Friday and the end of the week brings us to the last of our Gift Guide editions for this week. Today’s studio is Lionsgate. Over the last year there have been plenty of solid titles from the roaring studio. I’ll bet you have at least one someone on your Christmas list who is into either action or horror. Lionsgate is going to have just the ticket to get that adrenaline going. You better prepare an extra hearty man helping of holiday dinner when you put these titles under the tree, because someone’s going to get one heck of a workout. Of course, the only real workout is going to be that home theater system. Too bad you can’t lose some of those pounds watching someone else flexing their muscles.
Rambo: The Complete Collector’s Set [Blu-ray]
“I don’t think you understand. I didn’t come to rescue Rambo from you. I came here to rescue you from him.”
In Florida we have some very large bugs. There’s this one particular spider that is quite a problem in my house. Its real name is a huntsman spider, and it grows to about 16 feet, not including the legs. It sports 27-inch fangs and tends to move the furniture around at night while it stalks its prey. Yes, it stalks its prey at night in my house while I’m trying to sleep. Years ago I coined my own name for these clever, ferocious killers. I call them Rambo Spiders. The name fits these long-legged freaks perfectly as they perform their recon missions throughout our home. When I find them, I terminate them with extreme prejudice. I suspect that if these arachnids happen to be movie fans, they have a name for me, as well. You guessed it: Rambo.
John Rambo was the brainchild of novelist David Morrell. In his novel you’ll find a John Rambo who is very much like the one played by Sylvester Stallone, yet quite different, as well. While he retains that one-man-fighting-machine persona, in the book he is much more of a cold-blooded killer than the man we meet in the franchise’s first film. In that movie, Rambo disables the police and whoever else stalks him, but he never kills one person in that film. The officer who does die does so because of his own actions, not Rambo’s. He’s actually a very innocent man, when we first meet him. There’s a vulnerability that we see in that film’s first five minutes that we never will see again over the course of four films. Credit Stallone for allowing us those fleeting moments that you won’t find anywhere in Morrell’s book. But it is the Rambo as portrayed by Stallone that has become the cultural icon and household word today. The term is in most modern dictionaries, usually to describe a relentless force of strength, which brings me back to those spiders. And before you animal rights people start writing me your displeasure over my spider kills, understand that it’s more than a fair fight. They have those 99 inch fangs, and all I have is a rolled-up newspaper.
You get all four films from the Rambo franchise all in one place. It’s a nifty collection that should fit quite nicely under someone’s Christmas tree.
The Expendables (Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo + Digital Copy)
“Man, we’ll die with you. Just don’t ask us to do it twice.”
Remember the old days of the action movie? Those films where someone like Stallone or Schwarzenegger would run around and take out armies of bad guys while barely breaking a sweat. You know the kind of movie I’m talking about. The ones where the hero goes up against a hail of bullets and explosions and manages to pick off the bad guys without catching a single slug himself. These were the days when a guy like Bruce Willis could fall thirty floors, get a spike impaled in is ribcage, have a ton of concrete wall fall on his head and get run over by a truck but still manage to take out the bad guy while muttering some witty little catch phrase that we would all be repeating, because if we can deliver the line just right that meant we were tough guys too, and we didn’t even have to fall out of an airplane to prove it. Well, you won’t have to remember. You just have to watch Sly Stallone’s love letter to the action movie fans. It’s called The Expendables, and it’s out right now on high-definition Blu-ray from Lionsgate.
There’s no question that this movie takes it back to the old-school way of doing things. That isn’t to say that the film doesn’t take advantage of the latest technology in filmmaking. Like the last Rambo film, there is a large amount of cartoon-style blood here. Blasts quickly tear away limbs, torsos and faces. The blood is exaggerated much like something out of 300. But the meat of the old-school action films remains intact. These guys are doing a ton of physical stunts that landed more than one of the actors in a hospital bed for a day or so. There aren’t a lot of stunt men filling in here. Stallone hired these guys for their ability and willingness to do just about anything for the film. I would have loved to have made an investment in ice production in New Orleans during the production of the film. It hurts. It’s dangerous. But if you want the gritty action that this kind of film provides, there just isn’t any other way to do it other than to just do it. Bodies have to get slammed around. Their pain is our gain when you find yourself watching one of the most adrenaline-packed films of the decade.
Stallone personally invited some of the best action heroes to come together for this film. Any one of these guys can, and has, headlined his own action film. It’s the most impressive collection of talent you’re likely to ever find in one film. They all have a great deal of admiration for Sly, and it shows in their passion and effort here. There’s plenty of fighting and shooting with the likes of Jet Li, Jason Stratham, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren. Mickey Rourke is along but doesn’t get mixed up in the action. He does have a couple of emotional scenes as a buddy to the team. There’s a wonderful cameo by both Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger that will bring a huge smile to your face. I suspect we might see the governator in the sequel which is already being discussed. In the cameo he explains that he’s busy right now, but the curtain’s about to fall on that gig, and I suspect Arnie will be in front of the cameras soon after his January reprieve from politics. Expect a bigger part from Willis as well. Angel and Buffy star Charisma Carpenter has a small role as Christmas’s girlfriend. But these sorts of things are very brief breaks from the high-tension action that dominates nearly every minute of the film’s running time. You can’t help but like this one.
After Dark Horrorfest Vol. 4 (Dread / The Final / The Graves / The Hidden / Kill Theory / Lake Mungo / The Reeds / Zombies of Mass Destruction)
“This lesson won’t be learned in the classroom”.
Every year Lionsgate puts out something they call 8 Films To Die For. It’s a chance to let some grizzled horror veterans and plenty of newcomers strut their stuff for an audience that’s just dying for some original horror films. In this day of remakes/reboots/reimaginings/and just plain sequels, that horror fan on your list might just be hungry for something new. These aren’t out on Blu-ray yet, but these DVD’s will go a long way in making up for the lack of high definition with some blood-splattering good times. Just keep an eye on the guy at the dinner table with the carving knife after you give this set for Christmas. In fact, you might want to check to see if Taco Bell is open on Christmas… just to be safe.
Hey, I get to sit around sometimes and watch horror movies for a living. Then I get to tell you guys what I think about what I saw. It’s a tough job, but you know the rest. This collection from Lionsgate has really been a gravy run for the most part. This is by far the best collection in the series, and I mean by a huge margin. Six out of the eight horror films are actually pretty good. With that much horror movie watching out there, you NEED someone like me to pick the winners, someone you can trust. “You need somebody who loves the job, who lives for it.”