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Terminator 2 Judgment DayThe "Schwarzenegger Collection" on DVD

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Total Recall
The Running Man

Live Home Video and Artisan Home Video have re-unleashed a trio of Arnold Schwarzenegger titles are are arguably among the star's best works.

That's the good news. The bad news is that two of the three titles don't appear to have had any remastering done to them to take advantage of the wonders of the DVD format. All seem to be straightforward transfers of the laserdisc (which is certainly better than a straightforward transfer of the videocassette!).

The best of the three is Terminator 2: Judgment Day, James Cameron's classic action film that sends a positive, hopeful anti-violence message all while expending thousands of rounds of ammo, depicting various graphic stabbings, and destroying more than its share of property.

This may not be surprising, however. T2 is the newest of the films, had the biggest budget, and the laserdisc was spectacular. In fact, it wasn't too many years ago that the T2 laserdisc was the demo disc of choice at consumer electronics shows and home theater dealers.

Terminator 2 reunites Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron, both of whom had their reputations enhanced greatly by the original film. But where T1 had Arnold as the villain, in this outing he's sent back in time as a robotic protector and must take on a much more sophisticated machine hell bent to assassinate the young John Connor before he can grow up and fulfill his destiny.

Along the way, the future of the human race is saved, we get a strong antiwar, anti-violence, and anti-technology message - while the Terminator learns the value of humanity and compassion.

T2 is a THX disc, so the picture and audio quality are, not surprisingly, terrific, and the soundtrack has been remixed to Dolby Digital 5.1 (there are also Dolby Stereo 2.0 sound tracks in English, French, and Spanish). There's also an abundance of extras, including a really thoughtful "Descriptive Video Service" for the visually impaired in which a narrator describes the onscreen actions between lines of dialogue.

Naturally, there are also chapter stops (including a menu that shows clips from the chapter in little windows), cast/crew info and production notes - and trailers.

T2 is often misunderstood as a simpleminded and violent action film, but it's much more than that. As a DVD, it's also an excellent example of what one can get from this format when the manufacturer puts its mind to it.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day, from Artisan Home Video
139 minutes, widescreen (2.35:1), Dolby Digital
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
Written by James Cameron & William Wisher
Produced and Directed by James Cameron

Total Recall - special editionTotal Recall

(Note: This review refers to Artisan's Special Edition of the DVD, released Autumn 2001, which is a far superior package to the previous, non-anamorphic version. Ed)

Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Paul (Starship Troopers) Verhoeven's "Total Recall" plays mind games on Arnold Schwarzenegger and the audience as well.

This is the film's second DVD incarnation, and it's a welcome one. The new version fixes the omissions of the first, by adding a new anamorphic widescreen video translation (though the original also offered a "Pan&Scan" version for those with an aversion to black bars) and a slew of new extras. More about them later...

Total Recall is the ultraviolent story of a construction worker who suddenly discovers he isn't who he thought he is. Or is he?

We won't spoil the movie for those who haven't yet seen it; suffice it to say you never really know whether you're watching "reality," a dream, or a combination of both. It's a wonderful mind game.

The screenplay was the creation of Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett, of "Alien" fame, with help from Jon Povill, and it's full of imagination.

Total Recall is a nifty yarn and great sci-fi. Unfortunately, the violence is a bit over the top at times and this mars what would otherwise be a fine science fiction adventure. Unlike the violence in "Starship Troopers" which was just as graphic but which seemed in context in the wartime setting, "Total Recall" seems at times graphic for the sake of being graphic.

Still, it's one heck of a ride, and there's enough humor to make the mayhem almost tolerable...

The bew DVD is a big improvement over the original, though it's far from perfect. The picture is now in anamorphic widescreen, 16x9 TV compatible, and the image is very good in most places, excellent in some. It isn't as good as some DVD's we've reviewed, but it's a huge improvement - especially the anamorphic widescreen presentation, which doesn't force owners of 16x9 TV's to zoom the letterboxed picture out to fill the screen.

The audio is Dolby Digital 5.1 and it's also very good, though not excellent. There appears to be a lot more bass in this release, which helps during explosions, special effects scenes and the like.

Then there are the extras.

First of all, there's the packaging - which we'll call "unique" rather than "dumb." Okay, it's dumb. The DVD comes in a little round metal box designed to look like the planet Mars, which is cute. Unfortunately, it just sits on top of the cardboard sleeve and once you've removed the shrink wrap it'll fall out without another thought. It also doesn't lend itself to sitting in a DVD shelf. Not only that, but getting the disc out of the metal box is an invitation to putting finger marks all over it.

So while you have to give Artisan credit for trying something new, we'd prefer they tried something new that actually makes sense rather than just being a gimmick.

Other extras include an excellent documentary "Imagining Total Recall" and a most welcome running commentary featuring star Schwarzenegger and director Verhoeven. There are also some legitimate Mars featurettes that are quite interesting, a selection of conceptual art, storyboards, production notes, a photo gallery and trailers/TV spots.

One really lame extra is "Rekall's Virtual Vacations," which are three mercifully short virtual landscapes you can watch and listen to, but which have nothing to do with the movie and are complete wastes of time.

Still, on the whole, this is an excellent version of a really ripping sci fi yarn, and we recommend it.

Total Recall, from Artisan Home Entertainment
113 minutes, anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1), 16x9 compatible, Dolby Digital 5.1
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone, Ronny Cox,
Screen Story by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett and Jon Povill; Screenplay by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, and Gary Goldman
Produced by Buzz Feitshans and Ronald Shusett, Directed by Paul Verhoeven

The Running ManThe Running Man

No, it has nothing to do with Ex-lax. Instead, the Running Man is a TV game show in which contestants are convicts trying to win their freedom by running a gauntlet of "stalkers" bent on ensuring they don't win their freedom.

Kind of like "Jeopardy!" in real life...

Anyway, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ben Richards, a cop wrongly (and deliberately) convicted of mass murder who ends up as the latest contestant to "come on down" to the game show. The difference is, of course, that Arnold's heart is pure and he can therefore overcome all odds.

This is a neat flick and, while it's violent, the violence is more restrained than in "Total Recall." But there's action aplenty, and some laughs, too. The story is based on a Stephen King (as Richard Bachman) novel.

One should mention the presence of Jesse "The Mind" Ventura in a supporting role, too, for those who'd like another chance to see the Minnesota Governor in a previous life.

The DVD is widescreen only and there aren't a lot of extras. Picture and sound quality are good (not great) - and despite the package's labeling (it claims to be Dolby Stereo 2.0 and Dolby Digital, depending upon where you read) the soundtrack is in Dolby Pro Logic Surround.

Extras are limited to the theatrical trailer and chapter stops.

The Running Man, from Live Home Video
101 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Pro-Logic
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Conchita Alonso, Yaphet Kotto, Richard Dawson
Screenplay by Steven E. deSouza, based on the novel "The Running Man" by Richard Bachman
Produced by Tim Zinneman and George Linder, Directed by Paul Michael Glaser



Arnold and a band of elite soldiers take on an alien creature out for a rewarding hunt in director John McTiernan's action adventure yarn.

Sent into an unnamed central American country to supposedly rescue some hostages held by guerrillas, Arnold et al soon find they've bitten off far more than they can chew as one by one they're hunted down and killed (and worse) by the unseen force.

There's action galore (what a surprise!), and plenty of gore inflicted and cordite expended until the climactic "mano a alieno" confrontation between the sole surviving human (guess who?) and the creature. It's a case of pure escapism and mayhem, and is carried off very well. Also watch for Jesse Ventura, again, as one of Arnold's men, and he gets to utter the line that became the title for his autobiography: "I aint' got time to bleed."

The DVD looks great for the most part, though there are some shots that look a tad grainy. The audio is in Dolby Surround and is also excellent for the most part, with some distortion during some of the particularly "explosive" scenes.

The film is presented in widescreen, though not anamorphic, and includes chapter stops, alternate languages, and the usual theatrical trailer (which is actually a pretty lousy trailer for what turns out to be a pretty good movie). Liner notes are virtually non-existent.

These movies are great "popcorn entertainment" and are not only good action/adventure yarns, but are also interesting cases in point if you're curious to watch the development of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a movie star/actor. He may not be Oscar material, but he has a likable screen persona and usually plays a heroic character - a nice feature in an age when there are precious few heroes.

Predator, from 20th Century Fox Home Video
107 minutes, widescreen (1.85:1), Dolby Pro-Logic
Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura
Written by Jim Thomas and John Thomas
Produced by Lawrence Gordon Joel Silver and John Davis, Directed by John McTiernan


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Updated April 22, 2008