Monday, August 23, 2010

Expendables, Evil Aliens, The Losers, and Witchville reviews and thoughts

The Expendables:

Balls to the freakin’ WALL!!! Big booms, big bangs, blood, guts, gore, and a healthy delivery of sarcastic quips peppered liberally with more bullets than you can shake a stick at! Sylvester Stallone continues to prove that he’s a relevant source for action entertainment with his latest blockbuster film, “The Expendables.” Gathering a cast of action film stars that includes Bruce Willis and the Governator (Each guy pretty much stopping in for the perennial cup of coffee) is a daunting enough task, but Stallone manages to throw together one of the best “Buddy” team pictures in a very long time. They just do not make them like this anymore. Stallone is a veteran soldier who’s seen a bit too much action, struggles to get by, and looks for some sort of connection within himself. Jason Statham is the hot shot British merc whose recent romantic troubles remind him that his life is far from normal. Jet Li is the dutiful friend and soldier lamenting the need to feed his growing family. Randy Couture reads “self-help” books and attends regular therapy sessions to explore his “issues”, while Jay Crews is the big man who loves big guns. The odd man out, however, is Dolph Lundgren as a drug addict riddled with psychosis on the verge of finally breaking after too long of a life spent on the edge. The group meets at their garage, where Mickey Rourke handles the day to day operations and focuses on various artworks (Tattoo, decals, painting, etc.). Stallone succeeds in creating a fantastic group dynamic between the films Mercenary Force, a group of men who seem straight out of the pages of manly “sweat” pulps of the 70’s and 80’s. In addition to the cast of Mercs, Stallone also brings in former Pro-Wrestler Steve Austin to assist a megalomaniacal ex-CIA operative played by Eric Roberts. Also, providing some more martial arts action, Stallone employs B-Action star Gary Daniels with a Fu-Manchu to stand in Austins’ shadow.

I know they’ve had a number of “Buddy” merc team films this year, including the A-Team, the Losers, and on and on… but those are modern day big budget soopah Visual effects. This movie was straight up practical in almost every way, with some gut wrenching fight sequences utilizing honest martial arts and wrestling instead of the “Matrix” wire work and CGI that the big studios are drowning in these days. Stallone delivers a smash mouth film and doesn’t let up from the get go. Bodies are blown in half, heads pop like melons, and on and on. It’s a throwback to the way films were made in the Reagan era, with all the glory and ultraviolence ramped up to an eleven on the volume control.

The story follows the men as they take a job from Bruce Willis; kill the Dictatorial leader of a small island nation off the coast of South America. The usual blend of twists and turns, including betrayals In addition to handling the job, some of the men are also dealing with personal issues back home. Charisma Carpenter plays the love interest for Statham, Lundgrens’ demons come up to haunt the team, and the turnstile door of Rourkes’ love life adds comedic flavor to a tragic anti-hero. Lots of action, practical effects, a good number of very gory gags, and fantastic performances from a number of the actors involve elevates this movie from a typical actioner to one of the biggest coup de grace of an era I’ve long been missing. Lundgren and Rourke are fantastic in their roles, with Statham adding the usual charm and caustic wit he brings to a number of his characters. Stallone offers excellent direction for an afternoon popcorn muncher.

4.5 out of 5.


I’m the kind of guy who actually enjoys a number of the Syfy Channel movies, going out of my way to watch them when I get a chance or order them through Netflix if I do manage to miss a few. But the truth is that this godawful title for a film inspired nothing short of a casual smirk in disinterest. Lazy Sunday afternoons with a back ache and a general feeling of lethargy is often enough to change my mind, however, and I flipped through a large number of channels before settling on this schlockfest at the very beginning and sticking it through the whole way. No real name actors, plenty of hokey effects, and a synthed out soundtrack brings me right back to the 80’s once again! So the story became rather predictable and the production values were fairly cheap, but I was raised on “Hawk the Slayer” and “Sword and the Sorcerer” as the epitome of Fantasy Film in a childhood that was bereft of a Rings trilogy. And in that vein, Witchville has a solid story and takes itself seriously enough to warrant more than a passing glance.

A Prince returns to his kingdom after the death of his father. He quickly discovers that plague, famine, and a pestilence have been plaguing the lands for some time. Let’s make a short story even shorter… the captain of the Guard is sent to retrieve the prince and bring him home. The Prince is a reckless drunkard lout who hangs out with the Captains younger and far more reckless brother. The three men quickly discover that a coven of Witches, led by the Red Queen, are responsible for the foul curse that has spread throughout the land. They join forces with a mad Witch-Hunter and track the witches to a small village… hence the title, I assume. They don’t spend much time in the village, the majority of the film taking up the journey to it and the protection of the Princes’ kingdom afterward. Such as it is, the title of the film was a real bad plan. There were witches, there was a village, but it doesn’t really work as a “Witchville” sort of thing… I mean, I at least hoped for a Who’s On First moment, but nope!

Some blood, bad CGI, and sword play round out this mediocre effort for a decent matinee flick. The guy from Eragon shows up as the Captains younger brother, fights, gets beaten up, tortured, and that’s pretty much it so far as big faces. Some guy from the band of 300, some other dude playing the Prince, and you get the picture.

3 out of 5.

The Losers

DC-Vertigo titles are for a “mature” audience, which usually means we get a couple of cuss words thrown around while people die and do outrageously inappropriate things with one another in the fantastic cause of pushing the envelope. They have a couple of well known titles, including Hellblazer, Sandman, and Swamp Thing… but mostly, Vertigo excels in obscure titles like “The Losers”. If you’re not familiar with the comic series, don’t feel bad… I only barely remember ever seeing the title on the wall of a local comic shop a few years back, and I honestly had no interest in picking it up. And when it came out in the theaters, my interest was only mildly elevated. Honestly, it looked like some director wanted to emulate the frenetic editing and terrible yellow filter lighting of the dread Michael Bay School of making movies.

But I’m a man of modern means and “The Losers” was honestly my cup of tea from the description, pretty much a roller coaster ride through the pulp sweats of the 70’s and 80’s. A military team of five crack specialists is betrayed by their CIA handler, so they’re out for revenge. It doesn’t get more basic than that, and they find the means to deliver said vengeance when a femme fatale walks into their lives and provides them with intel and funding to get the job done. The rest is all testosterone pumping action with an interesting performance from “Lost Boys” alumni Jason Patric as Max, the CIA handler turned Evil Global Terrorist. The rest of the movie is standard paint by numbers action formula with too much flash editing and an entirely useless special F/X shot of the “doomsday” weapon in action.

3.5 out of 5

Evil Aliens

HOLY BLANKETY BLANKS!!! This British import film tears the familiar pages from a number of low budget gore-masters and develops an entirely unique brand of twisted wackiness in this slapstick horror comedy. This sick film is going to become a cult hit in short time, featuring alien probes, alien pregnancies, dismemberments, crucifixions, and buckets of gore dumped across the screen. It’s the kind of movie you watch with a group of friends and laugh until your sides are splitting. The vomit inducing gags are hilarious and cringe-worthy at the same time… look, you already get the gist of what I’m telling you here so you don’t need me to spell it out for you.

The host of a “Mystery”-type haunted tales hunting ghosts and monsters type of show gathers a skeleton crew in order to film a local woman deliver her sad tale of extraterrestrial pregnancy. No one who works on the show actually believes in “aliens” or any of that rubbish, save for the one fanatic brought in as a “specialist” on the subject. Very quickly, the cast and crew find themselves under siege alongside the pregnant woman and her three brothers. The aliens are sadistic monsters and the film crew really isn’t much better as the two forces slice, dice, chop, and surgically mutilate one another in a nasty bid for survival.

5 out of 5.

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