August 31, 2010

Centurion & The Slow Rise of Michael Fassbender

"Centurion" delivers the sword and sandals action that I hoped it would, however it should be noted that the sword and sandal balance is way tipped in the swords favor. The film comes director Neil Marshall, who's trapped in a cave film "The Descent" is one of my favorite films ever, so I had high hopes.. And you know bloody what? The film mostly delivered the hardcore action goods.

Taking place in Northern Britain, the story focuses on the legendary 9th Legion of the Roman army, which is said to have disappeared mysteriously in the region. Basically, as soon as the Legion enters the region the native Picts kill everyone but a few ultra-badass Romans. That few try to make back to the safety of Roman lines, but they are tracked by an ruthless Pictish scout/badass/bond girl. Of course, the Pics are the natives and the Roman's are the invaders, but who cares about which side technically the good guys, when the swords come out. So to summarize, the whole movie is like the opening act of "Gladiator."

The weight of the movie rests on Michael Fassbender's shoulders. He plays the Centurion of the title and he basically ices man people, yells badass dialogue, and frequently stops on mountain tops to look to the north/east/west/south with a serious look. Fassbender, familar to audiences from "Inglorious Basterds" has the acting chops and the physicality here to be very convincing, by the end when he's shooting arrows through people's faces, I thought, hey, I might call Stallone and tell him I found a new action star. And a star he is, his next big role is Magneto, in the upcoming "X-Men: First Class."

If there is one fault to the movie, it's simply that it doesn't have a huge budget. The film is short and the battles while awesome, reek of underlying sense of frugality. With more money, the film could have been more epic, with a longer story, with better defined characters, and a stronger more epic score. However, this is a foreign film on a small budget, so these things are lacking. Low budget or not, it still brings it in the action department, at one point a guy pulls an arrow out of his own head, and then stabs someone in the eye with it, not something for my mother, but something that I certainly enjoyed.

August 30, 2010

The Hunger Games Trilogy & The New Childhood

When Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone was released in 1999, the world of young adult literature was a different place. There was no facebook, no Call of Duty, and no wars being waged across the sea. The world, simply speaking, was much less scary and complicated. But things now have changed, and Suzanne Collins' "Hunger Games" trilogy is a violent, exciting, and dark example showing how the world of children has changed.

Set in the fictional dystopian nation of Panem, the story focuses on seventeen year old Katniss, who is forced to compete in the titular "Hunger Games." Established by the government, the games draw two  competitors from each district in the Panem and make them fight to the death in the games. Of course the whole thing is televised. Brief spoilers here, Katniss eventually wins the games and starts a full blown revolution against the government

The books like Stephenie Meyer's, Twilight series are written in a first person voice. This helps Katniss express her feelings about boys, blood, and killing, but more importantly it puts the reader right in the mayhem of the games. In a day and age where hundreds of millions of people are killing every day in "Call of Duty," having a character dictate combat is a close to a literary video game as a kid can get.

Another interesting element of series is the importance of media in the story. Katniss and all the people around her use the media as a weapon. Her partner in the games, Peeta, shapes his own personal narrative involving her to increase his chances of survival. Later in the series, the dominance of media becomes more prevalent as the propaganda machine begins to churn. I'm sure Noam Chomsky would be intrigued. By now, almost all readers will have cell phones, twitter, facebook, etc so the connectivity of Katniss to the media grid is not a surprise, but a familiar comfort.

After finishing the series, the story feels very different than the young adult books, ie Harry Potter, of my youth. These books are violent, and I hope that the violent content is not a reflection on how video games, media, and two wars have created a sub-conscious need to increased violence in children's literature. While I enjoyed The Hunger Games, I couldn't help but think that while they're gripping, they do not contain magic like Rowling, Lewis, or Tolkien, but rather real shocking violence. Perhaps this is the new reality for childhood, no more magic, just war as a media manipulated game.

August 24, 2010

Avatar, Indian Tribes, and The Great Coincidence

It's either the greatest piece of viral marketing or a very convenient coincidence, but today a story about a an evil mining corporation in India, a sacred burial ground, and some vigilant natives is making the rounds on the Internet. I first saw the story last night and didn't make much of it, however astute thislalife reader JoeFrancis G promptly sent me an email saying "THIS IS REAL LIFE AVATAR SHIT," so I had to answer the call.

Apparently a British mining company named Vedanta Resources (in film the RDA Corporation) wanted to mine on an area that is of great religious importance (in the film the Tree of Life) to the Dongria Kondh (Na'Vi). Luckily the tribe had support from a mysterious outsider, the Amnesty International Corporation (aka J. Sully), and were able to thwart the attempts of Vedanta. For the full article check out cnn here.

Man, that's uplifting stuff, so uplifting, I'm going to go see Avatar again when it comes out in theaters this Friday with 9 minutes of extra footage, so convient that these stories came out so close to each other. Is it possible that James Cameron has truly become "The King of the World" and is manipulating the media, the corporations, the native tribes, the cineplexes, the dimensions, the ears, the actors, the oceans, the skies, the minds, the readers, and everyone/everything else to his whim? If so, who cares? As my brother said in more ways than one- AVATAR is the shit!

August 23, 2010

Piranha 3D Bites Back - Sequel Announced!

Man, sometimes Mondays really do rock.  For example, one minute I'm writing about the political undertones of the film and then I come back from a tasty salmon lunch (really big on fish now) and I see that a sequel is announced (via Slash Film). Here is the press release:

After earning rave reviews from top critics, wild cheers from audiences around the country, and $10 million in its opening weekend boxoffice, Dimension Films is pleased to announce that PIRANHA 3D – THE SEQUEL is in the works.

I can only hope that giant mutant Piranhas are featured. I also wouldn't mind seeing some Piranhas take on some other aquatic based creatures including but not limited too, Komodo dragons, alligators, crocodiles, and anacondas.

The Peculiar Case of Piranha 3D

If there is one problem I have with Piranha 3D, it's that I didn't get to see when I was 13. I would have cooked up the greatest scheme ever to get into this bad boy, including but not limited to, buying a ticket to see Eat Pray Love with huge grin on my face, paying some 17 year old bro to be my "cousin," and then swiping some 3D glasses from the bin. None the less, I saw it, and even though I wasn't 13, I loved it. And the peculiar thing is lots of savored it too.

On Rotten Tomatoes, it's hovering at a mean 81% fresh rating with a large pack of remarkably positive reviews. How can a film that features piranhas eating and regurgitating a penis be so enjoyed? If you believe the critics it's because it's simple, trashy, fun pure and simple.

However, I think something deeper is going on here. The film, directed by Alexandre Aja, who is French, is ultimately a bloody satire of American culture. Don't believe me? The plot is about a  hard working government official (Elisabeth Shue) who must try to save her family and the brain-dead spring breakers of her town from a massive nature based threat. The piranhas represent global warming, oil shortages, and any other natural problem you can cook up. The Spring breakers represent American cultural excess. Man it's tough being in charge when the environment and the culture don't cooperate. Jerry O'Connell represents God, just kidding.

I'm not the only one thinking about the film this way. In an interview with Cinematical, Aja shares why he set the film at Spring Break.
 I have always felt a little bit of that balance between attraction and repulsion of spring break, and doing more research, I thought it was a really good metaphor for American itself – that spring break, by being that week of excess in a very puritanical society, feels like America. 
Piranha 3D is not a movie for our times, it won't define a generation, well, I hope it doesn't. But it's not that stupid either. Perhaps it's greatest downfall is that the only people who are seeing it are the exact people who the film is making fun of. After all, I was the one who bought the overpriced $18 dollar movie ticket, $10 dollars worth of movie food, and dragged all my friends to movie all in the name of some naked chicks, blood, and fish.

August 20, 2010

Have A Bosnian Rambo Weekend

Dude, the Expendables opened last week! (Thanks Ryan)

10 Piranha 3D Facts

  1. Piranha 3D is the third entry in the franchise, but it's not a sequel. Interesting, Piranha 1 was directed by genre master Roger Corman, who helped launch the careers of many a major filmaker. Looking for evidence? Piranha 2 was directed by James Cameron, his second film.
  2. Piranha 3D features naked women, evil fish, and loads of violence. In other words, it is the lowest MOM factor movie of the summer
  3. Theodore Roosevelt once described Piranhas as "the most ferocious fish in the world"
  4. MegaPiranha, the Piranha fish's ancestor was up to 3 feet long! How many of those would it take to slay a T-Rex?
  5. Piranhas prefer the Deez over Burger King
  6. Piranha 3D is getting shockingly sharp and great reviews.
  7. Richard Dreyfuss agreed to reprise his Jaws character in the film only because producer Bob Weinstein donated money to his favorite charity
  8. Piranha 3D director Alexandre Aja's previous films include "The Hills Have Eyes," "High Tension" and "Mirrors" which starred Kiefer Sutherland, which technically makes it a very surreal 24 episode. God, do I miss 24
  9. has been hyping Piranha 3D since January.
  10. The only person who has been known to survive a Piranha attack is Jay Judah and Kosher D

August 19, 2010

The Expendables: Mission Accomplished

Stallone had one primary goal in making The Expendables and he achieved it. This goal was not to make a masterpiece of a film. It was not to showcase the fine acting talent he assembled. It wasn't to create an exhibition of his talents as a writer, director, producer and star. The goal was to punch the world in the face and remind it that badass tough guys still exist.

Stallone made the film because he was worried about the state of the action film. He told me and he told others that he felt there was a void of tough guys on the screen. Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are pissed, because we've let the cinematic tough guy become a wise-cracking half robot nerd in a shiny red suit. Stallone couldn't let this stand, so he assembled a group of fighters, kickers, shooters, knife throwers, and existential poets to remind us that yes, badasses are here to stay.

The Expendables is not a great film. The plot is rudimentary at best, the acting, or at least the acting that doesn't involve guns is terrible, and Stallone's directing is bizzare. However, when the pain starts getting inflicted, the film really ascends on it's ass-kicking strength. The last 30 minutes are some of the most fun I've had at the movies in years. Just sheer cinematic chaos of the highest order.

It will be interesting to see where the action film goes from here. Are we going to witness the re-birth of the tough guy actor. I mean Jason Statham can't do all the work? Perhaps The Rock's new film "Faster" a return from the Disney films of late will help usher this in. Nic Cage's "Drive Angry" could also be a contender, but I think Cage is too loopy to hold the torch. Or is the effect of the film almost instantaneous, I mean "Machete" opens September 3rd.

There are many things to like about "The Expendables." The Arnold cameo is short, Danny Devito short, but got dayum was it awesome. This guy has to return the screen, his absence has only made his legend bigger. Mickey Rourke's crazy speech about his black heart, how black? "Dracullla Black" brother is a camp masterpiece. Terry Crews, the original Old Spice guy making meatballs in an hallway (that is a metaphor). And finally, Sly, yeah he's old, he doesn't run as fast as he used to, but got dayum, my hats off to him for saving the tough guy genre. Well, at least until THE AVENGERS comes out.

August 12, 2010

Jet Li Plays Football

Expendables Week Presents: Rocky 4 Training Montage

This is by popular request! Get pumped! Damn, listen to that power synth line, or is a power xylophone line?

TPG Meets Arnold

If "The Rocketeer" was my family friendly introduction to the genre, "Commando" was the exploding birthday cake I received to welcome me to the action movie big leagues. I caught the film at my aunts house when it was broadcast on cable, and I literally remember it like it was yesterday. Why is it so vivid? It was the day I was introduced to Arnold.

Is there anybody more badass than Arnold? While I admire the real life Arnold, the fictional Arnold on the screen in "Commando" and other films is one of, or they greatest action star ever. In "Commando" all he does is waste bad guys and drop one liners. Ahhh the one liner, such an important piece of action cinema. Arnold has more one liners than anyone else in Cinema, and "Commando" has a bulk of them.

The plot is simple. Arnold plays John Matrix, ex-commando, everlasting tough guy, and loving father to Alyssa Milano. Bad guys take Alyssa, Arnold goes after bad guys. The entire movie is just the following formula over and awesomely over again.

Arnold Meets Bad Guy + Arnold Wastes Bad Guy = One Liner

Sure that formula isn't going to win any Oscars but when it comes to satisfying the viewers, it's pretty hard to beat.

August 11, 2010

Commando One Liners

If there is one thing I expect The Expendables to have is good one liners. Here are some of Arnolds best from the action classic "Commando"

August 10, 2010

Expendables Week Presents: Cobra

Cobra always gets it done.

Action Movie Genesis: The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer was the movie that introduced me to the power of an action film. I remember my mom just taking my brothers and my five year old self to the Shopper's World mall in Framingham/Natick because there was new movie that we would like. I hadn't seen a poster, a trailer, or read a review, actually, I couldn't read at the time, so that doesn't matter.

What does matter is that the film delivered the goods and blasted off my mind into the stratosphere of action movie goodness. Directed by Joe Johnston (who's also directing Captain America), the film tells the story of young pilot, who gets a rocket pack from Howard Hughes, and than has to save the U.S.A. from some evil nazi bastards.  I mean what else do you do with a rocket pack? Pretty simple concept and totally excellent execution.

All of the elements that I enjoy about the action genre are present here and clearly left an imprint on my brain. There is the calm collected hero who also isn't afraid to regulate when the time is right (which is frequently). There is the babe, portrayed here by Jennifer Connelly, who must be saved. There are the wise older mentor figures who warn the hero about the dangers, but still carry a glimmer in there eyes that wish they were still out there getting after it. Of course, there's a solid villian, here portrayed by the man who was Bond, Timothy Dalton. Oh yeah, there is also John Locke.

Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do! I'm Howard Hughes

But wait, TPG, what about the action? Isn't this action movie week? Well yeah, it is "The Rocketeer" delivers the action in a perfect way for the kids. There's a nazi blimp threatening LA. Gangsters fighting Krauts with Tommy Guns, fiery explosions, one liners, and bubblegum. Don't forget the epic climatic boss fights. Sure, there isn't any wild gore or a high body count, but think as this film for the foundation of what's to come.

This. Is. Action!

Everyone here at This LA Life is beyond pumped for “The Expendables.” You can’t go three minutes without being asked “ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?!” So in the spirit of this meteor-shower of badass that’s about to rain down on us on Friday, I’m going to drop some truth about my favorite action film: 300.

Now some of you haters may be saying the usual hater phrases. “It’s just a bunch of ripped dudes. It’s all green screened. It stars Gerard Butler!” To you I respond, “Don’t be pissed because those dudes have abs that have abs and you don’t. And how dare you forget Lena Heady as Queen Gorgo. It was going to be shot on location but the Thunder Dome was in use. And this is Gerard Butler pre everything that makes him the butt of jokes now. When this film came out we knew nothing of the Three-Headed Abomination of The Bounty Hunter, P.S. I Love You, and The Ugly Truth.

So now that we’ve silenced the haters for a second, let’s get to why 300 is an amazing action film. First up: IT KICKS ASS! Literally. When you have a story that is just about one epic battle, you’d better show everything that went down in that battle. We got thousands of soldiers, witches, the Immortals, elephants, and we watched them all be cut down by 300 of the most badass men we’ve ever seen. (Until Friday that is.) The fight scenes are stylistically awesome, and they don’t skip on the blood and guts. We’ve got slo-mo decapitations, the science behind the phalanx, and a wall of dead bodies used as the most literal interpretation of a human-shield. And face facts gents, Leonidas is the man. Period.

Next this movie makes you feel like a man, or question what kind of man you are. Are you the man who can lead a group of your peers into certain death and make them feel great about it? Are you a man who can see a ten-foot drag queen on a golden throne and not shudder? Are you a man whose profession isn’t a word, but a guttural outpouring of testosterone and awesome?

Finally this movie has what we love from action films: great one liners. Here are just a few. “This. Is. Sparta.” “Spartans, what is your profession? Ooowhoo! Ooowhoo! Ooowhoo!” “Tis but an eye, the gods saw fit to grant me a spare.” ” Tonight, we dine in hell!” “Then we will fight in the shade.”
So remember when you’re in the theatres on Friday, if few hadn’t stood against many then we’d be writing about our favorite Romantic flick to celebrate “Eat, Pray, Love.” I think I’m speaking for everyone when I say I’m thankful they did!

August 9, 2010

Welcome To Expendables Week!

The countdown to "E-Day" has begun! All week I'll be bringing you action only content that will get you so pumped up for the film on Friday that you will punch the ticket holder. I'm just kidding about that, but seriously, has there ever been an action movie this decade more rawly anticipated than this one? I've been covering the film for over a year, and the fact that it is coming out this week has got me going to the gym, drinking whiskey, smoking cigars, and speaking in one liners all week. Here is what we got on tap this week.

  • A clip featuring each star of the movie kicking ass and regulating
  • Guest Bloggers shedding light on their favorite action films
  • Explosive Facts About The Movie
  • A brief synopsis of my brief history with Stallone
  • And More

So to get things started. Enjoy this Call To Arms to get things going

August 6, 2010


SHIT JUST GOT REALLLLLLLL (I've been in LA for 2 Years)

Ridley Scott Loves Trains: Unstoppable Trailer

Things to Note About This Trailer

1. Denzel Washington is playing the exact same role he always plays
2. Chris Pine, you've been off the screen to long
3. Tony Scott, is this the spiritual sequel to "The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3?"
4. Will the Foxy Shazam song "Unstoppable" be featured in this film?
5. Not gonna lie, the train crashes look spectacular.

August 5, 2010

What's The Deal With "Gravity"

Pi via (The Playlist)

"Gravity" is one of the most interesting projects in development in Hollywood right now. Most people have not heard of it, it's doesn't have the mega pre-release press as some other films. This is surprising considering the talent and star power involved. I recently got a draft of the "script" and what I read really lifted my brain to space, aka blew my mind.

The film is written by Jonas Cuaron, Rodrigo Garcia, and Alfonso Cuaron. Most readers will know Alfonso Cuaron as the director behind the excellent "Children of Men" and the in my opinion slightly overrated "Harry Potter And The Prisoner of Azkaban." The film takes place entirely in space, and feels very very realistic. How realistic you ask? It feels like it's a film designed to be shown at science museums. 

That's not to say it isn't cool, hey, science museums are cool! The plot is basically about some astronauts above the earth, who encounter some serious problems. Now, these problems are not aliens, mental insanity, or evil corporations, but rather just genuine space problems. Their spaceship is damaged! How will they fix it? They're running out of oxygen! Will they get more? Things like that.

Currently Robert Downey Jr is attached to play the male lead and Blake Lively and Scarlett Johanson are fighting for the part that Angelina Jolie once was rumored to be set for. With start power like that, many people are excited about the project. However, one group who might not expected is really rooting for it: NASA. I mean, RDJ as a cocky space-man. A hot babe mega actress as a space-woman. Sounds like the ultimate PR.

August 2, 2010

TPG TRUTH BOMB: Scott Pilgrim and The End of Cinema

"Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is a monumental piece of filmmaking. As one of my friends calls it, it is a film for the "ADD Generation" and if this is the film for that generation, than films for that generation are screwed for a long time. This is a movie that assaults every second of the screen-time with a visual and sonic blast, but leaves your heart empty. There is no character development, no real story, and no real emotions, just sweet video game references man!

The primary story concerns the title character Scott Pilgrim and his battle against his dream girl Ramona's evil exes. The biggest problem here was that I couldn't get past was that we never are told why we should care about Scott Pilgrim. When we first meet him, he's dating a high schooler and full of self loathing hatred. Do the filmmakers believe merely assumes that we'll like him because he's "Michael Cera." I like Michael Cera, he plays the same role in every movie and that role is getting old.

The film is directed by British director Edgar Wright, who's previous two films "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hott Fuzz" both saw him cooking up hilarious satires. I'm not sure what Wright is satirizing with this film. Teenage angst? Video game culture? Indie Rock? Manga? By the way, what the hell is manga? Either way, Wright abandons the well rounded characters and strong stories of his previous films and instead focuses on relentless energy . Every frame in this movie is digitized, colorized, mp3ized, jpegized, and anything else technical you could think. At one point, Pilgrim goes the bathroom, and a "pee bar" appears over his character and decreases as the process continues.

This is where we are in the history of the narrative - pee bars. If that is what people want, well, shit, I don't know what to say to that. Scott Pilgrim is a explosion of filmmaking that waves it's huge technological middle finger in the face of all the old masters who believed in creating interesting characters, building sets, and using emotional effects aka acting to tell a story. Here, I'll turn it up for ya a couple notches; how can people love Inception and love Pilgrim at the same time? At the end of the day, I felt nothing for any characters in the Pilgrim, not Pilgrim, not Ramona, and any of the evil people*, and no pee bar or hyper drive could save it.

*I thought Chris Evans was funny, but only cause he's the man.