I’ve just returned from seeing The Expendables.
I knew it was an action movie. I knew there’d be violence, guns, explosions and perhaps even some wooden acting. But The Expendables is truly a film to avoid.
Let me explain.
The trailer is basically a list of the name of the people who are in it. The trouble is that Arnold Schwarzenegger appears for about 30 seconds and Bruce Willis for about one minute. The main guys are Sylvester Stallone (also director/co-writer) and Jason Statham. Jet Li plays a smaller role; Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke, et al. appear even less.
2. Not-quite-tongue-in-cheek violence
People’s heads are blown off. In some films this is funny and you’re meant to laugh. You’re not quite sure in this one and the fighting moves are somewhere between realistic and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Lame.
3. Two-dimensional characters
Fair enough, it’s an action film so I wouldn’t expect marvellous character development. Having said that, the characters’ motivations are weak and its portrayal of women takes us back about 30 years.
4. Lack of plot
- Former FBI man likes money
- Pays general of small country
- Daughter of general enlists help
- General ‘turns’ against FBI man
- Heroes win
5. It’s hypocritical
By going to see films like this we’re ostensibly against ‘The Man’. But are we? We’re sitting there, having paid £7 or so to watch explosions and actors who should perhaps be starring in different films, making way for newer talent. Communism (and by extension, given this is an American film, socialism) is given short shrift with faux-Cuban reference points and stereotypical posturing. We’re supposed to be on the side of the heroes, but even they struggle to find what they actually stand for.
Avoid. At 103 minutes, it’s mercifully short, but it’s part of your life you won’t get back. For an action movie, it’s lacking. And for any other type of movie it’s, quite frankly, laughable.
I usually concur with the average rating on IMDB. For example, 9.1 for Inception is spot-on. At the time of writing, it’s 8.5 for The Expendables. You could reverse those two numbers and I’d still say it was a bit generous.
I watched School of Rock a couple of nights ago. Unbelievably, given that I absolutely love High Fidelity – which stars Jack Black in a somewhat similar role – I’d never seen it before. The film was great and I really enjoyed it; I also thought it gave some pointers as to what real learning experiences should look like.
Obviously, I don’t think that it’s acceptable for substitute teachers(or ‘supply’ teachers as we call them over here) to be unchecked and do whatever they want in the classroom. It’s not that aspect I think is laudable. Instead, it’s the following
- Project-based learning – the students in School of Rock work on one big project. If this was organised by a qualified teacher, department or faculty, then this could incorporate many different skills rather than trying to teach skills and content separately.
- Drawing out students’ talents – At first some of the students seem to be given roles that are an after-thought, ones which are not important. However, the students grow into these roles and make them their own. For example, the student who produces a lighting show is amazingly talented – but would never have had the opportunity to discover this if it wasn’t for the project.
- Developing confidence – The system of gold stars and receiving grades for each piece of work keeps students in their seats and keeps them well-disciplined in the film. This is necessary in some schools where students have very disorganised and fragmentary home lives. However, in most schools students need creative freedom and the opportunity to work to their strengths, building confidence in their own ability.
- Teamwork – Instead of working individually (or nominally in pairs), students in School of Rock had to depend on one another. They were all vitally involved towards the same end which made them seem valued and developed their interpersonal skills.
- Real-world experiences – The students work towards something called Battle of the Bands. Although the students do not win this competition, the experience of playing in front of a live audience and showing their parents what they have been up is invaluable. This made me think of students publishing their work for bigger audiences through blog posts, YouTube videos, etc.
Which films have you seen that you think relate to education?