Remembering T2 on the Big Screen: Wow

While writing the blog-post for Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “life story” I was filled with nostalgia about the time I’d gotten to see a “sneak premier” of the film, T2, weeks before its proper cinematic release. I thought, while reviewing his book that it was a shame that I’d not remembered this before as I could have taken part in mistylayne and Andy’s
Nostalgiathon 2012. But even though I missed the metaphorical boat for their project together, I thought the least I could do was give their sites and the project a mention and a link.

In 1991, I lived two doors down from a young engaged couple. In a few years, with a great recommendation from the young lady I got a job where she worked delivering papers. Her fiancé Donald was a local government agency employee. He was a bit of a “Jack-the-lad” character; full of energy, good humour and a hazy sense of morality.

One day he came round the house where I was cutting the grass or painting the front of the house (I don’t remember which). He was grinning from ear to ear and so full of excitement he was practically dancing.

“Do you like Arnold Schwarzenegger?” He was sort of hopping in place while he asked the question. I stopped whatever it was that I was doing and replied in the affirmative.

“How,” He paused for dramatic effect, “Would you like to see his latest film?”

“Sure,” I said it so fast that he almost had not stopped speaking yet. “What is it?”

Donald’s grin got even wider, “It’s Terminator 2: Judgement Day, mate!” His energy level shot up even further. “The sequel to The Terminator, innit!” He stopped suddenly. “You have seen the original Terminator, haven’t you? Please tell me you’ve seen it mate.”

I replied that I had and that I’d loved it.

That set Donald off again in another paroxysm of joy. “Great! How would you like to see it two weeks earlier than anyone else in the country?”

“How’d you pull that one off?” I asked.

“Easy mate, I entered a competition and won two special preview tickets to the Odeon’s showing of the film. Since it’s a preview there are a limited amount of tickets and I got two!”

I thought for a minute. “What about Nola?” Nola was his fiancée and they lived together. “Won’t she want to go?”

“No mate, she can’t stand Arnie! I was a bit lost because here I had these great tickets and was going to wind up seeing the film on me own. Bit of a downer; then I thought of you and the fact that you like Predator and Commando and I thought, ‘yeah! Smithy will go with me to see it!”

We were both excited now. I hadn’t been to the cinema for ages and now I was going to see what was promising to be the cinema event of the year.

On the day of the preview Donald and I went together to the Odeon with our “prepaid” tickets. We joined the queue of people who had purchased their tickets already and waited to get in.

One of the newer cinemas on offer.

*Just a side note about English cinemas “back in the day” and how they worked. When I first got to the United Kingdom, you could still smoke in the movie theatre. You had a smoking side and a non-smoking side. You always knew which side was which because the smoking side had ashtrays attached to the seats. You also had to buy your tickets in advance. People would stop by the ticket sales window earlier in the day and buy their tickets. You would then come back and show your ticket to go in. Folks would get there early to go up to the “pub” in the cinema and have a pint or two or a short. You’d then head for the screen when the movie was about to start. You also had a young man or woman who stood down in front of the screen with a selection of sweets and bags of popcorn and sodas for sale. They would go away when the trailers started and the first feature (if there was one) and come back out before the main feature started. It was a lot different in those days, no multi-screen, just good old-fashioned huge screens; one or two if the cinema was bigger. I still remember watching Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in a tiny theatre in Thetford that put an intermission in the middle of the film where they came out and sold ice creams and so on. When the lights came up clouds of smoke hung up near the ceiling. In the late 80’s smoking started being banned in theatres although you could still smoke, you had to do it in a smoking room and you could listen to the film while you had your fag (cigarette). Probably the longest side note ever, my apologies.*

The atmosphere in the theatre was electric. Excited bubbly conversations whirled in the air and people discussed the first Terminator and how they couldn’t wait to see the sequel. A lot of “I’ll be back’s” were heard and delighted laughter over rode every other sound in the lobby. This level of excitement in an English movie theatre was unheard of back then. Movie goers fit the stereotype of quiet and reserved. If there was a funny scene in a film, reserved chuckling might be heard, if you strained to hear it. Loud American guffaws meant that a “yank” was watching the film with his American friends.

Low key reactions was (and still is too a large degree) the order of the day. Where in an American movie theatre, people will gasp loudly, shriek, scream, laugh loudly and hysterically and “boo” the screen. Movies in the states are more of a celebratory party rather than a civilized viewing of the feature.

Terminator 2 though brought a different type of English film fan. These guys were every bit as loud and as excited as their American counterparts.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.


When the film started, the audience applauded and cheered. When Arnie strides up to the bar owner to snatch his shotgun from him, the audience went nuts. The entire film was treated like the overblown spectacle it was. T2 was bigger than the first Terminator. It had a bigger budget, better effects, a totally kick-ass score, and not just one Terminator, but two. And Robert Patrick as the T-1000 knocked it so far out of the park that no-one, apart from the Schwarzenegger himself, could match his performance.

I saw grown men weep at the end of the film. I saw them through my own blurred vision as tears streamed unashamedly down my own cheeks. Donald and I both looked at each other, crying like little (as Arnold himself would say) girliemen, and we did a painful high-five. We both agreed that this was the best terminator film ever and that they would never top it.

Sad to say, we were both extremely accurate in our visionary prediction that the film would never be equalled or beaten. T3 was abysmal and T4? Well, this post is pretty long already if I wrote about everything that didn’t work in T4, I’d have to write it in instalments.

Every time I re-watch T2 I remember the excitement of that day and how the cinema audience went wild during the film. It is the only other film that I have watched in an English cinema where the audience (in tears yet) stood up and cheered when it had finished. *The only other film to elicit anywhere near the same type of response was J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek.*

As I left the cinema that day, I realised that the industry had gone around another corner, reached a new milestone. All because James Cameron was one helluva movie maker who had vision and the guts to put that vision on-screen; he broke a lot of records with T2 and changed the way films would be made from that point on.

He also, to a huge degree, changed the way that I viewed films.

Unh-unh-unh!



Total Recall by Arnold Schwarzenegger: Sales Manual…

I only bought this book because it was on sale at Tesco’s for eight pounds. To be honest, I was going to buy it at nine pounds, I only found out about the additional savings at the till. Co-written with author Peter Petre Total Recall is, at 624 pages (I do not include the index in the page count), a longish read, but not too difficult to plough through if you concentrate. I read the book in roughly eight hours and I wasn’t wearing my glasses.

I have to say right off, that I did find the book interesting, but, not overly entertaining. The main reason for this was the inclusion of Arnie‘s terms in office as the Governor of California. I cannot and will not go on record as to whether he was a good or bad Governor, mainly because I do not know. I did live in the state while he served and therefore I do not feel qualified to have an opinion.

Of course the other reason behind the lack of opinion is quite simple, I don’t care. Politics is not my speciality and never will be. I will say that, as a rule, I do not support the Republican party and never have; the only Republican I ever supported whole heartedly was, like Arnie, a Hollywood product by the name of Ronald Reagan and that was because he helped to raise the pay of poorly paid military for two years straight. For that act alone, he will always be ranked by me as one of the greats.

But back to Arnie; most people are aware that he started as a body builder. They also know that he dreamed of coming to America so he could be a World Champion body builder and become a movie star. Everyone also knows that he was the Governor of California for a while.

What a lot of people may not have realized is that Arnold Schwarzenegger (I know I was not aware of it) is a top salesman. If he had not decided at an early age that he was somehow special, he could have wound up as a top sales rep at any big company.

But he seemed to figure out pretty early on that the product he wanted to sell was himself, Schwarzenegger on the hoof as it were. The fact that the only avenue available him was the, then, relatively unknown and unrecognised sport of body building did not stop him from going all out to reach his goal.

As his successes grew and word spread about this young giant of a man he started on the road that would ultimately result in him conquering the body building world, the box office and the citizens of California.

But this book is not about that; not really. It is another sales tool; nothing more, nothing less. It another way for him to sell product Schwarzenegger, a publicity lever to make sure that his name is “out there” before his next two films are released.

For a book titled Total Recall Arnold recalls, in the grand scheme of things, very little. He offers little tit-bits of information about some films he worked on, but not a lot. About Conan the Barbarian, his break-out film, he mentions Mako (who appeared 153 films and television shows by the time he died in 2006) not once.

What he prefers to discuss at great length are his humble beginnings, his business acumen, his marriage to Maria Shriver, and his time in the gubernatorial office in Sacramento California. Add in a few statements here and there about his competition in the world of body building and one tiny section dealing with his illegitimate son and there you have it.

Most autobiographies contain a huge amount of humility. Most, actors especially, spend an almost inordinate amount of time thanking all those folks who helped them to get where they are. Arnold does this, but not a lot and not too profusely.

The message that Arnie wants to convey is the he is responsible for his success. Not an agent or a manager or the director who took a chance on him or even his wife. Arnold Schwarzenegger stands “a man above other men,” one who should have a plaque on his chest stating, “How great I art.”

I am sure that there are other people in the entertainment business, or just in the public eye, who have egos that match Arnold’s but not many. And I’m sure that most would have hired a ghost writer to help them tone that massive ego down. Unfortunately that did not happen in this particular recounting of the “great one’s” life.

Has the reading of this ego massaging trip down memory lane put me off Arnold? No, it did not. It did lift the veil a little as to who the man actually is and what he deems important. Two very telling incidents in the book show just exactly how the man thinks.

One deals with the issue of the “first” predator in the 1987 film of the same name. Action man Jean-Claude Van Damme who was just starting in his career has stated publicly in the past that the first costume for the creature was unsafe. It had no manoeuvrability; it was cumbersome, heavy and unwieldy. Van Damme, quite rightfully, brought this up to the director repeatedly. When the director refused to get the problem sorted, Van Damme walked and his replacement was badly injured.

Not one word of this was recounted in Arnold’s telling of the filming except to state that Van Damme was a complainer. Complainer he might have been, but considering what eventually happened to his replacement and the “re-design” of the predator outfit, not without cause. Yet the episode is handled in one sentence; a sentence that implies that Van Damme was a whiner who did not want to do the job.

During the chapters dealing with his marriage to Maria, he comes right out and complains about things she did or believed. It’s obvious that this section was written while his powers of recall were in negative mode.

As in the episode of the predator costume, Arnold has no time for anything that does not glorify Arnold. He is the product on sale here, not anyone else. His goal is to show why he is so great and why he will continue to be great.

The book may please the odd rabid fan, but only just. This is not an anecdotal recital of interesting facts and fascinating stories. If it’s a gossipy, fun romp down memory lane you wanted; you’ll be disappointed. If it’s a chance to hear how highly Arnie thinks of himself, you’ve come to the right place.

I would not want to be on the other side of the look…

Predator (1987): Get to the Chopper

Cover of "Predator [Blu-ray]"
Cover of Predator [Blu-ray]
What does Arnold Schwarzenegger, an ex 70’s porn star and Jean-Claude Van Damme have in common? Well if you read the title of my review you’ll know the answer already, the film Predator.

Way back in 1987 20th Century Fox gave the green light to a science fiction film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The film was to centre around a group of elite special forces who go into Central America to rescue a cabinet minister who has been captured by guerilla forces. Heading up this elite group is Major ‘Dutch’ Schaefer (Schwarzenegger) who is not keen on the mission until his old pal Dillon (Carl Weathers) explains the urgency of the situation.

Dutch agrees and his team plus Dillon head for the country where the diplomat is being held hostage. Once they arrive, the team find evidence that someone else has been there before them and that this  ‘other’ team was murdered and hung like animals ready to be butchered. As they head out toward the rebel camp, Dutch’s men are becoming increasingly aware that something is not right.

Arriving at the rebel camp in time to see one of the hostages being executed, Dutch’s team over-run the camp and kill all the rebels but one. Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) is taken prisoner at Dillon’s insistence and Dutch calls for extraction from the camp only to be told the area is “too hot” and that they need to move to a safer area.

Dutch who has now realised that Dillon lied to him about the real purpose of the mission puts him in charge of the prisoner. The men re-group and head for the new extraction point, all while they are being observed from a distance via thermal imaging.

Sonny Landham as Billy.

Billy (Sonny Landham) takes point and he becomes increasingly aware that something is not right about the area and that they are not alone in the jungle. While Billy looks for this other inhabitant of the jungle Anna attempts to escape and two of Dutch’s men are killed by an invisible creature. This signifies the shift of focus of the film and it soon becomes a cat and mouse battle between Dutch’s men and the mysterious creature who is killing them off.

This film grossed over 98 million dollars on its theatrical release. It has continued to do well in the home entertainment market. It has spawned a franchise of sequels and prequels that have all done well at the box office.

The film was originally written for Sylvester Stallone, but after Fox got hold of the script and put Joel Silver in charge of production, the rest is history. This film was the first I’d ever seen that shifted genre a third of the way into the film. With Arnie fresh off of Commando and with an initial ‘special forces” set up, it looked to be a sort of Commando II.

Wrong.

Predator is a film that scored quite a few first’s and is well-known for a number of things. Firstly Jean-Claude Van Damme had originally been hired to portray the creature. Unfortunately the original predator suit (pre Stan Winston) was uncomfortable, clumsy and according to Van Damme, not safe to use. He quit after two days and in the interim, according to Van Damme, the guy the studio hired after he quit was injured in the ‘original suit.’

Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator
Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Once Stan ‘the man’ Winstone redesigned the suit, the late Kevin Peter Hall (May 9, 1955 – April 10, 1991) donned it and despite the fact that he could not see during the one-to-one fights with Arnie did not experience any problems. Incidentally Hall played one of the helicopter pilots at the end of the film, effectively rescuing Arnie from the destruction that Hall himself, as the creature, had caused.

The film marked the screen debut of Jesse Ventura and Shane Black. Ventura would go on to become Governor of Minnesota and Black has just finished the screenplay for Iron Man 3 and is working on Lethal Weapon 5.

The minigun, which had been purposely purchased for use in the film, did not work. More commonly attached to helicopters, the gun was a remnant of the Vietnam war.  It had to be stripped, cleaned and a lot of the parts had to be remade from scratch. Of course further modifications were needed to make the weapon a ‘hand-held’ instead of a mounted gun. The weapon was also powered electrically by battery. The cable ran down Jesse Ventura’s (Blain) leg. It was also modified to use blank rounds and the firing rate had to be slowed down.

Actor Sonny Landham was a porn ‘star’ in the 1970’s and crossed over to mainstream films via a bit part as a cop in The Warriors. A bit of a ‘wild child’ Sonny was well-known for getting into bar fights and having a bit of a temper. The studio brass hired a bodyguard for the set of Predator to protect the cast from Sonny during filming.

It was this film that has Arnie shouting that oft-repeated and mimicked line, “Get to the Choppah!”  If you can’t sound like Arnie when you shout it, you might as well give up. Almost anybody can imitate Arnie when shouting this one.

Just a bit of ‘retro’ reviewing fun and another look at an old favorite film. One that has the distinction of having Jean-Claude Van Damme, a porn star and Arnold Schwarzenegger all together.

Wow.

The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Vent...
The main cast of Predator. Left to right: Ventura, Black, Schwarzenegger, Duke, Weathers, Landham, and Chaves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Expendables (2010) Tattooed Tough Guys Getting Ready for # 2

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables (2010 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With The Expendables 2  opening across the UK in August this year, with bigger roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, and with the news that The Expendables 3 will soon start filming, I’ve decided to take another look at the film that started it all.

The Expendables was directed by Sylvester Stallone who also co-wrote the screenplay with  Dave Callaham.

The hook or draw, if you prefer, was the presence in one film of a lot of tough guy actors from the 80’s and 90’s, famous for playing action-type heroes or bigger than life characters.

The list was long. Sylvester Stallone, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Eric Roberts, Mickey Rourke, as well as relative newcomers  Jason StathamRandy Couture, Steve Austin,  Terry Crews and of course Arnold and Bruce (in uncredited cameos).

The token females were Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel), in what has got to be the worlds shortest cameo, as Stratham’s wishy-washy girlfriend and Giselle Itié is the “love interest” for Stallone’s character.

Stallone and his buddies are mercenaries who, at the start of the film, are rescuing hostages from some Somali pirates.  It is a short scene, designed to show us, the audience, how the group dynamic works and who is really in charge. It also shows us that Dolph Lundgren’s character is not playing with a full deck.

In rapid succession we find that: Gunnar Jensen (Lundgren) is off the team, Lee Christmas (Statham) finds out his girlfriend, now isn’t, and Barney Ross (Stallone) is unhappy with the way his life is going. We also get to meet Tool (Mickey Rourke) the groups tattooist. *on a side note – what a cool name for a character…Tool, just had to mention it.*

English: Mickey Rourke at the 2009 Tribeca Fil...

The guys get hired by Mr Church (Willis) and Ross finds out that his only competition for the job, Trench (Arnie) doesn’t want the job. The group vote on whether to accept the job and Ross and Christmas decide a fact finding mission is in order.This is not a film with great depth or hidden meanings What it does, it does very well. It is an “old fashioned” buddy/action/blockbuster film.

The Expendables is a great big ‘romp’ of a film. It features enough explosions and gunfire to start and win a war in most third world countries. It never at any time takes itself too seriously and it gives us bad guys (Eric Roberts as the supreme bad-ass we love to hate)  who are really bad and his underlings are easy to despise.

Of course the cast list gives us enough bulging muscle that everyone appears to have been vaccinated with steroids at birth. At no time in the film do you ever need to ask, “Where’s the beef?”

But like I said, it is ‘old-fashioned’ the bad guys wear metaphorical black hats, and the good guys with their metaphorical white hats ride in to save the day.

The one disappointment for me was that we didn’t get to see a lot of Jet Li. I am a huge fan, but to be honest, I was not really surprised to see how little he got to do. Hollywood has never really known what to do with Li and it carries over into this film.

I also missed seeing some of the other “80’s and 90’s action men” but that appears to be taken care of in the cast list of The Expendables 2.  The second ‘Expendables’ (in what is apparently becoming a series) will include Jean-Claude Van Damme  , as well as  Chuck Norris.

Charisma Carpenter is coming back for the ride and we can only hope she gets a little more screen time in this one.

Charisma Carpenter at Fan Expo 2007

One thing has been bothering me about the upcoming The Expendables 2. With Chuck Norris on your team surely you don’t need anyone else. Although, he could be batting for the other side, in which case I don’t think Team ‘Expendable’  have enough men.

Deutsch: Chuck Norris