Tag Archives: Kellan Lutz

Extraction (2015)

Extraction

I watched a bunch of movies lately and have been working hard to catch up on my reviews. There was one movie, however, that completely slipped my mind: Extraction.

Bruce Willis has been an action hero for as long as I can remember, and after phoning it in for a few years now, I suppose it is time for him to starting hanging up the gloves. And hence Extraction, where a retiring CIA operative (Willis) is kidnapped by terrorists and it is up to his son (Kellan Lutz) and his ex-girlfriend (MMA artist Gina Carano) to, um, “extract” him.

In theory, the film isn’t a bad idea. Willis is getting long in the tooth and Lutz is doing his best to be a new-generation action star. After the failure that was A Good Day to Die Hard, I didn’t mind another attempt at it with someone other than “charisma black hole” Jai Courtney, and without the pressure of having to live up to the name of the Die Hard franchise.

Unfortunately, Extraction is a pure vanilla action-thriller that offers nothing new or creative for fans of the genre. Willis doesn’t get to do a whole lot other than collect another paycheck, while Lutz gives Courtney a run for his money in the “zero charisma” stakes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lutz — even after The Legend of Hercules — because he seems like a nice guy who is working hard to make the most of his opportunities from Twilight, but no matter what he does here he can’t save the film from being an epic bore.

The action is stock standard, there is virtually no tension, the plot is uninteresting and the characters lack personality. I can’t really be more specific because, to be honest, there’s not much to remember about it. I do recall a particularly stupid pub scene, a moronic strip club scene, wondering why parts of the plot made little sense, and feeling like they completely wasted Carano’s martial arts talent. She was also a mismatch, chemistry wise, for Lutz.

The result is yet another stale and forgettable action flick that’s not necessarily horrendous but just so lame and uninspired that it falls below any reasonable expectation of what a Bruce Willis film should be.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Hercules (2014)

herculesrocky

Let’s get something straight. This is Hercules starring The Rock, not The Legend of Hercules, the wannabe effort starring Twilight alumnus Kellan Lutz. The Legend of Hercules, released at the beginning of the year, was an appetizer: the cast was B-grade, the budget was relatively small (US$70 million) for “blockbuster standards,” and the overall effort felt underwhelming. Directed by Renny Harlin (of Die Hard 2 fame), it’s not anywhere near as bad as its Rotten Tomatoes 3% rating suggests, but everyone knew it would pale in comparison to the main course: the Brett Ratner version with The Rock in the titular role.

True to predictions, Hercules is a vastly superior film to The Legend of Hercules. That said, the two are very different movies in that apart from the name of the central protagonist, everything else is completely different.

The Legend of Hercules is a typical origins story that depicts Hercules’ life from conception to birth to rise. It’s a typical Hollywood endeavor that follows a straight, predictable line all the way through just like you’d expect.

Hercules, on the other hand, turned out to be unlike what I anticipated. When I saw the trailer, I had expected the film to follow a similar trajectory to The Legend of Hercules, just with a better lead actor, bigger budget, and skilled execution of both drama and action. When I actually saw the film, I realised how misleading the trailers were. Strangely, the Hercules in this film is much more grounded in reality. He does have amazing strength and skill as a soldier, but it leaves the truth of his legendary feats up in the air. Did they really happen, are they blatant exaggerations, or are they completely made up to fuel his reputation? The film lets us draw our own conclusions on these questions, and even asks whether it really matters.

And the film has a whole lot of fun too. The trailers made the film look like a straight-shooter, but it is actually full of wisecracks and tongue-in-cheek jokes. Everything about it surprised me. It was not what I thought it would be, and yet it was the right way — probably the best way — to go about making a film on the legendary demi-god.

The story, based on Hercules: The Thracian Wars from Radical Comics, begins when Hercules is already a legend leading a band of mercenaries that includes a prophet (Ian McShane), a feral warrior (Askel Hennie), a knife-throwing thief (Rufus Sewell), and Amazonia archer (Nicole Kidman lookalike Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), and his nephew/propaganda chief Iolaus (Reece Ritchie). Legend has it that Hercules, who has already completed the Twelve Labors, is the son of Zeus, and it’s a legend that served the mercenaries well in getting a new job from Lord Cotys (John Hurt), who wants them to train the Thracian armies to defeat the warlord Rheseus (Tobias Santelmann).

I don’t mean to shit on anyone, but The Rock is a much better Hercules than pretty-boy Lutz, who may look more like the traditional Disney version but is so wooden he might as well be portraying Annabelle (the demonic doll). And I like Lutz a lot. I think he’s a humble, hardworking guy doing his best.

The Rock makes Hercules flesh and blood, and uses his charisma to turn the demi-god into a likable protagonist who is more self-aware than he should be. I liked the idea of him having a loyal team to support him so that he has people he cares about and fights for, and luckily for the film, each of the team members are developed sufficiently so we know who they are and how to distinguish them.

The action scenes are done well, with the right amount of special effects, though they do fall short of the epic scales of other battle films in recent years. The Rock’s presence always makes fight scenes more explosive than they otherwise would be, but on the whole the film failed to deliver anything we haven’t already seen on battlefields before.

Hercules falls well short of the classic I had been hoping for because it fails to excel in either the action, drama or plot. That said, it is solid in all those respects and does not take itself too seriously, allowing The Rock to take care the rest by carrying the film on his insanely buffed shoulders. A breezy popcorn movie that’s never as good as it should be, but good enough for a fun time. It’s not a must-see by any means, but it’s the no-brainer pick if you plan on seeing only one Hercules flick this year.

3.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Expendables 3 (2014)

The-Expendables-3

I remember when I thought the idea of The Expendables, which grouped together a huge handful of old action stars, would be a good premise — if the film was made 10-15 years ago. That was back in 2010, when they made the first film. Now, with the stars another 4 years older, slower and more mutated by HGH, we have been bestowed a third installment in the franchise, and the results are more ghastly than the cracks on Mel Gibson’s face.

The first Expendables was not very good, but at least it was fresh. The second film was more of the same, except less fresh, and now the third film is simply stale. The Expendables do a dangerous job, a villain appears, hurts or kills one of their own, and revenge is ultimately accomplished following a lot of gunfire, explosions, poor attempts at “character development,” and Sly Stallone running around in platform boots yelling incoherently. It’s a proven formula for box office success.

In fact, you’re not likely to remember what the film is even about the next day, and memories of all three films will probably blend into one giant I-don’t-give-a-shit. For the loyal fans, it doesn’t really matter.

My memory of the film is already starting to fade. I am fairly certain that Mel Gibson is the villain because this is the only role in Hollywood he can get these days. I know Harrison Ford is in it because I remember thinking that he is doing a horrible job of convincing people that he has not turned completely senile. Wesley Snipes is the new addition to the oldies, but he doesn’t offer much apart from a “they went there” joke about his well-publicized problems. Arnie is back, but Bruce Willis is out (complete with a cheesy joke to go along with it). Jet Li makes his usual contract-obligated cameo, and Antonio Banderas is in it for some reason. As you can see, The Expendables franchise has more or less become a charity for old actors who want to keep gettin’ ’em checks. But hey, why blame them for exploiting the market? As long as there is demand there will be supply, no matter how many wrinkles there are. I fully expect Nicholas Cage to be in the next one.

To be fair, Stallone does try to infuse new blood into the series by hiring a bunch of potential box office draws, such as MMA badass Ronda Rousey, Twilight alumnus Kellan Lutz and former welterweight boxing champion Victor Ortiz. They each get to show off a little bit, but with so many people sharing the same pie it’s not really worth your time if you just want to see the film because of one or two people.

Now that the novelty of star power has worn off for good, The Expendables franchise must turn to action and cheesy humor to make up for it. The action, to be honest, felt like more of the same. I suppose the guns, knives and explosions are arguably bigger, but for me it was a case of different shit, same smell. I do, however, give kudos for the tongue-in-cheek cheesy humour. One of the franchise’s greatest strengths is understanding what a big joke everything is and its stars’ ability to make fun of themselves, and The Expendables 3 is no different.

I understand the appeal of the Expendables concept and why people (including myself) have flocked to it time and time again. The undeniable reality, however, is that the films have never lived up to the concept, and I doubt they ever can. I can see how there are those who still enjoy it, but I’ve become numb and indifferent after three mediocre efforts. I think my wife summed up my sentiments best with her one-word review when I asked her what she thought of it: “Whatever.”

2 stars out of 5

Movie Review: The Legend of Hercules (2014)

the-legend-of-hercules-poster

First of all, The Legend of Hercules is the Hercules movie starring Twilight beefcake Kellan Lutz, not the yet-to-be-released one with The Rock. Secondly, despite everything you’ve heard about it, The Legend of Hercules is not THAT bad. Its 3% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is misleading because it means only 3 out of 100 critics thought it was a good movie, not that the average rating of the movie is 3 out of 100 (or 0.15 stars out of 5). In truth, The Legend of Hercules is just terribly average and lacking in originality, and likely inferior to that other Hercules movie. But it’s not THAT bad. Really.

Where do I start? In ancient Greece, of course. King Amphitryon (Scott Adkins from The Expendables 2) is the king of the world, but he’s also a selfish, warmongering dude who’s extremely villainous. His estranged wife prays for guidance and “boom”, she’s doing the naughty with Zeus, who is apparently a wham-bam-thank-you-mam kinda fellow. The result is a baby who would grow up to become Hercules (Kellan Lutz).

I’ll stop there, but essentially Hercules is the story of a prophecised half-man, half-god pretty boy who has to find the strength within himself to take on the evil regime of his adopted father and wimpy half-brother while finding time to woo a pretty blonde lady played by Gaia Weiss. Without giving too much away, the film is part Gladiator, part The Passion of the Christ, part Braveheart and part Thor — in that order.

That’s one of the biggest problems with The Legend of Hercules — it feels derivative and lacking in passion. It borrows liberally and shamelessly without putting its own twist or stamp on things. The pedestrian script doesn’t do the film any favours either, but despite the Herculean efforts of director Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger) the film can’t quite shake its “cash-grabbing” vibe.

The film was made for US$70 million, which is a relatively small budget for a “blockbuster” like this. And it shows. From the weak special effects (like the bizarrely fake-looking lion) to the overall look of the sets and its visual texture, The Legend of Hercules is lacklustre all over.

To be fair, however, I did enjoy some of the action sequences in the film, both in and out of the gladiator arena. They were well choreographed and occasionally exciting, and it helps that Scott Adkins is a professional martial artist who knows what he’s doing. The scenes of Kellan Lutz doing his best impersonation of Kratos from God of War were fun too.

Speaking of Kellan Lutz, aka “charisma vortex”, it seems more than plausible that he’s the biggest reason the film has been a worldwide flop. He seems like a nice guy and a fine physical specimen who looks like he just jumped straight out of an Abercrombie & Fitch print ad, but it might come as a shock to many of you that he CAN’T ACT.  He has two facial expressions — blank, for when he doesn’t need to do anything, and an ape-like grimace for every other emotional expression. He’s basically the opposite of Daniel Day-Lewis.

I don’t profess to be an expert at judging male aesthetics, but Lutz is also one weird looking dude. There are some angles where he appears conventionally handsome and others where his face looks like an orangutan stuffed into a glass cube. The orange fake tan doesn’t help either.

Still, he’s an upgrade over Liam Garrigan, who plays Hercules’ half-brother Iphicles. Garrigan, I’m sure, is a good-looking man in real life, but here he sports a haircut that makes Tom Hanks’ rug in The Da Vinci Code look like a masterpiece. With a hairstyle like that you might as well have stuck a sign on his head that says “wimpy, gutless, jealous older brother with inferior complex who will die and no one will care.”

Anyway, as much as I have shit all over it, The Legend of Hercules is not THAT bad. For all its flaws, the fight scenes are solid and it’s only a merciful 99 minutes long. If you treat the bad script, bad dialogue, bad haircuts and Kellan Lutz’s performance as comedy, it’s actually not an unentertaining movie.

2.25 stars out of 5

Movie Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010)

As a kid, my older sister tormented me with her video rentals, most of which were horror movies.  And of all the movies we watched, the one that was etched into my memory more than any other was A Nightmare on Elm Street (and its many sequels).

So of course, I was very excited about this new “reboot” of the franchise, especially with one of my favourite actors, Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen, Little Children, Shutter Island) playing Freddy Krueger.  Haley, while maybe not a physically imposing guy, has the uncanny ability to unsettle audiences with his creepiness, and I was sure he’d make a terrific Freddy.

The verdict?  Not great — one of those remakes that could have been a lot better, but on the bright side, could have also been far worse.

A Nightmare on Elm Street follows a familiar plot line to just about every other movie in the original franchise — a bunch of kids being terrified in their dreams by the horribly burnt, knife-fingered Freddy Krueger, except that if you die in your dream, you die in real life.

There is some attempt to make the story more compelling by inserting Freddy’s origins into the plot, and tying that to the central characters in the film to create a “mystery” that needs to be solved.  Not to say it worked, but at least they tried to give the characters an additional motivation to just simply staying alive.

The intention this time was to make Freddy more frightening as opposed to the wise-cracking, almost comical Freddy that he evolved into during the latter part of the original franchise.  This new Freddy is all malevolence and anger, though there is still a part of him that likes to toy with his victims.  For the most part, I think this is a welcoming aspect of the film, especially because Haley is so magnificently frightening, even without his make-up!

Speaking of Haley, I must say that he only half-worked as Freddy.  He did whatever he could with the character, but maybe it’s because I’m so used to the Robert Englund version that Haley’s version just didn’t quite feel right — like it was a poor man’s rip-off version of the real Freddy or something.  Englund’s prominent nose and impressive frame is replaced by Haley’s flatter nose and smaller frame, and even though they wore the same outfit and had the same burns (though Haley’s were more “realistic” thanks to improved prosthetics and CGI), it still took me a while to adjust.

I’m not sure if it would have been a good idea, but I would have liked to have seen them give Freddy a slightly new look — perhaps keep the burns and knives on the fingers but do something else with the rest of his outfit.  It would be destroying an iconic look but I felt like seeing something fresh rather than recycled.

What I liked about the film was that you didn’t really get a sense of who the main character(s) were right from the start, so you had a sense that anyone could die at any moment, or that perhaps this or that character may escape death for a while.

On the other hand, I do have two main gripes about the film (in addition to all the smaller gripes about the lack in logic I can forgive).  First, I hated how they telegraphed when a character was in a dream.  Almost every single time, it was bleeding obvious.  Doesn’t all the fun stem from the audience’s uncertainty as to whether a character is dreaming or not and their inability to tell the difference between the dream world and the real world?  Instead, we are basically told “he/she is dreaming now!” and we prepare ourselves for a Freddy’s appearance and/or a gruesome death.

Secondly, there was little innovation and originality in the deaths.  I think they simply recycled some of the better deaths from the original franchise and stuffed them in.  However, I wanted to see something new and creative, something unexpected and more shocking than just Freddy doing his thing with those fingers.

As for the young cast (ie apart from Haley), I actually don’t think they did too terrible of a job.  Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body) is a veteran of these types of films now and he brings an uneasy presence to the screen — the clear stand out.  The others, Rooney Mara (Youth in Revolt), Thomas Dekker (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Twilight hunk Kellan Lutz were all solid — but Katie Cassidy delivered one of the most irritating performances of the year as Kris.  Nothing against her personally but she just tried too hard.

Apparently, A Nightmare on Elm Street has done well enough at the box-office for talks of sequels to be in the works.  I just hope that if they do continue this franchise, they be a little more innovative and creative next time, and not just try and cash in on the popularity of the original.

2.5 stars out of 5!