It’s always interesting watching old sci-fi movies and seeing how quickly they imagined we’d balls everything up. George Orwell thought that by 1984 we’d be living under a totalitarian regime, constantly observed. John Carpenter went for 1997 as the year by which New York had become a prison colony. Of course, some of the joy watching them now is knowing they got it wrong.
And unless Donald Trump really cocks things up, The Running Man will join that list of films set in a future time we’ve now lived through. In 1987 they thought we’d really make a hash of things and live in a dystopian hell where the vicious government keeps the populace brainwashed with violence and glamour on telly.
The film is based on a book by Stephen King (writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman) and with all due respect to King, is far more entertaining, mainly because it was adapted to be a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger who was at the height of his powers. This takes the bleak and grim novel and revamps it as an ’80s action movie.
Arnie plays, Ben Richards, a police pilot framed for the killing of unarmed civilians, despite the fact he was the one who objected and refused to follow his orders. Locked up on a working prison where they convicts are forced to wear exploding collars that stop them from leaving boundaries. I saw this movie as a kid, and the exploding collars are the thing that stuck with me the most.
He engineers an escape with rebellion members Laughlin and Weiss (Yaphet Kotto and Marvin J. McIntyre, respectively). They want to bring down the government and expose the brainwashing, while Richards wants to get the hell out of town and go into hiding. He plans to get his brother to help him but when he gets to his apartment finds that he has been taken for “reeducation” and that a new tenant is living there, musician Amber (Maria Conchita Alonso). Richards uses her to attempt to flee the country, but she blows his cover and he is arrested.
As a result he meets Richard Dawson’s Killian, the smarmy game show host who runs The Running Man, the world’s most popular TV show. Dawson is a fantastic villain, arrogant, scheming and utterly without compassion, all hidden behind a friendly, polished public image. A game show host himself, he captures the faux sincerity and interest, before revealing a stone cold side away from the cameras.
Also, in a brilliant moment he responds to Arnie’s trademark “I’ll be back” line with a simple “Only in a rerun”.
Killian wants Richards for the show in order to boost stagnant ratings. The show involves criminals having to run through a series of challenges, with the promise of a blissful tropical paradise should they succeed. Stopping them are the colourful, flamboyant and vicious Stalkers, who are a combination of ITV’s Gladiators and the OTT wrestling heels of the ’80s.
The Stalkers are good value, each with their own gimmick. There’s Jim Brown wielding a flamethrower as Fireball, an electric shooting opera singer named Dynamo (Erland Van Lidth De Jeude), Sub Zero (Professor Toru Tanaka) who wields an ice hockey stick fitted with blades and chainsaw wielding Buzzsaw (Gus Rethwisch).
Each operates in a different section and attack Richards, Weiss and Laughlin. Amber is also thrown in with them as she starts to realize that the government has lied about things and is busted snooping.
Of course, every Stalker fails and Arnie dispatches them in short order. Each time with a quip ready to go- “Here’s your Sub Zero, now plain zero” and, having cut Buzzsaw in half, “he had to split”.
Killian becomes increasingly frustrated, and the crowd after initial horror begin rooting for Richards. Killian wants to send in Captain Freedom, the retired all time champ played by Jesse “The Body” Ventura, but he refuses.
The action is fast and well orchestrated, with a simple, ’80s bloodiness reliant on practical effects which sees Arnie hack, smash and incinerate his pursuers. Arnie can do this in his sleep, but his odd, unique charisma carries him through and it’s an interesting look at how audiences can be bloodthirsty and fickle.
Arnie’s physical appearance is necessary here, his strength is why he’s chosen as a contender and against better armed enemies it’s ingenuity and brute force that hand him the wins. As a character, Richards isn’t the most developed and we’re expected to just accept him as a hero because he refuses to kill innocents, is fleetingly sad about his brother and tries to protect others, but at the same time he’s rather cold blooded, and physically violent towards Amber when they initially meet. Of course, we root for him because he’s Arnie, which is a clear example of star power.
The ending, where the truth is revealed to the audience suggests things may be about to change. But it’s an ambiguous ending, and while Richards is free and cleared, it seems unlikely that the whole system will come crashing down.
In taking a decent premise but injecting the drama and visuals of wrestling and game shows, the filmmakers take King’s decent idea and transform it into something far more engaging and believable. This seems more like a show people would get sucked into than the idea from the book, where they merely evade capture in the real world.
By upping the cheesiness around the spectacle, they actually make it feel more real. That people will swallow and enjoy blood and mayhem if it’s packaged the right way.
One of Arnie’s best films and hugely entertaining.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
2AM. Saturday morning.
I have only a few hours until I have to get up for work, but I’m wide awake. And sleep isn’t going to come easily.
Why aren’t I asleep?
Because I’ve just had a nightmare.
Yes, like a little kid, a bad dream has jolted me awake and now I’m lying in the dark, every noise transformed into something ominous by fear.
The dream started off well enough, with me as a cowboy. There was a shoot out between James Stewart and Audie Murphy, which left both dead. And then undead Audie got to his feet. Yes, Walking Dead style, it didn’t take a bite, but I blame George A. Romero as I’d been thinking about his movies a lot in the last week and eager to watch Dawn of the Dead again. Perhaps this was my subconscious’ tribute to the director?
I managed to cuff Jimmy before he revived, but Audie bit another person. Having dropped the most decorated zombie in Hollywood, I saw the other zombie pursuing my cat, Midnight. Out of bullets (isn’t that always the way?), I hastily ran and shoved the zombie into a side room and grabbed Midnight.
Unfortunately the living dead opened the door and seized me from behind. It went to bite my neck.
At this point I awoke, but still gripped by the fading terror of the nightmare, I actually awoke in the process of throwing my elbow in defence.
Luckily the biter had come from the right and I was elbowing thin air. On the left and I would have clocked MWF in the face and probably sporting a shiner. And I suspect that her coworkers would have heard “my boyfriend elbowed me in the face while asleep because of a nightmare” and assumed it was a flimsy excuse, a slightly more inventive version of “I walked into a door”.
Luckily, Pumpkin, who in the dream was sensible enough to avoid the walkers, jumped into the bed and huddled in by my arm. Stroking him calmed me down and eventually I fell back asleep. And this time, without any nightmares.
Thank the gods for cats.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
This book was a bit of a pain to track down, for some reason while most of McBain’s 87th Precinct books are easy to find on Amazon, this one wasn’t and I had to find a second hand omnibus with it in. Thankfully, it was worth the effort.
While it’s shorter than a lot of the other adventures in the series this actually works in the story’s favour. The central crime is rather simple, a man walks into a bookshop and opens fire, killing four people. One of the victims turns out to be closely connected to one of the 87th Precinct’s detectives.
It’s this that drives much of the book, with the personal aspect colouring the approach towards the case and impacting on the characters in different ways. All of this is done with McBain’s usual skill of charcterisation and dialogue.
As they dig into the life and death of one of their own’s loved ones they find skeletons in the closet. Most interesting is the fact it leads them to an area where morality and the law don’t match up. It’s the first time I can remember that the men of the 87th question the laws they have to enforce.
The book rattles along at a decent pace and while the crime at the heart isn’t the most nuanced, McBain writes cleverly, dropping in the clues along the way. The reader, or this reader at least, finds themself in the same position as the detectives, so intently focused on the personal connection that it’s not until the end that the other little signs all make sense.
A gripping and engaging read with more emotional clout than some of the other novels in the series.
Verdict: Another sensational book in the series, with McBain writing a story that unfolds quickly but intelligently. Hooked me in from start to finish. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Maybe it’s no surprise that as a cat person a movie dedicated “to dogs everywhere” didn’t really float my boat as a kid. In fact I grew up in a house that had, and loved, cats, so a film where the only felines are villains was unlikely to go down well.
Plot wise it’s pretty simple, fancy uptown dog Lady (Barbara Luddy) is feeling threatened by her owners’ new baby. She also meets Tramp (Larry Roberts), a charming stray from the wrong side of the tracks. They get into a variety of scrapes and Lady learns despite his carefree, roguish reputation Tramp is actually a good dog. After they rescue the baby from a rat Tramp accepts a place within the family and settles down with Lady.
It’s a rather sweet tale and it’s helped by a good supporting cast and some good moments. These include a rather dark sequence at the dog pound which is like a doggy death row and set’s up what for me is the film’s best song, the bluesy “He’s a Tramp” performed by Peggy Lee’s Peg.
Watching it back I realised that the story with Lady and Tramp rescuing the baby only to be blamed for the attack is similar to the Welsh legend of Gelert.
It’s not the strongest Disney movie, but it has a few high points contained within a sweet and charming story.
Disney Score: 7/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
Tobey Maguire was a good Peter Parker. Andrew Garfield was a good Spider-Man. Tom Holland is the guy who nails both halves of the character.
For starters, Holland looks closer to an awkward teenager and is just wonderfully charming as he stumbles and bumbles his way through his teenage life. This charm and awkwardness transfers across when he dons the mask, the body language still capturing the gawky youth and attempts to be cool. Also the voice work captures the enthusiastic way Spidey goes into action.
This movie gets one of the things I loved about the character of Spider-Man. He enjoyed being a hero. Sure, there was drama and tension, but when he got up there swinging, he was having a ball. The same is true for large parts of this film, Spider-Man throws himself into crime fighting, even for minor offences with boundless enthusiasm. Even when things get tough there’s still a sense that he wants to be a hero, and that he likes being in the tights. It messes with his day-to-day life, but there’s no stopping him, and there’s no brooding.
There is frustration, having helped out in Civil War Peter hopes to become an Avenger and work closely with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), but finds himself sidelined. Stark tells him to stay close to the ground, and that he’s not ready.
Some criticised the movie for including Stark, but I like it. It makes sense that after recruiting Peter he would keep tabs on him, and Tony’s attempts to mentor him show how the character continues to evolve from the playboy at the start of the first Iron Man movie. RDJ is excellent as ever, and his affection and concern for Peter is pitched just right. There’s a sense that he respects Peter despite his youth and sees his potential to be great, evidenced when he tells Peter that he wants the young hero to be better than him.
Eager to prove himself Peter decides to go it alone aftee discovering someone is selling hi-tech weapons. This leads him against Adrian Toomes AKA the Vulture (Michael Keaton), who turned to crime having been thrown off the salvage contract after the events of The Avengers leaving him in financial difficulties. He and his crew use the alien tech they grabbed to make weapons and to steal more, leading them to cross paths with Spidey, who persists after Iron Man warns him off.
Michael Keaton’s performance and the changes to Vulture’s backstory are fantastic and make what I’ve always viewed as a lacklustre villain more interesting. Not only does his origin tie in with the rest of the MCU and show the fallout of previous events, it makes him a more relatable and believable character. All his crime is driven by his need to provide for his family, and Keaton captures a sense of a man driven to extremes to keep his head above water. Not that he isn’t great at the basic villain stuff, with him giving the character an intimidating steeliness which as the film continues to impress and increase. Not an utter villain, but with a ruthlessness that makes him a decent threat.
The plot unfolds at a cracking pace, the film fizzing along so that the action and laughs flow constantly, but with enough character stuff to mean you genuinely care, largely due to Holland’s work.
While there are some MCU similarities this film has its own tone, being closer in tone to a teen comedy at times, just with superheroics thrown in, there’s a nod to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and that’s kind of the vibe here. It helps that the dialogue is genuinely funny and some of Peter’s schoolmates are wonderful.
Best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) is a scene stealing character, a geeky fanboy who is overjoyed at discovering his best friend is a superhero and who pesters Peter with questions. It’s a charming and funny performance, and Ned provides a lot of humour as well as providing Peter with a confidante.
Also worth mentions are Jon Favreau returning as Happy Hogan, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May and a delightful performance from Zendaya as Michelle, Peter’s sarcastic, offbeat classmate.
The whole movie clicked for me, managing to balance peril and humour. It felt like the closest to the Spider-Man from the books and fits well with the MCU by adding a slightly smaller scale. Peter is the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man, and the bigger more cosmic threats can be left to the other characters.
I was won over by Holland in his brief appearance in Civil War and this builds on this. For me this is up there with the best of the MCU movies and I hope Sony continue their deal with Marvel because this is how to do Spidey.
Verdict: An entertaining ride from start to finish this has bags of charm and action. Simply magnificent. Holland IS the character. 9/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
…the general public think you are a horrible person but your family are proud of you or your family think you’re a horrible person but the public is very proud of you?
I’d find it a lot easier living with the public hating me than my family doing so. I deal with my loved ones more often and I think knowing that they were proud of me would mean a lot more to me than the feelings of complete strangers.
I mean, if you’re not invited to family events because they think you’re a bellend, it doesn’t really matter that the man in the street is proud of you.
….everything you eat is too salty or not salty enough regardless of how much salt you add?
Not salty enough. I’m not a fan of really salty things, and surely that would be annoying anyway?
…have political power but be relatively poor or ridiculously wealthy with no political power?
This is a tough one. While power would be pretty cool, and you wouldn’t need much cash if you were top of the pile, I can definitely see the perks of wealth without power. First of all, you’d be minted, but more importantly you wouldn’t feel shackled by responsibility or anything.
Yup, so definitely cash without power for me.
…compelled to high five everyone you meet or compelled to wedgy everyone you meet who’s wearing a green shirt?
High five everyone. You’d look like a weirdo, but at least not a mean one. And I wouldn’t want to get my head kicked on because I had to wedgie the entire Irish rugby team.
…talk to land animals, animals that fly or animals that live underwater?
Land animals. You encounter them more and it’d be quite cool to have a chat with elephants and stuff. I can’t imagine whales are that interesting, and birds are probably too flighty. BOOM BOOM!
…have a bottomless box of Lego or a bottomless tank of gas?
At the moment I don’t drive, so Lego. But when I learn to drive, obviously petrol.
…everyone have to wear identical silver jump suits or if two people wear the same thing they have to fight to the death?
I like the retro futuristic vibe of the jump suits and it seems a lot fairer than making people die for matching.
Any thoughts? You know what to do.
Having really enjoyed the third part of the Adrian’s Undead Diary series I added this to my Kindle and couldn’t resist cracking on with the fourth instalment.
With new allies and fresh sources of supplies, life should be good for Adrian and his little group of survivors, zombies aside. However, the undead are acting strangely and there are a few new faces in town who he can’t trust yet.
Philbrook does a great job of building and developing his undead apocalypse more and more with every book. Having introduced a supernatural background in part three it lends events here a new dimension of creepiness and raises questions for the reader and our narrator. What has raised the dead and why?
We get glimpses of life elsewhere, a group of besieged soldiers in the UK, a flashback to two dimwitted stoners as the world went to hell. There’s also a crazed loner, who revels in the apocalypse, selfishly and callously surviving, his ranting becoming increasingly unhinged and adding a fresh tension when his house is mentioned as a potential target for Adrian and his scavenging friends.
With winter coming to an end, Adrian faces fresh challenges and with human survivors returning to the town must wrestle with whether his scavenging and looting is defensible.
A cracking read with some unsettling touches and some dark, crude humour, this series continues to be a treat.
Verdict: Philbrook expands his universe and also finds new ways to keep the story fresh, creating an uneasy feeling and a gripping story. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.
I don’t know why but this wasn’t one of the Disney flicks that I liked a lot as a kid, which doesn’t make sense as it has pirates, Native Americans, sword fights and flying, all of which would have won me over.
I think the problem is that even as a kid the main character kinda annoyed me. Peter’s a self centred braggart and for me the idea of never growing up held no appeal. As a kid you can’t do a bunch of stuff which adults can, I wanted to be a grown up. It was only years later that I find myself wishing I could stay away from adult responsibility. I must have seen it as a kid but it never wowed me.
Watching it as an adult, Peter (Bobby Driscoll) still irritates me, but I think that might be the point? That growing up is kinda important and staying as a child would be daft?
There’s another aspect of this that I don’t think I picked up with, in that I actually feel sorry for Captain Hook (Hans Conried). I mean, sure, he’s a villain and he tries to make them walk the plank, but the poor dude lost his hand and is now a frazzled mess, reduced to a jibbering wreck whenever the crocodile that swallowed his hand is nearby.
Incidentally, this is one of my favourite parts of the film, the way the ticking arrives and the croc’s eyes move with each sound. It’s wonderfully done, and the croc is shown to be quite a malicious beastie, gleefully awaiting Hook to fall into his jaws.
Back to Hook, he’s actually quite a good villain, with a clear motivation and some smart plans (he plays Tinkerbell like a fiddle), and there’s quite a lot of humour from the inept crew he is surrounded by.
This film actually made me laugh quite a few times, and there are some very funny moments and the action is quite good too. The plot moves along at a decent pace that just about covers up the flaws.
The flaws are numerous, with Peter’s obnoxious nature being just one- almost all the female characters are shown at varying times to be either stupid, jealous or vindictive. Wendy, Tinkerbell and the mermaids all seem besotted with Pete, and react badly when he shows interest in someone else.
And the representation of the Indians on the island is horrible to watch. All the braves have giant noses and deep red skins, talking like cliches. You may say it was a different time, but watching it in this time it’s not pleasant.
One thing I had forgotten was just how angry and sassy Tinkerbell was. In the more recent films featuring the character she’s shown as a heroic, nice character but here she’s quite nasty. She’s madly jealous of Wendy and Peter’s interest in her, to the extent that she tries to kill the poor girl and rats out the Lost Boys’ hideout to Hook. I have to say she’s one of the more memorable characters thanks in part to the great animation which captures her mannerisms and quickly shifting moods.
When it works, this is great fun, and the times it stumbles are fairly brief, and you can ignore most of them if you go with the movie.
It’s a fun adventure story but the ending baffles me. Was it all a dream? If yes, then how did Wendy’s dad have the same dream? If it wasn’t a dream does that mean he was a Lost Boy who chose to leave? It makes no sense!
Disney Score: 6/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.
Been working night shifts this week and my Kindle has been useful in passing the time. Particularly the Kindle Singles, quick short books which are usually easy to read and pass the time easily.
I kicked off with some fiction in Consuelo Saah Baehr’s Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years, a pretty decent read which details the life of a older woman going through divorce and trying to sort out her life. Written in the first person and in an almost stream of consciousness manner, this is filled with little bursts of insight and dark humour, but the short nature means there’s no real story and a hazy ending. I guess that reflects real life, but doesn’t make a satisfying read.
Following this I switched to nonfiction with Comic Con Strikes Again! by Douglas Wolk. As a geeky guy I’ve always wanted to attend Comic Con in San Diego but this book dampened my enthusiasm.
Wolk captures a chaotic, corporate event which seems like a lot of faff and mainly involving queues. Now, I’m British and comfortable in a queue, but it seems annoying. Part of me still wants to go, but not as much as I did before.
Wolk’s writing isn’t overly jaded, but there is a cynical edge as he describes the weekend’s events and the changing culture around the con. It’s an interesting insight and a nice shapshot of how it all works.
And last of all another nonfiction read in Crazy Stupid Money by Rachel Shukert. A deeply personal piece it details the stress the writer’s marriage falls under when her husband stops working and she becomes the breadwinner.
Exacerbated by her own anxiety ans issues with money, the situation quickly turns toxic with arguments leading to neighbours calling the police and the couple on the brink of divorce. Painfully honest Shukert doesn’t shift blame, owning up to her own mistakes and tresspasses. It’s a fascinating and emotional read, helped by her skilled, unshowy writing and openness.
It also provides a few interesting points on privilege, gender roles and our society’s odd view of money, as something not to be discussed.
Thinner Thighs in Thirty Years- Well written and entertaining enough it feels too brief and fails to give the reader a proper ending. 6/10.
Comic Con Strikes Again!- Not the most cheerful of reads but an interesting look at how geek culture has changed and how big business is changing the fan experience. 7/10.
Crazy Stupid Money- Raw and honest this is an involving and well written book which sees the author shine an unflinching light on her own troubles. 8/10.
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.