Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Expendables 2 (R - 102 minutes)

I have a great deal of love for the larger than life action movies of the 80s and 90s.  The trend was a giant hero, maybe a sidekick or two, a vicious bad guy with some sort of personal connection to the good guy, a bar fight, and a huge climax with lots of 'spolsions.  The stars of these movies were big dudes, with believable fight skills and a dry sense of humor.  My absolute favorite of these is Showdown in Little Tokyo - starring Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee. 
Incidentally - the dude who cuts off his own finger in the trailer above is Simon Rhee, who went on to play the eye-patched Dae-Han in Best of the Best (my second favorite) which starred his brother Phillip Rhee as Tommy, Eric Roberts as Alex, Chris Penn, John Dye, Sally Kirkland, and James Earl Jones - who gives an amazing "I only have two rules..." speech.

When the late 90s rolled into the 2000s, the trend in action movies, led by the likes of the Bourne Identity in 2002, shifted to more 'everyman' style heroes with 'smarter', more intelligent stories with better actors. 
In 2010, Slyvester Stallone, who wrote and directed some of the biggest of those old fashioned action movies (Rocky, First Blood, etc.) decided he missed those old action movies, and his old action movie buddies.  Knowing that was where his career started, and knowing there was still an audience out there for that style of movie, he wrote The Expendables, and started calling his friends and former co-stars.  He put together an absolute blast of a throwback action movie that co-starred Dolph Lundgren (who worked with Stallone in Rocky 4), Jet Li (who had built up an impressive action career in China, and briefly worked with Randy Couture in Cradle 2 tha Grave), Jason Statham (who worked with Jet Li in The One and War), Eric Roberts (who worked with Stallone in The Specialist), Gary Daniels, Mickey Rourke (who worked with Stallone in Get Carter), WWE star 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin, former NFL player Terry Crews, and MMA legend Randy Couture (another aside - whenever any star of the movie was asked the inevitable "who would win in a fight out of all of you?" question, each star always answered Couture, except Couture, who would usually shrug - probably because he knew he would win).  It also featured a scene with Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the three action star friends who had co-founded Planet Hollywood together, but had never appeared on screen together.
Before they finished filming the first one - they started talking sequel.  Essentially the movie was a love letter to all the fans of the big time action movies - and it performed well, and was absolutely a great movie with lots of little tongue-in-cheek humor and great 'spolsions.  No barfight though, I did miss that part.  That brings us up to date, and to the Expendables 2.
This one brings back all of the cast from the first one - except the bad guys who got killed, and Rourke, who had a filming conflict.  Added to the mix this time are Jean-Claude Van Damme (who worked with Lundgren in Universal Soldier, and who turned down Stallone to appear in the first one - Stallone called him to tell him he made a mistake after the first one premiered - Van Damme agreed and jumped at the chance to be in the sequel), Liam Hemsworth (ummm...what?), Scott Adkins (who has worked with Van Damme 4 times), Nan Yu (a big star in China), and Chuck Norris (who destroyed the periodic table, because the only element he recognizes is the element of surprise!  That's my favorite, you can insert your favorite Chuck Norris fact here.)  Willis and Schwarzenegger are both back with bigger parts. 
In terms of plot - yes, there is one, but you can probably guess it.  Stallone again plays Barney Ross, leader of his merry band of mercenaries, the Expendables, who all return, with the addition of a sniper, Hemsworth's character.  The movie opens with them on a mission to rescue a hostage, who Schwarzenegger's Trent character is already trying to rescue.  They complete the mission, only to come back home and encounter Willis's CIA agent who has another mission for them - or else.  They take it - it goes wrong, and Van Damme's bad guy, named Jean Vilian (get it?) takes what they were sent after and does something that makes them all angry.  I won't spoil it for you, but it involves him killing someone.  They set out for revenge...as Stallone puts it, "track 'em, find 'em, kill 'em."  'Spolsions, amazing action sequences, and one liners ensue. 
And oh, the one liners!  There are many of them in this movie, many more than in the first - and as often as I wanted to roll my eyes at them - honestly, I loved every single one!  The best is the scene with Willis and Schwarzenegger, where they end up in the Smart Car.  Outstanding.
Castwise, what can you say?  Everyone is great:
  • Slyvester Stallone wrote and produced this one, but left the directing to Simon West, who has done tons of action movies (Con Air, The General's Daughter, Tomb Raider, The Mechanic).  He does a great job here, and Stallone has said that he felt much more relaxed on this one, not having to direct as well as act.  He looks old and tough, and works that aged determinedness into Ross.
  • Statham is fantastic fun with Charisma Carpenter returning as his girlfriend.  Statham's character is the knife expert of the group, and he brings more of his tough cockney swagger.
  • Dolph Lundgren returns as Gunnar, the mad Swede, and gets a little more to do this time around.  They even mix in some of his own personal backstory - chemical engineering degree from MIT and a Fullbright scholar.  He also gets more charming interaction with Jet Li.
  • Jet Li's role is reduced a bit in this one, I am wondering if he was tied up in something else.  His character, YinYang, was super fun in the first one and has a few fun scenes in this one too - battling bad guys with a frying pan.
  • Terry Crews again brings humor to his Hale Ceaser, needed while the other guys get serious. 
  • Randy Couture, who stole a scene in the first movie while discussing his ear, again plays the zen member of the group, Toll Road.  He seems very natural and fits in great with these guys.
  • Nan Yu plays the female adventurer in the crew - she's done many movies in China, and I would assume she has some fighting skill, but unfortunately, she does not get much of a chance to show it off.
  • Chuck Norris shows up briefly to shoot some things, and pretty much plays Chuck Norris - incidentally, he's the oldest of the cast members at 72, if you can believe that. 
  • Bruce Willis and Arnold also pretty much play themselves, and also get to argue and shoot some guys.  They look like they are having an amazing time.
  • Jean-Claude Van Damme is really good as the bad guy.  Although he did play the villian several times early in his career, I don't remember it, unless you count the one twin in Double Impact, who ended up being good anyway.  He should do it more often, because he's great at it.  He chews the scenery a bit - but it works in this!
The best part about the cast is that it makes me ponder who I want in the next one.  Steven Seagal is a must, Wesley Snipes would be good, Danny Trejo is another one, Nicholas Cage is already signed, Michael Jai White, Tiny Lister maybe?  All I know is that I can't wait!
So go see it - it reminds me of all those classic action movies, and it's as good as the first, but with a much higher cheese level!
9 out of 10:  Lost points for having a female character this time, but still not really giving her anything to do, well, a little - but I'm still looking for the third one to have Cynthia Rothrock level badassness from a chick.  Gained points for the one-liners:  cheesy and awesome.  Lost points for any close up of Couture showing that ear...just keep it out of camera.  Gained points for Van Damme, he was always one of my favorites (If you haven't seen JCVD - netflix it now)!
Bonus Video 1:  More of my favorites:  Universal Solider - by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin, before they did Stargate and Independence Day.  Dolph and Jean-Claude, also featuring Simon Rhee again!
Bonus Video 2:  The One - Jet Li and Jason Statham - in which Jet Li travels throughout the multiverse killing other Jet Lis to become the One Jet Li, which will make him stronger.  Statham plays a cop partnered with Delroy Lindo trying to stop him.
Bonus Video 3:  The Running Man - Arnold is wrongfully accused of a crime and competes on a game show featuring convicts fighting various trained killers to escape - featuring Yaphet Kotto and Jesse Ventura (who should also be in Expendables 3).  Not my favorite Arnold movie - that would be Predator, which had been the greatest collection of testosterone filled dudes until the first Expendables came out - Carl Weathers should also be in Expendables 3.

Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!

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