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. 🙂

Junior (1994)

junior_2Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Emma Thompson, Pamela Reed, Frank Langella, Aida Turturro, James Eckhouse, Megan Cavanagh, Welker White, Kathleen Chalfant

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Expectations: Low, but I’m excited to revisit.

threestar


Certain films require an audience to suspend their disbelief in order for them to work, and this is probably the biggest hurdle that any viewer of Junior is going to face. The idea of a pregnant man is simply preposterous; there’s no way that the film can logically make you believe it’s possible. The explanations given in the film don’t help either, as even the simplest passing thought can deconstruct the film’s basic premise. So any viewer of Junior is asked to choose whether they will buy into the concept and just roll with it, or if they will reject it as patently absurd.

There was a time when I refused to watch Junior. It took five or six years after it came out before I was willing to see my #1 movie hero emotional and knocked up. Even then I went in with a furrowed brow and crossed arms, basically ensuring that I was going to hate it. And I did. In the intervening 15 or so years those hard edges of my film-loving personality have naturally worn down a bit, and now I realize movies are ultimately trivial, no matter how passionate I am about them (then or now). So going into Junior this time, I was actually excited.

Continue reading Junior (1994) →

Superman Returns (2006)

supermanreturns_1Starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey, James Marsden, Parker Posey, Frank Langella, Sam Huntington, Eva Marie Saint, Marlon Brando, Kal Penn, Tristan Lake Leabu

Directed by Bryan Singer

Expectations: I’m so excited.

twohalfstar


There’s a point in Superman Returns when Lex Luthor looks upon his villainous creation and notes that it “lacks the human element.” This same thing could be said of the film overall. Superman Returns does its best to recapture the Donner magic, but instead of taking his lead and going forward with courage, Bryan Singer largely just trades on the built-up nostalgia for Donner’s classic film. But big-budget films are inherently different than they were in 1978, so while Superman Returns might replicate certain visuals and characters, it never recaptures the tone or the wonder that make Superman: The Movie a film that continually resonates with audiences. It is still enjoyable at times, though, even if millions of dollars in CG are in some ways less successful than the simple blue-screen FX of 1978 in making us believe that a man can fly.

By calling this a sequel to Superman and Superman II, Singer willfully puts his film up alongside one of the best and most successful superhero films of all time (and its troubled, but fun sequel). Singer’s film is nothing close to that level, and connecting it with things like Marlon Brando and the John Williams theme only shines a light directly on the film’s flaws. Any new Superman movie is already working against a huge amount of hype, but to say “This one is the true sequel to the great films you remember!” is really ballsy.

Continue reading Superman Returns (2006) →




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