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Film Club Of The Air: ‘The Expendables,’ ‘Eat Pray Love,’ ‘Mesrine,’ ‘Life During Wartime’

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Aired 8/17/10

"The Expendables" reunites iconic action stars and and Julia Roberts stars in the film adaptation of the bestselling memoir "Eat Pray Love." It was a big weekend at the box office. We'll talk about both of those films this Film Club of the Air, along with "Cairo Time," "Mesrine," and "Life During Wartime."

Actor Vincent Cassel in the French gangster film "Mesrine: Killer Instinct."
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Above: Actor Vincent Cassel in the French gangster film "Mesrine: Killer Instinct."

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. The summer movie blockbuster season is just about over but not quite. On this edition of the KPBS Film Club of the Air, we'll talk about two of the summer mega movies, "The Expendables" (with a cameo by our ‘Governator’), and Julia Roberts’ star turn in "Eat Pray Love." But, as usual, most of our Film Club will be devoted to those movies you may not see much advertising for. A wistful middle-aged romance set in Egypt, the life story of a notorious French gangster, and a follow-up film to one of the ‘90’s most controversial domestic satires. Joining me for the KPBS Film Club of the Air are Beth Accomando, KPBS film critic and author of the blog Cinema Junkie. Scott Marks is the author of the film blog emulsioncompulsion.com. And Anders Wright is the film critic for San Diego CityBeat. And welcome to you all.

ANDERS WRIGHT (Film Critic, San Diego CityBeat): Howdy.

SCOTT MARKS (Film Critic, emulsioncompulsion.com): Good morning, Maureen.

BETH ACCOMANDO (KPBS Film Critic): Morning.

CAVANAUGH: Good morning. Now we’re going to start out with one of the summer blockbusters that I was talking about, “Eat, Pray, Love.” Julia Roberts stars as a woman who has everything but is just not happy with her life. She gets a divorce and eventually embarks on a life-changing trip around the world. This movie is based on the bestselling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert. It explores the delights of other cultures and their ability to teach lessons and enjoy… Not yet. Hold it. Wait for it. And their ability to teach lessons in enjoying life and honoring pleasure. I get the feeling that this was not…

ACCOMANDO: I’m sorry.

CAVANAUGH: …a complete success with our critics. Beth, what did you think about “Eat, Pray, Love?”

ACCOMANDO: Like I said, I called it “Eat, Pray, Gag” because that’s how I felt by the end of it. You know, I wish after my divorce and my husband took half my money that I had enough money to go and travel around the world and go to Italy and eat great food and then to go India and then go to Bali and never be – once be concerned about, you know, anything other than myself.

MARKS: But she had a hit play that six people were in the audience and walked out on.

ACCOMANDO: Come on.

MARKS: Where did she get the money? I’m with you. That made no sense to me.

ACCOMANDO: And, I mean, she was – To me, kind of the problems of the film were kind of summed up in the Indian girl that she meets. The girl has to go into a forced marriage and Julia Roberts, who has just left a marriage for what we perceive as not terribly great reasons, she just wakes up in the middle of the night and goes, I can’t be married, kind of gives her a little, you know, nudge on the chin and goes, well, kind of like buck up, it’s okay. And she looks at the picture of the intended boy and he says, well, he looks kind of sweet, I think it’s going to be okay. I mean, this girl’s going into a forced marriage. She doesn’t want to do that. She wants to do something else. And here’s this woman who has so much and a lot of freedom who would be outraged if anybody told her you have, you know…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, right.

ACCOMANDO: …you’re forced into this situation. And she has absolutely no concern or compassion from this girl – for this girl at all. And, to me, that kind of summed up the problem of the film, which is that she’s so wrapped up in herself you just can’t care about her. And then you can’t care about the film.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, was one of the reasons you didn’t like this because it’s a rich person’s fantasy?

MARKS: That has nothing to do with it.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: You have a, let’s see, you have a young woman who goes to a magical land and encounters three male role models and a wizard. It’s the “Wizard of Oz.” What are people saying this film is so – and at the end it’s practically “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” Short of throwing the cat out of the car, you have the whole lecture at the end, you know, stick it out. Any film about a woman who goes out to discover herself and liberate herself and does it solely through the eyes of men is worthless.

ACCOMANDO: But they keep insisting that she’s not. It’s like she keeps making – Everybody tells her, you need to be married or you need to be with a man to complete yourself and she kind of makes this – this fake show of no-no-no-no, I can do this all on my own. I mean, when I was…

MARKS: Yeah, but then – and then she goes with a man.

ACCOMANDO: No, she does, yeah. No, no, no. I mean, it totally cops out to that. I mean, when I was writing my review for it, I kept thinking back to the films from the seventies like “An Unmarried Woman” and “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” and they go off on their own, and these are women who deal with real problems.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, they have kids or they don’t have the money to do what they want to do or, you know, pursue whatever dreams they have, and they were so much more interesting and real than what Julia Roberts creates in this film.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, to be fair, in the book apparently, she has a book deal to travel and to write a memoir so that’s where this sort of money comes from.

WRIGHT: Boy, that’s rough.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah. In order to fuel these travels of hers. But, Anders, I know that you have not seen this movie.

WRIGHT: No.

CAVANAUGH: Are you staying away…

ACCOMANDO: Lucky.

CAVANAUGH: …for a reason?

WRIGHT: I’ll be very honest. I am not. In fact, the evening that it was screening for press, my mother-in-law was flying into town. My wife was out of town. So, in fact, in dealing with all of the women in my own life, I was unable to deal with this particular film.

MARKS: Wish I had a mother-in-law.

WRIGHT: Well… You know, though, I – I – it’s – The thing that’s interesting to me is that, you know, we call this sort of the end of the summer blockbuster season but I don’t really know that I would call it a blockbuster at all. It also – It made about $20 million…

ACCOMANDO: Right.

WRIGHT: …over the weekend. It didn’t do huge money.

MARKS: But if it made $60 million, would you call it a blockbuster then?

WRIGHT: I don’t know. I mean, I guess what I feel like is when you look at this movie on the surface, when you watch the trailer, it doesn’t really look that appealing. It looks very sort of superficial. And I feel like, you know, this…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, but look at “Sex and the City.”

WRIGHT: Yeah, but, you know what…

ACCOMANDO: That’s so superficial and it didn’t…

WRIGHT: Yeah, but “Sex and the City 2,” this last one, made twice as much money overseas than it did here. And it made money but it didn’t make…

MARKS: That’s par for entertainment.

WRIGHT: …that much money and you really felt like when people saw it, you know, I mean, I think we’re sort of learning like women as an audience are not suckers.

CAVANAUGH: Right.

WRIGHT: And you – they want things that are smart and…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, well, wait, wait, wait. Maybe don’t go that far because there was a good chunk of the audience for “Expendables” that actually turned out to be female. And so…

WRIGHT: Sure. Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

ACCOMANDO: …and not that that was smart film but, I mean, I don’t think there…

WRIGHT: But – but my…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

WRIGHT: But my point actually is that that’s, in fact, a movie that you would not expect women to go to or that the studios would not expect women to go to.

ACCOMANDO: Didn’t they learn anything from “300?”

WRIGHT: And, well, I mean, my point is this, is that you’re – you’ve actually hit it, is that you – they’re trying to pigeonhole women as an audience into these movies, the “Sex and the City” movies, the “Eat, Pray, Love” movies when, really, it’s like no one wants to be pigeonholed into what they’re supposed to see.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, let me…

MARKS: Yeah, but “Sex and the City” made a ton of money.

ACCOMANDO: The first one made a ton.

WRIGHT: The first one did.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

WRIGHT: And by all accounts, the people who were fans of the show liked the movie. The second one was a terrible movie.

CAVANAUGH: “Eat, Pray, Love,” is one of the reasons whether you like or dislike this movie hanging on the fact of whether you like or dislike Julia Roberts, Scott?

MARKS: No, because I actually like Julia Roberts. I mean, I think she’s handed in some terrific performances. She’s a movie star who occasionally can act. I just don’t think she brings anything to this character.

ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean…

MARKS: There’s nothing there aside from the grin.

ACCOMANDO: And the script is bad, too. I mean, it’s not just that it’s hard to buy her in this part, it’s just all around…

MARKS: It’s so didactic.

ACCOMANDO: …the film…

MARKS: Eat Rome, pray India, love Bali.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm. Yeah, I know.

ACCOMANDO: And you don’t get any food in India and you don’t get any…

MARKS: No.

ACCOMANDO: It’s like suddenly all the food is…

MARKS: By the time you get to Bali, you’re praying.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: Everything in this film—and you’re going to hear this when I talk about another film today—close-up, close-up, close-up, close-up, except when they want to pull the travelogue in then they pull the camera back. But anytime someone talks, close-up, close-up, close-up, close-up.

CAVANAUGH: Well, that gets to the direction and, of course, we have as the director of this movie…

MARKS: He’s a TV…

CAVANAUGH: …Ryan Murphy of “Glee” fame, does it…

MARKS: Yeah, wow. Wow. A TV director. We all know – you know, I should’ve checked the specs. I probably wouldn’t have gone if I saw it was a TV director. It’s a horribly directed film, and it’s a badly scripted film. But there are certain messages in this film that I would rather people concentrate on than misogynistic comic books or watching people blow each other up. But even when you think about the spiritual message in this film, it’s all pro-consumerism. So it – it – it’s a…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, the spirituality in India is so fake. We get – I’m going to…

MARKS: She touches an elephant.

ACCOMANDO: She – she washes the floor to get in touch with your spirituality…

MARKS: Oh, that was wonderful.

ACCOMANDO: …while people outside are starving?

MARKS: Ohh…

ACCOMANDO: I mean, it’s so superficial.

CAVANAUGH: So, okay, I know – And, in fact, I did see this movie advertised satirically as “Eat, Pray, Love, Shop.” But shouldn’t people – Let me get your feeling on this. Spend an evening, pluck their money down, go into the theater and see this, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: No.

CAVANAUGH: And…

ACCOMANDO: No, I don’t want to see money go to this movie.

MARKS: As opposed to what?

ACCOMANDO: I don’t…

MARKS: As opposed to certain other films, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MARKS: But for the – no. No. I mean, but they’re not – People who want to see this film are not going to go see “Cairo Time…”

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: …or they’re not going to go see something with subtitles. I mean, it’s bad enough that “Eat, Pray, Love” has a couple of subtitles in there.

WRIGHT: So you’re saying it’s “Eat, Pray, Save Your Money?”

MARKS: I didn’t hate it. I mean, I think it’s about – I would rather see this than “The Expendables.” So…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, God, no.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. We’re going to talk about “The Expendables” later in the show. And, of course, Anders has that mother-in-law excuse that he – Okay. “Eat, Pray, Love” is playing everywhere and will be apparently for quite some time. Next movie is what Scott mentioned “Cairo Time,” another movie about a foreign getaway. Long-time married couple, Americans Juliette and Mark, plan to meet each other in Egypt for a much-anticipated vacation but Mark, an official with the United Nations, is held up on business in Gaza. Knowing that Juliette will be bored waiting in a hotel in Cairo, Mark sends his security guard, Tareq, to make sure he is okay (sic). With Tareq, Juliette begins to learn about the ancient city of Cairo and to learn things she never knew about herself. Anders, okay, so “Cairo Time,” “Eat, Pray, Love,” you can’t really contrast them but what is the biggest selling point of “Cairo Time?”

WRIGHT: Ah. The biggest selling point, I mean, there’s a couple things. Number one is Patricia Clarkson, who is always so great, and she’s so great in this, too, doing something that’s kind of off from what we’re used to seeing her do lately. I also like Alexander Siddig, who is just – he’s charismatic and interesting and funny. And it’s nicely shot and Cairo looks great. You know, it actually – it’s a small movie but the two of them have – I mean, chemistry is the wrong word for it, you really just see these two sort of kind of come together in a way that’s very friendly and very easy and you just feel as though it’s two grownups who are slightly attracted to each other who spend a lot of time together.

CAVANAUGH: And how does this compare, Beth, to “Eat, Pray, Love” in your mind?

ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean, I think…

MARKS: Could be the silliest question you ever asked, Maureen, and…

ACCOMANDO: Well, no…

MARKS: …that’s easy.

ACCOMANDO: I mean, it’s far superior but, I mean, it’s similar in the sense that it’s focusing on a woman who may feel, in less of a degree than Julia Roberts’ character, but feels a little bit trapped or unhappy or dissatisfied on a certain level but, to me, “Cairo Time” is more about things that don’t happen and don’t get to happen because part of it is about, you know, these people come together but they’re very timid kind of about admitting their affection or admitting what they’re feeling and by the time they get to a point where maybe they could, things kind of happen that get in their way. So it seems to me more about the stuff that doesn’t go on. But it’s much more focused on the characters and on developing them and giving them some depth so that you get to the point where you really care about them. I mean, I never felt I cared about any of the characters in “Eat, Pray, Love.” I could care less what happened to them.

MARKS: Oh, we forgot – Yeah, Richard…

ACCOMANDO: What?

MARKS: …Jenkins. Oh, we forgot to…

ACCOMANDO: Oh.

MARKS: There’s five minutes of “Eat, Pray, Love” that make it worth seeing.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, it does.

MARKS: Richard Jenkins, he has a scene on the rooftop that is the best bit of acting I’ve seen all year, and I don’t know that you can argue that.

ACCOMANDO: No, no, no, he was good.

MARKS: He is phenomenal.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

ACCOMANDO: He’s like – he’s the only like dose of reality, like little grain…

MARKS: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: …of reality you get in that film.

MARKS: But I digress. I’m sorry. But that – that – when you said that, that just came to my mind. I forgot what we – I forgot we – to mention him because he is phenomenal.

CAVANAUGH: Important to put that in.

MARKS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: But you’re a fan of Clarkson as well, Patricia Clarkson’s style.

MARKS: Yeah, no, she’s a terrific actress.

ACCOMANDO: She’s good.

MARKS: My problem with this film is that I think the script tips a little – a couple of things. Her name is Juliette and when they meet, the woman, oh, Romeo and Juliette. And then you have the other woman who said, well, my husband was here and I fell in love with his security guard. This stuff is way too heavy-handed, especially from a film that is so eager to show us and not tell us. There are wonderful moments in this film. When you see the guy playing golf with the great pyramids in the background.

ACCOMANDO: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, those…

MARKS: Where, I mean, they completely reduce the great pyramids to a tourist trap. That was ingenious. I thought that was very clever. And I love when she just pulls her chair out on the balcony…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: …and sits and watches life. Beautifully photographed, great use of cinemascope.

CAVANAUGH: It’s sort of a…

MARKS: I mean, a nice balanced frame.

CAVANAUGH: …a lovely postcard of Cairo.

WRIGHT: You know, you know, what else I like about it is that it’s – the humor is very just ingrained in it and the moments that are funny are very casual and also very, very funny.

MARKS: Yeah.

WRIGHT: Because it’s just about – it’s like someone making a very casual joke in conversation. It’s sort of like in real life. And it absolutely – There’s a moment where they’re walking along talking and the security guard, Tareq, is like – he’s talking about her husband, he’s like, Mark, that traitor. But in – but he’s joking and it’s terribly funny and it’s exactly the way someone would talk. I think the dialogue is generally okay.

MARKS: You’re right. You’re right.

WRIGHT: But the – I – I mean, I don’t really know that so much is tipped because there’s not that much that happens in this movie. And that’s kind of why I like it.

MARKS: But they do tip what does eventually happen.

WRIGHT: But, I think you can see it coming from – from – there’s only two people.

MARKS: True. Yeah.

WRIGHT: You know?

MARKS: True.

CAVANAUGH: Beth, what is the chemistry like between Clarkson and Alexander – what is his name?

ACCOMANDO: Siddig.

WRIGHT: Siddig, I believe.

CAVANAUGH: Siddig. Yes.

ACCOMANDO: Well, it’s like the film. It’s very subtle and quiet and kind of laid back. Nothing is forced or kind of, you know, shoved in your face, and you slowly really grow to like and care for these people and that’s what’s so nice about it. You really feel like you’ve come to know these characters as your friends. And there is a chemistry between them but it’s not like some hot, steamy chemistry like “Body Heat” or something like that. It’s more kind of along the lines of the old British film “Brief Encounter,” where it’s this kind of very…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, “Brief Encounter,” yes, yeah, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: You know, very low key…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: …subtle but quite charming and elegant. And I…

MARKS: And it ends just the way you’d want it to end.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: Which, to me, in this day and age is very, very hard to find.

CAVANAUGH: I have just a couple of questions more about “Cairo Time.” We have to take a short break. When we continue on the KPBS Film Club of the Air, we will talk about a dark comedy, French gangsters, and “The…

MARKS: “Expendables.”

CAVANAUGH: …Expendables.” Thank you.

ACCOMANDO: She had a drop in testosterone right there.

CAVANAUGH: I appreciate that. We’ll return in just a minute.


CAVANAUGH: Welcome back. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. This is the KPBS Film Club of the Air on These Days. My guests are Beth Accomando, Scott Marks and Anders Wright. And just – We’ve been talking about a film “Cairo Time,” starring Patricia Clarkson, and I just want to ask one last question of you all. There – Do either of you feel that this movie is just perhaps a little slow? A little bit meandering?

WRIGHT: It’s slow, absolutely, but, I mean, the reason I like it actually is that it sort of is slow. I mean, life is like that. People don’t often make the big snap decisions that we see in like “Eat, Pray, Love.” People spend time working things out and trying to figure out how they feel about situations that they’re in, and that’s what this film does quite well. But it is slow…

ACCOMANDO: Well, and…

WRIGHT: …and you have to get used to that pacing.

ACCOMANDO: And, I mean, I think the title alone, “Cairo Time,” it’s trying…

WRIGHT: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: …to tell you we’re putting you into some different time zone and things are not going to function exactly like they might somewhere else. And…

MARKS: But slow isn’t bad.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

MARKS: I mean, some films – I wish more films would take their time in unraveling their narrative and let us see the characters, how they react to their environment, how they exist. I mean, this is what makes the movie sometimes.

ACCOMANDO: Well, and especially when you have actors like that. I mean, Patricia Clarkson is not boring to watch at any point in time. I mean, you’re always engaged with what she’s doing. So, I mean, I never got bored.

CAVANAUGH: Great. Okay. “Cairo Time” opens on Friday at Landmark’s La Jolla Village Cinemas. Let us move now to “Life During Wartime.” It’s a kind of a sequel to Todd Solondz’s dark comedy “Happiness.” We meet the Jordan family ten years after the three sisters, Joy, Trish and Helen, had to contend with shocking revelations of pedophilia, suicide, sexual aberration and murder. But despite efforts at a fresh start with new men, new directions and new locales, the past haunts this family, sometimes literally. Anders, Todd Solondz has a very particular approach and voice in filmmaking. How would you describe his work as a director?

WRIGHT: Oh, God, I mean, it’s – that’s a – that’s challenging. But I guess I would say that when I look at his work, I basically feel as though what he’s trying to say is that every sort of average, ordinary life has something underneath it that the rest of us don’t see. His characters deal with things that are generally much bigger than what most of us deal with. As you said, like there’s pedophilia, there’s, you know, there’s really like hyper-sexual perversion, there’s, you know, dirty phone calls, there’s – there’s everything to it and it’s just below the surface. And all of his movies have been like that. And I – I think what he’s generally trying to say is that when you look at most people’s lives on the surface, you sort of get a sense of like, okay, everyone’s normal. But I think we all know that everyone’s life, you know, outside of the service is something that is different and unique than what the, you know, what everyone else sees. You know, every family’s dysfunctional, everyone is screwed up. I – That’s personally what I think, and I think he’s saying the same thing. At the same time, he goes much, much further with it in terms of what his characters are dealing with. And it’s really hard stuff to watch sometimes. Often, it’s very well acted. Sometimes it’s very well written. I didn’t think this film was particularly well directed at all but, yeah, I mean, what do you guys thing? I mean…

CAVANAUGH: Well, Beth…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah?

CAVANAUGH: …I wanted to ask you, you know, a lot has been made of the fact that there are lots of cringe-y scenes in Todd Solondz’s movie and in this movie, in particular, “Life During Wartime.” How would you describe that to someone who has perhaps not seen these movies?

ACCOMANDO: Well, I found there were less cringing moments in this one than in “Happiness” because this felt more to be about the aftermath kind of some of the more difficult things that were dealt with in “Happiness.” I mean, I think if you’ve never seen one of his films before, I mean, coming into them he creates something that is sort of – there’s a lot of artifice to his world. There’s – The people don’t talk like you would really talk in real life. But I think if you give it a chance and you let yourself fall into that world, it creates a reality of its own but it does, when you first watch it or you turn on one of his films and watch the first couple of scenes, there is this point of which you feel very put-off and distanced from it because these people feel a bit stilted or a bit artificial and their – the way they speak seems, you know, to have a lot of art…

WRIGHT: It’s not real.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: …it’s not real but once it gets going it creates its own reality and sticks to it. I mean, I’m willing to give films quite a lot in terms of a leap of faith so long as they, once they set up the rules and dynamics of their world, they stay to it, and I think he does. So I think it – he’s an acquired taste and I think what probably makes people most uncomfortable is not kind of the discomfort of some of the things he deals with but the fact that there are times when he can find humor in it as well because I think that’s – a lot of people find that very jarring, that you can have a film about pedophilia and still have jokes or humor within that context, can make people uncomfortable.

CAVANAUGH: Well, Todd, have you – I mean, Scott…

MARKS: Oh, gee, thanks, Maureen. Thanks.

CAVANAUGH: Scott, have you acquired a taste…

MARKS: Todd, because I haven’t been on this show long enough?

CAVANAUGH: Scott, have you acquired a taste for Todd Solondz?

MARKS: Absolutely not. I think this guy is a hack. This man has no conception how to structure his narrative. He is a terrible filmmaker. 40% of this film are reverse angles of people eating dinner and just talking. I find that so boring. I think he’s mean-spirited yet you would nev – Oh, come on. Who’s the guy that plays the Philip Seymour Hoffman character?

WRIGHT: Is it Michael Kenneth Williams?

MARKS: Okay…

ACCOMANDO: Yes.

MARKS: …they pick a black guy to play Philip Seymour Hoffman, now that’s suspension of disbelief. And what’s the first thing he says? I smoke crack. He has this whole big revelation. So since he’s black, we can make fun of the fact. We can take all the stereotypical things about blacks and put this into a little speech. I think Kevin Smith goofs on this guy. I think this guy is one of the worst filmmakers working today. And I think that this is just an abomination of cinema. This guy has spent a career wanting to be two things: Woody Allen and John Waters. He’s nowhere near a good enough writer to be Woody Allen and he’s not sick enough to be John Waters. He would never put into his film what John Waters did in the pre-code stuff. See his first film, “Fear, Anxiety & Depression.” He stars in it. Horrifying. I mean, it’s just – he wants to be Woody Allen. I mean, it’s down to the mannerisms, down to the vocal inflections, the dialogue. I just think that this guy has nothing to say. And this whole gimmick of – in “Palindromes,” what was there, eight women playing one character.

WRIGHT: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: I don’t know if there was eight but, yeah, multiple.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

MARKS: And then you have all the characters from “Happiness” now being played by different actors. At first I thought that this was a tribute to Buñuel’s “Obscure Object of Desire,” but in an interview with Todd Solondz he referenced the two Darrins in “Bewitched.” And, you know something, in Todd Solondz’s case, that makes a hell of a lot more sense to me than Buñuel.

WRIGHT: I mean, to me, the idea of, in both of those films, taking different actors to play the same parts, I mean, there’s something – If you take a step back, I think that’s an interesting idea. You’re really – I think what he’s really trying to say is that there’s something interchangeable about people and their problems and the things they deal with, but I don’t like the way he necessarily says it.

MARKS: It comes off as a gimmick and that’s my problem with him. This is his idea of originality and it’s just a gimmick. It’s a tacked-on gimmick. And I like a lot of people in this film.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, tell us…

MARKS: Man, it’s great…

WRIGHT: Yeah.

MARKS: …to see Paul Reubens.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s talk about the performances.

MARKS: Man, is it good seeing Paul Reubens there.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, Paul Reubens…

MARKS: He is just outstanding in this movie.

CAVANAUGH: …is in the movie. Who else did you like? Who else – what other performances, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: Well, I mean, I thought it was interesting the change from in “Happiness” the pedophile’s played by Dylan Baker, who’s this very kind of William H. Macy kind of looking – Well, he is – I mean, he’s…

WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: …this very kind of square-jaw, very typical All-American…

MARKS: He makes William Macy look like Stallone, you know.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, but in that film it was his kind of very unremarkableness and his ordinariness and his kind of All-American lookingness that made it so, I guess, I don’t know if you want to say uncomfortable or disturbing that he turns out to be the pedophile. And it’s that notion of, you know, when someone like that gets arrested people say like, oh, but he seemed like such a nice guy. But in this film, the character’s played by Ciarán Hands (sic), who has – who gives…

MARKS: (phonetically) Kieran.

ACCOMANDO: Ciarán, has a different kind of spin on that character and he seems – he seems a little more menacing and he seems – so I thought it was an interesting change in terms of the actors, in terms of not really finding someone who was the same to – in terms of tone and…

MARKS: But is this the way he would be if he had spent years as a pedophile and hardened – you know, doing hard time in prison?

ACCOMANDO: Could be.

MARKS: I mean, is that what Solondz was trying to say?

WRIGHT: Well, I think that’s sort of the idea. I mean, the idea is that these are all the same people…

CAVANAUGH: Right.

WRIGHT: …actors notwithstanding. The idea is that it’s the same people trying to pick up their lives ten years later. You know who – who I was – I mean, Allison Janney’s always great, too. She’s fun to see, and is it…

MARKS: I disagree with that. I think she – I am so tired of her schtick and this movie, it’s just one after another. It’s the same old, same old. She…

WRIGHT: Is it Michael Lerner, though? Who – who’s the…

CAVANAUGH: Yes. Michael Lerner as her lover.

MARKS: Michael Lerner.

WRIGHT: Michael Lerner and you love seeing him in anything and I guarantee you he never thought he was going to be having a sex scene at this stage of his career.

MARKS: No.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you all a question, though. There seems to be a theme in this movie about forgiveness and when someone can qualify for forgiveness and when someone grants forgiveness. Did that interest any of you watching this movie?

MARKS: I saw it in the production notes and, honest to God, I don’t see it in the movie.

ACCOMANDO: Oh, no, it’s in the movie. You may not like it, but it’s definitely in the movie. I mean, they raise a…

MARKS: But it’s – I don’t like the way it’s woven into the film.

ACCOMANDO: Okay, but it’s there.

MARKS: It’s so heavy-handed.

ACCOMANDO: But it’s definitely there.

MARKS: Yeah…

ACCOMANDO: But, I mean, I think it does raise interesting questions about forgiveness because if you start with forgiveness just on the simple level of, oh, like if I slapped you across the face, would you forgive me? Well, yeah, you know, no big deal. And then the son, the kid who’s writing his bar mitzvah speech, you know, he says, well, like what about terrorists and what about pedophiles? And so it does start to raise questions about, you know, what do you really mean by forgiveness and how much do you forgive and do…

WRIGHT: And how much can you forgive?

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, how much can you forgive and does forgiveness mean condoning what somebody’s done or condemning it and still forgiving it? So, I mean, I think it does raise interesting questions.

MARKS: Did you really believe that Allison Janney would come home after that date and describe in lurid, graphic detail how she – how aroused she was to a 12-year-old son? Oh, come on.

WRIGHT: But that’s Todd Solondz’s world.

ACCOMANDO: That’s part of – Yeah, that’s…

MARKS: You know something? Then pull us into it and not – don’t do it in a way that’s so obvious and it just – it doesn’t work. It didn’t click. There was nothing real about that.

WRIGHT: I – At the same time, I mean, that’s what he does. He creates these worlds where people do crazy stuff like that.

ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah. And especially in terms of dealing with things like sex and – and things that would normally be kind of taboo subjects. I mean, if you go back to “Happiness,” there’s the scene where Dylan Baker and his son talk about what it is that he’s done and that was pretty graphic and explicit and I think it worked well. I mean…

MARKS: “L.I.E.” and “Twelve and Holding,” they’ve made great films about pedophilia that are very, very funny…

ACCOMANDO: “Mysterious Skin” is better.

MARKS: Well, and that, too.

WRIGHT: Umm-hmm.

MARKS: Anything, yeah, those three are much better than anything Todd Solondz’s done.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you can move into Todd Solondz’s world and see if you like it. “Life During Wartime” is currently playing at Landmark’s Ken Cinema. It’s also currently On Demand.

WRIGHT: I would suggest actually, just to jump in, that if you are going to see it, see the first one – See “Happiness” first because…

MARKS: Yeah, you would almost have to.

WRIGHT: …because part of…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, it does…

WRIGHT: …a big part of this movie is what he’s trying to do ten years later with the same characters…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

WRIGHT: …and the same actors.

MARKS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Good suggestion. We move on. “Mesrine Killer Instinct” is the first of a two-part French film about real life gangster Jacques Mesrine. His career in crime flourished in the sixties and seventies and across two continents. We follow Mesrine from the start of his criminal life as a house thief in France to his media celebrity in Canada and beyond. Along the way, Mesrine acquires a Bonnie to his Clyde and a reputation for brutal violence. Scott, there are a lot of movies based on true stories of famous gangsters so does Jacques Mesrine rank in the area of Al Capone and Dillinger, do you think?

MARKS: What, the man himself?

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MARKS: Oh, sure. I thought you were talking about the movies. I would much rather watch Rod Steiger as Al Capone any day. This isn’t a bad film, it’s just – it’s kind of every cliché that you’ve ever seen about prisoners short of the gun being carved out of soap and the guard falling out of the tower once he was shot, this is just a compendium of clichés. But it’s a very entertaining compendium and Vincent Cassel is just – He’s great scum.

ACCOMANDO: He’s great.

WRIGHT: He’s good, yeah.

MARKS: He is great scum, yeah.

WRIGHT: He’s nas – he is a nasty piece of work.

MARKS: Yeah. Yeah.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Is – Beth, is Jacques Mesrine, is this character a compelling figure?

ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah, I mean, he’s interesting because he kind of keeps morphing through the film. You know, there’s a scene early on where they’re robbing a house and he’s – he kind of seems like, oh, he’s kind of smart. He – Instead of shooting these people who break in on them while they’re robbing the house, he kind of pretends to be a cop and he outsmarts them and you think, oh, okay, maybe this is the kind of gangster he’s going to turn out to be. But then later there’s a point at which he has a fight with his wife that’s really brutal and scary and so, I mean, he keeps kind of changing, you keep kind of seeing different aspects of his character and Vincent Cassel is just great. I mean, I think he’s thoroughly entertaining to watch on one level and he does get to kind of the – he makes him interesting and likeable on a certain level and yet he doesn’t ignore the fact that this guy is also, you know, totally reprehensible.

CAVANAUGH: Scum.

MARKS: Thank you. Thank you.

ACCOMANDO: Yes.

WRIGHT: You know what I think is interesting, too, I – he’s also – There are times in which he’s completely brilliant where he’s got great ideas.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, yeah.

WRIGHT: Where he acts quickly, things like that, and where he – they escape from prison. Other times where it’s just like what a stupid…

ACCOMANDO: Stupid…

WRIGHT: …thing to do. He doesn’t have a lot of great ideas. He improvises all the time. But there’s this great sequence where they’re driving through Arizona and they’re being chased by a ton of cops and…

ACCOMANDO: Yeah, there’s nowhere to go.

WRIGHT: …there’s nowhere to go and there’s a roadblock and he just – he finally just says end of the line and he pulls over and he puts up his hands. He’s got nothing to do. He’s – Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: But you – And, I mean, you see this huge line of the road, you know, or of the freeway, the st – the road, with I don’t know how many, 20, 30 cop cars, and it’s just one straight line. There’s nowhere to go.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: Nowhere to turn off the road. There’s nowhere for him to possibly speed up and outrun them and escape them and that was good.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, I was – This is the first part…

ACCOMANDO: Umm-hmm.

CAVANAUGH: …of a two-part biopic, as I said. Is two parts of this, is this, oh, dare I say it, overkill? Anders?

WRIGHT: You know, when the first one ends you’re kind of like, all right, I want to see the next one.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, really?

WRIGHT: Yeah, I was anyway. I mean…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, I do, yeah.

WRIGHT: …but I think it ends – But, you know, at the same time, it ends in a place where you’re sort of like, okay, this is the – this is the – the end of the first part of his career, his sort of – This is the – He’s on his way up here. And from what I’m given to understand, I haven’t seen the second one yet, that’s really sort of where he’s on top instead of sort of carving his way up there.

MARKS: He’s the Coco Chanel of sociopaths.

WRIGHT: Yeah, precisely. Yeah.

MARKS: Or is that redundant?

WRIGHT: I don’t know.

MARKS: Or Nazi love.

CAVANAUGH: Even though this was – sort of had a lot of clichés in it as far as you were concerned, are you looking forward to the second part?

MARKS: Yeah, I’ll see it, sure. I mean, am I…

WRIGHT: I mean, he’ll – he’s…

MARKS: …looking forward to it?

WRIGHT: Yeah.

MARKS: When it was over, it was like, gee, I can’t wait to see the sequel? No, I mean, it was like I liked it more than “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.” What was the name of the sequel to that?

ACCOMANDO/WRIGHT: “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

MARKS: Okay. It seems that both films are more interested in old school Hollywood clichés. “Girl Who Played With Fire” is just all about police procedure.

WRIGHT: Umm-hmm. Yeah.

MARKS: It’s like watching Fritz Lang’s “The Big Heat,” you know? And this one is just all the prison clichés. So we didn’t have time to talk about it but if you want to see a much better gangster film, “Animal Kingdom.”

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

MARKS: Marlon Perkins has never been better. No. It’s an Australian version of “Goodfellas.”

WRIGHT: Well, and it’s a totally different take on the…

MARKS: Yeah.

WRIGHT: …whole genre and it opens on Friday.

MARKS: Yes.

WRIGHT: Yes.

CAVANAUGH: Just a few more minutes on this film, though. What about the action sequences? They pull you in, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: Well, I – One of the scenes I really liked was when they do the prison escape because it was kind of very low key and I don’t think there was even any music going on during it but it was almost – you kind of feel like, really? That’s how they’re going to break out? That seems so simple. How are they going to put – But it actually builds a lot of tension and I thought it was very nicely handled. But I think there are also a couple of – there’s not actually like a lot of violent scenes but the – there’s a few of them and what I liked about them is they tend to be very – they tended to be very kind of close quarters and intimate kind of violence that is really disturbing. It’s not this shooting up people from across the room and you don’t see blood and nobody seems to, you know, actually suffer from anything. I mean, it was – To commit these acts of violence you realize that this guy had to be ruthless and cold-blooded, and I think it had a greater impact because of that.

WRIGHT: There’s a scene very early on when he’s a young man and he’s serving in Algeria and he’s told to shoot somebody, a prisoner. And it’s the one time where you see him hesitate in committing an act of violence, and I think the idea there is that this sort of what drove that out of him. You know, if he can do it under these circumstances, he decides he can do it anytime, anywhere without a problem.

CAVANAUGH: How does this stack up against an American gangster film? I know it pulls images from American films but where does that – where does it rank?

ACCOMANDO: And from French films, too. I mean, it – it – you know, it draws on a tradition of French gangster pictures as well.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: You know, films with Jean Gabin and, you know, Ventura and…

MARKS: “Borsalino,” yeah, there you go. Saw that on a double bill of “Five Card Stud.” That’s one of the dumbest double bills with Dean Mar – a western with – Never forget that double bill.

CAVANAUGH: I gotta ask you finally, what are your favorite gangster films?

ACCOMANDO: Oh, man, that’s hard.

MARKS: “Scarface,” the original.

ACCOMANDO: And “Public Enemy.”

CAVANAUGH: The original.

MARKS: Hands down.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

ACCOMANDO: “Public Enemy,” and the “Godfather.”

WRIGHT: Yeah, you always look at the “Godfather.”

MARKS: Yeah.

WRIGHT: I mean, one that I always want to throw out there is…

ACCOMANDO: “Goodfellas.”

WRIGHT: …I like “Miller’s Crossing.”

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

MARKS: “Casino.”

ACCOMANDO: Yeah. “Goodfellas,” yeah. There’s a lot.

MARKS: “Mean Streets,” who’s that knocking by…

ACCOMANDO: Oh.

MARKS: Let’s get all of his in there, yeah. Yeah. Oh, the “Godfather.” You know…

ACCOMANDO: The original…

MARKS: …but the original “Scarface,” to me, is still…

ACCOMANDO: The original “Scarface” is great.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MARKS: And also the von Sternberg “Docks of New York,” which is actually coming – it’s a silent film. It’s coming out on, I think, Criterion or Eclipse set. They’re doing a silent von Sternberg series. Great mov…

CAVANAUGH: Is that one of the first gangster movies?

MARKS: Yeah, that and he also did a film called “Underworld,” which are like precursors, you know, pre-film noir, pre-World War II.

ACCOMANDO: And then there’s Asian gangster films, too, like “Election” and “Vengeance.”

MARKS: “Bullet In the Head.”

ACCOMANDO: Johnnie To – Johnnie To ones.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I tell you, here’s one that enters, I don’t know if that category, the category of gangster movies. It’s “Mesrine Killer Instinct.” It’s part one of a two-part French film. Opens on Friday, August 27th at Landmark’s Hillcrest Cinemas.

MARKS: What’s your favorite gangster film, Maureen?

CAVANAUGH: You know, I think I have so many of them.

MARKS: “Home Alone?” No.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you.

MARKS: I’m so bad today.

CAVANAUGH: I’m getting that because of that wolfman thing I said two weeks ago.

MARKS: Oh…

CAVANAUGH: No, I’m thinking – I – I love “Public Enemy” but I have a soft spot for the “Roaring Twenties.” I love that movie.

MARKS: That’s a great film.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, umm-hmm, yeah.

MARKS: Ought to turn sixteen.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

MARKS: Ah, that’s a great movie.

CAVANAUGH: We’re moving on, and I remember the name of the film we’re going to talk about next. It’s called “The Expendables.” And we’ll be back as These Days continues here on KPBS.


CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. It’s the KPBS Film Club of the Air. Beth Accomando, Scott Marks and Anders Wright are my guests. And we are moving on to “The Expendables.” Action stars past and present combine their efforts in this big budget summer movie. The – It revolves around a group of mercenaries led by Sylvester Stallone. He is commissioned to kill the dictator of a South American Island. On reconnaissance missions before the hit, Stallone and his crew meet a beautiful rebel leader, Sandra, and learn the true nature of the conflict. The crew escapes from the island but Sandra is left behind and now the Expendables must choose whether to risk their lives for something more than money. In this scene, Sylvester Stallone is giving girl advice to Jason Stratham’s character whose name is Christmas. Let’s listen.

(audio clip from the film “The Expendables”)

CAVANAUGH: And that is from “The Expendables.” Has Sylvester Stallone always sounded like that?

ACCOMANDO: Oh, yeah.

MARKS: Of course.

WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah.

MARKS: Didn’t you see the Rocky films? Of course.

ACCOMANDO: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: I must’ve forgotten.

ACCOMANDO: He’s always had kind of that…

MARKS: You’re thinking of Frank Stallone. He’s a much better public speaker. And a singer, what a hell of a singer, too.

WRIGHT: You know – You know what’s funny. I mean, there’s so much that’s ridiculous about this movie but you said there, it’s a South American island. Actually, what they say early on is it’s an…

WRIGHT/ACCOMANDO: …island in the Gulf…

WRIGHT: The Gulf of what?

ACCOMANDO: What?

WRIGHT: What are you talking about? Where is this place?

ACCOMANDO: I mean, they want to somehow connect it to Cuba but not really because…

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: …it’s Latin America and it’s really more like Noriega. It’s like – It was ridiculous. It was a made-up country. It was hilarious.

CAVANAUGH: Now, we’re laughing, okay. Is this film a good time, Beth?

ACCOMANDO: I had a good time. It’s big, dumb and fun, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. I mean, to me, it’s like dating a dumb jock. It’s like you don’t expect sparkling conversation but if some jerk bothers you, you expect that you have somebody who’s going to kick his ass.

MARKS: Yeah, but the sex is terrible.

ACCOMANDO: Not always.

CAVANAUGH: We’re talking about a movie, right?

MARKS: In this film it was. In this film it sure was.

ACCOMANDO: There was no sex in this film.

MARKS: That’s why it was terrible.

CAVANAUGH: Anders, did you like it?

WRIGHT: I, you know, I mean, it’s a fairly standard action movie but it’s R-rated so the violence is so absolutely over…

WRIGHT/ACCOMANDO: …the top.

WRIGHT: I mean, it is one of these things where it’s like if you want to see torsos literally just vaporize under giant guns, this is your movie, no doubt.

ACCOMANDO: Terry Crews.

WRIGHT: Yeah. And everyone has ridiculous names like Toll Road or…

WRIGHT/ACCOMANDO: …Hale Caesar.

WRIGHT: Or – you know, I mean, it is exactly…

ACCOMANDO: Yin Yang (sic).

WRIGHT: …what it is. It makes very little sense most of the time. One of my favorite moments here is where so Jason Statham and Sylvester Stallone go to scout out this island, as you said, which has a couple hundred soldiers on it. They get caught. They fight, and they kill probably 60 guys and they leave and they’re like, there’s no way we can take that island. And it’s like, well, why? You just killed half the bad guys there. Like what would possibly prevent you from doing it? And when they do finally decide to go there, there’s no plan at all. It’s just like, let’s go blow…

WRIGHT/ACCOMANDO: …everything up…

WRIGHT: …and everyone use your special skill to do whatever it is. That means if you’re Jet Li…

MARKS: It’s…

WRIGHT: …you kick guys, if you’re Randy Couture, you wrestle with them, if you’re Terry Crews, you banter…

ACCOMANDO: No, no, no, you use that big, huge gun…

WRIGHT: A giant gun.

ACCOMANDO: …that just blows people away.

WRIGHT: Yeah. Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: And blows – I mean, the gun can actually blow down a – knock out a guard tower.

WRIGHT: There’s – It’s just one of these things where it’s just so big and violent and makes so little sense that I…

ACCOMANDO: Big, dumb and fun.

CAVANAUGH: Now did…

MARKS: No.

CAVANAUGH: No. No.

MARKS: No, no. No-no-no-no-no. When people are telling me that the big – the main virtue of this film is how dumb it is – If you set out to make a stupid film, then this is the greatest movie ever made. Stallone succeeded splendidly. This thing is so badly made. It’s like jazz, let’s bring in these two instruments, we’ll bring in these two bad guys, they’ll fight a scene, let them sit it out, then we’ll bring in the other two. The only reason for seeing this film was Dolph Lundgren in the Telly Savalas role.

WRIGHT: Are you comparing this movie to jazz? That’s really the…

MARKS: Believe me, I wanted to say another word but they’re not going to allow me to do it on the air so I cut that out. But I think, you know, and Stallone has entertained me as a director in the past. I think “Paradise Alley” is a terrific film. Anders and I were talking, that five-minute xenophobic slaughter in the last “Rambo” film, astounding, bayoneted babies, just whatever – I mean, it just – it’s nonstop.

WRIGHT: But it actually played into the story somehow.

MARKS: Yeah.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

MARKS: This film is just – it’s so stupid. It’s badly made. There are – The action scenes are so rapidly edited you can’t even figure out what the hell is going on.

ACCOMANDO: No, I think – I do think the action could’ve been shot a lot better, especially when you’ve got someone like Jet Li, and Cory Yuen did the stunt choreography for him. You know, it’s like watching Gene Kelly do a dance. Just put the camera on a tripod and stand back and watch how good he is. You don’t need to chop it up.

WRIGHT: But so much of the violence is CGI, too. I mean, there’s so much. There’s so many like bodies and limbs and heads exploding.

ACCOMANDO: But not the stuff with Jet Li.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: And, I mean, you have somebody there who has a particular skill and they should’ve – they should’ve let him go.

CAVANAUGH: What’s a…

MARKS: No, but instead they had him make short jokes. I am really getting tired of Jet Li. The guy has no sense of humor and I can’t – Jackie Chan—and I know they went to Jackie Chan before this but he was working on “Karate Kid 2” and you sure didn’t want to get away from that. And they invited him to do this.

WRIGHT: Well, but I also think you’ve got all these guys, for the most part, who are past their prime. I mean, they don’t do it the same way. And it’s a movie…

MARKS: Play with that then.

WRIGHT: Right, but I don’t disagree with you but it’s also a movie where it’s supposed to be about all these crazy guys bantering all the time, and these are not guys who are good at banter.

MARKS: Dolph Lundgren isn’t good at banter?

WRIGHT: I mean…

MARKS: Astonishing. He’s the funniest thing in this movie. He is…

CAVANAUGH: What about the allure of seeing these sort of over-the-hill action characters…

ACCOMANDO: It was great to see them put all in the same – I mean, I would’ve been happier if they added Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal.

WRIGHT: But…

MARKS: And Mr. T.

WRIGHT: But, you know, they – they…

ACCOMANDO: Mr. T.

WRIGHT: …went to those guys.

ACCOMANDO: They did.

WRIGHT: Yeah, and, I mean, John…

ACCOMANDO: Well, then they had – everybody had…

MARKS: Isn’t Seagal working with DeNiro now?

WRIGHT: J-CVD – Yeah, J-CVD basically said that Stallone went to him and said we’re put – you know, we’re bringing the band back together, you’re going to make a ton of money and, you know, J-CVD, who has been making like straight-to-video moneymakers for awhile was just like that doesn’t sound like I have a character. I won’t have anything to do with this.

ACCOMANDO: Well, he’s – after the…

WRIGHT: “JCVD”…

ACCOMANDO: …film, I mean, he felt…

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: …like I’m on the road to serious acting.

MARKS: Yeah, sure.

ACCOMANDO: I don’t want to backtrack.

WRIGHT: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: And then Steven Seagal, I heard, had issues with the producer.

MARKS: Steven Seagal can’t lift his leg to kick anyone anymore. That’s why he’s not in. He’s drinking his energy drink.

WRIGHT: Do you know who looked like he couldn’t lift his leg at all in this movie was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He basically – his one scene…

ACCOMANDO: Oh, he looked CGI’d.

MARKS: Yeah. Let’s talk about this thing. Go ahead.

WRIGHT: He was – his one scene, he’s supposed to walk down a – walk down the, you know, the…

ACCOMANDO: Church aisle.

WRIGHT: …a church aisle and he basically looked like he couldn’t make it.

MARKS: Yeah.

ACCOMANDO: And he looked like he was CGI’d, like the effect they have for Jeff Bridges in “Tron” where he’s been using…

WRIGHT: He looked very unhealthy.

ACCOMANDO: And they did…

MARKS: Obviously, this scene was written well after the fact. They probably put in a call and said, hey, will you do it as a – It’ll take a one-day shoot, and he said yeah. There is no function at all in the film for this scene. There’s no need for it other than the fact that they wanted to get Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the…

ACCOMANDO: Well, there is the -- the, you know, the pretense that this is the guy who hires them.

MARKS: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: We gotta move on to your picks for the week. But one more question, Scott, I know that you – Beth and Anders kind of think this is a fun ride, this “Expendable” movie. Am I right about that?

WRIGHT: I mean, it is exactly what it is. I – I – I certain – you know, I…

ACCOMANDO: It doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

WRIGHT: Yeah, I – I mean, I’d be lying if I told you I really liked it. I didn’t.

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

WRIGHT: It’s just a giant violent like bloodfest and there is a place for those things. It’s not well made. It’s not well acted. It’s very, very dumb.

MARKS: You want to see a good reunion picture, go rent “Original Gangsters.” That’s a much better film and they bring back all the great black action heroes from the seventies and eighties and that’s a very, very well made film.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, you kind – you like – you know, a movie can be bad enough for you to like it, Scott. Is this one?

MARKS: Are you kidding? “The Babe Ruth Story?” “Hot Rods to Hell?” “The Oscar?” Of course.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly.

MARKS: Sure. This doesn’t even come close.

CAVANAUGH: This doesn’t come close.

WRIGHT: And – and I think the idea, though, it’s a throwback to the eighties action films and they literally don’t make movies like that anymore. I mean, and there’s a reason for that. So…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, “The Expendables.” There it is.

MARKS: It sure is.

CAVANAUGH: It’s currently playing in area theaters. Now we move on to our pick of the week. And let’s, Scott, start with you. Scott, what’ve you got for us?

MARKS: Big Lots. My buddy John Dacapias with the San Diego Asian Film Foundation found out that Big Lots sells brand new DVDs in the shrink wrap for like three bucks, three to six bucks. I found Hosho Shin (sp) there, I found Godard, I found Herzog. I found Bob Hope. I found Jerry Lewis. I mean, everything is there. Now I could’ve told you about this three, four months ago but I waited until I made sure that I cleaned out every Big Lots in town. I have what I want. Now go there. And every Big Lots has them and they’re all dirt cheap and they’re brand new.

CAVANAUGH: And so the quality, so you…

ACCOMANDO: Because the DVD is dead.

CAVANAUGH: …you put them in and they…

MARKS: They’re brand new DVDs.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

MARKS: Yeah. Well, some of us still like package art. Some of us don’t want…

ACCOMANDO: No, no, no, but…

MARKS: …to have the name of a movie written on the CD in a Sharpie. This is Anders’ modus operandi.

ACCOMANDO: No, but I mean…

MARKS: I got Anders and a scrawl on there. What the hell’s the name of this movie?

ACCOMANDO: The DVD’s going to be a dead format. I mean, they’re not really investing in it.

WRIGHT: But if I could give you a flash drive, that’d be much easier.

MARKS: I want to – Oh, thank you. Thank you, yeah.

CAVANAUGH: What…

MARKS: So that’s a great place and also they have very cheap detergent and tube socks. So, you know, you really can’t go wrong. It’s a mecca for me.

CAVANAUGH: Big Lots is Scott’s recommendation for the week. Beth, what is yours?

ACCOMANDO: A French zombie film called “Le Horde.” It’s available on On Demand at IFC. And I love zombie films but what I find interesting – I’ve always found interesting the way pop culture films, pop entertainment films, like horror films and action films, the way the violence tends to be very reflective of the culture it comes from. And for me, films like “Le Horde” and “District B13,” the way the violence comes out in these films is reflecting what France, I think, is going through right now, which is a lot of racial tension that’s erupting in some riots, and I think if you watch these films, I think you can’t help but think of some of what’s going on. And what’s interesting in this film is it’s basically a revenge story. It’s cops going out after gangsters to kill them because they’ve killed a cop, and zombies kind of get in the way but the zombies don’t get completely in the way. I mean, the violence between the cops and the gangsters continues and violence between the cops themselves and between the gangsters themselves. And, to me, it’s kind of this notion of the – Shakespeare’s notion of, you know, we but teach bloody instructions. It’s like there’s so much violence going on that these zombies almost feel like, well, human race…

CAVANAUGH: We’re at home.

ACCOMANDO: …this is what you deserve, you know. But that…

MARKS: Is this an older film?

ACCOMANDO: It’s 2009.

CAVANAUGH: And what’s the name again?

ACCOMANDO: “Le Horde.”

MARKS: What’s the French zombie film that came out about four or five years ago and it’s really, really good. With – About old people becoming zombies.

ACCOMANDO: Old people becoming – I don’t remember.

MARKS: You don’t remember a zombie film.

ACCOMANDO: I don’t remember the old…

MARKS: Aww, the…

ACCOMANDO: Sorry.

MARKS: Okay.

CAVANAUGH: Anders, recommendation.

WRIGHT: All right, I’ve got – I’m going to bang through these.

CAVANAUGH: Okay.

WRIGHT: Number one, the Maya Independent Film Series, which runs 8/27 to 9/2 at the Gaslamp 15. That’s six different independent films and they’re running all week. Number two, speaking of twos.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

WRIGHT: It’s a thing called “2 Everything 2 Terrible 2: Tokyo Drift.” It’s a collection of found footage festivals, usually like old VHS dubs, and they’ll be playing at the Che Café on August 27th. Number three, the Black Light Festival. This is a one-night only short, horribly, horribly gory, gnarly films. That’s playing at the Birch North Park Theatre on…

CAVANAUGH: Beth is very interested.

WRIGHT: Yeah, yeah. You know this one, yeah.

ACCOMANDO: You called it the Black – I thought it was the Black List.

WRIGHT: Black List, I wrote – Yeah, you’re right. I said Black…

ACCOMANDO: Black List Art and Film Festival.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

WRIGHT: Yes, that’s exactly what it is. It’s not Black Light at all, Black List, yes.

ACCOMANDO: I was going, wow, day-glo colors and all.

WRIGHT: Wow, yeah, that’s on August 28th at the Birch North Park. And, lastly, there’s a film that I personally like a lot called “Cemetery Junction.” It’s made by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the guys who did the original “Office” on the BBC and did “Extras.” They’re terrific writers. It never really saw the inside of a theater here in the States but it’s sort of like a Nick Hornby novel, kind of a coming of age story in a small town and trying to get out in the seventies and eighties. And these guys are funny and they’ve really sort of pioneered that kind of theater of the awkward stuff. But when they do it in Britain, it’s so – it’s so cringe-worthy and painful and awful but real, too. It feels so, so real, and I just – When these guys team up and they do it in Britain, it’s terrific and this one comes out on DVD today.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you. Thank you all. Beth Accomando, Scott Marks, Anders Wright, thank you all as we cram out the door and go to Big Lots. I want everybody to know that they can comment on this Film Club of the Air online, KPBS.org/thesedays. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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