This week's “Movies” list, broadcast yesterday on The Chris Vernon Show, is inspired by current box-office champ The Expendables 2, in which a multi-generational cast of action “icons” blow a bunch of stuff up — or something like that, I haven't seen it.
But it gives me an excuse to recognize cinema's finest action teams:
5. Team America: World Police (2004): South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker's flagrant puppet satire on American militarism, celebrity culture, ridiculous foreign dictators, and whatever else you've got.
4. The Dirty Dozen (1967): Classic Hollywood-schooled helmer Robert Aldrich (Kiss Me Deadly) oversees, if not really the best “action team” flick, perhaps the definitive commercial example of the subgenre. Rough-and-ready Lee Marvin assembles, trains, and leads a group of despicable convicts into Nazi territory on a suicidal mission. Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, and Telly Savalas are among the dozen.
3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938): This gorgeous, lively Technicolor swashbuckler, with Errol Flynn in the green tights and Michael Curtiz (who would go one to make a little thing called Casablanca) behind the camera, is the richest, most joyous, and most family friendly action romp of them all. (Show it to your kids; I did.) The Merry Men — Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Little John, etc. — don't get much play in this trailer, but they all have their moments in the film.
2. The Wild Bunch (1969): The Old West gives way to New and scorpions are devoured by ants. William Holden leads aging outlaws Ernest Borgnine, Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Jaime Sanchez, and Edmund O'Brien into Mexico and to their demise. Sam Peckinpah fills the screen with blood and dirt.
1. Seven Samurai (1954): The greatest action movie of them all, y'all. 207 minutes and none of them wasted as Akira Kurosawa takes his time assembling seven samurai to protect a peasant village from roving bandits. Takashi Shimura is one of cinema's great leaders of men. The charismatic, volatile Toshiro Mifune is the cinema's closest antecedent to grit-and-grind Tony Allen. Remade in America as The Magnificent Seven, which is good fun. But accept no substitutes.