Terminator Genisys

Director: Alan Taylor (2015)

The psychotic cyborg franchise suffers a serious metal fatigue as it clanks into gear for a fifth time.

Despite a sprightly comedy turn by Arnold Schwarzenegger, it’s a dull and stupid sci-fi clunker with a confused script, curious casting, a jokey tone and variable CGI.

It’s little more than a rusty collection of old parts bashed together in a wreckers yard and re-tooled as a generic family friendly action movie.

In 2029, the leader of the resistance John Connor (Jason Clarke), leads the war against the machines and the Skynet operating system.

Skynet sends a Terminator (Schwarzenegger) to the year 1984 to kill John’s mother Sarah (Emilia Clarke). So John sends his trusted lieutenant Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) back in time to protect her.

What follows is a time-hopping mess full of routine action scenes devoid of character worthy of our interest.

It ends up in 2017 where the good guys have to save the future of mankind by attempting to unplug an app called genisys. That’s right, the big bad is an app.

The app is played by former Dr Who Matt Smith and it’s appearance and manner will seem familiar to anyone who remembers The Red Queen in Resident Evil (2002).

Because quantum nexus nonsense something, there are multiple versions of Terminators, explosions, cheap laughs and no chemistry between the romantic leads.

Emilia Clarke has the  unenviable task of replacing Linda Hamilton as Sarah Conner. She lacks the ripped intensity, plays her part like a stroppy teen and isn’t given any opportunity to suggest she can carry a major movie.

Famous for her frequent nudity in the TV series Games of Thrones, fans of the show may be disappointed she is always fully dressed.

Courtney was in the most recent and most terrible entry in the Die Hard franchise, A Good Day To Die Hard (2013). Here he’s awful: bland, smug and possessing less range and vitality than the robots.

Never more human than when he’s playing a robot, Schwarzenegger plays his once menacing character for broad, kiddie-friendly laughs.

It’s a vaudeville grandfather performance and I expected him to start handing out Wether’s Originals and pulling out silver pennies from behind a small child’s ears.

J.K. Simmons plays a bald cop, replacing Lance Henriksen who played a bald cop in the original film.

We see the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in a tsunami of pixels. That’s not something I’ve seen in the cinema since Dwayne Johnson’s disaster movie San Andreas (2015) appeared last month.

Where the first two films arrogantly smashed their way into cinemas, this shuffles on with an apologetic air and tries to pander to the audience. And no-one likes a needy and pathetic kiss ass.

The Terminator (1984) was a ferocious sci-fi thriller and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) was an SFX action spectacular.

Officially referred to as a reset not a reboot or a sequel, this film ejects Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and Terminator Salvation (2009) form the canon. There was also a TV spin off show.

Both benefitted from James Cameron’s extraordinary storytelling but we have no such master-craftsman here. At one point the director is really confused and riffs on Cameron’s navy SEALs in space shoot ’em up Aliens (1986).

There’s lots of humour but little that’s funny, just a lot of knowing winks to the first film which may confuse anyone not familiar with the first film, made thirty years ago.

Skeletal robots are frequently walking out of exploding walls of fire.

Lines cherished in geekdom such as ‘I’ll be back’ and ‘Come with me if you want to live’ are delivered and followed by a pregnant pause, presumably for the audience to register and laugh.

But if this is your first Terminator film, it will be just a weirdly delivered line of no particular relevance.

It all makes little sense and by halfway through I didn’t care if the machines and Skynet won.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent

Director: Robert Schwentke (2015)

Welcome back to the future for the glossy second instalment of the dystopian action adventure quadrilogy.

Renegade heroine Tris returns to face a series of tests – but the biggest threat to success is herself.

Containing all the strengths and weaknesses of the first film, it balances handsome design and two great female performances with indifferent dialogue, silly stunts and a tiresome abundance of teenage posturing.

The decaying walled city is beautifully realised and accompanying uniforms, guns, trucks and technology are all heavily convincing.

Beginning where the last film ended, we’re quickly brought up to speed on the story before being thrust into the action.

Society is divided into five factions, each with it’s own role. Tris (Shailene Woodley) qualifies for more than one faction and therefore as a Divergent she is considered a threat to society.

Tris and her brother Caleb (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort) are now outlaws. They’re hiding in the peaceful pastoral faction of Amity along with her boyfriend Tobias and friend Peter (Theo James and Miles Teller). It’s a creepy commune of niceness.

Guilt-ridden over her parent’s death, Tris suffers nightmares and scalps her hair in a self-harming act of penance. Her self-prescribed therapy for her anger is to take plenty of physical punishment through the film.

Back in the city, evil Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has obtained a box containing secrets that belonged to Tris’s mother.

In order to unlock it’s secrets, victims have black suspension cables plugged into them and are put into a dream-state. In this condition they have to pass five tests – one for each Faction.

We see their subconscious go maximum Inception with exploding digital buildings galore – and death in their dream means they die for real.

Realising only a Divergent will possess the qualities to open it, Jeanine sends sneering Dauntless commander Eric Coulter (Jai Courtney) to hunt down the renegades. She is convinced Tris is the best candidate and is determined to capture her.

His crack troops no know fear, no danger and no tactics – they can’t see a wall without abseiling down it and striking ferocious moonlit action poses. There’s lots of train-hopping action but despite a lot of fighting, there’s a general absence of blood or bruises.

Chased by Dauntless, the four split up. Peter turns traitor, Caleb goes home and Tris and Tobias plan to kill Jeanine.

En route they are captured by the Factionless – now a heavily armed rebel force lead by Tobias’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts). She asks them to join up. But when Jeanine implants her friends with remote controlled suicide devices, Tris has a difficult choice to make

Winslet wears a killer electric blue dress and Woodley aside has so much more presence than her co-stars. It’s a wonder she can’t crush the rebellion with a single exasperated sigh.

Woodley carries the film with a combination of physical strength and emotional vulnerability. It’s great to see two actresses in roles defined by their actions and not their gender – it’s a shame the film’s not deserving enough of them.

It’s a good job Theo James is so buff and handsome as he’s more than a little dull. He and Woodley share strikingly little chemistry – there’s far more spark between Woodley and Teller and even between Teller and Winslet. Teller’s strutting wind-up-merchant is the only engaging male performance.

No matter how hard the film works to surprise us – and it does work very hard – nothing ever throws us off balance as it prettily plods to the third instalment.