The Govenator

The Terminator

Year: 1984
Directed By: James Cameron
Written By: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, and William Wisher

RYAN’S REVIEW

This was one of the most successful films of the year in 1984 when I was born. I don’t remember specifically when I saw it for the first time. I have a deep memory of watching it with my Aunt and Uncle at a young age, and of course when I was older it was a staple in the household I became part of and then throughout life with my brother. There are few movies more beloved in the home I grew up in than The Terminator, and its sequel Judgement Day. This was a groundbreaking film that studios have always been determined to turn into a franchise with one desperate attempt after another. This movie undoubtedly left room to grow, but for whatever reason there is just no way to recreate the success of these movies with James Cameron behind camera.

James Cameron may be an asshole and notoriously hard to work with, but he is a God at filmmaking. I would literally put him on par with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and early Steven Spielberg. I think he is one of the most inventive and industry changing men alive today and I think the Avatar sequels will surprise us all in new and exciting groundbreaking ways. He took science fiction to new heights with films like this one, Aliensand The AbyssHe stole the hearts of women all over the world with Titanic, making it one of the most successful box office films at all. Making that accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that Titanic has a three hour run time that limits how many tickets can be sold in a day. He broke all the records again when he revolutionized 3D films with Avatar. I saw it in the theater four times and it was worth every penny because it was a truly exceptional experience. You can never watch the movie today and get that same effect that the 3D created in the movie theater, if you missed it back in 09 you made a grave mistake. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it hit theaters again before it’s long awaited sequels are released so if you didn’t see it in the theater hold out hope for another chance. I think it’s easy to forget that there are more Avatar movies coming because it has been so long but when they come out James Cameron will again prove to be one of the most capable and revolutionizing filmmakers there is.

I don’t think one paragraph can accurately cover how much of a badass James Cameron is. I often joke that after Titanic and Avatar that James Cameron could make a movie about anything and studios would fall all over themselves for the rights to fund it. He could literally pitch a biographical feature about his old German Sheppard Wolfie and they’d give him a 250 million dollar budget for the film. This wasn’t always the case though as prior to this film he was actually living in his car. In fact his vision for this movie was so much grander than the budget allowed he had to cut many corners. In an effort to save money Cameron created what he called “guerrilla film making” where he would film on location without the proper permits. A lot of the movie is shot at night because Cameron and crew would show up, set up, and film as quickly as possible before the cops showed up to shut them down. The man may be hard to work with, he may be demanding and even occassionally bring his stars to tears, but the man is a badass and nobody can deny that.

Sometimes is takes a badass to make a badass and that is certainly the case when it comes to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who knows where Schwarzenegger would be today without landing the role in this film. Like Kanye and Taylor Swift, Cameron made that bitch famous. Sure his career had already started with the Conan movies but does anybody really think those parts were going to help him ascend to the next level? Would he have ever reached the heights that he has without these 17 lines of dialogue that gave him the opportunity to get better before his next role? Schwarzenegger could barely speak English back in the day and his accent has never really faded but he was able to overcome that due to the iconic part that made him famous.

When you look at Arnold Schwarzenegger you have to marvel at what the man has accomplished. Here is an immigrant body builder who has risen to the heights of the acting world, married into one of America’s most famous families, successfully entered and exited politics, and maintains his fame even now. I think he is a true example of how anybody is capable of anything in this country. It truly is the land of opportunity for certain people and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a prime example. At one point Schwarzenegger was the highest paid actor in Hollywood, he was elected to not one but two terms as The Govenator, and now he is slowly becoming Donald Trump 2.0. It’s an interesting story and I’m sure there are so many untold stories behind the man that only deepen the intrigue. There are probably already several books written about him but I’d really like to read the one that covers the whole life. There is still an uncertain future that lies ahead and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a man who can reach out and grab it for himself.

One of the reasons this is one of my favorite Schwarzenegger roles is that he actually plays the bad guy in this movie. The cold hearted ruthless bad guy that doesn’t eat or sleep but simply kills and will never stop. I may give a lot of credit to Cameron for how things turned out for Schwarzenegger but he brought his own ability to this movie. It wasn’t enough to look the part so much, he had to be the part. Schwarzenegger didn’t want to act like a robot, he wanted to be a robot. He spent countless hours working with guns prior to shooting and got so good that he was literally criticized for being too good by gun enthusiasts. His presence looms over this movie so much that it’s a tribute to his own personal prowess as a man and person. He only has 17 lines in this movie and speaks less than Stallone did in Rocky when he specifically wrote the part with little dialogue to mask his difficulty speaking. Interesting the parallels of the once action kings right? Schwarzenegger and Stallone both had problems speaking and burst onto the scene with movies that had them speaking less.

Funny factoid, OJ Simpson was originally considered and desired for the role of the terminator but he was deemed too nice. It was thought that people would never be able to accept him as a cold blooded killer. You can twist your head around backwards trying to imagine how that decision may have changed the fate of the American timeline right there. Would OJ and not Arnold turned into America’s fan favorite action star? How different his life would have been…

James Cameron was fond of casting Michael Biehn and I’ve always liked that about him too. I don’t know the story behind Biehn and why he never quite made it to the next level of acting but I have always been a big fan of his work. I think one of the problems with all these new Terminator films is that they keep trying to recast Kyle Reese and they fail. You just can’t top Biehn in the part. I think this is where he was at his best with his role in Aliens a close second, his role in the Abyss certainly doesn’t win him any awards. When I was little and would play with my G.I. Joes there was always a character who would play out a Reese scenario and generally be molded after the character. One of my favorites would be the soldier lost in time and have to fight his way through all the others.

Don’t want to delve too far into Sarah Hamilton here because there is really more to be said of her in the sequel Terminator 2 when she goes full blown Ripley. In this movie she is the soft and delicate victim. In truth a very typical character that we usually see in slasher films, which as a matter of fact some actually consider The Terminator to be. However one difference being that she actually gets down and dirty yet still survives in the end. Sarah Conner isn’t some typical teen running from the killer though, she’s the adolescent badass of the future. Of course she has sex and still manages to survive. Plus she had to make Jon Connor, and become badass mother of the future.

This was one of the most popular movies I remember growing up. The 80s were a terrific time with many groundbreaking and legendary movies being made but this one sticks out as different. I do not know how old I was when I saw it for the first time but I remember where I was and who I was with. It was a movie that I never would have been allowed to watch at home but it was with my Aunt and Uncle that I saw it for the first time. I remember learning the word motherfucker and thinking it was just awesome. I generally credit Wesley Snipes and Passenger 57 for teaching me that beloved nomenclature but this actually preceded it by quite a while. My parents probably would have flipped had they known I had seen this movie but I had a cool uncle and he introduced me to a lot.

Eventually I would enter into a new family dynamic around the age of  10 or so and in that household the action movie was king. We would watch action movies all the time and over and over again. The Terminator and it’s sequel were some of the most popular and to this day the movies are regularly referenced in my household. In fact I think there is a specific corner of my brother’s brain where the movies just play on a loop non stop. I’ll get to more of that with Judgement Day, but the point being this was an influential movie not only in the movie industry but in the very household I grew up in and in my young life.

I have rambled on for a long time now and still have managed to say so little about something so big. There is so much more to this movie and I could never hope to cover it. I may know it like the back of my hand but there is still so much that I know nothing about. For example, there was probably a lot James Cameron’s wife, Gale Anne Hurd, had to do with it as she has gone on to have a really storied career herself. There is a lot to be said of Stan Winston and the special effects his company were able to create. With a movie so influential and groundbreaking there are plenty of people and things to cover but I think it’s time for this rambler to ramble on.

If you haven’t seen this movie then frankly I think there is something wrong with you. Maybe you’re a kid that doesn’t know any better and been blinded by all these new Terminator movies, I’ll get to that in the review for the third film. Point being any movie enthusiast has already seen this movie and they know. Not only is it worth your time but it’s worth your money, it’s worth your attention, and it’s worth that sponge inside of all of us that absorbs influence and binds to the fiber of our soul. This movie isn’t going to change your life or anything but it’s going to entertain the hell out of you. It’s going to raise the bar for what you expect of movies because it shows what a movie is capable of. Even after more than thirty years and multiple attempts to recreate they simply can’t do what this movie does.

NEXT MOVIE: Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991) 

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The Running Man

Year: 1987
Directed By: Paul Michael Glaser
Written By: Richard Bachman (Stephen King) and Steven E. de Souza (screenplay)

RYAN’S REVIEW

I’ve never realized before but this movie is set in 2017. So I first have to question how could they be so wrong? Not only are we not executing our prisoners on network television in 2016 but the world seems to be more PC than ever. At the very least we could be collaring our prisoners with exploding devices to prevent escape. My second question would have to be for myself, and why it’s been so long since I last saw this movie.

It’s been probably as many as 15 years since I have seen this movie. I added it to the collection a few years ago around the time The Hunger Games was coming out. I distinctly remember joking on a regular basis that I wasn’t seeing the movie because “I had seen The Running Man.” While I did eventually see that movie and found it to be OK I still think it was simply a rip off of this movie, and a version with kids can never match up to the one with Schwarzenegger.

This movie is campy and cheesy but I loved it when I was a kid and I love it now. It kind of takes me back a little to those days when I was 15 and still thought Pro Wrestling was cool. This movie is like Pro Wrestling only with killing, and a mob mentality on the outside that rivals the French Revolution. Both the thematic element of the show as well as the reaction by the public are stolen ideas by the Hunger Games books.

One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the elderly lady puts her money on Schwarzenegger getting the next kill despite him being the should be victim and not a stalker. She says “He’s a mean motherfucker!” and coming from that sweet looking old lady that line is just golden. This movie also features an awesome fight scene between Schwarzenegger and his old buddy Jesse “the Body” Ventura. Two men who would both eventually go into politics with great success. Ventura serving as GoverBody in Minnesota and Schwarzenegger serving as the Governator of California. The latter actually used this movie as an inside joke during his campaign, labeling his campaign bus “The Running Man.” I would love to go back to 1987 and catch people coming out of the theater to see there impressions on this possibility in the future.

The Running Man book was written by Richard Bachman, a pseudonym created by Stephen King so he could publish more books. King literally wrote too many books for his publisher and had to create a new author he could publish under the guise of. It was a big deal and a very secret pseudonym for some time. Eventually hardcore fans started figuring it out and Richard Bachman suddenly “died.” However, when the rights to this story were bought it was unknown King was the actual author. I am a big fan of King but have never read this particular book so can’t offer any insight into how it compares.

There is probably a really interesting story in this movie involving Richard Dawson and his part in the film. Unfortunately I don’t know the story and know little of the man who was a popular game show host long before I was born. A real game show host playing an evil game show host in a movie has to have interesting real life comparisons behind the scenes.

This is far from a perfect action movie but it was memorable if nothing else. It has a cheesy screenplay from a guy who specialized in these types of films and it’s based on a story from a legitimate Wordslinger. I have to give it a thumbs up if for no other reason than somebody modified the idea and made millions on it with Jennifer Lawrence. There are better movies out there more worthy of your time but should you spend yours with this one it wouldn’t be completely wasted.

NEXT MOVIE: Saving Private Ryan (1998)

 

Predator

Year: 1987
Directed By: John McTiernan
Written By: Jim and John Thomas

RYAN’S REVIEW

Here it is, the quintessential action film that my brothers and I must have watched a million times growing up. This movie, as much as Die Hard, is a perfect movie for the genre. Technically it qualifies as sci/fi but this first film is all action aside from the Predator. They took a group of badasses, gave them a nice array of firepower, and dropped them in the jungle to make a movie. That is just a formula for success and it worked so well that the Predator is still a successful franchise nearly thirty years later. They have been hit or miss with sequels and spin offs but the Predator has become an iconic character that people will always show up to see.  No matter how many times I see this movie myself I still get into it every time. It takes me back and I find myself wishing I could break out my G.I. Joes again and mimic the story line with my play.

The cool thing about this movie is that for the first half of the film it’s straight action while the real threat lurks in the background. There is the drop off scene in the beginning with the spaceship but afterwards the actual Predator isn’t seen for almost half of the film. The Predator himself is worth waiting for. A villain so badass the military has literally spent millions of dollars and years of research trying to replicate some of his technology. I remember reading an article in a magazine over ten years ago about how the military was trying to develop a predator style camouflage. I don’t know if that was ever achieved but I’m certain if they were doing that they were also trying to develop their own ideas after the Predator’s mask that allows heat seeking vision and voice synthesizing technology.

The cast of this movie is so interesting because not fifteen years later two of these men would have served in highest office of State Government. Jesse “The Body” Ventura, a man with an interesting history, is notable for being the highest elected third party politician when he was elected Governor of Minnesota in 1999. As a Reform Party candidate he held office from 1999 to 2003. Arnold Schwarzenegger also famously served two terms during his hiatus from being an action star from 2003 to 2011. Now I am much more familiar with Schwarzenegger as a politician than I am “The Body” because in 2003 I was a young politically minded college kid. I was a way left liberal back then but I loved the Governator. He had such an interesting approach to politics. During an election year when everybody was trying to hide all their dirty secrets and deny everything Arnold Schwarzenegger would run head long into his own controversies. With an attitude that was real he admitted to his past discretions and just called it the product of another time. Sure he sexually harrarrassed some women, sure he smoked pot once or twice, sure there was that sound clip of him explaining that he was “cumming all the time” (see below) but none of it could phase the would be Govenator. He had surprising charisma and I loved how casual he was when everyone else was so stiff. I found it incredibly interesting how he left office and immediately went back into acting to reclaim his mantle of greatest action star. He hasn’t really achieved that yet but this new Terminator film looks interesting. Both of these men, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse “The Body” Ventura (long time friends no less), have lived such interesting lives. If you have the opportunity they’re both “worth a Google.”

The rest of the crew in this movie can’t go unmentioned. Carl Weathers and Bill Duke were both great in this movie. I have always been a big fan of Weathers, and Duke has such an intimidating look about him. Their last stand together is legendary and left an impression on me from an early age. I once saw a skit on SNL that featured Carl Weathers in which he kept referring to himself as “the black guy from Predator” over and over again. I don’t even remember what the skit was actually about but I still laugh at it randomly when it pops into my head occasionally. I don’t know much about Sonny Landham but I once watched a feature special on this movie and the way people talked about him was interesting. He was apparently quite the wild man and they had a guy shadow him during filming simply to keep him out of trouble. I love how he wounds himself before taking on the predator in his last stand, such a badass Native American warrior. The famous action writer/director Shane Black played the part of Hawkins, notable only for saying pussy multiple times in the film. Jean-Claude Van Damme was originally cast to play the part of the predator but couldn’t hack it and was replaced by the much taller 6’9” Kevin Peter Hall. Of course Van Damme couldn’t hack it, he may look cool at first with his fancy splits and strange accent but the more I hear about that guy the more I hear he isn’t for real.

Nobody really matters in this movie like the last man standing though. Schwarzenegger played many memorable and iconic roles over throughout his career but this movie is just such a spotlight for him. When he goes toe to toe with the Predator and it comes down to fisticuffs he set the bar incredibly high for other would be action stars. This guy, Arnold freaking Schwarzenegger, is exactly why I can’t abide by the standards of the 20teens, or whatever you want to call them, and accept Liam Neeson as an action star. I tried to watch the first Taken, all the while thinking “who does this guy think he is?” Action stars gotta have more, they have to measure up to the Terminator, Commando, Harry Tasker, Conan, Jack Slater, and of course Dutch. Dutch doesn’t stress about this big ass scary alien, no, he smears mud all over himself and sets traps for it. Low on ammo? Not a problem for Dutch, he’ll just manufacture himself a bow and arrow and take on the space alien Indian style. In the end it takes an ass whooping and a last minute trick but Dutch wins out, as Schwarzenegger always does. A nuclear explosion can’t even take him out, in true Schwarzenegger style he simply dives behind a sturdy plateau of ground and survives despite everything. A true American hero, lost his whole crew and had to single handedly defend Earth from this alien but he did it and he won. That’s just American, that’s the motherf****** Govenator.

This scenario, a group of soldiers trekking through the jungle as they are picked off one at a time by an unknown enemy was one I re-enacted many times with my toys as a little kid. I used to have the most epic games with my G.I. Joes when I was little and I would have them act out a variety of scenarios from my favorite action films. This one was always one of my favorites. I would go the whole nine yards often coloring red on my Joes with a washable marker to simulate blood. Some even had appendages that had gotten old and could easily be removed and put back into place. That Joe always turned out to be the one to lose a leg. When a Joe’s coolness finally wore out on me or he was simply getting too old he would be the victim of an explosion and the pieces of his body would become the debris scattered across the battlefield. Oh how I loved and miss that youthful age when I could have so much fun just using my imagination.

This is an awesome movie, a stalwart in the collection of any action fan who grew up through the golden years of the genre. This movie gets me every time and I never get bored of it. I love the testosterone driving masculinity behind it all. Some evenings when both of my daughters are asleep and my wife is busy in the kitchen this is the kind of movie that can get my blood pumping. When you live in a world of pink and princesses, Predator is like a lightening bolt that zaps some adrenaline into the world. If you haven’t seen this movie then you have missed out. It is a classic film that is not only worth your time but worth your money as well.

NEXT MOVIE: Predators

Despite this, he got elected Governor of California. Two times. America really is the land of opportunity. This is one of the most interesting men of the last century.