(Second Viewing, In French, On TV, December 2018) I recall seeing Eraser in theatres, and not being all that happy about it. (The idea of a portable railgun firing “near the speed of light” with no recoil seemed hilarious to me, but laughing alone in the theatre isn’t one of my fondest memories. But then again I placed a lot more emphasis on scientific rigour back then.) In retrospect, though, Eraser had aged decently enough—it does feature Arnold Schwarzenegger near the prime of his career, after all, and the kind of big dumb action movies made in the mid-1990s have grown scarcer in recent years, accounting for a bit of nostalgia. I mean; in how many 2018 releases do we have a parachuting hero bringing down an airplane rushing toward him with nothing more than a handgun? Some rough-looking CGI (alligators and human skeletons!) add to the charm. At the time of the film’s release, much of the release chatter had to do with how the audio and CGI team had to work around the clock right before release to change all mentions of the villainous “Cirex” to “Cyrez” after computer chip company Cirix complained. In terms of star vehicle, Eraser is pretty much what Schwarzenegger could handle at the time—and having a featured role for Vanessa Williams is more interesting when you realize that the film never goes the obvious route of creating a romantic subplot between both of them. James Caan also has a good turn as a mentor-turned-villain. The political machinations justifying the plot are better than average for an action movie, and the coda seem closer to a political thriller than an action film. Eraser is still not a good movie (and it pales a bit compared to other late-1990s actioners), but it has aged into a decent-enough one.
(On Cable TV, June 2014) Bob Guccione will forever remain famous as the publisher of adult magazine Penthouse, but for me he was first and foremost the mad genius who put together the now-legendary OMNI magazine in all of its blended fact/fiction science/speculation glory. Filthy Gorgeous takes us through Guccione’s full life, spending a lot of time on the more scandalous aspects of his career, while not forgetting the way in which he tried to move beyond adult magazines and create something new: The infamous exploitation movie Caligula, the launch of OMNI and other magazines, the ill-fated investments in fusion power reactors and Atlantic City casinos. Guccione remains a compelling figure throughout, as artist, businessman and dreamer, first-amendment fighter and social nexus for high-powered visionaries and supermodels alike. Guccione’s role in expanding the limits of allowable discourse is also carefully explained here, cementing his place alongside Larry Flynn and Hugh Hefner. (Ironically, though, the most infamous Penthouse issue, featuring a nude pictorial of then-Miss America Vanessa Williams, eventually proved a costly crest for the magazine, which suffered significant consequences from the episode and so may have started its own downfall.) As a documentary, Filthy Gorgeous is a fairly standard assortment of talking heads and archival footage, albeit with a bit of tasteful nudity in accurately portraying Guccione’s artistic pursuits. A fascinating subject makes for a fairly interesting documentary film, and it’s hard to ask for more than that.