Darke Reviews | Expendables 3 (2014)

Ah the stars of yore trying to get one last paycheck. Except, it’s not the stars of yore in this one; is it? What happens when you try to make a movie where you have older actors and individuals trying to pass the torch to younger ones? This sounds like one of the rumored Ghostbusters 3 plots. Should Ghostbusters 3 ever come the out of pre production ecto containment unit it’s been in, the producers need to watch this movie for pointers.

Which pointers? Good? Bad? Ugly?

Well…rather than keep a director between films they went with a new guy. Seems silly to not keep whats working, but who am I to understand studio logic. Ok, other film buffs reading this stop laughing at that oxymoron. This time we get Patrick Hughes who has previously directed a relatively small scale film called Red Hill. I’ve seen this and it’s good. I’ve seen Expendable 3 and I can tell you a budget isn’t always the best thing. He keeps a good style and knows the right places to focus and what he does with what he has is actually really good. Sadly, Stallone is one of the producers so I know how his hands may have been tied. I also said he does well with what he had.

What he has is a Three Writer Script. You may commence shuddering if you’ve read my reviews before. Stallone, aside from starring and producing also provides the Story credit and one of the screenplay credits. Olympus has Fallen writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt gives us our other two. As much as I like Olympus has Fallen for what it does right, this script fails in almost all those respects.

It doesn’t make you care about any of the characters that are being introduced of which there are many. You can’t keep track of the ones that you have from the previous films and nothing with them even seems to matter. The stakes *just* aren’t there. In a PG-13 film they just didn’t go enough to the places they need to. I am not talking blood and guts, I can get good action without that. I’d rather have no blood than CGI blood. I mean risks. I mean violence. I mean honest to darkness threat to characters to make me even believe for a moment they may be in danger.

But this is Expendables. Why bother with a plot? That’s actually the problem. They did. It needs to be judged. It’s a very thin plot and honestly they spend more time on the slow beats than they should have. Much like Expendables 1 there’s a lot of things that are focused on that no one wants. The first twenty minutes and the last twenty minutes have it all. The down side is the movie runs just over two hours. That means there’s nearly eighty minutes of – why am I watching this?

Acting? Ok now you are trying to make *me* laugh writing this. That is so not in this film. Stallone, Statham, Schwarzenegger, Lundgren, Li, Couture, and reprise their roles from the first two films. Willis was asked to leave after being a prima donna. There’s even a joke in the movie about it. We introduce Snipes who gets a lovely little joke at his own expense. Gibson who seems to be playing an evolved version of one of his former characters. Kelsey Grammer, I do not know why he is in this either.  Banderas is a joke that runs too too long. Ford walks in, is Ford and walks off. Its enough.

We also introduce Victor Ortiz (Boxer and Dancing with the Stars…no seriously!), Kellan Lutz (from the godawful Hercules earlier and Twilight), Glenn Powell since Chris Evans was busy, and our first real female – Ronda Rousey an MMA fighter. Rousey and Lutz are the most memorable additions. Rousey shining as a fighter in her sequences and generally being kinda awesome. She should get used more if she wishes and can be a new action star along side Carano and Gadot. We do need more women action heroes and she’s a good start.

The action, when we get it is explosive (no pun intended) and intense. It’s well done, well choreographed and just generally good. When you can see it. There’s the tiniest bit of shaky cam for reasons that I cannot fathom. Quick cuts hide some of the flaws. The only one with a really good hand to hand fight is Rousey. Her fight is good and watchable. The gunplay is all you’d want to see from an 80’s film and just as ridonkulous.


Yeah, so this happened. It is ridiculous, but if you can just watch the opening act and final act you get everything you want. Nothing else is relevant. Really – NOTHING else. It might explain why it tanked in the box office this weekend. It only made 3 times what Willis was asking to be paid for his work in the movie. I will let that sink in.

If you are bored and want some action schlock – go see this. If you can find a way to catch just the opening and ending you’ll be in really great shape.

I WAS entertained mostly, but I don’t believe in sending folks to movies for mostly.

Go see Guardians of the Galaxy (again), TMNT, or save your money for SIn City: A Dame to Kill for.

Darke Reviews | Legend of Hercules (2014)

The world, my readers, everyone owes me for this one. Brace yourselves, my review is coming. Not since Die Hard 5 have I felt this way about a film. My cohort tonight thought it was better than she expected, however that scale was against something like Sharknado. Me…well let’s go through the usual breakdown shall we.

The director, Renny Harlin, who is best known for some of my favourite films of the 90s. He can claim Die Hard 2, Long Kiss Goodnight and Cutthroat Island. He can even claim Jaws 2000 er …Deep Blue Sea. He also can claim underrated films like The Covenant, Driven and Mindhunters. Sadly Cliffhanger is in his credits as well. Now, after watching his take on Hercules I have but a few lingering thoughts about this once brilliant action director.

One, did Uwe Boll challenge Harlin to a boxing match and cause brain damage? Did Uwe Boll perhaps kill Harlin and begin impersonating him. Did he hear the song transcendental dream and the line “I’d rather have this bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy” and go “Let’s try both!” These are but some of the likely possibilities for how this film turned out. Sad to say that I think some of Boll’s films are actually better.

Of course no film of this caliber is complete without its script. There are four writing credits and if you’ve read my reviews before you know what that means. We Daniel Giat on his first (and likely last) feature film. Giulio Steve (as IMDB credits him) an Italian producer with his first and only credit for writing. Harlin himself who has minimal experience in this field; which may explain a few things. Sean Hood is the final credit. He has a written by on the recent Conan adaptation and screenplay credits on the 4th Crow movie Wicked Prayer. By some chance and random boredom one day I watched that travesty of film and waste of celluloid and investor dollars. It explains, in its raw derivativeness (that should be a word) what I witnessed tonight.

Please good readers know that I fell on my spear for you. I bore witness to this abomination and did not walk out. This is how much I love you. I watched a film in which the writers and director clearly had this conversation:

“You know that scene from Troy?”
“Use it.”
“You know that shooting style of 300?”
“Use it.”
“What about Immortals? I mean it kinda ripped off 300 but had Gods.”
“Use it.”
“How about this epic shot from 300?”
“Use it.”
“Can we use this shot from the 300 sequel that hasn’t even come out yet?”
‘Sure. Then we can claim we did it first.”

This conversation clearly happened shortly after some drug addled producer at Summit and Millennium films drank themselves into a stupor on the worst possible grain alcohol they could find. These two sloshed and brain damaged individuals heard the Rock was making a Hercules movie and thought they could make one too. It might confuse audiences and perhaps even make them some money on the side. It could ruin the Rocks chances (as if). Much like before, these are the explanations I must surmise from that festering pile of film that was shown tonight.

Every year there are two films that it’s clear are ripped off one another. It’s only a challenge to figure out which came first and which is the rip off. Last year was White House Explosions, this year it is Hercules.

Surely the acting held some redeeming value? You can ask yourself that now. Its ok I understand. Sadly Kellan Lutz (Hercules) may have found that his career peaked with his role in the twilight films. I can believe he took acting lessons on range from Kristen Stewart. Oh his body is fine to look at and you are given opportunity after opportunity after opportunity to watch it; but the boy just cannot act. Stewart is a better actress. You know how hard that is to write? No one else in the cast is even worth mentioning aside from the unknown actress who plays his love interest. Gaia Weiss (Princess Hebe) actually shows more range and emotion than the movie deserves. She also takes more personal action than anyone else in the film. Despite the fact there were at least three scenes the costumer clearly confused this girls costume with that from the She-Ra Princess of Power costume Gaia is actually worth watching once or twice.

Technicals? Don’t hold your breath. I knew how bad this film was going to be when the computer generated archers were firing shot after shot without even getting new arrows from their quivers. Completely arbitrary and abysmally rendered computer overlays of characters and backgrounds took you right out of the experience in just how bad they were. SyFy does a better job blending their actors with the movie events. Then there’s the lightning whip sword scene. Let those words sink in a moment as I move to the 3D rendering.

If anyone actually goes to see this en masse it could destroy the 3D market for movies everywhere. Every bit of the usage was a gimmick. Chains, Blocks, spears, arrows coming at you. The artist was also obsessed with Motes of dust and flower pollen on screen at all times. I think it was an addiction. More Dots he cried! Then the orderlies came and gave him his sedatives. The rendering was so bad in post-production there were parts of frames that were still blurry WITH the 3D glasses on. I didn’t even know that was possible.

Alright, how to sum this up.


As I have had time to really dwell on the film I can say that the smell of curdled milk has more appeal. The raw, festering, bilious mass that took up two hours of my night tonight gives me hope for one thing alone.

That if this putrid production is how the year opens it can only get better from here.

Avoid this film. Do not redbox it. Do not Netflix it. Don’t even try to watch it through other means. Just….don’t. You will thank me for it.

Now, please excuse me I need to pour some acid into my sinus cavity and find a power drill to get this thing out of my head.