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Terminator 3:
Rise of the Machines

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Kristanna Loken and Claire Danes
Screenplay by John Brancato & Michael Ferris
Based on a story by Brancato & Ferris and Tedi Sarafian
Directed by Jonathan Mostow

IN SHORT: Completing the trilogy. Slow to start with a bang up finish. [Rated R for strong sci-fi violence and action, and for language and brief nudity. 109 minutes]

Terminators are, as all South Park viewers know, descended from a Dawson's Creek Trapper Keeper 2000 owned by fatass Eric Cartman. <g> Legally, though, they are created by Harlan Ellison, James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd who are all out of the picture as we move closer to the Apocalyptic war of Man versus Machine that the future holds.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, for the first time in years, had us checking our watch to see how long the seemingly endless car chase(s) that open the film had run. Thirty or forty minutes = we didn't check the start time. That's too bad because the last hour or so of Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines delivers just about all the heavy duty battle and destruction action that we expected from the third film in this series.

For those that have lapped up The Terminator and Terminator 2, Rise of the Machines makes tic-tac-toe, so to speak. It is a fine wrap to the trilogy of Terminator flicks, dropping a surprise twist down on our heads that we truly didn't see coming. For those that haven't, all you need to know to bring you up to speed is well integrated into the screenplay. That integration is thanks to the presence of Claire Danes as Kate Brewster (click for Cranky Critic® StarTalk), whose animal hospital has been broken into by John Connor (Nick Stahl) who will explain how his life has been made a living hell by robots from the future, Terminators, that have come back in time to kill first his mother and then himself. He'll also be surprised when another Terminator shows up, since the resolution of T2 supposedly circumvented the events that would bring war between man and machines.

But, no, another (and just as in T2) more advanced, indestructible, Terminator unit has come back in time, gunning not just for Connor -- mom is dead -- but for 22 other humans who will also have important roles to play in the FutureWar. Arnold Schwarzenegger (click for StarTalk) returns as an older, less efficient, T-800 model Terminator who must protect Connor and Miller from the model T-X killer (Kristanna Loken). There is more to the relationship of these four beings than we'll tell, lest we spoil the surprises. T3 is, pretty much, an average special effects heavy movie. Only at the end, and only if you pay attention to the details in the earlier dialog, do the surprises pop. Knowing that all us fanboys are only looking at the special effects, what those surprises are are repeated in the dialog.

We'll hint that Kate Brewster has been involved in the Terminator saga for far longer than even she knows, thanks to her military dad Robert (David Andrews). That hint will give you something to gnaw on as Judgment Day looms once again.

Honestly, though Mostow's directorial hand is secure (rent U-571 for a better rush) T3 doesn't pack the same satisfying punch as T2. It is, to be sure, a much funnier film than its ultra-serious predecessor -- almost every line out of Schwarzenegger's mouth got our audience laughing and a scene revealing the final fate of Sarah Connor is just as surprisingly amusing as it is serious. Lose the expectation of a xerox of T2 and your viewing experience will be just fine.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, he would have paid . . .


T3 falls into that no man's land of movies that would work just fine on a small screen, except that the effects are much better on the large one.

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