REVIEW: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017)

Guardians Of The Galaxy was a blast of fun and a big hit for Marvel, so it’s no surprise the oddball band of heroes are back for another go around, this time bringing movie legends Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone with them. The film opens with The Guardians saving the day for a race called The Sovereign, but getting on their bad side before the dust even settles. This sets them on the run and into the sights of a celestial being called Ego (Kurt Russell) who claims to be Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt) father. Peter finds out he may have celestial powers of his own, but the more he bonds with his newfound father, the more Gamora (Zoe Saldana) and Drax (Dave Bautista) feel that daddy isn’t to be trusted. In the meantime, Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), Yondu (Michael Rooker) and “baby” Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) have to deal with mutinous Ravagers, angry Sovereigns and a vengeful Nebula (Karen Gillan).

Second adventure is an entertaining ride, thought not quite as much rapid-fire fun as it’s predecessor. Sequel is again written and directed by James Gunn, who returns with his quirky, sarcastic sense of humor that made the first flick stand out in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After a first film sometimes moved too fast, this film dials it back during it’s middle act to take time to allow Peter and Ego to bond and along the way deliver some backstory on more than one character. While father and son take long walks on Ego’s self-made world, Raccoon and Yondu also have some bonding moments as Ravager prisoners, where souls are bared and alliances made. It’s certainly not boring, but it does take a bit more time for the action to fire up again while we get some character development for characters both old and new. Ironically, the first film rushed the character development while this one makes it more the focus….maybe slightly too much for it’s own good at over 136 minutes. Once we discover daddy is a baddy and our displaced heroes reunite, then we get a spectacular and action packed finale that amusingly evokes the climax of Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, but with far better FX and a lot more fun. The before mentioned visuals and FX are truly stunning and the action is quite exhilarating once it comes and it comes in spades. There are some hilariously funny bits and some very funny exchanges between the characters, who still have that twisted love/hate relationship with each other. When the group is split into two separate plot lines, the film doesn’t quite have the same spark as when this bunch of self proclaimed “A-holes” are all together trying not to kill each other, or be killed. If there is a flaw with this worthy sequel, it is that it does disrupt the group chemistry by separating them for almost an hour. The film is at it’s most fun when they are all together and joined by new characters, like Pom Klementieff’s empathetic and naive Mantis and Sylvester Stallone’s veteran Ravager Stakar, who fit in quite well to the mythos. The film also has a touch more sentimental than we would expect from this delinquent group. It’s a bit corny at times, but it serves to cement the dysfunctional family unit that they are. This bunch is together for a reason…and they’re accompanied by another killer soundtrack of classic tunes!

The cast are all on point. Returning actors slip back into their now beloved characters flawlessly and as per the story, get to add a little depth to their roles, including the CGI Rocket and scene stealing baby Groot. The actors have a chemistry together and thus do the characters they bring to life. As for new faces, Kurt Russell is charming and charismatic as Ego. We almost believe, as does Quill, that he is the benevolent being he claims, looking finally to be a father to his estranged son. Once he reveals his true nature, Russell chews the scenery in just the right measures of megalomania. Sylvester Stallone also fits into the Guardian’s world well as a legendary Ravager named Stakar Ogord. He only has a few scenes but it is implied we haven’t seen the last of him and it’s nice to see Sly doing his larger than life thing in the Marvel universe. Adorable Pom Klementieff steals scenes as the delightfully ditzy empath called Mantis. She’s a fun and very likable character and never lets her performance go too over-the-top so that she becomes annoying. She fits in nicely and has some very funny scenes with Bautista’s all too literal Drax. The large cast of supporting and secondary characters also shine when they get their moments, too, such as Chris Sullivan’s boorish Taserface and a returning Sean Gunn as Rondu’s right hand, Kraglin. A solid cast with the usual funny cameo by you-know-who!

Overall, this was a fun adventure and a worthy sequel. It did slow down the pace down a bit for a more character driven middle act and may have had one too many sentimental moments for it’s own good, but there is still plenty of eye-popping special effects, hilariously sarcastic moments, rapid-fire action and some sumptuously rendered alien creatures and world’s. We get some of the character development that was a bit lacking in the first film, though do sacrifice some of that great group chemistry and dialog exchanges when the story chooses to separate them. Still highly recommended for fans of the original and a solid start to the summer 2017 movie season.

…oh…and, obviously stay through the fun credits for FIVE additional scenes!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 cassettes.

 

 

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW: HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN

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I know this is the Movie Madhouse but, I will review a book now and then, one that I really loved or one that pertains to the movie world….and what pertains more than a book by one of the greatest producers that ever lived… Roger Corman!

HOW I MADE A HUNDRED MOVIES IN HOLLYWOOD AND NEVER LOST A DIME by ROGER CORMAN with JIM JEROME

In the pages of this autobiography from legendary film producer/director Roger Corman, he tells firsthand of his journey to becoming one of the most successful filmmakers of all time. He details his humble beginnings in Detroit to his family’s move to Beverly Hills then on to college and his first job at a major studio where the film-making bug first bit. He shares with us how he cleverly financed his first film The Monster From The Ocean Floor and thus began his prolific…and sometimes tumultuous…career as a director and producer. Corman takes us on a fun ride of clever financing, seat-of-your-pants film-making, world travel, giving first opportunities to many future stars and legends and even some of the lovely ladies he met making movies, including his wife Julie. It’s a vastly entertaining book from the man himself detailing how he was able to beat the Hollywood system and become the film geek, household name that he is. The book traces his life and career up to the point where he returned to directing after a long hiatus to helm Frankenstein Unbound, which, as of now, stands as his last full length feature as a director.

As a huge fan of Corman, I had a blast with this book. The master producer details how he produced films his way and rarely had a box office disappointment in his illustrious career. He gives generous details on the making of such early classics as It Conquered The World and Not of This Earth to some of the New World classics such as Death Race 2000 and Piranha. We get anecdotes from some of the talents who got their start with Corman and went on to be legends themselves like Joe Dante, Francis Ford Coppola and Sylvester Stallone and also from Corman regulars like Dick Miller, Chuck Griffith and Beverly Garland. It’s a humble telling of a fascinating life from the man who lived it and a host of people who had the honor of working for/with him. If you are a fan of Roger Corman and his films, it is a must read. If you are simply a fan of movies and the film-making process, I still highly recommend you hear these great tales about one of Hollywood’s greatest maverick film-makers from the man himself and some of those who joined him on his ongoing journey.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 Corman creatures!

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BARE BONES: SKIN TRADE, BIG GAME and GRUDGE MATCH

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SKIN TRADE (2014)

Routine action adventure pairs action icon Dolph Lundgren (who also produced and co-wrote) with Thailand action sensation Tony Jaa. Lundgren is Newark, N.J. cop Nick Cassidy who teams with Thailand cop Tony Vitayaku (Jaa) to take down crime lord and human trafficker Viktor Dragovic (Ron Perlman). There is nothing we haven’t seen before in this fast paced and sometimes ludicrous action flick, directed by Thailand director Ekachai Uekrongtham, but, there is a B-Movie entertainment to be had and it’s fun to see Lundgren pair with someone who speaks English far worse than he does. There is also fun in seeing Lundgren and Jaa together and against Ron Perlman, no less. The action itself is routine for the most part, as is the plot, but go in expecting that and it can provide some fun and unintentional chuckles. Also stars Michael Jai White and Peter Weller.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BIG GAME (2014)

Offbeat Finnish action adventure is based on a comic book and tells of young teen Oskari (Onni Tommila) who is sent into the woods, with bow and arrow, as part of a coming of age hunting trip to prove himself a man. At the same time a terrorist (Mehmet Kurtuluş) and a traitorous Secret Service agent (Ray Stevenson) take down Air Force One over those same woods and are on the hunt for the escaped President Of The U.S. (Samuel L. Jackson). Obviosuly, he is found by Oskari first, who vows to prove his manhood by delivering the President to safety, despite being outnumbered and outgunned by his pursuers. Directed by Jalmari Helander and co-written by he and Petri Jokiranta, this is actually a fun little movie despite being preposterous and silly. Jackson and young Onni Tommila get along well and are a fun team. It’s not to be taken too seriously and doesn’t holdup to today’s Hollywood blockbusters, but it has it’s heart in the right place and can be lighthearted, if not forgettable, fun.

3 star rating

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GRUDGE MATCH (2014)

On paper, making a movie about Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone playing two over-the-hill boxing rivals who get together for one more tie-breaking fight, must have sounded like a great idea…and it could have been. But the film takes itself far too seriously, instead of just having a good time with the silly premise and just going with it. Director Peter Segal (who’s made a career out of mediocre and mundane comedies) directs with a leaden hand from the script by Tim Kelleher and Rodney Rothman, a script which makes the mistake of downplaying the humor and tries to make a fairly serious flick out of this nonsense. De Niro and Stallone do the best they can with the weak soap opera-level material, but neither really acts like they are completely onboard with this. It’s a shame, the premise could have been a lot of fun with writers and a director who recognized it’s real potential. Also stars Kevin Hart as the son of a Don King-like fight promoter and Kim Basinger as the girl who got between the two boxers back in the day. Snooze Match is more like it.

2 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: NIGHTHAWKS (1981)

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NIGHTHAWKS (1981)

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

Nighthawks is a flick that has some nostalgic importance to me as I saw it at the long gone Rialto Theater in Ridgfield Park, N.J. which, at the time, was a block away from my home. It’s also a pretty good movie with some gritty NYC atmosphere and tackled the subject of terrorism on U.S. soil years before it would become an actual concern.

Story has two loose cannon New York City cops Deke DaSilva (Sylvester Stallone) and partner Matthew Fox (Billy Dee Williams) being transferred into a new anti-terrorist unit headed by British operative Peter Hartman (Nigel Davenport). Their first objective is to track down a vicious international terrorist, who goes by the name Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer) and who may be headed for the Big Apple for his next strike. Despite not quite seeing eye to eye with Davenport’s methods, DaSilva and Fox have bigger problems to worry about when the merciless Wulfgar indeed shows up in the city and starts his reign of terror. Can the two NYC cops stop this stone cold killer before he brings the world’s greatest city to it’s knees?

This 1981 action flick still feels very 70s as directed by Bruce Malmuth from David Shaber’s script. It does have that gritty, backstreet NYC vibe and that goes a long way in making this enjoyable. It has that 70s style such as a police chief who shouts everything he says (the late, great Joe Spinell), a few disco scenes and a very Serpico-esque hero in the bearded and ear-ringed DaSilva. There are some nice action and chase sequences, though nothing groundbreaking and the film really makes good use of the film’s NYC locations. That and we get a strong villain for our heroes to try to bring down and with that, you have a recipe for a really good thriller. What holds Nighthawks back from being on a higher level, closer to something like French Connection or at least The Seven-Ups, is a weak script and rumored studio interference that edited out some important character development, such as the relationship with Deke and his estranged wife (Lindsay Wagner), who is hardly in the finished film. Apparently some of the violence was edited down as well, to please an MPAA who was very strict at this time due to some of the slasher film backlash. The result is a film that moves almost too quickly for it’s own good and lacks some real meat in-between the bare bones. DaSilva and Fox track down Wulfgar basically due to a plot convenience and a ‘hunch’ instead of demonstrating the detective skills and street savvy the characters were supposedly chosen for…then you blink and the film is at it’s climactic set piece. Also, after being portrayed as a total badass early on, DaSilva suddenly becomes hesitant when faced with the terrorist in earlier confrontations. Doesn’t quite jell without a bit more backstory. Obviously production issues effected this film, from the original director (Gary Nelson) being fired, to rumored tension between Stallone and Hauer, to the hatchet editing job by the studio and reportedly by Stallone, too. The result is a fun action flick instead of the well-rounded thriller with a lot more substance the filmmakers supposedly set out to make. On the plus side, there is some atmospheric cinematography of old NYC by James Contner and a fitting score by ELP’s Keith Emerson to give the film some needed mood.*

The film has a good cast. Stallone is Stallone as DaSilva and it would have been nice to see excised footage that may have made this a meatier role for him. His military record is briefly mentioned, but there are hints it played a larger role with DaSilva’s character. Billy Dee is solid as Fox, but is basically a sidekick and we really don’t get much character development on him, either. Hauer is really effective as Wulfgar and his performance overcomes having some of his character development edited down as well. Davenport is the tough as nails as the director of the A.T.A.C. and he makes a good foil/mentor for Stallone’s rebellious DaSilva. Lindsay Wagner is long suffering/estranged wife, Irene and gets far too little screen time to make an impact, but serves her purpose well enough. Joe Spinell is dead-on as the gruff NYC police chief who seems to be drinking way too much caffeine and Persis Khambatta makes for a suitable cold killer as an associate of Wulfgar’s named Skakka.

I like this flick, but do wish a director’s cut would surface one day, so we could find out if the studio and star re-editing saved or hurt the movie we got. There was also violence removed to satisfy the MPAA which may have hurt some of the flick’s intensity, too. It’s still a fun, nostalgic action movie about a dirty, grimy, crime-ridden NYC before the city got it’s act together in the 90s and and features Stallone in a more human role before the success of Rocky III and First Blood would turn him into a larger than life character for the rest of the 80s. There is also some personal sentimentality attached, but overall it’s a good Saturday night trip back to 80s NYC that is still worth taking.

-MonsterZero NJ

*(Additional information concerning production details as per Nighthawks‘ Wikipedia page)

3 bullets.

ex2 rating

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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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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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REVIEW: HOMEFRONT (2013)

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HOMEFRONT (2013)

Much like Out Of The Furnace, Homefront is another example of a film with a routine and cliche’ B-movie action plot elevated into something more by a good cast and a solid director behind the camera. Here we have a plot that in the 80s would have perfectly suited Van Damme, Norris or Seagal with undercover DEA agent Phil Broker (Jason Statham), who has had enough of the violence and bloodshed associated with his job, moving to a small rural town in Louisiana to start a new life. But, an altercation between widower Phil’s daughter Maddy (Izabela Vidovic) and a bully at school raises the ire of the boy’s redneck parents Cassie and Jimmy (Kate Bosworth and Marcus Hester) and when it escalates, Cassie calls upon her meth dealer brother Gator (James Franco) to get them payback. But, in a cruel twist of fate, Gator knows the man Phil last put behind bars, a biker gang leader named Danny Turrie (Chuck Zito) and sees this as an opportunity to earn a favor from the powerful gang leader. Now a schoolyard incident turns into a bloody fight for survival as Turrie sends a squad of killers, led by the lethal Cyrus (Frank Grillo), into this quiet town to get revenge on the man who put him in jail and caused the death of his son.

Sure we have seen this all before but, with a surprisingly tight script by none other then Sylvester Stallone, based on Chuck Logan’s book, and a real solid directing job by Gary Fleder, this film goes from direct to home media action flick to a very taunt and entertaining thriller. Felder creates some nice tension and suspense from a routine action movie plot and when that action comes, it’s fast, furious and bloody. The film has an intensity that runs through every scene and the action is well choreographed and we get just enough of it to punctuate the story without going overboard or getting over stylized. Most of the scenes are hard-hitting fight scenes and shootouts, saving the car chases and explosions to up the ante in the last act. Felder has a nice but, unobtrusive visual style which takes good advantage of the small town Louisiana locations, especially the scenes shot at night in the swamps and around Broker’s old house. There’s none of that post production editing FX or filters, just some crisp cinematography by Theo van de Sande that makes every shot have some nice, rich but, natural color. His night shots in the swamps are bathed in cool blues and I liked this no nonsense approach to the look of the film.

Felder also has a good cast to work with. Statham is an underrated leading man and does far too many generic action flicks but, he is as good an actor as he is effective in the action and here he proves it again with his portrayal of a loving father who will go to any length to protect his daughter. And he has never looked better in the film’s vicious fight scenes. Franco once again proves himself a chameleon in his portrayal of a sleazy redneck drug dealer who, is sly and clever but, ultimately, not clever enough to know when enough is enough and he is in over his head. He wants to be a big league gangster but, would be better off sticking to his small time meth business and staying out of his sister’s petty squabbles. Winona Ryder is a surprising choice to play Sheryl, Gator’s ex and a woman with connections in the seedy underworld and is the one who helps bring in the reinforcements from Turrie when Gator’s thugs get their asses handed to them by the ex-DEA agent, Broker. Frank Grillo makes an imposing villain as hired killer Cyrus and one of my few complaints about the film is he is not utilized enough and his showdown with Broker should have been a bit more epic. Rounding out, Bosworth and Hester are adequate as a stereotypical redneck couple who start a huge bloody mess just because their bully son is basically bested by a girl. Fan favorite Clancy Brown is also solid as the local sheriff, who will only look the other way so much. And Rachelle Lefevre is pretty and likable as Maddy’s teacher Susan, a potential love interest for Phil but, a story sub-plot that gets dropped and goes nowhere when the plot gets rolling.

To wrap things up, this is, on the inside, a routine B-movie action flick given some surprising depth by a good script from Sly… who avoids, for the most part, a lot of the cheesy dialog that usually inhabits his Expendables scripts… a very solid directing job by Gary Fleder and good performances all around by it’s cast. We have seen it all before, it’s not original in any way but, it’s a cliche’ action flick elevated to more quality entertainment due to the respect given the material by the creative team behind it. And it just proves that talent can overcome mediocrity. No classic, but a really solid action flick that puts some class back into the overdone ‘trying to escape violence but, having it follow you’ action flick. One of Statham’s better flicks in quite some time, too. Won’t win any awards but, should certainly provide satisfying entertainment on movie night.

3 very solid bullets. Would have given it more had it’s story not been so familiar.

ex2 rating

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THE “REAL” TEASER TRAILER FOR EXPENDABLES 3 EXPLODES ONTO THE NET!

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Expendables 3 is the highly anticipated third installment of the popular 80s action throwback series and we finally get a new teaser trailer. Doesn’t show much but, should still wet fans’ appetites! Expendables 3 is slated to blast onto theater screens 8/15/2014!

Source: Youtube

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