“Terminator: Dark Fate” (in theaters)

Twenty-two years ago, I was a big fan of the first two “Terminator” films and James Cameron. Needless to say, 22 years ago I was quite a bit younger. At the screening of this latest in the franchise, my companions were two young men friends of mine, both half my age. While they were not blown away by the film, they both enjoyed it. I was alternately interested and bored by the repetition. The good guys (actually good women) keep trying to kill this latest model of Terminator but, see, he cannot be destroyed, so they bomb and shoot and stab and drown him and he always comes back, seeping into the action in the form of gooey black stuff that regenerates to a become a black skeleton that then takes on the physical appearance of some poor human that got in its way. Can you tell that I am not the demographic for this film? But at least it was good to see the talented and gorgeous Mackenzie Davis as a lethally strong part-human protector of this Terminator’s target, a fierce Latina (Natalia Reyes). More important, Sarah Connor is back!  Yes, the heroine of the first two films is back in action, and Linda Hamilton embraces the character—she’s really good and even more ferocious than before. Parenthetically, Hamilton is one of the only aging actresses in Hollywood today who has not had face work, and it was a pleasure to see what an attractive older woman actually looks like. As for Arnold Schwarzenegger? Believe it or not, he provides the comic relief as an out-of-date and “reformed” Terminator model. Not my kind of film, but it just may be yours. 

“Evil” (on CBS)

The Kings, Michelle and Robert, were the co-creators and major writers of one of my favorite TV dramas ever—”The Good Wife.” So, when I heard they had a new show and that it starred Mike Colter (the dope kingpin from “The Good Wife” and the title role in “Lucas Cage”), I knew I had to watch it. It took me a couple of episodes to decide it was worth adding to my Must Watch list, but now I’m a fan. The premise is unusual—each episode presents a different case of what seems like satanic possession, but which may just be psychosis or some other scientifically explainable diagnosis. A team of three are put together to investigate: a priest in training (Colter) who may or may not believe in God but who does believe in the existence of evil; a female psychologist (Katja Herbers) whose husband’s job involves a lot of travel, leaving her to raise their four girls—darling, chatty things—and receiving occasional help from her loose-living mother (Christine Lahti, reliably delightful); and a cynical technical expert (Aasif Mandvi) who emphatically does not believe in anything paranormal. This is not one of those silly shows about spirits; the subject is treated with dignity and complexity, and that’s why it works. The cast is excellent. Bonus casting: Michael Emerson is along as a really bad man who may or may not be the Devil himself.

“By the Grace of God” (in theaters with subtitles)

Based on a true story, this excellent French film about a long-time pedophile priest and how far the Catholic Church went to cover it up, begins slowly. One day, a successful businessman with a loving family has his memory triggered and he begins to realize that what happened to him in his childhood can no longer be buried. He decides to take action by confronting his abuser. The police are called in but the statute of limitations has passed. The businessman is soon joined by two other men who were also the priest’s victims; the three of them undertake a public campaign to get the now-aging clergyman defrocked and held accountable, as well as those higher-ups who protected him. The film’s pace is deliberate, made with a documentary style—no histrionics, just raw determination and mounting tension. An important, engrossing work—highly recommended.

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