Maggie (2015)

maggieStarring Abigail Breslin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Joely Richardson, Laura Cayouette, Denise Williamson, Raeden Greer, J.D. Evermore, Aiden Flowers, Taylor Murphy

Directed by Henry Hobson

Expectations: Moderate.

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Maggie was billed as a different kind of zombie movie, and in some ways that is true, but the things you know of zombies still hold true. The infection only spreads through a bite, although everyone in this movie is also scared of it being highly contagious (even though there’s no evidence of that from what we’re shown). The movie never goes into this, but for me this point speaks more to our dependence and willingness to believe whatever the media or someone in power is telling is, true or not. Anyway, the big difference here is that Maggie is not an apocalypse film, and that does inherently change the notion of what we know a zombie movie to be.

Without the apocalypse threat, there is no survival aspect to Maggie. Survival has always been one of the major hallmarks of any kind of zombie story, so it is interesting and novel to consider what a zombie uprising would be like if it was more like other outbreaks. It might seem like zombies and the apocalypse would go hand in hand, but if we believe that the government could get it together enough to create the quarantine zones every one in Maggie is always talking about, and that they’re going a great job containing everything, then it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where Maggie could happen.

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Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Terminator_2_posterStarring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Earl Boen, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Castulo Guerra, Danny Cooksey, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley

Directed by James Cameron

Expectations: I’ll be back.

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You shouldn’t need me to tell you that Terminator 2: Judgment Day is an incredible movie. One of the greatest blockbuster films of all time, T2 is a total thrill ride that, like the Terminators themselves, never stops. It is expertly paced and written in such a way that it is both a perfect sequel to the original film and completely self-contained and accessible to anyone in the audience. And does it hold up nearly 25 years after its original release? No problemo.

T2 brought revolutionary FX to the screen, and honestly they still look fantastic to me. Due to the limitations of the time, the CG is used exactly how it should be: to augment real footage to create incredible illusions of fantasy. The grounding in the real world makes the unreal feel all the more real because it’s seemingly happening in the same world we live in. The physical FX work is top-notch as well, with the scene when Arnold tears off his skin to show Miles Dyson his cyborg endoskeleton remaining my favorite. It blew my mind when I was a kid, and it still looks so real to me. I guess that’s what you get when your movie has a crazy budget and you’ve got Stan Winston on the case. Practical FX work may have gone out of style, but I stand by the claim that it does and will continue to age much better than CG.

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Kindergarten Cop (1990)

kindergartencop_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Penelope Ann Miller, Pamela Reed, Linda Hunt, Richard Tyson, Carroll Baker, Cathy Moriarty, Joseph Cousins, Christian Cousins

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Expectations: I don’t know. I hope I like it.

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Kindergarten Cop seems to be one of the more popular Arnold films among his mainstream fans, but I never really liked it. Well, to be honest I never gave it much of a chance. I only saw it once, and I was only around 9 or 10 years old. At that point in my life, I only wanted to see Arnold kick ass and take names. Anyone who’s seen Kindergarten Cop can tell you that Arnold doesn’t really do a lot of that in the film. This one is a completely different beast, but seeing it again as an adult has allowed me to see why everyone seems to love it. Or, if nothing else, it has allowed me to see why I love it. I can’t speak for everyone, after all.

Kindergarten Cop does a great job of transitioning Arnold from the hard-edged action character to the caring teacher. The film opens with Arnold looking scruffy and intimidating as he tracks a criminal through a crowded California mall. Later we see him infiltrate some back alley drug den where he smashes guys into the wall and nonchalantly knocks a guy through a glass coffee table. He doesn’t kill anyone because it’s a PG-13 movie, but man do they take some hard hits. His character, John Kimble, doesn’t bat an eye because this is the over-the-top action world he works within. But it’s not just the character of John Kimble, it’s also the world that Arnold has consistently inhabited for our entertainment. Over the course of the movie, our muscular, solve-everything-with-his-fists hero must face an enemy that he can’t use any of his usual tactics on. This, of course, is the class of kindergarteners.

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Total Recall (1990)

total_recall_xlgStarring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox, Michael Ironside, Marshall Bell, Mel Johnson Jr., Michael Champion, Roy Brocksmith, Ray Baker, Dean Norris, Debbie Lee Carrington

Directed by Paul Verhoeven

Expectations: I expect to get my ass to Mars.

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Total Recall is possibly the greatest movie ever made. It doesn’t have a single slow moment; its pace is relentless and unforgiving. The special FX work throughout still looks amazing, seamlessly bringing the near-future world and the surface of Mars to brilliant life. Director Paul Verhoeven, hot off of the equally incredible RoboCop, squeezes every last ounce of entertainment and excitement out of every shot in Total Recall.

The script might be the film’s greatest aspect, though. Total Recall is based on a Philip K. Dick story called We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, but the film isn’t all that much like the story. Usually I’d complain about this kind of thing, but in the case of Total Recall the screenplay takes the ideas from the short story and creates a thrill ride for the ages. Most importantly, it doesn’t just use the ideas, but also the overarching themes that run through so much of Dick’s work. Dick’s major theme — the nature of reality and what is truly real — is in full effect in Total Recall. The lines between reality and dream are constantly blurred, and even at the end of the film this question is never answered, just as Dick ends many of this novels.

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Sabotage (2014)

sabotage_5Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sam Worthington, Mireille Enos, Joe Manganiello, Josh Holloway, Terrence Howard, Max Martini, Kevin Vance, Mark Schlegel, Ned Yousef

Directed by David Ayer

Expectations: Low, but it’s Arnold, so I have hope.

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Sabotage does a couple of things right that every current Arnold movie should do. It almost immediately sets up Arnold as a total badass, capable of feats that would crush a normal man with ease. It also acknowledges his age. Not through jokes like The Last Stand, but through the respect given to him by his team. Arnold also seems to wear his many experiences on his haggard face. Sabotage also manages to set up Arnold in a couple of great situations that allow him to remind us why an entire generation of children grew up adoring him. But in almost every other way, Sabotage falls short. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an OK movie that entertains well enough, but it’s the kind of thing that you can’t think about too much without it all falling apart.

Take for instance the first scene. Arnold and his team of special DEA operatives storm a drug lord’s house and find an insane amount of money piled up in the basement. For reasons we aren’t privy to just yet, the team is taking some money off the top and placing it in the drainage system under the toilet for pick-up at a later date. Then Arnold attaches a huge explosive to the rest of the money, shoots it, and the whole stash goes up in a big whoosh of fire. Doesn’t seem like a traditional DEA move, but I’ve never worked in federal law enforcement so what the hell do I know? Anyway, this is followed by Arnold’s team being questioned about the $10 million missing dollars from the drug money stash, because apparently there was a parallel operation that had exact figures on the money there. Am I just being dense, or did they not just set fire to the money? Am I really supposed to believe that they counted every charred scrap of paper and somehow determined that exactly $10 million was missing? What the fuck?

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Arnold Schwarzenegger Pumping Iron HD Giveaway!

pumpingiron

I love Arnold, you love Arnold, we all love Arnold! But we all haven’t seen the excellent 1977 documentary Pumping Iron, which in my opinion is essential viewing for Arnold fans. This giveaway gives you a chance to rectify this oversight with a digital HD copy of the film plus bonus features!

Watch as five-time champion Arnold Schwarzenegger defends his Mr. Olympia title against Serge Nubret and the shy, young, deaf Lou Ferrigno. From Gold’s Gym in Venice Beach, California to the showdown in Pretoria, amateur and professional bodybuilders prepare for the 1975 Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe contests in this part-scripted, part-documentary film. Also included are two featurettes: Still Pumping and The Hard Science of Bodybuilding!

Pumping Iron (plus bonus content) available now: http://www.vudu.com/movies/#!content/611872/Pumping-Iron-plus-bonus-content

This giveaway, open to US and Canada residents only, will run until 12-20-2014 at 12:00 AM, so there’s plenty of time to rack up a whole mess of chances! Good luck!

The ways to enter are:

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Twins (1988)

twins_1Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Kelly Preston, Chloe Webb, Bonnie Bartlett, Trey Wilson, Marshall Bell, David Caruso, Hugh O’Brian, Nehemiah Persoff, Maury Chaykin, Tony Jay, Heather Graham

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Expectations: Optimistic that I’ll still like it.

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Twins is a hard movie to criticize because as much as I know it’s not a great movie, I thoroughly enjoy every minute of it. It’s films like this that make me question the necessity of critics to judge the “effectiveness” of a film. I did some quick research and, as I suspected, despite being a huge box-office hit, the critics gave Twins largely mixed and negative reviews. In my ’80s nostalgia I like to believe that everyone back then knew how to have a good time, but these critics are evidence against my ridiculous theory. Somehow over the last 20–30 years their desire for more realistic, less goofy films took hold, and movies like Twins are relics of the year they were produced, trapped in amber for all to peruse.

I know I’m getting rather heady for a film about Arnold and Danny DeVito playing twins, but the film’s happy-go-lucky nature brought as many thoughts about the current state of film as it did genuine smiles. This probably isn’t too different from how I experience a lot of ’80s films these days, although this one is a little light on plot, allowing for these heady thoughts to creep in. Regular readers will know my general preference for ’80s films over current stuff, and this film really reminded me of that tangible, real-world beauty that is largely missing from the slick, focus-tested films of current Hollywood.

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