Tag Archives: Kelsey Grammer

Propping Up a Corpse — “The Expendables 3”

Bad Grammer

There stood their names, 20 feet tall: Stallone. Li. Statham. Grammer. Snipes. Schwarzenegger…wait. Back up a few. Grammer? Kelsey Grammer?

That’s when my hopes for a franchise in its death throes were renewed. Maybe we would finally get the chance to see Frasier lay the smackdown on Rocky and the Terminator, as the gods of 80s and 90s action never intended. Alas, it isn’t meant to be.

Grammer works as the on-screen casting director of The Expendables 3, an intelligence operative who finds a bevy of younger, one-lining toughs to replace Sylvester Stallone’s rag-tag mercenary outfit of older heroes as they set out to assassinate an arms dealer. Needless to say, nothing goes as planned, and old and young eventually have to work together.

While I never truly anticipated seeing Grammer throw down, it’s a disappointment that so many of the names advertised are barely in the movie. I expected not to see much of Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford. Arnold chews through all of his best catchphrases from other movies – and I do mean ALL of them – in about 10 minutes, while Ford alternates between downright feisty and like you just caught him sleepwalking.

Expendables 3 Banderas

What isn’t expected is that franchise regulars pumped up in the advertising, like Jet Li and Terry Crews, only appear in glorified cameos. Jason Statham gets a lot of screen time – he has the best chemistry with Stallone – but he’s pushed to the side most of the film, as are Dolph Lundgren and Randy Couture. Replacing them are Antonio Banderas and Wesley Snipes. While they’re both riots in their scenes, it’s disconcerting that the comic relief is chiefly left to the Hispanic and African-American characters. In particular, Snipes’s routine most closely echoes Robert Downey Jr.’s satirical blackface performance in Tropic Thunder. It feels like too much of a “down-home” put-on for an actor who’s proved he’s capable of so much more.

As fellow critic Justine Baron points out, it’s also odd that Snipes joins the team just as Crews is laid up. Is there only room for one black action hero at a time? We barely get to see them share the screen together.

That youthful team that Grammer helps Stallone recruit? It’s not strong on the acting chops, though Kellan Lutz is very likeable. One person makes up for it, however, and that’s mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey.

For an 80s-style actioner, the film gets bogged down most when it’s just lines of people shooting at each other. Throw in a car chase or some hand-to-hand combat, however, and the movie energizes. Snipes and Jason Statham, the only other two actors with truly extensive martial arts training, each have their moments (MMA star Victor Ortiz co-stars, but is largely left off the screen). Yet it’s Rousey whose fistfights own the screen. Her punches are the only thing more painful than her dialogue, but in a movie like this, the punches matter more. It’s to the film’s credit that it allows Rousey to be the toughest actor up there, where other movies might shy away from having her outshine the men.

Expendables Ronda Rousey

As for the villain, how do you solve a problem like Mel Gibson? The guy’s a legend on-screen, but a disaster off of it. He acts circles around everyone else involved in this, but when the inevitable throwdown with Stallone happens, it’s difficult not to recall that these are the two actors in this whole thing who’ve had major domestic abuse issues. I’m trying hard not to judge – they both had rough upbringings which themselves may have included abuse, but our awareness of these facts marks how differently we watch movies today than we did back when Stallone and Gibson together would’ve guaranteed the biggest movie of the summer. Truth be told, I’m out of words after addressing what happened to my friend last week.

That’s a lot of issues in one movie and I haven’t even mentioned the plastic-looking visual effects, but I’d still give it a light recommendation. Gibson and Banderas carry the dialogue, Rousey and Stallone carry the action. Everyone else is just passing through.

It’s not for everybody, but if you’re at all a fan of the action franchises like Rambo, Blade, and The Transporter that helped get these actors here, you should enjoy it. Guardians of the Galaxy remains by far the best blow-em-up for your buck in theaters, but this Expendables hits the spot if you’re looking for something a little more traditional.

The Expendables 3 is rated PG-13 for violence and language, though it’s on the harder side of that rating.

How to Fix and Break “Transformers” in 3 Hours

Transformers 4 high res coat zipper

What the Transformers franchise lacked before was real star power at its center. Former lead Shia LaBeouf could play a displaced rebel without a cause in his sleep, but that meant he became redundant once he found his cause, and he lacked the charisma to turn into something new. Megan Fox may have been that dynamic core, but she was never afforded the opportunity to do more than scream and run in slow-motion.

Fourth entry Transformers: Age of Extinction shakes off the baggage of previous casts that tended to be more dramatic off-screen than on. In LaBeouf’s place is Mark Wahlberg, one of the few actors you can watch having a sword fight with a robot alien bounty hunter 40 times his size and think, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

He plays failed inventor Cade Yeager, who’s converted his Texas barn into a robotics lab. The first half hour follows Wahlberg in full exasperated 12-year-old mode, a role he’s perfected over the years. He’s broke and he can’t pay for his daughter’s college, but all he really wants to do is build robots. He poses in front of sunsets and American flags while looking across his land as if marking off a country music video checklist, but you know what? Wahlberg pulls that off, too.

Transformers 4 the good part

One day, Cade tows a rusted big-rig in for salvage. Turns out the truck is really Optimus Prime, leader of the heroic Autobots, in disguise. The CIA is hunting him down. The reason why is pretty clever: defense contractor Joshua Joyce (Stanley Tucci) is reverse engineering Transformers to develop his own patented robots. Sure, it’s illegal, but he’s promised government insider Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer) millions in stock to sign off on it anyway. If this sounds suspiciously similar to how Congress works, it’s because that’s exactly how Congress works.

It’s the last kind of wrinkle I ever expected in a Transformers movie, but with all the other summer blockbusters developing a social conscience, writer Ehren Kruger brings a little subtext. It’s not much, and the movie runs away from anything heavier as soon as things start blowing up, but I’ll give Age of Extinction credit for trying something a little deeper than its predecessors. It’s also refreshing to see director Michael Bay go back to basics, even if it doesn’t last – with Wahlberg front and center, there’s more focus on the humans in the chaos. This means more car and foot chases.

Things are complicated when transforming bounty hunter Lockdown shows up. He wants to capture the Transformers. Good or bad, he insists they’re a threat to humans. He’s supposed to be evil, but given that millions of civilians slaughtered in the first three movies would still be alive without the bunch of them, Lockdown has a point.

Transformers 4 whose extra limb is that

It’s disappointing when Bay’s worst tendencies inevitably take over at the end. If you thought the last movie’s two-sided conflict was filmed confusingly, get ready for Autobots vs. Decepticons vs. CIA vs. Wahlberg vs. China vs. Lockdown vs. Dinobots (don’t ask).

The franchise’s biggest draw and biggest problem remains its action. There are neat shots, but they all happen independently of each other. It’s like paying to see the game but all you’re given is the highlight reel. How many evil Decepticons are there? We’re told 50, but after 20 minutes of battle, are there 45 left or do only three remain? Your guess is as good as mine. Sure, the world’s at stake, but isn’t it always? The moments in between – the juxtaposition of heroic deeds against physical struggle and underlying fear – give action movies their weight. Age of Extinction forgets this halfway through, just about when the Transformers take over as the lead actors.

Go for Wahlberg, or the car chases, or to see Texas filmed beautifully in the first half hour. If you’re looking for an action movie, I’d recommend Edge of Tomorrow instead, especially as 3D goes. Bay’s camera is always moving quickly, backgrounds are usually bright, and the man is a lens glare addict, making the 3D in Transformers: Age of Extinction some of the most headache-inducing around.

It’s rated PG-13 for violence, language, and innuendo, but killing robots instead of people lets Bay get away with much more brutality than PG-13 would usually allow.