Category Archives: 2009

Top 15 Luc Besson Directed Movies

 

Over the years, I’ve been a big fan of Luc Besson. Not only has he been a fantastic director, but a great writer and producer as well. I can really appreciate that kind of career, he’s got his hands on so many projects. He is amazing at developing interesting projects. Sometimes the ideas are originated by him and then handed off to other filmmakers, sometimes he takes them all the way through till release and he’s never one to turn away a great project that needs him to just produce. Here are my top 15 favorites that he’s had a hand in creating:

15 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

OK, Ok, this hasn’t come out yet, but I just know it’s going to hit my list. It’s the original inspiration for Star Wars and The Fifth Element, so I know I’m going to like it. This film is based on a French sci-fi comic book series created in 1967 by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres. Mezieres was also involved in creating visuals for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.

14 – Lucy (2014)

Many of his best stuff lay in 2 genres; Science Fiction and Action. This one film combines both aspects very well. In an interview on March 8, 2014, Besson said that this project took ten years to become a reality. Also, he admitted that he knew that some scientific assumptions were erroneous, ie; that humans use only ten percent of their brains. Nonetheless, he said that “(such an assumption) would be a great start for a sci-fi movie”. A woman, (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

13 – 3 Days to Kill (2014)

Here’s one that Besson wrote but didn’t direct. It was directed by McG. A dying CIA agent (Kevin Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. The meaning and relevance of the film’s title is that it refers to the estimate number of days that Ethan Renner (Costner) has to complete his mission prior to facing death from terminal brain cancer. Reminds me a great deal of a great film noir movie called DOA (Dead on Arrival) about a man who has been lethally poisoned and has to solve his own murder before he dies.

12 – Lockout (2012)

If you can excuse the main character’s dive out of a spaceship and not burn up on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and sky dive to a city below, then this is a pretty dang good flick. It totally would have made a fantastic “Escape From…number 3″ with Snake Plissken, but only because of Guy Pearce. He’s great. The plot totally reads like a Snake Plissken movie:  A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. (Guy Pearce) is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates. Call it Escape From Outer Space. Besson came up with the original idea and even wrote a draft of the screenplay.

11 – Colombiana (2011)

Zoe Saldana is great, I did a blog about her a while back called Zoe Saldana Takes Over the World. Here’s a starring vehicle with her as an assassin, kind of a reoccurring theme with Besson, just look at Leon and Nikita. It’s no wonder as this film was originally supposed to be Leon part 2. The film was based off a script that was set to be a sequel for Leon: The Professional. The story was set to follow Natalie Portman’s character Mathilda as she tracked down and killed characters that had wronged her and Leon. Portman’s success kept her from availability and the script was eventually re-written into Colombiana and cast with Saldana.

10 – From Paris With Love (2010)

In Paris, a young employee (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy (John Travolta) looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city. John Travolta is the real reason to watch this film, he just crackles with electricity. When Caroline enters James’s apartment you can clearly see the book ‘Nikita’ which was written and directed by Besson, who wrote “From Paris with Love”. This is a spy genre film and it is interesting to note that the title of the earlier film To Paris with Love (1955) is said to have been the inspiration for James Bond creator Ian Fleming for the title of his 1957 James Bond spy novel, From Russia With Love which was later made into the 007 movie.

9 – District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

This is a sequel to one of my all-time-favorite stunt movies, District B13. Follows up with great stunts and action with Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. For those of you that like the Daredevil series on Netflix, you’ll recognize Elodie Yung (Elektra) in the film. Cyril is a great stunt coordinator and he choreographed all the fight scenes in the movie and David, who invented Parkour, did all of his own stunts, without practice ahead of time. Most of the ones that you see in the film were of him performing the stunt for the first time.

8 – Tell No One (2006)

Luc Besson was lucky this project crossed his path. He was one of the Executive Producers on the film and it’s based on a fantastic book by Harlan Corben. Police find two bodies at an old murder scene and evidence to suggest the first victim’s husband is a murderer. The husband receives clues suggesting his deceased wife is actually alive and begins to investigate. This film is definitely worth finding, but it is in English subtitles, as it’s a French-language film. Originally, author Harlan Coben had optioned off his novel to Hollywood, with director Michael Apted attached. During this time, director Guillaume Canet, who had loved the novel, had been calling up Coben with his take on the novel. Coben was immediately impressed with Canet’s passion for the story, and his vision, stating that Canet understood that the novel was a love story first, and a thriller second, which Hollywood never got. When the option with Hollywood fell through, Coben contacted Canet and decided to give him a chance.

7 – Bandidas (2006)

In turn-of-the-century Mexico, two very different women (Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz) become a bank-robbing duo in an effort to combat a ruthless enforcer terrorizing their town. This is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who are coming out with Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales later this year. Steve Zahn also plays a character in the film, and it’s good to see Penelope and Steve back together again.

6 – Leon: The Professional (1994)

Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin (Jean Reno), after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade. Luc Besson got the idea of doing this movie while working on his previous movie, La Femme Nikita (1990). In that film’s third act, Victor the Cleaner appears to deal with the aftermath of Nikita’s botched mission. Realizing the potential of the character was underused in that movie, Besson decided to create a story that focused on the activities of such a character. Both Victor and Leon appear dressed in a long wool coat, sunglasses and a knit cap. Both are played by Jean Reno. The film’s working title was “The Cleaner”.

5 – The Big Blue (1988)

The rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends and now world-renowned free divers, becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. This film was such a hit in France that it played for over a year in theatres. The most financially successful French film of the 1980s. This film was probably the closest to Besson’s own upbringing. “I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn’t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn’t know much about the masters of world cinema,” Besson has said.

4 – La Femme Nikita (1990)

Convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin. Luc Besson had Anne Parillaud train extensively with guns so that she would be completely at ease with them. Parillaud took to practicing loading and unloading a fake gun in her car which led to her being pulled over by the police and having their guns drawn on her in traffic one day as they thought her weapon was real.

3 – District B13 (2004)

I wrote about this great stunt film in my blog: David Belle and District B13. Set in the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.

2 – The Fifth Element (1997)

I just love this film, although, I would have to admit that Chris Tucker has ruined it for me over the years. He’s so obnoxious in the film that he virtually makes it impossible to re-watch the film. Other than that, fantastic film. I was so upset after the film was released that no toys followed the film, as I wanted to buy all the action figures after I saw it. They could have really sold a lot of toys if they had this prepped like the Star Wars films. Another film that I loved enough to write a whole blog about; Fifth Element.

1 – Taken (2008)This film proves that Luc Besson has a magic touch. Again, he just wrote and produced this one but was genius when he hired Pierre Morel to direct as he was perfect for the job. It also gave Liam Neeson new life as an action star. Liam Neeson initially expected the film to bomb, but he signed on, in order spend four months in Paris, and learn karate, while playing the kind of role he had rarely been offered in the past. Ironically, not only was the film a massive hit, but created a new on-screen image for Neeson, as an action hero. Liam Neeson performs a good amount of his own stunts. Over the course of the movie, Bryan kills 35 people in order to get to his daughter.

Young Victoria, Charming History

 

This movie surprised me when it came out. I saw it while on break when I was working at the movie theatre and loved it so much I brought my wife to see it after work, then saw it again a few more times while it was still there. It’s really a great little film and my wife ended up loving it as much as I did.  We laughed later when we both gave it to each other for christmas that year. But did we take one back for a refund…no we did not, we still own both copies! We keep one and lend the other out to everyone we know!the-young-victoria

The Young Victoria (2009) stars Emily Blunt as Queen Victoria and concentrates on her struggle as a young Queen early on and her romance to Prince Albert played by Rupert Friend. There are some very fine actors in supporting roles as well with Paul Bettany, Mark Strong, Jim Broadbent, and Miranda Richardson. It was directed by Jean-Marc Vallee, who would go on to critical acclaim with the follow-up movies, Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Wild (2014) and Demolition (2015). He’s a versatile and incredibly strong director. All of these films are definitely worth watching, if you get the chance!Young Victoria

The film was written by Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for his screenplay of Gosford Park (2001), but who’s most recognized for being the creator of the hugely popular TV Show, Downton Abbey! I personally think he’s one of the best things to come out of Great Britain in the last decade and love just about everything he does. Let’s hope he continues to create fascinating characters and incredible drama! By the way the art direction and the costumes in The Young Victoria are amazing! Patrice Vermette and Maggie Gray were nominated for an Oscar for the Art Direction and Sandy Powell won the Academy Award for her Costume designs! Once you start looking at the amazing detail in this movie, it gets hard to just focus on the story…it’s that amazing. These things were very expensive to recreate for the time period, just to give you a few examples; Emily Blunt’s costumes worn were insured for £10,000 each and the very tall green bed cost £25,000 to build. The Duke and Duchess of Rutland, owners of Belvoir Castle, purchased it after filming.best costumes young victoria

Zoe Saldana Takes Over The World

 

If you don’t know the name, you will definitely know the face, soon to become the number 1 actress in total box office revenues of all time. Earlier this year, Scarlett Johansson was announced as the 1 actress in total box office revenues…but with the films that Zoe Saldana has lined up in the next few years, she could definitely be the one to take Scarlett’s place at the top. Scarlett has had a fantastic year with the release of The Jungle Book and Captain Marvel: Civil War, but Zoe has some pretty hefty releases of her own, especially over the next 6 years.zoe saldana avatar

Lifetime gross for Scarlett’s films hit over $330 Billion Dollars at the box office this year, and it will still be rising as she is at her peak right now.  Zoe Saldana is currently at $214 Billion Dollars at the box office this year so far with Star Trek Beyond having released over the weekend and with Live By Night with Ben Affleck and Scott Eastwood and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 being released next year and Avatar 2, 3 and 4 to be released every 2 years starting in 2018. If the Avatar films do as much as expected then Zoe will very much be in contention, even with the 2 upcoming Avengers Infinity War movies to come for Scarlett. It will be a very interesting race to watch.zoe saldana guardians of the galaxy

Zoe Saldana has racked up a very impressive list of roles in a very short period of time. Her pinnacle year was 2009 when she released Star Trek and Avatar. The thing I think I like best about her is that she plays very strong and intelligent women. She’s no-pushover in any of her movies. I also think it’s amazing that she has managed to have a family and a great career at the same time.  She gave birth to twins (yeah!) in 2014 with her husband Marco Perego. She recently said of directors that created strong female characters, “I’ve learned this about men who write good roles for women – there’s a very beautiful sentimentality to them. Their exteriors are sugarcoated with this manly presence, but deep on the inside, there’s also this [fragility]. During the shortness of my career, I’ve managed to work with Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and now Jim Cameron- all directors who are known for having strong female protagonists. They don’t feel diminished by it as men; they can tap into the complexities of how woman really are.”Zoe-Saldana-Uhura-Star-Trek-Beyond-Movie

She has shown an interest in getting behind the camera and directing in the future.  She said, (on expanding her career to become a film director), ” It is more satisfying. You are more of a participant in the conception. I like having control. I think I have the capability. I am a storyteller and an artist and I love what I do. So I want to be part of it more and not just show up and say my lines.” Maybe after all the big movies coming up are gone and she starts her second career as a director, we’ll be talking about her amazing directing, but for now we are pleased to have her in front of the camera, entertaining us!

Best Movie Stunts of the Year List 2000-2009

 

Here is the list for the Best Movie Stunts for the Decade 2000-2009 as listed in the book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

2000 – Mission: Impossible IImission motocycle

The motorcycle stunts in this John Woo Directed film performed by Tom Cruise and the rest of the stuntmen are worth the ticket of admission. Great bike stunts here.

2001 – Black Hawk Downblack-hawk-down-57593_3

Military precision is on full scale display in this fine film directed by Ridley Scott.  The actors went through a serious boot camp to get them ready and to make this as realistic as possible. Very well done.

2002 – Jackass The Moviejackass golf carts

The first time a successful movie was released with UNTRAINED stuntmen performing all the stunts.  Some of them are quite dangerous and most of them just downright silly and stupid.  But all of them entertaining.

2003 – Ong Bakong-bak-2003-13-g

Stuntman-turned-Actor Tony Jaa sparkles in this fantastic martial arts film.  In the past most martial arts films uses wires and then cgi to cover the wires later, but not in this one.  Jaa seems to have elastic legs with the kicks, jumps and splits he performs at lightning speed.

2004 – District B13District B13 Lobby Card

The French turn in a fantastic film full of Parkour stunts performed by one of the creators himself, David Belle and another great stuntman and top stunt choreographers in his own right, Cyrill Raffaelli.  If you are a fan of Taken with Liam Neeson, then you’ll love this film as Pierre Morel directed this one first.

2005 – Batman Beginsbatman

Now another Director who likes to film the action scenes himself enters the list, Christopher Nolan with this film and the sequel 3 years later.  He wanted to direct a bond film and got this franchise instead and really took it to heart.  He’s a big fan of doing practical effects and the audience gets the benefit of it all the way.  Thank you, Mr. Nolan.

2006 – Casino Royalecasino jump

Speaking of Bond, Daniel Craig‘s first entry as bond has some great Parkour in it as well.  I liked it so much I used a still as the cover for the 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts book.  It also boasts a World Record by flipping a car a record seven times!

2007 – DeathproofZoe Bell in Deathproof

I love to be able to announce another bad-ass stunt woman on the scene and Zoe Bell is not one who disappoints.  She spends the better half of Quentin Tarantino‘s movie strapped to the hood of two racing cars, with Stuntman Mike in the other car trying very hard to kill her at every chance.  Stuntman Mike played by Kurt Russell.

2008 – The Dark Knightdark_knight_7Here’s Christopher Nolan‘s sequel to Batman Begins and in so many ways it tops the original.  He manages to flip an eighteen wheeler end to end for this one by driver Jim Wilky and an amazing stunt crew.

2009 – Fast & Furiousfast-and-furious-1

The previous versions of this series were more racing films and this one transforms the series into a more stunt spectacular series from here on out.  All of the original cast is back and film is chocked full of great stunts.  Justin Lin would be the Director I would give credit to making this franchise more Universal.  And we are all the better for it.

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 8.23.28 PM

Stunt Drivers For Fast and Furious

 

This action series is really ratcheting up the car chases, races and fights scene more and more after each installment. This is the fourth movie in the series and hits it’s stride confidently and collectively.  With an opening weekend in the US at $72 Million, Fast and Furious (2009) was the highest grossing car-themed movie up to this date, as well as the biggest April opening ever.fast-and-furious-1

The movie cars were built in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. Around 240 cars were built for the film. However, the replica vehicles do not match the specifications they were supposed to represent. For example, the replica version of F-Bomb, a 1973 Chevrolet Camaro built by Tom Nelson of NRE and David Freiburger of Hot Rod magazine, included a 300 hp crate V8 engine with a 3-speed automatic transmission, whereas the actual car included a twin-turbo 1,500 hp engine and a 5-speed transmission.

The original Dodge Charger 426 Hemi R/T that was used in the original movie was a 1970, but the car in this movie was a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T 426 Hemi with a slightly modified front grill to appear as a 1970 car; the original 1970 Dodge Charger was in pieces, being totally disassembled for restoration.Fast-furious-2009-dodge-charger

The most radical vehicles built for the film were the Chevy trucks constructed for the fuel heist. Powered by 502ci GM big block motors, the ’67 had a giant ladder-bar suspension with airbags using a massive 10-ton semi rear axle with the biggest and widest truck tires they could find. The ’88 Chevy Crew Cab was built with twin full-floating GM 1-ton axles equipped with Detroit Lockers and a transfer case directing power to both axles and capable of four-wheel burnouts.

Another vehicle built for the film was the blue Nissan Skyline GT-R R34 owned by an uncredited owner who modified the vehicle to 1,200 horsepower and drove it at Japan’s Shuto Wangan Expressway at 241 miles per hour. It was a hard car to build by the production so they made clones by acquiring Nissan Skyline 25GT’s and made them look like the original car. The Skyline that was also used at the desert was actually a dune buggy using a Skyline R34’s shell.fast_and_furious_movie

There are some really good behind the scenes on the stunts in this film on the DVD and Blu-Ray two disc versions.  They include High Octane Action: The Stunts, Shooting the Big Rig Heist, and Driving School With Vin Diesel.  Fast and Furious was directed by Justin Lin for Universal.

Things to look up (go to IMDB):

  • Justin Lin
  • Vin Diesel
  • Universal Pictures

Check out our new Book, 100 Years of the Best Movie Stunts!

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