Category Archives: 2010

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.

Knight and Day, Under-rated Gem

 

This is such an under-rated movie, which is a real bummer, because it is awesome. Watched it again over the weekend and loved it — again.  I seem to get more out of the film every time I watch it. This time around I was amazed at how good the driving in the film is. There was this one moment where Tom Cruise is driving up a parking garage and when they reach the top he does a spin and brakes at the same time to land perfectly within the lines of a parking stall. Then he jumps out, sure enough it’s Tom Cruise driving as the moment was all caught in one take.  I re-wound it several times, it’s a perfect piece of driving.knight_day_movie_image_cameron_diaz_tom_cruise

I think the film got caught in the vortex that was Oprah’s couch. After he professed his love on national television, there were several years there where the media seemed hell bent on ruining Tom Cruise’s life. He just tried to ignore it and kept pumping out great movies, but there was a significant dip in attendance for his movies, as people on the street fell for the media storm and wrote him off as, “kookie”.  I have personally been around Tom Cruise at several different times and always found him to be engaging, authentic and sincere. He’s extremely nice in person and I never felt like the media ever gave him a fair shake.  Anyway, he never stopped putting out great movies and his audience is now back up to where it should be and he seems to be doing just fine again.knightandday

One thing can definitely be said about Tom, he puts everything he has into his movies and always seems to put out high quality work. No one can ever accuse him of “mailing it in”.  Both Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz did a majority of the stunts on their own. Both Cruise and Diaz are avid drivers and have experience in doing sharp turns and 180’s. They trained very hard on the driving as they both share a love of racing. While Cruise and Diaz were promoting this movie they both appeared on the BBC’s Top Gear: Episode #15.5 (2010) where they competed in the traditional speed lap in the “reasonably-priced car.” Their respective time records were 01m:44.2s and 01m:45.2s. Diaz beat every previous time set (by people who weren’t professional racing drivers).   Then Cruise drove and beat her time by a second – his car was on only two wheels going around the last corner! His time was equal to some of the F1 drivers who’ve gone around the track (in an ordinary car).knight_day_movie_image_cameron_diaz

If you haven’t seen the movie, there’s a fantastic stunt on a motorcycle you just have to see. Cruise is driving and Diaz is behind him on the motorcycle and she gets the guns and comes around to face Cruise and shoots behind them at the cars chasing them. They really did this stunt several times for the film, and it’s a great scene. It’s a fun movie with comedy, romance and a lot of action. I highly recommend it and I hope it has a second life as a cult favorite on DVD, digital and Blu-Ray.

The Expendables – And One Tough SOB

 

I have a strict rule that I won’t cite the best movie stunts for any given year to any film that has had any deaths or serious injuries due to stunts. I don’t believe the production can be deemed a success if any of these occur, even though I do know that sometimes accidents do happen regardless of all the safeguards that are put in place to prevent them. With that in mind there are some productions where there are accidents and the stunt team and performers keep pushing on and in many cases without complaint or even without much Hullaballo…just bandage up and move on. Regardless, those productions usually have a key member on the team that sets such a heavy pace and keeps everyone in grand spirits and moving forward. That in my book is the definition of “heart”. That is what Sylvester Stallone shows his team on this production. Just watch the making of this movie and you will see what a truly tough bastard he is. He’s got heart.Syvester Stallone Jet Li dolph lungren faceoff

This was a production like no other, as for the first time multiple “action stars” came together to join a team. With different backgrounds, styles, training and experience, it was quite a feat to bring all this together for the stunt team. Overseeing all the stunts were David Leitch and Chad Stahelski, the well-known team of second unit directors and stunt coordinators behind “The Bourne Ultimatum,” “300” and “Mr. & Mrs. Smith.” To that end, the pair assembled a team of two martial arts choreographers and eight other experts from their action design company 87Eleven, “who then worked with the 80 other stunt guys on the film,” Stahelski explains. “It was a huge job.”sylvester stallone jason stratham randy courture

Stallone and the others “were very involved in their stunts — especially Stallone, who’s the most hands-on of all. He shows up in workout gear, super-motivated, and he’s very practical in his approach. He wants his fans to see it’s really him in a fight scene, so he will rehearse, but he doesn’t rely on doubles and camera tricks. He wants to do it all himself.” By contrast, Statham is “all about prep,” Stahelski notes. “His background is martial arts. So he likes every move to be meticulously choreographed. … Jason’s a rehearsal nut and he likes working with doubles and stunt guys, and there’s no room for improvisation. It’s all very precise.” Li is “somewhere in the middle,” Stahelski adds. “He loves to prep, but also keep it loose on the set, to suit the environment. And true to his Hong Kong style, he’ll come up with an idea and gradually piece it together, and then change it as needed on the day.”sylvester stallone jason stratham giselle itie

Stallone’s penchant for improvising within action scenes frequently gave Stahelski “a faint heart,” he admits. “He’ll change the moves on the day, but he does rehearse them first. He doesn’t just make stuff up oncamera, which isn’t safe to do.” Austin, who plays one of the villains, has a slightly different take on it: “Sly improvised a punch to my groin,” he recalls with a laugh. “He didn’t give me a cup-check question first, and I’m damn glad I had one on.”jasonstratham in the nose of a plane

Stahelski says Stallone “took quite a beating” during production, and suffered multiple injuries, including damaging his neck, head and ankle when he was thrown against a brick wall in a climactic fight scene with Austin. “We shot the scene in an old underground tunnel in New Orleans, and it was very carefully choreographed,” Austin says. “I spent three weeks rehearsing it with Chad and the guys. But on the day, when the fight started off being very technical, Sly just changed it on the spot. He wanted it to be far more brutal and kick-ass, and he kept amping it up, and when the director tells you to kick his ass, you gotta kick his ass.”jason strantham

The result? “We did a vicious headbutt the moment we started,” Austin says, “and he was bleeding and I had a huge bump on my forehead. And it’s not a good thing to bump heads with your star, as it tends to be your fault. So Chad had to change a few things, and much later, I found out that Stallone had also hurt his neck badly, but he never complained or stopped, and we fought all-out for two days.” The body count escalated from there. “A couple of stunt guys got broken ribs from being thrown into poles, a few had black eyes, there were tons of bruises and ripped skin from rolling around on cement with sand everywhere. And Randy Couture smoked a few guys,” recalls Austin. “It was pretty crazy, as everyone wanted their fight scenes to be the best. When you get a bunch of macho tough guys like this together, no one’s holding back.”

The Expendables was directed by Sylvester Stallone for Millennium Films.

Things to look up (click on item to go to IMDB page or Website):

Sylvester Stallone

Randy Couture

Steve Austin

David Leitch

Chad Stahelski

Jet Li

Jason Statham

Millennium Films

Mexican Standoff as defined by Wikipedia:

A Mexican standoff is a confrontation between at least two parties in which neither party can proceed nor retreat without being exposed to danger. As a result, all participants need to maintain the strategic tension, which remains unresolved until some outside event makes it possible to resolve it. Mexican standoffs need not have only two participants, however. If a standoff involves three or more parties, the tactics for resolving it will be substantially different from those for a duel, where the first to shoot has the advantage. In a confrontation among three mutually hostile participants, the first to shoot is at a tactical disadvantage. If opponent A shoots opponent B, then while so occupied, opponent C can shoot A, thus winning the conflict. Since it is the second opponent to shoot that has the advantage, no one wants to go first. The situation further changes with the degree and type of armament each party possesses; a 3-person Mexican standoff with dual wielded pistols for each party skews the outcome in favor of whomever shoots first, with the presumption that both shots are fired simultaneously, as both opposing parties are eliminated.

In popular usage, the term “Mexican standoff” is sometimes used in reference to confrontations in which neither opponent appears to have a measurable advantage. Historically, commentators have used the term to reference the Soviet Union – United States nuclear confrontation during the Cold War, specifically the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The key element that makes such situations “Mexican standoffs” is the equality of power exercised among the involved parties. The inability of any particular party to advance its position safely is a condition common among all standoffs; in a “Mexican standoff,” however, there is an additional disadvantage: no party has a safe way towithdraw from its position, thus making the standoff effectively permanent.

In financial circles, the Mexican standoff is typically used to connote a situation where one side wants something, a concession of some sort, and is offering nothing of value. When the other side sees no value in agreeing to any changes, they refuse to negotiate. Although both sides may benefit from the change, neither side can agree to adequate compensation for agreeing to the change, and nothing is accomplished.

The Mexican standoff is now considered a movie cliché stemming from its frequent use as a plot device in cinema.