Aug 14, 2012

EX2 Review By EXBlogman - Minor Spoiler Alert!

After a long wait (about XXV years or so), I finally had the opportunity to watch the movie of my childhood dream: The Expendables 2. Let me assure you right from the start that the extended wait was worthwhile. This movie triumphs on numerous levels where its predecessor fell short!

I should mention that I'm reviewing EX2 as an ardent fan of big-screen action movies from the 80s and 90s. While I will strive to remain as objective as possible, my viewpoint is likely more biased than that of a conventional film critic.

I. Action:

Action is the heart of the film. While there are moments without action, these interludes are well-planned to prevent boredom between the action sequences. The pacing isn't a rapid succession of events; instead, it balances moments of calm with action. The violence is substantial but not excessive—it's more in line with "True Lies" than "Rambo," which aligns well with the movie's context.

The action scenes are deftly shot and edited, standing tall among blockbuster movies. I must concede that West outdid Stallone's work in the first instalment. The camera work is steady, and CGI distractions have been greatly reduced, marking a significant improvement from the initial episode.

Nonetheless, there was room for improvement. EX2 doesn't reach the pinnacle of action ecstasy, yet it offers a consistently strong performance. Personally, I wouldn't have minded a few more action sequences or hand-to-hand combat scenes. It felt as though there was potential for more, but it was cut somewhat short.

Li's hand-to-hand combat scene was top notch.

Statham's knife fight was impressive.

Statham versus Adkins was solid but too brief; you yearned for more, particularly more of Adkins dominating the fight.

Sly versus JCVD didn't quite attain the epicness Stallone had promised, but it was undeniably solid. I found it a tad short; it felt even briefer than Sly's confrontation with Austin in EX1. The highlights of the fight were Van Damme's 360-degree kicks. On the whole, this clash of the titans was slightly disappointing given the lengthy anticipation.

Arnold's presence is dependable, contributing to a respectable body count.

Norris brings an exaggerated flair.

Lundgren shines in action.

Action Rating: 4/5

II. Story:

In the lead-up to the premiere, I spoke with people who had seen the movie and read numerous reviews. Many indicated that the story wasn't impressive or was too straightforward. Let me provide some context: the story was tailored perfectly for an Expendables movie. We're here to see an 80s-style "Magnificent Seven." This isn't meant to be "The Usual Suspects," "Seven," or "Inception." It shouldn't, or else it would ruin the movie. Thus, please cut the story some slack.

I found it highly suitable for its intended purpose. It encapsulated bravery, vengeance, camaraderie, humor, emotions—all the elements characteristic of classic action films from the past.

I must confess that I was pleasantly surprised by the humor. It induces laughter without transforming the movie into a comedy. The humor complements the gravity of the revenge-driven plot, resulting in a seamless integration. While you're not watching a comedy, you find yourself laughing.

Yes, certain characters make seemingly magical entrances without explanation, and some plot elements lack coherence. I've encountered reviews criticizing this aspect. However, in this movie, these issues are inconsequential; they're well handled, and you rarley question them amidst the intense action.

Story Rating: 3/5

III. Cast:

Stallone's performance is notably better than in the first film. He appears more at ease and entirely in his element, commanding the movie.

Statham's role is largely consistent with his portrayal in EX1—possibly with less screen time, yet he remains second in command. Statham is quintessentially Statham.

Li is outstanding but regrettably given limited screen time; one wishes for more.

Lundgren delivers perhaps the best performance, infusing humor and delivering strong lines.

Norris is true to his reputation, offering some of the movie's best lines. Each of his scenes is uproarious; his entrance is nothing short of epic, eliciting crazy audience reactions.

Van Damme's portrayal as a villain is solid. Unfortunately, his screen time doesn't enable him to showcase his full potential as he did in "JCVD," but his performance is highly commendable. His 360-degree kicks made the audience go crazy.

Willis delivers as expected, with more screen time than the first instalment and the right balance.

Arnold is at his prime, as though he never departed the big screen. His reception by the audience was second only to Norris', and he enjoys ample screen time.

Hemsworth's performance was a pleasant surprise. The young actor performs remarkably well and seamlessly integrates with the team, surpassing low expectations.

While Yu Nan is a talented actress, I felt a tinge of disappointment. Her performance is solid, but she doesn't gel with the ensemble. I anticipated a more captivating presence. Her role receives an inordinate amount of screen time for its significance, and I found myself occasionally wishing someone like Gina Carano had filled the role.

Crews and Couture are given more comical lines, particularly Crews, who's very funny this time.

Cast Rating: 4/5

In Conclusion:

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the film, had a wonderful time, and plan to watch it again. While not perfect, it was good enough for me. My primary wish was for the movie to be longer, as time seemed to race by.

For me, it hits the mark, and I don't need a third instalment. They can stop here; EX3 would be a bonus.

The movie provided what I was looking for. The reunion of my childhood idols, a hearty dose of action, well-directed and edited scenes, and equitable screen time for the action legends. The spectacle of Sly, Arnold, and Willis firing their guns side by side was truly priceless. Devout fans won't be let down; as for others, well, they're free to indulge in Batman!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Aug 13, 2012

I EXBlogman, Watched EX2

Coming back from the Premiere of EX2. I will write my review tomorrow or later after I get a cooler head. One word: Awesome!

Terry Crews Gives Us "Reasons" to watch EX2:

All EX2 Trailers, Clips & TV Spots


Official Trailer


Smart Car


Take Your Life

TV Spots

EX3: A Preliminary Look

EX2 is barely out, and fans are already anticipating EX3 with passion. Lots of rumors and stories have been circulating on EX3 possible cast and release dates. So let's recap and put things in perspective based on what has been said or reported so far.

Will EX3 happen?
EX2 actors Couture, Lundgren, Statham & Arnold have all evasively hinted at EX3. Lerner has already talked openly about the actors he and Sly have in mind for the sequel and that he's already approched.

Let's be real, if EX2 is a huge box-office hit as it's assumed to be, there is a strong chance that studios will finance the sequel. Rumor has it that The Expendables was always supposed to be a trilogy from the beginning and it was also Sly's vision when he initially came up with the idea. 

The only issue as always when planing a movie is timing.  
Couture has gone as far as saying that production could start as early as in fall 2012. It sounds very unlikely but it's actually the right time if studios want to realistically materialize EX3 for a release in 2013 and build on the momentum of EX2 or they'll have to wait for a 2014 release.

The problem is Sly & Arnold are not getting any younger, plus the latter will have a very busy schedule ahead of him (Breacher & Unknown Soldier are both in pre-production and Triplets is also rumored). A 2014 release sounds more realistic with production to start sometime in 2013. 

As far as the story goes, we might see a different genre according to Stallone: 

“We are thinking about different concepts – the third one is the hardest. The second is the natural progression. The third, that’s when the air gets rare. We’re thinking ambitiously about it… You now have to give audiences something they don’t expect at all – maybe even going into a different genre. Get out there a bit [to Arnold Schwarzenegger], maybe even rip-off one of your other films.”

Possible Cast?

Explaining who makes the casting decisions, Lerner says: "It's Sly and me. Sly is part of the production so we came together, we worked together on who we wanted. It's producer's decision." 

Current EX2 Actors -
Even though Lerner said that all the actors will be back, beside Stallone, Lundgren, Statham, Couture & Crews who are almost guaranteed to be in the party, everyone's participation in the sequel is not guaranteed.

Norris for instance, is very uncertain. He'll be 73 and had already retired from doing movies. He came out of his retirement for EX2, is set to do one final movie under his brother's direction "The Novice". He also revealed in
an interview with Access Hollywood that his involvement with the Expendables franchise was a one and done situation for him and he won't be returning for EX3: "Nope. Just number 2. This is it for me".

Willis, 50/50. He's been known lately to make 4-6 movies per year (6 releases in 2012 & 4 in 2013!) and seems to accept to take part as long as the right offer is on the table and his schedule permits. 

Arnold wants in and  has said it a few times in different interviews. The main issue to get him will be schedule and timing.

Li, chances are very slim. He didn't want to be in EX2. Stallone and the Studios did everything to convince him for a small role only, and had to take the whole production to China to accommodate him.

Van Damme & Adkins, probably not. Villains don't come back. But Van Damme ironically hinted that he wants to come back as his twin brother, and you never know, if Lerner & Sly want him back they will get creative.

Possible Non-EX2 Actors -

Cage seems to be already on board according to Lerner: "we’ve got Nicolas Cage to play one of the characters"

Eastwood has already been approached by Lerner, "we’ve approached Clint Eastwood to be one of the guys, we’ve got a character in mind for him." It's very unlikely that they get him. He has officially retired from acting after Gran Torino, only came back for one last movie as a favor to his associate Lorenz. Plus for the past ten years he has completely shifted his career from action movies. He'll be hard to convince but it'd be great if he is.

Ford sounds also unlikely but he's being talked to: "we’re talking to Harrison Ford" say Lerner. He's been accepting supporting roles lately ever since he has not been able to have any box-office hit on his own. Everything's possible, it will greatly depend on the role he'll be offered.

Rourke could come back: "and we’re going to bring Mickey Rourke back, if he won’t be too crazy. I like Mickey" says Lerner.

Snipes is on Lerner's list already: "Wesley Snipes when he comes back from prison" but his sentence in prison could be the deal breaker. Snipes will be released from prison in July 2013. If the studio is targeting a 2014 summer release then Snipes will be there in time, or he won't make it for a 2013 summer release.

Seagal who's probably the most wanted actor for EX3 (by the fans) has already hinted in an interview that he was offered a role. He would most likely take part if Lerner and him make up, and they will if Seagal's conditions are met and Studios want him badly. So says Lerner: "I'm not sure about Steven Seagal. We'll see."

Chan will be in if there is no conflict of schedule. He's already made it clear that he wants in and was already offered a role in EX2 but turned it down due to conflict of schedule with his movie Chinese Zodiac. If Li doesn't come back, Chan is a natural replacement.

Less Probable Non-EX2 Actors -

Banderas, is a strong possibility. He was offered a role in EX2 but declined, again due to conflicting schedules, but has left the door open to EX3.

Gina Carano said that Stallone was really considering her for one of the roles in EX2, "but they needed a girl from China". With Haywire she was definitely noticed and her participation in Fast 6 will only help her career in the action movie arena, she could definitely be called for EX3.

Travolta was approached for EX2 but was not interested at the time. Will he be approached again for EX3 and will he show interest this time?

Mel Gibson's name has been on everyone's lips. There is no confirmation or any hint that he's been approached. The only hint at his involvement in EX3 is from an unreliable tabloid. After Seagal he's one of the most wanted actors by the fans to be in EX3. His participation in EX3 is slim though due to his unpopularity in the Hollywood Jewish community and Lerner happens to be from Israel and calls the shots [together with Sly].

Dwayne Johnson has expressed his desire to be in the EX franchise. He said Sly tried to come to him for the first one. He was "unavailable but would love to work with Sly". EX3 is Sly's biggest opportunity to get him.

Donnie Yen was approached for EX2, declined because the role he was offered was not compelling enough. Will Sly tailor a better role for him in EX3 to finally convince him?

Fans Wish List

Other names have been on fans wish list but there has been no indication of their possible involvement in EX3: 

Russell was approached for the first one but was not interested in ensemble movies. Will he change his mind if approached?

Jai White indicated his desire to be in the franchise but confirmed that he was never approached.
Carl Weathers, Hulk Hogan, Bolo Yeung and others are also on some fans wish list but nothing has been said about them.

EX2's cast is already great and the best ever. As Sly nicely said it "its' a minor miracle". EX3 could go either way. If all the circumstances are right it could beat EX2, even though Van Damme will be missed like Seagal is missed in EX2. Or it could end up with a cast less desirable than what fans expectations are. Time will tell.

Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford, and Nicolas Cage Approached for The Expendables 3

According to Avi Lerner, they have approached a rather ambitious line-up for a third Expendables film.
“We’ve approached Clint Eastwood to be one of the guys, we’ve got a character in mind for him. We’re talking to Harrison Ford. [And we want] Wesley Snipes when he comes back from prison. I’ll give you one more name, we’ve got Nicolas Cage to play [one of the characters].” 

“And we’re going to bring Mickey Rourke back, if he won’t be too crazy. I like Mickey. And of course, all the existing stars [will return]”
Apparently, they've already got a name picked out for Cage, which sounds like something along the lines of Hunter Grimlenson/Hunter Gatherer.

Speaking to Bleeding Cool, Stallone had this to say about a third entry, even throwing in Olympic gold medalists like boxer Katie Taylor as potential cast members:

"We are thinking about different concepts because the third one is the hardest by far. The second is the natural progression. That is when the air gets rare.

We are thinking pretty ambitiously about it. She [Katie Taylor] would fit right in there. We are looking at odd choices because you now have to give the audiences something they don’t expect at all. Maybe even going for a different sort of genre if you can read between the lines. Get out there a little bit."

Looking to Schwarzenegger, Stallone added, "Maybe ripoff one of your other films."

Aug 9, 2012

Stallone Poses For "The Last Supper"


EX2 Paris Premiere


JCVD: Why I Chose To Be The "Villain"

One day I heard from a big lawyer who said, 'Look, if you're going to be in a big movie and you can do so, be the villain - because automatically you're going to be the co-lead and you always remember the good guy and the villain. I respected The Expendables, but I didn't want to be Expendable 5, 6 or 7.
I'm not mocking that, all I'm saying is that The Expendables has a long future, but I want to go from The Expendables 2 to something else.

Playing a villain, you can really have a great bipolarity in terms of going high and going low, and you can have all types of dimension and all types of delivery as an actor. You can smile and say, 'I'm going to kill you,' or you can say that same line and look very threatening. So I gave lots of variations to Stallone and to Simon, the director, but I didn't pass the limit of reality.
If you're over the top and go too far, it becomes a joke, and you can't do that in The Expendables, because Stallone took the movie kind of seriously.

This man, who has passed 65, who has a body of 40 and has the mind of a creator, which means that he has no age, was truly into The Expendables.You believed he was an Expendable while we were making The Expendables 2. It would take him a week to come out of that role, to be normal. It's a great secret of acting, and he's got it.
I love the man, I truly love the man, the way he is. He taught me about film, how to get my love back for the business, how to be more confident with my intelligence. He also taught me how to behave outside of movies, with the audience, and how not to be too open, like he was in the old times, and then he was hurt.
He was amazing.
It's true that I met Arnold on a few occasions and was in Last Action Hero. On Predator he and I trained in the morning, him with dumbbells and me with my stretching. I was proud because he was one of my heroes.
When I saw Rocky, I was running, believing I was him All these people were there on The Expendables 2,' and I was going from one trailer to another and, thank God, they opened their doors for me. There was lots of friendship on the set, and I was able to have conversations with all of them.

When you make lots of movies, you go into lots of characters and we are experiencing different lives, different truths, different textures and smells, everything. When we're missing them, when we go back to our own selves, which we know by heart, we're stealing from every role a piece of that feeling of being somebody else. That's why movie stars have a hard time being at home waiting for new roles.
More than that, if the movie makes money and is exposed well and publicized well, then the movie star gets a lot of love from the audience. Now, when a movie is going down, you have no idea of the pain and the suffering, of what the fall is like for a man who has been loved by millions of people. If you (mess) up, whatever it is - drugs, a love affair, being too big and being unable to enjoy the success whatever the mistake is, it's the worst.

A Bunch of New EX2 Videos!

Sly Vs. JCVD

New Scenes & Lundgren Interview


 New Clip - Smart Car

Sly in Paris - EX2 Premiere

EX2 On Magazine Covers

Aug 6, 2012

Lundgren Initially Disappointed by Script's 1st Draft

JCVD Terrified Of Upsetting Sly Over Fight Scene

Van Damme tells WENN, "When I read the script, the final fight was me running away from him, jumping into a helicopter and taking off and then he came (sic) in the warehouse with a chain and throws it into the propeller and the helicopter is going up, but it's chained.

"We start fighting in the helicopter, break the cockpit, the helicopter falls down and touches his leg and he's kind of stuck. Then I took (sic) a knife and escape and there's a big circle of fire and this lady is trying to shoot me. I didn't like it.

"I was in my room talking to my assistant and I was complaining and I was nervous to tell him because it's a big movie and with Sly and his temper you should just be a good boy and don't say nothing (sic) and do your job. I cannot do this. I know the fans want to see mano to mano. If you go to French, Russian or American fan club (sic), they want to see Van Damme and Sly fighting.

"Since I am a villain, I felt like, 'This is no good,' and I was complaining, yelling, this and that; everything to everyone, except to him (Stallone). So nobody will talk to Sly; they're all scared of him because he has good authority. He knows what he wants and he knows how to control the movie. So I wrote him a letter.

"I said, 'Dear Sly. You know how much I like you. I've seen the Rockys,' and I prepared such a nice letter and I'm going to give it to him in his trailer. So I knock on the door and I go inside and say, 'Hi, I know you're busy but I have a letter for you.' I start to look for this letter and I don't feel it! And I start to sweat. I said it was just a letter to explain a correction in the final fight.

"He says, 'Sit down,' and I go, 'Oh f**k it, I'm gonna tell him how I feel.' I say, 'Stallone, I think people want to see Muhammad Ali against Frasier. It's a metaphor. Look at your arms, you're strong. We need to do a fight. I need to give you myself to punch and kick the s**t out of me. And hopefully I will do some damage to you.'

"He said, 'I tell you what. Go and design the fight!' Later I look all over the place for the letter; it was stuck to my pocket!"

Awesome Sly, Li, Statham, Lundgren, JCVD & Adkins Interviews

Lundgren Describes his Fights in EX2

From Lundgren's Facebook: In THE EXPENDABLES 2, I have a couple fights in the beginning, got something alongside Jet Li, not against him this time but alongside him, then I got a couple of fights towards the end with some of the bad guys. It’s a mishmash of stuff, I don’t face off against anybody famous this time, but just basically showing off some martial arts skills and a bit of humor, trying to make it entertaining.

New Interview of the Cast by ET, EX3 & Snipes Mentioned!

Another Interview and there will be more over the next few days as we approach the grand opening! There is brief mention of EX3 & Snipes, The Rock, Diesel, Chan, and Seagal in this one!

The Dirty Dozen Wallpapers Spanish Style