The Running Man (1987)

runningman_2Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Richard Dawson, Yaphet Kotto, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Erland van Lidth, Marvin J. McIntyre, Gus Rethwisch, Professor Toru Tanaka, Mick Fleetwood, Dweezil Zappa, Kurt Fuller

Directed by Paul Michael Glaser

Expectations: Super high, this is one of my favorite movies.

fourstar


As with Commando, I’m unable to give The Running Man anything less than a full and total endorsement of four stars. I’ve seen this film more times than I could ever remember; at this point it almost seems like I was the one who escaped from prison and got roped into a sadistic, future game show when the girl I kidnapped ratted me out. But my love of The Running Man isn’t blind, and now that I’m tasked with sharing my thoughts, I’ll do my best to relate why I think it’s such a great movie.

The film began its life under director Andrew Davis, who was just coming off of the Chuck Norris movie Code of Silence and would later go on to make such films as Under Siege, The Fugitive and Collateral Damage. Davis was fired after one week of filming, and Arnold is on record saying that this hurt the film because the replacement director, Paul Michael Glaser, shot it like a TV show. I love Arnold, but I have to disagree. The Running Man is gorgeous, and the look is one of the main reasons it succeeds. The film bursts with colors, from bright neons to dark blacks and blues. Thick fog and dirty mists swirl around our characters, filling many of the shots with a level of intoxicating cinematography usually unseen in genre fare like this.

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Predator (1987)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Elpidia Carrillo, Bill Duke, Jesse Ventura, Sonny Landham, Richard Chaves, R.G. Armstrong, Shane Black, Kevin Peter Hall

Directed by John McTiernan

Expectations: High. One of my all-time favorites.


OK, I’ve dicked around with enough questionable Arnold films such as Jingle All the Way, Hercules in New York and Batman and Robin. It’s time for the big guns; it’s time for Predator, baby!

I have an interesting history with Predator. I grew up in a family that scraped by any way they could, and in a house of movie lovers, that meant recording as many movies as possible off of TV. I grew up watching Predator in its edited TV form thanks to a broadcast one night on FOX, so after seeing that version 50+ times, the legitimate theatrical version will forever seem like some sort of extended, unrated cut to me. For whatever reason, even though I’ve seen the real version a number of times now, the “new” scenes never make enough of an impact on me to override my memories and therefore they always feel fresh.

Predator kicks off in style with a cool space intro scene (half of which was missing from my original copy), followed by an equally cool scene of Schwarzenegger and his team arriving at a remote HQ by helicopter. There’s no dialogue, instead we hear the thunderous and incredible score from Alan Silvestri. This is absolutely one of my top film scores of all time, and it’s never far from my mind. Every time I hear it, I get pumped to arm wrestle my buddy standing up, to shoot indiscriminately with a mini-gun into the dense jungle, to call an alien an ugly motherfucker. The score’s main theme, which kicks off the film, manages to simultaneously evoke the military team aspect of Arnold and his men, the jungle setting, and the alien predator hunting them down for sport. While I’m tempted to say something about wishing that Silvestri was still delivering scores on this level, after something as amazing as this and Back to the Future, I think he’s given enough. Silvestri has many other strong scores from this period (I’m especially partial to the fun steel drums of the Summer Rental score), but for me Predator and Back to the Future are the pinnacles of his career, elevating their movies infinitely higher than would otherwise be possible.

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