Film Review: Deadpool 2 (dir by David Leitch)


“From the studio that killed Wolverine!” the poster proclaims.

“Directed by the man who killed John Wick’s dog” the opening credits announce.

Deadpool 2 is so meta that it even opens with a close-up of a figurine of Hugh Jackman impaled on a rock or a branch or whatever it was that finally killed him at the end of Logan.  Deadpool, the irrepressible and nearly indestructible mercenary played by Ryan Reynolds, announces that he’s willing to accept the challenge posed by Logan‘s tragic ending.  Deadpool promises us that, in the movie we’re about to watch, he’ll die as well.  Deadpool then proceeds to blow himself up.

Of course, those of us who have seen first Deadpool film know better than to panic when Deadpool’s severed head flies at the camera.  Deadpool heals so quickly that, as long as his powers are working, he can’t be killed.  If he gets shot or stabbed, the wound heals almost immediately.  Broken bones mend themselves in record time.  When Deadpool literally gets ripped in half, he promptly starts to grow new legs.  Without his powers, of course, Deadpool would have died a long time ago.  He has cancer, a fact that the film doesn’t dwell upon but which still adds a bit of unexpected depth to the character and his trademark dark humor.

Of course, Deadpool is not just unique because his near-immortality.  Deadpool is also unique in that he, and he alone, understands that he’s a character in a movie.  Even more importantly, he understands that he’s a character who is being played by an actor named Ryan Reynolds.  (Some of Deadpool 2‘s best jokes — which I won’t spoil here — are at the expense of some of Reynolds’s earlier career choices.)  While everyone else in the film is taking things very seriously, as characters in comic book films tend to do, Deadpool is pointing out all of the clichés and even the occasional plot hole.  When Cable (Josh Brolin), a cyborg warrior from the future, offers up a hasty explanation for why he can’t just use time travel to solve all of his problems, Deadpool dismisses it as “lazy writing.”

With the monster success of Wonder Woman, Infinity War, and Black Panther, Deadpool is the hero that we now need.  I mean, let’s be honest.  Comic books movies can be a lot of fun and, right now, we’re living in the golden age of super hero cinema.  At the same time, these films can occasionally get a little bit pompous.  Think about the unrelenting grimness of the DC films.  Think about all the sturm und drang that made up the undeniably effectively ending of Infinity War.  It in no way detracts from those films to say that Deadpool’s refusal to take either himself or the movie too seriously often feels like a breath of fresh air.  Deadpool is the one hero who is willing to say to the audience, “Yes, it’s all ludicrous and silly and occasionally a little bit lazy.  Isn’t it great?”

And yet, even with all that in mind, Deadpool 2 has a surprisingly big heart.  Even while it encourages us to laugh as its excesses, the sequel makes clear that it has a bit more on its mind than the first film.  Deadpool 2‘s plot deals with the efforts of both Deadpool and Cable to track down an angry mutant who goes by the somewhat regrettable name of Firefist (Julian Dennison).  Cable has come from the future to kill Firefist and prevent him from eventually destroying the world with his anger.  As for Deadpool, he feels that the spirit of someone he loved wants him to save Firefist.  As for Firefist himself, he’s an escapee from the Essex Home For Mutant Rehabilitation, a Hellish orphanage where the hypocritical headmaster and his perverted staff attempt to torture young mutants into being normal human beings.  The parallel to conversion therapy is an obvious one and there’s always just enough outrage underneath the film’s humor.

Deadpool 2 is a fast-moving and quick-witted sequel and Ryan Reynolds is, once again, perfect in the role of the demented lead character.  The jokes are nonstop and fortunately, so is the action.  There’s a lengthy fight between Cable and Deadpool that’s destined to go down as a classic.  Another exciting scene opens with parachutes and ends with … well, I can’t tell you.  I won’t spoil it, beyond to say that sometimes, being a hero is all about good luck.  Deadpool 2 is an ultra-violent, ultra-profane action-comedy with a heart of iron pyrite.  It’s not a film to take the kids too.  Deadpool himself points that out.  (He also points out that the babysitter is probably stoned by now.)  However, Deadpool also says that this sequel is a film about family and, amazingly enough, it turns out that he’s not lying.

So far, 2018 has been the year of the comic book movie and Deadpool 2 is a welcome addition.

Things Could Be Better: 5 Fictional Presidents Who Were Surprisingly Good At Their Job


americathon

Since we already looked at 8 fictional presidents who were terrible at their job, here are 5 fictional presidents who were surprisingly good at their job.

1) President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho (Terry Crews) in Idiocracy (2006)

Sure, it’s easy to be critical of President Comacho.  During his presidency, there was famine, pestilence, death, and a total economic collapse.  His decision to irrigate the nation’s crops with sports drink called Brawndo did not help.  When Secretary of Interior Not Sure (Luke Wilson) decided to use water on the crops, instead of Brawndo, President Comacho sentenced him to die in a monster truck rally.  President Comacho did many things that we might disagree with but he was just giving the people what they want.  During the Comacho administration the people were happy.  Stupid but happy.  To his credit, when shown filmed proof that the water making crops grow better than Brawndo, President Comacho pardoned Not Sure and appointed him Vice President.  A good President always surrounds himself with the best and the brightest people available.

2) President Thomas “Tug” Benson (Lloyd Bridges) in Hot Shots! Part Deux (1993)

What can we say about President Thomas “Tug” Benson that hasn’t already been said?  The former admiral did many controversial things as President.  He complained that his ambassadors always left the country right after he appointed them.  He nearly invaded Minnesota.  He mistook the first lady for a spy.  He hit every other living President with a shovel (except for Gerald Ford, who just fell down on his own).  But what other President could swim to Iraq and personally engage Saddam Hussein in a  light saber duel?  To quote President Benson, “We’ll do this the old Navy way.  First man to die, loses!”

3) President Chet Roosevelt (John Ritter) in Americathon (1979)

When Chet Roosevelt is elected president, the former governor of California brings a sunny disposition, an optimistic outlook, and an encyclopedic knowledge of affirmative sayings to the White House.  America needs it because all of the oil has dried up, many of its citizens are living out of their cars, and a cartel of wealthy Native Americans are threatening to repossess the entire country unless their money is paid back.  How does President Roosevelt save the country?  First, he smokes a joint.  After that, he puts together a telethon — an Americathon — to raise the money to save the country!  Teddy and FDR would be proud!

4) President Taffy Dale (Natalie Portman) in Mars Attacks! (1996)

At the end of Mars Attacks!, 15 year-old Taffy Dale succeeds to the presidency after her father, President James Dale, is killed the Martians.  That may not be constitutional and Taffy is legally too young to serve but since there are only 10 people left alive at the movie and Tom Jones doesn’t want the job, an exception to the rules can be made.  By awarding the medal of honor to Richie Norris and his grandmother, President Taffy Dale lets those 10 people know that America will rebuild.

5) President John “Bluto” Blutarsky (John Belushi) in National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978) and Where Are They Now?: A Delta Alumni Update (2003)

We should only be so lucky.

President Blutarsky

And here are the NAACP Image Award Nominations!


Dear White People

And continuing our awards wrap-up, here are the 2014 NAACP Image Award nominations!

(h/t to awardswatch)

MOTION PICTURE
Outstanding Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
• Chadwick Boseman – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• David Oyelowo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Denzel Washington – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Idris Elba – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Nate Parker – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)

Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
• Gugu Mbatha-Raw – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Quvenzhané Wallis – “Annie” (Columbia Pictures)
• Taraji P. Henson – “No Good Deed” (Screen Gems)
• Tessa Thompson – “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• Viola Davis – “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby” (The Weinstein Company)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
• André Holland – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Cedric the Entertainer – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Common – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Danny Glover – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• Wendell Pierce – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
• Carmen Ejogo – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Jill Scott – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Octavia Spencer – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)
• Oprah Winfrey – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Viola Davis – “Get On Up” (Universal Pictures)

Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
• “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• “Dear White People” (Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions)
• “Half of a Yellow Sun” (monterey media inc.)
• “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)
• “Life of a King” (Animus Films/Serena Films)

Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture
• Chris Rock – “Top Five” (Paramount Pictures)
• Justin Simien – “Dear White People” (Roadside Attractions and Lionsgate)
• Margaret Nagle – “The Good Lie” (Alcon Entertainment)
• Misan Sagay – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Richard Wenk – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)

Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture
• Amma Asante – “Belle” (Fox Searchlight Pictures/ DJ Films)
• Antoine Fuqua – “The Equalizer” (Columbia Pictures)
• Ava DuVernay – “Selma” (Paramount Pictures)
• Gina Prince-Bythewood – “Beyond The Lights” (Relativity Media)
• John Ridley – “JIMI: All Is By My Side” (XLrator Media)

TELEVISION
Outstanding Comedy Series
• “Black-ish” (ABC)
• “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
• Andre Braugher – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)
• Anthony Anderson – “‘Black-ish” (ABC)
• Don Cheadle – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Keegan-Michael Key – “Key & Peele” (Comedy Central)
• Kevin Hart – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” (FOX)
• Niecy Nash – “The Soul Man” (TV Land)
• Tracee Ellis Ross – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Uzo Aduba – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Wendy Raquel Robinson – “The Game” (BET)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
• Boris Kodjoe – “Real Husbands of Hollywood” (BET)
• Glynn Turman – “House of Lies” (Showtime)
• Laurence Fishburne – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Marcus Scribner – “Black-ish” (ABC)
• Terry Crews – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (FOX)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
• Adrienne C. Moore – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Lorraine Toussaint – “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
• Sofia Vergara – “Modern Family” (ABC)
• Yara Shahidi – “black-ish” (ABC)

Outstanding Drama Series
• “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• “House of Cards” (Netflix)
• “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
• LL Cool J – “NCIS: LA” (CBS)
• Omar Epps – “Resurrection” (ABC)
• Omari Hardwick – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Shemar Moore – “Criminal Minds” (CBS)
• Taye Diggs – “Murder in the First” (TNT)

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
• Gabrielle Union – “Being Mary Jane” (BET)
• Kerry Washington – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Nicole Beharie – “Sleepy Hollow” (FOX)
• Octavia Spencer – “Red Band Society” (FOX)
• Viola Davis – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
• Alfred Enoch – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Courtney B. Vance – “Masters of Sex” (Showtime)
• Guillermo Diaz – “Scandal” (ABC)
• Jeffrey Wright – “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO)
• Joe Morton – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
• Aja Naomi King – “How to Get Away with Murder” (ABC)
• Alfre Woodard – “State of Affairs” (NBC)
• Chandra Wilson – “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC)
• Jada Pinkett Smith – “Gotham” (FOX)
• Khandi Alexander – “Scandal” (ABC)

Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series
• Aisha Muharrar – “Parks and Recreation” – Ann & Chris (NBC)
• Brigette Munoz-Liebowitz – “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” – Road Trip (FOX)
• Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project” – Danny and Mindy (FOX)
• Regina Hicks – “Instant Mom” – A Kids’s Choice (Nickelodeon and Nick@Nite)
• Sara Hess – “Orange is the New Black” – It Was the Change (Netflix)

Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series
• Erika Green Swafford – “How to Get Away with Murder” – Let’s Get To Scooping
(ABC)
• Mara Brock Akil – “Being Mary Jane” – Uber Love (BET)
• Warren Leight, Julie Martin – “Law & Order: SVU” – American Disgrace (NBC)
• Zahir McGhee – “Scandal” – Mama Said Knock You Out (ABC)
• Zoanne Clack – “Grey’s Anatomy” – You Be Illin’ (ABC)

Outstanding Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• “Drumline: A New Beat” (VH1)
• “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actor in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Blair Underwood – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Charles S. Dutton – “Comeback Dad” (UP Entertainment)
• Larenz Tate – “Gun Hill” (BET)
• Mekhi Phifer – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)
• Ving Rhames – “A Day Late and a Dollar Short” (Lifetime Networks)

Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special
• Angela Bassett – “American Horror Story: Freak Show” (FX)
• Cicely Tyson – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Keke Palmer – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)
• Regina King – “The Gabby Douglas Story” (Lifetime Networks)
• Vanessa Williams – “The Trip to Bountiful” (Lifetime Networks)

Key & Peele

Trailer: The Expendables 2 (Official)


In 2010 Stallone released his love letter to all things 80’s action with his ensemble actioner The Expendables. The film was a modest success, but not the huge one some thought it would be considering it’s cast was made up of action stars of the past 20-30 years. Yet, it’s box-office numbers made the studio heads at Lionsgate happy enough that they greenlit a sequel.

This sequel, The Expendables 2, finally gets it’s official trailer and it looks to be more of the same as the previous film, but to a new level. The previous comes back with expanded roles for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenneger who had brief cameos in the first film. This sequel also adds Chuck Norris to the cast and Jean-Claude Van Damme in the role of the film’s villain. There’s really no need to explain the plot of the film. What audiences should expect is lots of gunfire, explosions, testosterone-laced interaction between the actors and more explosions.

Stallone backs off the director’s chair this time around and hand’s over to veteran action director Simon West.

The Expendables 2 is set for an August 17, 2012 release date.

Review: Gamer (dir. by Neveldine/Taylor)


No one will ever mistake the writer-director duo of Neveldine/Taylor (Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor) as the next Coen Brothers, but they definitely have made their mark in creating entertaining films which some have called exploitative, pandering to the lowest common denominator and exercises in excess. Maybe these critics are right, but they also seem to view the films by these two filmmakers through the narrow-minded lens of their elistist and so-called cineaste sensibilities. They won’t be the next Coen Brothers but they’re way ahead of other so-called filmmaker duos such as The Spierig Brothers (Undead and the pretentious and awful Daybreakers) or The Strause Brothers (AvP: Requiem and the awful Skyline). They came onto the scene with their cult classic action thrillers Crank and it’s sequel, Crank: High Voltage.

Their third film took the gaming influences so inherent in their first two films (which for all intents and purpose were video games that happened to be film) and went the next step. Gamer is all about a near-future world where two games with on-line social media foundations have become the rage of the entertainment world. One is a game called “Society” that looks to be the nightmare evolution of privacy advocates everywhere to the on-line virtual world Second Life and The Sims. It is the other game in this film which makes up the foundation of the film’s plot. “Slayers” takes the ultra-popular multiplayer on-line experiences of games such as Call of Duty and HALO to the next level by allowing gamers to actually control real people (inmates sentenced to death) to act as their avatars in a real-life battlefield arena with real weapons and real deaths.

These games which have become the obsession of hundreds of millions of people worldwide are the brainchild of the film’s antagonist. Michael C. Hall plays the creator of these games and his performance looks to combine the sociopathic charm of his Dexter character with that of Steve Jobs is the latter was openly honest about his douchebag tendencies. Playing his opposite is the character of Kable who happens to be the reigning champion of the game Slayers and who knows a secret that could tear down the billion-dollar empire created by Castle. Gerard Butler plays the desperate but very capable inmate Kable who just wants to survive past the final match and earn his freedom thus return to his wife and young daughter on the outside.

Gamer posits the question of how far are we willing to go to experience realism in our games and entertainment. With the game Society people pay to be able to control other people in a social setting (albeit in a controlled area). These so-called avatars will do anything and everything their real-life controllers tell them to do. In the film these avatars get paid to become virtual slaves and with most people signing up for the job being the socially desperate. Their situation is not so dissimilar from the condemned inmates who populate the game Slayers. The film hits the audience with a sledgehammer that these virtual entertainments have become popular worldwide because people have stopped looking at these “volunteers” as real people. Morality has been replaced by the need for instant gratification by way of these virtual on-line systems.

The film doesn’t make any apologies for the heavyhanded delivery of it’s message and also doesn’t skimp on the entertainment side of the equation. Neveldine/Taylor have shown that they have a certain flair for creating visual chaos and action on the screen. Their unique visual style does look like something out of a video game especially those from hyperrealistic shooters such as Call of Duty and its ilk. The filmmakers have always accomplished the high-quality visual look of their films despite the low to modest budget given to them by the studios they’re working for. Gamer is no exception and the film benefits from the decision by these two filmmakers to continue working with the Red One digital cameras thus allowing them to add in the visual effects right into the shot scenes the very same day of shooting.

It’s this very style of hi-tech guerrilla filmmaking which makes Neveldine/Taylor this current era’s Cormans. Unlike most low-budget filmmakers they don’t use the size of their budget to dictate how their films turn out visually, aurally and narratively. The first two this film succeeds in ways that makes an audience think the film was higher budgeted than it really was. The third would depend on the viewer whether the film succeeds or not. For those who seem intent on viewing every film as if they were made to be worthy of high awards and accolades would probably dismiss and hate this piece of exploitation cinema. Gamer succeeds in a narrative sense because it delivers on the promise of telling a story about a world where free will has been seconded to control in the need of a population in search of a the next virtual playground. It’s a heady premise that has been explored in past films such as the Matrix Trilogy and another film similar to this one which came out weeks later in Surrogates.

Gamer doesn’t have the philosophical and existential sermoning in combination with futuristic action sequences as the Wachowski Brothers’ trilogy, but it does have the same visceral action DNa as those three films and also more entertaining than the Bruce Willis vehicle Surrogates. This film will appeal to the very people who it condemns as sheep to the rising tide of on-line control in entertainment, but then that’s what all exploitation films tend to do best. Cater to the very people it uses as examples of what’s wrong in society and build an entertaining film around them and what they represent.

The film’s cast revolves around Gerard Butler and Michael C. Hall and the roles they play. Whether its Amber Valletta playing Kable’s desperate wife who has sold herself to become a controllable avatar in Society to try and earn enough to get her young daughter back or to Logan Lerman playing the role of Simon the gamer who controls Kable during the Slayer matches. They all do enough with their roles to keep their characters from becoming less than one-notes. Again, for some having a film with characters that are quite basic and one-note might make for a bad film, but when put into context of the story being told they’re quite good and needed to become motivators for Butler’s character.

In the end, Neveldine/Taylor have made a modern day exploitation and grindhouse film in Gamer without having to resort to the visual tricks used in the Rodriguez/Tarantino grindhouse homage film Grindhouse. A film doesn’t need to have film scratches, overexposed film stock, scratchy audio track or missing film reels to be grindhouse. It just have to espouse the very nature of the films which made up the kind of films which became prime example of grindhouse/exploitation cinema. Gamer won’t win any awards, but I suspect that more people who saw it were entertained by it’s blatant, in-your-face entertainment than would normally admit to it. It’s a film that has cult status and guilty pleasure written all over it.

Plus, this film is definitely worth at least a curiosity viewing if just to see the musical number performed by Michael C. Hall at the climactic sequence near the end of the film. I don’t think any film has ever combined gratuitous violence, musical dance numbers using bloodied death row inmates and Michael C. Hall singing Frank Sinatra’s “Ive Got You Under My Skin“. That sequence alone is worth a rental or Netflix Instant streaming.

A Quickie Review: The Expendables (dir. by Sylvester Stallone)


Lisa Marie has already done a wonderful job of reviewing Sylvester Stallone’s latest action vehicle, The Expendables. I’ll keep my review to a quickie format since her review went into detail and my thoughts ran at a similar path.

To start things I will say that despite the obvious gigantic leaps in logic one may have to take to buy into Stallone’s latest once that leap has been taken then The Expendables becomes a piece of mind-numbingly loud, fun and entertaining piece of popcorn cinema. Yes, this film is not going to break any new grounds in cinematic history (though in terms of piecing together a cast so manly and testosterone-fueled it may). Stallone will not have found his inner-Bergman or even his closeted-McTiernan. What The Expendables has shown would be how Stallone knows exactly what his core audience wants to see.

His film is quite lean to the level of anorexic when one has to describe it’s plot and characters. The film’s main plot involves Stallone and his band of expert mercenaries (using the film’s title as their name) being hired by a Mr. Church (Bruce Willis in an uncredited cameo) who wants them to overthrow a certain dictator-general who rules a small South American island nation called Vilena. Stallone and his writers try to add some complexities to this set-up of past CIA dealings with the general and rogue agents (sounds like rogue CIA agents are the villains of the season for 2010 with The Losers and The A-Team also having their own rogue agent) and daddy issues. But all that was just gristle that could’ve been taken out of the porterhouse that this film ended up being.

The Expendables works best when bought into it as being a throwback, meat and potatoes type of action flick. It definitely owes much to the many action flicks that got churned out for film and direct-to-video in the hundreds during the 80’s. Even the casting brings to mind the typical casting list of 80’s action. Take the most recognizable (then move down the tiers) action stars of the day, put them together, add guns and explosions and you got yourself an actioner. And boy does this flick have tons of explosions and a veritable buffet table of weapons on-hand. My favorite has to be the AA-12 assault shotgun carried by Terry Crews’ character Caesar. A character who seemed written just someone will come into an action scene firing this most awesome of weapons. When Crews’ Caesar does put the AA-12 into use the theater I was in erupted in cheers (yeah, cheering nameless soldiers getting shotgunned off their feet seems tackless, but oh so fun!).

I really don’t need to go too much into the plot in detail. What I had mentioned earlier and what Lisa Marie has already written pretty much explains everything. The film’s cast of past and current action stars have chemistry together. Though I will say that the chemistry may be just due to the fact that they all are in on the joke while making the film. They seem to know not to take the screenplay seriously and just go with the flow of the action. We’re not watching a film about Stallone’s character interacting with Statham’s or Rourke’s or Li’s. We’re watching Stallone shooting the shit with the others and there just happened to be cameras around them rolling. The only thing missing from the non-action scenes between the cast members were stripper poles, dancers and a few Hell’s Angels bikers doing boucner duties (maybe the director’s cut edition of the dvd/blu-ray will put those back in).

Now, what would a Stallone flick be without talking about the action. While the action scenes are not revolutionary and not even stylisticly different the way the action in The Losers and The A-Team were shot again Stallone stuck to 80’s meat-and-potatoes. The action scenes were reminiscent of scenes from Commando, Rambo: First Blood Part II and Die Hard. It was a by-the-numbers, point a to point b style of filming an action scene that audiences will accept with a nostalgic smile or dismiss as being boring and been-there-done-that. The one thing Stallone added to these scenes which made them feel somewhat fresh and new was the brutal and gory way people reactedwhen their clumsiness made them get in the way of the thousands of bullets, shotgun shells and explosions. Stallone first showed this in its over-the-top glory in his previous film, Rambo, and he uses the same style in a slightly more subdued way in this film.

I will like to point out one particular action sequence which was brief but done with a certain panache that convinced me that Stallone should just crank out action flicks for the rest of his career. I’m talking about a point in the middle section of the flick when Stallone and Statham use their team seaplane to strafe then firebomb the waterfront docks in Vilena. Part of me knew what was going to happen when they began their run but by the time it ended I was smiling like a goofy 8-year old kid watching his first rated-R action movie. Yeah, The Expendables definitely plucked the nostalgia strings in this film-fan’s heart.

One other way to look at this flick is to compare it to Stallone’s Rambo which also had a mercenary team who unwittingly becomes sidekick to Rambo by the film’s end. I, and more than a few other reviewers, where actually interested in seeing a film with Rambo and said mercenary team in a film together. While such a film would’ve been one of the most violent if not the stadard bearer if ever made we’ll just have to settle for a more tame version with The Expendables. Maybe this flick will make that particular spin-off happen down the line.

I would like to say that The Expendables had more to offer than the guns, explosions and overwhelming aura of testosterone, but I’d lying if I did. That’s all one needed to know going into the theater to watch this flick. To expect anymore, even a decent dialogue, would be asking for sauteed mushrooms and artichokes when all that’s needed is that porterhouse cooked just above rare and a six-pack of brews. Just think of The Expendables as that kind of meal and one will enjoy the bloody fun being had by all on the big-screen.


Film Review: The Expendables (Dir. by Sylvester Stallone)


I know that I really should have hated The Expendables.  For one thing, it’s a very, traditional, let’s-blow-up-Eric-Roberts-and-save-the-damsel-in-distress action film.  Storywise — well, there really isn’t a story beyond a bunch of inarticulate, muscle-bound men blowing shit up.  The Expendables is perhaps the most hyper-masculine film since Avatar, the type of movie that was obviously not made with anyone possessing a brain or a vagina in mind. 

In short, the Expendables is the type of mainstream, action movie that — based on everything I’ve ever written on this site — I should have hated.  But you know what?  I didn’t hate it.  I’m not saying that I loved the movie (because I certainly did not) but on the whole, The Expendables is a fun movie and sometimes, that’s more than enough.

The Expendables are a group of mercenaries, led by Sylvester Stallone and Jason Stathan.  They are, of course, the best at what they do.  They must be as their existence is apparently a well-kept secret despite the fact that they all have prominent Expendables tattoos and all they drive motorcycles covered with colorful Expendable decals.  So, the question is — can you accept the fact that the movie tells us the Expendables are a secret even though they clearly would never be able to pull that off in real life?  If the answer is yes, read on.  And if the answer is no, please don’t ever talk to me because you probably lack a proper appreciation for the absurd.

Anyway, The Expendables are hired by Mr. Church.  Mr. Church is played by Bruce Willis who, in his very short scene, manages to chew up more scenery than a termite in heat.  (That’s a lot of scenery.)  Mr. Church wants the Expendables to go to a poor, island nation and overthrow the military dictator.  Or something like that.  To be honest, I never really figured out what the exact mission was other than it involved blowing a lot of shit up. 

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention that Eric Roberts is on the island too.  He’s a bad guy.  You know he’s a bad guy because he’s always stopping the action to tauntingly explain his evil plans.  (It also helps that he’s played by Eric Roberts.)  Roberts is a bit of let down as a villain and its hard not to feel that his performance was basically made up of deleted scenes from The Dark Knight.  Then again, in Roberts’ defense, he’s having to compete with memories of Jason Patric playing a similar character in The Losers.

If Roberts’ villain is disappointing, the Expendables themselves are played well enough.  While Sylvester Stallone is hardly a great actor, he knows how to play an action hero and he brings just the right mix of self-aware parody and self-righteous fury to his role.  His second-in-command is played by Jason Stathan who displays something resembling charisma for the 1st time in his odd film career.  The other Expendables don’t get much to do beyond deliver a few quirky lines of dialogue and blow stuff up.  One of them is played by Jet Li who dominates his few scenes even though he doesn’t really get to do much.  Another Expendable is played by the Old Spice Guy who, according to Wikipedia, is actually a pro-athlete named Terry Crews.  However, all of the Expendables appear to enjoy hanging out together.  You get the feeling that they had a good time making this movie and, as a result, you feel almost guilty for worrying about stuff like logic or ambiguity.

The main selling point of The Expendables is that it apparently features every single action star in existence.  Even Arnold Schwarzenegger gets to make a largely pointless cameo and deliver the film’s worst one liners while, in real life, the state he’s supposed to be running descends further and further into financial doom.  While I recognized Stallone, Stathan, Willis, Roberts, Mickey Rourke, and Jet Li, apparently everyone else in the cast used to be someone at some point as well.  Luckily, I saw this movie with my friend Jeff who got very excited as he explained to me who everyone was and why their presence on-screen was making all the men in the audience so positively giddy.  To be honest, I think I probably actually understood a little less than a fourth of the information that Jeff provided me with but he was so incredibly cute trying to explain it all.

(I imagine I probably gave him the same look that he gave me when I attempted to explain Sex and the City 2 to him.)

As I explained at the start of this review, the Expendables is not, technically, a good film but it is a lot of fun.  As opposed to the Avatars of the world, the Expendables is a movie that is at peace with what it is.  There’s no attempt to try to fool the audience into thinking that they’re seeing a work of art.  There’s something to be said for that type of honesty, especially when you consider that we’re approaching that time in the film season when every movie is going to be marketed as a sure-fire Oscar contender.

And if the film is a hyperactive overload of testosterone — well, it is what it is.  After sitting through hundreds of films based on books by Nicholas Sparks, all featuring Miley Cyrus, Emma Roberts, or Amanda Seyfried haunting the beach all to win the love of some sensitive lifeguard eunuch, there’s something undeniably appealing about watching a bunch of guys acting like guys.  Zac Efron might have the heart and soul of poet but can he blow shit up?