Looper (2012)

looperposter462012Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Xu Qing, Tracie Thoms

Directed by Rian Johnson

Expectations: Extremely high (but I should say that those expectations come completely from others’ reactions. I never saw a trailer or anything.)

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Looper has a lot of great ideas, but they’re crushed under the weight of the film’s negative aspects. I had fun with it, no doubt, but by the last 20 minutes of the film I was literally clawing at my chair, frantically wishing the film would end. I do respect the way it ultimately ended, although I could’ve done without the minute or so of strained slo-mo that was supposed to really drive the emotional impact home. Ugh. But I’m getting ahead of myself by already talking about the ending. Hold on… let me go back in time.

[All systems go in 3… 2… 1…] [We have time travel ignition.]

My expectations for Looper were absolutely through the roof. This is always a bad way to see a movie, especially one from a director I’m not on the fanboy train for. Rian Johnson has only made three features, but around the Internet his début film, Brick, is seemingly only talked about in hushed, hallowed tones. Since I saw it before I started this website, and I don’t plan on watching it again, let me just say that I hated Brick. Neo-noir, schmeo-noir. Sorry, Brick fans. And that’s very close to how I feel about Looper, except that I kind of liked this one when I wasn’t completely frustrated with it.

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Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

moonrise-kingdom-international-posterStarring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban

Directed by Wes Anderson

Expectations: Moderately high. I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan.

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Over the course of his small filmography, Wes Anderson has carefully honed his unique brand of sleek, hipster art design and Moonrise Kingdom may be the pinnacle of his ability to push the boundaries of the field. At least until his next film arrives. A Wes Anderson film is never mistaken for another filmmaker’s, each one bears the unmistakable attention to detail and meticulously constructed sets and visuals. So when you are somewhat indifferent to one of his films, that feeling kind of runs through all of his films. To be fair, I haven’t seen all of them (I’ve only missed The Darjeeling Limited), but I think it’s fair to assume that I’ll feel similarly about that one too.

Now having said all that, I think Moonrise Kingdom is easily one of Wes Anderson’s best films. But I still don’t really like it. It’s great, but it just ain’t my thing. For me it comes down to two things: the commendable, meticulous design and the pointed dialogue delivery his characters always use. While the perfect design is really cute and interesting to look at, I want to rebel against it. My gruff personality and my penchant for raw, ragged glory makes me want to jump into the movie and just muss everything up as much as possible. In my youth I never really understood why I felt indifferent to Wes Anderson’s movies, but this desire to destroy is definitely the main reason. It’s too perfect.

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The Expendables 2 (2012)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel

Directed by Simon West

Expectations: Pretty high. JCVD, man!


You want some action? WELL THEN WE HAVE SOME INCREDIBLE, JAW DROPPING, EXPLOSIVE, MEN WITH MUSCLES ACTION FOR YOU! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! BOOM! AHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! BOOM! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! BOOM! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! KABOOM!

This approximates the opening scene of The Expendables 2, and for my money it was worth the price of admission. I had to restrain myself from literally leaping up and making the most primal noise my thin, feeble frame could muster. Nevermind that we later get Arnold, JCVD, Bruce Willis and Chuck Norris showing up in varying degrees, this immediately explosive opening is something to be reckoned with. While it played out, I imagined writing a four-star review for the film and how I’d buy it on Blu-ray and watch it any time I felt less than a man. So when the dust finally settled (the scene is quite long and full of cascading “Oh shit!” moments), I was disappointed to find that it would be a long time until the next legitimate action scene, and that nothing in the film would live up to its opening. But that’s OK, because even if the opening completely blows the film’s wad, the rest of the film is quite entertaining.

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Stephen reviews: The Expendables 2 (2012)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Liam Hemsworth, Scott Adkins, Nan Yu, Amanda Ooms, Charisma Carpenter, Nikolette Noel

Directed by Simon West


Expendables was a huge riot of nonstop action without much purpose beyond reveling in its own masculinity. So the only thing you can do with the sequel is make it bigger, badder, and bolder. That’s just what Expendables 2 tries to do, but it’s honestly hard to top the intensity of the first one. It does manage to succeed at this lofty goal, but by how much? Well, not a whole lot. Expendables 2 is a better movie, but your opinion of the first one will probably be the same the second time around.

One major improvement I do have to mention is the FX. The first film had some of the ugliest CG to ever ruin a bloody killing spree. Thankfully, those ridiculous looking exploding bodies, that laughable man on fire, and the worst, to me at least, that wince inducing scene where Stallone stabbed a dude in the neck were not used this time around. I apologize for dredging up bad memories, but I want you to realize just how much easier it is to watch the film because of the improved FX work. I spent the first film waiting for the next terrible CG effect to pop up, but in this film I forgot to think about the FX after the first ten minutes. That alone makes this movie superior to the original.

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Quick Takes: Fast Food Nation, Spy Kids, Cannibal!: The Musical

Fast Food Nation (2006)

Starring Greg Kinnear, Wilmer Valderrama, Ashley Johnson, Bobby Cannavale, Catalina Sandino Moreno, Bruce Willis, Kris Kristofferson, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Paul Dano, Luis Guzmán, Avril Lavigne
Directed by Richard Linklater

Visually appealing, Fast Food Nation does its best to adapt a non-fiction bestseller to a fictional film. It doesn’t necessarily work, as character dialogue is filled with lines from the book or scenes are specifically built around a piece of factual information instead of a traditional narrative conflict. It’s a very strange and unique film in this way, and one that ends up being pretty boring for someone like me that has read both Fast Food Nation and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. It served more to remind me of key moments in both, instead of actively engaging me.

Spy Kids (2001)

Starring Alexa Vega, Daryl Sabara, Carla Gugino, Antonio Banderas, Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, Teri Hatcher, Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Robert Patrick
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Initially I saw Spy Kids close to its original DVD release and thought it wasn’t that great. A few months ago I watched Rodriguez’s most recent kid’s movie, Shorts, and loved it to pieces, making me re-evaluate his offerings for younger viewers. Upon a re-watch, Spy Kids is excellent over-the-top fun, packing in more gadgets and spy intrigue than the last few Bond films combined. The first half is nearly perfect, but it all sort of unravels as it goes. Despite this adult problem I had, the film succeeds in funneling espionage action into a fun romp of a kid’s film. Recommended, especially if you have kids.

Cannibal!: The Musical (1993)

Starring Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Dian Bachar, Toddy Walters, Jason McHugh, John Hegel, Ian Hardin, Stan Brakhage, Robert Muratore, Edward Henwood, Andrew Kemler, Maseo Maki
Directed by Trey Parker

Made while attending college, Cannibal!: The Musical is an astoundingly professional production. Attempting to tell the story of real-life accused cannibalist Alferd Packer, Trey Parker and Matt Stone craft a funny and enjoyable black comedy with well-written songs and a great sense of the absurd. I expected quite the gorefest as this was picked up and released by Troma, but instead it’s mostly a comedic musical with touches of graphic violence thrown in for good measure.  When it does get violent, the low-budget FX are incredibly effective, especially the tongue-ripping and the axe to the face! Recommended to fans of Parker/Stone comedies fo sho.

The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed by Sylvester Stallone

Expectations: High.

On the general scale:
onehalfstar

On the B-Movie scale:
twohalfstar


The Expendables should have been great. It had so much going for it. I grew up watching 1980s action films and have been patiently awaiting a new release that re-captures some of their glory. When Stallone announced he was going back to the well one last time, and taking a bunch of badasses along for the ride, I was stoked from word one and had to do my best to keep myself from going into a violent frenzy in celebration. Unfortunately, the film is riddled with flaws and would have benefited greatly from a script rewrite and a focus on realistic, physical violence.

Not much back story is given throughout the film, but that’s okay, we all should know the drill by now. In pure 80s form, there’s a dictator doing some evil shit on an island off the coast of somewhere. Stallone and his posse ride in to take his ass down. Sounds good so far. I’m willing to shut down the think tank if they’re willing to put up some awesome action sequences. Unfortunately, like most facets of the picture, the action scenes are more frustrating than anything else. This brings me to my biggest problem with this film.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: The Expendables (2010)

The Expendables (2010)

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Randy Couture, Steve Austin, Terry Crews, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis

Directed By Sylvester Stallone


Oh no! It’s a new Hollywood Blockbuster! Jasper, you goddamned sellout. You soulless fink. Shouldn’t you be tooling along the lower rungs of the cinematic ladder? Shouldn’t you be rolling around in that piss-soaked cesspool digging up old, shitstained Lucha Libre movies nobody cares about? Or how about boring us to tears with yet another Shaw Bros kung fu film? Come on, it’s been four days now and you haven’t mentioned Chang Chieh or Chen Kuan-Tai… you’re losing your touch, bro.

Before you get all James Spader on my ass… bro, let me tell you that The Expendables pays tribute to the golden age of silly ass, testosterone-fused, over the top actioneers of the 80s in glorious fashion. Sure it’s stupid, loud, and full of more lapses in logic than a Bush presidency, but so were Commando, Delta Force, and Cobra. Those films defied their insipid plots and predictable formulas because they were fantastic action films featuring ripped motherfuckers who could actually dominate you in physical combat throwing around grenades and gunfire like it was rice at a wedding. None of these prancing, pencil-necked geeks who pass as action stars nowadays can even hold a candle to these meaty killing machines of the 80’s. The Expendables knows this and instead of going with some scrawny Hollywood cash-machine like Will Smith, decides to man up and bring old genre legends like Dolph Lundgren back to the screen as well as genuinely capable action stars like Jet Li.

Continue reading Uncle Jasper reviews: The Expendables (2010) →

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