REVIEW: INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)

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INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (2016)

(Remember, clicking the highlighted links brings you to other reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Film picks up two decades after the events of the original Independence Day with earth having rebuilt and now using recovered alien technology to devise a better defense system in case the invaders return…and they do. Right before they were taken down in 1996, a distress signal was issued and now it’s getting a response. With a massive ‘harvester’ ship heading towards earth, familiar and new faces must band together to battle this even more formidable invasion.

The first Indepenence Day may have been silly, corny and loaded with clichés, but it was also fun, charming and had loads of heart. Sadly, it’s sequel is a cold, soulless and actually kinda dull, follow-up that can’t even generate some emotional intensity with some major story points involving beloved characters. And while speaking of characters, the film is so quick to get to the destruction and carnage, that none of the new characters get any real development and thus we are never as endeared to them like we were to the first film’s ensemble. In fact, most of this film’s effective moments feature some of the returning characters and the newbies are left to sort of clean-up behind them. The film also feels like it was edited down quite a bit in an attempt to make it more fast moving and get to the explosions quicker. At least the first film took it’s time to set-up the story and introduce it’s stereotyped characters. Roland Emmerich directs this sequel very by-the-numbers and only sparsely does he recapture a little of the old ID4 spirit. Sure, there are a few moments, especially during the final confrontation, though one has to laugh that the battle with the giant alien queen was a far better monster movie than Emmerich’s entire Godzilla. He finally figured it out 18 years later. There is a lot of action here, though it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. If Emmerich was smart about something, he keeps the city destruction to a minimum as it’s been overdone in so many movies, including his own, since he blasted worldwide landmarks back in 1996. The SPFX are top notch, but basically boils down to the same Star Wars-esque dog fights that also have been done to death since Star Wars and Emmerich fails to give any of it a sense of urgency or intensity…and they are also kinda hard to follow as all the ships look alike in combat. This keeps us detached from what’s going on. Again, it’s pretty lifeless for a movie that sacrifices story and plot development to concentrate on the action. Speaking of story, Emmerich co-wrote the script with ID4 partner Dean Devlin and three other writers and it’s sad that five people churned out such a routine and formula flick. There are a few interesting elements, such as the previous invasion’s effect on Earth, a really interesting segment in Africa and the possibility that this formidable enemy might have enemies of it’s own, but it’s not enough to make this truly engaging. Even the first film’s goofy sense of humor has been toned down considerably making it a lot drier in the humor department. The first film wasn’t afraid to make you laugh, even in the middle of dramatic moments.

The cast is a mix of familiar and new faces and none of them are given anything really special to do or even the kind of corny, melodramatic moments that made the first film such cornball fun. Pullman, Goldblum, Judd Hirsch and Spiner all try hard to give the flick a little life, but even they seem to be performing by-the-numbers at times. Only Hirsch really feels like the guy we saw in ID4 and he also doesn’t seem to have aged any more in the twenty years since. Pullman has a big moment, too that is mishandled and it’s a shame as it should have been one of the film’s standout scenes. Emmerich blows a lot of moments like this and big moments is what made the first flick fun. As for the newbies, Liam Hemsworth, Jessie Usher and It Follows‘ Maika Monroe all come across as bland and that’s disappointing, especially as this is Monroe’s jump to the big time after getting attention in last years horror hit. It’s not totally their fault, as the script doesn’t give them much to work with and the focus keeps shifting back and forth from the previous to the new generation, which gives the old school cast the advantage, as we are already familiar with them. The new generation are underused and even vet William Fichtner fails to really make a strong general turned President as Pullman successfully did with his war hero president in the first film. A good but underused cast. Will Smith is definitely missed.

So, while one was hoping this would be the surprise delight of the summer, it’s just another disappointment. It never captures the corny fun of the 1996 classic and is very cold, routine and by-the-numbers sequel. Roland Emmerich fails to recreate the magic with some of it’s returning characters and squanders the potential of it’s new generation characters and the charming young actors that play them. It’s a heartless and lazy sequel that only sporadically delivers brief moments that evoke the silly popcorn crowd pleaser that captured the hearts and dollars of a generation in 1996. Sometimes thing are better left…un-sequeled?

Personal Note: At least I can boast that I saw the original on July 4th, 1996 in a packed theater in Long Beach Island, N.J. while on vacation there with friends.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 aggressive aliens.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S THANKSGIVING EVE DOUBLE FEATURE: EXPENDABLES 2 and EXPENDABLES 3

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I know I’ve covered both these movies before but, I got my copy of The Expendables 3 in the mail and decided to make an Expendables night out of it!

 

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THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

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THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Having grown up in the 80s, I obviously have an appreciation and love for the styles of  movies that came out then. And the 80s action flick is no different. So,no surprise, I am a fan of this series which takes a lot of those 80s action icons and let’s them suit up and shoot it out once more. And maybe I am biased but, I had an absolute blast with the latest installment.

The newest adventure finds Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and crew (Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture) rescuing an old Expendable member referred to as Doctor Death (Wesley Snipes) from a moving train incarceration and taking him on a mission in Somalia. There, not only does Barney find former Expendables co-founder turned arch-enemy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) still alive… after Barney himself thought he killed him… but, one of his team is critically wounded. CIA operative Drummer (Harrison Ford) is not happy with the team’s failure and demands they try again. But, Barney realizes his team has been doing this a long time and the next mission may be their last so, he releases his longtime friends to gather a newer, younger team including the headstrong Smilee (Kellan Lutz) and the sexy and quite lethal Luna (Ronda Rousey). But, Conrad Stonebanks is one step ahead of them again and when he takes Barney’s rookies hostage, Barney realizes his mistake and the old team reunites to go into battle once more… maybe for the last time as Stonebanks has an army and is waiting.

I really enjoy these flicks and am certainly cutting them some slack due to the wonderful nostalgia of seeing these icons back in action and this time joined by veterans Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Antonio Banderas… who practically stole the movie… and even a cameo by Robert Davi. But, to be honest, aside from some cheesy dialog, some sub-par CGI shots and a few wooden performances, the movie is a lot of fun especially in it’s roller coaster ride of a last act. Stallone’s script with Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt conveys a theme of adding new blood and this carried over to Sly’s choice of Australian director Patrick Hughes (Red Hill) to helm. Hughes directs well and and really brings it during the action scenes such as the exciting opening train assault and the final showdown, which was one of the most exciting extended action scenes I’ve seen since in a while. Hughes gives the film far more dramatic weight then Simon West’s somewhat weaker Expendables 2 but, doesn’t take his material too seriously as to not have a good time with it. The film is never boring at over 2 hrs and while the pace is fairly moderate, it makes the action all the more thrilling when Hughes and his cast crank it up to 11 for the carnage. For those worried about the lesser PG-13 rating, this might have the largest body count yet, so, it’s not a concern. Again, you have to go in knowing this is an old school style action flick and corny dialog and implausibility is to be expected. Sure I didn’t quite buy that Barney would cast away his old team so easily but, you know that’s not going to last and it doesn’t. Along the way there are some corny messages about ‘family’ but, it’s all part of the formula and for me, it works. It’s popcorn action, with a popcorn plot and Stallone and his team delivered the old school smack down once again, in my opinion. Brian Tyler also delivers another exciting score to accent the action and the film is shot well by Peter Menzies Jr.

There is quite a big cast so I will start by saying that Stallone and Expendables regulars Statham, Crews, Lundgren, Couture, Li and Schwarzenegger all give us what we expect from them and seem to be having a really fun time especially, Arnold who hams it up a little more then usual. As for newcomers… Snipes hasn’t lost a beat and it’s great to see him back in action on the big screen. Gibson is simply a great villain and really chews up the scenery in grand style. Antonio Banderas is hilarious and practically steals the show as the screwball Galgo and his scene laying the Latin charm on Ronda Rousey mid-battle was a showstopper. As for Rousey her line delivery is a bit wooden but, it’s her first flick and when she is in action, the girl is poetry in lethal motion. Harrison Ford also seems to really be enjoying himself too and he and Sly seem to actually have a nice camaraderie together. Too bad it took this long to appear in a flick together. Kelsey Grammar gets some nice laughs as Barney’s grizzled recruiter Bonaparte and the also work well together. And rounding out Kellan Lutz, Victor Ortiz and Glen Powell are fine in their parts with Lutz’s Smilee possibly being groomed to take a larger role in future installments. And if there is an Expendables 4… I’m in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this flick. It is definitely better then Expendables 2 and comes close to being an equal to part 1It did take a little time to tell it’s story but, there is no shortage of action and when it comes, it’s fast and furious, especially the all out war of a last act. There were some really enjoyable appearances by action icons absent too long from the screen and the new additions seem like they make a good fit if this series continues. The audience I was with wasn’t full but, cheered louder then any audience I have heard in some time. Everyone seemed to have had a blast with this second sequel and I am definitely one of them. A really fun, action-packed popcorn flick that proves Sly and company still got it. It isn’t Shakespeare… it’s The Expendables!

3 and 1/2 bullets.

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE EXPENDABLES 1 & 2

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Since we’ve had so much cool Expendables 3 news this week, I thought I’d take a look back at the previous 2 installments.

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THE EXPENDABLES (2010)

Expendables is a spectacularly entertaining, old fashioned, shoot ’em up action movie that not only brings back memories of the 80’s action flicks but, shows that Stallone and company, including  Jason Statham,  Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Randy Couture and Terry Crews, still got it when it comes to kicking ass. Expendables is the story of mercenary leader, Barney Ross (Stallone) and his team of veteran guns for hire who are recruited to do a mission on a small South American island run by military dictator, General Garza (Dexter’s David Zayas) and rogue CIA agent, Munroe (a slimy Eric Roberts). Of course things don’t go quite as they planned and are further complicated by Barney falling for the General’s rebel daughter (Giselle Itié) and a simple mission becomes a literal fight for life as the ‘Expendables’ have to take on Garza’s entire army and Munroe’s trained killers to get out alive. The Expendables is one of Stallone’s best efforts as a director, he keeps things moving fast enough to cover up the plot holes but, not too fast as to not enjoy some of the commraderie between the characters. And there are some really great scenes from this cast of action icons, especially between Stallone and Statham, who work very well together, and Stallone and Rourke, who has a very poignant dialog scene about half way in. Not to mention a great fight between Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren’s Gunner, who turns rogue after being thrown off the team. Round out some balls to the wall action sequences and a cameo from Bruce Willis and the Austrian Oak, that brought down the house, and you have some rip roaring, testosterone fueled entertainment! Also stars Stone Cold Steve Austin and martial artist Gary Daniels as Roberts’ thugs and Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter as Statham’s girlfriend, Lacy. Fun stuff!

A solid 3 and 1/2 bullets!

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THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Expendables 2 is a fun follow-up to the 2010 eighties action throwback hit that isn’t quite as engaging in it’s quieter moments as the previous flick but, thankfully there aren’t too many of those. This installment finds the gang being sent by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis) after a downed plane in Eastern Europe to recover the contents of an onboard safe. Along for the ride is Maggie (Yu Nan), a tech specialist and new sniper, Billy (Liam Hemsworth). But, they are intercepted by a gang of armed thugs headed by the cold blooded Villain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and henchman, Hector ( Scott Adkins) who take their quarry and kill one of the team. Now it’s personal, as Barney (Stallone) and Co. seek to track down Villain and put him down… for good. Along for the bullet-ridden ride are old rival Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Mr. Church and legendary ‘Lone Wolf’ mercenary, Booker (Chuck Norris). When the action is flying fast and furious, EX2 is a real blast. It’s great to see Arnold, Van Damme and Norris back on screen doing what they do best. Van Damme in particular seems to be having fun chewing up the Eastern European scenery as the lethal bad guy and he doesn’t get enough screen time, sadly, to really establish the character’s full menace. Aside from an overuse of CGI blood, director Simon West gives us some good, old-fashioned rip-roaring action scenes that fit the retro action icon cast perfectly and some good hand to hand combat as well. Although some of those, especially Stallone v.s. Van Damme, could have gone on a bit longer to give them more dramatic impact. And drama is where West stumbles. The scenes between the action, which should be engaging and strong to keep us involved until the bullets fly again, are rather ho-hum. The dramatic scenes, though few, needed some more energy, more “pop”. The camaraderie between the team members that Stallone captured so well in part 1 is weak here and because of that, we are less forgiving of the cheesy dialog and the characters are less engaging as well. Perfect example is Lundgren’s Gunner, who practically stole the flick first time around. He’s nowhere near as fun as in EX1 and the fun Statham/ Stallone relationship is also weaker. The in-between scenes also had a quicker pace under Stallone’s direction last time and thus we were able to overlook the plot holes easier. But, this is an action film and there is plenty of that and who is in action is why we sat in our seat and on that level, Expendables 2 delivers on what we came to see. I am all for Expendables 3 but, find a director that can put some energy in the drama, give the team their team spirit back and a writer who can give them some livelier banter… as well as deliver the carnage.

3 bullets!

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