Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Starring Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, Cécile De France, Jim Broadbent, Karen Mok, Ewen Bremner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sammo Hung, Violet Pan Ying-Zi, Daniel Wu, Kengo Watanabe, Maggie Q, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Rob Schneider, John Cleese, Will Forte, Kathy Bates, Robert Fyfe, Ian McNeice, David Ryall, Roger Hammond, Adam Godley

Directed by Frank Coraci

Expectations: Low, but it has Jackie and an Arnold cameo, so…


I haven’t seen the 1956 version of Around the World in 80 Days since I was a kid, but my initial feeling was that it didn’t seem like something that lends itself to Jackie Chan. But this new version isn’t so much a remake as it is a complete fantasy/steampunk re-imagining with Jackie Chan’s style in mind from the genesis. A new sub-plot focuses on bringing Jackie’s talents to the forefront, and while it definitely isn’t the most inspired story line, it’s more than enough to entertain and justify the stunts and fights we all look for in a Jackie movie. Fans of the novel and the classic, Oscar-winning film will likely be disappointed by this re-telling, but I feel like fans of Jackie might really enjoy themselves if they click with the film’s comedic style (which probably skews a bit younger than Jackie’s other US films). I know I did, and to be honest I was expecting a total stinker!

Passepartout (Jackie Chan) robs a precious Jade Buddha from the Bank of England and is in need of shelter. He finds it with Phileas Fogg (Steve Coogan), an inventor with a rich, creative mind for science. Fogg lacks much life experience “outside the lab,” though, rarely venturing from his home. One of the few places he frequents is the Royal Academy of Science, where he’s regularly laughed at and thought of as an eccentric thinker who lacks the practicality to be useful to the field of science. In a bid to rid themselves of him, the head of the academy, Lord Kelvin (Jim Broadbent), bets Fogg that his calculation of being able to circumnavigate the world in 80 days is incorrect. The stakes are immense: if Fogg wins, he becomes head of the academy, but if he loses he must give up inventing for the rest of his life. Oh, and a bunch of henchmen are in pursuit of Jackie and his Jade Buddha the whole time, further complicating their travels.

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Arnold Quick Takes: The Long Goodbye, The Rundown, The Kid & I

longgoodbyeThe Long Goodbye (1973)
onestar

Starring Elliott Gould, Nina van Pallandt, Sterling Hayden, Mark Rydell, Henry Gibson, David Arkin, Jim Bouton, Warren Berlinger, Jo Ann Brody, Stephen Coit
Directed by Robert Altman

Raymond Chandler is one of my favorite authors. After many, many years of procrastination, I finally read The Long Goodbye last month. It instantly became one of my favorite books from any author, and it is by far Chandler’s best. To put it bluntly: Robert Altman’s film version is a horrid adaptation of one of the best books I’ve ever read. Yet, this is a film with a fantastic reputation among film buffs! I can only surmise that they haven’t read the book. I understand that Altman’s goal was to subvert the detective genre with The Long Goodbye, but what I find most interesting is that Chandler’s novel does this better in many ways already. Much of the novel’s complexity is completely lost, and while some that is to be expected in any adaptation, it is very clear from the beginning that Altman was never interested in actually adapting Chandler’s novel. He supposedly didn’t even read the whole thing! The style, soul, and substance that made The Long Goodbye such a resonant piece of work are unceremoniously sucked out and replaced with an entirely different, Altman energy. I honestly don’t know that a faithful adaptation of The Long Goodbye could work as a film, but this sole attempt literally gets every aspect of the novel wrong. Even taking my love of Chandler out of the equation, the film itself hardly feels worthy of praise.

Oh yeah, I was watching this because of Arnold’s cameo. Even this was a disappointment! Arnold doesn’t get to say anything, although for what it’s worth, he sports a weird mustache and strips down to his underwear in one of the oddest gangster confrontation moments I’ve ever seen. WTF.  And don’t even get me started on the recurring Long Goodbye theme song… [and then, then I made a noise like this — HHUUUAAHH  HHUUUAAHH  HHHUUUUUUUUUAAAAAAAAHHHHH] I’ll stick with the book, thank you very much.

the_rundownThe Rundown (2003)
twohalfstar

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Rosario Dawson, Christopher Walken, Ewen Bremner, Jon Gries, William Lucking, Ernie Reyes Jr.
Directed by Peter Berg

The Rundown was the first starring role for The Rock, and he easily proved that he could be a capable leading man. It’s not a great film by any means, but it has an odd charm that most mainstream films, especially ones from this era, don’t have for me. Arnold’s cameo isn’t anything more than the quick line, “Have fun,” but in this single moment during the film’s opening, Arnold effectively passes the bodybuilder-turned-action-hero mantle to The Rock. He’s a perfect fit, too; he’s got the body, the charisma and the acting chops to do very well. And now, 13 years later, he definitely has! But The Rock isn’t Arnold, so The Rundown isn’t the type of movie that Arnold himself could have starred in. The Rock is given a few hand-to-hand fights, and the action choreographer (Andy Cheng) wisely incorporated wrestling takedowns and the like into the choreography to take advantage of The Rock’s special skill set. Capoeira figures largely into the film’s most impressive fight, as well as some excellent wirework. I was honestly taken aback by how much I liked the choreography. It felt very Hong Kong-influenced, so when I discovered that Andy Cheng was a stunt double/member of the Jackie Chan Stunt Team for a few years, it all made sense. Overall, the action is pretty good, the comedy not so much, but it was still a lot more fun than I remember it being.

The Kid & I (2005)
threestar

Starring Tom Arnold, Eric Gores, Linda Hamilton, Joe Mantegna, Henry Winkler, Richard Edson, Shannon Elizabeth, Brenda Strong, Arielle Kebbel, Yvette Nicole Brown, Gabrielle Sanalitro
Directed by Penelope Spheeris

The Kid & I genuinely surprised me. It’s well-written and it boasts a great cast with a bunch of fun cameos (including Shaq and Arnold as themselves). I wasn’t expecting anything, but I was instantly won over by the unexpectedly dark suicide humor that opens the film. What makes the film even more interesting is that it’s a blend of fact and fiction. The film revolves around Tom Arnold writing a vanity project for a billionaire’s kid to star in, and the kid is played by Eric Gores, son to real-life billionaire Alec Gores. The Gores family lives next door to Tom Arnold, so the film serves as both the vanity project AND a sort of documentary peek inside the making of the movie. This kind of thing could have easily gone off the rails, but the cast performs admirably and it is impressively well-directed and edited. I’ve wanted to delve into the work of Penelope Spheeris for a while now, but The Kid & I solidifies that inclination to explore the work of this interesting and varied filmmaker.

Arnold Quick Takes: Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, Dave, Beretta’s Island

happyanniversaryandgoodbye_3Happy Anniversary and Goodbye (1974)
twohalfstar

Starring Lucille Ball, Art Carney, Nanette Fabray, Peter Marshall, Don Porter, Patricia Blair, Doria Cook-Nelson, Arnold Schwarzenegger
Directed by Jack Donohue

I’ve been a Lucille Ball fan for pretty much my whole life, but I’d never seen anything other than I Love Lucy and The Long, Long Trailer. Judging on Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, I don’t know that I was missing much. The hour-long TV special presents the story of Norma and Malcolm Michaels, a married couple who have exhausted about every shred of love their relationship once had. After the first scene, composed almost solely of yelling, name-calling and snide remarks, the couple has decided to divorce. The special punctuates this real-life drama with levity, but it often feels odd to laugh when this couple is at such a low point. I have a hard time imagining a similar special being made today. Their personal journeys while separated are much more successful, though, with some classic-styled Lucy antics and a cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger at nearly the start of his career. I doubt anyone involved thought his acting career would amount to much, as his usual spark is missing completely. It’s still fun to see him at his rippling, bodybuilding peak. This one can surely be skipped, but as a fan of Lucy, Art Carney and Arnold, I did enjoy it overall.

Dave_1Dave (1993)
twostar

Starring Kevin Kline, Sigourney Weaver, Frank Langella, Kevin Dunn, Ving Rhames, Ben Kingsley, Charles Grodin, Faith Prince, Laura Linney
Directed by Ivan Reitman

Ivan Reitman made Dave in-between two Arnold vehicles (Kindergarten Cop and Junior), and Dave is every bit as unbelievable and outlandish an idea as Arnold teaching five-year-old kids or carrying a baby to term. Dave is a regular guy who gets to be the President of the United States after the real guy has a stroke. At first he’s just a simple stand-in, but as Dave’s personality shows through, the people love him. He cuts budget items as quickly and easily as you’d make a grocery list, he does magic tricks to cheer up a homeless kid, he uses giant robotic arms to tell fishing jokes; Dave does it all. Except the film itself is not nearly as charming as they make Dave out to be; it’s actually fairly slow and plodding, existing in a middle-ground between unfunny comedy and ineffectual drama. Arnold’s cameo as himself is ultra-minor, but it reminded me of going through the Presidential Fitness Tests at school. At the time, I thought they were super cool because they were affiliated with Arnold, and that if I did good, maybe I could meet Arnold. Alas, I wasn’t good enough (nor did I look enough like an actual winner to impersonate them, Dave-style).

BerettasIsland_1Beretta’s Island (1994)
On the general scale:
onestar

On the B-movie scale:
threestar

Starring Franco Columbu, Ken Kercheval, Elizabeth Kaitan, Van Quattro, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jo Champa, Tammara Souza
Directed by Michael Preece

If you’ve seen Pumping Iron you probably remember Franco Columbu as Arnold’s workout buddy and co-competitor. Their friendship continues to this day, and in a lot of early Arnold movies Franco is somewhere in the background in a small role. So it only makes sense that when Franco finally had his own starring vehicle that Arnold would cameo in it! The buddies pump some iron together in an early scene, spurring each other on in much the same way I imagine they do in real life. It’s nothing special, but it’s one of the most honest and believable moments in the film. The rest of the film is some of the most ridiculous, dumb-action-movie stuff ever crammed into a low-budget movie. Franco plays Franco, a retired Interpol agent now living the high life in LA… so basically riding his motorcycle, pumping iron and making wine. But he gets a special assignment to go back to his beloved Sardinia, now plagued with drugs and the associated villainy, and because this is a dumb action movie, the drug lord lives right next door to Franco’s best friend.

Beretta’s Island has so much to offer the B-Movie aficionado who harbors a special love of Arnold and the general ridiculousness of the ’80s drug lord action film. Things like: a couple of lengthy workout scenes, an ’80s-style score, and Franco shirtless at every opportunity and then some. In addition to being a vanity project for Franco, Beretta’s Island is also a cultural love letter to his Sardinian homeland with its multiple sequences of folk music, traditional festivals and dancing, horse racing, soccer, boxing, making out on the beach, etc. Beretta’s Island is the kind of movie you can’t recommend because virtually no one will like it, but I had a total blast with it and I know some like-minded soul out there would too. So get in the right mindset and give it a shot! You’ve never lived until you’ve seen a shirtless bodybuilder jump onto a motorcycle to chase the drug lords he recognized in the crowd of the boxing match he was coaching and then started fighting himself because the opponent was on cocaine. 🙂

Mini-Review: Terminator: Genisys (2015)

TerminatorGenisys_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons, Dayo Okeniyi, Matt Smith, Courtney B. Vance, Byung-hun Lee

Directed by Alan Taylor

Expectations: Absolutely zero.

onehalfstar


Terminator: Genisys goes to great lengths to craft a story that can serve as both a reboot and a sequel to Cameron’s original movies, and while this is initially promising, it quickly becomes ridiculously convoluted and lost in a sea of nearly unending exposition and nostalgia hooks. In the end, I felt rather indifferent about the whole thing. I mean, I definitely didn’t like it, but it was entertaining in a generic science fiction manner (and I always enjoy watching Arnold do pretty much anything). It’s really missing the feeling of dread and inevitable apocalypse that permeates Cameron’s films, though, so it only feels like an approximation of a Terminator film and not an honest continuation.

The story begins in the Future War era in the hours before John Connor’s final assault on Skynet. Spoiler Alert: They destroy Skynet a few minutes into the movie! Woo hoo, that was easy! Roll the credits! But right before that happened, Skynet sent a T-800 to 1984 to take out Sarah Connor. Yes, this is the same Arnold Terminator that we all know from the original film. He said he’d be back, and he wasn’t lying! Anyway, mid-way through the 1984 Terminator’s encounter with the punks at the Griffith Observatory, an older Arnold Terminator comes over and starts blasting him with a shotgun! Whoa, what’s going on?

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

It does have a Terminator driving a truck, though.

This is just one of many direct connections with the Cameron originals, but before too long Terminator: Genisys moves in an entirely new direction. Unfortunately, this brings about a barrage of exposition that continues for most of the movie. It’s never a good sign when a movie explains tons of stuff to the viewer — film is a visual medium and all that — but Terminator: Genisys is mostly explanation! Which is weird because it’s also mostly action. I don’t know, I can’t explain it. There’s a scene where the heroes get their mug shots taken to the Cops theme Bad Boys, for God’s sake. What am I supposed to say to that?

Terminator: Genisys is just a strange film, and one that’s hard to understand no matter how you look at it. On one hand it’s an entertaining, inoffensive sci-fi action movie, but it’s also horrendously convoluted and without an ounce of character chemistry or heart. I give them kudos for going in an interesting direction with the franchise (as opposed to just following the basic Terminator framework like T3), but all it does is expose how they shouldn’t really be making any more Terminator movies.

Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger is… some cameos! If I knew better I’d just skip these and move on to other things, but I don’t know better! I am going to speed it up by just doing Quick Take reviews of them, so Arnold will continue to hit these digital pages for a little while longer. Up next is Happy Anniversary and Goodbye, a 1974 TV Movie starring Lucille Ball and Art Carney, the Ivan Reitman film Dave, and a starring turn for Arnold’s lifelong friend Franco Columbu called Beretta’s Island! See ya then!

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003)

t3_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes, Kristanna Loken, David Andrews, Mark Famiglietti, Earl Boen

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Expectations: I remember liking the crane chase and the ending… and not much else.

twostar


If you’ve seen Terminator 2, you will know that by all accounts there shouldn’t be a Terminator 3. They destroyed everything related to the Terminators and Skynet, averting Judgement Day and saving the world from a future robot war. “But what if–” said the greedy executive, “What if they only pushed Judgement Day back?” Herein lies the foundation of Terminator 3, and it’s a rocky, unstable one at best. So understanding that this is where the film is coming from, it makes complete sense that it’s something of a mess.

What’s a little harder to take as a Terminator fan is how the film gives John Conner amnesia about the terminators. He actually asks Arnold’s T-800 if he remembers him! Remember him? John, don’t you remember the Terminator that came to save you as a teenager was lowered into a vat of molten lava? This one’s completely different! I can understand a normal person making this kind of error, but the future leader of the human resistance that has supposedly been educated and trained specifically in all things Terminator since birth? Come the fuck on! I get that the scene is there to help the first-time audience members or ones that don’t have a great working knowledge of the Terminator mythology, but we don’t need to make the main character forget something so integral to the series just so Arnold can explain it to us. Ugh.

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Christmas in Connecticut (1992)

christmasinconnecticut_1Starring Dyan Cannon, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Curtis, Kelly Cinnante, Gene Lythgow, Jimmy Workman, Richard Roundtree, Vivian Bonnell

Directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger

Expectations: Not much.

twohalfstar


Right up front: I’ve never seen the 1945 original that this film is a remake of. I imagine this is probably the better way to see this most likely inferior version, as it allowed me to take it for what it is instead of what it isn’t.

Christmas in Connecticut is about Elizabeth Blane (Dyan Cannon), a TV cook in the vein of Martha Stewart. She’s got the perfect family and the perfect house and she makes perfect food. When Park Ranger Jefferson Jones’s (Kris Kristofferson) cabin burns down, the only thing that survives is a cookbook of Elizabeth’s. Never one to miss an opportunity, Elizabeth’s manager/director Alexander (Tony Curtis) finagles a live prime time special featuring Elizabeth at home for Christmas with her family, with special guest Jefferson Jones. It sounds really stupid to type it out, but it plays a little better than it sounds.

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Collateral Damage (2002)

collateraldamage_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Francesca Neri, Elias Koteas, Cliff Curtis, John Leguizamo, John Turturro, Jsu Garcia, Tyler Posey, Miguel Sandoval, Harry Lennix

Directed by Andrew Davis

Expectations: I remember wanting to like this, but being disappointed.

twohalfstar


Collateral Damage isn’t a bad movie, but the potential of the premise is not fully realized. This disappointment stems directly from the film’s tone and its production year. See, the premise is totally ’80s action fluff — a father out for vengeance in the jungles of Columbia — but the execution is pure early 2000s when tones had darkened and reckless fun had all but vanished from action movies. There are times when the film seems to forget what year it is and have fun with its dumb plot (mostly in the 3rd act), but it never does it enough to get into that sweet spot of entertainment. I love Arnold, so I still enjoyed it greatly, but it is frustrating to see so much wasted Arnold-tastic potential.

Gordy Brewer (Arnold Schwarzenegger), a well-respected member of the firefighting team, loves saving people for a living. His job causes him to work odd hours, though, making the care of his son something of a juggling act between Gordy and his wife. One day Gordy agrees to pick up his son from a building downtown, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s the same building targeted by international terrorist El Lobo (Cliff Curtis). Lobo’s bomb kills Gordy’s wife and child, sending him on a one-man mission of revenge that will stop at absolutely nothing.

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