Old School Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Lionsgate’s Latest Expendables Outing

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s new action flick The Expendables 3 is one of the best new movies of 2014. The third installment in the studio’s fan favorite franchise, it held its own quite well against the rest of the annual summer blockbusters that filled theaters this year. While it might not have exactly performed as expected domestically in theaters, those numbers mean nothing. The only reason that it didn’t pull in the numbers of its counterparts from Marvel Studios and others is that it didn’t have the notoriety of those properties. This is despite the fact that it was front loaded with some of the greatest names in the world of action flicks. That in itself is actually one of the reasons that audiences who haven’t yet seen this movie will enjoy it. It will be discussed later. The central reason for the movie’s enjoyment is its writing. This includes the movie’s story and its dialogue. Both elements are classic action flick elements in every sense of the word. Together, they make for plenty of reason for every lover of the action genre to watch The Expendables 3. The acting on the part of the cast adds even more reason for audiences to check out this throwback to Hollywood’s golden era of action flicks. Last of note to the movie’s positive is its pacing. The movie’s run time is just over two hours. To be precise, it is listed at two hours and six minutes. Over the course of that time, the story’s pacing rarely lets up. The rare times when it does it is only in moments that help to advance the story. The end result of that solid pacing coupled with the cast’s wholly entertaining acting and the movie’s writing overall is a movie that is one more great trip down memory lane for any fan of classic action flicks. In turn it proves itself to justifiably be one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is, on the surface, just one more sequel among seemingly countless others churned out over the course of 2014. While few if any of the sequels thrown out there this year were really worth seeing, Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 is an exception to that rule. This movie is a fun outing for any lover of action movies. It is especially so for anyone that grew up in the golden age of action flicks. It proves to be so fun thanks in large part to its writing. At the heart of the movie’s writing is the movie’s story. The movie’s story is a time honored element that any classic action flick fan will appreciate. It sees Barney and his team having to hunt down former Expendables co-founder turned bad guy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) for war crimes. Believe it or not, this is something from which writers seem to have increasingly strayed in the current era of film making. Whether it be action flicks, dramas, or otherwise, writers today seem to be trying to outdo one another in who can churn out the most convoluted and overly busy script possible. It’s nice to see that lead actor Sylvester Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict were able to work together and keep the story behind this movie so simple. It’s also nice to see other classic elements incorporated into the story such as the script’s dialogue.

The story that was crafted by Stallone, Rothenberger, and Benedict is a full-on old school action flick story. The story itself isn’t all that’s old school about the trio’s script. The dialogue that is incorporated into the script is a throwback in itself. There are classic one-liners peppered throughout the course of the movie’s run time. And then there is also Stonebanks’ equally classic soliloquy explaining his motives for having gone rogue. Conrad explains that he joined the bad guys’ side because of his hatred for the people that sent The Expendables to clean up their messes and the human cost associated with said missions. That is within itself another throwback. It is a throwback to so many classic action movie villains before. Considering the classic action flick dialogue and the equally classic story line that are used in The Expendables 3’s script, one can’t help but make a slight comparison to another movie released this year. The movie in question is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The reason for the aside is that where that movie teased old school Ninja Turtles fans with references to their childhood favorite series and movies, The Expendables 3 has done the exact opposite, which is why TMNT failed and The Expendables 3 succeeded even if it didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. It didn’t tease audiences with references to the golden era of action movies or the action movies that some audiences grew up with. It goes for the jugular, giving audiences of all ages another example of what once made action movies so great and what can still make them great again.

As if the direct throwbacks to the action genre’s old days wasn’t enough for audiences, there is one more element to the script that solidifies its success. That element is the commentary on the place of the classic action star in today’s movie market. At one point, the commentary makes for some great self deprecating humor with the younger members of the team throwing out verbal barbs at the team’s older members and vice versa. At another point before that, Barney ruminates on the place of himself and his team mates in their line of work. This is in essence the other side of that discussion on whether or not the old school action star still has a place in today’s action movies. It is a rather interesting moment especially when juxtaposed against the more light-hearted moment that later follows. The ultimate revelation is that there is and always will be a place for action stars of the past and of the future in today’s world of action flicks. Stallone and company don’t come right out and say it with these moments. But it’s pretty obvious that this existential discussion of sorts is what they were using. It just so happened that it worked both as its own discussion and as part of the story in whole, too. And it is a nice addition to the movie’s script. Together with the previously noted factors, it helps to prove once and for all why the writing behind The Expendables 3 is the most important aspect to the movie. While it is the most important aspect of the movie’s success, it isn’t the only factor that makes the movie enjoyable for lovers of real action flicks. The work of the cast in terms of its acting is just as notable to the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing behind The Expendables 3 is a solid foundation for the movie’s success. Resting just as easily on that foundation is the cast’s acting. The cast’s acting is just as enjoyable as the writing. Watching Barney (Stallone) and Hunter (Schwarzenegger) go was itself like watching a time capsule being opened up. At no one point do either of the duo’s portrayals feel forced. And even Drummer (Harrison Ford) is entertaining in a supporting role. Audiences that grew up watching Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be pleased that Ford wasn’t entirely relegated to the back burner in his role. And Blade himself, Wesley Snipes was just as entertaining in his portrayal of Doc. Watching Doc is just like Watching Blade, especially early on when he is first broken off of the train. While the performances by Snipes, Ford, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger were each impressive in their own right, it is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Stonebanks that is most notable. Gibson has his own experience in the action realm. But his portrayal here is peculiar. That’s not to say that Gibson did a bad job. Rather, he walks a fine line throughout the movie. He never really goes full classic, hammy action movie villain. Nor does he go the route of say Heath Ledger’s Joker a la The Dark Knight or any other villain. It’s almost like he tried to really channel certain classic action movie villains and those of recent years all into one for his portrayal. While a little bit uneasy, the end result is still a villain that remains believable enough. And set against Stallone and the rest of his team, Stonebanks becomes even more entertaining. The rest of the team is just as enjoyable in its own right. But it really is these core actors that make the acting in The Expendables 3 so enjoyable and an important part of the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing and acting that went into The Expendables 3 are both important in their own right to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment. The last element that makes the movie work as well as it does is the movie’s pacing. Over the course of the movie’s two hour run time, the movie rarely lets up. The only time at which it slows even slightly is when Barney is telling his team mates about breaking up the team. Even in a later moment when they–Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture)–sit ruminating on the development, the pacing doesn’t let up. It would have been so easy to go over the top with this moment. But Stallone and his co-writers don’t allow that to happen. They keep the story moving, allowing for the bulk of the story to be spent on its more important moments. And it is because of this that the movie never loses a step. Because it never loses a step, it allows for more enjoyment of the cast’s acting and of the elements incorporated into the movie’s script. It connects everything, making the movie complete and proving once more why it stands out proudly among Hollywood’s current forgettable crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes.

Hollywood’s current crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes is largely forgettable. They are movies that were churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios more for the sake of making money than actually entertaining audiences. The Expendables 3 is not one of those movies. It has proven through the combination of its in depth writing, the acting by its cast, and its pacing, that it actually sets out both to make money and to entertain audiences. It succeeded in both areas thanks to its global ticket sales total and despite being largely covered up by the rest of the blockbusters churned out this summer. Those flash-in-the-pan flicks will largely be forgotten. But this modern blast from the past is one that every true lover of action flicks will remember and want to watch again and again proving once and for all why it is one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered on DVD + Digital via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=The%20Expendables%203. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate

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Thor 2 Is Fun, But Falls Short

Courtesy:  Marvel Studios

Courtesy: Marvel Studios

Sequels are very rarely as good as the movies that they follow.  This has been proven so many times in recent years by so many studios.  DC and Marvel have both proven this time and again with their big name franchises.  DC and Legendary proved that with its recent Batman franchise.  Marvel Studios’ first Spiderman trilogy was just one victim of that curse.  Now Marvel Studios has once again fallen victim to the “curse of the sequel” with its latest big screen offering, Thor: The Dark World.  This action packed late year blockbuster has plenty going for it.  Its special effects and its ability to balance its science fiction and fantasy elements are both positives.  The acting on the part of both Chris Hemsworth and Tim Hiddleston makes the movie even more fun.  However, it is hardly perfect.  It has one major issue that will be its downfall in the long run.  That one glaring negative is the story’s overall writing.  The movie itself clocks in at just under two hours.  However, because of the writing, it feels quite a bit longer.  As much positive as this movie has going for it, this one issue alone is going to ultimately be what keeps this movie from being one of Marvel’s most memorable offerings.

Thor: The Dark World is hardly the year’s best movie or even one of the year’s best.  To its defense, it isn’t the year’s worst movie, either.  One can openly admit about this sequel to Marvel Studios’ 2011 hit Thor, that it has some extremely impressive special effects.  From the backdrops to the fight scenes and one chase scene in particular, those charged with making the movie’s special effects work are deserving of applause.  It goes without saying that much of the movie was crafted using green screen effects.  That aside, those backdrops that were crafted by computer look just as impressive as those that were actually shot live.  Adding to that was the ability of those behind the cameras to blend the CG backgrounds with actual sets and shooting locales.  The computer generated effects in both cases never once felt overblown.  The same can be said of the effects used in the movie’s many fight scenes and the chase scene that follows Jane’s breakout from the palace early in the story.  Even the finest of details were tuned to make the special effects in each case collectively an effective part of the overall presentation.

The work done by those behind the cameras to keep Thor: The Dark World from being little more than another special effects extravaganza is very much an applause worthy aspect of this movie.  Their ability to balance its live action and CG elements is one of the most important aspects of the movie’s success, limited as that success proves to be in the grand scheme of things.  The ability of all involved to balance the movie’s fantasy and science fiction elements is just as important to the overall product.  Those that are less familiar with Marvel’s take on the God of Thunder and the first movie in his franchise might go into the movie thinking it will be just another fantasy epic a la The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.  Those same individuals are sure to be pleasantly surprised to see both elements smoothly combined.  On a bigger level, it shows once again how easy it is to blur genre lines on both the big screen and small screen, and how to do it right for that matter.

The balance of live action and CG elements and that of sci-fi and fantasy elements make Thor: The Dark World one more release that comic book fans of any age should see at least once.  They aren’t all that make the movie worth at least a single watch.  The acting on the part of lead stars Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston also plays into the movie’s overall success, as limited as that success proves to be.  The duo’s chemistry has visibly grown over the course of the two movies in which it has already starred—Thor and The Avengers.  Their chemistry has developed so much and so well that it makes suspension of disbelief that much easier in watching the pair interact.  Whether on the verge of taking one another down, Thor having to endure Loki’s wisecracking, or other situations, Hiddleston and Hemsworth make for one of the movie industry’s better modern day odd couples for lack of better wording.  There has been much talk as to whether or not Loki will be back in the already anticipated third movie in the Thor franchise.  If he should be back once more, it goes without saying that his pairing with Hemsworth will be one more welcome addition to the movie’s cast.

As one can tell by now, there is plenty to applaud in Marvel Studios’ Thor: The Dark World.  For all of its positives, this movie is anything but perfect.  The one area in which this movie fails is also its most important.  That area is the story’s script/writing.  The movie’s script is one more prime example of what happens when there are too many hands in the proverbial pot.  No fewer than four individuals worked together to develop the script for this work.  The end result is a near two hour movie that feels a lot longer and schmaltzier than it should have been.  The script’s first problem is the tired and overly used issue of a character trying to find his place in his world and in the universe.  The character in question is Thor.  Audiences see him emotionally struggling to figure out where he belongs in Asgard and trying to balance that with his feelings for his love interest, Jane, who is once again played by Natalie Portman.  This is hardly the first time that audiences have ever seen this used.  The whole brooding character bit has already been done just this year alone in Man of Steel.  The end result of that was a movie that was met with mixed results.  Audiences will be just as mixed with this movie as a result of having Thor brooding in much the same style.

Thor’s brooding nature this time out is just one of the problems with Thor 2’s script.  Just as much a problem with this script is the fact that it feels more like one extended fight sequence than an actual movie with a story.  There are some story elements tossed in for good measure.  But it seems like action sequences dominate the script.  This is evident right from the moment that Jane is “saved” from her room at the palace.  From that moment on, the movie’s pace goes near full speed.  There are few breaks in that action, too.  The problem with this is that it forces audiences to struggle to even hope to keep up with what’s going on.  The story’s pace is that rapid fire.  The even bigger problem is that it goes on at that pace straight through to the final moments of the movie’s epic final battle between Thor and Malekith.  That final battle is the final nail in the coffin for the movie.  It simply runs too long.  It is the final nail in the movie’s coffin.  This and Thor’s brooding sub-story take away enough from all of the movie’s positives to ultimately make it one more of Marvel Studios’ largely forgettable films.  One can only hope that when it finally hits theaters, the franchise’s third film will make up for this movie and its predecessor.  Simply put, this movie is worth at least one watch.  But it’s more worth one watch on Netflix or Redbox than in theaters.

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Little White Lies A Powerful, Emotionally Charged Drama

Courtesy:  EuropaCorp Distribution/mpi Pictures/Films Caneo/M6/W9/Canal+/Cine Cinema

Courtesy: EuropaCorp Distribution/mpi Pictures/Films Caneo/M6/W9/Canal+/Cine Cinema

Little White Lies is a very emotionally powerful and moving story.  As powerful as it is, it is not a movie for anyone.  The reason for this is that it is a direct reflection of life.  Just because it is a French film doesn’t mean that the characters only reflect the French.  Rather, it reflects humans in general.  Whereas the BBC’s Keeping Up Appearances does this in a full on comical nature, this roughly two and a half-hour long allegory about the lies that we tell ourselves and others every day takes a far more dramatic turn on this subject.

Little White Lies was marketed as a dramedy of sorts.  And while there are some humorous moments, the humor of those moments is slight at best.  So it would be safer to consider this movie as leaning more in the direction of a drama than a dramedy.  The movie’s drama rises from the central theme that the group of friends have to put their annual vacation plans on hold when Ludo (Jean DuJardin—The Artist) is hit by a box truck while leaving a bar one day.  The drama starts right from the moment the group of friends leaves Ludo’s room at the hospital, their actions speak volumes.  They all agree to cut their annual vacation short by two weeks so as to be able to see Ludo, thinking that he will be okay.  The way that they act is almost that of people who feel inconvenienced by Ludo being in the hospital.  It is so subtle.  But it is there.  So it’s evident from early on just how much this story reflects real life.

The reflection of life doesn’t end with the moment the friends leave the hospital.  Throughout the time that the friends are together on their vacation, the lives that they live and that they use to impress one another are revealed.  From an unhappy couple to a gay man that is in the closet to lies about their own situation in life, each member of the group mirrors people in everyday life.  This ugly truth is eventually revealed in the story’s bittersweet ending.  The story’s end is its most powerful moment, too.  It leaves viewers to question what is really important in life.  Is it one’s own reputation or one’s own family and friends that are the most important?  Given, it is a foreign film.  But the message is one that will resonate among all audiences.  And because of that, it is worth at least one watch as emotionally charged as it is.

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Batman Finale One Of 2012’s Best Movies, Home Releases

 

Courtesy:  Warner Brothers Home Video

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Home Video

Thank you David S. Goyer.  Thank you Christopher Nolan.  And thank you Jonathan Nolan.  Thanks to this trio, action film fans have gotten what is one of not only the best actions films of 2012, but one of the best films of 2012, hands down.  And while it is an impressive movie, one can’t help but wonder if perhaps it would have been better served to have been split at least into one final movie instead of trying to cram the entire thing into a near three hour time span.  That, perhaps, is the only true fault of this franchise closer……or is it the closer.  For those who have yet to see The Dark Knight Rises, Goyer and the Nolanâ(TM)s leave the door somewhat ajar for the possibility of another movie, even if it isn’t helmed by either of the Nolans.  What that means will not be given away, for the sake of those who have yet to experience this thrill ride of a story.

The Dark Knight Rises is a fitting title for this third and final(?) movie in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise.  What audiences see in this installment is Bruce wayne having had everything taken away.  He even loses his fortune through a series of twists and turns written into the primary plot.  That is one of the problems with the story’s writing.  How he loses his money exactly won’t be given away, either, here.  But the manner in which it is tied into the larger storyline is somewhat roundabout.  But being that said instance happens, combined with another downfall of sorts (there’s a little hint there), it makes the movie’s title that much more of a fit.  Audiences see Bruce Wayne AND Batman rise.  There’s even homage to the comic storyline in which Bane broke Batman’s back.  Of course, in that storyline, another character named Azrael had to take on the Batman mantle.  That doesn’t happen here.

As subtle as it was there was another factor that made The Dark Knight Rises an interesting movie.  In the first fight scene between Batman and Bane, there is no music to heighten the mood of the moment.  Typically, with any action movie, said music would be standard.  But in this case, that fight scene in question as just as powerful without the music.  That’s because audiences see just how tough Bane is.  There’s no need for music to emphasize that he was one tough villain.  The music is actually discussed in the bonus features in the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises.  It’s just one of many bonus features that make the movie even better now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  Whether one is a trained movie production professional or simply has an appreciation for the work that goes into bringing such an epic movie to life, the extensive bonus features included in this release make for much more appreciation for the dedication to the Batman franchise.  The only irony of the new home release of The Dark Knight Rises is the lack of commentary on the main disc with the movie.  That isn’t entirely a loss though.  Considering the extensive bonus features included in the set, the lack of commentary is a minor issue.  Add in impressive quality footage in the Blu-ray presentation and audiences get a work that is not just one of the best movies of 2012 but also one of the best home releases of 2012.

As previously noted, The Dark Knight Rises clocks in at nearly three hours in length.  Goyer and the Nolans should be commended for making such an effort to bring everything from the first two movies and bring the whole franchise full circle.  Even Dr. Crane (A.K.A. The Scarecrow) is back again.  But because the trio made such an effort, it felt like too much was crammed into too little space.  While most critics might have panned the men for doing it, since the Harry Potter franchise did the same thing,The Dark Knight Rises might have been even more of a joy had it been spread out into another movie.  It would have left both the most seasoned Batman fans and the more casual ones feeling fulfilled while still wanting more.  Instead, it obviously left some audiences feeling winded after such a wild ride.  Regardless, what David S. Goyer and the Nolans have done for audiences with not just given this generation its definitive Batman, but it has clearly left the door open for Nolan or anyone else to continue the franchise in his or her own vision.  Should that happen, here is to the hopes that whoever should take the reins next will bring audiences a Batman franchise as impressive as Nolan’s, AND Burton’s.

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