Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Why "The Expendables 3" Didn't Work for Me

Nobody's going to accuse the Expendables series of being high art but the first movie was entertaining enough in a dumb way.

The premise was simple and appealing to guys like me: get all the has-been action stars from the 80s in one over-the-top movie that reminded us all of how much we loved dumb, machine-gun toting heroes back in the day. The result was a fun but disposable R-rated blood bath like we don't see much anymore.

I'm sorry to say that now, with this third entry, the franchise is dead.

I had my gripes with the second movie, too, which was dumber and less fun than the first (despite JCVD being awesome in it) but #3 takes the cake.

Here are my issues (Mel Gibson not being one of them. He was gloriously insane):

Broken Promises
The entire appeal of these movies is to see aging former stars duke it out. So what does Expendables 3 do? It shuffles most of the original cast to the side to introduce a bunch of young actors who nobody knows. The sheer hubris of the movie-makers to put these unknowns' names on the poster, and just their last names too, as if we're all supposed to be familiar with them. We're not. Don't play the ol' switcheroo with your audience. We came to see the old guys, not spend half the movie with these punks. Where the hell was Jet Li? He shows up for a couple minutes near the end, then has an implied tryst with Arnie.

PG-13 Rating
In a misguided bid to make more money, they diluted Expendables 3 to a PG-13 rating, down from an R. Remember in the first one when Terry Crews mows down a bunch of bad guys in an example of ridiculous 1980s violence? None of that here because it's sanitized. No blood either (even though the first two had that awful CG blood that you see a lot of now days).

So why make it PG? This franchise is trying to appeal to older guys who loved these actors 20-30 years ago. No kids would have an interest here, so why bother? I suppose that's why they threw in some young punk actors to steal the limelight but judging by its box office take on opening weekend, it didn't work. (Blaming piracy is a straw man here.)

Cheap Effects and Lame Humour
The laughs from this kind of movie should come from the ridiculousness of the action. Since its inception, this series' scripted "humour" has simply died on-screen. The quips are not funny but seem to think they are. When a terrible non-joke is uttered and the other characters laugh uproariously like George Carlin descended from the heavens with new material, I'm just embarrassed for everyone involved.

And where did the budget go for this? The actors, I suppose? How about you don't have 20 characters to split the money and instead put it into production value. There were two shots I could think of off the top of my head that made me cringe:

  • A scene with Frasier and Rambo driving where the scenery outside the car is clearly green-screened. (Seinfeld had more believable driving scenes.)
  • A part where one of the young guys falls off a cliff while rock climbing and his parachute deploys, sailing over the heads of Beast and Rocky. Simply jarring.
Bonus Embarrassment
Harrison Ford, you clearly didn't want to be there, why did you take the job? Oh right.

It's not a complete wash though. Like I said, Mel Gibson is trying to claw his way back into Hollywood by taking thankless gigs like this, but he was the life of the party. And Wesley Snipes, fresh out of prison for tax evasion, had a manic energy...that is until he largely disappeared after the intro.

We'll see if there's a #4 based on the international box office (those guys will eat up any dumb American action trash these days. To wit, the Transformers' series enduring popularity) but it's not looking good.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Predicates of Fate: Robots and Time Travel Make for a Quick Summer Read

"When the Temporal Witness Protection Agency sends a man to the future, he unwittingly becomes a key player in a robot plot to take over the galaxy."

Ah, summer. The time when you just want to grab a fun book for a quick beach read. There's nothing like sitting outdoors with a cool drink and a great story. The main character in my book, "The Predicates of Fate", starts off just like that (except a crossword puzzle is his diversion of choice) when he's suddenly confronted by some nasty aliens and a rift in time.

One of the joys of the written word is its ability to take you away to wonderful new worlds where imagination is limitless. My debut novel fits that mold: it has time travel, space ships, robot uprisings, distant worlds, martial arts and swordplay. And jokes. Don’t forget the jokes.

I wrote this book to be something that would have entertained me; it’s the kind of science fiction book I would have loved...had I not written it myself. Among the points going for it:
·       Not very long
·       Not very expensive (i.e., it’s cheap!)
·       Fast-paced with lots of action
·       Contains some big sci-fi ideas

As a life-long sci-fi fan, I wrote the book both as an entry into the genre I love but also as somewhat of a parody, purposefully using many of the tropes commonly seen in speculative fiction, but not in a mean way. I poke fun lovingly.

So if you find yourself at the beach this summer with a hole in your reading schedule, give “The Predicates of Fate” a shot. Just like our main character, you’ll be thrust into a future robot war. Figuratively, of course. I hope.

“The Predicates of Fate” is sure to thrill and amuse fans of adventure sci-fi comedy like Red Dwarf, Futurama and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Get it today from:

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I'm loving it! And by it, I mean the Canadian logo.

Just a quick observation. I recently saw the traditional McDonald's logo the other day and noticed how naked it looks when compared to our Canadian version. That little maple leaf just adds a certain je ne sais what to the whole affair. Don't you agree?