Hi again, Cynthia Hawkins! I guess this was inevitable-we’ve spoken about the past history of action films (or at least, that part of it that fell in the 1980s), we’ve waxed lyrical about The Expendables and how it’s a modern-day retelling of those older stories… but we haven’t covered the extensions of those series; your Predators, your Die Hard 4.0s, your-and I’m sorry to use this words on such an august site as TNB-your Crystal Skulls.

Man, I hated that film.

And hello again Simon Smithson!  Inevitable, yes.  Also inevitable, the skewering of Crystal Skull first thing.  Shall we get this one over with quick and painless like Rambo knifing a Burmese pirate lax enough to glance down at his shoe laces for two seconds?

I don’t think I can bring myself to say I hated it, but I will say Crystal Skull left me feeling deeply disappointed, despondent even, wandering the theater parking lot afterward with my hands in the air, crying, “Why? Why?”  (Note:  Doing so scares small children.)  Perhaps more than any other we’ll be discussing, this one suffered from heightened expectations.  Absolutely everyone who’d gotten back on board after nineteen years of hesitation said they finally did so because the script was “amazing” and “true to the original characters.”  George Lucas even claimed he’d learned a hard lesson from the abysmal Temple of Doom.  I’m willing to heap the blame for Crystal‘s failures on Shia LaBeouf (get him!) and the screenwriting team who seemed to be under the impression that they were writing dialogue for a Humphrey Bogart parody.

I know. I know. Jesus, I know. What a terrible, awful, objectively bad piece of film-making. The whole ‘nuke the fridge’ abomination, the inclusion of Shia LaBeouf, who inches closer to becoming Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s non-union equivalent with every role he plays, that god-awful scripting and horrible over-use of plastic and over-exposed CGI and dull spectacle… it had all the hallmarks of Lucas’s inability to see beyond his own delusions of competence, and, unfortunately, retroactively tainted the original trilogy. I mean, aliens? Fucking aliens? Seriously? In an Indiana Jones film?

God damn it.

One thing I noticed is that Indy didn’t cap a guy the whole film. The closest thing he got to it was throwing a gun on the ground, I think, and it went off and shot some Commies in the legs. If you’re going to make an Indiana Jones film, he needs to shoot some bad guys.

Wait.  Having post-traumatic-stress flashbacks of Shia LeBeouf swinging from vine to vine after some Russians.  Did that … really happen?

So, Lucas and Spielberg had confessed in interviews prior to Crystal Skull‘s release that one of their biggest hurdles was deciding how to handle the cinematic-advancement gap, I guess you might call it, between The Last Crusade and Crystal Skull.  I mean, a lot has changed since the eighties:  directorial style, technology, audience expectations and tastes, etc.  I would say Crystal‘s faults are a result of trying too hard (aliens! Shia LaBeouf!) to appeal to a new generation instead of staying true to itself.  Hell, they could have stayed true to Temple of Doom Indie and it would have been better.  Do you think there’s at least one latter-day sequel in this bunch that handles that gap with greater success?  Can eighties-born franchises still be cinematically relevant?  And what’s your shoe size?  Doing some holiday shopping.

Also, please note: I’ve exceeded my LaBeouf-reference allowance for this year and the next.  Don’t make me say LaBeouf again.

I wish I could tell you the vine-swinging scene and the alliance of monkeys was all a terrible dream.

Instead, unfortunately, it was all a terrible Dreamworks film.


I think the biggest difference between now and then is the fact that people used to be able to say no to George Lucas, and reign in his tendency to come up with ridiculous inanities he thought up – possibly while on the can; history is silent on this front-never applied any internal quality control to, and immediately decided he wanted to commit to celluloid. No one can do that anymore. To quote Fargo… he’s too big for that now.

Also: I can’t remember the last time I saw as smooth a segue, and I wear a 10.

What comes to mind is Predators. It neatly circumvented Predator 2 and the atrocities of AvP and AvP2; reformatting the franchise into a lean sci-fi action piece. The original jungle setting returns, the original movie gets referenced, and the idea of a group of highly-trained killers being hunted by a superior and better-equipped intelligence is, once again, front and centre. I enjoyed the film; I really did. I thought Brody was a great piece of casting for the lead (it’s always nice to see Oscar winners getting their hands dirty); and, aside from a few mis-steps, I thought the film hit its marks admirably.

How did Predators stack up for you?

The camera lens works like beer goggles on Adrian Brody.  That’s the only way I can explain how such a lanky, Ichabod Crane-esque guy could so thoroughly take on the appearance of a hulked-up action bad-ass in Predators.  I don’t think they could have done better than Brody, actually.  And they needed someone with chops after AvP and AvP2 had collectively turned both of those series into run-of-the-mill, talent-free horror fare.

I’d read that Robert Rodriguez, who’d produced Predators, had been a big fan of the original and was adamant about Predators being reflective of Predator.  It’s amazing how well it is reflective while still offering something new.  I think that’s probably what it takes to revive an old series in a new era, someone who understands all of the subtle mechanics that made the original film work in ways that someone steeped in CGI and self-importance (ahem, Lucas) would lose sight of.

By the way, Predators was filmed in part about forty miles from my house.  Which makes me so Hollywood I don’t even know it

You really are Hollywood. Now all you need to do is rip Walton Goggins’s head and spine from his body (is it just me, or is he the poor man’s Garrett Dillahunt?) and you’ve got it made.

Speaking of losing track of the subtle mechanics of the original… Die Hard 4.0. I know we’ve touched on this in the past, but it went so badly wrong that I can’t help but want to mention it again. Because I grew up with Bruce Willis; he’s one of those icons who I feel that childhood connection to, as if he’s my uncle and we’ve both somehow forgotten, but some day, we’ll bump into each other on the street and remember. Unless he does another film like Die Hard 4.0. Then he’s not invited to Christmas, because that film took everything good about the first film and ruined it. Suddenly, John McClane was not the everyman having a bad day, he was the guy who knows how to fling a car into a helicopter.

Why? Just… why?

I think the biggest let down of Die Hard 4.0 is Willis himself.  Not only is he no longer the everyman, he’s no longer charming or funny.  What happened to this guy?  I want my old Bruce back!  How can we make this happen?  A pack of Seagrams Wine Coolers and a pool cue?

I think maybe a really, really good hairpiece could be in order as well. And a memory wipe with the words ‘The Whole Ten Yards’ on it.

You’ve got a good point with the humorlessness. That’s Willis’s great appeal; the one-liner with the slight twist of the mouth. Odd question though this may be, was Willis ever a sexy man? I can’t remember ever seeing him marketed as such, but I guess back in the days of Moonlighting he had it going on some. Again, that was before the action-hero persona really came to the fore.

I’d say for much of his early career, anyway, Willis was viewed as the unlikely sexy man, the everyman sexy man, I guess you might say.  He’s become such a droll, expressionless actor that he sucks the life right out of Die Hard 4.0.  When your sequel includes an original character, the consistency of that character is just one more thing the audience is going to be particularly mindful of in judging the film.  That’s what Predators might have done right: fresh blood … or fresh meat, if you’d rather.

So, Harrison Ford summons the old Indie as best he can with the crap dialogue he was given, and Willis misses the mark.  The one good thing I can say for the fourth Rambo is that Sylvester Stallone still knows that character inside and out.  And he should because he wrote it.  His aged John Rambo tooling around on a river in Thailand, wrangling snakes, is exactly as I would have expected an aged John Rambo to be.  What did you think?

I think it’s very important to note that no matter what the scenario or how wooden the dialogue is, Harrison Ford remains a hugely attractive man.

If there’s only one thing we can, and should, take from this discussion, it’s that.

Rambo‘s success, to me, lay in the fact that it didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel. Instead, it just took the wheel, made it bigger, and then exploded a bunch of evil Burmese dudes with it. Maybe it’s that direct connection to the character that Stallone had; he wasn’t going to mess with the concept, just make it even more badass. Which he did admirably-the throat-ripping scene is one of the most ridiculously hardcore scenes I’ve seen put to film. And I loved it.


It seems to be about an even match, so far. Crystal Skull and 4.0 miss the mark and devalue their franchises, Rambo and Predators make the grade. So that leads us into the sad truth of Terminator: Salvation.

Harrison Ford does remain a hugely attractive man.  Smithson and Hawkins have declared it so.  Let it be written.

Rambo would have been an amazing action film if only it had had a budget to match its carnage.  That was my one gripe with it, and that’s something that can’t really be pinned on the film itself, can it.  I found the overall look of the film and the special effects disappointing.  I think it was filmed in the ditch behind Stallone’s house with a surplus of ketchup packets.  The story and characters, though, spot on for Rambo.  I dare say that on that score I liked it better than The Expendables.

Is it my imagination or was this far, far bloodier than previous Rambo flicks?  Hardcore is right!  It was like a Gallagher show, only with heads and torsos instead of watermelons.  I’d really like for someone to take the time to do a proper Rambo body count for all four films.  It’s surely phenomenal.  In this one alone, he offs the equivalent of Burma’s population twice over.

Uh-oh, “the sad truth of Terminator: Salvation” … I sense our tendency to agree is about to be challenged.

Oh, Rambo was carnage! The massacre scenes, the interpersonal combat, the sniping… chunks were flying everywhere.

I concur on the production; Stallone seems to favour a certain gritty style in post-production which doesn’t always look great, to me. It’s something about the death scenes – gruesome, yes, but also, undeniably fake. Ketchupy. In a very obviously CGI way. Apart from the above-mentioned throat-ripping scene. That never would have made it into First Blood.

Speaking of Burma, apparently rebels took up the phrase ‘Live for nothing, die for something’ as a catch-cry after the release of Rambo. Which made Stallone very proud, as I guess it would. Now for him to release that long-awaited sequel to Oscar.

Oh no! Are we going to come to internet blows? Because Salvation was a testament to just how far a ball can be dropped. All the right elements were in place. Competent, experimentative director? Check. Big-name action star? Check. Huge production budget? Big check. And a fanbase clamouring for something to forever erase the taste of Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines from their mouths.

And then…

Oh no, I don’t know if we’ll come to internet blows because I don’t think I’m passionate enough about Terminator: Salvation to defend it entirely.  I did find it really entertaining, however.  Here’s the story.  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Terminator movies because they raise my anxiety levels like no other film, which is both horrifying and fun.  And mostly horrifying.  But fun!

Terminator: Salvation, for instance, begins with that very intense scene with terminators everywhere and Connor going down in the helicopter, all delivered with a claustrophobic, tunnel-vision perspective.  You can see a little bit, but not enough — and what the hell’s going on and where the hell is everybody and wait, what’s that moving just barely in my periphery!  The viewer is right in the middle of the shit-storm, and I have the urge to claw my way out of the theater row.  And this is just the beginning of the damned film.  I mean, I’m sold on the tension and suspense at this point.  Therefore sufficiently entertained.

I have a feeling, though, that your complaints are going to be about the details of the story.  And maybe, just maybe, Sam Worthington.

Actually, I thought Sam Worthington acquitted himself well. For a man with no ability to expunge his Australian accent, he did OK. He was the dramatic core of the film; the heavy lifting when it came to emotion.

My doubts began with the credits. For a Terminator film, you have to stick with the original formula. The fact that McG did away with that was a bad, bad sign. C-Bale rapidly descended into shouting rather than acting, the plot made little to no sense by the end, and it wound up being far schmaltzier than any Terminator flick should be. It’s not that it was a total loss, but it was a missed opportunity.

The rumor is that Bale was originally slated to play Marcus but demanded the role of John Connor, who was originally to be nothing more than a disembodied voice on the radio, and then, during script sessions and in post-production, started making his own cuts to beef up his own performance.

Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But this was a case when the school of broad strokes – evil machines, heroic humans, shouting and explosions – not working as well as it did in, say, Rambo.

Ah, I thought for sure you’d be in the anti-Sam camp!  I felt he was pitch-perfect in Terminator as that emotional core you mentioned, and then I was terrifically underwhelmed with his follow-ups in Clash of the Titans and Avatar.  So much so that I now snarl at his appearance in Terminator: Salvation retroactively, as it were.

Connor as a disembodied voice, that’s a cool idea!  That would have changed everything.  I’d heard about the role switcharoo that Bale had reportedly insisted on and thought he’d made a bad call.  It’s always good when Bale gets away from stoic and angry.  He needs to give those veins bulging in his neck a rest now and then.

So, I think we can survive this (rather civil) dustup intact.  I can concede that the plot was clunky if you can concede that robots are scary.

If this is the worst disagreement we ever have, I think we’re going to be OK. And yes, robots are scary. I check beneath my bed nightly for Christian Bale.

It’s amazing how quickly Worthington has gone Hollywood. A friend mentioned an interview with Worthington where he spoke about how completely different the upcoming Clash of the Titans 2 will be from the first. Worthington then backed this claim up by saying: ‘Perseus is going to have long hair!’


So, I have two important questions. If you could see any action film given a revised and updated latter-day sequel, what would it be? And can you pick three of your favourite scenes from this new generation of action films?

A revised and updated action film.  I don’t even have to think twice about this one.  Robocop!

Three favourite scenes.  There was a moment in Rambo when he was sneaking around a camp in Burma in the middle of the night that felt just like an equally suspenseful moment in Rambo II.  I choose that one for sentimental reasons.  I also loved the whole dropping-from-the-sky opening in Predators and the chaos that followed as they tried to decide which one of them might be the enemy.  Danny Trejo was so underused in this film, but he has some prominence in this sequence.  That’s a plus in my book.  He’s badass.  I’m sticking by that whole crashing helicopter scene from Terminator: Salvation as my third favourite.  The directorial perspective in that one makes it so visceral.  Well done, I think, even if the rest of the film has its faults.

Now let’s hear your update wish and three faves, sir!

I’d like to see another really well-done film in the Aliens franchise. When you think about it, the number of bad films made with those things outweighs the number of good ones.

My three favourite scenes? The Hanzo/Predator fight in Predators. I loved what they did with the rolling grass, I loved that suddenly a secondary character stepped up, and I loved that the film-makers seemed to have the same idea as I did, that it was missed opportunity in the original Predator that Billy bought it off-screen. I liked the pit scene in Predators, also, even if it was something I knew was coming. And in Rambo, the closing scene, where John Rambo is walking up to his father’s house, and the mailbox reads ‘R. Rambo’. Because my friend Dean suggested that maybe his father’s name is Rambo Rambo.

So it seems the recipe for a successful update is to: a) keep the same characterisation, b) have good effects and storyline (duh), and c) respect what made the original film/s popular, not just in terms of box office, but fan affection.

A proper Aliens would be spectacular, and a proper Robocop would be craptastic. My money’s on you getting your wish sooner than me getting mine.

Indeed, that’s a good recipe. I’d throw in a limit-Lucas clause as well.


George Lucas to never make a film again. I’ll drink to that.


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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

71 responses to “Lights, Camera, Action: 
The Next Generation”

  1. Tom Hansen says:

    I shall hereby invite the wrath of all (once again). I didn’t like any of these movies (and I think I only saw one). And here’s why. I hate sequels. I think they’re an artistic cop-out created by lazy people who would rather accept some guaranteed money in the bank than take a risk and all the work involved with coming up with something original. And what happened to Adrien Brody? The guy’s gone all Wahlberg!!! What a tragedy. The guy used to pick and choose his roles carefully, challenging roles and now he’s gone all Marky Mark steroid monster on us. Lame. What is up with these actors who look like porno clowns or MMA goofs? I think these actors are listening to their publicists or agents way too much. To be fair the Tom jury is still out on Gordon-Levitt. And what about….oh whatsisname…Jason Statham. I had such high hopes for that guy after Snatch. And since then it’s been forgettable “look at my muscles doing a karate chop” movie after forgettable “look at my muscles doing a karate chop” movie. I just don’t get it. Don’t any of these actors want to be legendary like Brando? Do they all have massive inferiority complexes???

    Willem Dafoe. Now there’s an actor. Antichrist? There’s a guy who takes risks. For the sake of his art, his craft. Thank God he hasn’t become an ‘action star.’

    • Simon Smithson says:

      DID YOU KNOW… Jason Statham used to the twelth-ranked diver in the world? He used to dive for England.

      I was amazed by the casting of Brody in Predators. Either the bank balance is getting low, or he was a big fan of Predator. Like, a really big fan. From quotes I’ve read, he spent his time in the trenches as a moneyless actor, but that could just be PR. What amazes me is how one goes from being the youngest-ever Best Actor to Predators, especially by way of Hollywoodland.

      Gordon-Levitt has taken some great roles, but also some totally bank affairs. And by that I mean, G. I. Joe. ‘Nuff said.

      Now, Ben Foster is probably your guy to watch. Cillian Murphy is usually a barometer of quality, as is Tom Hardy. But I know what you mean – where is today’s DeNiro? Where is today’s Pacino?

      Where is today’s Billy Zane?

      I think there’s a certain divorce from artistic merit you have to make when something has a ‘2’ after it. Unless it’s Terminator 2. The greatest case for the value of the sequel, Aliens, was a completely different film, and didn’t contain a numeral at all.

      Oh, having the term ‘vs’ in something usually isn’t a good thing either.

      Ecks vs. Sever, I am looking in your direction.

      • Tom Hansen says:

        I am so relieved Simon. I felt really bad about going off last night. I did not know that about Statham. Interesting. All I know about himis that he likes to date models. I think the main thing that bugs me about him is he ‘seems’ to be obsessed with his celebrity status in that he NEVER looks/talks/acts different in any movie. It’s almost like he’s not playing a character but being Jason Statham. And that’s not being an actor. Gordon-Levitt was in G.I. Joe???!! Oh the humanity. Loss of three points right there. Yeah Bernal is good, as is Bardem, as is Sean Penn

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I have the same beef with Michael Cera, although Cera’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. Every role is the same, to the point where you can guarantee what facial expressions and delivery Cera will use at any given point in a film. Especially if he awkwardly points out what someone else did which was morally wrong, then pause, then follow it up with something like ‘Oh, well, that’s what I think, you know?’



          Yep. Gordon-Levitt in G. I. Joe..

          I like to think he did it for fun. That’s allowable, right?

    • Tom Hansen! Where have you been? I can’t believe it’s taken you this long to comment on one of these action pieces. I remember our Statham discussion and figured you probably loathed this whole genre of film. In fact, when I wrote the line about Adrian Brody being hulked up I thought of you! Also, I’ve been waiting forever to tell you that I saw The Prophet as recommended by you. You’re right. Stellar film. That whole scene in the cell with the razor blade tucked in his mouth and everything going wrong … wow. Speaking of foreign film, I think all of your Brandos are overseas.

      • Simon Smithson says:


        Gael Garcia Bernal?

        Surely Javier Bardem could fit the mould. Terrifying heart-throb with a fire behind his eyes. You know it’s wrong, but, why, God, why does it seem so right?

        And my guy Ben – he’s the redhead playing Chuck Tatum in this promo clip from The Pacific:


      • Tom Hansen says:

        Cynthia I have been terrified to come back here and look at this thread after my horror show of a rant last evening. I was certain you and Simon would be furious and banish me from commenting on your threads forever. Yeah I’m afraid you’re right about the Brandos. I really shouldn’t be so hard on the actors who take money roles. They’re just making a living. I do however think that some of these action movies, with their formula plots and bulked up stars, resemble pure entertainment ie: wrestling than they do cinema,or art. And I’m not so sure that’s a good thing

      • Tom Hansen says:

        Yeah A Prophet was good huh? The murder scene, the scene where they hit the deer with the car, the final scene where he walks out of prison to Mack The Knife…jaw dropping good

  2. Richard Cox says:

    I think another worthy candidate for 80s-era franchise being rebooted is the new Star Trek. It wasn’t perfect, and it occasionally veered a little too far into the “look at all our hot, young actors!” mode, and there were a few pandering plot lapses. A “lightning storm in space”? Wow, what a precise description of a celestial event.

    That being said, it’s a lot of fun, and it keeps the mythology firmly intact while revealing fresh details and stories about the existing characters. And it looks and sounds like a sci-fi flick of the new millennium. The lens flares were especially inspired.

    I’m with Tom in that I hate most sequels. There are exceptions, of course, but mostly they’re lazy. I’m actually going to watch Predators now based on what you guys have written. I wouldn’t have otherwise.

    Fun post. You guys rock!

    • You know I’m a secret Star Trek fan (maybe that’s not such a secret anymore, actually), and I have seen the new film so many times I’ve lost count. I just made my family watch it again over the Thanksgiving break, in fact. And I’m sipping from my Captain Kirk drinking glass *right now.* Cheers!

      • Damnit! Look Simon! Look how much the italics function hates me! I tried to tell you this.

        • Richard Cox says:

          I don’t think you have to be a Star Trek fan to like this latest film, though. J.J. Abrams is the master of writing emotive stories that appeal to everyone,/i> and he populates them with plenty of young whippersnappers to get some Millennial cred in there. That dude is a genius.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Wow, Cynthia. You were right on the money. The italics function is not your friend. I hate it when I make a mistake like tha – wait. Wait. Am I still typing in bold?

          Abrams made a very solid film. Some die-hard Trekkies (no pun intended) hated the whole Vulcan storyline, but the goal from the outset was to change continuity, while conveniently packaging everything off into a different universe so no one felt hard done by.

          I like it as a sci-fi piece, and as an action piece. Maybe we should do a follow-up about sci-fi flicks and their evolution.

        • Richard, you little tart! I agree with you in italics and bold and otherwise that Abrams is a genius. He’s come a long way since Forever Young.

          Simon, a sci-fi piece, yes, I like the way you think!

        • Gloria says:

          Um…Richard – your italics joke above is nerdalicious. I applaud you, sir.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, wait! What’s the coding for strikethrough?

        • Richard Cox says:

          Not as tart as you, Cynthia. Mwaahahahaha.

          Simon, the HTML tag for strikethrough is “del”.

          Gloria: Takes one to know one. 🙂

  3. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    “A pack of Seagrams Wine Coolers and a pool cue”

    If you hadn’t already mentioned his name, that line may have instantly summoned the image of an eighties Willis in my head. Nicely done.

    So I’ll probably now have to see Predators, especially to determine for sure whether or not Brody is wearing prosthetic pecs. Also, I’ve been checking under bed nightly for Christian Bale ever since I saw him thinned down to nothing but the veins in The Machinist.

    • Those can’t possibly be Brody’s own pecs. I just don’t see how that’s humanly possible. I think the 300 pec-airbrushing team got to him.

      And Christian Bale recently did it again for his role as a drug addict in The Fighter. That guy is intense!

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Oh, eighties Willis. Come back to us.

        But not if it’s Hudson Hawk.

        I liked Predators. It was simple and to the point, and didn’t try to over-complicate matters.

        I like Bale, too, but part of me is wondering if maybe he can’t act at all, he can just lose and gain weight better than any other man alive. I’d like to see him in a role that didn’t require a) massive weight loss, b) massive weight gain, c) madness or d) shouting at people.

      • Simon, this scene w/ Bale from 3:10 to Yuma (not even friggin trying the italics now!) gets to me every single time. He’s so good in it. Those few lines in the end that he delivers in a whisper is a killer. I know this guy’s got it in him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPiT4sd8Zlo&feature=fvst Also, your boy Ben Foster’s in this, yeah?

    • Tom Hansen says:

      The Machinist yeah. That was awesome. However I even topped that at the end of my drug using. He’s an amateur when it comes to skinny death

  4. If you look at Indiana Jones as was often posited–i.e., as a pulp hero, based on the serials, all that–the alien thing makes sense. The Adventure thing and Nazis and such were ideal bad guys until, like, what, the fifties? As soon as the Soviets launched Sputnik, an era of Westerns and Nazi-killing ended and it was all about terror from above. Interesting mention of how far CG advanced from Last Crusade to Crystal Skull if you also look at how fast and how far pulp, genre, serial adventuring progressed from the late 30s to the early 50s.

    Walton Goggins worked out at the gym where I worked. One of the nicest guys on the planet. Just very cool.

    Bruce Willis is from Penns Grove (a couple towns over from where I grew up, and mentioned in Fight Club) and went to the prom with my aunt.

    All this talk about Rambo and Stallone and nobody mentions Rocky Balboa?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Dear Will:

      I’m not sure I can accept your comment. You see, your avatar has colour in it. And that, to me, indicates your thinking is dangerous and subversive. Get away. Get away!

      I also probably should have said this to Tom Hansen earlier.

      Willis took your aunt to the prom? That’s awesome!

      RE: Rocky Balboa: I think because it’s not a straight-up action flick it wasn’t included. No guns or explosions, you know? Unless you count the exploding of the hurt bombs that Stallone built into his fists.

      RE: Crystal Skull. I can’t speak for others, but the problem to me was twofold. One, it felt too much like Lucas including one of his pet ideas (kind of a Star Wars link, almost, but not in the charming way of naming a bar the Obi Wan) because he could; because he wanted to, and not because it helped the story. Two, the movie was so bad (the dialogue, the set-piece scenes [the vines? The monkeys? The three waterfalls?]) that it needed some old-school Indy to keep it grounded. And we didn’t get that.

      Damn you, Lucas. And Spielberg and Ford, you signed off. You can’t wash your hands of this.

    • To be fair to Will, though, we did mention, or I mentioned, Rocky in the first “Lights, Camera, Action.” Will, what was your take on Rocky Balboa? I barely remember it, and I usually have a pretty solid memory for films. I do remember thinking that at least it had gone back to its roots as a drama, as opposed to the larger-than-life spectacle the other Rocky sequels had been, and that the character was consistent with what I’d expected him to be. Again, Stallone seems to have a good sense of his original characters.

  5. Gloria says:

    Only the breifest of moments to comment – and if I don’t do it now, I never will. So I’ll say this: great conversation, interesting points, love me some Bruce Willis, Shia LeBeouf – I don’t mean to lust after him, Indiana Jones is in my heart forever, and the Aliens franchise can kiss my ass because nothing will ever compensate for the $8 and 1+ hours that I gave up for the abomination known as Alien: Resurrection. One of only two movies I’ve ever walked out on. You can suck it, Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

    • Gloria says:

      Also, I’d totally buy into a Robocop remake – as long as they don’t fuck it up.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        You know, I just don’t care for that Shia LaBeouf. I just don’t.

        Indiana Jones is one of my childhood icons, as is those goddamn creatures from Aliens. As is Predator. and Terminator, and Rambo.

        And I really need people to get them right, to appease my inner child, who has little else.

    • Uche Ogbuji says:

      The 2 movies I remember having walked out on are Independence Day and Casino Royale. I should have walked out on a lot more, including Alien: Resurrection, but didn’t. Agree with the comments about Predators. Such a long-overdue return to what made the original so great.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Really? The walkout on Casino Royale? The recent Daniel Craig version, I assume?

        Man. I was so close to doing the walkout on Transformers 2, and really, I should have. I didn’t, because I figured I’d already paid, but never again. That movie was so bad it’s unbelievable.

      • Tom Hansen says:

        I loved that original Casino Royale. All those 60’s Euro babes….sigh

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I was talked into seeing the remake of Casino Royale. I’ve seen worse.

          I do like Daniel Craig, though. I was likening him to Steve McQueen before that became de rigueur, I think.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Did you see him in Layer Cake, Duke? It was pre-Bond, possibly even the film he did just before Casino Royale.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I rented it once, back when one rented films from video stores — which will require explanation to those of a certain age in a few years, if it doesn’t already, and not that they’ll care anyway — but I was running up quite a bill in late charges due to my inability to find time to watch it, so I returned it unwatched. But I wish I’d watched it, since I think Tom Hardy is also in it, which would mean that this generation’s answer to Brando has appeared in the same movie as this generation’s answer to McQueen — both of these answers are strangely English — even though I’m no longer sure what to make of Tom Hardy since he keeps getting more and more tattoos, apparently thinking himself a Russian gangster or a dude in prison or both.

        • Daniel Craig first caught my attention in Road to Perdition. He has the best (I think) line in it. Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XUDNr-piHxk

        • D.R. Haney says:

          What would be really hysterical is if that kid walked up to his parents and said, “It’s all so fuckin’ hysterical,” and they freaked the hell out and went over and attacked Daniel Craig with: “I’ll fuckin’ teach you to say shit like that to my fuckin’ kid!”

        • I think you should write a children’s book titled: “It was all so fucking hysterical until ….”

        • D.R. Haney says:

          “…I threw myself in front of a train and got cut in half”?

    • Oh man, Alien: Resurrection. At the very least, it had Michael Wincott in it. Someday I should really write about my life-long love of villains and actors who frequently play villains.

      Hi Gloria!

  6. Aaron Dietz says:

    Yes! In Temple of Doom, at least they had to figure out some traps and flip levers and stuff–use their brains! In Crystal Skulls, whenever they were in a life-threatening situation, the answer was to run faster. Ridiculous!

    And Die Hard 4–hey, actually a pretty good action film if you remove it from the rest of the Die Hard series. If you try to think of him as John McClane, you’re like, “When did he get super powers?”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      The reports I heard back from Die Hard 4.0 were all of the same brand: good action movie, bad Die Hard movie.

      And I never understood the anti-Temple of Doom sentiment. It’s my least favourite Indy flick, but being my least favourite Indy flick doesn’t make it any less awesome.

      I don’t count Crystal Skull as a film.

      • Aaron Dietz says:

        Temple of Doom: I loved it as a child, but now the female lead annoys me. When I was young, it was enough that they had the most disturbingly gross meal ever. However, Shortround rules! I was always disappointed we didn’t see him again.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          We were just talking about Shortround the other day. He was excellent as Data in The Goonies: why he didn’t get the best supporting nod, I’ll never know.

          He did something a few years, back. Something Te Quan was his name, I think?

  7. D.R. Haney says:

    “it’s always nice to see Academy winners getting their hands dirty”

    Do you mean that literally, Simon?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      And how!

      Helen Mirren mucking out my backyard?

      Now that’s what I call a Saturday morning.

      That being said, I bet she’s an excellent gardener.

      I bet she refers to her gumboots as ‘Wellies’.

  8. Matt says:

    I’ve seen exactly one of these films: Crystal Skull, which was hands-down terrible. Ray Winstone, one of my favorite actors, is basically there as a plot point. And why the hell were the Indians just lurking around inside the walls? Do trespassers really come by frequently enough to merit them hiding in wait to spring from the wall in ambush. As goofy as Temple of Doom was at times, it at least had a sense of internal logic.

    The only redeeming thing about Crystal Skull, at all, was Cate Blanchett’s performance as teh villain. She was fun. But oh, how I wish she’d impaled LeBeouf during that jungle chase/swordfight sequence.

    I’ve pretty much hit my supersaturation point on action films, I think. A person can only handle so much “Louder! Bigger! Explosive-y-er!” in their theatrical spectacles, and Michael Bay and his knock-offs have really pushed me past that point, much as the Eli Roths of the world have burned me out on horror films.

    Personally, I’m all for letting those old franchises lie fallow. Create something new instead of gnawing over the bones of the old.

    • I’m telling you, Matt. Someone really needs to gnaw over Robocop’s old bones. *Make it happen Aronofsky*.

      Also, I agree with you. It seems that everything’s a remake, a sequel, or based on a book. Why is it so hard to come up with an original script!? Sigh.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        I can’t believe they’re rebooting Spiderman already.



        Seriously, what was Winston doing in that film? What was anyone involved with The War Zone, the grimmest, most depressing thing since Nil by Mouth, which Winstone was also in, doing in that horrible mess?

        And I couldn’t agree more: there comes a point when I get sick of explosions just for the sake of explosions.

        While being a big fan of necessary explosions, of course.

  9. Tom Hansen says:

    I’m with you Matt. If you don’t have a new angle (like the second Alien movie-even tho I’m not a huge fan) leave it be. Which is why I’m so fascinated by von Trier’s Antichrist, which is being classified as a horror movie but it’s unlike any horror movie I’ve ever seen. I always thought those Roth movies were kind of repulsive-the only way to make those movies good would have been to amp up the b-movie aspect like Tarantino does, but maybe he was trying to not do that.

  10. Tom Hansen says:

    I’m watching Inception as we speak for the first time. I usually prefer simpler stories that reveal layers of complexity as they go but this is pretty good. The complex premise is a bit burdensome for my small mind however and interferes with my enjoyment a bit, but I’ll take a smart complicated thriller over a dumb simple one every day and twice on Sunday

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Ack. Inception.

      Don’t get me started.

      Until you’ve seen it, and I don’t have to feel bad about spoilers.

      • Tom Hansen says:

        I dunno man. Even DiCaprio is looking a little puffy these days. Remember the skinny kid from Basketball Diaries? All of these actors that are spending days on end in the gym (and taking steroids too, probably) are gonna end up looking like a cross between William Shatner (he of the inflatable head) and the cartoon character on the Lemonhead candy boxes. Ack

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Lemonheads is a candy?

          Oh, man, everything about Evan Dando makes sense now!

          Also, man. Basketball Diaries. That was a while back.

  11. Joe Daly says:

    I love any discussion of action flicks and in particular, those that don’t require a whole hell of a lot of thought (which probably doesn’t eliminate many from the group). I have yet to see the latest Indy, and am happy for my choice now after reading your comments. It was Shia who did it for me. Whenever I see his fact, I want to swing a tire iron through it. There’s no more refined way for me to express it. He could be rescuing a puppy from a well, all the while telling his grandmother how much he loves her through his bluetooth, and I’d still have at his face like it owed me money. Wait- what were we talking about?

    Had no idea that Brody got all sorts of jacked up for Predators. I do think I’m going to give that a watch though. That’s got “Logic-Free Sunday Night Cinema” written all over it.

    As far as robots go, none are scarier than Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man.

    I love this column/series. Will you be addressing horror movies in the future? I would LOVELOVELOVE to kick around in an Evil Dead thread.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man, never see Crystal Skull. I envy all who have had their Indy experience untouched by its horrible tentacles.

      If you haven’t seen Predators, hang out until we can kick back and watch it together. Or see it, pretend you haven’t, and let’s go ahead with Plan A.

      Also: thanks! I don’t know if we’ve talked about moving on to non-action films; we haven’t thought of a great title.

      Although The Horror springs to mind.

  12. I’ve been LaBeouffed way too many times. I refuse to let it happen again.

    I really liked Alien: Resurrection. Go figure. And Michael Wincott is awesome. It’s true he’s never been cast in a good enough role. He and Vincent Cassel should take over the Ray Milland and Rosie Greer roles in The Man With Two Heads 2010.

    I still can’t get over the terribleness of Danny Glover doing the Predator reprise as entirely shot on San Francisco’s BART. Almost as bad as the once highly-promising Eric Bana taking a big Hulk all over Mason Street in the truly execrable Ang Lee version.

    Oh, I watched The Wolfman the other night ’cause I couldn’t sleep and it was on Starz at 3 in the morning. What happened to the Fenster I once loved that no longer lurks in the heart of Benicio Del Toro? And good to see Agent Smith from the Matrix pretending not to be Agent Smith from Scotland Yard by growing a soul patch and wearing culottes. Sigh. What a pile.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      HA! LaBeouffed.

      Also, eww.

      I remember turning on to Alien: Resurrection a little while back, seeing maybe two minutes, and really liking the cinematography for what I remember being an awful film. Although now that I look back, I saw Resurrection in a cinema with the second girl I ever kissed, so maybe I should give it a re-watch for old times’s sake.

      Also: Vincent Cassel isn’t in nearly enough films.

      DID YOU KNOW… Del Toro did an ad, TV, magazine, and billboard spots, for Magnum Ice-creams over here? I can’t believe he needs the cash that badly. Maybe he’s just a big whore? I’ve also heard terrible things about Wolfman, but that it too had great cinematography.

      • You guys are breaking my heart with all of these Benicio Del Toro revelations!

        Never saw Wolfman because it reminded me too much in the previews of that horrible werewolf movie Jack Nicholson did.

  13. Tom Hansen says:

    The only time I could even remotely tolerate Labeouf was when he was Keanu Reeves bitch in Constantine. Outside of that I’m down with the tire iron. Joe and Sean, you guys are a riot

  14. J.M. Blaine says:

    Because I tend
    to think magically
    I’d like to see
    them throw all
    these characters into
    one big movie.

    I still wouldn’t
    watch it because
    I rarely sit still long
    enough for a film
    but I’d like to read about it.

    But not Snake Plisken.
    I love that flick.
    I still watch EFNY 3 or 4 times
    a year.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Kurt Russell should be in every film anyway, so it doesn’t make a difference. I read a quote from Tarantino about putting KR in Death-Proof, and he said ‘Because there’s a whole generation of people out there who haven’t seen what Kurt Russell can do.’

      Amen, brother.

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