Creed Audio Review: Ready to Rumble


Director: Ryan Coogler

Writer: Ryan Coogler, Aaron Covington

Stars: Michael B. Jordan, Sylvester Stallone, Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad

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Release date: November 25th, 2015

Distributors: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 133 minutes


 

4½/5

Review:

The Expendables 3 Review – Rough ‘n’ Tumble


Director: Patrick Hughes

Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Sylvester Stallone

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Wesley Snipes, Mel Gibson

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Release date: August 14th, 2014

Distributor: Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 126 minutes


 

3½/5

Best part: Snipes and Banderas.

Worst part: The dodgy CGI.

Anyone remember the hospital scene from The Dark Knight? In particular, the part where The Joker mashes on a detonator to set off a firestorm of explosions? Now, do me a favour: picture that scene, then apply it to the Expendables franchise. Over the course of three movies, the directors, actors, and ‘writers’ involved have done little more than mash on detonators and watch studio-approved pyrotechnics light up the sky. Here, our pathos-driven Expendables come out all guns blazing for one last hurrah. The Expendables 3 is, at the very least, an efficient and amusing way to waste two hours.

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Sylvester Stallone at his baddest!

Nowadays, action flicks – leaning on extreme expectations from young, middle-aged, and old cinema-goers alike – are continually shot down by harsh critical backlash. Despite making piles of money higher than Scarface’s cocaine mountain, this series is seen as being the nadir of blockbuster filmmaking. More so, its cast members are laughed at for drifting through an extreme aura of denial. However, thanks to cinema heavyweight Sylvester Stallone’s influence, there’s something just so intriguing about these movies! This time around, Stallone and co. delivered a gargantuan marketing campaign. Willing to roll tanks through the Cannes Film Festival, this cast and crew lap up the attention they so desperately crave. Obviously, The Expendables 3 is not looking to be a straight-laced meta-narrative about the perils of getting older. Here, Stallone’s army is simply having a grand ol’ time in the spotlight. The plot, such as it is, revolves around the aforementioned team losing members left and right. Breaking original Expendable Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) out of a fortified prison locomotive, Barney Ross (Stallone), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) meet up with Hail Caesar (Terry Crews) to track down more bad guys and send them to hell! Unsurprisingly, their Somalia mission goes horribly wrong when arms dealer/former Expendable Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) severely harms one of our muscle-and-wrinkle-bound heroes.

Jason Statham and Wesley Snipes' friendship on a...knife's edge.

Jason Statham and Wesley Snipes’ friendship on a…knife’s edge.

Obviously, this series has suffered its fair share of hits and misses. The 2010 original, thanks to cheap CGI and a diminutive scope, tripped over its own intriguing premise. However, 2012’s sequel delivered several testosterone-driven set pieces and ‘f*ck yeah!’ moments. Thankfully, The Expendables 3 defies the odds whilst  sticking to its guns…and knives…and colostomy bags. Running its premise ragged, this instalment could, and should, follow its poster’s advice and establish itself as that “one last ride”. Upping the stakes and scale immediately, this sequel displays more signs of life than our ageing screen icons. It delivers everything you’d expect: train/helicopter chases, car chases, knife fights, shootouts, explosions, funny lines, emotionally gripping twists, and more deaths than The Wild Bunch… and that’s all within the first 20 minutes! The opening set pieces, developing a consistent tone, launch this sequel into overdrive. Sadly, Stallone takes everything a little too much to heart. Firing his near-retiree buddies, Stallone’s roided-out stature goes looking for fresh meat. Sadly, despite mercenary turned recruiter Bonaparte(Kelsey Grammer)’s sage advice, the middle third stalls an otherwise promising actioner. Stripping away its nostalgic glow, the youngsters – rounded out by hacker Thorn (Glen Powell), Vegas bouncer Luna (Ronda Rousey), ex-Marine John Smilee (Kellan Lutz), and weapons specialist Mars (Victor Ortiz) – lack their elders’ overt charisma. Adding zero gravitas to the conventional narrative, the middle third is salvaged only by zany badasses Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Galgo (Antonio Banderas). In addition, the original members transition from vicious warriors into jealous buffoons.

“Jing-a-lang, jang-a-lang…” (Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes), The Expendables 3).

Antonio Banderas as kooky mercenary Galgo.

Beyond the vicious piracy scandals, The Expendables 3 is still one of Lionsgate’s biggest box-office weapons. However, Despite director Patrick Hughes(Red Hill)’s commendable intentions, the screenwriters and post-production workers spray a hellfire of bullets into this fresh corpse. Delivering dodgy CGI, cheap stock footage, distracting film grains, and off-kilter voice dubbing, this heavy-duty juggernaut hasn’t been taken care of. Delivering a near-inexcusable final product, Stallone and co. should know better by now. However, thanks to Hughes’ searing direction and the cast’s enthusiasm, The Expendables 3 is a franchise standout! The action, though choppy to accommodate the PG13+ rating, fires on all cylinders. Utilising its performers’ abilities, the fight choreography lands several effecting blows. With Hughes hitting his stride, these sequences deliver enough explosions, knife attacks, and gunshots to take down a small army. In fact, that’s exactly what our plucky heroes do in the hell-bells final third. Throwing in tanks, helicopters, Harrison Ford, and Jet Li, this extended action sequence delivers well-charged thrills and energetic back-and-fourths between fan favourites. Despite the stupidity, motorcycle stunts and falling buildings add to the immense spectacle. In addition, as expected, our leads’ rapport is worth the ever-increasing admission cost. As the franchise’s saviour, Stallone carries the lead role with style and gusto. Getting along with Statham and co., his immense presence elevates hokey material. In addition, Snipes and Banderas are wholly aware of the movie they’re in. Blissfully, their charm offensives sit well with the series’ baffling  stupidity.

With Stallone and the gang keeping everything afloat, at this point, this series has, unquestionably, said everything it could ever hope to say! With a fourth instalment and The Expendabelles on the cards, I can only hope they recruit some better screenwriters and post-production staffers to salvage the mission. Obviously, hiring Shane Black or John Woo would deliver that truly brilliant Expendables flick we’ve been waiting for. However, compared to 2014’s other nostalgia-driven actioners, you could do a helluva lot worse than this low-three-and-a-half-star explosive thrill-ride.

Verdict: A charming yet transparent explosion fest.

Trailer Trash – The Expendables 3 Official Trailer


expendables3-poster1-2In 2010, action-hungry superstar Sylvester Stallone gave us a taste of his excessive lifestyle. Surrounded by action heroes, explosions, and bland one-liners, The Expendables became a commercial hit in the vein of Planet Hollywood, the National Rifle Association, and your average strip club. However, eerily resembling a set of testicles, this testosterone-charged roller-coaster rubbed critics and pop-culture the wrong way. However, in 2012, The Expendables 2 upped the ante. Quality wise, it was vastly superior to the original. Sadly, it didn’t elevate the series’ reputation.

This year, Stallone and co. aim to please every being on this big, blue marble. Looking back on the first two with regret, this-and-last-century’s action stars are, at the very least, trying to make a different type of Expendables venture. Ridding this sequel of CGI blood, useless cameos, and irritating jokes, the style and tone have been drastically altered. Bred by Australian filmmaker Patrick Hughes (Red Hill), The Expendables 3 sticks to this genre’s roots. With explosions, fist-fights, and wrinkled facades covering the screen, this trailer makes everything look somewhat authentic. From the get go, we see a train being turned into junkyard scrap-metal by our arthritis-ridden supermen. Ironically, their target is a jail-ridden Wesley Snipes. Giving this instalment a chance, this trailer gets off to a promising start.

Here, we also see some significant upgrades from the first two. Adding gravitas to this witless and brash franchise, newcomers Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer boost this instalment’s gargantuan potential. Sadly, Ford makes room to make fun of Jet Li’s height. Seriously, why would ANYONE pick on this martial-arts master? However, this sequel’s purpose rings true. Kidnapping the Expendables’ younger additions, Mel Gibson’s bad-guy character delivers some bite for this preposterous series. Beyond this, the trailer may be delivering the movie’s better moments. It could end up as a momentous disappointment. Then again, we’ve already sat through the first one. Watch the trailer below and let us know what you think!


The Expendables 2 Review – Macho Mayhem


Director: Simon West

Writers: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone

Stars: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis


Release date: August 17th, 2012

Distributor: Lionsgate

Country: USA

Running time: 103 minutes


 

3½/5

Best part: The action sequences.

Worst part: The comedic moments.

Strapping on the pistols, knives and corny dialogue once again, The Expendables 2 loudly expresses that the revered elements of 80s action cinema are still valuable. Despite this series already feeling the pinch of a discerning modern audience, this instalment is a clear step above its underwhelming yet still enjoyable predecessor.

The Expendables.

The Expendables.

The super group known as ‘The Expendables’ has survived the deadliest assignments in the harshest environments on the planet. But after one of their own – Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth) – is killed on the job, the team must stop the dastardly plans of Jean Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme), a terrorist hell-bent on world control. Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), under the orders of a higher CIA power (Church (Bruce Willis)), must overcome his emotional restraints, gather his muscle-bound friends – rounded out by knife specialist Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), martial artist Yin Yang (Jet Li), Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Hail Caesar (Terry Crews), and Toll Road (Randy Couture) – and save the world yet again. Along the way, the Expendables are joined by alluring, tech-savvy security expert Maggie (Yu Nan), spec-ops badass/troublesome loner Booker (Chuck Norris), and Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger).

Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Carrying over many problems from the original, we still spend little time on anything more than the team’s killer attributes. Stallone and the gang are simply cyphers of their most famous characters, asking a lot of an audience who might be unaware of their previous work. Despite being built around the most obvious action film cliches, it provides a clever spark of confidence with the advantages of its A-list cast and glowing sense of nostalgia. Simon West, a director with prior experience in the genre with Con Air and The Mechanic  remake, pulls back and allows guns, martial arts and weird accents do the talking. The team of both old and new action greats is expanded from the original with satisfying results. Side by side through every gun shot, explosion and catch phrase, the muscle-bound elephant in the room fades away as the ensemble evolves into an enjoyably chummy group of friends. The dialogue unfortunately falls into failed sitcom delivery with the regular use of petty insults, references and one liners drowned in a cheesy fondue. Despite this, the wink and nudge style illustrates the worth of these great actors. Here they pay homage not only to each other, but all forms of influential and violent genre cinema with its modernised Magnificent Seven narrative.

“Why is it that one of us who wants to live the most, who deserves to live the most dies, and the ones that deserve to die keep on living? What’s the message in that?” (Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), The Expendables 2).

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Bruce Willis.

Arnold Schwarzenegger & Bruce Willis.

Despite problems as glaring as the veins covering Stallone’s triceps, it’s still one of the most likeable action flicks of the year. Unlike many of 2012’s spineless action extravaganzas including Battleship and Total RecallThe Expendables 2 delivers on its most promising of opportunities. The chemistry between this dynamic ensemble of iron clad heroes delivers the energy needed for any entry in the ‘men on a mission’ sub-genre. Stallone and Jason Statham provide the most charisma as team leaders, with Stallone using his emotional range seen in films such as Rocky and Copland. Yu Nan is charming as the crew’s token female, while Dolph Lundgren, the always hysterical Terry Crews and UFC fighter Randy Couture are enjoyably silly yet underused as the bickering comic reliefs. Everyone provides a satisfying payoff in the film’s many jaw-dropping and bloodthirsty action set pieces. With the likes of Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris and Schwarzenegger partnered with the violence and stylish choreography of the most popular and exploitative action flicks of their day, The confusing, quick cut style of the original is thrown out for the greater good.

If Norris making a Chuck Norris joke or Jet Li hitting villainous soldiers with pots and pans sounds cool to you, then The Expendables 2 is a real treat. Increasing the action, charm and cheesiness of the original, this reunion of seasoned action heroes is a flawed yet enlightening homage to an immortal genre.

Verdict: The manliest and most enjoyable nostalgia-based flick in recent memory.