There's just something inherently great about old people with guns. Normally I try to stay away from our societal elders lest they suck me into a conversation attempting to regale me with their dreaded wisdom and accrued-over-a-lifetime experience. But if you give an old person a gun, something magical happens: I start to pay attention. Granted, anyone with a gun is going to be worth paying attention to, but an old person with a gun is just a treasure. It's almost priceless when they turn out to be badasses that kick the crap out of a bunch of young whippersnappers.
Such a simple fact is really the only reason RED exists as a movie: It was an excuse to combine a handful of older celebrities with a truckload of firepower. Brilliant. (It doesn't hurt that that movie actually turned out to be pretty rad, a sort of "Why weren't all of the summer action movies this fun?" kind of flick.)
So in honor of RED's Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich, here is a list of their peers -- and in several cases, elders -- who have proven that they know just about as much about the AARP as they do the NRA.
[Note: For the purposes of this list, only people who are still alive and could thus actually be members of the AARP have been included.]
Kris Kristofferson, born 1936
Kris Kristofferson has shown throughout his career that he can beat the hell out of a lot of people regardless of age (hell, sometimes he doesn't even limit is geriatric rage to humans, as evidenced by him leading the resistance in Planet of the Apes), but it's his role as Whistler in the Blade series that fits in nicely with the RED mantra. The man oozes badass in it by making his own custom guns and dealing out death to vampires left and right without a single shred of remorse. And this was back when vampires did way more than just sparkle and fight werewolves; I can't even imagine how glorious it would be to see Kristofferson's Whistler wander into the woods of Forks, Washington, or to stop off at a bar in Bon Temps, Louisiana, and wait for someone to order a Tru Blood.
Michael Gross, born 1947
As far as I'm concerned, Burt Gummer is a national hero who doesn't get the thanks he deserves. He was just some quiet, reserved, old right-winger who happened to be enjoying his retirement in the town of Perfection, Nevada, when a handful of Graboids decided to start coming up out of the ground and eating his friends. His exploits as a gunsmith, bomb maker and destroyer of all things Pre-Cambrian have been chronicled no less than three times in the documentary film series Tremors. (Yes, I realize that Tremors is not a documentary and that Burt Gummer is really actor Michael Gross; just please let me have this one.)
Clint Eastwood, born 1930 Here's another actor with a fistful of roles that could have landed him on this list, but for the sake of brevity we'll just focus on Clint Eastwood as Bill Munny in Unforgiven. In it he plays a retired gunslinger who is legendary not for his heroic acts but for being a cold-blooded mercenary. Like all old-timers, he just wants to live out his life on his small ranch, but he ends up getting dragged back in for one last assignment. And then what happens? A lot of people get shot in the heart. Judi Dench, born 1934 Okay, so Judi Dench's M in the James Bond series isn't exactly known for popping caps in a bunch of other spies, but don't let that lull you into thinking she's not dangerous. Hers is one of the few roles of its kind considering M actually gets meaner the older she gets. She may not always be on the frontlines, but she's still making decisions that result in the deaths of countless terrorists, which is alright in my book. Sam Elliott, born 1944 Sam Elliott, a man with one of the most distinctive voices in Hollywood, hasn't taken on a ton of action roles in his later years, but even when he is playing a Southern gentlemen, he does it with a kind of extreme confidence you only see from people who know how to throw down. There is one particular role, however, in which Elliott breaks from his softer side and shows why exactly he is such a badass: Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley in We Were Soldiers. In it he plays a Vietnam soldier whose idea of a pep talk is to say, "Col. Custer was a pussy." Old people don't get much more hardcore than that. Wilford Brimley, born 1934 Wilford Brimley is a killing machine. Yes, he's now the comforting old codger that sells your grandparents life insurance and fiber supplements on TV, but back in the day he was ruthless. You couldn't last a few days at a research station in the Arctic with a Thing running around without having Brimley lose his grip on reality, barricade himself in a science lab and start shooting at his friends. That's a special kind of crazy, and I love him for it. Mel Gibson, born 1956 Edge of Darkness is one of the most ass-kicking movies of the year, which is astounding considering this year also included a movie called Kick-Ass. It's all a testament to how intimidating Mel Gibson is when he's in full-on gruff mode. When most old people get like this, they're simply unpleasant to be around because of all the complaining. When Mel Gibson gets pissed off, though, he shoots people and then pours radiation down their throats. Liam Neeson, born 1952 I love Taken more than I love oxygen, and I need that stuff to live. That is predominantly due to how on-point Liam Neeson is when it comes to, well, dominating people. The man is built like an oak tree and looks perfectly at home whether he's traumatizing someone's trachea or shooting them in the back. He will do anything to get what he wants, including putting a round in the shoulder of an innocent wife just to make a point. Stephen Lang, born 1952 Say what you will about Avatar and how paper-thin the characters and story structure are, but there's no denying that Stephen Lang is great as Col. Quaritch. The man struts around an entire alien planet like he owns the place -- he doesn't even use a gas mask half the time because he can't be bothered by such trivial things as a poisonous atmosphere. He carries himself with a totally convincing ex-military air. And, best yet, he looks like he could break your spine just by shaking your hand. Estelle Getty, born 1923 Okay, I know I'm breaking my own rules by ending the list with a person who is sadly no longer with us, but I just have to give Estelle Getty a spot on here. She may not be as intimidating as some of her cohorts on this list. She may look tiny and frail. She may even be dead. None of that matters, though, because she starred in Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. That's the only title on this list that not only alludes to a character's edge but is an actual threat, to boot.
Though Garry Marshall hasn’t made a decent flick since 1990’s Pretty Woman he still apparently wields a not inconsiderable amount of clout in Hollywood. What else could explain the all-star ensemble of actors who gathered for Valentine’s Day? Among the major names found probing the turgid depths of the nearly 80-year-old director’s insipid rom-com are Julia Roberts Anne Hathaway Ashton Kutcher Jessica Alba Jamie Foxx Jessica Biel Taylor Lautner and various other prominent actors who either owe favors to Marshall or whose incriminating photos he holds in his possession.
A slice-of-life tale unfolding in Los Angeles over the course of a single Valentine’s Day the film chronicles the romantic adventures of a diverse cast of characters at various stages of relationships and encompassing virtually every conceivable demographic category. Their ages backgrounds and perspectives often dramatically differ but they each share one trait in common: Almost without exception they are all ceaselessly painfully disastrously unfunny.
Some temper their dishumor with a dose of the annoying like Kutcher whose dopey florist Marshall unwisely chose to anchor Valentine’s Day’s story around. Others add a dash of the preposterous like Roberts dressed in military fatigues in a laughable attempt to play a U.S. Army Captain on leave from the front. Still others add cloying sentiment to the mix like Bryce Robinson’s lovelorn 10-year-old whose grandparents played by Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo ply him with nostalgic romantic tips pre-fabricated for maximum inter-generational cuteness. Whatever your preferred method of cinematic torture may be you’ll undoubtedly encounter it in this film.
In addition to challenging the pain threshold Valentine’s Day offers a test of endurance as well its story requiring over two hours to satisfy the narrative demands of its swollen cast. If you didn’t despise Hallmark’s ersatz holiday before you certainly will after enduring this Bataan Death March of rom-coms.
Think Mean Girls meets High School Musical meets whatever other high school teen scenario you can think of. Here four teenage girls make up the Bratz contingency each come from different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds—just like the dolls they are based on. There’s Yasmin (Nathalia Ramos) a quiet Latina beauty with a great voice; Sasha (Logan Browning) the outgoing black cheerleader who loves to dance; Jade (Janel Parrish) a lovely Asian fashionista who also a wiz in chemistry; and Cloe (Skyler Shayne) the tall Caucasian blonde who despite being a klutz is a star on the soccer field. They’ve been best friends forever (or BFF as they lovingly refer to it) but once they hit high school they drift apart and into respective cliques organized by the narcissistic class president Meredith (Cheslea Staub). Still these BFF’s—who live for clothes make-up and hair products—won’t be pushed down. They’re gonna shake things up and prove it’s always best to just be yourself and stick together. You can’t really blame the unknown girls—each very cute in their own way—for wanting to bring the Bratz dolls to life. It’s a big deal! They get to sing and dance and wear all these cool clothes! They get to throw food in a cafeteria lunch fight! They get to serve sweets at Meredith’s Sweet 16 party dressed as clowns and still look fabulous! All the young girls in the audience will idolize them and wish they were a Brat too (perhaps to their parents’ chagrin). No it’s the adults in the movie you have to scratch your head about and ask “Do they really need the money that bad?” Character actors such as Lainie Kazan who plays Yasmin’s wise grandmother and Jon Voight as the inept high school principal and Meredith’s father just embarrass themselves over and over again—especially Voight who along with his mediocre appearance in Transformers has become the go-to guy to star in movies based on toys. And what’s with this latest trend to make live-action flicks based on toys? You can understand Transformers because they already had their own cartoon show and you know the movie would at least be action-packed full of cool visual effects. But a Bratz movie is a little too much. Even though it tries really hard to send positive messages there’s really nothing redeeming about turning little dolls—who frankly dress a little on the trashy side—into flesh-and-blood teenagers obsessed with how they look and dealing with high school politics. Bratz really only distinguishes itself from other Mean Girls-type movies because of the toy franchise. It would have been easier to take had it aired on the Disney Channel.
From the creators of the TNT miniseries Gettysburg including executive producer Ted Turner and writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell Gods chronicles the Civil War from its beginnings when the South rises up. Confederate General Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) a distinguished military man but also a loyal native Virginian chooses to fight for his home rather than his country while Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) a devoutly religious man becomes Lee's most trusted lieutenant. On the other side we have Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) a professor from Maine who ends up one of the Union's finest military leaders. In between there are glimpses of the wives and families left behind. Stories of this magnitude with their dramatic bloody battles and tragic endings usually leave you numb or crying for those lives lost and destroyed. Instead Gods and Generals holds no resonance whatsoever meticulously plotting out the details and making this decisive moment in American history interminable at three and a half hours. It's like wading through a textbook--or worse watching Civil War fanatics carefully reenact the famous battle scenes on the very ground they were fought over and over again--while the players stand around quoting long-winded verse from the Bible or Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Blech.
The actors in Gods and Generals must have honestly thought they were making something important when they signed up. Main players Lang (who played Major Gen. George Pickett in Gettysburg) and Daniels (who reprises his Gettysburg role as Chamberlain) have their moments but after hearing them recite one speech after another especially Lang's Jackson who says more prayers to God than anything else you start to wonder if they ever realized they made a mistake. (Or have we for sitting through it?) One of the more superfluous scenes is when Jackson and his black cook Jim played by Frankie Faison are standing outside in the freezing cold night for about 15 minutes both looking up at the stars and praying to God. It seems like the actors are trying to make such sermonizing poignant meaningful but all this pontification simply drags the movie further down. These speeches aren't just Lang's and Daniels' territory--Mira Sorvino as Chamberlain's wife and Kali Rocha as Jackson's wife get their own personal moments in the sun too. If you count the cast of thousands each with their own things to say well you get the point. Thankfully Duvall who is the only good thing about the movie gets to keep the talking to a minimum.
If you want to see a Civil War melodrama at its best where watching the heroes race through a sacked city makes you hold your breath and witnessing horrific hospital scenes makes you squirm then watch Gone With the Wind. If you want gut-wrenching Civil War battles or more understanding of how slaves truly felt then watch Glory. If you want a heartening history lesson about the Civil War that not only teaches you about the era's political machinations but also shares the insights and thoughts of the men and women who experienced it then watch Ken Burns' documentary series The Civil War. Gods and Generals offers none of that in its dry textbook version of the Civil War which uses the same shots are used over and over again (how many times does the camera pan up to the night sky or show the panoramic view of Fredericksburg Virginia? I lost count) features more actors waxing prophetic than real drama and actually makes you yawn during what should be intense battle scenes.