Sunday, May 18, 2014

Cinema Swole: The Expendables 3

Proving that muscles still rule the world and movies, the cast of The Expendables III invaded the Cannes film festival and stole the spotlight as the likes of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and new additions Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Harrison Ford, Kellan Lutz and Mel Gibson became their own traveling movie star parade.  The sight of so many famous faces has garnered much attention and validates Stallone's business acumen as the tough guy reunion series is his 3rd franchise and allegedly netted him $15 million this go round.  Stallone has long wanted to pull off a huge premiere stunt like landing a plane on the Las Vegas strip but until now has been unable to accomplish such a feat.  Lionsgate pulled out all the stops here spending "Super Bowl" commercial money to arrange the event.  In France, the cast rode on two military vehicles, not quite tanks, but still big, mean and armored.  Footage was shown and at a stacked press conference, Stallone dropped the bomb that this supposed final outing is going to be rated PG-13.  PG-13?  What the fuck?!  This immediately reminded viewers of the hubbub caused by part 2's Chuck Norris alleged mentioning of a possible less than R rating which of course, turned out not to be true.  The Expendables II wasn't a hard R but still featured tons of carnage, gunfire, riddled bodies, knives piercing flesh, CGI blood, Jean-Claude Van Damme kicking a knife into the chest of Liam Hemsworth and Stallone chopping off VD's head and carrying it in a dripping sack.  However, Stallone and Arnold's recent R-rated solo outings in The Last Stand, Bullet to the Head and Sabotage all failed to find audiences.

The PG-13 rating comes as a bit of a shock but not a surprise as Millennium Film's producer Avi Lerner is a business man and after several not cheap clunkers like The Legend of Hercules and Conan the Barbarian died at the box office, he's got to protect his investments.  2010's The Expendables was a surprise hit and grossed $275 million worldwide.  2012's part 2 upped the ante by adding 80's and 90's favorites Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to the mix as well as fresh face from The Hunger Games Liam Hemsworth.  Grosses in America were down but the film made up for it overseas and pulled in $300 million.  Now, moving into part III, Stallone claims it's time to hit the widest audience possible and let the younger generation in a la The Fast and the Furious and Transformers saga of violence without blood, PG-13 setting.  It's kind of like when Die Hard IV was given a not R and ended up being the highest grosser number wise in the series.  When part 5 went back to the Restricted rating, it grossed $80 million less but that could be from franchise fatigue, poor word of mouth, etc.

On the tanks and at the press conference, Messrs.' Dolph Lundgren, Mel Gibson (sporting a sweet beard) and Arnold Schwarzenegger were looking particularly swole as they sported short sleeves.  Lundgren will also be shopping his human trafficking action flick Skin Trade, co-starring Tony Jaa, Peter Weller and Michael-Jai White at the festival.  Gibson was linked to a Jackie Chan period action flick, Dragon Blade but it's revenge thriller Blood Father that's for sale at the fest while Arnie is taking a hiatus from the in production Terminator: Genesis to do what he does best: sell his image and charm throngs of hungry journalists and fans.  The Expendables were everywhere: on daytime talk shows, riding on tanks in the streets then all dolled up later before a screening.  In an interview alongside Harrison Ford, Stallone was very complimentary of the fellow 90's superstar and described the two as being actors whose action movies were about ordinary men triumphing over extraordinary odds;  they weren't super heroes with powers beyond passion and commitment.

At it's core, Cannes is a marketplace where studios buy up films completed and not to distribute in their countries.  Guys like Stallone, Arnold, Ford, Gibson, Lundgren etc command a certain value on the international market and two producers who played the pre-sale game incredible well were Cannon Films' Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus.  The two were famous for their go-go development in the 80's and paying top dollar for sure bets like Charles Bronson and Chuck Norris.  Golan had the script for Over the Top, the father/son driving cross country/arm wrestling adventure and wanted Stallone to star in it.  Sly's manager informed Golan that his client made a massive $6 million bucks a picture, thinking it would dissuade the mini-major exploitation mogul but Golan shocked everyone when he said he wanted to pay Stallone $10 million to star in the film.  History was made and Stallone became the highest paid actor in Hollywood at the time.  Stallone commented that he loved guys like Cannon as they were pioneers and had the guts to just go out and do it, not thinking about the mathematical, scientific approach that is prevalent today among the conglomerate owned, non risk taking, easily digestible gruel producing studios of the now.

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