The Expendables: Sylvester Stallone’s nostalgic project is not a masterpiece. Realistically speaking, lowered expectations pegged it as a guilty pleasure emanating from the 80’s. Unfortunately, the film is a boring mess that features graphic, rudimentary action sequences sandwiched between inane dialog and innocuous plotting. The paper-thin plot finds Stallone leading a group of rag-tag body baggers that are about as badass as Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf. Helping Stallone monopolize the screen is Jason Statham. Statham, who possesses a great deal of charm, looks tired and bored in his role. Through awkward, lackadaisical romantic plot points, the Stallone led “Expendables” fight for cinematic freedom in a barren place we couldn’t care any less about.
Should You See It?: Are you kidding me? This is a flaming turd that is as dumb as it looks. The action is slow, the story lacks any semblance of intelligence, and the actors, although inspired, are operating way past their prime. The Expendables is nothing more than a sad realization of how corrosive time is on talent.
Bigger Than Life (1956): When it comes to capturing suburban malaise on film, American Beauty is often cited as a defining film. The potency of the screenplay certainly helps matters, as does a handful of Academy Awards, but the reputation of American Beauty often overshadows a similarly tragic film titled Bigger Than Life. Directed by Nicholas Ray and starring James Mason as Ed Avery, a teacher that becomes addicted to cortisone at the expense of his family life, Bigger Than Life adequately captures the desecration of the nuclear family in the 1950’s and the unreachable expectations of the American dream. Even though it’s approaching an existence six decades in length, Bigger Than Life’s dark path feels progressive even by today’s standards.
Should You See It?: Considering Bigger Than Life’s reputation still feels lost in time, the film deserves more viewers. Mason gives a haunting, polarizing performance that masterfully matches Ray’s vision of hollowed suburban life, where each shot slowly finds the American Dream souring into an unmitigated nightmare.