Tag Archives: Kellan Lutz

Origin Wars and the Best Original Sci-fi of 2017

To tie in with our latest podcast where Owen reviews Lionsgate’s new sci-fi adventure film, Origin Wars, we take a look at what else the genre has to throw at us this year.
The content of this post is courtesy of @LionsgateUK.
Continue reading Origin Wars and the Best Original Sci-fi of 2017

The Expendables 3: The Indispensables

by Owen Hughes (@ohughes86)

expendables 3 5It’s fair to say that I’m a self-confessed action film nut. Give me a free 90 minutes and any Jean-Claude Van Damme movie and I’ll smile and say “thanks very much”. It may be no surprise to learn then that I am also a Stallone fan; and with that, a fan of the Expendables franchise. Simon West’s light-hearted but immensely fun sequel to the more serious original (which was written by, directed by and starred Sylvester Stallone) is one of my favourite modern popcorn munching action movies.

Thursday saw the release of the third entry into Sylvester Stallone’s modern action franchise, the succinctly named, The Expendables 3. Whilst overall it’s perhaps not as impressive – in terms of critical success and box office success – as either of his Rambo or Rocky films of decades past, they do feature an impressive cast of 80’s and 90’s heroes as long as the protruding big blue veins in his large muscular arms. Amongst whom returning to Stallone’s side as he stops the latest megalomaniac (an incredibly intense Mel Gibson), are familiar faces such as the arse-kicking Jason Statham, knife-sharpening giant Dolph Lundgren and cigar-chomping Arnold Schwarzenegger. Plus, a load of other recognisable members such as Terry Crews, Randy Couture and Jet Li pop up here and there.

Joining them are a bunch of young whippersnappers (Glen Powell, Kellan Lutz, Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz) whose careers are only just beginning. Whilst at the other end of the experience scale sees notable newcomers Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas, Harrison Ford and Kelsey Grammer join the crew. If nothing else, it shows how far the series has come when it can attract stars such as Gibson and Ford, as opposed to the early incarnations with the likes of Steve Austin and Mickey Rourke taking top billing.

However, a review of The Expendables 3 this is not. For that, check out Callum’s review from this weekend! Instead, I’m pitting the original Expendables cast against the latest big name additions. One film each, best of 5, let’s see who’s indispensable to the series and who is expendable.

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1. Jason Statham vs Wesley Snipes – Crank vs Demolition Man

Often seen throughout this second sequel squaring up to each other with their knife skills (and knife puns) on display, they are arguably the two actors who have the most on-screen chemistry with our chief protagonist, ol’ Sly Stallone. But who has been in  the best action movie? Crank is an exhilarating non-stop self-aware adrenaline-junkie of a movie. The entire cast appear to be pumping energy drinks directly into their bloodstream. None more so of course than The Stath, spending the duration of the movie keeping his adrenaline flowing in every possible way you can think of. But what about Snipes? Demolition Man, released at a transitional time for action movies from the over-the-top kill-em-all era of the 80’s to the smarter, cooler 90’s, is everything Expendables wants to homage. Snipes’ charisma may be mostly responsible for why this movie is still so enjoyable, but let’s face it, it’s no Crank.

Originals 1 – 0 Newcomers

predator2. Arnold Schwarzenegger vs Mel Gibson – Predator vs Mad Max

To many, this won’t even be a debate. Arnie is arguably the greatest action hero we have ever seen. A genre is defined by his mere presence thanks to movies such as Terminator 2, True Lies, Total Recall and indeed the Vietnam jungle survivalist sci-fi horror, Predator. If the debate was “who is better in The Expendables 3“, then sugar-tits himself Mel Gibson would walk that contest. Unfortunately for the fresh-faced post-apocalyptic Australian Max, there is no comparison. Schwarzenegger can quite literally become an elected member of the Republican party and I’ll still turn up in the cinema to see whatever film he’s starring in these days. There’s still so much good will towards him thanks to films such as this all time classic of the genre. The man is a legend. Sorry, Mel.

Originals 2 – 0 Newcomers

3. Dolph Lundgren vs Antonio Banderas – Showdown in Little Tokyo vs Desperado

Yes, yes. OK. I am aware that Rocky IV is Dolph’s most iconic film and quite possibly his best – I won’t even entertain suggestions of Masters of the Universe or The Punisher. But we all know Rocky IV isn’t an action movie, don’t we. Never mind that, Showdown in Little Tokyo is massively underrated. Lundgren is as wooden as he ever was in these early roles of his, but there are some brilliant stunts, one liners and his final showdown lives up to expectations. Is it better than anything in Desperado? Well, no. That would be silly. Banderas is the epitome of cool in the film that really propelled him into the English-speaking public’s conscious. The direction from Robert Rodriguez is excessive, unrelenting and fantastic; Banderas is absolutely perfect as the sexy, dark and mysterious mariachi. Not only does he steal the show in the third act of The Expendables 3, he’s stealing a point for the newcomers.

Originals 2 – 1 Newcomers

4. Randy Couture vs Kelsey Grammer – Hijacked vs Transformers: Age of Extinction

Oh, boy. This is a close one for all the wrong reasons. Whilst you’d think the odds would be stacked against Grammer given the best action films he’s featured in outside of The Expendables 3 are directed by Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) and Michael Bay (Trans4mers), it should be a cake-walk for his opposite number. But looking at the best films Couture has starred in, one appalling The Mummy spin-off (The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior) and a straight to video revenge movie where he’s out-shined by a 5 minute Vinnie Jones cameo (Hijacked), it’s not all that straight-forward. At least Grammer was entertaining in some rather average movies. The comeback is on!

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5. Sylvester Stallone vs Harrison Ford – First Blood vs Raiders of the Lost Ark

Oh, boy. This is a close one for all the right reasons. Saving the best ’til last was meant to make this challenge easier. Instead what I’m looking at is two of Hollywood’s legends, famed more for what they bring to the screen besides what is traditionally considered “great acting”, both duking it out until the 12th round. They have a swagger, a deserved arrogance, something unquantifiable that makes them both the iconic and charismatic performers we know them as today. Comparing First Blood (the beginning of the Rambo franchise and an action movie with real emotional depth) with Raiders of the Lost Ark (the beginning of the Indiana Jones franchise and an action movie with sophistication and undeniable amusement) is just as tough. Of the two, just edging it for me would probably be First Blood. I make no apologies for this either. As good as Indy is, he’s stilla nerd isn’t he? Rambo is just.. better.

Originals 3 – 2 Newcomers


And that’s the end of that! It seems the newcomers made a valiant effort but it’s the originals that have come out on top. We can only hope that if Jackie Chan, Nic Cage, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kurt Russell and Vin Diesel turn up in The Expendables 4, things might go a bit differently in the rematch!

Do you agree? Are you outraged by this outcome? Leave a comment below and wind Owen up.

The Expendables III

Not great, not bad, The Expendables III is diverting entertainment for the over-long run-time it lasts for.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

expendables 3There is not a whole lot to say about The Expendables III.  It is a film that does exactly what it says on the tin and nothing more.  You want to see some over-the-hill action movie stars and some up-and-coming would-be action movie stars blow stuff up real good in the cinematic equivalent of being subjected to a straight shot of testosterone for two and a bit hours?  Do you mind that being done in a competent and not exactly stellar fashion?  Congratulations, this is your movie.  It is utterly passable and diverting filmmaking that knows its limitations and, as a result, sticks solely to what it wants to do.  I hesitate to say “its strengths” because, much like the last two, it’s still not great at what it does and is far too long (this one busts through the two hour mark by the time the credits are finished and does it ever feel like it at points), but it is decent fun, although less overtly silly than the last go-around (you decide whether that’s a good thing or not).

Honestly, there’s really not a whole lot to talk about here.  If you’ve seen an Expendables film before, you know exactly what you’re signing up for.  It’s another one of those, it’s a bit more serious than the last one but the overall pros and cons are the same.  Stallone and Statham still have inexplicably amazing buddy chemistry together, so obviously they don’t spend nearly enough time together on screen.  There’s still a perverse joy in seeing these aging action stars, and up-and-comers who often deserve budding action careers (Kellan Lutz is the real surprise standout of the younger cast, especially so given that The Legend Of Hercules is barely six months old), kicking ass and taking names, but the film is still too overstuffed and therefore many people (including, yes, perennial “fill-out-the-numbers” members Randy Couture and Terry Crews) don’t get their big moment, let alone a character to play.  The final action scene, which spans pretty much the entire final half-hour, kicks all kinds of ass but the film seems permanently stuck in third gear for the rest of its run-time.  There is a good sense of fun throughout the production, but it’s still overwhelmingly macho and the equivalent of watching a raging boner projected on a cinema screen for two hours which, depending on how willing you are to turn off your brain, may be off-putting (although, thankfully, it’s a dumb action film in 2014 that doesn’t sneak a whole bunch of disgusting racism and sexism past everyone under the guise of “we’re a big dumb action film, it’s not like anything uncouth that we do or say matters, right?”).

Let’s talk minor differences, then, eh?  First, that 12a rating.  It means there is no blood.  That’s it.  Literally the only things stopping this from being rated a 15 are the complete lack of blood and an excessively shaky camera whenever knives get involved (otherwise known as “Hunger Games-ing it”).  Swears are thrown about frequently, hundreds of people are violently gunned down, bones are broken… you know, the usual, just now with 100% less CGI blood-squirts and only one deployment of the f-word.  This is still not a film that is suitable for anybody under the age of 10 (stop using the cinema as a babysitter, random parents who brought their two young children into the screening with them), don’t panic.  It’s still violent, still brutal, it’s just cagier about the details.  Also, none of this spoils the last extended action sequence; despite taking place across a large space and multiple floors, it’s nearly always clear where everyone is in relation to what and to what they’re engaged in.

Elsewhere, I found the way the film treated the younger Expendables to be really refreshing.  See, the plot kick-starts when a routine mission for Expendables Classic that has them assassinating Mel Gibson (there really is no point remembering these guys’ names, better to just come right out and call them by their actors’) goes south.  Gibson puts Terry Crews in the hospital and causes Sylvester Stallone to have to face the reality that his current crew (also comprising Jason Statham, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren and a freshly-broken-out-of-jail Wesley Snipes) aren’t getting any younger and soon may end up in the ground.  So he forcibly breaks up Expendables Classic and jets off with Kelsey Grammar to recruit Expendables Modern (Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz and Ronda Rousey in the role of “Michelle Rodriguez Said ‘No’”) to try and take revenge on Gibson who, surprise, has a deep-forged connection to the Expendables crew.  Oh, also, Antonio Banderas shows up as a mercenary cross between Charlie Chaplin and Doug from Up, and Harrison Ford is subbing for Bruce Wills and looking more interested and happy to be here than he has been in years.

What’s refreshing is that this “Damn these new kids, swanning in here trying to claim that our line of work is a young man’s game, now” plotline never actually demonises the new kids.  Yes, they do get captured, necessitating a rescue and eventual team-up (which is not particularly a spoiler as a) all of the damn trailers have revealed this point and b) you saw this coming if you have seen almost quite literally any action film ever before), but that’s simply because Gibson is one step ahead of everyone, in typical movie bad guy fashion.  Otherwise, the kids are shown to be exceedingly competent, their methods are proficient, their technology really useful, they get the job done.  They even hold their own in the big chaotic finale without having to have their butts saved by the older guys.  It’s a surprisingly embracing approach to this kind of plotline, one that’s often used simply to refute the young whippersnappers and remind everyone that the old guys are still relevant dammit (*coughcoughSkyfallcough*)!  I mean, one may immediately want to retract this point due to the fact that none of the youngsters have a real character (Lutz apparently has a problem with authority, Powell is the tech guy who can climb stuff, Rousey is The Girl and derisively says “Men…” after every beatdown, and Ortiz… I’ll get back to you on that one) but I’d counter-argue that nobody in this franchise has a real character so it all shakes out.

Oh, and there’s also a really amazing dreadful one-liner near the end.  Like, holy crap, is it hysterically terrible.  It’s one of the best and worst lines I have ever heard.  You have to hear this line, it is ridiculous.  Not kidding, I burst out laughing at it, 100% unintentionally.  We’re talking Mortal Kombat 4 levels of brilliantly bad, here.

Aaaand… yeah, that’s about it on my thoughts on The Expendables III.  It’s another one.  It drags too long in the middle, its final 30 minutes are the best kind of dumb popcorn fun, it’s lightweight, everyone seems to be having fun, there’s nothing particularly memorable, the dialogue still stinks to high heaven but in an endearing way.  If you’re not sold on this franchise, this won’t change anything; if you are, this is another reliably decent way to spend two hours.  I feel like I should be lauding it to high heaven for at least being a dumb action spectacle this Summer that’s actually good at what it does (heaven knows those keep getting rarer), but it’s still just a bit too forgettable for me to go overboard on the praising.  It’s good at what it does, I had fun whilst it played.  If what it does is what you want, go for it.  If not, skip.  Simple.

Of course, it does feature the image of a man entering the sixth storey of a bombed-out building by jumping a dirt bike up the tail of a destroyed airplane.  Plus, that line.  Holy crap, that line.  So, there’s those.

Callum Petch is about to bloody this track up, everybody get back.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Tarzan

Tarzan 2014This is an ugly, inept, insulting abomination.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

No matter what I type here, it will fail to fully and accurately convey my emotions upon finishing this CG motion capture interpretation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous Tarzan of the Apes.  It will fail to convey the full amount of befuddlement, disbelief, anger and just overall plain astonishment at the film I had spent 98 minutes sitting through.  This is incompetent filmmaking.  Nothing works, nothing is pulled off right.  Choosing to spend money watching this film or, hell, choosing to watch this film in general is asking to spend 98 minutes watching quite literally everything that could possibly go wrong go horribly, horribly wrong.  If Tarzan were a person, it would have ended this film in a bloody, beaten mess; all of its bones broken, internal organs crushed, blood coming out of every orifice, maimed and disfigured.

It would also be completely deserving of that outcome because Tarzan believes that you, the reader, your significant other, your children that this is likely aimed at and which you will keep them far away from if you consider yourself a worthwhile parent, your best friend from high school and pretty much anybody who is alive on the planet today or will be in the future, are an idiot.  A total grade-A moron who can barely operate a toaster without setting yourself on fire.  Consequently, this a script both loaded with exposition and a narrator who literally describes events that you can see happening on-screen that second, and a finale that has been edited and staged to the point of incomprehensibility but it hopes that you’re still too dumb to call it out on.  I haven’t seen a film that has insulted my intelligence this much in gods know how long.  I despise everything about this film, and nothing I write over the next (likely) 4 A4 pages will adequately express the levels of hatred I have for this film.

Nevertheless, I am a writer by trade so I will give it the old college try.

In this interpretation of the story, Tarzan (eventually Kellan Lutz, this is a weirdly paced film) loses his parents in a helicopter crash after his father, the head of a large energy company, invokes the wrath of… something, it’s never explained, by chipping off a piece of an alien meteor that struck the Earth 70 million years ago.  Rescued by a recently widowed mother ape, who also lost her original son about five minutes after said widowing, he grows up amongst the apes as one of their own until he one day stumbles across a teenaged Jane Porter (eventually Spencer Locke, again this is a weirdly paced film) and secretly keeps her safe from harm during her time in the jungle with her father (Les Bubb).

Doing so unlocks a desire in Tarzan to connect with people instead of animals and also possibly memories of the crash from all those years ago.  That second part is really unclear, the whole scene where he comes across the helicopter wreckage plays like an amnesiac remembering their traumatic past but the film doesn’t seem to explain if that’s the case.  Anyway, at roughly the one hour mark of this 98 minute film, Clayton (Trevor St. John) finally shows up, with Jane in tow, as the new head of Greystoke Energies attempting to find said meteorite in order to mine it for its potential power because he’s the head of an energy company, what did you think he was going to be a nuanced villain?

As you may have gathered, this is supposed to be a film of two halves.  One wants to be a relatively straight-laced telling of Tarzan of the Apes (although it still Disney-fies all of the more morally ambiguous elements) and the other half wants to be…  man, I have no idea what in the blue hell the other half wants to be.  Seriously, what on earth is going on with that meteor crap?  Why do people keep going after it when, quite clearly, it screams “DO NOT DISTURB OR WE WILL SPOIL YOUR DAY IRREPARABLY”?  Why can it turn some of nature into weird alien-like hybrid species things?  Why does it apparently have spiritual apes guarding it yet they don’t actually do anything?  In fact, what is gained by adding the meteorite to the story of Tarzan besides a ridiculous disconnect between the non-meteorite stuff and a sledgehammer-subtle environmentalism message?

Needless to say, it doesn’t work.

In fact, I find it weird that I’m sat here with questions about certain aspects of the film seeing as it spends nearly the entire runtime explaining things.  Clayton’s first scene, for example, is literally him recapping the importance of the meteorite and the events of the opening 15 to 20 minutes of the film, in case anyone nodded off during them or suffers from very short term memory loss.  Very little of what dialogue is spoken in this film is not exposition of some way shape or form which, surprise, creates the issue of the film not having any actual characters in its roster.  Characters always say what they are feeling, point out the obvious, recap the plot, the whole shebang and it’s endlessly irritating.

And then there is the omniscient narrator.  Now, you may be wondering what the point of there being a narrator is considering the fact that 80% of words spoken in this film amount to exposition.  The answer, of course, is to offer up even more exposition!  This is where the film most demonstrates its contempt for its audience as the narrator describes everything.  And I mean everything up to and including things you can see happening right in front of you that very second.  “Tarzan and Jane ran through the forest from Clayton’s men.”  Yes, film, I can see that.  “As Greystoke ventured further into the cave, the guardian apes grew more restless.”  Yes, I know, you cut to the apes as he went further in.  I can figure that…  “The mother ape (I forget her name) had lost her husband.”  YOU JUST SHOWED…  “From the first day he arrived, Tarzan became a thorn in the alpha ape’s side.”  SHUT UP!!  Maybe it’s supposed to give off the effect of a storybook, actions being read out whenever stuff isn’t happening, or maybe the filmmakers just didn’t trust that its target audience would be able to follow along or pay attention if there went five minutes without anybody saying anything.

Needless to say, it’s really patronising and very frakkin’ annoying.

Animation-wise…  I regret insulting Escape From Planet Earth nearly two months ago, now.  I really do.  See, because when I tell you that Tarzan is uglier than that by a country mile, you won’t believe me.  For a lot of people, EFPE looked average at best and that may be true; I only called it bad because I spend most of my days consuming various forms of animation and know what to look for.  Nobody, though, should be in any disagreement or doubt at any point as to how hideous Tarzan is.  Not one single human or animal looks convincing.  They are all way too creepy and off-putting, humans especially have faces that are trying to strive for realistic but just cause everything to trip and fall into the bottomless chasm known as The Uncanny Valley.

Movements are stiff and unnatural 90% of the time, with the only time it does work being some of Tarzan’s ape-like walking movements and those only serve to make everything else look worse.  I never noticed a character blink, all of their gestures are performed like they have 2-tonne anvils attached to their arms and rain and water, which featured a lot, makes them turn a dark shade of white instead of looking like they’re actually wet.  Environments are weirdly coloured and lack detail, lighting is simplistic, never varying in shadow or temperature, and camera movements are static or extremely cheap (there’s a bit during Clayton’s boardroom meeting where the camera has to cross the room whilst focussing on his static face and it there is such a jarring disconnect and poor application of perspectives that I can’t do it justice describing in word form).

This does not look like a film that cost millions of dollars to make.  This does not look like a film that should have been released in cinemas.  This does not look like a movie that was designed and worked on by professional CGI artists and animators with specialised technology.  This looks like the tech demo reel for a rejected CalArts student.  This looks like something somebody put together in Blender.  This looks like somebody filmed a five year-old playing with their Barbie and Ken dolls and wildlife action figures and then green-screened the results over barely shifting low-res JPEG images of their uncle’s summer vacation in Africa.

Needless to say, it looks f*cking appalling and I am offended by its existence.

Meanwhile, anybody who is looking to fill up their empty Worst Performances Given In A 2014 Film slots will find no shortage of contenders, here.  Kellan Lutz is OK when he just has to leap around all ape-like and utter out nonsensical sounds that are somehow understood by all creatures of all kinds, but give him human words to say and it all falls apart with mis-delivery after mis-delivery.  Spencer Locke says everything in the exact same tone of voice regardless of the line, situation or context and that one tone is of a wooden “I am trying really hard to act” that quickly got on all of my nerves.  Trevor St. John is never menacing or excited or hammy or any of the things that make an interesting villain.  The absolute worst, though, and by a country mile at that, is Les Bubb as Jane’s father.  He tries this accent that never sticks or sounds convincing and his every line is delivered wobbly or overly-inflected or, to put it in simpler terms, just plain wrong.  He is, no exaggeration, abysmal and his abysmal-ness sticks out even amongst this bunch.

Needless to say, we have serious Razzie contenders in this film.

And then, to top it all off, we have the last 15 to 20 minutes.  Folks, I have seen some incompetent finales in my time.  I have seen some utterly, bafflingly incompetent finales in my time, and this may top them all.  It’s rushed, it’s poorly edited, it’s inconsistently motivated, it suddenly gets really dark for seconds at a time (and the film has a joyless mood for most of its run time, anyway) and then goes back to normal, it’s anaemic in content, poorly set-up in terms of scene geography and atrociously edited.  Yes, I did just mention the editing in this finale twice and that’s because I want to bring special attention to how poorly sequenced and edited and paced the whole thing is.  It cuts between actions and shots so quickly and so haphazardly that it serves to make the whole enterprise completely incoherent and incomprehensible.  My brain was futilely trying to make sense of the thing and the only thing it managed to accurately suss out was how f*cking awful the thing I was witnessing was.

Needless to say, the rolling of the credits did not leave me in a pleasant mood.

Folks, this Tarzan is an abomination.  An utterly incompetent piece of trash that belittles audiences of all ages and seems to have had no actual effort put into its construction.  I feel sorry for any child who finds this to be their first exposure to Tarzan and the Apes because it may just turn them off it for good.  And Maker forbid you have any reverence for the source material in any form.  This film is so bad that is screws up the “my name Tarzan, your name Jane” scene because of its abominable animation, atrocious dialogue, atrocious delivery of said dialogue and then following it with a laughable time-skip romance montage backed by “Paradise” by Coldplay (you know, in case you wanted that song, and “Loud Like Love” by Placebo which plays over the end credits for some bizarre reason, ruined for you).

This is trash.  Of the highest order.  I do not recommend it to anyone under any circumstances and I can guarantee you that it will be fiercely battling it out with 300: Rise of an Empire for Worst Film of 2014 when that time comes around.  And even with that ignominious honour, I still don’t think I have accurately transcribed my feelings on how much I hate this film or even why I hate this film so much.  Like, this is horrendously made but it’s not mean-spirited or anything.  So why am I so worked up about it?  I don’t know.  I honestly don’t, maybe I never will, but what I do know is that this Tarzan is awful and, if we are all very lucky, this will be the most anybody ever writes about it or pays attention to it and we will all go about the rest of our lives forgetting its existence.

Again: this is utterly and completely dreadful.  Do not see it.  Not even for a joke.  That is an order.

Callum Petch makes all the b-boys scream.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!