Two DVD Reviews of Poorly Rated Movies That Had Some Redeeming Characteristics

I had pretty good experiences this week with not one but two movies rated 6 and under (which is pretty low) on IMDB

Atlas Shrugged, Part II:  A mixed bag, but generally better than the first.  The first episode had incredibly lush, beautiful settings, particularly for a low budget indie movie.  But the acting was stilted and sub-par.  Or perhaps the directing was sub par, with poor timing in the editing and dialog.  Whatever.  It was not always easy to watch.

The second movie is not as visually interesting, but it tossed out most of the actors from the first movie (a nearly unprecedented step for a sequel) and started over.  As a result, the actors were much better.  Though I perhaps could wish Dagny was younger and a bit hotter, she and the actor who played Rearden really did a much better job (though there is very little romantic spark between them).  And, as a first in any Ayn Rand movie I have ever seen, there were actually protagonists I might hang out with in a bar.

The one failure of both movies is that, perhaps in my own unique interpretation of Atlas Shrugged, I have always viewed the world at large, and its pain and downfall, as the real protagonist of the book.  We won't get into the well-discussed flatness of Rand's characters, but what she does really well -- in fact the whole point of the book to me -- is tracing socialism to its logical ends.  For me, the climactic moment of the book is Jeff Allen's story of the fate of 20th Century Motors.  Little of this world-wilting-under-creeping-socialism really comes out well in the movie -- its more about Hank and Dagny being harassed personally.  Also, the movie makes the mistake of trying to touch many bases in the book but ends up giving them short shrift - e.g. Jeff Allen's story, D'Anconia's great money speech, Reardon's trial, etc.

I would rate this as worth seeing for the Ayn Rand fan - it falls short but certainly does not induce any cringes  (if only one could say that about the Star Wars prequels).

Lockout:  This is a remake of "Escape from New York", with a space prison substituting for Manhattan and the President's daughter standing in for the President.  The movie lacks the basic awesomeness of converting Manhattan to a prison.  In fact, only one thing in the whole movie works, and that is the protagonist played by Guy Pierce (who also starred in two of my favorite movies, LA Confidential and Memento).

The movie is a total loss when he is not on screen.  The basic plot is stupid, the supporting characters are predictable and irritating, the physics are absurd, and the special effects are weak.  The movie is full of action movie cliche's -- the hero throwing out humorous quips (ala Die Hard or any Governator movie), the unlikely buddy angle, the reluctant romantic plot.  But Pierce is very funny, and is thoroughly entertaining when onscreen.  I think he does the best  job at playing the wisecracking, cynical hero that I have seen in years.


  1. TJIC:

    How can you say that "Lockout" is just a rip-off of "Escape from New York".

    In Lockout the charismatic doesn't-give-a-shit ex-con hero is named "Snow".

    In Escape the charismatic doesn't-give-a-shit ex-con hero is named "Snake".


  2. Maximum Liberty:

    If I am remembering the right movie, Lockout had an epic physics fail. I believe this is the movie where, near the end, they jump out of the space station that is falling out of orbit because all its booster rockets are broken -- and fall towards earth faster than the space station. That's nearly as good as the first GI Joe movie, where the arctic ice breaks up, so the ice sinks to the bottom of the ocean to crush the undersea base.

  3. Jon:

    I have Lockout on Netflix, I was looking forward to the cheese factor. Good to see that Mr Pearce is doing well; I found his performance in Iron Man 3 enjoyable as well.

  4. Max:

    Really? I still prefer Clive Owen in his action role shoot em up. I also recommend children of men.

  5. Morven:

    I agree: Lockout is not a GOOD movie, but it's a fun stupid movie, thanks largely to Guy Pierce's performance. Saw it at home, probably off Netflix or some other streaming provider (I use several, so forget which this was). I wouldn't have paid theater money for it, but it's worth a rental, especially on a day when one's brain has already worked hard. A good couch-and-beer movie.

  6. James B.:

    Atlas Shrugged would be better off as a cable mini-series.

    And yes to a hotter, younger Dagny!

  7. Frink:

    Yes, Taylor Schilling was really the only redeemable quality of the first movie.

  8. Russ R.:

    The jet aircraft chase/crash scene in Atlas Shrugged Part II was beyond ridiculous.

    The cameo by Teller (the shorter, quieter half of Penn & Teller) more than made up for it.

  9. video lovin x:

    Check out Fortress with Christopher Lambert. Much better.