*THROWBACK REVIEW* BLENDED REVIEW

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If you still like or even love Adam Sandler movies, then this one is for you. For everybody else, move on. There has been a lot of cynicism and “hate-watching” surrounding his last entries. A good portion not completely unjustified. (That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, I’m looking at you!)

Let’s be honest, they are guilty pleasures. (Apart from Sandler’s more serious acting ventures; Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love). The story lines were always predictable, corny and OTT but as long as they were funny, I was happy to let that slide. I know, me letting a film slide?

So what did I make of Sandler’s latest offering? One that seemed to take a huge hit at the box office? Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s actually not that bad. A vast improvement from the Grown Ups movies (I did enjoy the first one. What?). I went in, anticipating the worst and came out surprised.

So what’s it about? After a bad blind date, a man (Sandler) and woman (Drew Barrymore) find themselves stuck together at a family resort in Africa, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Awww . . . yuck.

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for their third outing (The Wedding Singer/50 First Dates). The chemistry is still there and they work well together yet again. You can see at certain points that they are improvising by the cheeky grins and little jibes.

The plot set up is incredibly lazy in how the families end up in Africa. Even when I heard it, I thought why they don’t just meet up by accident? Still corny but a lot less ridiculous than Barrymore’s mate (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rules of Engagement) giving up her vacation with Sandler’s boss and kids (the number of kids that make up the two families – yeah that’s right). Long winded and stupid.

Anyhoo, we get the set up and see both families all with their neuroses and issues; Bella Thorne battling with her sporty persona crushing her femininity as she keeps being mistaken for a boy, Barrymore’s dicey divorce and Sandler coping with loss and grief. Inevitably, both sets of kids are in need of a mother/father figure.

The divorce arguments contribute nothing to the movie as they are so predictable and you know the inevitable will happen. What was well done was how both families dealt with the issue of death and loss. A scene in which Emma Fuhrmann’s character Espn (named after Sandler’s favourite sports channel – Tut, tut, tut) saves a seat and plate for her mum is touching. Corny but touching. A well-acted scene between her and Sandler was unexpected but endearing. For the cynics, a big no, no but for everyone else, very good.

It’s not perfect. Certain jokes fall flat as a dead zebra carcass. A joke in which Barrymore struggles to carry her son and keeps bumping his head against the wall, while funny the first time, soon dies a death when she keeps doing it. If not for a punchline from Sandler, it would have been a complete write off. The inevitable ‘getting together’ of Barrymore and Sandler will always be hanging over moments where they walk away or hurt each other’s feelings.

However, there are some cracking moments and to be honest, it was the one liners that got me. Terry Crews (The Expendables/Brooklyn Nine Nine) pops up, Michael Jackson thrusting and bursting out into song with his African choir in tow every time the movie looks like its slackening. Hilarious. Some might find them irritating, I thought it was brilliant.

Along with Crews, there are a few Sandler stalwarts that pop up and provide a good old chuckle. Shaquille O’Neal as his crazy work colleague, Kevin Nealon (Weeds) as the horny vacationer and a cameo from Allen Covert (Mr Deeds/Wedding Singer/Anger Management). Shame the Schneider/Sandler cameos stopped. Was there a fall out or something? Or did they both hate each other’s movies?

Joel McHale’s (Community) character was very stocky and generic as Barrymore’s ex. The kids were irritating to begin with, but I think that was the point. They soon grow on you, eventually. Well they have to, I guess. Alyvia Alyn Lind was adorable and came out with some of the more surprising quips that got everybody chuckling.

It was great to see a Sandler film actually use some people from the community and actual country they are filming in, who get to deliver some cheeky punts at the tourists. A joke involving Brad Beckham’s resemblance to a hobbit had me in stitches.

It’s corny, cheesy, ridiculously OTT and predictable but it’s funny, at times endearing and better than you think. If you’re a cynic who likes their comedies subtle and clever, then firstly why are you reading this? Secondly, if you’re a struggling Sandler film aficionado, you might be surprised. I was.

3/5

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THE EXPENDABLES 3 REVIEW

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They’re back. The Dad’s Army of has been action heroes return for a third and possibly final adventure with ridiculous OTT action sequences, hammy dialogue and cheesy banter.

In all fairness, I went in fearing the worst but it wasn’t all that bad. Hardly great BUT in terms of cheesy entertainment, surprisingly watchable. The only downfall was Stallone’s feeble attempt at injecting new faces to prolong this hardly must see franchise with cliched, bland newbies that fail to have the reputation to pull in interest or (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) the acting ability to carry it.

The first hour was watchable, pacey and chugged along well. The opening prison train sequence was OTT, cheesy but fun and there’s plenty of it in this.

The return of Wesley Snipes and Mel Gibson to the big screen was a sight to see. Despite their previous misdemeanours, both showed why they still know how to steal the show. Snipes was on fine form . . . to begin with.

A great introduction in which Stallone lectures him on his incarceration. Cue Statham asking what he was in for. I thought in my head, “It would be great if he said a tax joke” and before I know it, bam! Tax evasion. I think that’s what helped the hammy dialogue, the banter, the little pops at each other.

The number of digs at Stallone for his speech. Even daring enough to pop a stroke gag. All in reasonably good taste. Snipes seemed to take over Terry Crews’ role which I found highly strange. Can there not be two black guys? We have one. Don’t need another, apparently.

Crews got one moment to shine involving a chain gun before getting injured or something surprisingly weak for this macho filled mess of a blockbuster. To be honest, it was to do with contractual obligations more than anything. Still, his presence was missed.

The camaraderie among the Expendables was decent. All the old boys having a laugh and not giving a sh- blind bit of notice. And why should they? However, the middle act tested me with lulling generic clichéd one liners and poses. Ol’ Swarnie was not in it enough and when he was first introduced, his lines were bland and highly unmemorable and this is Swarnie, for crying out loud.

The story line went predictable as hell with Stallone confronting an old foe and former Expendable in the form of old Gibbo. Cue a self-deprecating suicide mission with Stallone pushing away the old gang and bringing new faces (in the form of ex-mixed martial arts fighters Ronda Rousey and Victor Ortiz and that dude from Twilight, Kellan Lutz) to tackle William Wallace.

It took a while for Gibson to shine. Once he gets to confront and endure the inaudible screaming of Stallone (Seriously I could not understand a word that man was saying. More so than usual), he gets to deliver malice to some cliched lines.

And that’s the thing that all the oldies prove. They may lack the vigour and pace of their younger counterparts (I mean, come on, they are in their SIXTIES) but their acting and charisma prove why they are still the big dogs and these young pups still have a lot to learn. They may look tough and do their own stunts but when it comes to acting. Generic face pulling and grimaces is just not good. Yes, you can say that for Stallone but the guy is an icon. These young ‘uns . . . Pfft.

The inevitable out with the old, in with the new I don’t need you spiel was always going to end the same way. It was unnecessary and so predictable with the oldies soon being called in again. It did make me laugh when the star studded line up appeared. Dolph (The Punisher/Drago) Lundgren, Arnold (Get to the Chopper!) Schwarzenegger, Harrison (Get Off My Plane!) Ford, Mel (Braveheart) Gibson, Wesley (Blade/Demolition Man) Snipes and . . . Kelsey Grammer.

Frasier (I’m listening) Crane. What he’s going to do? Step on a rake and mutter away like Sideshow Bob? Anyway, I digress. In all fairness, Grammer was actually pretty good in the small part he played. Some friendly banter with Rocky as they pick the next group of recruits.

Harrison Ford was actually pretty good. Great to see he still has a sense of humour and lighten up. He plays the hard ass role to perfection and still has that sinister conviction of Air Force One; even if his lines don’t make sense. Trust me there’s a line about somebody messing it up and him wearing it that had me scratching my head. Stallone’s writing was never brilliant. But let’s not forget he did Rocky (however, he also did Rocky 4 and 5 etc).

The Stath’s acting was surprisingly wooden. Disappointing. Antonio Banderas was pretty much doing a live action impersonation of Puss in Boots. His intro said it all with Stallone Shrek (What?) and Grammer his donkey.

The action pieces are pretty good. There are moments where it got a bit too erratic and manic that the shaky camera work struggles to keep up and so do you. An issue I had with the first Expendables movie.

It gets OTT, ridiculous and corny as hell but the explosive finale allowed for all cheesy one liners with Swarnie getting to throw as many Chopper references as you could want.

All in all, if you’re looking for a big dumb shoot em up with some old 80s and 90s action heroes and some bang for your buck then give it a go.

Otherwise, move along folks! I didn’t really rate the first film. I thought it was okay. The second I still haven’t seen. This one was not bad. A guilty pleasure.

2.5/5 for me