Expendables 3 fulfills a prediction I made 4 years ago, that Sylvester Stallone is now the first person to have the starring role in 3 franchises (A film franchise defined as having at least 3 entries). This third installment explores the origins of the expendables group and offers more drama and character bits than previous entries.

A mission gone bad reveals Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), co-founder of the Expendables, is still alive. Barney (Stallone) and Conrad had a falling out and Barney thought he killed him. Barney now decides that the life he and his fellow Expendables is living can only end in death. It gets very meta at this point. Stallone basically looks at the audience and says on camera that perhaps they’re getting too old for this business. He calls it quits for his team and decides to go after Conrad, recruiting a younger more tech savy team that includes UFC women’s champion Rhonda Rousey.

Harrison Ford replaces the Bruce Willis character, and while he shows up for action at the end (along with Jet Li) he looks really old in earlier scenes in his suit. Arnold also returns for action and also has a meta moment where he says he’s getting out of this business. He also repeats his often imitated line from Predator of “Get to the Choppa!!!” Wesley Snipes is introduced as an old friend of Barneys who has some banter with Jason Statham, and also provides his own meta moment, joking he was in jail for Tax Evasion. However is is Antonio Banderas who steals the show as a skilled warrior who gets on everyone’s nerves as he simply never stops talking.

Expendables seems to be one of the few franchises that started bad but got better with each entry. (In my opinion the only other example is Universals Mummy reboot.) I didn’t like the first one, the second was at least entertaining. It’s a shame that it took this long into the series to get this good, and it may be too late. At the time of this writing Expendables 3 seems to be a flop at the box office. Either way the story sets up possibilities for future installments, as the Expendables crew now has some younger blood. However it is doubtful that future installments will kill off any of the older actors. Expendables faces a problem similar to other franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is the hero characters always survive. There’s one particular character who I think definitely should have died in this, but survives of course, leaving the feeling that there are no real consequences.

Whether more Expendables films are made or not, one thing I always thought would have been fun was to have prequels in the form of video games. This series easily makes for some killer action video games set in the 80s and 90s. The voices of Stallone, Lundgren, etc would make a nice touch for said games. Comics/novels etc could also be fun. There was a comic book about the past of Mickey Rourke’s character when the first movie came out.
By the way, Mickey Rourke seems to have totally disappeared from this series. That’s a shame because he had one of the two good scenes from the first movie. Expendables 3 in particular opens up story possibilities for video games, comics, etc that would be set in the past. It’s a shame these thing probably won’t happen.

Expendables seems to be one of the few franchises that started bad but got better with each entry.

Guardians of the Galaxy, the tenth entry in the seemingly unstoppable juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is another example of the guts, risk taking, and diversity of this franchise. Another studio would have Guardians be it’s own separate series, which makes sense. There are no references to any of the Avengers characters, and only two characters that we’ve seen briefly before have minor parts of this film.

In a Marvel Studios first the Marvel Studios logo bit does not come right away. Things start off right away in 1988 with a young Peter Quill whose mother is dying. Upset, he runs out of the hospital and then is pretty much abducted by aliens. Cut to the Marvel logo, and 26 years later (implying again that the MCU moves in real time) Quill is an adult running around the galaxy as a thief and an outlaw. We also get some nice pop cultural nods including Ninja Turtles and Indiana Jones. (Which I guess Indy is fiction this world, which dissapoints me)

Taking a page from the Avengers, Quill meets other characters that he will eventually team up with, but at first don’t get along. They’re fighting right away, and taking it one step further from the Avengers formula, in one case they literally want to kill each other.

Even though there’s a lot going on the plot itself is fairly simple, but like all these movies it’s about the characters and their relationships which each other. Can’t say much else without spoilers. This is a movie you’ll want to watch at home so you can pause it and look for things in the background. Especially the scene with the Collector, I’m sure there’s tons of Easter eggs there I didn’t catch. One thing I will say is that there seem to be two legitimate character deaths which was pretty good. A few other tidbits, we get a curve ball at the end about Quill’s father, an interesting insight into revenge I’d never heard, and the post credit scene does not advance any plot points but is so off the wall and is completely awesome.

One thing I could complain about, which is a common complain for popular science fiction, is that we’re out in the universe seeing all these aliens, and most of the aliens look humanoid and they all speak English. Early on Quill hooks up with this female with red skin, but in the first shot she was in it honestly looked like just a girl with a sunburn. Many aliens in fact look perfectly human. At least it wasn’t all white people.

Another thing is, in this movie Earth is identified with the name Terra. After the opening prologue I presumed that Peter never returned to Earth simply because he didn’t know how to get there. However, given that he knows the name for his planet, he presumably would know how to get back there.

At the time of this writing Guardians is doing well at the box office. Assuming this trend continues, by the time it finishes its run, the MCU will be just under a billion dollars away from being the most successful film franchise. Harry Potter is currently the most successful at 7.723 billion dollars. This means that all that next years Avengers has to do is make a billion dollars to become the most successful franchise ever. Normally a billion dollars is a tall order for a movie, but the last Avengers made 1.5 billion. So the MCU could take the top spot less than 12 months from now, and a good three years from when I initially predicted. And as I said before, once it takes the number one spot, it may never leave.

The Transformers are back. The latest installment in Michael Bay’s take on Transformers continues to be an improvement over the 2007 film which started the series. This time around, the Transformers are being hunted by the government and many of them have been captured and torn apart so the government can learn to build their own Transformers to defend Earth. The remaining Autobots have been in hiding since the events of the last film in the series, Dark of the Moon, to avoid being captured. Mark Wahlberg plays an inventor who purchases an old truck that turns out to be a damaged Optimus Prime.

From there, the story starts to pick up pace and the fun begins. I will not give away anything to spoil the movie, but I will say that the end of the film could have easily had the words “To Be Continued” as the film ends in a way that lets the viewer know that the story is far from over as a major part of the story is not resolved by the end.

Among the improvements in this film, I can actually tell the robots apart easier than I could in past films. Mark Wahlberg’s character is a concerned father who has learned from his mistakes when he was younger and this is a refreshing change from Sam Witwicky’s potty talk. There is also a huge Chinese influence with this film as some scenes were filmed in mainland China and in Hong Kong.  One major letdown would be the the first ever known use of the F word in a Transformers film. I do not remember hearing that before in Transformers. I think Wheelie almost said it in the last film, but it appears in this film. I am not sold on using that word in a film based on a child’s toy, but how it was used was pretty funny because if you are a foreigner living in China, you will understand. 

X-men: Days of Future Past is the 7th entry in the X-men film franchise, and is also an adaptation of the classic 1981 comic book story. Predating Terminator, the original story had a dystopian future where robot mutant hunting Sentinels took over the world. Kitty Pryde travels back in time to the then present day to try to prevent this future. (At the time this future took place in 2013). The specific event she was to stop was the assassination of Senator Robert Kelly by Mystique.

The film adaptation is mostly similar, except it’s Wolverine that goes back in time. Kitty Pryde can apparently send the conscious of a person back in time (along with her powers to phase through solid objects) a few days or weeks into the past. The plan initially is to send Charles Xavier back to his past self in 1973, which is stated to be 50 years in the past. However, it is feared that such a journey could snap the mind, so Wolverine is chosen since his mind could snap back due to his healing power. Senator Kelly was in the first X-men movie, and was killed. So for this story he must prevent the assassination of Robert Trask, who built the Sentinels.  The Sentinels ability to adapt to mutant powers is linked to Mystique which was cool.

I’ve said in other blogs how I never liked the idea of these films set in the near future. This is the first time we get a suggested specific date. 50 years past 1973 would be 2023, which as I’ve said before, makes Magneto around 100 years old in these movies. From what we know of First Class Xavier wouldn’t be much younger.

Much has been made of Quicksilver being in this movie, and how he’ll also be in Avengers with his sister Scarlet Witch, which of course is in a different film universe in a different studio. In this film his sister is alluded to, and it’s hinted that Magneto is his father. Regarding Magneto he is tied into the JFK assassination, but not the way you’d expect.

Mystique’s powers always bothered me a bit. Changing her appearance is one thing, but she can mimic other people’s clothes? Plus she’s apparently walking around naked all the time, the cold never bothers her? Also she seems to be able to transform into a midget with no problems at all.

When it comes down to it this movie just didn’t grab me. It was kind of boring in a way. At first the dark future looked pretty good, but some of the set pieces just looked weird. SPOILERS here but I thought the end was a lot to believe. The mutants win, the Sentinels are never built, and people accept the mutants. It’s a lot to believe those things happened given the destruction in the third act during which the president was almost killed. As usual there’s good character bits between Xavier, Magneto, and Mystique, but by this point it’s not enough.

One thing it does is attempt to fix/make up for X-men the Last Stand. SPOILERS again but the events of that movie are pretty much erased, as the end sees Cyclops and Jean Grey alive and well. Again Cyclops gets the short end of the stick as the movie plays it off as “YAY Jean Grey’s alive! Oh yeah, Cyclops is too.” Wolverine Origins is foreshadowed, we’ll see how that plays out, since as of 1973 Logan doesn’t have his steel claws yet. I just thought of this now as I’m writing, that while X-men 3 is undone, the ending of that leads into the excellent The Wolverine from 2013. That sucks.

And that’s the thing about this Days of Future Past movie. It’s not a great movie, but while not a horrible movie it’s a bad sequel. I’m not one of those fans that think the movies must be exactly like the comics, far from it, but this franchise’s own consistency is way off. In the beginning of DOFP, Xavier is alive. How is that? Will Wolverine still get his metal claws? Will the government really never build Sentinels after all the mess the public saw? There’s numerous other things I didn’t even think of that are listed here and here. 

If Fox studios would have had the foresight 15 years ago they could have made an X-men film universe from the ground up in the style of the current Marvel Cinematic Universe. Personally I think the first trilogy should have led to Days of Future past, and from there they could have made numerous spinoffs, prequels, and sequels.

The previous two X-men films, The Wolverine, and First Class, were superb. Here’s to hoping whatever follows is decent.



Godzilla 2014 Film

Posted: May 26, 2014 in Movies
Tags: ,

Godzilla is a Warner Brothers/Legendary pictures entry into the long running Japanese monster franchise. It is not necessarily a remake or a sequel. Taking a page from Toho Pictures Millennium series in the 1990s, it uses the first Godzilla film of 1954 as a starting point. The specific events of that picture are not mentioned, with the oxygen destroyer and what not, but it’s understood that in the world of this movie Godzilla did surface in the Pacific in 1954. 

In fact, it opens with a nice montage of old Godzilla images and text that is quickly blackened out, (something that will make future DVD watching fun) suggesting government conspiracies regarding the giant monster.

Cut to 1999, Joe Brody, played by Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame, is a scientist living in Japan, who loses his wife in a tragedy involving a nuclear power plant.15 year later/today, he has become a conspiracy nut, estranged from his now grown son Ford, who serves in the military. Joe doesn’t necessarily know of the existence of Godzilla, but he knows the government is hiding something regarding the accident that he lost his wife to.

Without spoiling the plot events unfold where a monster emerges. Godzilla himself is slowly unveiled, and there is a certain order and function behind what Godzilla is. There’s not just random monsters, there’s a certain system and they relate to each other, and the creatures also have a relationship with radiation, a nice throw back to the atomic age.

There’s some monster brawling half way through but it’s cleverly cut by going to news footage of the end of the event. This leaves room for a huge monster brawl in the final act. 

The human characters aren’t as compelling as they could be, aside from Bryan Cranston of course.But you paid to see big monsters and that’s what you get. Naturally the monsters look great, and there’s a few moments of Godzilla in action that will make you want to stand up and cheer. 

Godzilla is not presented as much of a menace, aside from the scene where he wrecked the Golden Gate bridge which I sort of didn’t get. There’s a scene where he’s swimming through the Pacific and battleships follow along side, as if they have a working relationship lol. He ends up getting embraced by the public and there’s even a reference to the phrase King of the Monsters. 

Most of us probably remember the 1998 American Godzilla that was such a disappointment. I think sometimes a bad movie is the price we pay for a good movie. (See Batman and Robin and the Nolan Bat trilogy). This Godzilla doesn’t disappoint. One of the nice things about it is, while it is sort of open for a sequel, this is one complete story with a definitive ending. If a sequel never gets made, this story would still remain complete. 

Finally I wanted to add that I saw this in 4box or whatever they call it, which means the seats move around with the action in the movie. It was fun but the 4D stuff is done a lot better in Korea. Over there the seats move and you get air bursts when there’s gun fire on screen, sprays of water, and other effects within the theater. With any luck we’ll get that in America someday too.

The Muppets Most Wanted is a sequel to the 2011 film that featured the theatrical return of Jim Henson’s creations. It opens in a very meta way, returning to the scene of the last movie, we see all the extras going home, and the gang wonders what they should do next. Before you know it they break into a song about how they should do a sequel, during which in one line they say that sequels are never as good.

Basically that turns out to be true (The song also points out that this is the 7th sequel over all). In this story the Muppet’s are advised by Dominic Badguy to go on a world tour. The world tour turns out to be a cover for the Badguys plot to steal the crown jewels of England. Part of this plot involves having Kermit replaced by Constantine, an evil frog and near look alike to Kermit.

The real Kermit ends up in a Siberian prison, where he organizes a prison musical show with the inmates that include Danny Trejo, Ray Liota, and WWE’s Hornswoggle. Meanwhile the Muppet gang doesn’t notice (most of them anyway) that the real Kermit is not among-st them, which can be taken as humorous of kind of annoying.

However even more baffling is the third act involves repeating a plot point from the Muppets take Manhatten, that being that Kermit and Miss Piggy are to be married. Much of the drama/suspense/etc are based around this but the whole time I’m thinking didn’t this already happen. That really took me out of the movie.

Mupppets most wanted has some funny moments but no where near the emotional impact of the previous film, and with the prior mentioned confusing is kind of disappointing.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is perhaps the perfect example of why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is and will continue to be a successful franchise. It is distinct from other branches of the MCU in that it is a political thriller. It does not simply try to imitate, borrow from, or nod to political thrillers. Captain America: The Winter Soldier is first and foremost a political thriller, a political thriller that just happens to take place in the Marvel Universe/star Captain America.

There’s not a lot I can say without spoilers, but Winter Soldier, being the genre it is, is filled with twists and turns, secrets, vast wide ranging conspiracies, and moments where you generally wonder who to trust. Cap/Steve Roger’s idealism is confronted with harsh modern political realities and current issues of surveillance, privacy, and preemptive strikes. Cap is not naive, acknowledging times in the past where he’s compromised/had his hands dirty, but still sticks to his ideals.

Robert Redford, veteran of the aforementioned films that inspired this piece appears as a SHIELD higher up, and we get some background on this history of SHIELD and Nick Fury.

Black Widow returns, and her relationship with Cap doesn’t go the route you might expect, but they play off each other fantastically, and it was funny to see her constantly suggesting different girls Cap could date.

The opening scene has Steve meeting Sam Wilson/the Falcon by chance, which felt very organic as opposed to him being assigned to Cap or something like that. There’s a neat scene where Sam suggests some music for Steve to listen to. Rogers pulls out a notebook and adds the suggestion to a list. I couldn’t catch anything on the list but it had a bunch of stuff like the band Nirvana, and much to my amusement, Rocky, followed by Rocky II with a question mark. Star Wars was also on the list, which you could argue eliminates the possibility of a Star Wars/MCU crossover, as Star Wars is now established as fiction in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But either way if Disney wants to cross those properties over someday they will.

Not forgetting that this is a sequel, characters and locations from the first movie appear, some of which I never expected, one of which was truly amazing. There’s a Smithsonian exhibit on Captain America in which we see pictures of characters from the last movie, and the Howling Commandos are named specifically. (In the first movie they never said the words Howling Commandos but they were in there.) The exhibit later has a role in the plot, and also leads to a good Stan Lee Cameo.

A vast far reaching and decades long conspiracy is revealed (which also related to a certain Marvel characters parents) which has some shock value. It would have been more shocking had this been revealed a few films deeper into the MCU. However that’s probably not a fair complaint, as this is just what we have to work with and it’s effective anyway.

SHIELD main headquarters, the Triskelion, is revealed to be this huge building in Washington DC, which I guess means that the existence of SHIELD is public knowledge in the MCU. I’d often wondered about that previously. Logistically I wonder where it fits as the CIA is also known to exist in this world. However members of the SHIELD security council are revealed to be from various countries, so I presume it’s an international intelligence agency. Still I’d like a little clarity on how SHIELD differs from the CIA, MI-6, etc.

The fight scenes are fantastic, the opening action scene resembling the Captain America video game. Rogers has perfect command of his shield, always knowing where to throw it/when to catch it etc. UFC fighter George Saint Pierre plays a villain who fights Cap in this sequence. It was great watching one of the greatest fighters in real life face off against one of the greatest fighters in fiction. If anything disappointed me about this film it’s that GSP’s part was only minor. However there really wasn’t much room for him anyway, so here’s to sequels.

CGI is only used when needed. The shot of the boat in the beginning and some of the building shots were obviously CGI that I think won’t age well over time, but the rest of it looked good. There’s a few things you can nitpick toward the end. At one point the villain does something to gain the upper hand but you wonder why that action wasn’t taken sooner, but events turn again so the point becomes moot. Also, obviously I know what kind of movies these are, but honestly it is a little unbelievable that Cap doesn’t die in the end.

Like Thor: The Dark World, there is a mid credit scene hinting at what’s ahead that reveals new characters, and an end credit scene that relates to this specific film. It seems Phase Two of the MCU has a new formula for post credit scene.

In closing, Captain America: The Winter Soldier: is in fact the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film to date.