If you were alive during the 1980s, Edward Woodward rocked white hair, cool suits, and a gun as he helped the helpless in the name of justice.
It was kinda like THE A TEAM, except just one guy, no van, no Mr. T, no trucks full of bad guys driving over a ramp and flipping. Also, Edward Woodward actually hit things when he fired his gun.
Sure, this was a cheesy show. Tell me something that wasn’t absolutely cheeseballs in the ’80s. But it was a pretty good form of cheese.
Here’s a trailer, and bonus points for all the big-name stars you can spot guest-starring in this thing.
So: if you fire up the interwebs, there’s not one but TWO movies starring Denzel Washington as a more modern and gritty equalizer.
Here’s the trailer for the first one, then we’ll talk smack.
Is Denzel Washington believable as a bald, middle-aged tough guy with a past, somebody who tries to start over as a regular man working at a home improvement warehouse?
Yeah. You believe it.
Hell, I’d watch Denzel Washington working his Joe Job for two hours as he explains the different grades of plywood and sends people to the right aisle for floor tile. The man is an acting legend.
But this is an action movie, meaning we need to get down to the fight scenes. And this movie features some truly inventive battles.
Here’s what they really do right: variety.
Most action heroes rely on certain gear or moves. Indiana Jones has his whip, 007 has his Walther PPK, Zorro and Robin Hook and Jedis have swords–there are good character reasons for all that. But it can get repetitive.
Every fight scene in THE EQUALIZER is different and interesting. Denzel doesn’t have a signature weapon; he improvises and uses found objects, or takes weapons from his opponents. It’s kinda like Jackie Chan, except instead of spinning ladders and making jokes, Denzel is KILLING ALL SORTS OF BAD GUYS.
In terms of bad guys, the Achilles’ heel of action movies, this movie actually stars a charming, chilling, scary villain who makes the final showdown fair and full of suspense.
I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.
Will watch the sequel, then send a bribe to the producer to make sure Denzel fulfills the trilogy, as foretold by the prophecy.
Yes, there will be a sequel to THE OLD GUARD, which is crushing the competition on Netflix right now. Click with your mousity mouse thing to watch the trailer.
Cool, right? Furiousa is back and she’s kicking butt.
If you haven’t watched the movie, spoilers ahead. If you have watched it, let’s talk about what worked, what didn’t, and how they could amp this thing up in the sequel.
The general feel of this movie worked well. It’s a fun time, and the acting is great for an action movie.
I like the premise–immortals who may randomly lose the ability to heal–though if you called this HIGHLANDER WITH GUNS, that feels pretty accurate, too.
The trouble with any type of immortal hero is you run into The Superman Trap, which is the fact the audience never worries about the hero being in danger because they basically can’t die. What’s good about HIGHLANDER and vampire movies is there are clear rules of how this all works. Vampires are vulnerable to sunlight, garlic, and such. Highlander and his fellow immortals die when they lose their heads, gaining the power of whoever they vanquish, except it’s not clear what power they really get. Are they faster or tougher after the light show? Can’t tell. Can they fly or do card tricks? Dunno. We’re just told they get more power, which is defined as the ability to do work, except we never see Highlander and his fellow immortal sword fetishists do anything other than swing blades at each other.
It is a nice twist for the hero, Furiosa (okay, her name in this movie is Andy, but does it really matter?) to lose her immortality toward the end. Because it raises the stakes and makes us worry.
What I didn’t like was the villain, who’s a dweeby pharma bro CEO, and yes, he’s despicable, but not scary. And certainly not a match for Furiosa and her fellow immortals.
The ending if an action movie should always have the main character, not a sidekick, take out the villain. That villain had better be just as skilled, powerful, and scary as the hero. Otherwise, snooze city. Check out the ending fight of HIGHLANDER, which featured a great bad guy, totally imposing and scary. Loved him.
There are two real villains in these Furiosa with Guns movies, which is plural on purpose because there will be more. First up is the bearded dude immortal frenemy who betrays his friends, then helps beat the bad guys only to get banished for 100 years as punishment for the original betrayal that you should have figured out ten minutes into the story. Who set up the first job that went wrong? Oh, that guy. Yeah, he’s it.
THE OLD GUARD neatly sets up the top villain in the next film, the woman who Furiosa hung out with for centuries but couldn’t save when they drowned her in an iron coffin at sea, thinking she was a witch. Then she spend hundreds of years drowning, dying, and coming back only to die again. Dreadful, right?
There’s a great stinger ending scene where the Bearded Frenemy, spending his 100 years in exile drinking all the alcohols in Europe, is surprised by the Big Bad Frenemy of Furiosa who somehow escaped the iron coffin at the bottom of the ocean. She’s certainly set up to be scary, with a totally understandable motivation for revenge and a license from the French government to do wacky psycho villain things, seeing how spending all that time drowning and coming back to life, endlessly, would warp any of our minds.
What bugged me is compared to the Big Bad Immortal Frenemy, all the little villains who died in the previous two hours feel insignificant. Especially the dweeby pharma bro.
So I hope and pray the sequel sticks with a villain who is as powerful, or more powerful, than Furiosa and her immortal friends. Because this should be the First Law of Storytelling: a movie or novel is only as strong as the villain.
Is the hero so skilled and amazing that it requires an entire division of bad guys to slow him down? Is the villain equal to that or even more skilled? You see far too many movies and novels where the villain is no match at all for the hero. And it makes it boring.
A series that completely tilts the playing field in favor of the villains, and does it incredibly well? THE BOYS on Amazon Prime (I swear this sounds like a planet in the Degobah System or whatever). The superheroes everybody worships are actually villains, and the small band of people trying to take them down are–with one exception–average people with zero powers. They’re total underdogs and it makes every victory they have so worth it.
Yes, it’s accurate to say THE OLD GUARD is sorta HIGHLANDER with guns, but it’s a fun time, and well worth watching.
On a related note: EQUILIBRIUM is pretty much THE MATRIX crossed with FAHRENHEIT 451 and 1984, and you’d think that mix wouldn’t work, but it does. They overdo the gun-kata nonsense a bit, sure, yet there’s a lot of great action scenes in this Christian Bale movie.
Zombie movies are epic and wonderful and far, far superior to the Standard Horror Movie featuring horny teenagers getting mowed down by the Boogeyman, or silly scientists who create genetically modified super-sharks which, of course, escape their tanks and EAT EVERYONE.
People–especially those who wear tweed and like to talk about “dialectical materialism” all the time–tend to lump horror movies along with other B movie trash, including zombie movies.
They are wrong.
Zombie movies are NOT like your Standard Horror Movie.
(1) They are better.
(2) They feature zombies.
(3) Zombies rock.
Seriously: zombie movies are different. Let’s pry open the skull of moviegoers — and people who read Stephen King and other horrornovels — to see what’s really going on, which is more interesting than you’d expect.
The pilot episode of GOTHAM tried to pack three hours of characters, action and material into one hour, which is more like 42 minutes with all the commercial breaks.
Did I like it? Absolutely.
Was it 10 pounds of plot shoved into a 5-pound bag? Yes. And part of that couldn’t be helped.
However, we now have Episode 2, in capital letters, to reflect upon and answer the question: Can the writers and showrunners keep this thing exciting while slowing it down and giving key characters more screen time?
Here’s the trailer for the pilot, and while this trailer is well done, it doesn’t do justice to how much they tried to pack into it.
And for comparison, before we chat, check out the promo for Episode 2:
So how did they do? Just fine.
In fact, this is one of the rare shows where Episode 2 is better than the pilot.
Why? This time was slower in a good way. They gave villains time to chew the scenery, with the best bits being the slowest scenes.
The second show reminded me of how Quentin the Tarantino ratcheted up the suspense, higher and higher, with the opening scene of INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.
And that’s only a taste of that scene. It goes on and on, and you don’t care that nothing seems to be happening, that’s it’s simply two men at a table with a glass of milk, talking. Because there’s crazy tension and conflict there without a single gunshot or explosion. Michael Bay would go deep into withdrawal, right?
But slow can work. Slow burns are often the best burns. Gunfights and making things go boom doesn’t mean anything unless you give it meaning.
BREAKING BAD understood this perfectly. There was no shortage of blood on the floor of that set, yet Vince the Gilligan and his creww always took their time to carefully plant setups and build up that tension before finally paying them off.
One of best examples of Chekhov’s Gun ever comes from a literal gun, an M60, they planted in the trunk of Walter White’s car, not knowing when, why or how that gun would go off later in the last season. Brilliant!
The First Law of Bad Literary Novels is simple: there are no happy endings.
It’s the same story with Big, Beautiful Movies with Sad, Stupid Endings.
Now, that’s not to say every book and movie needs a prototypical Hollywood happy ending. Tragedies should have sad endings, and there are plenty of classic movies where the ending is ambiguous.
Rocky actually loses his first fight. The victory comes from not getting knocked out – and from the journey from loser to contender. Rocky suffers, sacrifices and grows. That’s why the movie is good: there’s a big contrast between where Rocky is in Act 1 and where he ends up in Act 3.
The trouble with these movies is the audience doesn’t want to see them again, if they ever saw them in the first place, because the ending sours everybody, despite the beautiful imagery and amazing acting.
I’m not saying you can’t make a great movie without being low-brow and throwing in more explosions than Michael Bay ever dreamed possible.
I’m a huge fan of Scarlett Johanssson and Luc Besson, director of THE TRANSPORTER, THE FIFTH ELEMENT and THE TRANSPORTER PUTS THE FIFTH ELEMENT IN THE TRUNK AND DRIVES IT AROUND EUROPE.
So I saw LUCY last night in this giant building where the floors are sticky and popped corn drenched with fake butter costs $10 a bag.
The previews looked great and word was this movie is interesting, if not weird. Hey, it’s directed by Luc Besson, who I really want to call Jean Luc Besson, so it’s going to be exciting and fast and weird.
Here’s the trailer:
And here’s a great parody trailer:
Is this movie good? Sure. Exciting and different. Worth renting, and maybe watching in the theater.
What keeps it from greatness? The Invincible Hero Problem strikes again.
Hollywood keeps forgetting a simple rule: the villain has to be scarier and tougher than your hero.
Otherwise, there’s no jeopardy, no mystery, and the audience doesn’t care, because we know Reacher will mop the floor with every bad guy, Superman will blast Lex Luther and Keanu Reeves became unstoppable once he stopped saying “Whoa” and realized he was The One.
Invincible heroes are boring.
Lucy becomes impossibly powerful about one-third into this movie. The bad guys have zero chance after that. Zippo. She’s like a blonde Neo who escaped the Matrix, flinging people and cars around, communicated with trees and tapping into cell phone calls simply by looking at the electromagnetic spectrum. She’s a stronger god than Thor at this point, though that would make Chris Hemsworth cry when they film AVENGERS 5: IRON MAN VERSUS BATMAN VERSUS SUPERMAN.
For two-thirds of LUCY, the audience sits back and watches her do whatever she wants. There’s a bit of drama at the end, with the crime lord sneaking up behind her with a gun, though nobody using even 5 percent of their brain believed the villain had a chance of actually shooting her.
A great thriller requires a great villain. The hero has to be an underdog. The weaker you make the hero, and the stronger you make the villain, the better the ending.
Look at THE LEGO MOVIE, where the hero — the little boy — has zero shot of winning against his father, who doesn’t want him playing with his perfectly constructed Lego town. Dad holds all the power and authority. The little boy can’t win by beating his father in a fist-fight. This movie is different, and special, because the hero actually gets the villain to change course by using words instead of bullets, and it makes you cry.
So, peoples of Hollywood, please remember the most basic storytelling rule before you do a page 1 polish of a script that already cost you $5 million and has the names of seven different writers hanging from it already. That rule is simple: the villain must be stronger than the hero. Period. End of story.
If you really want to get crazy, and have some kind of unstoppable hero that you don’t want to change, flip the script and make Captain Invincible Pants your villain. How will the puny humans stop him? Oh, now you’ve got something.
Before the invention of YouTube, you’d only find gems like this at estate sales in Hollywood. And the only way to play such treasures would be if you owned a 8mm projector, eight-track tape or some other obsolete technology brought to you be the number 8.
HOWEVER: We have the technologies today, and just like Christmas in July, they give is insane film clips and trailers of things that Should Not Exist, But Somehow Do.
The trailer to WILD WILD PLANET is awesomely, ambitiously bad. Take a peek.
My favorite bits:
the four-armed thugs who look like offspring of a Terminator-Matrix union
the women who know kung fu and how to disappear
the twisted plan by some man to transmorgify into a half-man, half-woman using transporter tech stolen from the U.S.S. Enterprise or whatever
The ’90s and ’00s (oughts? oh-oh’s?) brought us movie after movie where the heroines are tough women in black leather catsuits with guns. Maybe this all started with Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, but it’s taken off ever since.
As this movie proves, tough women (good or bad) in ‘the ’60s and ’70s movies didn’t wear black leather catsuits. No. They wore red flowing polyester. If red flowing polyester wasn’t available, they wore bright orange or green.
If anybody actually WATCHED this movie, as in paid actual monies and rented it or whatever, please shout.
Also: if you are brave or crazy enough to fire it up on Netflix or whatever, please report back on what happened to the crazy man with the mustache.
Movies with subtitles are typically depressing and bad, and only watchable when you’re in college and think that French existentialism is amazing, that you should wear a black beret and smoke Gallouise Blondes the rest of your life, which will be spent in a cafe in Paris, sipping coffee and eating pan au chocolat as you discuss politics and philosophy with other intellectuals, never mind the fact that YOU DON’T SPEAK FRENCH.
There are two exceptions to the Law of Subtitles.
The first is DEAD SNOW, a Norwegian movie that isn’t just about zombies (yes!) but Nazi zombies (double yes!).
The second exception is JUAN OF THE DEAD, a Cuban zombie movie that isn’t afraid to pile on the craziness.