Tag Archives: Ronda Rousey

Movie Review: Entourage (2015)

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I’m probably the last person who should be reviewing the Entourage movie. I saw a couple of episodes of the first season when it first came out at the recommendation of a friend, but never really got into it. It was “cool” following the lives of Hollywood celebrities, I suppose, but I was expecting more humour and intelligence and less yelling and embarrassing situations.

But after eight seasons, the series was successful enough for them to want to make a feature film to send Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage — Eric (Kevin Connolly), Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) and Johnny (Kevin Dillon), and of course his fiery agent, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) — into the sunset.

The premise? Vincent wants to direct his own film, and they are scared it’s going to be a disaster. Billy Bob Thornton (well, his character anyway) is financing it and his son, played by Haley Joel Osment (yes, the kid from The Sixth Sense), is sent to supervise them. Meanwhile, Eric decides to sleep with a lot of women while his ex-fiance (Emmanuelle Chriqui) is pregnant, Turtle gets skinny and rich and tries to date Ronda Rousey, Johnny is still trying to make it in Hollywood, and Ari is back in the business but struggling with the stress and its effects on his temper and sex life.

Having basically not seen the TV series, I managed to gather all of this fairly easily, so the film at least has that going for it. Apart from that, however, I don’t really know what the film was trying to achieve. There are celebrity appearances and cameos galore — if I named all of them it would be longer than this review — and lots of Hollywood excesses on display. Most scenes have scantily clad women dancing and prancing in the background. They have fast cars and big houses. They bang hot babes. So what? Why do I care?

Perhaps you need to know the characters well to better understand it. For me, none of them are charming or even remotely likable. They treat each other like brothers but treat women like garbage, and there are no consequences for their despicable behaviour. Is this supposed to be a warped male fantasy of some kind or appeal to men in general? I don’t get it.

There’s also not much in terms of witty humour or plot. It gave me a couple of chuckles but no real laughs, meaning it easily fails the six-laugh test for a good comedy. In terms of the narrative, it just feels like not much happens. There is this movie they’re making, but we don’t get to actually see them making it. Instead we just follow the characters around as they deal with their individual issues, though there’s never really any genuine tension or the feeling that anything is at stake. It comes across as a film on cruise control, an opportunity for the actors to have a good time one final time while patting each other on the backs and exchanging high fives as they ride off into the horizon. The ridiculous ending essentially confirms this.

That said, I’m surprised to admit that the film was better than I expected. Before watching I had listened to a review of the film by the BBC’s Mark Kermode, who absolute loathed it and said it was worse than Sex and the City 2, one of the benchmarks for the worst films ever made. I know this is not something I should admit, but I saw both the Sex and the City movies. They were deservedly panned but I didn’t think they were that bad. The same goes for Entourage.

People who get excited from seeing a lot of celebrities on screen and dream of their success will probably enjoy this movie. To me, a film like this with a plethora of mostly pointless celebrity cameos is at least better than those horrendous commercially-driven ensemble cast movies like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. To me, Entourage the movie felt more like an extended TV special than the big screen feature send-off it’s supposed to beI didn’t hate it — it’s more that I just didn’t understand why I should enjoy it.

2.5 stars out of 5

PS: Here is that Kermode review.

Movie Review: Furious 7 (2015)

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The Fast & Furious franchise has more or less perfected the craft — a team of familiar characters and stars, suped-up cars, scantily clad women, stylised violence, over-the-top action sequences and a truckload of cheesy one-liners. It’s a formula that has worked wonders for the last few entries, and Furious 7 takes it up yet another notch notwithstanding a major director change from Justin Lin to James Wan. Though Wan is known as a master of horror (Saw, Insidious, The Conjuring), the Aussie legend doesn’t miss a beat.

As I’m not a car fanatic and can’t stop thinking of Mini-me on steroids whenever I see Vin Diesel’s face, I’ve always been somewhat “meh” about the Fast & Furious franchise. This time, however, I stopped hoping for something I knew I was never going to get and just went along for the ride. As a result, I had a blast. If you’re after the ultimate popcorn movie, look no further — this is it.

The film takes place after the events of Fast 6 and around the time of Tokyo Drift (the third film in the franchise), which unfortunately means we are missing the cool Asian guy (Han) and is hot Israeli girlfriend (Gisele), with Sung Kang and Gal Gadot relegated to brief flashbacks, though Tokyo’s new drift king, Lucas Black, does make a triumphant return in a cameo, looking about 10 years older for some strange reason (racing with Mini-me must have taken a lot out of him).

On the bright side, the loss of Han and Gisele ensures more time for the other characters and offers enough room for the addition of Game of Thrones’ Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays a hacker Kurt Russell wants Mini-me’s gang to track down so the US government can get their hands back on a super surveillance device called God’s Eye. The trade-off is that if Mini-me can get it for Russell he’ll be able to use it to track down supervillain Jason Statham, who plays the big brother of the baddie from the last movie (Luke Evans).

This premise allows the film to do several things. It still gets to do the whole heist thing that has worked well for the franchise the last few times, while also setting up epic set pieces to showcase the talents of the characters and cast. Apart from crazy car stunts, the film is highlighted by several brutal one-on-one confrontations. The Rock, Mini-me, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez all have their own well-choreographed fight scenes, but the best ones of course involve Statham, who absolutely shines in this role with his slick moves and brooding charisma, and elevates the movie several levels above what it should have been. He’s the perfect addition and the most memorable villain in the franchise — by far.

Two other new characters to steal a couple of scenes are MMA queen Ronda Rousey and Thai martial arts expert Tony Jaa, each of whom get to show off their stuff by squaring off against members of Mini-me’s gang. The only guy who doesn’t get to do much is Djimon Hounsou, a bland secondary villain who pales in comparison to Statham.

So just when you thought the batshit insanity of the last two films the franchise could not be topped, here comes this masterclass in how to depict over-the-top action, car chases and violence on the big screen. Cars and bodies are constantly being tossed, crashed into and mangled throughout, in ways that would be laughable had everyone involved not embraced the absurdity with so much genuine enthusiasm and confidence. Everyone’s pretty much indestructible unless they need to die.

This is the type of movie that The Expendables wants to be and what Michael Bay has been trying to make every time he sits in the director’s chair. What sets Furious 7 apart is the creativity and the overall sense of fun. It’s not just big, loud explosions all the time and obnoxious characters shooting things with massive guns. Furious 7 has likable characters who take on their tasks with just the right amount of cheesiness, and they’re put in situations we might not have necessarily seen before. You can complain about the cliches and the bad dialogue and the stupidity of it all, or you can embrace it like I finally am.

Of course, everyone will remember this one as Paul Walker’s last film after the actor died tragically in a car crash before the film was completed. Furious 7 does a great job of finishing off his scenes with his brothers as stand-ins coupled with CGI effects, and more importantly it provides him with a moving tribute by offering his character a fitting send-off. He’ll be missed, but with The Rock and Jason Statham likely becoming franchise regulars, there should be some life left in this series yet.

4 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

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I remember when I thought the idea of The Expendables, which grouped together a huge handful of old action stars, would be a good premise — if the film was made 10-15 years ago. That was back in 2010, when they made the first film. Now, with the stars another 4 years older, slower and more mutated by HGH, we have been bestowed a third installment in the franchise, and the results are more ghastly than the cracks on Mel Gibson’s face.

The first Expendables was not very good, but at least it was fresh. The second film was more of the same, except less fresh, and now the third film is simply stale. The Expendables do a dangerous job, a villain appears, hurts or kills one of their own, and revenge is ultimately accomplished following a lot of gunfire, explosions, poor attempts at “character development,” and Sly Stallone running around in platform boots yelling incoherently. It’s a proven formula for box office success.

In fact, you’re not likely to remember what the film is even about the next day, and memories of all three films will probably blend into one giant I-don’t-give-a-shit. For the loyal fans, it doesn’t really matter.

My memory of the film is already starting to fade. I am fairly certain that Mel Gibson is the villain because this is the only role in Hollywood he can get these days. I know Harrison Ford is in it because I remember thinking that he is doing a horrible job of convincing people that he has not turned completely senile. Wesley Snipes is the new addition to the oldies, but he doesn’t offer much apart from a “they went there” joke about his well-publicized problems. Arnie is back, but Bruce Willis is out (complete with a cheesy joke to go along with it). Jet Li makes his usual contract-obligated cameo, and Antonio Banderas is in it for some reason. As you can see, The Expendables franchise has more or less become a charity for old actors who want to keep gettin’ ’em checks. But hey, why blame them for exploiting the market? As long as there is demand there will be supply, no matter how many wrinkles there are. I fully expect Nicholas Cage to be in the next one.

To be fair, Stallone does try to infuse new blood into the series by hiring a bunch of potential box office draws, such as MMA badass Ronda Rousey, Twilight alumnus Kellan Lutz and former welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz. They each get to show off a little bit, but with so many people sharing the same pie it’s not really worth your time if you just want to see the film because of one or two people.

Now that the novelty of star power has worn off for good, The Expendables franchise must turn to action and cheesy humor to make up for it. The action, to be honest, felt like more of the same. I suppose the guns, knives and explosions are arguably bigger, but for me it was a case of different shit, same smell. I do, however, give kudos for the tongue-in-cheek cheesy humour. One of the franchise’s greatest strengths is understanding what a big joke everything is and its stars’ ability to make fun of themselves, and The Expendables 3 is no different.

I understand the appeal of the Expendables concept and why people (including myself) have flocked to it time and time again. The undeniable reality, however, is that the films have never lived up to the concept, and I doubt they ever can. I can see how there are those who still enjoy it, but I’ve become numb and indifferent after three mediocre efforts. I think my wife summed up my sentiments best with her one-word review when I asked her what she thought of it: “Whatever.”

2 stars out of 5