Friday, August 15, 2014

Expendables Week: Marathon

After a long week it was finally time to lace up my boots and get a good pump for The Expendables Marathon!  3 flicks, 11 action icons, 2 DTV stars, a couple of former professional athletes turned actors, a former WWE superstar, 3 UFC champions, 2 theaters and at least 1,000 dead bodies equaled one heck of a fun night.  Things were supposed to go easy at the Cinemark 18 & XD in west Los Angeles as they were offering the 2010 and 2012 installments preceding the latest explosion and aging star filled chapter but didn't quite work out that way.  I was very interested to see what kind of crowd turned out for the 3 movie marathon as first, who wants to see the first two films again and second, who has the time to catch a during work hours movie?  Sadly or awesomely, it was my party of 3 and a single, additional viewer...who left after part I, so I'm guessing she was just hanging out before another movie.

Anyways, giant popcorn and a gallon of Coke Zero from one of those new age, 100 variety machines that basically just made it taste like fake, in hands, it was time for 2010's cinematic miracle:  The Expendables.  Written and directed by one Sylvester Stallone (with scripting duties originally coming from Dave Callaham), EX begins with our team of mercenaries delivering payment to a band of violent pirates in exchange for hostages.  The core team consists of leader Barney Ross (Stallone), 2nd in command wise ass and knife guy Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), butt of short jokes Yin Yang (Jet Li), substance abusing giant Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), muscled and mouthy Hale Caeser (Terry Crews) and finally the strong yet sensitive Toll Road (Randy Couture).  After receiving a job lead from tattooed and internally tattered Tool (Mickey Rourke), Ross takes a job from shadowy C.I.A. puppet master Church (Bruce Willis) after wet work competition Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) passes.  Ross and Christmas find themselves up against powerful 3rd world general Garza (David Zayas) and his "former federal agent turned drug runner business partner/enemy" James Monroe (Eric Roberts) and his violent cronies Paine (Steve Austin) and The Brit (Gary Daniels).  When Garza's rebellious daughter Sandra (Giselle Itie) refuses to leave her unsafe country, The Expendables go on a moral mission to help overthrow the half assed government.

Instead of trying to get into some overly specific review of the films, I'm sure if you're reading this you've seen the films or are at least a fan of the genre and stars herein.  So let's just hit this stream of conscience style shall we?

- Stallone's face looks puffy, mental note of his appearance in each film to see how it changes.
- The CGI blood and knife blades are obvious but gives a nice touch to enhance the brutal violence.
- Statham beats up girlfriend's ex-boyfriend after he beat her up, then tells her, "now you know what I do for a living".  What?  Disappear for a month at a time and beat up assholes?
- Randy Couture and Terry Crews' characters really have no point in the film.
- Did Jet Li always act his poorly?
- Dolph is great in this movie.  Still think it would have been more interesting if he died as intended but hey, betraying his team, trying to kill them, getting shot in the chest, surviving and being brought back on seemed to get his character off drugs and gave Stallone another famous face to hit any premieres he couldn't for sequels.
- Scene with Arnold and Bruce Willy is terrific, great sense of themselves, their iconic roles and throwing barbs at each other.
- Steve Austin is jacked and I just kept thinking of his new TV show, Broken Skull Ranch, where he tells eliminated contestants "I'll see you down the road".
- Eric Roberts excels at being charmingly scary and skeezy.
- Some really violent deaths in this flick, shotgun blasted in half, knife to the head, knife to the throat, broken limbs galore, the Jason Statham/Jet Li team up death on Gary Daniels is awesome.
- Brian Tyler's score gives the flick an extra layer of bombastic veneer.
- According to Expendables Wiki, 221 poor SOB's get wasted
- "What do you wear? Size 3?!  Bring it, happy feet!"

Oh yeah, a fire alarm went off just before the final showdown.  It was really coincidentally timed too as Caesar was pulling out his shiny razor blade, throwing a glint in our eye that was enhanced as a flashing white light started to go off in the theater.  Luckily it was a false alarm but we were set back a good 20 minutes.

The only other viewer in the audience left after the end of part I so we asked the theater staff to just start part II instead of giving us an intermission.  Of course I was super excited for the sequel because, hello, Jean-Claude Van Damme is in it!  Bro, Jean-Claude Van Damme.  This time around, Stallone takes writing duties along with Richard Wenk, Ken Kaufman and David Agosto while handing directing over to Con Air's Simon West.  In the follow up, The Expendables take on "cartel for hire" The Sangs led by Jean-Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme) and his snarling, high kicking apprentice Hector (Scott Adkins) with a little help from legendary lone wolf gunman Booker (Chuck Norris) and Arnold's Trench along with Bruce Willy's Church after Vilain kills new team member Billy the Kid (Liam Hemsworth).  Oh sorry, Spoiler Alert...

- The opening scene is pretty kick ass, 15 minutes of trucks, battering rams, bazookas, bad CGI helicopters and Jet Li face, zip lines, .50 caliber rifles, jet skis, bolt cutters and Santa Claus.
- Stallone's face looks a little droopier in this edition but not as puffy.
- Some awkward and forced interactions, Liam Hemsworth says "it's a long story" then tells the story.
- Female Expendable Maggie Chen is a nice touch, not totally necessary, but nice.
- Terry Crews is yoked.
- Why is this movie so fuzzy?  It seriously looks like a layer of dust is on top of the screen sometimes.  Noticed it in 2012 as well.  
- Lady friend laughed at the fact they made Dolph's character's history Dolph's actual real history as a chemical engineer who fell out of academia after meeting a singer.
- JCVD alert!  "The Go-ot" "Don't cha-llenge me" "It's very interesting".  So pronounce, much weird, very Van Damme, voila.
- Knife kick to the chest!  F you Gale, just like in Hunger Games!
- Another kind of awkward scene talking about last meals with a tinge of sexual tension.
- Chuck Norris just recited a Chuck Norris joke.  Meta on meta on meta.
- "I now pronounce you, man and knife." "Rest in pieces!" Stallone is a Got Dammed Genius.
- There's a lot of frigging jokes and nods to actor's history, maybe a few too many.
- Yup, Bruce Willy and Arnie rip the doors off a Smart Car and drive around the airport shooting at dudes while quoting each others lines from The Terminator and Die Hard.
- Van Damme's acting is so good in this movie.  He's aloof, strange, determined, ominous, funny.
- The end fight with Stallone could have used some more signature JCVD moves but overall it's a nice scrap with a good back and forth that was more enjoyable this time than the first.
- 489 nameless, faceless schmucks get deaded.
- "Respect is everything.  Without respect we're just people.  Common, shitty people."

The projectionist cut the credits off so we could move on to part III seeing that we were nearly 30 minutes behind schedule.  We're still the only 3 in the place, lights go down and Lionsgate logo comes up and...part II starts playing again...this would happen a couple more times as they tried to figure it out.  Allegedly the fire alarm messed up something something so after sitting the dark, seeing part II start and stop a few times we decided to just bail and head to another theater to see part III.  The theater compensated us 6 free passes which is nice because 2 of the 3 times I've been to this theater, they've had issues like this...Now follow me to The Arclight Hollywood! 

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