Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Maggie Grace’

3 Days To Kill opened a couple of weeks ago to universal derision, it surprisingly isn’t that bad. With a script by Luc Besson and a plot featuring an aging CIA hit-man, comparisons with Taken are unavoidable. Kevin Costner does a good job with a flimsy and derivative story that loses its way in the middle. The action scenes and the family bonding both work on their own merits but the film fails to join the two elements together into a coherent movie. Not as nasty as Taken but also not as focused, it is worth seeing for any fans of either Costner or Besson, but we should expect so much more from Luc Besson.3 Days to Kill

Both as a director and writer/producer Besson has been responsible for some great films. Subway (1985) was the beginning of the style over substance tag (known as Cinéma du look movement ) that has followed Besson for his entire career, but with this much style how much substance do you need? Five years later came the film that introduced me to non English language cinema: Nikita (1990), I rented the VHS when I was 15 years old (I know it is an 18 and I was 15, but the video shop man didn’t notice or care!) about a year after its cinema release, I was drawn to the movie mainly because I liked the cover. Often criticised for lack of originality, Nikita has surely influenced more movies than it was influenced by. Anne Parillaud’s reluctant government assassin has spawned a Hollywood remake, two TV shows and countless imitators. Léon(aka The Professional) (1994) is widely regarded as Besson’s best film thanks to the just over-the-top enough turn by Gary Oldman and the sensational feature debut of 12-year-old Natalie Portman. It is also notable as Besson’s first film in English. Again in English, this time with an even less restrained Gary Oldman, The Fifth Element (1997) saw a new direction for Besson, a big budget Sci-Fi adventure. it has its problems but on the whole is a fun with some interesting ideas. Better know as a writer and producer in recent years, he is still able suprise as a director as he did with the bizarre but brilliant Angel-A (2005) and The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010). Sadly less well know, possibly because they are in French, I would recommend both movies to anyone who hasn’t seen them.nikita

Probably the best know of his writer/producer movies is The Transporter (200, 2005, 2008), starring Jason Statham, they are exactly what you expect from Besson and Statham, slick, glossy, well made, dumb action. Also falling into that category but with more comedy is Taxi (1998) and its three sequels (2000, 2003, 2007). Also notable for early appearances from Marion Cotillard nearly a decade before La Vie en rose. I wouldn’t bother with parts 3 and four or the American remake (2004) but the first two films are great. There were three films released in the UK in 2006 to feature parkour: Breaking and Entering (2006), Casino Royale (2006) and District 13 (2004) (original title Banlieue 13, also known as District B 13). Only District 13 stars parkour founder David Belle. Belle and writer/producer returned for a sequel District 13: Ultimatum (2009) and Brick Mansions (2014), neither were as good as the exciting and innovative original film. Lockout (2012) is a B Sci-Fi starring Guy Pearce and go-to kidnap victim Maggie Grace. The story is derivative and the effects terrible, but the film itself is tremendous fun and really Enjoyable.Lockout

Working across multiple genres, Besson also wrote, produced and directed the Arthur and the Invisibles movies (2006, 2009, 2010), and the biopic of Aung San Suu Kyi, The Lady (2011). I haven’t seen any of these films so can’t comment on them other than to say they were not well received critically. Returning to the director’s chair for his next film Lucy, set for release in August (in UK). Starring Scarlett Johansson in the title role it looks from the trailer like a riff on the ideas of Limitless. A return to large budget Sci-Fi and yet another film to feature a strong female lead, I am looking forward to it.the lady

All this producing isn’t an act of randomly placing his name on movies to help distribute them, in 1999 he founded the Paris based EuropaCorp, one of the few independent studios that both produces and distributes movies. As well as the films Besson has creative infuemce over, he has also produced Nil by Mouth (1997), directed by Gary Oldman; The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, by Tommy Lee Jones (2005) (and Tommy Lee Jones’ upcoming The Homesman) and Tell No One (2006), by Guillaume Canet. Three fantastic films that may not have been made if not for Besson and EuropaCorp. While I respect what Besson is doing with EuropaCorp, I would just like to see a few more great films directed by him and a few less mediocre ones written and, or produced by him.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Skyfall and The Dark Knight Rises are amongst my favourite movies of the year, but between them they cost the best part of the unimaginable sum of half a billion dollars. What can be done with a lower budget? All of the ten films listed below were made for less than $25million and are all the better for the invention and creativity that comes with limitations of a small budget. In a B movie tradition I have discarded indie drama’s in favour of genre movies: action, gangsters, sci-fi and horror.  The other notable thing, is that despite their B credentials they all received a UK cinema release.

Haywire
Budget: $23,000,000 (estimated)
Legend has it that Steven Soderbergh was sat at home late one night channel surfing when he came across a Mixed Martial Arts contest (a cage fight). He was so enthralled with one of the contestants Gina Carano that he diced to write a movie for her. Having never acted before it was a big risk, but we are talking about the director who cast porn star Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience. Taking a different approach for haywire, he filled the supporting roles with talented actors (Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, Antonio Banderas, Bill Paxton and Ewan McGregor), but it is the action that really sets the film apart. Forgoing the post Bourne trend of ultra close-ups and staccato editing in favour of long takes and mid length shots with lots of depth of field. It all helps show off Carano’s fighting talents. A love it or hate it film, it has received mixed reviews, personally I love it.

Killer Joe
Budget: $10,000,000 (estimated)
Back in 2006 William Friedkin made a criminally overlooked gem called Bug, it was based on a play by Tracy Letts who also wrote the screenplay. The pair re-teamed to adapt a play Letts wrote twenty years ago. Set around a criminally stupid dysfunctional Texas family it is a violent and repugnant tale. Emile Hirsch, Juno Temple, Thomas Haden Church and Gina Gershon are all brilliant but are in the shadow of the real star Matthew McConaughey. Often funny but the humour is truly jet black, this is a seriously fucked up film that many people will hate, again, I love it.

The Raid
Budget: $1,100,000 (estimated)
Welshman Gareth Evans is the unlikely director of this film that highlights Indonesian martial art, pencak silat. Set in a Jakarta tower block controlled by a crime lord a swat team have to fight for their lives as the story of why they are there gradually unfolds. A brutal and violent film that isn’t actually that originally but still manages to feel fresh and new. It isn’t as good, inventive or as memorable as Die Hard but it cost less than £1million, in other words less than the coffee budget from Lord of the Rings.

Wild Bill
Budget: no idea but its British so it won’t be much!
Dexter Fletcher has always been a decent and likeable actor, although never a great one, therefore it many come as a surprise, but his debut feature as a director is brilliant. Given his association with British gangster movies it is natural that Wild Bill would be set in London’s underworld. What’s great about the movie is that it avoids the usual storylines associated with this type of movie in recent years and concentrates on more personal story of an ex con who returns home from prison to find his two young sons abandoned my their mother. Being a farther is the last thing on his mind but something compels him to do the right thing. Fletcher also avoids the pitfall of casting himself instead opting for a whose who of British TV and genre movies.

Killing Them Softly
$18,000,000 (estimated)
This gritty tale of low level mobsters and hit men could have been a disaster. Not a great deal happens, it is filled with scenes of men talking around the issues of the movie. The social and political commentary have earned the movie its greatest praise and largest criticism. Directed by Andrew Dominik and starring Brad Pitt, the pair worked together on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and are both on top form again. And like all great genre movies, it clocks in at less than 100 minutes.

Lockout
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson, I’m not sure there is an original idea in the whole movie and don’t think Luc Besson has actually had an original idea in a long time, but that really doesn’t matter, the movie is great. Its silly and its fun and that’s all it ever intended or indeed needed to be. The plot involves a shady but honest spy type character who is forced to rescue the president’s daughter who is held hostage on a prison in space. So basically its Die Hard meets Escape from New York, in space. The CGI is terrible and the plot is thin but none of this matters, the action is good and the dialogue is often funny. The real appeal is a surprisingly good Maggie Grace and the always brilliant Guy Pearce.

Chronicle
$12,000,000 (estimated)
The surprise low budget hit from the early part of the year. A Sci-fi movie reminiscent of Push (2009) and the TV show Misfits. I’m not a fan of the found footage genre but they get away with on the whole here. It loses its way in the final act but overall it is still an enjoyable movie. The unknown cast are good and the fact they are unknown often works in the movies favour.

Storage 24
Budget: again no idea but its British so will be well within the $25million limit.
I have suggested in the past that Noel Clarke is the most important person in the British film industry at the moment. Actor, writer, director and producer, awarded the Orange Rising Star Award at the 2009 BAFTA’s, he is the writer and star of Storage 24. Ultimately it is an alien invasion movie but without the grandeur of Hollywood movies and scaling it back to a small intimate and personal story. It plays out like a haunted house movie with a great blend of horror, comedy and action. Remembering the golden rule the creature is kept hidden for a long time and when we see it, its pretty good for a low budget movie. Criminally overlooked and underrated.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation (aka Get the Gringo)
$20,000,000 (estimated)
Sadly under seen thanks to Mel Gibson’s personal problems and the lack of a cinema release in America. First time director Adrian Gruenberg worked for Gibson as assistant director on Apocalypto, the pair give us an old fashioned story of a getaway driver who finds himself in trouble south of the border. There is a scene towards the end of the movie where Gibson impersonates Clint Eastwood but long before that the film starts to resemble A Fistful of Dollars (1964)/Yojimbo (1961) and is all the better for it. Full of both the action and the dry whit you would expect from Mel Gibson of old. Ultimately it is the story of a flawed character looking for redemption, just like Gibson himself.

The Grey
$25,000,000 (estimated)
A horrible and inaccurate portrayal of grey wolves but a haunting and entertaining movie. Liam Neeson has always walked the line between serious actor and action star, originally leaning more towards actor but more recently falling on the action side of the line. When a plane carrying oil drillers crashes in the freezing wastes of Alaska the survivors are hunted by killer wolves. A metaphor for the destruction of the environment and the power of nature or just a survival thriller. Whatever you get from the movie it is well made and largely enjoyable.

Read Full Post »

Following the release of The Expendables 2 earlier this there was a lot of buzz about an all female Expendables. At the time I speculated on the stars of the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s who could star in it, but given the action movies from this year I thought I would look at it from a different point of view. Who are this years top female action stars?

If you remember the original Total Recall (Sharon Stone) has one good action scene before getting killed off. In the remake director Len Wiseman has extended the part and cast his wife Kate Beckinsale, she reciprocates by playing the part with relish and being the best thing in the movie totally eclipsing Jessica Biel’s Melina. Beckinsale also stars as Selene in Underworld: Awakening, back for a third time in the fourth installment of the vampire v werewolf franchise. It is possibly the weakest of the series but Beckinsale still does a great job. Resident Evil: Retribution is the latest in Another franchise that has lasted longer than anyone thought possible, the reason to keep watching, Milla Jovovich. From successful franchises to ones that can’t get off the ground; although not a financial success, Dredd is a big improvement on the previous attempt to make a Judge Dredd movie, Olivia Thirlby’s rookie judge Anderson gives the movie a new dimension and direction.

The star of the original The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Noomi Rapace has made the jump to Hollywood. Elizabeth Shaw is the central character at the heart of Prometheus, she is no Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) but still makes a compelling star. I first saw Naomie Harris in 28 Days Later… 10 years ago, she has had a few decent roles in the decade that followed she has had the odd good role, its great to see her get one Eve in Skyfall. Anyone who has seen Winter’s Bone would probably agree that Jennifer Lawrence was the only person who could have played Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games. A reluctant hero, she may not have the ass kicking credentials of Gina Carano or Kate Beckinsale but she has more grit and determination than any actress/character on this list. Lawrence also appeared as Raven / Mystique in X-Men: First Class, with The Hunger Games first sequel Catching Fire due out next year and X-Men: Days of Future Past in 2014 expect to see a lot more of her. Its also worth remembering Rebecca Romijn’s all action take on the part to give an insight on where the character is going.

Given the amount of hits this site has received in the last few years from people searching for “Anne Hathaway Catwoman” its fair to say Anne Hathaway’s Selina aka Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises has been the most anticipated female action role of year. I’m not sure she has replaced Michelle Pfeiffer as the ultimate Catwoman but she certainly didn’t disappoint. The other highly anticipated, big budget franchise movie of the summer was The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble here in the UK). As a regular human I was concerned at what Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) would have to do in The Avengers surrounded by gods, monsters and super solders not to mention a billionaire playboy with a powered suit of armour. As it turns out her and Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton / Hawkeye are at the heart of the story and are both brilliant.

The biggest action star of the year (male or female) came out of nowhere, former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano as Mallory Kane in Haywire. There is something old-fashioned about Steven Soderbergh’s action revenge thriller Haywire, using long takes, still cameras and short lenses that give lots of depth of field. This is the perfect showcase for Gina Carano to show of her fighting ability. It takes the movie back to a pre Bourne time for action movies and has resulted in a love it or hate it reaction. Whatever your thoughts it looks like we have seen the birth of a new action star. An honourable mention for Melissa George who impressed again in last years A Lonely Place to Die, she doesn’t have any movies coming out this year but is currently starring on BBC1 in Hunted. The show is formulaic in the style of Spooks but she is really good in it.

Other performances that didn’t make the grade but are worth a quick mention are: Although there was nothing wrong with her performance Nan Yu’s Maggie in The Expendables 2 was a caricature rather than a character. Kristen Stewart was actually quite good as Snow White but the film wasn’t up to much and she was totally overshadowed by Charlize Theron. Rihanna looked good in Battleship but the film was pretty crap and the girl can’t act. Wrath of the Titans was marginally better than Clash of the Titans and Rosamund Pike is reasonably good as Andromeda having been given a much larger role than Alexa Davalos in the first film. Maggie Grace managed to avoid getting Taken in Taken 2 but she more than makes up for this by being held hostage in Lockout. In both movies she does have a few action scenes. Combining this with a part as a vampire in The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 she may be moving more towards action roles.

Did I miss anyone out. Can anybody recommend any movies or performances I have missed from the past year?

Read Full Post »

There are many mysteries in Hollywood, one of them is why isn’t Guy Pearce one of the biggest movie stars in the world? He has flirted with the A list in movies like L.A. Confidential but the real classics like The Proposition and Memento have come out of leftfield as has Lockout.

Captured by the secret service and wrongly accused of treason, Snow (Guy Pearce) is convicted without a trial. Meanwhile liberal do-gooder President’s daughter Emilie (Maggie Grace) is taken hostage while visiting a prison orbiting in space. Snow is sent in to rescue her, what follows is basically Die Hard meets Escape from New York, in space.

The CGI effects in the early scenes are cheep and really bad, but the action in the rest of the movie is good without the use of shaky cameras, ultra close-ups and over editing that has become the norm. The real success of the movie is the Snow, or more precisely Pearce playing him. Wisecracking and kicking ass like John McClane and Snake Plissken Peace absolutely relishes the role. To help things even further Peace has genuine chemistry with the surprisingly good Maggie Grace. We actually care about these underwritten and undeveloped characters. Of the supporting cast, the most notable performance comes from Joseph Gilgun who you may recognise from This Is England and his TV work.

Based on an “original idea” by Luc Besson (I’m not sure there is an original idea in the whole movie). I have kind of mixed feelings about Besson, I like most of the movies he has directed and really love a couple of them, but the conveyor belt of his original ideas is a mixed bag ranging form great to utter shit. I am pleased to report this is one of the better ones. Ultimately the movie is irrelevant, disposable and unoriginal fluff but is also fun, funny, exciting and immensely watchable. Helmed by first time feature directors James Mather, Stephen St. Leger, without Besson’s name attached it would have found its way to DVD without troubling the inside of a cinema/theatre, this would have been a shame. Not wanting to outstay its welcome it clocks in at 95 minutes, this is about right.

There is enough going on to turn this into a low budget franchise with two or three sequels, this would probably be a mistake. Left on its own it will age well (other than the effects) and be remembered as a B movie classic. It isn’t a great film this doesn’t stop it being enjoyable, and that’s why I love it.

Read Full Post »