The Expendables 2 (2012) Review

Last decade brought us the reboots of 80s classics like Transformers and GI Joe, and it seemed that the internet as whole was awash in 80s nostalgia. In the 2010s though, we’re onto another decade: the 90s. This 20 year cycle really has an impact on pop culture, since corporations want to appeal to that 28-38 year old crowd that now controls the majority of the consumership. They of course use artifacts from their childhood (ages 8-18) to attract their nostalgic attention and now that the 80s people are getting in their 40s it’s time for the 90s kids to take the reigns. We already have seen a Pokemon anime reminiscent of the original games, rereleases of many 90s games, and plenty of 90s pop culture being smeared across the internet like a reoccuring nightmare. So it seems only fit that Stallone’s pet project The Expendables would try to tap into that 90s action movie nostalgia that that controlling demographic has. The original was an adequate film, with a good amount of fun inserted into it’s action, but it was dragged down by Stallone’s ego and inexperienced directing. The Expendables 2… now that’s a different story.

The Expendables 2 is the remarkably simple story of Stallone and his team who are hired by CIA operative Bruce Willis to track down a package in a safe. On the mission they’re intercepted by Jean Claude Van Damme, who kills Liam Hemsworth and steals the package. Out for revenge, Stallone’s crew tracks down Van Damme with a little help from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris.

Now I went through a long tirade to basically come to the conclusion that Drag Me to Hell was a decent and fun film. Let me cut to the chase here and say that The Expendables 2 is a more then decent and extremely fun movie! There may be plot holes the size of the explosions, and realism and physics that make Adventure Time look like a Ken Burns documentary, but god damn it this movie’s fucking fun. It’s everything from the 90s action films you could possibly want, including the great one-liners. What helps Expendables 2 transcend just a 90s rehash is that it’s aware of its origins and plays them up for very effective comedy. It’s a fine line to walk, but Expendables pulls it off mostly due to its genuineness.

It has the stars to back up the lines and it has the effects to back up the storyline. This movie solved the shitty action sequences of the first one by putting director Simon West in charge and he chooses the far more effective steady shots that showcase the action more then cut around it. The effects are top notch, even if there is some shitty CGI blood here and there. Again, it’s hard to care since you’ll be surprisingly engrossed in the story even if you can see every twist and turn from a mile away.

It’s a film that just happens to work through the very careful balance of all the right factors. It plays up it’s premise in the right way, pulls in the serious moments and lets loose the comedy all at the right times. Expendables 2 is a must see for anyone who’s disappointed in the recent works of it’s stars and it’s must viewing for anyone burned by the awful Die Hard 5. It’s no masterpiece of course, but these films rarely are, especially in this decade. If you like your action more serious, then stay away, but if you’re up for some popcorn-chewing fun, then strap in and suit up. The Expendables 2 is available from Netflix Streaming, and all the usual online movie places.

Advertisements

The Faculty (1998) Review

The supernatural teen drama can come in many forms, such as the cheesy super hero styled Smallville, the melodramatic shit-fest Twilight or the slow-ass “thriller” Disturbing Behavior. The supernatural teen “insert genre here” really started to take off in the late 80s-early 90s. The Faculty is yet another one of these and I swear I didn’t plan these two to be together, but it seems to be a much better version of Disturbing Behavior. It’s by no means perfect, but there is an endearing charm to it that I can’t help but feel attracted to.

The Faculty is the story of a high school whose teachers begin to act strangely and soon Elijah Wood and his friends discover that this is due to an alien invasion. So the chase is on to somehow stop the invasion, but that’s pretty tricky when all your classmates, teachers and parents are against you. Oh and there’s some teenage drama character stuff but nobody gives a shit about that.

The story of The Faculty is definitely the product of its time, relying heavily on tropes and themes we’ve seen before. It even throws in some meta-sci-fi referencing cause, you know, Scream was a thing. The story requires some intense suspension of disbelief and even then there are still plenty of plot-holes and stupid decisions that will have you groaning. Nonetheless there are still a few genuinely good moments of suspense, but I think we can mainly attribute that to director Robert Rodriguez. The plot does seem to be weirdly paced, picking up a lot at the beginning and then slowing down a lot after that. However, unlike Disturbing Behavior, the story does keep moving forward during these parts. The flashforward at the end is probably the most objectionable part of the story (and that’s saying a lot) with characters ending up in downright impossible situations. Speaking of which…

The characters are all stereotypes… to an extent. Like in a Hughes project, the characters all start out as their respective clichés, but then as we get to know them, we find they aren’t that cut and dry and we inevitably find ourselves actually slightly invested in them. They certainly aren’t memorable, but for the duration of the movie you won’t hate them (which is a plus compared to the horror/thriller movies of today). The acting ranges from good to bad, with mediocrity being the standard. The adults mostly ham it up, and the kids either do a good job or overact. Elijah wood and Josh Hartnett and Jon Stewart (fucking what!) are highlights in my opinion.

The technicals are all pretty solid. The actually directing/lighting/sound/etc… are all fine. It’s the effects that are going to bother people. Now there is a mix of CGI and practicals, which is nice, but the CGI looks really dated. In my opinion, practicals couldn’t have done much better, so either way you’re stuck with a distraction. This is a nitpick, but the introduction of the characters have each of them with their names on screen. This is stupid since their names are said quite quickly after or repeated a lot over the course of the movie.

The Faculty is, above all else, fun. Its mediocrity is evident, but it nonetheless manages to partially captivate and completely entertain. If you’re a fan of Buffy, Smallville, or Roswell then this will be familiar and comfortable territory for you. It’s sure as shit superior to Disturbing Behavior on every level, but then again that’s not saying much. The Faculty is available from Amazon, iTunes and Netflix instant for your popcorn munching pleasure.