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The Expendables: The Movie That Cannot Be Spoofed

There is really no sacred genre of film that cannot be spoofed in Hollywood.  Every type of film has been spoofed, mostly by the Zucker Brothers or the Wayans Brothers or some other pair of siblings. Even Holocaust movies sort of parody themselves by the sheer volume of how many are made.   Perhaps Sylvester Stallone has harbored ill feelings towards Hot Shots Part Deux for the last 20 years when it spoofed, among others, Rambo III.  Stallone’s answer was to revive action films, not with CGI, but with loud explosions, exploding heads and uncomfortably homoerotic close ups of bulging male biceps, when he wrote, directed and starred in The Expendables, a movie so mediocre in some parts and so patently absurd in most that is impossible to spoof.  That is because it works as a spoof by itself, albeit unintentionally. 

This blog will ruin and spoil “the plot” of the movei so stop reading here if you care.  However, if you are older than 9 or have seen at least 2 action movies in your life then the simplicity of the movie will spoil the plot for you as you watch it and predict its “developments” 20-30 minutes ahead of time and you should read on.

The plot involves a pack of awesome, but somewhat aged bro-dudes, led by Sylvester Stallone, who in his 60s is built like Iggy Pop on dozens of steroids.  When Stallone runs, which is not shown for very long, lest he break a hip on camera, it literally looks like an old man racing for the door of his favorite diner at 4:59 pm in hopes of not missing the early-bird dinner special.

I GOTTA GET TO THE $9.99 BUFFET BEFORE 5 PM! AAAAAGGGGHHHHH

The violence of the movie gets started in the very first scene where our band of merry steroid abusers arrives on a ship to rescue some kidnapped workers from some Somalian pirates.  Our heroes give fair warning to the pirates, but because they are crazy and evil they do not heed the warnings so they end up getting exploded by gunfire, the defining blow coming from some gun that Dolph Lundgren (Drago from Rocky IV) uses to literally blow apart the top half of the lead pirate’s body.  Probably the most violent thing I have ever seen in a movie.

This is a good time to crown Dolph Lundgren the worst actor I have ever seen. Porn included.  I wondered, how can a guy who is handsome, extremely well-built, has a degree in chemical engineering (true) not get more acting work.  Oh right, because he is beyond terrible at acting.  He and Gerard Butler belong to a small, but well known cadre of actors who are not American, but who cannot do a passable American accent so their dialogue comes out sounding like they are mentally disabled – what accent is that, “stroke?”  Dolph does not disappoint in the movie, basically delivering the same character and performance he made so forgettable in Universal Soldier.   But it is ironic that a guy who quit MIT after receiving a Fulbright Scholarship to go there (true) pursued bad acting.  I mean, only an idiot would do that, but by definition he cannot be an idiot.

God has given Dolph Lundgren looks, a physique, a brilliant mind. The only thing he did not give him was acting talent. So what did Dolph decide to do with his life?

The second worst actor is the guy who plays the fictional (I think) country’s military leader.  I do not know his name, but he is on Dexter, which, if they traded Michael C. Hall for Dolph Lundgren in Season 1 of Dexter, they would have assembled the Miami Heat of bad acting.

Dexter's Season 1 cast is like the Cleveland Cavaliers of 2007. Michael C. Hall is LeBron and this guys is Anderson Verejao. And like the 2010 Cavs, this guys showed how much worse he can be without his LeBron in The Expendables.

There are some introspective and thoughtful moments in the movie, mostly with Mickey Rourke, as the “I got out of the team, but I am still left with emotional scars and cliche thoughts,which will be painfully obvious because there will be mandolin music playing in the background when I speak” guy.

The main villain of the movie is played by Eric Roberts.  Now he he would be the obvious choice for many filmmakers as a bad guy in spoof films, but Stallone locked him up for this one so he would not be available for The Depenzables.

There is a damsel-in-distress and a scene that I found poignant was when Stone Cold Steve Austin (trained at the Actor’s Studio I believe) playing Eric Roberts’ henchman, punches said damsel in the face.  It is nice to see that after Stone Cold was suspended from the WWE several years ago for some time for punching his wife, that Hollywood has less exacting standards for female treatment than Vince McMahon.  It did give a level of reality knowing that Stone Cold had done it in real life.  Perhaps Chris Brown can be in the sequel.  Or they could get OJ out of prison to play Jack The Ripper.  That wouldn’t be creepy.  

But this movie already had one black guy: Terry Crews, who has the muscle size of 4 athletic black guys so I guess it counts as diversity.  Stallone, in another nuanced, homoerotic gesture gives Terry Crews the biggest, baddest, black firearm that vanquishes dozens of enemies at a time, but not so much that you can’t see gallons of blood pouring forth as he does it.  In one scene Crews (known for being in every other movie right now a la Kristen Wiig and for his bizarre Old Spice commercials) actually throws a bomb at a helicopter.  Like a small missile.  He throws it.  This is exactly what they did in Hot Shots Part Deux, except it was bullets. Watch the link below – I am not kidding how prescient Hot Shots Part Deux is for The Expendables.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a0L3Z1A-RM

But the real stars of this film are the dialogue and the violence.  The dialogue is basically just a collection of David Caruso tag-lines from CSI: Miami, but without The Who playing at the end of each one.  Just beefy dudes smirking at each other, amazed at their collective sense of humor.

But the violence is truly remarkable.  The action took place on a fictional small island (or perhaps real, who knows) and by my count The Expendables managed to murder 1.8x the population of the entire island, all without suffering a single casualty, except for good taste.  They would enter a room, which appeared to have 9 bad guys and next thing you know, 14 throats have been slit, 19 heads have been blown up by high powered guns and 16 necks broken.  It just didn’t seem to add up.  But don’t tell that to the ravenous actions fans that surrounded me in the theater.  No one-liner was too pithy or punny to not get a cheer or a clap.  No death was too absurd not to earn an “oooohhhhh sh*t!”  The violence in this film was so absurd that I think if a theater sees a parent with a child under 13 going into to see it they should call child services.  Making this movie simply R, instead of banning it, would be like making a film with gang bang, full penetration sex scenes R.  I am not some guy who decries America’s puritanical values (fu*k those people and their Eat Pray Love viewing this weekend).  But the violence in this movie would be harmful to a young mind.  Just look what it has done to Sylvester Stallone, and he supposedly has an adult brain.

If you are not crying or laughing at this movie, but instead are cheering or impressed I consider you an accomplice to this crime against humanity.

Which brings me to the DaVinci of this Sistine Crapel: Sylvester Stallone.  Something has gone Mel Gibson wrong in this dude’s mind.  He is in his sixties, still juicing for movie roles and is making his movies exceedingly violent.  Say what you will about religious fanaticism and Mel Gibson, but even after he became fanatical he made Braveheart, Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto, three very violent but very excellent films.  Stallone proves that violence without faith can make for some very sad movie-going experiences.

It is hard to say that Jean Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal are lucky, but in this case they are.  Because they are the only two 1980s action icons not featured in this film (Jeff Speakman, A/K/A “The Perfect Weapon” not an icon, sadly).  See this movie if you must, but be prepared to either vomit or laugh uncontrollably. 

OK, now I have to get back to my Play Station 3 and rape some prostitutes and kill some people in Red Dead Redemption.

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Salt Lake City Thriller

Yesterday I was part of a magnificent game between the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Kevin Durant scored almost at will, but Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer also had great games.  With less than two seconds left in the game Deron Williams hit a game winning shot over two Thunder players to give the Jazz a one point lead.  What is quirky about this is that it occurred on the corresponding season game on my video game yesterday morning as I left for the airport.  Sometimes life imitates art and sometimes life imitates video games. (or another true example –  sometimes a hockey player that “dated” your ex scores a goal on you in NHL10).

The day did not start with good omens.  As I got on my Delta flight to Salt Lake City I observed an Indian family of four sitting in my row of three.  I had an aisle seat because my legs are a long, awkward nuisance and I cannot physically sit in the middle seat or a window seat unless absolutely necessary.  The family, whose English was limited, but whose baby’s screaming was proficient, looked at me with this look like the father in Blood Diamond who did not want to be separated from his family.  I just said, “I can’t switch seats with you because your seat is a window and I am a giant.”  So my trip to Hoops Mecca began with breaking up a family.

When I arrived in Utah I was blown away by the white landscape. And the snow capped mountains as well.  Seriously, the scenery was beautiful and there were actually more minorities than I expected. Granted, it had the diversity of a NYC law firm, but that was better than what I expected, which was the diversity of Friends.

Nice view of Salt Lake City's surrounding mountains and demographic metaphor.

Among the pre-game highlights were standing on the street named after John Stockton and seeing a sign that indicated that drinking was not illegal in Salt Lake City.  Expectations were getting obliterated by the minute!

I'll have a lemonade.

I went to the arena around 6 pm (one hour before game time) to look around and to spend money in the gift shop like a crack addict in New Jack City.  There were also several groups, who apparently did not make the cut for halftime shows – a series of awkward child dancing routines.  I think everyone who knowingly shows up to pre-game early to watch this (that isn’t related to the kids or an unknowing out-of-towner) should be automatically registered on sex offender lists.

Terrible.

Something else I noticed was how many doors I held for people in Utah without getting a thank you.  Perhaps it’s a cultural thing or perhaps I have been too harsh on Manhattan as the King City of Rudeness.  Or maybe it was just a coincidence. 

In the Energy Solutions Arena my seats were so close to the court that I could actually see concern on Paul Millsap’s face when he looked in my direction and saw me wearing his jersey.  His thought may have been – why is that grown man wearing my jersey? And why is he so big and not playing? 

Geeked out.

The pre-game warm-ups featured the Jazz mascot “Bear” who is a anthropomorphous bear who comes into the arena on a motorcycle to greet the Jazz starters.  It sounds weird, but it makes perfect sense for a team called the Utah Jazz.

The aptly named mascot, "Bear"

When the game started I felt like I was at a Tea Party rally.  There were angry white people yelling things at black men they did not support that made no sense.  It seemed like at the beginning of the game the emotions ran much higher than rational thought.  Every call that was made against the Jazz drew jeers, no matter how right the call was.  And the young woman sitting next to me was literally overflowing with bad heckles – her best was shrieking that Russel Westbrook (pt guard for the Thunder) should call himself Westbrick!  The guys next to me were a little better because they kept calling Serge Ibaka (center for Thunder) Chewbakka (which I got laughs for when I did a decent Chewbacca impression).

The game was going well for the Jazz early, but Ibaka (ggggggggggggggg) helped keep the Thunder in the game.  At halftime the Jazz were actually down 1.

There various amounts of intermissions provided humor.  There were the dancers, who shook their breasts and asses with great vigor, but because they were dancing to oldies half the time I guess it is less dirty than other franchises who dance to Whitesnake and Timbaland.  It was around this time that I heard my first and only anti Obama comment from the people behind me.  That was 7 less than I expected.

There was also a brief acknowledgement of the Salt Lake City Bees who were either a minor league baseball team or a separatist militia. Oh wait – there were a couple of brown people with them.

Minor League Baseball or Right Wing Militia? - you decide.

I of course did yeoman’s work at the concession stand, but drew a “You don’t want cheese???” more incredulous than any I have ever received when I purchased some soft pretzel bites.

The second half turned a good game into what may have been the NBA Game of the Year to this point.  Deron Williams got filthy, CJ Miles alternated his play between Kobe Bryant, Dr. J and J-L Cauvin, solidifying him as unquestionably the most frustrating Jazz player. Carlos Boozer started dunking like a madman, but then Kevin Durant  happened.

Kevin Durant is my favorite player in the NBA not on the Utah Jazz.  He is built like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, but has such an effortless and smooth game.  He will be the chief rival against LeBron’s James’ upcoming dominance because just as LeBron is so physically gifted, Durant has incredibly innate basketball gifts.

An artist's rendering of Kevin Durant.

So the Durant show began and he just started pouring in points.  The game eventually was tied by Georgetown alum Jeff Green’s three pointer (as if the Law Center experience was not enough of a reason for me to hate G-Town) with 8 seconds left.

It was at this point that I noticed something odd – as legitimate passion and tension rose during the game:  the fans were not saying stupid stuff.  It seemed once they had to focus solely on exciting action they had no time to make inane and unfunny comments.  I grew to appreciate the crowd’s enthusiasm (though the Korver-to Millsap Jersey ration left some unfavorable in my mind – though I don’t begrudge the chicks for shrieking for Kyle Korver a/k/a Ashton Kutcher with a jumpshot).

In overtime the Jazz had the ball with five seconds left and the atmosphere was electric – just check my 3,898 Tweets during the game (www.Twitter.com/JLCauvin).  Boozer got the ball handed it off to Williams who nailed a jumper over two defenders with 1.1 seconds left.  (Please see that on my Twitter feed I wrote about the ending of my video game an hour before Williams re-played it in real life).  That was awesome.

Life imitating EA Sports.

Kevin Durant ended up missing a game winning shot thanks to CJ Miles gently slamming Durant’s forearm, but Durant was not going to get the call for a few reasons. One – Kevin Garnett had made a public and expensive complaint about Durant getting calls. Two – Durant over-dramatized the foul with leg flailing that only drew attention from the actual foul on his wrist.  Three – it did not happen on my video game.

So the Jazz finish up the J-L Jazz tour in dramatic fashion, giving me a 5-0 season at Jazz games.  It was a phenomenal trip and a phenomenal game.  Now I need my plane to leave already so I can play Utah vs. Houston before tonight’s game.  If it happens again I’m calling Hollywood about a sequel to the Gerard “My native accent always creeps in to any role I play” Butler “film” Gamer.

Stockton & Malone - the reason I'm a fan in the first place.