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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Are Khloe And Lamar Back Together? That And More In The New Issue Of Us Weekly

Courtesy:  DKC Public Relations

Courtesy: DKC Public Relations

It’s Khloe and Lamar Take Two.  In the new November 11th issue of Us Weekly magazine, Odom has allegedly apologized to Khloe and asked for her forgiveness according to an insider close to the situation.  The unnamed insider said of Lamar’s apology, “Lamar broke down and apologized deeply to her” and that “he got clean, and that’s why she started talking to him again.  She was willing to give him a second chance.”  The article also quotes the anonymous figure as saying that Khloe wasn’t the only one that had to be won over.  His mother-in-law, Kris Jenner, was in attendance at the time of Odom’s apology and that while she was forgiving, she had a small warning for the NBA star.  “She told him she loved him and he said the same.  But she also told him, ‘Don’t you ever do this again.’”

Also in the new issue of Us Weekly, Hart of Dixie star Rachel Bilson is featured in this week’s ’25 Things You Don’t Know About Me.’  Here’s a quick look at some of the things fans might not know about her.

–“I was in a full-on standoff fight with my pet pig; it ended in tears.”

–“The most starstruck I’ve ever been was when I saw Larry David.”

–“Paul Rudd is my hero.”

–“I was memorized the entire dance to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave 4 U” and performed it in my living room.”

In “Hot Hollywood” section, Us Weekly takes a look at just how much celebrities charge to make appearances.  Kristin Stewart, star of the Twilight franchise, charged $500,000 just to spend fifteen minutes with a prince that donated money to the Hurricane Sandy relief fund.  And veteran action star Sylvester Stallone was at the recent New York Comic Con, charging $445 for photos.

The features noted here are just part of what readers have to look forward to in the new issue of Us Weekly.  The November 11th issue also includes features on Prince George, Kerry Washington’s pregnancy, and an exclusive interview with Dallas Buyers Club star Matthew McConaughey.  That’s all in the new issue of Us Weekly.  More information on this and other stories from Us Weekly is available online at http://www.facebook.com/UsWeekly and http://www.UsMagazine.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Special Forces Offers Nonstop Action For Military Movie Fans

Courtesy:  Entertainment One

Courtesy: Entertainment One

EOne’s latest action thriller, Special Forces, is a solid work that will impress any fan of the military movie genre.  It is a gripping story that follows a group of French Special Forces commandos who are sent behind enemy lines to rescue a kidnapped journalist played by Diane Kruger.  On the surface, one might glance at this story and think that it’s just another run of the mill military action flick along the lines of perhaps Delta Force, Seal Team Six, The Expendables, and Zero Dark Thirty.  But a much closer look shows that it’s more than that.  Yes it’s a story about good versus bad.  But it’s more than that.  It’s also a story of man versus himself and man versus nature.  The entire thing is set against the backdrop of the Afghan/Pakistani border.  At the same time that the commandos have to fight a group of relentless Taliban fighters along the way, they also must battle the elements and their own wills in order to survive.  The script’s writing will keep viewers engaged as will its cinematography and its backdrop.  By the story’s end it is that writing, cinematography, and backdrop that will make this movie one more in the military genre that is worth at least one watch.

Special Forces wastes no time moving the story forward.  Right off the bat, audiences are presented with the central plot.  That plot is that young reporter Elsa Casanova (Diane Kruger) has been kidnapped by a ruthless Taliban fighter who threatens to kill her because of something that she wrote about him in a newspaper.  Considering the recent headlines concerning a young girl who was gunned down by Taliban fighters and by some miracle survived the shooting, this simple plot is actually quite believable.  That believability will instantly pull viewers in and allow them to suspend their disbelief.  That’s all the script writers needed as audiences will be hooked by the nonstop action throughout the rest of the story.

The writing keeps the movie’s action moving at a rapid fire pace early on.  The cinematography does much the same.  That’s especially the case during the shootout scenes between the commandos and the Taliban fighters.  There are those who might complain that it moves too fast.  But the point in the quick pacing of the shots is to emphasize the adrenaline levels of the commandos.  One can only imagine if that’s what military forces currently fighting the Taliban and Muslim insurgents actually feel when they are actually in the process of firefights.  The firefight scenes make for some of the best throughout the movie’s near two-hour run time.    Just as impressive is the work of the camera crews in capturing the landscape which the commandos must navigate in their journey to get Elsa back to Afghanistan.  Not to give away too much but it is that same cinematography that helps heighten the drama of the man versus nature element of this action/drama.  Audiences see just how much adversity the soldiers have to overcome throughout their journey.  Whether it be against the Taliban forces that are constantly on their heels, or against the vast Middle Eastern mountains and plains, Elsa and her protectors are never really safe.  The camera crews and director Stephane Rybojad are to be commended for their interpretation of the script in this aspect.

As one can hopefully tell by now, Special Forces is not just another military action thriller.  There is more to it than one would realize from simply watching it.  But hopefully in understanding everything noted here, viewers who give the movie at least one watch will have more understanding and appreciation for it.  It is available now on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack and can be ordered online direct via Amazon.com at http://amzn.com/B00AFQSYMU.  The Phil’s Picks Facebook page is also holding a drawing for copies of the movie.  Fans can get into the drawing for the movie at the Phil’s Picks Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/philspicks.  A trailer for the movie is also available now.  It can be viewed at http://youtu.be/tIe7Vvt0jDA

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Action Flick Fans Will Be “Taken” With Taken 2 On Blu-Ray, DVD

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Taken 2 is one of those movies for which there is no grey area.  It’s a fast moving, flash-boom-bang shoot-’em-up action flick that is very much in the vein of Lionsgate’s recently released The Expendables 2.  The only difference between that over the top sequel and this one is that more than likely 20th Century Fox will let this franchise end with the end of this movie.  Is it the best sequel ever made?  No.  But it is a great turn off your brain flick for anyone looking to escape from the constant barrage of negative news and every day stresses thrown at audiences every day on television and in the work-a-day world.  Right from the movie’s opening moments, it grabs viewers by the collar, making no bones about what to expect.  Once it takes off, there is no stopping the story’s action.  From gunfights to car chases and everything in between, this latest (and likely last) movie in the Taken franchise accomplishes the very goal which it set out to achieve in its short ninety-two minutes.  That goal is to entertain audiences and let them enter another world, if only for a short time.  For that, 20th Century Fox and all involved with this movie are to be commended.  That’s especially the case in a time when audiences need an escape more than ever.

As one can hopefully already tell, Taken 2 offers exactly what action movie buffs want out of said genre.  But there’s more to the movie than just the action that makes it worth at least one watch.  Much like The Expendables 2 and so many other action movies, this story offers audiences a hero for whom they can cheer in Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills.  All Mills wants is to finish the job that he started in the franchise’s first movie.  But the thing is so do the men who took his daughter.  And both sides will go to whatever lengths necessary to accomplish their goal.  Being that Bryan Mills is a clearly defined archetypal hero, rooting for him is that much easier.  So many of today’s movies have fewer heroes and more anti-hero figures.  It’s nice to see that Bryan doesn’t fit into the latter mold.  It’s one more positive to a movie that any action movie lover will appreciate.

Audiences will appreciate this movie even more now that it is available on DVD and Blu-ray.  The Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo pack offers audiences the most in-depth experience.  It offers audiences both the theatrical and unrated version of the movie along with an interesting bonus “pop-up” feature in the unrated version called “Black Ops Field Manual.”  It offers extra little bits of information about plot elements of the movie.  It’s sort of a director’ commentary without the commentary.  There’s also a character profile of Liam Neeson’s Bryan Mills courtesy of FX network.  There is no bonus commentary included here.  But that’s not necessarily a loss as there’s nothing extra needed to understand.  This is an action movie with an easy to understand plot, period.

The movie’s bonus features add their own element of enjoyment to this fast paced action flick.  In an even deeper level, there’s one more factor that makes the movie even more interesting.  That factor is that while this movie is a sequel, it could just as easily succeed as a stand-alone movie.  Audiences don’t necessarily need to have seen the franchise’s first movie to enjoy this one.  All audiences need to know is the most basic elements of the first of the pair of movies to understand the plot for this one.  Keeping this in mind, and adding in the bonus features of the Blu-ray/DVD/combo pack, Taken 2 actually turns out to be one of those rare sequels that actually turn out to be as good as the original.  In the grand scheme of things, it turns out to be a sequel that’s worth at least one watch.

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The Expendables 2 Is A Great Escape

Courtesy: Lionsgate

The Expendables 2 is a man movie, hands down.  Yes, it’s another sequel.  But it’s more than just that.  It’s an escape.  It’s exactly what a big budget action blockbuster should be.  Just as was the case with the action movies of the 80’s to which this franchise pays homage, it’s a chance for the intended audiences to turn off their brains and get away from the real world if only for about an hour and a half.

On the surface, The Expendables 2 is just another bang-bang shoot-em-up action flick aimed at one specific audience.  But in watching the bonus feature, “Big Guns, Bigger Heroes:  The 1980’s and the Rise of the Action Film”, audiences see that it’s more than just that.  As the individuals interviewed in this feature note, the action flick of the 1980’s was exactly what audiences needed in comparison to everything going on around them.  Having come off the back end of the political upheaval of the 1970’s, the 1980’s offered its own share of changes.  So the action franchises of the 80’s (and 90’s) and their stars became more than just figures on screen.  They became these larger than life figures who lived up to the reputation of the title, “Hero.”  They were figures to whom their audiences could admire.  Audiences of the 80’s needed heroes, just as today’s audiences need them, too. 

The political and general world climate today openly necessitates the need for the movies in The Expendables franchise and their heroes.  Stallone and company shine just as brightly in this franchise as they did in the respective franchises discussed in the movie’s main bonus feature.  They are just as much the heroes today as they were in the movies discussed in this movie’s main bonus feature.  They are still those larger than life figures.  And there’s no doubt about them being heroes.  Unlike so many of today’s movies, there are no flawed, conflicted, anti-hero types.  The Expendables 2 presents Stallone and company as classic style heroes.  To add to that clarity, audiences are also presented with a cut and dry story here.  Everyone knows right off the bat who the good guys are.  And it doesn’t take long for the script to reveal Jean-Claude Van Damme as the evil psycho bad guy.  His intentions are made clear pretty quickly, too.  Considering that this movie (without credits) runs just shy of the two-hour mark, the quick establishment of the cast and story make the rest of it fast moving and fun.  It’s not meant to be taken seriously, as is evident with all the classic one-liners.  It’s just a chance for audiences to escape the stresses of the outside world for a little while just as the classic action franchises of the 80’s were meant to do.  Keeping that in mind, anyone who wants to get away from it all for a couple hours (bonus features included), then The Expendables 2 is a very good way to do just that.  It will be available next Tuesday, November 20th, just in time to beat the holiday shopping rush.  For those who want to get away from the shopping rush, it can be ordered online direct via the Lionsgate store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page, http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://philspicks.wordpress.com.