LEADING LADIES: Linda Hamilton

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linda hamilton the terminator

Linda Hamilton in probably her most famous role, as Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR (1984).

Welcome back to LEADING LADIES, the column where we look at leading ladies in the movies, especially horror movies.

Today on LEADING LADIES we look at the career of Linda Hamilton, who helped define 1980s cinema with her signature performance as Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR (1984).

In addition to her iconic portrayal of Sarah Connor in the TERMINATOR movies, Hamilton is also known for her role as Catherine Chandler on the TV series BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987-89).  Linda Hamilton has always been a favorite of mine, in spite of appearing in one of the worst monster movies ever made, KING KONG LIVES (1986)— by far the worst King Kong movie ever made.

Hamilton has 75 screen credits to date, and she’s still actively making movies today. Here’s a partial look at her career so far:

NIGHT-FLOWERS (1979) – Wafer – Hamilton’s film debut in a movie about rape and murder at the hands of two disturbed Vietnam vets.

RAPE AND MARRIAGE:  THE RIDEOUT CASE (1980) – Greta Rideout – Hamilton has the lead role in this TV movie based on the true story of Greta Rideout (Hamilton), an abused wife who was constantly raped by her husband John (Mickey Rourke).  The movie tells the story of how she fought back and charged him with rape, even though they were married.  Written by Hesper Anderson, who would go on to earn an Oscar nomination for her co-written screenplay for CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD (1986) .

TAG:  THE ASSASSINATION GAME (1982) – Susan Swayze –  once again playing the lead, this time co-starring with Robert Carradine in a tale about a college assassination game turning deadly as it becomes the real thing.  Written and directed by Nick Castle, most famous for playing Michael Myers in the original HALLOWEEN (1978).

SECRETS OF A MOTHER AND DAUGHTER (1983) – Susan Decker – TV movie drama about a mother and daughter involved with the same man.  Katharine Ross plays the mother, Linda Hamilton the daughter, and Michael Nouri the man.

HILL STREET BLUES (1984) – Sandy Valpariso – recurring guest spot role on four episodes of Season 4 of the critically acclaimed TV show HILL STREET BLUES.

CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1984) – Vicky – big screen adaptation of the Stephen King short story was the first time I saw Linda Hamilton in a movie, and all I can say is I’m glad she made THE TERMINATOR that same year, because I did not like CHILDREN OF THE CORN at all and would have quickly forgotten Hamilton if not for her performance in THE TERMINATOR.  In spite of the source material, CHILDREN OF THE CORN is a pretty awful horror movie.

THE TERMINATOR (1984) – Sarah Connor – the movie that put Linda Hamilton on the map, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron.  Iconic movie, one of the most memorable from the 1980s, so much so that in terms of movies, it arguably defines the decade.  The movie that propelled Arnold Schwarzenegger to superstardom, and gave him his signature line, “I’ll be back.”  Also director James Cameron’s first hit, coming before ALIENS (1986) and long before TITANIC (1997).

linda hamilton terminator end

A girl and her dog.  Linda Hamilton and a canine friend in THE TERMINATOR.

Hamilton plays Sarah Connor, the target of Schwarzenegger’s Terminator, who’d been sent back in time to kill her, since she gives birth to the man responsible for leading the resistance against the machines in the future, and so the machines decide that if they kill his mother, he’ll never exist.  Of course, you’d think it would just be easier to kill him. Pure fluff, but masterfully done, and Hamilton is excellent as the unlikely heroine, a young woman who sees herself as a failure, then victim, and ultimately rises up as the savior of the human race.  By far, my favorite Linda Hamilton performance.

SECRET WEAPONS (1985) – Elena Koslov/Joanna – TV movie where Hamilton plays a Russian spy.  Directed by Don Taylor, who during his long prolific career directed several notable genre films in the 1970s, including ESCAPE FROM THE PLANET OF THE APES (1971), THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (1977), and DAMIEN:  OMEN II (1978).

BLACK MOON RISING (1986) – Nina – Hamilton plays a car thief in this tale of thieves, FBI agents, and a super car, the “Black Moon.”  Co-starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Vaughn.  Story by John Carpenter, who also co-wrote the screenplay.

KING KONG LIVES (1986) – Amy Franklin –  If there’s one movie that Linda Hamilton should not have made, it’s probably this one.  Why in the world would director John Guillermin, whose career was nearly destroyed by his first Kong venture KING KONG (1976) ever agree to make a sequel ten years later?  Bad move, John!  This horrible sequel has gone down in film history as the worst Kong movie ever. And whereas the 1976 KING KONG has aged well and has gained more respect over the decades, the same can’t be said for this awful sequel.  It’s still as bad as it ever was.

GO TOWARD THE LIGHT (1988) – Claire Madison – TV movie about a young couple caring for their child who has been diagnosed with AIDS.  Co-starring Richard Thomas.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1987-89) – Assistant District Attorney Catherine Chandler- Hamilton’s second most famous role, after Sarah Connor in THE TERMINATOR, this modern-day update of the Beauty and the Beast tale featured Ron Perlman as the beast and Hamilton as the beauty, an assistant district attorney in New York City.

linda hamilton-beauty-and-the-beast

Linda Hamilton and Ron Perlman in the TV show BEAUTY AND THE BEAST.

MR. DESTINY (1990) -Ellen Burrows – Comedy fantasy starring James Belushi and Michael Caine.

TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991) – Sarah Connor- Hamilton reprises her role as Sarah Connor in this big budget sequel to THE TERMINATOR which featured some of the most cutting edge special effects of its day.  This time around Hamilton’s Sarah Connor is a lean mean fighting machine, while Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is warm and fuzzy.  Yup, in this sequel, Arnold plays a  “good” Terminator, helping the humans fight off an even more advanced and dangerous Terminator from the future.  Once again written and directed by James Cameron.

linda hamilton terminator 2

A leaner, meaner Linda Hamilton in TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

SILENT FALL (1994) – Karen Rainer – co-stars with Richard Dreyfuss and John Lithgow in this thriller about an Autistic boy who witnesses his parents’ double murder.

A MOTHER’S PRAYER (1995) – Rosemary Holmstrom – TV movie about a woman (Linda Hamilton) diagnosed with AIDS trying to raise her son as a single mother with the knowledge that she won’t be around for long.  Also starring Bruce Dern and Kate Nelligan.

DANTE’S PEAK (1997) – Rachel Wando – disaster movie about an erupting volcano.  With Pierce Brosnan.

RESCUERS:  STORIES OF COURAGE:  TWO COUPLES (1998) – Marie Taquet- TV movie about citizens rescuing Holocaust victims.

THE COLOR OF COURAGE (1998) – Anna Sipes – based on a true story, the movie chronicles the relationship between a white woman and a black woman.

BATMAN BEYOND:  THE MOVIE (1999) – Dr. Stephanie Lake – lends her voice to this animated Batman film.

SILENT NIGHT (2002) – Elisabeth Vincken- TV movie about a German mother (Hamilton) and her son on Christmas Eve in 1944 who find themselves bringing German and American soldiers together for one night.  Based on a true story.

MISSING IN AMERICA (2005) – Kate – Drama about a Vietnam veteran (Danny Glover) suddenly having to raise Vietnamese girl.

CHUCK (2010-2012) – Mary Bartowski – appeared in 12 episodes of the TV series CHUCK.

A SUNDAY HORSE (2016) – Margret Walden – Hamilton’s most recent screen credit, a drama about a horse and its young female rider.

Starting from about the early 2000s, the lead roles became fewer for Linda Hamilton, and she appeared more often in supporting roles. And the lead roles she did take were often in films that didn’t have the same resonance as the movies from her earlier days.

But she’s still busily acting, and so there are still more Linda Hamilton movies to come. And I for one am happy about that.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the career of Linda Hamilton, the subject of today’s LEADING LADIES column.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOUR MOVIE LISTS: THE TERMINATOR MOVIES

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YOUR MOVIE LISTS:  THE TERMINATOR Movies TheTerminator

By Michael Arruda

With the upcoming release of TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015), the latest installment in the TERMINATOR series opening on June 30, 2015, here’s a look back at the TERMINATOR movies:

 

THE TERMINATOR (1984)

Directed by James Cameron

Screenplay by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd, with additional dialogue by William Wisher, Jr.

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Linda Hamilton

Kyle Reese:  Michael Biehn

Lieutenant Ed Traxler:  Paul Winfield

Detective Hal Vukovich:  Lance Henriksen

Music by Brad Fiedel

Running Time:  107 minutes

The film that pretty much made Arnold Schwarzenegger a star.  His role as the brutal unstoppable robot Terminator is one of his best.

This early James Cameron film is tighter and less elaborate than his subsequent efforts and is better for it.  It’s a gripping thriller filled with edge-of-your-seat moments, a nonstop thrill ride that satisfies from beginning to end.

Linda Hamilton also stands out as Sarah Connor, the unknowing young woman who suddenly finds herself a target of the Terminator, sent back in time to kill her because in the future her son will lead the resistance against the machines which eventually try to take over the human race.

Notable also as the only film in the series where Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is the villain.  In future installments he becomes the hero, a switch that worked to some degree, but the fact of the matter is he was so good as the villainous Terminator that his evil take on the character is definitely lacking in future installments.

For my money, this first TERMINATOR movie is the best of the series.

 

 

TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY (1991)

Directed by James Cameron

Screenplay by James Cameron and William Wisher

The Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Linda Hamilton

John Connor:  Edward Furlong

T-1000:  Robert Patrick

Music by Brad Fiedel

Running Time: 137 minutes

This TERMINATOR sequel gets the full James Cameron treatment, as everything is bigger and more elaborate.  As a result, this one showcases superior special effects, and many consider this sequel to be the best in the series, although I give a slight edge to the original.

It would have been an even darker movie than the first one except that Schwarzenegger’s Terminator is now “good” and a hero, and the villain here is Robert Patrick’s T-1000.  Patrick isn’t bad, and the special effects which create his liquid transformation abilities are phenomenal, but he’s no Schwarzenegger, and the film suffers for it.  The Schwarzenegger baddie is definitely missed here.

Still, it’s another exciting thrill ride, a worthy successor to the original.

 

 

TERMINATOR 3:  RISE OF THE MACHINES (2003)

Directed by Jonathan Mostow

Screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

John Connor:  Nick Stahl

Kate Brewster:  Claire Danes

T-X:  Kristanna Loken

Music by Marco Beltrami

Running Time:  109 minutes

Third film in the series is the weakest, although it has grown on me over the years.  This tale of another Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) sent back in time to protect a now adult John Connor (Nick Stahl) from a more advanced and much more dangerous Terminator, the T-X (Kristanna Loken) suffers heavily from  the  “been there, done that” syndrome.  Notable for the first ever female terminator, the T-X, and Kristanna Loken does a nice job in the role, although still, she’s not as memorable or effective as Schwarzenegger was in the original film.

James Cameron’s talents are definitely missed in this third installment.

 

 

TERMINATOR:  SALVATION (2009)

Directed by McG

Screenplay by John D. Brancato and Michael Ferris

John Connor:  Christian Bale

Marcus Wright:  Sam Worthington

Blair Williams:  Moon Bloodgood

Dr. Serena Kogan:  Helena Bonham Carter

Kyle Reese:  Anton Yelchin

Kate Connor:  Bryce Dallas Howard

Music by Danny Elfman

Running Time:  115 minutes

First TERMINATOR movie without Arnold Schwarzenegger is an attempt to reinvent the series.  A lot of fans did not like this movie, but I found it interesting and fun.  Sam Worthington plays new character Marcus Wright whose mysterious past drives this story along.  Christian Bale is decent as John Connor, although the story revolves more around Wright than it does Connor.

Not bad, and certainly helped by a strong cast. Good job by all involved.

 

 

TERMINATOR GENISYS (2015)

Directed by Alan Taylor

Screenplay by Laeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier

Terminator:  Arnold Schwarzenegger

Sarah Connor:  Emilia Clarke

Kyle Reese:  Jai Courtney

Detective O’Brien:  J.K.Simmons

John Connor:  Jason Clarke

T-1000:  Byung-hun Lee

T-800: Aaron V. Williamson

Music by Lorne Balfe

Running Time:  125 minutes

Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the series in a story that features an alternate timeline, as Kyle Reese is once again sent back in time to protect Sarah Connor, only this time things are completely different because the timeline has been changed.

Opens on June 30, 2015.

 

 

There was also the TV series TERMINATOR:  THE SARAH CHRONICLES which ran for two seasons (2008-2009) and followed Sarah Connor and her son John after the events of TERMINATOR 2:  JUDGMENT DAY.

 

 

That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

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expendables 3 posterHere’s my CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT review of THE EXPENDABLES 3, up now at cinemaknifefight.com, your place to read about movies, where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

 

 CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  THE EXPENDABLES 3 (2014)

Review by Michael Arruda

(THE SCENE: A heavily fortified movie theater, surrounded by armed guards, military vehicles, and tanks.  A helicopter lands out front, and MICHAEL ARRUDA steps from the copter followed by four young people, most likely in their twenties.  They approach the theater just as a man dressed in military fatigues steps from the building to confront them.)

DICTATOR:  Hey, Arruda, it’s about time you showed up.  But you’re a little late.  Your buddy L.L. SOARES is our prisoner.

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  You can have him.  I didn’t come for L.L. I came to see a movie.

DICTATOR: So did he, and look where that got him!  You’ll never get by me, Arruda!

MA:  We’ll see about that.  I’ve brought some help.

DICTATOR (looks at the young people behind MA):  Who are they?  Your kindergarten class?

MA:  Meet the new team.  The next generation of Cinema Knife Fighters.

(Camera pans quickly over the four young faces, just as a missile zooms in and explodes, reducing them to a puff of smoke.)

MA:  Or not.

You know, if the new team in today’s movie had met the same fate, I would have liked it better.

DICTATOR:  Huh?  Listen, Arruda, enough talking!  Take a look around you, at our defenses.  They’re impenetrable.

MA:  Really?  Because I have looked them over, and frankly, I’m not impressed.  In fact, I give your defenses 0 knives.

DICTATOR (huffs):  Really?  Are you kidding me?  Do you know how hard I worked on this?

MA:  It’s obviously all CGI.  Very fake looking.  Nobody you have with you has anything worthwhile to say.  Sorry, but it’s all very boring.

DICTATOR:  Dammit!  I need to find me a better writer!

MA:  And L.L. obviously made it inside, too, didn’t he?  Where is he?

DICTATOR:  He’s inside watching another movie. Damn you guys!  (Stomps off in a hissy fit.)

MA:  Okay, now that that’s over with, we can get on with today’s review.  Welcome to CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.  I’m Michael Arruda, and today I’m reviewing THE EXPENDABLES 3, the latest movie in Sylvester Stallone’s all-star action series.  I’m doing this one solo because my buddy L.L. Soares is inside this theater watching another movie which he’ll be reviewing for CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT this weekend as well.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the third film in THE EXPENDABLES series, a series which chronicles the adventures of The Expendables, a group of ruthless soldiers and assassins who are called on by the U.S. government to handle its dirtiest jobs.

In this film, the leader of the group Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) discovers that his one-time friend-turned villain Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), a man he thought he had killed, is still alive.  Ross wants Stonebanks dead, but he’s informed by his new operator Drummer (Harrison Ford) that they want Stonebanks alive to stand trial.

Seeing Stonebanks as a formidable opponent, Ross decides that his team is too old to handle him, and so he tells his team, which includes Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner (Dolph Lundgren) and Toll Road (Randy Couture) that he’s retiring the group.  They balk at this of course, but Ross makes his intentions clear:  they’re done.

Ross then hooks up with an old friend Bonaparte (Kelsey Grammer) who he employs to help him find a new team, a group of younger fighters, in effect the next generation of The Expendables.  And so they compile a group of newbies which includes Thorn (Glen Powell), Mars (Victor Ortiz), Luna (Ronda Rousey), and Smilee (Kellan Lutz).

Seriously?  I found this plot point very difficult to believe.  Why in the world would Ross want to go to battle with these infants instead of Jason Statham and friends is beyond me?  There’s just no comparison, and calling these guys “old” based upon the way they look in the movie is ridiculous.  They still look as bad-ass as ever.

Anyway, Stonebanks quickly makes mincemeat out of this diaper-clad team, which means it’s up to Jason Statham and his buddies to help Stallone get his newbies out of this mess.  Of course, Stonebanks has an entire army at his disposal, and so even more help is needed, which is why Drummer also brings in Trench (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Yin Yang (Jet Li) to help out.

Plus there’s Galgo (Antonio Banderas) who throughout the film has been desperate to join Ross’ team, and finally gets his chance when Ross needs all the help he can get.  This all leads to the testosterone filled conclusion where Ross and his Expendables battle Stonebanks and his entire army.

This might have been fun if it all wasn’t so stupid.

(MA enters the lobby of the movie theater, surrounded by all sorts of military action:  machine gun fire, grenade explosions, hand-to- hand combat.)

MA (looks at camera):  I guess it all fits in with the theme of today’s movie.  Excuse me while I order some popcorn.  (To cinema worker).  I’ll have a small popcorn with butter, please.

CINEMA WORKER:  Sure.  (As he turns to make popcorn, machine gun fire riddles the area, and he slumps to the ground.)

MA: Hmm.  I’ll just come back for that later.  Back to the review.

By far, THE EXPENDABLES 3 is the worst film in the series.  I liked the first THE EXPENDABLES (2010) well enough, and I really enjoyed the sequel THE EXPENDABLES 2 (2012) which had a better plot and gave all the veteran action stars quality screen time with good action scenes and some memorable lines, and the climactic battle between Stallone and  Jean-Claude Van Damme was a keeper.  I really felt like I got my money’s worth.

Not so with this installment.

First of all, there’s something very sloppy about the direction.  Director Patrick Hughes gives us a flat opening segment where Stallone and his team rescue Wesley Snipes from his imprisonment on a moving armored train.  The action here is sloppily handled.  The camera fails to get in close and seems to cover things from a distance, and it also cuts away from characters when they’re speaking, and so it was difficult to catch what people were saying.

Then, once the rescue is completed, it cuts to the main title THE EXPENDABLES 3, flashed on the screen for about a millisecond and then it’s back to the movie.  It was just a weird opening, a precursor for all that was going to follow.

Director Hughes also doesn’t give his action stars flashy or memorable first appearances.  Stallone is first seen in the opening segment flying a helicopter in loud surroundings in which you can’t hear what he’s saying.  I don’t think I understood anything Stallone said in this entire segment.  Schwarzenegger’s grand entrance has him casually strolling up behind Stallone in a hospital and speaking softly to him.  How’s that for compelling drama?

The screenplay by Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rotherberger, and Katrin Benedikt tells a mediocre story that doesn’t always makes sense, and features unimpressive dialogue and very little if any character development.  The story of Ross assembling a new team of youngsters to take on an old enemy makes little sense when his old team is still so menacing.

And while Mel Gibson does make for a decent villain, at least in terms of his performance, the character Gibson plays, Stonebanks, is never shown being villainous.  Why is he such a bad ass?  We hear characters like Ross and Drummer saying what a bad guy he is, but we never see him do anything.  What’s his agenda?  He sells arms to dictators and other undesirables, and we do see him do this in one scene, but do really we need The Expendables to take him out?

Just once, I’d like to see a plot worthy of The Expendables team.  These guys are supposed to be sent in to handle the jobs that the CIA and U.S. military want no part of, yet in all three films, we haven’t really seen them on these kinds of missions.

The dialogue is also subpar.  You’ve got Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Statham, Snipes, and Ford, guys who can really chew up the scenery, and yet there’s hardly a memorable line among them.

(Schwarzenegger enters the lobby and makes quick work of several enemy soldiers, cracking their heads and breaking their limbs with ease.)

SCHWARZENEGGER:  Next time silence your cell phones.  (to MA)  I work part-time as cinema security.  If you make noise in the theater, you answer to me.  (Checks his smart phone.)  Someone is texting in theater three.  I’ll be back.  (Exits)

MA:  That’s the Arnold I wanted to see.

Only Mel Gibson as the villain Stonebanks gets lines worthy of his pedigree, yet he has nothing much to do other than taunt Stallone and his buddies.  In fact, there are several scenes of Stonebanks buying art, walking up a staircase, entering a building, where that’s all he does.  I mean, these scenes don’t lead to anything else.  Stonebanks is a villain with too much time on his hands, and THE EXPENDABLES 3 is an action movie in need of a crisper script and tighter direction.

Now, if you’re like me, you see an EXPENDABLES movie because you want to see Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger and their friends on screen kicking butt and churning out one-liners.  You don’t see it because you want to watch a bunch of newbies take over.  I’m sorry, but I didn’t buy a ticket to THE EXPENDABLES:  THE NEXT GENERATON, and so I had little interest in scenes of Stallone compiling his new team, while his old team, Statham and company, sit home with nothing to do, and yes we actually see scenes of these guys at home twiddling their thumbs bored.  We don’t even get to see them try their hands at new jobs— I want to see Dolph Lundgren try to work in a department store, for example.  Realistically speaking, you’d think these guys would sign on with someone else.  I mean, Stallone’s Ross can’t be the only game in town.

And the newbies don’t have a chance. They’re each introduced in quick brief scenes, and then as the film goes on we hardly get to know them, which was fine with me since I didn’t care about them, but you know what?  I might have changed my mind had I actually gotten to know them and had the writing been better.

Sadly, THE EXPENDABLES 3 plays like the third film in a series, old and tired.

Speaking of which, one of the themes running through this movie is that Stallone and his buddies are getting too old for this sort of thing, and the sad part is in this movie some of them did look old.  For the first time in this series, I found it difficult to believe that Stallone and Schwarzenegger could do the things they were doing.  They looked a little long in the tooth.  Harrison Ford looked like he could barely walk.  In the film’s climax Ford is flying a helicopter performing all these stunts.  Yeah, right.  The only stunt he seemed capable of performing was crashing.

I like Sylvester Stallone, and when he’s on screen, I liked him here.  The trouble is the dialogue is so bad, that his character Ross just isn’t that enjoyable this time around.

Of the original team, Jason Statham fares the best, because he still looks the part, like he could single-handedly take out a mob of assassins, but his screen time is diminished here.

Like Stallone, Schwarzenegger begins to show his age in this movie, and his one-liners are pretty much nonexistent.  Looking even older than both Stallone and Schwarzenegger is Harrison Ford, who was filling in for Bruce Willis who left this movie over a contract dispute.  Ford plays a different character, but like Willis, he’s the guy who hires The Expendables.  I missed Willis’ shady persona.  Ford seemed like an aged Jack Ryan.

(Harrison Ford enters.)

FORD:  Did you just call me old?

MA:  I said you looked old in the movie.

FORD:  I ought to kick your ass.

MA:  I’d settle for an autograph.

FORD:  Autograph?  After you just insulted me in my own theater?

MA:  Your theater?  Are you working cinema security too?

FORD:  No, I run this place.  I’m the manager!

MA:  That’s a role I could see you playing.

FORD:  You call me old again I’m sending Schwarzenegger after you!

(Ford exits.)

MA:  I guess he’s getting sensitive in his old a— eh hem.  Moving right along.

Wesley Snipes isn’t bad, and he’s in a bunch of scenes, but like the rest of the cast he definitely would have benefitted from a better script.  Dolph Lundgren doesn’t need a good script as he just can stand there and look menacing, which he does again here to great effect.  Randy Couture also fares pretty well, but Terry Crews’ screen time is greatly reduced.  Kelsey Grammer lumbers through a throwaway role as Bonaparte, the man who assembles Stallone’s new team.

Mel Gibson gets the best lines in the movie, and he chews up the scenery as the main baddie, although sadly, he’s not given much to do other than get in Stallone’s face and tell him all the awful things he’s going to do to him.  But the thing is, when Gibson says all these menacing lines, he’s damned believable.  If only his character Stonebanks had been worthy of his performance.

Antonio Banderas as Galgo is supposed to be the comic relief in the movie.  The running gag is that no one wants Galgo on their team because he never stops talking, but this is hardly funny.  Banderas seems to be having a great time throughout, but it’s such a strange role, I just never got it.  It would have made more sense had the character been one of the newbies. Why would Ross be interested in an older agent who obviously couldn’t make it on a team when he was shunning his own proven team of veterans?  Banderas’ goofy personality just doesn’t fit in with the tone of the rest of the movie.

The newbies were so underdeveloped they’re hardly worth mentioning.  Kellan Lutz [from the TWILIGHT movies and THE LEGEND OF HERCULES (2014)] probably made the biggest impression as Smilee, the man who sees himself as Ross’ possible successor.  Glen Powell as Thorn and Victor Ortiz as Mars are pretty much interchangeable and they do very little.  Ronda Rousey stands out as Luna, since she’s the only woman on the team, and she’s certainly an eye full, but when even she doesn’t make much of an impression, that tells you how weak this movie is.

THE EXPENDABLES 3 also features a completely ludicrous third act.  When the cavalry arrives to rescue Stallone’s captured newbies, they find themselves taking on an entire army, which Mel Gibson’s Stonebanks has at his disposal.  And so we’re supposed to believe that this small group can outgun and outlast an army?  I don’t think so.

And unlike in THE EXPENDABLES 2 which featured a climactic bout between Stallone and Van Damme that was worth the price of admission on its own, the climactic showdown here between Stallone and Gibson is somewhat of a dud.  I expected much, much more.

This is also the first movie in the series to be rated PG-13, as the first two were rated R, which means people in this movie get to be shot, blown up, and beaten without shedding a single drop of blood.  Some may argue that this is a step up from fake looking CGI blood.

Yet, in spite of all these problems, it’s difficult for me to hate a movie featuring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Statham, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, and Wesley Snipes, and so no I didn’t hate this one.  These guys can still entertain, even in a bad movie, and THE EXPENDABLES 3, sorry to say, is a bad movie.   It’s lifted by its star power, which is the only reason I’m giving this one more than one knife.

I give it a lackluster two knives.

Well, that’s it for now. I’m off to see another movie.

(A grenade lands at his feet.)

Or not.

(There is a huge explosion, and when the dust clears, MA is still standing there.)

MA: This is one time I’m happy about a fake looking CGI effect.

(MA exits into the movie theater.)

—END—

 

 

 

 

 

SABOTAGE (2014) – DARKER VEHICLE FOR ARNOLD BUT STORY DOESN’T HOLD UP

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sabotage-2014-movieThis is my review of SABOTAGE (2014) which went up this weekend at cinemaknifefight.com. Remember, if you like to read about movies, check out cinemaknifefight.com where you’ll find new movie content posted every day by L.L. Soares, myself, and a very talented staff of writers.
Thanks for reading!
—Michael

 

MOVIE REVIEW: SABOTAGE (2014)
By Michael Arruda

Well, the Arnold comeback tour continues.

I, for one, have been very happy to see Arnold Schwarzenegger back in the movies again. I missed him, and although his comeback films have been somewhat of a mixed bag— the lighter fare of the trite actioner THE LAST STAND (2013), and the convoluted prison flick ESCAPE PLAN (2013) with buddy Sylvester Stallone, and of course his appearance in THE EXPENDABLES series— I’ve enjoyed seeing him in these films. At the very least, they’re entertaining, and at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.

Now comes SABOTAGE, an attempt to make Arnold Schwarzenegger relevant again by putting him in a darker movie in a role with more meat on it so Arnold can shake off that rust and show he’s still got some acting chops.

Well, Arnold does fine, but the story could have used some work.

In SABOTAGE, Arnold plays John “Breacher” Wharton, a DEA agent who leads a rough and tough task force whose job it is to take down the world’s most dangerous drug cartels. And Breacher isn’t just any DEA agent. He’s a legend, the best that ever was, and in government circles, he’s pretty much untouchable.

The film opens with Breacher watching a grisly video of a woman being tortured by nasty drug cartel thugs, and we learn later that this woman was Breacher’s wife, who was kidnapped along with his son by an enemy drug cartel, and they were brutally tortured and murdered. The cartel even mails body parts to Breacher on a regular basis. So, when the film opens, Breacher is in a very dark place.

We meet Breacher’s team, a group of colorful characters who look like they’re vying for their own EXPENDABLES movie. During a drug raid, this group, led by Breacher, steals some of the drug money they find, and hide it to claim it later, but when they return, it’s gone. There’s an investigation by the FBI, but eventually, without any evidence to prove that they stole the money, the investigation is dropped.

But soon members of Breacher’s elite squadron start showing up dead. Just who could be murdering these top of the line trained assassins? The evidence points to a drug cartel hit squad, and Breacher and his team concentrate their efforts on finding these hit men. They are aided by the local police, led by a persistent and unflappable detective named Caroline (Olivia Williams) who sees it as her mission to solve these murders since they’re happening in her neighborhood, and she vows not to quit, even though Breacher and his people advise her to walk away, that she’s in way over her head.

And when members of the team continue to die in the most brutal of ways, they begin to distrust each other, believing that whoever stole the money wants to shut the rest of them up. It’s up to the legendary Breacher to keep things together and get to the bottom of these sordid killings. Unless, of course, Breacher’s the man responsible for them.

Needless to say, SABOTAGE is a very dark tale about some very unlikable people doing some very nasty things. There are grotesque execution-style murders, graphic torture videos, and plenty of bullets to people’s heads. The film definitely earns its R rating, although the blood is CGI generated and looks it, which is not a good thing.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is very good as John “Breacher.” The attempt to put him in a more serious role works, and Arnold is up to the task. Granted, we’re not talking Oscar caliber acting here, but in terms of action stars, Arnold does a nice job. He’s sufficiently grim, but don’t expect tears and heartfelt emotional scenes. There was something very John Wayne-like about Arnold’s performance in this movie. It reminded me a lot of some of Wayne’s later roles, and if Wayne were alive today, this is the kind of role he would have played. So, Arnold is fine.

Where the movie struggles is with its screenplay by Skip Woods, which has two main problems: it does not do a good job with character development, and its plot never really grabbed me.

Breacher’s team is a collection of testosterone-filled muscular maniacs, and yet we never get to know these guys. There are some decent actors here who are largely wasted because we never learn anything about these characters other than they are highly trained assassins. That’s not enough for me. The most creative thing about them is their names, and that’s about it.

Sam Worthington, who we haven’t seen much of lately, not since AVATAR (2009) and the mediocre CLASH OF THE TITANS movies, plays James “Monster” Murray, and even though he’s in this one quite a bit, it’s largely a throwaway role. We never learn much about “Monster,” and Worthington doesn’t really get to do all that much. We’ll be seeing a lot of Worthington in the next few years, as he’s slated to star in all three of James Cameron’s upcoming AVATAR sequels, coming out in 2016, 2017, and 2018.

Joe Manganiello plays Joe “Grinder” Phillips, Terrence Howard plays Julius “Sugar” Edmonds, and—well, I could go on, but you get the idea. A bunch of fancy names for characters we just never get to know.

There are a couple of LOST alum in the cast. Josh Holloway, who played Sawyer on LOST and currently stars in the TV series INTELLIGENCE, plays Eddie “Neck” Jordan. When he’s in the movie, Holloway is very good, but like the rest of the squadron, he doesn’t get to do much. Harold Perrineau, who played Michael on LOST, has a thankless role as Jackson, a police sidekick.

The two women in the cast actually fare better than the men. Olivia Williams makes for a rather interesting police detective, as she finds it personally insulting that Breacher and his team continually talk down to her, and she works hard to gain Breacher’s respect, which she eventually does.

And then there’s Mireille Enos as Lizzy Murray, who’s probably the most fleshed out member of Breacher’s team. She’s certainly the most memorable. Lizzy is an ultra-intense drug-addicted nutcase, and she displays more grit, gumption, and high octane energy than the rest of the team combined. Enos is great in the role. The only problem I had with Lizzy is that she’s not a very likeable character, and so it’s very difficult to warm up to her. There’s something very grating about her presence whenever she’s on screen. She’s a walking menace, ready to devour every male, female, and controlled substance in her path. But she’s memorable! Enos appeared in last year’s WORLD WAR Z (2013) and GANGSTER SQUAD (2013), and I found her much more impressive here in SABOTAGE.

I was also less than impressed with the main plot of SABOTAGE. Since the driving force of the movie is the mystery of who is killing off members of Breacher’s team, the main villain in the film is an unknown. For me, the best action flicks have at their core a nasty villain. It makes the heroes that more compelling to square off against a worthy adversary. In SABOTAGE, Breacher and company are chasing shadows, and that’s just not that exciting, especially considering that they operate in the world of deadly drug cartels. You’d think there’d be one very malicious mastermind pulling the strings, a guy you’d really want to see Arnold kick the crap out of, but this isn’t the case.

So, you have this elite squad of unstoppable assassins with little to do but hide out and wait for their time to be killed by the elusive murderer, and this just isn’t my idea of a compelling story. I was much more interested in Breacher’s dealings with the drug cartel that murdered his wife and son. That’s the event that is inside Breacher’s head throughout this film, the dagger that strikes at his heart, and yet we hardly ever see him deal firsthand with this. Instead, he’s playing homicide detective with Detective Caroline. I would have much preferred a plot where Breacher took his team into the treacherous world of drug cartels to go after the bastards who murdered his family.

I also found it strange that these guys all live in the same town. It makes it so easy for the assassins to kill them. That’s why Detective Caroline is investigating the murders, because they’re all taking place in her precinct. You’d think that these guys would live all over the world so this kind of thing couldn’t happen. At the very least, once it started happening, you’d think they’d go into hiding or something. But no, they just hang around, passively waiting for the next member to drop.

Screenwriter Skip Woods previously wrote X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009) and A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD (2013). Unlike a lot of people, I enjoyed the WOLVERINE film a lot, but A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD was pretty bad. His screenplay for SABOTAGE falls in the middle of these two.

I also wasn’t crazy about the title. SABOTAGE says very little about this movie. I guess it refers to the attempts to bring down this elite team, but the film is hardly about sabotage.

Director David Ayer gives SABOTAGE a slick polished look, and there are plenty of grisly close-ups of some nasty execution style murders, although there is certainly an overuse of CGI created blood. I would have enjoyed the violence more if these scenes held more relevance. They don’t, because most of the characters in this one are underdeveloped, and so I didn’t care all that much when they died. As a result, the bulk of the violence in this movie rings hollow.

The action scenes really aren’t all that impressive either. Other than some shoot-outs that are nothing out of the ordinary, there’s nothing in the way of exciting action sequences here. Nor is there much suspense in this one. For the most part, SABOTAGE plays like a police drama with DEA agents as the suspects.

Ultimately, SABOTAGE is a mixed bag. Arnold Schwarzenegger is as entertaining as always, in what turns out to be a slightly darker role for him. And he still manages to get the best lines in the movie. Not that he’s spewing goofy one-liners throughout, but he does get to unleash a couple of well-placed zingers that generate some much needed laughter.

But the rest of the cast in this one is never developed to any degree of satisfaction, and the plot fails to captivate. SABOTAGE is a grisly take on a not-so-interesting tale that would have been much better had it found a story worthy of its actors, the characters they played, and the sordid world they found themselves in.

I give it two knives.

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