The Expendables

tn_expendablesMy friends, I write this review with a heavy heart. I know you’ve been waiting patiently for me to review THE EXPENDABLES, but first I had to process it, and what it has done to us. Sometimes a man must go on a journey to find himself before he can rise in the morning and face others. Ever since I was a young
Nah, I’m just fuckin with you. I liked THE EXPENDABLES alot, I was not disappointed, but it’s seriously flawed. To put it in Stallone terms it’s wounded, and not able to sew itself up. So I’m not gonna come to you with hyperbole and Ain’t It Cool style dick metaphors and exclamation points, but I’m not coming to you with tears either. This shoulda been a classic, ends up being more of a novelty. But I won’t let dreams of what could’ve been get in the way of appreciation for what is.

I’m sure you’ve all heard by now that THE EXPENDABLES turns out not to be the WILD BUNCH or ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST of mercenary movies that we all knew it should but wouldn’t be. It offers much of the joy promised by the list of names on the poster, but fails in many of the areas that the movies they’re known for succeeded in. For a movie so full of action stars it sure looks a hell of alot like a post-action movie, and for a tribute to old school action it wouldn’t’ve hurt to get out some of the old blood packs after they saw that their CGI exploding people weren’t acceptable to use in a professional movie. I swear in the opening scene I saw a cartoon drawing of green slime come out of a guy.

Before I go on I want to mention that I made a point of seeing this at an evening show, thinking it would be good to see it with an appreciative crowd. Big mistake. This was in the top 5 shittiest bunch of stupid assholes I ever saw a movie with. There was literally an entire row across of drunk video game nerds with loud, deep voices who seemed like they were created by programming all the worst talkbacks into husky android bodies. They had to boo and giggle and comment and talk to each other about every god damn thing on screen, and almost worse they had to overenthusiastically whoop and holler at any machine gunning or explosion, whether it earned it or not, making everybody else feel kind of stupid for enjoying it. When various other people in the theater tried to revolt one of them had the entitled tenacity to say, “I paid $11 for this movie!” And the tone of his voice said, “Shame on you! How dare you?”

In front of them were a couple of your standard variety Mystery Science nerds trying to get a Stallone-imitating word in edgewise. The only thing that shut those boys up for a while was the junkie in the side of the theater who at first was yelling for them to just watch the movie, but then started thinking he liked their style and decided to say things like “yeah right!” or “fuck you!” or “the Governator!” to the characters or hum dramatic music stings. It was distracting but kind of funny because it threw the nerd buddies off their game, they didn’t really know how to hang with this guy and it quieted them down. But suddenly he jumped up, started flicking his lighter, frantically searching through his backpack, and then left for about 20-30 minutes to engage in activities of which we can only guess. So while he was gone that one row got their ruining-everybody’s-night eye of the tiger back. And honestly some of their jokes were as bad as the junkie’s. It was sad.

I mention this partly so you know that I have no idea what was said in most of the Bruce/Arnold cameo scene and many other parts of the movie. But also I think they’re a good example of this attitude I’m always fighting against that action movies are just some dumb bullshit you slop together and it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad as long as you drink enough beer and there’s enough blood and some chicks to look at. I know there are people who don’t appreciate the art and craft required to make even a great cheesy action movie, but I think of them mostly as non-action fans. I include in this category the guy on Huffington Post who blogged about how the cast just wasn’t very impressive and went on to say that John Cena should’ve been in it instead of Stone Cold although he thought THE CONDEMNED was “actually pretty good”, that Jet Li didn’t belong because he didn’t “break out” until LETHAL WEAPON 4, and that Dolph is at best “an 80s cult figure.” But the truth is there are plenty of people who really do love action movies but don’t respect them in the morning. I can’t say that those obnoxious dickheads in the theater aren’t true fans, because the fact is they enjoyed it more than I did (their review: “THAT WAS AWWWWWESOMMMMME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!).

They love it but I believe they don’t respect it, because they don’t want to listen to it, they want to laugh at it before it has a chance to do anything wrong, and then they turn around and start whooping at the first smell of napalm, well executed or not. I think they don’t respect it because I heard some of their conversations before the movie about how “it writes itself” and it doesn’t matter what’s on screen because it’s a movie for men, blah blah blah. Just shove it in their mouth, they don’t give a shit what it is.

That’s fine, this is America, that is their lifestyle choice. I just hope I never fucking hear them again and that the junkie guy starts thinking he’s part of their group and showing up at their barbecues asking their wives to loan him money. But I think most of us here are a separate type of action fans. I’m not saying we’re better, because we are all equal children in God’s eyes, etc. But we wouldn’t think it was worth writing and reading about these movies if we didn’t respect their craft, their subtext, their history and tradition, and think those things were worth analyzing. So that’s what we’re gonna do here and that’s who this review is meant for but I hope some of that other group will eventually dig deeper and learn to see the difference between dinner and 7-11 2-for-two-dollars food.

By the way, I wouldn’t read this without seeing the movie. If you like Stallone type movies just see the fuckin thing. There’s no reason to wait for DVD. Do not travel through time and go to the 7:10 show I went to though. You will (did?) regret it.

mp_expendablesThe plot of the movie is pretty weak. My pals in the theater would say it doesn’t need a plot. I’ll meet them half way because the strengths of the movie do survive the overly simplistic story and lack of build. The ol’ soldiers-go-into-fictional-South-American-country-to-kill-dictator deal is not one of my favorite types of action movies, and instead of finding a new spin on it Stallone barely even goes through the motions of making it a bare bones story. Does anyone even know what Garza was doing other than failing to produce cocaine for the CIA? I guess the good news is that Stallone seems to realize that this is a completely boring villain and puts more emphasis on CIA interloper Eric Roberts and guerilla-trainer/woman-hitter Stone Cold Steve Austin. They don’t get to use the type of charisma they had in THE BUTCHER and DAMAGE, but they make good bad guys.

I also think Stallone has lost track of story structure, or isn’t allowed to use it when working with Millennium Films. This is the same as RAMBO: setup, brief middle part, long action scene. It doesn’t feel like quite enough. It doesn’t set the stakes or up the ante or fake left and go right. It doesn’t feel like quite a complete story.

And it’s minimalistic about these mercenaries. You don’t know much about their methods, their specialties, their lives, or even their names. Jason Statham has a subplot about a girlfriend, but otherwise we don’t see any of their lives outside of their work. Therefore you’d think there’d be some interesting details about how they do it, a sort of soldier of fortune procedural. Nope, not really. It doesn’t even bother much with favorite action cliches like the “Just How Badass Is He?” or the “Putting Together The Team.” I’ve read that Randy Couture plays “Toll Road, demolitions expert,” but in the movie I don’t think they said his name or that he used explosives.

I shouldn’t read scripts, but since I did read an earlier version of this I’ll share what I know. The version I read didn’t feel finished, but it had some plot and character background that was stripped out of the final movie. Church (Bruce) actually lied to them about having a grandson killed, they meet with him more than once before uncovering the truth. In that version Hale Caesar (which I think is still the name of Terry Crews’s character) owned a Mexican restaurant where they met. There was a little more method to what Barney was doing, like he has to recruit a gay Expendable to use to get weapons he needs from a gay arms dealer. He has to meet with old Navy SEAL friends, he has to trick people. I guess they didn’t need the subplot about the two CIA agents following them, and I’m glad Stallone ditched the idea of one young guy on the team, and that he rewrote it for the actors he had (for example having Randy Couture explain his cauliflower ear, which I hope helps him get other roles). But you can see how chipping away at an already simplistic plot starts to leave you with less than a movie.

BruceI’m sure when Bruce was willing to do one scene they figured it was worth cutting out most of what happens with that character, and when Mickey Rourke signed on they took away Caesar’s taco restaurant to make room for Tool’s tattoo shop. The movie’s biggest strength is obviously its awesome cast, but I bet that was what caused most of its weaknesses too. They must’ve had to work around complicated schedules, otherwise I’m sure they would’ve had a bunch of group hero shots with everybody together. They have a great, moody introduction on motorcycles, but who knows if it’s actually them? In fact the movie’s way too light on establishing shots, period. If Bruce, Sly and Arnold really filmed that scene together somebody really fucked up by doing it all in separate closeups.

And speaking of closeups, that’s the problem with alot of the action scenes. It’s not as confusing as the worst post-action, but it’s definitely got some similarities. Stallone knew all the match-ups that had to happen for it to be awesome: Stone Cold vs. Stallone, Stone Cold vs. Couture, Lundgren vs. Li, Li vs. Daniels. All of these fights are pretty cool but none deliver to full potential because they’re shot too close up and cut too quickly. The fact that Stone Cold actually for real broke Stallone’s neck to shoot their fight scene and the scene isn’t very memorable… I mean, that’s a shame. The Lundgren vs. Li fight (choreographed by Corey Yuen I believe) is probly the most satisfying one, but still frustrating because it feels like it has all the elements of a classic fight, taking advantage of their differences in size, but only let you see about 80% of it. Jet Li moves fast, you have to have the camera ready.

Stallone might’ve had some misguided notion that the way to win over younger people who didn’t grow up on his works is to make his look kind of like the bullshit that they’re familiar with. But I don’t think his math checks out. I think the shakycam fakumentary post-action style is a reaction to the type of movies Stallone comes out of. It says “Yes, Matt Damon is a super killing machine, but this is not some phony cartoon like Rambo. This is reality. You can tell it’s gritty because a guy’s having a hard time keeping the camera pointed in the right direction.”

Or maybe it’s just a reaction to THE MATRIX and the movies that came in its wake, which were exaggerated and artificial and used computers and wires to very clearly, in slow motion and from all angles show carefully choreographed and performed movements. We got sick of the MATRIX rip-offs so they gave us the opposite: simple fights that look unplanned and with the camera not set up in time to capture what happened.

I think the way to respond to that is to go the opposite direction, but Stallone’s response is to crash right into it, combine the styles and water them down. Maybe Stallone was worried that the fights were gonna be so awesome that A.B. King would explode, so he had to tone them down by muddling them up. But I think A.B. would’ve been willing to sacrifice himself for the greater cause of awesomeness. I say if you have this much awesomeness you embrace it. And that seems to be the attitude in regards to explosions, bodily mutilation and firepower (which is Hale Caesar’s main character trait). I just wish they would’ve pulled the camera back more and left it on longer, or at least edited the 3 intercut fight scenes a little slower so I’d know what was up and who did that one thing to Gary Daniels.

You know, this really is like an epic version of some of those Millennium DTV movies. They did do some solid DTVs like the UNDISPUTEDs, but are mainly known for sloppier, weirder ones like Seagal’s OUT FOR A KILL. This has a little of that spirit, haphazardly pieced together on the fly, having to say goodbye to making sense in order to film within the budget and schedule. It lacks the sense of place and atmosphere of many ’80s and ’90s greats, or even lesser ones like COBRA.

That’s alot of weaknesses, so how the fuck is this a positive review? Good question, I’m glad I asked that. What happened was what I liked about the movie overcame all that other shit. The main secret is simple: all those guys are in it, and all of them get at least one little scene to shine.

Stallone and Statham are the leads, they have the best action moment together (involving their seaplane, the Expendajet) and a brutal fight against soldiers with well choreographed Statham kicks and Stallone tackles. Couture gets a little bit of a monologue, the best screen fighting he’s been allowed so far, and a nice touch where he’s wearing reading glasses and enjoying a book on the way back from a hostage rescue. Jet gets to be sarcastic, gets a few laughs, and gets to fight Dolph. Dolph goes through a whole character arc in a short amount of time and gets to shit-talk Gary Daniels. Crews gets the biggest laugh in the movie without saying a word. Roberts gets to talk evil, Stone Cold gets to be evil with almost no dialogue. I wanted to see more of everybody but didn’t feel like anybody was wasted. Well, maybe Gary Daniels could’ve had another scene.

What surprised me most is I was watching the movie and all the sudden somebody just picked up the movie and walked away with it. And Stallone said, “Hey you, come back here!” and the guy turned around and it was Mickey Rourke. He plays Tool, tattoo artist and liaison for the Expendables. He’s the retired mercenary sick of all the killing and full of wisdom. And more than that he’s got weird Mickey Rourke-isms that he probly insisted on, including but not limited to smoking a long hobbit style pipe. He has a couple scenes, all great, but one in particular elevates the movie. He has a tearful monologue that just on the page would be pretty standard, but he throws himself into it like he’s still in THE WRESTLER. Or like he’s still trying to get the role in THE WRESTLER. You almost never see emotion like this in an action movie, including good ones. This is up there with Rambo blubbering at the end of FIRST BLOOD or Van Damme’s confession in JCVD. It’s so incredible even the row of assholes was silent for it. But then the junkie came back and said, “dun dun DUUUUNNNN!”

Claudia Puig of USA Today agrees with the crackhead, calling this destined-to-be-legendary-scene “one of the worst scenes” of a “gratuitously savage” movie. Maybe that’s the difference between someone who can enjoy this and someone who can’t. I like the odd, unexpected touches. I like Eric Roberts’s strange hatred of artistic expression, the General’s idea to paint up his soldiers like they’re on the cover of a Tribe Called Quest album, and Stallone’s willingness to “nearly stop the movie cold” with one of the toughest bastards in the movie crying. I like some flavor in a movie like this.

THE EXPENDABLES survives its wounds because the personalities cut through, and that’s what we watch these movies for. That’s why we try to watch every new Dolph Lundgren movie that comes out, even though there’s a high probability of disappointment. Not even including cameos this has a good half dozen guys whose starring vehicles I’m always interested in watching. And while this one doesn’t match the filmatistic greatness of the classics some of them are known for, every one of them does get at least a small chance to shine brighter than they’ve been able to sometimes in bigger roles.

Part of me wishes Stallone had hired another director, someone with a better skill for action scenes (you know I’m gonna say John Hyams or Isaac Florentine). But it’s Stallone’s emotion and earnestness that I like, and the way he lets the actors do what they want. If somebody else had directed it this team might not have the same sense of camaraderie. And I doubt they would’ve gotten that scene out of Mickey Rourke. They might not even have known to leave Dolph inexplicably alive at the end and back to being a good guy. The guy on Huffington Post didn’t know we love Dolph, but Stallone did.

I wish THE EXPENDABLES was a masterpiece, but at least it’s fun. There’s always part 2. I bet he can do it this time. Second time’s the charm, isn’t it? Think GODFATHER PART II in an alternate universe where THE GODFATHER was only pretty good. We can do this, Expendables. We can make this happen. We may be guns-for-hire, but we believe in this.




Special thanks: you, for skimming this long, meandering review

This entry was posted on Sunday, August 15th, 2010 at 11:27 pm and is filed under Action, Bruce, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

334 Responses to “The Expendables”

  1. Worth the wait

  2. Damn. Kind of a shame to hear that. I mean I heard it wasn’t the ultimate in badassery, but at least I know I’ll enjoy it on some level. I wish Stallone hadn’t shot the action that way – I’m so fucking tired of that up-close shakycam bullshit that I could puke. I’m sure I’ll get shit for it, but the only one I thought ever did it well was Greengrass in the Bourne flicks. I don’t know why they worked for me there but they still do. Bt yeah, it was nice to see Universal Soldier Regeneration and see that there’s still some younger dudes out there who don’t want to jump on that bandwagon. Anyway Vern, nice write up and I’m sure I’ll still dig it, but wish for what coulda been.

  3. I feel like this blog will always be split in two historic halves: pre-Expendables, and post-Expendables. I feel honored I was here to see this review posted. Kinda eerie.

  4. Yeah, I totally agree. I think it fulfilled the promise of the poster, but perhaps not our expectations and hopes. Still, I can’t wait to see it again.

  5. Haha, this is a great review, and I like how you prolonged getting to the meat and potatoes of it even longer with that 1500 or so word stretch about the jerk offs in your theater. I saw it at a matinee today with about ten people in the theater, including a little old Asian lady who saw the movie by herself, and a baby who cried out once during a non-action scene. (!) Aside from that, not a peep.

    I liked it, and I forgive some of the problems you have with it on the strength of its heart, but this is a thorough and honest analysis for a movie that has obviously played (for keeps!) with your expectations. I have to be up for work in 7 hours so I can’t say much more at this point, just wanted to get a word in here before this talkback blows up. BLAM

  6. Can we at least agree the opening ‘meet the badasses’ Somalia action thing was at least awesome? It hit all the notes I was hoping for out of the film.

  7. Great review, Veren. I agree with your assessment. It’s a novelty, not a masterpiece, but a good novelty. I guess my expectations were it never looked like a masterpiece and it didn’t really have the right people in it to be a masterpiece (Sorry, I don’t consider Couture, Austin or Crews action legends. But I would have been wrong about Crews.) So if I was expecting too little too late, a novelty is fantastic.

    I feel for your theater experience though. How about this: I had to see it in a small screening room full of snob critics. Here I was enjoying something that was made for my tastes, and people who think they’re intellectuals are laughing at the dialogue or how unrealistic Stallone’s plane grab was. I think the joke’s on them. I think Stallone was having fun with cliches and formula, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the critics were really smart and were trying to save me from enjoying something when I should have been feeling righteous indignation.

    That’s why I prefer to watch everything on Blu Ray.

    So, will you review Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World?

  8. Nice one Vern. I straight up loved this one – had low expectations and was blown away by the fun of it all. The thing I think Stallone got right was the unapologetic tone. The good guys straight murdered an island full of minions that would most likely be spared and dealt with non-lethally in a modern action movie.

  9. I vote for an ” vern tells it like it is” column about the whole Top 5 of your worst Movie crowds. That was an entertaining read :) had to Skip the Rest, because i have Not Seen it yet, but i’m looking forward to the Rest.

  10. – vern

    Glad to hear you enjoyed despite it`s massive flaws. I thought the Rourke monologue was brilliant too, actually got a real shiver from it. I still have hope for Stallone the action-director. I think he proved himself with Rambo. I can`t help but think that a better cinematographer and an editor without ADHD would have done wonders. And a producer who didn`t insist that they shot it pg-13 (I heard they shot 2 versions, a pg-13 and hard R, i think a lot of the cgi-squips happened because of that.)

  11. DNA, I just have to comment that cinematographer and editor can only do what director asks them to do. Things like shakycam and super-quick editing are directorial calls, not something that cinematographer or editor can decide on their own.

  12. I think the use of post-action movie techniques proves one thing: Despite his reputation of doing so, Sly does NOT read talkbacks and message boards or at least cares for them.
    I can’t remember one single Expendables Talkback, in which fans didn’t express their disgust for shaky cam and co. and wished this movie to have clearly visible action.
    Anyway, good to know that the movie isn’t a complete failure. Thanks for the review, Vern.

  13. caruso_stalker217

    August 16th, 2010 at 1:20 am

    “You didn’t tell me your daughter paints. THIS IS HOW IT STARTS!”

  14. The fact that I saw Scott Pilgrim on opening night and my friend saw Expendables says way too much. They’re both wish-fulfillment, but Pilgrim is hyper-abstracted. No muscle or blood

  15. – tuukka

    I agree, but I don`t mind shakycam if it`s used with skill. One of my favorite “action”-scenes is the brawl between vietmanese and skinheads in Romber Stomper. It`s 20 minutes of pure adreanaline-rush, shaky as hell, but used with skill and purpose. The chase on foot in Point Break is not exactly steady-cam either. Neither is the awesome last 40 minutes of Saving Private Ryan. One of my favorite movies are Bullet Ballet by Shinya Tsakomoto and it doesn`t get any more shaky-cam than that.

    I would have prefered old-school action in The Expendables, but I could have coped with steadycam, if it was well done. I really think that the cinamatograpy of The Expendables is horrible. The opening shot of the moon, tilt to the boat and then it stops and then it starts tilting again. The horrible zoom in, zoom out, zoom in etc, when they walk the hostage through the boat. The framing being way to tight in all shots, even mediums and totals, the constant out of focus-shots etc. I don`t really pay attention to the cinematography if it works, but when it doesn`t, it pulls me right out of the movie. And the shutter-effect during the fights… Arghh!!! The editing and use of score was terrible too, but I`ll shut up now. I feel like the bad guy in an actionmovie, monologing and shit. Don`t throw a big shiny cgi-knife after me, please. I promise I`ll buy it on dvd and watch it again and again.

  16. Personally I would have loved the fictional South American country to be Val Verde as a little nod of the head to the fans…

  17. Vern, I feel ya. And I almost ALWAYS wait for DVD. Yep, the cinemas have turned “going to see a movie” from a fun night out to a chore. :( This is why, with a few exceptions, I rarely comment on your new film reviews.

  18. Also, on the great shakycam debate – I find fifty per cent of “The Bourne Supremacy” unwatchable for that exact reason. The chase at the end makes my eyes hurt. It’s a pity, because I love what that film is trying to do. (Seriously, the scene with the girl at the end. How many action movies can you name in which THAT happens?) Another ambitious failure.

  19. As much as it pains me to say, I am once again in near-total agreement with you, Vern. I liked it, didn’t love it. I wanted a lot more of it. And I had a smile on my face for most of the movie.

    The funny thing is I made the mistake of watching Universal Soldier Regeneration last night, so my standards were temporarily raised unreasonably high. Then when I got home from the Expendables today, I watched Universal Soldier Regeneration again because I had to make sure I hadn’t just imagined how good it was. Thanks again for bringing that gem to my attention, Vern. You haven’t steered me wrong yet.

  20. I said it before a few times, but the visual style of “The Bourne Ultimatum” made me seriously aggressive. During the scene at the train station, the camera was already shaking heavier than I was used to and it often took less than 2 seconds before the next cut came. (Believe me, I counted! It didn’t happen often that I reached “2”!) I was already annoyed to death before the first act was over and by the end of the movie – as good as the story and such were – I had a fucking headache for the rest of the day and in such a bad mood, that I yelled at everybody who talked to me, including my family.
    Please take note: I saw this movie on DVD! I don’t wanna imagine what had happened if I had seen it in theatres! I mean, I saw “Cloverfield” in theatres and I not just could see what was going on in every scene, it did NOT give me a headache or such things!But “The Bourne Ultimatum” did. On TV! That’s why I hate Greengrass and his visual style so much. This guy knows how to handle a screenplay, but not how to handle a camera.

  21. I watched Supremacy and Ultimatum on DVD, which is probably a better format for them. I love Ultimatum, I’ve already watched it three times.

    While it’s obviously too cutty, I will give major credit for its action sequences: They are written and choreographed extremely well. The editing gets in the way occasionally, but not enough to spoil the fun or me.

    Now Quantum Solace on the other hand… THAT to me is the worst example of post-action. Bourne movies are leisurely edited when compared to Quantum Solace. Even on DVD I literally often couldn’t often tell what was happening in the action sequences of that movie. The tragedy is that the scenes are written well, choreographed well, even filmed well… But edited to extreme. The film constantly shows 2-4 shots per SECOND. It’s incomprehensible crap. Such a let down after Casino Royale, which had great action sequences.

  22. Stop doing such a great job, Vern, you make us Internet reviewers look bad!

  23. Garza follows the long tradition of south american bad guys that don´t speak proper spanish. His spanish is as bad as my english.

  24. Vern : Thanks for the spoiler warning , that was a kind and gentlemanly thing to do .A lot of critics nowadays , more often than not , act like a reader is reading their review only for comedic value , or because they only like their style and personality , and absolutely not to have some kind of idea of the movie to decide to see it in cinemas or wait for rental , or to simply discuss it . And so they write reviews full of spoilers , and they’re so edgy that they don’t give a fuck about warning you first. This is especially annoying in this Internet thing , with users coming from all over the world with different release dates . I will have to wait till 3 September to see this movie , so thank you , buddy .

    And this is sort of a link to what you are talking about in the beginning of the review : the movie itself is not as important to a lot of people anymore.For a most of the Internet critics , it seems like the only thing they care about is what are they going to write of the movie , even when they’re still watching it or maybe even before . These guys are more interested in making jokes and puns , than to really analyze and talk about it. That’s why we have articles like “The Expendables’ Pump Up” , “The Expendables muscled in to the top spot ” and “The Expendables explodes”.
    Okay , we fucking get it , enough with the jokes! I mean , it’s mandatory to write like that nowadays ? And for the regular moviegoer , the cinema is just another place to go , get drunk , be annoying and say out loud , and live , the same jokes and puns we will read in the reviews when we get home. So , again , thanks Vern , I can’t wait to see this shit and I can’t wait to read your review afterwards.

  25. Yeah, not a fan of shaky-cam either – as much as I actually like QofS, the action scenes feel like a lazy cop-out as a result, like they just couldn’t be bothered to take the time and set up the cameras properly.

    If you want to see shaky-cam utilised properly, I humbly suggest you try Dante Lam’s films, especially his
    recent “Fire of Conscience”, which contains a cracking good restaurant shootout.

    Expendables hits the UK next weekend, but I’m going to wait a week and go see it with my dad and brother
    in law. Great review as usual Vern. I too hope the junkie started bumming them for change when they got outside.

  26. I was waiting to see if I should pay my hard earned money to see this in the theatre till I read your review. And while I stopped myself from getting into the spoiler heavy second half of the review, your being as underwhelmed as you seem to be makes me think I’ll be seeing Scott Pilgrimm tonight instead. From the box office returns over the weekend it looks like Edgar Wrights little film is going to need all the help it can get. Expendables took the no. 1 spot though so you can all bet there is a sequel coming.

  27. I guess I liked this movie more than most of you guys. I didn’t find the shakeycam bad, in fact, I found it a unique kind of style for the action in this movie. The camerawork during the action was surprisingly non-ego stroking considering this movie is all about its cast. It didn’t give the heroes all these opportunities to mug for the camera and strike fancy poses or anything, it just kept the action coming.

    I also imagine there will be an extended cut of this film on DVD that will flesh out some of the characters a bit more.

  28. I’m sorry to say I’d put this somewhere below Cobra and slightly above Daylight in the Stallone hierarchy. Sure the plot/story/characters are bad, but our expectations are low so whatever. But we watch porno for good sex scenes, and we watch action movies for good action scenes, and there’s no excuse when they don’t deliver.

    MacReady brought up Universal Soldier: Regeneration, which is strangely the better 2010 Dolph Lundgren movie and an example of shaky-cam done right. The opening car chase in that movie is chaotic and busy, but it’s still clear what’s going on and to whom. It’s really almost a miracle it works as well as it does. Compare that to the car chase here, where I really don’t know what happens other than Li sort of does a cool move to get to the back of the truck that we don’t really see.

    And seriously, the Li/Dolph fight was horribly, horribly done. I remember people were shitting on the Li/Statham fight in War, which was of course disappointing but was at least intelligible. I guarantee if it wasn’t Stallone directing this and he didn’t have so much well-deserved audience goodwill, the Li/Dolph fight would be the new nuke the fridge/Spiderman dancing standard of fanboy hatred.

    I mean, shit, the shootout at the end of Rambo ranks with one of the best ever. The fight at the end of Rocky II is incredibly well shot and choreographed (seriously watch it again) – how can that be the same Stallone who directed this crap? The entire tunnel fight is DTV Seagal worthy, it’s that bad.

  29. Vern, I think me and you are on the same page on this one. It’s one of those weird cases where the math doesn’t add up. If you put all the things that are wrong with the movie in one column and all the things the movie does right in another column, the first column would be like three inches longer than the second one, yet somehow when you tally up all the figures the movie comes out on the positive side. You can recheck your numbers all you want but you’ll keep getting the same total. It’s a bizarre statistical anomaly that probably involves a lot of theoretical calculus.

    I think the movie’s two main deficits are 1. The team never really gelled. And 2. No heroic deaths. That first one I can forgive, although I would have liked more scenes with the whole group, a subplot for Couture and Crews in the second act (maybe a scene of them beating up thugs at the rec center where Couture mentors at-risk youth and Crews makes fun of him for it), and better entrances for each of the members. Right off the bat, the movie feels rushed because they just kind of plop all the guys onscreen at the same time and never introduce them properly. As for the no-heroic-deaths thing, I was kind of expecting that a movie called THE EXPENDABLES would have more of its characters being expended. If nobody cares if they live or die, I wanted to see them finding something to die for, RAMBO-style. This would have also left some slots open for new characters in Part 2. I liked seeing everybody partying at the end (with Dolph’s near-impaling of Jet forgiven as just a little quarrel between brothers) but I would have felt the movie more if the victory had had a cost.

    But there’s a lot to like, too, and when I think of the movie, I smile. I could have watched a whole movie about Eric Roberts, Stone Cold, and Gary Daniels, and the odd shagginess of the plot and tone was endearing. And good god, shakycam or no, the sheer carnage of that grand finale was something to see. Crews might have gotten the shaft for most of the movie, but he owned that climax. Somebody finally found a gun that could give Old Painless some competition.

    In conclusion, this movie didn’t fully live up to its potential, but did anyone really think it would? But it still made me happy, so I’m not gonna waste time complaining about it. You guys are gonna fuckin’ kill me for saying this, but I kind of felt how I felt after I saw TRANSFORMERS for the first time: It’s in no way the movie I would have made out of this material, but I thoroughly enjoy the singular piece of weirdness the filmmakers came up with all the same.

  30. I think Eric Roberts should’ve recruited those basketball bullies as part of his bodyguard squad. It would’ve helped tie Statham’s personal plot to the main plot of the mission a bit more.

  31. Ace Mac Ashbrook

    August 16th, 2010 at 8:35 am

    This film seems to bring out the nay sayers in vast numbers. A lot of people are talking about this as if its a spoof of eighties movies. I don’t know if people have misunderstood the trailers, or if they just can’t take an action movie seriously.
    Me, I’m the type who respects my action movies the next morning. Hell, I’ll even let it wear one of my shirts and even cook it breakfast.

  32. Jareth Cutestory

    August 16th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    Majestyk: Is this “singular weirdness” the distinguishing elemet that made TRANSFORMERS more acceptable to you than DARK KNIGHT? If I remember correctly, you have clear opinions about how both films should have been made. Or maybe you set the bar higher for Nolan than for Bay?

    Did the “singular weirdness” work for you in the second TRANSFORMERS?

    Also, any reviewer who thinks that Dolph is a novelty and that Jet Li “broke out” in LEATHAL WEAPON 4 should have his/her license to review films revoked. They should be put in the same remedial film studies program as the douchebag hecklers.

  33. Jareth: I think you’re right. TRANSFORMERS might be a huge mess, but it’s a hilariously strange one. THE DARK KNIGHT is also a huge mess (in my opinion) but it’s a deadly serious one, which is much less fun. It’s not that I’m not asking it to be more like TRANSFORMERS, though. Never that. I like what Nolan’s trying to do, I just don’t think he pulls it off for numerous reasons we won’t get into.

    And yes, TRANSFORMERS 2 has even more of that singular weirdness than the original. It’s the CHARLIE’S ANGELS: FULL THROTTLE of the series.

  34. Jareth Cutestory

    August 16th, 2010 at 9:19 am

    Majestyk: Do you think ARMAGEDDON could have been saved with a weirder script?

    Also, can anyone give me an idea how the action in EXPENDABLES compares to the action in SALT?

  35. I liked this movie, although I’d put it squarely in the “ok” category. Thought the action scenes weren’t great, but above average (which doesn’t say much for what constitutes average).

    The audience – I guess that kind of aggressive, smarmy super-glibness is in the air now; reading your description actually made me think of “The Empire Strikes Back” parody episode of Family Guy, where the jokes were sub-Scary movie level horrible and the observations were either petty and small minded or just out-and-out wrong. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not sure people even know what they’re being glib about anymore. (Like in Away We Go, where the movie develops this weird ironic tone of unfocused yet hyper-acute judgmentalism towards most of the characters, to the point where it becomes confusing as to why you’re actually supposed to feel superior to them).

  36. Pretty much a spot-on review, Vern.

    I got to see this opening day, in a packed house, and – at the time – loved every second of it.

    Now I’ve had the time to digest it, I’d agree with you – there just wasn’t quite enough of it, it felt incomplete.

    That said, it was a ton of fun and hopefully the extended DVD cut that Stallone has hinted at will help make it feel more whole.

    On the shaky-cam topic: It wasn’t too bad here, I thought, but shit, why is it the default setting on pretty much all hand-to-hand fight scenes in U.S. films now?

  37. Pissin me off how often you actually got a clue on what’s really goin on Maj. You get dibs on first readable response to Verns review. At this I might start thinkin u r almost like into women or sumthin.

    I wanna expand on jus one of your points cos its important but so many morlocks here dun actually get what’s goin on. I couldn’t find a clip of Predators intro scene, but I wanted too cos character intro’s is truly critical and CRITICALLY FUCKED UP IN THE EXPENDABLES. You can introduce a character in 10 seconds or less and say a bucketload about them and make the audience interested in THIS character (as opposed to who they once played in a different movie). Check out Vince McMahons work for a 5 second intro into the theory.

    But I wanna use an image even the fairy floss here should know – I read people posting here as recent as today sayin we all loved Ventura (Blain) cos of the mini-gun. Wrong you redneck half-brain fuckwit who dun even know why u like wat u like – in the 2 minute intro scene we got a 10 second feed that made us love this character:

    Blain (Ventura) –
    1) playing his balls out music Long Tall Sally
    2) huge mother fucker
    3) cowboy hat
    4) smug motherfucking charismatic smile
    5) handing out chewing tobacco (and not getting any takers)
    6) “Bunch of slack-jawed faggots around here” – macho, ballsy, head bull – and this by relationship automatically enhances Arnie’s character Dutch too btw
    7) “This stuff will make you a god damned sexual Tyrannosaurus, just like me.” – arrogance = charisma (for this character in his situation, if you were next to him you’d hate the stinking cockbreath)

    8) “Yeah, strap this on your ‘sore ass’, Blain.” Said by Poncho. A small guy who we now instantly like cos – 12 seconds into the scene, he just stood up to the ultimate BADASS and called that BADASS a motherfucking FAGGOT.
    9) Poncho then chucks bit a paper almost at Hawkin’s head. In that one 3 second scene – just by the acting – just by the looks we see the great respect these two characters have for each other and everyone loves that kind of respect
    10) and we see that Poncho is a lighthearted fun guy – as well as being a ballsy everyman
    11) and pretty slight of build – 2nd lightest in the crew – some sort of interesting scout type

    12) and we see that Hawkins has lightning reflexes to catch something in the dark when he’s not even looking at it which implies maybe more BADASS than even Blain in his own way
    13) and Hawkins is skinny and
    14) Hawkins is wearing glasses which is a great juxtaposition against
    14 a) he’s on a copter with BADASS Blain and
    14 b) his reflexes and
    14 c) how much Poncho respects him + bonus
    14 d) Arnie set up how tight his unit is in the first scene and Dutch is ultimate BM

    15) meanwhile Billy is laughing at Poncho’s joke about Blain having a sore ass (implying he is a faggot) and
    16) Billy is an American Indian – they are the most BADASS of all as we all saw Billy Jack and
    17) fuck me, he’s kind of a BIG Indian – that’s unfairy stackin the deck ain’t it and
    18) he ain’t worried about offending Blain – but then Blain took it, and given his machismo that truly spells tight unit but
    19) he’s putting on that mean looking camo paint real deliberate like and
    19) we got Hawkin’s joke about his girlfriend just you peeples are fully aware that – Billy is mysterious and not from round your parts – he’s an Indian and dun even get your jokes he’s THAT FUCKING SERIOUS

    20) but we got Weather’s already introduced in a great 40 point intro scene last scene so no need to mention him much cso we already interested but
    21) Blain spits disgusting tobacco on his shoe deliberately. OMFG! Balls out BADASS Blain +1 again
    22) Weather’s dun take it, but he dun do anything either – tellin us Weather’s knows how to deal with these people, and Weathers is a veteran BUT most IMPORTANT part of that scene we are being told is that – Weathers is not sitting at number 2 in this Wolfpack as you might have thought by the rankings

    23) Meanwhile Mac is just shaving and completely above all this childish chest thumping to tell us he’s RESPECTED
    24) and that he’s mebbe 3rd or 4th in this Wolfpack
    25) and that he’s BLACK OMG
    26) and a big dude
    27) and shaving without cream, man that fuckin hurts
    28) and appears to be Blain’s friend and we KNOW what a motherfucking BADASSS Blain is so the kinds of guys he consdiers a friend must be BADBADASS

    29) and then we see Stallone… I mean, sorry dreaming of a classic I wanted to see called Expendables… then we see Dutch again and we KNOW this motherfucker who had his own 50 point intro including things like first boot on the ground and cigar and that legendary arm wrestler and loud slap, this motherfucker rules THIS roost of ULTIMATE BADASSSES

    30) and this all took place – your love for these characters was established in… wait for it… UNDER 60 SECONDS.

    You idiots.

    Expendables had some great scenes. The plane scene. Stallone’s reloading gusto was new. The neck break. Crew’s blood spray gun. Rourke pwning the script. Happy feet. Too many explosives on pillars. Austin kicking Stallone’s arse. Austin vs Couture. Some nice knife stabs from Statham that we all liked. That’s it.

    Nice scenes, there’s no fucking comparison though.

    60 seconds of character development… just 60 seconds of introductions would have potentially turned this from – as Vern so perfectly labels it, from a Novelty into a CLASSIC.

    It’s a fucking novelty. I’m gonna watch it again. I’ma rewind Crew’s scene and watch it 2 – mebbe 3 times. But it’s still just a fucking novelty. And that would be fine… if it weren’t so fucking easy to turn this crew – THIS FUCKING ALL CHARISMA cast, the fucking AURORA BOREALIS of action, into a fucking BALLBUSTING BADASS CLASSIC.

    Not good enough – that’s the real rating. The inarguable rating out of 10 for The Expendables. Good fine whatever fuck you. But.
    Not. Good. Enough.

  38. Jareth: It’s been a while since I’ve seen ARMAGEDDON, so I can’t really say. But I can say that the shakycam in THE EXPENDABLES is not as bad as SALT’s. SALT always cut away at the moment of impact, probably to protect the PG-13 rating. THE EXPENDABLES is pretty much all impact, no wind-up. It sacrifices geography and choreography for visceral crunch. I don’t know, it didn’t bother me too much except for the Jet vs. Dolph scene. I wanted to get a better look at that one.

  39. I will forever cherish the day that AU called me almost not a woman.

  40. I said almost not a faggot, bitch.

  41. Now you made me start swearin and callin people faggots u stupid bitch.

    Wait, is this on film? Ayiii

  42. It’s all relative.  Expectations are the devil.  This film is an adequate ~100 minutes of fun & action, though most of us are disappointed it isn’t what it was in our minds’ eyes in the preceding months.  

    Vern is right to note the low standards & problems that audiences with low expectations & neanderthal mentalities facilitate.  It is a shame the action genre still has the stigma of “if we drink enough beers this’ll be alright” or whatever.  It’s a shame Mr. Stallone’s reaching for the stars only netted him a cast of actual action stars rather than a string of great cinematic moments, and that his latest film failed to land at least on the moon.  

    Regardless of the flaws and shortcomings, I am of course glad this movie exists.  It entertained me pretty good.  I wish there were more profound things to say about it, that it made a statement about Badass Cinema that was uniquely exhilarating & timeless.  But, like Vern says, it’s just another decent “soldiers-go-into-fictional-South-American-country-to-kill-dictator deal.”  

    Mickey Rourke’s speech kindly came out of left field, and I was surprised how moved I was as it continued.  I thought he’d give a hint of drama, a few seconds of throwaway background data, and move along.  Then the closeup shot held and he kept talking about some uncomfortable shit, shit that hit me when I wasn’t ready for it.  Bravo.  

    Terry Crews, yes, I will remember that shit at x-mas.  

  43. I can perfectly understand the desire a fan of action films might have to see a film realize the full awesome potenital of the genre, much in the way that some people claim comic book films have realized the full potential of the source material. Like comic fans, we’ve all suffered great indignities at the hands of people who thought they understood our genre.

    I’m a little confused, however, by the expectation that Stallone would be the guy to have to suffer the burden of producing
    the film that gets back to the basics of action. No offence to the guy, but moreso than most of his peers, his films
    have typically been the ones to embrace the fads of the day, whether that is silly rock songs, montages, heroic posturing, bad dialogue, cartoon villans. I’m not saying any of these things are bad, just that Stallone has always made films that reflect the dominant action stylings of the day. He wouldn’t be first on my list of guys I’d hope to give us a no-nonsense action film. But he’s be near the top of the list for giving me a Stallone film.

    “Action film” is a much more nebulous phrase than “comic book film” or “horror film.” All of the people I’ve
    talked to about their expectations for EXPENDABLES had radically different ideas about what the film would/should achieve. One guy thought it would be classic Canon Films stuff, another thought it would be more like RAMBO, another was thinking a less serious Bond film. The only thing these guys agree on is that they don’t think “action” is as satisfying as it used to be. None could agree on the solution.

  44. I think Vern provided a pretty good umbrella description for the movie we all hoped for: “the WILD BUNCH or ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST of mercenary movies”

  45. Um… …… so, how many people here said they loved Blaine because of the minigun?



    (It’s a relatively long thread already, but the most I recall was someone saying that a character was given a gun that might stand a chance to being compared to Old Painless. I agree with your colorful breakdown of the Team Intro sequence from Predator, though, AU.)

  46. I also agree with AU’s explication of the character introduction scene in PREDATOR. Classic action scripting right there. But I think THE MATRIX did the same thing better in the cafeteria scene, not in terms of badassness but in terms of character, with the added bonus that it contributed to the themes and ideas floating around that film.

    And, in fairness, both the PREDATOR scene and MARTRIX scene owe a lot to ALIENS.

  47. DKS:
    “Now tell me, did we love Jesse Ventura’s character because he was a deep complex character, or did we love him because he was a big badass dude who carried a fucking minigun through the jungle?”

    That was just one of the grabs from googling your post, though this one came from the ‘other’ Expendables thread which may not count cos of one of your Lady Gaga rules i dun know about. Be easier if you people just posted how the Gaydar thing works or something.

  48. I agree with Jareth on Stallone’s filmmaking, which prettymuch describes my expectations for this film and maybe why I liked it more than most of you.

    I’ve seen many of the films Stallone has written and directed. Most relevantly, his last two films. I liked RAMBO 4 and expected EXPENDABLES to be like RAMBO 4 with a few more likeable charismatic lead actors and bigger action. I’m not sure why people would expect Stallone as a filmmaker to suddenly be capable of something he’s never been capable of before in a 30 something year career.

    Sure, if this was James Cameron or Luc Besson or somebody helming this thing, I would’ve expected more of a fleshed-out epic. I expected a Stallone movie and I got an entertaining one. Maybe that makes me a beer-swilling hooting idiot, I dunno.

  49. Saberman. Yeah we loved Blaine for the mini gun.
    AU. We loved Blaine because he could handle the minigun.

  50. I have to disagree with you, Vern — I think Rourke’s monologues were a total wasted opportunity. I don’t think his Rourkisms work in a context where they’re not contrasted against him doing something bad-ass, and ONE knife throwing scene a bad-ass does not make. (Did I just win the Grammar Rodeo with that sentence?)

    I LOVED Roberts in the movie, though… so The Pope of Greenwich Village came full circle… I was actually pretty pissed Rourke and Roberts didn’t have any scenes together.

  51. My mistake. Then I guess whatsisface in the new Predators was an equally loved character who handled his minigun at least as well. And Hitler in Wolfenstein must be the most loved character in history cos he had not one but 2 miniguns, and he was so BADASS as I recall he even ripped off his arms in order to replace them with miniguns.

    Tired and sleepy, the Prosecution concedes defeat knowing

    “It is against human nature, particularly if attacked, not to fight through a lost cause in hopes that an enemy will quit or make a mistake” Sun Tzu

    perhaps overstated by King in this case with “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

    so instead I’ll just leave this with
    “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.”

  52. Sucks about that theatre experience. The matinee I attended was a full house with many appreciative folks who knew when to hoot & holler, and when to promptly shut the fuck up. Ironic since I’m in NYC and we’re all supposedly so rude here, at least according to the movies. The shaky cam was my main issue, since what I looked forward to the most (Dolph Vs. Li) was about as coherent as a tribesman reciting Shakespeare. My other problem was that I didn’t expect this to be a Stallone/Statham vehicle. So that took me off guard not seeing the rest of the team as much as I’d like.

    With that said the only other movie I enjoyed as much this summer was Toy Story III. Last time I saw Dolph on the big screen was Showdown In Little Tokyo almost 20 yrs ago so that was nice. I’m growing to like Statham more with each of his releases. Eric Roberts was awesomely sleazy and the action that was more coherent was cool for the most part.

    I didn’t mind the CGI blood and stuff cause it went by too quick to even really care. Like I’m more amazed by Stallone filling a guy with 6 bullets, than the fact that the guy looked like he had kool aid for blood. I think Statham got the most awesome kills. The Terry Crews money shot gave me the same feeling I had when Sarah shotgun blasts the T-1000 in T2.

    However it could’ve been leagues better yes but the little touches made this one for me. Like the implication that Rourke & Lundgren were Stallone’s oldest teammates. That seems right and added nice little touches to the flick. I also dug the score by the RAMBO guy and that scene where Rourke monologued was a nice touch. I didn’t expect one of the more reflective action movie moments to make it’s way into this one. So that scene was a nice surprise.

    I look forward to seeing this one again. To see if I make more sense out of the shaky cam crap and to enjoy it with my other buddies who didn’t catch it this weekend. I look forward to a sequel. Of course we need to see Arnie’s team. I’d like to see Kurt Russell, Michael Biehn, Keith David, Bill Duke, Scott Adkins and the Wincott Bros. (Michael & Jeff) in there amongst others. Have James Woods in the sleaze bag role while you’re at it with Don The Dragon Wilson as his Stone Cold like henchman.

  53. AU, I agree with you that Predator did the action characterization way better, for the reasons you describe. I think we’re all trying to find some joy in this thing we’ve looked forward to for so long. And there is some joy to be found in it. Sure it’s not a classic. But it’s fun. Didn’t you find it to be so?

    What about that opening Somalia sequence?

  54. That was a cool intro, “It’s good to hang pirates” will now be randomly used by me in regular conversation every now & then.

  55. I was becoming enraged for a bit, thinking Vern had finally written a review I didn’t agree with wholeheartedly. “What about MICKEY ROURKE?” I was screaming inside my head!

    Ah, but this is why I read the entire thing. Great review; spot on. One recommendation: Go see this again in an early afternoon screening so you can avoid the fucking assholes that (I am convinced) ruined the experience for you, Vern. I almost missed the Stallone / Stone Cold fight because the dickhead in front of me decided it was time to check his texts, but I was able to pull myself away and just block the light with my knee. Luckily at 1:05pm that was the only distraction.

    PS: No more shaky-cam!!

  56. ui agree with this review completely. well said.
    i also found myself fantasizing about the possibilities of Part Deux.

  57. In the spirit of badass cinema, I have decided to take action against the Shaky Cam trend by means of a facebook page. Yes, a triumph of mediocrity!

    But if you want to join the cry of “No More Shaky Cam” then maybe this is a good way to start something?


  58. Great review Vern. Agree with it, though I didn’t think the last part of the movie suffered too much from post-action, though probably because that was the explosion heavy part and they wanted to get as much of that on camera as possible. But I love the montage of the Expendables splitting up and going to work on the mansion, and the soundtrack built that up pretty nicely.

  59. Not gonna waste Time on that Stallone Flick, and by the way
    Luc Besson and that Nolan Guy are just overhyped Hacks, heavyhanded, pretentious, cornball and without an ounce of humor.

  60. Had to label this one an enjoyable dissapoinment. Was hoping that a movie that billed itself as the ultimate throwback to 80s action flicks would follow thru on the 80s style action filmatics. That is to say, when fight scenes were filmed to let you SEE the fight. But alas, Stallone had to pull a “Greengrass” on us. I had a stark realization about just how far gone this nonsense is, a little over a week ago when I was watching ,of all things, “The Miracle Worker”. I was sitting there watching the infamous “dinner scene” with Anne Bancroft and Patty Duke and it hit me like a ton of bricks: “You gotta be f-ing kidding me!!!” “THIS is a more competent, dynamic, and visceral example of action filmmaking than just about everything on display in mainstream modern American ‘action’ films”. I hold out hope that these things go in cycles, but I premonisce no return to the salad days friendos.

  61. I dunno SurfiNerd… I thought Insomnia was pretty funny…

  62. Ok guys, completely off topic (but Vern hasn’t reviewed it yet so I don’t have anywhere else to post, sorry) – See “ROGUE”, from 2007, starring Michael Vartan and Radha Mitchell. Just see it. What is it about Australia and excellent killer croc movies? This is everything I was hoping “Detour” would be (but wasn’t): fantastic cast of characters, great acting, superbly tense, without the constant “tense” soundtrack (the modern horror movie’s shakycam, if you like. This trend of putting “Psycho”-like strings throughout the entire damn movie should die a painful and well-deserved death. There’s a reason Bernard Hermann was the master – he knew how to create tension, but he also knew when to pull back.)

    Anyway… “Rogue”. Fantastic creature-feature. If you get the chance to see it, see it. It just made my day. It’s even better than “Black Water”, and that was fucking excellent. For once the AICN hype is 100% deserved.

    Damn, it’s been a good year-and-a-bit for seeing horror / suspense flicks. “The Ruins”, “Drag me to Hell”, “Black Water”, “The Devil’s Rejects”, “Hostel”, “The Descent”, “Twilight: Eclipse”, “Dead Snow”, “Let the Right One In”, “Carriers”, and more recently “Kairo”, “The Host”, “Open Water” and this.** Ok, there’ve been a few stinkers, but what a bunch of fucking fantastic films there’ve been for the most part.

    (**But did you catch the one I threw in there to keep you on your toes?)

  63. Paul, Vern did actually review Rogue. https://outlawvern.com/2008/08/04/starship-troopers-3-and-rogue/

    Good movie.

  64. Whooops. Sorry again Vern. Although you can’t blame me for this one… I was searching the review columns for “Rogue”, and it wasn’t there.

    I’ll repost there.

  65. Slightly off topic guys… but how many websight readers are in the New York City area?

  66. alright, completly out of place here, completly un-badass, and probably in the wrong thread… but Scott Pilgrim did have a few fight scenes where Edgar Wright just pointed the camera at the action. sure, they were hyper-stylized videogame style kung-fu fights but you could see what was going on

  67. Lukas: I’m there. What’s up?

  68. Just seen a few people mention it. I’m also there. I don’t think New York is an action movie friendly market.

  69. MikeOutWest: “If you want to see shaky-cam utilised properly, I humbly suggest you try Dante Lam’s films, especially his
    recent “Fire of Conscience”, which contains a cracking good restaurant shootout.”

    Yes! This is one of the best action scenes I’ve seen recently;the use of grenades in close-quarters spaces was brutal. It’s too bad a really solid, accessible action movie like this will pretty much go unnoticed outside of Hong Kong.

    Vern, have you kept up on any of the recent action films coming out of Hong Kong (aside from “Ip Man”)? While I liked “The Expendables,” I didn’t really know what the hell was going on during much of the final action scenes. But some of the work I’ve seen coming out of Hong Kong is really terrific; while some of the directors may employ the shaky-cam style, the action is consistently coherent, allowing you to see the actors’ movements and providing a clear sense of geography for the scenes.

    I would recommend checking out some work from Johnnie To (“The Mission,” “Exiled,” “Breaking News,” “Vengeance”), the aforementioned Dante Lam (“The Beast Stalker,” “Fire of Conscience”), and “Ip Man” director Wilson Yip (“SPL” a.k.a. “Killzone,” “Flashpoint”). I’m actually surprised a Johnnie To movie review hasn’t popped up on this site, since he has been around for a while and earned a reputation as one of the key action directors currently working. Some people, including myself, would consider him to be one of the best directors around, period.

    Also, there were a couple people a little while back who recommended a Korean movie called “A Bittersweet Life” and I just wanted to echo their sentiments. That’s a badass gangster movie with slickly-staged but vicious fights and shootouts and a great performance from Lee Byung-hun, a.k.a Storm Shadow from that G.I. Joe movie. Actually, anything from this movie’s director, Kim Jee-woon, is worth checking out; he also made an insane, over-the-top Western called “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” which contains some stunning action sequences.

  70. The drive-in theater where I grew up had this and SALT as last weekend’s double feature. I wish I could’ve been there.

  71. So, Scott Pilgrim has action scenes that pretty much destroy anything in The Expendables…I’d recommend it, but considering the Hero debacle, in which many of you looked awesomeness in the face and shrugged, I guess I won’t. I will say that if you think you might want to see it in a theater, see it quick; the system and it’s slaves won’t tolerate this kind of thing for long.

  72. I’m gonna sneak out to see Scott Pilgrim this week for a matinee, since it’s doing so horribly at the box office. I had assumed I could take my time, but it seems prudent to get after it quickly.

    I doubt it “destroys” the Expendables, but I am confident in Edgar Wright’s directorial competence, so I’m not worried that it’ll suck. I like the news I’m hearing that the action is coherent and easy to follow… more of that please!

  73. Chrog – glad you agree. I also highly recommend Invisible Target, which for me has been the perfect antidote to a so-so summer.

  74. I’m confused, Mr. Majestyk is a woman?

  75. Only compared to some, Griff.

  76. “But I wanna use an image even the fairy floss here should know – I read people posting here as recent as today sayin we all loved Ventura (Blain) cos of the mini-gun. Wrong you redneck half-brain fuckwit who dun even know why u like wat u like – in the 2 minute intro scene we got a 10 second feed that made us love this character”

    Your failings at literacy aside, my actual quote was that “he’s a big badass who carries a fucking minigun through the jungle”. That intro scene established him as a potential badass, it did not, however, show him as a deep or complex character with a great backstory, which was the point I was actually making, a point which you were apparently too thick to grasp.

    But beyond that, I guarantee you if, after that scene you so helpfully quoted, he had just wandered around the jungle with his MP5(which, hilariously, he carried in ADDITION to the minigun) rather than “Ol’ Painless”, you, and most others, wouldn’t find the character half as badass as you do now.

    And you wanna know why it makes him more badass than the dude from Predators? It’s this-the dude in Predators, he was abducted from somewhere, and that’s what he was carrying at the time. We dunno if he normally carries a minigun, or if he was on some mission where he was expected to lay down a LOT of suppression fire when he was taken by the predators, in which case he might have had the minigun for a specific and legitimate(in movie logic) reason. And even then, the minigun he carried was both smaller than Blaine’s, AND the only other weapon he carried was a small pistol. With Blaine, he apparently routinely(hence it even having a “name”) carried this huge fucking minigun, even during what is supposed to be a “simple rescue mission” where he knows he’s gonna be trekking through the middle of a hot fucking jungle. And to make it even more impressive, in ADDITION to carrying this huge fucking gun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for it, he ALSO carries a full size MP5 submachine gun(a weapon that is normally used as a PRIMARY weapon, not a secondary).

  77. oh come on, give me a real answer Mr M hahaha

  78. The math adds up. The movie comes out on the plus side by placing its ultimate faith in core standbys of the golden age (late 80s/early 90s):

    – very large (novelty?) guns;

    – very large and relentless explosions;

    – very large, fan favorite stars.

    That’s it. The guns, explosions, and stars are so large, it forces the equation to balance. Mostly the explosions. And the big guns. Think Rutger Hauer in “Split Second.” That was crap — and pretty good.

  79. What the fuck planet are you on. If there was one single person including yourself on the whole planet who genuinely thought like while first watching Predator I’d kill myself to die for their sins. I’d be curious if you managed to convince yourself of that bullshit but since you cut out the defining part of the quote I know you didn’t.

    If when first watching Predator you were using your Steve Erkyl voice to say “i wonder if this big man is normally just a provider of suppression fire, merely carrying it for a specific and legitimate reason, more typically using the colt .45 silver barrel on his left side indicating strong spatial reasoning skills and no reason to wield such an inaccurute, my what a large penis, I wish I could get my hands on that”, then you should have imploded at the paradox that he was carrying a weapon that requires an electrical power source to operate and thus no longer be here to post such crap. That’s as if you wouldn’t first implode at the entire concept of such primitive alien invaders developing faster-than-light speed technologies just to hunt (and the look of predators on the factory floor where the spaceship was produced).

    Just be a (half)man like Ace and stand by your stupid and mistaken conviction that it was the minigun that gave you a hard on (and by implication, that the absense of characterization in The Expendables didn’t hurt it).

    BTW Griff, the Mr in Majestyk is a fun misnomer, like in Mr Prostitute.

  80. so it IS a woman?

    my mind……it’s blown

  81. Jareth Cutestory

    August 17th, 2010 at 6:51 am

    W.S.: I’m a big defender of the style of HERO, but it’s easy to see why someone might find it off-putting. Think of the fight between Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi: they’re just pushing leaves around. To my tastes it’s gorgeous and evocative, but it’s not going to satisfy someone who wants to see a blow or two actually connect.

    So the moral of the story is that HERO probably isn’t the best film with which to test someone’s awesomeness mettle. That would be POINT BLANK.

    AU: I like to imagine your angry posts are being written by Hit Girl. Or by a dude dressed up as Hit Girl.

  82. Almost Jareth – here’s a live shot of me posting right now http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v408/AU_Armageddon/f465ca09-1.jpg

  83. Jareth Cutestory

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:05 am

    I have been humbled by your mighty link-fu, AU.

  84. the best quote I’ve read about THE EXPENDABLES

    “Not good enough – that’s the real rating. The inarguable rating out of 10 for The Expendables. Good fine whatever fuck you. But.
    Not. Good. Enough.”

    nuff said. thanks armageddon. made my day.

  85. Griff, I assure you, I’m all man. Don’t let the labia fool you.

  86. I’ll second that W.S. Pilgrim was definately better shot. I mean when Michael Cera can be made to look like a more dynamic martial artist than Jet friggan Li, somethings seriously wrong with someone’s action filmatism.

  87. Jareth Cutestory

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Griff: Try blocking the middle of a New York sidewalk and see how much of a lady Majestyk is. It’ll be like standing in front of the D train.

  88. ok, I give up on this question as to whether or Mr Majestyk is a man http://i48.tinypic.com/2po3zwm.gif

  89. SCOTT PILGRIM has better action than THE EXPENDABLES? I suppose its possible, in the same sense TOM AND JERRY AT THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL could be considered to have “better action” than THE EXPENDABLES.

    Just as an aside, it looks like THE EXPENDABLES will go down as the last film to ever be reviewed on AT THE MOVIES.

  90. That draft of the script you read has gone long way till the shooting script (which of course was constantly rewritten by Sly on the spot). And I can tell Sly has gone through headaches while editing this bad boy, there seem quite a bit of material cut, but I must say this first draft had some good stuff and more intrigue and back-story that is missed in the final movie.

    BTW regarding that Dolph vs Jet Li fight, I agree it was weirdly shot and edited, I found out it was pretty much left to “Jet Li’s people” (who include Corey Yuen) and that’s shame because even though funny at times, it doesn’t display neither Jet’s nor Dolph’s (who here is shot like the dumb giant who can’t really fight except punch) abilities…

  91. Vern:

    1. Don’t take AICN talkbalkers (sic) seriously. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. You must be cautious.

    2. Don’t see movies with crackheads, wannabe rifftrax, and frat boys. Leave, deduct $11 from your taxes for social charity, and return with a new ticket for a Saturday morning matinee with a cup of coffee.

    3. This was a very well-thought out review. I want to have your baby.

  92. Well, I say the gentlemen at the IMDB boards are still worse than the AICN talkbackers, but that’s of course just my personal opinion.

  93. I agree. Those motherfuckers on IMDB are all basically angry illiterates, easily offended housewives, and 15-year-old homophobes.

  94. You know who’s worse than both AICN and IMDb fuckers combined? The TV Tropes crowd!
    Seriously, these are the worst kind of deconstructivism critics around. Not only they’re the So Bad It’s Good type of guys, they’re obsessed with finding parallels between every movie and TV show and book ever made and a pile of shitty Japanese cartoons. And not only that, all these Japanese cartoon are 2-3 years old and derivative as shit of others, older Japanese cartoons that nobody on that board has ever seen or heard of. Christ, every time I see another of their post-ironic “Rule of Cool” or “The Awesomely Bad Plot Device” links I want to murder somebody.
    On the less bat-shit insane ranting note, the average age of a TV Troper is 20-23 years old, so I guess it explains things. There probably were at least a couple (dozens?) of them at the Vern’s screening.

  95. Yeah, I hate TV Tropes too. I gotta admit it’s an interesting read for one afternoon, but I’ve never been into internet meme’s. Especially not when they consist of made-up cliches.

  96. I agree, the average IMDb post is about ten times dumber than the bottom 1% of Ain’t It Cool talkbacks. I didn’t mean to dis all talkbackers, a crowd I enjoyed for years before starting comments here and remembering what it was like to have actual discussions. I just meant that these guys in the theater represented all the worst stereotypes we know from those talkbacks, including being stupidly negative about everything (they booed and weakly criticized the trailers for THE AMERICAN and THE TOWN because of weird grudges against the lead actors, and clearly not knowing what either of the movies were), overly excited about other things (the TRON trailer, any CGI blood that happened in the movie), and of course rude and unjustifiably satisfied with themselves.

    I think we all recognize those things from talkbackers, although many of us (and I include myself) are talkbackers.

  97. “THE EXPENDABLES survives its wounds because the personalities cut through, and that’s what we watch these movies for. That’s why we try to watch every new Dolph Lundgren movie that comes out, even though there’s a high probability of disappointment. Not even including cameos this has a good half dozen guys whose starring vehicles I’m always interested in watching. And while this one doesn’t match the filmatistic greatness of the classics some of them are known for, every one of them does get at least a small chance to shine brighter than they’ve been able to sometimes in bigger roles.”

    It’s simply statements like the one above that makes your writing on action films so endearing, appreciated and anticipated.

    “You. Are not. Expendable…” Great review, Vern. You’re one of the few that truly understands Badass Cinema.

  98. I just came from the movie’s premiere.

    I have to agree with all the complaints that this movie reserved.It is a very flawed film and not exactly what the more hardcore fans would expect.BUT although it didnt turn out to be a new action movie masterpiece in the level of Die Hard,Dirty Dozen,Predator,hell even Commando,(which is a big shame with such an awesome cast),it is still a very entertaining and enjoyable flick.

    I really liked it even when i found myself frequently cringing with the bad moments of the film: non-existent story,quick cuts/shaky cam in the action which half of the time took place in very dark environments,cgi blood and massacre ffs,no character and in-between chemistry development of the team members which they never felt that they are a team,no equally bad-asses villains,the melee fights,although well-done,didnt hold up to the true magnificent skills of their awesome protagonists and also lot of jokes fell flat and forced.

    But what outshines all these problems is the charisma and manliness (yeah it sounds gay.fuck off) and the nostalgia that these old-school bad-asses bring to the chemistry.and watching these old dogs kicking ass,well its what counts in the end of the day.

    My theater was almost packed with all the demo: teens,old guys,boyfriends with their girlfriends,parents with their kids (yes i know its r-rated but here its Greece nobody cares about that) and in the beginning i was afraid that i was going to have one of those terrible movie experiences where the audience laughs at and trashed the movie.but thank god my fears were wrong: everyone was having a blast with the movie,laughing and applauding the whole time,they really had a good time.the biggest applaud came ofc in the Holy Action Trinity scene and in the scenes whenever Crews was splattering everyone with his bad-ass gun (my personal favorite in MW2).

    so to sum up: good summer action flick,you have to see the old digs even for a last time in the big screen kicking ass and although it didnt turn out to be the magnum opus of the action genre,i do hope that Stallone will have the wisdom to take notices from the fans and fix the mistakes he did in this movie.

  99. Ah come on gents. Lets calm down a bit on the hipper than thou-ism. Trade-offs exist with every option in life. I cruise and post on this and all the other sites mentioned, and though the discourse on this board is notably mature and articulate, there’s not exactly much discourse in the discourse. You’ll certainly suffer a portion of troglodytic comments and arguments on the other boards but they don’t lack for a broad mish mash of opinions and perspectives, beyond “I agree, you rock dude”(tho Vern certainly rocks) So ya know, tomato/tom@to, six one way half a dozen the other or some such.

  100. AU, you can deny it all you want, but the fact remains if Jesse wasn’t toting that minigun in Predator and was instead walking around the jungle just carrying an Uzi or something, you wouldn’t think he was half as badass as you do now. You’ll now of course post a semi-coherent reply denying it, but you, me, and everyone here knows it’s true.

    Also, learn to read, as I didn’t say anything about suppression fire in regards to Blaine, I said it in regards to the Russian dude from Predator. I’ll try and dumb it down for you, so that maybe you’ll understand-in Predator, it’s pretty clearly established that Blaine just carries this bigass minigun on a regular basis like it’s nothing out of the ordinary. With the Russian dude, we don’t know that, and that is why his carrying a minigun is less badass than Blaine carrying one.

  101. The Russian dude in Predators = Stereotype. You generic russian tough guy who carries a big gun.
    Blain in Predators = Character with the minigun completing this character,being part of his personality.
    The difference is obvious: you cared about Blain’s death but you didnt really give a crap about the Russian’s death even if he was carrying a nuke with him.

  102. By the way, I think you’d enjoy THE LOSERS too, Vern. It’s PG-13, but it’s got a less simplistic plot, a great team dynamic, less post-action touches, and an entertainin villain with the weird touches you like.

  103. Could you imagine if Die Hard and Predator were shot with shaky cam?

  104. SCOTT PILGRIM fucking sucks. I saw ANIMAL KINGDOM last night though. I think INCEPTION just got knocked out of 2010’s first place spot, at least in my ever humble opinion.

  105. Having now seen both Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables, I can tell you this: the fight scenes in Scott Pilgrim are staged better, with more compentent camerawork and limited use of shaky cam. All good things. But the actual fights and action in The Expendables are about 200 times better, without a doubt. Scott Pilgrim is an enjoyable film. Expendables is a fucking badass movie.

    But hey, they’re both pretty good so why compare?

  106. I have to say, I also thought Scott Pilgrim was a better, more creative and interesting vision of the subconscious than Inception. But, to each his own.

  107. I found SCOTT PILGRIM tedious. I found myself wishing there was only three or four evil exes after the first one. I found all of the characters unlikable, especially Scott Pilgrim himself, who is such an immature self-entitled twit that he doesn’t really even deserve a bottle of Lubriderm and a good grip, let alone the girl of his dreams. Ramona Flowers is like some one-dimensional wet dream culled from the collective subconscious of Nerds That Have Never Spoken To A Girl™. I found the constant onslaught of pop culture references and geek callbacks to be obnoxious. I found the ADD-addled editing, VFX and cinematography to be irritating. And on a whole I found the story about as satisfying as eating cotton candy for dinner.

    I know this is a weird thing to bring up for someone who liked THE EXPENDABLES, but I feel like there are fewer and fewer genuinely original cultural touchstones that build something from scratch instead of sampling, mixing and matching. Which is nothing new, shit, STAR WARS is the first movie I ever saw. I grew up on 88-96 era hip hop. Tarantino informed my early film education. ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is my favorite movie whenever 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY isn’t my favorite movie. I just think that this post-modernist self-referential style is becoming the norm, rather than the idiosyncratic outsider approach. And as more and more of our art is dominated by this tendency to refer backwards, there’s a conspicuous absence of NEW in our pop culture. And where STAR WARS took Kurosawa’s THE HIDDEN FORTRESS and mashed it into Buck Rogers to continue a timeless mythical story that would probably be relatable to a Medieval knight or a Feudal samurai, SCOTT PILGRIM aims at Ritalin-deprived dweebs who have replaced real life experience with iTunes and XBox. SCOTT PILGRIM is like sitting around with these dweebs and having a conversation where every sentence begins with “you know what’s kewl?”

  108. I think you’re only looking at the style and not the substance…I saw this movie as being closer to Mulholland Drive or William Cameron Menzies Invaders from Mars; it’s Scott’s subconscious re-contextualization of events and feelings in his life using the pop culture world he’s surrounded by…and it’s also about his journey from “immature self-entitled twit” to responsible, self-respecting adult.

  109. I didn’t think there was any substance whatsoever. I didn’t think he earned a distinction as a “responsible, self-respecting adult” at the end. It was the story of a guy who doesn’t deserve a girl but has flashy video game style fights with her exes in order to win her over. At the end there’s a bunch of textbook crap about he grows and changes to become a better person. Yawn. And I don’t really buy the subconscious recontextualization angle either, as the movie is very literal about it. What is the real world version of battling her exes, if what we see in the film is just Scott’s out to lunch imagination?

  110. I don’t think it’s merely referencing pop culture either; it’s a commentary on how we use pop culture as a kind of street mythology guiding our daily lives. I realize that’s pretty pretentious for movie that in fact is a lot like cotton candy (I saw that as one of its virtues), but movies don’t have to be heavy-handed to be about something.

  111. In the movie’s favor I will say that I quite enjoyed the Clifton Collins Jr./Thomas Jane cameos as The Vegan Police.

  112. “And I don’t really buy the subconscious recontextualization angle either, as the movie is very literal about it. What is the real world version of battling her exes, if what we see in the film is just Scott’s out to lunch imagination.”

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here…the movie is too literal minded about the subconscious recontextualization angle and yet not literal minded enough?

    I would say the real world version is Scott’s hatred of his girlfriend’s past; he’s recreated her ex boyfriends (who probably don’t even exist) as exotic super-alpha males who he can outwit and defeat.

  113. No, I’m saying that you could probably chalk up a lot of the visual pyrotechnics as Scott’s overactive imagination (like the video game interfaces, the CGI manifestations of the music, etc.), but the movie makes no attempt to play the actual plot mechanics as projections. I don’t think anything in the film supports the idea that Scott has recreated a bunch of exes that don’t literally exist in the real-world narrative as a means to battle his own insecurities. What’s the basis for that? All of the characters in the movie react to them as real people. There’s no winking at the camera to suggest they’re not. Ramona Flowers looks him in the eye and plainly states that he has to defeat her seven evil exes. So if the movie really is trying to convey these brawls he’s having as imaginary facets of his subconscious, then it’s being too literal minded. But if he’s really having these fights and the movie is just embellishing them with a bunch of razzle-dazzle, then yeah, it strays a bit too far from the literal for my tastes.

  114. I used to be a big frequenter of imdb and AICN, but I got sick of all the bullshit, these days I rarely post on the imdb boards and almost never bother with a board for a new movie unless there’s a specific question I want to ask and I certainly had some laughs on AICN, but I realized that it’s been a while since there was a talkback that was worth a damn

    anyway I liked Scott Pilgrim a lot, but of course I’m in what some circles would call a “weeaboo” (as if you can’t tell by my anime gravatar) and I can say that Scott Pilgrim contains quite a few references to anime and to me it was just entertaining seeing that in a movie, that’s not the only reason I liked the movie though

  115. Full disclosure: I don’t play video games and aside from a handful of titles like AKIRA, NINJA SCROLL, and some Miyazaki stuff etc. I don’t watch anime. I am also not that into comics, I have fond memories of Marvel and DC from childhood and dabbled in a few adult titles like WATCHMEN and SIN CITY in my teens but that’s about it.

  116. oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I’m a huge video gamer and Scott Pilgrim is alos the first movie that truly “gets” video games, I actually got chills when they played the music from Legend of Zelda

  117. cosmosmariner1979

    August 17th, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Those douchebags you were stuck in the theatre with were not real MST fans. They were posers who give all of us a bad name. All the MST nerds I know – including myself – would NEVER pay good money to go to a packed house and riff loudly like that. It’s fucking rude and stupid. I know that I prefer to wait until a movie comes out on DVD if I think I’m going to riff on it. Then I’ll do it in the quiet of my own home.

    These assholes probably don’t even watch Mystery Science – they just think they know what it’s all about. And they don’t.

    I’m sorry you had to go through that.

  118. Okay, I guess I’ll review the pilgrim movie, so save some of your debate for that thread if you can.

  119. Hey Vern, reviewing this might cheer you up:


    Or make you kill yourself or whatever…

  120. Lips = zipped. I’m curious to see your take on it though, Vern, especially since it seems like a similar situation to KICK-ASS where the internet film geek community would have you believe that you can go burn your copies of THE GODFATHER because there’s a new best movie ever in town.

  121. Man, I’m always the guy steering talkbacks drastically off topic. You chaps must think I’m a real tangent jockey.

  122. ha, I can’t wait to see what Vern thinks of it!

  123. Gwai lo – I don’t think anyone has said you can “burn your copies of THE GODFATHER”, it’s just a really fun movie

  124. I’m exaggerating a bit, obviously. But the usual suspects are getting all hyperbolic on behalf of their pal Edgar Wright. Faraci said it redefines cinematic editing or something. I’m too lazy to go grab a quote.

  125. I know what you mean Gwai Lo – any half decent movie that pushes geek buttons gets an utterly rapturous reception from the AICN crowd, while hundreds of brilliant films that happen to not be about robots, video games or comics whoosh by by them unnoticed.

  126. Anaru – Like ANIMAL KINGDOM! Honestly, if this movie is playing in your area, go see it. Between this and A PROPHET we’ve been blessed in the crime genre recently.

  127. I don’t know but I had high hopes for The Expendables and went into Scott Pilgrim not knowing much other than Edgar Wright rules. I saw it before the Expendables. By the time I got to the Expendables I was so in love with Pilgrim that it might have played into my dislike of The Expendables as being lame. When you have an exciting fight scene featuring Michael Cera while Dolph vs Jet Li was impossible to see and what you could see wasn’t very exciting to begin with, you have something wrong.

    Listen, I’m glad you liked The Expendables but I thought it was pretty lame. If it featured Stallone and a bunch of no names, you all wouldn’t be nearly as kind of the movie. It’s amazing how much people forgive mediocre, lame movies a pass because they gave Dolph Lundgren a role in a big screen movie again (I’m surprised more people who don’t love Johnny Neumonic because that featured Dolph when he hadn’t been seen on the big screen for a few years). Or that a guy we barely even know and wouldn’t know his name if not for the credits, with a loud gun that blew up things. The end battle sequence doesn’t hold a candle to the great action scenes we got from the films of the 80s they’re trying to remind us of.

    Anyway, this is a thread for loving a lame movie so I’ll just bow out with these thoughts.

  128. Actually A.K. is screening in a festival in my town this week…

    Along with A Prophet and Cell 211, which you should see if you haven’t…

  129. I haven’t seen CELL 211, I will look out for it, thanks for the recommend

  130. I just got back from it. My expectations were met. Not exceeded. A step down from Rambo (arguably my favorite Stallone movie) and Rocky Balboa but a worthy second-tier Stallone flick. Maybe Expendables 2 can have Sly, Arnie, and Bruce actually DO something besides tease each other.

    Side note: I think it’s awesome that Eric Roberts has the number one movie in America and not Julia.

  131. But I DO love Johnny Mnemonic. When Dolph kills Henry Rollins, man…you can’t not love that. And it’s a perfect role for Keanu, really takes advantage of his unique talents if you follow me.

    “Who is ‘Jones’?”

    “He’s the guy…WHO F**KS YOUR MOTHER!”

  132. Ok…while I don’t agree with you, I can see where you guys are coming from…I actually do think that all hipster stuff is the weakest aspect of the movie…and btw, I’m not saying that anybody has to pick and choose between Scott Pilgrim and The Expendables; just that, from my point of view, Scott Pilgrim has proper and creative action film-making while The Expendables is iffy (however, in the negative category, Scott Pilgrim doesn’t have Mickey Rourke or Dolph Lundgren)

    I don’t read AICN or CHUD or any pre-release hype websites, mainly because I think they make going to the movies no fun. Don’t read comic books except for, occasionally, Johnny Ryan and Benjamin Marra. I’m so out of the loop as far as video games and anime is concerned that the only two references in Scott Pilgrim that I clearly remember are the ones to Seinfeld and when they reused a small sound effect from the 1980’s Flash Gordon. I saw the movie at a late show that was made up mostly of young non-nerd couples and everybody seemed to enjoy it. I don’t think it redefines cinematic editing or any of that shit, but I did think it was joyfully and energetically made and a lot of fun.

  133. Well, I finally saw and liked THE EXPENDABLES. Miles ahead of ROCKY BALBOA and RAMBO direction-wise (the non-fighting scenes are shot better than the battles… how that for a Stallone movie?). I think the script was decent, too – could use a couple of rewrites by William Goldman or somebody, but it’s a better fare than what Steven de Souza used to produce post DIE HARD.
    I don’t usually go for modern action movies, but THE EXPENDABLES spoke to me more than DIE HARD 4, THE PREDATORS and many others 2000’s action reboots.
    Having recently read all six of SCOTT PILGRIM books, I’m looking forward for Vern review (can’t imagine what this movie would be like for a man who’s not into video games and Japanese cartoons stuff). In the comics, at least, Scott is really interesting (not to say fascinating) character – a pretty indie boy who was practically raised by teenage girls. I guess it explores the real world consequences of anime plots about one young kid surrounded by a Harem of beautiful girls… what this boy’s adult life would be like?

  134. “I just think that this post-modernist self-referential style is becoming the norm, rather than the idiosyncratic outsider approach. And as more and more of our art is dominated by this tendency to refer backwards, there’s a conspicuous absence of NEW in our pop culture.” – Gwai Lo

    Bingo. The culture in general (for this is not confined to movies) is in full-blown decadence. The thing about decadence is its staticity: it is unable to take any risk and cannot find the courage to shape the future.


    That’s probably why I watch fewer new movies and more “old” movies; movies that were gutsy when they came out and which in this cultural landscape seem positively revolutionary. For
    frak’s sake, is there anything *ANYTHING* as interesting and fresh as DJANGO that doesn’t come out of Asia nowadays? AT THE END OF DAYBREAK has an opening scene that kicks any American film I’ve seen for ages.

    MAD MEN, THE WIRE, BREAKING BAD make Hollywood screenwriters sound like monkeys. And not those good monkeys who could write Shakespeare.

    I’d re-watch THE CONVERSATION every day rather than sit through what Hollywood now calls “suspense”; ditto for NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Who will rise? 30 years from now, what the heck are we going to be proud of, unless ASS and FART: THE MOVIE become the norm?

    Has the bar been set so low, are we in such dire need to be entertained that even here, peeps give a “thumbs up” to a cinematic excretion because it’s got their fave stars in it? You guys are knowledgeable about this stuff: I’m not talking to the mouth-breathers here. The filmmakers won’t ask anything of themselves, will not push any envelope not already opened, so who will? SCOTT PILGRIM, as insultingly vacuous a film as I’ve ever seen, showcases better fight choreography than a film by Stallone starring a bunch of TRAINED FIGHTERS – That’s demented!


    I don’t know man. I don’t have all the answers. But frak me if I don’t often feel like too few are even asking the questions.

    Alright, I’ll go get my medicine. And pull out THE THIRD MAN . . .

  135. Not to be pissy – but “the dude with the minigun from predators” is Oleg. THE Oleg. Oleg “punch me in the back of the head for five minutes and then I’ll get up and Choke You The Fuck Out”. Maybe not quite as badass as Jesse the Navy Seal, but pretty fucking close.

    Also – Not sure if Sly’s movies so much followed the filmatistical standards of the day, as provided the original prototype/stereotype – given he was, at the time, the reigning box office champ…

  136. I asked a non-movie geek person I know who’s in their 50’s what they thought of The Expendables and they said, “”The action scenes happened so fast…I kind of just wanted them to go back to talking to each other.” I agreed with him.

    Here are a couple of theories as to why (other than editing) action is not as satisfying as it used to be:

    1. The market’s flooded. There’s just too much of it, even in movies that shouldn’t be action movies, there’s way too much focus on running, jumping, avoiding obstacles, physical danger, etc…..(examples: Escape to Witch Mountain (remake), 9, The Crazies (remake) and even Pixar movies which I think are a little too focused on meaningless object-dodging type action.)

    2. Lack of integration into the narrative. Often, action scenes arrive like musical numbers in Elvis movies, causing a break in the story rather than advancing the story forward. Or, there is no narrative at all and you end up watching a movie that’s basically nothing but climaxes, which becomes assaultive and boring.

    3. Lack of heroic characters. Heroic is kind of a bad word because it implies a Dudley Do Right type corniness, but I think most of the characters we’ve enjoyed in action movies of the past, though crude, were on some level heroic. I think Roger Ebert offered a pretty good description of modern action in his review of Bad Boys 2 when he described Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as “egotistical monsters, concerned only with their power, their one-liners, their weapons, their cars, their desires.” (That also strikes me as a fairly good assessment of the main characters in Inception…sorry, but it does). This kind of thing is so prevalent that it was even parodied in The Other Guys. Watching jerks shoot at jerks just isn’t that exciting.

  137. Sir Vincealot: That’s the old argument of “everything was better in the past”, which is just plain wrong. There were plenty of shitty movies made back in the “glory days”, it’s just that we only remember the good ones 50 years later.
    And several of the old classics where even commercial failures back then, so who knows which box office bomb will be THE example that “back in 2010 they still knew how to make great movies” in the year 2040?

  138. CJ: Normally, I’d agree with you, since for every movie from Ye Olden Tymes that broke new ground, there are a hundred movies that were shackled to whatever the popular formula of the day was. But you have to admit that shit is pretty egregious these days, with every other movie being a remake or an adaptation or a remake of an adaptation. I don’t mind a ripoff, but you can at least spend a few brain cells thinking up a new title. There’s still plenty of good stuff out there and I’m not gonna waste my time complaining about it, but original ideas seem to be at an all-time low. I’m hoping it’s just a phase and the pendulum will swing the other way in a few years.

  139. And here is the other argument that I don’t like: “Everything these days is just a remake/sequel/blablabla”, but the truth is, every week start at the U.S. Box Office alone way more original movies, than sequels or remakes. It’s just that the known names get all the attention (mostly thanks to people who love to bitch about them on the internet. No offense.)

  140. I may have been exaggerating, but there have never in history been as many movies made based on existing properties as there are nowadays. The fact that I’m even using the word “properties” to describe motion pictures is even a relatively new thing. I applaud you for standing up for the present day, something all too few people are willing to do, but come on: They made a Marmaduke movie this summer. They could have made any old movie about a wacky talking dog, but they had to do it about Marmaduke to get that name recognition, even though Marmaduke has never said a single word in 50 years of publication. (He’s also never been funny, but that’s another story.) They would rather make a talking dog movie about a well-known dog that doesn’t talk than come up with a name for their own talking dog. That’s pretty dire, you have to admit.

  141. Granted, my original point still holds: In 50 years, nobody is going to remember these remakes/adaptations, but the good movies will still be around for the people who give a shit.

  142. WS – never compare “Bad Boys 2”, the worst movie of all time (I might possibly be exaggerating there, but I seriously don’t see how anything could possibly get worse than it) to “Inception” again please. You will incur my wrath.

    Nonetheless I do agree with you about much of what you’ve said. Your piece about the disconnect between action and the rest of the film put me in mind of “The World is Not Enough”, which is a pretty good film in places but has massive flaws that drag it down – some of the horrible one-liners, Denise Richards, and (more to the point) the disconnect between action and story. The action set-pieces don’t really seem to have anything to do with the story, and always take place to music that doesn’t appear anywhere else, to the effect that it’s almost like watching two separate films. It’s not the same thing as badly-shot action scenes though (which seems to be more of a problem for people looking at “The Expendables” than the disconnect).

  143. I dunno Majesty, back in the 40’s and 50’s every other film was based on either a novel or a stage play.

    80’s had just as many sequels and remakes as we have now.

    I don’t really see how the last decade has been any different.

  144. everyone should just stop for a second and watch Terry Crews’ Old Spice commercials. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCl5uyn5K7k

    just the greatest shit ever

  145. Also pretty much every film noir ever made was an adaptation or a remake of something. Just throwing it out there.

    Also Dan I CANNOT UNSEE THE TIGER and I blame you for it.

  146. Awesome!!!!!!! :-) Very thoughtful, great review. Vern confirms some of the things I was afraid of, just in terms of the cinematography, editing, pacing, and action. But he still leaves me wanting to see it more than I did before reading this review. Vern/Stallone, I wish I knew how to quit you.

  147. The Wizard of Oz we all fondly remember is a remake… classic argument for remakes. Star Wars is a loose adaptation of Yojimbo (maybe?)

    The Departed is a remake. So what? The plot and characters are only two elements of a million things in a movie.

  148. The reviews on Scott Pilgram are overboard but it is a good movie. It just won’t change your life or anything. I got to see it before the internet (and my reading thereof) made me hate it.

  149. Gwai Lo: You wouldn’t happen to actually be an Irish guy from Boston, would you? Your review of Scott Pilgrim sounds awfully familiar….

  150. They booed THE TOWN trailer?! Oh, now they GOTS to pay. That’s gettin’ personal.

  151. CC – nope, Jewish guy from Vancouver.

    Lukas Kaiser – yup, although it’s THE HIDDEN FORTRESS that STAR WARS rips its plot from. YOJIMBO was the basis for FISTFUL OF DOLLARS, LAST MAN STANDING, and a gaggle of other movies. Although it’s taken from Dashiell Hammett’s RED HARVEST anyway. THE MALTESE FALCON is a remake. BEN HUR is a remake. And as far as modern remakes go there are always the old stand-bys: THE THING, THE FLY and to a lesser extent, THE BLOB. I like many of the newer remakes as well, like THE HILLS HAVE EYES, THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, and DAWN OF THE DEAD.

    But I was the guy up there complaining about postmodernist oversaturation and I stand by that. Remakes are part and parcel with what I’m talking about, but I’m more concerned with the overall sense that most of what we’re getting these days is totally derivative. Yeah, I know there are only two basic stories out there: a hero goes on a journey, or a stranger comes to town. But I’m just getting weary of our culture cannibalizing itself, and wish some of these filmmakers would ask themselves if there is an creatively original alternative whenever they find themselves making a reference.

  152. In some ways I feel that its the consumer culture and marketing machine which has changed — obviously, sequels are nothing new; hell, Hitchcock remade his OWN films. But the idea now seems to be to remake as a marketing plot to cash in on name recognition, rather than remake a movie for any kind of artistic concern. I could be mistaken, but I think this is a relatively new phenomenon. I don’t think even THE THING was really coasting on the fame of its predecessor.

  153. Gwai Lo… just so we don’t misunderstand you, could you be more specific? What kind of movie are you actually searching for here? Is a cash-grabbing talking dog movie okay, as long as it isn’t based on Marmaduke? Or…?

  154. M. Casey – I think you’re mistaking me for Majestyk?

  155. Paul – I read somewhere that a lot of the directors on Bond films actually had very little to do with the action scenes, which might explain the disconnect. Now that you mention it; I think what you described is a major weakness of most of the Brosnan Bond films.

  156. No, Gwai Lo, I just liked his example. :) I guess what I’m asking you is that when you said this:

    I’m just getting weary of our culture cannibalizing itself, and wish some of these filmmakers would ask themselves if there is an creatively original alternative whenever they find themselves making a reference.

    …exactly how far do you want to take it? I know it’s easy to pull things out of the pop culture blender, but we’ve been doing that a really long time, from Dr. Pangloss to Foghorn Leghorn and up to SCOTT PILGRIM’s video games or whatever (I haven’t seen it). It’s a cheap thing for the audience to hold on to. But it isn’t the reference that necessary sucks, it’s the writer or director wielding it. Tarantino or a STAR WARS-era Lucas versus, yeah, the creative team behind MARMADUKE.

    (For what it’s worth, I had to go back into the archives and see what you said about AVATAR, which would seem to be the sort of thing that you’re looking for in the quote above. And you did in fact like it. Glad to see you’re consistent!)

  157. Hmm. Well, I think we’re talking about two slightly different things. STAR WARS and AVATAR do specifically reference their predecessors – STAR WARS is basically THE HIDDEN FORTRESS meets BUCK ROGERS, and AVATAR is basically just POCAHONTAS meets a Yes album cover – but I think if they’re derivative it’s in more of a broad, general sense. Mainly because they’re good examples of The Hero’s Journey blueprints, they represent a few new ideas plugged into age-old templates.

    SCOTT PILGRIM is really more of an example of the Tarantino school of postmodernism. Which didn’t begin with Tarantino, like I mentioned earlier in the thread ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST is one of my favorite films and that movie is jam-packed with visual references to old Westerns, mostly John Ford. Tarantino’s films often play like a DJ mixtape, he takes little bits and samples he likes and crafts them in his own style. I like Tarantino, too. SCOTT PILGRIM, to me, is kind of like FAMILY GUY. I think the intended audience is supposed to get most of their kicks out of the recognition factor, but the specific references are not really in service of any bigger point to be made. Simply insert the Seinfeld bass licks, the Zelda theme, Mortal Kombat graphics or whatever, (insert hundreds of other examples here), and your audience will get a kick out of recognizing it. This is probably more obvious in the horror genre than any other right now, movies like HATCHET, BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON and of course SCREAM trade in the same sort of Pavlovian conditioning of the audience.

    All of this said I think you’re probably right, it depends a lot more on the talent of the filmmakers behind the film than anything else. I have no beef with Tarantino being derivative, nor with Leone, nor with SCREAM. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a familiar story with a new paint job, like STAR WARS or AVATAR. I guess the point I was making was that I don’t find much value in “hey, remember _______?” when it serves no point beyond constantly reminding the audience of stuff they already like, to the point that they may come out associating what they just saw with that stuff.

  158. I think there are a lot of original ideas in some of the sequels and remakes: Predators, The Dark Knight/Batman Begins, Casino Royale.

    Plenty of “original” (at least not property/franchise) totally suck: Doomsday, Killers, Green Zone, Snow Angels (anyone back me up on that one?)

    I think one thing that makes it seem like there are more bad movies or more sequels/remakes is that there are just more movies being made. I think I read a statistic that Hollywood produces 500 movies a year. With only 52 weeks, that doesn’t sound right. But it does feel like 5 new movies open every weekend. Compare that to probably 5 new movies a month in the ’80s and earlier, because the goal was for them to play longer.

    So let’s say the percentage of good/original movies remains constant, maybe 50% to be optimistic. No, I’ll say 70% of movies are good and/or original because I believe that. 30% of bad movies out of 100 would be 30 bad movies you sit through. Well, 30% out of 500 is 150 bad movies you sit through. That leaves 350 good ones, but still 150 pieces of crap feels like a worse state of affairs than before.

    Also, another practical fact is we’re now 100 years into the film industry. There ARE more pre-existing materials to remake.

    I like ’em both. I like seeing new things and I like seeing new versions of things or updates stories of characters I like or even new twists on familar elements. Or a good old fashioned formula.

  159. I think the bigger issue is that the quality of big budget “blockbuster” type movies has dropped dramatically. What would be considered a “summer” movie 30 years ago would be considered art house today.

  160. DOOMSDAY is a good example of the empty references thing I’m talking about. Look! She has an eyepatch, like Snake Plissken! And doesn’t this car chase remind you of THE ROAD WARRIOR? etc. etc.

    GREEN ZONE was fucking awesome though. Don’t lump that in there with KILLERS.

  161. This just occurred to me and I haven’t fully thought it through yet so maybe don’t skewer me for it. Maybe the distinction comes down to this: will the audience’s recognition of the reference help or hurt the movie? With SCOTT PILGRIM, the audience will (probably) enjoy the movie more if they recognize all the references. With STAR WARS, the audience will (probably) enjoy the movie more if they’re not familiar with THE HIDDEN FORTRESS. This even extends to Tarantino, because I’m willing to bet most of his stuff is brand new to the mass audience. We’re most likely among the select few that recognize a lot of what he references, but most of that stuff probably flies over the heads of his fans, at least before they do the research and get their official Grindhouse merit badges.

  162. Gwai, to each his own. I know some people liked Green Zone. To me it was the worst of the worst of the shaky cam movement, Greengrass totally revealing the worst of his technique. Nonsense shaking, shots just out of focus (honestly, you should at least know what you’re filming even if it’s handheld) and the heavyhanded politics. But this isn’t a Green Zone thread.

    I meant we can all probably think of a good number of original, non franchise films that are just as bad as hollow remakes and sequels. Originality isn’t automatically quality. The reference issue, well that’s impossible. Nothing exists in a background. Alien is interpreted as the womb or cancer. It wasn’t intended that way but you can’t remove the world of medicine and biology from audiences any more than you can remove their familiarity with post-apocalyptic eye patches or John Woo gunplay.

    I do think you’re onto something about the references. I was not familiar with ’70s cinema when I saw Pulp Fiction. However I was totally familiar with Hong Kong action when I saw Kill Bill. Likewise I was very familiar with Woo and Shoot ‘Em Up is one of my favorite movies. I feel like my soul mate made that movie.

  163. Bullet, I completely agree and I think in a way that’s a good thing. I remember having to wait until summer to see the really good action movies. Some fun stuff might be released in the fall or spring (Seagal movies, Last Boyscout) but those weren’t the Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Terminator quality movies. So while summer movies have turned to mush, we kind of make up for it by getting better stuff year round. 300 was a March movie. I guess the Bonds always came out in the holidays.

    At least I don’t have to be sad when summer ends anymore. Also I’m a grown-up now and don’t have to face school anymore.

  164. Lukas Kaiser – I will say that the fact that “The Departed” was an (in my opinion) inferior remake of an excellent film actually made me enjoy it less than I might otherwise have done. In some ways the fact that the characters I’d grown to know as relative unknowns to me were played by big Hollywood stars (and in fairly predictable ways – I’m not saying Jack Nicholson always plays the same guy, on account of I saw and enjoyed “About Schmidt”, but his performance in “The Departed” was very, very familiar.)

    Maybe it’s the fact that it was a remake, but I couldn’t get into “The Departed” at all. Plus I’m on record as hating the very end of it, but that’s a minor gripe – I could say the same thing about “Drag me to hell” and I thought that was great, really entertaining. I think that in this case, the fact that it was a remake of a film I really enjoyed dragged it down for me.

  165. FTOPEL, they used to release just as many movies in the early 80’s, and before that. Most of the movies just happened to suck, or were blandly mediocre, and we have forgotten all about them.

    That’s how nostalgy works. You just remember the best things, and forget about all the bad and average stuff. That’s why things always seemed to be better back in the old days.

    For me it’s kinda funny that I’m merely 34, and there is a whole new generation of kids who are 15-25 years old, and they look back at the 90’s as the last golden age. They complain about how modern movies and modern music suck, and things used to be so much better back in the good old days – in the 90’s.

    I was 15-25 years old back in the 90’s, and back then everyone was complaining about how music and movies sucked, and things used to be so much better in the last golden age in the 80’s.

    I’m even old enough to remember the 80’s, and I remember how a lot of people back then used to complain how modern movies and modern music sucked, and how the last golden age was in the 70’s.

    I’m sure people used to say the exact same things in every decade before that.

    And 10 years from now there will be a whole new generation of young people who look fondly at the 00’s as the last golden age of movies and music.

  166. tuukka,

    You’re absolutely right. I’m pretty optimistic and feel things don’t really get better or worse, they just change.

    Nostolgia is also cumulative. People say the 80s were better and then name 50 great movies that came out in the 1980s and then they say movies today suck because they expect as many good movies as were released in one past decade to be released within one current year.

    Also, people get resentful when they realize that they aren’t being catered to anymore. They aren’t the big cusomers. It makes them feel old and so their gut reaction is to be dismissive in order to preserve their pride.

  167. There’s also the freshness factor. Most people tend to react more emotionally to art when they are kids or teens. Once people get past 20 years of age, *most* of them become more jaded, and they just don’t get those huge kicks anymore, that they used to get. It’s natural – You’ve seen more, you’ve experienced more, and things just don’t seem so new and exciting anymore.

    For some reason, personally I’m not a nostalgic person at all. Not in any sense whatsoever. Maybe because my life pretty much sucked when I was a kid and a teen, and I’m much happier person now, living life to a much fuller extent. But most people I know have a tendency for nostalgia. It seem to be in-built to most humans.

  168. I’m not saying things were perfect in the magical past. But I think we can all agree that we’re going through a fairly rough patch right at this moment. I don’t see a lot of people being very enthusiastic about the movies that are coming out right now. There are exceptions, and I manage to fill my quota of movies enjoyed every year, but I’m thinking we’re about due for a game-changer. Things need to be shook up a bit.

  169. What does “right now” mean? This month? This year? This three year period including the previous and next year? What’s the time frame we are talking about?

    It seems to me that there are much more people excited about upcoming movies than there used to be. Internet has definitely helped that. In the pre-internet days people barely knew what movies were coming out, and the hype was much more subdued.

  170. Mr. Majestyk,

    I don’t agree that we are going through a rough patch. These last couple years have actually had me looking forward to more movies than I ever remember looking forward to in my life. Sure, some of them have been disappointments, but I find myself saying “Wow, that looks like a cool movie!” more and more. I might be one of the few people who thinks movies are also getting more inovative. I think the advancements guys like Robert Rodriguez are making with the technology makes it cheaper to make movies and so making wackier movies become less of a financial risk and more likely to actually get made now.

    And I’m not even sure I agree with your opinion on people in general not being that enthusiastic. It seems movies get more publicity than ever. And even though a lot of the talkbackers like to be snarky and cynnical, they’re still engaged and interested in the artform of cinema.

  171. I guess I’m not gonna win this one. Normally, I’m the guy who lets mediocre movies off the hook while everybody else mocks me for it. The one day I start striving for excellence is the day everybody gets all glass-is-half-full.

  172. Well, I think the argument is that most movies have always been mediocre. The amount of good movies and bad movies is fairly small compared to the huge mass of average ones. And great movies have always been rare.

    It’s like that in all art forms, and has always been.

    I think that most artists strive for excellence, but excellence is hard to achieve. Moviemaking is a pretty consuming business, you work long days all year around, under heavy stress, often in very hard conditions both physically and mentally. Only to see your work being butchered first by the studio, then the critics, and then the internet movie geeks.

    I don’t think too many people can take all that, unless they genuinely love movies. and unless they genuinely try to do the best movie they can. I know some people who have made feature films. Most of those films aren’t very good. But I know they all genuinely tried their best, and they all poured their heart into it.

    Making movies is hard.

  173. Jareth Cutestory

    August 19th, 2010 at 8:42 am

    I’m not sure I can quantify this, but I’m inclined to think that there is a lack of diversity in the individual talents behind the movies these days. In my formative years, Lynch, the Coens, Greenaway, Jarmusch, Maddin, Alex Cox and dozens more produced fairly distinct work, both stylistically and thematically.

    In comaprison, Nolan, Aronofsky and Fincher, the prestige names most commonly thrown around these days, seem tame, bland, pediestrian, commercial and, frankly, largely indistinguishable, at least as far as I’m concerned. They don’t make bad movies – and in the case of FIGHT CLUB, SEVEN and MEMENTO they are capable of exceptional movies – but I’m not sure I would call them distinct or visionary.

    I’d also say that movies these days are way more concerned about mass, monocultural appeal than they used to be. It’s like every script has been worked over to ensure maximum global appeal, which is going to wipe away much of the specific local, cultural or subcultural significance of the film, as well as gear down the intellectual content to the lowest common demoninator. The themes are going to be safe and the actors are going to be pleasant, bankable commodities. Likewise, individual style seems like a secondary consideration to some over-riding concern with a tacit agreement on what constitutes pretty.

    I’m not sure this observation should be taken as an indication that the cinema is in crisis, but I have a hard time pretending that the wealth of choice I once enjoyed is still available.

  174. They’re remaking “Total Recall”. I think we can agree that western society is basically over.

  175. I think it all depends. I don’t share Jareth’s outlook on the modern masters like Nolan and Aronofsky and Fincher all make movies that ‘look alike.’ I mean c’mon man, you’re going to tell me that THE WRESTLER looks like INCEPTION? I think the problem with the modern film structure is that the old masters that have a death grip on what is currently ‘in’ aka what is acceptable en-mass are guys like Lucas and Burton and other guys who have settled into nice niches and have no interest in expanding the langauge of film or narrative, and so the young angry punks or the eternal outsiders, the guys like Gilliam who have really strong voices are forced to choose between either taking the big budgets on teflon films, or striving in the margins, making films that have tremondous personal meaning, but where you have tp fight for every single dime. And that sucks.

    But I refuse to give up hope for films. For one thing there are guys like Guillermo del Toro or Edgar Wright (yep I said it) and Adam McKay (fuck you he’s a genius) who have figured out how to maximize their less then blockbuster budgets and are able to create stealth bombs within and outside the system. And there are some big voices who seem committed to trying to give up and comers their shot, guys like Jackson and Tarantino and Rodriguez.

    I don’t think there’s any way to ‘solve’ Hollywood, a system that treats an artistic medium as a ways to print product is an inherently broken one, but I think there’s always another wave of ideas coming in, and there will always be new visions shining through. The question is, are we willing to wait out the shit, are we willing to remian vocal and vigilant against the dreck that gets pumped out?

    Are we willing to fight for movies?

  176. I’d probably say the Charlie Kaufmann troup is the most original auteuristic group out there right now. Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze both have distinct styles and approaches and have made wonderful original films in recent times. I’m also really interested in what PT Anderson follows up THERE WILL BE BLOOD with. Until he recently executed his career, Mel Gibson was an interesting filmmaker. I’m not sure if they are ever going to let the Wachowskis near a film again, but those guys create a whole new school. And I’ve liked two of Sofia Coppola’s films so far. Pedro Almodovar’s last one wasn’t his strongest, but he’s still been making personal unique films with an auteuristic style right here in modern times. Same goes for Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guierlmo Del Toro. And I can’t call Zach Snyder hugely original since his first original film is yet to be released, but he’s got a distinct style and I’ve liked his work so far.

    There’s some guys like Wong Kar Wai, Steve Sodderburgh, David Gordon Green, and Lars Von Trier who have distinct styles and make personal films, although I don’t usually enjoy the results, I can’t say they aren’t expanding the artform.

    As for those big guys Jareth named. I’d probably say Nolan is more like a James Cameron guy. He makes serious entertainment movies that are made with quality but yes, they are made for mass appeal so they lack wacky personal touches and his visuals and tone immitate the same couple of guys everybody immitates, but he still makes quality movies. And as for Fincher and Aronofsky, I actually admire that they adapt their style to fit the story. I can’t count the time some auteur guy’s unique style actually sunk a movie because it was the wrong look and tone for the picture. I actually think Scorcese is the worst for this, he just can’t realize that he sometimes needs to leave his jittery editing and classic rock mixtape at home.

    So I feel there is a good mix of both guys with distinct styles and guys delivering original material out there.

  177. It’s not so much a case of the individual films lacking quality that I’m wondering about, it’s more the curious lack of diversity between the films. SHUTTER ISLAND and INCEPTION, for example, are almost thematically identical, they rely on the same performance from the same actor, and, frankly, very little distinguishes either film stylistically. They’re not bad films, but they both drag some neat ideas too far into mainstream tastes for my comfort. Who are today’s young punks and shit-disturbers? Who are today’s awesome freaks like John Waters?

    For example, if we look back at the last ten years, can we compile a list as stylistically and thematically diverse as:

    David Byrne’s TRUE STORIES,

    I’m willing to be convinced otherwise, though my grumpy old knee-jerk reaction is that we can’t. Gondry and Jonze are probably a good place to start.

    Also, good call on Wong Kar-Wei, Wolfgang. If I was a chick that would be the quickest route into my panties. But he began in the 1990s. Who from the last 10 years is breaking ground the way he did?

  178. Compiling lists of what you think are good movies, or good directors, is pretty much pointless. Because your own subjective favorites are just that – Subjective favorites. I could easily list great modern filmmakers, and great modern movies. I could point out the great diversity of style and content (Which in fact is greater than it has ever been before, since all the old styles are alive, but there are more tools in the arsenal). But it would be pointless, since it would only bring us to “But that director / movie isn’t even good!” answers.

    But ask yourself a question, which is more likely:

    A) When you were younger, movies were not objectively better, they simply had a bigger impact on you.

    B) Movies have gotten progressively worse every single decade since they were invented.

    …Because every single decade other people have repeated the exact same arguments that you are using now. Your golden age is for them the age of suck, because they were older then, and they had already become jaded, and they had lost the fresh excitement of watching movies.

    …Which option is more likely?

  179. Jareth- I guess I just don’t understand your point. Two films came out recently that by pure coincidence shared a cast member and similar themes, so therefore modern movies are all repetive? How many shitty post-Indian Jones adventure movies came out in the 80’s? It’s that selective memory thing, where we remember certain era’s as being somehow brilliant and flawless, when actually the only ones we really even think of are the rare gems among bundles of shit. Picking ten random movies from one period and saying that that ‘proves’ that that stretch of time was somehow better strikes me as totally arbitrary and I’m sure every single person here could do the exact same thing with any decade that you picked out of a hat.

  180. Am I the only one who thought that the explosion of the Dictator’s manor/castle was the lamest CGI outside of very, very bad DTV.

  181. Brendan: You make a fair enough point about the Indiana Jones rip-offs. God knows the dudes who threw together HIGH ROAD TO CHINA weren’t brimming with stylistic flair, nor did they have anything whatsoever to say about period action adventures. Much in the way that I doubt anyone could tell the difference between PUSH and JUMPER.

    I guess I’m just concerned that fewer established directors are taking risks with their themes and styles, and that film-makers who inhabit the subcultural margins aren’t given the same space to sit alongside major films the way they were when Jarmusch and Greenaway were starting out. To me, INCEPTION and SHUTTER ISLAND aren’t just similar, they’re compromised or self-censored for maximum audience appeal. I simply refuse to believe that the Nolans sat down with this cool idea of tampering with memory but could only come up with a lame redemption plot to hang it on. I’m sure they scrapped heaps of intelligent material in order to make their film digestable to mass audiences. The dialogue in that film is so tone deaf that it could only have been written out of
    fear that the audiences needed their hands held. But maybe I’m just jaded.

    It seems to me that films these days are groomed for mainstream acceptability long before they reach the screen. They’re over-thought, diluted, ironed out and focus grouped until they all look like ATONEMENT. But Tuukka has a point. I might be suffering from nostalgia.

    Still, I suspect that a deviant young film-maker would have a harder time getting his or her film off the ground in this current climate than John Waters did back in the 1970s.

  182. Jareth- You’re talking about two different things. If you want proof that there are still many, many, many young filmmakers takkng advantage of DV and using it to push taste and boundaries. If you want an example of two filmmakers who have just begun to push into low budget studio work, here’s a piece by the eternal Mr. McWeeny:http://www.hitfix.com/blogs/motion-captured/posts/who-are-andrew-gurland-and-huck-botko-and-what-is-the-virginity-hit

    And as for the big guys, I think the exact opposite is true. I think by teaming himself with DiCaprio has allowed Scorsese to indulge every single stylistic and visual fetish he’s ever had, to the frequent detriment of the scripts. And I think Christopher Nolan has said repeatedly that he found himself unable to ‘crack’ the script to INCEPTION until he decided to focus the film on character instead of an endless parade of trippy set pieces, ‘lame’ though you may have found it. And I think that’s the trade off, same as Tarantino casting Pitt or any of the other many instance throughout the decades where intensely personal filmmakers have used movie stars to gurantee them the ability to make the films they want, like Gilliam’s work with guys like Depp or Ledger or Cronenberg’s recent work with Viggo.

    But what about films like THERE WILL BE BLOOD or the recent Coen brothers work where the filmmakers are working on solid budgets and manage to turn out edgy, deeply thematic work? Are you willing to discount them?

  183. ‘Primer’ got a lot of attention for such a cheap film, and is definitely the kind of thing you’re talking about. Keep hope alive.

  184. Jareth Cutestory

    August 19th, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Brendan: I place the recent stuff by the Coens and Anderson sort of roughly where I’d place Scorcese or Woody Allen during the 1980s: it’s some of their best stuff. But my problem is that, alongside HANNAH & HER SISTERS and AFTER HOURS, we were also getting unique, quirky stuff like STRANGER THAN PARADISE and STRAIGHT TO HELL. It’s these latter kinds of films that I fail to see an equivalent for in this day and age. Again, it’s not film quality, per se, or the subject matter or style or themes; it’s the lack of voices from the margins, from unique subject positions and subcultures. These days, everything feels like its gone though the same machine.

    But I like your response, and I’m willing to consider that I’m wrong. INCEPTION didn’t work for me, but I’m willing to believe that some people were moved by the themes, no matter how safe and familiar. Ditto AVATAR. I’ll take a look at McWeeney’s community college level writing skills and see what he has to say.

  185. The thing with someone like John Waters is he could only happen once. I mean seriously once you’ve had a man in a dress eating real dog shit, whose going to top it? And what with? A man in a dress eating semen? A man in a dress commiting real, live acts of cannibalism? JACKASS 3-D will probably be as gross or almost as gross as PINK FLAMINGOS, but it’ll be released on 3000 screens on opening day and no one will blink. Or maybe if we’re lucky (IMO) it’ll get yawned out of theatres. I did like Knoxville in Waters’ last film though.

  186. I greet this argument with a huge MEH.

    People have always complained that films or other art forms aren’t “diverse” enough. I don’t think it’s ever been true or that it ever will be. When an art form stagnates, it dies. Look at the “Golden age” of murder mysteries or the pre-WW1 American dime shockers, for example. People realised that they just weren’t very good any more, and so they died a slow death. And you know what happened? Something else came up to take their place.

    The “action movies” of today bear very little resemblance to thematically similar movies of twenty years ago, and probably will bear equally little resemblance to whatever’s being made twenty years from now. And that’s just one genre. New genre crossovers – hell, even new genres – are constantly evolving. It’s ALWAYS been the case that artistic works from similar times bear close resemblance. But you know what happens? Over time, the bad stuff gets forgotten, the good stuff gets remembered, and art keeps evolving. That’s how it’s always been and will in all likelihood always be.

    In other words, don’t let a few similar movies spoil your appreciation for filmmaking as a whole.

    And in my opinion “Primer” was brain-crunchingly inpenetrable, but also fucking awesome.

  187. Jareth Cutestory

    August 19th, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    PacMan: If John Waters knew that he opened the door for JACKASS, would he have second thoughts about his life’s work? I like to think he’d be amused.

    I used Waters as just one example of many different fringe subcultures that found a voice in cinema. Lydia Lunch’s films with Richard Kern, or Paul Morrissey’s stuff, Philippe Garrel’s stuff, would be a couple of the countless other examples. This stuff was a key facet of cinema in the 1980s. It’s not that I’m particularly eager to see films that are directly inspired by any of these misfits, just that I like to think that the misfits are still busy and that there is a place at the table for their uncompromised work.

  188. Wasn’t John Waters in one of the JACKASS movies?

    I’m totally going to see JACKASS 3-D. Their schtick was kind of funny when they were young and dumb, but now they’re old enough to know better and you can see the fear on their faces before they do this crazy shit. That makes it even better.

  189. Jareth: AFAIK Waters loves JACKASS and says somewhere on the DVD for A DIRTY SHAME that it’s the “closest anything has come to PINK FLAMINGOS” which is pretty much true, and I feel like kind of a hypocrit for loving Waters’ 70s envelope pushing but finding the antics of Knoxville and co a straight up bore, but there you go; tastes in entertainement often aren’t dictated by logic or consistancy. He also says Knoxville is pretty much responsible for getting the film made, so I certainly think he’s a stand up bloke.

  190. Johnny Knoxville is also fucking insane. Somebody needs to put his utter disregard for life and limb to good use in an action flick before he gets himself killed jumping a hovercraft over a vat of whale sperm.

  191. ***”There’s also the freshness factor. Most people tend to react more emotionally to art when they are kids or teens. Once people get past 20 years of age, *most* of them become more jaded, and they just don’t get those huge kicks anymore, that they used to get. It’s natural – You’ve seen more, you’ve experienced more, and things just don’t seem so new and exciting anymore.”


    “But ask yourself a question, which is more likely:

    A) When you were younger, movies were not objectively better, they simply had a bigger impact on you.
    . . . “***

    You seem to have a good, open-minded grasp of this subject matter, tuuka. But I must ask the lot of you, why is it people so easily dismiss their younger selves? Why do so many discredit that initial reaction to films we saw when we were 14? Most people automatically figure that with age comes taste, which is true, but why must this maturity and our realization, our awareness, of the maturation process taint that which was awesome in our youth? (Wordsworth was really on to something with his ever-renewing faith in the instincts of children.)

    It’s selective, too. I still think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is awesome on some level. I still recognize that TMNT toys would be damn fun little toys for kids today, even if I don’t now daily anticipate my reunion with them. I still love little kittens. I loved to play with and pet little kittens when I was, like, 7 years old, and I still love to pet and feed little kittens and cats.

    Why is it that we’re not supposed to regard many of the films we loved as wee ones with the same affection as adults? Some of those films have always been stupid, okay, but still. (People are not kind to Masters of the Universe. . .) Why do we dismiss or downplay our early infatuation or, worse, our experience or our memory of an experience with a certain film as a young viewer? (. . . but I loved Masters of the Universe as a kid; there is a reason I watched this dozens of times, and I won’t undo that now. Good movie.) We allow ourselves to be “jaded,” and that, to me, is a shame, a much worse shame than the propagation of nostalgia.

    It is more mentally stimulating to challenge oneself to allow one’s youthful enjoyment of a film into his/her current adult opinion of that film. I don’t know if any of you can follow this precisely, but, if you can, give this a try and see if it brightens your day.

    Also, I still have literally hundreds of films on my to-see list, and I’m certain many of them will excite me and give me that “kick” tuuka mentions. I don’t care what decade they are from. (By the way, tonight at 8 Eastern TCM is showing Man-Hunt, which I highly recommend, even if you only catch the last 20 minutes. WATCH THE LAST 20 MINUTES OF MAN-HUNT TONIGHT! BADFUCKINGASS, for serious.)

  192. Here’s my attempt to compile a list as stylistically and thematically diverse as Mr. Cutestory’s. This is not meant to represent a comprehensive list of the *best* or my *favorite* films of the oughts (although I like all of these movies and many are among my favorites), it’s merely meant to represent the diversity.


  193. Man-Hunt’s on!

  194. More good points, especially tuukka. Our tastes get pickier as we get older, though I have a more mathematical idea of why that might happen. Say you see 5,000 movies by the time you’re 20. You have a healthy selection of favorites out of that. These are movies you want to watch over and over. You still want to discover new movies and old classics but there are a good number of films in heavy rotation and in your lexicon.

    In the next 10 years, you may see another 5,000, or even if it’s 2,000 it would be harder to fill one of those spots. We keep trying though. I hear some people say that nothing’s been good since the ’40s. That would be really sad if we haven’t been able to make good movies in 60 years. I think good movies continue to get better, and bad is still bad. Raiders and Die Hard are perfect, but so is The Dark Knight and Casino Royale.

    I do think the shaky cam movement is damaging to the language of film, only because I’m afraid we won’t get to see clear, cool stuff anymore. But then, it’s allowed us to get cooler stuff on TV because it can be shot more quickly. I also prefer practical effects to CGI, but I wouldn’t have a Spider-Man at all or Peter Jackson’s King Kong without it.

    Also, I was worried once Jackie Chan passed on, there’d never be anyone who could move like that because the opera school that trained him doesn’t exist anymore. Already we have Tony Jaa and Parkour, and Chan’s not even gone yet. So I have hope for the future.

  195. Jackie Chan makes me have faith in things.

  196. Maybe I’m being naively optimistic, but I think “mainstream” movies have actually improved greatly, starting around 2005; in my opinion 1994 to 2004 was an extremely dire period for Hollywood; my memories of it are that it mostly consisted of: bad Tarantino knock offs, boring yet once popular prestige pictures (The Perfect Storm, Castaway), bad John Woo, Roland Emerich, Jan De Bont, Jerry Bruckheimer, Farrley Brothers comedies not called There’s Something about Marry, disposable Disney animated movies, etc.. with the occasional good, but usually not that good, movie to keep you going.

    In 2008 alone we got: The Dark Knight, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Iron Man, Wall E, Cloverfield, Rambo, Street Kings, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Speed Racer, Wanted, Hellboy 2, Clone Wars, Step Brothers, Pineapple Express, Tropic Thunder, Death Race, Burn After Reading, W., Role Models, Gran Torino, and The Wrestler…I know it’s all based on personal taste and we can argue about the quality of those individual movies all day, but, to me, those are just better, more entertaining and interesting movies (on a termite art kind of level) than the weak shit they were cranking out back then.

  197. I think the 90s were probably the best decade for mainstream movies in the current, post-JAWS/STAR WARS sense of the term. I mean this was a time when your JFKs, SCHINDLER’S LISTs and MALCOM Xs could hold their own at the box office with your CLIFFHANGERs, and your DISCLOSUREs etc. However, things did get a bit wierd around 95/96 when BATMAN FOREVER and INDEPENDENCE DAY went through the roof. Still, I’m not sure how well the last five years would compare to 95-99. For me personally it wouldn’t be too hard to find films from that period I liked more than FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL or WANTED, and those weren’t films I hated.

  198. Just to add, the early 2000s were indeed pretty terrible, and things have gotten a lot better since then.

  199. Anyone notice the “Dogs of war” reference in this film? Sly and Statham say they are Bird Researchers when they first arrive on the Island.

    I liked but didn’t love it. Mickey Rourke, Dolph and Austin are the standouts here. Especially Rourke’s “Bosnia Story”. But the Action sequences could’ve been filmed so much better in the hands of Peter Hyams or Issac Florentine.

  200. Finally saw it, I think Vern’s review is pretty much spot-on. It feels a little incomplete, a little cheap, a little generic, but its just barely saved by the combined charisma of the actors on display.

    One thing I have to say is that if there is anyone who doesn’t quite belong here, it’s Statham. I love the guy and think he’s one of the truly great actor heros of his generation, but the thing is its a very different generation than Stallone and most of the other actors seem to come from. Statham is badass but his charisma comes from his everyman toughness and his cocky vulnerability. He doesn’t quite fit in with the hyper-macho testosterone-drenched supermen who populate Stallone’s Expendables. They’re these larger-than life cartoons, and by comparison he seems kind of mopey and normal. The sort of starring roles he gets are as much a reaction to the 80s films Stallone’s thinking about as the way the action plays out. He does fine in the film but it highlights the difference (he doesn’t even ride the same kind of motorbike, because it would look silly for him to be on a manly chopper like Stallone, etc)

    Anyway, just something worth thinking about. Also the end of the Gary Daniels fight was easily the most badass thing in the film.

  201. Gary Daniels “fight”? Singular?

    Ok, now the haters have won me over. I’m waiting for DVD for this one.

    And if it’s not obvious enough by now, put me on the optimistic side of the film argument. Yeah, I know I spend a lot of time ripping apart films on this site that others love – but that’s because I love film as a medium and, dammit, I don’t want everyone to be satisfied with mediocrity. That ways lies smugness (and if there’s one thing Mr S’s “fanboys” have mastered, it’s smugness.) That’s why I get so annoyed by positive reviews for films like “Mission: Impossible 3”. If a film that safe and boring gets a “pass”, what hope is there for genuinely innovative, exciting stuff to shine through?

    This is why I hate it when I get quoted out of context about films like “The Mist”. Although I hated the experience of watching that movie, although I thought it was painfully bad in a couple of key areas that spoilt it for me, I DIDN’T hate the movie or the idea behind it. There’s a huge distinction there. I’d like to see MORE movies like “The Mist” made, not less, because the ambition was obvious, and I respect ambition, even when I don’t think it comes off.

  202. *SPOILERS*

    Finally saw this and I liked it for the most part but the skakey-quick-cam was absolutely terrible in some parts.

    I don’t understand how you can have a great action like the one where Stallone and Statham blow the living shit out of the dock full of bad guys and then you have shit like the Lundgren / Li fight (both of them) where you couldn’t make heads or tails about what was going on.

    I shouldn’t be surprised because Stallone did some of that in Rambo, but Rambo seemed frantic yet still comprehensible. A lot of The Expendables’s action scenes were Michael Bay / Paul Greengrass confusing.

    There was still a lot to like though. Dolph Lundgren’s character was by far my favorite among many characters that I love. I liked how much of the movie is played more as a slice-of-life movie involving mercenaries discussing their problems and concerns then it did an action movie. It was also pretty funny in parts which reminds me of working at Firestone bullshitting with the guys in between oil changes.

    Some of the action was pretty good. The Airplane scene that I mentioned, the corridor shot when Terry Crews is unloading rounds in the bad guys and all you see is bodies piling on top of each other, and Dolph blowing a guy in half.

    I also like Garza’s redemption toward the end. You don’t see “dictator with a heart of gold” movies very often.

    I hope they make a sequel and I really hope that Stallone takes more care with the action scenes next time. To twist a line from Rocky Balboa, “Post action is for lazy film makers and THAT’S NOT YOU! You’re better than that!”

  203. Paul — well now, mate, I can’t blame you for having your optimism worn down on this one, but I figure I ought to tell you it’s probably barely worth seeing in the theaters. Despite the problems I had with it, the combined awesome of Stallone, Statham, Li, Austin, Rourke, Crews, Couture, Daniels, etc still shines through and is probably worth at least a matinee on the big screen, where its machismo is likely to have a greater effect. The fights aren’t great but have their moments, and the whole thing is at least a servicable vehicle for the testosterone. I suspect you won’t regret spending a few quid on it in the long run — and hey, the cash you spend supports a sequel where Stallone will have a chance to really hit it out of the park. I feel I should say this just to try and offset the negativity a little — I, for one, walked out somewhat underwhelmed but still glad to have had the experience. And yes, there is just one Daniels fight, but its a fun one and well worth it (probably the film’s most badass).

  204. Mr Subtlety – I can, offhand, think of exactly two films that are “worth” seeing in the cinema, and one of them is “Lost in Translation” (probably my favorite film ever). Bear in mind that the experience of going to the cinema is one that I dislike, regardless of the film being played. A loud, noisy action flick is not going to pique my interest here. (Yeah, even “Inception”, which I loved, had this problem for me – I think it was great to see it on the big screen, but afterwards I felt disoriented and slightly deafened. This isn’t unusual – I’m the guy who has the TV set so low that other people in the room have to turn it UP.) I’ll wait for DVD.

  205. Man, I think every great film is worthy of being seen in the cinema. I love catching older movies in the theater with a respectful audience as well, I recently saw a pristine print of ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA and it totally redefined the film for me. I see over 100 movies a year in the theater (although 50-60 of those are at the film festival, where I see 3-5 a day for 16 days straight and never have to deal with any disrespectful idiots). I understand the hatred of rude audiences, but you can employ certain strategies to avoid them if you’re really that put off by them. See matinees, see films later in their run, be familiar with the “grown-up theaters” in your city, see films that won’t attract the mouth-breathers as much as something like THE EXPENDABLES will. Funnily enough too, I broke all of these rules to see INCEPTION: I saw it on opening night at a downtown multiplex with a room full of young people, but the audience was totally quiet and spellbound throughout. There are films where a rowdy audience is an almost mandatory part of the experience as well, I have a feeling PIRANHA 3D fits that description.

  206. I think I figured out why the “action” scenes were so poorly edited.


  207. hamslime – a good thought, also consider it has the same DP who lighted the fucking dull Stallone vehicle THE SPECIALIST.

  208. I just saw this, and I have to say on the whole I really liked it. I’m not in to ratings but this time lets just say I’d give it about a 4/5. I had problems with it in the first half, but I was with it all the way in the second. It’s not the DIE HARD-level “change the way we feel about action films forever” kind of film we might have had a right to hope for, but I don’t see any real reason why it can’t be the new COMMANDO (granted, it’s not quite as fun). It’s almost like an action purist’s G.I. JOE

  209. hamslime, I don’t know if you can blame the editor. They can only edit what they’re brought.

    It’s like people complain about the fights in Batman Begins (rightfully so) but if you watch the behind the scenes footage you see they HAD to shoot and edit that way because people are slow and awkward and there are long pauses between punches and hits. Look at 5:30 especially, you can’t stay on a lingering wide of that stuff.

  210. The audience you described is precisely why I haven’t seen this movie yet. I’ll wait until the effeminate obese man boob crowd who need films like this to feel masculine have found something else to do with their time.

  211. Yo Vern. You hit pretty much on the head. I was a bit more disappointed than you and I’m still pissed at Stallone for fucking up the screenplay so badly, but I think, this is pretty much the best Expendables-review I’ve read.

    And thank you for mentioning Stallone’s problems with act structure. That was of the things that bugged me the most about the last RAMBO, that there basically was NO second act, no building of suspense, which is pretty much the same thing that’s going on with the Expendables.

  212. I doubt Dolph and Jet Li needed editorial “help” to make a fight look good. I know they’re getting older and all but that editing was ridiculous.

  213. The post-action editing was definitely the weakest part of the film. You could tell that underneath it was some truly badass action struggling for release. The Daniels fight had the most awesome ending ever, but I found the reliance on CGI a bit poor. Some of the stabbing scenes were entirely too Spartacus. I mean – they can afford squibs and blood packets on Steven Seagal DTV, but not the $80M Expendables? Stink.

  214. Yeah, CGI blood isn’t a deal-breaker for me, but it’s NEVER seamless. I don’t care what anybody says—you can always tell. It’s the silicone tits of badass cinema: always disappointing but occasionally fun.

  215. Darth — loved the end of the Daniels fight as well, but man, how much better would it have been if you could actually tell who was doing what? I didn’t realize until like halfway through the fight that both Statham and Li are fighting. Two guys in black fighting in the dark with a shakey cam cross-cut with other fights where other guys in black are also fighting in the dark? Come on, thats just not very well thought-out, nevermind the post-action photography and editing. But, like the whole film, no matter how frustrating it gets, the badassness still manages to shines through. At least you can tell where Daniels is.

  216. Loved it despite its flaws.

    Anway, here’s what I want for the sequel: Church feels he needs to wipe out the Expendables so that his secrets stay safe. He hires Arnold’s team. Arnold’s team consists of basically everybody who should have been in the first one but wasn’t. (Wesley Snipes immediately comes to mind).

    Come on, Sly. Make it happen.

  217. I think Arnold’s team should just be his team from PREDATOR. Shane Black included.

  218. The Predator team would be awesome. But there’s still a bunch of guys who I wish were in this one. And I’d really love to see Snipes vs Sly again a la Demolition Man. Or Li vs Snipes. Or Lundgren and Li vs Snipes and Micheal Jai White. I could go on for days though with my sequel dream cast.

  219. I was thinking he should have the Predator team too. But then it would mean he likes to play in the jungle like his friend. I might do a separate thread for us to discuss sequel possibilities. I’m thinking although there are a ton of people we would like to see in it they might’ve used up all the big mainstream names. I don’t think Sly wants to work with Van Damme anymore based on his Ain’t It Cool Q&A, I don’t think Seagal will change his mind about not working with Millennium, and Snipes (who according to one newspaper article was offered the first one) would have a hard time scheduling with his legal problems. I guess that leaves Chuck Norris, but after years of being on TV I don’t think that would be all that exciting to most people. But that might be my anti-Norris bias.

    Maybe Kurt Russell will answer his calls this time though, that would be a good addition to the cast.

  220. It was movies like those that Stallone and Co. made in the 80s and early 90s that put me off the action genre. To say i hate the 80s action genre is an understatment. It was movies like HEAT, THE MATRIX and the Jason Bourne that occasionally and momentarily makes me appreciate a good action movie. But they are isolated cases, it’s a case by case thing, not a love for a whole genre.

    I do wish good on THE EXPENDABLES and Stallone’s new career revival, because i realy liked what he did with RAMBO, the second best Rambo movie, or should i say, the second Rambo movie made tyhat is not a complete piece of retard insulting shit. No, RAMBO is actually pretty good, second only to FIRST BLOOD, but then again i doubt it could be any better then that classic. The thing i like about FIRST BLOOD and nmakes me detest and despise the 80s action movie is that FIRST BLOOD is done in the style of the 70s movies, in that they show a moderatly realistic portait of a situation, they show a remarkable guy doing things most of us couldn’t but not do overtly impossible things (even the fall from a cliff and landing on the pines could happen, though mostly woyuld be fatal, but weirder things have happened!). More improtantly, FIRST BLOOD, likemany 70s movie, don’t mind to portait a cypher as a main character, show im in shades of antiheroism and even be responsible for all the shit that happens to him, put more character developement to the so-called villains and then at an unexpected time we see the hero acts differently then what we would believe he would (but which had been hinted all along) and even end on a different note then expected. Rambo crying after all the carnage was a strangely but very effective dramatic moment in a movie where people had been pumped into just accepting action and action.

    FIRST BLOOD is the kind of action movie i love the bes,t it’s the kind i can get behind and truly enjoy. The two next Rambo sequels are the type of action i despise the most and have nothing but disgust and contept, if now downright hatred. RAMBO tried to go more to the path of FIRST BLOOD and for that it improved a hell of a lot above the two former brethren movies in the Rambo saga.

    As for THE EXPENDABLES, i wish it well. I hope the fans get what they wanted from it. I want to like that movie, because i’m really rooting for Stallone’s new carrer course. And i used to hate the motherfucker!

  221. A few possibilties for new Expendables — kind of hard to narrow down since Stallone went with a couple generations and genres for the first one, so almost anyone who ever played an iconic badas seems to sort of be fair game. Also, I know nothing about wrasslin’ or UFC or anything, only film. So consider this casting a wide net to get the creative juices flowing:

    Donnie Yen
    Tony Leung
    Tony Jaa
    Ice Cube
    Lance Henriksen
    Van Damme ( I know, I know)
    Wesley Snipes (I know, I know)
    Chuck Norris (meh)
    Vin Diesel
    Dwayne Johnson
    Vinnie Jones
    Danny Trejo
    Chow Yun Fat
    Rutger Hauer (priority one!)
    Clint Eastwood
    Richard Roundtree
    Kieth David
    Keith Carradine
    Mel Gibson
    John Cena
    Tommy “Tiny” Lister
    Sam Jackson
    Tom Waits
    Antonio Banderas
    Martin “Mothafuckin” Kove
    Kurt Russel
    Roddy Piper
    Rain (if he intends to stick with the action stuff)
    Harrison Ford?!?! (for some reason as right as that sounds, it also seems kinda wrong)
    Ron Perlman
    Bruce Campell
    Liam Neeson
    Baldwins (various)
    Tommy Lee Jones
    Lawrence Fishburne
    Colin Ferral
    Brendan Gleeson
    Christopher Lambert
    Peter Weller
    Michael Jai White
    Treat Williams
    Tom Berenger
    Tom Selleck
    Kiefer Sutherland (or Donald, whatever)

  222. I believe you misspelled “Colin Farrell.” It should be spelled “Michael Dudikoff.”

  223. I considered spelling it that way, but then it occured to me that Michael Dudikoff is probably available and I was kinda worried that he really could end up in the sequel if someone thought of him. So I thought, ‘don’t say anything and maybe people will forget.’

  224. I saw Denzel in August Wilson’s FENCES on Broadway recently. Didn’t seem to be in Expendables 2 mode.

  225. I wouldn’t mind seeing Powers Boothe or Clancy Brown in Expendables 2.

  226. If Tommy Lee Jones is in there, Robert Davi should be his twin brother.

  227. And don’t forget Kris Kristofferson!
    Damn, Expendables 2 needs lots of old men!

  228. Those are all fantastic suggestions (wtf was I thinking not putting Robert Davi and Kris Kristofferson on there? Time for some self-flagellation). And Mouth, don’t worry, I think Denzel’s just saving up the badass to unleash it all at once.

    oh shit, and HENRY ROLLINS.

  229. Please. You all have missed the one name that would guarantee “Expendables 2” success. Are you ready for this?


    Stop the thread, I win.

    (Yeah, I’m still recovering from “Scott Pilgrim”.)

  230. An 80s Action Hero

    August 26th, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Henry Rollins Amen! He was damn awesome in ‘Sons of Anarchy’ and proved his evil badass chops in my opinion! Although, he’s already tangled with Dolph in ‘Johnny Mnemonic’ and paid the price…

    Only saw Expendables the other night (its release was a bit later in the UK), and it was much better than I expected. One question though…Is Jason Statham the man in action heroes in the US as it seems? I don’t think his name is enough to guarantee box office in the UK, but is he the go-to guy for action films now in the states? If so, thats a pretty sad indictment on the modern day action star.

    Anyone else think that John Hyams could have done a better job when filming the action scenes? Stallone did his best. He pulled out his ‘Staying Alive’ stuff, but Hyams could have done a majorly better job I swear, as the action sequences in Universal SOldier: Regeneration attest.

  231. An 80s Action Hero

    August 26th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Can I add Michael Jai White to the ‘Expendables’ list. After Vern’s ‘Blood and Bone’ recommendation, he’s legit for the next film. Pure BadasS.

  232. First of all Dudikoff would be a great addition to the cast. He can be a badass if he wants to but more importantly he has great comedic chops. Watch him in Bounty Hunter, he’s pretty charismatic in that one.

    Second, I didn’t see Sho Kosugi’s name come up anywhere. I can only assume it’s because it was so obvious that no one felt the need to add him to the list.

    As for the plot, I thought it would be awesome to have Ahnold’s mercenary team pitted against Stallone’s. Of course they’ll have to come together in the end to team up against the bigger threat – The Cyborg Ninja Apocalypse.

    Just for shits I’ll also throw in Ethan Hawke. I know he doesn’t scream badass but I really liked him in Brooklyn’s Finest, Daybreakers, and Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead and pretty much every other movie I’ve seen him in for that matter.

  233. Ooh! I also forgot to add Lt. Jim Dangle. Not the actor Thomas Lennon but the character Lt. Jim Dangle.

  234. I didn’t know that The Expendabels started yesterday in Germany, but apparently it’s a success and #1 on its first day.

    I also think that Expendables 2 should have Robert Knepper (who was supposed to be in part 1, but couldn’t because of sheduling problems [from what I’ve heard] and then his role got cancelled during a re-write.). Someone has to give him a second chance after his big screen action debut in Transporter 3 sucked hard and I think Sly should be the one.

    And now I got here a seriously out of left field suggestion for the cast of Expendables 2: Neil Flynn. This guy is pretty tall and menacing (and has of course a brillant comedy timing). I would love to see him killing someone on screen, instead of just making jokes about it.

  235. Add Vernon Wells and Kurtwood Smith to the mix as well, and Luis Guzman if there’s any more South American dictators required.
    Or add Ray Stevenson and Thomas Jane and have all three Punishers together.

  236. Ooh, I like the triple punishment idea. That would add another layer of weirdness. We already got the “these characters don’t know that they’re the three biggest action stars in the world and one of them is a politician now” going, we could have the “Arnold’s team don’t know they were already a team in Predator” in part 2 and throw in your “these three pals don’t realize they’ve all played the same character” thing too. Then we got ourselves a festival of postmodern casting stunts.

    And by the way, if they did the Predator team in part 2 they could try to trick Shane Black into juicing up the script.

  237. One question: Would the other skinny white guy from PREDATOR be invited to the party? Nothing against the dude, I think he held his own surprisingly well, considering who he was up against, but does anybody even know his name? I can just see the poster: SCHWARZENEGGER. WEATHERS. THE BODY VENTURA. THAT GUY.

  238. Do you think Bob Hoskins would be badass enough for Expendables 2?

  239. Of course I mean not as one of THE Expendables, but I think he could be a great villain-in-suit for part 2.

  240. CJ – he was easily the best thing in “Unleashed” – he makes a great scenery-chewing villain. So yeah, I love that idea.

  241. Majestyk, the other skinny white guy is Richard Chaves. I actually remember him more from the War of the Worlds TV series. He may not be movie poster material, but he’s a solid actor, and it would be great to have the whole team together again.

  242. Hey, I like the guy. I say sign him up.

  243. […] yeah, all of those CGI blood splatter shots look like […]

  244. Question for anyone who knows. (Preferably the guy who posted above me)

    I don’t get those comments. I see them once in a while on here and the name is usually half of a sentence, websight, or what appears to be an advertisement. Are these actual people posting here or should I just ignore them.

    If they’re real people then it makes me feel like a dick ignoring their comments because they have slight grammar problems. If it’s SPAM of some sort then I wont feel as bad.

    Any help on this issue would help me sleep a little better at night. Thank you.

  245. I think they are called “Trackbacks”. You link to this blog in something you post on your blog and as a thank you, a link to your blog post appears in the comments. They are not always spam, but they can be spam.
    Of course I might be wrong, because I tried to do a trackback with my blog last week, but it never showed up. Maybe I just suck.

  246. So it’s just automatic? Cool, now I don’t feel so bad. Thank you, sir.

    Also, you most certainly do NOT suck. You are a beautiful creation in the eyes of God and a cool person in the eyes of your peers on this sight. I can’t speak for your family, but I’m sure they probably think you’re okay too. *hugs*

  247. Enjoyed the hell out of this. No, it’s not as good as ROCKY BALBOA or RAMBO, but still fun times at the movies. Guess it was like seeing a totally awesome band playing at your local bar. It wasn’t a balls out concert extravaganza of the century, but you still get a kick out of familiar faces jamming out on some familiar tunes.

    There was a lot of things that could have been better – the Li/Lundgren fight (although I loved the “low clearance” gag) and a lot of the action could have been shot better, most of the Expendables were, uh, expendable, bare bones of a story, terrible CGI blood and fire, and so on and so on. Things that I could nag about endlessly.

    But it still had some crazy awesome personal touches that elevated the whole – Crews’ shotgun, Stallone shooting his .45 almost like machinegun, Statham’s Hong Kong film inspired gunplay, Mickey Rourke acting his soul out, Lundgren managing to convey a character that is at the same time sad, pathetic and dangerous (and the ending scene was great). The cast had a great chemistry and were wonderful together, especially the cameos. And stuff like that goes a long way.

    Good enough, Sly. Good enough.

  248. HT: In addition to sad, pathetic, and dangerous, I would add funny. Dolph brought a lot to that role.

  249. Mr. Majestyk:

    Yes, and funny. Almost forgot about that. Dolph was a great addition to cast and he did excellent job. Not surprising after what we saw of him in Universal Soldier: Regeneration.

    He does seem to have a sort of career re-invention of his own in progress. Interesting to see where he takes it now after a bit of big screen re-exposure. I’ve got a hole in my Dolph filmography between Regeneration and The Mechanik. He was okay in the latter film, and it was an okay flick overall. But now I’m interested to go and check out his other, newer work.

  250. HT: Check out THE DEFENDER. It’s his directorial debut and a good example of how to do a lot with a little. COMMAND PERFORMANCE was nowhere near as good as I was hoping, but Dolph does get to play a rock drummer who saves the Russian premiere from terrorists, so obviously it’s worth checking out.

  251. expendables 2:
    begin with a prologue. the expendables (led by mickey rourke’s tool with sly’s barney as his second-in-command; his nickname The Schizo originates here; Van Damme is part of the team too and it’s Randy Couture’s first mission) are in a real badass bush somewhere and in terrible peril. their ass is bailed out by Schwarzenegger’s Trench and his team who are also on the assignment. Van Damme and Sly have a falling out over a strategic/moral decision (a la Crimson Tide), resulting in the former quitting.
    back to present. barney learns that church and monroe were in bed together and had a falling out and church himself had vested ulterior interests in the conquest of Vilena. this gets barney real mad. meanwhile, church has employed Trench and his team (including Danny Trejo and Ving Rhames) for a mission in South Africa to control the blood diamond trade. Trench is more of a straight-up mercenary, without the expendables’ sense of moral correctness. unbeknowst to everyone, Church has hired another mercenary to take out the expendables altogether. this mercenary is scott adkins. but the expendables survive the attempt on their life and vow revenge. they are also contacted by the top military and intelligence brass (Brian Dennehey, Steven Seagal) for a meeting with the president (wait for it…Chuck Norris!) who personally asks them to take out the now-rogue Church, hiding out in South Africa with national security secrets. so the expendables map out the mission’s logistics and strategy, during which they realize the need for a seasoned pro for a vital responsibility. so they seek Van Damme and persuade him to return. the team and plan now in place, the expendables travel to south africa and come head-to-head with Trench. Lots of badass shit goes down. Barney rescues Trench and his men, getting square. Trench and his team allow the expendables access to the base and walk off. Sly and Bruce battle it out in the climax. Bruce chooses to kill himself than be defeated and goes out in a spectacular blaze of glory. Sly liberates yet another oppressed people.
    Tool brings to the expendables’ attention something. A rogue black-ops navy seal green beret super U.S. soldier is holed up in some warzone and become a kind of col. kurtz like figure and must be terminated with extreme prejudice. His photo is revealed: Wesley Goddamn Snipes. Sly also introduces the team to a new member: Akshay Kumar (indian action superstar, martial arts and stunts expert.)

  252. I thought this was really boring. The story, characters and dialogue are just lame and generic, and nothing memorable happens. It’s not even entertaining in a corny over-the-top way, like Commando or Cobra.

    And worst of all the action scenes are all very ho-hum and generic. And so cutty, that I find it hard to call this an 80’s style action movie. It’s very late 00’s style action movie when it comes to the action itself, and not in a good way.

    Getting all these actors in the same movie doesn’t mean much, when you give them nothing interesting to do.

    Rambo 4 was a masterpiece when compared to The Expendables.

    I watched Salt on the same day as this, and it’s interesting in comparison how it delivered a lot more fun with distinctive over-the-top action moments, great kills and absurd characters and plot developments. Maybe Sly should have gotten Kurt Wimmer to write this, so at least it wouldn’t be so damn tame and boring.

  253. The one good thing (indeed, the ONLY good thing, if the vast majority of reviews are to be believed) to come from “Expendables” is that it’s highlighting to the general public just how much of an underused treasure Dolph Lundgren is. Meaning no disrespect to Rocky IV – which I can watch, laugh at, and enjoy – but I do think it’s a crying shame that his best-known role is Ivan Drago.

  254. On a completely different point: do spambots have a soul?

  255. I could’ve sworn I mentioned other good things about it in my review. But yes, if it brings attention to Dolph that is another good thing to come from Expendables.

  256. Vern – I’ll make an exception of your review just for you then, although I’d best describe the tone of yours as politely cautious at best, critical at worst. You gotta admit, even the bits you enjoyed hardly made you give this one a ringing endorsement.

    Anyway, like many recent films, I’ll wait to see the thing (which I will, just not in cinemas) and then write up something.

  257. This article eloquently painstakingly says everything we’ve been saying here for months or years:


    There’s so much good stuff in there that I could lovingly quote the entire thing here, but I’ll kindly direct y’all to note that Mr. Bordwell calls for Jackie Chan’s work to be displayed in the Louvre. Great joy.

  258. – mouth

    Great article!

  259. dna: I know, right?

    I’m very happy to have rediscovered that guy’s website. What a scholar.

  260. Vern – I’m not a professional reviewer, I’m some guy with a computer, an opinion, and a job sitting in an office and flicking paperclips at the guy across from me. It was a choice between “The Expendables” and “Scott Pilgrim”. I don’t do this for a living!

    Mouth – agreed. Nice to know there are people out there who matter who are trying to keep standards high.

  261. Sharktopus.

    Eric Roberts.



  262. {sigh}



    Local multiplex.


  263. This is kind of an oddball, although as usual Vern nails it.

    If I had seen any of the publicity beforehand, I’d probably say that this was a major disappointment. But I didn’t; all that I saw was Vern’s review several months ago, and as such I enjoyed it.

    It’s a threadbare plot, but it works, and it works for one reason: Mickey Rourke’s speech. I would’ve liked an “Assembling the team” montage, but it wasn’t crucial.

    It’s true that the direction isn’t great. I would’ve liked to have seen the actual Jet Li fight instead of what we got… but, for some reason, I still liked that movie as a whole. It coasts on Rourke’s scene and a good deal of heart… and that’s enough.

  264. Heya Vern.

    I know I should probably know these things off by heart at this point, but do you have an actual official list of your favorite action cliches? I’m outlining a badass revenge action movie and I want to ensure that I cover all my bases. “Just how badass is (s)he” is a given, obviously, and you mention “putting together the team” here as well… There are a few others I can think of like “one last job”, the “old war buddy”, etc… Anything else come immediately to mind?

  265. I definitely enjoy a good “just how evil is he?” where the villain either takes something out on a henchman or on a woman (such as a hot tub date).

    Also the “oh shit it’s on” moment, “the look” where two men wordlessly agree to go kick ass together, and the hardest one to achieve that I haven’t named yet, the simultaneous emotional and action climax.

  266. Ah yes, those are all pretty important. I think you could also call “the look” “the I’ll just go get my gear”.

  267. What about the one where a guy keeps giving the hero shit, then the hero kicks his ass and from that moment on they’re best friends? Usually the converted antagonist says, “You’re all right, man.”

    I guess 2 days to retirement is played out?

  268. That’s another good one. And of course there is the obligatory “badass juxtaposition”. Not all of these apply to the specific story I want to tell, but I think it’s useful to put together a list like this before I get down to business. I assume most of the time the filmatists are including these scenes without really analyzing the genre traditions. Maybe they’re even using these tropes subconsciously. So maybe I’ll have an advantage if I try to make each one really exemplary. Either as textbook as possible, or by eschewing what’s usually done. Like how Vern astutely pointed out that the “just how badass is he?” in REDBELT is just a hint:

    “Did he ask you if you were in the military?”
    “Did you tell him what you did?”
    “He didn’t ask.”

    Any good examples of the “the simultaneous emotional and action climax”?

    Thanks buds!

  269. If you have a bad guy using a sniper rifle with a scope, he has to be killed by a shot through the scope & into his eyeball.  Remember, the killshot should preferably come from a smaller-caliber weapon, and the bad guy has to have that final half-inhalation as his eyes quickly widen with fear for the last time in his life.

  270. Finally watched it. Put me in the enjoyed-it-but-less-than-I-should-because-of-that-post-action-bullshit camp.

  271. It’s a pretty big camp. We’re thinking of putting in a mini-golf course.

  272. Totally forgot the most awesome thing (for me): I think I mentioned it here a while ago, but in Germany, Sly and Arnie share the same voice actor and since this is the first time that these two share screen time together, it was a sure bet that one of them will have a different voice.
    Tcha, y’know what? Uh-uh? They seriously let Thomas Danneberg speak both actors and sounded not just NOT awful or emberassing, it even took me a little to notice, that it was the same voice! Because he is awesome. And rightfully one of our best and hardest working voice actors.

  273. I have looked for some information of this topic for the last several hours; Your blog is greatly treasured.

  274. Shit man, I thought you were being facetious when you said somewhere that Stallone was behind the camera saying, “Fast, rapido, rapido, move that camera around, shaky cam, that’s it! Whip pan, whip pan, that’s what I want. Ok, cut!” I’m watching the documentary on THE EXPENDABLES, and he literally says that. That’s an actual accurate quote. Fuck.

    And now Harry Knowles has a talking head moment from a set visit during the filming of THE EXPENDABLES. I might not make it through this one.

  275. INFERNO: THE MAKING OF THE EXPENDABLES is a bit of a Sly lovefest, which is to be expected, but it has a few cool parts when it shows the explosions and the fight choreography and the casting of amateur MMAers as unnamed soldiers & extras and how Stallone came up with how to make the helicopter explode in the climax with Terry Crews on the set, impromptu style. It would have been pretty good if the documentary were 20 minutes long. I do not recommend it unless you really want to see how flexible & awesome & hardworking & superstarry yet downtoearth & humble Stallone is.

  276. Yeah, Stallone actually shouts “Shaky cam! Shaky cam!” excitedly as if it’ll conjure up some scene-ruining demon. That almost put me off watching the rest of INFERNO, to be honest, but I persevered.

    As you say, Mouth, it’s a Sly love-in, for sure, but it really does go into a lot of shit you normally don’t see in making-ofs (test screenings, editing, making compromises, and so on) and I respect Sly for that.

    BTW, news is filtering in from the set of EXP2 (as I have christened it).

    Several sites are reporting the same things so hopefully this stuff is true:

    Jet Li is back, but only for the China-set scenes. Mickey Rourke is back, also.

    Arnie is back and shooting for a week – ditto Bruce, who’s back for two.

    JCVD will be a bad guy who is covered in tattoos and has his own EVIL VERSION OF THE EXPENDABLES (rumored to have one Scott Adkins in it)

    Chuck Norris’ name keeps popping up, too – as does John Travolta’s – but no evidence they’re onboard as yet.

  277. **”. . . conjure up some scene-ruining demon.”**

    Karlos, from now on when I see any post-action/shaky cam nonsense, I will envision an actual demon somewhere in the mise-en-scène. The filmatism will remain lousy & lazy, but the idea of a supernatural lil gremlin oughta make it enjoyably goofy at least, a mini-Beelzebub dancing between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon, taunting me with its unique ability to stabilize what he sees while my eyeballs are given a torturous workout.

  278. Mouth – I’ve only heard half-whispers over the years, nervously told stories of how, with each passing action flick, the shaky cam demon grows bigger and stronger, as each fight scene is cut and cut into noisy and flashy incoherence.

    Some say he can only truly destroyed by a resurgence in the Hong Kong action film industry, whilst others say it can occur with the ritual sacrifice of Michael Bay himself.

    And now we know he exists, WE MUST WARN OTHERS!!!

  279. This is the most important mission of our lives.

  280. I’ll take half of the net, you take the other.

    We gotta spread the word!!

  281. I’ve heard if a director says shakycam five times into a mirror, Tony Todd appears and shakes the cameraman.

  282. I heard it was Tony Scott.

  283. Okay, I did watch the new Extended Men’s Director’s Cut blu-ray of THE EXPENDABLES and I fully intended to review it, but I really don’t have much to say about it. I had only seen the movie the one time in the theater so I didn’t have it memorized enough to notice many of the differences. There’s a really thorough examination of it at http://www.movie-censorship.com/report.php?ID=851347 that numbers the changes in the hundreds.

    I did notice they took out the texting joke in the opening scene, I liked that. I think Randy Couture’s monologue about his cauliflower ear was longer, and I like that. He’s still my favorite character (well, after Mickey Rourke) even though he does almost nothing except that monologue. I noticed that the credits were at a different spot, which I am neutral on. I think there was a different opening song, maybe. There’s a cheesy rock song playing all through the whole climax of the movie, it was probly there before and if so I’d like to thank that row of talking dudes for keeping me from hearing it because that shit sucks.

    It did seem overall a little less jokey but I think it had more instances of Statham talking about his love life, which kind of come across to me like they were scripted as comedy and acted as not comedy. Not sure.

    I’m not sure if this is a better cut. I don’t think it’s worse. But unfortunately for me this movie didn’t hold up to a second viewing. The novelty fades and the weaknesses become more noticeable. The part where they turn the plane around and blow up the dock is pretty much the only decent action scene in the movie, and that’s just embarrassing. I mean it’s not like they were making up for it with the characters and story so I don’t know what the deal was. I still liked the part where Statham beats up the woman-beater I guess.

    Still, I managed to get excited by the Expendables 2 teaser they just put up. And I honestly believe the existence of this movie created an Expendables Effect which led to improved casting in other movies (Machete and Predators for example) and the new Hollywood initiative to add The Rock to the cast of all sequels currently in production.

  284. For today’s exciting installment of MAJESTYK MAKES AMENDS 2014, we travel back in time to Summer 2010, when I was young and naive enough to believe that a franchise starring an all-star team of action legends and promising up-and-comers could possibly live up to its potential and not be an ever blackening source of despondence and ennui in my life. I have seen the first EXPENDABLES a few times, and while it is not the worst action film of all time (that would be the second one), it’s still a fairly massive disappointment. It had enough good parts to keep its ledger just barely in the black, but it’s still a pretty bad movie by most standards.

    But I am attempting to be a more positive motherfucker, so I picked up the director’s cut Blu-ray to see if maybe it was an improvement. And it was, right from the first frame. From the new beginning (a dreamy shot of the Expies riding their bikes against a moonlit sky, with Sly narrating some ominous viking poetry or some shit over it), this is a more melancholy, more serious, and most importantly, less flippant film than the theatrical cut. The new tone announces itself with the new credits sequence, which takes place after the fight with the pirates. We see a montage of the boys in repose on their flight home. Gone is the obvious and cliched classic rock FM drive time soundtrack, replaced by an original modern rock ballad. It’s not a great song by any means, but it works in the film to show the toll this work has taken on these men, who all seem tired and lonely, even when they’re together. There is no horsing around on this ride. They had to kill a lot of people for money today, and they are all battle-weary and soul-sick. With this scene as the lead-in, Statham’s breakup with Cordelia from BUFFY has much more weight, showcasing what these men sacrifice to do the work they do. This, in turn, leads into the first scene in the tattoo parlor. Sly’s brooding makes more sense in this context and feels of a piece with the rest of the film.

    For the very first time, I felt that the scenes in an EXPENDABLES movie flowed one to the next and had a sense of rhythm. This cut employs alternate takes of the same material, and the choices made make the drama feel more natural, less artificially sweetened. The score feels heavier and suffused with a sense of dread. It plays for menace, not comedy. The camaraderie between these characters feels less forced, like they are the ones driving the conversation, not the editing. A great addition to this cut is a lengthy Randy Couture monologue about a violence incident from his past. It ends with him saying “It’s ain’t easy being green. The fuck you think I’m talking about?” I have NO IDEA what that means, but it’s totally awesome. Toll Road now feels like a person: He’s a little nuts, a little too far in his head. He knows things but he can’t express them well. All the characters are more defined in this cut. Hale Caesar has pictures of his kids that he looks at. The only Expendable with a family (that we know of), he at least has a reason to fight. His fondness for overkill is now understandable: He has something to go home to. We see Barney’s Vietnam medals. He’s been at this a long time, and it’s understandable that he’s so burned out. He has more of a rapport with Christmas in this version. He’s the cynic Christmas will become; Christmas is the romantic Barney once was. They don’t just feel like disassociated one-liner machines anymore. They each have something to play off of. Jet Li maintains his unfortunate Napolean complex, but he’s given more serious moments before his comedy scenes to balance the character out. Tool’s big monologue now feels like the culmination of the themes all the character arcs (such as they are) had been leading to, not a welcome but out-of-nowhere bit of oddball dramatics. There is more Dolph in the film, delivering more obviously improvised crazy talk that fleshes out the desperation of the character. His strange codependent relationship with Barney (Does he want Barney to save him or kill him?) is given a bit more room to breathe.

    In fact, the entire film, from the pacing of the dialogue to the editing of the action, feels like it has room to breathe. It’s not exactly an elegant piece of work, but it’s not the choppy, haphazard, tonally inconsistent patchwork the theatrical cut was. Even the in-joke scene with the Planet Hollywood board of directors has a sense of foreboding it lacked before when it went solely for easy comedy.

    Speaking of the action, you’re not gonna believe this, but the shakycam is basically gone. It’s not smooth, classical filmatism, but it’s not post-action either. The tunnel fight, in particular, is much improved. Again, I can only assume that alternate takes were used, because the camera stays mostly steady and shots last for longer than half a second. You can actually tell which character kicks Gary Daniel’s head back like a Pez dispenser, not just assume someone must have done it because you think you saw a boot and a head come together in one split second shot. Delivering on the action front is a major factor in this cut’s success.

    It’s not all improved. There’s a trailer park heavy metal song that plays over the climactic action scene that I’m of two minds about. I think it adds a sense of “Oh shit it’s on” when they come busting out of the palace, but it goes on too long and saps some impact from a few of the action beats. Also, for some reason, the awesome shot of Dolph holding Jet Li over the pipe is changed so that you can’t tell that he’s about to impale him anymore. He just looks like he’s going to body slam him, so you kind of have to take Sly’s word for it that he was about to kill him. Put that shot back in and the sequence is also much better realized than the theatrical cut.

    All in all, this version is much closer to the EXPENDABLES that I had hoped for back in those woebegone days of 2010. I can only assume that the theatrical version died the death of a thousand cuts. One by one the character beats, the action choreography, the brooding tone, dropped out in the name of pacing and audience-pleasing, replaced by a jukebox-friendly soundtrack and trendy fast cutting. Sly, exhausted from helming the biggest production of his career and hopped up on pain pills from his broken neck, clearly lost sight of his original vision along the way and let his melancholy tale of hard men buying back their souls with one selfless act be turned it into an eighties action minstrel show for meatheads who just want to chortle at explosions and meta jokes.

    It’s still far from a perfect film, but so far it’s the best EXPENDABLES film we have. I recommend it to others who stopped believing in the beautiful dream of that long lost summer of 2010.

    We can only hope that Sly will decide to take a crack at Simon West’s abomination. There’s good footage in there. Perhaps somebody with heart enough to take the material seriously could do something with it.

  285. Oh, and Couture’s awesome monologue makes me even more certain that he’s the only choice to play Carter Chase in the NIKETOWN movie.

  286. I like knowing that the most earnest moment of my beloved FIRST BLOOD 2: RAMBO GIVES YOU A WAR YOU WON’T BELIEVE AGAIN: PORT OF CALL WE GET TO WIN THIS TIME might have a decent sequelized/franchise legacy beyond the grotesquely brilliant sequel-celebratory action film culture of the 1980s.

    Also I keep picturing a grimy Bradley Cooper as Carter Chase for some reason. Or an actor who resembles a slightly grizzled Senator Cory Booker. My mind’s eye is probably astigmatic.

  287. The Original... Paul

    May 14th, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    Majestyk – “The Expendables” with a better score (well, less aggressively noisy) and better action sounds like… a half-decent movie, actually. I’m partially sold.

    One question though: does Sly still look as though he’s forgotten how to act in this one? Or does the editing fix that as well? There are a lot of scenes in the theatrical cut of “The Expendables” that are just cringe-inducingly painful to watch because Sly doesn’t seem to even be trying to portray a human being, let alone a character – the one where he says goodbye at the end to the love-interest would be the main one for me.

  288. “Half decent” is about right, Paul. And I do think Sly’s performance is better in this cut. The alternate takes don’t emphasize the supposedly jaunty repartee like the theatrical version, so he’s not always trying to get a word in edgewise. The performance now plays more to Sly’s strengths. It’ll never be one of his better chaacters, but I at least got a sense of what kind of person Barney Ross is now, which I never could before. Give it a shot with low expectations. You might like it.

  289. I didn’t find this movie all that offensive but I also haven’t seen it since it was still at the flicks. It just came and went and wasn’t all that memorable considering the cast/premise. I should probably check out that director’s cut someday.

  290. I do still occasionally blurt out “It’s good to hang pirates” in conversations. Dolph was gold in this movie.

  291. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 15th, 2014 at 1:36 am

    I think they took out the pipe that Jet Li was about to be impaled on by Dolph, because after Sly shoots Dolph he drops Jet exactly where that pipe would have been. In the theatrical cut it’s like, hey, where did the pipe go? It was right there!

    Overall I’m not a fan of the director’s cut. Sure, some of the jokey stuff was taken out and I do like that Sully Erna song during the opening credits, but it’s not enough to really improve it as a film. What they did do on the other hand is ruin the entire climactic action scene with that shitty rock song. Post-action or not, that whole finale always grabs me when I rewatch the film. With the director’s cut I’m too busy holding my hands against my ears to focus much on what is going on.

  292. The Original... Paul

    May 15th, 2014 at 9:44 am

    TUG – the generic orchestral thing playing over the finale in the cinematic version was incredibly obnoxious. If the editing hadn’t spoilt the scene completely for me, the scoring would’ve done it. It was just WAY too much. There were no dynamics there, no quiet moments; it was all constant orchestral noise for what felt like twenty straight minutes (but was probably more like five or ten).

    Shitty rock song might be bad; it could hardly be worse, surely?

  293. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 15th, 2014 at 11:35 am

    Paul, have you heard the song?


    Yeah… It’s worse.

  294. I don’t really require the songs used in movies to be good songs. They just need to fit the scene. I think this one does for like 10 seconds and then it gets intrusive. I think I do prefer the original scoring for that one scene.

  295. The Original... Paul

    May 15th, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    TUG – I take it that it was the full version? Not just a rock instrumental?

    Yeah, I think I get why you wouldn’t like that one.

  296. The Original... Paul

    May 15th, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Now where are my comments about the original “Expendables”? I’m sure I wrote ’em. I guess they must be in a Potpourri or something. I just don’t know why I didn’t put them here.

  297. Careful guys. Discussing movies is one thing, but people tend to take their music even more serious. And you have to have a strong platform to be able to call something shit, without getting a similar label thrown back at you.

  298. I´ll always prefer THE EXPENDABLES´S to at least one of Sly´s Rambo films. You´ll have to guess which one, since I don´t want to step one anyones toes here, but I can say I genuinely hate it.

  299. Shoot, I hope it’s #2…

  300. Be a Toe-Stepper, Shoot. The world needs more Toe-Steppers.

  301. Hmmm…I´m not really the kind of Toe-Stepper the world needs, but perhaps the one we deserve.

    Yes, pegsman guessed it. Toes. Consider them stepped on.

  302. If there was a law against owning more than 3 Rambo movies, I’d dump part 3 faster than a billy goat pukes. Rambo 2 might have initially been criticized as jingoistic masturbation, but its a masterpiece of 80’s icon action. Sly was in serious film-for-film competition with Arnie and they pumped out equal doses of brilliance and bullshit –

    CONAN/FIRST BLOOD (neck and neck brilliance)

    TERMINATOR/RHINESTONE?? (Sly loses by a nipple..Dolly Parton’s, that is)

    COMMANDO/RAMBO 2 (Sly wins by 2 nipples, attached to his own mega beefed up torso, taking John J from lean mean ex-war vet in First Blood to a slab of beef on par with the already established Mr Olympia Arnie in Conan and Terminator)

    RAW DEAL/COBRA (neck and neck)


    RED HEAT/RAMBO 3 (both films have something to say about Russia and the end of the cold war, but Rambo’s serious approach to it’s Desert/Mountain dwelling protagonists with whom John J sides with against the Russians doesn’t play so well these days, considering. Red Heat was saved by it’s humour)

    TWINS/LOCK UP (take one goddam guess)

  303. Darren, I’m with you on most of this, but COMMANDO beats RAMBO 2 every day of the week. Politics aside – and this movie has the most stupid politics in movie history – it’s just an unstructured mess with not that great action scenes. RAMBO 3 is a lot better in both departements.

  304. I agree with pegsman. There is no way in hell RAMBO 2 beats COMMANDO, RAMBO 2 is godawful. The action is boring ( a bunch of explosions shot from afar.), the politics are despicable and tasteless, it´s basically a Chuck Norris- movie , but whereas INVASION USA is hilarious , RAMBO 2 is a humourless wreck. It´s a dumb fucking movie, but not in a fun or good way.

    COMMANDO plays its stupidity correctly,with a more lighthearted approach with an high emphasis on Arnies Obelix-esque “unstoppable-ness”. The scene in the airport when all the security guards attack Arnie and he just tosses them off,couldeasly have been Obelix throwing Roman soldiers left and right from the ASTERIX-comics.

    It doesn´t either resort to bullshit historic revisionism and xenophobia to such an extent.And it is also infinitely more quotable. Name one line from RAMBO 2 that is memorable and great. Lines like “Can we win this time?” just make me wanna tear my own ears off.

    Sorry about my little rant. But it is a personal grudge match I am having with this “movie”.

  305. you know, I’ve never actually seen RAMBO 2, in fact the only Rambo movie I’ve actually seen is FIRST BLOOD

    I’ve just never felt a real desire to watch part 2, COMMANDO is more my style as well, it knows what it is and has fun, it’s not got any pretensions about being a serious drama

  306. Add another to the list of those who prefer COMMANDO to FIRST BLOOD PT 2. I think the Arnie joint is actually one of my most watched movies ever. I could pretty much quote the thing verbatim from start to finish and it never gets old. The steel drum soundtrack, Bill Duke vs. Arnie at the motel, Dan Hedaya’s mega acting, the crazy stunts like jumping off the landing gear or jumping from one platform to the next. The movie just has way too much awesomeness to love.

  307. Fellas, fellas, don’t get me wrong, I love COMMANDO too. It’s Arnie in his prime. It’s a joyous treat of violence and comedy. Mark L Lester brought a nice sleazy 80’s feel to it. It was simultaneously touching and creepy seeing Arnie raise his 12 year old daughter Alyssa Milano alone in the woods, swimming together in their pool, playing with the local deer, having heart to heart talks, as you do. And that weirdo David Patrick Kelly’s presence alone is a sure sign of the sleaze factor in a film. Much to love, much to love….

    I wasn’t saying COMMANDO is better than RAMBO 2, not at all. It’s all subjective. I just gave Sly points for rising to the brawny brainless pinnacle of 80’s icon status that I thought Arnie dominated until then. With COMMANDO and RAMBO 2 they both hit their peaks and demonstrated what we love about them.

    I agree COMMANDO is much more fun and less pretentious. Arnie was always better with the intentional humour than Sly, who as Rambo, comes across as earnest and, especially in RAMBO 2, mentally retarded. Seriously, I think the only way to enjoy the preposterousness of “do we get to win this time?” is to see Rambo as being mentally deficient. And to hear his Asian bride say things like “Rambo, you are not expendable.” Only then, is it fucking hilarious.

    Shoot, I think the action is great in that 80’s tradition of the hero being bulletproof and the enemy being suicidal. After Rambo’s Asian bride gets killed he has a shoot-off with half a dozen viet-cong who can’t aim for shit, they just stand on a rock firing away while Rambo plugs them one at a time. The captain escapes briefly until Rambo catches up carrying a fucking bazooka, he fires ten rounds at the bulletproof Rambo again, then gets blown to a million pieces.

  308. “I wasn’t saying RAMBO 2 is better than COMMANDO” – is what I meant to say.

  309. Murdock… I’m coming to get you!

    “I’ve always believed that the mind is the best weapon.”
    “Times change.”
    “For some people.”

    “…what you choose to call hell, he calls home.”

    I’ll let this uncalled-for RAMBO 2 bashing go for now, but don’t push it. I could kill you all. In Scandinavia you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it! Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe.

  310. Don’t get it twisted I actually love RAMBO 2 for what it is. But it’s no COMMANDO.

  311. Mouth, deep down you know that there’s nothing – ever – that the USA can come up with that will beat the vikings. We discovered America, but we took our secrets with us when we left again.

  312. What’s that, pegsman?

    I couldn’t hear you over the sound of the American flag on the motherfucking moon.

  313. Mouth, You guys never went to the moon. That was all a ruse.

  314. Even so. Let’s see the Swedish film industry of the late sixties fake a fuckin’ moon landing. Funny how the surface of the moon looks like two middle aged people having marital problems in a farmhouse in black and white.

  315. Leave it to Ingmar Bergman to depict a real moon landing! A metaphor of deep dark anxiety regarding male insecurity and impotence,when a penis-shaped ship is penetrating a vagina-shaped moon.

  316. I read a new article today where Sly said THE EXPENDABLES 3 is going to be PG-13. Discuss. Or not.


    “In space, no one can hear you bleed.”

  318. “What’s that, pegsman?

    I couldn’t hear you over the sound of the American flag on the motherfucking moon.”

    I fucking love Mouth. He’s a national treasure.

  319. Yeah, but he only has that moon story. It’s a bit sad, really.

  320. Oh okay, and it’s not at all sad that you reference a people who are a thousand+ years old to big up your homeland.

    Native Americans are the o.g. badasses, hiking from Siberia across the Bering Strait, across Alaska, and down into what we now call United States of America. They ruled the continent in relative peace for centuries. They survived & overcame whatever your bitchass Vikings had to offer when those bearded North Atlantic navigators ventured toward our east coast, and then after a long interval of chillin’ they got slaughtered by other, newer Americans (and Euro-bacteria).

    My country is basically a conglomeration of badass motherfuckers one-upping other groups of badass motherfuckers. Survival of the fittest. After >2 centuries of relative peace intermittently interrupted by several annoying wars that we always won, we decided we needed to hit up the fucking moon, just to stretch our limits with an outer space challenge worthy of our obviously beyond-Earth, beyond-great greatness.

    Your Scandinavian weakness can’t hang.

  321. The whole crew at Cannes. Damn, it appears even the young dude, the Twilight one, sports a rug on his head. He’ll fit in good with those guys. Just look at the top of Arnolds head in the first pic of him:


  322. All that greatness in one place, Mouth, and still no one has invented irony…

  323. The Undefeated Gaul

    May 19th, 2014 at 12:37 am

    Jesus Christ, this shit AGAIN?!?! After the last one I thought we were finally done with that PG 13 bullshit for this franchise. Sigh… to think I was actually looking forward to this one.

  324. pegsman- “Over there”, exceptionalism and irony doesn´t play well together,sadly.

  325. *sigh* @ the PG-13 debacle being revived. We can only hope it’s more LIVE FREE AND DIE HARD and less typical PG-13 action movie.

    Max always looks truly mad when he sports a salt and pepper beard.

  326. Sly said at the press conference that they’re going for the same level of action/violence that the Bond and Bourne films have. And if that means we’re not getting the CGI bloodspurts, I’m fine with that.

  327. It’s so weird how humor doesn’t translate across cultures. This is like the tenth time here I can remember an American writing a long ass joke post and then being accused of not understanding that the other person was joking. But there are some things that our cultures all share. The important thing is we’re all gonna get together and watch an exciting new bloody, swearing hard R type of action sequel, right guy– oh, wait.

    I don’t know. I was pinning all my hopes on the new director and the recent Stallone quotes about it being less jokey. I didn’t think we’d be looking at this problem again.

  328. Vern, the problem – and it’s a minor one at best – is that I suspect that these long ass joke posts, as you call them, aren’t really meant to be funny. They’re sort of meta funny. Yes, they’re written as jokes, but the author isn’t really able to make fun of America, because it’s too great a country for that. Or maybe I’ve misunderstood everything, English being my second language. If that’s the case, I appologize. As for the EXPENDABLES III being PG-13, if the footage we’ve seen so far are anything to go by I think I know what they’re going for and I’m actually fine with it.

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