I have 496 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to maybe watch one thing for every five things I add, but now my library is full and I have to make room. Serious watching must begin. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking about you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but don’t have time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know if there’s something that’s been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for your queue and the next Monday for mine and so forth. Let’s do this.
What’s the movie? Arena (1989)
What’s it rated? PG-13
Did people make it? Directed by Peter Manoogian. Starring Paul Satterfield, Hamilton Camp, Claudia Christian, Marc Alaimo, Shari Shattuck and Armin Shimerman.
What’s it like in one sentence? A Charles Band production.
Why did you watch it? The cover reminded me of Enemy Mine.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Steve Armstrong (played with oddball sincerity by Paul Satterfield) is a fry cook on a space station in some undisclosed part of the galaxy. Steve and and his four armed buddy Shorty (Hamilton Camp: keeping it campy) get fired after a customer manhandles Shorty and Steve beats the shit from him and tosses him through a window. Luckily, the space station is home to an intergalactic fighting competition know as The Arena and the nasty customer that Steve window fucked was a fighter for Quinn (a weird faced Claudia Christian), who now needs a fighter to enter The Arena’s arena something fierce. Steve will have to overcome an evil interstellar boxing commissioner, a sexy and duplicitous holographic lounge singer and his own general lunk-headedness if he wants to be the first human champion in over 50 years. Will he achieve said goal? I don’t know. Have you ever seen a movie before?
Play or remove from my queue? I think it’s relative to who you are as a person and where you’re at in this rhinestone discotheque we call life. If you have seen a ton of films by Full Moon Features and used to make it your mission to go down to the ma and pa video store every week to see if there was a new Puppet Master sequel out (there was) or if there were any new adventures of Dollman to behold, then you owe it to yourself to check out this throwback to a simpler time. A time when the great Charles Band had a new video in the store every two weeks and it didn’t matter what it was… it was coming home with you to be eagerly devoured that night while snug in your TMNT pajamas and wrapped in your Empire Strikes Back comforter (you know, the one with the AT-AT’s on it). If any of that remotely sounds like you, then you need to watch this movie (and be my friend) but, if not, then you might do better with sticking with something a little less… this.
Arena would have given me a giant heart boner if I had seen it when I was 9 or 10 but, at 30, it was a little boring and redundant and it was lacking any characters you really wanted to spend time with. Steve Armstrong is our hero, but he’s a completely blank slate who seems a little “aw shucks-y” at first but once he starts fighting aliens for money, he just kind of comes off as a short sighted dick who doesn’t really heed anyone’s advice, instead choosing to just blindly stumble forward and hope for the best. It doesn’t help that Paul Satterfield’s performance, character and overall energy as a human being comes across as a staggering combination of pre-horse Christopher Reeve, 1980’s Flash Gordon and a dream I had where I was a super gay Space Pirate in gold assless chaps and a smile.
Steve Armstrong is no Han Solo… shit, he’s not even a Matthew Modine and you need some of that good old fashioned space gumption in order to carry something like this, but I never found myself in his corner (pun so fucking intended). The supporting cast fares better in increments. Shari Shattuck is the object of poor Steve’s lust in the film which is understandable because 14 year old me plus her performance in Dead On (a softcore porn update of Strangers On A Train) had a lot to do with the confounding amount of personal weenis exploration I got done in those days. Armin Shimerman (who was so perfectly weaselly as Principal Snyder on Buffy) comes off the best as Weezil, one of the lackeys of the main antagonist. I hope he doesn’t get typecast. I guess he’s in Star Trek too, but I’ve never seen any of that show except for the movies. Claudia Christian (from that Babylon 5 program) is fine, even though she really doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot to do and has the exact same expression on her face the entire time. Sidebar: I watched the first season of Babylon 5 and then quit because the captain sounded like he was about to try and sell me something all the time and I felt that was too passive\aggressive for me to really support. Question- A) Is it worth continuing on with and 2) If you tell me it pwns something and I finish it and it sucks can I punch you in your mouth hole? End of muthafuckin sidebar.
I don’t mean to make it sound all bad. Some of the practical make up work is great and adds to the late ’80’s feel that I was hoping for. There’s a sense of playfulness to the way that it’s shot that might have knocked this into the realm of Trancers or Oblivion if it had a smarter and funnier script to work from. As it stands the script is paper thin and if there’d been a lot more world building involved (I mean, as far as I can tell, the space station the entire movie takes place on doesn’t even have a name) this might have been something special. Is it worth your time? Watch the first 15 minutes and then decide for yourself. I eat pieces of shit like this for breakfast, so you might not want to listen to me.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Why not. How about the fact that they had so much trouble finding people to fill up the spectator stands during the fights that they draped clothes over painted cut outs and called it good. Fair enough, I guess.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Zardoz (I haven’t seen this since I was never), Metropolis (Lang, not Stillman and…no), Tuvalu (never even heard of this but it sounds amazing so I added it to my queue), Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (If Tina Turner were in this I would cut off my fucking head and stick it up a foreign asshole) and The Brother From Another Planet (Now you’re just pissing me off, Netfux).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? The Last Starfighter, Oblivion, Farscape, Robot Jox and Hot Tub Time Machine.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 2.9
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.0
Can you link to the movie? I sure can!
Any last thoughts? This movie makes me afraid to revisit some other movies from around that time. I’m terrified that Flight of the Navigator, The Explorers and The Monster Squad won’t hold up anymore. Maybe I should try and meet other humans instead. We’ll see.
Did you watch anything else this week? I Re-watched season 4 of The Venture Bros. and laughed harder than ever before. From my queue I watched From Paris With Love with Travolta and that Rhys-Myers guy. It had a wonderfully entertaining first half and then the second half was frustratingly awful. You don’t just fucking decide to become a suicide bomber drama in the last 15 minutes when the first hour and a half is a brainless action comedy. I also started watching the fifth and final season of Friday Night Lights and I’m feeling like it’s going to break my heart.
Next week? We had a ton of votes for Dogtooth last week, so I think that will be next weeks movie unless the voting swings crazy towards something else. Next week is your pick though, so it’s really up to you. Have a good week, Chewers.