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) →

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.

threehalfstar


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.

Continue reading Kindergarten Cop (1990) →

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.

threestar


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.

Continue reading Twins (1988) →

Quick Takes: Hobo With A Shotgun, The Night Before, No Strings Attached

Hobo With A Shotgun (2011)

Starring Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth, Brian Downey, Robb Wells, Nick Bateman, Peter Simas
Directed by Jason Eisener

Webster’s gonna have to put out a new dictionary, because they need to add a picture of Rutger Hauer from Hobo With A Shotgun to the entry for “trash”. Hobo With A Shotgun is the ultimate trash movie, filled with a seemingly non-stop orgy of bloody splatters and disembowelments. They try for some substance but there’s none, which is to expected, but it’s not nearly as fun as it should be. It’s enjoyable for gorehounds, but it seems more like someone trying to make a movie like the ones they love instead of focusing on the whole and making something of quality. I’m impressed that they made it though and that they got Rutger Hauer! Nice colors throughout too, and not just the reds of blood.

The Night Before (1988)

Starring Keanu Reeves, Lori Loughlin, Theresa Saldana, Trinidad Silva, Suzanne Snyder, Morgan Lofting, Gwil Richards, Chris Hebert, Michael Greene, Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister, George Clinton
Directed by Thom Eberhardt

Great in concept, but a little lackluster in execution, The Night Before tells the wild and crazy tale of how Keanu Reeves meant to take Lori Loughlin to the prom but ended up on the wrong side of the tracks in East LA. This begins a series of fuckups too numerous to list here. The interesting thing about this one is that it’s mostly told through inventive flashbacks as Reeves stumbles through alleyways trying to piece together what happened to him just a few hours ago. It gets tiring as it goes on, but it’s still a fun movie overall. Strangely enough, I saw this movie on TV a couple of times but I could never remember its name until recently when I happened upon it while doing some IMDB searching. If only I had retraced my steps like Keanu, my search wouldn’t have taken twenty years.

No Strings Attached (2011)

Starring Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Greta Gerwig, Jake M. Johnson, Cary Elwes, Mindy Kaling, Kevin Kline, Chris Bridges, Olivia Thirlby, Lake Bell, Ophelia Lovibond, Talia Balsam, Guy Branum
Directed by Ivan Reitman

No Strings Attached is an enjoyable romantic comedy, but like all romantic comedies it’s wildly predictable and its success lies completely in the hands of its leads. Thankfully both Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher perform their duties well and paint a good picture of a shallow relationship. Directed by Ivan Reitman(!) with little to no flair or style, the film fits perfectly into that tired mainstream studio mold that seems to endlessly churn out the same film over and over. It’s not as funny as it should be, nor is it as touching as it thinks it is, but it was a fun night off for my brain.

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