The Terminator. I find it interesting mostly as a historical artifact. It’s adequate, but I’ll take T2 over it any day if I’m just looking for fun. It is amazing to see the progress in special effects we’ve made. A lot of the stuff in this movie looks really clunky now. Contrast with Aliens, where pretty much everything is still perfect. What a difference two years can make!
Aliens. This is how you do a sequel. Extend, not rehash. It’s not as good as Alien, but few things are and it doesn’t need to be because it’s just as fun. The first was about trauma and violation and survival, this one about confrontation and closure. Ripley’s got a great arc. I’d always wished they’d done more with Bishop’s crawl down the tunnel. It’s one of the best shots in scifi, but then the story zips elsewhere and when you come back, Bishop is chillin’, remote-controlling a plane. I also love when Ripley makes her machine gun + motion tracker + flamethrower superweapon with duct tape. It’s the little things.
Avatar. I’m of two minds on this one. Glad to cross it off the list, but you could live happily without seeing it. It’s about as good as you can do a dumb movie. Strange pacing. Heavy-handed political parallels. So much swooping sweeping camera movement. Give James Cameron credit for, gradually, over the course of the movie, making me actually want to finish it, and for not being afraid to kill off side characters. Maybe I’ll watch Titanic this year, too.