The Expendables 2: How Did They Count That High?

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Watching them is a guilty pleasure, but it’s mostly guilt.

Have you ever spent two hours wondering why you’re staring at an overstuffed sausage?  Watching Stallone in The Expendables 2 feels a little bit like that, especially when they give you closeups of his veiny, muscular arms.  Or maybe the experience is more like watching a slightly stiff bulldog trying to be more athletic than its bulky frame will allow.  It charges about at decent speed, its jowls swinging back and forth determinedly as it tries its best to be fierce and intimidating… yet from the safe distance of my screen, it looks more funny than frightening.

That failed delivery might be the real take away message here.  I never watched the first movie, so I don’t know whether this is true for both of them, but The Expendables 2 feels like someone has distilled the essence of the overblown action movie and made an occasionally palatable bounce liquor* instead of something really worth drinking.  There were moments when its ridiculousness so exceeded my expectations that I couldn’t help but marvel at it, but for the most part it wasn’t as good as the vintage it was attempting to refine.  I say ‘for the most part’ because there are some truly terrible action movies out there, and I don’t want to go to the effort of deciding how this compares.  I’m pretty sure it’s better than some of them, if only because The Expendables 2 clearly had more budget for stuntmen and action scenes.

Speaking of “more”…

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Brotherhood of the Wolf and the Importance of Editing

Monday night I introduced two of my friends to the oddly enjoyable mystery-adventure movie The Brotherhood of the Wolf.  At least, that’s what I thought would happen.  Instead, we suffered through an interminable introduction, nonsensical pacing, a piss-poor mystery plot that was never explained well enough to make the reveal make any sense, and some CGI that has aged a little harder than I remembered.  It was a train-wreck of a film, and I’m not sure who exactly signed off on releasing it.  I was at a complete loss and repeatedly apologized to my friends, because the movie that we watched was not the movie that I remembered seeing years ago.

It turns out that it wasn’t the same film at all.  Oh, the actors were all the same, and the footage was clearly all collected at the same time.  I doubt that the CGI aged any more gracefully in the version that I do remember, but at least the rest of the movie would still be there to back it up.  The problem, you see, was that we watched what we could only guess was the edit intended for UK theatrical release.  It was atrocious.

The version of the film that I first saw, and the one which I would recommend to my friends, is a lovely action-mystery-thriller which features slowly building tension surrounding a series of wild animal attacks, culminating in a wonderful set of reveals and some good old ass-kicking.  The protagonists gradually piece together that the mysterious beast responsible for the local deaths is no natural creature, and recognize that there are connections between the beast’s killings and a secret society which appears to be trying to supplant the King’s authority in the land.  The film is still a trifle weird, but it has pretty costumes, fun action scenes, and a rewarding reveal of a conspiracy plot.  It has inspired several of my own RPGs, and I would consider it decent background material for anyone looking for adventure ideas.

And thus we come around to the importance of editing.  I was already aware of how much influence editing can have on others’ impressions of your work, but I’d never seen such a painfully clear example of it with something which titillated in one form and disappointed in another.  The experience reminded me of Alison J. McKenzie’s good article on drafts, an intimately related topic, and to be honest I’m quite glad that I have chosen an art form in which the overhead costs for creating and prototyping new drafts are so low.  The costs and scheduling associated with film make it far less forgiving.

Unfortunately for the version of Brotherhood of the Wolf that I just watched, I can’t really bring myself to forgive it.  The experience that I wanted to share with my friends, the one that I thought I was sharing right up until the film started to diverge from my memories of it, was effectively ended by the bizarre editing choices that went into that version of the movie.  It was bad enough that I can’t really blame my friends for not wanting to find and watch the version that I remember.

I would still recommend Brotherhood of the Wolf to you for all of the same reasons that I wanted to show it to my friends, but be sure that you’re watching the more standard US release.  Otherwise, you may be sorely disappointed.

Game Analysis: Diablo 3

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Since I took a look at a spiritual successor to Diablo 2 I figured I might as well take a look at the actual successor.  Unlike Path of Exile however, I really can’t think of too much that draws me to Diablo 3.  This makes me especially sad since I waited in great anticipation for its release, playing Diablo 2 over and over again in the meantime.  I paid full price for it.  I paid for a copy for a friend to play with me!  That is how much I wanted to continue my Diablo 2 fun in Diablo 3, but I ended up losing interest and dropping the game extremely quickly.  You can maybe discount my analysis because I haven’t gotten much actual game time in, but I would argue that it isn’t my job to persist at playing a game until it is fun, it is instead the game’s job to keep me interested in playing.

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