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End of summer round-up

Well, blockbuster season is winding down as fall looms. The Oscars are still many, many months away, but with festivals like Toronto, New York, and Venice running this month, some early favourites could be emerging in the coming weeks.

But that’s all a long way off. In the mean time, silly fun is still the order of the day. Between Machete, The Expendables, and Piranha 3D, audiences have a variety of B-movies to choose from. But which one comes out on top?

Let’s break it down…

Machete
Danny Trejo stars as the titular assassin, alongside a diverse cast of characters, including Michelle Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Lindsay Lohan, Jeff Fahey, Cheech Marin and Jessica Alba. It’s a solid cast, but as a result, Machete often feels pushed to the side in his own movie. It’s probably just as well, since Trejo’s performance is one-note.

“Look, nevermind that,” I hear you saying. “Is it fun or what?!” Alright, settle down. The answer is yes and no. The action scenes feel pretty fun, but if you’ve seen the red-band trailer (which I did) you’ve literally seen every cool part in this movie.

The other problem is even though the film is only 105 minutes, it feels a lot longer. The plot was gobbledygook, so I spent a lot of time just waiting for the next action scene to come up. Some of them were pretty unique, but nothing too special. Overall I would say skip this and move on down the list.

The Expendables
Think of every major action star of the last few years (who isn’t in jail, Belgian, or Chuck Norris), and odds are good their name is in the credits for The Expendables. Sylvester Stallone leads up the ensemble, and also co-wrote the screenplay with Dave Callaham (aka the guy who wrote the script for Doom a few years back). With this not-so-dynamic duo penning the dialogue, it goes without saying that the script is garbage.

The acting is a mixed bag. Some, like Mickey Rourke, manage to bring some class to the proceedings. He delivers a nice little speech in the film that could’ve been terrible coming from someone else. Case in point, former UFC champ Randy Couture. I’ve seen him in interviews and he seems like a nice guy, but he couldn’t act his way out of a moist paper bag. It’s honestly embarrassing to watch. Also, David Zayas is hilariously miscast as the film’s evil dictator-type general.

All this aside, the film hits hard when it comes to action. If you like explosions, gunfights and car chases, you’re in luck, because this film definitely earns its R-rating. Sly may not be much of a writer, but he knows how to do action.

In the end, the action makes it worthwhile to see this. The godawful writing is a downside, but some viewers will probably just be able to laugh at it. I think those people will really enjoy this. For me, it’s just a mild thumbs up.

Piranha 3D
Alexandre Aja did with this film what Robert Rodriguez failed to do with Machete. He made a completely silly movie with a ridiculous plot that actually stayed fun for the entire running time. At just 88 minutes long, Piranha 3D is the perfect length. Long enough to get in, offer up a few jump scares, a few gross-out laughs, plenty of bare flesh, one killer setpiece in the third act, and get out. It’s the kind of movie that’s so ridiculous I wanted to get up and applaud the sheer outrageousness of it at the end.

In addition to keeping up a break-neck pace Machete couldn’t match, this film also boasts a decent script. Naturally, it’s nothing award winning, but unlike with The Expendables, I wasn’t rolling my eyes every two minutes.  It’s serviceable enough to keep things moving, and with a film like this, that’s all I want.

A couple of cameos (both of which are spoiled in the trailer, grr) provide some good laughs. I won’t go into details but one is a nice homage to another movie, and the other is just funny.

I’m not the best judge of 3D, but I found the 3D in Piranha pretty underwhelming. That said, Aja finds some pretty unique ways to exploit the technology.

Of the three movies here, this is definitely the one to see.

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