Tag Archives: America

The Expendables 2: Redonkulousness.

I have never seen the original Expendables. I had only ever heard vague rumors about how ridiculous these movies were. I had to see it for myself. So we rolled out and hit up the theater hard for this action-packed massacre of bullets and destruction. I was expecting the bloodbath of the newest Rambo. What I got was one of the most ridiculously and classically cliche things I’ve ever seen in my life. And I laughed all the way through my enjoyment.

Sylvester Stallone is back as Barney Ross, a character who is not really a character. More of Sylvester Stallone as his mumbling self with some jacked biceps. He’s got his crew with him, and they’re on some mission

Always fire from the hip, boys.

to kill someone or other in some Middle Eastern looking village. They all roll up in battle jeeps and brandish light machine guns out the ass and wield Gatling guns with one arm, smokin’ fat cigars with the other and whatnot. Just your average C-rated action film.

What makes people see these movies, you may wonder? (Or not…) It’s all about everyone’s favorite action hero. And there’s such a damn long list!:

You got yourself classic Stallone. I’ll never forget the first time I watched Demolition Man, or the first time I left the room when my friends watched Over the Top. His forgetably bad movies are what makes Rocky so good in comparison (and Rambo too, I guess…) He just needs to get his shit together and figure out how to talk correctly though.

This is where everyone lost it.

You got your relatively new newcomer, Jason Statham. Making it big in the Transporter series, this guy has been garishly blowing up the screen with nonsense after nonsense. His Guy Ritchie days were great, but America has loved to cast Statham in weirder and weirder movies. I’m talkin’ In the Name of the King and Crank 1 and 2. I can’t tell you how many nightmares I had over Crank 2…

Then you have Jet Li. There can be no complaints about one of the best action stars/ martial artists the world has ever seen since Bruce Lee. I was so happy to see him get the hell out after the first scene in this movie and no longer associate himself with the Expendables (unless he comes back for the third round…).

You got yourself Terry Crews, star of The Longest Yard remake and Everybody Hates Chris. What he has become known

What’s that hat all about, Stallone?

for is a bit more tragic and bizarre than his acting career. Yay, Old Spice!

There’s Randy Couture! His MMA days must be getting stale! And that cauliflower ear must be rancid! Don’t try to fool us with your book reading and glasses wearing. Your name is this movie is Toll Road. Enough said.

And then you got Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis. One I love, one I’ve always despised for the Die Hard series. (I wish they would stop making them…) If I ever hear another Yippie-Kai-Yay again, I may have to go Alan Rickman on his ass. But you can’t go wrong with Arnie. He holds a gun like such a boss in these movies! Firing from the hip, laying waste to countless, faceless minions all over the movie. Looks like the Govenator will never lose his touch.

Absolute kick perfection.

And some new faces! There’s Dolph Lundgren, greatest joke It’s Always Sunny has ever made. Chuck Norris, the biggest and most soft-spoken hardass of them all. He appears every once in a while, and this Walker doesn’t need a walker, you feel me? But what sealed it for me was Jean Claude Van Damme as Jean Vilain (looks like villain right?). His obsession with goats and round house flying kicks is what made this movie badass. Seeya Liam Hemsworth, you got a knife right through the heart from a Jean Claude kick.

So what do all these players equal? One of the most hilariously classic action movies I’ve seen since well… ever. You can’t get more cliche and classic action than with a movie like this plot and characters like these. We were all losing our shit in the movie theater laughing from all the classic one liners and unrealistic gigantic explosions. It was all so great, right down to Liam Hemsworth declaring that he was dying from Jean Claude’s boot stomp. You gotta love movies like this.

So whether you love action, or love satirical action, this movie is a must see. I’m

Classic Stoagie.

gonna go back and watch the original ASAP. You gotta love all the mindless destruction and countless body count that comes up with movies like this. So come in with an open mind, because, at first glance, this movie is gonna be awful. But remember, not all bad things are totally bad. Some things that are expendable, are just so damn good. 6.5 out of 10.


Valhalla Rising: Silence Galore

Silence is not the immediate reaction I had to this movie. I was in shock and awe by the brilliant landscapes and brutal style of the film, but not silenced because of some distaste for this movie. You have to be silent in order to soak this movie in. It’s not often that a movie deals entirely with the image presented in order to tell a story. This movie, in a phrase, is old school. This may as well be a badass silent action film. That’s exactly what I took away from it.

And this is all Nicolas Winding Refn’s intent. After having seen (and reviewed) his other

Does this actor never have a left eye?

film, Drive, I don’t think I can get enough of what this Danish director is bringing to the table. With an archaic and visceral feel to this movie, it plays out in a slow manner, but many of the scenes will stand out to you in your mind way after its all been played out. Same thing goes for Drive too.

If I had to guess how many pages the dialogue took up in this film, I’d probably say a total of 5-6 pages. And that’s all it took to portray the characters onscreen. You know One-Eye (Mads Mikkelsen) is a hardass who never found his voice and expresses himself

The brutality of the Danish.

in violent outbursts. You even have a young child actor, named The Boy (Maarten Stevenson) who understands the idea of dramatic timing and delivery in this film. And that’s rare in such a adult themed film. Saying less gives so much more, and that’s what this film knew how to do.

Basic plot, everyone?

So, One-Eye (Mikkelsen) is a slave held in Scotland against his will. He is passed from barbaric tribe to barbaric tribe in order to fight and kill for the honor of the tribe that owns him. He is such a good fighter, that he has to be leashed up in order to set him at the same level as other fighters. Sleeping in a cage all night with little food or contact with others, he befriends The Boy (Stevenson), who shows him the only kindness he’ll ever know.

Upon being switched between tribes, One-Eye uses the almost-prophetic visions in red he receives at the beginning of

Refn and the gang!

the film in order to kill and escape. Kidnapping The Boy, he heads off for freedom. But not before he encounters a roving band of Crusaders looking and itching for a Crusade to wage. With One-Eye and The Boy in tow, the Christians take them on a boat ride to Hell, and eventually the new world.

As I said earlier, the locales are what impressed me most about this movie. Being shot in Scotland, I had little basis for what it actually looked like in a real context, and so this movie works on all levels for Scotland and America. The absence of human life really works well to isolate the feeling of the film, heightening the chances of death and lack of social norms in a clearly barbaric society. No one is safe in this

It doesn’t get more unsettling than this.

film, and it almost makes you feel uncomfortable when people turn on each other for survival.

Mikkelsen, that one-eyed badass from Casino Royale, is just as good in this movie as well. The cast is relatively unknown to me, which really works for this movie. Because who would be recognizable way back in 1000 A.D.? I just wanna give a lot of credit to the special effects and

Picturesque.

make-up people as well in this movie, because I’ve never seen a more realistic head bashing than in this movie. Visually brutal to the point where your eyes bleed. Hardcore shizz.

The overall delivery was right up my alley. Sometimes I’m just in the mood for an artistically brutal and human psyche revealing film. It’ll make people uncomfortable, but it’ll be an unforgettable experience in the end. No real complaints, 8.9 out of 10.


Ip Man 2: The Grandmaster Returns

I was happy to sit down and watch the second Ip Man after having watched the first, enjoying the story with interspersed martial arts fight scenes throughout. With more of a focus on story over choreography, this one didn’t catch my attention as much as I would have liked. It wraps up like Cinderella Man and makes you feel all good inside, but I didn’t have any of those jaw dropping moments. Let’s just get to the plot, shall we?

In this one, Ip Man (Donnie Yen reprises his role) has moved to Hong Kong after beating back the Japanese years before. He has plans to start his own martial arts school, but no disciples seem to be interested. With money problems and a

Two masters goin’ at it.

suppressive British government, Ip Man must maneuver his way through life, following his principles and maintaining a happy family. But it’s not all easy going for the Ip Man.

I really was surprised how this film focused more on story rather than substance. It had all the elements of a triumph of the will story without all the fight scenes and technique. My impression of Wing Chun from this film is one of precise and calculated moves, more than the clever and wily style of other martial arts styles. There aren’t flashy kicks or the use of elbows or knees, it is all more in the quickest

Donnie Yen, as refined as ever.

way to take someone out. I do appreciate that though. Donnie Yen shows off how quick he can be in a flurry of punches I’ve never seen demonstrated in a Kung Fu movie before. I give him his due for that.

The acting is just as good in this film as in the last. But I’m talking more about the Chinese actors than the English speaking ones. Although I’m pretty sure that Brian Burrell is living my dream of being a white man from America living in an Asian country. My country of choice, though? Thailand. Gotta give it up for the Muay Thai and Thai food. (Volcano chicken all the way.) But anyways, the English speaking actors (with as few of them as there probably are in China) just took things over the top and need to work on delivery. This is a common problem though in foreign films, so I don’t blame them too much. They were better than some.

I do appreciate the message the Ip Man films send to a wider audience than just China. The oppression felt in China has

I gotta get me one of those…

been quite prevalent in the last 100 years by foreign countries and bigger world powers. It has been a triumph over the bully in the last century, and China knew how to depict that. I give props to Wilson Yip for doing a good job in that department. I feel for the Chinese in this film and the way that most people look down on Chinese martial arts. Hell, martial arts in general. But I’m pretty sure, other than stamina, that any martial arts expert could take out a boxer with the right moves. Like me and all the other martial arts enthusiasts out there, I appreciate martial arts in all its capacity. Asia will always dominate in my heart.

Dope.

In a different twist I wasn’t expecting in this film, I was touched more than inspired to do martial arts. The music was good and uplifting, the cinematography wasn’t bad, and the Wing Chun kept it brief and brutal. Not much to complain about, but I still do love the fight scenes from the first movie more. 7.4 out of 10.


Velvet Goldmine: “G” Stands for Glam and Gay

To be honest, I had no idea what this movie was going to be about when I first started it. I searched Netflix for movies starring Christian Bale and/or Ewan McGregor and

The perfect glamster couple. (Collette + Meyers)

found this little gem. (I think gem’s the right word to use for this movie in particular.) Not a strong runner in the money department, this movie has a star studded cast but boasts the time and effort of an independent film with a message to put across. I was perfectly okay with all the homosexuality as well. And trust me, there was a lot.

And it wasn’t even a gay vibe from the outfits.

This movie exudes glam and glitter more than any other film I’ve ever seen. In the same documentary/journalistic vein of Party Monster (review a few entries back), this movie handles the earlier era of Glam Rock (back in the 70’s). Knowing not much about glam rock other than David Bowie, it was interesting to see a character based on him. This movie performs as an homage to David Bowie and Iggy Pop, but with less of a focus on the drugs and more on the sex. I wasn’t expecting as much of a straight edge film, but this movie doesn’t leave out the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

And here’s something even weirder. I’m not that huge of a fan of glam rock. Sure, I have Gary Glitter’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Pt. II on my iPod, but that’s about as far as it goes. Oh, and this:

That’s the extent of my glam rock knowledge. But what surprised me about this film is how much I enjoyed the musical soundtrack of the film. The movie was right in informing me from the very beginning that I should turn up the volume on my T.V. I thoroughly enjoyed the songs of the 70’s, and had no idea how much I would enjoy glam rock. John Rhys Meyers and Ewan McGregor both lent their vocals to the soundtrack to give it a truer feel to the film, something I always

The fantastical outfits.

appreciate.

But let’s get into the story a little bit. Structured after what is considered by every film student as the greatest film of all time, Citizen Kane, this movie attempts to uncover the glittery veil on who Brian Slade (John Rhys Meyers) truly was. Arthur Stewart (Christian Bale) is a journalist and former glam enthusiast who has come full circle in what used to be his glory days. He has been charged with unearthing the truth on Slade/Persona known as Maxwell Demon. After he pulled a fake assassination stunt at one of his concerts, he fell from grace and landed in obscurity. Meanwhile, everyone around him give their opinion of what their lives were like with Brian Slade around.

The Glam-man Rises.

It’s interesting to see how involved Christian Bale’s character was with the glam scene and those who surrounded Brian Slade. In a world of blossoming bisexuality, all of the characters explore just what it means to be human through sexual interaction. At the same time that it could be discomforting to someone who is against abnormal sexual acts, this movie doesn’t play it up to more than it is, human interaction on a very base and carnal level. It is always amazing to see actors perform onscreen what they truly aren’t in real life. All three (Bale, Meyers, and McGregor) are straight men. They all simulate homosexual acts (kissing, suggestive thrusting, etc) on camera in front of what I would expect is a mixed morals cast and crew. When you slip into something you’re not and sell it, I give you props for that.

The costumes and personalities flair onscreen creating something pretty to look at as well as substance for a story about a form of music that swept both the U.K. and America. With this clash of countries (Ewan McGregor plays Curtis Wild, a glam rocker from Michigan) and love all over, this movie

Ewan McGregor, showin’ it all.

professes love and understanding, no matter what beliefs, morals, or nationality. I was impressed with John Rhys Meyers haunted acting (just as I was with Culkins in Party Monster) and everyone did their share. Christian Bale created a character conflicted with his sexual identity and his confused past, while Ewan staged an opposite character that embraced all life offers. It was a dazzling performance by everyone, including Toni Collette. Throw in Eddie Izzard to add some pizzazz and you have yourself a great cast of rockers.

A side you’ll never see of John Rhys Meyers.

And that’s what I loved about this movie. This isn’t your average film. Combining the worlds of musical and sexual liberation created something that an outsider like myself wouldn’t be able to acquire otherwise. The actors deliver superbly and the songs and colors create a fantastical cosmic journey you don’t want to end. If they couldn’t strung a series of glam rock music videos together, I wouldn’t have complained. So I say anyone looking for a change of pace to life should check out this film. It’s fab. 8.4 out of 10.


Come Fly With Me: Walliams and Lucas, At It Again

I am a huge fan of Matt Lucas and David Walliams’ hit British comedy, Little Britain. Their sketches and the characters/situations they create are groundbreaking and traditional all at once. They take the old British gag of dressing up as women and take it to the next level. They know no boundaries of race, religion, or moral. They will make you feel uncomfortable, all the while laughing at their zany antics.

And now, they bring you a new show. New characters, a new setting, but the same old tricks. It’s not necessarily overdone because we’ve seen

Taaj, keeping it fresh with the biatches.

the same style before, but they keep it fresh, just by being themselves. This time around, Matt Lucas and David Walliams are a variety of characters, all centered around an airport. In this mockumentary, entitled Come Fly With Me, Lucas and Walliams keep their fans happy with a brand new hilarious show.

Praise to the Lord they will not sue!

And what a show it is. With talking-head interviews supplementing situational comedy throughout the airport, Lucas and Walliams play over 30 characters in a feat I haven’t seen on Television comedies before. Every character feels unique and everyone can choose their own personal favorite. With the makeup being so well done, you may not even recognize Matt Lucas some of the times if you are just a casual watcher of the show.

But there is a problem people have with the program. They say it’s racist. And yes, I can admit to laughing hysterically every time Matt Lucas plays Precious, the coffee store worker. (It’s an inside joke about the name and personality, but it comes across as funny all the same.) Or, even the

All in a day’s work for Matt Lucas.

Japanese fangirls… But that’s not the point. I think this show proves that airports, despite racist characters like Ian Foot (Walliams), the airport head of security and customs, an airport is a place of a widening array of people. Unlike America, the “true” melting pot of all nationalities, an airport such as this one does have people from all over the world flying from all other places. It is a unifying experience, known simply as “flying”. Even Lucas and Walliams recognized that themselves when Moses (Walliams) approaches a Chinese man as the airport liason, and, saying, “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?”, he surprises himself with the Chinese man responding in German. And, despite all that, they show embraces and pokes fun at the homosexual community, Matt Lucas being a proud member of that group. So how could a show that pushes all the limits not go on doing so? Come on…

How much do you love Disney World?

Despite racist allegations and shots at the show’s ego in spite of being after Little Britain’s success, I’m damn proud of Lucas and Walliams getting back out there and doing more comedy. I missed them immensely and was just looking for another show to fill the hole in my comedic heart. This show did it (with the help of Snuff Box).

So set aside your politically correct mind for 6 episodes and sit back and relax and allow yourself to giggle at the occasional profanity or stereotype. I promise, when all’s said and done, you won’t be a

Get a load of that…

redneck. Or whatever you fear you may become. This show lightly grazes over a topic I didn’t know you could go over for 6 episodes for. Flying and airports. Hating the experience of flying itself, I felt this show handled a bunch of jokes that comedians have been pondering for years. “Why is airline food so bad…” And why is this show so good? 9.5 out of 10.


The Great Happiness Space

In this documentary by Jake Clennell (a UK documentarian), the world of Ouran High School Host Club comes to life. In Osaka, Japan, the Cafe Rakkyo is a place for tired and worn down women to come and feel healed, emotionally and probably physically, by the male hosts. With lots of drinking and fake flirting, Clennell dives into the secrets and tips of being a Japanese male host.

For Jake Clennell’s first time doing a documentary, he does a great job. In a mere hour and fifteen minutes, he captures the host life through a

Not your average Ouran boys…

handful of interviews and first hand events. Centered around the owner of Cafe Rakkyo, Issei, who every girl loves and wants to be with. His animal magnetism comes from the way in which he tailors himself to what a girl wants. And what’s the endgame? Money.

This entire interview/documentary is about a human’s instability. Growing up into such a business mogul the way in which Issei did has sacrificed something. Even those who have come in fresh to the game (as one host did) notice something different about themselves. The hosts can’t escape the attraction to the girls (some say love, others say connection) but in the end there is a lot of focus on materialism. Fashion designer clothes, accessories, hairstyles, it’s all about selling themselves to entice women to come to their host club. They lose the excitement of falling in love with someone and lose senses of trust, commitment, and honesty.

Some cute Asian cuddling?

From someone who doesn’t know a thing about host clubs or anything other than from anime, it comes as a culture shock. To see men in a power and control of sexuality and a socialite position in quite in contrast to America. Here, women hold all the power when it comes to sex. We pay for their drinks, we are the ones that instinctively flock towards them in clubs and bars. Men actively seek women in this country. It is up to the women to say yes or no.

But, in the world of Japan, men are the ones in these types of clubs that dictate the tempo. Women pay for privacy and one on one time with them. Women buy the men drinks in order to loosen them up and make them more friendly towards them. These women spend

Just your average host selection bar…

thousands of dollars a visit in order to woo these men. A male host starting off can make $10,000 American dollars a month. How insane!

And then comes the issue of who comes to these host clubs. More often than not, they’re call girls/prostitutes who have just gotten off work. They come to relax and enjoy time away where they’re the ones being catered to. The Osaka district in Japan is drenched in sex. Male businessmen, young impressionable females, host club employees, it’s everywhere. And to see a place that encourages social interaction other than sex is something interesting and new.

The real message to take away.

In the end, as these boys emerge from their cavernous man-den, the come out drunkenly into the sunlight, falling over, hair a bit askew, wanting a good night’s rest. And they’ll be back in a few hours to do it all over again. Issei heads back to his apartment, speculating about his future life and if he’ll ever marry. But what this documentary has delved into is that this may not be the case for this host culture. A bunch of boys jaded by love and what it means to be faithful, who knows if they’ll ever find love. All I know is that this documentary was entertaining and complex, insightful and opened a whole new culture aspect to me (being interested in Japanese culture and all). If you like pretty Asian boys or just something that will make you more aware and intelligent on Japan, you need to check this out. It’s pretty deep. 7.2 out of 10.


What Women Want: A Chinese Take

I can’t explain what it is, but the original Mel Gibson version of this film has just stuck with me for years. I loved it and loved the idea behind it. Almost like a comedians joke, it is true that men can’t think behind what women are thinking. Combine that with Mel Gibson’s attitude and apparent macho sex appeal, and you got yourself a movie with comedy, wit, and a combining of the sexes.

And the same thing goes for the Chinese version of this film. Starring Andy Lau and

Some real chemistry between two beautiful Asians.

Gong Li, these two had a chemistry on film that wasn’t present as much between Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt. The humor is all there in both films, it just comes off as more of a real feeling when watching this 2011 remake. Maybe the Chinese know something about gender relations than we do…

Basic plot. Sun Zigang (Andy Lau) is a successful and macho advertising agent. He knows sex sells to a male audience and does it in a very male oriented way. After all his success and the expectation of a promotion, along comes Li Yilong (Gong Li). She’s young, sassy and successful, and her headstrong attitude scares Sun. He must learn to work under her when she takes his sought after promotion, only to struggle against her managerial style. After taking some female products home, Sun is struck by electrocuted by a fish lamp in his bathtub.

Andy Lau as a secure male. In red heels.

That’s where everything changes. Suddenly, Sun Zigang can hear the thoughts of women. Not all people, like a useful power would, just women. And he finds out that all the women at his work hate him, even his own daughter from his newly divorced wife. With this massive hit to his ego, he must save face and do well in his job all at the same time.

I keep coming back to it, but the idea of a plot like this fascinates me. Most men in this situation would use this power to manipulate women. Andy Lau does this to an extent. But to learn that women can be just as mean to men (just not saying it) is a scary and

Gong Li really is a beautiful woman.

depressing thing. I hope this idea/ script was written by a women, or it wouldn’t be as true and enlightening and this film becomes.

I’m sure there are those people who write this off as just a romantic comedy. Why look into it any more than that? But why not? The idea that maybe being able to be honest and truthful with one another (even if we don’t know that we are) can make things better. It can improve relationships, maybe break them. Maybe that’s not a bad thing. But honesty is at the heart of this movie, and that’s what I connected so much with. Listen, I’ve not had a bunch of good luck with female friends in the past. They back stabbed me, left me, didn’t understand me, and I tried to communicate with them on a real level. Maybe that’s something a lot of people can’t handle. Unrelenting trust. That’s the kind of difficulty this movie idea tries to handle.

Ya got beat, Mel.

The acting is great, just like the original, but the chemistry and relationships seem a bit more realistic in this Chinese version. I liked the awkward Asian stereotype at play in the way that it was an ebb and flow between the characters. Nobody ever really said what they wanted to say, and that proves how hard it is to be trusting and honest, completely, with other human beings. I saw a side of China that you don’t often get to see, and it reassures me that not everywhere other than America is so unrelated to us. The music was upbeat and modern, and the comedy was nicely paced and quirky. I gotta say, Mel Gibson, you got beat by Andy Lau. 7.1 out of 10.