Five Great Bill Paxton (1955-2017) Performances

Bill Paxton could play any character. He could play anyone, at any time, from anywhere. He was a cowboy in the old west, he was a soldier in the future fighting aliens, he was a tornado chaser, a leather clad vampire, a slimy car salesman, an obnoxious big brother, a dad burdened with the knowledge of demonic entities, a punk, et al. He could be anyone. I am one of the many kids who grew up watching Paxton give riveting performances on film, no matter how big or small the role was. Paxton was a man who could appear in any time period on film and you bought his performance and his place there.

By all accounts, Paxton was a very nice and warm man who loved his fans, and treated everyone with immense respect. I was born in 1983, so I was old enough to remember a time where Paxton was in a lot of movies, and was a constant face on film. He’d just pop up, and it was a pleasant surprise every single time. Paxton even helped invent a ton of imitators who would walk around screaming “Game over man! Game over!” over and over and over. It never got old.

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Aliens (1986)

aliensSequels should always strive to be better than the original while paying homage to the film that came before it. James Cameron does a bang up job with a film that, in another reality, would have failed big time. Cameron takes what was a slow burn and gradually unraveling horror science fiction film about a woman battling a phallic alien and transforms it in to a brutally and entertaining action horror film. While some of the more ardent fans of “Alien” might have been thrown off by the change in tone, James Cameron embraces the action genre for a brand new generation, offering an extension of Ridley Scott’s film that compliments what came before.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)


I may not be the biggest fan of James Cameron, but when he approaches sequels, he hits the ground running and aims for the throat. First with “Aliens,” and then with “Terminator 2” in which a full fledged horror science fiction movie, becomes an action horror film with a wider scope and explorations of time paradoxes and the like. While I much prefer the original mainly for its tone and sense of urgency, “Judgment Day” is quite excellent. I saw it in theaters when it arrived, and years later, it’s still a stellar science fiction film from James Cameron.

Set years after the original movie, Sarah Connor raised John Connor to become an apocalyptic warrior. But after the confrontation with the T-800 cyborg at the bomb factory, she’s arrested and placed in a mental health facility. John is raised by his dysfunctional aunt and uncle and is mostly a wayward youth. The evil Skynet is once again intent on ending the war before it starts, sending a new advanced cyborg back in time to assassinate John Connor. Branded the T-1000, this new cyborg is made of liquid metal that can imitate anything it touches.

Just then, a new model of the T-800 is sent back in time, but this time its mission is to find and protect John and Sarah Connor at all costs. Now with the T-800, John races against the clock to find his mother and avoid every clever assassination attempt by the advanced new cyborg that will stop at nothing to end the Connor bloodline. Skynet also plans to initiate a Judgment day by unleashing a nuclear warhead that will destroy humanity and unleash a robotic rule on the planet. Sarah decides the best cause of action is to murder Miles Dyson, a Cyberdyne Systems engineer whose new computer processor will become the template for Skynet.

Where as the original movie was more centered on a behemoth rampaging through civilization to murder Sarah Connor, this time around Cameron opts for a sleeker new villain that really does pose an even more vicious threat to our heroes. B movie actor Robert Patrick gives a fantastic performance as the seemingly inconspicuous T-1000 whose façade of an average beat cop helps him blend in to civilization and infiltrate any strong hold. He’s made even deadlier with his ability to form massive blades, and sharp objects with his constantly shifting metallic body. Arnold Schwarzenneger shifts his title character in to the hero role, now becoming a protector who also gradually learns about humanity and emotions.

Linda Hamilton is also a welcome face as she reprises her role as the iconic Sarah Connor, whose welfare is of great importance to the fate of the world. Cameron approaches the continuation of his storyline well but never quite as seamless as he thinks. One thing that always bothered me is if they can create a robot made of pure metal that can become anything it touches, why not wait a few years and build a robot that can become a weapon of mass destruction? That way it can appear in John Connor’s general vicinity and blow itself up, thus ending the war? And if the robots can’t grasp concepts like emotions and feelings, why can they understand existential ideas of fate and inevitability? While Cameron never quite masters the ideas of time paradoxes, or time travel in general, “Terminator 2” still succeeds in being a raucous, beautifully directed action epic.

Terminator Vault: The Complete Story Behind the Making of The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgement Day [Hardcover]


It’s very interesting how the original “The Terminator” was envisioned as a precursor to “The Matrix.” Long before the Wachowskis, we had James Cameron, who envisioned a world controlled by a sentient technology, and robotic drones that attempted to destroy humanity. Only certain human survivors dared to stand up against the machines, with a few of their rebels using technology to try to change their current reality. Author Ian Nathan who brought us the wonderful “Alien Vault,” is back with a treasure trove fit for fans of James Cameron, Science Fiction, or The Terminator series.

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The Terminator (1984)

When James Cameron came aboard the “Alien” series, he essentially took what was a dark science fiction horror film and transformed its sequel in to a action packed monster movie. When it came to Cameron’s love child “The Terminator,” Cameron seemed to work in reverse starting his series off as a tale about a robotic monster from the future, and then transformed his premise in to a darker science fiction parable about the imminent apocalypse and the sheer labyrinth that is time travel.

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Titanic (1997)


It’s not a surprise why “Titanic” ended up becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time and was later de-throned by “Avatar” by the very same director that brought us the aforementioned movie. Both films are so utterly broadly written and vague in their mass appeal that they’re pretty much guaranteed to be massive hits. With his hand on the button of the latest special effects, and a script that can be as ho hum and derivative as possible without a single complaint from his audience, “Titanic” is one of the two major blockbusters from director James Cameron. And like his future massive hit “Avatar,” it is an immense crowd pleaser because it doesn’t challenge or push its audience to think. It merely offers up vague characters, hackneyed archetypes, and a bang up special effects presentation that is still the small highlight in a giant disappointment.

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True Lies (1994)


Shortly after the Columbine Massacre, Arnold Schwarzenegger decided that he was done with movies about guns. For a long period where his popularity was waning and he attempted to appeal to conservative audiences, Arnold placed a fatwa on guns in his movies. in at least three of his films, he completely avoids the use of firearms, and he’d made the decision to exclude the sight of firearms in promotional materials for his films. I mean for the love of god, in his horrible schlock fest “The 6th Day,” he keeps from killing a thug in front of his child, and walks off with the criminal lecturing him about gun violence before bringing him down off-screen!

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Piranha II: The Spawning

Flying Piranhas! Flying fucking piranhas! How does one mess up a film about flying piranhas?! I would love to view “Piranha II” as a film experience that’s so bad it’s good, but in reality it’s so bad that it’s actually just bad. It’s no wonder James Cameron tries to pretend he had nothing to do with this film and disowns it like a stepchild. It’s a bad movie and one that poorly takes off from the concept the 1978 film laid down. It’s a shame that a movie that completely reworks the concept of killer piranhas in to something even cheesier basically doesn’t have a clue on how to handle the creatures.

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