The Expendables 2

I’m cramming films in while my Cineworld card is still valid. Despite thinking the first one was a bit poo, I decided that as long as it wasn’t costing me anything I’d check out:

The Expendables 2

“Who next? Rambo?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: A recovery mission goes slightly bat-**** so the gang head out on a somewhat over-the-top revenge mission

See it if you like: watching things go “boom”. And “splat”. And “ak-ak-ak-ak-ak-ak”.

I didn’t enjoy the first Expendables film. I don’t know why, but I think it was because – after it got over the ridiculous cast – it became just another action film with a poor story, worse acting and nothing to hold the interest.

This, however… this is different. This is brilliant.

Importantly, it doesn’t take itself seriously. In fact, it goes right to the end of the scale marked as “self-deprecation”, more commonly known as “taking the piss out of oneself”. There are so many bits of bad dialogue that would have been right at home in an Eighties action film that they simply must have been put there for that reason. References are made left, right and centre to well known films and characters. Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis play Musical Catchphrases, using each other’s best known lines with wild abandon.

The opening sequence is bigger, louder and bloodier than most other action films can ever dream of having for a finale.

This really is a film you can’t afford to take seriously. The bad guys can’t shoot for toffee and despite loosing off enough bits of hot lead to sink an island nation, pretty much always fail to hit anything other than blank concrete and glass. Apparently firing a machine gun through a glass window will cause it to shatter but won’t pepper the enemies on the other side with bullets. Firing at soldiers from elevation with ridiculously powerful weapons will not cause the deaths of any innocents stood nearby. Ever.

Importantly, though… who fracking cares?

With a cast this size (and I mean that in all respects – they must have stolen the entire 1980’s Russian Women’s Olympic shot-put team’s steroid supply), it would be easy to expect most of them to be there just to make up the numbers. But with enough in-jokes about the actors themselves, quirks, piss-takes, banter and overblown action scenes that simply doesn’t happen. They even manage to shoe-horn a girl into the group this time out. Avoiding the obvious casting of Michelle Yeoh (surely the most well-known female Asian action star in the West?), they’ve gone for Nan Yu who I honestly haven’t heard of before. She’s good, though, and kicks as much ass as any of the inflated male cast.

This is, quite simply, a must-see. At one point, several members of the (small) audience cheered out loud. And I didn’t care. I was so wrapped up and giggling that it just seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

If you even remotely like action films, you’ll enjoy this. If you’ve seen the “classics” from days gone by then you will enjoy it all the more for the cast and references. Far, far better than it has any right to be – and the first film in a long time I’ve considered going to see for a second time. That alone makes it highly recommended.

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By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsMore kid-friendly cinema. You can tell it’s the school holidays, can’t you?


Plot-in-a-nutshell: nice-guy zookeeper chases the girl of his dreams with advice from talking animals

See it if you like: rom-coms for kids. Yes, I know. Bit of a stretch, really.

Zookeeper has a bit of an identity conflict. In part it’s a kids’ film with talking animals. In part, it’s a romantic comedy with a plot you’ve seen umpteen times before. Both sides are fairly well done, though the animals aren’t “cartoony” enough to really grasp kids and only the small monkey really raised laughs.

Kevin James plays Griffin, the titular character, as he chases the affections of his ex Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). At an engagement party he suddenly finds out that the animals in his charge can talk and they decide to help him out. Of course. These characters include a lion and lioness (voiced by Sylvester Stallone and Cher respectively), a monkey voiced by Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte as a gorilla… Frankly, the voice cast for the animals is by far more star-laden than the regular cast.

It’s not really a bad film or story, it’s just that you feel you’re watching two different ones that have been haphazardly spliced together. There’s something about it that just doesn’t gel.

The talking animals really won’t appeal to adults. The romantic comedy aspect won’t really appeal to kids. As a result, it really doesn’t satisfy either of its target audiences which is a shame.

Zookeeper isn’t a bad film, it’s just two half0decent ones clagged together with split and chewing gum with the gaps between them clearly visible.

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Expendable Salt

The Expendables (2010 film)
The Expendables

A quick two-review post (sorry, buried in other work) on the day I renewed my Cineworld pass again. Damn, I was trying to resist. But there are too many good films coming out. I’ve found one flaw with the Edinburgh cinema, though – it is on a leisure park with a paid car park and the validation at the cinema only allows up to 4 hours of free parking. No good for a full day at the cinema! In fact, not long enough for two films back to back without running out, circling theblock in the car and going back in!


Alright, first up was Salt, the new Angelina Joli film that I believe – like a huge number of films out these days – is based on a comic.

Good action sequences, Joli is very good at them (no surprise after her turns in the Tomb Raider movies and, more recently, Wanted), and a very predictable plot. If anyone who sees this film doesn’t spot the ending a mile away then they seriously need to start thinking about going back to school.

Enjoyable, but ultimately unfulfilling. If it hadn’t been trying to be a thriller I’d have been more forgiving, but it needs more of a plot to reach that level.

The Expendables

And onto a film that’s been followed by the press since its very inception was announced. Featuring not just director/writer Sylvester Stallone, but also Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis this is the first film to actually star all three. Only it doesn’t really. Arnie and Bruce have nothing more than overlong cameos.

Instead, main roles are taken by Jet Li, Jason Statham and Dolph Lundgren with an aging Mickey Rourke playing the cool older guy. Certainly no lack of muscle talent, then. The plot certainly has a lot less meat on it, but who cares?

The film really does hark back to the action films of the 80’s with a thin story, beefy lead (well, about 3/4 of a tonne of them) and sequence after sequence of mental action. The explosions are simply huge and the action segments ridiculously overblown to the point of utter incredulity… but it’s fun. Not as much fun as The A-Team was (it lacks the humour), but fun nonetheless.

Must be seen on the big screen with a cracking sound system and thumping bass.

Told you they’d be short reviews. OK, back to the lesson planning.

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Rambo 4

Rambo 4
Rambo 4

Rambo 4 is written and directed by Stallone, who’s wringing the last drops of headband sweat out of the second of his major franchises. After the sob story that was Rocky Balboa, he’s followed it with the imaginatively-named John Rambo. Rambo’s back and he’s still not a fan of being pushed. Not by inbred sheriffs, not by the Commies, and this time not by Burmese drug-manufacturing, Christian-kidnapping, young boy-buggering dictators.

The plot’s thinner and more see-through than a separated sheet of toilet paper that’s been dipped in water. Stallone’s performance is really pushing “special needs” and his diction’s just gone completely. I’m surprised it doesn’t include subtitles.

However, the action sequences (about half the film’s length) are about the goriest battle scenes I’ve seen since Saving Private Ryan. Obviously, as this film’s not “educational” or “historic” it gets a higher rating. And a jail term of 5 years for watching it, if you’re a citizen of Myanmar. I mean, it’s a bad film but it’s hardly criminal.

The stereotypes are all there. Thai people who play with snakes. Nice village people who run around and die. Bad soldiers who kill people for ***** and giggles. An evil warlord who never fires a shot, but wears sunglasses and smokes a cigarette as he watches his minions do all the work for him.

Oh, and just for good measure we have a scene which implies he shags teenage boys up the bumhole. In case he’s not evil enough for committing genocide.

The climactic scene where Rambo kills him is about the cheesiest thing I’ve seen on a video screen. Seriously, it could have been filmed in Glorious Gorgonzola-vision. Wallace and Gromit would be drooling over it. It’s so gut-wrenchingly awful that it’s as if I’d stepped through a dimensional warp and I was watching a parody of the self-same film I was currently viewing. In fact, it’s so bad that Weird Al’s Rambo piss-take scene from UHF is completely bland in comparison.

But somehow, I don’t know how, I watched the whole thing. Time passed. I stayed awake (it was late and I was tired) and I got to the end thinking “I could watch that again” though preferably with Dolby Surround and a bigger screen than my laptop. It’s just so bad it’s in the “few beers and some crisps” pile for another time.

Although what, I think, edged it was watching it in Myanmar. Where it’s banned. And yet everyone I’ve talked to has seen it.

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