The Expendables 2

September 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

In the 1980’s, there was an entire subgenre of action/adventure that was dedicated to roided up hunky heroes killing bad guys and loving every minute of it. The kings of this subgenre were definitely Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, and to an extent, Bruce Willis. The three of them were icons of machismo in that decade, bringing back the identity of the alpha male in lead roles for blockbuster films. The three of them even ran a restaurant business together–we all have to remember Planet Hollywood. I personally enjoyed the Hollywood Club. The one disappointing thing was, though, the three of them never shared air time in a movie together.

Well, in 2010, Stallone decided it was better late than never to bring them all together in a big, bombastic action lark, “The Expendables”. Unfortunately, the chemistry wasn’t all there yet in that film, and Arnold only shared a brief cameo with Willis and Stallone that was meant to be funny but came off more as awkward. The film itself seemed to take itself too seriously considering what it was supposed to be, which was just a big dumb action picture. There was an unnecessary heavy-handed (and heavy drooled) scene with Mickey Rourke, who was basically evoking his Randy the Ram character from “The Wrestler”, and the characters weren’t fully fleshed out yet.

Here, the formula and chemistry finally comes together. This movie is fun. The cast seems to be more at ease with each other; it helps that they can all speak English (letting Li have a small role in this film was a great choice). The bickering, snarkiness, and good natured ribbing between Stallone and Jason Statham is much more amusing than it was in the first film. The two really seem to like each other more as people in this one. Lundgren is also more entertaining…he was a bit too brooding in the first film. Here, he’s more of a comic foil, and that works fine. I liked the new additions of some younger blood with Liam Hemsworth and Yu Nan. And another thing missing from the first film that fits perfectly here?

Chuck. Norris. Yes, he’s only in a bit role, and he also looks a tad uncomfortable. He does borrow a “Norris”ism from the famous internet meme. But it’s cute because Norris is so genuinely nice that he seems to be enjoying having fun with himself. I would’ve liked to see him perform a roundhouse kick to the face of someone, but that’s OK. We do get a few good ones from the villain, who is very nicely played by Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Everyone is right at home in this film, and it really comes off the screen so we can just sit back and watch the sparks fly. The plot, which is the weakest element of the film, revolves around a mission to nab something from a safe, and it gets taken by Van Damme and his crew, and the gang has to retrieve it. We never really know why this thing is important, but this is one of those movies that when you start trying to break it down, you’re just going to get lost in plot hole hell. So don’t think about it.

This film is the definition of a popcorn movie. But it seems to be more self aware, and I like that Stallone handed off the directing duties this time. It’s great to see these guys still be abe to carry a film, even though they’re too old to do it without a little help. It’s sad in a nostalgic way–growing up these guys were just awesome. They’re showing they’re mortal, and they’re not exactly aging well. But their sense of humor is in the right place here, although some of the self-referential stuff gets a bit drawn out (the “Rambo” line was useless).

If you’re up for some brainless action candy, this will not disappoint. It’s a good excuse to get out of the house for a few hours, and it’ll put a smile on your face to see that these aging hunks still got it.

My rating: :-)

Idiocracy

July 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Blog, Home Video

Mike Judge, the prolific animator and voice talent turned filmmaker, took H.G. Wells’ envisioning of the future and turned its on its head in 2005. The release was a small one, and therefore the film has been re-discovered as a kind of cult classic in the past few years. The idea he works with is…what if 500 years from now, the world gets dumber and dumber to the point where everyone is stupid? And they still procreate just as much, if not more.

So instead of the Eloi and Morlocks, we just have one race of vastly dumb people and instead of regressing technologically, they’re actually more automated (though I wouldn’t say advanced).

The premise of this film is very promising; the execution actually left me wanting more. The film does work in its own right, and Judge seems to really have fun with the idea. But that’s all the film really is–a collection of funny ideas that never really comes together as a “true world” for the future.

For instance, there must be a few smart people still around to have invented some of the automated services provided (including a very amusing “menu system” at a hospital)–they couldn’t have all disappeared. I think it would’ve been interesting if there was a small society, shunned by the masses, living I guess *like* Morlocks, and even being imprisoned just for being smart.

The protagonist of the film, Joe (Wilson), is actually sent to prison because he doesn’t have the product ID number tattoo on his wrist. He also didn’t pay his hospital bill when he went to check himself out, since he is disoriented and sees a “doctor” (played by Justin Long in a short but funny role). The problem for Joe is, he was part of a military experiment to preserve human life in a pod, and have them in suspended animation for as long as the military wants–in this case, a year. But something goes wrong because the project is scrapped after its creator has some…other priorities it seems that upsets the board. But Joe and a companion, Rita (played by Maya Rudolph), are clumped up along with all the rubble made of the outpost in which the project was being conducted.

Rita is a prostitute, and she’s afraid her pimp Upgrayedd is going to find her. She and Joe are both unaware of how much time has passed when they first arrive in the future.

There are some really big laughs when we’re introduced to the year 2505, where our president (played outstandingly by Terry Crews) is basically the equivalent of a WWE Superstar. His name is funny, too: President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho. There is no water (except out of the toilet); instead we have Brawndo: The Thirst Mutilator, which is basically Gatorade–and has electrolytes! Because there’s no water, there are no crops growing and there’s a bad “ecomony” because of it.

This is kind of where the movie goes for jokes instead of creating a real satirical world. If water isn’t used for anything but toilets, I think the human population would eventually die out. And there’s no other real joke about the fact that life exists through Gatorade except that the stock is important to people making a living, apparently. When it crashes because Joe uses water to regrow the crops, it puts Joe’s life at risk. I think when he’s sent to prison, there’s just some missed comedy when you just have regular dumb inmates amidst other dumb people. It’d be much more compelling if there was still a separation of stupid, and if smart people were imprisoned because they were smart–and no one could understand them because of that. That’d also be a nice comment about ignorance and intolerance and would’ve given some more strength to the comedy.

I have mixed feelings about the movie because I did find it extremely funny throughout. Unlike “Office Space” which starts strong and ultimately gets bogged down by the weight of its plot, this film never really drags along or gets too heavy. There is always a laugh that will keep you going.

But at the same time, I would’ve really liked to see a more dystopian world that made sense. There are things that just don’t really add up if the population truly is that stupid. And I really think it would’ve benefited if there were other smart people. While Joe is given an IQ test and it’s made him “The Smartest Human Alive”, I think it would’ve been interesting if there were other people who became jealous of Joe and tried to overthrow him and the President.

It makes me wonder if Mike Judge truly thought out the Stupidity vs. Smart thing or if he wanted to just make fun of idiots and the oversaturation of advertising and corporations (every scene is littered with ads and logos).

The fashion jokes are funny, as are the misspelling of words (like “Time Masheen”); but that’s all the movie really is. I guess, in a way, that works fine. I guess I just wanted to see him really build this world and make it credible.The premise was too good to just have it full of “jokes”. I got some big laughs. But I can’t quite say this movie totally delivered.

My rating: :?