As 2014 winds down and we prepare ourselves for an action-packed 2015, I thought I’d talk about some of the highs and lows for the action genre and its biggest stars.
The action legends didn’t have the greatest year with most of their movies coming and going with little fanfare.
Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t have a great year once again with Sabotage making little box office impact and the fact it had no likeable characters didn’t help either. I enjoyed it but it’s not one of my favourite Arnie movies. He had a bit more fun in The Expendables 3 and thankfully kept the self-reverential humour to a minimum.
The “Get to the Choppa” line was actually quite funny but once again the movie wasn’t a huge success at the box office. Ex 3 was leaked online and then it was given a PG-13 rating which alienated the core fans and thus the movie made little impact.
In 2014 Stallone only had The Expendables 3 and the little seen Reach Me, which wasn’t even an action picture. After The Expendables disappointed at the box office Sly came out and admitted that the PG-13 rating was a huge mistake so if we do get a Part 4 then we can expect exploding heads galore and hopefully less focus on the young ‘uns.
Jean-Claude Van Damme only had a minor role in Swelter, which as I previously mentioned was a fun if disposable flick; thankfully with Pound of Flesh and Kickboxer: Vengeance coming up it looks like 2015 will have JCVD back at the top where he belongs.
Jason Statham also had a rather quiet year with only The Expendables 3 getting released; we have Wild Card coming up in a few weeks as well as his role as the villain in Furious 7 and trying his hand at comedy in Spy.
Scott Adkins only had a role as a villain in the poorly received Legend of Hercules but 2015 has several projects lined up including Close Range, Wolf Warrior, Four Towers and Criminal to name but a few.
Dwayne Johnson only had the average Hercules which also disappointed at the box office; it still managed to rake in $243,388,614 worldwide which isn’t bad but hardly the smash hit the studio expected. By screwing with the lore and mythology of the character though, it took away essentially what fans were looking for. Johnson still has to prove that he can carry a film that isn’t an ensemble piece and perhaps San Andreas may be it…
Dolph Lundgren had A Certain Justice and The Expendables 3 but thankfully 2015 looks like a vintage year for him. War Pigs, Skin Trade and Four Towers are all looking rather interesting so I can’t wait to check them out.
Michael Jai White starred in Falcon Rising which isn’t even out on DVD yet but it had some cracking fight scenes with Jai White on ass-kicking form.
Donnie Yen had a hit and miss year; Special ID disappointed some fans but I still liked it and it had some great fight scenes. Iceman was pretty terrible, resorting to toilet humour and crappy CGI; expectations for the follow up are minimal at best. Kung Fu Jungle was a real return to form for Yen with a psychotic villain and jaw dropping fight scenes.
As usual, Marvel were the kings of the box office with Guardians of the Galaxy being the runaway hit, which surprised even me by being such damn good fun. Captain America: The Winter Soldier felt fresh and different too with an almost 70’s style political thriller vibe and a stand out villain turn from Robert Redford. It also had a badass MMA fight between Cap and Georges St. Pierre.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 was a huge disappointment and only made fans more adamant that Sony need to sell the rights back to Marvel so they can give us a truly great Spidey movie and include him in future Avengers stories.
I really enjoyed X-Men: Days of Future Past and it was arguably the best X-Men movie yet as it was the only one where I felt anything when watching it. I’ll never be a huge fan of the series though as it’s all very silly but this definitely had a few cool moments.
Godzilla was rather dull and took ages to actually show s the creature, which admittedly looked cool but the frustrating changes of POVs just made it an ultimately frustrating watch with boring human characters.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was quite excellent and had a spectacular final battle which makes me excited to see what they do for the next movie which I hear is called I Can’t Believe it’s not the Planet of the Apes… maybe.
300: Rise of the Empire was a decent sized hit but didn’t capture the magic of the original classic; it still had Eva Green naked though and plenty of bloodshed, so I really enjoyed it.
Michael Bay bludgeoned us with another Transformers movie called Age of Extinction which had a few fun set-pieces and it was cool to see the Dinobots on the big screen, but you do feel dumber after watching it.
Robert Rodriguez took us back to the world of Sin City but nobody seemed to care and the movie came and went very quickly; I liked it a lot but too much time had passed since the first film so there were few people who were waiting for it.
There were some foreign gems this year including Andy Lau’s Firestorm, As the Lights Go Out, No Tears for the Dead and most importantly The Raid 2 which were all kick ass.
Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy came to an end with The Battle of the Five Armies which was fun but forgettable… and also utterly unnecessary. It lacked any of the heart or characters that The Lord of the Rings had and has failed to capture the hearts of audiences the way the previous trilogy did.
The Guest was another gem that didn’t do much at the box office but was one of the zaniest, coolest and darkly comical movies of the year. Dan Stevens gave a star-making turn and if you haven’t seen it yet then definitely check it out.
Edge of Tomorrow, The Equalizer and Die Fighting were all a lot of fun as well and weren’t afraid to try something a little different.
The biggest surprise of the year was the return of Keanu Reeves as a new hero entitled John Wick; easily my favourite action movie of the year, it had great action scenes, memorable characters and turned action movie clichés on their head. Daniel Bernhardt had a big role as a villain and the supporting cast included Ian McShane and Willem Dafoe; the film is already considered a cult classic.
2014 was a great year for action on television with shows like Arrow, Gotham and The Flash keeping superhero fans happy. I still have never been able to sit through a single episode of Agents of SHIELD but maybe someday I’ll get into it.
Jack Bauer returned to television and this time his adventures took us to London in a rather crap 12 episode Season. It was awesome watching Kiefer Sutherland return as Jack but the show just lacked something that earlier seasons had and brought us nothing new.
Strike Back continues to have plenty of old-school action and nudity galore and Supernatural continues to keep us interested with cool stories and surprising violence.
For me, the highlight of the entire year was actually meeting and interviewing Keanu Reeves; I never thought back in 1994 when I saw Speed in the theatre for the fourth time that I would one day get to meet the star. He was the nicest guy and was surprisingly funny; he has no ego to speak of and was happy to speak to us online website owners with respect rather than something you’d find on the bottom of your shoe like certain other celebrities do.
Other interview highlights included Scott Adkins, Cynthia Rothrock, Art Camacho, Luke Goss, Gina Carano, Gary Daniels, Dolph Lundgren, Jeff Wincott, Michael Jai White, Manu Bennett and Tony Jaa. I also got to met Michael Rooker, Stan Lee and Arrow’s Stephen Amell so I have to say that 2014 has been a great year for the site.
The Action Elite sponsored the Urban Action Showcase in New York which was a huge success; the Showcase highlights diversity in the action genre and encourages film-makers from all backgrounds to submit short films, scripts, full features and more. We got to hang out with Cynthia Rothrock, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Marrese Crump and Bobby Samuels making the weekend in NYC truly memorable. I would also like to thank my brother Edward Friel for joining me in New York but also Lee Golden, Jon Cross, Sunny Smith and Jon Trui for helping to make our trip so special.
My other brother Greg travelled to London, England to cover the premiere of The Expendables 3 so a huge thank you to him as well.
We got to cover our first (but hopefully not last) red carpet event with the launch of Tapped Out starring Cody Hackman, Michael Biehn and Martin Kove. A big thank you goes out to director and friend Allan Ungar for the invite and for all the support he has given The Action Elite. I must also thank Amanda Da Silva for joining me at the red carpet event and would also like to congratulate her on the success of her website Amodachic.
I wouldn’t be able to run the website without Alex Hush who has been a great friend but has also set up the majority of great interviews from this year. J-Man, Stephenstein and Deceptisean have all been fantastic contributors to the site and we’ve had some great guest articles too. So thank you to all who have contributed over the past year.
2015 promises to be even better with a fantastic and varied slate of action movies from blockbusters to indie fare.
Thanks to all of you for an action-packed year and stay tuned for a new look Action Elite coming soon. Have a happy and healthy New Year.