Tag Archives: arnold schwarzenegger

Commando – Review

4 Oct

I consider 1980s action movies to really be a genre of their own. They really don’t make them like they used to in this case. Movies featuring the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jean-Claude Van Damme, and others were violent, gritty, and over the top. For this review, we’re going to travel back to 1985 for the movie Commando, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of his earlier starring roles. By this point, the Austrian behemoth had already starred in Conan the BarbarianThe Terminator, and Red Sonja, but I feel like this is the movie that defined the kind of roles that Schwarzenegger would take for the rest of his career. Other than that, Commando is simply just a wild movie.

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Col. John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is an ex-Delta Force soldier who was forced to retire in order to protect him and his team from the many enemies they made over the years. When members of Matrix’s old team begin to get brutally murdered, Major General Jack Kirby (James Olsen) warns Matrix that he, along with his young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano), are in trouble. Kirby is too late,however, and accidentally leads the assassins to Matrix’s secluded home. Jenny gets kidnapped and John learns that Arius (Dan Hedaya), a former South American president deposed by Matrix and his team, and Bennet (Vernon Wells), a violent former member of Matrix’s team, are behind the kidnapping and murders. Their demand for John: To take out the current president of Val Verde so Arius can regain the presidency or Jenny will die. While the terrorists believe they have the upper hand, they aren’t fully prepared for the one man war that’s about to be waged by the vengeful commando.

To start off with why Commando absolutely succeeds as an action movie is the fact that it has a body count of 109, with 102 of those being killed by Schwarzenegger. That means that in the 11 hours of movie time that Schwarzenegger’s character is doing stuff, he kills over a hundred people. That’s absolutely ridiculous, which is great because this movie knows that it’s being absolutely ridiculous. There’s no attempt of getting into anything deeper than what this movie actually is, which is a loud and entertaining action vehicle for Arnold. The movie pretty much sums up everything you need to know about its characters in the first few minutes and then the rest of the relatively short run time is spent filling the screen with non-stop action. I don’t really see how someone could be bored with this movie at all.

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Like I said, this knows it’s absolutely ridiculous, so it has plenty of humor to back up its nearly non-stop action. Schwarzenegger has dozens of cheesy one liners he says after he takes someone down, and he delivers them with deadpan perfection. Vernon Wells also has plenty of opportunities to make us all laugh with his over the top villainy an out of this world chain mail shirt and leather pants. Listen, because I’m about to get really real. To me, this is all great and funny, but you have to be in the mood for it. Trying to seriously critique this movie is kind of hard because it’s just something to be taken lightly and to have fun with. While I say this in defense of Commando, there is something in this movie that I absolutely hate.

While this is a one man action show starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, he does have a side kick. Unfortunately, this particular side kick would get along just fine with Jar Jar Binks. Rae Dawn Chong’s character, Cindy, is one of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. It’s fine that the writers tried to put in a funny side kick to work against the serious nature that the movie might have had otherwise, but everything was going just fine without her. Her shrieking voice and completely incompetent behavior was completely out of place and overused.

Can you really critique Commando like you would Citizen KaneGone With the Wind, or Lawrence of Arabia? No, certainly not. I feel like I have to judge Commando based on what it is. It’s a crazy action film that showcased how much of a badass Arnold Schwarzenegger was, and in that regard it succeeds wonderfully. Once the action starts, it hardly ever lets up. The only problem I have is one awful character whose absence would make the movie a whole lot better. Still, if you’re looking for a ridiculously ludicrous movie to watch, this one will provide lots of fun.

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Terminator Genisys – Review

21 Jul

Has anyone in this universe never watched a Terminator movie? If that is the case, I feel extraordinarily sorry for them because, as far as movies go, they’re pretty damn cool. The Terminator put James Cameron on the map for putting a masterful example of “tech-noir” on the screen, and the lore only got a million times cooler with Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Since those two films there was Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines in 2003, which wasn’t bad, but 2009’s Terminator Salvation was a catastrophe. Here’s one thing I can now say about Terminator Genisys: At least it isn’t as bad as Salvation.

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In the future, leader of the Resistance and all around savior of the human race, John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads a massive assault on Skynet. It’s at this point that we see Skynet send the original T-800 through time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke), which prompts John to send his right hand man, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), back to protect her. When Reese gets back to 1984, however, everything has changed. A T-1000 (Lee Byung-hun) is running amok, and Sarah is being assisted by another T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger). After being convinced that the future is now changed and things could never happen the same way, that they travel to 2017 where Skynet is developing the Genisys program, an operating system that will connect everyone and everything. Things quickly go awry when the heroes run into John Connor, who has been changed into a T-3000 by Skynet in the future.

Going into this movie, I had very low expectations. I mean, after Terminator Salvation how good could another one be? I’m not the kind of person who thinks that every series should stop after a certain amount of movies, but I was confused as to what they could possibly do with the universe that was established in the previous movies. That being said, I really had a good time watching Terminator Genisys. It had a brisk pace and some really cool scenes that would please any fan of the series. There were in-jokes, references, and entire scenes recreated. After that, I slept on it and woke up the next day still thinking about it. That’s where the movie started to lose its credibility very fast.

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Part of the enjoyment of a movie is to be able to think about it and talk about it in the hours and days to come. You can learn new insights or hear lines you might have missed or even be able to look at the movie in a new light. The worst thing you can do with Terminator Genisys is think about it. Now, I’m a person who can enjoy a brainless action movie where you don’t have to think, but this is a movie that plain and simply doesn’t make any sense. There’s a huge difference between those two kinds of movies. Plus, there are so many twists and plot points and goals throughout the story combined with technobabble about time travel, I began to not even really know what it was all about anymore. Finally, there are so many questions left unanswered which can only be explained by awful writing, and that is unacceptable.

Now, Terminator Genisys isn’t a total waste, and it isn’t even the worst that this series has to offer. There are some redeeming qualities. Like I said, there’s some scenes that are shot for shot recreations of scenes from the first movie. There’s also quick little nods to the other films that are subtly hidden throughout the dialogue that takes a keen ear and knowledge of the Terminator universe to pick up on. It was also really great seeing Schwarzenegger return as the T-800 and Jason Clarke’s John Connor is actually the best portrayal of the character yet… At least the parts where he actually is John Connor.

Terminator Genisys is a movie that didn’t have to happen, but if done well I’d be behind it 100%. Unfortunately, the storytelling is weak, scenes just happen to move the story forward, questions go unanswered, and things just start not making sense after a while. As a big budget summer blockbuster, it’s entertaining enough to watch, but for a series that has been growing for over 30 years, some respect should be given to the source material, instead of just rewriting everything in the laziest ways possible.

The Last Stand – Review

12 Feb

In 2003, action megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger reprised his famous career making role in Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machines. Since then, he became the governator of California and made small appearances in The Expendables and The Expendables 2. In 2013, however, and for the first time in a decade, starred in an action film. This was Kim Jee-woon’s The Last Stand, a movie that runs on all cylinders, hits you like a shotgun blast to the chest, and renewed some of my faith in modern action films.

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After a violent past working as an L.A.P.D narcotics officer, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger) moves to the small town of Somerset, Arizona where the only crime is keeping some drunks or local gun nut Lewis Dinkum (Johnny Knoxville) quiet. Hurtling towards this small town at over 200 mph is an escaped cartel kingpin named Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega) who fled from his transport in Las Vegas and is now making his way to the Mexican border. Hot on his tail is FBI Agent John Barrister (Forest Whitaker) who also warns Owens that this criminal and his army are making his way to his town. Low on men and weapons, Sheriff Owens, his deputies, and Dinkum turn the town into a blockade and prepare to fight the criminals off with Dinkum’s arsenal of heavy firepower.

Wow. Honestly, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I loved this movie. After recently watching Parker and spring boarding off that to think about how action movies just haven’t been impressing me, it was great to watch The Last Stand and really enjoy it. Right from the beginning, this movie’s filled with humor and action, and anyone who tries to deny that obviously hasn’t seen the movie. Even the story of this movie makes me smile just thinking about it. Sure it has some cliches, but it’s more original than a lot of action movies Hollywood is producing. Having a speeding car jetting towards a small town that’s been turned into a blockade is something I wish I wrote. It was exciting and engaging the entire way through.

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Another great thing is that the movie does a great job at making you care about its characters. While there is plenty of action and comedy, I was surprised that there was a large heaping of drama to go along with this movie. The characters aren’t really anything different from what you’d expect in an action movie of this kind, save maybe for Knoxville’s character, but there was still enough personality to make them three dimensional. When the action starts, I wanted to see all of the heroes get out alive. Unfortunately for them, the action in this movie seems bloody and relentless at points, which was just a joy for me.

The only problem I had with this movie was some really weird pacing and cuts in the scenes. At a certain point in the movie where the shit begins to hit the fan, we are literally all over the place and in three states at once. It made for some really awkward cutting. The characters in Somerset are obviously the main focus, but at the point I’m talking about the scenes in Vegas with the FBI was more important. Instead of staying with a certain group of people for an appropriate amount of time, I felt like I was being thrown all over the place to get a ridiculous amount of information really quickly. It was like riding a wooden roller coaster that has seen too many years.

All in all, The Last Stand was a really fun movie that I’d love to watch again and again. This isn’t a movie where you have to think too hard or really put effort into it, but if you want to see an action movie, then you really can’t go wrong here. It’s full of bullets, blood, laughs, drama, and an exploding torso. Doesn’t that just sound like a recipe for success right out of the Action Movie Cook Book? It may not become a classic, but it is one of the better films of the genre to be released in a very long time and I think The Last Stand has done me good and will do me good, and I say God bless it.

The Expendables 3 – Review

2 Jan

When The Expendables came out in 2010, I was thrilled to see all of the legendary action stars coming together to be in one movie, even if it didn’t reach the high expectations that I set for it. I was even more pleased with The Expendables 2 in 2012, which was a superior sequel that added Chuck Norris to the mix and gave Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis more to do. These were two fun films that hearkened back to action movies from the late 1970 and 1980s, but Stallone wasn’t ready to stop there. The Expendables 3, which I can now say was released in 2014 (just for the sake of saying it), completes the trilogy and actually offered me with more entertainment than I was expecting, which is a nice surprise.

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Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), the leader of his team of mercenaries called The Expendables, start their mission by breaking an old member of the team, Doc (Wesley Snipes), out of prison and than rush to Somalia to stop the delivery of bombs by a mysterious arms dealer. The mission goes awry when it is revealed the arms dealer is an ex-Expendable and personal enemy of Barney’s, Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson). One of the team members is severely injured and Stonebanks escapes, forcing Barney to assemble a new crew to go in and bring Stonbanks back on the orders of his new boss, CIA officer Max Drummer (Harrison Ford). When the new team gets captured by Stonebanks during the mission, the old Expendables crew comes back in to save the new recruits, defeat Stonebanks’ personal army, and bring him in personally to be charged as a war criminal.

I don’t think I even need to say this, but just look at this cast. Just look at it. On top of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren and the rest of the original cast we now have Harrison Ford, Wesley Snipes, and Antonio Banderas added just to name a few. Not only that, but Schwarzenegger and Jet Li are back to join in to the action and join it they do. Obviously, there are also a bunch of fresher faces there like UFC figher Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, boxer Victor Ortiz, and Glen Powell. While it must have been cool for these fighters and actors to join in with the legends, they don’t add anything really special to the movie, and their acting can often be subpar, which shouldn’t even bother me in an Expendables movie. I was worried that these newcomers would push the others to the side, but it was great to see everyone get their chance in the spotlight, my personal favorite being Banderas. I just would have rather seen Gina Carano instead of Ronda Rousey, but that’s just me. There’s also a real big lack of Terry Crews in this movie, which was a little disappointing as well.

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Of course one of the biggest draws to see an Expendables movie is the action, and there’s plenty of it to go around. One of the things that concerned me along with the new cast was the fact that The Expendables 3 was PG-13, which made me think that this movie was going to be completely toned down. It really didn’t feel that way though. In fact, I’d say it may even be superior to the original movie. Another thing that is necessary in action films of this kind is a strong villain, and we get one with Stonebanks. It is obvious that Mel Gibson is having the time of his life, hamming it up as Barney’s arch-enemy and delivering his lines like he’s back in the role of Martin Riggs in the Lethal Weapon movies. Looking back on these movies, Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mel Gibson were two of the best parts of the entire series, which is cool because cool villains are just plain awesome.

It’s clear that this is also a pretty personal project to all of the older actors in this movie, especially that there are now younger actors in the movie kicking ass with them. There’s been a few of these kinds of movies recently where the people we loved for years begin to talk about their age in a positive light. Stallone and the rest of them is reminding us once again that they are quite capable of high octane action scenes and still have fun shooting them. That being said, I don’t think we need another Expendables movie, and I’m hoping and praying that we don’t get one, because as much as I like what they’re doing, they’ve been doing it on repeat since 2010. I will say that some of this movie felt like it was getting a little stale (and I’m including the wonky special effects with this), which means it’s time to pack this series in.

The Expendables movies are simply nostalgic guilty pleasures that no one should really feel guilty about, in my opinion. These movies, the third movie included, are not pieces of work that need to be criticized to quickly. Maybe I liked this movie as much as I did because it exceeded my low expectations, but maybe it’s just because I like seeing these actors do what they do best. It’s not high art and it doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say, but we’ve known these actors for a long time and it’s cool to see them in a loud, violent, and often funny action film.

 

Total Recall (1990) – Review

31 Jul

Wether you know the name or not, Phillip K. Dick is responsible for many of the science fiction stories that you all know and love, especially the ones that have been turned into blockbuster movies. Do titles like A Scanner DarklyMinority Report, and Blade Runner ring a bell? Those are just a few examples. One of Dick’s most popular stories was published in 1966 and was titled We Can Remember it for You Wholesale, which was later adapted to the 1990 sci-fi/action classic Total Recall. Now, Phillip K. Dick’s stories have a penchant for being smart and highly conspiratorial, so it would be nice if the movies adapted from his stories had that same style. Luckily, Total Recall is one of those movies.

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Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) lives an average life with his average job as a construction worker and shares a home with his above average wife, Lori (Sharon Stone). As life on Earth continues as normal, life on Mars is filled with violence and revolution as a so called terrorist named Kuato fights for the rights of the lower class colonists. All of the reports about Mars makes Quaid want to take a vacation there and escape his everyday life but his wife is not into that idea at all. This prompts Quaid to take a ride down to “Rekall,” a company where memories can be implanted into your brain and make you think you had the vacation of your life. Unfortunately for Quaid, the entire procedure goes terribly wrong and a massive manhunt for him, led by the ruthless Richter (Michael Ironside), begins and leads him to the very surface of Mars where he learns of his real identity and begins fighting for the survival of every colonist living on the planet’s surface…or is he?

This movie had the chance to just be a regular, run of the mill Schwarzenegger movie filled with lots of action, but no real ideas and no intelligence to speak of. What made matters worse was the idea for this movie was being tossed around Hollywood for years before it actually got picked up. To give a point of reference, the writers for this movie got Alien made in 1979 before the got Total Recall made in 1990, even though they began working on the latter first. In a way though, this actually worked out better because the right director and actors all became attached during the process, and an excellent movie was eventually created.

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One thing that not only struck me but also struck audiences at its release 24 years ago was the amount of insane violence in this movie, although I’d like to just call it action since it’s so abundantly ridiculous. Believe it or not, Total Recall was actually slapped with an X rating for Verhoeven’s first cut of the movie, but he negotiated it down to an R rating and edited some of the scenes in the movie and changed some shots around. There’s still plenty of gunplay, bone crunching, and gore to be had here so it isn’t a total loss. Then again, people who saw Verhoeven’s 1987 film Robocop will know all about that. Also like RobocopTotal Recall takes place in the distant future so some work had to be done to make it look appropriate. Close to 70 different stages were built which to a really long time, and a lot of this movie was actually shot in more modern parts of Mexico. This worked very well since Total Recall does have a good sense of space and design.

Probably one of the main draws for anyone to see Total Recall is the amazing special effects, which I could say ranks in the top 5 best of film history. Sure, today they look dated, but at the time the effects were really a marvel. I still do find them incredible because this was one of the last movies to do everything with practical effects and no digital composites. There are some exceptional scenes on the Martian surface that was all built by hand over periods of time. Another great use of practical effects are the animatronics that are used for people exposed the the vacuum of Mars, and also the prosthetic make up used for the mutants. This is a really great looking movie that won an Academy Award for visual effects while all of the other movies in the category were runner ups and not nominees. Pretty much, Total Recall was in a category all its own.

To put it simply, Total Recall is one of those movies that perfectly blends all of its various pieces together to make one hell of a fun movie. The action is outrageous, the humor made me laugh, and the psychology was well worthy of a Phillip K. Dick science fiction story. Sure there are many differences between this and the original short story, but I gotta hand it to Paul Verhoeven. He definitely knows how to makes top notch action films.

 

 

True Lies – Review

19 Sep

James Cameron is another one of those directors whose name is synonymous with action films, and very good ones at that. Before Avatar, he did such films as Aliens, Terminator and Terminator 2, and he even did well with drama in Titanic (although I’m not a huge fan of it myself). True Lies is another one of his films that is a nice combination of intense action and funny romantic comedy.

 

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) isn’t quite what he seems. To his wife (Jamie Lee Curtis), he is a boring computer salesman whose excuse for not being home for long periods of times are business meetings and conventions. What she doesn’t know is that he’s a secret agent working for a ghostly government program. While he has no problem saving the world, Tasker is having a bit more trouble saving his marriage. On top of everything else, a Middle Eastern terrorist organization has nuclear warheads on American soil with threats of blowing up major cities unless their demands are met. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they brought Harry’s family into the mix thinking it would give them the upper hand…

True Lies can pretty much be broken up into two separate movies. One movie is a high octane action/spy film that will impress any action junkie with its nonstop barrage of over the top gunplay and explosions. The other movie is a goofy romantic comedy about a secret agent trying his best to save a marriage that appears to be doomed. Both ideas are good and well executed. The problem is the strange and abrupt transition from one to the other at a certain point. This movie also feels long, very long. But, unlike Bad Boys II, this isn’t a problem and the film is able to sustain itself.

 

The action se pieces are truly remarkable. At the time, this was one of the most expensive movies ever made, and it shows. What else would you expect from James Cameron? There’s planes, helicopters, car chases, huge explosions, and from a certain point non stop gun fire. Not only is there lots of it, it’s all really cool. There’s one particular chase that is hysterical involving a terrorist riding a motorcycle through a crowded hotel, being chased by Tasker on horse back. Yes. Horseback. Honestly, one of the most creative chase scenes I’ve seen in all my days.

As a bit of a history lesson, I think it’s noteworthy to say how much shit this movie got by a couple different groups. Women found it to be incredibly sexist how Curtis’ character is portrayed. She’s pretty ditzy and there is a pretty random strip tease that really got people worked up. Middle Easter groups were also offended by how their culture were portrayed, as in terrorists and crazy. While I see where these groups are coming from, I have to say that I’ve seen plenty of other films that have characters similar to the ones people were angry about in this. I don’t know if it was the time period or what, but people were furious. I’m sure Cameron shed a tear while he was on his way to the bank.

 

While True Lies isn’t Cameron’s best film, it’s still a great action movie. If the climax doesn’t get your adrenaline rushing, you might want to get yourself checked out. It’s funny and loud, even though it’ll take up most of your afternoon. I’d say check it out, it’s worth a watch or two.

The Expendables 2 – Review

18 Aug

I’ve gone to see more movies at their midnight openings this year more than I have any year of my life. I’m proud to say that I can include The Expendables 2 to this list of movies. I loved the first Expendables, but I’m excited to say that the sequel has surpassed the original in every way, making it not only one of my favorite movies of the year (after The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises), but also one of my favorite action movies of all time.

 

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of mercenaries are still out in the field doing some of the dirtiest mercenary work around. After a not so friendly meeting with Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), Ross takes a job to retrieve a package from a downed plane. This simple job quickly goes awry with the arrival of another team of mercenaries led by Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) who steal the package to unlock a powerful source of plutonium and hold the world hostage.

Something the original Expendables lacked was a strong plot line, but I felt like the movie took its weak plot seriously and tried to make it believable. In their second outing, the plot is still rather weak, but no attempt is made to take itself too seriously. Instead, we get a hardcore action movie that hearkens back to the eighties with quick one liners and plenty of over the top gunplay and fighting.

 

The Expendables 2 also has a lot less down time than the first installment. Thankfully there is also no Mickey Rourke monologue to get lost and confused in. I would go so far as to say that after a certain point in the movie, the action becomes a relentless barrage of guns, explosions, and satisfying blood spray (although some of it is still digital).

The sound design in this movie is really impressive. More than once I would stop and think to myself, “Wow, this movie is really loud.” The punning sound of Crews’ AA12 that is fired at the beginning of the movie is enough to make any action junky’s heart skip. In fact, the whole beginning of the movie has top of the line foley work and a adrenaline pumping sound track that made me more than ready for the rest of the movie.

 

What else made this movie really cool, you ask? Hmm, well, Chuck Norris gets to kick a fair share of ass along with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. Not only these legendary action stars, but Terry Crews, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, and Randy Couture get a lot more to do than they did in the first film. They felt more like a team than in the original, which only made me root for them more. That, and Jean-Claude Van Damme is a real asshole and plays a villain that you love to hate.

The Expendables 2 exceeded my expectations in every way. I knew that it was going to be cool and exciting, but no where near as great as it was. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen out of fear of missing a split second of the action. This is a film that I can’t wait to see again, and will be seeing again before it is out of theaters. If you love action movies, or even ever seen an action movie, check out The Expendables 2.