DVD Review: Schwarzenegger Collector’s Set: ‘Terminator 2,’ ‘Red Heat,’ ‘Total Recall’ & ‘The Running Man’
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Schwarzenegger Collector’s Set
Directors: Walter Hill, Paul Michael Glaser, James Cameron, Paul Verhoeven
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Belushi, Laurence Fishburne, Peter Boyle, Maria Conchita Alonso, Jim Brown, Jesse Ventura, Richard Dawson, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick
Lionsgate Home Video

You could make a case for Arnold Schwarzenegger as the greatest action movie superstars of all time. This is a case you would win every single time, because there is no one that tops this man when it comes to the genre. Regardless of what you think of him as a Governor, there is no arguing that his presence in movies has been missed for some years now; and thus, we retreat back to his best works to get our Schwarzenegger fix.

On the bright side, there’s sets like this one being released from time-to-time to help your binging needs. This particular set includes Red Heat, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Running Man, and Total Recall.

When I got the chance to review this new four-movie collector’s set of Schwarzenegger flicks, I jumped at the chance for a couple of reasons: One was because I shockingly had not seen two of them; and also because I even-more shockingly didn’t own any of them.

There’s obviously a good chance that you’ve seen all of the movies reviewed here and know whether you would jump all over this set or pass it by. For this, think of these reviews as more of a recap and my own personal opinion of these intense flicks that likely hold a great deal of nostalgia for many of us.

Red Heat

Surprisingly, this four-movie collection contained two movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger that I had not yet seen; Red Heat was one of them.

The movie follows Schwarzenegger as Ivan Danko, a Soviet cop whose partner is killed on duty. The man who kills his partner runs off to America, but is soon arrested for a minor offense. When Russia learns of this, they send Danko to pick him up, but unfortunately it becomes much more of a challenge than expected after Art Ridzic’s (Jim Belushi) partner is also killed and the suspect escapes once again. This causes the stiff, serious Soviet, Danko, and the sarcastic, out-of-shape Ridzic to put aside their odd-couple differences and work together to put this guy away for good.

Having watched this for the first time twenty-one years after it came out, I expected to not be the biggest fan of the movie, and sadly this was the case as Red Heat was my least-favorite of these particular four films. While it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen and it still holds up all right today, it honestly just bore me quite a bit. The typical humor that an ’80s buddy cop movie should have wasn’t there and most dialogue was really stiff and hard to swallow…EVEN in the case of Danko, who was supposed to be stiff.

On the brighter side of things, they did make movies differently in the ’80s, so even the not-so-good flicks are still bearable on most levels. Again, I watched this for the first time, so my opinion is not so shocking here. Most people who would be looking at this collection will have seen these movies and probably even enjoyed Red Heat for the most part.

Special Features

Red Heat has a few specials features on it. One is a look at the challenges of making the movie; another is a feature on the stunts done in the movie; and also an interview with Ed O’Ross. Aside from that, you’ll find the typical making of special, TV spots, and trailers.

The Running Man

The Running Man was the other Schwarzenegger movie that I had not seen before this collection, and as such, I again expected to dislike it like Red Heat above. I was actually pretty shocked to find myself enjoying it a great deal.

The movie, which is loosely based on the Stephen King (Richard Bachman) novel, takes place in the year 2019, where the most popular TV show, called “Running Man,” takes hardened criminals and pits them against massive warriors in a huge battle arena, forcing them to fight and survive. If they find away to live, they are supposedly released as free men. During this time period, Ben Richards (Schwarzenegger) is being kept at a work camp doing hard labor after he was framed for the massacre of innocent civilians. He and some co-prisoners make a daring escape, but Richards is eventually tracked down and re-captured, which leads to his selection as the perfect new contestant on Running Man. Little did the producers, Stalkers, and the show’s evil head man and host Damon Killian (Richard Dawson) know, wasn’t about to go down that easy, and he begins dismantling the production piece-by-piece, Stalker-by-Stalker.

The Running Man was pretty amazing to watch right now in the year 2009. It creates a future world where the economy has completely crashed and chaos is upon us. The future and technologies shown were surprisingly accurate to our own, even down to things like voice-activated appliances and electronics. Even more so, it displays our unspoken blood-thirst as humans while parodying our addiction to reality television. I don’t know about you, but pulling off a parody of us twenty-two years before our time exists in reality is pretty damn impressive.

Don’t get me wrong here, either…this isn’t a great movie or anything. There is unbelievable amounts of cheesiness and ultra-painful one-liners; it really fits its ’80s mold. But because of the concept and how accurately it depicts our present day, you just can’t help but enjoy every second of this semi-anarchic dystopian gem.

Special Features

Definitely some special features worth taking a peek at on this disc. The two big ones are ones that make you think and make you even scared. The first is a feature on our privacy after 9/11 as human beings in this highly-technological day in age where everything you do and say could possibly be being recorded or listened to. The other special feature is perfect for the premise of the movie. It looks at reality television, our infatuation with it, and its impact on us. There’s also a look at the various Stalkers and some commentary tracks.

Total Recall

Ah, Total Recall. A movie that could indeed be one of the best, more impeccably demented science fiction films of our time. One of many films of the same make-up that forces you to mention director Paul Verhoeven in the same category with even James Cameron and Ridley Scott.

If there’s ever a way to immediately slap your viewers into full attention, you do it by opening your movie with a man on Mars, who falls, slams his space helmet’s face-shield on a rock, and dies a horrifying death from the planet’s lack of air and intense pressure. When this man wakes up from this dream, we discover that his name is Douglas Quaid (Schwarzenegger), and he’s had this dream many times. It’s the year 2084, and one of the prime vacation destinations is to not go anywhere at all — you now have the option of have an entire vacation worth of memories however you wish to experience them implanted into your memory. You stay safe, you get to relax, and all the things you could never do before are now possible. Douglas Quaid decides it’s time to take one of these vacations to Mars and try and find out why he is having these dreams, even after being warned that they can go very wrong. Half way through the procedure, something does indeed go wrong, and Douglas Quaid has a violent outburst, which is discovered happened because he already has real memories that were previously erased from him. This re-awakening sets him off on a mission to discover who he really is and what he has to do with Mars.

The first time that I saw Total Recall was around the time that it came out on VHS on Thanksgiving Day. Not the very best time to view this movie for the first time, but it has always stuck with me. Watching it again now only offered up an entirely new appreciation for it, for one, because it made so much more sense, and of course because who doesn’t appreciate a raw, graphic science fiction world. Don’t forget, this movie actually initially got the elusive X-rating back in the day. Where The Running Man offered up a fairly accurate depiction of our future, this goes decades further and creates an incredibly dark and scary future world where Mars is inhabited and air there will cost you. It’s the kind of movie where you try putting the puzzle pieces together as it moves along, but you’re not sure what to believe, or what’s actually happening.

While the movie and story are perfectly acceptable on their own, the real prize in watching this movie is the technical elements. The creepy-ass Johnny Cabs, the makeup work on the mutants, the scales on the red planet, and of course, the man himself: Kuatu! In the movie, and especially in the special features, you are reminded once again of how much more incredible it is in movies to see the work they put into it, as opposed to just computerizing it all. This is ironic considering the X-ray machine in Total Recall was one of the first bits of computer animation used in a film, but still, the work that went into this world is really fantastic and easy to appreciate.

One thing I hate in movies is when something is left unanswered — I can understand some people’s enjoyment in using their own imagination, but I am not one of those people — I’m someone who sits down to watch a movie to be told a story and whisked off to another world, not to be offered various scenarios and options with which to create my own wretched and miss-shaped theories. In Total Recall‘s case, the movie ends, but everyone is left wondering if that was that, or if it was indeed all just a fake, implanted memory. On most occasions, I would be furious at not knowing, but with this movie, it seems to work either way, no problems at all. I’ve always just run with it being as we saw it with none of that “What if…” crap, but it’s definitely not big enough to damage anything here, which is a big plus.

Special Features

For Total Recall, there’s a lot of features on the visual effects of the movie. The main feature is an in-depth look at the world that they created, the amazing physical and visual effects that they created, and how budgets made it all very difficult. Other features include the chance to go on your very own Rekall Virtual Vacation to a desert, a tropical island, or yes, even Mars! On top of all of that, there’s the TV spots and trailers, concept art and photo galleries, and a commentary track with director Paul Verhoeven and star Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day

What does one even say about Terminator 2: Judgment Day? This is a movie that is one of the most loved and respected science fiction movies of all time, as well as one of the most important technical accomplishments in filmmaking history. Thankfully, this was also a special edition of the film with a few new scenes added into it that I had not yet seen. I obviously prefer the theatrical version for the most part, but it was very cool to see these new scenes.

The movie follows a ten-year old John Connor (Edward Furlong), the supposed future leader of the fight against the machines decades later. As in the original The Terminator, a T-800 model (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent back once again; only this time, instead of trying to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the machine is there to protect John Connor. While that’s the good news, the bad news is that he has to try and protect him from the newest and most dangerous Terminator model: the T-1000 (Robert Patrick), a liquid metal being that can take the shape of humans and anything else its size, as well as form devastating metal weaponry of its own body. After a few close calls, the boy Connor and his dangerous-yet-obedient protector set off to break Sarah Connor out of a mental institution and find a way to destroy the currently in-development Terminator designs, thus destroying the death and destruction they’re to cause on Judgment Day.

When I first saw this movie as an eleven-year old kid, it was just a scary and awesome movie. As I’ve aged, it’s still that kick-ass movie, but it’s developed into so much more, as well. The action sequences of futuristic battles and modern day high-speed chases are brilliant little bursts of adrenaline while the promise of a battle between these two unstoppable killing machines makes the cat and mouse chase all the more exciting. It still has those cheesy one-liners that most Schwarzenegger flicks are destined to have, but they work a lot better coming out of an artificial life form.

At my current age, the very best thing about this movie is its tones. As soon as the movie begins, this larger-than-life tone just takes the whole thing over and makes this movie so very special. The way that the machines move forward over an ocean of human bones, or the effortless way that the T-1000 uses and dispatches of people with an ice-cold glare and without a one single thought. All of that set to one of the most mechanical and ultra-haunting musical scores ever created — this creates a tone that many movies have striven to attain, and have all failed miserably. Unfortunately, in this world, they’re not all James Cameron.

When Terminator 2: Judgment Day was made, computer graphics were just starting out. The first time they were used was in the above-reviewed Total Recall for the x-ray machines. Next came T2 and the T-1000. This human form of liquid metal was the first really amazing feat in computer animated special effects, and though we’ve come so far since then, these effects still work perfectly fine in this 1992 film. This is another testament to Cameron as a filmmaker and his process for using the effects intelligently. He uses the computer animations for just the parts that require it, and the rest went to the late, great effects wizard himself: Stan Winston. This work is the second greatest thing about the movie to me personally, after its perfect tone. This work is also touched on greatly in one of the best DVD special features I’ve ever seen, which can be read about below.

Special Features

Terminator 2: Judgment Day has a ton of wonderful special features including commentary with James Cameron. First and foremost, there’s a version of the movie with set markers that show up while watching. When these markers show up, you click them and a little feature plays explaining something relevant to the scene. This version of the film is also over-flowing with little pop-up fun facts about each scene. It’s like an endless supply of information always pouring out to you.

As for standalone features, there’s one that shows life on the set of the movie and then another which I consider to be the best special feature I’ve ever seen.

The feature that really blew me away was entitled “No Feat But What We Make It.” This feature is basically a discussion among James Cameron and many others in the industry about digital effects in cinema and how they’ve grown to a point where they’re used too much to an almost irresponsible point. It’s really an insightful feature that makes you think hard about how things have evolved.

Lastly, you can put your disc into your DVD-ROM and find even more features like an HD version of the movie, a way to morph yourself into a Terminator, and design your own machine.

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