Weekend Movie Preview: September 23 Edition

How does that picture make you feel? If you get a little excited and start to sweat, you either need to seek medical attention or you’re a pre-teen girl. If you start to get irritable and want to punch someone in the face, it doesn’t mean you have anger issues. It just means you despise Taylor Lautner and should continue reading this blog. You’ll fit in here, I promise. Taylor Lautner’s first starring role is in “Abduction” starting today in only 3,100 theaters and is the story of a man-boy who finds out that his life has been a lie.

Let’s take a second and reflect back on Taylor’s greatest film achievements:

1) uhh …

Ok, so there are none. Every thing he has ever touched has been embarrassing and Taylor Lautner is the acting version of director Uwe Boll (see here). Pre-teen girls don’t like dumb action movies and boys don’t like Taylor Lautner so “Abduction” will not be a runaway success. Let’s hope it completely fails, but it won’t because, for some reason, women love Taylor Lautner and his turn in the glitter-filled “Twilight” series (see this for more venting).

But, never fear, this weekend also offers what surprisingly might be one of the best movies of the year: “Moneyball.” Not just for baseball, Brad Pitt, and complex statistics fans anymore, “Moneyball” is supposedly a well-made sports drama earning some talk of Oscar. I wonder if it’s a good time for a baseball movie, though. Sure, fans are focused on the upcoming baseball playoffs, but weekends this time of year are filled with baseball, college football, and the NFL … not a lot of time for a guy to go see a movie. Maybe the ladies will pass on Taylor and go see Brad?

Then, there’s the Jason Statham film “Killer Elite,” also out today. Rather than make you read through my opinion again, just look at this week’s review. Critics are trashing it, but it was a fun and action-filled, but poorly written good time. And Jason Statham is much more impressive than Taylor Lautner in every way … every way.

There’s also “Dolphin Tale,” the inspirational story of how Ashley Judd and Harry Connick Jr. sought to rekindle their former careers through a handicapped dolphin.

And then there’s this limited release, soon to be on DVD gem called “Humans vs. Zombies”. It’s supposed to be God-awful, but here’s the plot description: “Students on summer break are exposed to a deadly virus, a neuroinvasive organism that is spread rapidly through direct human contact. The Infected are enslaved by the invading swarm intelligence and driven by an insatiable appetite to consume human flesh. Returning home, the infection spreads quickly to their fellow classmates and other unsuspecting townspeople. One by one, more and more fall victim to the plague, triggering an epidemic that spawns a horde of ravenous zombies. The zombie horde grows and spreads throughout the community. Amidst the chaos, a campus security guard, obsessed with conspiracy theories, leads a group of students to safety as they and a small band of uninfected townspeople set out to find other human survivors in an attempt to discover the source of the “zombie” virus and save the world.”

… if only the zombies could find Taylor Lautner and kill him, right?


Jason Statham Among the “Killer Elite”

Filled with car chases, explosions, and more fighting than a UFC match, “Killer Elite” (opening this Friday nationwide) provides Jason Statham and action movie fans with everything they would expect. Does it have the best writing? No. Is the “final showdown” as entertaining as it should be? No. Is it a fun way to spend two hours? Absolutely.

“Killer Elite”, based on a so-called nonfiction British book about a secret British society, tells the story of a team of mercenaries led by Hunter (Robert DeNiro, in a role more reminiscent of his powerhouse action performances in the late 1990s (“Heat” and “Ronin”) than his legacy-eroding turns in “Little Fockers,” “Righteous Kill” and “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle”). Hunter mentors Danny (Jason Statham, doing what he does best) and, after “the last job” goes awry (they always do, don’t they?), Hunter is proud that Danny hangs up his arsenal and starts his life as a rural Australian homebuilder who catches the eye of a local girl from his childhood. The romance actually feels real and later scenes involving the girl don’t come across as trite as they do in other equivalent action films. Of course, this isn’t Lifetime, this is a Jason Statham movie, so Hunter gets kidnapped and Danny must work as a mercenary to earn Hunter’s release, as well as $6 million. Put simply: British soldiers murdered a wealthy sheik’s three sons and the sheik wants each of his son’s killers murdered before he dies. If the job is done, Hunter goes free and the sheik’s remaining son can return to their tribe.

“Killer Elite” is certainly as good as the best of Statham’s “The Transporter” or “Crank” series, but also comes with flaws. The first is that two hand-to-hand fighting scenes between Danny and British ex-soldier Spike (Clive Owen) lose their luster quickly due to dark lighting and a frantic editing job that makes some of the most exciting and best-choreographed attacks difficult to see. They are thrilling, but could have been directed significantly better. Also, Clive Owen’s character Spike is a weakness in the film, mainly because of poor writing. His character is not enough of a good guy (as avenging the murders of British soldiers by a rogue group seems quite respectable) or enough of a bad guy (trying to hunt down and kill Danny and his crew won’t earn him many points from viewers) to garner much attention. He seems to just be there, saying his lines when needed, punching when needed, and remembering the days when he was heir to the James Bond franchise before blond-haired, blue-eyed Daniel Craig took the role.

The international locales of Oman, London, and Australia add excitement to the story, even though it has been claimed that Danny moves to Australia in the film only to appease the film’s producers who are based in Australia. The film also contains a few surprises, including one unexpected death, that keep the suspense going when the writing starts to disappoint.

The sheik and his son in Oman appear no more than caricatures of Arabs, and much more could have been done to flesh out their characters, but, again, this is a Jason Statham movie. If viewers want to learn about Arab culture, they should Netflix (Quikster?) the films “Osama” or “Lawrence of Arabia”. If viewers want to watch a man tied to a chair somehow propel himself into the air and then fly backwards onto a person, smashing him, “Killer Elite” is the better bet.

The reviewer watched “Killer Elite” at a special advanced screening on Tuesday, September 20 in Washington, D.C.. The film comes out nationwide on Friday.