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Tag Archive: Expendables 2


Van Damme splits trucks

If you’re a fan of early Jean-Claude Van Damme action movies then you will love this new ad from Volvo Trucks.  It’s probably the best idea anyone has had to thrust back into the spotlight an actor/martial artist who once was on the heels of becoming the next Stallone or Schwarzenegger.  Expendables 2 wasn’t enough to do it, but showing off on TVs across America the physical skill and the result of a lifetime of martial arts prowess that Van Damme used in early work like Bloodsport could be enough to get him back into big movie roles.  Van Damme just needs to find his version of Mickey Rourke’s big comeback film The Wrestler.

If you haven’t watched Van Damme movies, you’re missing out.  First, add Bloodsport and Timecop into your Netflix queue.  Some may say it is blasphemous to compare Van Damme to Bruce Lee, but if you liked Enter the Dragon you will at a minimum appreciate Van Damme’s style, passion and effort in Bloodsport.  Like Schwarzenegger, Van Damme had the European immigrant with an accent action star shtick going for him.  He had proven fighting skill outside of movies, too.  And he had a real appeal–usually playing the underdog or defending the underdog, he usually had the good guy role in his best work.

Van Damme splits in Timecop

More splits. Could you save yourself if your kitchen floor was suddenly charged with electricity? Van Damme could, and did, in Timecop.

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I really like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the actor.  He’s in a rare group of current actors like Tom Cruise, who, no matter what he does outside acting, so long as he keeps making good movies I’ll keep showing up to watch him.

In many ways Arnold is like his Expendables and now Expendables 2 brethren, especially Sylvester Stallone, whose self-made rise to fame was a lot like Arnold’s, and Bruce Willis, who seems to churn out movies of all types like nobody else.  But Arnold is also one of those bigger-than-life/megastar/film legend/superstars who could arguably be lumped in with John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.  These three have a more distinctive, almost superhuman aura.  And just as Wayne and Eastwood did, it looks like Arnold is entering a distinct “third act” of his career.  You can look back and see Wayne in his B-movie days before Stagecoach, where Clint was making TV shows like Maverick and Rawhide, and Arnie was getting his sea-legs as Conan the Barbarian.  Then with their second acts they all made it to the bigtime, Wayne with John Ford Westerns and war movies, Clint with spaghetti Westerns and then Dirty Harry, and Arnold with his blockbuster action films: Predator, Terminator 1&2, and True Lies.

So what’s next?  Wayne got gruff in his elder years as highlighted in his Rooster Cogburn role.  As did Clint, even going back ten years he began this new life persona as old man, but always a modern take on what it means to be an old man.  His character as a geezer in Gran Torino is nothing like Dirty Harry or The Man with No Name, but it’s still one of his best performances.

So what about Arnold?  After his hiatus as California’s Governator, he slips back into movies this month with his bit part in Expendables 2.  But his first film returning in a leading role is due out after the holidays: The Last Stand.  Arnie’s stilted acting shown in the first trailer for the film put aside, I see some things I may like in this new action flick.

First, I loved The Rock/Dwayne Johnson in his remake of Walking Tall, co-starring Johnny Knoxville.  I didn’t think that film could be remade and I loved the result.  The plot of this film seems strangely similar.  And that’s Johnny Knoxville again… in apparently the same role!  Although–Knoxville looks a bit more psychotic than normal here.  And that’s saying a lot for the guy from Jackass and MIB 2.

Next, I really liked Sylvester Stallone’s performance as a worn down police officer caught in the middle of a culture of bad cops in the universally praised film Cop Land.  This movie, from the preview, feels like it could be a similar work for Arnold–a grizzled lawman needing to step up and take a stand, maybe the last stand, as the movie’s title would indicate.

It also reminds me a bit of Chris Cooper in Lone Star.

They are certainly not standout roles for John Wayne, but he played a cop twice toward the end of his career, in McQ and Brannigan.  And despite the dated look, both are darned good movies.  This type of role may be a good way for everyone to get back liking–and cheering for–our returning megastar.

And finally there is that Clint Eastwood gruff, cracked speech thing.  Call it tough as nails, call it dry, it is partly why we see Clint as the tough guy we see him as today.  Is this the future of the once young and pumped-up Arnold on the big screen, moving from his classic “Ah-nold” accent to a raspy smoker-like delivery?

Check out the trailer:

The Last Stand, directed by South Korean director Jee-woon Kim, hits theaters January 18, 2013.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Review by C.J. Bunce

Thursday evening brought in the newest national movie theater marathon, this time for Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises.  Starting at six p.m. with Batman Begins, followed by The Dark Knight and culminating with a midnight showing of the new feature film, fans of Nolan’s vision of Batman surely got their fix.  Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy is as it’s described–dark.  But none as dark and bleak as the third and final installment.

Can you have fun at a movie that is so dark?  The “dark” I am referring to in the context of Nolan’s film is “the bleak future ahead.”  Batman films before Nolan also were dark, but in a fantasy, comic book way.  I miss the sleek Batmobiles of earlier films.  To be fair, the current various DC Comics Batman series are pretty dark–gruesome at times–so maybe movies are just mirroring the evolution of the comic stories.  There’s a bit of a battle between making your story seem real and still have the rules of comic books apply.  Battle scenes in the current franchise, with Tumbler tanks that could be right out of an Iraq army base, take away some of the fun, the fantasy, of watching superhero films.  I want my Batman movies to be not only dark but also fun, and I am looking for escapism, not realism.  If you have the same mindset, can you still have fun watching the new Batman movie?  Sure.  What I am not sure of is whether you may like The Dark Knight Rises more were you to see it without the benefit of the Dark Knight Marathon.

   

I attended last night’s screening of the full marathon with borg.com writer Art Schmidt.  And we had fun.  Crowds at these big screenings really want to be there, and really want to like the new movie.  But where I had the most fun was re-watching Nolan’s second installment–The Dark Knight–on the big IMAX screen.  And I think the crowd simply responded, audibly, better to The Dark Knight than The Dark Knight Rises.  Would I have liked The Dark Knight Rises more had it not been viewed at the end of such a solid film as The Dark Knight?  That’s the question I am left pondering.

I’d seen both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight in the theater when first released.  I was not a fan of Batman Begins, other than I liked Michael Caine’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox.  I will acknowledge in the first two films the nods to Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One as a positive thing.  I should have liked Liam Neeson as Ra’s Al Ghul, but didn’t.  Last night, in the right mindset for a fun evening of movie watching, I was pleasantly surprised that I found Batman Begins to be better than I had remembered from viewing it in its initial release.

But it was installment two, The Dark Knight, that proved to be the highlight of the entire night.  It cemented the reasoning for Heath Ledger being awarded an Academy Award for his performance as the Joker.  His performance was both creepy and comical, despite his grim, psychotic nature.  But Aaron Eckhart’s brilliant performance as Harvey Dent was not far behind.  The writers of this “trilogy” seem to me to have screwed up somehow.  Why?  After watching all three films the real hero of the trilogy is unquestionably Harvey Dent.  Despite him turning criminal after going through the murder of his fiance and the destruction of his face, he is entirely a sympathetic victim who acted heroically until his world was devastated.  But this is all wrong–the hero of a Batman trilogy should be Batman, plain and simple.  After watching the newest film, The Dark Knight Rises, we are left with a vision of Batman as a whiny adult who could not get beyond early tragedy in his life.  Sure, he had it tough, and yes, he is a sympathetic character, but the character never really moves beyond the mindset of the young Bruce Wayne sitting in a cave.  Classic Batman stories do not rely on Bruce Wayne moping around about his problems–he is able to push them aside and help other people.  For me, the fatal flaw in Nolan’s trilogy is this basic thread at the core of Bruce Wayne’s character.  What Batman fans want is a movie where Batman gets to be the hero, where he saves the day, and leaves a better world behind.

Most of The Dark Knight Rises does not even feature Christian Bale in the Batsuit.  I’ve always thought a detective story focusing solely on Bruce Wayne and his analytical skills would be a great idea.  For a book, yes.  But now I know it doesn’t work for a movie.  Fans want to see Batman being Batman.  And not being beaten to a pulp by an ugly thug who has little motivation or character development.  Tom Hardy’s Bane is just bad for the sake of being bad.  Without revealing details, I think a plot twist at the end is predictable, and a last-minute attempt to make us feel sorry for Bane is too little, too late.  You cannot really even tell what actor is playing Bane.  The marquis credits say it is Tom Hardy, a solid young character actor who has been in Star Trek Nemesis, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, Blackhawk Down and Inception, but how would any of us know who he was with that face-covering breathing apparatus?   What does that thing even do?  He acts like Darth Vader, even holding someone up by his neck.  He sounds like Ian McKellan’s Gandalf.  His dialogue is muffled.  He speaks in loud shouts like the ringmaster at a circus.

Marion Cotillard’s character Miranda seemed to be an afterthought in the script, a character whose actions would have insulted the intelligence of the Wayne and Fox characters from prior films.  There is no chemistry between Wayne and Miranda, yet out of nowhere they are a couple—right after Wayne speaks longingly of Rachel (who was killed by the Joker in the last film), and while we movie goers see him developing some attraction to Anne Hathaway’s Salina Kyle.  (Seeing Batman Begins back to back with The Dark Knight also showed why Katie Holmes was better cast as Rachel than Maggie Gyllenhaal).

Caine, Bale, Freeman, and Oldman all were underused in The Dark Knight Rises, and when used they play caricatures of their roles from past films, even repeating scenes from the past two films, often doing things that seem out of character, like Caine turning his back on Bruce, like Gordon turning his back on Batman.  Matthew Modine added to his list of drab roles by playing a police officer who came off as annoying and irrelevant.  There are points where you don’t know whether to cheer the street mob or the police, the bad guys or the good.  Ultimately everything becomes a free-for-all and Nolan tries to make Gotham a cross between the Holocaust and New York City in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has a nice opportunity to shine in the film, but too much time is spent on his character, and not enough on Bruce Wayne or Batman, where the focus should have been.  Throughout the movie you can’t help but look for how Gordon-Levitt will fill Batman’s shoes one day–like Shia LaBeouf’s Mutt in the last Indiana Jones movie.  Note to Hollywood producers: if you are going to reboot your franchises every five years you don’t need to worry about taking valuable screen time to build up having younger characters pick up the reins for the title roles in future movies.

The best part of the movie was without a doubt Anne Hathaway as Salina Kyle.  Although there were a few directing decisions that seemed like missed opportunities—like what could have been a more overt and less subtle switch from innocent maid to deceitful thief in a key early scene—her dialogue was the best of anyone’s in the film and her performance was also spot on.  Her character had chemistry with Wayne, and if there was a saving grace to the movie it was the scenes of Batman and Catwoman together.  Hathaway seemed literally to bring out better acting by Bale.

One good scene had Fox introduce Wayne to some new gadgetry, straight out of any Q scene in a 007 movie.  Cameos from actors in past movies were also a nice addition, added some fun to the film, and the story at least made an effort to try to tie up storylines from early films.

Despair and hopelessness accounted for a long film that I thought would never end.  Once it got to an ending, the creators could not decide which ending to use, so they used them all.  The sound was loud throughout without letting up, lots of thumps and bass notes to tell you when you’re supposed to feel angst or fear.  I know operatically the third scene of a three-part work often can have a large gothic, epic feel winding up to a conclusion, but the film did not feel like an ending, more like another installment in a continuing franchise.  But the foundation of this third installment rests on the proposition that Harvey Dent was a bad guy in installment two.  Harvey Dent was a victim who turned bad in the end.  Gordon and Wayne do the right thing by not revealing the criminal acts he committed after his life was ruined.  After all, Harvey Dent was dead.  Yet so much of The Dark Knight Rises hinges on Gordon’s conflicts with this decision to keep this quiet.  In the big scheme of things it’s not the gravity needed to support a film.  It’s not enough to support a story and what happens to cause Gotham to fall apart.

The crowd had a good time but there sure was a lot to discuss afterward.  Ultimately disappointment was what I walked away with for the new film, happy that I got to see The Dark Knight movie in the theater again, and it really left me looking forward to a new director and a new vision for future Batman films.

The Dark Knight Rises at our theater included a great, extended trailer for the next James Bond 007 film, Skyfall, including revealing the new Q actor as the young Ben Whishaw from The Hour—a very cool switch-up from the older characters playing Q in the past.  We also saw a previously released trailer for The Hobbit, which looked great, and a fun preview for Expendables 2.  The big reveal we were waiting for was the teaser trailer for DC Comics’ coming Superman reboot Man of Steel, and it was disappointing–very bland and unremarkable for what we heard was to be an exciting new preview.

Nerd HQ is back for its second year in the San Diego Gaslight District, right across from the Convention Center during Comic-Con.   The star of the now-cancelled series Chuck, Zachary Levi, is back selling Nerd swag, promoting video games, and offering fans a second chance to see some favorite TV and movie celebrities.  Nerd HQ is a nice break for convention goers and a welcome opportunity for local Californians who couldn’t get Comic-Con tickets.

Last year we attended the panel featuring Scott Bakula, star of Quantum Leap, Men of a Certain Age and Enterprise, discussed here at borg.com last July.  At start time the panel still had available seats and they showed us in for free.  The discussion was interactive and cozy in a way you can’t really get with the larger Comic-Con venue.  And you really can interact.  Levi praised E.C Bunce and my Chuck “Buy More” and “Nerd Herd” outfits and even poked fun at her prosthetic alien head later during a panel.  This year the panels will be broadcast live at break.com/nerdhq, so even if you don’t pay the $20 per panel charge, you can still get your panel fix like you were there in person, no matter where you’ll be that weekend.

The details about some of the panels don’t appear to be totally locked in yet, but NerdHQ says this will be the basic schedule:

***Thursday, July 12, 2012***

9:30 a.m. Expendables 2

Features Terry Crews, Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture talking about the follow-up to the 2010 action film The Expendables.

11 a.m. Psych

Actors from the USA Network detective comedy series will be making an appearance to talk about its upcoming seventh season.  No specific actors appear to be confirmed yet.

12 p.m. Chuck

Expect Zach Levi and a few other actors talking about the wind-up of the series.

2:30 p.m. Robot Chicken

Seth Green (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s character Oz, will be discussing his series airing on Cartoon Network.

***Friday, July 13, 2012***

10 a.m. Stan Lee

The big guy himself. ’nuff said.

12 p.m. Man with the Iron Fists

No stars locked in yet for a discussion of this new Quentin Tarentino flick.

3 p.m. The Rise of the Guardians

Director Guillermo Del Torro is expected to bring some actors discussing the coming computer-animated action-adventure comedy film about Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, the tooth fairy and others battling the boogey man and Jack Frost.

4:30 p.m. Nathan Fillion

The Castle and Firefly star returns to Nerd HQ for his second appearance.

5:30 p.m. Assassin’s Creed 3

No specifics released yet for this new video game.

***Saturday, July 14, 2012***

10 a.m. NTSF: SD SUV

Paul Scheer’s National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle show airs on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim.

12 p.m. Tomb Raider

No specifics yet. A trailer? A video game preview?

That’s all that’s been released so far.  Proceeds from the panels go to Project Smile.

C.J. Bunce
Editor
borg.com

Enough of politics, enough of personal issues.  It’s about time audiences get Arnold Schwartzenegger doing what we all love to seem him do–star in action movies.  Brash, cool, obnoxiousness, big in every way, no one surpasses Arnold as the biggest action hero, although everyone who ever has come close will be joining him in the new movie, The Expendables 2.

I passed on the first of the series, The Expendables, when I had heard that Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwartzenegger signed up only for cameo roles.  But it will be hard to pass up the sequel coming this summer.  Every action hero who has ever been a BIG action hero from the 1980s onward has apparently signed on for this sequel.  I’m not talking about guys like Cruise or Gibson or Damon.  I’m talking about the guys who look like they could actually bend something, or someone, in half.

Here’s the preview:

So who’s on the team?

They’ve got Chuck Norris.  What constellation of events had to occur to bring in Chuck?  Did you hear he and Superman once had a bet?  The loser had to start wearing his underwear outside his pants.  Did you hear that when Batman needs help he turns on his Chuck Norris symbol?  (We’re here all night, folks).

They even have Jean-Claude Van Damme as the apparent bad guy.  Who doesn’t miss Van Damme and his mid-air balancing splits, flying 360 kicks, and cool accent?  Bloodsport, Sudden Impact, Timecop?  I’ve seen all his 1980s and early 1990s flicks over and over.  Arnold says “I’m back” but I’m glad Van Damme’s back.

Sure, Jason Statham is back, too–probably the current mega-action star of every other action film Hollywood churns out.   Check out The Italian Job if you want to see his best.  Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren are back from the original, too.

Sylvester Stallone returns as the lead.  Bruce Willis is in.  And Arnold.

Who the heck are they missing?  (Scratching head).  Maybe Steven Seagal?

The Expendables 2 is scheduled for release August 17, 2012.

C.J. Bunce

Editor

borg.com

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