Posts Tagged ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’

The 6th Day (2000)

05/04/2011 1 comment

What is more badass than Arnold Schwarzenegger as a military guy? Arnold Schwarzenegger as an ex-military family guy. What’s more badass than a movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it once? A movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it twice. The real question, though, is whether or not a movie with two Arnolds in it can still pull off a deep philosophical discussion of the implications of human cloning and still be badass. Let’s find out.

The 6th Day is a sci fi thriller film directed by Roger Spottiswoode, in a near-future where animal cloning is commonplace but human cloning has been outlawed. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Rapaport, Tony Goldwyn, Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, and Robert Duvall.

It is the year 2015. Cloning technology is sufficiently advanced that animal cloning is commonplace (leading to the recovery of a number of endangered species and a virtual end to world hunger), every child has grown up with a cloned Re-pet (a genetic copy of a pet that has died), and cloned human organs for transplant are becoming mainstream. However, the cloning of a complete human is forbidden by “6th Day” laws, named for the creation story in the Book of Genesis which states that God created man on the 6th day. Cloning is still a highly divisive issue, however, with cloning protestors appearing regularly outside Replacement Technologies, a firm that specilizes in cloning. Ex-military family man and charter pilot Adam Gibson has his doubts about the moral implications of cloning, but he has other things to worry about right now: It is his birthday, and he has been hired as transportation for Michael Drucker, the CEO of Replacement Technologies, who is headed on a ski trip. On his way to pick up Drucker, Gibson is informed that his daughters beloved dog has died, and his wife instructs him to have the dog cloned as a Re-pet. Gibson’s buddy Morgan offers to take his place on the charter so Gibson can get the Re-pet, and the two part ways. Then things start getting really complicated. Gibson returns home after running a few errands to find that, um… he’s already home. He barely has time to digest the presence of this doppelganger before he learns that people want to kill him, and for good reason – he has been illegally cloned. Since the existence of two Adam Gibsons could have serious consequences for Replacement Technologies, one of them has to go. Unfortunately for them, they don’t realize that this is Arnold Goddamn Schwarzenegger, and clone or not, they’re both going to be very difficult to kill…

This is one of those movies that flew in under my radar. When it was in theaters, I saw maybe one or two ads for it, and then nothing. I found it again after it came out on home video, and decided to give it a shot. It was… enjoyable. While it was not your typical Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, it had thrills and chases and explosions and, of course, Arnold being a badass dad. Twice. However, despite its early lip service to the moral and philosophical implications of mainstream cloning processes, such as whether a cloned pet is still the same pet, and a related brief existential crisis regarding whether the cloned Adam is still fundamentally Adam, ultimately The 6th Day remains an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie through and through, with all that implies. He’s a badass. People try to kill him. He outwits them. Shit gets blown up. The only thing about this movie that does not fit into the mold of a typical Arnold movie is the fact that both Adams genuinely love the family of Adam 1.0, which sets up a Papa Wolf sequence of truly epic proportions, wherein both Adams become Badass Dad squared.

The supporting cast was decent, but the mooks bordered on self-parody at times, due to the fact that since they could be brought back in a matter of hours through the miracle of cloning. The head villain didn’t seem to think he was evil,though after a few scenes of dialogue the actual amount of altruism in his project (very low) became clear. Amongst the hero, Arnold was… Arnold. He is a badass with a family and an existential crisis. That makes Arnold upset, and when Arnold gets upset Arnold breaks things. Adam’s buddy Morgan is a loser with a holographic programmable porn star for a girlfriend (raise your hand if you know someone who would have a virtual pornstar housemate given sufficiently advanced technology). Meanwhile, Adam’s wife and daughter are wonderfully believeable given the movie’s setting, like his wife winning an argument by simply not acknowledging her husband’s protests, and his daughter wanting the Latest Cool Thing that all of her friends has (though why any sane parent would buy one of those creepy-ass Sim-Pals for their child boggles the mind).

In the end, The 6th Day is an enjoyable sci fi thriller with slightly more depth than your average Arnold movie, but not quite enough to rise above the brand of being an Arnold movie. If you like hard(ish) sci fi paired with thrilling chase scenes, check this one out. If you want a deep discussion on the meaning of life and death in a world where cloning is commonplace, try something by Philip K. Dick.


Zombie Strippers! (2008)

04/12/2011 3 comments

They’ll dance for a fee, but devour you for free.

Apparently, some time ago director Jay Lee was challenged to come up with the most marketable movie title ever. The title he came up with was Zombie Strippers!, and the movie he wrote to go along with it is, er, about what you’d expect.

Zombie Strippers! is a B-grade zombie comedy written and directed by Jay Lee, and apparently inspired by Eugene Ionesco’s play Rhinoceros (… what?!). It stars Robert Englund, Jenna Jameson, Penny Drake, Roxy Saint, and Tito Ortiz

It is a dystopic near-future. How dystopic? George W. Bush is sitting his fourth term as president, alongside Vice President Arnold Schwartzenegger. The United States Congress has been disbanded. Public nudity has been outlawed. The United States is enbroiled in wars across about a third of the planet, and with more wars than they have soldiers to fight them, a secret laboratory has developed a virus to help keep the soldiers on their feet and still fighting even after death. The only trouble is that the virus completely destroys all higher brain functions of male infectees, turning them into mindless, flesh-hungry zombies. Female infectees (through a brief technobabble involving the X chromosome) retain their higher brain functions, turning them into intelligent, flesh-hungry zombies. They’re still working the kinks out, but don’t worry, the lab’s security is second to none, which of course means that there is a containment breach literally two minutes into the movie. An elite Z Squad of improbably good-looking soldiers (including a blonde woman in a bikini top and camo pants the whole time) are dispatched to neutralize the threat, only to discover that their intel on the zombies is slightly, uh, WRONG. In the resulting confusion, one of them named Birdflough (pronounced bird flu, in case you were wondering) is bitten, but escapes unnoticed to a building next door to the lab – which turns out to be an illegal strip club named Rhino, run by a germophobe named Ian Essco who has every reason not to call the authorities, even when Birdflough turns and bites the throat out of a dancer named Kat. Kat dies, but is reanimated by the virus and wants to dance. Essco, concerned about losing his star dancer but unconcerned by the fact that she still has a huge bite wound in her throat and blood all over, lets her. To his surprise, this new, uninhibited zombie stripper is a HUGE hit, and the other strippers find themselves losing customers to the revitalized Kat, and faced with a choice – become zombies to compete, or lose their jobs. The only real complication Essco sees is the zombie strippers’ tendency to eat their customers during private dances, turning them into mindless zombies, but no problem – stick them in the basement. Of course, it isn’t long before things reach critical mass, and the Z Squad is closing in looking for their infected squadmate…

Okay. It’s a movie entitled Zombie Strippers. If you’re looking for high art, go away. This movie has hot, frequently-naked women, the men who watch them strip, flesh-eating zombies, and Robert Englund. This is not even the sort of zombie film you watch for its deep social commentary, or because the zombie represent much of anything. It’s like Shaun of the Dead without all the deep philosophical discussion. There is blood. There is violence. There are bare tits. Sometimes all at once. There is no sex (THANK CHRIST) but there is an implied blowjob gone wrong (executed by a zombie stripper. You do the math), and many of the freshly zombified strippers don’t even bother to clean up before they go back on stage. The special effects are frequently decent but at times hilariously bad, but that’s okay because this movie doesn’t take itself very seriously anyway (see title).

That said, it does take great pains to set things up properly before hilarity ensues, knitting up any loose ends and plot holes with a conscientiousness that so often goes neglected in higher-budgeted films. Most of the girls are pretty hot (escept for matriarch Blavatsky, who seems to be channelling a drag queen’s impression of Natasha Fatale), and they make a token effort for character development by having the newcomer be a devout Christian who is only stripping to earn money for her Nana’s camcer treatment, and one of the more experienced girls reads and quotes the great philosophers. Robert Englund, whom horror buffs will recognize as the normal-looking guy under Freddy’s Krueger’s makeup, is twitchy and perverted and mind of annoying (his comeuppance is satisfying but REALLY GROSS), and Jenna Jameson should be familiar to those who will admit they watch porn as one of the staple actresses of that genre. Aside from those two, there are no big-name actors in this film that I could see, and nobody here would be seen in a production of Shakespeare anytime soon. This is a zombie movie. With strippers. Undead strippers. Like I said, if you pick up a movie like this looking for high arts, put it down and walk away. It’s just a fun romp with a kind of squicky twist on the zombie genre, but fans of the subgenre should have fun.

In the end, Zombie Strippers! was exactly what I expected it would be – mindless fun, exactly what a B-movie should be. Fans of zombie movies should enjoy it as long as they go in there with low expectations and just enjoy the ride. Good stupid fun, but skip the popcorn.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

With every successful movie, there is a good chance that the studios will want to repeat their success. Occasionally, this may result in an unrelated film being repurposed as a sequel, but more often the same people will simply make a sequel. As sequels go, there are three basic types:

  1. Sucky sequel: This sequel falls short (often far short) of its predecessor’s level of quality, and comes off as an obvious, half-assed money grab.
  2. Equivalent sequel: The sequel does not fall short of its predecessor’s level of quality, but neither does it improve on things.
  3. Improved sequel: A rarity, the improved sequel not only meets but also exceeds the quality of its predecessor, taking the concept in new directions that still fit with the established storyline.

In a pleasant surprise, this film finds itself in the third category. And it kicks all kinds of ass.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a science fiction action film directed by James Cameron, and is the first sequel to The Terminator. It stars Linda Hamilton, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, and some really cool CGI effects.

It has been eleven years since Sarah Connor was last menaced by the (nearly) unstoppable Terminator. John Connor, the future savior of humanity, is now a troubled youth of ten, living with foster parents in Los Angeles after his mother was arrested for trying to bomb a computer factory and sent to a hospital for the criminally insane. Even though he spent his entire childhood being prepared for the impending apocalypse, John isn’t sure what to believe now. Little does he know that in the future, Skynet is going to make another temporally-assisted attempt on his life, this time with the T-1000, a newer and more dangerous model of Terminator composed of liquid metal, with the ability to mimic anything it touches, including people. Fortunately, the human resistance is able to send back yet another guardian, this time a familiar face – a T-800 identical to the one who previously tried to kill Sarah, but reprogrammed to defend John. The two converge on John in a desperate race, and their mutual target is about to learn that his mother’s crazy rantings are anything but delusional…

When I first saw this movie, I hadn’t seen the original in years, but I heard all the hype about the groundbreaking computer generated effects – only two years since The Abyss, in which Cameron also used groundbreaking CG effects, except the hard way. It was amazing to see the advances in CG since then, even though in the fifteen minutes or so of transformation time the T-1000 had, only a relative handful used CGI. And it looked amazing. As the first movie which had a major character be partially (and in a couple scenes completely) created in CGI, the results were impressive and eye-popping. Even though morphing effects had been in use since Willow, and CG-created characters were as old as Young Sherlock Holmes, this time through it looked amazing. Arnie, of course, gets enhanced with old-school makeup effects and animatronics, and the two types of effects mesh well.

The acting was also superb. Linda Hamilton, having previously played Sarah as a meek little mouse of a woman being menaced by things that technically hadn’t happened yet, buffed up to play Sarah Connors, Mother of the Human Resistance, and I could easily believe that she was a little unhinged, albeit with a very good reason – she’d been beaten over the head with a really bad future, she was having nightmares about the impending nuclear apocalypse, and she’d been told that her son was the only thing standing between humanity and its own annihilation. The movie does make it clear that even though John loves his mom, her behavior does not make her a good mother. If anything, it makes her borderline psychotic, to the point that she nearly tips over the edge into the same territory as the focused, emotionless killers whose creation she was trying to prevent. The opens the door for a surprisingly philosophical discussion about humanity, as the inhuman T-800 turns out to be a more dedicated parental figure to John than even Sarah was. Robert Patrick makes an effective rival Terminator as well, sleeker and faster than the T-800, in effect a leopard compared to Arnold’s grizzly bear. Also, sharp-eyed fans of the first will recognize Earl Boen reprising his role as Dr. Silberman, the police psychiatrist in the original, now responsible for Sarah’s care in this one (and about as effective), though of course he gets belted across the face with the truth in a very satisfying sequence at the psychiatric hospital.

It is very rare to find a sequel that improves so drastically upon the first, but it is not surprising to find that James Cameron managed to pull it off. If you enjoyed the first but felt it needed something more, watch Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and then just sit back and enjoy the action.

Dave (1993)

You all probably know the tale of The Prince and the Pauper: a working-class guy who just happens to be the spitting image of somebody rich and important is asked to take the place of Rich and Important Guy. Think that couldn’t work today? Ivan Reitman disagrees.

Dave is a comedy-drama film written by Gary Ross and directed by Ivan Reitman. It stars Kevin “Silverado” Kline, Sigourney “Alien” Weaver, Frank “Superman Returns” Langella, Kevin “Transformers” Dunn, Ving “Pulp Fiction” Rhames, and Ben “Suspect Zero” Kingsley.

Dave Kovic (Kline) runs a temporary employment angency in Washington D.C. By chance, he bears a striking resemblance to U.S. President Bill Mitchell (also Kline, only an asshole), which he uses during side jobs impersonating him in such things as car advertisements and supermarket openings. He’s just an ordinary guy, who is about to be asked to do something extraordinary in service of his country. Chief of Staff Bob Alexander (Langella) approaches Kovic to act as a presidental body double to help conceal Mitchell’s extramarital affair with a White House secretary, having Kovic appear as the President while the real deal is off sweating up the sheets. However, during the course of the ruse, Mitchell’s extracurricular activities cause him to suffer a severe stroke, leaving him in a coma with no prospect of recovery, and the hapless Dave in his place to keep up appearances. Only Alexander, Communications Director Alan Reed (Dunn), and Secret Service Agent Duane Stevensen (Rhames) are aware of the ruse; First Lady Ellen Mitchell (Weaver) largely ignores her husband, utterly despising him. One should note that Kovic has no clue how to be a politician; this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

As Dave settles into his role, he plays the President they way he thinks the Commander in Chief should act – helping the common people, just as he did in his previous job. He has his accountant help him rewrite the United States budget to allow funds for a previously cancelled homeless shelter program, over Alexander’s protests, and he finds himself rapidly falling in love with the First Lady, his own “wife”. However, he is largely unaware of a plot to implicate Vice President Gary Nance (Kingsley, in one of his few truly benevolent roles) in a fraud that Alexander and Mitchell perpetrated. Once Nance is out of the way, Alexander plans to have Dave nominate him as V.P. and have a very convenient second stroke, landing Alexander in the Oval Office.

I don’t watch many comedies, but I found this movie to be charmingly funny. Kline as Kovic was a humble, good-hearted everyman uncorrupted by the customs of politics as usual, while Kline as Mitchell, in the character’s brief scenes, was a smug, opportunistic bastard, the sort of politician you love to hate – and he was convincing as both. Weaver was a sharped tongued defrosting ice queen as the First Lady, initially hating her “husband” out of habit but eventually being charmed by his simple kindness. And Frank Langella, whom I’d previously seen as that creepy guy with an offer in The Box is a persuasive manipulative bastard. Ving Rhames, as always, plays Ving Rhames, a no-nonsense badass who doesn’t take any shit, even from his supposed charge.

This modern-day take on an old story was also surprisingly fresh for its more modern setting. While a ruse of this magnitude might seem implausible at first, the amount of security surrounding the President would make this surprisingly simple (see Vantage Point for another example). Watching Dave stumbling through his new life is well-rewarded when he finally got his feet under him, and further rewarded when the American public starts coming around to this new, revitalized President Mitchell, making me hope that Kovic could be a hundred times the President that Mitchell was – and in his own way, he was.

If you’re looking for a charming comedy featuring a new twist on an old plot, I recommend this movie. Dave does not disappoint.

Predator (1987)

It started as a joke about Rocky’s fifth movie being about him fighting E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. This eventually evolved into an idea about a team of commandos in the Central American jungle on a rescue mission, who discover that something is hunting them back, something not native to Central America… or even planet Earth. You knew Stan Winston would get involved eventually, and, hey, there he was. The result wasn’t brilliant. It wasn’t deep or philosophical. It just kicked all kinds of ass.

Predator is a science fiction action film directed by John McTiernan and written by Jim and John Thomas. It stars Arnold “GET TO DA CHOPPA” Schwarzenegger, Carl “Rocky” Weathers, Elpidia “You mean she’s been in other stuff besides this?” Carillo, Bill “Commando” Duke, Jesse “The governor of Minnesota” Ventura, and Kevin Peter “The tall dude in the monster suit” Hall.

An alien spacecraft flies past Earth, jettisoning a pod, which heads for Central America. This will be important later. Sometime later, Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) arrives in Guatemala with his elite team of mercenaries on a rescue mission: three members of the presidental cabinet have been captured by rebels. Dutch’s old military buddy George Dillon (Weathers) steps in as a liaison and joins the team, and they are dropped off in the jungle via helecopter. They find the wreckage of a downed helicopter and later the skinned bodies of what they later discover was a Special Forces unit, the presence of whom mystifies Dutch. The team tracks the guerillas to a heavily defended camp, blow shit up, and kill everyon expect for a woman named Anna (Carillo), whom they take as a prisoner. Dillon confesses that their actual mission had been to destroy the camp (which they did magnificently), and that the skinned corpses they’d found were part of a failed mission to rescue some C.I.A. agents. Dutch is pissed and starts moving his team to the extraction point, not knowing that they are being watched by something that is clearly impressed by their combat expertise, and is about to put them all to a more challenging test…

Okay, admit it: This is the point where the real plot starts. A nearly-invisible alien hunter with elaborate technology at its clawed fingertips starts hunting down the soldiers and picking them off one by one, until one man is left with the cojones and the skills to really go toe-to-toe with the thing. The whole movie is flooded with testosterone and action-packed and intense, and the “real” plot doesn’t matter. Stan Winston’s creature effects are brilliant as always, and the finished Predator looks perfectly inhuman and dangerous, but intelligent in a way that you can figure out his motivations: he is an honorable warrior, out for the challenge rather than random bloodshed just for the hell of it. The code of honor for Predators is elaborated upon in the franchise’s expanded universe, but one catches glimpses of it here – he doesn’t go after unarmed combatants, he strategized brilliantly even when out numbered, and he is able to use mind-games (like mimicking the voice of Dutch’s known-dead teammate) to spook his prey and keep them off-balance. Unlike his franchise rival, the alien Xenomorph, the Predator’s motivations can be parsed out, making him a believable member of an intelligent race.

This acting is about par for an action movie – not Shakespeare, but clearly conveying the fact that this unknown hunter is freaking them all right the hell out. Anna, as Ms. Exposition regarding the Predator, is nothing to write home about, but as a frightened civilian woman she gets the job done. Arnold is Action Hero Guy, as usual, long before he even dreamed of trying comedy, and he utterly succeeds at being Action Hero Guy, the only guy with the balls to stand up to this towering, muscular monster. Hall, the guy in the Pred suit, is 7’2 and towers over Arnold like few humans can, and (literally) wears his role very well.

So. Action. Suspense. Monsters. Shit blowing up. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you like all these, see Predator. It is a simple movie, with a simple premise and complicated special effects that would go on to form the other half of the Alien vs. Predator interfranchise rivalry. I highly recommend this film.

The Terminator (1984)

“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

In 1984, the idea of the implacable, unstoppable killer was not new. Halloween did it in 1978, and Friday the 13th did it in 1980. Then James Cameron had himself a nightmare about an implacable, unstoppable, cyborg killer from the future, and a franchise was born.

The Terminator is the first movie in that franchise, which Cameron directed, as well as co-wrote with William Fisher, Jr. It stars Arnold “I’ll be back” Schwarzenegger, Linda “not an action girl yet” Hamilton, Lance “Aliens” Henriksen, and Michael “Come with me if you want to live” Biehn. It is worth noting that O. J. Simpson was considered for the role of the terminator, but Cameron didn’t think he would be believable as a cold-hearted murderer.

In 2029, intelligent machines seek to exterminate what remains of the human race. Standing in their way is John Connor, a freedom fighter who has united humanity against them. With the Resistance on the verge of victory, the machines send back a cybernetic T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to hunt down and kill Connor’s mother Sarah (Hamilton) before he is even conceived, thereby accomplishing a retroactive abortion. The humans, however, send back an agent of their own, a soldier named Reese (Biehn) to defend Sarah from the terminator. Sarah, meanwhile, is a mere waitress at a diner, and has no idea yet what’s going on. However, there are three Sarah Connors listed in the local phone book, and the two time travelers race to find the correct one first, in order to either kill or protect her.

This is one of my favorite sci fi movies. James Cameron’s twist on the Implacable Killer theme works on so many chilling levels, even with the tiny budget he had. The “post apocalyptic future” scenes were plausible, considering that they were accomplished with scale models, forced perspectives, and matte blocking, and Stan Winston’s stop-motion endoskeleton, though slightly dated, is thoroughly calculating and looks like it really wants to eat your face. The facial surgery sequence doesn’t look quite as real at is might have, but I heard they scaled back the realism to keep it from being too disturbing. Seriously, the Terminator just sliced out his eye with an Exacto knife – how is that not supposed to be disturbing?! Stan Winston was and still is an FX genius.

And of course, rather than riding completely on special effects, this movie (like so many 80s sci fi films) relies on its acting to carry the terror of the concept. Biehn, as usual, plays an intense military type desperate to convey the gravity of the situation to his terrified charge in a limited period of time, and Hamilton is plausible as the unsuspecting civilian caught between faction in a war that hasn’t even happened yet. And… Arnold. Arnold, you terrifying, machinelike bastard. Where would this franchise be without you? (Probably trying to do the same thing with another bodybuilder, with less impressive results, but I digress…) He has maybe 18 lines in the whole film, but he makes it work, even with his heavy accent, almost like they were still ironing the kinks out of the vocal synthesizer. Although, if you’re acting like an emtoionless machine, is it still really acting?

In all, if you want to see a thrilling, suspenseful sci fi action flick, if you want to see where the whole Terminator franchise started, or even if you just want to see Arnold Schwarzenegger clad only in shadows for about a minute and a half, rent this movie. You will not fail to be impressed.