The Hot Toys Barney Ross Figure Is Awesome!

I love Sylvester Stallone AND The Expendables, so it’s no shocker that I’m knocked back by how awesome this Hot Toys figure based on Stallone’s Expendables character Barney Ross is. I spend a good chunk of my professional life writing about toys and have even talked about Hot Toys quite a bit. My go-to comment is how insanely good looking their figures are when compared to their original subjects. I’ve called it magic and super-science (shrinking tech), but DAMN, this figure looks good. Just look at the detail on those tattoos and Stallone’s freakish, yet impressive old man arms! I’m also impressed that a shirtless figure looks so good, they do a great job of offering articulation without making the torso and joints look too action figure-y. My only complaint about these figures is that with a price point between $150-200, there’s no way I can rationalize a purchase like that. Sorry Sly, but I’d rather put that much scratch towards a new guitar. But, if someone wanted to send me one for free, I wouldn’t kick it out of bed…that’s a metaphor. I swear.

Best Double Feature Ever: Expendables & Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

How weird is it that on April 17th of last year, I wrote a post about how excited I was about Expendables and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and now, lots and lots of months later, I got to see both flicks in the theater on the same day? At least sort of weird.

I actually cleared my work schedule earlier this week so I could go see Expendables at the first showing in my town. It was the 11:20 show at the Destinta and I had an amazing time. The movie, which combines all the best action stars ever (okay, maybe there were a few folks not in the movie, but there’s never been a movie with this many of them) as a team of mercenaries doing jobs. The actual Expendables consist of Sylvester Stallone, Jason Stahtham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. They’re going up against a drug kingpin (played by David Zayas of Dexter fame!) who’s working with Eric Roberts who has Steve Austin as a body guard. Stallone got the job from Bruce Willis when Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t want the job. Oh and Mickey Rourke used to be an Expendable but he retired. I think that covers everyone.

I’m not going to get into the plot too much because, let’s be honest, who cares? If you haven’t seen the movie what you’re wondering is “Is it a solid action movie or a bunch of old men playing war?” It’s a solid action movie. Period. I had a ridiculous amount of fun sitting in the theater watching the flick. There’s all kinds of cheesy one-liners (to be expected), awesome team-ups and fights I never expected to see (seeing Stallone and Statham pall around is like a dream come true) and, as I hope you were expecting, tons of blood, explosions, punches, bullets, knives and body slams (not in a cheesy “hey look we’ve got wrestlers in the movie!” way, but it a way that makes sense).

Speaking of the fighting, I really like how each guy has his own specialties and sticks to them for the most part. Li’s obviously the martial artist, but Statham’s got moves of his own mixing knife and gun play. Stallone uses an array of weapons, Lundgren uses his caveman bulk and Couture just kicks ass. It’s fantastic. I will say that the fight scenes get a little shaky/jumpy, but I just kind of opened my eyes real wide and absorbed as much as I could. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything, but I still want to watch the movie again so I can absorb even more of it.

It’s funny because a few years ago the ToyFare guys and I created a group called The Manly Men of Action which was a generational grouping of action heroes starring Arnold, Dolph, Stallone and Bruce as the 80s team. We also dreamed up groups from the 60s and 70s, skipped the 90s and went on to the 00s which was the whole plot of the first story (check out some rad wallpapers here). So, it’s pretty awesome that Stallone reads ToyFare and turned our idea into a movie, but would it have been so bad to ask us to cameo? Just saying. Oh, also, the movie hints at a long history for this team and previous incarnations and I would be completely down for sequels and prequels and comic book adaptations and an animated series and anything else.

I was actually less excited about Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, but that’s only because my love of 80s action movies goes back further and is much deeper than my love of Scott Pilgrim. In fact, I’m not that huge a fan of the series and haven’t even read the last installment yet. I was really more excited to see what director Edgar Wright would do with the source material and how he would bring a comic book aesthetic to film. And he did it using some crazy jump cuts, lots of sound onomatopoeia on screen, lifting elements from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s panels and creating some truly epic fight scenes.

The story, as most of you probably know, is about clueless Canadian loser Scott Pilgrim falling in love with Ramona Flowers and having to defeat her seven evil exes to be with her. Like aside, the fights are numerous as are the video game references (coins fall from defeated enemies, weapons appear from seemingly nowhere and people glow red when they’re close to death). But I wonder if that makes the movie a little too inside baseball for your average viewer. I went with the missus to see the flick and she hasn’t read the books nor did she play Nintendo much as a kid, so a lot of the elements I was laughing at along with my fellow audience members (there were actually more people at the mid day Expendables than the 7:50pm Scott) went right over her head. She said she dug it and I asked her to write a post about it, but we’ll see.

But, you might be saying, “Who cares what the newbies think, if they don’t get it, screw ’em.” Okay, fair enough, I guess. But, from a business standpoint, you’ve got to imagine that people like me were already pretty much guaranteed to see the movie, but people like her (norms as I call ’em) aren’t. If she goes to work and tells her friends she didn’t really get it, then they might not go. What I’m saying is that it might have made a little sense to explain some of the video game elements earlier in the movie so that EVERYONE gets the gag. There’s even a scene where Scott and his then-girlfriend Knives play a Dance Dance Revolution-type fighting game, but if the elements were foreshadowed there, I didn’t notice. I was just watching the crazy game.

Another complaint–though a minor one–I had while watching the movie is that sometimes, the fight scenes seemed a little stagey, like Michael Cera (playing Scott) was responding to the next move in the series of moves before the attack was coming. It’s a minor complaint because, frankly, the fight scenes mostly moved pretty quickly, but I definitely got that vibe a few times which was a bummer.

Speaking of Cera, I really had my reservations about him playing Scott in the movie. Like I said, I’m not a die hard fan of the books, but in them, the character is kind of an infuriatingly dull loveable loser who just doesn’t understand most of what’s going on around him, while Cera’s awkward movie persona didn’t really jive with that. I’m still not 100% sure on it, as the movie sometimes felt wobbly as far as Scott’s characterization, but that’s how things were in the book. You really like him one moment, then he does something stupid and you want to give him a wedgie. Overall, I dug his casting and everyone else, so good on Wright and Company for that.

Two more quick complaint and this one actually goes back to the books. First off, like in the first volume, I think it takes too long for the rules of the world to get established. You go from normal people to crazy superhero/video game fights in the blink of an eye without much of a warning. The other problem is that the books felt like they were running out of steam and rushed towards the last couple volumes (I can’t speak to the 6th volume). I mean, come on, two of the exes are twins? I guess it’s not necesarrily a bad thing that we spend time with the character of Scott before he and Ramona start dating, but some of the exes just feel rushed.

Okay, enough bitching. The effects are awesome as is the music. I think I might actually go out and buy the soundtrack (though as a music geek I’ve got to call bullshit that Scott can afford one of the most expensive basses around–the kind you have to call Musician’s Friend just to get the price off–and Steven gets such a good sound out of an acoustic that doesn’t look to have a pick up anywhere inside it). I LOVE the bass battle.

All in all the movie’s a lot of fun (at least for 20-something dudes) and, from what I can remember, follows the comics pretty well (though I wonder if deviating a little more might have helped make the story more accessible to non geeks). Anyway, if I had to choose one movie between Scott and Expendables to see again this weekend, I would definitely go with Expendables. I walked out of that movie just feeling awesome all over, but I’m really glad I got to see both movies in the theaters on opening day. I haven’t done that for just one movie in quite a while!

We Want Action: The Losers, The A-Team & The Expendables

As I’ve mentioned here, here and here, I’m crazy excited for The Expendables, but it doesn’t come out until August 13th! Luckily, Hollywood seems pretty set on giving me cool looking, ensemble action movies to work my way up to Expendables. The Losers, which is based on a re-imagining of my newly beloved Jack Kirby book stars some pretty rad folks like Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Avatar’s Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, Columbus Short and plenty of others debuts on April 23rd.

While The Losers is about a crack military team who gets betrayed by their government and seeks revenge, The A-Team is about, well, the exact some thing, but stars different people and comes from different source material. This TV show revamp can boast a cast that includes Bradley Cooper, Liam Neeson, Patrick Wilson, Jessica Biel and Rampage Jackson. This one comes out on June 11th.

And because I can’t resist myself, here’s another Expendables trailer!

It’s good to see there will be something every two months to break the monotony. Well, that and Iron Man 2 which hits on May 7th.

Oh Sweet Christmas, The New Expendables Trailer is SUPERCRAZYAWESOME!!!

I’ve said I’m excited for The Expendables and I’ve said the first trailer is awesome, but holy crap, this trailer is better than anything I expected. I kind of wish they hadn’t included the Arnold Schwarzenneger (almost spelled it right on the first try this time)/Bruce Willis cameo as I’m guessing that’s the majority of their scenes. If you’re interested in more behind the scenes Expendables info, I highly recommend checking out Ethelmae’s blog if you aren’t already. That poster’s sick too! Oh how I wish Expendables would also get turned into a video game. Anyone read the comic? Is it any good? I might check out the trade if the art’s good and enough people dig it.

The Expendables Trailer Is Awesome

I was pretty bummed out last week when I heard that the trailer for The Expendables had been leaked and taken down in the matter of a night. I’m not sure if this is still a leaked version or if it’s official (let’s hope official), but it looks like this movie will be everything I hoped it would be.

Sylvester Stallone Is Awesome

I had a revelation while watching Over The Top (1987) this weekend: Sylvester Stallone really is a good actor. In addition to his obvious bad assery, I found myself feeling bad for the big galoot as he struggled with dealing with his son. It shouldn’t really come as a surprise, I’ve seen a surprising amount of Stallone movies this pass year including Death Race 2000, First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Over The Top, Tango and Cash (how did I not blog about those three?), Cliffhanger and Rambo. I’ve also seen most of the Rocky movies in my days, but need to rewatch them, Cop Land and, as I’ve mentioned before, I can’t wait for The Expendables. Two of those I’ve watched recently, so let’s jump in, shall we?

A few weeks back I had some free time on the weekend (I came down with a crazy cold while we were trying to paint our bathroom, I swear) and decided to give Cliffhanger (1993) on Netflix Instant Watch. I got so into it that Em, who was graciously finishing the painting while I slowly turned into a snot machine, heard me yelling at the TV and was about to yell at me for playing video games while she was working until she came in to see me on the edge of my seat.

See, the thing is that THEY’RE ON THE SIDE OF A MOUNTAIN. Sure there’s actors, stuntmen, matte painting and other special effects, but this is before cheap CGI, so someone was actually on a mountain and you can feel that danger. I don’t know if it was unconscious or not because it popped into my head right away “Woah, that’s high up, someone had to actually do that,” but I definitely felt it the whole time. Just try and tell me this isn’t intense:

I’d never seen the movie, so it held a lot of surprises for me, especially when it came to the cast. I pretty much only knew that Stallone and the girl from Northern Exposure (Janine Turner) were in it. I had no idea John Lithgow, Michael Rooker and the cop from CSI Miami (Rex Linn) were all in it. You gotta love Lithgow as a villain.

The thing that surprised me about both of these Stallone movies is how much deeper the story is than you’d expect. With Cliffhanger, you’d just expect it to be dudes on a mountain making other dudes find their lost money, but instead you’ve got all this backstory between Stallone and Rooker and Stallone and Turner. The same goes for Over The Top, which I picked up at Best Buy for $5 last week even though I’d never seen it before. It’s not JUST the Stallone arm wrestling movie. He’s also dealing with his 10-year-old kid who he’s never met before (played by David Mendenhall, the voice of Daniel Witwicky in Transformers), the kid’s sick mom, her dad (played by Lost Highway’s Robert Loggia!) and a bunch of dudes in tank tops at the arm wrestling championship.

Of course, it comes with its fair share of ridiculousness too. Stallone’s a truck driver and one of the prizes for the American arm wrestling championship just so happens to be a big rig. Exactly what he needs. Huh, go figure. There’s also a whole series of scenes in which his son steels a car, drive it to the airport, gives it to a security guard, flies to Las Vegas, avoids his grandpa’s goons (one of which, I’m pretty sure played a goon in Road House, the one with the curly hair) and makes his way to the arm wrestling championships all while his dad is in the middle of the competition. Crazy! How does he do this? Were credit cards even around back then? It’s like they tried to throw a little Home Alone in the middle of this action movie, it’s great. You’ve also got a great series of weirdos he has to arm wrestle (all of whom are much, MUCH bigger than him.

But, yeah, of course the best moments involve Stallone being a badass:

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If you can’t get behind this kind of awesomeness, I pity you.

Two more quick things. One, the movie was so rad that it earned itself an action figure line back in 1986 with real arm wrestling action! I very much wish I could find a commercial online for this, but as the basic video search I did on YouTube brought nothing, click through to this Virtual Toy Chest link, you’ll be doing yourself a service my friend.

And second, just try and tell me that this painted image of Stallone, arm extended with a truck and a hawk behind him isn’t cooler than anything you’ve seen in the past 13 years. Bazinga!