Terminator Everything: Movie Franchise Ultimate

This cyborg saga so symbolic of pop culture’s decay begins with a perfect ’80s sci-fi action movie and ends with a soulless blockbuster so terrible the movie-star lead viciously cussed out the cinematographer on-set. In between is a perfect sequel and a winking Part 3 so self-aware of its cash-grab status it goes ahead and ends with the nuclear destruction of the whole world.

“Terminator 3” is at least willing to be a good movie as it’s cash grabbing. It has a pulpy, fun title: “Rise of the Machines.” As opposed to “Salvation’s” single buzzy word. “Salvation.” The other titles options were “Redemption,” “Description,” “Placenta,”and “Ellipse.”

“Terminator: Ibex.”


We’ll come back to Part 4, in which killer robots are too lazy to kill.

First, James Cameron. He is, said Ari Gold, “the biggest director in the game,” the mad captain who helmed the top two money makers ever: “Titanic” and “Avatar.”

Back in 1984, however, he was 30 and unknown. He had a vision (says IMDB.com): “James Cameron got the idea for Terminator (1984) while shooting another film in Europe. His vision was of a metal endoskeleton emerging from flames and most of the script was written backwards from there.”

Can you image a purer motive for making a movie?

Haunted by an amazing visual, Cameron brought it to life. This is typical of Cameron’s ambition. Ever since “Terminator,” he has been a director who thinks of something huge and insane and then executes it. Think about the end of “Aliens,” when, after commandos have been guerrilla battling monsters for several scenes, the alien queen fights Ripley, in a robot suit, one-on-one. This go-for-broke ethos would ultimately evolve into dinosaurs fighting robots for the last hour of “Avatar.”

The big misconception of modern blockbuster is they’re all action, but so many are really just tons of talking, with lots of special effects and a few brief obligatory action scenes. “Star Wars Episodes I–III,” anyone? “Spider-Man”?

“Terminator” launched this awesome line of Cameron movies, and it’s a classic for so many reasons including an economy of storytelling. That’s another secret to his success: He keeps it simple. A robot assassin is trying to kill Sarah Connor; a man is trying to save her. That’s the conflict. The movie’s over when the robot is finally dead.

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James Cameron remade “Terminator” with better terminators. And this time they save the world. “T2” had a fun acting gig for super-partner Arnold Schwarzenegger: Do the same great cyborg stuff from the original, with even more weapons, but be a hero this time. Arnold’s terminator rightly made the American Film Institute’s Top 100 list of both heroes and villains. He’s the only character on both lists, which makes him better than Atticus Finch.terminator-exoskeleton

Linda Hamilton gets in on the fun, and it’s no wonder she married Cameron. Sarah Connor was a happy, bright-eyed American babe in “Terminator,” but in “T2” she’s a ripped amazon weapons master whose sadness over losing Kyle Reese in the fight to kill original Terminator has hardened into joyless determination. She knows the world is gonna end, and she knows she can stop it. “Terminator” was about getting out alive. “Terminator 2” is about preventing nuclear war. She’s become a warrior.

The chases and fights in “T2” are glorious. Arnold rides an enormous Harley after 10-year-old, Public-Enemy-T-shirt-clad John Connor on a moped. Liquid metal T-1000 is racing after them in a giant semi truck. Arnold and T-1000 shoot each other countless times with shotguns and grenades. At one point Terminator unloads what has to be more than 100 rounds from a machine gun into T-1000 at point-blank range.

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Cameron said he was done with “Terminator” movies after “T2,” that he’d told the story he wanted to tell, but the studio wasn’t done. “Terminator 3” is a joke, but a good one. It’s Cameron’s same terminator story over again, with Arnold fighting a powerful evil robot (this time, she can shape shift like T-1000, but also make her hands into laser guns) (oh, and she’s a she).

Consider the first Arnold scene in each flick. In the first “Terminator,” he threatens and kills street thugs like Jason in “Friday the 13th,” horror-style. In “T2,” he busts into a biker bar, kicks a bunch of Harley riders’ asses, and vrooms away on a chopper wearing leather and cool sunglasses while the soundtrack plays “Bad to the Bone.” In “T3,” he busts into a strip club on ladies’ night and takes the dancer’s clothes. This is how he looks before he rides off:


“Rise of the Machines” also has Clare Danes, who’s great. It’s always nice to see Claire Danes.

And while “T2’s” most serious moment is an ultra-realistic nuclear explosion wiping out all of Los Angeles including a park full of kids, “Machines” has a powerfully important scene that totally echoes 21st-Century U.S. foreign policy. There is much talk about the danger of handing war power over to machines, and I wonder whether Obama had the same qualms when he ordered his first drone strike as General Robert Brewster exhibits when he gives the order to turn Skynet on-line. Bet not.

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James Cameron did not direct “Terminator: Salvation,” either. He had nothing to do with it. McG, veteran of N’Sync videos, was the director. McG.

Cameron’s terminators were such deadly villains you simply couldn’t get near one. The chases were intense because terminators arm up and know their weapons. Or, like T-1000, can instantly create deadly (Ahnold voice:) “knives, and stabbing weapons.” “Terminator” ends with Sarah Connor just out of terminator’s reach, because if he gets his hand on her she’s dead. If T-1000 got within five feet of John Connor, Connor would be slashed through in a second.

“Salvation” is full of Terminators who are not especially interested in terminating. Arnold didn’t act in “Salvation,” but they digitally added his face over a terminator body. He must have been pissed, because the terminator with his face was pathetic. It repeatedly grabs Connor and throws him into a wall. It never kills him. There’s even a moment during the ridiculous “Climactic Battle” where a terminator is holding Connor up off the ground by the neck. They just stay that way until Connor gets saved. A Cameron terminator would crush his throat the instant it got a grip.

There are motorcycle terminators. Why—the—f*ck would Skynet create terminators which can be overridden and then literally ridden by their enemies the humans?

We’ve not even begun to dig into what makes “Salvation” so lousy. No sense of humor. The machines’ plan to kill Connor is ridiculously convoluted, the opposite of the simple spirit of Cameron’s classics. Kate Brewster went from Claire Dane’s brave heroine to Bryce Dallas Howard’s dead-eyed dullard. A major role is played (dullard-like) by Moon Bloodgood, which I believe is a euphemism for when a woman’s on her period.

Let’s put “Salvation” out of our minds and focus on “Terminator,” “Judgement Day” and “Rise of the Machines.” The first two are classics for all time, and together they constitute a legendary franchise.

There is a new “Terminator” movie in the works, with Arnold coming back. The ingredients are there to make something amazing. Just don’t overthink it. And don’t hire McG.

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A Very Flip Side Christmas, with special guests Mailman and Romo

My grandma gave me this sweatshirt. She sends me these on Christmas, and I love them.


That picture is from Monday night. I wore it while watching the Lions play the Ravens. The Ravens used to be the Browns, you might know. Until they left Cleveland, changed their name, and won Super Bowls.

Goodbye forever, football. You’re too fucking mean.


The negativity toward Karl Malone and Tony Romo is stupid because winning is fun.

Malone started more than 1,500 games in his career. He won all the time, and averaged 25 points and 10 rebounds. He made it to the NBA finals twice.

Romo’s different. He’s The Dallas Cowboys Quarterback. He throws interceptions at the end of close games sometimes, but half the time he wins, with a gunslinger’s bravado that indicates he appreciates the raw fun of football.

Have you ever been playing a game and gotten caught up in the competition? Started trying like hell to win? That’s Mailman and Romo. They want to win so badly. They just screw up sometimes.


With eight minutes to go in the second quarter Monday night, Lions receiver Calvin “Megatron” Johnson caught a quick slant for eight yards. As he was falling backwards with the ball he took a diving shoulder from Ravens inside linebacker Jameel McClain, who weighs 250 pounds. The shoulder went through the back of Megatron’s helmeted head, hard enough to snap it forward unnaturally, with awkward violence. Megatron got up and leaned left and bounced on just his left foot. It would be so Megatron to take a hit like that, that truly hurt him, and pretend like it was nothing. He knows everyone knows he’s the biggest and strongest.


Seven years ago my fantasy team Pee Hole Fisters went winless. A defeated 0-13. That had never happened before in Burque League, and hasn’t happened since. I think I started Mark Bulger and Donald Driver and Jeremy Shockey. Hines stupid Ward. Jesus.

I was writing a weekly fantasy football advice column that season, for the late, great Albuquerque Tribune daily newspaper. I’ve been pretty mediocre since. Undone by injuries, usually. Jamaal Charles scored five touchdowns yesterday for the Chiefs, but when I had him he missed the last 14 games of a season.

This year, my guys kept winning. My late-round running backs were amazing, a rotating foursome of 100-yard, one-touchdown games: Lacy, Knowshon, Bernard and Jackson.

And I was on the insane RG3 train. I was at work one day last week refreshing ESPN.com every 15 minutes because there was supposed to be an RG3 press conference, where the Redskins’ psychotic coach would announce whether his young franchise quarterback was gonna play the last three games or not. The decision was he would not.

What a ride it’s been.


Just great.


A huge hit again, for the first play of the second half. This time Ravens safety James Ihedigbo nails Megatron flush in the air, shoulder into shoulder. Megatron hangs on for the 20-yard gain. He stays down, lifts his head, and shakes it back and forth. “And he is shaken up right there,” says the TV color commentator, Jon Gruden.

I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt while I watched Megatron drop the next two passes, which would have been for big gains. The ball hit him in his huge gloved hands, but he didn’t close his grip in time.


I lost by two points. A little less than two points, actually. I had Megatron, and my friend Ian I was up against had Baltimore Ravens kicker Justin Tucker. With less than one minute left in the game I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt, and my fantasy team was winning by three points, and Tucker was lining up for a 61-yard field goal to win the game for the Ravens. And Ian. It seemed like that ball hung in the air forever. Then it seemed a bit too far right, and a bit short. Then it dropped inside the goal posts by inches. Inches.

Inches. Al Pacino was right.

The Baltimore Ravens kicker scored 22 fantasy points, and even talked about his fantasy value in the post-game interview. Megatron scored 9.8 points in the fog.

And I lost by by 1.6. I will remember this night forever. I’d been winning and winning and winning, week after week. It was so much fun. Then this one nail-biter and I’m done. If only Jimmy Graham had caught a touchdown. If only Megatron hadn’t gotten concussed. If only. If only. If only. OHGOOOODDDDDWHYYYYY!!!!?!?!?!?!

I was wearing my Browns sweatshirt I got from grandma for Christmas.

Goodbye, football. Goodbye forever. You’re too fucking violent. You’re too mean.


I have to go to bed. I started late, but I’m drunk now on Scotch.

Goddammit I hate the Ravens.

Dreading Mailman’s Ghost . . . in Fantasy Football

I fear the ghost of Karl Malone. I have two Malone jerseys; there is an action-figure shrine to him above my refrigerator*. When Malone was playing power forward on the Utah Jazz in the ’90s, my mood rose and fell with his play. When he was great, I felt great. And the Mailman was extremely great in regular seasons.

But he always, always lost in the playoffs. It hurt worse every time.

Here’s how I snowboard when feeling especially saucy:


My fantasy football team this NFL season, Mingo F*ck Yerself, has the No. 1 seed in the ‘Burque league playoffs. I finished 11-2, the only team with double-digit wins. I won a fantasy matchup in Week 9 by this score: 161.45–153.35. Receiver T.Y. Hilton, Colts. Megatron was on a bye that weekend, and I still won huge. My only loss (since the first game) was Week 11, despite 60 combined from Megatron and Washington Football Team QB RG3. Jimmy Graham and Knowshon Moreno had low games. Fluke. I had the third highest score of all the teams that week.

The dude who beat me then is Daniel. Team name: Eye of Yaweh. We were roommates after college. He’s got Peterson. And Gronk. Daniel’s the No. 2 seed. Because we’re the top two, we both get a bye, automatically advancing to round two. If we play again it’ll be in the championship on December 23. I’ll be with my in-laws for Christmas.

Of the five other guys who made the playoffs (in a 12-team league), three were once roommates. The top three teams all lived together once. A fourth, Marlman, lived in a room I moved into immediately after he moved out, so we just barely missed being roommates.

There’s money, too.

I want to win.

Ming F*ck Yourself just had a season to remember. Now begin the playoffs. The No. 3 seed is my friend and former roommate Nebs. We stayed up late one night, weeks ago, negotiating a trade over G-chat that would have got me Peyton Manning. He backed out the next morning.

Nebs says my only hope to escape Karl Malone’s ghost is to burn my Malone stuff.

I won’t do it. My players have gotten me this far. They’ll come through. Come on, RG3—be amazing.

A shrine. Jesus. I never thought it might actually matter.

Sports is ridiculous.


John Stockton running shit. The painting is of Baby Stockton giving a ball to Baby Malone

John Stockton running shit. The painting is Baby Stockton giving a ball to Baby Malone

Eat Money 2: The Governor is Dirtier

Ex-colleagues of mine are doing fine work, continued:

Last week we saw the spectacular portrait of New Mexico Puppet Master Jay McCleskey. Photographer Steven St. John, formerly of the late and great Albuquerque Tribune, perfectly captured the look of a soulless liar contentedly selling out necessary democratic debate for talking points and fat campaign donations.

This week, UNM Daily Lobo alumnus Eric Garcia comes with this great cartoon.


Teachers have been quitting, and wearing all black, and talking about striking. They’re being told exactly how to do their jobs, by politicians who never taught. Teaching in New Mexico is hard. Poverty and all its consequences make it difficult to get through to kids. They’re disinclined to learn, and they’re even less inclined to sit and take boring, state-mandated tests.

Only someone with an uncouth agenda would institute policies that are so unhelpful.

Their arguments are polished talking points as they’re taking money out of public schools. This is why Hanna Skandera got the top education job despite never having taught (in violation of the state’s constitution): You have to consciously ignore what’s really going on to prioritize testing and evaluations. You have to have no mercy. Micromanagers with shocking conflicts of interest are deciding how schools should be run. The governor is so dirty.

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