about the current state of the entertainment industry need an outlet and since I’ve got this blog… I might as well use this as my soap box, my Vault perse, as it was intended to be.

THE NECROCASTICONTEST (UPDATED!)

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NO COMMENTS YET?  HOW ABOUT WE UP THE ANTE!

Who likes free stuff? We’ve got a Necrocasticon prize package to give out, featuring:

A rare, worn paperback copy of THE KILL RIFF from David J. Schow, one of the seminal splatterpunk novels of the late 20th Century. (Because you should own this book.)

Digital Copies of ALTERNATE HILARITIES: VAMPIRES SUCK and HYSTERICAL REALMS, featuring short stories by Necrocasticon host, Token Tom. (They’re funny. And scary)

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A complete set of Azriel Mordecai Cthulhu art prints (drive your friends crazy jealous).

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A $5.00 iTunes credit to purchase the IT’S WAR ep (Cos we love it and you will, too).

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Plus more to be announced.

How do you get this awesome stuff?

Simply rate us and leave a comment on your preferred podcast outlet, be it iTunes, Stitcher, Roku, etc. We’ll compile a list of those that leave comments and rate us. Each comment/rating is an entry! Multiple entries are allowed. The more you rank and comment, the better your chance to win! We’ll pick a winner in a month! Yes, you are allowed to go back and comment and rank on the previously produced shows.

Oh, the contest starts TODAY!

The Paradox of TERMINATOR GENISYS

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I remember seeing the first James Cameron TERMINATOR film as a young man, 17 years old. We had heard the scuttle on the film, mind you this is an era with instant news and the internet, and advance word through magazines indicated the film was revolutionary and would make a star out of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now, we all loved Arnie in CONAN: THE BARBARIAN from a couple years before, so he was fast becoming a genre action hero. Knowing how excited we were, my friend’s Mom felt we should see it, and sneaked us into the R rated flick. The deal was we never tell. I think the statute of limitations has expired on that, some thirty-one years later. Needless to say, I was amazed at what I saw. THE TERMINATOR told a simple story, the themes engaged me and the special effects amazed me. I’d already been exposed to the nihilistic, post-apocalyptic fair of ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE ROAD WARRIOR and BLADE RUNNER during the preceding few years. But as the opening sequence of THE TERMINATOR unfolded with a tank tread crushing a road of human skulls, my life changed. From that moment forward, nothing could top THE TERMINATOR or my adoration of the film. It also encouraged my interest in time travel, something we’ll do through out this essay. Starting… then…

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Last night I watched TERMINATOR GENISYS. IMAX 3D, of course. If the advance word I had on this entry into the venerable series held any truth, I would need the 3D. The theater was empty, for the most part. I blame that less on critics panning the film than the actual advertising campaign. Here’s where we add TERMINATOR GENISYS to a select group of films that aren’t actually bad, but suffered from a marketing faux pax, ala JOHN CARTER, and are now prejudged to be awful in advance. The advertising for TERMINATOR GENISYS has been off the mark since day one. Couple that with revealing the “twist” of the story three months prior to its release, and you have a recipe for disaster. Now, I can picture the pitch to the studio, “In this one, John Connor is the Terminator!” And the studio heads approved the film. It looks good on paper, right? When initial reactions to the first trailers were met with fanboy hate, an unwise marketing rep decided to make an executive order to cut the infamous twist-reveal trailer. If it worked with the studio, it will work with John Q. Public, right? Wrong. When people watched that trailer, they shook their heads, proclaimed, “John Connor is a Terminator?” And checked out. Why bother watching it, we found out all we needed to know in the trailer. And that’s a shame. TERMINATOR GENISYS isn’t exactly a horrible film, it’s certainly flawed without a doubt, but it doesn’t deserve the vehement hate it has received. At least that’s how I felt after watching it and during my ride home. Time to go… there…

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I got home and started making notes for this review. What I liked, what I didn’t like. Something didn’t sit right with me. So I watched THE TERMINATOR again. This wasn’t good for TERMINATOR GENISYS. I found myself very unhappy with TERMINATOR GENISYS for the same reasons I dislike 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE. Someone, and I’m not sure if it was director Alan Taylor or writers Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, forgot what made both THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, work. The blame does not lie with Arnold, oh no.  He plays the Terminator like a pro. He’s the most refreshing thing of the film, and he’s oldest part of the franchise! The in jokes surrounding this are abundant. Part of the blame lies in the casting of Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese. Courtney is a solid actor, but he’s not the right actor for this part. Kyle Reese, as given life by Michael Biehn, is an embodiment of The Man With No Name, he’s gritty and flawed, a man of few words. Jai Courtney transforms Reese into a wise cracking motor mouth and he’s not very likable. His presence on screen often took me out of the film, wishing for Biehn. By contrast, Emelia Clarke’s Sarah Connor is done very well, but it’s almost over the top, she’s less morose than Linda Hamilton, and acts somewhat like a spoiled teenager. Yet it’s not either of those that bring the film down. It’s the dick whipping Terminator count and time traveling run amok.

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More Terminators doesn’t mean better, and this is where they forget what made both T1 and T2 work: the Terminator films are horror films, simply put. The Terminator is a scary, unstoppable force. It is supposed to frighten you. Yet in TERMINATOR GENISYS, they’re plentiful and get knocked off left and right. It’s like a porn convention of Terminators. Everyone is a Terminator. Even John Connor. And that is the ultimate problem with TERMINATOR GENISYS. Starting with TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, John Connor became the series protagonist. He was the hero we bonded with. Making him into a Terminator caused a disassociation with the audience, predicating the film’s imminent failure. Yeah, it looked good on paper, but it didn’t play out that way on screen. It also doesn’t help that Jason Clarke has played the least likeable John Connor since the franchise launched.

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Just as more Terminators are bad for business, so is more time traveling. It’s a cop out plot MacGuffin when you answer your problems with a hop on the time travel machine. But more so, the time traveling issues are an ironic representation of the movie’s inherent pacing problems. There’s no sense of urgency in the narrative, no suspense. We aren’t given an opportunity to build any, and that’s due in part to the plot line. There’s so much going on, we can’t waste a moment for any development. This is evident from the opening credits, as we get story from the opening frame. Which leads us to… now.

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TERMINATOR GENISYS has come out, people are hating on it. There’s no doubt that the TERMINATOR franchise has hit some bumps in the road, and TERMINATOR GENISYS is one more but as a film on its own, it really isn’t that bad. It’s certainly better than TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES, which can be machete cut out of your viewings of the saga. TERMINATOR SALVATION is solid stand alone film, albeit misguided in its McG-ness, and I would say TERMINATOR GENISYS is a notch better. But when comparing modern films to classic cinema such as THE TERMINATOR and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY, the bar is already set so high, it is nearly impossible for the newer film to achieve any positive notoriety. Plus, keep in mind that THE TERMINATOR ascended its B-Movie status to become much more than it was intended to be. So give TERMINATOR GENISYS a chance. You might enjoy it for what it is, a B-movie homage. I did.