The Expendables 3: Antonio Banderas Saves Saggy Middle (Review/Trailer)

The Expendables 3: Antonio Banderas Saves Saggy Middle (Review/Trailer)

The Expendables 3 feels a little flat without Bruce Willis as Church and the middle is a bit saggy, perhaps as much as Kelsey Grammer’s middle but Antonio Banderas saves the entire film as the best action-man/comic relief imaginable. It never helps a film when an actor who was in the first two installments of a franchise leaves suddenly with a good portion of bad publicity. Willis was fired from the third segment of this popular escapist action “series” amid producer Sylvester Stallone’s Twitter tirade where he accused Bruce of being greedy and lazy.

Expendables 3 Willis Out Ford In Stallone Not Happy

Expendables 3 Willis Out Ford In Stallone Not Happy

The Expendables 2 (2012): Twice the Fun

For pure escapism and a plot that has more holes in it than a hunk of Swiss cheese, you cannot beat The Expendables 2. But damn it, it’s  entertaining and fun and who can complain about that?

Is it realistic? Hell no, no more than The Guns of Navarone or The Wild Geese was.

Are they similar? You bet.

All three films feature heroes past their prime facing outlandish, impossible odds…and winning. Sure the big bad has changed. In Navarone it was the Nazi’s and in Geese it was an African government; in each case though the bad guys were bad.

To the bone.

So are the bad guys in both The Expendables and The Expendables 2. The first film featured a villainous Eric Roberts and the second one featured Jean-Claude Van Damme as an egotistical greedy and downright nasty villain. Both men had an equally nasty cohort and a plethora of arms toting men.

Van Damme as the Vilain…

But despite the similarity in plot and the difference in directors – Sly directed the first one and Simon West directed # 2 – the film covers familiar territory and features almost all of the guys from the first film.

Conspicuous in his absence is Mickey Rourke (who says he only did the first film as a favour to Stallone anyway) and Jet Li is missing for 99% of the film – a massive disappointment as I adore Li – and Charisma Carpenter has an even smaller cameo than in the first film, but none of these things take away from the enjoyment of the actual film.

Instead we have both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in bigger cameo roles and they both get to shoot copious amounts of ammunition and kill absolute legions of baddies. Chuck Norris shows up for the party and it just doesn’t get any better than that.

I could almost forgive Chuck for endorsing Mitt Romney (almost but not quite) and it would have been nice to see more Jet Li, but hey; we got Nan Yu to represent the Asian member of the team and a “new” member in Liam Hemsworth as the ultimate eagle-eyed sniper “Billy the kid.”

Now for the plot, did I say, plot? Do you really care? Of course you do, no matter how ropey and loose it is, plot is important. But before we go there let’s talk about the opening of the movie.

New temporary Expendable member Maggie.

Expendables 2 opens just like Expendables did, with a hostage being rescued by the guys. Everyone infiltrates a terrorist hideout that is heavily armed and looks to be pretty impregnable. Except that these are the Expendables and they can go anywhere they like.

This time the hostage is a Chinese fellow who was supposed to be protected by Trench (Schwarzenegger) who is also a hostage. Just like the first film, our heroes kill all the bad guys and release Trench and they take the Chinese chap back home. Mid-air they put Yin Yang (Li) in charge of him; he attaches the man to himself and his parachute and they leap out of the plane. Li says that he may or may not return.

Once they get home and are celebrating in their old watering hole, Billy (Hemsworth) tells boss man Barney Ross (Stallone) that at the end of the month, he is quitting and going back to his French girlfriend. Barney leaves and heads back to his plane where he finds Church (Willis) who tells him that he has not forgiven him for stealing 5 million dollars from his organization and that Barney owes him one last mission.

Barney also finds out that he has to take a woman on board for this mission, Maggie (Yu) and over his objections that is just what he does. Their mission is to retrieve a valuable object from a plane that has been shot down in hostile territory. They accomplish this but get the object stolen by Vilain (Van Damme) – villain get it – but the bad obvious joke aside, Vilain is not a joke and he kills one of the Expendables to prove a point.

With the smell of revenge thick in their nostrils the guys and Maggie go to take down Vilain.

There are enough bullets shot and cartridges expended that the lead and brass companies could retire from the weapon’s business. There is enough blood spilt to sink the Titanic and while the violence is slightly over the top (a sniper bullet can take a man’s head right off) it is not in your face; hence the rating of 15.

With everyone making fun of their own acting careers (with the possible exception of Chuck Norris because really it is hard to tell with him) the chuckles keep coming. The cast do their usual good job in their interaction with one another and the “new girl” Maggie.

For the record the “guys” are: Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, Terry Crews and Randy Couture. I just thought I’d mention it, you know, in case you forgot.

Bruce and Arnie, car-pooling.

The film is a great big bundle of action-man (and action-woman) fun. The nods and the winks keep coming and the action is practically non-stop. Even though the aim of the film was to do a pastiche of the 80’s action films that made all the big names in the film famous, Sly and director Simon West have gone back even further.

Years ago, when silent films were all the newest rage, there was a cowboy star who would kiss his horse rather than kiss his leading lady (nothing strange, trust me) and Stallone does something similar at the end of The Expendable 2. Well in spirit at least.

It is not often these days that a sequel is just as good as, or better than, the original but that is this case here. Maybe the secret is in not having a too cohesive plot or not caring too much about plot; either way it works and it is pure entertainment.

Just don’t take the film seriously and you will love it.

The “Lone Wolf” aka Chuck Norris. Seriously though, how old is this guy?

Jackie Chan is NOT retiring from Action Films

Chan in his Hollywood breakthrough film Rumble...
Chan in his Hollywood breakthrough film Rumble in the Bronx. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A month ago it was reported that Jackie Chan, while at the Cannes Film Festival promoting his latest film Chinese Zodiac,  made a public announcement that he would no longer be doing action films.

His fans were shocked, saddened and (let’s face it) heartbroken. No more awesome to the extreme Jackie Chan stunts? No more brilliantly choreographed fight scenes? No chance for a Jet Li Jackie Chan film again…ever??

Nope.

Not true.

False.

Almost as famous as Jackie’s stunt work is his ‘non-command’ of the English language. Over the years we have seen, in just the out-takes of his films, the problem he has with English. It is often hilarious, or at least it seems so when we see Jackie ‘creasing up’ at his verbal faux pa’s.

Jackie Chan began his film career as a stuntma...
Jackie Chan began his film career as a stuntman in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury (1972) and Enter the Dragon (1973, pictured). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Jackie realised what the world thought he said, he immediately posted on his facebook page what he had really meant:

“Hello all my friends and fans,

Yesterday in my press conference in Cannes for Chinese 12 Zodiac I said that this movie was my last big action movie.

Today I was shocked when I woke up to read all the news coverage that I was retiring from doing Action movies.

I just want to let everyone know that I am not retiring from doing action movies. What I meant to say is that I need to do less of the life risking stunts on my movies. After all these years of doing so many stunts and breaking so many bones, I need to take better care of my body so I can keep working.

I will continue to do international action movies.

And I will keep improving my English :-)

English: Jackie Chan star in Hollywood Walk of...

A special thanks to Nerdjunkies.com for initially breaking the news of Jackies ‘retirement‘ from action films and then updating the status to fans of Jackie. For the original feature go to http://nerdjunkies.com/2012/05/jackie-chan-is-retiring-from-action-movies/#.T-Gx6xfY-So and they have included some of their fave footage of Jackie.

To say I am relieved is the understatement of the century. I have been a fan of Jackie’s for years. I think that his stunt-work and his fight choreography are in a category so far above the standard that there should be a category of film awards called: The Jackie Chan Award for Stunt Choreography.

Just my own humble opinion, but…

The Forbidden Kingdom (2008): Jackie Chan & Jet Li Wow

Cover of "The Forbidden Kingdom"
Cover of The Forbidden Kingdom

Directed by Rob Minkoff (The Lion King, Stuart Little 1 & 2) and written by John Fusco (Hidalgo, Young Guns 1 & 2), The Forbidden Kingdom has scored a couple of ‘firsts.’

It is the first time in cinema history that a western film company was allowed to film in China and  use the Hengdian World Studios, Heng Dian, China, although The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor was allowed to use the facilities in the same year. The second ‘first’ is of course the pairing of Jackie Chan and Jet Li .

The films main protagonist is Michael Angarano as Jason Tripitikas, a young American teenager who is obsessed with martial arts films and kung-fu. Angarano has been working in the business since he was small child and he has a list of credits as long as your arm, He is perhaps best known for his work on 24 and Sky High.

The film also introduces to western audiences two actresses who are well known in China, Yifei Liu as Golden Sparrow and Bingbing Li as Ni Chang the white haired witch.  Bingbing Li will be seen as Ada Wong in Resident Evil: Retribution later this year.

The film’s plot in a nutshell is this:

An American teenage boy goes to his favourite pawnshop to look for little known original kung-fu films. The shop owner Hop (Jackie Chan) likes the boy Jason and helps him to find films. While he’s in the shop, Jason discovers a golden Staff that he thinks he recognises and Hop explains the it has been in the shop since his father ran it.

Later Jason has a run in with a local gang who make him go to the shop in order to rob Hop. Hop tries to defend his shop and the golden staff. The gang leader shoots Hop who gives the staff to Jason and tells him to run. Jason runs to the top of a building and falls off of it. He hits the ground and loses conciousness.

When he wakes up, a Chinese lady is speaking to him and he appears to be in Feudal China. Since he doesn’t understand anything anyone is saying he starts wandering through the small village. A horde of soldiers arrive on horseback and start rounding up villagers and killing them.

Jason runs and encounters Lu Yan (Jackie Chan) who saves Jason from the soldiers. Lu Yan is talking to Jason, who keeps saying that he can’t understand him. Lu Yan states it is because he is speaking English. The moment Lu Yan says this Jason can understand what he is saying as magically everyone in the film starts speaking English.

English: Michael Angarano professional headshot.

Thus begins the journey that Jason must take in order to find the staff’s owner and return to his home. Along the way Jason and Lu Yan meet and start travelling with Golden Sparrow (Yifei Liu) and The Silent Monk (Jet Li). Jason learns that Lu Yan is an ‘immortal’ (he isn’t) and that Golden Sparrow is seeking revenge for the murder of her family by the Jade Warlord (Collin Chou).

Jason also finds out who the owner of the golden staff is, The Monkey King (Jet Li) who was tricked by the Jade Warlord long ago and turned into a living statue. The Monkey King is a true immortal and can only be released from his bondage by the return of the golden staff.

The Jade Warlord knows that the staff has been found and he sends Ni Chang (Bingbing Li) to stop the small group and get the staff.

This is an absolutely brilliant film.

The scene where Jet Li and Jackie Chan fight is absolute magic. Their separate styles are shown to great advantage. Li stoic and silent. Chan athletic and amusing. They are equally matched in the film. Li’s Silent Monk and Chan’s Drunken Master  each change their martial arts style to match the other’s.  Easily the most anticipated scene in film history, it does not disappoint.

In Hong Kong
In Hong Kong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The rest of the film is entertaining and will have you laughing and crying, at the very least tearing up, and cheering.

Filmed with a budget of $55 million with a box office return of $127,906,624 this was a wildly successful film. But to be honest, it looks like a 55 million dollar film. The scenery, the sets, the costumes all look fantastic and really help to make you feel like you are in feudal China.

This film is a definite keeper I bought the blu-ray the second it came out. It’s a film that can be watched again and again. The blu-ray also has some brilliant ‘featurettes’ not least of which is the ‘gag’ reel or ‘out-takes’ which shows just how much fun the actors had working together.