Sylvester Stallone

Millennium Entertainment

The majority of Reach Me writer/director John Herzfeld‘s credits involve television, from TV series like Rob Lowe’s Dr. Vegas to TV films such as 1997’s Emmy-nominated Don King: Only in America. He’s done a bit of film work, notably 15 Minutes and 2 Days in the Valley, both films with enormous, famous casts that follow the lives of many supporting characters – falling in line closely with his latest. More importantly, he’s buds with Sylvester Stallone, who helped him crowdfund this project. In the movie, a mysterious author (Tom Berenger) has written a self-help book, entitled “Reach Me,” that’s found its way into the hands of many unsuspecting Californians, slowly changing their lives and bringing them together in ways they could not have imagined. Its themes are relevant to all: freed inmates (Kyra Sedgwick), rich rappers (Nelly), and the journalists who pursue its elusive author (Kevin Connolly and Sylvester Stallone). The book will cause these characters to clash as their lives are enriched, bringing their friends, family and co-workers (like Thomas Jane, Cary Elwes, and Kelsey Grammar) with them. The glaring issue with Herzfeld’s script is that there are just too many characters whose irrelevant stories distract from each other. The backbone of the plot rests on Connolly, whose bland character involves basically two aspects: his boss (Stallone) is always yelling at him, and he just can’t quit smoking. The actor’s effort is there, but the character’s predictable arc finishes too quickly. Others, like Jane, seem to be portraying caricatures of their previous work, while some of the big names, like […]

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Expendables 3

The easy answer to what went wrong with the box office for The Expendables 3 is that everyone had already seen it. A copy of the movie was leaked online weeks ago, and unlike with most pirated new movies out there, this was a very high quality bootleg. So, the first piece of advice to the makers of this franchise regarding The Expendables 4 is obviously “don’t let it leak.” However, while I do think the piracy had an effect on not just the dismal US gross of $16m but also the international take so far in significant spots like Russia, I believe there’s more to it. X-Men Origins: Wolverine didn’t have such a terrible drop in interest compared to the rest of its series just because it was online before it opened in theaters. Not all potential fans of the Expendables movies are people who’d illegally download them. Maybe they’re just bored of the casting gimmick being the only thing given thought during their production. Or maybe another aspect of the casting turned moviegoers off. I’m not talking about the fact that Stallone let Bruce Willis slip away. Perhaps Mel Gibson is just too poisonous to be in a movie where audiences are expected to relish his performance, even if he’s playing the main villain. He is a lot of fun in The Expendables 3, but the role seems too much of a reward in connection with Gibson’s scandals and current reputation. These movies lean on the contexts of their stars, and his isn’t one that […]

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Demolition Man Poster Crop

For such mindless entertainment, the Expendables movies sure can get the brain working if you’re interested in the nostalgic samples they’re selling. Sylvester Stallone is a smart guy who knows how to work on multiple levels, and of course his most brilliant act is to make it all seem dumb as hell without pandering to the audience that can appreciate that. He’s the male modern Marilyn Monroe in a way. With this series he has assembled more all-star action heroes than good plot ideas, but the simplicity of the storytelling is just to provide a lot of bullets and explosions for the mindless crowd and a bunch of reflexive call-backs to the cast’s earlier movies for those who like to play the spot-the-allusion game. Most of the latter is cheap references through repurposed dialogue and slightly altered character names. But The Expendables 2 kind of beat that whole thing to death with its “I’m back!” and “Yippee ki-ya” lines and the entire role played by Chuck Norris. For The Expendables 3, the reflexive bits are more self-aware nods to the casting of these movies, not in a nostalgic sense as much as in a winking treat for anyone who follows their production. There are jokes referencing the reason Wesley Snipes couldn’t be in the series until now and recognizing that Terry Crews took his place and there’s a couple more regarding Bruce Willis‘s departure and recognizing, in case we couldn’t already tell, that Harrison Ford is finally having a ball in […]

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Lionsgate

A routine assignment to capture a rogue arms dealer leaves Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and his team of immortal but highly moral mercenaries beaten and diminished. Worried his personal vendetta will put his men in danger (?) Barney shelves his Expendables and hires a new team of dispensable youngsters who more properly fit the definition of “expendable.” Can he corral these upstarts long enough to capture the villainous Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson), or will the more seasoned ex-expendables need to suit up once again? This is a rhetorical question. The Expendables 3 is a film at odds with itself. It’s an action film filled with dull, instantly forgettable action sequences. It’s a massive ensemble picture where the talent too frequently couldn’t be bothered to shoot scenes together. It’s meant as a loving ode to the tough, ass-kicking action films and stars of the past but has its bloodless hands tied with a PG-13 rating and an abundance of shoddy CGI. And it’s the third film in a franchise but still manages to be the best of the three. To put that last one in perspective though, Ebola is the best disease when grouped together with HIV and malaria.

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Lionsgate

After months of teasers offering little more than onscreen font telling us the names of all fifty four actors starring in the film, we’ve finally gotten a proper trailer for The Expendables 3. And it looks… okay? The first two films certainly have their fans as evidenced by the (world-wide) box office for each installment more than tripling its budget, but in addition to adding sixty three more characters to the ensemble the third go around will also be rated PG-13 for the first time. Will that matter? Doubtful. It’s the cast that counts, and on that front the film is swinging for the fences. Just a small sampling of the eighty seven main cast members in The Expendables 3 includes returning veterans Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture alongside newcomers Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Wesley Snipes, Antonio Banderas and Kelsey Grammer. And those are only the names I recognize. Check out the first full trailer for The Expendables 3 below.

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Cliffhanger reboot

Yesterday, Deadline broke the news that Renny Harlin‘s 1993 minor classic, Cliffhanger, would be getting the reboot/remake/reimagining treatment, and while it’s not surprising that the Sylvester Stallone-starring mayhem on the mountain thriller is getting a new take, it is disheartening. Remakes in general tend to feel tired, but the apparent process that went into rebooting the film sounds straight up depressing — the outlet reports that newbie screenwriter Joe Gazzam, who will pen this new feature, snagged the gig when he “was among a group of screenwriters who pitched their take on a movie that still holds up as a guilty pleasure.” You read that correctly. At some point during the last few months, a group of Hollywood screenwriters (most likely up-and-comers like Gazzam, who at least has some original scripts in the tank) was tasked with thinking up ways to reboot Cliffhanger, and Gazzam turned in the best one. (Of course, we still have no idea what this new film will entail, but that will come.) Even without knowing what Gazzam’s new film will involve, we already know the one thing it needs. What’s the one thing that Cliffhanger needs? You know it already. You can feel it in your bones. Perhaps a visual aid will help? Let’s explore.

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GRUDGE MATCH-FILM

The idea of Rocky vs. Raging Bull is almost irresistible, and when it comes to that factor, Grudge Match has its moments. However, those moments aren’t enough to make a good movie. Indeed, Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro have been cashing their nostalgia bitcoins for a while now. De Niro seems to be taking every film that comes his way – good or bad – and relying more and more on his reputation rather than giving a good performance. It’s not just the Meet the Parents films that capitalize on this. In fact, The Family from earlier this year had a huge plot point to the film hinge on De Niro’s long career playing a Mafioso (resulting in a scene almost as awkward as the Julia Roberts gag in Oceans 12). Similarly, Stallone has been trying to spin his once-top-rated box office name into modern success. It worked with The Expendables and The Expendables 2, but pretty much everything else he’s tried to reclaim his 80s glory days has fallen flat. While I thought Bullet to the Head wasn’t bad and thoroughly enjoyed Escape Plan this past fall with Arnold Schwarzenegger, few others did.

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review homefront

Jason Statham made his big screen debut in 1998’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, and just four years later he got his first starring role as The Transporter. He’s been punching and kicking ever since, averaging between two to four films per year over the last decade, with 2013 coming in at the high end with lead roles in both Parker and Redemption and an end-credits cameo in a major action franchise. There are of course exceptions, but we can probably all agree that Statham’s more of a quantity over quality kind of guy. His newest action romp, Homefront, offers some bang for your buck, but it probably won’t be changing that assessment. Phil Broker (Statham) is working undercover as a member of a motorcycle gang that dabbles in the manufacture and distribution of meth. The big bust goes sideways, and when the gang leader’s son gets swiss-cheesed in front of his eyes, he swears vengeance against Broker before being carted off to jail. Two years later Broker and his young daughter, Maddy (Izabela Vidovic), are settling down to a new life in a small Louisiana town. The sins of the past soon come calling though when a local meth dealer (James Franco) discovers Broker’s past and invites some old friends to town for payback.

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Blue is the Warmest Color

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Homefront

This Thanksgiving holiday, you and your family (bickering, loving, overstuffed, or some combination of the three) will have plenty of choices for after-meal movie-going fun. Perhaps you’ll take the kids to see Disney’s latest animated feature, Frozen, which involves animated princesses and animated snowmen and – is that? – a yak (could be a moose? An elk? We’ll look into this one). Maybe your family is in need of some musical excitement and holiday cheer, which means that Black Nativity should ring all of your bells. Maybe you hate your family and want to fool them – there’s Oldboy for you! – or you all want some historical meat to chew on (Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom). Heck, maybe you were even busy the week before, and now is the time to catch up on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire or Delivery Man. There are so many options – it’s a cornucopia of Thanksgiving movie choices (forgive me). Or, maybe… Well, maybe you’d like to take in a little action outing written by Sylvester Stallone that stars James Franco and Jason Statham as a dueling meth dealer and a former DEA agent, respectively? Oh, are you not familiar with Homefront? Let’s fix that.

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1200

It may not be the biggest hit at the box office this weekend, but Escape Plan could wind up a cult favorite. As our review states, it’s “entertaining” and “gloriously silly.” And truth be told, it’s the first movie for either Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone in about 20 years that deserves a sequel. Or needs one, because personally I found the team-up of these two 1980s action heroes a little less fun than I’d hoped. Honestly, I dozed off a bit in the middle. But Escape Plan 2 could be bigger and even more entertaining and much sillier in an even more glorious way. For starters, I’d like to see a follow-up where the actors are actually equal, dual protagonists rather than seeing Arnie as a sidekick along for another one of Sly’s adventures. Maybe the sequel could instead reverse the premise and have it be Schwarzenegger’s character’s story. Instead of coming up with original ideas to pitch to the makers of Escape Plan, and potentially just have them stolen, I’ve selected 10 plots that already exist in other movies, which could be remade for Escape Plan 2, Escape Plan 3, etc. And the good thing is many of these titles are already in line to be remade. Just tweak the scripts with some one-liners referencing both stars’ past hits, and you’re good to go!

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Escape Plan

The best comedy bit in Escape Plan, an action movie filled with amazing comedy bits, occurred before a single camera rolled. It happened when someone somewhere said the following and others agreed: “You know what would be a great idea? Casting Sylvester Stallone as a genius escape artist, a man who gets by not just on brawn but on pinpoint smarts? And, for good measure, let’s have Arnold Schwarzenegger play his sidekick.” The idea that Stallone could possibly, convincingly play an intellectual type isn’t just farfetched. It’s so utterly logic-defying when you consider everything about the man’s image that it comes fully around the bend and starts making a whole lot of sense.

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Grudge Match

It’s the cinematic boxing match we’ve always dreamed of witnessing: Rocky Balboa vs. Jake LaMotta. It’s just happening about 30 years later than anticipated. But still! Rocky and the Raging Bull, together at last! Peter Segal‘s Grudge Match is a silly comedy starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro as aging boxing legends and mortal enemies. As Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) and Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro), the boxers faced off twice back in the day but a tiebreaking match never happened. They’re bitter, to say the least. Fast forward to present day, and they’re looking to settle the score for good after a viral video spreads of them bickering during a video game shoot in their motion-capture suits. It’s kind of precious. Cue the insane workout montages and inevitable journeys of self-discovery:

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Stallone Kickstarter

Yes, Sylvester Stallone is the latest major celebrity to hit the crowdfunding circuit. But it’s not his own project; he just stars in the film. The real man behind the campaign is Sly’s old buddy John Herzfeld. These guys are a pair. They were roommates in college, made a short western film using live ammo, appeared together in Cannonball! and Cobra and finally got to work together again recently on The Expendables (Herzfeld helmed the making of feature included on the DVD and Blu-ray). Now they’re united again with Reach Me, an ensemble drama we’d been tracking the casting of last fall. It turns out one of the main investors backed out during filming and now the post-production financing needs to come from pledges via Kickstarter. Reach Me doesn’t look too bad, and it does have an impressive cast (at least in size and B-level status) consisting of Stallone, Kelsey Grammar, Kyra Sedgwick, Tom Sizemore, Thomas Jane, Tom Berenger, Kevin Connolly, Cary Elwes, Danny Aiello, Terry Crews, Danny Trejo, Nelly, The Walking Dead‘s Lauren Cohan, True Blood‘s Ryan Kwanten and Frank Stallone. Herzfeld is no amateur, either. He’s the writer and director of 2 Days in the Valley and 15 Minutes, and his last major directorial gig was the 2007 Paul Walker movie Bobby Z. But don’t think just because he and his actors are all well-known that they could foot the bill among them. Let’s not forget, this is a job for that cast, not an act of charity.

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Mel Gibson

You gotta hand it to Mel Gibson – he might have said horrific things about his ex-girlfriend and almost every minority under the sun, but he just keeps chugging along. The actor seems to have embraced his now-repugnant public image by taking villainous roles in both Robert Rodriguez’ Machete Kills and, as was announced today, The Expendables 3. Joining the cast alongside Gibson is Antonio Banderas, who Sylvester Stallone referred to as “a consummate actor and a gentleman” in a clear shot at Bruce Willis, who reportedly dropped out because he wasn’t getting paid enough. If the “old man action movie” trend is to continue (and as long as Stallone is still breathing, it probably will), at least The Expendables series understands that these movies should be big dumb tongue-in-cheek fun. And that’s exactly what Expendables 3 is shaping up to be: a great big party for every action star under the sun (minus Bruce Willis) to hang out, spew one-liners, and make things explode.

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02_the_fugitive_blu-ray

Very famously, Harrison Ford is the sort of grumpy curmudgeon who doesn’t like it when he has to field questions about Star Wars or his experiences playing the iconic character Han Solo in that series. Which is understandable, you know, because us nerds can get pretty pushy. Probably the guy would get more sympathy from people if he didn’t then go and do things like make unwanted Indiana Jones sequels, agree to appear in the new Star Wars trilogy, and now agree to appear in yet another series that’s built almost entirely on nerd nostalgia, though. What series based on nostalgia are we talking about? Sylvester Stallone’s Expendables series, wherein the movies always seem like they’re going to be action-packed larks where all of your favorite action stars from the 80s finally team up to go on the same adventure, but then end up being inert bores where old guys dress too young for their own good and do their best to prove that their knees can no longer handle the stress of running (except for JCVD, who was actually good in The Expendables 2).

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first blood

In recent years some of the luster has come off of Oliver Stone’s career. He wasn’t always the guy who made movies like World Trade Center and Savages. Far from it, actually. He used to be the sort of respected director who cleaned up at the Oscars. One of the best-loved and most respected of the works from his peak was Born on the Fourth of July, a drama that not only earned him an Academy Award for Best Director and a nomination for Best Picture, but also went a long way toward making a serious actor out of its star, Tom Cruise. Cruise had become a huge name in the business thanks to roles in things like Risky Business and Top Gun, but before he did things like this and Rain Man, he still might have proved to be just a flash in the pan who opened a couple of big movies thanks to a pearly grin and a haircut, and then became a footnote. Even after all of these years though, Born on the Fourth of July is still considered to be one of the big entries in the highlight reel of Cruise’s career, and an argument could even be made that it still contains his very best performance. Ted Kotcheff isn’t a director whose career ever came near the heights of Stone’s. You might not have even heard of him if you aren’t a big fan of Weekend at Bernie’s or The Red Shoe Diaries. One big […]

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trailer escape plan

One of the initial draws behind The Expendables was seeing Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger popping caps together, but while the first film only gave us a brief cameo scene the second upped it slightly with a single shared action scene. The two aging icons went on to make their own individual action films, but fans were still apparently clamoring for the two to work together on something with a bit more substance. Well that’s never going to happen, but in the meantime we are getting a movie featuring the two in more than a single scene. Escape Plan, formerly known as The Tomb, is focused on Ray Breslin (Stallone), the world’s top authority on prison security. He basically makes his living escaping from jail, but his latest gig sees him locked up in a high-tech super prison with, unsurprisingly, a sadistic warden at the helm. You think he’d use his one phone call to get a hold of Lt. Gabriel Cash for help, but instead he turns to fellow inmate Swan Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger).

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Bullet to the Head

Walter Hill‘s long overdue return to theaters opens with a CGI bullet fired straight at viewers as it blasts through the various studio logos on its way to our brain. For better or worse, the film that follows delivers on that graphical promise. James Bonomo (Sylvester Stallone) is a New Orleans Crescent City hit-man with Hollywood scruples (“no women, no kids”) who finds himself double-crossed after an otherwise successful job. He escapes a bathroom assault by a large, Conanic man named Keegan (Jason Momoa), but Bonomo’s partner isn’t so lucky. D.C. detective Taylor Kwon (Sung Kang) also lost a partner recently, his ex-partner being the guy who was capped by Bonomo in the opening scene, and now he’s made his way to the Big Easy to investigate. Kwon and Bonomo find each other thanks to some incredible detective work on the former’s part (the only example of his skills found here) and decide to join forces to catch the bad guys further up the chain of command including Christian Slater and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. But working together won’t be easy for these two gunslingers from opposite sides of the law… especially after dirty cops, racial insensitivity and Bonomo’s hot, tattooed daughter (Sarah Shahi) enter the mix.

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The Last Stand

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s full fledged return to the big screen in this weekend’s The Last Stand isn’t triumphant by any measure, but it is a pretty fun action film which is all the more impressive considering the star is 65 years of age. Raking in an estimated and meager $6.3 million three-day total, the film was handily out-grossed by Mama, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, Gangster Squad, A HAUNTED HOUSE, Django Unchained, The Hobbit, and man the list just keeps on going. I mean, seriously, did you see that A Haunted House, a movie that likely shouldn’t have even gotten a theatrical release, beat out The Last Stand at the movies? That’s disgraceful. I’m glad to see the success of Mama and many of the other films are Awards Season hold-overs, but this weekend should have been one for Arnold to win. If you’re an action film, I’m here to tell you: you’ve got to see action films in theaters or we’re screwed.

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published: 12.17.2014
B+
published: 12.15.2014
B
published: 12.12.2014
D+
published: 12.05.2014
C+


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