Seven Nights of Schwarzenegger

DAY ONE:  PREDATOR

Year Released:  1987
Director:  John McTiernan
Name of Arnold’s Character:  Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  No
Most Memorable Line:  “GET TO DA CHOPPA!!!”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “Stick Around.”  (after nailing an enemy to a wall through his chest with his knife)

Review:  In my humble opinion, Predator is second greatest action movie ever made (behind only Die Hard).  It’s also kinda two different movies, because it seems to begin as a typical “men on a mission” action-adventure, starring such heavy hitters as Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura, Bill Duke, and of course, Schwarzenegger himself.  It also features the single most manly handshake ever filmed.  Regardless, after almost an hour of the movie coming off like The Dirty Dozen  in the jungle, it suddenly morphs into sci-fi/horror territory with a one-on-one blood fest between Dutch and the Predator, and that part totally rocks.  It also features a necessary staple for all ’80s action movies:  a montage of the hero preparing his weaponry (the ultimate example of which is probably Rambo: First Blood Part II).  Another thing I like about Predator is that each member of the team comes off as a memorable character.  Dillon (Carl Weathers) is a lying douche, and you’re kind of glad when the monster rips him in half.  Mac (Bill Duke) starts out normal enough, but then basically goes insane, and is much more fun to watch when he’s riding the crazy train.  Blain (Jesse Ventura) has some of the best and most ridiculous lines in the movie, including: “I ain’t got time to bleed!” and “This stuff will make you a g**damn sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.”  And even Shane Black, a career screenwriter who was hired as a favor, gets to tell dirty jokes the whole time.  Oh, and wanna know an interesting fact?  The part of the Predator alien was originally supposed to go to Jean-Claude Van Damme, but he constantly complained that the monster suit was too hot and that the audience couldn’t see his face.

Finally, allow me to present PREDATOR: THE MUSICAL!

DAY TWO:  COMMANDO

Year Released:  1985
Director:  Mark Lester
Name of Arnold’s Character:  Colonel John Matrix
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  Yes
Most Memorable Line:  “Hey Sully, remember when I said I’d kill you last?  I lied.”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “Let off some steam, Bennett.”  (after impaling him with a steam pipe)

Review:  Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat:  I love Commando, but it is a terrible movie.  The casting is terrible, the acting is terrible, the plot makes zero sense, and the action scenes are beyond ridiculous.  But it’s also one of those movies that’s so bad that it’s hilarious and great.  Along with Stallone’s Cobra, it is the absolute epitome of cheeseball ’80s action cinema.  I mean, how bizarre is that opening scene where Schwarzenegger and Alyssa Milano are feeding deer and smashing ice cream on each other’s faces?  What about the very non-action movie soundtrack mainly featuring synth and saxophone?  Why is the one military surplus store in town located next to a bulldozer dealership?  And what’s the deal with the humorously out-of-shape bad guy wearing that tight chainmail vest the whole time?  Every line of dialogue uttered by Rae Dawn Chong is cringe inducing, because her acting is worse than an extra on a Mexican soap opera.  Oh hey, there’s Arnold rowing a boat in a speedo for no apparent reason!  And there’s pre-fame Bill Paxton!  And gratuitous explosions!  It’s fantastic.  Anyway, the best part of the movie (by far) is the final assault on Arius’ compound in Val Verde, in which Schwarzenegger carries around about 6,000 pounds of weapons, including a rocket launcher, and kills an entire army worth of hapless henchmen by himself, while sustaining only superficial injuries (from a hand grenade!).  He also cuts a guy’s arm off with a machete, and the reaction shot is just priceless.  Anyway, in summary, Commando is really stupid but also a whole lot of fun.

And also, for your viewing pleasure, COMMANDO: THE MUSICAL!

DAY THREE:  THE RUNNING MAN

Year Released:  1987
Director:  Paul Michael Glaser
Name of Arnold’s Character:  Ben Richards
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  Yes
Most Memorable Line:  “I live to see you eat that contract, but I hope you leave enough room for my fist because I’m going to ram it into your stomach and break your g**damn spine!”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “What happened to Buzzsaw?” “He had to split.” (after cutting him in half with a chainsaw)

Review:  Did you know that The Running Man was actually adapted from a Stephen King novel?  Well, at the time he was writing under his pseudonym Richard Bachman, but it was definitely King.  Anyway, the movie is set in a dystopian future in which America is essentially a police state controlled by an unholy alliance between the government and the media, and people are kept subjugated both through massive propaganda and through violent reality game shows, the most popular of which is “The Running Man” hosted by Damon Killian (Richard Dawson, being delightfully evil).  Although some elements of the film may seem goofy or ridiculous, it’s actually a very interesting satire of modern society, even more so now that when it was released 31 years ago.  I mean, in a world that is completely addicted to reality shows and where (due to technology) we are constantly connected to some form of media, the whole concept seems strangely plausible.  Think about it:  Aside from being hyper-violent, are the various “stalkers” that hunt Arnold’s character on the show any more silly than most professional wrestlers or the American gladiators?  Exactly.  Even Dynamo, the stalker who sings opera and wears a goofy suit covered in twinkling Christmas lights, is really no more ridiculous than the Ultimate Warrior or the members of GWAR (“Mark, you love GWAR!  Why don’t you join the band?”).  This film has pretty much the same concept at Death Race 2000, although Death Race 2000 is somewhat inferior in that it doesn’t include a sweet old lady saying that Schwarzenegger “is one mean motherf***er.”  Classic cinema, folks.

DAY FOUR:  TOTAL RECALL

Year Released: 1990
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Name of Arnold’s Character: Douglas Quaid / Houser
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”? No
Most Memorable Line: “Get your ass to Mars.”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner: “Consider this a divorce.” (after shooting his wife)

Review:  If you don’t like Total Recall, I just don’t think we can be friends.  It’s a fantastic movie, blending action, sci-fi, and mind blowing philosophical confusion on the nature of reality into a nearly perfect whole.  It’s violent, it’s complex, it’s interesting, it has a three-boobed hooker… it’s got it all.  Plus, despite being made in 1990, most of the special effects still hold up today (at the time they were fantastic and innovative — but they’re still good now).  While watching the film, I took notice of the full-body X-ray scanner that security uses at the spaceport and determined that it would be far more acceptable if the TSA used something like that instead of their invasive “nude scanners” they came out with a few years ago.  So get on it, scientists!  I want this done!  Anyway, aside from all the great fight scenes, the one thing that really lifts this movie onto another level is the fact that the audience never really knows if what’s happening is real or if it’s just a false memory being implanted by the memory implant machines at the Rekall Corporation.  I mean, one of the techs even foreshadows the ending with a throwaway line at the very beginning of the movie — he says, “Huh, blue skies on Mars!”  So the question remains, did Quaid kill the bad guys and save the planet, or was he trapped in permanent psychosis and eventually lobotomized?  Who knows!  Either way, it’s pretty safe to say that the unnecessary remake with Colin Farrell (much like the unnecessary Point Break remake) was a pile of garbage.

Here’s a couple of fun facts:  Total Recall was originally given an X rating for extreme violence, but the studio ended up trimming some of the violence and using some different camera angles to get an R rating.  Also, you probably know that it was based on the Phillip K. Dick short story, We Can Remember It for You Wholesale.  Well, the producers actually started working on Total Recall 2, which would have been based on another Phillip K. Dick story, Minority Report.  Of course, that script ended up getting rewritten and made into a blockbuster starring Tom Cruise.

And once again, for your viewing pleasure, TOTAL RECALL: THE MUSICAL!

DAY FIVE:  TRUE LIES

Year Released:  1994
Director:  James Cameron
Name of Arnold’s Character:  Harry Tasker
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  No
Most Memorable Line:  “Ask me a question I would normally lie to.” “Are we gonna die?” “Yep!”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “You’re fired.” (just before launching a Harrier missile from which the lead terrorist is hanging)

Review:  Whatever you think of him, nobody does BIG quite like James Cameron.  I mean, just look at the other movies this guy has directed:  Aliens, The Terminator, Terminator 2, Titanic, Avatar… yeah, two of those films have held the title of Highest Grossing Movie Ever.  That’s pretty crazy.  Anyway, the point is that True Lies is fittingly BIG, just like the others.  It has everything… a very James Bond-esque opening scene (white tux included), a soundtrack full of hard rock and metal, tons of cheesy one-liners, vehicles violently exploding on impact with basically anything, terrorists smuggling nukes, highly improbable gunfights, Bill Paxton peeing his pants, a motorcycle jumping off a building and into a rooftop swimming pool (and a horse briefly attempting the same), Arnold hijacking a freakin’ Harrier, your mom, etc.  It was considered a bit of a comeback for Schwarzenegger, since he had just come off making Last Action Hero, which was a gigantic flop (although I still kinda like it).  Also, Jamie Lee Curtis won a Golden Globe award for her portrayal of Helen Tasker, a repressed housewife who ends up doing a striptease for her husband, which ended up being one of the most famous scenes of the movie.  In fact, this is probably my dad’s favorite Schwarzenegger film, because he’s had a crush on Jamie Lee Curtis ever since Halloween came out when he was 18.  Either way, it’s hard to tell if True Lies is supposed to be a comedy or an action film, because it handles both so well.  Maybe that’s just because it’s an over-the-top action film that refuses to take itself seriously.  Regardless, it’s a lot of fun, and it’s one of Arnold’s best.

DAY SIX:  ERASER

Year Released:  1996
Director:  Chuck Russell
Name of Arnold’s Character:  John Kruger
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  No
Most Memorable Line:  “You’ve just been erased.”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “You’re luggage.” (after shooting an alligator)

Review:  Ya know, for a guy with a thick Austrian accent, Schwarzenegger’s characters sure have generic American names in a lot of his movies.  For instance, this is the third film in which he’s named “John” (the first two are Commando and Kindergarten Cop). Anyway, in Eraser, he plays U.S. Marshal John Kruger, a guy who works with Witness Protection to help people disappear.  Honestly, I’m kinda surprised that this movie came out only a month after Mission: Impossible, because there’s a sequence where they break into the ultra-secure office building of this crooked defense contractor, and it almost seems like the director went, “Hey, if Tom Cruise can do that, why not Arnie?”  It also features Vanessa Williams as the female lead, James Cromwell as that guy who’s always in stuff but you can’t remember his name, James Caan chewing scenery like a boss, and (like most Hollywood movies featuring encryption and/or hacking) computer screens that display a bizarre, fake operating system that just doesn’t exist in reality.  Speaking of which, why doesn’t anyone ever use a mouse in the movies?  They always use the keyboard for everything.  Ever notice that?  Also, I’ve seen this movie many times, and watching it again, I totally just noticed that John Slattery (Roger Sterling from Mad Men) has a minor role as an FBI agent.  So… there’s that.  Anyway, this is just a quality latter-day Schwarzenegger flick where he gets to jump out of an airplane without a parachute, he gets to blow the hell out of a whole bunch of bad guys with a pair of electromagnetic pulse rifles while delivering witty one-liners, and of course, he gets to shoot a CGI alligator in the face.

DAY SEVEN:  TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY

Year Released:  1991
Director:  James Cameron
Name of Arnold’s Character:  The Terminator / T-800
Does He Say “I’ll Be Back”?  Duh
Most Memorable Line:  “Come with me if you want to live.”
Cheesiest Action Movie One-Liner:  “Hasta la vista, baby.” (just before shooting the T-1000, who has been frozen solid with liquid nitrogen)

Review:  This is it.  The big one.  The granddaddy.  One of the greatest action movies ever made, period.  It’s also one of the few sequels that actually improves upon the original.  Not only was the T-800 Schwarzenegger’s career-defining role, but even people who’ve never seen a single one of his movies before — even primitive tribal people who live in the Amazon jungle and communicate solely through whistling — know the classic lines “I’ll be back” and “Hasta la vista, baby.”  It’s kinda like how every American kid is somehow just born knowing the theme songs to Gillian’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies.  They’re a part of our genetic code by now.  On a side note, I feel like James Cameron should get some kind of lifetime achievement award from feminists everywhere, because he’s responsible for both Ellen Ripley (Aliens) and Sarah Connor, two extremely badass female action heroes.  Raise those fists in the air, ladies!  Everything about this movie is great — the action, the humor, the music, the special effects… and surprisingly enough, the effects actually hold up pretty damn well, which is impressive considering the fact that the cold-blooded T-1000 was one of the first characters ever to be fully rendered with CGI (and the most ambitious use of new technology since 1984’s The Last Starfighter).  The only thing keeping the movie from being perfect is the performance of Edward Furlong, who’s kinda whiny and annoying the whole time, although he does have good chemistry with Schwarzenegger, so I’ll let it slide.  Oh hey, fun fact:  The mini-gun used in the film was the same mini-gun that Bill Duke used in Predator, which also starred Arnold Schwarzenegger.  And, of course, Schwarzenegger was in True Lies with Bill Paxton, who was in Apollo 13 with Kevin Bacon.  Boom.

Now, last but not least, allow me to present… TERMINATOR 2: THE OPERA!

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