The Expendables 2

   Director: Simon West, Lionsgate, Rated MA, 103 mins

Following the success of ‘The Expendables’ in 2010, Sylvester Stallone returns as producer, co-writer and actor together with his band of “over the hill” action heroes in this high octane, rip-roaring and shoot-them up adventure movie that has plenty of laughs and is just great fun to watch.
The Expendables 2
   Besides reprising his role of Barney Ross (the leader of the pack), Stallone teams up again with Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road, Terry Crews as Hail Caesar, Jet Li as Yin Yang, new recruit Liam Hemsworth (Aussie actor in ‘The Hunger Games’) as Billy and newcomer Nan Yu as Maggie, assigned to the team by head honcho Church (Bruce Willis), not to mention the return of ‘The Terminator’ Arnold Schwarzenegger as Trench looking profoundly haggard and old.
   Somewhat similar to their first movie, the opening scenes show Stallone’s mercenaries in action again, this time rescuing a Chinese billionaire and a person tied up with a bag over his head who turns out to be Trench (Schwarzenegger), expressing his signature saying “I’m back.”
   While recovering from their latest operation Church manages to convince Barney to take on another mission - that of preventing the Russian mafia led by Vilain (‘Universal Soldier’s Jean-Claude Van Damme) from selling plutonium to the enemy.
   What ensues is an avalanche of shootings and explosions orchestrated by the aged mercenaries, ably assisted by martial arts maestro Chuck Norris (‘Walker-Texas Ranger’) as Booker – and of course Trench.
   The concluding scenes are a real blast and though the story is fanciful, there is still a lot to enjoy in this action movie where age is no barrier.

VIC'S VERDICT:         3 ½ Rubber Stamps


Wunderkinder

   Director: Markus Rosenmuller, Umbrella Entertainment, Rated M, 100 mins

This unsettling German movie from writer/director Markus Rosenmuller takes place in 1941 and focuses on the dramatic events prior to and after the German invasion of Ukraine (then under Soviet rule) particularly its impact on innocent children as seen through the eyes of the “wunderkinder” prodigies who live in the Ukrainian village of Poltavia.
Wunderkinder
   At a time of immense social discord (between the Germans and the Jews) and in the lead up to the German occupation, a wealthy German brewer Max (Kai Wiesinger) and his wife Helga (Catherine H.Flemming) arrange for music lessons to be given to their daughter Hanna (Mathilda Adamik) by two Jewish children, Abrascha (Erin Kolev) a gifted violinist and Larissa (Imogen Burrell) a talented pianist, together with their Jewish teacher Irina (Gudrun Landgrebe).
   However Helga disapproves of Hanna’s friendship with her Jewish friends, especially after Hitler breaks the pact with Stalin, resulting in the Soviet regime rounding up all German citizens. Ironically it is the prodigies’ parents who set up a safe haven for the Reich family.
   When the Germans take over the Ukrainian village and start arresting its Jewish inhabitants, Max attempts to reciprocate the generosity of his Jewish saviours, pleading with the culturally cruel SS commandant Schwartow (Konstantin Wecker) to save the lives of Abrascha and Larissa - to which Schwartow agrees on the condition they deliver a perfect public performance, forcing the Jewish children to literally play for their lives.
   Despite some anomalies and an unpredictable conclusion, Rosenmuller has delivered a highly emotive, heart rendering account of a Holocaust drama, dedicating his movie to the 1.5 million Jewish children who died during the Nazis reign of terror.
   Besides showing many acts of bravery and resistance shot against the Ukrainian settings, it is the child actors who are the major highlight in ‘Wunderkinder’ providing inspirational performances during one of history’s darkest hours.
VIC'S VERDICT:         4 Rubber Stamps

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