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Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ****
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Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes
Directed by Jonathan Mostow


     If audiences were accepting applicants for action movies, the classified ad would read: Action Movie  Part-time opening for a summer blockbuster for bored moviegoers.  Moviegoers seek a film with the ability to thrill.  Must be smart, fun, escapist fare, and short.  Must include stars, explosions, chase scene, and catch phrases.  Gunplay and/or martial arts sequences prefered.  Often, the applicants would boast big budgets, media hype, and a reliable star.  "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" included all of these, but didn't forget to add all the other necessary credentials of a sweet action movie.
     The "Terminator" franchise has remained a popular one in spite of the lack of a new installment for twelve years.  Talk of a third installment garnered the appropriate level of hype.  Vin Diesel was mentioned as a star.  James Cameron didn't want to make it.  Arnold needed a hit.  Many people forget that the second installment of the franchise, "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" is still one of the highest grossing rated-R films of all time.  They forget because all the excitement built up for the 1991 film has been lost in the wake of the return of the Star Wars phenomenon, the birth of "The Matrix," and the fast cars in "The Fast and the Furious."  Filmmakers hoped to deliver a new installment that brought back the excitement, the adrenaline of its predecessors.  I am happy to report that "T3" rocks.
     Arnold Schwarzenegger returned to his biggest role, but not pocketing a reported thirty million dollars.  He plays a new terminator sent back to protect John Conner and the missing piece of the future resistance, Katherine Brewster.
     Nick Stahl plays John Conner, taking over for Edward Furlong, who has never gained the notoriety he seemed destined for after the "T2" blitz.  Stahl has proved himself to be a highly talented actor in past roles in the Mel Gibson directed "The Man Without a Face," "In the Bedroom," and even in lesser films like "Disturbing Behavior."  He plays John with the heart and proper level of believability that the film would be lost without.  
     Claire Danes joins the cast as Katherine Brewster, whose purpose in the future is the film's key new development.  Danes, a former young starlet, compliments Stahl and Schwarzenegger perfectly.  She is forced to go through the damsel in distress motions before her character can come to grips with the extraordinary events happening around her.  Danes infuses some needed sweetness to what, essentially, is a very brutal film. 
     The plot's very simple on the surface, basically consisting of one long chase sequence with a new terminator (Kristanna Loken) chasing after the terminator- (Schwarzenegger) protected Conner and Brewster.  Underneath it all, there's the sci-fi babble that will go over many moviegoers heads.  Time travel and the effects of it often make sci-fi movies impossible to follow (i.e. - "12 Monkeys").  But, I think I got all of "T3's" twists and turns.  They try to keep it accessible, and, for the most part, it is.
     The script is light on the dialogue, mostly alotting space for yells and screams, but it delivers the sci-fi babble and snippets of character development along the way. 
     Director Jonathan Mostow ("Breakdown," "U-571") directs with the same assuredness that he has past films.  He knows the genre and what must go into a good action film.  He's an underrated director in the Hollywood system, but any success that "T3" achieves can only serve to help his notoriety.
     And the name on the poster, Schwarzenegger, has never been my favorite.  I think his action stardom and icon status is a shame.  He is only suited to "fish out of water" comedies and films where he can play a lifeless character.  So "T3" manages to get the laughs and the thrills out of the old man that it needed, but not without reminding you how ridiculous of an actor he really is.
     The gauge for most action films, for me at least, is how excited I am when I leave the theater.  Going into a movie with excitement pulsing throughout the theater is easy.  Getting people to leave after having an actual good time is harder.  "T3: Rise of the Machines" had me leaving with my adrenaline pumping and a smile on my face.  That's the kind of summer movie I love.  "T3" is that movie. 

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