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. 🙂

Behind the Candelabra (2013)

behindthecandelabra_1rStarring Michael Douglas, Matt Damon, Dan Aykroyd, Rob Lowe, Debbie Reynolds, Scott Bakula, Tom Papa, Nicky Katt, Cheyenne Jackson, Paul Reiser, Boyd Holbrook, David Koechner

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High. I’m becoming quite the Soderbergh fan.

threehalfstar


As I sit here wondering where to start the review, I’m realizing that articulating what I liked and didn’t like about Behind the Candelabra is going to be tough. What I can easily say is that just about everything I loved about the film stems from the performances by Michael Douglas and Matt Damon as Liberace and Scott Thorson respectively. The duo is absolutely smashing together, so even when the film hits some dull, obvious scenes through its relatively standard biopic arc, it’s hard to knock the film too much because the sheer amount of acting prowess on display is huge. Douglas and Damon would be high on the contention list for the Oscars if this wasn’t a film made for HBO.

Behind the Candelabra begins by showing us how Scott comes to meet Liberace. Scott works as a dog trainer on films, hoping to one day parlay his passion for working with animals into a career as a veterinarian. His life path shifts when his buddy Bob (Scott Bakula) takes him to a Liberace show. The performance dazzles Scott (and every other audience member), and when Scott goes backstage with Bob, Liberace immediately takes notice of Scott’s youth and good looks. There are warning signs all around Scott, but in the face of such showmanship, he can’t help but get sucked in.

Continue reading Behind the Candelabra (2013) →

Salem’s Lot (1979)

salemslot_1Starring David Soul, James Mason, Lance Kerwin, Bonnie Bedelia, Lew Ayres, Julie Cobb, Elisha Cook Jr., George Dzundza, Ed Flanders, Clarissa Kaye-Mason, Geoffrey Lewis, Barney McFadden, Kenneth McMillan, Fred Willard, Marie Windsor, Brad Savage

Directed by Tobe Hooper

Expectations: High. Excited to re-watch this after a decade or so, having just recently re-read the book.

threestar


Salem’s Lot is one of my favorite Stephen King books, so any screen adaptation would have a lot to live up to. Add in that this film was a ’70s TV miniseries, unable to capture King’s penchant for colorful language and mind-searing terror, and you might think that this one hasn’t got a shot in hell of holding up much. But it does hold up (for the most part), so if you’ve been sitting on the sidelines for the last 34 years, give it a shot. 🙂 One warning, though: if you’ve read the book and you remember how things go down, it’s going to be hard not to compare the two versions constantly while watching.

I’m generally against reviews that focus on pointing out why the film version isn’t as good as the book, but for this one it’s going to be hard to hold back. Certain aspects of the adaptation don’t even begin to bring life to the words on the page. Many of the book’s characters are missing completely, and in some cases the ones that survived the cuts absorbed their sub-plots where the screenwriter saw a need to combine. This is an understandable necessity in adapting this type of book and I’m not against many of the specific changes made, but in doing this one of the novel’s central characters feels pushed aside and left out: the town itself.

Continue reading Salem’s Lot (1979) →

The Day of Reckoning (1990)

dayofreckoning_1Starring Assumpta Serna, Cris Campion, Philippe Léotard, Samantha Fuller, Manuel Pereiro, Christa Lang

Directed by Samuel Fuller

Expectations: Low.

twostar


According to Sam Fuller’s book, A Third Face, The Day of Reckoning was the final directorial work of Sam Fuller (though not the last released). It’s not a feature film, it’s actually a 50-minute episode of the anthology program Chillers, hosted by Anthony Perkins. But this doesn’t diminish the fact that it is a Sam Fuller film at its heart, so when I realized that the storyline was going hard into an animal rights stance, I could only smile. Sam Fuller had confronted social injustice against humans throughout his filmmaking career. With White Dog he explored similar themes, but the dog was still just another method of humanity’s social injustices. With The Day of Reckoning, Fuller goes one step further and takes on factory farming and the injustices done to chickens in the name of the almighty dollar.

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The Jayne Mansfield Story (1980)

JayneMansfieldStarring Loni Anderson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ray Buktenica, Kathleen Lloyd, G.D. Spradlin, Dave Shelley, Laura Jacoby, Whitney Rydbeck, John Medici

Directed by Dick Lowry

Expectations: Very low.

onehalfstar


There are many places that I expected the filmography of Arnold Schwarzenegger to take me, but a TV biopic about Jayne Mansfield was definitely not one of them. I’d love to say that it’s a hidden gem, but it’s barely engaging, let alone entertaining. It’s not especially bad or anything, and maybe if I was really into Jayne Mansfield I’d find it more interesting. It’s just so… “TV movie,” which translates to “more often than not boring and hard to get through.” The budget is small, so don’t expect much more than people talking about things about to happen (or that have just happened) and then a slow fade into the next dialogue scene taking place before (or after) another major event. I can’t really hold this against the film anymore than I could be mad at a horror movie for having gore, but it was pretty trying on my patience.

The story here is the basic “starry-eyed unknown becomes a star” storyline, but the interesting aspect of Jayne Mansfield’s story is her untimely death at age 34 and her ability to drive publicity through playing up her sexuality. The film wisely starts on the night of the car crash that killed her, drawing in the audience by showing us a glimpse of where Mansfield was mentally before showing us how she got there. This isn’t especially original, but it’s an effective storytelling device and it works very well here. It also serves to introduce Arnold’s character, setting him up as our narrator (yes, you read that right) as we venture back to an earlier time when Mansfield wasn’t a star.

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Temple Grandin (2010)

Temple Grandin (2010)

Starring Claire Danes, Catherine O’Hara, Julia Ormond, David Strathairn

Directed by Mick Jackson

Expectations: Moderate. It’s a TV movie, how good can it be?


Going into this one, I had virtually no knowledge of who Temple Grandin is, and I come out of the film filled with respect and admiration. She is a person who refuses to be stopped by a closed door, a brave woman in a world that doesn’t completely understand her. She has accomplished more than most “normal” people despite her autism and must truly be applauded for her work in the fields of autism and animal rights.

Temple Grandin opens with Temple (Claire Danes) coming to live on a ranch with her aunt (Catherine O’Hara) in preparation for her first days at college. Temple is a high-functioning autistic and becomes fascinated with the cattle at the ranch. One day she sees the cattle being put into a machine that holds them still so that they can be inoculated. At first, she is scared of the machine but becomes accepting when she sees that the cow feels comforted by the security it affords. She soon takes to the machine herself, as she avoids almost all physical human contact, and it gives her the security of a hug without the fear of actually touching another person.

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The Crossing (2000)

Starring Jeff Daniels, Roger Rees, Sebastian Roché, Steven McCarthy

Directed by Robert Harmon

Expectations: Low. I’m hoping this will educate me a bit on what led to Washington’s Crossing.


I’m currently taking a History class and a couple of the assignments are to write film reviews. I decided that I wouldn’t let these reviews just fade into the ether, instead posting them here as well as turning them in as homework. Because of this, the reviews will be slightly different than the normal type of stuff I put out, as the professor has laid out a few questions that need to be answered that I don’t generally ask myself. I’ve also edited this a bit to be a little more in line with this website. Anyway, enjoy… or not. Whatever.

The film opens with a short narration, setting the scene for those not intensely familiar with the material. As suspected, The Crossing seeks to dramatize the events surrounding George Washington’s decision to cross the Delaware River during the American Revolution. It looks to convey the risk-taking nature of Washington and his creative way of problem solving. Crossing the river was an unexpected tactic and one that could have gone completely wrong. The opening narration is followed by a scene of a cannon getting stuck in a ditch on the side of the road. Washington commands the men to leave it and continue on without, illustrating to the viewer just how desperate the American forces were. They’re on the run from the British, slowly breaking down and losing numbers. The film effectively shows how Washington chose to attack the Hessian camp in Trenton by crossing the river at night, despite all good odds. It proves the point how someone backed up against a wall, with no good options, will do their best to survive and continue fighting. The British, being the super-powered confident force, just didn’t have that kind of resolve backing them up.

Continue reading The Crossing (2000) →

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