Friday, April 10, 2009

The Arnold Project

He's been Mr. Universe. He's been Hollywood's biggest action star. He's been Governor. And he's even been a form of music. I may not align with him politically, but he's always been one of my favorite movie stars, and I've taken it upon myself to watch every movie he's been in- even woeful crap like Around the World in 80 Days. I started a long time ago on this blog with perhaps my favorite Arnold movie- its a genre now- Commando, the quintessential '80s action picture. Some say there are two kinds of people in the world- those who like Commando and those who like Cobra, and I'll take Arnie over the Italian Stallion any day. Sorry, paesano.

Arnold's movie career began with an auspicious start when he appeared in the campy muscle picture Hercules in New York. He barely spoke English and wisely used the stage name of Arnold Strong; this allowed him to snag a Golden Globe for Best Acting Debut in 1978 for Stay Hungry. That was penned by the writer who put together the documentary Pumping Iron, which put Arnie's personality on the movie screen, and made his later ascent to stardom possible. That was with John Milius's Nietzchean envisioning of Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian, which then led to The Terminator, and we all know the rest.

Arnold is a fascinating character, and you're never quite sure if he's acting or not. He varies from Machiavellian cleverness in how he competes in Pumping Iron, and his natural performance in Stay Hungry, to the acerbic and sarcastic one-liner spouting persona that made him famous. Now as a politician he is much more guarded with his words; before that, he smoked pot on film, and made comments you'd think were political suicide, all caught on video. The commentary on the Conan the Barbarian DVD is probably evidence that he's been smoking long after his Pumping Iron days, and it's unfortunate that his venture into politics has robbed us both of future films, but of any future glimpses of the real Arnold.

Here is a list of Arnold's films and ones I've reviewed so far.

1970 - Hercules in New York (full review) as Arnold Strong, a campy muscleman picture
1973 - The Long Goodbye (full review) Robert Altman's masterful rendering of Raymond Chandler; Arnie plays a thug.
1973 - Happy Anniversary and Goodbye - a TV movie with Art Carney and Lucille Ball
1976 - Stay Hungry (full review) Arnold's true debut, he plays a philosophical bodybuilder and Renaissance man, counterpoint to Jeff Bridges's aimless slacker.
1977 - Pumping Iron - the documentary that possibly started it all for him.
1979 - The Villain (aka Cactus Jack) - Arnie plays a cowboy in this Western spoof with Kirk Douglas as the bad guy and hilariously, Paul Linde as Chief Nervous Elk. Can't wait to watch this one again.
1979 - Scavenger Hunt - In this ensemble cast farce in the spirit of It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, a bunch of inheritors have to win a scavenger hunt to win. Cleavon Little is also in this one, so it'll be fun tracking down (he's Bart from Blazing Saddles).
1980 - The Jayne Mansfield Story - Oh boy, Loni Anderson playing the starlet. Arnie plays her bodybuilder husband, Mickey Hargitay. This is in my Netflix queue, but I sort of dread it.
1982 - Conan the Barbarian - This is one of my favorite films, and I've been waiting to give it the adoration it deserves.
1984 - Conan the Destroyer (full review) After singlehandedly jump-starting the fantasy genre, he goes all goofy and kills it.
1984 - The Terminator - Still one of the great science fiction blockbusters, some of the effects are a bit dated but otherwise this is still a great action film, and it certainly had an effect! This one will be fun to review.
1985 - Red Sonja (full review) The final nail in the fantasy coffin, kudos to Richard Fleischer and Brigette Nielsen. Arnie plays "Kalidor" which is Austrian for "Conan."
1985 - Commando (full review) One of the best action films of the '80s, utterly ridiculous but it has just the right tone so you go along with it. Remember when I said I'd kill you last? I lied.
1986 - Raw Deal (full review) you know who gets the raw deal? The audience. This one is so bad it's fun to watch. Especially when Arnie berates a handicapped Darren McGavin into walking.
1987 - Predator - Arnie solidifies his status as the sci-fi action star in this excellent rehash of The Most Dangerous Game. Can't wait to review this one either... stick around!
1987 - The Running Man - 1416 and Counting reviewed this recently and it's hard to follow that up, it was a great review, but I'm gonna try. This campy adaptation of a paranoid and cynical Stephen King story is so bad it's good. Arnold begins to realize that the worse his one-liners are, the more we love him. "He was Sub Zero... now he is just plain zero!"
1988 - Red Heat (full review) - Water Hill remakes 48 Hrs. with Arnie and Jim Belushi, as a Russian & Chicago cop respectively... One of the last times we see Arnie really act.
1988 - Twins - Arnie goes for laughs with Danny DeVito; it's a decent '80s comedy and I'll watch it again. "Yakety Yak! Don't talk back!"
1990 - Arnie directed an episode of Tales from the Crypt that wasn't that bad. "The Switch" is about an old man who spends all his money becoming young for his trophy wife, who then dumps him. Irony!
1990 - Total Recall - Arnold and Paul Verhoeven were made to work together and this movie proves it. It's thrilling, hilarious and bizarre.
1990 - Kindergarten Cop - This was a tumor, but I'll watch it again.
1991 - Terminator 2: Judgment Day - This one will be easy, as it's my favorite action movie of all time. The first 20 minutes remains the best directed action intro ever.
1993 - The Last Action Hero - I misunderstood this self-parody when I first saw it; it tries too hard and isn't subtle at all, but it's still fun. I'll give it another go.
1994 - True Lies - This one's underrated, and is one of my favorite Arnold films. It's one of Cameron's best, and Jamie Lee Curtis, Bill Paxton and Tom Arnold all chip in to make it great.
1994 - Junior - Arnie gets preggers! I liked Twins, so how bad could this be. It's on the DVR.
1996 - Eraser - This was the downward spiral; Arnie is too much the good guy. He never should have said he wouldn't play villains after T2. He lied anyway, and played one in Batman & Robin.
1996 - Jingle All the Way - This is supposed to be abysmal, but I'll suffer through it to go "hey, Nicollet Mall!" and see Minneapolis sights I'll remember.
1997 - Batman & Robin - I saw this in a dollar theater and felt ripped off. Arnold is hilarious in it, though.
1999 - End of Days - Arnold kicking Satan's ass. He's really bad in this, but Gabriel Byrne as the Devil and Kevin Pollack as his partner make it watchable.
2000 - The 6th Day - This was a silly but fun sci-fi popcorn flick, where we get to see two Arnolds!
2002 - Collateral Damage - I heard he didn't kill anyone in this, so I didn't go see it. But I will. For you.
2003 - Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines - While I didn't like the camp aspect the Terminator got, and it's not as good as the first two, this isn't the pile of crap nerds like to say it is. It had a lot to live up to, and lost Sarah Connor, so it was handicapped. It's still a good action movie, and I'll defend it.
2004 - Around the World in 80 Days - This will be painful but I will endure it for you.
2005 - The Kid & I - He plays "himself" in this but it's fiction, so I'll give it a shot- Penelope Spheeris is hit or miss, but I'm gonna give this one a try.
So far I have 7 out of 32 reviews and you'll get a new one each week. I know you can't wait. And when Arnie appears in Incredible Love, aka Kambakkht Ishq- part of Hollywood's flirtings with Bollywood now that Slumdog Millionaire showed it as a force to be reckoned with- I'll be there opening weekend. It's been 5 years since we've had an Arnie movie, dammit! I hope he quits Governating after he's in Sly Stallone's The Expendables next year, and shows Sly how it's done. We need Dutch to break out of a government holding facility to fight the Predator invasion, in Predator 3: Arnie vs. Predator 2: Requiem!


Anonymous said...

If you like Arnie, you have to watch this hilarious remix of the thumb wars scene in True Lies - EPIC!

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