The Expendables (2010)

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

I’m quite sure I won’t be the first person to have noticed this, but there’s an irony that must be mentioned in the fact that, though the film is called The Expendables, not a single member of the team is actually…you know…expended. Hell, even Dolph Lundgreen returns at the end for a few drinks with the boys, and once you see the film, you’ll realize how phenomenally dumb that is.

That out of the way, I didn’t dislike this film, but it did bore me. It didn’t deliver what I wanted it to deliver. Maybe that’s on me, but I expected to care about at least a few of the characters. And I also thought that most of them should have been killed (gloriously, of course, with awesome death scenes). Surprisingly, Jet Li gets most of the best lines, and that’s weird, considering that half the time, you can’t even understand him.

By the way, going off on this tangent, the only actor more difficult to understand is Sylvester Stallone. Is it just me, or has he become completely unintelligible? Moving on…

What Sly did deliver was a shitload of explosions (and I mean a shitload) and a lot of gore. I appreciated some of the self deprecating humor, like Sly getting his ass kicked by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, but for all of the bad ass actors in this film, it just…wasn’t great.

Suffice to say, Donald at Blessed are the Geeks disagrees. He loved it and ranked it the best film he saw last year. Sooo…maybe I just missed something.

Salt (2010)

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Angelina Jolie’s character from Salt would probably kick the shit out of any of the characters in The Expendables.

I was curious about last summer’s action vehicle for Angelina Jolie, if only because it seemed to be a little controversial with critics. But like it or not, what a lot of the reviews had in common was that they characterized Salt as a start to finish action film, and I like those.

Salt didn’t really have a sense of humor the way that From Paris With Love did, and as a protagonist, Evelyn Salt is pretty dry, but what it did have was some outstanding stunts–most of them actually performed by Jolie–and a storyline that kept me guessing right up until the end. It wasn’t until well after that I began picking out the plot holes–and there is at least one big one in there as far as I can tell–but as a flat out action spectacle…it’s not bad.

In a strange way, the things that work about Salt are the same things that don’t work. For example, the inscrutability of the protagonist makes it almost impossible to know what her real intentions are. So the plot twists are hidden well, but at the same time, it becomes progressively more difficult to know how to feel about her, and it puts the viewer in the odd position of getting kind of annoyed at the purpose of it all–especially after a mid-film surprise when one character is killed who I thought would drive the film to its end.

Ultimately, three stars because once the action begins, there isn’t much acting for Jolie to do. And that’s too bad, because she has always been surprisingly believable as an action hero, and it’s a rare thing to have a lead who can do the physicality and can also act.

You probably heard that the part of Salt was originally written for Tom Cruise, and it’s easy to believe that the filmmakers didn’t have to change anything, since the character doesn’t really require any actor’s particular charms. It would have worked just as well with Cruise in the lead.

Liliana (my wife) liked it, by the way. This is the one action film she watched with me this weekend, but it was also one she had been looking forward to seeing. She wasn’t disappointed. Neither was I, really–Salt entertained.

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Good looking film and I enjoyed watching it. I haven’t much to say about it beyond that. Sam Worthington doesn’t provide much value added to the role of Perseus–I doubt Worthington is ever going to be the kind of leading man action star who is mentioned in the same breath as actors like Tom Cruise or even Jason Statham, but I guess he’s serviceable. He looks the part, anyway–he’s a nice hunk of man meat if you’re into that sort of thing. But the film is pretty much carried by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades, respectively. But what else would you expect? Fiennes, especially, steals the show in any movie he has ever been in.

Also, Mads Mikkelsen of all actors turned in a pretty fun performance as the gruff warrior guiding Perseus. Clash of the Titans is almost worth watching just for this character’s death scene.

Easy A (2010)

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

This isn’t an action film, but I did watch it this weekend, so I might as well talk about it. When Easy A was released last fall, it was greeted with almost universal critical approval, and it’s not difficult to understand why. There’s nothing at all to dislike about this film. It has a clever plot with a charismatic star, some great supporting roles (Thomas Hayden Church in particular), a building narrative leading to a climax that pays off all the narrative threads and comedic set-ups, and it has a positive message (I think). It reminded me of Mean Girls, though I question that it will attain the status of perennial cable favorite the way that film has, because it isn’t as consistently laugh-out-loud funny. And personally, I kind of loved Mean Girls, but I also enjoyed Easy A.

Easy to recommend.