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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REVIEW: THE EXPENDABLES III (2014)

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THE EXPENDABLES III (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 1. It 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 ROAD WARRIOR and MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME

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This week’s double feature is one that really works together for obvious reasons. While they are the second and third parts of the Mad Max trilogy, these two films both take place after the apocalyptic collapse of society and thrust Max into battles for survival in the savage wasteland the Australian Outback has become and feature him regaining his humanity as opposed to losing it to the tragic events of the first film.

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THE ROAD WARRIOR aka MAD MAX 2 (1981)

Road Warrior is simply an action classic and one of my all time favorite movies. It still holds up today even after over 30 years and is still better then most of the CGI filled action flicks that get churned out today. I was stunned upon leaving the theater after first seeing it at the Stanley Warner in Paramus, N.J. in 1981 and the film still has it’s magic when I watch it all these years later.

The film is set years after the events of 1979’s Mad Max and takes place after an apocalyptic collapse of society triggered by the drying up of fuel sources and the resulting panic. It follows ex-cop Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), who we last saw avenging the murder of his wife and child against a savage biker gang, and now wanders the wasteland fighting to survive amidst the scavengers, a once loving family man transformed into a ruthless survivor who looks out only for himself. Max stumbles across a small desert community that is manufacturing fuel but, is also battling a large gang of thugs who want to take the gas and slaughter all those inside. Max’s need for fuel leads him to align himself with the embattled village but, is it something more that makes him risk his life as the villagers make a desperate attempt to escape the ‘vermin on machines’ and find a better place to start a new life.

The Road Warrior is simply a great movie. One of the greatest action films ever made, the film that turned Gibson into a star and launched dozens of cheap imitations and still inspires filmmakers today (I recommend Neil Marshall’s outrageously fun homage Doomsday). George Miller creates a world that is an apocalyptic Sergio Leone western in S & M gear and features some of the most furious action/chase scenes ever committed to film. He populates this world with a cast of eccentric characters from the bizarre and whimsical Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence) to the equally surreal gang leader Lord Humungus (Kjell Nilsson) and his mohawked henchman Wes (Vernon Wells). But, beneath all the leather and carnage the film also has a heart and a soul and that’s what sets it apart. Ultimately it is about clinging to and regaining one’s humanity in the face of adversity. Not only is Max rediscovering he has a heart underneath the bodies of all those he has killed and all that he has lost but, civilization as well is struggling to regain what’s been lost against those who would take advantage of it’s ruin. Amidst the bone-crushing action and blood-spattering violence there is a message of hope and that is really what makes this film so special and gives it so much substance. And director Miller mixes in his message perfectly with the action, offsetting the brutality with a quirky sense of humor so, the bleak nature of the film never wears you down. A perfect blend of elements if there ever was one. Miller also gives the film a look that would make Leone and Kurosawa proud and Dean Selmer’s cinematography brings it to life along with Norma Moriceau’s inventive costume design and, of course, all the amazing stunt work and action choreography. Wrap that up in Brian May’s pulse pounding score and you have a cinematic experience that is just as effective today as it was over 30 years ago. Miller co-wrote the script with Terry Hayes and Brian Hannant and the film was produced by Miller’s friend and Mad Max producer Byron Kennedy, who would tragically be killed 2 years later in a helicopter crash.

The cast really are perfect, especially for bringing such colorful and strange characters to life. Gibson is both samurai and gunslinger as the iconic Max, portraying a man who is deadly, cunning but, still has a heart buried deep down that enables him to become a hero when there are those in need. His actions may seem selfish at first but, the cop and family man is still in there needing a good reason to re-emerge. Bruce Spence is a delight as the goofy Gyro Captain, a bizarre individual who flies a gyro copter over the vicious inhabitants of the wasteland and survives by his wits and the help of his pet snakes. A truly endearing and memorable character. Nilsson and Wells create formidable villains becoming the signature template for all the bad guys in practically every post apocalyptic action rip-off that arose after this became a sensation. They are both oddballs and nut jobs but, very lethal characters with Wells’ Wes practically stealing the show as the loose cannon, psychotic henchman. We also have Michael Preston who is a noble leader as the in-over-his-head Pappagallo, a man who believes civilization is not lost and plans to start again. Young Emil Minty is a hoot as the Feral Child, a stray dog of a little boy who communicates in growls and is quite resourceful and scrappy in a fight and Virginia Hey is noble and strong as the simply named Warrior Woman, who fights just as hard as any man. There are many other supporting players and they all do well in establishing personalities for their offbeat characters. An almost perfect cast for a film masterpiece.

What else can I say. This film is a masterpiece of action and storytelling and is one of the most influential films of it’s time. It is one of my all time favorites and a film that is just as effective today as it was in 1981. It is a clear example that action movies can have a story and a soul and still deliver mind blowing sequences without a lick of CGI. Often imitated but, never equaled. A classic in every sense of the word.

4 warriors of the wasteland!

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MAD MAX BEYOND THUNDERDOME (1985)

Second sequel to Mad Max brings a much lighter tone and a surprisingly tame PG-13 rating when compared to the brutal violence that earned a hard R rating for the previous films. As this film involves a tribe of wayward children, that isn’t too hard to understand, though was a bit hard to swallow for hardcore Mad Max fans. But, the story does make sense as the film brings Max a step closer to regaining his humanity and the world is getting closer to regaining it’s civility… though there still are some obstacles.

Set about a decade after The Road Warrior, the film picks up with wandering nomad Max (Mel Gibson) having his caravan stolen out from under him by the pilot Jedediah (Bruce Spence) and his pursuit leading him to a city in the desert called Bartertown where barter and trade is the way of life and energy is supplied by methane gas made by pig poop. To get his belongings back, Max gets in the middle of a power struggle between ruling matriarch Auntie (Tina Turner) and the duo known as Master Blaster (Angelo Rossitto as the diminutive genius Master and Paul Larsson as the muscle, Blaster) who provide Bartertown with it’s electricity.  Max’s task to kill Blaster in the gladiatorial Thunderdome goes awry and he is expelled into the desert to die. But, there he meets a tribe of lost children who mistake him for “Captain Walker”, the pilot of a crashed plane they prophesied to take them to “Tomorrow-morrow Land” a paradise far away. And when fate leads these kids back to Bartertown, Max once again finds himself facing Auntie and her army of thugs. Now he must somehow get these kids to safe place while keeping a vengeful Auntie from taking his head.

I’ll admit I was initially disappointed with a much lighter tone for the third Mad Max film… there is still plenty of action, just not the bone crunching kind… but, once I got past that, I realized that it makes sense as this is about the further regaining of humanity and the children represent a fresh start. Post Road Warrior, Max’s path back to being more humane is further along and while he is still dangerous, he is also more compassionate then when we last saw him. The film’s slightly fairy tale-ish story also makes sense as the last film saw a world that was more of a nightmare… a nightmare the world is slowly waking up from with new hope and signs of a return to order. The film also accents this with a slightly broader sense of humor and little or no actual bloodletting. George Miller, who again co-wrote with Terry Hayes, mirrors the world’s healing in the character of Max as the former husband and father becomes slowly protective of this group of orphans and comes to risk life and limb to see them safe. The Max we saw at the beginning of Road Warrior may not have done so unless it directly benefitted him. Over the course of the three films Miller has taken Max from good man to killer and from killer to savior, and that is what makes this trilogy work so well as a whole, as well as, individually, as each film differs distinctly from the last and yet they all fit together. Thunderdome has a brighter, more colorful look too, as it is a brighter film and Dean Selmer returns to brilliantly photograph it, recreating the Leone-esque landscapes of the previous films but, with stronger hues and deeper colors to illustrated this is a somewhat better world then the one we last saw Max in. The music score by Maurice Jarre is also fuller and far less savage sounding as Brian May’s perfectly fitting score in the last installment. Unlike the previous films, this film was co-directed by George Ogilvie but, the result is seamless.

The cast is again excellent with Gibson in top form as Max. He really convey’s the character’s slow growth back to a compassionate human being and gives us a perfect lone gun/samurai type that has made this character iconic. Tina Turner surprises with a nice over the top Auntie. She is having fun with the role and it shows and she also provides two strong songs for the soundtrack. Rocker Angry Anderson brings piss and vinegar as well as a touch of comic relief as Auntie’s lead henchmen who is constantly thwarted and embarrassed by Max and the kids. Rossitto makes Master both arrogant, when with the massive Blaster, and sympathetic when he is without his muscle and at Auntie’s mercy. Paul Larsson is imposing as Blaster but, has no dialog but, still is an effective presence. And rounding out the main cast is Helen Buday, who is strong and determined as the leader of the children’s tribe, Savannah and Bruce Spence again plays another eccentric pilot in his oddball Jedediah. The supporting characters are equally colorful and effective as always in these movies and many, like Pig Killer (Robert Grubb), are as memorable as the main cast.

So, while it’s not quite the masterpiece that is it’s predecessor and the lighter tone and more audience friendly action may be a bit off-putting for hardcore fans of The Road Warrior, this sequel is still highly entertaining and does fit in with the series very well. An excellent cast creates another assortment of memorable characters and Miller and Gibson successfully take Max on the next step in his journey to rediscovering the man he once was. There is also plenty of action to punctuate the story and a couple of now classic Tina Turner tunes as a bonus. A really good movie and a fitting entry in a classic trilogy.

3 and 1/2 warriors of the wasteland!

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AND HERE IS A BONUS MUSIC VIDEO FROM THE THUNDERDOME SOUNDTRACK!…

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NEW SET SHOTS FROM EXPENDABLES 3 FEATURE FORD AND SNIPES!

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Got some behind the scenes shots from the set of Expendables 3. Harrison Ford and a bloodied Wesley Snipes are featured as well as cast regulars Stallone, Crews and Couture along with director Patrick Hughes! Who would have ever have thought at this point that we’d see Arnie and Harrison Ford together on a movie set?!

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Source: Joblo.com

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MEL GIBSON IS OFFICIALLY IN ‘EXPENDABLES 3’ ALONG WITH ANTONIO BANDERAS!

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Not only did we get word earlier this week that Harrison Ford has joined Expendables 3 after Bruce Willis dropped out over money issues but, Mel Gibson is now officially in and with him is Antonio Banderas! Expendables 3 should arrive with a hell of a cast next August!

Source: Joblo.com

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BREAKING NEWS!: STALLONE TWEETS HARRISON FORD IN EXPENDABLES 3!

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A Tweet from Sly Stallone himself that I spotted on Twitter just now has Stallone stating that Bruce Willis is out and none other then Harrison Ford is in Expendables 3!

UPDATE: Stallone now just tweeted “GREEDY AND LAZY …… A SURE FORMULA FOR CAREER FAILURE”… could he be referring to Willis?… cause, if so…ouch!

Source: Twitter

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RUMORS PUT STEVEN SEAGAL IN EXPENDABLES 3!

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Unconfirmed rumors not only restate that Mel Gibson is going to star as the main bad guy in Expendables 3 with Sly Stallone and company but, that martial artist and 90s action icon Steven Seagal has joined the cast as well. As soon as it’s official or denied, I’ll let you all know!

Source: joblo.com

IS MEL GIBSON EXPENDABLES 3’s BAD GUY?

 

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Sources over at Showbiz 411 claim that Mel Gibson is going to star as the bad guy in Expendables 3 with Sly Stallone and company. This is only a rumor at this point as nothing has been confirmed and there is no official word but, wouldn’t this be an interesting casting choice. Guess we will have to wait and see if the Patrick Hughes directed sequel has added Mad Mel to it’s cast that also includes Wesley Snipes, Nic Cage and Milla Jovovich.

Source: Showbiz 411