The title of this article is both a factual and erroneous statement. Movie scholars will immediately come to the conclusion that Sylvester Stallone’s ode to the explosive 80s is indeed a few levels below Citizen Kane. Nonetheless, given the current cultural landscape we find our Hollywood in, The Expendables is indeed, the “greatest movie ever made.” Give me a few paragraphs and I am fairly convinced that I can at least get you to meet me halfway.
The cast is superb, to say the very least- an almost complete list of hugely muscled action heroes of past and present headlined by Sly, Jason Statham and Jet Li blow things up alongside Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Steve Austin and Dolph Lundgren while Mickey Rourke and Bruce Willis provide contextual backdrops to why these men exist. There is of course, a superbly cheesy cameo from Arnold Schwarzenegger to boot. The cast alone is enough reason why every man should indulge in this piece of celluloid history. With more testosterone on show than all the Wrestlemanias combined, Stallone’s ham fisted directing and sometimes terrible writing places these mercenary men in the middle of every 80s action flick plotline weaving together South American generals, exotic islands, Princesses, Eric Roberts, drugs, and lots and lots of explosions. Think of it as the very best amalgamation of the following movies: Rambo, Delta Force (all of them), Commando, Bloodsport, Die Hard, Deathwish, Raw Deal and of course, the predecessor of them all, The Dirty Dozen.
It has been some time since Stallone last delved into the psyche of a brutish man (Rocky), and in The Expendables, amongst the ruin and rubble left behind by the countless objects and human body parts exploding, it is Mickey Rourke who provides a brief moment of analysis- and thankfully, it is only momentary (he even briefly, sheds a tear). The rest of the film is about punching the audience in the face as hard as humanly possible. It is a beautiful sight.
So here comes my argument then, on why The Expendables is the “Greatest Movie Ever Made”, a bullish one, but one with (hopeful) sincerity nonetheless.
We find ourselves in the era of the politically correct safe bet. Capitulated by countless franchise sequels, recognized adaptations of popular novellas, graphic novels and humanizing animations of household pets and toys. We are in the era where boy wizards and effete vampires are the best way a movie studio makes money and in a sense, The Expendables is a safe bet on its own. Stallone collected the biggest names he could find for the project (Jean Claude Van Damme apparently, turned down a role in the movie and we are not sure whether Steven Seagal is still alive and whether or not Chuck Norris is now too much of an internet demigod to do movies) in order for it to have maximum impact with press and media.
Yet the movie’s biggest difference in comparison to Box Office go-getters is its breaking of cinematic social norms, and with it, the political correctness a movie abides by in order to elicit an overwhelming acceptable response. We have in recent years seen organizations speak critically of popular films. Sasha Baron Cohen’s Bruno received a great deal of negativity from GLAAD for its negative stereotypical portrayals of the Gay and Lesbian community and countless lawsuits from people duped during the filming (although in reality, it should have just been criticized for being a crappy movie). We’ve seen films like Passion of the Christ, United 93, Fahrenheit 9/11 cause uproar- and in today’s touchy political climate, it is with good reason. So comes The Expendables, devoid of any political correctness, the movie rampages through 100+ minutes with the subtlety of a hurricane, highlighted by a scene where Steve Austin (perhaps, almost hilariously parallel to that of his real life) punches a woman in the face (met with audible gasps in the cinema), exotic South American locales (vaguely named Vilema) complete with tyrannical General despot and goofy Caucasian mastermind, and of course, having Jet Li’s persona in the film named, I kid you not, Yin Yang. But it is this bravado that makes it great- uncaring of backlash and accepted norms, instead, grabbing the bullhorn and proclaiming loudly, what I’m sure a lot of us feel.
This brings us to the second argument, and that of the long gone aura of male machismo. The 1980s were a golden time for a being a man in Hollywood- an era where the biggest movies were as polite as a brick to the head- and so it is only fitting that one of the biggest bricks of that generation is bringing it back today. It is just not socially acceptable in today’s world to punch a girl in the face, and let’s be honest and say that Michael Cera (and all the characters he will ever play), will never do such thing. I am convinced however, that this desire to bring back the manly man is not an isolated occurrence.
We have seen a resurgence of such- albeit in the form of successful advertising- in both the Old Spice Man and the Dos Equis Man. Embracing all that is man, they are all a far cry from the hyper-sensitive, androgynous flavouring that has become the norm in music, television and film; an understandable by-product of a changing society moving away from so-called archaic ideas. The Expendables however, is like one long Dos Equis/Old Spice ad spliced together with Mad Men scenes where Don Draper is boozing and womanizing with great aplomb soundtracked by Thin Lizzy’s fitting anthem “The Boys Are Back in Town”. With guns of course.
The female counterparts in the film? Well, they rest somewhere between unapologetic eye-candy, the strong but still needs the help of a man woman (portrayed by Brazilian actress Giselle Itié), and the damsel in distress (Buffy’s Charisma Carpenter whose defining scene comes after she’s been beaten by a man and watches as Statham’s character single-handedly disposes of these brutes with violent disposition). But that is the point isn’t it?
It is the summation of all these things that make The Expendables so great. It is a cinematic homage to an era seemingly forgotten, crafted with as much brute force as a cinema will hold, all against the grain of what is now deemed right and wrong. For that bravery, there surely must be some medal awarded to someone. It is time for men to be men again. And in all its glorious machismo, Stallone reminds us that it is not okay for a man to weep openly, to wear make up or constricting pants, to not be able to chop down a tree or break the face of an evil despot’s henchmen, to be a wimpy girly man or Adam Lambert. But most of all, The Expendables believes that perhaps the manliest thing you could ever do (besides watching this movie instead of Eat, Pray, Love), is to someday fly a plane while drinking a beer and smoking a cigar.
BE A MAN!
Directed by: Sylvester Stallone
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Bruce Willis, Charisma Carpenter, Mickey Rourke
Released by: Millennium Films
Film Review: It Chapter Two
The sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans
The final installment in the It saga is a clever, scary, probably-too-long allegory about the power of friendship — complete with a 20-foot clown spider. Sure, it’s probably a half-hour longer than it really needs to be — but It Chapter Two is still a fantastic film that hits the sweet spot between Stephen King fans, horror fans and (believe it or not) comedy fans.
It’s a story about friendship, and just like the first film, it’s those relationships that make this story so compelling and keep it woven together in a way that you really care about what’s happening to all the folks Pennywise has been menacing across these two films. Sure, Bill Skarsgård’s absolutely terrifying performance as Pennywise is what puts butts in the seats, but at its heart, this is a story about the power of friendship to win out over pretty much anything. If we work together, we can overcome fear, loneliness, doubt, depression — and yeah — even a supernaturally godlike killer clown. Thankfully, all the blood keeps that message from getting too sappy along the way.
The first It in 2017 was a surprise, monster hit — but for good reason. The Stephen King adaptation by director Andy Muschietti is pretty much a horror masterpiece wrapped in a compelling coming of age story. Think Goonies meets a face-eating monster flick with jump scares galore to keep the blood pumping. But, despite a decently-closed ending to the first chapter, the story was always conceived as a two-part film run, which is pretty much the only way one could hope to possibly wrap up King’s massive tome (the studio actually briefly considered splitting Chapter Two into two films, because there’s just so much material).
It Chapter Two makes a wise decision to keep the stellar younger cast from the first film involved via ample flashbacks, while still providing space for the adult Losers to live and breathe (and, ahem, die) while bridging the gap between who they were and who they all grew up to be. It also embraces the inherent silliness and insanity of its premise to laugh, now seen through the lens of middle-aged adults as opposed to middle school minds. It’s a hard tone to hit, and it arguably might come off with more laughs than scares, but it’s true to the inherent madness of Pennywise.
The adult cast is also a home run by and large. James McAvoy makes for a capable adult Bill; Jessica Chastain is the embodiment of adult Bev; James Ransome nails grown-up Eddie; and Isaiah Mustafa does a capable job providing the necessary info-dumps as adult Mike. But the real breakout is Saturday Night Live alum Bill Hader as grown-up Richie. There’s scattered buzz that Hader could be worthy of an Oscar nomination for his performance, and he deserves every bit of it. We knew Hader had comedy chops, and he uses them plenty to keep this dark tale from getting too dark, but he really taps into the emotion of what it’d be like to go through something so traumatizing. And the moments that break Richie will almost certainly break you, too.
As for the changes to King’s original novel, sure, they’ll certainly be noticeable for fans. That said, the book itself — especially the ending — is absolutely wild and arguably impossible to adapt in a way that could work on the screen. The ending on-screen largely stays true to King’s themes built into the novel, and for the story that’s been told across these two films, it really does work. Hell, even King himself shows up in a cameo to make a joke about just how hard it can be to get an ending right.
Thankfully, despite a few bumps, It Chapter Two pretty much nails the landing. In a world filled more and more with King adaptations, this two-film run will stand as one of the best.
It Chapter Two is in cinemas now
IT CHAPTER TWO
Directed by: Andy Muschietti
Written by: Gary Dauberman
Cast: James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Bill Skarsgård
Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures
Run time: 169 minutes
Film Review: Hobbs & Shaw
If you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion
It is hard to believe that 2001’s The Fast & The Furious was just a film about the underground culture of street racing. Fast forward nearly 20 years later and the films have gotten so ridiculous that the only logical next step for the film series is to blast it into space. Our endless appetite for the series has seen us grown accustomed to cars taking planes out of the sky (Fast 6), cars jumping from one building to another (Fast 7), and cars being remotely controlled to act like a pack of mechanical wild dogs (Fast 8). Ridiculous is not a barrier the film series will ever brake for and so it brings us to this, the biggest spin-off the series has seen, Hobbs & Shaw.
When the chemistry between The Rock and Jason Statham proved magic in Fast 8, it only took The Rock butting heads with Vin Diesel to see that logically, the series needed a freshness to it. Who better than Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham? Well, as Hobbs & Shaw proves, if you’ve already got the volume at 11, you might as well blast it to oblivion as the film cares not for subtlety, pouring gasoline on the fire. The film sees the addition of Idris Elba as supervillain Brixton Lore and the effervescent Vanessa Kirby as Hattie Shaw, the sister of Statham’s character. Both characters fit in superbly well to the colorful, over-the-top personas of the series, but with one difference; they haven’t worn thin yet and are extremely likable. The film benefits greatly from the absence of Vin Diesel’s dopey head and the majority of the dopey Fast “family”, instead taking the Fast and Furious formula and giving it a spit shine, turning it sideways, and sticking it right up… well, you know the drill.
Hobbs (Johnson) and Shaw (Statham) play the unlikeliest (but most charismatic) buddy cop twosome since the days of Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte. Unexpectedly, this film is really quite hilarious- with the two swapping one-liners and jibes that keeps the film light and funny. The two are tasked with stopping global genocide at the hands of the megalomaniacal terrorist organization known as Etheon. The “face” of Etheon is superhuman Brixton Lore (Elba), an agent left for dead and turned into a weaponized cyborg-esque villain using genetic engineering. He’s the “black Superman” as he says, and he’s got an array of tech and gadgets (including a transforming, autonomous motorbike that would have found itself at home in a Transformers movie) that are part of Etheon’s plan to rid the world of the “weak”.
Etheon are after a deadly virus that is in possession of Hattie Shaw and what ensues is the expected cinematic equivalent of flexing your muscles and undoing the top few buttons of your blouse soundtracked to explosions, fast machines, and zippy dialogue. Director David Leitch (Atomic Blonde, Deadpool 2) keeps things by the book, and visually it’s all very on brand with the film series. But it is the chemistry and likability of the stars- namely Kirby, Statham, and Johnson- that keeps Hobbs & Shaw light on its feet, big with its set pieces, and never a chore. Kirby, in particular, has shown that her action chops are as deadly as her acting chops (is it too late to make her Black Widow? Or maybe just put her in all the action films). She never spends the film waiting to be rescued and is often the one quelling the childish, but hilarious quarrelling between Statham and Johnson.
The film trades the tired Fast family for real blood family, and while we still get the whole “family” and “heart” spiel that Vin Diesel loves to harp on about in these films, there is definitely a welcome change to the last few films. In fact, the Fast films haven’t been this fun in a long time. Unlike the last few, Hobbs & Shaw knows that the stakes of the film are global, but never does it take that too seriously and we the audience never feel too burdened by the ridiculousness of it all. There are some great cameos (two unexpected stars pop up that add the right comedic touches, plus Helen Mirren is always brilliant) and while the changing of scenery to Samoa is reminiscent of the previous Fast family vacations to South America et al, there’s something spiritual about this trip.
In the end, you don’t even have to turn your brain off because the film is soaked in charm and lightness that makes for a fun, smart enough romp that keeps its two-plus hour run time feeling like quite a breeze. Hobbs & Shaw is what this film series desperately needed. And while we can’t say the appeal will still be there when we’re inevitably sitting through Hobbs & Shaw 2, 3, 4, 5… we can say that for now, we’ll live this life one spin-off at a time.
HOBBS & SHAW
Directed by: David Leitch
Written by: Chris Morgan, Drew Pearce
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Vanessa Kirby, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Run time: 135 minutes