Sunday, September 5, 2010

Review: The Expendables

For those who are born after 1990, you may not be familiar with Sylvester Stallone, who was one of the action movie kings of the Eighties, along with Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Van Damme, etc. Stallone was most famous for playing slow-witted pugilist Rocky Balboa in the Oscar-winning movie, Rocky, and its five sequels. His other famous role is John Rambo, whose name is now synonymous with reckless, gung-ho behaviours. You've probably seen this image somewhere before:

Quite a sight, huh? Believe it or not, at 64 years of age, he's actually BIGGER now. Anyway, one day he decides to make a movie called The Expendables, about the titular team of mercenaries who gets personal dealing with a South American dictator-cum-drug lord. This would be the one that would bring all his former competitors together in the same film, and lets them kick ass like they used to twenty years ago.

Think of it like the Justice League or the Ocean's Eleven of Pixar's Up. But it's not really that, because most of the big stars only guest appears, while the team of Expendables only consist of a balanced mix of old and young stars. Well, if you consider Jason Statham, Jet Li, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Randy Couture to be "young". You'd be sorely disappointed if you expected to see the action gods trade one-liners with each other while mowing down hordes of bad guys with submachine guns in unison. The movie is supposed to be a throwback to action movies of the Eighties, but it's not even that either, because of the frequent use of "shaky cam" that is uncharacteristic of those types of movies.

What we ended up having on the big screen is a fairly watchable, entertaining but unexpectedly goofy little movie, with more male-bonding awkwardness than there are badassery. You can find more badass moments in any single Tarantino movie. The movie it most resembles and reminded me of is The A-Team.

You can't blame poor Stallone for not trying. Apparently, making these sort of "ensemble" movies is really, really freakin' hard. Check out the stuff that went on behind the scenes here.

Rating: Average.

Saw it at: Golden Village Jurong Point, regular evening show.
Cost: SGD 10 (weekend rates) 

Review: Resident Evil (Part 1)

With a silly name like Resident Evil, it could not be anything else but the name of a Japanese video game. Ironically, the game is originally called "Biohazard" in Japan, which is significantly less silly. The game puts you in the roles of police officers investigating the source of a viral outbreak that turned the inhabitants of Raccoon City into reanimated corpses, also affectionately known as zombies. Armed with a vast array of modern weaponry, you explore a spooky mansion filled with a menagerie of zombies and strange creatures that escaped from the secret laboratory complex underneath the ground. The villain is a faceless global conglomerate known as the Umbrella Corporation, responsible for conducting illegal experiments that led to the outbreak.

The movie explores the same world but from the perspective of Umbrella employee Alice (Milla Jovovich), who lives in the aforementioned mansion. She is unconscious, alone and amnesiac when she first appears at the beginning of the outbreak. Circumstances forced her to join a group of mercenaries hired by Umbrella to investigate the sudden loss of communication from the secret laboratory. In tow are fellow amnesiac Spence (James Purefoy) who may be connected to Alice in some ways, and Matt (Ugly Betty's Eric Mabius), a cop looking for his sister who works in the lab. As with all "haunted house" movies, the assorted bunch of characters are stuck in the building, and must find a way to survive and escape the place. Most of them won't.

Like the game, Resident Evil is an amalgamation of horror, sci-fi and action that somehow works for me. Maybe it's the entertaining action/horror sequences, or Michelle Rodriguez wisecracking, or just Jovovich being such great eye candy. To her credit, Jovovich also brings some level of unexpected badassery to a female role that is always rare in movies. Like any good male action hero, she takes charge of bad situations, gets physically roughed up, and chambers a round in a shotgun like she means it. There are also some clever ideas to be found, like the way the character's amnesia is used to reveal key events.

You can say that Resident Evil is no different and no less sillier than movies like Clash of the Titans and The Mummy, except that its action sequences have a little more kick to it since the violence is not restrained by a family-friendly rating. Personally, I found it entertaining enough to rewatch numerous times on Blu-Ray. Others may wish to proceed cautiously, since enough critics have hated it.

Cautiously recommended!

The Blu-Ray: It's great to revisit the movie and find everything so sharp and detailed. I can finally read the small prints on the Red Queen cam. The disc also contains all of the special features from the special edition DVD, including the entertaining audio commentary by the cast. I didn't notice anything that is missing. The pop-up menu looks appropriately tech-y, but I've seen better. I'm no sound aficionado, but as long as there's some surround effects and strong bass for gunfire and explosions, I'm good.

The case is about as creative as any other Blu-Rays in the market, with nothing except the disc plus one promotional (and completely disposable) slip inside the case. Watch out for the spoiler-iffic picture at the back of the case.

Format: Blu-Ray, looks like 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (First viewing was in a cinema.)

Source: Purchased

Experience: Home, 47-inch LCD with 5.1 home theatre surround system

I like the Resident Evil movies. Does that mean my standards are poor?

It's not in the game: Gun-tottin' Milla Jovovich