I really enjoyed the first Expendables movie; I thought it hit lots of right notes on the scale between kitsch and entertaining. Expendables 2 though, I thought was unwatchable. I stuck with it long enough for a villain called Vilain to put Liam Hemsworth down, and that facelifted old homophobe Chuck Norris to do some stuff, and that was it for me. I gave up before Schwarzenegger appeared, which was probably a good thing because he’s tiresomely self-absorbed too.
Expendables 2 partly filmed in Bulgaria, but witness the sheer arrogance of filmmakers when they get to play in developing countries: the production had to be fined for breaking the terms of its permits and filming explosions, car chases and fires in close proximity to Devetashka Caves. Devetashka is considered one of the most important bat habitats in Europe, home to 15 species of bats – but the sleeping bats were subjected to stress, loud noise from heavy machinery and construction works, bright projector lights and crowds of people which kept them awake during a period when they should have been hibernating. Thugs.
Super-Serb Milla Jovovich is back, this time as an Alaskan psychiatrist treating patients who are experiencing startlingly similar, apparently terrifying, dreams. No, not dreams of a Sarah Palin Presidency – though that’d be scary enough for me. Rather, they each have been kidnapped by aliens, had their inside bits fiddled about a bit with, and have been dumped back on terra firma with their memories (imperfectly) wiped. Milla tries to uncover what the frak is going on, but being Alaskan and therefore with, what?, like a half-term experience of actually being a doctor, she blunders about with some of the most inappropriate, ill-advised and under-supervised treatments known to medical science. It doesn’t end well. It also ends in 5000 year old Sumerian, so you must know.
The Fourth Kind purports to be a true story based on secret FBI papers or something, and the film occasionally split-screens so you can see the home video footage in real life of the character Milla’s playing. Except it’s not real life, really, just a homelier actress with worse lighting. Perhaps the lack of authenticity comes from having avoided filming in Mama Grizzly territory altogether and having shot in Bulgaria instead? (no Nome tundra, just lots of lush, leafy mountains; odd.) Oh I don’t know, I don’t want to be too harsh, because I do love a Milla movie from time to time. But this isn’t really even a very good X-Files episode and I thought that was a bit of a disappointment.
As a Film Commissioner, I only ever went on set about three times (always too busy, and besides, you’re kind of in the way……) and when I did it was usually part of the whole dog-and-pony show, trying to impress upon legislators just how many jobs were being created by the production. One of those set visits was to Catch and Release, a dull little tale set in Boulder, Colorado (but mostly filmed in Vancouver) about a woman whose fiance is killed on the way to the wedding, and who subsequently falls for the dead guy’s best friend. The best friend was skinny Timmy Olyphant, who’d never really impressed me much previously but was, I have to grudgingly admit, absolutely spectacular in person.
I mention this because we saw Hitman last night. (OK, so you can clearly tell I’m on a roll when it comes to dodgy movies at the moment; we’ve really been packin’ ’em in recently.)
Hitman is based on that Playstation game, so there’s a lot of running up corridors looking over the top of someone’s head; the plot is basically gun-heavy and irony-light. Tim is bald, too, which is an unfortunate look. But I have to say I was quite impressed by some of the production values; it has the look and feel of a much more substantial film, and the sound track is reminiscent of the Bourne movies. So not too dreadful, all in all.
Hitman is set in St. Petersburg and Istanbul, but it’s filmed predominately in Bulgaria. Surprise surprise, though, the production’s second unit shot in Cape Town. Who knew? I’m now wracking my brains, trying to recall exactly which bits might have been shot here (the Niger scenes perhaps??……) and wishing I’d been paying a little more attention……