Sabotage & Arnold Schwarzenegger

 

 

Conan the Barbarian

 

I like Arnold Schwarzenegger as a star. I grew up with him as Conan the Barbarian, one of the best fantasy movies we had in the pre-Peter Jackson era. He was so iconic as Conan that he revisited it two years later in Conan the Destroyer. This version was toned down for the kiddies and mixed with a fair amount of Dungeons & Dragons but still very Arnold. He essentially reprised the role the following year as Kalidor in Red Sonja.

The Terminator

He IS the Terminator. Another iconic role that played to his strengths, the first two are in my favorite films list and the third is at least fun. Predator is another of my favorite films and Schwarzenegger leads a testosterone-heavy cast being stalked by an alien predator. True Lies reteamed him with James Cameron to great effect.

In the 90s, his films became very hit or miss and gradually began to decline in quality and box office receipts. I was looking forward to his return to movies after his detour into politics.

He did nice cameos in the first two Expendables movies. I really looked forward to his return to a starring role in The Last Stand. It was directed by Kim Jee-woon, whose The Good, The Bad, The Weird was a wonderful homage to American Westerns. Sadly while it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t very good either.

His next shot was co-starring with Expendables star Sylvester Stallone in Escape Plan. If you thought The Last Stand was ludicrous, Escape Plan takes it to another level. This brings us to his latest film, Sabotage.

Sabotage

 

Sabotage (2014) – Rated R

Members of an elite DEA task force find themselves being taken down one by one after they rob a drug cartel safe house.”

One Line Review: A world of no or, as they would say, “#%$# my $@%#, #%$^*&^%^$#@”

This time Arnold turned to writer/director David Ayer for a comeback role. David Ayer penned U-571 which, apart from the grievous insult of changing the British heroes who pulled off the actual mission into Americans, was a pretty entertaining World War II saga. He went on to write Training Day which was a gritty and wonderful tale of police corruption. Ayer apparently found that to be his niche and wrote Dark Blue and S.W.A.T. before wiritng and directing Harsh Times and End of Watch.

David Ayer writes, directs, and produces Sabotage so the ummm sabotage to this movie must be laid at his feet. I remember when dropping the F bomb was shocking. Apparently it is so commonplace now that David Ayer replaced the epithet indicating sexual congress with several indicating the act of fellatio. He was so enamored of this that I think at least a half dozen characters in Sabotage use it. I felt like it was on an audio loop.

Ayer assembled a good action cast to back up Schwarzenegger. Sam Worthington (whose leading man career never took off in spite of Avatar, Terminator Salvation, and Clash of the Titans), Josh Holloway (Lost), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Terrence Howard (Iron Man), and Max Martini (Pacific Rim) all try to out-macho each other as DEA agents. They are out-machoed by Mireille Enos (The Killing) as Lizzy and Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) as Caroline.

The characters are all cardboard cutouts. Poor Mireille Enos must have been told to act something the opposite of her character in the killing. Her portrayal of an addicted DEA agent is so over the top, it doesn’t just verge on parody, it revels in it. Still at least she seems to be having fun, Terrence Howard just seems embarrassed to be in the movie.

I have heard this movie described as an action version of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None). The truth is that it is more like a bad slasher film until the killer is revealed. The movie is filled with an unreal amount of nonsense and just about the worst dialogue I have ever had to sit through.

There is a big climactic fight/chase scene that should end the movie. Unfortunately Ayer wants to wrap up the loose ends so Sabotage limps on for another quarter hour or so after the end for another action scene and ending. This final ending is just awful and I don’t mean full of awe. No spoilers but this is the most disappointing ending I have seen since Return of the King decided to have about seven different endings.

Clash of the Titans – Theatrical

My wife, daughter and I went to see Clash of the Titans on Friday at Cinebarre. My daughter loves mythology and I love monsters. My wife came along because she loves us. Oh and she also love the milkshakes which Cinebarre serves at your table – I had chocolate, my wife had cookies & cream, and I am not sure which one my daughter had (mint chocolate chip?).

The original Clash of the Titans is currently available on instant Netflix. The remake is only available in theaters so is the remake worth your hard-earned money? In a word,

NO!

PASS: Clash of the Titans (2010) – Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.

“If he is to save the life of the beautiful Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), the valiant Perseus (Sam Worthington) — born to a god but raised as a man — must lead a team of intrepid warriors on a quest to battle a host of powerful, beastly enemies. This sweeping fantasy epic, a remake of the 1981 hit, also stars Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as Hades, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Gemma Arterton as Io.”

Where oh where did this go wrong? The original is no classic but is beloved as the last film animated by Ray Harryhausen. The actors in the original are quite wooden but the creatures are absolutely wonderful.

The studios hired hot French action director Louis Leterrier to remake the 1981 film. Previously Leterrier took a good property that had misfired (The Hulk) and remade it into something really cool and worthy of the property (The Incredible Hulk).

The original script, written by Beverley Cross, took many liberties with mythology. The new script, hammered out by 100 blind-folded monkeys on typewriters – wait I mean three separate writers, just chucks mythology and sense out of the window.

Writer Travis Beacham previously wrote Seconds and Dog Days of Summer. Writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay previously wrote Aeon Flux and the Tuxedo. I am really not sure who to blame but the writing is dreadful.

I was pretty much cringing through the first half-hour of the film.

When they first show the gods, my wife whispered to me, “Oh my its the gods of the round table”. The gods are shown in full shiny Arthurian-lite battle armor. Not only do they borrow from Arthurian mythos but later in the film, we have Djinn. Never mind that they are not Djinn in any traditional sense of the word.

Someone obviously liked Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter. Here he plays Hades but they told him not to bother acting. Just play him exactly as if you were Voldemort. That was the sum of his acting direction.

Liam Neeson, normally a wonderful actor, sleepwalks his way through his performance (paycheck please!) but is still of course fun to watch.

I have now seen two (this and Terminator Salvation) of the three tentpole movies that have starred Sam Worthington. I am trying to reserve judgment until I see Avatar but I believe Sam is the new Keanu Reeves. He has no emotional range here at all.

Mads Mikkelson is quite good as Draco and stands out from the rest of the cookie-cutter characters. Sadly he still has to work within the script.

The writing direction for Hades is to take those parts that would normally belong to Poseidon (you know god of the seas, oceans, etc.) and assign them to Hades. So the lord of the Underworld releases the Kraken from the depths of the sea. Hrrrm.

I understand the god/mythology/religion/analogies but they basically portray Hades as Satan throughout the film. All other god roles besides Zeus and Hades are reduced to essentially window dressing.

Apparently Andromeda (Alexa Davos) was not a sufficient love interest for Perseus so we also have Io (Gemma Arterton). In normal Greek mythology Zeus ends up taking Io as a lover and turns her into a heifer to hide her from Hera. She has no part at all in the Perseus story but hey why stop now.

In addition to rewriting mythology, the story makes no sense. Perseus does not live in Argos, is not romantically involved with Andromeda, and apparently does not know anyone in Argos. In spite of this he leads a group of warriors to certain death so that one woman will not have to be sacrificed to save the city.

The action is fun after the first half hour. The Scorpiok fight is quite exciting. These and a few of the performances are the only things that drag this up to the pass level.

The Medusa, which should be the showpiece of the film, looks very plastic-y compared to the rest of the effects. It almost looks as if it the final rendering pass was skipped.

By all accounts AVOID the 3-D version. This film was not made with 3-D in mind – 3D was added in post-production and by all accounts, it is terrible (though I went to the 2D version and do not have firsthand knowledge of the 3D).

People Watch: The other gods have extremely little screen time and if lucky get to utter a single line. Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir on Star Trek DS9) plays Hermes. Danny Huston (Colonel Stryker in Wolverine) plays Poseidon. Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly) plays Athena.