Tag Archives: Movie Review

The Expendables 3

Per my Twitter feed, The Expendables 3 is better than either of the first two installments in the series. The first was goofy and ridiculous, and not in great ways. The second took itself too seriously, and ended up being goofy, ridiculous, overblown, and clumsy. This one, though, struck just the right balance for an action movie. I had fun.

Expendables3

The film does not clear my Threshold of Awesome, however. The predictable dialog really wore on me, especially when a character was pausing for dramatic effect, and I knew what he was going to say next. Also, the final act’s conceit was one of those ridiculous supervillain tropes — in this case it’s the one where our bad guy has lured the heroes into a trap, and instead of just pouring overwhelming force into the kill box, he starts the timer on an explosive.

What follows that countdown is purely predictable, but it also shapes up to be a nice fulfillment of all the movie’s earlier promises. They shoot all of the things and do all of the stunts and we have our huge cast of readily-recognized hitters finally working together.

The stand-outs for me in this film were Ronda Rousey, who made a much better transition from MMA champion to actress than Gina Carano did, and Antonio Banderas, who was hilariously awesome. The Expendables 3 comes in at #15 for me for the year thus far.

Into the Storm

Into the Storm had a lot of tornadoes in it, but no sharks.  ZERO. Nary a one.

Into The StormOne of the tornadoes caught fire, and that kind of made up for it. Another one was full of tractor trailers, and several tornadoes filled up on barn components. I could be wrong, but I get the feeling that if you can name a common thing (but not a shark) this movie put that thing into a tornado.

Surprisingly, at least two of the tornadoes had Thorin Oakenshield in them, though he was in his six-two, beardless Richard Armitage form. No axe. Pocketknife.

Enough silliness. This movie was far more enjoyable than it had any real reason to be. The “found footage” conceit worked against it, at least to my tastes, but even when they were talking directly to the cameras for posterity, every character on screen was more interesting, more engaging, and more believable than the Megan Fox incarnation of April O’Neil. And I include the four characters who died in the first scene.

In 1996’s Twister our excuse for seeing lots of funnel clouds was that we were following storm chasers, and they were chasing storms pretty effectively. Into the Storm took a different approach, the “what do you mean there’s ANOTHER cell coming?” approach.

Remember that scene in Twister where Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt get to look up into the eye of the tornado? Into the Storm one-ups that moment in a beautiful way.

That said, Into the Storm is very much middle-of the-pack fare. It feels like a high-budget, made-for-TV movie, and I don’t think you have any reason to see it in theaters if Guardians of the Galaxy is still playing, and you still have movie money, and friends who have not yet seen Guardians of the Galaxy.  As of this writing, Into the Storm comes in at #15 for me for the year.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

I think I’ve figured out what it is that Michael Bay is doing wrong.

I don’t know exactly how he does it, but what he seems to be doing is bringing really fun stories to the live-action silver screen while draining as much fun from them as possible. Then he bottles that fun and hoards it, no doubt as part of a nefarious plan to digress from the review and oh… okay, right.

TMNT-2014So. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There’s this scene where captured turtles are being drained, literally, with tubes, and it felt just a little too on the nose. Like “this is what I’m doing to this franchise, GET IT?”

It’s not all bad, though. The portrayal of the turtles themselves was fun. The character designs were spectacular, the performances were spot-on, and the dialog was pretty clever. Oh, and the downhill chase scene in the snow was pretty cool, too.

Sadly, the film follows the wrong POV. Perhaps a different actress or a different script could have gotten me to care about April O’Neil’s career as a journalist, but following her around was boring. Also Megan Fox failed completely to convince me that she was an ambitious reporter, anxious to get off of the fluff-piece-of-the-day beat. When the turtles weren’t on the screen, the movie dragged.

The audience at our 10:30pm showing seemed to be predominantly 20-something males, with a few 10-year-olds out late with their parents. This crowd laughed in many of the right places, but it sounded like nervous laughter. These were the laughs people make when they’re desperately hoping this is the point where the movie turns around and gets good. But it wasn’t. It never was. I joined them, laughing as if to believe, but it wasn’t enough.

Michael Bay’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles did not destroy my childhood, nor did it ruin my enjoyment of the comics, the Nickelodeon series, or even the side-scrolling video game. It also did not clear the Threshold of Disappointment. If that region is a sewer, then the turtles of  metaphor are probably too on the nose. And their noses looked weird. And this review ended in a strange place.

Guardians of the Galaxy takes my top spot

I am, in a word, amazed.

GuardiansOfTheGalaxyGuardians of the Galaxy accomplished what The Avengers accomplished, and it did it without requiring four movies of character development. The filmmakers delivered an ensemble superhero space-opera, gave us five fully fleshed-out characters, and had us laughing and cheering (and stoically holding back tears) through the whole film.

This is one of those films I want to watch again, only with a notebook. I want to to study it and figure out how they did what they did. Lots of it was brilliant writing, but the actors sold those parts to me, and the director, the editors, and the huge crew of technical wizards sold me the whole universe, and a really rollicking story.

I had a blast. So yes, it takes my #1 slot for the year, and I don’t expect it to be displaced.

My eleven-year-old son also heartily recommends it. He said, and I quote, “this is the best movie,” jaw agape, at least twice during the film. He was cheering for the characters in the final scenes. I had to shush him, because he was starting to cheer louder than the other people in the theater.

[UPDATE:] As was pointed out to me on the Twitter, and I quote:

@ajchid: You liked the hilarious space opera about a group of heroic ruffians from diverse, morally ambiguous backgrounds? Hmm…

If you’re at this website reading this review because you read Schlock Mercenary, and you think that movies its creator enjoys might also tickle your fancy, there is a reasonable chance that you will love Guardians of the Galaxy because it scratches your “I want a Schlock Mercenary movie” itch. Assuming you have such an itch.

I don’t see Schlock Mercenary in Guardians of the Galaxy, but that’s the same me being able to immediately recognize my house in a neighborhood full of similarly-built houses — Schlock Mercenary is where I live, and Guardians of the Galaxy is a place where Marvel Studios invited me over for a party.

(Oh, yeah. Sergeant Schlock can totally be described as a blobby cross between Groot and Rocket, with “I want to eat that” substituted for “I want to steal that.”)