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
Spider-Man: Far From Home is a splendid coda to the Avengers
Save the world, save the girl?
Where do you go after Avengers: Endgame? The finale to an 11-year journey was always going to be a heavy exhale. But with much of the story finding conclusion, it was only natural that the next chapter would be something a little lighter, less fraught but still tense with importance. The question of responsibility and the burden of carrying it has been a fundamental principle of being a superhero in this universe, a burden that only continues in the final film of this phase. So where does the Marvel Cinematic Universe go after Endgame? Well, on holiday of course. Spider-Man: Far From Home is not only a splendid film but a nice coda to the biggest cinematic undertaking we’ve seen in recent history.
You can find Spider-Man: Far From Home nestled in the cinematic landscape somewhere between Iron Man 3 and National Lampoon’s Vacation. Peter Parker (Tom Holland, really solidifying himself as this generation’s best Spider-Man) is Clark Griswolding himself across Europe to chase the heart of MJ (Zendaya). As a bumbling 16-year-old who only wants to find the girl, his romance is cut a little short by the expected Marvel cinematic tomfoolery we’ve come to expect from our arachnid hero. Jake Gyllenhaal’s turn as Mysterio is a concerted effort; a cross between Tony Stark’s wise but too cool tutelage and Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin (take that how you will). As the carnage across Europe unfolds, the film becomes a well-balanced juxtapositioning of the kind of humor we’ve found appealing within in the MCU and action and adventure that doesn’t become overly burdensome or heavy. Far From Home keeps things light and breezy, but you never forget the stakes or think that this is just a tacked on fling after the events of Endgame.
The cast are well rounded and the addition of Marvel players we’ve come to love (Jon Favreau’s Happy Hogan, Spider-Man sidekick Ned, and both Nick Fury and Maria Hill) makes it hit with almost the same gravitas as the previous films. But more importantly, they never make the film feel like an overstuffed mess that plagued outings like Age of Ultron. The pace is engaging, and as the story unfolds amongst the smoke and mirrors, you can’t help but feel a kind of comic book happiness that you felt through Homecoming. It’s charming, it’s earnest, it’s funny, and at times, doesn’t take itself too seriously (Spider-Man video game in-joke included!). Plus it has those little moments that while may have been written for fans, will appeal to anyone who enjoys a good laugh, a touching moment, and good filmmaking. While the death of Tony Stark looms large within the narrative of the film, it doesn’t become baggage- but rather the catalyst for growth within Parker and helps propel the story to its conclusion.
However, one can’t help but feel that the continued presence of Tony Stark, and the reminder that he is gone, really does give this universe a sense of finality. If you stay for the end-credits (both scenes), you’ll know that Marvel has plans both big and small in the coming years. Far From Home is both the end and the beginning in a sense. It’s a nice coda to Endgame, and for some, probably a good place to step away from the past 11 years. Far From Home is also continued proof that heart and the desire to do good doesn’t always have to follow the same tired script. Save the world, lose the girl? Maybe not this time.
Spider-Man: Far From Home is in cinemas now.
SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME
Directed by: Jon Watts
Written by: Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna
Cast: Tom Holland, Zendaya, Jake Gyllenhaal, Samuel L. Jackson, Colbie Smulders, Marisa Tomei
Distributed by: Sony Pictures
Run time: 129 minutes
Film Review: Murder Mystery
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film.
Murder Mystery is the next film in the long line of terrible Adam Sandler films distributed by Netflix. At this point we’re not sure that Netflix actually watches these movies before they put them on their service but here we are. Murder Mystery, like many of the recent Sandler-helmed flicks, seem less like movies than they do lavish holidays that Adam Sandler and friends go on where filming of random skits tied together loosely by some semblance of narrative occurs. Much of the film is slapped together with the kind of duct-tape storytelling you’d find in all those mediocre SNL movies.
There is star quality though. Jennifer Aniston is back, after working alongside Sandler in 2011’s equally terrible Just Go With It, and they’ve roped in some pretty prominent names, including Luke Evans (Fast & Furious series, The Hobbit), Gemma Arterton, and a happily cashing in his check Terrence Stamp. What happens can be best described as stupid Cluedo, or more blatantly, a dumb Murder On the Orient Express where Sandler and Aniston’s characters, a bumbling New York cop and hair dresser, stumble upon a high-stakes inheritance-grab murder mystery where absurd things happen. It never makes much sense but the biggest problems with these movies are not so much the cartoony skits (Sandler’s cop is so bad at shooting his gun that when he does, it’s a cartoon-like hail of bullets missing their target), but just the insanely unbelievable characters that fill these movies. It’s OK to suspend belief, but at this point, you don’t believe for one second any of the characters would exist in real life or that any of them act like actual humans do. There is also no shortage of cartoon bozos: Fat New York cop sidekick? Check. Buffoony Inspector Clouseau French detective? Check. Overly Spanish Spanish guy? Check. Ali G Indian guy? Check. Even Gemma Arterton’s Jessica Rabbit-esque character would make Jessica Rabbit shake her head in disbelief. At least Rob Schneider isn’t in it.
Is it funny? No, but there are actually some moments worth a chuckle. And that’s already better than Sandler’s previous Netflix outings. Murder Mystery’s jokes are mostly at the expense of the exaggerated caricatures and Sandler’s goofy self, but for the most part, its pretty bereft of humor. To make matters worse, the film has that cheap Netflix sheen to it that makes it even more of a TV movie than it already is. In the end, the movie is such a blatant Murder on the Orient Express rip-off that the end scene literally shows the Orient Express train. Unironically too.
Netflix’s has a serious movie problem- one that we’ve talked about before. Murder Mystery, is no different. You can’t fault Sandler for continuing down this path. Same goes for Aniston. Both have more than established their craft over the years that at times, you can’t help but feel envious of the position they’re in. So what if they just want to put their feet up, cash in a nice pay check, and enjoy the nice sights? Who wouldn’t?
Murder Mystery is a pretty crap film, but it’s what happens when we’ve given this much clout to Netflix. Spielberg had a point when he said Netflix movies shouldn’t be competing for Oscars. It is not only because they eschew theatrical traditions, but it should also be because they’re crap. And not even in the Spielberg Artificial Intelligence sense of being an average movie- but in the Lifetime channel level of crap. So really, when you think about, Murder Mystery is all our fault.