Ripped Old Dudes and…Jet Li? A review of The Expendables

100% serious. This might be my favorite movie of 2010. I know it’s a manufactured cheesy throwback to cheesy 80’s action movies, but it was awesome anyway. I had more fun watching The Expendables than any of the big-name action movies of the last few years. Let me explain why. There’s a point where Stallone and Statham (who actually make a good pair in the film, not just because of alliteration) fly away from the bad guys, and for no apparent reason, fly right back to the evil island just to shoot people up with their airplane machine gun, then pour oil over the entire dock, and then light everyone on fire. It just seemed like the thing to do, I guess. Halfway through the movie I paused it, and then went down to the grocery store to buy beer. I watched the second half over 3 cans, and had a great time. It’s that kind of film.

The plot is as straight-forward as a one-way street. The eponymous heroes are 5 old dudes, who are mercenaries, and get hired to take out the dictator of a small perhaps Caribbean island by the mysterious Mr. Church. And that’s what they do, no plot twists or deeper subconscious realms, or dead ex-wives manifesting themselves as freight trains (copyright college humor). It’s a total throwback to movies like Commando, but times 10.

The movie does try to go deep and introspective on you on occasion, but it’s sort of laughable because the words are coming out of Mickey Rourke, who looks like an over-the-hill drag queen with and out-of-control drug habit. I thought he was just going for the weird dirty unkempt thing just in Iron Man 2, since he’s playing a poor Russian, but I guess it’s just his normal look since he’s the same thing in The Expendables. He probably just went from set to set filming the 2 movies without changing makeup or costume. And then went home…like that. Add in Stallone, who looks like he took a full-body botox injection, and it’s hard to watch them talk to each other while keeping a straight face.

The rest of the crew features Dolph Lundgren as a meth junkie Expendables dropout who wants revenge against his former gang, Jason Statham as a knife expert who is totally bad ass, Terry crews as the black guy (they didn’t bother giving him an actual character or personality so I can’t describe him any other way), Randy Couture as the guy who shouldn’t have been in the movie, and Jet Li as the punchline for innumerable “Asians are short”  jokes. Former WWE star Steve Austin plays a bad guy, and Eric Roberts is in the movie, too. The film also features 80’s action veterans Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in smaller cameo roles. Don’t ask me where Chuck Norris and Van Damme went.

The Expendables actually features significantly less action than I anticipated, but it’s still fun. Good car chases, good explosions etc. Jet Li and Jason Statham’s fights are choreographed by Hong Kong product Cory Yuen (of The Transporter fame), and Statham’s fights especially are really sweet. Plus, other than Jet Li and Jason Statham, everyone else pro-wrestle fought. So the last 30 minutes are old, ripped white dudes suplexing and body slamming each other while shit blows up around them. What more could anyone ask for?

That wasn’t rhetorical. He/she could ask for tits and ass. The movie featured far too paltry an amount of  huge boobs and long legs. You’d think that would be a natural complement to shit blowing up and people getting knifed to death, but I guess Stallone didn’t want anything detracting from his own saggy old man tits. I hope they make a sequel, but also blend in more hot girls in revealing clothing. That would be a good 2 hours.

Anyway, see this move.

Later days,

Ser Sagremor

In Praise of Greatness

Michael f%&’ing Vick.

Two years removed from dog killing, prison, alienating an entire city’s fan base, and setting an NFL franchise back 5 or 6 years, he drops this bomb on us Monday night.

20 for 28 (72% comp) 333 yds. 4 TD’s

8 for 80 yds rushing (10 ypr) 2 TD’s

Are you kidding me?! 6 total TD’s and over 400 yards of offense while producing 0 turnovers? In one game?! And this offense-gasm didn’t come against  the 2007 Lions’ secondary or anything. This year’s Native Americans’ defense has been pretty average, and had a few shut-down/superb performances (Note: I don’t call them the Redskins since that name is offensive), including a 4 pick game against the Bears and DeAngelo Hall’s favorite quarterback,  Jay “Redzone INT” Cutler. And yet, our boy Michael Vick and the Eagles carved them up for 59 points. How is this fair? During 6 years in Atlanta, Vick’s offensive repertoire was :

A. Overthrow Roddy White

B. Complete a 4 to 7 yard pass to Alge Crumpler

C. Rush for a few yards, maybe break out a big run on occasion

D. Awkwardly scramble around the pocket looking like Redd Foxx from Sanford and Son, and then lose 15 yards on a sack.

Fast forward to 2010 and he’s carving up a decent defense like it ain’t no thang. Just having his way with them like Kobe in a Denver hotel. Why, God? Why couldn’t he have been doing this for my team? Why did his focus need to be on filming Vitamin Water commercials and killing puppies instead of training and learning the playbook?

I hate Michael Vick. I do. It hurts me to see him play so well, and achieve such success for another franchise. But you know what? At some point you need to put your grudges aside and recognize greatness.

His performance Monday night was greatness. I don’t mean he had a good game for the season; we’re talking historical levels of dominance. The numbers tell half the story. Look at the highlights from that game. None of the 11 players on defense across the field from him had any answers for Michael Vick. Why? Because when he plays like that, there are no answers. Field 5 defensive backs, drop linebackers into coverage, and lock down his receivers, and he runs forward half the field. Stack the box and defend against a run, and he completes an 82 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson. Nothing you can do. What we saw Monday night was the reason my boys the Falcons drafted him #1. What we saw was the most talented player in NFL history finally delivering on what we were promised. And I mean it; I’m not weaving gross hyperbole right now. Of course, other players have been “better” than Vick, but none have been as talented. No one has ever displayed such a  blend of speed, vision, elusiveness (is that even a word? Elusivity?), and a laser/cannon/bazooka/sniper rifle arm. I hope Vince Young saw the game while he was sitting on the sidelines not starting for the Titans, and I hope he cried. I hope he cried and realized what a sad poor man’s version of Vick he is. I hope Jeff Fisher and Bud Adams saw it too, and I hope they cried too. Start Rusty Smith! That is a football player! But I digress.

Monday night, against the Redskins, Michael Vick finally played the way we had all been expecting him to. And it was scary/gorgeous. And if he does it again next week, wow. And if he figures out how to produce numbers like that steadily, watch out NFL. Greatness is tough to defend.

Later days,

Ser Sagramore

Sketches of Fall

Hey look, it’s my monthly contribution to the site, and it’s a sketch. I put so much work into this thing. Anyway, fall is my favorite season, so this is my tribute to it. The character is Diana, from a comic project Sagramore and I are working on. Enjoy.

Yes, those are deer antlers.

Lessons in Chauvinism

We had a meeting in the office today, which isn’t so surprising in and of itself. That’s what we do here, is have meetings. It helps make work less efficient and last longer, so people can have an extra excuse or two to justify staying at their desk until 10 pm.

The meeting was a GOLF event (gentleman only, ladies forbidden). Or sausage fest, whichever term you prefer. I, personally, am partial to the one  that doesn’t inspire images of gay Germans. The meeting ran long, of course, there’s just so much to talk about. After about an hour, with no end in sight, or even within the realm of hypothetical consideration, people got thirsty. One of the managers decided it was time for everyone to have some tea. However, there were no women in the room. What to do? After about 10 seconds, the same manager turned to me and asked me to go out and get some tea for everyone. I didn’t want to because, you see, getting tea is woman’s work. It would set a bad precedent.

I said, “No; I’m not your waiter.”

You know how in anime, when something embarrassing or unexpected happens, people suddenly flip over upside down and fall? That basically happened in real life. After everyone regained their composure, re-got their shit together, the manager explained to me that since I was the youngest, it was my role to get tea for everyone. It is the Japanese way. By the by, I have discovered the best way to explain a concept that has no rational explanation is to dub it a “Japanese custom.” It’s like,  just being part of Japanese culture automatically makes something timeless and incomprehensible and magical: a rule that must be followed without question or consideration.

Anyway, I got up from my chair and walked over to the phone in the corner of the room, and dialed the accounting department. 5 minutes later, a 20-something girl walked into the room carrying a tray with 8 tea glasses and carefully set them in front of everyone.

When she was done, I looked at the manager and said “Actually, that’s the Japanese way.”

Everyone laughed, including the accounting lady, whom I had just humiliated. She only laughed because everyone else did; I doubt she actually found humor in the situation. She was out of the room for most of it, but i think she understood the joke, or at least its implications. But she smiled anyway.

She left the room, and presumably went back to her desk, where she continued doing her job as usual, no doubt taking a few more breaks during the day to get some older guy tea or coffee.  Did she think about what happened in that meeting today? Or was it just standard procedure? I had already left the office by then, but at 8 or 9 pm, she most likely clocked out and headed home. After 1 or 2 hours of crowded trains and slow buses, getting home was probably a relief. Whether she lives alone, in a small one-room apartment, or still inhabits her childhood bedroom at her parents’ house, I’m sure home provides some measure of escape and relaxation after her workday. Does she watch TV? Does she read? I don’t know how she spends her time off of work. She probably hangs out with friends, or goes out on dates. I wonder how much time she spends thinking about marriage and children? How long she thinks about her advancing age? Does she text friends a lot? Does she browse fashion magazines? Maybe she worries about her parents’ health. I don’t know.

However, I do know she doesn’t spend her time planning a career path, thinking about her possibilities for advancement. I know she doesn’t plan future vacations based upon higher wages. And I know she doesn’t dream about becoming a manager, leading her team to success, and navigating the corporate world. I know she spends zero time out of her day considering her myriad career options and future wealth and success.

And if you don’t understand why, I suggest you sit in on a management meeting sometime.

India has some problems: A Review of Aravind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations

Aravind Adiga understands the cosmic. He knows the world in which we live is governed by immutable rules, and in Between the Assassinations he endeavors to educate us of those guidelines with a tragic sense of the inevitable that would make 19th century Naturalists feel depressed. Oh, and it’s funny, too.

Told through a series of vignettes, the novel describes 7 days in the life of Kittur, a fictional Indian city, between the assassinations (see what he did there?) of Indira and Rajiv Gandhi. So basically, the 80′s. And as every Reagan fan knows, if you weren’t white and and in America, the 80′s sucked. Adiga uses the separate tales to describe the injustices and ironies of Indian life. As we learn about Kittur’s physical geography, we are also introduced to its social makeup. By the time Adiga has fully explored landmarks like the train station, Lighthouse Hill, and the Muslim slums, he’s also exposed us to the people and social character of the city. These 14 stories breathe a certain character into Kittur, and by the end of the novel we are familiarized with a harsh, unforgiving city, but not one without a sense of humor. Though granted, it’s a very dark comedy.

Muslims, Hindus, and Christians co-inhabit the crowded mass of streets and construction, constantly coming into conflict with each other, and themselves. Adiga focuses his narrative on the downtrodden, on the poor. We are introduced to country bumpkins looking for work, small-time factory owners, Muslim luggage porters, hired maids, etc. But by the end of the novel we find ourselves asking, are there any free, rich people at all? We get the feeling even Mabroor Engineer, the alleged richest man in the city, most likely has many politicians he has to bribe, and limits even he can’t overcome. There never seems to be an actual “top” to the hierarchy. Just a sprawling caste system trapping everyone inside its procrustean confines. Adiga does mention that some people do seem to step outside the system’s boundaries; unfortunately, the few who do get out, die. (see: Indira and Rajiv Gandhi).

The short stories themselves are great overall though, of course, some are stronger than others. I personally liked the last 3 or 4 the most. The little narrative about the childless couple living near the woods bordered on poetry. It hits an almost Buddhist aesthetic, dwelling on the ephemeral nature of the world to really tug at your emotions. It’s rare to be so affected by 2 lives you’ve only read about for 20 or so pages. Also, The story about the old maid being hired out to richer families by her sister strikes a pitch-perfect balance between the ridiculous and tragic. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed at something so depressing. The old communist’s tale is great, too. It’s interesting to read about people who theoretically reject class distinction, and yet are forced to live in a world completely defined by the very concept.

The book is not without its flaws, however. The narrative can be a little blunt at times, and the book lacks the subversive sophistication of Adiga’s other novel, The White Tiger, which you should read if you haven’t. Also, a few of the stories are significantly weaker than the collective whole, and a couple tales step on each other’s toes thematically.

Though not as good as The White Tiger, Between the Assassinations is still an excellent book, and very worth your while. Highly recommended by your impetuous reviewer.

Later days,

Sagremor

Well, that's actually only one windmill…