Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

October 29, 2014 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

The-Expendables-3

I remember when I thought the idea of The Expendables, which grouped together a huge handful of old action stars, would be a good premise — if the film was made 10-15 years ago. That was back in 2010, when they made the first film. Now, with the stars another 4 years older, slower and more mutated by HGH, we have been bestowed a third installment in the franchise, and the results are more ghastly than the cracks on Mel Gibson’s face.

The first Expendables was not very good, but at least it was fresh. The second film was more of the same, except less fresh, and now the third film is simply stale. The Expendables do a dangerous job, a villain appears, hurts or kills one of their own, and revenge is ultimately accomplished following a lot of gunfire, explosions, poor attempts at “character development,” and Sly Stallone running around in platform boots yelling incoherently. It’s a proven formula for box office success.

In fact, you’re not likely to remember what the film is even about the next day, and memories of all three films will probably blend into one giant I-don’t-give-a-shit. For the loyal fans, it doesn’t really matter.

My memory of the film is already starting to fade. I am fairly certain that Mel Gibson is the villain because this is the only role in Hollywood he can get these days. I know Harrison Ford is in it because I remember thinking that he is doing a horrible job of convincing people that he has not turned completely senile. Wesley Snipes is the new addition to the oldies, but he doesn’t offer much apart from a “they went there” joke about his well-publicized problems. Arnie is back, but Bruce Willis is out (complete with a cheesy joke to go along with it). Jet Li makes his usual contract-obligated cameo, and Antonio Banderas is in it for some reason. As you can see, The Expendables franchise has more or less become a charity for old actors who want to keep gettin’ ‘em checks. But hey, why blame them for exploiting the market? As long as there is demand there will be supply, no matter how many wrinkles there are. I fully expect Nicholas Cage to be in the next one.

To be fair, Stallone does try to infuse new blood into the series by hiring a bunch of potential box office draws, such as MMA badass Ronda Rousey, Twilight alumnus Kellan Lutz and former welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz. They each get to show off a little bit, but with so many people sharing the same pie it’s not really worth your time if you just want to see the film because of one or two people.

Now that the novelty of star power has worn off for good, The Expendables franchise must turn to action and cheesy humor to make up for it. The action, to be honest, felt like more of the same. I suppose the guns, knives and explosions are arguably bigger, but for me it was a case of different shit, same smell. I do, however, give kudos for the tongue-in-cheek cheesy humour. One of the franchise’s greatest strengths is understanding what a big joke everything is and its stars’ ability to make fun of themselves, and The Expendables 3 is no different.

I understand the appeal of the Expendables concept and why people (including myself) have flocked to it time and time again. The undeniable reality, however, is that the films have never lived up to the concept, and I doubt they ever can. I can see how there are those who still enjoy it, but I’ve become numb and indifferent after three mediocre efforts. I think my wife summed up my sentiments best with her one-word review when I asked her what she thought of it: “Whatever.”

2 stars out of 5

Furious doomsday believers demand to know what went wrong

December 22, 2012 in Best Of, Humor, Religion

ruins_of_mayan_pyramid-normal

As small pockets of civilization around the world celebrated their survival of the Dec. 21 Mayan apocalypse, the vast majority of normal people have angrily demanded to know how things could have possibly gone so wrong.

The world as we knew it was supposed to end at precisely 10:11pm (Australia Eastern Standard Time) on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Earth was supposed to be struck by another planet or an asteroid. Aliens (or apes) were supposed to attack. Time was supposed to stop, or the universe was simply meant to stop existing.

But instead, as the clock struck 10:12pm and everything remained as it had been at 10:10pm, anticipation turned to disbelief. And as the hours passed, disbelief turned to disappointment, before finally erupting into fury.

“What the hell? We were supposed to be teleported into another dimension!” said Francois Ancel, 54, who had camped out at the southern French town of Bugarach for the past six weeks. Ancel and his family of seven had heard about the town’s curious “upside down” mountain and had expected to be beamed into another world by sitting in a hole on the summit at the exact moment it was supposed to end for everyone else.

Unlike some of his fellow campers, who have left the hole in tears, Ancel said he has not given up hope and will remain in the hole for as long as it takes, noting that the Mayans may have miscalculated the precise moment of the apocalypse.

“The Mayans didn’t have smartphones, computers or even abacuses back in those days,” agreed Professor Chris Copeland from the New York Calculator Institute, who has urged everyone to remain calm and continue waiting. “A margin of error of three to five years is not unreasonable under the circumstances. I will give them the benefit of the doubt this time.”

Copeland also ridiculed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s “guess” that the world won’t end for another 4.5 billion years, based on the life expectancy of the sun. “There is no scientific basis for that claim whatsoever,” Copeland said.

However, Copeland’s assurance that “it could end at any moment between now and Dec. 21, 2017″ has failed to quell the rage of former-believers, who have vowed to commence an anti-Mayan movement across the globe, beginning with the boycott of  the now-half-priced Mayan calendars. Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, a small group of protesters have also reportedly initiated “Occupy Machu Picchu” at the ancient Inca site in Peru.

“We’re not going anywhere until the Mayans come down and give us an explanation, face to face,” said protester Geri Jingleberry, 34, from Texas. “They can tell me what to do with the 21,000 cans of baked beans in my basement bunker.”

In China, reactions were more subdued, as the majority of believers have disappeared after being rounded up by the Chinese government well before Friday.

“This hoax has rekindled my faith in the Communist Party,” said Kai Wanxiao, 29, who lives in the southwestern metropolis of Chongqing. “The party said the world wouldn’t end and the party was right. Long live the Communist Party!”

There were, however, reports in the eastern coastal provinces of Shandong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Liaoning of people asking for their money back after having donated all their assets to charity.

“I gave away everything I had to the less fortunate because I truly believed the world was going to end and everyone was going to die,” said Zheng Congming, 62, from the port city of Dalian. “Now that we have survived I would like my money back, thank you very much.”

The world’s leading Mayan expert and director of Apocalypto, Mel Gibson, said he could sum up why the Mayan prophecy did not come true in one word.

“Jews,” he said.

Mega Catch-up Movie Blitz (Part 6)

November 15, 2012 in Movie Reviews, Reviews

It’s been a while since I did one of these, but it’s not because I haven’t had any lined up. Here goes. I suppose this is the “drama” portion of my catch-up review blitz.

War Horse (2011)

I wasn’t as high on this Steven Spielberg epic as I thought I would be. As the title suggests, it’s about the life of a horse, from its birth in the early 1900s to the end of the First World War, and the lives of all the people it touches along the way. There’s not much to dislike about the film — it features a stellar ensemble cast, looks absolutely amazing, and is designed to tug the heart strings. Ordinarily, that’s more than good enough for me.

But for some strange reason I wasn’t blown away by it. Perhaps it’s because I’m not the biggest horse fan, or perhaps its because the ensemble cast meant there wasn’t a particular human character I could really connect with. Or maybe it’s because it was so serious, lacking in that light touch I had been used to from Spielberg movies. But it is overly long at 146 minutes and my guess is that I found the subject matter a little on the bland side.

Ultimately though, it’s still a fine piece of filmmaking from one of the masters. I just wish I liked it more.

3.5 stars out of 5

The Descendants (2011)

The Descendants is remarkable in that it takes an interesting but unspectacular concept and turns it into a poignant, funny and unexpected gem driven by excellent performances.

Based on the book by Kaui Hart Hemmings, it’s about a Honolulu lawyer (George Clooney) who happens to be the sole trustee of a family trust that owns a lot of very expensive land. He’s filthy rich, but as usual, not content with life. Following a tragic accident to his wife, he is forced to confront his two daughters and the fact that his marriage wasn’t as perfect as he thought it was.

This is the kind of movie critics just love. Well-written and well-directed by Alexander Payne (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election), and with possibly the best performance of Clooney’s career, The Descendants treads a fine line between genuine emotion and melodrama, but manages to come out on the right side. If you’ve seen Payne’s earlier films you’ll have an idea of the kind of dark comedy and tone that he is accustomed to creating.

I wouldn’t say I absolutely loved this movie but I did think it was wonderfully made and produced laughs and stirred up emotions I had not expected. While it probably deserved its Best Picture nomination at the Oscars, I doubt this is a movie we will look back upon in a few years as a classic, or even a particularly memorable film.

4 stars out of 5

Puncture

Captain America as a drug addicted lawyer? And it’s a true story? Yep, that’s what Puncture is all about. Chris Evans is Mike Weiss, who looks like a bum off the street but is actually a very smart guy with a law degree. The problem is, he doesn’t care much about anyone except himself, and is usually either drunk or on drugs.

Weiss and his partner take on a case where the manufacturer of a safety syringe (which would be perfect in hospitals) claims it was shut out of the market by the big bad pharmaceutical companies (sounds like a true story already). As the case progresses and the odds become more and more against him, Weiss starts developing a conscience and begins to genuinely care about the cause — with your typical “flawed protagonist finds redemption” vibe written all over it.

Essentially, Puncture is a darker, grittier version of some of the other little lawyer against big bad corporations kind of film. Matt Damon’s The Rainmaker comes to mind. But unfortunately, Puncture takes far too long to get off the ground that by the time I found myself engaged it was almost over. And no, it’s got nothing to do with Evan’s acting, which was fine, by the way.

I think it had a great story to tell and the final third was executed rather well, but it’s a shame that the film could not have gotten interesting sooner.

3 stars out of 5

The Beaver (2011)

This film had things going for it and against it. On the one hand it is directed by Jodie Foster and is called The Beaver (which is awesome), but on the other it stars megadouche and anti-Semitic psycho Mel Gibson. In the end, I decided to put my biases aside and watch the film, and I still can’t decide in the end whether I made good use of my time.

The Beaver deals with Depression by creating a bizarre scenario. Water Black (Gibson) is a depressed toy company CEO who handles his issues by speaking through a beaver hand puppet (as though it were a different person). And to everyone’s surprise, the beaver makes Black a huge success and enables him to rekindle his relationship with his wife (Foster) and son (Anton Yelchin).

If you can stomach the premise and the actor, The Beaver is a solid drama that tells a serious story in a semi-lighthearted manner. There isn’t as much humour as you would expect, though I suppose it’s hard to be funny when you’re dealing with a mental illness that affects millions of people. I think Foster dealt with it respectfully and she injects the film with warmth and honesty, but I’m not certain that I was sold by it as a whole. In the end of the day, it’s still a family drama starring Mel Gibson, and neither is really my cup of tea.

3 stars out of 5

In-Flight Movie Reviews (Part I)

June 22, 2010 in Movie Reviews, Travel

A long flight means movies.  On my way to India, I watched a few relatively recent films, and here are the reviews.  This is Part I.  Need to bear in mind that I watched these on a mini airplane screen in a prescription drug-induced state, so my experience may be slightly affected.

Dorian Gray

I was really looking forward to this Oscar Wilde adaptation starring Ben Barnes (ie Prince Caspian) and Colin Firth ever since I heard about it.  The titular character is a beautiful young man who is immortalized in a painting. Dorian is then seduced into a life of excess and debauchery, but while his youth and beauty is magically preserved in real life, the painting begins to manifest his actions as it morphs into something horribly grotesque. Excellent premise that really fascinated me, but this film version fell flat.

Ben Barnes is indeed a beautiful man (and I say this with no homosexual undertones whatsoever – not that there’s anything wrong with that), but he seems to lack the requisite charm and simply ends up going through the motions. It just felt like something was missing with this one, which was very disappointing considering how much promise it had.

2 stars out of 5

Edge of Darkness

I believe this is the first Mel Gibson movie since the “incident”, and I expected it to be fairly decent. While it is smarter than the average thriller, it’s really just another violent Gibson revenge rampage in the mould of Ransom and Payback.

Gibson is a cop who picks up his daughter from the airport, and soon a violent incident has him in crazy mode, sending him on an investigation that takes him deeper and deeper into a mystery that, to be honest, I can’t exactly remember.  It’s not horrible, but overall, a pretty forgettable affair.

2.5 stars out of 5

(For Part II click here)

 
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