<p>Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, and Randy Couture are just a few of the names lending their macho firepower to the ensemble action movie 'The Expendables'</p>

Jason Statham, Sylvester Stallone, and Randy Couture are just a few of the names lending their macho firepower to the ensemble action movie 'The Expendables'

Credit: Lionsgate

The M/C Review: 'The Expendables' less than the sum of its mighty parts

Is it possible to be nostalgic for good ol' fashioned mayhem?

There are a few moments during its running time where "The Expendables" manages to become the movie it should be, where it feels effortlessly bloodthirsty and appropriately over-the-top.  There are moments of real red-meat action-movie glory, with bodies blown in half and entire buildings vanishing in white-hot explosions and one-liners that actually land a punch.

I've enjoyed this late-career resurgence by Sylvester Stallone.  Both "Rocky Balboa" and "Rambo" demonstrated a real understanding of his own iconography, and walking into "The Expendables," I hoped he was going to do the same for his whole cast, and that this would be a knowing celebration of the macho ensemble movie, a great big men-on-a-mission flick with a fat bag of mayhem to unleash on audiences conditioned by modern action films to expect special effects and shaky cams. 

And, like I said, there are moments where the film almost pulls it off, but not enough of those moments, and they are unfortunately wrapped in a big limp noodle of a movie, a largely impotent mess that wastes its cast to no memorable effect.  Taken as a whole, "The Expendables" is a disappointment, and a frustrating one at that.

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<p>Nothing beats a bunch of Harryhausen skeletons spoiling for a fight... nothing.</p>

Nothing beats a bunch of Harryhausen skeletons spoiling for a fight... nothing.

Credit: SPHE

Film Nerd 2.0: 'Jason And The Argonauts' on Blu-ray and Harryhausen at AMPAS

Harryhausen's greatest classic still plays as fresh as ever

One of the first things I had planned for my vacation was a trip to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Wilshire.  I've been there before for screenings and premieres, but I never realized they have a gallery in the building on the fourth floor.  Some friends urged me to go, though, and thank god they did, because Toshi and Allen and I visited the Ray Harryhausen Exhibit, put together to celebrate his 90th birthday and his remarkable career.

God bless Sony for their Blu-ray releases of the Ray Harryhausen library, or at least as much as they own of it.  We've already incorporated earlier titles like "20 Million Miles To Earth," "It Came From Beneath The Sea," and "Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers" into our regular rotation here in the house, and "The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad" caused a riot the first time we watched it.  The last Harryhausen film we watched together was the 1981 version of "Clash Of The Titans," when Warner released it on Blu-ray, and again... instant love.

Through all of this, though, there's been one title I've been wanting to show them, and finally, SPHE has issued a gorgeous new high-definition transfer of "Jason and the Argonauts," one of the greatest works of film fantasy.  As soon as it showed up and Toshi saw the skeletons on the back cover, it was just a matter of time until we were going to screen it.

The films that Ray Harryhausen contributed to rarely used movie stars, and dramatically they could sometimes be stilted, awkwardly structured, or filled with stiff performances.  Unlike some films, those things never seem to derail his movies in the least.  In many ways, I think of "Jason and the Argonauts" as the quintessential Harryhausen film, and revisiting it with my sons, I love it more than ever.

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<p>Allison Janney and Michael Lerner star in the disturbing new Todd Solondz film 'Life During Wartime'</p>

Allison Janney and Michael Lerner star in the disturbing new Todd Solondz film 'Life During Wartime'

Credit: IFC Films

The M/C Interview: Todd Solondz discusses 'Life During Wartime'

The acclaimed director talks about following up his personal vision
I'm glad Todd Solondz is still making films, and that there is a place for him in the movie landscape.  Even if I don't love every one of his films, I think his voice is a significant one, and when everything comes together, his work can break your heart with the force of a punch from Bruce Lee.
 
"Life During Wartime," which I reviewed out of Toronto last year, is a sort of summation of his work, a quasi-sequel to both "Welcome To The Dollhouse" and "Happiness," and it seemed like the perfect time to finally chat with him, even if it was a brief conversation:
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Luke Wilson in 'Middle Men'

Luke Wilson in 'Middle Men'

Credit: Paramount

Watch: Luke Wilson, Giovanni Ribisi and Gabriel Macht Talk Internet Porn and 'Middle Men'

Also James Caan and Luke Wilson Together Again

Sometimes junkets can drag on forever. The "talent" may take it's time or things simply take longer than expected. Not so with the Middle Men affair last Sunday. Two interviews, in and out, nobody gets hurt. A quick paced and lighthearted affair, much like the movie it was promoting.

Someone told me later that Luke Wilson wasn't feeling well, but the man hides it well. Besides a little cough here and there, and the way he glared knives at the publicity person's dog before we started the interview, I wouldn't have known the difference.

Cutting these later on I could tell that his energy level's a little low, but it was a pleasure to meet him. I'm a longtime fan. We talked about his character and what is was like to work with  James Caan again years after Mr. Caan was so kind as to appear with him in "Bottle Rocket." Their roles in this movie are similar to "Bottle rocket" and it really gave me a nagging sense of Deja-Vu throughout, until I realized that I was actually remembering them from that film.

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<p>Eva Mendes gives as good as she gets in her deranged supporting role in 'The Other Guys'</p>

Eva Mendes gives as good as she gets in her deranged supporting role in 'The Other Guys'

Credit: Sony Pictures

The M/C Interview: Eva Mendes gets freaky with 'The Other Guys'

Plus an out of the blue 'Kick-Ass' moment

I am frankly surprised there weren't snipers watching me closely during this interview.

I'm guessing Sony just never bothered to read my website, "Terrible Thoughts I've Had About Eva Mendes.com," and thank goodness for that.  Even so, she had a dog the size of a small horse by her side during the entire interview, and that's probably for the best.  She came across as funny and smart and, yes, insanely gorgeous, a welcome addition to the sausage party that was the rest of "The Other Guys" press day.

Drew:  It’s funny... I’ve heard a couple of people talking, and it seems like the response has been fantastic to the picture.  I’ve heard a couple of people say, "Oh, my God, I can’t believe Eva Mendes is that funny."

Eva:  Really?

Drew:  I’m a fan of "All About the Benjamins," though, so it’s not a surprise.  The first thing I saw you in was a comedy.

Eva:  Nice.  That was one of my first things ever.  That was like my first year acting basically.

Drew:  So this feels like, "Ah, good.  I knew that and there it is."

Eva:  Oh, that’s awesome.  I was crazy in "Benjamins."

Drew:  I thought not using the sort of comedy ensembles they’ve used in the past and branching out and using people who were really, funny but who aren’t known for it first opens this one up.  And whether it’s true or not, I’m starting the campaign online to say that there’s going to be a Best Original Song nomination for 'Pimps Don’t Cry.'

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Warrior from Tron: Legacy

Warrior from TRON: Legacy

Credit: Disney

Watch: Garrett Hedlund Talks 'Tron: Legacy,' Ducatis and Flying Machines

Disney also releases new action image from the film

We interrupt "Flipped week"  to bring you a "TRON: Legacy" bulletin.

Don't get me wrong, "Flipped" looks like it's going to be a great movie, but there is not a single film that I am more excited about this year than TRON: Legacy. I could easily say that my 10 thru 14 year old self has watched the original TRON on VHS tape close to 100 times and my much older, more mature self has watched it.. ooh a few times more than once on DVD.

I spoke to director Joseph Kosinski at Comic Con  (Article coming soon) and according to him the movie lived in his VCR as well, so all signs point to the project being in the right hands.

(Mr. Kosinski should be especially happy today as it was announced that Disney has picked up the film rights to "Oblivion" his Sci-Fi "Illustrated Novel" that he developed at Radical Press.)

 

A _fcksavedurl=http://images.hitfix.com/assets/483/TRONDISCPIC640.jpg

Disney released this new picture on the TRON Facebook page, depicting a double-disk'd gladiator either falling or suspended on a clear surface. (we see a bit of this sequence in the new trailer around minute 2:03, The orange highlights tell us this is a bad guy… maybe Clu himself?)

The design and the framing show the  filmmakers have a keen eye for  precise symmetry. Kosinski  brought in industrial designers and other techs to help with the production design. The director also studied architecture in school and the image shows an appreciation for angles if nothing else.

Also captured at the Con was the interview above with Garrett Hedlund, who plays Sam Flynn, the hero of the new chapter. Gregory Ellwood tries to get him to talk about the cool new weapons in the pic, but we mostly just get enthusiasm. Hey, we can't really ask for much more at this point

Tron Legacy” opens nationwide and in IMAX on Dec. 17.

 

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Madelene Carroll as Juli and Callan McAulifee as Bryce in 'Flipped'

Madelene Carroll as Juli and Callan McAulifee as Bryce in 'Flipped'

Credit: Warner Bros.

Watch: Rob Reiner and Rebecca De Mornay Talk to Drew About 'Flipped'

Reiner removes his rose colored glasses for this look at the early 60's

We wrap up our "Flipped" coverage with the interviews Drew did with the director and the stars of the coming of age pic.

Although you wouldn't know it from the trailer, the film is a much grittier look at the early sixties than Mr. Reiner's  previous nostalgic visit to the period in "Stand By Me." This was very much a conscious choice.

"We wanted it to be a very honest look at what actually happens to kids when they first fall in love… and that families (of the period) were not "Leave it to Beaver." There are fathers who have been disillusioned, there are families that are struggling to make ends meet and don't have enough money to do what they need to do. These are the real things that families had to deal with." Said Reiner.

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<p>Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll star in the wonderful new Rob Reiner comedy 'Flipped'</p>

Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll star in the wonderful new Rob Reiner comedy 'Flipped'

Credit: Warner Bros.

The M/C Review: 'Flipped' a 'pleasant and welcome return to form for Rob Reiner'

Coming of age tale not as similar to 'Stand By Me' as you'd think

Rob Reiner's new film "Flipped" is a beautiful piece of work, simple and sincere and wise, featuring a great ensemble cast ranging from their early teens to their seventies.  It's great to see Reiner make a film that is every inch as warm and human and enjoyable as the films he made his name with in the early part of his career.  It may be based on a novel, but Reiner wrote the adaptation himself, and his voice as a filmmaker has rarely been this crystal-clear.

Reiner and his co-screenwriter Andrew Scheinman retained the unusual structure of the book by Wendelin Van Draanen, and the result is unconventional enough that the trailers for the film never even tried to explain it.  "Flipped" is the story of Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll), two kids who meet when the Loskis move into the house across the street from the Bakers.  When they first move in, we see the memory from the perspective of Bryce, complete with voice-over narration.  Ten minutes or so into the film, we jump back to the beginning, and this time we see everything from Juli's perspective, complete with voice-over.

The entire film is divided like that, and at first, it just seems like a clever way of setting up some tension in a story of first love.  Bryce thinks the little girl across the street is weird, while she looks at him and sees her first kiss hiding in there somewhere.  The easy version of this film would just be concerned with getting them to that kiss.  Not "Flipped," though.  Reiner's far more concerned with those two kids, and the role community plays in the way character evolves.

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Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes Fight

Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes Fight

Credit: Paramount

Report: Stephen Sommers to return to helm 'GI Joe' sequel

Half the battle or not, did we really want to know?

It has been a few months of sleepless nights, cold sweats and  stress induced skin rashes, but we can all rest easy now: It's being reported that Stephen Sommers will return to direct the sequel to "G.I. Joe." Whew!

After conflicting reports from the post production period of "Rise of Cobra" about Sommers being locked out of the editing room, The Wrap is reporting that all conflict has been resolved, the studio likes the draft of the script that "Zombieland" scribes Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick turned in, and all is right with the world. As an added cherry to this sundae of news, Channing Tatum is reportedly returning to reprise his role as "Duke." OK, setting snark to "off."

As a youngster, this writer realized early on that although the G.I. Joe cartoons were lots of fun, they were also slipping through a loophole in the laws that prohibited excessive commercials being shown to children. By producing a show featuring their toys, Hasbro had managed to get half hour commercials  for their products on the air. It's a tribute to the writers and animators at DIC and other producers of the cartoon series that so many of us grew to love those characters and consider them our own.

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Robert Duvall in "Get Low"

Robert Duvall in "Get Low"

Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Watch: Robert Duvall and Sissy Spacek "Get Low"

In which a 'phenomenal' mule is discussed and Drew is scolded for not having visited Argentina

One of the advantages of living in a major metropolitan area is the availability of smaller art-house theaters where you can catch movies that don't make it to the multiplexes. It's debatable if they're worth putting up with the pollution and traffic, but I digress.

Often astounding is the star power that these indie pics can wield. How can a movie have names like these two as well as Bill Murray and Lucas Black and yet we never hear about it? It's rarely due to the quality of the film and usually due to money, politics and perceived trends in "the market" as to whether or not these films see the light of day. 

These things are not news, I'm sure, but I'm reminded of them when I hear of movies such as "Get Low," which are just so charming on their surface as to make you shake your head and make a "tisk-tisk"  noise with your mouth over the unfairness of it all.

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