At The Movies With Javid #07

Here we go again…

THE EXPENDABLES 1 & 2

Eat a dick, Tansformers (or as Stallone would say - "URUEGHURHG")

Eat a dick, Tansformers (or as Stallone would say – “URUEGHURHG”)

I can admit that I was wary of this franchise. On the surface I saw the films as little more than a money-spinning exercise for some of Hollywoods biggest action names – an endeavour to assist them all in putting new storeys on their houses and a bigger pool out the back.

Even after watching them, I know that that may well be the case, but there are a few things about ‘The Expendables’ that sets them apart from the majority of action flicks that come out these days.

  1. It’s nice to see humans in action films that aren’t accompanied by a multitude of CGI nonsense. If you’re not familiar with my thoughts on the Transformers franchise you might want to read it here, because I’ll be brief. These movies are complete and utter shite. They have minimal character development and storylines that do not compel, appalling performances and ridiculous action sequences where it’s hard to tell what’s going on half the time. There are ridiculous action sequences in The Expendables, and sure, the character development isn’t worried about too much, but it’s good to see humans talking to humans in scenes that actually help the story progress between explosions. Sure some of the performances are… not great, but the characters really don’t waste much time saying more than they need to, and it’s just so nice to watch a film that can still blow you away (in the more literal sense) without having to rely on giant, unnecessary computer-based characters.
  1. It’s nice to see the good guys actually freaking kill people with no thought of mercy. So many of today’s ‘action heroes’ are struggling with ideas of compassion, or have a strict ethos of trying to kill as few people as possible. The Expendables does not give a fuck about killing people off because, fuck it, they’re all bad guys. There are some truly gruesome, awesome and innovative ways to kill people out there and The Expendables aren’t afraid to just have a go. One particular death in the first one that I’ll never forget involves bringing a kick down on someones head as they’re bent over backwards and breaking their neck. It doesn’t sound particularly awesome when I put it like that but trust me, it is.
  1. The writing is simple, but not idiotic. Yes, it’s still a struggle (as it has been for years now) to understand what the fuck Sylvester Stallone is saying, and there are minimal parts of each film where they do the generic ‘humanising’ of the characters, but they know that’s not what we came to see. When the bad guy reveals his master plan there isn’t some incomprehensible justification behind it, and they don’t waste 20 minutes explaining their actions. Each characters motivations don’t require a boring telling for the sake of it, and it’s refreshing.
  1. The cast truly is all-star. Arnold, Sly, Lundgren, JCVD, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis, and the promise of so many more in the third – then there’s the former wrestlers and MMA guys as well. Do you really want an action film in the hands of Shia LeBouf? Or the oversized monsters of screen that we’ve grown up with all these years? That’s not even including Jason Statham, whose series of action films I’ve never even seen. I just loved him in Lock, Stock and also Snatch and it’s great to see he’s more than landed on his feet.

There is plenty that can be said of this franchise, and I think I’ve said a fair bit there. They’re both big budget blasts that made a refreshing change from the Michael Bay CGI shit-fest that has dominated the action landscape for years. I think the name itself comes from the fact that these guys know they aren’t needed anymore, that they can be replaced by computers – but these movies have shown me that they can’t. There’s something about these men, and the legacy of action they’ve left us with that makes the genre spinning out of control even harder to bear. Sure there are plenty of self-referential jokes in there that it’s almost cheesy (one particular scene with Willis and Arnie in the second one is cringe-worthy), but most of the great action movies HAD a sprinkling of cheese – and I’d take a sprinkle of cheese over a massive dose of shit any day.

It’s schlocky, big budget, explosion-laden, violent-death riddled action that doesn’t make you think – and it’s fucking awesome. The films will never win Oscars or (one would imagine) critical acclaim, but they don’t need to. 8/10

Aaaand one more..

OCULUS (2013)

Home sick the other night I sought the recommendation of a film-lover I trust. I wanted something that was going to creep the shit out of me, and I was turned in the direction of Oculus.

Much like action, I’m always hesitant when it comes to ‘horror’ films made in the last 5 years, and even at the start of this film I still felt the same. It focuses on a mirror, and a brother and sister. We slowly learn that this mirror possesses some unusual characteristics that COULD have led to the death of their parents. The sister is determined to find the mirror again after her parents death, and the brother has just come out of an institution.

After finding the mirror, the sister takes it back to the old family home, and has a multitude of cameras, heat sensors, timers and a kill switch, ready to set up an experiment and prove the mirror is cursed. Brother is there too but isn’t keen on staying. Let the experiment begin.

Doesn’t sound particularly enticing yet, does it? I didn’t think so either.

What follows for the rest of the film is a brilliantly executed case of parallel storytelling. Through the memories the house provides and flashbacks, we’re constantly flipped between the current experiment and the past instance where their parents seemingly went insane. It’s intentionally disorienting and is a recipe for disaster but it’s well done.

From the moment the dull, but necessary, briefing ends, it’s edge of your seat stuff. The use of the mirror isn’t as clichéd as you expect, and the way the film deals with reality and illusion is admirable if not superb. The ending features a brilliant little twist, too, which I’m always a fan of – provided it’s well done.

As the final scene ends and you breathe for what feels like the first time in about an hour, you’ll realise just how captivating it was – and you’ll probably never look in a mirror the same way again either. 8.5/10

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