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RED 2 (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Barry Dejasu Columns, Based on Comic Book, Bruce Willis Films, Buddy Movies, Campy Movies, Comedies, Fun Stuff!, Government Agents with tags , , , , , , on July 23, 2013 by knifefighter

RED 2 (2013)
Movie Review by Barry Lee Dejasu

RED2PosterSeveral months after the events of RED (2010), former CIA agent Frank Moses (Bruce Willis) is trying to happily move on with his life, now truly retired and living with his girl Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker).  When Frank’s old buddy Marvin (John Malkovich), also a former CIA agent (but with a bad case of paranoid eccentricity due to decades of LSD experimentation), shows up, it’s clear that trouble won’t be far behind…and sure enough, trouble comes for them, in spades.  With conspiracies, assassins, and weapons of mass destruction abound, it’s up to Frank and his R.E.D (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) friends to save the day again.

Director Dean Parisot (best known for his 1999 film GALAXY QUEST) turns in a decent action-comedy with RED 2.  The film is rated PG-13, which is understandable, since it’s aiming for a widespread audience; as a result, there are numbers of pulled punches—sometimes literally, as an early fight sequence left me a little confused as to what was happening at times.  There’s lots of gunplay, fistfights, and explosions, and a few well-staged sequences, but nothing particularly new or unusual—which was probably the idea, since the movie is played more for laughs than anything else.  Still, a few of the fight scenes might benefit from an “Unrated” cut, and one can hope that such may show up on the eventual home video release.

Like with the first film, however, what I enjoyed most in RED 2 was its cast, which, even with an occasionally stilted conversation (more on that later), gets along very nicely, and works together well in some genuinely screwy scenes.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, and John Malkovich in RED 2.

 “You haven’t killed anybody in months,” Marvin says at one point, and the same could be said for Willis at this point in his career, with A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION having been released just earlier this year. Bruce Willis has become one of the main go-to guys for action movies the past couple of decades; generally speaking, his presence brings a fun and laid-back (yet simultaneously rugged and smarmy) presence in the middle of the cinematic chaos—and this movie is no exception; he nicely chews up the scenes with his relaxed (and occasionally grumpy) persona, and while this vehicle is nothing new or unusual for him, it’s hard to ignore his charm.

Mary-Louise Parker is a hoot in her return as Sarah.  Although her character is now quite familiar with Frank’s former career and skills, she’s also his dedicated lover, and will do anything to help him—including eagerly stepping in to fight alongside him in every situation he’s faced with.  This of course leads to much bickering about her safety versus his, and more than a few times she has to “prove” herself in action.  If you think Mary-Louise Parker can’t handle an action scene, well, think again—that’s the whole idea with her here, and because she’s a capable actress, it worked quite nicely.  (Coincidentally, Parker also appears in this past week’s fellow acronymic action-comedy R.I.P.D., directed by the original RED’s director, Robert Schwentke!)

Now, traditionally, I’ve disliked John Malkovich as an actor; I find him to be very hammy and more than a little unpleasant most of the time, even when he’s portraying (allegedly) sympathetic characters; yet, I have softened a bit towards him in recent years, and that reason, I now realize, began with RED, and continues now in RED 2.  He portrays Marvin in a very goofy, dopey-eyed manner, and I genuinely laughed a few times with him in these films.

Dame Helen Mirren steals every scene she’s in, which is to be expected when you put an automatic weapon into the hands of the Academy Award-winning actress.  She portrays Victoria every bit as tongue-in-cheek as she did the first time, coolly portraying a charming lady who’s more than ready to deliver asskickery.  (There’s also one scene of hers in particular, which I won’t spoil, that had me seriously cracking up; I’ll just say that for anyone who’s familiar with her career, it’s a real treat.)

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Helen Mirren + gun = scene officially owned.

Alongside Malkovich, Byung-Hun Lee was the real surprise for me in this film.  Previously, I’d only seen him in the two G.I. JOE films of recent years – coincidentally alongside Willis in the second one; and as a result, I didn’t really have much of an opinion of him.  Here, however, I got to witness just how charismatic he can be, and he’s gracefully capable of some truly jaw-dropping stunts.  He was also very funny, which went a long way towards fleshing out his role as Han Cho Bai, a contract killer seeking revenge.  (“You stole my plane!”)

When Catherine Zeta-Jones appears, everything seems to stand still—and I’m not just saying that as a longtime fan of the actress (here portraying former KGB agent Katja, also an ex-flame of Frank’s).  She comes sweeping across the screen, in full movie star glamour, just before delivering a hard kiss on Frank (much to Sarah’s disgust).  Her screen time is unfortunately a bit limited, and her character’s nature a bit uneven, but if the filmmakers were seeking a memorable and gorgeous actress for the role, then they succeeded.

It’s also quite funny that Anthony Hopkins is in this film, and for more than one reason.  As an eccentric scientist (and weapons maker) being kept in a mental institution, Hopkins turns in a rare comedic role in this film.  Oddly enough, he has starred alongside not only Jones and Mirren in previous films (respectively in 1998’s THE MASK OF ZORRO and last year’s HITCHCOCK), but even has a face-to-face appearance with “the other Hannibal Lecter” himself, Brian Cox (1986’s MANHUNT).

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Anthony Hopkins once again finds himself in a mental hospital.

Like the first film, RED 2 is based on characters and a general setup from the DC Comics graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner.  This film takes a nice wink at this origin with various screen shots of the actors transitioning into stills of their respective comic characters; it helped serve as a reminder that this isn’t a film to be taken too seriously, and thus was all the easier to enjoy.

That said, there were times where I found the plot kind of hard to follow (mostly in the shell game of different characters’ shifting loyalties and/or revealing their true natures), and there were a few stretches of wooden dialogue, but then again, the script (written by the first film’s team of brothers Jon and Erich Hoeber) exists solely to set up one funny scene after another, and it works well for that.

So ultimately, RED 2 was a bit of a retread of the first film, but it took all the elements that worked well and put them to good use here, starting and ending with a fun and enjoyable cast.  If you liked the action-packed screwball antics of the first film, then you’re in for more in RED 2.

I give it two and a half knives.

© Copyright 2013 by Barry Lee Dejasu

Barry Lee Dejasu gives RED 2 ~ two and a half knives.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013)

Posted in 2013, 3-D, Action Movies, All-Star Casts, Based on a Toy, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Criminal Masterminds, Kung Fu!, Michael Arruda Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 2, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  G. I. JOE:  RETALIATION (2013)
By Michael Arruda

gijoe-retaliation-poster

(THE SCENE: A toy store.  MICHAEL ARRUDA is in the Action Figure aisle checking out some vintage G. I. Joe action figures.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  These toys bring back memories.  (Holds up an action figure with fuzzy hair.)  Here’s one of my favorites:  G. I. Joe with life-like hair and Kung Fu grip.  I don’t know why these toys were so cool—there’s not much to distinguish them from other action figures—but when I was a kid, they were the best.  I think it was all the accessories that came with them.

Anyway, welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  Today I’m reviewing G.I JOE: RETALIATION (2013), so there’s a reason I’m visiting this vintage toy store today.  See, this film was produced in association with Hasbro toys, and it plays that way.  Like other toy tie-ins (such as  last year’s BATTLESHIP)  G. I. JOE just doesn’t cut it as a movie.  It has about as much depth and conflict as one of these toys.

G. I. JOE TOY:  Hey, I have depth and conflict!

MA:  Wow!  It talks!  I don’t remember the G. I. JOE toys talking when I was a kid, but anyway, glad to have you here with me.  I could use the company, since L.L. SOARES is off on another assignment.

And you’re right.  You toys can have depth and conflict, when a kid is playing with you, using his or her imagination, and today’s movie could have had depth and conflict too, if it cared at all about telling a genuine story, which it obviously doesn’t.

G.I. JOE:  So, you didn’t like the latest movie about me?

MA:  Well, it’s not really about you, per se.

G.I. JOE RETALIATION is a sequel to G.I. JOE:  THE RISE OF THE COBRA (2009) which clearly was one of the worst movies I saw that year, yet supposedly it made a ton of money, and the events in RETALIATION follow the events in COBRA.  Unfortunately, while there are fleeting references to characters and events from the previous movie, the assumption seems to be that the audience is so familiar with these characters and events that we know them well and, as such, we care for these folks already.  Sorry to say, that’s the wrong assumption.

G. I. JOE RETALIATION opens with the “Joes” defending the freedom of America by travelling to Pakistan to secure a nuclear bomb that’s about to fall into enemy hands.  The unit is led by young hot shot, Duke (Channing Tatum), who when he’s not saving the world, trades humorous barbs with his best buddy, veteran soldier Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson).

This all changes when the Joes are ambushed, and only Roadblock and two young soldiers Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Jaye (Adrianne Palicki) survive.  It turns out that the ambush was ordered by the President of the United States (Jonathan Pryce) who doesn’t seem to be himself lately.  That’s because the real president has been kidnapped, and in his place is the Joes’ arch enemy Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), who conveniently and inexplicably has the power to shapeshift, so he looks exactly like the president.

Zartan’s dastardly plan involves ridding the world of nuclear weapons so he can have complete control over it.

GI_Joe-_Retaliation_poster

(The door to the toy store opens and in pops Adam West as Batman)

BATMAN:  That EVIL CRIMINAL!

MA:  Holy Hasbro, Batman!  What are you doing here?

BATMAN:  What any good citizen should be doing on a Saturday.  Shopping for toys for Gotham’s underprivileged children.  I see you are busy reviewing a movie. I’ll come back another time.

MA:  Don’t leave on my account.  I can review a movie while you’re here shopping.

BATMAN: Thank you, citizen.  (BATMAN exits into another room of the store.)

MA:  Back to G.I. JOE.  Roadblock decides his little unit needs help, and so he turns to the retired General Joe Colton (Bruce Willis) for assistance.  Together, they come up with a plan to take down the evil Zartan and rescue the president, before Zartan can succeed with his plan to take over the world.

BATMAN (from other room):  Has he no shame?

MA:  Meanwhile, there’s also a subplot involving Asian rivals Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) who battle it out under the watchful supervision of the wise Blind Master (RZA).

And thrown in for good measure, there’s also the crazy and evil Firefly (Ray Stevenson) who gets to cause all kinds of mayhem in support of his boss Zartan.

Since this is a G.I. JOE movie, there’s no surprise which side wins here.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION is a sad excuse for a movie that unfortunately is part of the growing trend of movies that look good but have no story. Visually, these movies are striking, slick and polished, but they’re ruined by poor writing, done in by weak dialogue, tired overused plot elements, and a clear lack of clarity when it comes to storytelling.  In short, the writing sucks.

See, we’ve reached the point where movies can be so impressive based on visuals alone that, for some filmmakers, the art of storytelling is secondary and oftentimes nonexistent.  G.I JOE: RETALIATION is one such movie.

It looks great, it has above average action sequences, it boasts a talented cast, but if you’ve seen the RESIDENT EVIL movies, the TWILIGHT series, or films like BATTLESHIP, you know what to expect from G.I. JOE.  All fluff and no substance, shallow cardboard characters, deplorable dialogue, and boredom the likes of which moviegoers should never be subjected to.  It’s cruel and unusual punishment.

There’s no reason in the world why this couldn’t be an excellent movie.  Look at its cast, for instance.  Now, I’m not a big fan of Dwayne Johnson, but the guy does have an agreeable screen persona.  He should be a likeable lead.  But he’s lost here, directionless, reduced to being nothing more than a walking talking toy.

G.I. JOE:  I think I’ve just been insulted.

MA:  Bruce Willis is stuck in a thankless supporting role, and he’s done this thing so many times before (heck, in this year alone he’s done it a bunch of times!) he might as well be asleep.  He offers nothing new or refreshing to his role here.

I love Jonathan Pryce, and he once again makes for a decent villain, this time as the President of the United States, but he’s mired saying such clichéd lines he sounds like he belongs in an AUSTIN POWERS movie.  And if you can believe Jonathan Pryce as President of the United States, you’re a better man than me.

Current hunk and heartthrob Channing Tatum is barely in this one at all, meeting his demise early on in the film.  Even so, you still have Byung-hun Lee from I SAW THE DEVIL (2010), Ray Stevenson—who, in spite of the dreadful script, still manages to entertain as Firefly—and RZA.

D.J. Cotrona is fine and believable as Flint, and Adrianne Palicki is very good as Jaye.  It also doesn’t hurt that she’s an absolute knockout.

But the script here by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick is horrible.  Before we even get to the story, we have to get by the names of the characters—Roadblock, Storm Shadow, Firefly, Duke, Snake Eyes, Blind Master.  They sound like X-Men rejects.

The actual story is ludicrous.  Zartan’s plot for world domination is about as believable as Caesar Romero as the Joker.  It also suffers from a lack of details.  For example, Zartan shapeshifts to look exactly like the President of the United States.  How?  That would be a pertinent piece of information to relay to the audience, don’t you think?  To be fair, it is mentioned in one brief scene, but blink and you miss it.  I guess the thinking is, who cares about such details when the movie looks so good.  Well, I care because I want to enjoy the movie.  It’s like saying Superman got his powers from another planet, and then leaving it at that. What planet?  How did he get these powers?  What’s his story?

I found myself asking that question throughout this movie.  What’s his story?  What’s her story?  What’s this movie about?  The answers weren’t provided.

Now, Reese and Wernick wrote the screenplay for ZOMBIELAND (2009).  There’s no comparison between these two movies.  ZOMBIELAND was creative and edgy, while G.I. JOE: RETALIATION is mind-numbing and childish.

It’s rated PG-13, yet clearly plays like a PG movie.  When I saw it, the theater was filled with young kids, many of them under 10.  That’s about the right age level for this movie.

Director Jon M. Chu has made a very good-looking movie, but a movie without a story just isn’t good enough.  Sure, there are some neat action sequences, especially a really cool mountaintop chase scene.  But if I don’t care about these characters, if I don’t know why the hell they’re doing what they’re doing, the end result is it’s like I’m watching a really cool video game.  It’s not a movie.

And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, G.I. JOE is in 3D.  I chose not to see it in 3D, and I doubt 3D effects would have made this movie any better.  It stunk quite nicely in 2D, thank you very much.

G.I. JOE: RETALIATION was a complete waste of my time.  Admittedly, it’s a slick looking production, and it’s teeming with talented actors, but the story is so horribly boring I was ready to leave the theater midway through the film.

I give it one and a half knives.

 gijoey

You’d be better off purchasing one of these vintage G. I. Joe toys and setting it up on a shelf in your den.  In fact, looking at one of these toys for two hours might provide more mental stimulation than watching G.I. JOE: RETALIATION.  At least your imagination would be free to engage.

G.I. JOE:  Thank you.  I’ll take that as a compliment.

MA:  You’re welcome.

G.I. JOE:  Hey, do you think I can get a part in the next G.I. JOE movie?

MA:  The next G.I. JOE movie?  Don’t make me ill.

Okay, folks, that’s it for now.  L.L. Soares will be back next week, and he and I will be here with a review of another new movie.

—END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives G.I. JOE: RETALIATION ~one and a half knives!

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Blockbusters, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, Sequels, Spy Films with tags , , , , , , , on February 18, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013)
By Michael Arruda

goodday

(THE SCENE: Russia.  A street jam-packed with vehicles stuck in traffic.  MICHAEL ARRUDA sits in the back of a cab.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome everyone to another edition of CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m in Russia today to review the latest in the DIE HARD series, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013) which happens to take place in Russia.

As you can see, I’m doing this one solo, as L.L. Soares is back in the States on another assignment.

CAB DRIVER:  You write Cinema Knife Fight?

MA:  Yeah.  You know about the column?  And you speak English?

CAB DRIVER:  Yes, I speak English, and I know about your column.  It’s a real hooter!

MA: I think you mean “hoot.”

CAB DRIVER:  No, hooter.  Look!  (Points out window at well-endowed babe in tight fitting T-shirt walking along sidewalk.)  So, you write Cinema Knife Fight.  Don’t worry. I’ll get you out of this traffic.  Fasten your garter belt!

MA:  I think you mean seat belt.

CAB DRIVER:  No, I’m talking to my wife. (taps tiny headphone sticking in his ear).

MA:  Oh.

CAB DRIVER (talking into headset):  Make sure it’s good and fastened.  I want to play the Here Comes the Bride game when I come home tonight.

MA:  Too much information.  Too much information.

(Cabbie presses a button and suddenly the taxi jettisons into the sky and starts flying above the traffic.)

MA:  Whoa!  What is this?  THE JETSONS?  What the hell are you doing?

CAB DRIVER:  It’s something I installed myself, for my special passengers.

MA:  I think I’d rather be in traffic.  Besides, I’m reviewing an action movie.  I don’t think I’m going to be taken seriously if I’m reviewing it from a flying car.  It’s just not believable.  Of course, the film I’m reviewing today, A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, suffers from the same problem.

I didn’t believe a damn thing that was going on.

John McClane (Bruce Willis) learns that his son is about to be sentenced to life in prison in Russia on murder charges.  McClane has been estranged from his son for a while, but it comes as no surprise to McClane that his son has found himself on the wrong side of the law, because he believes his son to be a troubled young man.  But it is his son, after all, and so McClane goes to Russia to help him out.

But things aren’t what they seem.  McClane’s son Jack (Jai Courney) really works for the CIA, and the murder charge is just a ruse to get him close to a Russian political prisoner named Komarov (Sebastian Koch) who both the Americans and Russians are interested in because of the whereabouts of a “file” that only Komarov knows about.  Ah, it’s the old secret file trick!

When the bad guys attempt to kill Komarov by blowing up the courthouse where he’s about to stand trial, Jack McClane whisks him out of harm’s way only to run smack dab into his dad John McClane, who thinks his son is getting himself into deeper trouble.

After some initial squabbling, John and Jack settle their differences and together they attempt to get Komarov to a pre-arranged safe house.  When that location is compromised, all hell breaks loose as the Russians who want that secret file will stop at nothing to capture Komarov, but they picked the wrong day to launch their plan, because on this day, they’ll have to square off against John and Jack McClane.

A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD has the weakest plot of the entire series.  It’s really nothing more than an excuse to feature Bruce Willis in action scenes spouting off humorous one-liners.

a_good_day_to_die_hard_poster

I had a lot of problems with this one.  I don’t know where to begin.

I’ll start with the biggest problem, the believability factor.  This movie is so unbelievable that it might as well have featured flying cars like the one I’m riding in now.

CAB DRIVER:  Ah, you like to feature my flying car in a movie?

MA:  Yeah, if it’s produced by Walt Disney.

After Jack whisks Komarov away from the burning courthouse, he’s immediately pursued by the bad guys in an armored vehicle.  John McClane, seeing that his son is in danger, steals the first vehicle he sees and suddenly we’re in the midst of a high speed chase.  Now, this scene had the potential to be a really intense sequence, but it isn’t because the things Willis does while driving are so ludicrous and unbelievable, we’re entering Indiana Jones territory.

Now, perhaps John McClane has become so overblown that he’s crossed into the world of Indiana Jones.  I don’t know.  Sure, none of the DIE HARD movies have been all that realistic, but the original at least still played like a serious thriller.

Here, McClane has become a parody of himself.  He’s running around, especially in this chase scene, performing stunts that would have easily killed him, spewing out one-liners as if he’s on a nightclub stage.  In fact, the car chase scene almost plays like a comedy.  And that’s the difference between this movie and other action films where you also suspend disbelief.  In the better action films, in spite of the outlandish stunts and action sequences, there’s still a semblance of believability in the back of one’s mind where you believe that yes, this could happen, but here, in this movie, it’s not even close.  I’m sitting there thinking, there’s no way he could possibly survive this, unless of course, the whole thing is being played for laughs.

Also, the Russian bad guys have been hanging out with Dr. Evil.  They want to capture Komarov so they can locate the secret file.  So, what do they do?  They blow up an entire block to get to him!  Nice going!  Who does this sort of thing other than bad guys in an action movie where the point seems to be to blow up as many things as possible?  Wouldn’t it make more sense just to send your best undercover guys inside and whisk him out unnoticed?  Of course it would!

Later, Komarov is betrayed by his own daughter Irina (Yuliya Snigir), and when he asks her why, she says money.  This rings so hollow that it comes as no surprise later in the film when it’s revealed that she really didn’t double-cross him.  Neither is it much of a surprise when we learn Komarov’s true intentions.  It’s all part of the DIE HARD franchise formula, which by now needs to be put to rest.

The screenplay by Skip Woods features a weak story that did nothing to draw me in, blah boring characters who added nothing to the plot, and it fails to instill life into an aging John McClane.  Once so interesting he could carry an entire movie, McClane has been reduced here almost to being a guest in his son’s story.  Woods also wrote the screenplay for X-MEN ORIGINS:  WOLVERINE (2009), a movie I liked much better than this.

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Even Bruce Willis doesn’t seem to be having a good time.  Sure, his John McClane is still that DIE HARD “bad boy,” and yes, he does get to utter his infamous catchphrase from the original movie, but unlike Sylvester Stallone in BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013) and Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE LAST STAND (2013) who seemed to transcend their ages and remain volatile enough to pack a punch without age being a factor, Willis’s John McClane doesn’t.  Stallone and Schwarzenegger joked about their age, they addressed it head on, but here, no mention is made that McClane isn’t that “bad boy” anymore, but a “bad old guy.”

It would be difficult enough to believe a younger man pulling off the feats shown in this movie.  I certainly didn’t believe a guy Willis’ age could pull off these antics.

Jai Courtney seems to wear a permanent scowl on his face throughout the movie as Jack McClane, Mr. Die Hard Jr., and he gets to play straight man to Willis’ smart-ass senior citizen.  Courtney is about as compelling as a movie extra.  I liked him much better in the recent Tom Cruise movie, JACK REACHER (2012).

Sebastian Koch is pretty one-dimensional as Komarov, even though the character isn’t, as he’s more secretive than that secret file everybody wants, and Yuliya Snigir is just plain pretty as his daughter Irina.  Her character is nothing we haven’t seen before, but she’s a looker, and looks like she belongs in the latest RESIDENT EVIL movie.

And in one of the more wasted pieces of casting I’ve seen in a long time, there’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead, a very talented actress who was excellent in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD, and who also was in the recent genre films THE THING (2011) and ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), reduced here to what amounts as a thankless cameo, as she reprises her role as John McClane’s daughter, Lucy, from the previous film in the series, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD (2007).  McClane should have taken Lucy with him to Russia.  It would have been a more interesting movie had she tagged along.

CAB DRIVER:  Live free or die hard?  Isn’t that a state model?

MA:  I think you mean mot—no.  I’m not going there this time.

CAB DRIVER:  Here we have similar phrase.  Live hard and die free.  Think about it!

MA:  That’s nice, poignant.  A little too deep for this column, but thanks.  I’m going to get back to the review now.

Director John Moore utilizes some odd camerawork in this movie.  In the aforementioned car chase scene, there are some weird cuts and close-up angles which resulted in making this sequence seem choppy when it should have run smoothly and seamlessly.  When you’re noticing the camerawork in a chase scene, rather than being caught up in the action of the moment, that’s not a good thing.

I can’t say that I liked A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD.  I found it way too over-the-top to be believable, and Bruce Willis didn’t wow me this time as John McClane either.  He seemed like an old man out of his element, blowing things up and shooting heavily armed men without a care in the world.  It’s almost as if he expects not to die.  Hmm.  Maybe Willis thought he was making a sequel to UNBREAKABLE (2000), rather than DIE HARD.

Simply put, it’s a good day to skip this movie.

I give it one and a half knives.

(Flying cab lands in parking lot.)

CAB DRIVER:  Okay, we’re here.

MA:  Perfect timing.  How much do I owe you?

CAB DRIVER:  For you, nothing.  You’re a Cinema Knife Fighter.  I’m honored to have you in my cab.

MA:  Gee, thanks.  And now I’m off to the annual International Movie Critics Convention where I’m the keynote speaker.

(looks at camera):  And if you believe that, you’d believe today’s movie.

—-END—

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD  ~ one and a half knives!

LOOPER (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Bruce Willis Films, Cinema Knife Fights, Crime Films, LL Soares Reviews, Science Fiction, Suspense, The Future, The Mob, Time Travel with tags , , , , , , , on October 1, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: LOOPER (2012)
By L.L. Soares

(SCENE 1: Somewhere in the future. L.L. SOARES has a bag over his head and jumps into a weird pod-like machine. He’s out of breath from escaping from a bunch of thugs and pulls the sack off his head just as the machine activates and sends him hurtling through time…)

(SCENE 2: MICHAEL ARRUDA stands in the middle of a field, holding a large gun. In front of him is a tarp spread out on the ground. He looks at his pocket watch to confirm the time)

(Suddenly, LS appears on the tarp. MA lifts his gun, then stops)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but it’s L.L.

MA: I don’t understand. I was supposed to shoot whoever came back from the future…

LS: Well, you can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be any more Cinema Knife Fight column. Right?

MA (hesitates): I guess so. But I have my orders.

LS: Screw your orders. (he gets up and walks toward MA). I’m here to review the new movie LOOPER, have you seen it yet?

MA: No, I haven’t. Did you come from the future to tell me about it?

LS: Yes, exactly. (points to his gun) So we’re cool, right?

MA: Yeah (puts down the gun)

LS: Sucker! (pulls out a gun from his waistband and plugs MA)

(As LS laughs, we go back to the future, where LS enters a pod, out of breath, and pulls that sack off his head again. The machine activates, and we spiral down a corridor of time)

LS: Uh oh. I think I got trapped in a time warp this time. My karma has finally caught up with me.

(Looks at audience)

Well, looks like I’ve got some time on my hands. Might as well do that LOOPER review I mentioned earlier.

LOOPER a clever science fiction film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis and Emily Blunt. I actually wasn’t all that excited about it going in. It looked like just another gimmicky sci-fi film, and I felt like I’d seen the whole story based on the trailer. But thankfully, I was wrong. For once, I was surprised and LOOPER was much better than I expected.

The story is told from the point of view of Joe (Gordon-Levitt) who explains that he is a Looper. In the future (30 years from now, to be specific), time travel is illegal, but it’s used by organized crime. Also, due to various tagging methods, it is also near impossible to get rid of a body after killing someone in the future. So the gangsters of the future use time travel to kill two birds with one stone. They’ve sent an emissary to our time named Abe (Jeff Daniels) to set things up. He recruits people to be assassins called Loopers. Victims from the future are sent back in time, the Loopers shoot them and then dispose of the bodies. And it seems to be a very effective way to get rid of unwanted people.

Except every once in a while someone finds that the person they’ve been hired to kill is him or herself, sent from the future to “close the loop.” It’s then that they’re given a big payday and forced to retire, knowing that in 30 years, they’re going to die.

Get it?

Joe’s doing quite well. He’s got money, girls and lots of some weird drug he applies with eyedrops and that keeps him happy. Then one day he goes out in the abandoned field where he kills his victims, and comes face to face with an older version of himself, who he calls Old Joe (Bruce Willis). Old Joe isn’t bound and his head isn’t covered, like most of the victims. He is able to keep from getting shot—since he knows what his younger self is going to do—and cold cocks Joe. When Joe wakes up, Old Joe is long gone and he’s in a world of trouble with his bosses. If he doesn’t track Old Joe down and get rid of him, all hell is going to break loose. But Joe’s superiors are going to think he let his older self go on purpose (some guys just can’t bring themselves to kill their older selves when faced with the prospect), so he’s going to have elude them, too, while he tries to set things straight.

Oh yeah, there’s another subplot in the mix. Aside from Loopers, there’s also a group of evolved people called TKs (as in telekinetics). Most of them can’t do much more than float quarters with their minds, but there’s some guy in the future called the Rainmaker, who can do a lot more than that, and he’s taking over the crime gangs. Which is why so many loopers lately have been coming face to face with their older selves and being forced to close the loop.

That’s the background stuff. But LOOPER is so much more than just a concept. It’s about characters – characters who are pretty well fleshed out for a big budget gimmicky science fiction movie with an A-list cast. This isn’t your average futuristic crime movie. LOOPER is smart, well-written, and well acted.

Aside from Gordon-Levitt (who just seems to get better and better in each movie I see him in) and Willis (people in the audience were actually cheering during any scene where Willis got ahold of a gun), there’s also Emily Blunt as a woman who takes the wounded Joe in after he’s ambushed by his fellow loopers. Her name is Sara and she takes care of a little boy named Cid, who is a lot more important to the story than he first seems. Blunt is excellent here, and Pierce Gagnon is really good as little Cid, who seems smart and inquisitive sometimes and other times is just plain scary.

The rest of the cast is solid and includes Paul Dano, Piper Perabo and the always reliable Jeff Daniels (as I mentioned before).

The movie was written and directed by Rian Johnson  Johnson also made the very interesting “high school noir” flick BRICK (2005), also starring Gordon-Levitt (and it’s so odd, it’s worth checking out), and directed episodes of AMC’s BREAKING BAD and the short-lived FX series TERRIERS. He’s made a compelling little movie with LOOPER and I think he’s going to be someone worth watching in the future.

Because one of the stars is Bruce Willis, and it involves his character being sent here from the future, I guess comparisons to Terry Gilliam’s TWLEVE MONKEYS (1995) are unavoidable, but the stories are very different. They do, however, share the fact that they’re above-average for Hollywood sci-fi films.

I really enjoyed this movie. I thought it was smart and riveting throughout, and it even had a dark humor to it at times. I thought Gordon-Levitt and Willis were terrific here (there’s even one scene where Willis grabs a gun and goes on a rampage in the bad guys’ lair that reminded me a lot of Chan-wook Park’s OLDBOY, 2003).

I give LOOPER, four knives.

(LS is still spinning through time, when he suddenly lands on top of that tarp, in the middle of a field again. MICHAEL ARRUDA stands before him, aiming a gun)

LS: Michael, it’s me. I know I look older, but don’t shoot. It’s L.L.

MA: I feel like we’ve done this before.

LS: Put the gun down. You can’t shoot me. Then there won’t be a Cinema Knife Fight column anymore.

MA (hesitates): Why do I have such a hard time trusting you?

(CLOSE-UP of LS’s eyes, pleading)

FADE TO BLACK

© Copyright 2012 by L.L. Soares

LL Soares gives LOOPER  ~FOUR knives (out of five).

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Espionage, Exotic Locales, Michael Arruda Reviews, Spy Films with tags , , , , , on September 10, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (2012)
By Michael Arruda

(The Scene: A beautiful beach off the coast of Madrid, Spain.  An abandoned boat floats on the water offshore.  MICHAEL ARRUDA searches the boat frantically.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  L.L.?  Where are you?  Guys!  Where are you all hiding?

(STRANGE MAN appears out of nowhere.)

MAN:  They’re not hiding.  They’re with us.

MA: Who the hell are you?

MAN:  Come with me.  There’s someone you need to speak with.

MA:  No, I need to speak with L.L. Soares and the rest of the Cinema Knife Fight staff who are on this trip.

MAN:  They’re with us.  The person who wants to speak with you will explain.

MA: It sounds like I don’t have a choice.  Lead the way, then.

(CUT to a busy street in Madrid.  MAN leads MA to a parked car with tinted windows.  The back window slides down to reveal SIGOURNEY WEAVER in the back seat.)

WEAVER:  Hello, Michael.  I need to talk to you.  Don’t worry.  It’s safe.

(MA peers into the back seat and sees the monster from ALIEN sitting next to WEAVER.  The ALIEN hisses at him.)

MA:  Something tells me this is a bad idea.  (Pushes MAN away from him and flees through the busy streets.)  Gee, things are playing out here a lot like today’s movie, THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (2012).  (A beautiful Spanish babe on a motorcycle whistles to MA.)

BABE:  Quick!  Get on!

(MA runs to motorcycle.  BABE laughs and drives away just before he gets there.)

MA (to camera):  Well, almost like today’s movie.  (Quickly ducks into a dance club.)  I’ll hide out here for a while, which will give me a chance to review today’s film, THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY (2012),the new thriller starring Bruce Willis, Sigourney Weaver, and Henry Cavill.

(Sits at table in corner.)

There were three main reasons I was interested in seeing THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY, a movie whose trailer didn’t do much for me.  Sigourney Weaver was playing the villain, I like Bruce Willis and enjoy most movies he’s in, and I wanted to check out the performance by Henry Cavill, who’s slated to be the next big screen Superman in MAN OF STEEL (2013).

As I said, the film’s trailer did little for me, and that’s because it revealed a rather straightforward story about a young man whose family is kidnapped while on vacation because his dad is secretly working for the CIA and is obviously involved with some pretty bad people.  It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, and it also gave away a lot of the movie’s plot, so a big question I had going in was, would this movie have enough surprises left to make it worth my while?  And the answer is, “not really.”

The movie opens with a young man, Will (Henry Cavill), arriving in Madrid, Spain to spend a week long vacation with his parents and his younger brother and his younger brother’s girlfriend.  Will is not having a good week.  The company he runs is going bankrupt, and it seems he has a rocky relationship with his dad Martin (Bruce Willis), and so it’s not exactly a relaxing vacation for him.

Distracted by his problems, he allows their boat to be rocked by the wind, resulting in a head injury to his brother’s girlfriend.  Will is immediately chewed out by his dad, who promptly tosses his son’s cell phone overboard, since it’s been ringing nonstop with news of Will’s troubled company.  Enraged, Will decides to leave the boat and go into town.

When he returns later in the day, he finds the boat abandoned and his family nowhere to be found.   He reports the situation to the police, and they lead him to a man who tries to abduct him.  Will is rescued by his dad, who explains to him that he’s really not a business consultant but an agent for the CIA, and that a group of terrorists have kidnapped their family and is holding them ransom unless he gives them back a briefcase he stole from them.

Martin tells Will they need to see a friend of his, and Will witnesses a meeting between his dad and a woman Carrack (Sigourney Weaver.)  Martin accuses Carrack of setting him up, a notion that Carrack obviously denies.  The meeting ends badly as Martin is shot dead, leaving Will alone to solve the mystery of the missing briefcase and save his family.

And he has to do this while being pursued by two different parties: the group that is holding his family hostage and who want the briefcase back, and Carrack and her cronies, who would like to “silence” everyone involved in order to tie up any loose ends and save their agency embarrassment.  Along the way, Will befriends a young woman, Lucia (Veronica Echegui), who also has a personal interest in getting back at Carrack, as she reveals a telling secret about her relationship with Will’s father.

The rest of the movie plays out like one of the BOURNE movies, only not as good, mostly because Will is no Jason Bourne.

MATT DAMON (leaning over from next table):  That’s right.  He’s not Jason Bourne.  I am, and there’s only one Jason Bourne.

JEREMY RENNER (leans in from opposite table):   I don’t know about that.  My new movie THE BOURNE LEGACY (2012) is doing pretty well at the box office.

DAMON:  True, but you don’t play Jason Bourne in the movie.

RENNER:  True, but you’re not in the movie, and it’s still doing well.  Hey, maybe you and I could both be the next one.

DAMON:  Talk to my agent.

MA:  It’s getting too crowded in here.  (MA gets up and moves to the bar.)

Where was I?

BARTENDER:  You were comparing Will to Jason Bourne.

MA:  Thanks.  Hey, how did you know that?

BARTENDER:  I’m a bartender.  We know everything.

MA: I’ll have to remember that.

So, Will’s an amateur, not a super assassin, and so his scenes simply don’t generate a whole lot of interest.   The movie would have been better off had it played up the angle of the ordinary guy against the professionals, a la an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but Will uses his wits less than he uses a gun, and so it’s simply not as compelling as it could have been.

Sigourney Weaver makes for an okay villain here, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed.  I thought her character was rather subdued, and Weaver turned in a far more villainous portrayal in her brief scenes in THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) earlier this year.  Cate Blanchett was more impressive as the main baddie in last year’s HANNA (2011).  Actually, the entire movie HANNA was more impressive than THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY.  It had a style about it that was riveting and made an impact.  THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY lacks this style.

Bruce Willis is very good as Martin, the dad living the double life as a CIA agent, but the trouble is, he’s not in the movie all that much, as his character is killed off early on.

Henry Cavill runs hot and cold as Will.  I definitely liked him at the beginning of the movie in his scenes with Bruce Willis.  There was a natural father/son tension between them that worked well and was interesting.  Later, when Will becomes Jason Bourne-like—-.

MATT DAMON (calling from table):  Hey!  I’m Jason Bourne!  (Points to Renner)  Not him!  And not the guy in your movie!

MA (smiles and waves):  Whatever you say, buddy.  I’d better not say that name again.

Will’s not as interesting because he’s not Jason—you know who—but just an ordinary guy thrown into some extraordinary circumstances, yet he’s running around shooting people and acting like he’s been doing it for years.

The rest of the cast is simply serviceable, although I did really enjoy Veronica Echegui as Lucia.  I almost would have preferred the story better had it been told from her perspective.

Simply put, I just wasn’t that impressed with the story in this one.  Scott Wiper and John Petro wrote the screenplay for THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY, and it’s all rather mediocre.

One of the reasons it’s not that powerful a movie is there’s not much of a threat.  We know very little about the people holding Will’s family hostage for the most of the movie.  At first, they’re described as terrorists, but later we learn they’re not terrorists, but Israeli agents who have been wronged by Carrack.

Sigourney Weaver’s Carrack and her cronies are the ones who knocked off Will’s father, but we don’t see them doing much during the rest of the movie, other than remain two steps behind Will, which is hard to believe since Will’s not a spy.  Overall, the threats in this movie are too obscure, and there isn’t one main master villain who’s driving this thing along.

I had hoped that Sigourney Weaver would be this villain, but she’s not.  Plus, her character Carrack is supposed to be this top CIA agent, and yet she’s out on the streets in plain sight shooting at Will and other people in broad daylight.  So much for being covert!

And the plot point involving Lucia’s relationship with Martin is right out of a bad soap opera!

WOMAN next to MA:  And so, Lloyd, I can’t marry you because I slept with your father which makes me— your mother!

LLOYD:  And I can’t marry you, Linda, because I slept with your mother which makes me— your father!

LINDA:  How is that possible?

LLOYD:  Well, your mother’s a good looking woman, we had a few drinks, and one thing led to another—.

LINDA:  No, that’s not what I meant.

MA:  It’s too crowded at the bar, too.  I think I’ll try the dance floor.

(Dances while he continues the review)

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY is simply not as intense as it needs to be.  Director Mabrouk El Mechri includes plenty of shoot-outs and chase scenes, but at the end of the day, this one is lacking something.

One of the more intense scenes involves Lucia’s efforts, with the help of some of her friends, to remove a bullet from Will’s gut, but it’s discovered in the middle of the crude procedure, that he doesn’t have a bullet in him, so they’re spared the rest of the operation.  So, even the most intense scene in the film isn’t as intense as it could have been!

There is a neat chase scene where Will and Lucia have to escape from a roof while being shot at, and it’s one of the more riveting scenes in the movie.  The rest of the action scenes are pretty standard.

THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY isn’t bad, but it’s not very good either.  As I said, it just seems to be lacking something.  Most of the time that “something” is a plausible story.  Perhaps more Bruce Willis would have helped.

I give it two knives.

(Someone taps him on the shoulder.  It’s SIGOURNEY WEAVER and the ALIEN.)

WEAVER:  Do you mind if I cut in?

MA:  Why don’t you two dance, and I’ll cut out!  Okay, folks, until next time, have fun at the movies!  (EXITS)
WEAVER:  Wait!  (turns to ALIEN)  Oh well.  I guess we’ll never take that group photo now.

(ALIEN shakes his head)

WEAVER:  Shall we dance after all?

(ALIEN and WEAVER slow dance, as camera fades to black.)

VOICE:  Hey, it’s Jeremy Renner, the new Bourne!

DAMON:  Damn it!  I’m Jason Bourne!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY ~ two knives!

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)

Posted in 2012, Action Movies, Buddy Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Heroic Warriors, Jason Statham, Kung Fu!, Sequels, Sylvester Stallone! with tags , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012)
By Michael Arruda

(With Special Appearances by L.L. SOARES, PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, NICK CATO, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND.)

(The Scene: A beat-up military plane which has seen better days, flying low over a South American jungle. At the controls sits MICHAEL ARRUDA. Next to him with a cigar dangling from his mouth is L.L. SOARES.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  We’ve reached our target. You’d better tell the rest of the team to be ready. It’s show time!

L.L. SOARES (bangs on door behind them):  Okay, people, look sharp!  We’re going in.

(CUE Dramatic military music. The door on the side of the plane opens. Into the doorway, wearing a parachute appears NICK CATO with his name superimposed on the screen in big bold letters. He leaps from plane. He’s followed by PETE DUDAR, MARK ONSPAUGH, DAN KEOHANE, JOHN HARVEY and COLLEEN WANGLUND, each with their names emblazoned on the screen and a dramatic beat of music as each makes their appearance. Finally, the camera settles on MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES as they prepare to bail, with their names also in massive letters on the screen, followed by the huge, larger-than-life title:

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHTERS

(End opening titles)

MA:  Say, there’s only one parachute left.

LS:  You don’t need no stinkin parachute!  (He grabs parachute and leaps from plane.)  Sucker!

MA:  Gee, thanks, you no good cigar-chomping critic!  (addresses camera)  Well, I guess this is it. It’s been a nice ride.

On the other hand, who says I have to go down?  This is a plane. It has landing gear. I’ll just find a nice spot to land, and I’ll be all set.

(Looks below to see thick forest and mountains everywhere.)

MA:  Well, who says I have to land here?  (looks at fuel gage which reads EMPTY.)    Would you believe this is a new-fangled electric plane with a long-life battery?  I didn’t think so. (flies over a large body of water). Would you believe this is a seaplane?  Actually, it is a seaplane!

(Crash-lands plane on water. Gets into a lifeboat and paddles towards shore.)

MA:  That wasn’t so bad after all. I’ll catch up with those guys eventually. In the meantime, I’ll review today’s movie, THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012), Sylvester Stallone’s action-packed sequel to his 2010 summer hit, THE EXPENDABLES.

If you like thunderous explosions that’ll blow out your eardrums, and guns the size of cannons, then THE EXPENDABLES 2 is the movie for you. There’s so much testosterone in this one, they’ve called for a congressional hearing.

In THE EXPENDABLES 2, Sylvester Stallone returns as Barney Ross, the leader of a group of misfit mercenary soldiers known as The Expendables. The group includes Ross’s right hand man, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), as well as Gunner (Dolph Lundgren), Yin Yang (Jet Li), Hale Caesar (Terry Crews), Toll Road (Randy Couture), and newcomer Bill The Kid (Liam Hemsworth of HUNGER GAMES fame, and younger brother of Thor—er, Chris Hemsworth).

Ross is once again hired by the mysterious Mr. Church (Bruce Willis), this time to locate a missing safe which contains extremely valuable contents. Church adds a new team member to Ross’s group, a safe expert named Maggie (Nan Yu.)

It’s supposed to be a routine caper, but—surprise! surprise!—before they can finish the job, the Expendables are intercepted by a force greater than their own, led by an evil villain named Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme). Vilain is one cold-hearted bastard, and after he forces Ross and his group to hand over the contents of the safe to him, he brutally kills one of Ross’s men.

Quicker than you can say “revenge,” the plot of the rest of the movie is set into motion, as Ross

and his team vow to avenge their friend’s death, get back the contents of the safe, which is valuable because it has to do with weapons-grade plutonium, and completely annihilate Vilain and his forces in the process.

But this is easier said than done. Vilain commands an entire army, and so Ross and company need some help along the way, and they get it from some old friends, Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Booker (Chuck Norris). Even the mysterious Church comes out of the woodwork to lend a hand, setting the stage for the massive concluding battle which puts Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Norris, and Willis together on the big screen in an eye-popping ear-splitting finale that is a dream come true for the 1980s action movie fan!

I have to admit, I really enjoyed THE EXPENDABLES 2. I enjoyed the original EXPENDABLES as well, but that one left me a bit disappointed. For all its collective action-star firepower, the action sequences in the first one weren’t that memorable, the plot was rather flat and silly, and the villain a dud. All of these items have been improved upon in the sequel.

The movie opens with a blast, as its riveting pre-credit action sequence is better than any of the action scenes in the original.

Stallone, who directed the first one, turned over the directing duties to Simon West this time around, and I think this was a good decision because the action scenes here have more oomph and are much more high octane than what we saw in the original.

(A speed boat pulls up next to MA, and it’s driven by SYLVESTER STALLONE.)

STALLONE:  Are you saying I’m too old to direct an action movie?

MA:  I don’t know if you’re too old, but this sequel does seem to have more energy about it.

STALLONE:  I’m not too old!  (He speeds away.)

MA:  If I had to guess, I’d say Stallone’s still got plenty of juice left to make movies like this, but nonetheless, director West does a nice job here.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 also has a better story than the original, a better script by Stallone and Richard Wenk, and better use of the film’s stars.

(STALLONE’s speed boat returns.)

STALLONE:  So, I’m not too old to write?

MA:  I never said you were too old.

STALLONE:  That’s good, because I don’t think I’m too old, if you know what I’m saying.

MA:  Yes, I know what you’re saying.

(STALLONE speeds away again.)

MA:  Where was I?  Oh yes. If you go see THE EXPENDABLES 2 to enjoy this collection of action stars do their thing, you won’t be disappointed as these guys all have generous screen time.

(MA reaches land. He ditches the life boat and begins walking through the jungle.)

MA:  It goes without saying that the impressive cast assembled here is a lot of fun, and the script seems to give each of them key moments to savor and enjoy.

Sylvester Stallone is still damned believable as an action star.

(Wielding a machine gun, STALLONE runs by MA).

STALLONE:  Glad to hear I’m not too old to act!

MA:  Not at all!  Even at your age, 66, you still look ripped.

STALLONE:  I’ll kick Van Damme’s ass!  (Disappears in jungle.)

MA:  Rocky is still going strong, and in his climactic bout vs. Van Damme, it’s believable that he could take everything that Van Damme dishes out.

Jason Statham is also enjoyable once again as Lee Christmas, though his screen time is slightly diminished here to make room for the extra time given to the other big name players. I like Statham a lot, and I’ve become a fan over the past several years. He and Stallone share an affable chemistry on screen, and they really do seem like friends.

Even Dolph Lundgren gets to enjoy some fun moments, as the story reveals that in spite of his size and brawn, he’s also a Fulbright scholar with an advanced science degree.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis both have more screen time than they had in the original, and they get to play a large part in the film’s explosive conclusion. They also get to poke fun at themselves. Schwarzenegger seems to say “I’ll be back” every time he has a line, and at one point Willis complains. “You’re always coming back. I’ll  be back!”  To which Schwarzenegger replies, “Yippee-ki-yay!”

Chuck Norris plays things straighter than Willis and Schwarzenegger, but still gets to enjoy some decent screen time. Nan Yu is also very good as newcomer Maggie.

But the best performance in the movie belongs to Jean-Claude Van Damme as Vilain.

Van Damme plays Vilain as one icy cold dude, and he’s one of the better screen villains I’ve seen in a while. He has to be. He’s up against nearly every 80s action star on the planet. It seems a bit unfair. As formidable as Van Damme is, the numbers are clearly stacked against him. Perhaps Stallone should have cast some 80s villains to team up with Van Damme to make things a bit more even.

Even so, Van Damme rocked, and he easily delivered the best performance in the movie. The intense hand-to-hand battle between Van Damme and Stallone during the film’s conclusion is worth the price of admission alone!

THE EXPENDABLES 2 won’t leave you feeling ripped off or cheated. It delivers the goods and then some.

In spite of its R rating, THE EXPENDABLES 2 is free of any “F-bombs” and the violence, while bloody, is strictly of the neat video game variety. It’s as unrealistic looking as it comes. The film as a whole has a larger-than-life comic book feel to it. Never once do you feel as if Stallone and his men are in danger. They shoot, their opponents die. The bad guys shoot, and Stallone and friends remain untouched. In fact, that’s how you can tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys in this movie. The good guys hit everything they shoot at, while the bad guys can’t hit a damn thing!

I didn’t mind this though. It just added to the fun, in a Bugs Bunny sort of way.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 is a wildly entertaining thrill ride that doesn’t attempt to be anything more than what it is, an exciting action movie that’s full of gargantuan weapons, thunderous explosions, and larger than life characters.

It’s easily one of my favorite movies of the summer, and I give it three knives.

 

Hey, I’m finally here!

(Walks by a sign which reads “Welcome, Cinema Knife Fighters to GuerillaCon!”  Sees his fellow Cinema Knife Fighters sitting behind a table on a panel. The audience is comprised of men, women, and zombies dressed in military fatigues.

ZOMBIE raises his hand and stands up to ask a question.)

ZOMBIE:  As a zombie myself, I found the movie’s interpretation of zombies completely unrealistic. I don’t know where Romero got the idea that we can’t run!

SOLDIER IN AUDIENCE:  Who cares about that crap?  All we want to know is, how many heads get blown off in the movie?

MA:  Well, here’s where I say so long. Time for me to join the panel.

LS:  Hey, it’s Mike Arruda!  What took you so long?  What did you do?  Crash the plane or something?

MA:  As a matter of fact, I did.

LS:  You goober!  Didn’t you know it was on autopilot and programmed to land right outside this building?

MA:  Er— of course I knew. I just wanted to man up and rough it. This is a review of THE EXPENDABLES 2 after all. Autopilot?  Who needs an autopilot?

(Suddenly SYLVESTER STALLONE stands next to MA.)

STALLONE:  What’s the matter?  Too old to land a plane?

MA:  I made out okay.

STALLONE:  But the plane didn’t.

MA:  So, is there going to be an EXPENDABLES 3?

STALLONE:  Dunno. I’m not getting any younger. (smiles)

MA:  I hear Steven Seagal might be available—.

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda

Michael Arruda gives THE EXPENDABLES 2 ~three knives.

RED … It’s Old People Blowing S#!% Up!

Posted in 2010, Action Movies, Campy Movies, Comic Book Movies, John Harvey Reviews, Spy Films with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by knifefighter

When it comes to a film like RED, you have to walk into the theater with your tongue pre-inserted in cheek. The previews, trailers and all the promotion for this movie spells out that you’re going to see —a gimmick comedy wrapped in the trappings of an action/adventure flick. Despite the lineup of heavy hitters in the cast, we’re not looking for a lot of depth here.

The storyline (based on a Warren Ellis comic for DC) goes something like this. Retired old-school CIA uber-spy, Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), slowly withers on the vine now that he’s no longer in the field. He lives a structured, dull life in some nameless suburb where the high point of his day is flirting with the government drone/employee, Sarah Ross (Mary-Louise Parker), who helps him with his pension payments. Suddenly, a team of CIA assassins shows up and fires several million rounds of ammunition into his house. But it’s okay, Frank puts them all down like misbehaving children and then drives to Kansas City to gently kidnap Sarah. Why? He concludes that she’s a target as well, just because he cares for her. Right. This is the point where you realize that David Mamet did not write the script, and you need to suspend your disbelief to an altitude so high that it might collide with on orbiting satellite. If you can do that, you’ll have fun with this film. If not, you’re in for a hair under two hours of being very annoyed.

Following the kidnapping, Frank reunites himself with a collection of geriatric allies, cohorts and enemies to figure out why he’s a target. This includes kindly (but deadly) Joe Matheson (Morgan Freeman); lunatic Marvin Boggs (John Malkovich … who steals nearly every scene he’s in); and the prudish (but also deadly) Victoria (Helen Mirren). We also get Russian ambassador Ivan Simanov (Brian Cox) and the guardian of the most-secret-of-secret CIA records (Ernest Borgnine, clocking in at 93 years-old).

Pitted against them is CIA agent William Cooper (Karl Urban) who fills the role of young, talented, but woefully-misguided whipper-snapper. RED also provides us with Richard Dreyfuss as the strutting, over-the-top bad guy.

Crammed tightly into this precariously-constructed plot are countless one-liners, sight gags, chase scenes, fight scenes and love scenes. All of which revolves around the films central conceit: we’re old but we kick ass.

Honestly, RED is as easily consumed as buttered, salted popcorn, but you never get the impression that director Robert Schwentke is shooting for more than that. So, it works. Though some of the gags fall flat, many of them don’t. Mary-Louise Parker’s understated sense of comedy and timing works very nicely against Willis’ intentionally heavy-handed approach to his tough-guy personna. And John Malkovich … —let me put it this way—if someone ever films a geriatric version of the A-Team, then Malkovich will make the perfect “Howling Mad” Murdock. As a cherry-on-top sight gag, RED also gives you Helen Mirren firing a 50-caliber machine gun in a slinky evening gown.

Speaking of Helen Mirren, while the love interest between Frank and Sarah is supposed to get the spotlight, it’s really the love story between Victoria and Ivan that rings true. Mirren and Cox give us some of the most poignant and genuine scenes in the movie, which makes for a nice break, considering the rest of the film is not especially deep.

If you’re looking for something that’s both fun and disposable, then RED is the perfect movie for you. This is a perfect example of an action movie that doesn’t take itself seriously and consistently brings the oddball humor.

Directed by: Robert Schwentke
Written by: Jon and Erich Hoeber
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise-Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox, Karl Urban, Ernest Borgnine, Richard Dreyfuss.
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1hr 51min

© Copyright 2010 by John D. Harvey

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