Monthly Archives: May 2012

Luc Besson, Why?!: Lockout

Sometimes, you see a movie, and there’s simply nothing wrong with it. It gets the cast just right, the direction is superb, and it takes a well-placed risk or two, making it memorable to say the very least. As you may have guessed, I am talking about a very specific movie here: Luc Besson’s…

Léon: The Professional (1994).

Now, that’s not the movie I’m reviewing today, but I want to set it up so you can get the full picture.

I’ve only seen The Professional  once, but damn, did I enjoy it. It had everything listed above: Jean Reno and Gary Oldman, Luc Besson in the director’s chair, and the odd, mildly unsettling and slightly risque relationship between Reno’s character and the young Natalie Portman, giving it that well-placed risk that ultimately made the movie several times better. If I were to review that movie based on my single viewing, it’d probably earn a good 8 or 9.

Besson also did another little movie that you may have heard of called The Fifth Fucking Element (1997)! Also known as The Fifth Element in some countries. A movie chock full of interesting and entertaining characters, amazing visual effects, and creative story… elements (I’m so clever).

Why do I bring this up, you ask? Well, most of it doesn’t pertain to the movie I’m going to review. But, at the same time, Léon and The Fifth Element did cement Luc Besson, in my mind, as a pretty kick ass, if not brilliant filmmaker that knows his way around a movie.

Flash forward to 2012. Out comes a little film call Lockout.

When I first heard of it, I said, “Ehhhh…”. It just looked like a stupid mindless action flick. Later, I found out that it was written by none other than Mr. Luc Besson and then I said, “Oooh!”. Perhaps with a filmmaker of that renown behind it, we could get an action film with a little creativity to it. That’s something that’s always welcome in my book.

Oh, but I could not be more wrong…

Sadly, I think Besson may be at a point in his career that he believes that whatever movie he shits out is destined to be diamond encrusted awesome. This form of thinking has definitely claimed its fair share of talented filmmakers.

Integrity? What’s that? Is it tasty?

Put bluntly, Lockout was really, really bad. I honestly cannot believe that something as heinous as this film could come from the mind of Luc freaking Besson. It’s so bad, that I have to think that either Mr. Besson has lost a great deal of his talent over the years or that he wrote it as a joke and some assface decided to make it anyway.

The plot revolves around a space prison (a plot device that, though cool in theory, has never been executed very well to my recollection. If I’m wrong, let me know). The president’s daughter goes up to the space prison for some poorly thought out reason (I think to make sure that the prisoners being kept in suspended animation there are being treated nicely or some shit), but, gasp, there’s a mass breakout. With an army of dangerous criminals on the lose, liable to kill the president’s daughter at any moment, the government, given no other choice, requests the aid of a lone badass turned criminal/mercenary. Hyper action ensues.

Hey, that sounds kind of familiar, don’t it? Let me give you a hint.

Yeah. Sounds an awful lot like the plot of Escape From New York (1981), doesn’t it? Just replace ‘the president’s daughter’ with ‘the president’ and ‘space prison’ with ‘New York’ and it’s the plot of Escape From New York exactly. I feel like it’s not even trying to hide it. It’s not like, say, Battle Royale (2000) and The Hunger Games (2012), where the premise is rather similar, but the stories themselves are different enough that it doesn’t feel like The Hunger Games is totally ripping off Battle Royale. Here they’re just like, “Yeah, Escape From New York… IN SPAAAACE!”.

But, to be perfectly honest, that premise still could have been really cool. Perhaps not the best action movie ever, but still. The plot would have had me groaning throughout, but within that plot, there could have been some really cool shit happening. Instead of car chases with Ernest Borgnine, there could have been zero-gravity gun fights… with Ernest Borgnine (seriously. That guy’s still alive and acting). At the very least, it could have been some awesome, entirely superficial action movie that’s great to eat popcorn to.

But if that’s what you want,  look elsewhere. Might I suggest Shoot ’em Up (2007)?

But here, there was nothing of note. Every action sequence was uninspired and riddled with shaky cam. Shaky came everywhere! I never once felt excited or that there was ever any risk. I knew how every sequence was going to go. Even that could have been okay if it looked cool, but no. All of the CG was awful, so we couldn’t even get any cool effects.

The same can be said about the whole plot. Never once did I feel surprised or that anything was really going to happen to the good guys. I called every single plot twist, every character death. Besides borrowing a plot from another movie, they never did anything creative within that story. The entire thing was just a big steaming pile of bland.

Speaking of a big pile of bland, every single character was boring, cliché, and all around either bland or outright horrible. Oh hey, I wonder if the main character is going to say some witty one-liner. Oh, snap! He did! Oh, look. The president’s daughter is being a bitch again. Oh, that bitchy president’s daughter. Oh, shit! I think that psychotic, evil-looking prisoner is going to do something psychotic and evil. Well, color me flabbergasted, he did something psychotic and evil. I mean, hell, every character even looked like their assigned cliché.

Oh, gee… I wonder if this guy might be a bad guy.

There was not a single drop of genuine creativity in the entire film! It was boring and uninspired and flat-out bad! There are even some small things that hurt the film. Like, if those two characters are brothers, why do they have entirely different accents?! The whole damn thing is just a giant mess. In fact, I’m just going to say it. Lockout was garbage! I came so close to just walking out of the theater. But no, I was determined to sit through the whole thing so that I could review it. So, by the end of the movie, was there anything good to its name.

Yes, actually. The main character punches the president’s daughter in the face once. That was funny. Not funny enough to actually add anything. But funny.

The sad thing is that it could have been good! Or at least entertaining. But no. I actually feel like all of the people involved in the production actually felt like they were making the next great action movie. They thought the one-liners were clever and that the characters were sympathetic. But no! They were nothing. Had they done it as more of a parody, I bet it would have been hilariously bad. Take the aforementioned Shoot ’em Up for instance. It still delivers all of the action movie clichés, but does it in such a way that both parodies and pays homage to them, making it a rather wonderful film and perhaps one of my favorite movies in the action genre. But with Lockout, it feels like the makers wanted us to take it seriously. That, paired with a plot borrowed from a far superior movie, terrible effects, horrendous acting, and staining the career of an otherwise exceptional filmmaker, makes this movie complete trash. There is not a single redeeming quality here.

Story: 1/10 Usually, in order to avoid a 1 in story, a film simply needs to have a story that can be followed. But in this case, the story was stolen. So that subtracts a point, bringing it to 1.

Acting: 1/10 Every performance was horrible or boring, which is worse.

Cinematics: 1/10 Very poor CG for this day and age plus predictable action sequences riddled with heavy shaky cam.

Total: 1/10

Congratulations to you, Lockout! You have just received Organ Miner Reviews’s very first 1/10! That’s not an easy task. In order to avoid a 1/10, a movie just needs one category above a 1. And you couldn’t even do that. I hope you’re proud of yourself.

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Movies Can Have Halo Syndrome Too: Marvel’s The Avengers

For those that don’t know what Halo Syndrome (HS) is, I ask that you please refer to my Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim review here:

https://organminerreviews.wordpress.com/2012/03/09/the-worlds-longest-sidetrack-the-elder-scrolls-v-skyrim/

I probably should have written this review a couple weeks ago with my reviews for Cabin in the Woods, Lockout, and The Pirates: Band of Misfits coming before it, but alas, I have not been in a particularly bloggy mood lately and I have chosen to post this one first, because it is more topical at the moment.

So anyway, The Avengers!

I know everyone in the multiverse has made this joke, but dammit, I wanted to , too!

I have to admit, I was very skeptical about this film. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think it would be bad, especially once I heard that Joss Whedon wrote and directed it. But it had been hyped up so much and so well in the years leading up to its release with teasers at the end of all of the Marvel superhero movies that had come previously. I knew that it couldn’t possibly live up to the expectations that the masses had built in their squirmy, human brains. There was no way that it could be as good as everybody thought it would be. But on the bright side, with all of the excellent actors (and Scarlett Johanssen) playing excellent characters under an excellent writer/director, just maybe it could come close.

Now, I’m not really into comics, and if I tried to get into them (and part of me wants to), I wouldn’t know where to start, but I know it wouldn’t be with The Avengers. It’d be with The X-Men. Or maybe Spider-Man because Venom is my favorite comic book character ever. But that’s besides the point. The point is, I went into this movie, and all previous Marvel movies, without too much prior knowledge of the various mythologies behind these characters. But (with the exception of Thor and Hawkeye), I at least knew the basic backstories. But in a sense, that’s good. It allowed me to enjoy the movies for what they were instead of noticing discrepancies in the mythology. And that was the case here.

Now, I had seen all of the previous Marvel superhero movies prior to seeing The Avengers. And I enjoyed all of them. They were done exceptionally well. From my less-than-expert standpoint on these heroes, it certainly seemed that they did almost everything right. The action, the drama, the humor, the effects, the acting (mostly): all great. And I’ll address each of these in turn.

The Action: It was intense, it was cinematic, it was creative, and best of all, I can’t remember any shaky-cam bullshit that has become so prevalent in movies lately. I could actually see what was happening! I knew what was going on! It’s a really sad day when actually being able to see and understand what’s happening during a movie’s action sequences is a refreshing turn of events! That shouldn’t be a problem! Anyway, another thing that made me immensely happy was the fact that there was no blatant product placement throughout the whole movie, at least not to my memory, unless you count Tony Stark/Iron Man referencing shawarma. And that blows my mind. It’s a welcome change to Michael Bay’s focusing on a Mountain Dew sign whilst giant robots are fighting just ten feet to the left or making the Ninja Turtles eat spaghetti because Chef Boyardee wants to be featured. No, The Avengers focused on the awesome action instead of making the cameramen do gymnastics around various corporate tie-ins. And that’s refreshing.

The Drama: I’m going to try and avoid a spoiler here, but fuck you Joss Whedon! You fucking did it again! People that have seen the movie know exactly what I mean here. And I don’t really blame him. Honestly, it was a good move and it raised the drama considerably and made me care so much more.

The Humor: I don’t know why, but I’m still surprised by how much humor is injected into these movies. They’re all very funny. And not like the Mega Man cartoon (1994-1995) is funny. Genuinely humorous. And The Avengers  is no exception. I laughed out loud more than once. And that’s weird, because the movie is not a comedy. But still, it strikes an effective balance of action, drama, and comedy, which is not an easy thing to do at all.

The Effects: Though not perfect, they were still a spectacle. I will say that there were at least a couple times where the CG kind of stood out, but it was never really glaring or unforgivable. That’s really all I can say.

The Acting: I love Robert Downey Jr. And honestly, no one else could play Tony Stark/Iron Man. Chrises Evans and Hemsworth are both very good at their jobs, playing Captain America/Steve Rogers and Thor/Thor respectively. I was skeptical about their choice to cast Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk instead of keeping Edward Norton, and I still kind of wish they had, if not just for consistency. The movie would not have been any worse. But I don’t think it would have been any better either. Ruffalo did a pretty exceptional job. I was also surprised by how much I really enjoyed the character of Clint Barton/Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. Tom Hiddleston’s performance as Loki was again, spot-on. I still think casting Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury was kind of an odd choice. I’m not really complaining. The role was entertaining enough and well-acted. But for those that don’t know, this is what Nick Fury looked like when he was created:

Not sure Sam would have been *my* first choice for this role.

Now, I may be misinformed here, but someone once told me that Nick Fury in the comics has changed in more recent years. But I find it odd that they would use a recent incarnation of Fury when this movie is about the formation of The Avengers. And that’s what Fury looked like when that actually happened in the comics (though maybe not exactly like that. I don’t know which comic that’s from or when it was published). But that’s more of a nitpick than anything. Like I said, Mr. Jackson delivers a solid performance, and the movie isn’t any worse because of it.

But here’s where I have to take away a point for acting. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow played by Scarlett Johanssen. Be warned, there is an angry rant a-brewin’ here. So, if you don’t wish to hear my unpleasant thoughts about this casting choice, please skip the following paragraph.

I cannot fucking stand this woman in any role that she’s ever been in. And somehow, she keeps finding her way into our superhero movies! The Spirit (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), and now this. And you know what? She is always terrible! Ms. Johanssen’s approach to acting seems to be ‘speak in the same tone of voice, no matter the situation, and no matter what language I’m speaking’. Listening to her speak Russian in this film is a fucking joke. Which sucks, because she’s playing a fucking Russian! Who speaks in a monotone American accent! Quality casting choice there. And when I spoke to my brother about this, his response was, “She’s fucking hot. So, who cares?”. Fuck that shit! You know something? There are attractive actresses out there that can, you know, act! A woman shouldn’t get a role in a movie such as this that actually has integrity just because guys like to jerk off to the thought of her naked. If you needed an attractive redhead with some talent (and might actually care about the character), why not Felicia Day? She’s good-looking, talented, and has some serious nerd cred. Sure, she may not be as naturally seductive-looking as Johanssen, but put on the right makeup, and it’d be pretty damn close. Maybe it’s not the best choice, but it’s certainly a better one! If we don’t need a natural redhead, which we obviously don’t, because Scarlett most certainly isn’t a redhead, there are plenty of really good-looking actresses that know how to act! Kate Winslet (would have been weird, but awesome), Anne Hathaway (would have just been awesome), Uma Thurman, heck, Keira Knightley personally bugs the shit out of me, but even I can admit she’s attractive and at least has an iota of talent and would have been an acceptable alternative. Fuck, even Jessica Alba, whom I hate, would have been preferable. And it pisses me off now, because Scarlett has already played the role of Black Widow twice now. It’s at a point where they’re not going to change it in any future films, and that fucking sucks. Damn it, you guys replaced the Hulk. Why couldn’t you replace Black Widow?

Okay. I feel better now that I’ve gotten that tirade out of the way.

I think my favorite aspect about The Avengers is none of the above. It’s actually something rather small. I truly love the fact that none of the Avengers got gypped on screentime. The movie spends an almost equal amount of time with each of them. They each had their individual actions scenes, their own drama, their own comedic moments. And that’s cool. It’s not an easy thing to give six or seven main characters equal attention. The only one of them that may have been slightly snubbed was Hawkeye, which is unfortunate, because I really liked him.

So, besides Scarlett Johanssen ruining nearly every scene she’s in, was there anything wrong with the movie? Well, sort of.

The story itself is nothing really original. I can’t really blame it. It’s near impossible to make a superhero movie that doesn’t follow a basic formula story-wise. You know it. Villain(s) wants to take over and/or destroy the world/city using his powers/army/superweapon, so our hero(es) must use all of their skills to stop him/her/them. But to offset the basic nature of the story, the dynamics between each of the characters are built very well. I love seeing these people interact and grow. So, while the story itself may not be anything spectacular, it’s the story/character development that puts this film ahead.

Also, I was kind of disappointed that War Machine didn’t make an appearance. Yeah, I get why he didn’t. But he wasn’t in Iron Man 2 for very long, which was sad. Plus, I love Don Cheadle and would have loved to see him in there.

So, my verdict on Marvel’s The Avengers is, besides Black Widow, everything was done incredibly well. It actually came very close to living up to the ridiculous hype that it was receiving. It was a great movie that I can recommend to anyone that doesn’t hate superheroes.

Story: 9/10

Acting: 9/10

Cinematics: 10/10

Total: 9/10