A new school year is under way, but judging from the movies, we're still in the dumb days of summer.
"The Expendables 2" tops the box-office charts for the second week with Sylvester Stallone leading most of the other action figures of his day - including the former governor of California - in the timeless fantasy that boys will be boys, even if they've got an AARP card in their wallet.
This action sequel asks us to believe that men of a certain age - an age old enough to be the grandfathers of today's action heroes - are still capable of outrunning fireballs, dodging bullets, driving or piloting any machine ever made and otherwise defying every law of physics as they save the world from nuclear destruction.
Besides Sly and Ahnuld, the cast features Bruce Willis as the cigar-chomping bossman, as though trying to atone for the tender side he showed in "Moonrise Kingdom." Jason Statham, Jet Li and Dolph Lundgren are fellow mercenaries, with 72-year-old Chuck Norris signing on to help. Nan Yu raises Oedipal worries as the token female among the bad boys, and Jean-Claude Van Damme plays the rogue intent on stealing a bunch of hidden Soviet plutonium and selling it to the highest-bidding wacko dictator.
The credits list Van Damme as "Villain," in case you couldn't tell by watching the movie. The action mostly takes places in countries ending in "-istan" or "-ria," which is geographical code for "Villain." There are huge, honkin' machine guns, lumbering tanks and armored trucks, and planes with propellers. The equipment is ready for the junk heap, which of course is the running joke about the cast members.
After posing for two separate eras of American machismo - as Rocky then Rambo - a gaunt, world-weary Stallone is shooting for a new millennium. Even with the still buff bod, he looks a little like a Parisian artist this time. But while the first "Expendables" was unexpected fun, reminding us that we were in the presence of pros, this crisply directed Simon West follow-up makes you wonder just how many ways there are to shoot up an airport.
These guys were state-of-the-art when screen action was propelled by muscles rather than computers, but as talk surfaces about casting Clint Eastwood or Harrison Ford for the next one, the concept feels like it's getting a little - pardon the expression - old.
In a variation on the same theme, Dax Shepard plays a character named Charlie Bronson in the new action-comedy "Hit and Run." He chose the name of the iconic '70s and '80s urban vigilante when he went into a witness protection program after turning state's evidence in a series of bank robberies.
The film's title provides an apt description of Shepard's many roles - he also wrote, co-directed and cast his actual girlfriend, Kristen Bell - in the raunchy, on-the-road mayhem that ensues after he decides to blow his cover to get her to L.A. in time to interview for a new job. The fact that she's a professor of nonviolent conflict resolution adds a cerebral tone to the dumb stuff.
With help from friends like Bradley Cooper, Tom Arnold, Kristin Chenoweth, Joy Bryant and Beau Bridges, the big news about this project was just how cheap it was to make. It helps that a lot of the action consists of cool cars doing wheelies and driving in circles in parking lots.
Despite an extremely R-rated trailer, it has its moments. Shepard and company don't hit and run so much as they hit and miss, sneaking in some zingers amidst all the bullets that miss the target entirely.
For audiences who prefer lowbrow laughs with a warm, fuzzy, made-on-Maui feel, writer-director Brian Kohne is marking Labor Day by bringing "Get a Job" back to the Historic Iao Theater.
Featuring Willie K and Eric Gilliom, who helped Mick Fleetwood open his little place in Lahaina last week, the very locally made madcap comedy has racked up a collection of film festival prizes since it was last seen in these parts.
Screenings this weekend and next are the last chance, or the first chance, to see the final, final cut on an actual movie screen in an actual theater, surrounded by the folks who actually made it, before it gets repackaged in time for Christmas giving.
Among its other lovable oddities, it offers Maui audiences the rare sensation of being in on the joke.
* Contact Rick Chatenever at firstname.lastname@example.org