Unstoppable, Salt and The Expendables

The immediate comparison with Unstoppable may be 2009’s Taking of Pelham 123, also starring Denzel Washington and directed by Tony Scott. However, Pelham is more like Under Siege than Unstoppable. Starring Washington as a veteran engineer and Chris Pine as a new conductor, who some believe only has the job because of his familial connections, there’s some tension between the pair initially, but of course throughout the course of the film they become buddies.

As can happen in any job, people became too casual about their responsibilities, but when there’s massive trains involved things obviously became a lot scarier. When Dewey, played by Ethan Suplee from TV’s My Name is Earl doesn’t apply the air brakes when he jumps off a train to switch the tracks, he can’t catch up to it again. From then on it’s a perfect storm of events involving the unmanned train heading to populated areas, its highly combustible cargo, etc. There’s also convenient things dumped into the plot such as the fact that both Washington and Pine, who are trying to catch up to the train have strained family relationships, to help us become emotionally invested in these working class heroes, and an expert in…everything who just happens to be visiting the control office so he can give useful advice. Oh, and an evil corporate boss who Rosario Dawson can shout at on our behalf.

The film, like the train, does move at a steady pace though, so all these expected developments can be forgiven and as it’s a Tony Scott film, it has a great earthy grain and palette to it all. I actually found it more exciting than I expected it to be.

Salt has gained a fair bit of attention, because the original lead character was written for Tom Cruise, but here Angelina Jolie proves that anything he can do, she can do better, and really it’s the kind of role we’ve seen him in may times before. The plot about covert Russian spies has more twists than a pretzel. In fact it has so many in the second half it could easily have become a laughable mess, but Aussie director Phillip Noyce never lets it get unwieldy and the woman on the run and the search for the truth ploys serve the film well. At certain points it does become ridiculous though, especially early on, when an elderly Russian man takes out a bunch of surly dudes in a lift, and later when Jolie does the same. Her bony girl arms are supposed to take out guys twice the size of her with one punch? I don’t think so. For the most part the action scenes are exciting enough though.

The Expendables is great and I hope they bring Van Damme into the sequel. And Mr.T. And Seagal.

Sylvester Stallone set out to make a film that was a throwback to those so prominent in the ’80s, filled with machismo, and he’s achieved that indeed. There is a lack of chemistry early in the film between him and his manly co-stars (Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren,etc) but it works better in the latter half. The action is deliberately over the top and impressive and it’s not as bloody as I would’ve expected, which is a nice change of pace in today’s market. Stallone, Arnie and Bruce Willis do indeed have a great, though short, scene together and with ageing tough guys like Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts thrown in for good measure, it’s definitely an entertaining film for the fellas.

He-Man: Mass Murderer

I so want to see this. Much like Scott Pilgrim is an ode to ’90s video games (and more), The Expendables is a love letter, written in blood, to my favourite ’80s manly action flicks. The most glaring thing about the poster to Stallone’s cinematic testosteronic spectacle is not Arnie’s absence, but the fact that apparently Dolph Lundgren as He-Man in 1987’s Masters of the Universe film killed 41 people. What?! Wow.

New The Expendables Trailer

Sure, there’s The A-Team and The Losers, but The Expendables look like the toughest bunch of action stars, because they’ve been filling those shoes for decades. It’s directed by Sylvester Stallone and co-written by him, and opens on August 12. I love the fact that this trailer reveals very little and sells the film purely with a bunch of very famous surnames. Awesome.

New Expendables Trailer

This is the kind of trailer that makes you high five the person next to you. Sylvester Stallone’s next film (as actor/writer/director) has him showcasing the manly manliness and ’80s excess of old school and current tough guys shooting and blowing stuff up. Look at that cast! It’s such an impressive line-up that the poster will just be a collection of surnames. Stallone. Lundgren. Rourke. Statham. Li. Willis. Schwarzenegger. And the character names are even better: Lee Christmas, Yin Yang, Hale Caesar, Paine and more. The Expendables unleashes its unapologetic over the top action in August.

Rambo Review

I was looking forward to this. My previous attempts to rent it were thwarted as other bloodthirsty patrons beat me to it. But it lived up to the hype. At just shy of 90 minutes, it is short in length (and plot) but makes up for it with more blood and vengeance than the Punisher in an abbatoir.

John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) is a Vietnam veteran and hardcore soldier, trained to kill with reckless abandon and creative use of vicious implements. Since his last cinematic outing in 1988’s Rambo 3, he has been carving out an existence in Thailand catching snakes. He lives alone and is as surly as ever. A group of well-meaning Christians come along and eventually entice him into taking them on his boat to the Burmese border to help villagers in need. In the opening scenes we see actual footage of the atrocities there that will stir your conscience and wait for Rambo to exact vengeance.

I’ve always been a fan of Sly. More than an actor (though with Rocky and Rambo to his credit, his impression on pop culture can not be denied) he always tries to lift his films above mere action flicks. As the writer and director on many of his own features, he is a league above Seagal and Van Damme. Here, he brings up notions of identity and convinces some mercenaries in rescuing the missionaries from Burmese rebels, that “this is who we are.” Welcome the bloodlust inside you, don’t deny it is the heart warming message of this slaughter. But you can’t help but cheer Sly and the merc caricatures on as they shoot, slice and explode an endless parade of baddies. I was smiling all the way. The violence is over the top but with bullets and knives that size, blood will spill freely. And that’s exactly what it does. Not recommended for those with a weak stomach, Rambo will otherwise entertain. Sly looks considerably older than he did in his previous revamp, Rocky Balboa, and runs and leaps less. Then again, there’s no need for such activity if you have a gun and a snarl bigger than any prison could hold. The guy still looks like a mountain. There is also a fair bit of crudeness, in the foul language and brief nudity, so be warned. This is Rambo, however, not Indiana Jones. He’s never been a family friendly character, but for a good night in where you want to find yourself cheering and laughing at some brutal punishment, check it out. Then have a shower and prepare for Rambo 5, coming in 2009.

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