RT on DVD

RT on DVD: The War Begins in Terminator Salvation

Plus, the weird and wondrous world of Henry Selick's Coraline

by | December 9, 2009 | Comments


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Terminator Salvation

In the fourth instalment of the Terminator series, we finally see the dark future that we have been hearing so much about in the earlier films. Skynet rules the world and armies of machines seek to annihilate the last few remaining humans. The much-hunted John Connor (Christian Bale) is fighting the fierce fight as a leader in the resistance and the world is basically a post-apocalyptic, dusty grey hell.

In true Terminator-style, the mission is to save Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) for future benefit. Reese might be a scrappy teenager now but when he grows up, he will be John Connor’s father. If the plot gets convoluted, which it sometimes does, don’t worry, there is always something explosive to distract you from the story.

Christian Bale, for all his husky-voiced earnestness, is once again upstaged by a young Aussie actor. Sam Worthington, who plays Marcus Wright, a convicted killer who donated his body to science many years ago, is the stand-out in this film. John Connor may be the hero but Worthington is most definitely the star.

There is no question that Terminator Salvation is missing some of the brilliance that we found in James Cameron’s The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, if you separate this film from its golden predecessors and instead view it as a big budget action film in its own right, you can have fun watching the machines go bang.

If you love your special features, be careful which version you pick up at the video store. The standard, single-disc DVD is sadly without any special features whatsoever, not even so much as a leaked Christian Bale rant. They have saved all the good stuff for Blu-ray with a host of unseen footage, a set tour, a great feature on the visual effects of the Moto-Terminator, featurettes, commentaries, cast and crew interviews and Maximum Movie Mode, in which director McG breaks down the movie’s key scenes and sequences.

And if all that doesn’t lure you in, the surreal Arnie cameo is definitely worth the hire.


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Coraline

Based on Neil Gaiman’s fairytale novella of the same name, this cautionary tale warns children everywhere to be careful what they wish for. When Coraline and her parents move into the faded Pink Palace boarding house, Coraline wishes fervently for a more exciting life with more engaged parents.

And it appears that dreams do come true when right there in her own home she finds a doorway to the other world. Here her affectionate, domestically-attentive Other Mother, and suave and dapper Other Father, are waiting to greet her with open arms.

All is not right in this other world, however, and as this creepy tale grows more and more sinister, we are whisked along a surreal ride that combines traditional fairy tale grimness with one of the most original and beautifully grotesque animations of recent times. In fact, in a year which has seen the release of some truly wonderful animations such as Pixar’s Up and Studio Ghibli’s Ponyo, Coraline more than holds its own.

Directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), this stop-motion animation is an over-indulgent feast on the senses. The 3-D drags you right into the craziness and both the DVD and Blu-ray come with 3-D glasses and content. Rather than using 3-D for the sake of the technology, Coraline is one of the finest examples of its form. The supporting characters are fascinating and often heartbreaking (Wybie) is a particularly tragic figure), but your heart will go out to each and every one of them. And the fable itself is one that never gets old.

For those who like to explore the mechanics of stop-motion, a substantial making-of feature is included on the disc, covering everything from concept to casting and creation (and guest-starring Neil Gaiman himself). There’s also an interesting feature commentary by Selick.


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Balibo

Australian movies are often deeply personal stories based on quirky characters and family dynamics. Every now and then, however, an Australian film tells a story of national importance and Balibo is one of those films.

In the 1970s, as Indonesia was preparing to invade East Timor, five Australian television journalists disappeared. Those journalists were named the Balibo Five and their story has been largely untold. Balibo redresses that fact.

Directed by Robert Connolly (Three Dollars, The Bank) and written by playwright, David Williamson, this is a very powerful film, and not just because of the important story it tells. It is deeply moving and the fact that it was filmed on location, the first feature film to be filmed in East Timor in fact, brings a strong authenticity to the story.

The structure of the film follows veteran journalist Roger East, played well by Anthony LaPaglia, who attempts to unravel the fate of the five reporters. By flicking between the two plots, some of the intensity is lost, but perhaps that is necessary. There is a lot of anger in this film, as well there should be, and the distance created by seeing the action through East’s eyes, makes it something an audience can watch.

There are some interesting special features on both the DVD and Blu-ray release. There are the usual deleted scenes, commentaries and behind-the-scenes coverage but there are also six contextual documentaries and footage of Greg Shackleton, one of the Balibo Five, reporting from Timor, dated October 1975.

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