Category Archives: Cinema

The Expendables

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of action movies.  Movies are a form of escapism, and heroic sacrifice driven action movies always take me away from the mundane world and keep me amused.  I can cope with a lot of cheese if the action is dramatic and the quotes memorable.  I don’t need much of a plot.  Some good guys, some bad guys, a reason for the good guys to be after the bad guys, and I’m a happy man.

Cool shots, dramatic action, sassy dialog and plenty of sarcasm and the movie is approaching action nirvana.

I grew up with two kinds of movies.  John Hughes / Harold Ramis / John Landis comedies, and Stallone / Schwarzenegger / Willis / Lungren / van Damme / Gibson action flicks.  My tastes are clear.

It was therefore with both excitement and trepidation that I sat down in the cinema today to watch The Expendables.  So much potential, so much that could potentially go wrong.  There have been three ensemble action movies this year.  The Losers, The A-Team and The Expendables.  Unable to commit to seeing them all – we picked The Expendables by dint of timing and health.

Was I going to leave the cinema regretting it?  Was it going to sour lasting memories of enjoyable 80’s action flicks?  (Could anything sour it more than Twins?)  Was I going to be left with a lasting image of 60 year old men trying to relive their best years?

No, no and well, yes actually in that order.

The Expendables gets plenty right and only a few things wrong.  I thought it was actually too slow in places, some of the bonding scenes didn’t have enough pace or enough wit to elevate them to the right level of interest.  However, that’s a minor quibble in what otherwise was an excellent homage to the 80’s our rose tinted glasses show us.  Don’t be fooled by the trailers, this is actually quite a small cast.  Willis and Schwarzenegger have tiny walk on roles (and I’m not even sure they were all in the same room).  The focus is Stallone, Statham and Jet Li and for me that ended up working really well.

I love Statham and he plays this role to the hilt, I wouldn’t describe his acting range as ‘broad’ but this isn’t the Transporter or Crank or Lock Stock.  His by-play with Stallone is great and if they’re not great friends in real life I’ll eat my socks.  Jet Li is suitably amusing, Stallone is superb, Dolf is hulking and brooding, Randy Couture was surprisingly entertaining and Terry Crews was okay.  The weakest roles were the bad guys, they were pretty flat cardboard cut-outs and never really delivered any serious menace.  I could have done with a Hans Gruber or a Karl, maybe even a Mr Joshua.

After the setup to demonstrate how Bad Ass our heroes are, and an underused relationship bit with Statham and Charisma Carpenter, we are given the rest of the plot in 3 scenes and then slowly watch the tension build (too slowly at times).  Just before the final epic action sequence started I was thinking ‘there hasn’t been much actual shooting yet?’  But they fixed that!

Mickey Rourke added an interesting reflective moment, which you can take on the surface to be banal and patronising or you can choose to accept it for what it is – a statement that if we give up on others, then we’re basically giving up on ourselves as well.  I was glad they used Mickey as the wizened old wizard archetype, I’m not sure it would have been credible watching his pot belly take on the bad guys.

As I said, the interplay between Statham and Stallone was excellent, and the chemistry between all of the main good guys was very good.  These guys clearly respect each other and clearly know how to poke fun at themselves.  The conversation with Schwarzenegger felt forced but it got some good laughs (he wants to be president).

There’s plenty of exploding bullets, vehicles and bodies once the action gets going, and I laughed as much as I cheered.  I’ve seen reviews which say the movie was tired, awkward or ancient.  I can’t disagree more.  Rather than remake the movies of the 80’s and get it so glaringly wrong (hello Clash of the Titans), Stallone has lit a candle for the memories we have of how good those movies were, and given us something to cheer for in an otherwise bleak world of terrible reality.

The Expendables – it is what it is and it’s very good at being it.

Kick Ass

There’s something both distressing and fascinating about watching a 13 year old actress play an 11 year old kid dressed as a superhero getting beaten up.  But then, distressing and fascinating really describes pretty much the entire movie.  There are plenty of shocking things on screen in Kick Ass, although it’s the first and second deaths in the movie that carried the most weight for me, but there are plenty of laughs, some great dialogue, and plenty of comic book humour for those who enjoy it.

Kick Ass is an over-the-top comic superhero action movie.  We are presented with a young guy who turns himself into a superhero, because he can’t work out why no one has done it before, and is tired of being the victim, a father who has turned both himself and his daughter into real killer vigilantes, and an evil crime boss.  The movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a re-telling of many of the superhero stories we’re used to, it both pokes fun at those stories and poses questions about the consequences of the behaviours involved.  The result is a familiar plot of rescue, betrayal and redemption, but the delivery of that plot is slick, shocking and thoroughly entertaining.

It’s not without flaws, I felt it was a little long and could have done with being tighter in the middle when I was left wondering if I was enjoying it or not, but it crests that hump and shoots off into a rapid and excellent finale.

What really made the movie enjoyable for me were three things.  I loved the style and the cinematography.  The sound track was superb.  And Chloe Mortez rocked. Compared to the acting we saw in the early Harry Potter movies, from actors of a similar age, her acting is a world apart.  She rocked, she owned her scenes.  Everyone else was excellent, I loved all the characters, from Red Mist, Kick Ass himself, through to Big Daddy but Hit Girl (Chloe) really did steal this movie.

The action sequences are brutal, but there’s plenty of warning that’s how it is going to be, and I’ll be honest, it’s not easy watching an 11 (13) year old kid get their ass kicked on screen.  Nor do you escape unscathed by watching her shoot, stab and slice her way through the bad guys, I was left with an unsettling feeling of having seen something wrong.  But that isn’t a mistake, or a fault, I’m certain it’s intentional.

The ending was superb, very satisfying and dripping with cliche.  You should go see this movie, it should make money in the cinema because it’s a good film.  I loved it, despite the pacing issues.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

First off, all my cards on the table.  I’ve read the first few books of the Potter series, I think it was the first 4.  They were okay, but I usually don’t enjoy reading about the tortured love lives of teenagers so I didn’t make it to book 5 or beyond.  I’ve seen all the movies.  My wife loves the books and the movies, so I know what happens in each book, and I knew what was going to happen in this film.

There are spoilers in this review.  You have been warned.

Continue reading Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

Terminator Salvation

I’m beginning to think I’m unsophisticated, easily led, maybe even a little stupid.  I read the reviews for Terminator Salvation and they say ‘doesn’t capture the magic of the original’ or ‘haggard, nothing new’. They say that it’s a tired franchise and that it was a confusing and fractured movie.  I know cinema is an artform, and in art there are as many opinions as there are people.  Everyone reacts differently, but still, I think about the movie I saw yesterday and I wonder what other people went in expecting?

The first two Terminator movies are similar in layout, in my view, to the first two Alien movies.  Terminator is a very personal story about a single machine trying to kill a single person and anything that gets in the way.  Alien is a claustrophobic story about a single alien trying to kill the crew which eventually comes down to a single person.  Both Terminator 2 and Aliens ramp up the action and move away from the heavier horror elements.  I’ve seen reviews complaining that Terminator Salvation doesn’t capture the glory or the originality or the heart of the first movies.  Well, I hate to break it to them, but Terminator Salvation isn’t trying to do that.  It’s trying to be a modern action-based continuation of the Terminator story.  On top of that, how much heart was there really in T1 or T2?  Yes, we get the emotional bond and relationship between Sarah and Kyle in the first movie and we get a bunch of cheesy surrogate-father activity in T2 but they aren’t the mainstays of those two films.

I loved T1 and T2, I think they’re fantastic movies.  I think T3 should have been different, but it had some okay elements.  Personally, I think T4 (Terminator Salvation) is at least as good as T2.  But the rush of bad reviews make me question my own experience, maybe I missed something they saw, maybe I saw something that wasn’t really there?  I have to keep reminding myself that it’s art, and everyone experiences it differently.  I think if you go in expecting something, and  you don’t get it, then it leads to disappointment, and I think too many people went in with too many expectations.  I’m not saying I lowered my expectations, but I went in prepared to watch MCG’s film, not my idea of what it should be, or my idea of how it should play out, but what he wanted to do and the film he wanted to make.

So with that said, here’s my actual comment on the film, and there are minor spoilers.

Continue reading Terminator Salvation

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

There are major spoilers in this review, past the jump on the main page, but if you’re reading the article page or via RSS there will be no jump, stop reading now, you have been warned.  You will not be warned again.

We took the chance to see X-Men Origins: Wolverine at our local Showcase De Lux (sic) in Derby.  The sound and picture were really good, the leather reclining chairs were okay (not as comfortable as we’d hoped), the service and prices in the bar were shocking (prices not so surprising, service disappointing).  Combined with the price and the cost of parking (during the day) we’ll probably stick to the premier seats in the Nottingham Showcase.

Anyway.

I thought X-Men Origins: Wolverine was okay.  The movie tells the story of the (apparently) most popular X-Men member, Wolverine.  Unfortunately, a lot of that was already covered in the first few X-Men movies, so there’s a little bit of repetition.  Sure we learn some new stuff (for people who’ve never read the comics) and we see a little back story about how Logan started out, and we get to see how he turns from man-with-bone-blades to man-with-adamantium-bones.  The problem is that there’s no tension.  Spoilers follow.

Continue reading X-Men Origins: Wolverine

I, Robot

A lot of people didn’t like I, Robot but personally I thought this was a decent sci-fi action thriller with some nice twists and some excellent scenes, certainly better than average with much of the uplift coming from Smith.

Constantine

Keanu does well in a role that could have been created for him, and despite the changes from the source material Constantine is a good interpretation of the comic book with some worthwhile scenes and some surprising twists.