Jackie Chan: My Story (1998)

jackiechanmystory_1Starring Jackie Chan, Willie Chan, Charles Chan, Stanley Tong, Sylvester Stallone, Michelle Yeoh, Sammo Hung, Joe Eszterhas, Arthur Hiller, Martin Lawrence, Michael Warrington, David Wu

Directed by Jackie Chan

Expectations: I don’t know, honestly. Curious.


Whether you’re an old fan or someone just discovering the work of Jackie Chan, Jackie Chan: My Story is a great overview of his career up to the point just before Rush Hour was made. It’s pretty “fluffy,” but this light tone reflects the jovial spirit of its subject and thus works well to convey the specific charm of Jackie (especially to newcomers). Even though I’ve seen so many Jackie films, I never feel like I know the real man underneath the characters. Jackie Chan: My Story cracks that shell a bit, allowing the audience to gain an understanding of his methodology for filmmaking, as well as how his dedication to his craft has impacted other areas of his life.

Jackie Chan: My Story also does a good job of communicating what makes Jackie’s style of action stand out from others (notably American films and the work of Bruce Lee). Besides showing a bevy of wonderful clips from his Hong Kong films, a direct comparison between the two versions of the fight with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace for the end of The Protector perfectly encapsulates the key difference in style. One of the best moments comes when Jackie walks us through the creation of his on-screen snake style seen in Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, showing that each movement has purpose and thought behind it. I wish I could show this doc to everyone who ever questioned my intense love and fascination with martial arts films (because according to them: “they’re all the same”).

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The Expendables 3 (2014)

the-expendables-3-posterStarring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Antonio Banderas, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Jet Li, Ivan Kostadinov, Robert Davi

Directed by Patrick Hughes

Expectations: Low, but hopeful.

threestar


There’s no doubt that Expendables 3 received the worst critical reception of the franchise, and the general Internet scuttlebutt seemed to agree that Expendables 3 was bad. I let this influence me, and I pushed back seeing the film into the dreaded “sometime.” But now I have seen Expendables 3 and I can say without a hint of sarcasm or hyperbole that it is a great entry into the series. I love JCVD too much for it to surpass the 2nd film, but I definitely prefer it to the original. I’m curious what people didn’t like about it, actually. It’s basically just like the other two, only with even more people. And this one actually has some heart, too! [Note: The original two may have heart of their own, but I haven’t seen them in three years and all I remember are the cameos and the explosions.]

Storywise, this one is a bit convoluted to explain quickly due to its structure. It’s not actually convoluted, it’s just one of those movies with a slowly unfolding story that is easy to spoil if you break it down into a synopsis. So suffice it to say: there’s a bad guy that has done some evil shit, and Stallone and a varied cast of his Expendable buddies will be along for the ride to take him down. Besides, if you’re even remotely interested in this movie, that’s all you need to know. Are there explosions? Yes. Does Stallone & crew kick ass? Yes. Ticket sold. If you’re not that person and you’re still watching these movies, you might want to re-think your life because you’re clearly unable to learn from past mistakes.

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Escape Plan (2013)

escapeplan_1Escape Plan (2013)
AKA The Tomb

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Caviezel, Faran Tahir, Amy Ryan, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Vinnie Jones, Matt Gerald, 50 Cent, Caitriona Balfe

Directed by Mikael Håfström

Expectations: Moderate.

threehalfstar


Any time a new film starring Sylvester Stallone or Arnold Schwarzenegger pops up, I’m sure to see it and probably like it more than the average Joe based on my lifelong love of their work. Even considering this, I’ve headed into each one of their modern films with hesitation and tempered expectations. I’ve enjoyed every one so far, but I actively recognize that my unabashed love for the leads plays a large role in the film’s success. In the case of Escape Plan, though, I can honestly say that this is a fantastic prison break movie which also happens to star a couple of my favorite actors. The combination proved to be absolute GOLD; I loved Escape Plan from start to finish.

To tip the film’s hand too much would spoil the fun of the movie and its slow, metered build (which is paced perfectly), so I’m going to forgo my usual plot description. Just know that Stallone and Arnold are in prison together and they hatch an escape plan. But they aren’t in just any ol’ prison. No, they’re in a strange, almost futuristic prison, so breaking out isn’t going to be one of those “tunnel out and scale the wall” sort of gigs.

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Video Game Review: Rambo: The Video Game (2014)

rambo-the-video-game-coverDeveloped by Teyon
Published by Reef Entertainment Ltd.

Directed by Piotr Latocha

Platform played on: PC via Steam

Expectations: I haven’t been this pumped to play a game in years.

On the general scale (considering all the “flaws”):
twohalfstar

But in terms of pure enjoyment and the amount of raw action and testosterone per minute:
fourstar


As soon as Rambo: The Video Game was announced, I was ecstatic. The trailer made the game seem like nothing but balls-to-the-walls action recreating all the kick-ass Rambo shit that Rambo did in the Rambo movies. It was seemingly going to be everything I had ever wanted a Rambo game to be, going all the way back to 1988 when I spied the cover of the Rambo NES game and imagined what treasures the game might hold. That game did not live up to my internal hype, but Teyon’s Rambo: The Video Game didn’t just live up to my huge, unrealistic expectations, it shot an explosive arrow directly into their heart and machine-gunned them as they begged for mercy.

I’ve never written a video game review before, but while playing Rambo: The Video Game I felt compelled to. The game has received negative Internet buzz and press since the first trailer dropped, with people deriding the game for its animation, character models, use of quick-time events (QTEs), and even its choice to be an on-rails shooter instead of the more traditional first-person shooter. After the game’s release, this fire only seemed to grow more intense, as did my frustration with the public’s inability to see this game’s greatness.

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Bullet to the Head (2013)

BullettotheHead_1Starring Sylvester Stallone, Sung Kang, Sarah Shahi, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Jason Momoa, Christian Slater, Jon Seda, Holt McCallany, Brian Van Holt, Weronika Rosati, Dane Rhodes, Marcus Lyle Brown

Directed by Walter Hill

Expectations: Moderate and hopeful.

twohalfstar


Bullet to the Head is a film that many will likely hate. Its story is convoluted and dumb, it’s needlessly gratuitous in its violence, and it looks more like an episode of a crime-themed TV show than a movie. But despite the odds stacked against it, Bullet to the Head succeeds by blunt force. This is far from being a good, well-made film, but it’s entertaining in all the right ways as long as you’re able to get into its groove. If nothing else, it should be impressive that Stallone is able to hold his own on-screen at 67 years old against people half his age.

Bullet to the Head opens with a hit. James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) and his partner bust into a posh hotel room and quickly dispatch of the man inside. For reasons unexplained, James does not take out the sole witness to their crime, a woman hiding in the shower. When they go to get paid they find that the job was a set-up, as another hitman (Jason Momoa) kills James’s partner and almost does the same to James. Meanwhile, Taylor (Sung Kang), a cop from Washington DC travels to New Orleans to investigate the murder of his ex-partner (AKA the man killed in the opening hit). But while the New Orleans Police Department is standing in his way, Taylor finds an unlikely partner in James.

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Demolition Man (1993)

demolitionman_3Starring Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock, Nigel Hawthorne, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Gunton, Glenn Shadix, Denis Leary, Bill Cobbs, Grand L. Bush, Pat Skipper, Steve Kahan, Paul Bollen

Directed by Marco Brambilla

Expectations: Very high. I used to love this one.

threestar


Demolition Man is a movie without much middle ground. You’ll either come down on the side of the supporters or you’ll be left scratchin’ your head as to why anyone would enjoy it. In many ways, this is exactly the type of movie that should never be reviewed. It’s not one that stands up to harsh criticism, nor is it one that you could really sway anyone’s opinion on by pointing out specific scenes or intricacies the other person may have missed. This isn’t Bergman, it’s simply an action movie you either enjoy or you don’t.

The film opens in the war-torn streets of the future Los Angeles of 1996. Shit has most definitely gotten real, and mastermind sadistic criminal Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) has kidnapped a bus full of civilians and hidden them somewhere in the city. That’s exactly the kind of stuff that will not stand in an action movie, so in drops John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) from a helicopter overhead. He’s a no-nonsense cop nicknamed the Demolition Man, and he’s ready to kick some serious ass. But when Phoenix outsmarts him, they both wind up in cryo prison while the world moves on from violence and abhorrent behavior.

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Judge Dredd (1995)

Judgedredd_1Starring Sylvester Stallone, Armand Assante, Rob Schneider, Jürgen Prochnow, Max von Sydow, Diane Lane, Joanna Miles, Joan Chen, Balthazar Getty, Maurice Roëves, Ian Dury

Directed by Danny Cannon

Expectations: Really low. I remember this being pretty awful.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


In the Third Millennium, the world changed. Climate. Nations. All were in upheaval… The Earth transformed into a poisonous scorched desert, known as “The Cursed Earth.” Millions of people crowded into a few Mega Cities where roving bands of street savages created violence the justice system could not control. Law as we know it collapsed. From the decay rose a new order. A society ruled by a new elite force… a force with the power to dispense both justice and punishment… They were the police, jury and executioner all in one. …They were the Judges.

You pumped? Seriously, this movie has so much going for it. Of course, there’s one of my all-time favorite action stars, Sylvester Stallone, cranking out all kinds of awesome crooked mouth yells. It also has dope robots, a cyborg who’s a member of a hillbilly desert cannibal family, and massive explosions. And let’s not forget about the kick-ass, flying future cycles, the cloning (and the incredible half-cloned, skinless dudes!) and Jurgen Prochnow’s German accent. And the villain’s name is Rico! C’mon! Judge Dredd is a perfect big-budget B-Movie. I know this isn’t a position many will agree with or defend, but I can’t help it if I like this kind of dumb stuff, can I?

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