action

The Expendables 2: Find them, track them, kill them


image

Thank you, Sylvester Stallone for re-introducing the great badness that was 80’s action nostalgia. Even though he was slightly over his head with the mindless thrill ride that was The Expendables. Stallone leaves the directorial duties to Simon West in The Expendables 2. Ironically, actually lives up to the cliche. “Better than the first.”

Stallone and his Expendables squad is back for another adventure bringing Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture and Terry Crews back but also dives into the film library with the likes of Chuck Norris, Scott Adkins, and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Not only that, but we get more Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzengger this time around. Christmas comes early.

The Expendables start off in a rescue mission to rescuing Trench (Schwarzenegger) and all it is an excuse to blow your mind or whatever is left with nonstop gun battles and explosions. Then we settle into the already thin as hell plot. Seriously, it has the thickness of a string of yarn. Mr. Church (Willis) orders them to get back kilos of plutonium. The newest member is a Church operative Maggie Chan who fits in and kicks a little ass as well. She’s played by Yu Nan but one of their own is senselessly killed off by Jean Villain (Van Damme) and there you have it, a cold blooded revenge story. Van Damme looks like he’s having a blast with his villainous role, no matter how bad his acting is. With all this posing towards Stallone, you know we are in for one epic fight between Rocky and Kickboxer. 

You can tell this had a bigger budget (100 million) with all the locations including Bulgaria, Hong Kong and New Orleans. With that, the film becomes more preposterous and more memorable. Especially when you see Chuck (expletive) Norris in this! Yes, his acting still is nonexistant, but who cares? He’s a good sport, teasing himself and even gets his taste of joining in on the already high body count Director Simon West’s expertise in elaborate action sequences shows big time especially when you see a motorcycle blow up a helicopter or Stallone using enemies as target practice. Damn, he’s fast with that gun. Stallone saves the best for last packing everyone into a 20 min epic sequence that turns into a opera of bullets and dead bodies. West gives everyone what they deserve including seeing Willis, Stallone, Schwarzenegger introduced together in slam bang fashion.

This has all the elements an 80’s action film. Thin plot, mediocre to bad acting, unforgettable action sequences and some awesome one-liners. This is the ultimate tough guy movie. The way this franchise is going, I hope they never become Expendable.

The Expendables 2 gets a B+

image

I’m Jake Turner, reminding you to spend your money wisely at the Cinema.

Advertisements

Total Recall: Ah-nold over Farrell


image

Of all the films to be remade, why choose the 1990 Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, Total Recall? Hollywood seems to remake cult classics, rip them off, or take something fun back in the day and make it their own creation. However, you just come off as a hack director

Len Wiseman is no different and his take on Total Recall was an fun but ultimately forgettable ride.

I’m going to just tell you right off the bat. There is no Mars, no one liners, and it’s rated PG-13.

Based off the Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember it for You Wholesale”  The 1990 original was the best because of its mix of satirical humor, awesome special effects, and nostalgic old school action sequences. This Total Recall strips away the satire, forgot to coordinate a key element to its story, however the special effects are outstanding and solid action sequences.

Now I will give this to them. In the short story, there is no Mars. Nope, that was all director Paul Verhoeven’s own idea.

Colin Farrell is Doug Quaid this time around and there are only two countries left surviving on Earth. The Colony and the United Federation of Britain under control by Chancellor Cohaggen played with always a sneer by the terrific Bryan Cranston. The Colony is overpopulated, dirty, and for people below the poverty line just looking for survival. Quaid doesn’t have it too bad, I mean he’s married to the stunningly beautiful Lori (played by a convincing Kate Beckinsale) and he’s working on an assembly line fixing security robots. One day though, he wants to experience something different and heads to Rekall where they are known for their mind-tripping dreams for their clients. There was a wink to the audience when the secretary tells Quaid, “Remember to have a good time.” It was like preping the audience for a thrilling ride. We get a too brief cameo by John Cho, known for Harold in the Harold and Kumar trilogy who explains about the Secret Agent package that Quaid was all in for. Suddenly, things go wrong and Quaid is now a fugitive on the run, after kicking ass he heads back home to tell Lori until she tries to kill him. As an audience, we have to see what is real and what is fantasy? I was in on it for about an hour.

Quaid and Lori begin the barrage of action sequences to come with a excellent hand to hand combat and a chase beautifully shot by Wiseman as they are jumping off roofs, crashing through windows and jumping down to alleyways. She is like the T-1000 from T2 going after Quaid, she’s fast moving, a track runner and has obviously work in combat tactics because she is a killing machine even though Cohaggen wants Quaid alive. Then we get to the scene where he finally meets Melina, the woman (played by Jessica Biel) of his dreams literally, because its how the film starts. They are on the trail to stop Cohaggen’s dictatorship of his metropolis and save the day. Sounds familiar? Of course it is!

The screenplay by Mark Bomback (Live Free or Die Hard) and Kurt Wimmer kept me intrigued with it’s smart story line until in the second half when the action becomes the center point of the film and dismisses the intrigue and becomes forgettable. While the action is impressive, it just felt like they didn’t know how to make their point. Making Lori into a killing machine was an intriguing idea, but I felt like it was a sci-fi version of the Fugitive.  Where’s Tommy Lee Jones when you need him? Also, if you remember that Cohaggen is an key point of the whole story so why wait til the last 20 minutes to introduce him, it just felt like an extended cameo. Cranston really makes the most of his character. However, the special effects were awe-inspiring especially Paul Cameron’s cinematography, solid performances and some kick-ass sequences make this a fun time at the movies but you’ll forget it as soon as the credits roll.

I do have one question. Where the hell was Benny, our cab driver? I wanted to hear that line, “I’ve got five kids to feed!” Damn, that was memorable. Oh, well. Total Recall is an 118 minute dream that you’ll forget as soon as you jump awake, but at least you’ll remember Beckinsale.

Total Recall gets a B-

image

I’m Jake Turner, reminding you to spend your money wisely at the theater.

Savages: God bless Oliver Stone!


image

In today’s reboot world of Hollywood. It’s always good to see a legendary filmmaker continue to crank out originality and controversy. Oliver Stone.

Lately, Stone has been tapping into his soft side with 2004’s World Trade Center,  2009’s W: the unauthorized George W. Bush story and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

Now he’s taking on the New York Times best seller, Don Winslow’s Savages. Winslow also co-writes with Stone on the screenplay. When Stone writes, it’s full of wit, facts, and originality. Savages is no different. In fact, it’s one of the best of the year.

Welcome to Laguna Beach. Where the women are beautiful, the sun is always shining, and the waves always crashing against the hot sandy beaches and…where you can find the best marijuana in America. That’s right. Aaron Johnson plays Ben, a buddhist/idealist that seems like the brains of the operation wheeling and dealing business deals left and right. Taylor Kitsch plays Chon, an ex-Navy SEAL/entrepreneur who takes care of the brawny side. You double cross this business, you’re going to pay in bruises and eventually deliver the green. They have it all. A house right off the beach, BMW’s, convertibles, million dollar bank accounts and a relationship with a rich blonde named Ophelia but is known only as “O” to the guys. It’s a love triangle that only lives in a man’s dreams and for good reason too. Stone shows the physical and emotional sides of love in a rather candid and realistic fashion.

Chon and Ben have grown tired and are ready to retire but the Mexican Baja Drug Cartel has different ideas as they want the two entrepreneurs to continue making the herb for another three years. Ben “gracefully” says no and Chon says two words that become engraved in the leader of the drug cartel, Elena played by a scenery chewing Salma Hayek. Hayek takes Elena, brings depth and verbal brutality brought with grace. You’ll have to see it to believe it. Elena knows that their most important asset must be O. Gives the order to capture her to her right hand man, Lado played with a balance of suave sickness and brutal ferocity physically by Benacio Del Toro. Every time Del Toro is on the screen, you’re hooked and don’t want to miss a second because of his unpredictability. Also, Chon and Ben have an unscruplous friend on the inside. Dennis, a dirty DEA agent that keeps the two businessmen off the radar. Played by a thinly haired scene-stealing John Travolta who gained 25 lbs for the role. Finally, I want to give props to Kitsch for his best performance since Friday Night Lights. Bringing fierceness, aggression and a surprising sentimentality towards O and Johnson, shocking the audience in the last quarter of the film with his 180 degree flip on his character.
image

Stone taps back into his down and dirty side that is reminiscent of Natural Born Killers. The screenplay is witty, funny, and shocks you with a twist that satirizes today’s Hollywood and Winslow’s ending stays in as well. Dynamic action sequences, sizzling sex scenes and uniformly excellent performances across the board make this one of the best of 2012.

Savages gets an A!

image

I’m Jake Turner, reminding you to spend your money wisely at the cinema.