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The Expendables 2

APPARENTLY, extensive facial plastic surgery is common in the mercenary business for hired killers of a certain age. Must be all those bullets and knives flying around.

That's one generous explanation for the appearances of Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Chuck Norris in this inevitable sequel featuring a smorgasbord of action stars of the '80s and '90s.

At the behest of Bruce Willis's CIA honcho, Stallone's mercenary leader is obliged to take his men (including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews and Randy Couture) on a mission to retrieve a cache of nuclear material from the hands of a ruthless international bad guy named, appropriately, Vilain (Jean-Claude Van Damme).

Director Simon West competently choreographs some standard action sequences, but the movie feels pretty tired. It doesn't help that every time the guys get in a jam, they are saved by one of the film's designated guest stars. (Call it Chuck Norris ex machina.) That kind of thing tends to take you out of the movie.

Another complaint: The designated love interest, a Chinese operative called Maggie (Nan Yu) is even more boring than the usual action-movie love interest.

Actually, the best thing on the Blu-ray disc is a documentary titled Big Guns, Bigger Heroes: The 1980s and the Rise of the Action Film, a retrospective of the action genre that stands as a pretty good critical evaluation of why the action genre blossomed the way it did in the '80s, tracking the genesis specifically to the 1982 Stallone movie First Blood, which started out as a '70s movie (cops harass and wrongfully imprison a long-haired drifter) and finished as an '80s movie (the outsider turns out be a decorated Green Beret who unleashes hot hell on the arrogant cops).

It's especially delightful that a movie as silly as this would have such a cogent, intelligent DVD extra. 'Ö'Ö1/2

Quentin Tarantino XX

BULLETS will fly

This 10-disc Blu-ray collection includes the rogue director's Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol 2, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds, as well as Tony Scott's True Romance (scripted by Tarantino) and a couple of discs of extras, one of which might have been titled A Bunch of Critics Sitting Around Talking.

One of the DVD extras offers a collection of different trailers for Tarantino's upcoming western Django Unchained, which offers a clue that the collection was timed to promote that anticipated Christmas Day release.

But the collection itself is worth having for a timely return visit to Tarantino's back catalogue. For me, it allowed a rediscovery of Reservoir Dogs which, high-def demonstrates, was beautifully shot (by Andrzej Sekula) and supremely well-directed for a low-budget first feature.

The extras, which include extensive interviews with just about everyone with some Tarantino history, and again, the making of Reservoir Dogs was especially fascinating.

In the coming weeks, we're going to see a film titled Hitchcock about the making of the movie Psycho. I hereby nominate Reservoir Dogs as the next movie deserving of its own biopic. 'Ö'Ö'Ö'Ö

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 22, 2012 C14

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