17 August 2012

The Road to a Blockbuster: Muscles & Clay Zombies

Welcome folks once again to The Road to a Blockbuster, our Summer-long look at each new wide release coming to theaters across the nation. Sadly, this is our penultimate installment of this post, but like the others we'll take a look at the critical, commercial, and cultural possibilities of each new release. This week we have two very different films hitting theaters - the Claymation effort ParaNorman (2012) and the star-studded sequel to a mediocre film of yesteryear, The Expendables 2 (2012). They both look kind of shitty - let's see check the potential:

Good idea to rip-off the Olympics to sell your children's zombie movie

ParaNorman comes from the same people who made Coraline (2009), which was an ok adventure at the theaters. Surely yards ahead of typical studio garbage animated fare, but it stands as frankly overrated. With ParaNorman's advertising geared explicitly towards exemplifying horror film tropes it's difficult to tell whether or not it will actually spin these tropes on their head or fall victim to them. My guess is that this thing gets blurred with Frankenweenie (2012) coming out in a few months as another comedy/horror geared towards children that also does not look spectacular. It's strange that these kinds of movies crop up every couple of years desperately seeking to find the perfect balance between grotesque and cheekiness that no one's accomplished since The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).

That's the true test - in 10 years will ParaNorman be this beloved film loved the world over? Hell no. It's distinctive from other films but in ways that make it comply with its own genre. As for the brutal days of mid-August, this thing won't do that well in theaters. Yet again, kids haven't had a whole lot to see since Ice Age 4: Shitbrick (2012), and parents may want to get them out of the house as their crappy camps and summer school wraps up. Yet again yet again, those little bastards need new shoes, who's got time for the movies? My guess is this thing falls on its face.

Now we move on to The Expendables 2. Before The Expendables (2010), I was really excited. I mean, this was Stallone, Li, Statham, and um...well, some action stars with lesser careers like Dolph Lundgren. And some random people who just have muscles like Terry Crews and Randy Couture. And people who just look like they've had a career of ass-kicking, like Mickey Rourke. Sure, Willis and Schwarzenegger showed up - for about 30 seconds and then went on their merry ways. The action, to be honest, it kind of sucked. It was kind of like Rambo (2008) in that although it was hyper-gory, it all basically boiled down to one scene with a big gun. And then it kind of anti-climaxed its way to an end that didn't quite make sense and wasn't quite satisfying.

Finally, he's back killing people instead
of leading people
So how the hell am I still pumped up for The Expendables 2? Well, it's very simple - this movie appears to be everything The Expendables should have been. It features expanded roles for Willis and Schwarzenegger, as well as the additions of JCVD and Chuck Norris. Somehow that just makes everything work out. Chuck Norris is also 72 years old somehow, and even his IMDB picture looks like this. This film was also directed not by Sly but Simon West, who is the genius behind Con Air (1997). Since then he's put out a steady steam of bullshit, but still, there's got to be some good action management in there somewhere, right? Right?!

The Expendables came out around this time last year, and I famously grouped it as a double feature with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010), which was unfortunate, because seeing a movie that cool, fresh, and unique really placed into context how boring The Expendables was. It made a nice buck, though, and has since been known as the ultimate team-up movie that wasn't really the ultimate team-up movie. Could The Expendables 2 become the ultimate team-up movie? It feels like it. Then again, I feel exactly the same as I did before the first one, which probably means this one will also be crap.

Both of these films have had some pretty decent ad campaigns, though, and thoroughly established reasons why they're worth seeing. It hasn't really been relentless, but with nothing else going except Olympic Hangovers and Shark Week, they've been able to eke out a little bit of culture this past week. I got to go to my staple again, though, this is shoe-buying season. Movies have ceased to be a priority for Summer. Will we get a late-breaking hit like the Superbad (2007) and District 9 (2009) of years past? Unlikely, but they got a shot - and that's why The Expendables 2 may yet be blockbuster material.

Still, even when I watch this I know some part of me is just going to think "Where is Seagal?" and "If they needed a black guy why did they go after Terry Crews and not Carl Weathers?" and of course, "Why aren't there subtitles for Stallone?" All these questions and more should be answered, naturally, in The Expendables 3: Killing More Brown People (2014).

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