My love of Arnold Schwarzenegger Movies: 50 Arnie Films I’ve seen
Hercules in New York (1969)
Hercules in New York is quite spectacularly dreadful. During it Arnold, billed as “Arnold Strong”, mangles the English language and punches a bear. The bear in question being a man dressed in a bear suit.
Everyone else is even worse. Arnie spends 90% of the film with his shirt off. It’d be four years before anyone cast him in anything again. It would give him a fine opportunity to learn English and find more shirts. ½*
The Long Goodbye (1973)
This is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s second movie after Hercules in New York and is a full four years later. Herc was a leading role but Arnie was clearly in over his head, totally out of his depth and incapable of mastering the language skills and movements necessary to be a leading man. In order to raise his stock slightly he took a bit part in a Robert Altman movie. As one of Marty Augustine’s hoods he basically just stands around in a red shirt, slyly flexing his muscles. He also has a moustache. He says nothing. Unless making his titties jiggle counts.
As for the Long Goodbye, I always felt it was a second rate Marlowe compared to Bogart’s version in the Big Sleep. Altman’s style is interesting to watch and there are a lot of strong scenes. I’m particularly fond of the opening one where Marlowe tries to fool his cat into eating inferior cat food and the Augustine line “her I love, you I don’t even like”.
I don’t care for the ending and, in my opinion at least, it’s not anywhere near a great Altman film like Short Cuts or MASH. Nor on a par with fellow 70s private dick flick Chinatown. ***1/2
Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)
Happy Anniversary and Goodbye was a Lucille Ball TV movie from the 70s. Arnie was still learning English at the time and spoke very little before doing his part, a fitness instructor guy called Rico, but he’s clearly happier with the language than back in 1969 during the horrific, and dubbed, Hercules in New York. His acting is pretty much limited to flexing muscles and broken English but that voice is already honed into its mesmerising patterns.
ARNIE: Where we do it?
ARNIE: In here or in da beydroom?
LUCILLE: Oh, oh, here, in here, here, here.
ARNIE: I say da beydroom.
And that is how Arnold Schwarzenegger propositions a lady. By hurdling language barriers and rippling biceps. It’s also how he does everything else in life. *
Stay Hungry (1976)
Clearly the intent of Stay Hungry was to re-boot Arnie’s Hollywood career. At the beginning of the film he’s credited as “introducing Arnold Schwarzenegger”. Which I suppose is fair game as the Lucille Ball movie was for TV, he was uncredited in the Long Goodbye and went under the name “Arnold Strong” for Hercules in New York. The 1970s wasn’t a place where a muscleman superstar could just walk into the movies. It was a time of auteurs. Like Stay Hungry director Bob Rafelson; writer and director of Five Easy Pieces. So Stay Hungry doesn’t star Arnold, it stars Jeff Bridges and Sally Field with Arnie playing Mr Austria, a bodybuilder called Joe Santo. Arnie has to play second fiddle to kooky gym “grease man” Robert Englund, Freddy Krueger himself, in the early going. Arnold’s first scene sees him wearing a full mask and cape get up while lifting weights. He looks completely insane, like Batman on steroids, but his grasp of English has massively improved. It’d never get any better than this. His thick Austrian accent giving off so much charm he’s never left it behind.
Arnie has plenty of advice to give on a subject he’s an expert on; bodybuilding. “Make da thighs burn, you can’t grow without burning”. It’s a surprisingly measured turn. He’s careful when he begins to speak and has clearly either had training or has watched a shit load of movies. I know there are those who don’t consider Arnie to be a good actor but compare this to Hercules in New York and the difference is stunning.
Everyone clearly has, misguided, faith in Rafelson’s vision. Believing that all this will add up in the edit suite. So you’ve got Sally Field butt nekkid and Ahnolt gazing off into the distance when he cuts monologues like he’s in a Shakespearian play. Finally, just when you think one too many bad decisions has been made for no reason and Ahnolt pulls out a fiddle and starts jamming with hillbillies while Jeff Bridges breaks out drunken dancing at the resultant hoe-down. Later on Ed Begley Jr gets pushed into a pool as Stay Hungry turns into a screwball sex comedy. Mainly because Rafelson, as a director, got overly indulgent and decadent. Watching this movie is like watching the fall of Rome. All Rafelson’s high and mighty ideals thrown away in favour of bondage gags. The ending is a ridiculous fight followed by an even more ridiculous chase sequence where an armada of bodybuilders follow Ahnolt through the town. “Running amok” according the voice over.
Oh, and Jeff Bridges’ butler is Scatman Crothers. If that sounds like your bag you should probably check this out. I’m glad I did. **1/2
Pumping Iron (1977)
This is a first time watch. I’d seen clips of Ahnolt making fun of Lou Ferrigno before and those are still great but Ahnolt just owns this documentary. Owns it. I thought Pumping Iron would be a bit, well, gay. It’s basically a movie about oiled up dudes posing in front of people for some bizarre competition called Mr Olympia. Which is only for “professional” bodybuilders. In that all they do for a living is sculpt their abs, pecs and delts. And other muscles I don’t have, or can’t locate. But it turns out to be just another sports documentary.
Arnie is so wonderful. Almost every line is a one-liner. I loved his response to a fan asking if he drank skimmed milk. “Milk is for babies”. Also his gentle slaughtering of poor, dumb as rocks, Lou Ferrigno and other participants. “Franco is pretty smart, but Franco’s a child”. His description of how he finds weightlifting favourable compared to ejaculating was priceless but he capped the whole thing off by claiming, right before the main competition, that he had no weak points. That about sums Ahnolt up. In the world of bodybuilding he was God. He might have taken his time to take over Hollywood but he was always going to because Ahnolt is relentless. ****
Cactus Jack aka The Villain (1979)
The Villain, or Cactus Jack, as it was called in the UK is a strange film to behold. A comedy Western it stars Kirk Douglas as a humanised version of Wile E. Coyote as he attempts to capture rich girl Charming Jones (Ann-Margaret) who’s accompanied by Handsome Stranger (Ahnolt). Arnie’s character is a well-meaning idiot who doesn’t realise what danger he’s in and often helps people who don’t need helping. Arnie effortlessly slips into the comedy routines although he hardly has anything to do besides look handsome and be polite. Kirk Douglas getting all the big comedy spots.
The movie is a bit too silly for its own good and Hal Needham seems desperate for a car chase to break out. I get the feeling the Western isn’t his strongest genre. While it’s not a great movie I’ve now seen it three times and it is an easy watch. Looking back it’s hard to image Arnie not doing a serious action film early on his career but I guess producers just saw the goofy teeth, the silly name and the Austrian accent and figured all he was good for comedy.
Of course Conan changed all that but he made 7 movies before that. SEVEN! The whole project is making me antsy for some Arnie 80s carnage. Patience, Furious, patience. **
Scavenger Hunt (1979)
In Scavenger Hunt Ahnolt plays fitness instructor Lars. When one of the scavengers visits his gym in search of a medicine ball (remember when that was a thing?) Ahnolt puts the poor guy through his paces. “No pain, no gain”. Ahnolt’s hair has rarely been this floppy.
Scavenger Hunt is a fun movie but borrows heavily from 1963’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The cast is expansive, including Scatman Crothers in a suit of armour and Meatloaf as the head of a biker gang, but not quite up the par of that film. Not quite enough carnage. ***
The Comeback (1980)
The Comeback came about because Ahnolt was in training for Conan the Barbarian and felt, because he’s Arnold Schwarzenegger, that, for shits and giggles, he might as well enter and win the Mr Olympia contest while he was at it. The Comeback has none of the highs of Pumping Iron. No Lou Ferrigno. No mind games. No witty banter. Essentially Ahnolt had become incredibly aware of how he was portrayed and didn’t want his image tarnished in any way. Take his now absent jaw mole, which has disappeared since Pumping Iron. He wanted to exude professionalism. But it wasn’t that professionalism that made Pumping Iron good. It was Ahnolt’s personality.
In place of Lou Ferrigno we have Tom Platz. A guy who happily points out that he reads philosophy every night before posing on a windy pier. He’s a dick. It seems like a calculated attempt to build up a bad guy for Arnie to triumph over. Whereas in Pumping Iron; Ahnolt was the all-conquering champion while Lou was the underdog. If anything Ahnolt was the bad guy there. The way he played the mind games with poor, dumb, manipulated, unconfident Lou. That was not only entertaining, it was real. The Comeback feels staged in that respect. Set up. While Pumping Iron was set up, it felt more organic.
Director Kit Laughlin treats The Comeback as a bodybuilding hype video. Various series of posing set to music. The footage is jumbled, uneven and doesn’t build right. Arnold’s charisma can only take it so far. *
The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)
The hardest movie to locate in my campaign to watch every Arnie Schwarzenegger movie. The Jayne Mansfield Story was hardly worth the effort to locate it. Loni Anderson deliberately using every irritating vocal tick of Jayne Mansfield to piss me off in almost every scene. Jayne was a smart girl with a high IQ and the ability to speak five languages. The Jayne Mansfield Story is a made for TV fluff piece. Loni doesn’t have much of a range and neither did Ahnolt at the time. I was pleased to discover he would be narrating the film, in that trademark voice, but the story is so…vapid that there’s nothing there to enjoy. I suspect it’s so hard to find because Ahnolt buried it. Regardless it’s really not worth locating let alone watching. Glad I managed to find a copy without resorting to an enormous dollar layout. *
Conan the Barbarian (1982)
Now this is more like it. I’ve seen Conan a few times and it was the point where Arnie went from being a guy completely out of his element to being the centre of attention. During Conan the Barbarian we see the evolution of Arnold Schwarzenegger. From the silent muscleman to the stoic movie star. The scene where Arnie crosses the line is a good one. When asked what is best in life Conan responds thusly:
“To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.”
Great line, great delivery. You can see where they got the idea to cast Arnie in Terminator. Initially Conan is a robotic war machine. It’s only later in the film that we delve into Conan’s personality and why he is like he is. I love his devotion to Crom, strong in his mountain, and the way Arnold so easily slipped into the sword and sorcery world. Compare that to all his acting beforehand and it’s just a different world. Ahnolt is so at ease here. Just today I saw how hard he found it to convey simple human emotions but Conan is easy because Conan doesn’t have emotions. He has swords. And fists.
Arnold Schwarzenegger may have started acting in the late 1960’s but 1982 is when Arnold: The Movie Star starting acting. The confidence he gained here propelled him to the very top of his profession. Between this and 1984’s The Terminator Arnie became a household name.
All hail Conan, the starting point of greatness. The first good Schwarzenegger movie! ****
Conan the Destroyer (1984)
I was surprised on starting this list to discover that some of the Ahnolt films I thought I’d seen I actually hadn’t. Conan the Destroyer is one of them. I must have been blurring rewatches of Conan and Red Sonja in my mind. Conan the Destroyer has a bad reputation and it’s easy to see why. After a strong first act, where all the new characters are introduced and Ahnolt is reunited with his wizard friend, played by Mako, the film rapidly deteriorates. The ending being particularly bad.
A pity really as the first 30 minutes or so are really strong. Drunk Ahnolt is always fun and he had me in bits when he pratfalls into Wilt Chamberlain’s chest. Grace Jones is a lot of fun too. Her warrior woman Zula was perfect casting. Ahnolt shows about as much interest in her as he does fine-ass Olivia D’Abo. Clearly hung up on old love Valeria. Which is funny because during Conan the Barbarian he barely speaks to Valeria. Maybe twice in the entire film.
The film’s ending promises a third Conan feature where Conan would find his kingdom but wear a crown “on furrowed brow”. One can only hope the Legend of Conan, due for release next year, combines the stronger character elements of Destroyer with the better storytelling and narrative of Barbarbian. **1/2
The Terminator (1984)
I’ve seen the Terminator many, many times since it was released in 1984. Almost obsessively at one point. I used to watch it whenever I had the chance. To the point where I think I’ve probably seen the Terminator about 80-100 times. However one small thing starting nagging at me during this viewing that I’d never noticed before.
What if Sarah Connor had been ex-directory? The Terminator has no picture of her. He doesn’t know what she looks like. What if she’d had a problem with a stalker the previous year or something and had her number taken out of the phone book? The Terminator would probably have used some other method to locate her right?
I’m not convinced. His search is based on finding three Sarah Connor’s in the phone book and he doesn’t know which one is THE Sarah Connor. So he goes to kill them all. If there had only been two Sarah Connor’s would he had just shot them and assumed the job was done? That certainly seems to be the way he’s approaching his assignment. Did Skynet know for sure there were three Sarah Connors? If she wasn’t in the phone book how was he going to find her? Just walk up to women of a child-bearing age and ask “Sarah Connor?” to each one in the LA area? Time may be on his side as a cyborg but that would eat up an enormous chunk of whatever schedule he’s on. And what if he found Sarah and asked her “Sarah Connor” what if she just said no? After all some weirdo is out there shooting Sarah Connors. He’s not exactly subtle about how he carries out his executions.
This is what happens when you watch a movie too many times.
Some random musings from this time’s rewatch:
- If Tech Noir was anywhere near my house I’d be drinking there right now. It is massively 80s but not in a negative way.
- Hadn’t noticed just how much Lance Henriksen treats Terminator like a comedy, looking for chuckles with almost every single line. Was he miffed he didn’t get a bigger role? Earl Boen is pretty lighthearted too but his character is a doofus so that’s ok. Lance is a cop.
- “He will not stop ever, until you’re dead”. Or until he drives a car into a wall. Then he needs to go and lie down for a bit, have a nap, perform amateur surgery on his eye, get a suitable pair of sunglasses to cover it up…he’ll be back to terminate you in a bit.
- As in “infiltration unit” Arnie is doing a bang up job when he strolls down the motel corridor with an assault weapon over his shoulder. The dude he almost walks into has the perfect reaction to this.
Who cares though. It’s Terminator. It’s one of the best pure chase movies ever made. *****
Red Sonja (1985)
I can only assume Bridget Nielson was cast in Red Sonja to capitalise on the popularity of Conan the Barbarian. A female Conan could make the same money by appealing to the female market. That was the theory anyway. And also because her tenuous grasp of English matched that of her co-star Ahnolt. Red Sonja is Supergirl to Conan’s Superman. Matched with similarly weak villains and poor performances. The only difference is that in Red Sonja you also have Conan striding around in red trousers for support. Ahnolt’s Kalidor is one of his least subtle turns. After Sonja’s sister dies and Sonja is heartbroken Ahnolt leans in close and says, with no hint of emotion, “she’s dead”. Well, doy.
I feel bad for Bridget Nielson. She was catapulted into the limelight and became an overnight sensation in 1985. Starring in her very first movie, Red Sonja, where she gained acting tips from Ahnolt. She moved on to co-starring roles in Rocky IV, Cobra and Beverly Hills Cop 2 before disappearing entirely. I’ve not seen her in anything bar a Michael Jackson video since 1987. Just two years after her debut. I suppose a project for another time might be to watch every Bridget Nielson movie but that’s not a project I think I could do. Such masterpieces as 976-Evil II, Codename: Silencer, Terminal Force and Doomsdayer may be too much for my brain to take.
Interesting to note that Sonja’s enemy; the evil queen, is played by Sandahl Bergman who also played Ahnolt’s love interest Valeria in the first Conan movie. Also Pat Roach, who plays Brytag, was one of the bad guys in Conan the Destroyer. Perhaps they were hoping the sheer Conan-ness of the cast would make this feel like a Conan movie. Which is probably why, as a nipper, I simply thought it was a Conan movie. A trick of the studio, no doubt. Ahnolt himself only signed on for a cameo but the film was so heavily edited to include everything he did that Ahnolt was billed ahead of Bridget Nielson when the film was released. Ahnolt wasn’t keen on the idea, to the point where he parted company with Dino de Laurentiis.
I consider Red Sonja to be a bit of a guilty pleasure, like Supergirl, and I’ve actually seen the movie four times. It is crap though, to the point where Ahnolt used the movie to punish his children. As in “behave yourself or you’ll have to watch Red Sonja”. No doubt the main source of pain being the young prince played by Ernie Reyes Jr. The film is a pretty even split. The Ahnolt scenes are fun, the Reyes scenes are tortuous. ***
In college I wrote an essay about the homoerotic nature of 80s action films. Suffice to say I had a field day with Arnie’s enemy in Commando; Bennett. The mustachioed Australian slimeball who’s got John Matrix’s daughter. He’s so confused about his sexuality that when he has the opportunity to just shoot Arnie in the head he opts not to in preference to a knife fight. Mainly because Arnie tells him “you want to stick the knife in me”. It might be the single gayest moment of the 80s outside of Top Gun.
Here are some of my favourite one-liners from this masterpiece of 80s action:
“Don’t disturb my friend, he’s dead tired”
“You’re a funny guy Sully, I like you. That’s why I’m going to kill you last”
“I eat Green Berets for breakfast. And right now, I’m very hungry!”
The only thing that amuses me more than the one-liners in Commando is spotting the obvious stunt doubles. More often than not Arnie’s has way more hair, a completely different physique and doubles Arnie at pointless times; like riding passenger in a car. I’m sure there’s a drinking game to be made based on it, I’m sure.
Oh and what cruel bastard gave Arnie’s daughter a name he couldn’t pronounce? That’s just nasty. ****1/2
Raw Deal (1986)
I always wrote Raw Deal off as one of Arnie’s weaker 80s movies, which it is, so I never felt the urge to rewatch it. I’m actually glad I got the chance to revisit the film. It really isn’t Ahnolt’s best acting performance. He deadpans EVERYTHING. There isn’t a hint of emotion from him throughout the entire film. They run a little Casablanca tribute near the end and Arnie seems oblivious to what he’s even doing there. He’s just reciting lines. Sometimes that’s fine. Like when he’s a robot from the future or a barbarian. But not when he’s an undercover FBI agent who is supposed to be American.
The lack of bad guys also hurts Raw Deal. The best villain is played by my pal Robert Davi and he’s merely a henchman. Sam Wanamaker does an ok job of being the main bad guy but he’s just not sinister enough. As soon as Ahnolt decided he’s going to kill everyone he just does. There’s never a sense of danger for him. Not that there was in Commando either. The biggest problem with Ahnolt movies is establishing a bad guy that’s tough enough to match muscles with him. Where he was the bad guy in Terminator, it worked. In his next movie, a sci-fi horror action war film, the world of Hollywood found another genuine opponent for the world’s strongest man.
Raw Deal still has the bones of a decent Arnie film. The quippy one-liners, the action scenes and a massive shoot out toward the film’s conclusion. That part works. The storyline and central characters don’t. **1/2
Everything about Predator is perfect. The Mexican jungle it was shot in. The hungry young director in John McTiernan eager to get his shots, determined to make the best film possible and yet so inexperienced he has to rely on the right people to do the right thing. The score is genius.
In front of the camera you’ve got one of Arnie’s best performances to this point. Succinct, truthful and measured. Carl Weathers bringing just about the right level of Paul Reiser in Aliens without going over the top. He’s not one of the grunts, because he’s CIA, but he’s still a soldier. The respect is still there. You’ve got crazy-ass Bill Duke singing Long Tall Sally in a deranged high-pitched wail as he tears through the jungle chasing a deadly alien. You’ve got Jesse “The Body” Ventura. He ain’t got time to bleed. Shane Black and his big pussy jokes. Sonny Landham! Sonny was so batshit nuts at the time they had to hire a 400lb bodyguard to get him on set every day and the bodyguard was scared of Sonny. Because Sonny was crazy and you can’t stop crazy.
This is the movie that redefined what it was possible to do with Ahnolt. McTiernan covers every one of his acting flaws. Never leaving Ahnolt in a position where he’ll be exposed and doing the impossible; making it look like Arnie might get his ass kicked in the big fight at the end of the flick and even die.
Two lines from this film have entered into my everyday speech patterns.
- I ain’t got time to bleed. Any time I don’t have to time for something that’s how I say it.
- It’s bullshit, all of it. The cabinet minister, the whole business. Any time something is bullshit, that’s how I say it. Substituting “cabinet minister” with whatever I think is bullshit.
Predator permeated my life. I take it everywhere with me. Because there’s something out there…and it ain’t no man. *****
PS – The Predator’s sense of fair play is incredibly inconsistent. For every time he wants to ditch firepower and gut Arnie up close and personal, he shoots someone else in the back while invisible.
The Running Man (1987)
I always liked the Running Man. It was one of those 80s films I watched over and over again when I only had about 15 videos. On reflection the Running Man hasn’t aged well. Ahnolt’s one-liners all seem strangely flat. As if they were tagged on very late in the day. I also have a new perspective on the film after reading Stephen King’s book that it was based on. His Running Man was far more violent and meaningful. If anything this, rather than Total Recall, was begging for a remake.
In the casting there are two huge decisions. Richard Dawson and Maria Conchita Alonso. I always loved Amber Mendes. I had a massive crush on her at the time (I was 11/12-ish) and that whole costume set up is just so cute. Still crushing on her. Dawson, I had no idea who he was, and thought he was weak villain for an Ahnolt movie. Probably his weakest opponent. I’ve since learned he was a game show host in America so it kinda makes sense but he’s still a fraction of Arnie’s size. There was never going to be a final showdown.
The Running Man is a bit of a missed opportunity. Considering the material King had in the book and the opportunity for satire and more politics, they went the cheap and easy route every time.
One thing that irks me; why would the bookies give Ben Richards odds of 100-1 AFTER he’s already killed two stalkers? What kind of sense does that make? Little things like that ruin action movies. Stupid, stupid, stupid. ***1/2
Red Heat (1988)
Red Heat is another in a line of 80s mismatched buddy cop movies. Walter Hill, director of Red Heat, was partially responsible for the fad after directing Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 Hrs. Red Heat was his first time revisiting the sub-genre that had produced such superb movies as Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop. Red Heat follows the formula to a tee, with Belushi especially reliant on its rules and regulations; trying to be as mismatched as possible. Ahnolt is perfectly cast as the straight man. Finally a role where his character isn’t supposed to be American and as a Russkie he comes across a lot stronger. Ivan Danko’s basic grasp of English allows Ahnolt to actually tone down his dialogue, a’la Terminator, and thus eliminating any speech issues he’d been suffering in other films.
Walter Hill is known for his manly films and Red Heat is no different. There’s an incredibly testosterone fueled punch-up in the snow between Ahnolt and another man wearing nothing more than a posing pouch. There are naked women at every turn. Massive squibs going off in every gun fight. A bus chase! Weight lifting scenes in prison. Hookers. Hotels getting shot up. Hospitals getting shot up. Gina Gershon getting sweaty.
I’ve been watching Sam Peckinpah films to get my fix of manly movies lately but maybe I should have gone with Walter Hill. Either way, Arnie’s performance in Red Heat is spot on. One of his most accomplished to date as an actor, without really pushing himself. Like with McTiernan’s Predator, Hill knew his lead and knew how much range he’d have to play with. Ahnolt’s best action directors have been guys who understand what they’re working with before the shoot begins. ***1/2
Ahnolt spent the 1980s establishing himself as the world’s top action star. As the decade neared an end he sought a change and was offered a choice; this movie or Suburban Commando. Thankfully he choose this, relegating Hulk Hogan to the B movie. Although Twins with Hogan and Christopher Lloyd might have been pretty good. Nah, Hogan couldn’t play Julius Benedict. Ahnolt imbues him with a childish simplicity, all doe-eyed and innocent. Hogan doesn’t have an acting range let alone an acting range that would allow him to do that.
There are those who soundly trash every Ahnolt comedy as too broad. Twins has a subtlety that’s missing from the majority of them. Thanks mainly to his interaction with Danny DeVito and a smoking hot Kelly Preston. Ahnolt’s balance of cutesy and intellectual is surprisingly strong. Coming off two other solid late 80s performances in Predator and Red Heat, Ahnolt was really coming into his own as headline star. His overconfidence would be his undoing when QT destroyed the 80s and Arnie was still trying to make the same movies but for 1988 he’d got a good balance.
I also like the absence of one-liners and instead the substitute lines like “the pavement was his enemy”. This is the first time I’ve ever seen Twins in an unedited form so I was shocked to hear Julius say “I love cookies, I look forward to tossing them” and calling the doctor a dickhead. These things never happened on ITV! An outrage…and worth half a star by themselves. I still think the ending is pretty weak and my rating is so fragile that the planned Triplets movie, co-starring Eddie Murphy, may destroy it completely. ***1/2
Total Recall (1990)
When I was compiling the Arnie film list I realised I didn’t own Total Recall on DVD and immediately rectified that. Therefore this was my first viewing of Total Recall with commentary from Ahnolt and director Paul Verhoeven. It’s not one of my favourite Arnie commentaries (Conan and Terminator are both more entertaining) but it is a lot of fun.
– Giving away spoilers for Starship Troopers.
– Claiming the sequel for Total Recall was turned into Minority Report.
– Successfully explaining how gravity works.
– Unsuccessfully explaining Siamese twins.
– Horribly mispronouncing “guerrillas” as “guhreeeeliasss” to the point where I felt it was a rib of sorts.
– Claiming to be the Tristar mascot; a galloping white horse.
– Continually explaining every little plot point, no matter how obvious it is. “That’s me under that woman. That’s still the woman. That’s still the woman. Now it’s a puppet. No wait, that’s still her”.
– Laughing at his own one-liners.
The big bombshell comes from the duo claiming the entire film is a dream sequence and Ahnolt’s character died of an embolism. Geez, thanks guys! There are two ways of watching Total Recall. One as a straight up action film, which is the way I’ve continually enjoyed it. Or that when he goes to Rekall they botch his memory implant, hence Verhoeven fading to white, as Arnie gets lobotomised at the film’s conclusion.
Bit of a bummer, huh? But if anyone complains about you liking a pretty dumb action film you can always point out the hidden depth. And the women with three breasts. Everyone loves tits. *****
Kindergarten Cop (1990)
Kindergarten Cop is a decent action comedy that takes Ahnolt’s newly found comedic timing (see: Twins) and giving it more of an edge. Then putting him in charge of a pre-school class. At the time I found it to be embarrassing, mainly because of Pamela Reed’s awful Eastern European accent, but that was when I was a teenager. I was used to Arnie destroying everything with a machine gun and his fists. The comedy elements didn’t wash with 14-year-old me but I’ve seen it many times since and it’s a decent comedy and a half decent action film too.
Kindergarten Cop is also littered with superb one-liners. As if Ahnolt had been saving them up. You kids are soft, you lack discipline! ***
Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
T2 was THE movie to see when I was in high school. I was around 15 at the time and everyone had seen it. Everyone loved it. It just defined the era. The Guns n’ Roses soundtrack came from one of the Use Your Illusion CD’s. I clearly remember buying both from a shop in Birmingham a few days after they were released. I was more into music than movies at the time but in my small VHS collection sat a copy of T2. I’ve seen the movie a hundred times. The version I now own is the ‘special edition’ DVD version, which is significantly longer.
Compared to the first Terminator film it’s clearly been designed to appeal to a mass market. The whole thing is more family friendly and the action is less violent. The pacing is less intense, which is one of the film’s biggest flaws, and the extended version makes matters worse. It’s also way light-hearted for a movie about the apocalypse and features a few gags. Something the original movie wasn’t in touch with. “I’ll be back” aside there’s no real humour in T1. Unless the dancing in Tech Noir counts.
The film’s other major issue is Eddie Furlong, a dreadful actor and absolute career fuck up. T2 was the pinnacle of the poor guys career and he’s the worst thing about it. Compare that to Ahnolt who, despite criticism, is at his stoic best or Linda Hamilton. Linda’s transformation from the first film to this one is the kind of performance switch that most Hollywood star actresses cannot convincingly do. She’s so soft and vulnerable in the first one and that slowly changes during the film. T2 is the logical progression of that and Linda is badass in it. She was so good that Jim Cameron tried to get her an Oscar nom.
I’m very much in the camp of Terminator 1 being the better film. T2 has a lot of polish and sheen to it but the first one has an urgency about it that is hard to replicate. That said T2 is a thrill ride and one of the best sci-fi sequels out there. It’s previously been shown how hard it is to do Terminator films. For that, and for Linda, this film still holds a special place in my heart. Thumbs up, big guy. ****1/2
Until I sat down to do the Arnieathon I’d completely forgotten about his cameo in Dave. He appears in one scene at a press op with “President” Dave discussing nutrition in food with primary school kids. Kevin Kline has fun with it. The movie is a tidy little comedy from Ivan Reitman. Nothing spectacular but a solid performance from Kline and Sigourney Weaver. ***
Last Action Hero (1993)
Last Action Hero was a critical failure on release, probably because it’s a good 20 minutes too long, but it holds up ok. It has brilliant touches, which I’ll be listing shortly, but it often goes too far. The line of parody is only funny as long as it doesn’t get too silly. The captain’s shouting breaking windows for example. However I do dig Last Action Hero because of…
- Arnold Schwarzenegger as Hamlet. I would watch the shit out of that.
- Franco Columbu directing Jack Slater IV.
- The ice cream kill.
- Robert Patrick cameo as T-1000 in the same scene as Sharon Stone cameoing as Catherine Trammell.
- Sly Stallone is The Terminator!
- Oddjob, one of Arnie’s bodybuilding buddies from the old days, as a henchman.
- Danny DeVito as an animated cat. The buddy cop movie with Arnie and Whiskers? I would watch the shit out of that too.
I didn’t like the kid, played by Austin O’Brien, but he’s no more annoying than Eddie Furlong as John Connor and people don’t hold that against Terminator 2. There’s enough fun in the Slater World to compensate for the film’s shortcomings. Or should I say longcomings. Take 20 minutes out of the second half of the film, which would be easy, and it’d play pretty well. You could probably lose 30 minutes. 130 minutes is a LONG run time for a parody of the action genre. ***
Beretta’s Island (1993)
Beretta’s Island is a vehicle for Italian muscleman Franco Columbu. He competed against Arnie in Pumping Iron and is a popular figure in his native Italy, or so I’m led to believe. Columbu wrote and produced this action flick, which solely exists to showcase his talent as a leading man. Arnie appears as his weightlifting buddy, a role which hardly stretches him as a performer. They spend the first five minutes of the movie doing weights in the gym then Franco heads off into his nonsense plot of an Interpol agent fighting International crime. A little like Jackie Chan movies. Only without the action sequences. Arnie’s appearance is little more than a cameo to boost sales and stand behind Franco on the poster. Not recommended. *
True Lies (1994)
1994 was a year of enormous change in cinema. The overblown action epics of the 1980s were becoming unfashionable. Replaced by Quentin Tarantino’s jumbled, violent and movie obsessed Pulp Fiction. The Schwarzenegger’s and Stallone’s of this world were about to become dinosaurs. Arnie’s farewell to superstardom was this action-packed spy thriller from James Cameron. It has everything you’d expect from the tandem of a great action director and a great action star. It perhaps leans a little heavily on comedy, with Tom Arnold co-starring, but is nevertheless a thrill ride.
I feel bad completing True Lies as Ahnolt’s career takes a nose dive after it. With the world Tarantino’d his next picture (after Junior), an actioner called Eraser, wasn’t a big success. I didn’t even see Eraser during the 90s, which shows you how much the movie world changed. I went from being one of Arnie’s number one fans to skipping two of his movies in a row after True Lies. It’ll be interesting to see whether the 90s Schwarzenegger films are any better second time around. ****
I remember hating Junior absolutely. On a re-watch it actually has a few bright points. Emma Thompson gives it her all as a clumsy scientist. And this is a ballsy career move even for a guy whose star was on the wane like Ahnolt in 1994. This was coming off True Lies and he could have coasted through the decade making the same old action films. This was a gutsy choice.
But it’s still a movie all about emotions and feelings and as evidence that Ahnolt is not the man to do this movie I present to you a direct quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s autobiography:
“Women always talked about emotions but I considered it silly talk” – Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Before breaking into the movies Arnie went to an acting coach who tried to draw emotions out of him, unsuccessfully. He was basically a gigantic muscular robot, which made him perfect for roles such as Conan and especially the Terminator. Twins and Kindergarten Cop had shown Arnie’s softer side but Junior was a step too far. *1/2
T2 3-D Battle Across Time (1996)
T2: Battle Across Time is shoddy amusement tour picture starring Arnie and T2 co-star Ed Furlong. If you thought Furlong was hard work in T2 you ain’t seen nothing yet. His performance here is excruciating. He gets a load of one-liners and they all miss. He’s even whinier and less likeable than in T2. Arnie’s dialogue feels like it was thrown together in five minutes. Such cringeworthy lines as “let’s bust-a-move” make an appearance before he gives up entirely and just starts quoting lines from T2 instead.
As for the action; it’s passable. The whole 12 minute piece is basically a chase in the future. The mini-hunters aren’t a bad idea but the CGI is shonky. Ultimately this was just a quick spinoff for the Universal tour. I imagine it’s quite fun with all the interactive stuff and people running around dressed like the lead actors but the actual film is weak. It also makes very little sense. The Terminator and John travel into the future, presumably during some offshoot timeline, and are pursued by Robert Patrick’s T-1000, who goes out like a sucker. Replaced as the movie’s bad guy by another Cyberdyne Systems model; the C-1000000. A giant liquid metal spider.
Any movie with a giant metal spider in it is bullshit.
I’m looking at you, Wild, Wild West. *1/2
The first time I saw Eraser was years after it came out. In 1996 the 80s style action film with one-liners was out of fashion. Nobody wanted to see those films in the mid-90s. People wanted to see Pulp Fiction, Seven, Usual Suspects etc. It wasn’t good for Arnie, who’d not seen the change coming and continued to attempt the same movies.
Eraser is a patchwork of scripts, re-written many times over, which makes it hugely uneven. As if each scene was penned by a different scribe. The opening scene, for example, is superb. Arnie, masked, kills of an assortment of mob goons before replacing their target with a dead body and declaring him “erased”. Then the story totally shifts gears and becomes this weird FBI/espionage thriller starring Vanessa Williams. It’s ok but it feels utterly disconnected to the first scene. Then Schwarzenegger returns to relocate her and they bond a bit but they both suck at acting so that doesn’t work. Arnie needs someone to feed off. Whether that’s Danny DeVito or Sharon Stone or the Predator. He needs that. Vanessa Williams doesn’t bring it. Things improve slightly as Arnie interacts with James Caan.
And yet the action stuff in this film is so ridiculous that it is hard to enjoy. Like Arnie clinging to the outside of a plane at 30,000 feet. Or Caan ordering the plane to run him over as he parachutes to safety. My eyes couldn’t take the rolling the first time around. At least this time I was prepared for the stupidity. I could live with that silly scene. And even the CGI gators and indeed the bad CGI throughout. But I still can’t deal with the scene where the mob guy gets defibrillatored after accidentally pulling out his heart monitor. What doctor or nurse wouldn’t check for a pulse first? Or, yanno, notice he’s awake and shouting “NO” as they attempt to ‘revive’ him. The scene is monumentally stupid it belongs in a broad comedy. Eraser had finally jumped the shark.
Although in reality Arnie would never jump a shark. He’d punch it.
Also, in another reality there’s a film series based on the alligator that Arnie shoots mutating and coming back for revenge (“you’re luggage” being a massive insult in the gator world). The final sequel is called Eraser Vs. Megagator and is the worst film in existence, albeit not this one. **
Jingle All the Way (1996)
In Jingle All the Way WWE professional wrestler the Big Show punches a midget. At the time he’s dressed as Santa. That’s the best moment of the film by some distance.
Phil Hartman deserved better. *
Batman & Robin (1997)
I’ve been putting this off, frankly, based on how much I hated it back in 1997. This was one of the worst cinema trips of my life. Despite the relative failings of Batman Forever (namely Joel Schumacher’s decision to jump from the 1930s to the 1990s replacing all Bob Kane’s gothic darkness with Shinjuku neon) I was still looking forward to Batman & Robin at the time. I had a big crush on Alicia Silverstone and wanted to see her in the Batgirl costume, I loved Uma Thurman because this was 3 years after Pulp Fiction, I loved Arnold Schwarzenegger and they’d gotten rid of Val Kilmer, who I hated at the time.
But it’s a disaster. Nothing works. Part of my complaint about Michael Bay movies is that he has no respect. In Transformers he took Prowl and turned him into Barricade because he thought a cop as a bad guy would be “cool”. Here Joel Schumacher takes Bane, one of the most intelligent villains to face off against Batman, and turns him into a walking muscle. No respect at all. Which is exactly how he treated Burton’s Batman vision over the course of his reign of terror. This is why Joel Schumacher’s Batman films are shit. The action sequences in Batman & Robin are not bad but they are stupid and the swaths of hoods remind me of the 1960s Batman TV show. But Batman & Robin has neither the charm nor the comedy to match. It’s just dumb. Like a child playing with toys.
Arnie’s role is daft. He reels off one liners, that eventually all sound the same, and almost all of them miss. Mr Freeze is a solid character but not in Arnie’s hands. He turns it into generic bad guy #1, eating scenery as he goes. The first approach to Freeze was rumoured to be either Anthony Hopkins or Patrick Stewart, which would have resulted in far more scenery being chewed but in more entertaining fashion. Like Jim Carrey in Batman Forever.
If you’ve heard of the horror of Batman & Robin but not experienced it, your best bet is to move along. It really is as terrible as you think. DUD
End of Days (1999)
I don’t have any pleasant memories of my first watch of End of Days. I know I skipped a few Arnie films in the mid 90s on account of how shit they looked. I caught Batman & Robin because it was a massive blockbuster, albeit a bad one, so End of Days was the first Arnie film I went out of my way to see since True Lies. And I wasn’t keen. It was very silly. I don’t remember much about it apart from the ending being monumentally stupid.
So I was pleased when this rewatch revealed the movie to be far from horrible. Yes, the supernatural elements don’t suit Ahnolt at all. Yes, the special effects aren’t very special. But this is a movie where Arnold Schwarzenegger calls the devil a choir boy. You just can’t compare that to anything else.
The plot sees Satan eager to unleash hell on earth so naturally he selects New York. It’s interesting to note that Ahnolt going to the dark side in his choice movies meant switching locations from LA to New York. Personal politics at play, I wonder? Gabriel Byrne gains the devil’s presence and spends a few days trying to insert his spunk into Robin Tunney. Arnie stops him, sometimes with a machine gun, sometimes with taunts and fun is had by all.
Arnie was rather forced into making End of Days as scripts weren’t coming in after Batman & Robin. Not so much because of Ahnolt’s terrible performance in that film, because let’s face it he’s never been a great actor, but rather because of heart surgery he’d undergone. This was merely to correct a faulty valve rather than a cardiac arrest but the studios got scared and the offers stopped coming in. So he had to make a movie, any movie, to prove he was fit and able. Hence…End of Days. It’s not really an Arnie movie, which is both good and bad. It has his enthusiasm and action set pieces but the tone is completely wrong and it’s overwhelmed by religion.
The role was written specifically for Tom Cruise and the film underwent dramatic changes of personal. Sam Raimi was offered it. Kate Winslet was attached. Guillermo del Toro was offered it. Liv Tyler was offered it. It seemed no one wanted to make End of Days. So it got cobbled together with second choices who didn’t want to be there. Gabriel Byrne has less fun with the devil than Al Pacino and Arnie is all over the place but the film is actually ok. Not good or anything but I was so surprised I upgraded my snowflake rating to Three. ***
The 6th Day (2000)
This is the second consecutive Arnie rewatch from the late 90s/early noughties where I was surprised how the film held up. The 6th Day is often maligned as one of Arnie’s career low points and yet I couldn’t help but enjoy the rewatch far more than the first viewing. I am a sucker for good sci-fi and the 6th Day spends most of its time in the same sort of sci-fi universe that Total Recall belongs in. Instead of brain washing here we have cloning.
The 6th Day has a fine amount of universe building for such a throwaway film and everyone involved should be proud of how much work went into every aspect of that. Some of it looks daft but it doesn’t take long to buy into a world with laser guns and RePet. After End of Days I wasn’t expecting another pleasant surprise so soon. Well played Herr Schwarzenegger. ***
Doctor Dolittle 2 (2001)
Fuck off, I’m not watching this.
Raw Iron (2002)
Raw Iron provides an interesting view of the documentary Pumping Iron. Detailing what parts were staged rather strips away the veneer from a fine documentary rather than adding to it though. The Cinemax made hour long doc has a few good interviews; Arnold and the other bodybuilders reflecting on their careers, but the ‘never seen before’ outtakes from Pumping Iron amount to very little. Aside from a subplot where Arnold would train Bud Cort, which is quite funny.
I may have to amend this challenge to not include ‘making of’ documentaries as I’ve seen hundreds over the years and none of them really make me feel any different about the original movie. I don’t particularly enjoy scenes being deconstructed. Likewise I never understood why criticism of literature is a thing. There are books breaking down other books. With ‘making of’ documentaries it ends up being a lot of talking heads. I’m not sure that’s my thing. **1/2
Collateral Damage (2002)
With both End of Days and the 6th Day surprising me on rewatches I was a little disappointed that Collateral Damage did not. It’s the same movie I remember from 2002. The first act is too quick, the second act too slow and the third act, despite being ballsy, relies heavily on twists and not so much on Arnie’s legendary action hero motifs.
The film was somewhat gutted by the poor timing. It was set for release right after 9/11 and was recut thanks to all the terrorism in the plot. Apparently anything considered unpatriotic was swept away leaving a somewhat bland plot. Arnie was considering running for office at the time, which probably explains the change in political tack. Any film that gets bumped, for whatever reason, tends to lose the support of the film business. So when Collateral Damage was pushed back four months on release it cost it any chance at profit. The film was shot for $85M but only returned half that at the US box office. **1/2
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)
I always liked T3, probably more than the average Joe because I’m such a big mark for the Terminator franchise. Where other people saw weakness in T3 I only saw the strengths. Yes, I agree that it slants itself toward comedy far too frequently and this makes it a step down from the first two films. But some of the epic car chases and stunts were tremendous fun. Plus Claire Danes and Nick Stahl both gave it the old school try. Danes is especially impressive considering she was hired at the last minute to replace Sophia Bush (who looked too young in the dailies, a first for any actress, ever). She was literally called up and asked to be in T3 and started filming the next day.
Ahnolt is certainly showing his age in T3 although his workout regime kept him looking incredibly muscular. After T3 finished shooting he went off to become governor of California. Terminator: Salvation would follow courtesy of the loud McG. T5 is rumoured to be Arnie’s next project. Am I excited? Of course I am! ***1/2
The Rundown (2003)
Arnie is barely in the Rundown, briefly walking past the Rock in the first scene to wish him “good luck”. Passing the action movie on to the next generation. It didn’t quite work out that way as the world wasn’t that interested in old school action movies. So The Rock ended up in a series of strange projects like Southland Tales, Game Plan, Get Smart etc. A pity as in the Rundown he shows remarkably aptitude towards the action genre. It wasn’t until 8 years later when he was added to the Fast & Furious gang that he re-found the genre. It probably helped him develop as an actor, allowing him more range than Arnie. He’s a likeable star and indeed everyone is in this movie. Chris Walken especially as the bad guy. ***1/2
Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
I’ve seen this before and it’s an enjoyable romp that works fine because it’s a Jackie Chan film. Arnie is only in one scene, as he’d moved on to politics, but the prospect of seeing two of my favourite action stars in the same film was mouth-watering. Of course the reality is that their shared scene has no action in it. There are some cracking scenes from Chan’s stunt team and any time the martial arts overrides the plot Around the World in 80 Days is pretty good. Think of it as a Chan movie rather than an adaptation of the classic tale. ***
The Kid & I (2005)
This is so hard to track down. If anyone has a copy, let me know.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
Terminator Salvation is not unlike a Terminator. It’s unrelenting, it will just keep on going and going and going until something big explodes and has no personality of its own. Terminator Salvation borrows so heavily from Terminator 2 that it’s almost completely unmemorable. Every sequence seems to have some little tip of the hat to a better film, which is actually what McG is best at. Check out his TV show Chuck. It’s a show that contains a dozen loving tributes to other, better shows and movies. And it works because of that. Salvation is too narrow for a big budget movie. Too reliant on Terminator 2 references (John still having the tape of “You Could Be Mine” made me geek out a bit) and, seeing as it’s fashionable nowadays, clearly enjoyed a bit of Mad Max 2 as well. Post-apocalyptic wasteland with crazy car chases? Check!
The best thing about Salvation is the camerawork. It was shot during a period where action films were changing to constant shaky-cam, thanks to the fucking Bourne movies, and some films hadn’t yet gone along with that change. Salvation keeps a steady camera and you can see everything. It’s glorious. I forgot just how much I missed this straightforward approach to film-making. If Salvation had better characters and some ideas of its own it might even get a pass just based on how goddamn good it looks. It’s about time action directors shot action I could actually see again. ***
The Expendables (2010)
This is actually worse on a rewatch. The first time I didn’t like it particularly but knowing what’ll happen makes the Expendables BORING on a rewatch. I can’t understand how that happened but I’m amazed so many people dug this. It coasted by on name appeal and not much else. *
The Expendables 2 (2012)
I hated the first one. Hated it. Thought it was a total mess. Utterly pointless. A disaster. When they announced a sequel I really couldn’t have cared less. But then they started announcing cast members and the thought of Arnie, Bruce, Chuck Norris and JCVD sharing screentime was just too much. I had to see it. And this time I wasn’t disappointed. I came for Arnie but I stayed for Lungren. Dolph is awesome in this. Jet Li is too, for the one scene he’s in, kicking ass. The star of the piece of Jean Claude Van Damme though. Not only does he up his game amongst a field of superstars but he takes it deadly seriously. Delivering every line like he’s showcasing his actual acting ability (see his monologue in JCVD for proof this exists) and not just being a generic character. ***
The Last Stand (2013)
I feel a little sad coming to the end of my Arniethon, some 40 films long and still not done (although the Kid & I is proving hard to track down). Arnie has taken me on a joyous and blood-soaked journey through movie history that’s spanned more years than I’ve been alive. He may be looking his age now but based on the Last Stand he’s still having fun.
I’m equally interested to see Kim Jee-woon’s English language film. As far as I can tell he didn’t speak any English on set and used an interpreter to get his ideas across. Which seems fairly apparent. The film lacks an emotional punch and the acting performances are passable but nothing more. Kim Jee-woon rather excels when directing the action. Some of the camera angles are innovative. Not as much as his Korean work and it rather came across as a sampler. ‘Look at what I can do Hollywood’. A test to see if he could pull off an American movie.
A few action sequences aside this was unusually low key for Ahnolt. No “I’ll be back”. A lack of quippy one-liners. I’m glad he is back, though. I had suspicions this might not live up to my expectations but it did, just about. Welcome back, Governator! ***1/2
This has been on my ‘to see’ pile since my attempt to watch every Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, as he’s one of the many talking heads here. Alongside Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Eastwood, Scorsese, Stallone, Harrison Ford, Bob Gale, James Earl Jones, Bryan Singer, Oliver Stone, Lorenzo di Bonnaventura and the list goes on and on. It’s like a fucking who’s who of influential movie makers from a certain era. And they all loved John Milius. Because he had more guts and more balls than just about all of them put together. The only reason he didn’t direct a dozen of the most famous films of all time is because a) he was too good at writing for the studios to free him up to direct and b) he pissed everyone off, all the time. This is the guy who wrote Dirty Harry, Apocalypse Now and the USS Indianapolis speech from Jaws. God knows how many credits are skimmed over because he did uncredited re-writes and polishes over the years.
My favourite piece of Milius legend is that he was there when the UFC was being founded and when they designed the cage and wanted to stop the fighters escaping he made a series of ludicrous suggestions including a moat, an electric fence and wild animals around the ring. That was the historian in John coming out to say hi and consequently running into himself, played by John Goodman, in the Big Lebowski. If you like Walter Sobchak, you like John Milius. ****
“He doesn’t write for pussies, he doesn’t write for women. He writes for men” – Sam Elliot.
Escape Plan (2013)
This is a satisfying double act from Arnie and Sly, something I never thought I’d see back in the 80s. Basically Jesus imprisons Rambo and Conan and taunts them with the Juggernaut.
Once you’ve seen one prison movie you’ve pretty much seen them all. Especially when the aim of the prisoners is to escape. Whether it be Escape from Alcatraz or A Man Escaped or The Great Escape. The set up is the same and it all depends on the performances, although Escape Plan does also feature a few silly plot twists to keep the modern viewer interested. The sets are needlessly lavish and the appeal of the team up was enough to sell me on the movie. As a result of the expenditure, the flick ran to $50M, which is a stupid budget for a film of this nature. Although I suspect most of that went on wages. Given the best scenes are these two talking to each other, seeing as they’re both too old do credible action scenes anymore, they could easily have made this a movie about anything. I guess they figured action junkies would need sating.
So unfortunately the whole thing is too overblown, too long and has 50 Cent in it. But it’s still worth seeing for the Schwarzenegger/Stallone team up. ***
Sabotage is a ballsy fucking film. It would have been ballsier, and better, if David Ayer had got to film the ending he wanted. I can’t really discuss that without spoilers so I won’t. Suffice to say Ayer’s vision for Sabotage is a twisty thriller with buckets of blood along for the ride. The Spec Ops team, Arnie included, is morally grey from minute one. You’re never quite sure if you’re supposed to be rooting for them because you’re never quite sure who they’re up against. One minute they’ll be laughing and joking between themselves, in obscene fashion, and then an outsider shows up and you’re aware they’re a nasty little Clique. Grinder, Neck and Lizzy are all particularly offensive. My only complaint, other than the studio taking Ayer’s vision away from him, is that Terry Howard is woefully underutilised. Otherwise this is the best film Arnie’s made since he came back to acting. ****
An Arnold Schwarzenegger zombie movie! How can they possibly get this wrong? It pretty much writes itself. Apparently Arnold fell in love with the script and did it for free. The actual execution of the script is ponderous at best. The performances aren’t bad but the director lingers for too long, too often and the film creeps to 90-odd minutes at a glacial pace. Henry Hobson tried for something along the lines of Oscar bait but making a serious zombie film still requires the zombie element and far too much of the film focuses on the transformation, which is tedious. It’s a pity because Schwarzenegger, Breslin and especially Joely Richardson are all really good in this. **
Terminator Genisys (2015)
This is somewhat of a guilty pleasure but I am a HUGE Terminator fan. None of the sequels, not even Cameron’s action packed T2 can live up to the adrenaline fueled original. Genisys at least tries something different. Instead of attempting yet another sequel to the existing material, they jump into the original Terminator. It’s a bit like Back to the Future 2…only nowhere near as good.
The film suffers from clunky interaction between the central characters. They never really establish the kind of relationships where you’d feel bad for one character if another died. The way John Connor’s character evolves is especially weird. As if there’s a deleted scene where he did something unspeakable, like molest his own mother, in order to turn him into a real bad guy.
Then there’s the comedy. The odd joke hits, the rest don’t and when you’re fighting for survival comedy should only exist because of the situation. Trying to make Arnie’s Terminator funny has been an error in the series since the second one. Isn’t it funny enough that he’s a soulless machine who doesn’t understand human emotions? How come the franchise so routinely gets that only to then not get it. It’s as if two different writers worked on every film since the original.
In spite of all it’s gaping flaws, already pointed out by professional reviewers who’ve probably not spent as many hours in the company of Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese that I have, T5 is a worthy edition to the series. If only because it wears a love of the original film on its sleeve. Also the bus sequence on the Golden Gate bridge, the pre-credits holocaust and Arnie waiting for Arnie are worth seeing the flick for alone. I can’t say I loved T5 “warts and all” but I’d watch it again and it’d make an interesting double bill with the first film. Plus it’s better than Salvation. ***1/2
This is a depressing 90 minute crawl through human misery. Arnie loses his wife and daughter in a plane crash and turns his focus on the man he deems responsible; an air traffic controller. It’s based on a true story and the only way I’d recommend it is if you have a thing for Arnie. Like me! This is my 50th Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. It’s an interesting part for him to take, showing his frail human side, but he’s not that kind of actor. I kinda wish he’d find joy in supporting roles and character acting rather than be the focus of dramas, which was never his strong point. **1/2