To Arnold With Love

Maybe it was Rambo: First Blood or Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark, but somewhere between 1981 and 1982 I was completely sold on action movies.  I began craving something more than emotionally charged dialog or sweeping period pieces where tensely polite characters took trips to Tuscany; I wanted overwrought, loud, heart-thumping soundtracks, explosions and running – yes, definitely lots and lots of running.  How else are you going to escape the debris of the ruins you’ve left behind?  (Aside: I already have some great ideas for Gandhi’s Revenge: Civil Unrest. If you’re shopping for a new script, see me.)

In college, I tried to be “cooler” or more “bohemian” – you know the sort that smoke cigarettes at places like Les Amis [i] and have heart-felt, passionate discussions over the latest faire at the Dobie.[ii] (Well, you would if you lived in Austin, TX, but play along as if the above made sense.)  For that brief period I feel I had quite a successful run of feigning interest in art house films and dragging out the symbolism of a cloud until a friend of mine suggested something like, “let’s go see this Jackie Chan flick”.  Since this offer fell during my “subtitled films are so much cooler and therefore I am made cooler by attending” phase, I went along – I mean, you had to read the film – dubbed films are so late 1960’s (oh Bruce Lee, my apologies) – subtitles are where it’s at (granted, the movie wasn’t in black and white, nor was it in German – but Chinese was the new German, right?). And there I found myself at the Hogg Auditorium [iii] watching this amazing unknown stunt man with his love for Buster Keaton scrambling around and performing these incredible stunts.  The real me jolted back to life and I returned to being completely committed to my bad action movie tastes.  (Samo Hung,  a special shout-out to you – it wasn’t all Jackie – I love you, man!)

Since then, I’ve come to terms with the fact that few people other than my husband enjoy the same movies I enjoy.  (Unless we’re talking Brotherhood of the Wolf and I may think the world would be a better place if someone snuck in to where they keep the master reel and burned it to the ground.  On that point, we may disagree a bit.  I’m sure it’s only because he must have unknowingly sustained a head injury while watching the movie.)  

For the record, I don’t like all action movies (there are a ton being spewed out on what seems like a monthly basis that are pure overhyped garbage – and sadly, sometimes they do feature some of my action heroes).  I’m also definitely not saying it’s the only type of film I enjoy, but they do hold a very special place in my heart.  From Rambo (sorry you can’t withstand the test of time) to La Femme Nikita (the French version) to Run Lola Run to the 300 I’m thereGive me your Terminators, your Commandos, your Jason Bourne’s and even your Die Hards (but not those middle ones) and I’m there.  Put Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, and Arnold Schwarzenegger into one movie and I’m taking the day off from work, because really you can’t pack that much awesome into a movie and not expect me to be there at the first showing.

Yep, in half an hour I’ll be on my way to snacking on popcorn while waiting for The Expendables to start rolling.  I’m even ok with the fact that I think the movie will likely stink up the joint, because I know that despite the stinkage, it will still make me insanely happy.  That’s right, movie snobs, I’ll be slurping down a soda and completely high on happy – that same gleeful feeling you get when you see “Winner – Cannes Film Festival: Palme d’Or Award” attached to that limited run movie you’re viewing.

See you in a few hours!

[i] Cute little café in Austin, TX (seen in the movie Slackers that was torn down to make way for a Starbucks, something there’s not enough of.

[ii] Dobie Theatre – located in Dobie Mall off of 20th and Guadalupe on the University of Tx campus – features theme rooms and hard to find independent films.

[iii] Another theatre at UT with those lovely hard wooden seats that send you back to the 1950’s. and cause your butt muscles to lock up.  Good for long post-movie strolls to work out all the aches and pains of sitting there.


I think it’s safe to say that I’m not a decent movie reviewer; I just don’t have the vocabulary or even the thought pattern that could produce a well thought out critique. In fact, I know I offend my friends when I’ve seen some highly praised art house film and I come out saying, “I hated it”. I get grilled with “why?” because it sucked, “why do you think it sucked?” a lack of imagination on the director’s part? I was overcome with the sense that it would never end and a great sadness filled my heart upon realizing I didn’t have any anti-anxiety/depression medication at the ready and would have to endure the suffering un-medicated? And invariably they’ll list out reasons why I’m too stupid to have seen the movie, which boils down to my complete lack of sophistication. I own that.

With that said I just had to comment on Pathfinder, which we recently watched on DVD. Let me start by admitting to two soft spots: one for actors who appeared in the Lord of the Rings trilogy (there’s a hobbit on Lost… well… there was, another Hobbit who played this disgusting little serial killer “Kevin” in Sin City – I saw that, too – and the Riders of Rohan are EVERYWHERE including Pathfinder) and the other for cheesy, knock-off Conan movies (which is up there with with big explosions). I’ll occasionally try to put everything in balance by off-setting my addiction and attending the occasional art house flick. It’s an effort to appease my friends and ensure that we’ll still have something to debate at get-togethers. Really, you bring up “Doom” or “The Chronicles of Riddick” and your sophisticated friends get that look like you’ve just announced you’re a contender at the next Big Monster Truck MEGATHON! RAWRRRR!!!!! …and you also happen to eat babies. You know, THAT look.

Pathfinder is loosely about sociopathic Vikings that cross the Atlantic for the pure joy of slaughtering American Indians. Forget pillaging… forget plundering… these guys are tired of and in search of a new sport. And apparently, if you’re a Nordic serial killer with some spare time on your hands, you like to call up all of your serial killer buddies and say “dude, I’ve got this longboat and I was wondering… are you thinking what I’m thinking?” In a previous raid they leave a boy behind who was too big of a sissy to slay an American Indian… probably took after his momma and well, when you’re a serial killer you can’t have no sissy genes running lose on your continent. Of course, the young man grows up to be Karl Urban, a half naked guy who still wields his sword with great ease and rides around on a sled.

Of course some time passes (enough for the boy to become a man) and the Vikings find they’re bored again so they load up and head for North America. They arrive on the shores only to find a pissed off young adult who can’t figure out which world he belongs in, but he’s pretty sure he’s ok with bumping off a few Vikings (so see, he always knew in his heart).

The rest of the movie features Ghost (aka half-naked Karl Urban) romping around in the snow and water bumping off Vikings at dusk. Silly Vikings, they LOVE their crazy helmets so much that even though it’s dark and the things are a tad bulky with a tendency to obstruct their views, they’re going to wear them because they’re cool and scary and lookeee mine looks like a SKULL… ooo. The head angry viking is Clancy Brown (aka The Kurgan – still bitter about losing his head in Highlander) – he’s a little fussy because one Native American Viking Indian with a beef keeps setting traps that his serial killers keep falling into (the original, pre-Columbus Stormtroopers).

I’m guessing by now, you can see where all of this is going. I mean honestly, “there can be only one”. But I really can’t drop picking on this movie without mentioning my all-time favorite scene from any movie (Jay stop groaning). Ghost sets a trap – a tiger pit with punji sticks covered in leaves. Ghost stands a distance away taunting the Vikings and trying to get them to fall into his pit of Viking death – he’s all but shaking his tush at them in the dark of the woods and really, the Vikings probably just hear his voice because of the big helmets. Out of the blue come the Indians and we have the slow motion scene of Ghost crying out to his brothers ‘NOOOOO!!!!” as big tears drip down his half naked body (did I mention it’s Winter?). The Indians land in the pit (ouch) and the Vikings completely forget that through the whole movie they’ve been looking to kill Ghost who is STANDING RIGHT THERE – I mean, they are serial killer Vikings who came across the Atlantic for the soul purpose of killing Indians and DAMN if there’s not a big pit of ’em RIGHT THERE. I mean, how could you possibly step around a big pit of mostly alive Indians? I’m sure they had a moment while they made the tough choice and then everyone of them said in some Scandinavian tongue in their heads “well HELL, it’s not like a pit of Indians drop in our path EVERY day! YAY! ODIN YOU THE GOD!” Then all of them hop into the pit for some killing while Ghost makes the tragic face – the “I’ve killed my brothers, now I must engage in more brooding soul searching moments while the ghost of the newly dead Pathfinder leads me on my own path. Who am I? *sniff**sniff*”.

The only thing that could have made this movie better would be James Earl Jones and some magic, but really, what movie couldn’t benefit from those two fine additions? You could so see that in “The Joy Luck Club”… c’mon, I know you could.

EDIT: To appease my husband who is right about Nick Stahl and apparently has mentioned that to me on numerous occasion b/c I always think Elijah Wood was the yellow feller. I might get it right next time… no promises.