Thursday, September 11, 2014

#DoubleFeature - Cliffhanger/True Lies

Here's two all-time classic mid-1990s action flicks!! Two great films to pair!

It's a competition between SLY and SCHWARZIE in these following reviews:

Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were both at the peak of their career.

At one point it almost seemed whenever a good Schwarzie was out, a Stallone one was never that far around the corner, and vice-versa.

Both action superstars seemed to be in continuous competition and try to one-up the other in the action scene.

Which probably culminated with the epic simultaneous releases of Demolition Man & Last Action Hero. Both films containing several allusion to both stars' career. It's kinda surprising to notice we had to wait over two decades, in 2013, to finally get both actors in the same motion picture, Escape Plan.

Today let's dig into a Arnie and Sly film that actually came apart by a couple month, but still share the same kinda over-the-top action/adventure vibe. Another Renny Harlin classic, and a very epic loud James Cameron film.

Movie: Cliffhanger 
Directed by Renny Harlin 
Release date 1993
Genre Action/adventure film
Country USA

Directed by Die Hard 2, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and Deep Blue director Renny Harlin, a man that has made a name for himself with stylistic action-packed flicks even if he's not much heard from nowadays anymore despite being still very much active, Cliffhanger is an epic action/adventure film.

The film stars Sylvester Stallone, John Lithgow, Michael Rooker, Janine Turner and Rex Linn. Stallone himself wrote the screenplay, based on a story from John Long & Michael France.

Cliffhanger tells the story of a mountain climber/rescue ranger named Gabe Walker (Stallone). During an attempt to help injured mountaineers, an harness broke and a woman fell to her death.

Eight months later, still very much traumatized by what is the biggest failure of his career, Gabe feels guilty about the incident and now wants to leave the area for good. When a distress call from stranded climbers calls him and his ex-partner back to the job. But things get complicated when it all turns out to be fake. 

It's actually a bunch of mercenaries, some thieves and former military, that are set after a suitcase containing a ton of money. After an heist pulled off in mid-air, this plane crashed in the Rocky Mountains and they are now trying to locate it back. 

Then follows an epic action flicked, where our heroes will have to survive not only from these ruthless criminals but also loads of gunfire, explosions, dangerous heights and even an avalanche!

Cliffhanger features some of the most expensive aerial stunts ever put on film (when you think how much films nowadays over-rely on the use of green screen and CGi...). But Harlin managed to het the job effectively done. The film has some pretty impressive shots.

A ton of epic explosions, bridges falling, gunfire. 

It's a loud action movie, no doubt.

The beginning where our protagonist tries to rescue this trapped woman establishes the entire premise of the film and the characters. 

The film has this great perfect sense of height. Without the aid of any modern effect to help the production. And things look and feel real here. Sure, there are tons of clichés of the genre. And the rock-climbing here is not shown in the most realistic portrayal ever on film, but it's pretty impressive nonetheless.

The film features one badass score made by action film score veteran Trevor Jones. As usual Jones managed to bring in his signature cues as well as providing some great memorable themes for the film.

Overall: It's a really enjoyalbe epic action film, highly rewatchable. 

A Must Watch for any Stallone or action film fan. 

The film has some great beautiful scenery thanks to the setting. Making the small town folks the heroes of a story for a change. 

Cliffhanger is mostly fondly remembered to this day thanks to one of the strongest film openings of all time. This iconic scene in the beginning has since become one all-time classic, outliving the movie itself. Referenced and spoofed so many times over the years.. It helps start the adventure with a great sense of terror and anxiety over the fall.

John Lithgow makes a great smart villain. Cliffhanger is easily one of the best classics from the 1990s.

The film proved a huge box office success, despite most people not liking it that much apparently.  The film has received a lot of mixed reception both back then and nowadays. It's rare to see it featured along the other action films of that era these days.

For the last few years there's been talks of a remake - obviously. But thankfully so far these scripts never went much far.

I give it:
2 / 3 Films!

Movie: True Lies 
Directed by James Cameron 
Release date 1994
Genre Action/comedy film
Country USA

Perhaps the least remembered and talked about James Cameron film these days, True Lies is an all-time classic. A perfect flawless example of the best of the action genre back in that decade. 

It's actually an American remake of the 1991 French film La Totale!, which was originally directed by Claude Zidi

Following the success of his now classic Aliens and Terminator 2, just before the director decided to focused on the ocean he loved so much to explore in The Abyss and which would later result in Titanic

This was his last big loud explosive hurrah and foray into the pure action genre! 

True Lies stars Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis in the lead roles, along Tom Arnold, a very different Bill Paxton, the always lovely Tia Carrere a a villain for a change, Art Malik, Grant Heslov, Charlton Heston and a pretty young Eliza Dushku in one of her first roles. 

True Lies turned to be one of the most expensive films ever produced. Specially for 20th Century Fox at the time. It was co-produced by Cameron's own special effects company Digital Domain. With Cameron on both directing and screenwriting duties.

It was the last time Cameron, Schwarzie and composer Brad Fiedel united together on a film.  poroduction. 

The story revolves around this US secret service agent, Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger). Harry leads a double life between his secret missions for the government counter-terrorist task force "Omega Sector" along his partner Albert Gibson aka "Gib" (Tom Arnold), and his family life at home with his wife Helen and daughter Dana. They have no idea what Harry really does, thinking he's only a boring computer salesman for this cover company "Tektel Systems". 

Harry lets them think he has to do a lot of corporate travels for his job. His latest mission takes him to Switzerland where he discover this Palestinian terrorism organization (yikes! okay, it was the 1990s...), known as the Crimson Jihad. These's also this antiques dealer that appears to be linked with these terrorists. Harry ends up having to share a dance with this femme fatale, but also once his cover's blown, Harry and Gib escape the criminals through the nearby city. Harry having to run through a shopping mall and an hotel while riding on a horse (on what is perhaps one of the most memorable scenes from this film).

But Harry also ends up missing on his birthday party his family had planned for him. 

The next day Harry wants to surprise Helen at work, but instead overhears her talking to this guy named Simon. Is he really another secret agent? No, it turns out he's just this used car salesman. Fearing his wife he's having an affair, he decides to pull all the stops before there's adultery, by... kidnapping and torturing the guy then proceeding to interrogate his wife and forcing her on a special spy mission of her own (since she was finding their regular life so boring...). He disguises himself in the shadows, and tells her she's now forced to seduce this mysterious notorious criminal in a penthouse and a plant tracker on him. But after what might just be the sexiest lap dance scene ever put on film, the real terrorists actually locate harry and his wife and taking them both hostages on this nearby island. 

They're planning to launch a couple of nuclear warheads in retaliation for all the lives lost due to the US Army in their home country! 

And soon both husband and wife are forced to join together if they want to survive one epic explosive act-long finale taking them all over Miami to put a stop to these jets carrying the missiles.

It's an explosion of explosives that would just as easily put Michael Bay himself to shame!

True Lies is one really big epic action film, easily the best of the 90s.

It opens with this original beginning scene in which Schwarzie ends up having to ride a horse, chasing a bike all over a city! This was a pretty dangerous scene to film, but I believe the result speak for itself on screen. Apparently Arnold tried doing it himself but it got way too dangerous when the horse went crazy at some point.

It's easily one of James Cameron's craziest screenplays. Putting all these strange separate plots barely glued together on one pretty random but highly entertaining film.

A lot of stuff doesn't make much sense in the film. The whole terrorist organization-thing is almost cartoonish at times. It also completely drops off at mid-point and then becomes the sub-plot for the rest of the film. Never taken much seriously, almost filler. The strange US secret organization also feels outlandish. It's never meant to be considered like a reality, heck, it's even led by a Nick Fury lookalike!

Finally the film features an amazing frenetic score composed by Brad Fiedel. Epic action movie soundtrack at its finest. The film also features the classic "Sunshine of Your Love" from rock band Cream, heavily featured as the theme song through the film. Fitting!

Overall: It's a really great movie. A sort of over-the-top parodic take on the James Bond films (at least.. what they were at the time, not how now they're just as identically silly and filled with overblown action scenes). 

Sure, there's no real character development through the entire film, neither Harry, Helen nor Gib learn a thing by the end of the film. It's all in pure fun. It's just a movie. Entertainment at its finest. True Lies is a great comedic adventure.

The film is unjustly remembered less fondly compared to the rest of Cameron's films. But never mind that, it's one epic action film filled with humor. 

Ppart spy film parody, part epic action blockbuster film - at times cartoonish 

It was the first film to ever have a budget over $100 million at the time! The film went on becoming one of the highest grossing movies of all time. It was a huge commercial success spawning a couple of video games and other merchandising memorabilia. 

True Lies won several award including a Golden Globe Award for Jamie Lee Curtis for "best actress".

Cameron has discussed possibilities for a sequel for years, as well as a TV series adaptation since the 2010 at least. The best would surely be reuniting the entire original cast, but following 9/11 this project was better put to rest, since terrorist is now no jocking matter anymore (well, it wasn't then either, but tell that to 1990s Schwarzenegger!). The sequel has been written for long, since the late 1990s. It was originally written and completed by James Cameron and Jeff Eastin, apparently both Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom Arnold were able to read it. But due to the concept of True Lies and this would be-follow-up having a just as epic nonsensical ending (a big epic submarine crashing into New York), it had to be scrapped altogether.

All these talks of a sequel just resulted in one pretty weird meta-movie, the 2005 Penelope Spheeris-directed comedy film The Kid & I, featuring Tom Arnold trying to get True Lies 2 sequel launched. It also features Linda Hamilton for some reason. Schwarzenegger and Curtis both have a cameo in it. But the less said about this, the better...

All in all, True Lies is a really fun and Highly Recommended funny action film 

I give it:
2.5 / 3 Films!

And that is it for today's DoubleFeature!

Both fantastic action films of their own.

True Lies being perhaps one Arnie and Cameron's best films. Easily the better of the two, highly entertaining and the more light hearted of the bunch.

But both are very underrated movies. Pretty fun. And eclipsed by the much more captivating Jurassic Park released at the same time.

Watched back to back, they make for a perfect movie night-double feature!

That's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

No comments:

Post a Comment