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An embarrassment of action-star riches

What's coming up in the week ahead

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"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.



Big releases on Aug. 17: ParaNorman and The Expendables 2

Big picture: If you like your movie stars leather-faced, shopworn and monosyllabic, this week offers a double dose. ParaNorman offers up animated zombies; The Expendables 2 offers up Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chuck Norris, Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis and Jean-Claude Van Damme. The latter is a sequel based on the popular 2010 flick headlining action heroes of yesteryear. In the new effort, a botched mission leads to the murder of one of the Expendables and revenge is in order. I guess revenge is a dish best served ... old? Meanwhile, ParaNorman offers a stop-motion adventure for the whole family. Norman is an oddball kid who sees -- and speaks -- to dead people. Equal parts Ghost Whisperer and Ghostbuster, it's up to Norman to save his town from an ancient curse and do battle with everything from zombies and ghosts to scheming witches.

Forecast: The Expendables 2 will deliver over-the-top action (I'm pretty sure something blows up every other frame), but the self-awareness of its aged stars is what gives the film real firepower. (Sure, it's all a little absurd. But they're having a good time and so should you). But ParaNorman, gift-wrapped in 3-D from the makers of the brilliant Coraline (2009), offers a new-age hero and will pack far more ghoulish delights (with apologies to Dolph Lundgren's makeup artist).



Big event: Strike Back (Aug. 17, HBO, 12 a.m.)

Big picture: Don't let the title fool you. This is not an old Chuck Norris or Van Damme movie -- although it occasionally matches them in terms of camp. The second-season premiere of the action-packed drama offers enough bad guys, explosions, gunfire and ready-and-willing women to make James Bond consider getting into the small-screen game. The series stars Sullivan Stapleton as Sgt. Damien Scott, a disgraced special forces operative finding a new lease on life -- and a new licence to kill. Philip Winchester stars as Sgt. Michael Stonebridge, an officer in a British counter-terrorism unit called Section 20. The unit battles everything from human and drug trafficking to vicious warlords -- always with an alpha male gusto and plenty of exposition.

Forecast: Between The Expendables and Strike Back, it's a good week for action lovers. Speaking of action, the premiere also features unintentional hilarity with what I suspect is the only sex scene/travelling-jeep montage in TV history. Oh HBO and its penchant for full frontal nudity! (My guess is the network's writing staff consists of a giant crop of teenage boys mentored by Charlie Sheen and Bill Clinton.)

Honourable Mention: Wednesday, Aug. 15 on (web only). Freaky ... Wednesday? The Switch, a six-part, web-only miniseries bows tonight following the 8 p.m. airing of The Listener on CTV. It's like the movie Freaky Friday, only with a telepathic power swap instead of the ol' mom-daughter body switcheroo. The first two episodes of the spinoff series will be available online. The premise? The powers of The Listener's telepathic paramedic, Toby Logan (Craig Olejnik), transfer to his funnyman EMS partner Oz (Ennis Esmer). Lindsay Lohan-free hilarity ensues.



Big release on Aug. 14: Django Django (Django Django)

Big picture: Don't let their name fool you. This Edinburgh-based indie band has nothing in common with Gypsy-swing legend Django Reinhardt. Their influences are varied, but largely come from the often tragic time in music history known as the '80s. The surprise? In their eclectic homage, this foursome revives the reputation of an era known for bad hair, neon, cheesy electro-pop and synthesizer-overdose. All the elements are there -- from the hypnotic keyboards to the synth -- but they're re-packaged in a bolder and broader sound. The band takes the '80s musical palette and colours it in with a rich blend of soul, new wave, psychedelic and surf rock.

Forecast: Django Django, one of the U.K.'s current big-buzz bands, has produced one of the most addictive listens of 2012. The frenetic grooves and pulses of this album could even get a lumbering zombie -- or a lumbering Dolph Lundgren -- out on the dance floor.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2012 ??65525

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