Tag Archives: James Cameron

The Set of 400: #57 – My Favorite Elevator Police Horse

Today! Because I remember the first time I got shot out of a cannon –

True Lies (1994)

Directed by James Cameron (x4)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (x3), Jamie Lee Curtis (x3), Tom Arnold, Tia Carrere, Bill Paxton (x6), Grant Heslov, Eliza Dushku (x2), Charlton Heston (x2), Art Malik

I have a tendency to forget how balls-out insane the climax of this movie gets, because the brilliant middle section of the film pulls the action-adventure epic so far into straight comedy. In a lot of ways, True Lies is the ultimate ’90s action film, while somehow working as a terrific parody of the genre and cinematic era in general. It’s hard to tell if the movie builds toward the utterly ludicrous final showdown as a way of satirizing the bombastic action movies of the day and before, or if it just wanted to try and top them all. Amazingly, it works in either fashion, from certain points of view.

Schwarzenegger’s recent forays into full-on comedy with the likes of Kindergarten Cop and Twins served him well playing secret-agent-disguised-as-computer-salesman (albeit a super jacked one) Harry Tasker. His James Bond/Rambo operative gets off plenty of jokes and light-touch comic moments, amidst the daring and derring-do, opposite great comedy turns by Tom Arnold and Grant Heslov as his team members, Jamie Lee Curtis as his unsuspecting wife, and especially the late, great Extreme, Bill Paxton, as the oily car salesman gaslighting as a secret agent himself. When this middle section of the film starts, it feels like a wild left turn in the plot – up until then, we are just following a fun but routine spy-centric plot about smuggled weapons and Tia Carrere’s revealing eveningwear – but quickly resources are diverted, attention is shifted, and Paxton’s sleezy Simon is full center. While this whole sequence does open the door for all the wacky complications that lead to the film’s kidnap escaping/nuclear explosion/helicopter-limo rescue/Harrier jet-skyscraper third act, it also is the true genius stroke of the film, even if it only tangentially matters to the story. Without Simon trying to seduce Helen, you’d have an undoubtedly fun but pretty standard Schwarzenegger romp. Forever MVP the Extreme! Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #110 – My Favorite Nude Biker Bar Contretemps

Today! Because I need your clothes, your boots and your motorcycle –

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Directed by James Cameron (x3)

Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (x2), Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick (x2), Edward Furlong, Joe Morton, S. Epatha Merkerson, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein (x3), Xander Berkeley (x2), Leslie Hamilton Gearren, Don Lake (x2), Dean Norris (x2), Castulo Guerra

Look, if this was a list of the Awesomest Movies, Terminator 2 would be way higher. Hell, it might be #1. This movie is awesome across the board. Schwarzenegger was just hitting the awesome peak of his career, following his string of rote ’80s musclebound shoot-’em-ups, Robert Patrick makes for an even awesomer terminator than we got in the prequel, 1984’s The Terminator, Linda Hamilton is crazy awesome in her unhinged return as Sarah Conner, there are bigger explosions, bigger chases, cooler effects, and no matter what the casting of Edward Furlong did in attempts to dampen the awesomeness, it didn’t work. This is all mind-blowingly awesome.

So awesome!

You know, I’m just gonna say it – it’s too awesome. There’s too much greatness packed into this movie – from the near constant stakes and wild action sequences, to the phenomenal ending in the goddamn smelting factory or wherever. This was the ultimate R-rated summer blockbuster, and without question the last good movie in this seemingly endless series. We don’t need any more of these movies! Hang on a minute – there’s another Terminator in 2019?! I just ran across this. Was it any good? Couldn’t be, right? None of them are good. And it all comes back to Terminator 2 being too damn awesome. How were they going to top this? By all appearances, they haven’t even tried! And now this nonsense strategy where you pick a film from the series to halt the timeline at and throw a new sequel in, à la Halloween and Superman Returns and whatnot. Stop this lazy nonsense.

Unless you’re bringing back the awesomeness of Robert Patrick, you’re fucked

I remember getting this movie on VHS, and being informed by numerous classmates that this received their highest recommendation, which – as we seemed to say a lot back then – “It’s the best movie ever the first time you see it.” The first time you see it was a key qualifier to a lot of movies for some reason. Like, me still being a huge Batman fan in ’91, the biggest knock from everyone around me was that it was great the first time, but then what? It gets predictable and dull? And the older you get, did this phenomenon go away? I haven’t heard anyone say this about any movie since like ’93, so it must’ve dried up. Anyway, remember the first time you saw Terminator 2? It’s still that awesome. It’s totally holding up.

Even the credits were awesome!

So why isn’t the Awesomest Thing Ever On-Screen higher on this list, you might ask? I mean, #110 is nothing to sneeze at, but I’m lofting a ton of praise at this thing. Well…I guess it’s a little long, and it is pretty grim for pretty long stretches, so while it’s awesome it’s rarely feel-good awesome, over those two-and-a-half hours. But, on the other hand, I haven’t seen the regular length version of this movie in a long time – those director’s cuts/ultimate edition whatevers are super long – so maybe that’s on me. But also, you know, Edward Furlong – that kid is plenty annoying. And, I mean, the character is kinda annoying, so it’s not entirely Furlong’s fault, I’m sure, but still – he grows up to be the savior of mankind? Edward Furlong? Pretty hard to swallow. James Cameron is not exactly an actor’s director, by all indications, and I think Furlong just needed some guidance.

He was pretty solid in American History X, in all fairness

In addition to being the top film at the box office in 1991, Terminator 2 also won the second most Oscars that year – four (Sound, Visual Effects, Sound Effects Editing, and Makeup) in six nominations (also Cinematography and Film Editing), only trailing Silence of the Lambs’ five wins. It was followed by Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines in 2003 (woof), Terminator: Salvation in 2009 (booooring), and Terminator: Genisys in 2015 (a mishmash of ludicrous nonsense, but not nearly as bad as everyone makes out). Allegedly the ’08-’09 FOX series The Sarah Conner Chronicles starring future Cersei Lannister Lena Headey was pretty good, even if it only ran two seasons, but I’ll admit I didn’t watch a minute. And now there’s another Terminator apparently – it’s directed by the guy who did Deadpool, so maybe? I’m not getting my hopes up.

Cameron joins the directing Three-Timers, following #222 Aliens and #296 Titanic, and there are a bunch of new Two-Timers acting-wise, but only one Three-Timer – Aliens alum and MVP, and #163 Fear and Loathing’s terrorized maid Jenette Goldstein!

So awesome!

Coming tomorrow! You’re a complex Freudian hallucination having something to do with my mother and I don’t know why you have wings –

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The Set of 400: #222 – My Favorite Game Over, Man

Today! Because mommy always said there were no monsters, no real ones, but there are –

Aliens (1986)

Directed by James Cameron (x2)

Starring Sigourney Weaver (x5), Michael Biehn (x2), Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton (x4), Paul Reiser, Carrie Henn, William Hope, Jenette Goldstein, Al Matthews, Mark Rolston

Oof, look at that poster! I already regret picking that. It doesn’t look like anything! It certainly doesn’t look like something we associate with Aliens. Even if they couldn’t cram a xenomorph on there somewhere, or a Paxton, or a goddamn Newt, you’re telling me that blue globe thing with Sigourney’s rocking ’80s hairdo wouldn’t have sold some tickets? Come on!

The only film in the series to make the list (sorry, Ridley Scott fans!), Aliens is such a huge jump up from the original that it almost verges on that much-talked-about mental disorder I seem to have – where a superior sequel relegates a chronological predecessor to prequel status. This isn’t quite that – Alien, while not on this list, is still a pretty great movie. But it also has completely different aims. Where that film is a relatively slow creeping space horror flick, the James Cameron follow-up is a slam bang bullets and muscles action movie, replete with unlikable, expendable Paul Reisers, more human than human androids, and Paxton delivering great, funny lines with his indelible Paxtonness. And instead of just having a pet cat tagging along for the adventure this time, there’s a grubby human child now! Fun!

And man, is that kid grubby!

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The Set of 400: #296 – My Favorite Heart of the Ocean

Today! Because I’d rather be his whore than your wife –

Titanic (1997)

Directed by James Cameron

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio (x2), Kate Winslet, Billy Zane (x3), Bill Paxton (x2), Kathy Bates (x2), Frances Fisher, David Warner, Bernard Hill, Victor Garber (x2), Gloria Stuart, Suzy Amis, Danny Nucci, Ioan Gruffudd, Jonny Phillips, Ewan Stewart, Bernard Fox, Jason Barry

First off, let me begin by saying SHUT UP. I am fully aware of the awesome shortcomings of this film. The dialogue is often atrocious, some of the poor actors forced to play ethic stereotypes get completely mangled in the gears of this film (we forever honor you, Fabrizio!), and the plot – the driving romantic engine of the film – is the most hackneyed, retread, unimaginative piffle they could’ve lit upon. I get all of that. It’s way too long – like, a good forty to fifty minutes too long – and in retrospect can be viewed as pretentiously so, given everything connected to this film that was to follow – Oscar speeches, no follow-up Cameron film for a dozen years, etc.

Ugh, this guy

All that being said, people who regularly slam this movie – then and now – are you seriously telling me you don’t think the second half of Titanic is an amazing movie? I know, it’s half a movie, and you’ve had to slog through nearly two hours of set dressing and nonsense to get there, but once they hit that iceberg straight until that old lady is tossing her baubles overboard, it is as impressive a piece of moviemaking as exists. Continue reading

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