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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
The Expendables: Special Collector's Edition (Blu-ray) (2010)

The Expendables: Special Collector's Edition (Blu-ray) (2010)

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Released 16-Dec-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Sylvester Stallone (Director/Writer/Actor)
Featurette-From The Ashes: Post-Production And Release
Featurette-Comic-Con Panel 2010
Featurette-Gag Reel
Deleted Scenes
TV Spots
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2010
Running Time 103:28
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sylvester Stallone
Millenium Pictures
Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Jason Statham
Jet Li
Dolph Lundgren
Eric Roberts
Randy Couture
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI $29.95 Music Brian Tyler

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     The concept of assembling a cast of stars and celebrating a past era in the history of filmmaking has been with us since at least the 1970s, although this era will never be known for subtlety. So when Sylvester Stallone announced that he would be filming an action spectacle with the best stars both of the past and present, Children Of The 1980s like my good self were chomping at the bit, hoping he would get it right.

     Unfortunately, The Expendables has two big strikes against it that make it just barely watchable, and a reminder that a lot of 1980s action films just were not that good (Total Recall is just slightly on the 1990s side of things, so we cannot use it in defense of the 1980s).

     The first, and most particular to the 1980s, is the plot. Put simply, the plot is so straightforward and generic that one has to wonder how it even passed muster with producers. Sylvester may have a small amount of clout left as an action star, but even from him I would be sending this screenplay back with "please feed me" etched on it in red pen. But by far the worst element, one borrowed from modern-day films, is the cinematography. When you have fights involving Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Dolph Lundgren, or combinations thereof (but sadly not the three-way we were hoping for) a good director would know that the audience wants to see what is going on. Stallone has a reputation for being a bit smarter than action stars are normally given credit for (as does Lundgren, with a good deal more justification), but you would never know it from the photography in this film.

     Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) is a mercenary. Not only that, he leads a small band of mercenaries, the most important members of which are Gunnar Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), and Yin Yang (Jet Li). After an introductory sequence in which Ross and his group defuse a hostage crisis, Ross is put in the unenviable position of having to fire Gunnar due to the latter's drug abuse, which clearly results from combat-related psychological instability. Gathering at the tattoo parlour of their friend and screener Tool (Mickey Rourke), Ross and company decide to investigate a job offer that turns out to be from a CIA front calling himself Mr. Church (Bruce Willis). Church wants Ross and the gang to eliminate a CIA agent gone rogue who answers to the name of James Munroe (Eric Roberts). Munroe controls an island in Latin America through the puppeteering of a revolutionary General named Garza (David Zayas). Complicating matters is the contact that Church supplies Ross with, Sandra (Giselle Itié), and her refusal to leave the island.

     Adding to the problems I spoke of earlier is that the film was clearly edited down just a bit too far, deleting character development and vital scene links. Dolph Lundgren fares the worst from this, with his character behaving in ways that simply do not make sense beyond plot connection. Randy Couture and Terry Crews are barely there at all. The result is a film that manages to entertain during its running length, but is easily outdone by other recent films that try to counter the Everything Must Be Suitable Only For Infants movement, such as Machete.

    There is one reason to bother with this Blu-ray Disc in spite of the distinct averageness of the film. For more about that, read on…

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Transfer Quality


     The video transfer is presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio within a 1920 by 1080 progressive window. That's the good news.

     The transfer varies in sharpness. When the shots are lit brightly and the actors are merely talking, the transfer is extremely sharp. When fight scenes occur, or the image darkens, we get serious problems. The sharpness drops off especially during fights, where the camera thrashes about like myself when my blood glucose level is 0.7 mmol/l. (For those who do not know, 0.7 mmol/l is "how the hell are you able to stand up, leave alone walk out of here?" level.) Shadow detail is good, but not great, and there is no low-level noise.

     The colours in the transfer also have a weirdly desaturated appearance. Daylight and dialogue sequences are acceptable, although skin tones are very oddly pale, as if someone sucked all the colour out of cast members' skins, especially that of Dolph Lundgren. Night-time sequences seem to have had the palette tweaked towards blue, which is a good stylistic choice but also does the clarity of the action sequences no favours. Fortunately, there are no bleeds or misregistration in evidence.

     The transfer is compressed in the AVCHD codec, and does not appear to have any compression artefacting, although the convulsive-cam action sequences make it hard to tell a lot of the time. No aliasing is evident, which I cannot stress enough is one of the main reasons I buy this format (are you listening, Consortium folk??). Film artefacts were very occasionally evident, in numbers I could total on my fingers and sizes that mean one really has to be paying attention to notice them (a hard ask, given the plot).

     Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired. This brings me to one of my biggest complaints about the disc, and it seems Roadshow discs in general. For reasons best known to themselves, every time Gunnar Jensen is addressed by name, the subtitles insist on rendering it as "Gunner". Gunnar is a moderately common name in Sweden, chosen by Stallone for the character, no doubt, because in Norse it denotes "battle" or "strife". Being named Gunnar when one is Swedish is only a step below being named John or Robert in England (or to use a family name example, McIntosh in Scotland). Roadshow, I must be blunt here. This, combined with other recent oversights like the soundtracks on Mad Max, has the effect of making you look very unprofessional.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     I did mention there was one good reason to buy The Expendables on Blu-ray Disc. It is the audio transfer.

     A total of four soundtracks are presented on this disc. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 7.1, with a bitrate I am not able to determine. I will be brutally honest with you. The entire reason I purchased this disc, my passive enjoyment of the attempt to give us an action film for adults notwithstanding, can be associated with this fact. The other three soundtracks are a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo rendering of the original English dialogue, a Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo commentary track, and an audio descriptive service in English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. I listened to the lossless soundtrack and the audio commentary.

     The dialogue is very clear and easy to understand at all times, far more so than was the case in theatres. Even Dolph Lundgren and Jet Li are very easy to understand, thanks to the lossless compression and channel separation. No problems exist with audio sync.

     The music in the film consists of a handful of numbers designed to invoke 1980s memories, and a score by Brian Tyler. In the former case, we have such staples as the Georgia Satellites classic Keep Your Hands To Yourself. In the latter case, well, Daniel is right in his review of the DVD when he calls the score obvious and clichéd. But in defence of Tyler, whose work on the Rambo score was actually commendable when it stepped out on its own, The Expendables gives him very little to work with.

     The surround channels are used very aggressively to place explosions, whizzing bullets, the sounds of air reacting to kicks, and other action film staples around the listener. They do this job remarkably well here, with the extra two channels giving an especially welcome sweeping effect to certain effects. This is a great demonstration soundtrack where the surround channels are concerned. It is just such a terrible pity that the video and the content are so distinctly ordinary.

     The subwoofer is constantly used to put a bottom end on action sequences, with Dolph Lundgren's punches and kicks in particular getting a noticeable boost. Explosions and gunfire keep constant pulses coming out of the sub, which only ever lets up when the fighting does. It stands out in the mix, but in that good action film way, as opposed to the mis-mixed way that complaints are often directed toward.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


     A moderate number of extras are present on this disc. Unless stated otherwise, they are presented in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with film footage or raw edit footage in 2.40:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.


     Animated with what my receiver reports as DTS HD Master Audio. Sets the mood a lot better than the film. Unfortunately, text is difficult to read and navigation is a little unintuitive.

D-BOX Motion Control

     No idea what this actually is. Cannot comment because I feel no need to make use of it, and have no idea where to obtain the means.

Audio Commentary - Sylvester Stallone Writer/Director/Actor

     Say what you will about Stallone, I am sure he has heard it all. He is not quite at Paul Verhoeven level, but he does give good commentary. Presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, Stallone speaks about what he is trying to say with a scene, what challenges came up in shooting them, and other tidbits that film buffs will enjoy. One problem is that the commentary seems to be encoded at a good ten decibels above the main soundtrack, and clipping is very frequently evident.

Picture In Picture

     Two Picture In Picture tracks are included with this disc. The first is referred to as an Ultimate Recon Mode, the other simply Expanded Ultimate Recon Mode. These appear to be integrations of behind-the-scenes footage, with Stallone doing such things as location scouting or directing actors through the shots visible in the main video. If Picture In Picture is your thing, then you can do worse than this for examples.

Featurette - From The Ashes: Post-Production And Release

     Twenty-six minutes and thirty-six seconds of Stallone and the editors explaining the process of putting together the film's cuts. This is interesting if you have any interest in how the inclusion or deletion of footage can radically alter the characteristics of the story being told.

Featurette - Comic Con Panel 2010

     Forty-five minutes and thirty-three seconds of comic-con footage. Mildly entertaining. Makes me wonder how many 'phone books Stallone was sitting on.

Featurette - Gag Reel

     Five minutes and two seconds of stuff-ups and blunders. Some are mildly amusing.

Deleted Scene

     A singular deleted scene lasting forty-four seconds. Far funnier than the gag reel.

TV Spots

     A collection of TV spots totalling three minutes and eleven seconds.

Teaser Trailer

     Presented in a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this forty-seven second trailer is actually quite a nice piece.

Theatrical Trailer

     Also presented in 2.40:1, in high definition, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. At two minutes and twenty-seven seconds, this trailer gives away too much of the precious little that this film has to hook an audience.

Photo Gallery

     Listed in the menu as "Artwork", this is a three-slide photo gallery of the posters used to advertise the film in theatres. Meh.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Multiple versions of The Expendables have been released in both countries. The equivalent Region A version to this release is one of those combo packs where you have to buy a DVD to get the BD, despite the fact that no such force-feeding is done to DVD buyers. So although this does not tip the scales either way, it will be a cold day in hell before I buy the Region A version of this version of the film.

     Having said that much, however, an extended version of the film that adds ten minutes has been released in Region A. I have not seen this version as yet, but I have yet to see any indication that it is available here. Given that this version includes more of the vital building blocks for a good action film (character development), it might well be the version of choice.


     The Expendables was a good idea. Bring some action stars from a bygone time, combine them with a few from the present day, indulge in a celebration of the action genre, and let the grown-ups in the audience enjoy it. What could have gone wrong? The answer is that just about everything other than the sound design and a couple of semi-romantic subplots that do not really integrate well with the rest of the film. Dolph Lundgren, Jason Statham, and Jet Li in particular are wasted here. If you really want to relive the 1980s through a violent entertainment, then you are probably better-advised to do what I do when I am in such a mood, and sit down with a copy of RoboCop.

     The video transfer is distinctly average, and the subtitles can really distract when you know enough about Scandinavian naming conventions. Dolph Lundgren sums this part of the disc up best when he says "life's a joke, s***bird!".

     The audio transfer is the sole redeeming factor in this disc. Turn off the display unit, whack this on for an unconvinced friend, and tell them "this is what lossless audio sounds like". I guarantee they will either get your point or lose a lot of your respect.

     The extras are moderate in number. Some add to what is a very ordinary dish otherwise.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Friday, December 16, 2011
Review Equipment
DVDPanasonic DMP-BD45, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-P50U20A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

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