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Macho Movie Review: THE EXPENDABLES

This movie. This f’in movie here. Look at it! It’s the cinematic equivalent of that guy who wears too much Brut, but he can get away with it because he’s awesome. You know the guy, all swagger, no style. But there’s just something about him that lets him get away with it.

The Expendables is a film where the sum of its parts is not greater than the whole, nor is the whole equal to even a fraction of its parts. It boasts a superstar action cast, and wastes 70 percent of their screen presence.

Stallone, though a bit too surgically enhanced in the face, is still able to convey that everyman/toughguy persona to perfection. He’s not afraid to show his age here, running with a gait that betrays old knees and stiff joints. He attempts to have a character grappling with the consequences of his actions (a bit tacked-on, but he gets an A for effort).

The movie does everything it’s supposed to do.The short list of awesome action cliches (mild spoilers below):
Bad car logic:
A car chase through the streets of New Orleans comes to an end inside of a warehouse. How does Stallone get his truck into the warehouse? Through a plate glass window, of course. do we see this window coming? No. Do we know that Stallone’s truck is headed up a ramp? No. We are to trust that the awesome force of Stallone causes the truck to fly through the window somehow (but at least we don’t know what floor it’s on…)

Bad villain logic:
The bad guy’s plans all go to hell, so he tries to make his escape. He runs away with the girl as his hostage, presumably to have a shield of some sort, a bargaining chip. Here’s the problem: Her dad is the leader of the nation and he just got killed. So did all of his army. Stallone’s coming for vengeance, so the bad guy’s dying either way. Why does he drag her through the jungle, slowing himself down? Why not shoot her and get away faster?

Odd fight logic:
Dolph Lundgren has Jet Li dead to rights, ready to kill him, but of course pauses just long enough to let Stallone shoot him. There’s a brief “TELL ME THE PLAN SO YOU CAN DIE WITH HONOR” dialogue exchange, and we’re led to believe that Dolph dies in the warehouse. (odd sequel logic prevents this at the end).

My favorite part of this movie is that Mickey Rourke seems to be in a completely different film, one about a psychologically tortured ex-mercenary who’s trying to start over in a tattoo shop in the middle of nowhere. Every once in a while, Stallone’s film comes barreling through, and they interact, but I honestly wanted to spend more time seeing what Rourke was up to.

On a fanboy sidenote, it was pretty cool to see Randy Couture go one-on-one with Stone Cold Steve Austin, but any MMA fan worth their salt noticed the Nogueira brothers early on in the film as bad guys. Surely they could have worked a two-on-one fight scene in there. Missed opportunity.

As goofy as the film is, it just works. it’s just a bunch of past-their-prime and/or B-list action stars saying “hey, remember how fun these kinds of films were?” And it is fun. From the bad laser-sights on the rifles that kick off the film to Terry Crews’ hilariously over-the-top automatic shotgun/nuclear death dealer the action is non-stop, the explosions are loud, the fights are down and dirty.

You can’t ask for more out of a film like this…but a little extra character development would be nice.

The vibe of the film is best summed up in the glorious meeting between Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Schwarzenegger. They trade barbs, posture and menace each other, but you can see the “can you believe we’re still doing this?” glee in their eyes.

Arnold’s going to be out of office soon, so if they can get him into the sequel, I’ll be more than willing to go for one more last hurrah with these guys.


There are moments in sports that you see that you remember for life. Usually, for me, these involve games I have no stock in (Giants/Pats Superbowl, for example). The detached nature of the situation for me allows me to appreciate the beauty of that epic play, frozen in time. Then there are those moments like Adam Deadmarsh’s shot from the blue line in triple overtime that brought the Stanley Cup home to my beloved Avalanche. That, along with some scattered highlights from  Michael Jordan’s career, comprise almost the entirety of “epic sports moments” where my team was on the winning side.  

I remember the night Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas. The fight wasn’t broadcast stateside at all, it was intended asa tuneup bout in Japan, but my brother and I spent the next few days scouring TV footage like forensic experts, trying to figure out if Tyson had been secretly drugged, or shot, because there was no way in hell Tyson would lose – could lose –  ever. It’s a hollow feeling, especially in boxing, where one loss, even after an impressive stack of wins, can put you on the road to retirement and obscurity.

Last night, another fighting legend fell, just as inexplicably, and of course, I was watching. Fedor Emilianenko was facing Fabricio Werdum in what was supposed to be a stepping stone for a title fight between Fedor and current Strikeforce champ Alistair Overeem. All of the pre-fight hype was Werdum touting his ground game, verifying that he knew he couldn’t last on his feet with Fedor, but if he could bring it to grappling, he could win. Fedor also talked about this, saying he needed to stay out of Werdum’s guard, to be wary of his grappling.

So, thirty seconds into the fight when Fedor floored Werdum with a punch, I wasn’t elated, I was worried. Werdum fell straight back, and Fedor followed him in, hoping to finish the fight. But instead of approaching his side, or even trying to coax him back up into a slugfest, Fedor jumped into Werdum’s guard. Hubris, perhaps? Could nearly ten years unbeaten have given Fedor some kind of false confidence that he could handle Werdum’s game? I couldn’t figure out why he did it, but I knew as soon as his first grounded punch missed and his arm was exposed, there would be trouble. Fedor’s worked his way out of tight spots before, the pummeling he took in the  Arlovski fight, the early broken nose from Brett Rogers. But this was different. His arm was locked, and in his escape attempt, he allowed Werdum to lock in a triangle choke simultaneous to the armbar.

Two submission holds early in the fight. In later rounds, with both men sweating, this might not have been as deadly. But early on, Werdum didn’t have to worry about Fedor slipping away. 

It was agonizing, watching Fedor scramble as best he could, A single tap, once on the leg, and the Last Emperor was legitimately dethroned.

Werdum’s already calling for an instant rematch, and spent more of his post-fight interview praising Fedor than celebrating his victory. But it leaves me shaken, just a bit, to see yet another legend fall. 

He has one more fight under his current Strikeforce agreement, which will hopefully be his rematch. And then, perhaps, finally, he will journey to the UFC, to try one final run to cement his legacy.

“A man who does not fall does not stand up,” Fedor said in defeat. I have a feeling Fedor will rise again, but his ride into the sunset will be anything but peaceful.

Music Monday – Amanda F. Palmer tweets to me…

I had my first brush with the power of Twitter today. Yes, in the past it has gotten me things like coffee discounts, and also informed me that Wil Wheaton has conversations with his dog. But TODAY, Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls and such) tweeted this photo:

Which, translated, means:
a woman without a belly is like heaven without any stars”

And I commented on it thusly:
they make the greatest nap pillows ever.”

And then I got this!

Amanda Fucking Palmer (that’s her legal middle name) tweeted me! And she’s marrying Neil Gaiman, who’s like, my favorite writer in forever! It’s like I’m the best man at their wedding now! Or, at the very least, the creepy guy in the tower across the street with high powered binoculars who’s saying “good on you, you two crazy lovebirds” as they exchange vows.

Have you ever been tweeted by the famous? Tell me all about it…

(and her new EvelynEvelyn project with the awesome Jason Webley – who was on one of my last Music Mondays –  is now on tour, so check them out when they’re in your town!)

I’d say all of this was worthy of doing a Music Monday on a Tuesday, wouldn’t you?

Under the Dome by Stephen King

This massive work from Stephen King was at once engaging and frustrating. Clocking in at over 1,000 pages, and featuring a vast array of characters, “ambitious” is easily the best word to describe this work from King. At this later stage of his career, it would be easy for him to crank out shorter books and stories, but he’s still attempting to tackle epics.

In this case, he succeeds, and through success, also fails a bit. The book takes place in the small town of Chester’s Mill, and by the time you’re halfway through the book, you’ll feel as if you lived in the town yourself. This is where the book scores its greatest victory. However, keeping up with every individual character becomes tiresome and occasionally confusing as events begin to ramp up towards the big ending. The town finds itself surrounded by an invisible dome. Nobody knows where it came from or how to get rid of it. Everyone is trapped in the town, and as resources dwindle, tensions run high. Small town politics, back door deals, and skeletons in the closet quickly come into play, and what was once a cozy town becomes a war zone, with one corrupt politician seeking to make a play for power, fame, and money while conveniently eliminating his enemies.

The explanation of the dome, and by extension, the end of the book, are a bit disappointing, as King uses an external device to solve the immense problems he’d kept long simmering between these townfolk. He pulls no punches in who lives and who dies, and his style is still engaging, but I think he missed the chance to create something amazing by venturing into the fantastic. It’s a bit hard to discuss without getting into spoilers, but I do recommend the book to anyone with a lot of free time (and strong arms).

Out of the competition and what we’ve learned…

I was eliminated from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel 2010 competition. Quarterfinalist was a pretty good run for a book that’s not exactly mainstream fiction, so I’m pretty happy with the result. part of the prize package of being a quarterfinalist is a review from Publisher’s Weekly, and after reading some of the other contestant’s feedback, I think I dodged a bullet. My review is pretty middle of the road, nothing fantastic, nothing bad, I only wish I knew which parts they were referring to when they said “mostly manages”…

For your reading pleasure, The Publisher’s Weekly Review:
“Lucifer may not be such a bad guy after all. Here, he’s part Sam Spade and part wisecracking governor of hell. In the afterlife, everyone receives thirteen anima crystals. The crystals reflect misdeeds or shortcoming in their own life, and only after they overcome or repent for their sins are they able to advance to heaven. The only problem is that Aspen Biltmore, a vapid, shopping obsessed strumpet, has stolen others’ crystals in an attempt to sneak in to heaven to be with Lenny, the angel she loves. When Lucifer learns his own anima crystals have disappeared, the murderous Cain and Abel make an appearance, as do the schizophrenic Hectate and the universe destroying Yaotl. Fortunately Lucifer has the help of Monkey, the immortal trickster of Chinese mythology, Goliath the Philistine, and Eve, who now works as a waitress. While the plot may seem convoluted, the author mostly manages it with an excellent sense of tongue-in-cheek humor and very creative recasting of the afterlife.”

I’ve begun submitting Angel Falls to agents in earnest now, I’m going to try a slow approach, one per week with an increasing pace this summer. I also have a few decent leads on publishing houses. This battle’s not over yet! I will get this book in the hands of the masses!

Returning to the scene of the crime…

So, way back in October, I had a post about a foggy beach ride in which I encountered a mysterious carousel in the middle of a parking lot by the beach that hadn’t been there the day before.

Ahh, Hollywood magic. Here’s where it ended up:

Somewhere around the 12 second mark.

Now if I could only find out where the footage of that dancing flailing model I saw ended up…