Tag Archives: sci-fi

“High-Rise” (2016) REVIEW

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If you took the claustrophobic paranoia and shaggy-haired chic of David Cronenberg’s apartment complex horror, Shivers (1975), added a bit of plastic personality and debaucherous decadence from Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000), and filmed it all through Stanley Kubrick’s surrealistic dystopian lens, the result would probably be pretty close to High-Rise, the new film from director Ben Wheatley, based on the novel by J.G. Ballard.

Now if you think that description sounds like the final product might be a bit too chaotic and disjointed, well, you wouldn’t be wrong. Although all the 1970s set design is absolutely stunning to look at, the overall final product often feels disorganized. That’s not to say High-Rise isn’t an incredible and enjoyable film – it is. It’s just a lot to take in. Continue reading “High-Rise” (2016) REVIEW

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“Midnight Special” (2016) REVIEW

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No one did “kids in danger”-style adventure movies better than – or made them look half as fun as – Steven Spielberg, especially during his early-’80s hot streak. A quick look at the films he was involved with during that period, from writing to producing to directing, reads like The Guidebook to Everyone’s Childhood: Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Poltergeist, Gremlins, Indiana Jones and the Temple of DoomThe Goonies, Back to the Future. In fact, he was so good at putting youths in questionable and precarious situations (in films for a young audience, mind you), that an entirely new rating system – PG-13 – had to be established; parents cried foul at the amount of violence and gore these films contained, despite the fact that they were, y’know, kids movies. Continue reading “Midnight Special” (2016) REVIEW

“10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016) REVIEW

10 Cloverfield Lane is a weird movie.

I finished watching it approximately three hours ago; afterwards I discussed it over beers with the friends who accompanied me, and then I thought about it on the long walk home alone. And now here I sit typing up this review, and still the best and most accurate word I can use to describe it is weird. I totally enjoyed about 94% of it. But still: weird.

For those living under a rock or visiting from a different planet (in which case, welcome), there has been a lot of buzz (and, dare I say that vulgar word, hype) over the past few months surrounding 10 Cloverfield Lane. And I say “past few months” literally because, prior to the second week of January, there hadn’t been so much as a peep about a Cloverfield sequel. I mean, nothing. For the last 8 years, fans of the original had been offered – at best – a maybe regarding a sequel, and that was coming directly from the Cloverfield camp, specifically J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves. In fact, it pretty much seemed like a dead issue — that is, until, audiences who went to see Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi in January were delivered one hell of a surprise: a teaser trailer for a movie entitled 10 Cloverfield Lane. Continue reading “10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016) REVIEW

Drive-In Double Feature: TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE & THE GIANT GILA MONSTER!

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Mr. D of Horror and Sons does not seem to discriminate when it comes to horror flicks. I’ve read his reviews, and they cover the spectrum: that modern junk, the 80s classics, the b-movie stuff, the so-bad-it’s-good-no-actually-it’s-plain-terrible, lost sci-fi stuff, all of it. But the one thing I appreciate that he covers (that I don’t see a lot of other popular and current horror sites covering) are the oldies. I’m talkin’ about the black and white goodies (and baddies) from the days of yore that seem to get overlooked — from Atomic Age cheese to the Karloff Klassics. The man has a wide taste, and it’s evident in his choices for this Drive-In Double Feature! And what a storyteller!
Your floor is yours, Mr. D.

“Saturday Night at the Starlite”

The sun is slowly sinking beneath the horizon. Cheap metal tiki torches are placed around the yard, the flames slowly flickering. They are as much for “atmosphere” as they are for warding off mosquitoes, neither “intention” very effective. The orange glow from the flames is washed out by the orange glow of Halloween string lights still wrapped around the house from the previous year.

The screen was once used for overhead projectors in an elementary school somewhere. It’s now secured to my wooden fence with only the finest of Velcro strips. Fighting for scraps of sunlight, I try to connect the speaker wires of a 20-year-old desktop stereo that will serve as my “drive-in” speakers. A bottom-line projector is shining its light out onto the screen as I obsesses over a “perfect image” that I’ll never achieve.

In our kitchen, my wife is setting out plates and cups. Some kind of tater tot casserole and a buffalo chicken dip are simmering in crock pots, still hot and ready for the evening. On the patio, a cooler sits filled with sodas on ice. A space has been saved for whatever our guests may bring for themselves. I fully expect then to have a few “adult beverages”, but I’ll probably not be joining them. I know the headache of taking all this stuff down later. I don’t drink much anyway.

The sky darkens & the stars have come out to shine. At least, I think they have. It’s hard to tell through the city lights. Headlights cut across the side of my lawn, fading minimally in the orange haze from the backyard. My friends get out of their cars, popping their trunk to produce 2 canvas backed folding chairs. Hey, I can’t provide everything.

My son is ecstatic to see them. Really, he’s happy to see anyone. Poor socially deprived kid. He hugs them, sporadically jumping up and down. They make their way to the kitchen. Everyone makes a plate to take with them outside. I eat last, having already made my way outside to turn everything on.

Everyone takes their seats. I unplug the Halloween lights, trying to simulate the dimming lights of the theater. This too is also amusingly ineffective. The evening in swing, everyone fills their guts preparing for a couple of hours of cinematic bliss under the stars.

Instead, I give them Teenagers From Outer Space. A dump bin version at that, playing on a Blu-ray player that’s jacked into an antiquated sound system and emanating from a projector incapable of HD. Welcome to “Starlite Theater”. Don’t make it something it ain’t.

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A man who looks like Satan says something. No one is listening, except me. I always listen to Satan. I’m also adjusting the volume, constantly walking away to judge just how loud is “too loud’. I finally get it “just right”, but it doesn’t really matter. No one ever complains. And the stereo doesn’t get that loud anyway.

Barney the dog is reduced to mere bones by a blast from a ray gun.  We are reduced to laughter louder than the volume that I’d spent all that time adjusting. Honestly, it’s an incredibly mean-spirited scene, but we still laugh. We’re awful people and we’re corrupting the children. The deaths of the 2 men vaporized at the gas station also seems pretty grim, but not to the same degree as Barney’s death. People love dogs. No one gives a shit about other people.

Enter Earthlings “Gramps” (Harvey B Dunn – Night of the Ghouls, Bride of the Monster) and his granddaughter, Betty. They invite Derek into their home before he even says a word. They even go so far as to offer him a room free of rent until he’s able to find a job. Who the hell are these people? Derek could be a serial killer, but they let him eat their food and wear Betty’s brother’s clothes. Pretty soon he’ll be wearing Betty, also free of charge. Betty actually seems down for that.  And Gramps is pimping that ass out to him on the daily. What was I talking about?

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Gramps, is the most dangerously, overly generous man in the world. When Thor, the film’s “bad guy”, arrives at his house looking for Derek, Gramps sees his uniform and assumes that he and Derek must be BFF’s. He tells Thor where Derek went, who he went with, the name of the resident, and even what the kids are going there to do. He stops just short of giving Thor a map. Nope, wait… he does that too, giving Thor detailed directions to the house.

The movie ends with its infamous confrontation with the “gorgon”, in actuality a lobster that has been super imposed over the film. By this time, it’s started to cool off outside. People are making their way back inside, refilling drinks and plates. My wife leaves to put our son to bed. I start the next movie.

My smile widens as the scratchy, black & white image of a giant, scaly claw slams down on the film’s first victims. Don Sullivan’s name is displayed on the screen. My smile widens more. My poor friends have no clue of my obsession with this movie, due mostly to Don’s upcoming musical numbers. “My baby, she rocks….. and rolls!!” You’re damn right, she does.

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We find our film’s teen populous dancing to the latest tunes at the local soda stand, having a swell ol’ time. Our hero, Chase, and his French girlfriend, Lisa, make the scene.  Chase is  “top dog” among the local teens. He’s a good kid, supporting his mother and sister since his father kicked the bucket. He’s immediately concerned about his missing friends. Meanwhile, I’m more concerned about whether or not there are more Frito’s Scoops for my dip.

Mr. Wheeler, father of the missing boy, has summoned the local Sheriff, Jeff, to his house. The sheriff thinks the kids may have run off to get hitched. Wheeler blames Chase for influencing the other kids to get in trouble. Sheriff Jeff is quite fond of Chase (and I’m quite fond of buffalo chicken) & defends the lad against Wheeler’s implications. Wheeler is an oil tycoon with some political pull. Using that, he threatens to take Sheriff Jeff’s badge if he can’t find his son.

I’ve always been a “monster kid” of sorts, even if that monster is just a normal animal running through a model of a town. Night of the Lepus was always a must watch back when TBS showed it every other weekend. (I believe it was TBS. I could be wrong. I don’t believe in research.) So, if you put a lizard, in this case actually a Mexican Bearded Lizard (again, no research), in a town full of Hot Wheels cars, I’m gonna watch every minute of it. I don’t think my friends really feel the same, but my wife loves this flick too, and she’s finally returning from inside.

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Now on the screen…..  A drunk crashes his ride into a fence post after seeing the Gila crossing the road. Presumably, to get to the other side. Chase The Omnipresent just happens to be passing by in the garage’s wrecker. The car is in no condition to drive, but the driver is willing to try. Gotta love that 1950’s determination. Chase tows the car to the garage,  the driver still behind the wheel. The man sleeps it off at the garage while Chase works on his fender damage, singing a song while he works. The man is revealed to be popular local disk jockey, “Steamroller Smith”. He digs Chase’s song & gives him his card. He also give him $40 for fixing his car. That’s 1950’s money, which by today’s currency is about $13,000. I could be wrong on that.

Sheriff Jeff’s skid mark photos are out of focus. He’s now in a corner. He’s also a pretty shitty photographer. It’s skid marks. It’s not like they are moving. You just walk up, click, and you’re done. Who can’t do that? Besides me.

We finally get to my favorite scene of the film. Chase finally goes home. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t been there the whole movie. To his surprise, Lisa has purchased leg braces for his little sister, Missy. She attempts to walk to her brother, but collapses after a few steps. She tries again, but her poor, weak, little legs just aren’t strong enough to support her.

I KNOW!!! That’s some sad shit, right? It’s pretty obvious that Chase loves his sister. You would think that he’d either cheer her on, or pick her up, or hug her, or something like that. PSSSH! Dat bitch breaks into a musical number. He sings “The Mushroom Song” Yeah, it’s a catchy little ditty with a positive Christian based message, but who the Hell just breaks into song like that? By this point, I realize that people are looking at me. I’ve started singing it too. “And the Lord said laugh, children, laugh.”

Ol’ Man Harris, the obligatory lovable town drunk…. well, the OTHER lovable town drunk is practicing his DUI skills, trying to race a train. Gila smashes a bridge, derailing the train, and killing all on-board. The screams of women are dubbed in as the train crashes, oddly louder than the crash itself.

Chase The Ubiquitous has organized a big dance for all the kids of the area. He has brought in Steamroller to DJ the event. Steamroller is a fantastic DJ. The type that will stop one song midway through and start another. He stops spinning records completely to let Chase sing “The Mushroom Song” (again) for the audience. No one hears me singing this time as I’ve already started extinguishing the torches and picking up any trash.

The Gila has been destroyed. The screen has been taken down and rolled up. The projector and stereo have been turned off. I’m disconnecting all the wires and carrying all the pieces back into my storage room. Our friends have said their goodbyes and have headed home. My wife is in the house getting ready for bed.

The show is over. The curtain has fallen. The stars are finally starting to peek through the dimming glow of a city going to sleep. I turn off the last of the lights, go inside, and lock the door. It’s been just another night at the movies.

More of Mr. D’s writing and movie reviews can be found on the Horror and Sons website, as well as the Horror and Sons Facebook page!

Dr. Jose’s Favorite 80s Tees

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I’m a t-shirt kinda guy. Always have been, probably always will be. Sure, I clean up nice on special occasions, but nothing beats a comfy tee – preferably with some sort of antiquated, obscure, or flat-out offensive message emblazoned upon it. Yep, I’m one of those types who likes a good ol’ vintage t-shirt. They look cool, and plus they fit better!

No decade embraced this fashion choice more than the 1980s, and nowhere was it more noticeable than the various cult films over the years. My love and appreciation of these films is probably why I have such an affinity for weird, wordy, retro tees. Or maybe it’s my love of weird tees that lends itself to my love of flicks from the 80s?

To celebrate my appreciation of these 50/50 cotton-poly blended gems, I’ve compiled a few screenshots of my favorites from various 80s movies. Now this is far from a comprehensive list; just a compilation of the ones I really dig – the ones that stuck with me. They’re listed, as always, in chronological order. Enjoy and lemme know which ones you like!

I wanna start the list with two honorable mentions, actually. Neither are t-shirts exactly (one is sleeveless, the other is a sweatshirt), but I’ll be damned if they aren’t cool as all get out!

Stripes (1981) & Police Academy (1984)

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First up is Lori Singer in Footloose (1984). I fully support curse words on t-shirts, especially when it’s embracing a healthy and positive message. Or when it’s just cursing for cursing’s sake.

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This next one is a little weird. Not sure if I find it so troubling because I, without hesitation, would take him up on the offer — or if it’s because he wore this to a Halloween party in the real-life drama, Mask (1985). I mean, Cher’s kid Rocky is dying of a super rare disease, and you show up rocking that tee? I guess that’s why nobody puts Sam Elliott in the corner.

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This one may be a little hard to see, but this amazing shirt from Aliens (1986) says, “Peace Through Superior Firepower”. Kinda prophetic, ain’t it? Anyway, I wear a size small (or Youth XL) in case any a-you charitable types wanna snag me one.

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Oh boy, The Feldster. While Corey Feldman’s personal attire has always been pretty embarrassing — especially during his Michael Jackson phase (1988 – Current) — he’s always been pretty decked out in his movies. Look no further than the film The Lost Boys (1987). I always felt his Edgar Frog character was some distant relative to his Ricky Butler character from the film The ‘Burbs (1989), but that’s another article entirely. Feldman’s hard-to-see shirt says “Why Waltz When You Can Rock & Roll?”, and it’s got an AK-47 on it. Look, I’m no gun nut or anything, but there’s no denying: that is a badass shirt. Again, size small/Youth XL for those reading.

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Confession: I own this next shirt. I don’t care if that makes me lame, or wannabe-cool, or a dum-dum or what. Stephen King does, in fact, rule – as does the shirt itself. As does Monster Squad (1987). It’s a win-win-win. Fun fact: I wore this to a horror convention last year and so did one other person — A 50-something grandma type. I still say the shirt is cool.

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Poor Martha Dunnstock. Besides the fact that she’s alienated, picked on and given the nickname “Martha Dumptruck”, her short, permed hair is the true tragedy. It’s so painfully 80s. But at least she’s got that awesome Big Fun shirt. Big Fun, of course, being the fictional band that sings the incredibly catchy “Teenage Suicide (Don’t Do It)”, from the film Heathers (1988). Considering Martha walks into traffic shortly after this scene, I don’t think the song worked. (Don’t worry, she lives! Oh, SPOILERS. Sorry.)

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This beaut from The Great Outdoors (1988) is just a simple, cool looking shirt. Nothing particularly spectacular about it, but it definitely looks like something you could find in your local thrift store if you dug deep enough. Plus, it’s being sported by the dude who gives Danny his magic ticket in Last Action Hero (1993)!

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Okay, so this list didn’t start as a competition, and it’s not intended to be, but these next three characters have to be handled a little differently. There’s no doubt in my mind that they not only are the most memorably-clad of the decade, but that their styles helped influence and solidify the quirky/offensive/wordy t-shirt trend that exists today. Bold statement, sure. But just check these out and tell me I’m way off base.

First up, your friend and mine, Stiles Stilinski from Teen Wolf (1985). The man might not have been the smoothest operator when trying to score a keg from the liquor store, but boy he sure knew how to wear a t-shirt. Let’s take a look:

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“What Are You Looking At Dicknose”, “Life Sucks Then You Die”, and “Obnoxious: The Movie”. Classics. I know “Dicknose” is a crowd favorite, but – while it does have a nice ring to it – I gotta say my favorite is “Obnoxious: The Movie”. It’s a head-scratcher, which gives it that extra edge. T-shirts should do one of three things: educate, offend, or confuse. If you wear one that can do all three, hell, you’re doing it right. And don’t it look great on that robin’s egg blue shirt?

Next up is probably my favorite character from an 80s comedy, hands down: Dudley “Booger” Dawson, from Revenge of the Nerds (1984). I don’t want to say he’s a direct influence on my wardrobe/personality, because he’s such a scumbag. But I also don’t want to say he’s not, because then I’d be lying.

If Stiles was the high school version of the lame-o who thinks he’s hotshit, Booger is definitely the college version. But what Booger lacks in hygiene and charm he makes up for in amazing t-shirts. Check ‘em:

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“Gimme’ Head Till I’m Dead”, “High On Stress”, “Who Farted?”, and “Greasy Tony’s”. First off, “Who Farted?” is timeless. Secondly, tell me that “Greasy Tony’s” shirt isn’t one you’d see hawked at some store in the mall. And “Gimme’ Head”? I mean, the man is a fashion icon. If you’re a scumbag and you know it, clap your hands *clap, clap*

However, despite his extensive and awe-inspiring collection, Booger is not the ultimate t-shirt idol of the 80s. That honor actually goes to Val Kilmer’s Chris Knight character in Real Genius (1985). While not as offensive as I like, they’re all still really cool. Some may be hard to read, but I’ll go through them:

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“International Order For Gorillas”, “Roy Rogers Olympic Games 1984″, “Summer Games 1984″, “Surf Nicaragua”, “I (heart) Toxic Waste”.

Now, I’m not sure on the history of all these shirts, but the word is that Val Kilmer was friends with Roy Rogers and eventually bought his house, so that may have something to do with the Roy Rogers shirt. But why “Roy Rogers Olympic Games 1984″? Remember: it’s important to confuse. The other shirts are just as bewildering and colorful, and one was apparently popular enough to pop up in another film: “Summer Games 1984″, which shows a runner in a gas mask, carrying a torch, smoggy Los Angeles in the background — that shirt also made an appearance in Repo Man (1984). That’s gotta be a first, right? And “I (heart) Toxic Waste”? Forget about it.

Well, that concludes my list of favorite t-shirts from 80s movies. Although I didn’t include Chainsaw from Summer School (1987). He had a couple really cool tees in that film. As did Billy from Big (1988).

Looks like it’s time to start working on a second list.

Revisiting “The Running Man”

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I’ve seen The Running Man (not to be confused with Marathon Man, which itself is not to be confused with The Marrying Man) several times over last couple decades, almost invariably on some basic TV station, edited for noontime viewing; always in scattered, unorganized chunks. And I’ve never not liked it; if someone asked for an opinion on it, I’d probably say, “Oh yeah, that’s a cool movie”, without giving it much thought. Not much thought, that is, until I watched it again today. If someone were to ask me what I thought of that movie now, I’d say, “Oh shit. Have you seen it?? You totally gotta see it!” And thankfully you can – it’s currently streaming on Netflix.

Like any masterpiece, it not only stands the test of time, but actually gets better with age, and offers new little, trivial tidbits to appreciate with each subsequent viewing. I promise I’m not saying any of this to be ironic or hip; I say these things with an earnest regard. The movie apparently received a lukewarm reception upon its initial release, but I’m here to say: I think this movie is totally solid, enjoyable, and possibly one of Schwarzenegger’s best. Not to mention this movie was the direct inspiration behind the show American Gladiators – and if that’s not reason enough to get you to watch it, well then, we’re done here.

Written by Steven E. de Souza (48 Hrs., Commando, Die Hard) and loosely based on a story by Stephen King, the movie is set in the distant future (I say ‘distant’ because at the time it was filmed [1987] the year 2017 was quite a long time away), and it follows a police officer (Schwarzenegger) who is framed for murder and is forced to participate in a new reality game show that’s apparently one of the most popular forms of entertainment. On this gameshow, convicts are offered a chance at freedom if they can make it through a successive series of heavily armed baddies known as “stalkers”. If the cons survive all the stalkers and get to the end, they can go free.

I’m not sure if it’s just a weird coincidence, but the film shares several tiny parallels with Schwarz’s other films — and not in the broad ‘strong guy fighting bad guys’ general way, but in more specific ways: he wrestles with a woman while she watches an exercise program on TV (Total Recall); he’s implanted with a tracking device while trying to break free from the gurney he’s strapped down to (Total Recall); he tries to escape capture by running down a tarmac (Commando). They are little things, but seeing them evokes flashes of his other movies. I’m sure I could spot more if I watch it again.

So that’s the basic gist of the film, but I wanna point out three things that I think make the movie so enjoyable.

THE CAST

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Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dawson, Kurt Fuller, and Jesse Ventura in a Conan O’Brien-style wig! Not to mention María Conchita Alonso, Mick Fleetwood (!), Dweezil Zappa (!!), and Sven Thorsen. Plus Lynne Marie Stewart (Miss Yvonne) and Lin Shaye! Familiar faces abound, and are all wonderfully cast – from Dawson as the smug and charming TV show host (real stretch), down to the Ventura as the conflicted, glory-day embracing macho man. And speaking of cast, let’s look at the baddies the runners have to face:

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Professor Subzero, Buzzsaw, Dynamo, and Fireball. Does it get any cooler? Buzzsaw rides around on a motocycle while swinging various chainsaws around! And look how mysterious and badass Fireball looks. Plus, if you didn’t notice, Professor Subzero is played by ex-wrestler Professor Tanaka who played the butler in another great Schwarz flick, Last Action Hero. Dynamo is a bit of an oddball — played by real life opera singer Erland Van Lidth de Jeude (probably most well known for his scene as soft-spoken skinhead Grossberger in Stir Crazy), Dynamo isalso an operatic killer who uses electricity to off the runners. And Fireball! Played by the ultimate bad motherfucker, ex-footballer and blaxploitation mainstay, Jim Brown! A mustache-less Jim Brown, at that.

SET DESIGN

Look at any movie from the 70s or 80s that is supposed to be set in the future, and you get either one of two looks: a post-apocalyptic desert-like landscape where people wear bones as a fashion statement, or a vast cityscape full of big angular buildings that are shrouded in smog and neon. I love both of these approaches, but they always seem to be mutually exclusive. However, The Running Man combines the two with great effect! The stalkers, while still being futuristic in their design, are still just rough around the edges enough to evoke thoughts of Mad Max. And the layout of the killing floor is at times both metallic and galactic, but also somehow sparse and dusty. Additionally, the music was provided by Harold Faltermeyer, famous for his bouncing synth scores in movies like Beverly Hills Cop, Fletch, Top Gun, and Tango & Cash – and it compliments the visuals perfectly.

THE ONE-LINERS

Arnold Schwarzenegger is no stranger to delivering a face-slapping punny one-liner just seconds prior to snuffing a bad guy. But this movie is full of ‘em. He even lets the ladies have a little taste:

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At one point, he even delivers two puns after killing Fireball, as if one just wasn’t enough.

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Hell, he even says shit that doesn’t make sense but still feels as if he’s trying to be punny:

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And it wouldn’t feel complete without the inclusion of this bad boy:

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Pure Schwarzenegger.

Well there you have it, friends. If you like films like Logan’s Run, Mad Max, Death Race 2000, hell even The Hunger Games, you’ll probably dig this flick. I highly encourage you to check out The Running Man if you haven’t yet – and I also suggest giving it another look if it’s a been awhile since you last watched it!