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Posts Tagged ‘arnold schwarzenegger’

I have strange relationship with the writing of Stephen King.  I have always found his plots and world building to be really good, but don’t like his writing style.  This is why his stories can be so perfect for adaptation.  With The Dark Tower coming out last month and IT due out later this month, it seems like a good time to remember King is about more than horror and take a look back at my favourite big screen adaptations of his stories:

  1. The Shining (1980 – based on novel from 1977) – King famously doesn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation, WHY? I first saw it when I was a kid and was understandably creeped out by it, as much by Jack Nicholson’s performance as by the movie itself.  A couple of years ago I got to see it at the cinema in a sold out Halloween screening, it was even better shared with an audience.the shining
  2. Stand by Me (1986 – based on the novella The Body from 1982) – The geniuses of Rob Reiner is the way he has always been able to convey nostalgia without sentimentality, Stand by Me is his masterpiece.  It also helps that the young cast are all brilliant.Stand by Me
  3. The Shawshank Redemption (1994 – based on the novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from 1982) – #1 on the IMDb’s top 250 for as long as I can remember.  A totally faultless movie, with perfect acting and direction, it could easily have been higher on this list.The Shawshank Redemption
  4. The Mist (2007 – based on novella from 1980) – The second Frank Darabont movie to make my list.  A tense horror thriller that reminds us that humanity is more frightening than monsters.  An already great film is elevated by a perfect and devastating ending.  the mist
  5. Carrie (1976 – based on the novel from 1974) – There is something dark and seedy about Brian De Palma’s direction that is perfect for this story, as are the performances from Sissy Spacek and Piper Laurie.Sissy Specek as Carrie
  6. The Dead Zone (1983 – based on the novel from 1979) – If you want a creepy and unnerving movie is there a better combination than David Cronenberg and Christopher Walken? Probably not.  Some of the political themes seem strangely relevant at the moment.   The Dead Zone
  7. Misery (1990 – based on the novel from 1987) – Rob Reiner again but with a very different film to Stand by Me.  You will remember the film for a couple of moments of real horror, but there are other things that make it great.  James Caan and Kathy Bates are both brilliant.  Reiner’s direction  manages to create an uneasy sense of dread without losing the ability to shock. Misery
  8. The Running Man (1987 – based on the novel from 1982) – I had the VHS of this when I was a kid, it was one of my most watched movies for a few years.  Successful on its original release but quickly dismissed as dumb action vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger.  In the light of reality TV, The Hunger Games, and the current political climate it’s time to re-evaluate.   The dialogue is clunky, but the story is good and the direction is solid.The Running Man
  9. Apt Pupil (1998 – based on the novella from 1982) – Three of the four stories that made up Different Seasons have been adapted into movies, this third movie isn’t as good as Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption but is still a compelling movie.  Ian McKellen and Brad Renfro are both brilliant. Apt Pupil
  10. Cat’s Eye (1985 – anthology horror film based on the short stories Quitters, Inc. from 1978 and The Ledge from 1976 and one written specifically for the film).  Anthology  of three short films linked by a cat.  The best of the three features James Woods as a man who wants to quit smoking. Cat's Eye

To give context, the other Stephen King movies I have seen that didn’t make the list are:

Creepshow (1982 – five short films; based on the short stories Weeds from 1976, The Crate from 1979 three written for the film by King) – Christine (1983 – based on the novel from 1983) – Children of the Corn (1984 – based on the short story from 1977) –  Firestarter (1984 – based on the novel from 1980) – Silver Bullet (1985 – based on the novella Cycle of the Werewolf from 1983) –  Maximum Overdrive (1986 – Directed, very poorly by Stephen King, based on the short story Trucks from 1973) – Sleepwalkers (1992 – original screenplay) – The Dark Half (1993 – based on the novel from 1989) – Dolores Claiborne (1995 – based on the novel from 1992) – Dreamcatcher (2003 – based on the novel from 2001) –  Secret Window (2004 – based on the novella Secret Window, Secret Garden from 1990) – Carrie (2013 – Supposedly adaptation of the novel from 1974, but they clearly had one eye on the superior 1976 movie) – The Dark Tower (2017 loosely adapted from the novel series 1998 to 2012).

My most notable blind spot is The Green Mile (1999 based on the serial novel published in six parts in 1996) Directed by Frank Darabont who makes the list above twice. 

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When I was in my early teens I loved The Running Man (1987), it was my second favourite Arnold Schwarzenegger movie after The Terminator (1984) that at the time was one of my favourite movies (Total Recall (1990) and Terminator 2 (1992) were yet to be made and I didn’t appreciate Predator (1987) until I saw it again a few years later). I had avoided watching The Running Man for the last ten years through fear of been disappointed at the way it had aged. Should I have been worried? Well, yes and no. It is dated but it gets away with it surprisingly well. It is only dated in as much as you would expect any twenty-five year old sci-fi movie to be (even Alien looks dated today), but it still has its charms and its thrills. The costumes and the sets are very 80’s, but you would expect them to be. The acting is as good as you can expect from an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. The action is plentiful, but not as bold, bloody or as violent as I remember.

Set in a future totalitarian/dystopian society, Ben Richards (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is framed for a massacre he tried to prevent and sent to prison. He escapes but is recaptured and coerced into taking part in a bloodthirsty reality TV show, The Running Man.

Directed by Paul Michael Glazeer (best known as Starskey in the TV show Starsky and Hutch) it is by far the best of his handful of movies. Loosely based on a short story by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Legend has it that the filmmakers didn’t realise at the time they made the film that Richard Bachman was Stephen King. The dystopia is set in the aftermath of a failed world economy result in the world (or a small corner of southern California at least) having a wide gulf between rich and poor. The story is very different but a lot of the ideas and themes remain. There is an underlying ideal in the movie of truth, justice and overcoming oppression.

The sets and costumes look very dated as you would expect of a futuristic movie from the 80’s but if you look beyond that, the story is strangely prophetic with the ailing world economy and the obsession with reality TV. We also see the producers of the show misrepresenting the facts to the audience, something else that has been in the news recently with various TV scandals. There are lulls between the action scenes and Schwarzenegger’s woefully delivered one-liners, but again it gets away with it. The action scenes benefit from being real and not CGI, but they are also limited by this, leaving the feeling the battles should have been more epic. There is a knowing glint in Schwarzenegger’s eye as his reluctant hero of the revolution tells us: “I’m not into politics, I’m into survival.” By 1987 the future (now former) Governor of California had already expressed an interest in politics. Is this like the movie itself a lucky coincidence coupled with rose-tinted hindsight? I’m note sure but whether intention or not, the movie is far more satirical than I remember, although too light-hearted to be truly cutting or cynical.

It is very much Schwarzenegger’s movie, María Conchita Alonso is on hand as a bickering sidekick/love interest, but is given little to do beyond pouting and has no chemistry with Schwarzenegger. Real life game show host Richard Dawson has fun as Damon Killian, the Running Man TV show slimy producer/host. The “stalkers” who are sent out to hunt and kill the contestants include former NFL star Jim Brown and former professional wrestlers Charles Kalani, Jr. and Jesse Ventura.

Following The Hunger Games earlier this year other similar themed movies like this are been dusted off, while it isn’t in the same league as Battle Royale (2000) it is still worth checking out. I’m not sure how much new audiences will take from the move, but anyone who enjoyed it in the 80’s will probably be pleasantly surprised.

A note for those who haven’t noticed, Harold Weiss is played by Marvin J. McIntyre, better known as Truman Sparks in Fandango.

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There is a huge buzz about an all female version of The Expendables with a suggestion that the film may have already been given the green-light. Who would fill Stallone and Statham’s boots in a female version? The main charters in The Expendables 2 are played by: Sylvester Stallone (66), Jason Statham (44), Jet Li (49), Dolph Lundgren (54), Chuck Norris (72), Terry Crews (44), Randy Couture (49), Bruce Willis (57) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (65). Who are the contenders for a female version? I have included ages for comparison:

Top of the list has to be Sigourney Weaver (62) who thanks to the Alien movies is probably the most credible female action star. She would be closely followed by Linda Hamilton (55) from the first two Terminator movies. Cynthia Rothrock (55) is probably the female Dolph Lundgren, in that she doesn’t necessarily have the acting ability but more than makes up for it with a long list of direct to video action movies in the 80’s. Former Mrs Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen (49) is worth considering based on her appeared alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in Red Sonja (1985). Star of Coffy and Foxy Brown, Pam Grier (63) is probably the oldest contender, although I have heard Helen Mirren (67) mentioned. She isn’t someone I would have thought of but her appearance in Red does give her a certain credibility. Michelle Yeoh (49) has been an action star since the mid 80’s, she found mainstream fame in the west with Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2002). Anne Parillaud (52) only made one action movie (two if you include horror comedy Innocent Blood (1992)) but considering that film was Nikita (1990) she gets my vote.

A decade ago I wouldn’t have considered Uma Thurman (42) as an action star but thanks to Kill Bill (2003) she is jumps towards the top of the list. Two people who you probably would have thought about for an action movie a decade ago are Jennifer Garner (40) and Jessica Alba (31) thanks to their TV shows; J.J. Abrams’ Alias and James Cameron’s Dark Angel respectively but their movie careers seems to be going in other directions. Garner looked like she was going to be an action star with Daredevil (2003) but the spin-off Elektra (2005) probably destroyed her chances and she has been a fixture of rom-coms ever since. Alba may be moving back towards action with Machete (2010) and its sequel due out next year. The star of 90’s TV show Xena: Warrior Princess, Lucy Lawless (44) is back in the popular consciousness thanks to Battlestar Galactica and Spartacus.

As the 90’s came to an end they gave us one of cinema’s most iconic action characters, Trinity in The Matrix. Played by a virtually unknown (despite a career spanning the previous decade) Carrie-Anne Moss (45). The next action star to emerge was Michelle Yeoh’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon co-star Ziyi Zhang (33) who also starred in Hero (2002) and House of Flying Daggers (2004). From there the floodgates seemed to open . Despite not looking like an action star Angelina Jolie (37) made two Tomb Rader movies (2001 and 2003) Mr. and Mrs Smith (2005), Wanted (2008) and Salt (2010), a film originally intended for Tom Cruise. Tomb Rader’s video game derived rival Resident Evil (2002) has spawned four sequels to date (the most recent due out later this month) and a sixth and possibly final film in the next few years. All the films star Milla Jehovah (36) who had already stared in The Fifth Element (1997) (along side Expendables star Bruce Willis). Michelle Rodriguez (34) has appeared and Resident Evil and The Fast and the Furious (2001) and her character is been brought back from the dead in both franchises. With Girl fight (2000), S.W.A.T. (2003), Avatar (2009) and Machete (2010) she is one of the most credible action stars on this list. Skinny, self-confessed chain smoker Kate Beckinsale (39) is an unlikely action star but with Total Recall (2012) she has reinforced what she did in Underworld (2003) and its sequels. Other contenders include Rhona Mitra (37), the star of Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009) and Doomsday (2008). And Maggie Q (33) from Naked Weapon (2002) and the new TV incarnation of Nikita.

 

It does all go to show that to be a action star, if you have the look, the attitude and a good DP and fight choreographer, anyone can become an action star. But then there are the woman who can do it for real: Zoe Bell (33) is best know as a stuntwoman, but she has made some movie appearances, most notably Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (2007). With her starring role in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano (30) has become and overnight action star.

Here is a suggested line-up female alongside their male counterparts:

Sylvester Stallone – Sigourney Weaver

Jason Statham – Gina Carano

Jet Li – Uma Thurman or Carrie-Anne Moss

Arnold Schwarzenegger – Linda Hamilton

Dolph Lundgren – Cynthia Rothrock

Bruce Willis – Michelle Yeoh

Terry Crews – Rhona Mitra or Michelle Rodriguez

Randy Couture – Zoe Bell

Chuck Norris – Pam Grier

Who have I overlooked?

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Does anyone remember Red Sonja (1985)? I had never heard of the movie until I first saw it on TV around 1990. A sword and sorcery fantasy starring Brigitte Nielsen and Arnold Schwarzenegger (Schwarzenegger gets top billing). I wasn’t surprised to learn the character was based on a character (Red Sonya of Rogatino) by Conan creator Robert E. Howard’s. Set in the same fictional prehistoric time the “Hyborian Age” as Conan the Barbarian (1982) and its sequel Conan the Destroyer (1984), My understanding is that it was originally intended to be a spin-off form Conan with Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his role. For some contractual reason the character was renamed (High Lord Kalidor). Sadly the film isn’t very good. Held back by a week script and bad acting it isn’t a patch on Conan the Barbarian and is at best on a par with Conan the Destroyer .

But all this could have changed with a Robert Rodriguez reboot. Announced at Comic-Con in 2008 with Rose McGowan is the title role, the movie never got beyond a poster. It has since been reported that Rodriguez failed to raise the required funds to get the movie off the ground. Future prospects for raising funds for a movie like this probably haven’t been helped by Conan the Barbarian (2011) that “underperformed” at the box-office and received a (deserved) critical mauling. Rodriguez protégé Douglas Aarniokoski was set to direct, he has since gone on to make the eagerly anticipated (by me) The Day. Since things went quiet on the Rodriguez/Aarniokoski/McGowan reboot, the rumour mill has been in overdrive. Last November Empireonline reported that Avi Lerner will produce, Simon West (Con Air) will direct and the want Amber Heard as Sonja after having worked with her on Drive Angry. Megan Fox and Rachel Nichols have also been linked with the part.

A brief history of the character: Red Sonya of Rogatino appeared in Robert E. Howard’s pulp short story “The Shadow of the Vulture” originally published in The Magic Carpet Magazine, January 1934. The story was set in set in the 16th century around Battle of Mohács and the Siege of Vienna. In 1973 Roy Thomas and Barry Smith re-imagined the character and transposed her to into the Hyborian Age introducing her in the Marvel Comics Conan the Barbarian #23. She has gone on to feature in her own Marval comic book as well as several novels written by David C. Smith and Richard L. Tierney. Her only other screen appearance was on the short lived Conan TV series (1997-1998) played by Angelica Bridges.

The Game of Thrones TV show and The Lord of the Rings movies have proved that it is possible to make quality fantasy movies/TV. I look forward to seeing what can be done with Red Sonja.

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After a successful assignment in Barcelona freelance security contractor Mallory Kane (Gina Carano) is ready for a holiday but her employer, Kenneth (Ewan McGregor) has other ideas. A simple job that should have been a “paid holiday” in Dublin goes wrong when she is double crossed. She goes looking for answers and revenge.

In 2009 Steven Soderbergh cast porn star Sasha Grey as a high-end Manhattan call girl in The Girlfriend Experience, it is no surprise then that when he set out to make an action movie he would hire a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, Gina Carano. Legend has it that Soderbergh came across Carano while channel surfing cable TV. Prior to this chance encounter the star and director had never heard of each other. I’m not sure if he saw her fighting or on the American version of the TV Gladiators where she had a stint.

The big question here that will result in the success or failure of the movie should be can Gina Carano act, but strangely it isn’t. Like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator and The Running Man (both 1987) Carano’s presence and charisma is enough to carry the movie despite the fact she isn’t a great actress. Had the movie not been as well directed, surrounding Carano with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Ewan McGregor) could have emphasise her acting deficiencies, it actually works the other way. The end result is a slick and enjoyable movie where the most distracting and detracting thing turns out to be Ewan McGregor’s terrible accent.

The way the film is shot is interesting. Using long takes, still cameras and short lenses giving lots of depth of field, takes the movie back to a pre Bourne time for action movies. It actually works well showing off Gina Carano’s fighting talents and letting us see what is going on unlike in other modern action movies. This simplicity and transparency extends to the plot that despite a nonlinear structure is simple and easy to follow, coupled with a brisk 93 minute runtime makes the movie easy to watch and enjoy. It all boils down to a simple revenge/payback thriller, but is actually the best I have seen since Kill Bill (2003/04). I don’t see Gina Carano having a great career as an actress but she is the first new credible female action star to come along in a long time and like Vinnie Jones and Dwayne Johnson she has enough going for her to suggest she could carve a niche in action movies. The only reel criticism I can throw at the film is that it does sometimes feel cold and clinical, something I have thought about some of the directors previous work. I also wonder how well it will be received by female audiences, outside the main character, women are largely overlooked within the cast. 

Whether the movie was a chance for Steven Soderbergh to tick off another genre on his cinematic CV or a genuine attempt to do something different, I don’t know but do feel it is a successful movie either way.  Like its star, it is a movie that will divide opinions, despite a few flaws my opinion is very positive. 

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