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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Quick Takes: The Lego Movie, Machete Kills, Only God Forgives

lego_movie_ver9The Lego Movie (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, Morgan Freeman, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, Cobie Smulders, Jadon Sand
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller

So pretty much everyone loves this movie, but I just thought it was OK. I also found it ironic that the song Everything is Awesome became so popular among fans of the film, but yet it’s the butt of many jokes about the conformity of the mainstream Lego people in the movie. Whatever. The jokes largely fell flat for me, and while I enjoyed the premise and the imagination on display, it was all too loud and abrasive for my tastes. I did love the little Star Wars cameos and Batman’s hilarious song, though, and I wish the film had more of that kind of comedic brilliance.

machete-kills-new-poster-and-13-new-photos-1Machete Kills (2013)

Starring Danny Trejo, Mel Gibson, Demian Bichir, Amber Heard, Michelle Rodriguez, Sofía Vergara, Charlie Sheen, Lady Gaga, Antonio Banderas, Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Hudgens, Alexa Vega, Marko Zaror, Tom Savini, William Sadler
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

This, on the other hand, was pure entertainment for me. Robert Rodriguez makes fun B-Movies, and I love him for it. Machete Kills feels like more of a James Bond spoof than a sequel to Machete, but as long as you like both Machete and Bond (like me), that isn’t an issue. Charlie Sheen is wonderful as the US President, and Mel Gibson definitely makes for a fun asshole villain. The film is somewhat spastic with its ultra-long list of characters, though, which doesn’t allow many of them to get much screen-time. I understand this allows for a long list of celebrities to fill the poster, but quality is usually better than quantity. But this is a B-exploitation flick, so more is better, right?

only_god_forgives_ver6Only God Forgives (2013)
onehalfstar

Starring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Vithaya Pansringarm, Gordon Brown, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, Tom Burke, Sahajak Boonthanakit, Pitchawat Petchayahon, Charlie Ruedpokanon
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

There are times when I am a film masochist. Despite thinking Refn’s Drive was an overrated, boring mess of staring people, I felt compelled to watch Only God Forgives. I guess being set in Thailand was a big enough draw to pull me in, regardless of my misgivings. Anyway, this one probably has more staring than Drive. There’s even a whole scene where an entire room of people sit and stare, all while a man has his eyes cut out… Refn is clearly preoccupied with all things ocular. Even still, I think I liked this one a hair more than Drive because the exotic, urban Thai locations and the bold uses of color are pretty to look at. It’s also interesting to see what is basically a B-movie all dolled up in artsy clothes, but it’s not something that really works for me. At least in these clothes it doesn’t. For some reason, I still feel compelled to see more of Refn’s work. Like I said, sometimes I’m a film masochist.

Mini-Review: Puss in Boots (2011)

Starring Antonio Banderas, Salma Hayek, Zach Galifianakis, Billy Bob Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Constance Marie, Guillermo del Toro, Mike Mitchell, Rich Dietl, Ryan Crego, Tom Wheeler, Conrad Vernon

Directed by Chris Miller

Expectations: Moderately high. I had no interest, and then I got talked into watching it because I love cats.


While watching Puss in Boots I didn’t take a single note. This wasn’t intentional, and I didn’t even notice until the movie was almost complete. This was because absolutely nothing in this film engaged me or seemed noteworthy. Puss in Boots has its crowd I’m sure, but I am definitely not a member; I could barely keep myself awake. I know this one is aimed at those younger than me (even if some jokes are clearly for the parents), but I would imagine that even as a kid I wouldn’t have enjoyed this one. The only coherent thought I had while watching (other than “How much longer is this damn movie?”) was “Y’see this is why I made a deal with myself only to watch Pixar’s 3D animated films.”

Let me explain. When Pixar dropped Toy Story on the world, it was a revelation. Soon after, loads of other studios sprang up and tried to recapture Pixar’s magic, but as far as I was concerned no one did. I got tired of getting burned by shitty knock-offs,  so I decided to only watch Pixar films. Then they burned me with overblown tripe like The Incredibles (yeah, you read that right Incredibles lovers). So after that I decided to only watch the ones that really piqued my interest: Wall-E, Up, etc. But I was talked into watching Puss in Boots because of my love of cats. This movie centers around a cat, and there’s other cats that do a bunch of cat stuff too! If only.

Sure, the first few minutes are fairly cat-centric, as are a few scenes here and there, but for the most part Puss and his feline girlfriend act like a bickering married couple. On top of that, there’s a carton full of drama delivered by the relationship between Puss and Humpty Dumpty. How many times do I have to see them argue about their differences and then reconcile only to argue about the same thing a few minutes later? This aspect of Puss in Boots was nearly unbearable.

I’ve wasted enough time on this one. I’m sure many will enjoy this film, and kids will laugh at all the right places. In my eyes, it’s nothing more than a lackluster attempt to keep the Shrek franchise from fully sinking out of the public’s consciousness now that the main series films are done. Well… done until the spin-offs’ box-office numbers drop and they’re forced to resurrect the tired green ogre. (And just for the record I’ve only seen the first two Shrek films. That was more than enough for me.)

Haywire (2012)

Haywire (2012)
AKA Knockout, Agent Mallory

Starring Gina Carano, Michael Angarano, Channing Tatum, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Ewan McGregor, Julian Alcaraz, Eddie J. Fernandez, Anthony Brandon Wong, Michael Fassbender, Mathieu Kassovitz, Bill Paxton

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Expectations: High.


Why make the same tired genre film with the same tired genre conventions when you can do something different? This is essentially the Soderbergh manifesto, and he continues to display his ability to subvert the genre film with Haywire. I really haven’t delved deep into Soderbergh’s filmography, but I always think of his movies as either “the big A-Picture” or “the low-budget B-Picture”. He seems to like to bounce back and forth between the two, with the low-budget ones being somewhat experimental. His last released film, Contagion, definitely feels like the A (while still being somewhat daring and experimental), while Haywire definitely feels like the B. I don’t mean that as a slight in any sense, merely as a point of reference for fans that might be seeking a way to classify this somewhat hard to peg movie. The cast would suggest a giant ensemble movie, but it’s really much more reserved than that.

Gina Carano plays a black ops contractor tasked with rescuing a Chinese hostage in Barcelona. The job is a simple one, but as the film unfolds we find that there is more going on under the surface than it would appear. The film’s story is not told directly, requiring the viewer to piece it together themselves. It’s rather simple when you boil it down, but Soderbergh’s editing and somewhat fractured storytelling help it from getting too clichéd. On the flip side of that, the presentation of the story also gives the film an aloof quality that makes it hard to connect with. It’s not a spy picture, and it’s not a Bourne movie, but it is a bit of both. I just think that it’s in your best interest to leave any and all expectations at the door that this will be an action film, because in reality it’s something truly different.

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Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams (2002)

Starring Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Steve Buscemi, Mike Judge, Matt O’Leary, Emily Osment, Ricardo Montalban, Holland Taylor, Taylor Momsen

Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Expectations: Moderate. I expect to have fun. No more, no less.


I don’t review a lot of kids movies here at Silver Emulsion and that’s because most of them aren’t very good. OK, OK, the same could be said of many horror films, but the truth is: I’m not a kid, nor do I have kids, so I just don’t see a lot of them. They also don’t really appeal to me either, which is probably a good thing as I’m now in my thirties and it gets a little creepy to be saying “One for Agent Cody Banks, please” once you’re old enough to drive yourself around. There are always exceptions to the rule though, and Robert Rodriguez’s films for children always seem to fit into that category for me. As I mentioned in my lengthy and ridiculously wordy review of the original Spy Kids, it was a viewing of his Shorts that led me to revisit his kid-friendly work, and I’m glad that I did. I enjoyed the first film quite a bit, and I think the second one is even better.

Story isn’t really the strongpoint of this film, but here’s the gist: Our spy kid heroes are no longer the only game in town, as seemingly every agent this side of a Madagascar alleyway has inducted their own children into the program. Juni and Carmen’s main rivals are Gary and Gerti Giggles, spawn of Dr. Giggles Donnagon Giggles, the new head of the OSS. Anyway, the president’s daughter starts the ball rolling by stealing a device known as the Transmooker, and, of course, every one wants it. This leads our heroes and their devious enemies down a wonderful thrill ride of a spy picture, complete with more insane gadgets than you could ever hope to see in the entire James Bond series.

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The Skin I Live In (2011)

The Skin I Live In [La piel que habito] (2011)

Starring Antonio Banderas, Elena Anaya, Marisa Paredes, Jan Cornet, Roberto Álamo, Eduard Fernández, José Luis Gómez, Blanca Suárez

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Expectations: High. A new Almodóvar is cause for celebration.


Pedro Almodóvar’s The Skin I Live In is easily my most anticipated film of the year, and now that I’ve seen it I simply stare at the blank computer screen and wonder what to write about it. There are times when writing about film is fun, and then there are others when it seems like work. And then there are times like this, when I find myself unable to pull together enough coherent thoughts to constitute a proper review. It’s not because I don’t know how I feel about the film, it’s more of a general feeling of impressed awe at how much command Almodóvar has over film and his audiences. I don’t care to discuss specifics or to dissect the scenes, and this is where I have a problem trying to write about movies like this. Almodóvar creates films that embody everything I feel is vital for a quality film, perfectly balancing artfulness and heady ideals with a deeply intoxicating, entertaining nature. This is the fourth film I’ve seen of his, and it is the fourth film of his that I’ve loved.

To describe any of the plot would betray much too much about the story. If you’ve never seen any Almodóvar, I’m unsure that this is the place to jump on, but I suppose it would be as good as any other. For the record, the first film I saw was Volver, a truly magical piece of cinema. The Skin I Live In is unique in its feel and its look among the Almodóvar films I’ve seen, and while you could say that about all of them, this one stands out completely. Antonio Banderas returns to work with Almodóvar after a twenty-one year gap and he plays his role flawlessly. This is perhaps the best I’ve ever seen him, encompassing the cold, suave nature of his character and the range of emotions necessary to carry every plot twist the film contains.

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You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

Starring Naomi Watts, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Antonio Banderas, Freida Pinto, Lucy Punch, Roger Ashton-Griffiths, Pauline Collins, Anna Friel, Ewen Bremner, Neil Jackson, Celia Imrie

Directed by Woody Allen

Expectations: Moderate, heard nothing but bad things, but I love Woody’s films.


You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is not one of the high points of Woody Allen’s filmography of the last few years. It got lots of bad reviews and I have yet to talk to a single person who liked it. After watching it, I kinda get why everyone is against it, but it reminded me a lot of the Louis CK “Miracle of Flight” joke. People complain about the minutia of their horrible flying experiences, but never remember that they are basking in the glory of the miracle that is human flight! You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is like this, where you can complain about parts of it, but at the end of the day, it’s still as gorgeously shot and well-crafted as any other Woody Allen picture and I for one am always happy to bask in his cinematic glory.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger follows a large set of varied people unhappy with their current situations. Anthony Hopkins has a late life crisis and leaves his wife of forty years, Gemma Jones. Their daughter Naomi Watts is married to struggling writer Josh Brolin, but he’s infatuated with the woman across the way and Watts is falling for her employer. The film hinges around these strained relationships and the varied ways they go, but the heart of the film is Gemma Jones’s character and her newfound faith in fortune-telling.

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