The Expendables 3 – Expendable indeed

The Expendables 3 is currently in theaters

The Expendables 3

 

The Expendables 3 (2014) – Rated PG-13

Barney augments his team with new blood for a personal battle: to take down Conrad Stonebanks, the Expendables co-founder and notorious arms trader who is hell bent on wiping out Barney and every single one of his associates.”

The Expendables is every bit as (former) star-heavy and assembly-line as the first two entries in this franchise. This is the first one to go for a PG-13 rating. I would lament this as The Expendables 1 & 2 were gleefully R-rated in a way that action movies just aren’t anymore. I say would because honestly part of the reason the first two received restricted ratings were because of some pretty dodgy blood CGI.

I love the concept and conceit of these movies and will watch every one they put out. Unfortunately, complete digital copies of this movie leaked online weeks before release. The Expendables 3 flopped at the box office (fourth on opening weekend behind Turtles, Guardians, and Let’s Be Cops!) but there is no telling whether this was due to piracy.

The Expendables 3 doesn’t break any new ground. Our villain this go-round is Mel Gibson. He doesn’t chew the scenery as much as he did in Machete Kills but is a serviceable villain. The problem is that he is such a throwback. He is so evil that he kills his own men (a cliche that I tired of decades ago). Mind you he cannot manage to kill those listed as Expendable so I guess he just chose a closer target.

The Expendables crew is back (Stallone, Statham, Lundgren, Crews, and Couture) and, as always, each gets a scene to showcase his talents. Bruce Willis is out, replaced by Harrison Ford. Chuck Norris is out, replaced by Wesley Snipes (who draws the biggest laugh when asked why he was incarcerated). I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes but apparently there can only be one African American Expendable as when they pick up Snipes, Terry Crews gets sidelined.

Jet Li and Arnold Schwarzenegger put in token, obligatory cameos. The movie also features Antonio Banderas as a mercenary with personality and Kelsey Grammer as a recruiter. The new younger Expendables are MMA fighters Ronda Rousey, Victor Ortiz and actor/model Kellan Lutz. That part smacks of spinoff.

Unfortunately, The Expendables 3 is not very good. It is not the train wreck that occurs at the beginning of the movie. It has plenty of action, lots of explosions and guns firing but all of it has a surreal A-team quality to it as (almost) no one ever gets shot except the villains. It is as though none of the legions of faceless baddies have been to any kind of firearm training.

If you just want to see these old school action stars do their thing, then by all means go see this movie. Otherwise wait for it on Netflix.

 

Gallowwalkers – The Return of Wesley Snipes

Gallowwalkers is currently available on instant Netflix.

Gallowwalkers

 

Gallowwalkers (2013) – Rated R

After his nun mother makes an unholy deal to guarantee his survival, Aman grows up to become a mysterious and invincible gunman. But the deal includes a curse: Everyone Aman kills will come back to life in this zombie Western.”

One Line Review: Blade vs. The Undead in the Old West is pretty terrible.

“You touch me and you’re dead!” – “Compelling argument. You must be a lawyer.”

Poor Wesley Snipes. A lot of famous actors, particularly those that peak high and then start to fall to direct-to-video, run into tax problems. Nicolas Cage is probably the poster boy for this, having received $20 million each for Gone in Sixty Seconds, Windtalkers, and National Treasure. Now he commands $6-7 million per picture and increasingly often his movies are going straight to DVD. Still at least he didn’t have to serve a jail sentence like Wesley Snipes.

I would expect there to be a flurry of DTV roles for Wesley Snipes. Thankfully he is joining the cast of The Expendables 3 next year along with Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas, and the regular Expendables crew. Until then we have Gallowwalkers.

It’s never a good sign when dialogue is lifted verbatim from other, better movies. While not as egregious as hearing Darth Vader’s dialogue in Kull the Conqueror, I still don’t appreciate hearing some classic Eastwood dialogue coming out of a generic villain’s mouth.

There are some good things working in Gallowwalkers favor. Horror westerns are not an overused mash-up and can work fairly well (The Burrowers). There is a lot of great desert scenery in the movie.

Costuming is a stylistic mix of western wear with, well, anything that was lying around. Modern corsets, fresh hats, homemade hoods, a ridiculously large metal helmet, a trio of red dusters, and a gaggle of white-haired women in near identical outfits. Someone clearly told the costumer to just go nuts.

Unfortunately even if the film had been told sequentially, it would have been an incomprehensible mess. Instead there are an interminable series of flashbacks, supposedly to enlighten. but it actually confuses the picture further.

It is impossible to watch this and not see Snipes as Blade. Here he is a vengeful protagonist and unkillable badass hunting down the undead who, among other things, raped a woman who was important to him. The rape scene is handled rather ineptly, though I’m not complaining as I certainly don’t care for rape scenes. It just struck me as funny that they didn’t show that when they later showed a man having his face removed and another man being decapitated after his spine was ripped out. Almost everyone who is shot flies through the air afterward.

Blade 2 – Marvel Superhero week

This is Marvel Superhero week. Blade 2 is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Blade 2(2002) – Rated R for Strong pervasive violence, language, some drug use and sexual content.

Blade (Wesley Snipes) is a half-vampire sworn to eradicating the bloodsuckers who lurk in the shadows. But when a breed of “reapers” is unleashed, the Vampire Nation asks for his help in preventing a nightmare plague that would wipe out both humans and vampires. Directed by Guillermo del Toro (Hell Boy, Pans Labyrinth), this Blade sequel mixes high-tech action with crimson terror. Kris Kristofferson and Ron Perlman co-star.

“Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.”

Well way back when I was a wee lad, my favorite comic book series was The Tomb of Dracula. I loved the portrayal of Dracula as an evil mastermind and all of the people hunting him were fascinating as well. One of those was Blade, the Vampire Slayer.

Wesley Snipes returns as Blade and Kris Kristofferson returns as his accomplice/handyman Whistler (despite having died in the first film). As he was in the first film, Snipes is a complete bada$$, dusting vampires by the score. Norman Reedus (Boondock Saints) plays the new addition to the “good guys”. You have to love a character that has Krispy Kreme doughnuts shipped to a stakeout.

This is definitely the way to make a sequel. Since Blade took out a vampire “god” in the last film, the vampires have formed a Special Forces team called the Blood Pack to take him down. Now in a by-the-numbers sequel that would be our movie. Instead we have a much larger threat that forces them to team up with Blade.

The Blood Pack is well cast and all the members have colorful personalities. Tough guy and Guillermo del Toro favorite Ron Perlman has a lot of fun as Reinhardt. Leonor Varela plays Nyssa, a possible love interest. Other members of the Blood Pack include Danny John-Jules (Cat in the Red Dwarf TV show) as Asad and Asian superstar Donnie Yen as Snowman. Donnie Yen also handled the impressive fight choreography.

Blade II is written very intelligently by David S. Goyer and yet oddly Goyer would go on to write the terrible third film Blade Trinity. The difference here is that the mighty Guillermo del Toro directs Blade II and naturally it is quite stylish.

The acting is good, the action is fast and fresh, the visuals are well-done, and the script is engaging and has a few good twists to it – basically there is not much not to like in this film. That and these vampires do not sparkle in sunlight.

Demolition Man – The Expendables week

In honor of the upcoming Sylvester Stallone action extravaganza, this is The Expendables week. Our first star from the Expendables is Sylvester Stallone. Demolition Man is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: Demolition Man (1993) – Rated R for non-stop action violence (I love that reason!) and for strong language.

“In the violent 1990s, a cop (Sylvester Stallone) catches a relentless killer (Wesley Snipes), and both end up in a cryogenic deep freeze. In the peaceful year 2032, the criminal emerges from his long chill and attacks the now crimeless California. Unable to stop the bloodshed, a “Big Brother” boss (Nigel Hawthorne) defrosts the murderers past nemesis, who struggles to adapt to the ways of a new world and a restless new partner (Sandra Bullock).”

“Dont you think…” – “I try not to – however you are young, think all you want.”

“We are police officers. We are not trained to handle this level of violence.”

Not only is this movie a guilty pleasure but it begins with a guilty pleasure. The opening sequence begins with a shot of the Hollywood sign on fire. We then track over south central L.A. under siege and our hero, John Spartan bungee jumps from a helicopter down to a rooftop.

There are a number of logical flaws in the script. The most prominent one occurs almost immediately. It is silly to think that the police could not reason out that the hostages had already been killed after discovering their bodies.

Sylvester Stallone is not only a good hero here but he also has good comic timing. He really sells the physicality of the action hero as well as the primitiveness of his methods. All this and he has the second most awesome main character name, John Spartan! (top prize still goes to Hiro Protagonist).

Wesley Snipes plays Simon Phoenix. He is absolutely gleeful in the role. Stallone wanted Jackie Chan for the role but Chan does not play villains. Snipes is a fifth degree Black Belt in Shotokan karate and studies kung fu and Capoeira. The director had to have Snipes slow down many of his moves in the film so that they could be seen.

Sandra Bullock has an early role here as a future policeman fascinated with the 20th century. She is as lovable here as she is in most of her roles. The following year Bullock would get her big break in Speed.

Comedian Denis Leary has a small but vital role. He plays Edgar Friendly, a rebel leader, and he has a hilarious Leary-esque monologue. His TV series, Rescue Me just became available on instant Netflix.

Benjamin Bratt appears as a policeman – he would later costar again with Sandra Bullock in Miss Congeniality. Rob Schneider also appears as a policeman and would later appear with Stallone in Judge Dredd.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Jack Black both appear in blink-and-you-will-miss-them roles and the voice of the computer is Adrienne Barbeau.

Product placement is hilariously rampant though not to the level of Waynes World. John Spartan requests Marlboros by name and Simon smokes them as well. Taco Bell actually features prominently in the plot and all of those sequences are hysterical.

The vision of the future given to us by the writers is not only filled with action but also pretty humorous. While there is a lot of language and violence that is at times grotesque, the humor is actually quite light-hearted in nature. This is not the dark sardonic future of Paul Verhoeven.

I heartily recommend this tongue-in-cheek futuristic romp – both for the action and the humor.

People Watch: Other Stallone films currently available on instant Netflix are Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Cobra, Tango & Cash, Rocky V, Get Carter, and Eye See You. As you can see there are quite a number of Stallone options.


The Fan – Robert De Niro week

This week I’d like to celebrate one of our great American actors – Robert De Niro. Netflix has a slew of instant movies featuring De Niro including The Fan.

The Fan

PASS: The Fan (1996) – Rated R for strong language throughout and some violence.

“Directed by Tony Scott (Enemy of the State), The Fan follows obsessive knife salesman Gil Renard (Robert De Niro), who wants to turn things around for his favorite ballplayer, a slumping, high-priced star for the San Francisco Giants, Bobby Rayburn (Wesley Snipes). De Niro befriends Snipes, but soon after, Snipes must struggle to keep the psychotic De Niro at bay.”

Thankfully Tony Scott tones down his normal directorial flourishes here – no bleached out color, no relentless jump cuts. Unfortunately he still loves his slightly off-kilter camera angles. He also pointlessly bathes an important sauna scene in red light. A pretty night shot of downtown buildings is severely overused.

Acting is good here. Wesley Snipes is quite good at playing the egomaniacal ball player. John Leguizamo is a lot of fun as the overactive Manny. Robert De Niro plays a obsessive baseball fan who gradually comes unravelled. Robert De Niro is excellent but the character seems like a simple aging/homage/ripoff of Travis (Taxi Driver) Bickle with a baseball twist. Ellen Barkin and Benicio Del Toro are good as well but aren’t really given anything to do.

The script is what ultimately sinks this film. It is clear that the writers have a love of baseball (though not Tony Scott as there are a huge number of baseball errors in the film). Wesley Snipes’ portion of the film is based on some old Babe Ruth chestnuts with some modern baseball commentary and Robert De Niro’s portion seems based on a combination of Taxi Driver and the more recent Falling Down (1993). Even though it is derivative the first two acts aren’t bad, just somewhat disjointed.

The third act is where it all falls apart and is utterly ludicrous – all suspension of disbelief is lost during a beach sequence (I try to avoid spoilers). Everything from that moment on will have you scratching your head and thinking, “what?!??”. Even if you try to accept what happens at the beach at face value, every scene after that gets even sillier.

Despite some really nice performances, I have to rate this one a Pass.

People Watch: Look for Jack Black who shows up briefly as a technician.