Wow am I tired. But for all the talk on Saturday of my promise to bring you six mini reviews before X Factor started I reconsidered delaying this post until it was of a decent quality, hence Tuesday evening. Without further a do I bring you an account of the night’s experience from queuing in the rain while we discuss the future of superhero movies to our first glimpse of sunlight for 12 enjoyable hours. Even the most diehard lovers of Arnie should not underestimate the inevitability of succumbing to a few moments of brief shut-eye before a hail of screaming bullets wake you up.
We enter our scene to a chorus of murmuring Arnie fans choosing their seats for what will become their own space, a place to call home, a place of comfort when you need it most, a place to call your own for the next 12 hours, a place to heckle and a place to laugh as waves of contagious appreciation invade the room. The effort to instil a lighthearted atmosphere was achieved with great efficacy from the first kill in Commando to the thumbs up in T2: Judgement Day. As the auditorium filled to capacity the excitement in each and every participant erupted as Commando came onto the screen.
Rapturous applause rocks the room, whooping and hollering capture the moment perfectly and everyone settles in for the corniest of montage clips in Arnie’s repertoire. Rarely do I laugh so hard I cry but within the first 20 minutes of our opening movie I could tell we were all in for a very special night. Commando is the purest of Arnie’s films, irreverent humour, plenty of action, enough one-liners to question the very sanity of the director but the perfect amount of Arnie screen time to make Commando the most pleasurable movie on the night’s roster. At a time when Hollywood saw an influx of archetypal action figures with Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger all fitting the bill the 1980s were a special time for cinema. Considered great action films of time they have now become classics in the eyes of a modern audience, well those who are willing to give them the light of day anyway. A culture of film-making that created so many memorable moments made its mark on the history of cinema and continues to do so as people rate their ‘Top 50’ films of all time. Predator will be up there, so too will T2 and this is testament to the cultural significance of each film.
I’m pretty sure the experience of being surrounded by like-minded individuals (aside from the girl sitting next to me who hadn’t seen a single Arnie film) was what made Commando such a great time. Such an experiential occasion I’m not sure I can truly do it justice but if you ever get the chance to watch it with someone who has seen it and appreciates Arnie at his best then do not pass it up lightly. For every one liner, bulging bicep and archetypal plot device Arnie was at the centre, leading the way with utter conviction. As retired black ops commando John Matrix, Arnie sets out on a war path of revenge after his daughter is kidnapped in an attempt to blackmail him into assassinating the current President of Val Verde and restore exiled dictator Arius as despot. For every modern film where the hero negotiates or lingers on matters of life and death, when we are screaming at the screen when the obvious decision is ignored, when the film drags on and on because the easy way out is deemed unsuitable for cinema audiences, Commando laughs in its face. Frequently does Arnie shoot first and ask questions later with great results. Feared by those who know him and underestimated by those that don’t Arnie’s path of destruction is utterly ridiculous but brilliant because of that fact. Certainly a Must-see for avid Arnoldians and an excellent introductory movie for those who haven’t quite seen eye to eye with him in the past. And to those people all I have to say is, “Let off some steam Bennett”.
Despite it’s unfailing reputation as one of the most iconic action/sci-fi amalgamations ever Predator had a tough act to follow. With an auditorium buzzing from the end of Commando as many made their way to the bathroom, bar, or refreshments counter silent expectation filled the air. Playing a similar role in terms of military prowess Arnie as Dutch leads a group of highly skilled men on a mission through the densest of central American jungle to rescue CIA agents who have been taken hostage. All the while alien life is tracking them and killing them off one by one. The eponymous Predator systematically targets Arnie’s men and leaves the squad fighting for survival on an otherwise fairly straightforward mission. Incredibly resourceful and adept at its trade we don’t really have a chance to address the bigger questions one might have when viewing Predator. Quite why this extraterrestrial life has chosen to land in this jungle is beyond any reasoning but we accept it and move on in anticipation for the moment the two parties exchange blows.With an excellent supporting cast including Bill Duke and Sonny Landham as Mac and Billy respectively the chemistry on screen between Arnie and his co-stars is superb. The individual character studies are kept quite minimal and the two characters that we learn the most about are Dutch and Dillon (Carl Weathers). As the deaths begin to mount the suspense begins to build, partly in anticipation of the final showdown between Dutch and the Predator but mainly because the auditorium is patiently waiting for the moment that defines this film as an Arnie great. “GET TO THE CHOPPAH!” For this line alone Predator is an all time Arnie classic but it doesn’t stand alone and there are plenty of other memorable moments that I’ll leave for you guys to discover yourselves. In contrast to the other films of the night Predator is not my favourite but I can see the appeal as well as appreciate its finer moments, another Must-see and we are only two films in.
When I saw The Running Man for the first time I wasn’t that impressed, just amused, but having now seen it on the big screen I can honestly say it has moved up the rankings. When I first saw the schedule I thought it was the weakest of the six on all fronts but it drastically improved my opinion when it came to a finish. Loosely based on a Stephen King novel by the same name The Running Man transposes a totalitarian dystopian future onto American society where violence and corruption are the ruling hands. The film opens with Arnie piloting a police helicopter responding to a call to a food riot in progress. Orders come through that Richards is to quell the riot with deadly force. Disobeying these orders Richards is subsequently fired and sentenced to prison labour. After being branded and framed as the Butcher of Bakersfield for propaganda purposes he is determined to escape. Outrunning the law proves futile and his prison escape video finds its way into Damon Killian’s hands. Richards is called in and forced to take part in the nation’s favourite game show, The Running Man, or his two friends will go in in his place. With the odds of survival seemingly stacked against him he must battle his way through 4 quadrant’s against stalkers that are sent to kill him. In this day and age this isn’t the most original concept and quite frankly we could be here for days arguing about Battle Royale, The Hunger Games and the such but until you see The Running Man you’ll understand why multiple stories of a similar nature exist. It is a remarkably manipulable story and while The Running Man may not be as gritty as the others it does everything so well. Arnie has said in the past that the change of director changed the whole feel of the film, into more of a TV show which to be fair is a pretty accurate description but I don’t think it is necessarily a bad thing. It may miss some of the wider themes and ignore the harsh brutality of living in a totalitarian dystopian state but it doesn’t commit any crimes in this vain. It’s stylish 1980s feel is entertaining and the dancing scenes make it feel like the opening of Britain’s Got Talent but I had a cheeky grin on my face everytime those spangly leotards hopped and shuffled around on stage to an awesome soundtrack. Maybe it was just the experience of viewing it on the big screen or maybe it is just that good, I’m not sure, I’d have to see it again to judge but if that is anything to go by then it is certainly a film I would recommend and I’m sure the audience would agree. With a resounding applause of appreciation with no sign of fatigue setting in just yet The Running Man makes three out of three for Must-see Arnie films.
For a film to achieve the timeless classic rating it has to do something special. Total Recall should be that film for me, it was one of the main reasons I gave into my crazy side and bought my ticket in the first place. I wanted to imagine sitting in the cinema in 1990 and witnessing one of the greatest Philip K. Dick adaptations so far (‘We Can Remember It For You Wholesale’), having my mind blown alongside other befuddled individuals and then having the privilege of doing it all over again to shed some light on what on Earth (sorry Mars) just happened. Up there with Back to the Future this has to be one of my most watched films. Verging on an insane amount I understand the ins and outs of Total Recall pretty well and rarely does a film come along that encourages you to think one thing and then think the complete opposite over the course of further viewings. My experience of Total Recall cannot be narrowed down to a first impression or even a last impression because to me it is an ever changing movie. Convinced he isn’t dreaming from my first viewing, to now seeing all the signs that lead to my thinking he is dreaming inspired me to put together another post on Total Recall that isn’t a review but more of an analysis which I hope to bring you soon. Set in the future Douglas Quaid, a quarry worker on Earth has a burning desire to travel to Mars. Earth is dependent on an ore known as Turbinium that is mined on Mars and Cohaagen, the de facto ruler on Mars, has a firm grip on the population controlling them, or more threatening them with air or a lack of in fact. When Quaid’s desire gets the better of him he takes a trip to ‘Rekall’, an organisation that specialises in memory implantation, to give you real memories that don’t involve shelling out a fortune for interstellar travel. When Quaid’s procedure goes awry we begin our journey down the rabbit hole. An extremely clever film that incorporates Arnie’s flair with a role quite clearly purpose built for his track record with science fiction. Quite possibly my favourite Arnie film for one reason or another it is a mighty close race between Timeless Classic and Must-see but I think Must-see pips it this time around.
This next review is going to be kind of difficult. Although I have seen The Terminator before I must hold my hands up and admit I had a little sleep. Given that it started at around 2:30am and having just sat through 4 Arnie films with my undivided attention I think that’s pretty good going. Partly tactical in preparation for T2 but mainly because I was just that tired by this stage in the night. I wasn’t the only one, Chris had a mighty sleep though Total Recall and James missed out on The Running Man but by this stage in the night the once packed auditorium now stinking like a changing room had drastically thinned and little over half of the seats remained occupied. Nevertheless the audience were on top form. Sleeping in a cinema has to be one of the most bizarre moments of the night. In the sleep deprived brevity of my hazy awakenings I was treated with some of Arnie’s best moments. Before the police station massacre I managed to catch bits and pieces of the film but I knew I’d be back for the big one (immediate foreshadowing). Oddly enough you’d think such a famous quote would have shaken me from my sleep but to no avail. Having just rewatched that scene I must have fallen asleep just as he crashes through the door but i caught the ending and that’s what matters most right? Unlike its predecessors of the night The Terminator deserves the highest rating I can dish out, that of the Timeless Classic.
Last, but after my nap, certainly not least we were greeted once again with the Terminator theme tune. Da da da da dunn, da da da da dunn. This time around the audience joined in, slapping our knees in time with the tune, and yes I joined in. Believe it or not I didn’t just pay for the movies. With Arnie returning as our hero in the sequel to The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgement Day sees the introduction of one of cinema’s greatest villains. Robert Patrick plays an advanced Terminator, the T-1000, made out of a ‘mimetic poly-alloy’ allowing it to take the form of any non-complex devices, i.e. no guns, that would be too easy after all. Sent back in time to kill John Connor before he can grow up to lead the human resistance the T-1000 clashes head-to-head with Arnie after he is re-programmed to defend Connor at all costs. Bringing the Terminator back with a bang James Cameron retained the successful premise from The Terminator but in making Arnie a protectorate we begin to see a more human aspect about the war with the machines as Sarah Connor explains further into the film. Building from T2 was always going to be a struggle and it’s easy to see the issues people had with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. But point aside T2 effectively shook the science fiction world to its core with revolutionary computer-generated imagery and shook the world of cinema harder by becoming one of few fan appreciated sequels. Starting with Commando and finishing with T2 was an excellent choice by the schedulers. With growing seriousness in tone and scope of each movie Arnie delivers his most memorable performance to a half filled auditorium but an auditorium filled with awe nonetheless. What a fantastic experience, T2 on the big screen was as good as I had imagined and undoubtedly deserves the highly coveted Timeless Classic rating.
What a surreal night of entertainment of the highest order. The monumentality of the night’s events really didn’t sink in until I was on the train into London. A wee smile crossed my face and I didn’t look back from there. Not even after 12 hours of Arnie had dessicated my brain to a state of fatigued mulch did I once even consider regretting my choice to endure such an ordeal, an ordeal that since Gone Girl in recent times and The Dark Knight of older has satisfied my inner cinephile, a lover of cinema through and through and a lover of Arnie til the end. What more could one want of an evening/morning. I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon but it is certainly something that I would do in the future. Maybe Arnie again or maybe something different but the Prince Charles Cinema is incredibly accommodating and the bowl like auditorium won’t leave your neck in a mess if you happen to sit at the front.
That concludes my account, I hope you have enjoyed the read and if you made it this far then I can only hope I’ve awakened the beast inside of you that has tantalised your inner craving for some Arnie magic. If you have a chance to watch just one of these films in the near future then I’d suggest you do it, do it now, but otherwise you’ll just have to read this over and over again until you finally join the rest of us at the party, even Richter will be there.
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