Tag Archives: Ronda Rousey

Boys’ Town

Big, bloated, bro-fest-ic movie picks up where TV series left off

ENTOURAGE

Entourage

Starring Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara & Jeremy Piven

Directed by Doug Ellin

R

Based on the 2005-2011 HBO TV series about a young actor and his posse of best friends in Hollywood, this feature-film treatment is targeted primarily—and blatantly—to the same kind of hedonistic horn dogs who make up the movie’s base of bro-main characters.

Tinseltown satire, super-rich success fantasy and chauvinistic sex comedy rolled into one, the Entourage movie takes up where the TV series left off—and doesn’t go much anywhere else. A-list movie stud Vince (Adrian Grenier), newly freed from a nine-day whirlwind marriage, is ready to return to work and now wants to direct as well as act. As usual, his longtime nitwit buddies are all-aboard: Eric, his manager and best friend from childhood (Kevin Connolly); Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon), his dim-bulb, struggling-actor half-brother; and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), his driver turned tequila mogul.

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Haley Joel Osment, Emily Ratajkowski & Adrien Grenier

High-strung agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), now running a movie studio, green-lights Vince’s film, a ridiculous, futuristic twist on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which quickly balloons over its $100 budget. The movie’s investor, a rich Texas oilman (Billy Bob Thornton), sends his starstruck son (Hailey Joel Osment) to ride shotgun over the troubled production.

The pencil-thin plot: Will Vince and his crew cash in once again, or will Hollywood finally break the bros?

The Entourage TV show was loosely based, at least originally, on the some of the experiences of actor Mark Wahlberg, who served as executive producer and is now one of the producers of the movie (and has a cameo, with his own tagalong “entourage”). But the movie version plays like such an overblown, oafish wet-dream stream of sexy (often topless) women, caustic one-liners and obscene wealth, it seems adrift in its own alt-universe, like an R-rated, 100-minute Viagra commercial shot inside a VIP strip club operated by light-depraved leprechauns. If you liked Entourage and its freewheeling, high-living characters on TV, you may think they’re even cooler enlarged to cinema-size. Otherwise, you might wonder what anyone ever saw in this pack of boors, mooches, rakes and cads with so few discernable, redeemable skills, talents or virtues or values.

The movie’s attempt at addressing something “deeper”—as Eric confronts his paternity with his pregnant ex-girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui), or Ari seeks peace through spirituality—seems pathetically out of sync with its true, crude flow.

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“Turtle” (Jerry Ferrara) prepares to spar with Ronda Rousey.

To add to the movie’s sense of disorientation from the world in which most people live, an almost endless parade of real actors, sports figures and other personalities breeze through, blurring the lines by interacting with the fictional characters. There’s a lecherous Bob Saget, a grumpy Kelsey Grammer, a ticked-off Jessica Alba, an incredulous Martin Landau, a loopy Gary Busey, plus rapper T.I., director Jon Favreau, actors Liam Neeson and Armie Hammer, comedian Andrew Dice Clay, Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Emily Ratajkowski, NFL quarterback Tom Brady, TV personality Piers Morgan, zillionaire Warren Buffett, mixed-martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and many, many more. Blink and you’ll miss someone.

It’s almost like everyone inside Hollywood wanted a piece of the action. The bigger question: How many people outside of Hollywood will want a ticket to this smug, bloated, big-screen, bro-fest-ic boy party?

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Need For Speed

A masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem

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Furious 7

Starring Vin Diesel, Paul Walker & Jason Stratham

Directed by James Wan

PG-13

Fast cars and stunt driving have always been Hollywood staples, but nothing raised need-for-speed thrills to the level of pop-art success like the Fast and Furious franchise, which began almost 15 years ago, spawned six sequels and became a $2 billion-plus property—one of the most lucrative ever—for Universal Studios.

Now, in the seventh installment, Vin Diesel and his virtually indestructible crew of pedal-slammers reunite to save the world from more devious dudes, including a super-bad Brit (Jason Statham) out to avenge the death of his brother from a previous movie. But the plot’s just so much air whizzing by from the dozens of vehicles that zoom, smash and sail across the screen. Don’t worry about following a storyline: Just sit back and marvel at the masterful cavalcade of carefully orchestrated vehicular mayhem, a dose of high-octane escapism ramped up to ridiculous, fantastical extremes.

Furious 7

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson

In addition to Diesel (who’s also one of the franchise’s producers), the parade of gear-jamming, road-ripping all-stars includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, rapper-turned-actor Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson, all of whom will be very familiar to anyone who buckled up for previous F&F joyrides. Kurt Russell comes aboard as a slick, mysterious quasi-governmental deep-cover operative, Mr. Nobody, who needs Diesel & crew’s help to put the brakes on an international criminal (Djimon Hounsou) who’s kidnapped a mastermind computer hacker (Nathalie Emmanual, who plays Missandei on TV’s Game of Thrones).

Director James Wan, the maestro of horror and suspense whose resume includes Saw, Insidious and The Conjuring, creates some absolutely stupefying set pieces, jaw-dropping scenes of stunts and special effects. In one, cars drop from a cargo plane, parachute onto a winding mountain roadway and roar off to assault a heavily armored convoy, leading to a literal cliffhanger—then keep going! Another features the world’s most expensive car racing through—and I do mean through—the world’s tallest building.

And, as usual, the car scenes are broken up by equally impressive fight scenes, magnificent, crashing, smashing slam-o-ramas, choreographed to perfection and shot with inventive, topsy-turvy camera angles that bring you right along for the tosses and tumbles. Mixed martial arts fighting champ Ronda Rousey and Muai Thai warrior Tony Jaa both have bone-crunching cameos.

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Paul Walker

But for all the speed and spectacle, something else truly makes this one special for Fast and Furious fans—and that’s the final appearance of Paul Walker, one of the series’ top stars, who died (ironically) in a car crash in 2013 while it was still in production. Using footage already shot, digital effects and body doubles as stand-ins, the filmmakers were able to complete all the scenes—and amazingly, most viewers will likely never be able to spot any trickery.

Rather than simply a character, Walker’s role is a cornerstone of the entire movie, which actually becomes a eulogy and a tribute to him. At the end, as Vin Diesel’s character rides, literally, into the sunset and says farewell, literally, to his old friend, a montage of scenes from their previous movies plays. It’s not fast, and certainly not furious, and it may make your eyes misty, for just a sweet moment or two, from something other than gravel dust, exhaust fumes and the head-spinning speed at which the next sequel, number eight, is already being readied to head our way.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Old Soldiers

Stallone & Co. are showing their age in third testosterone fest

The Expendables 3 - Final One Sheet

The Expendables 3

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger & Mel Gibson

Directed by Patrick Hughes

PG-13

In the opening scene of this slam-bang, testosterone-fest reunion of aging action-movie icons, Sylvester Stallone’s character points to a frankfurter-sized finger of his meaty fist and a skull-shaped glob of silver—his Expendables “lucky ring.”

The Expendables franchise, about a group of super-covert, battle-scarred warriors hired to do the U.S. government’s dirty work, has indeed been lucky for Stallone. He’s had both his bank account and his ego fed by the success of the previous two movies, which he also had a big hand in either directing or writing.

In the movies, his team is “expendable” because their work is so dangerous, and their missions so secret, no one knows—or can afford to care—if they live or die.

How ironic—since the Expendables don’t seem expendable at all. They just keep coming back, again and again, and Stallone and his co-stars are a veritable, tried-and-true Hollywood guy-movie who’s who. These are some “dependable” Expendables.

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Sylvester “Rambo” Stallone (left) and Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger are the alpha males in “Expendables 3.”

And if anything, they just keep getting more “expandable.” In this excursion, the grizzled, gung-ho wagon train links up former E-team stalwarts Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Wesley Snipes, Jason Statham, Randy Couture and Jet Li with new add-ons Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Kelsey Grammer (yes, Dr. Crane from Cheers and Frazier!) and Antonio Banderas, and a group of younger Expendables-in-training—Kellan Lutz, Glen Powell, boxing champ Victor Oritz and mixed martial arts fighter Ronda Rousey, the sole female invited into the boys’-club sandbox of bullet-spraying machine guns, missile-launching bazookas, exploding trains, airborne boats, dive-bombing helicopters and ka-booming army tanks.

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Mixed martial arts fighter-turned-actress Ronda Rousey is the only female invited to play in the boys-only sandbox.

There’s a wisp of a subplot about the old-school Expendables (with their knives and guns) vs. the new young high-tech Expendables (with their computers and cameras and drones). But now, four years and three movies into the franchise, the just-plain-old Expendables are beginning to wear visibly thin, the plots have ground down to near nothingness, the wisecracks aren’t wise or crack-y anymore, and the original stars mostly lumber around like middle-aged slabs of spa-toned beefcake. And this movie, in particular, is so bloated with actors, there’s not much space for any of them. Some, like martial arts champion Jet Li, are relegated to little more than a cameo.

When the first movie came out, in 2010, it was an homage to Hollywood’s long tradition of Dirty Dozen-style, action-caper, military-mission flicks, as well as an adrenaline shot of career-rejuvenating mojo for Stallone and some of his action-movie pals from the ’80s and ’90s. Now, as Neil Young’s “Old Man” plays and Stallone’s character proudly watches his young protégés carouse in a barroom, it seems like the original Expendable is thinking about finally easing out of the picture—or at least making much more room for a younger, leaner, greener set of espionage and counter-terrorism experts.

At one point, Trench (Schwarzenegger) tells Barney (Stallone) he’s through. “I’m getting out of this business,” he says, “and so should you.” Maybe it’s finally time for Stallone to take that Expendables advice to heart.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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