“The Expendables 3” (PG-13) — Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li and a host of other big names resume their duties of being expandable without ever getting expended. A huge ensemble isn’t really the point of shoot ’em up action flicks, but “The Expendables” offers us the hope that by simply cramming tons of old-school tough-as-nails movie stars into one project, an awesome movie must form under the weight of all that muscle-mass.
Of all the action movies to come out this year, this is absolutely the movie with the most crowded poster. Wesley Snipes and Antonio Banderas enter the line up, along with some younger actors with shorter resumes. Even fans of the franchise will be let down by the lack of surprises. Mel Gibson plays a fun-to-watch unhinged antagonist, which is almost a surprise.
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“The Giver” (PG-13) — Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) lives in a black-and-white world where individuality and emotions are suppressed in the name of controlling conflict. When he comes of age, the community assigns him to be “The Receiver,” the one person who holds all of the community’s memories of what the world once was. As Jonas receives more memories from the Giver (Jeff Bridges), he starts to see things for what they really are.
The beloved novel by Lois Lowry gets its own film adaptation just in time to cash in on the dystopian teen fiction trend in Hollywood. It doesn’t have the same impact as the novel, but it also steers clear of the cliches of the current genre — no love triangles or werewolf fights. The story is there, but the pacing and drama don’t fly off of the screen.
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“The November Man” (R) — Here’s a premise that I’ve never seen before, and I’m not sure if audiences can handle it: A hardened ex-CIA agent gets pulled out of retirement for one more mission. He’s been backstabbed by some former pals, and he even has to go up against a younger operative that he himself trained! The plot has lots of twists and turns, but nothing outside genre standards. Pierce Brosnan gives a delightfully nuanced performance as the grizzled protagonist, but it’s not enough to raise this movie above the average. Average can still be good enough for a rental, though, especially if you need more globe-trotting spy battles.
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“What If” (R) — To complete the cascade of cliched genre-flicks in this week’s roundup, we have a lukewarm romantic comedy about attractive late-twentysomethings living in a chic urban environment. Wallace (Daniel Radcliffe) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan) have instant chemistry full of lovely banter and adorable compatibility. She’s got a long-term boyfriend, so the likable leads can’t jump right into romance. You’ll be simultaneously charmed and annoyed by their arbitrarily extended courtship.
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“Masterpiece Mystery: Inspector Lewis 7”
“Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Turkey Day Collection”
“The Equalizer Season 4”
“Drunk History Seasons 1 and 2”
“Jeeves & Wooster Complete Collection”
© 2014 King Features Synd., Inc.