October This ‘n’ That – Vudu Edition




* Vudu has changed their new customer sign up offer. Instead of 10 standard definition movies, you get 5 HDX movies for FREE. Available selections include: Star Trek, Independence Day, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Mona Lisa Smile, Death Race 2, Last Action Hero, Great Day of the Fliers, There’s Something About Mary, and Cold Light of Day.

* Vudu has also extended their in-home disc-to-digital sale. Converting a Blu-Ray to HDX is $2, DVD to HDX is $5, DVD to standard is $2. If you convert 10 or more titles at a time then your total is half-price. It is an excellent, almost painless program.

There are some drawbacks however. As it is in Beta, there are many discs it doesn’t recognize, some it recognizes as incorrect title, and many Blu-rays that it thinks are DVDs. Also to convert Blu-rays, you have to have a Blu-ray drive which is a bit uncommon. Many movies are unavailable for conversion as well, particularly Disney titles.

* On a sad note Panasonic is shutting their plasma TV division. While they made awesome plasma televisions, ultimately I went for a TV half the price. I guess a lot of people did as Pansonic’s TV division lost $913 million last year.

* Netflix has released Super HD to all U.S. markets now, providing you have the bandwidth. I wonder how this will compare to Vudu’s wonderful HDX format.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger aka The Governator was the king of 80’s action movies (also one of my mother-in-law’s favorite stars). He started off in movies with Hercules in New York (aka Hercules Goes Bananas – 1970) but made his first big impression with Pumping Iron (1977), a documentary on bodybuilding. His physique was ideal for portraying Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian (1982) and again in Conan the Destroyer (1984). Arnold has four movies available on Instant Netflix (one of which I covered under my Batman post).

The Terminator

1. The Terminator (1984) – “In the post-apocalyptic future, reigning tyrannical supercomputers teleport a cyborg assassin known as the “Terminator” (Arnold Schwarzenegger) back to 1984 to snuff Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is destined to lead insurgents against 21st century mechanical hegemony. Meanwhile, the human-resistance movement dispatches a lone warrior (Michael Biehn) to safeguard Sarah. Can he stop the virtually indestructible killing machine?”

This is an absolute masterpiece from director James Cameron. The character of the Terminator is ideal for Arnold’s build, accent and somewhat wooden delivery. Look for Cameron regulars Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton (“What is wrong with this picture?”) in small roles.

Last Action Hero

2. Last Action Hero (1993) – “A magic movie ticket gains a young fan (Austin O’Brien) unprecedented access to his favorite action hero (Arnold Schwarzenegger) when he’s sucked out of his seat and onto the big screen. But things really blow up when a notorious movie villain uses the ticket to break into the real world. The all-star supporting cast includes Anthony Quinn, Art Carney, F. Murray Abraham, Mercedes Ruehl, Ian McKellen, Joan Plowright and Tina Turner”

I’m not sure what went wrong here. This should have been a slam-dunk – John McTiernan of Die Hard, Predator, and The Hunt for Red October fame directs from a good story concept. Arnold has good backup from F. Murray Abraham, Anthony Quinn, and Charles Dance though I enjoy Tom Noonan’s performance the most. Much of the movie is fun, there are some hilarious gags but it never quite gels for me – good but flawed. This was my eldest daughter’s favorite movie growing up.


3. Eraser (1996) – “U.S. Marshall John Kruger (Arnold Schwarzenegger) erases the identities of people enrolled in the Witness Protection Program. His current assignment is to protect Lee Cullen (Vanessa L. Williams), who’s uncovered evidence that the weapons manufacturer she works for has been selling to terrorist groups. When Kruger discovers that there’s a corrupt agent (James Caan) within the program, he must guard his own life while trying to protect Lee’s”

Arnold is in fine heroic form here and in James Cameron’s hands, the action set-pieces (a fight in and out of an airplane, a shootout at the New York Zoo) would have made for a classic movie but Chuck Russell doesn’t quite have the right touch. James Cromwell and James Coburn have brief roles but it’s nice to see both of them in anything really and there is a great bulletproof glass gag. The railguns used throughout the movie are quite silly – second only to Runaway’s slow-moving bullets as the most useless movie uberweapon in history.

Batman & Robin

4. Batman & Robin (1997) – “Along with crime-fighting partner Robin (Chris O’Donnell) and new recruit Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone), Batman (George Clooney) battles the dual threat of frosty genius Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and homicidal horticulturalist Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman). Freeze plans to put Gotham City on ice, while Ivy tries to drive a wedge between the dynamic duo. With winking jokes and powerhouse action, Batman & Robin makes a great franchise finale “

Where The Dark Knight represents the zenith of Batman movies, Batman & Robin marks its nadir. Arnold and Uma overact worse than the villains on the old Batman TV series (and that series had Vincent Price, Frank Gorshin and Cesar Romero), they gave Batman a nipple suit, noted thespian Alicia Silverstone gets a B&D outfit, and so on. It seems clear that what Joel Schumacher wanted was a big budget Adam West Batman. It’s a shocking waste of money but it is pretty with lots of explosions and shiny things.