Criticwatch - The Lockout Bottom Out

By Erik Childress
Posted 04/14/12 04:08:59

The summer cannot get here fast enough as far as I'm concerned. Not only are there several movies to be excited for, but 2012 can certainly use a shot of simple positivity. Make no mistake, we are not referring to seeing quote whores plaster themselves all over the ads for the next four months. The studios have actually done a pretty decent job in keeping their junketeer lapdogs in the basement where they keep their crap flicks. Even Peter Travers has been kept under wraps to an extent with only 14 quotes on the year (and only two more weeks to match his tally of 16 through April in 2011.) Truth be told, studios have needed some easy praise to grab this year. Out of 37 wide releases in 2012, only 10 have been reviewed above the aggregate 60% needed to score a fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes (and that includes this weekend's The Cabin in the Woods, the 2nd best reviewed film of the year.) Nearly half of the releases are below 40%. And when the movies stink, the whores come out to play. More than half of Shawn Edwards quotes have been on "rotten" films. Five of Mark S. Allen's six quotes were. ALL seven of Joel Amos - bad movies. So with one well-reviewed film this week, one in-between 40-60% and one under 30%, guess where the whore camp is?

I suspect many people will be on board, as I was, with Lockout for about five minutes. Guy Pearce seems to be having a smug good time as a character I would like to take out of this movie and into a good one. We get some hand-to-hand action and a chase up to a rooftop. So far, so good. Fortunately, anyone can go to YouTube and see these first five minutes without seeing what comes immediately next. Simply put, the worst special effects sequence put on the big screen since A Sound of Thunder followed by 85 minutes of shoddy plotting, direction and full-on boredom. Hey, just one guy's opinion. But there were some early hints that Lockout might be that guilty pleasure film that even the hardest of critics wrap their giddy grins around. (Three words - freefall from space). Some of them are out there and on board, but not many, resulting in a 27% approval and a scramble to the quotes that Open Road has on file already like:

"Spectacular" - Avi Offer
"You'll have a blast!" - Manny De La Rosa
"Hilarious. The most entertaining action thriller of the year." - Jami Philbrick

Do you really want to take movie advice from someone who said the 17% approved The Son Of No One, a film laughed out of its Sundance closer slot last year was "as suspenseful and captivating as The Departed," a 93% approved Best Picture winner. Looking at you, Avi. We don't always want to measure the quality of the film through aggregate sites and award tallys, but c'mon already. And you certainly can take a grain of salt to any recommendation laid out by a guy who says the following:

"You’ll howl with laughter!" (Beverly Hills Chihuahua)
"A tasty treat." (Dinner for Schmucks)
"Something good! Something fun! Something sweet! Something smart!" (Something Borrowed)

Looking at you, Manny, he who called Red Riding Hood "haunting and mysterious." Calling Lockout "a blast" is not quite the same as those quotes, though one imagines you going "bwast, bwast, bwast" during the screening. Someone else picked up the ball from you this time, but we'll get to him in a moment. Let's look at Jami Philbrick now. If we were to eliminate The Hunger Games and Chronicle from the "action thriller" genre argument we would still be left with Haywire and The Grey to complete for "the most entertaining action thriller of the year" debate. Do we need to remind Philbrick about The Raid: Redemption or is that too off his radar? Doubtful since after all he was good enough to lend his diminiutive voice of recognition to such little gems like Dylan Dog: Dead of Night and Transylmania, two films that scored a collective 6% at Rotten Tomatoes. (Dylan Dog got all 6%). Of Philbrick's 19 quotes since 2009, 14 have been of the "rotten" variety with 11 not even achieving a 40% parameter. Who cares what he thinks was "the best crime film of the year" in 2011 (Texas Killing Fields) or that his idea of "the perfect date movie" revolves around a woman not telling her prospective suitor that she is pregnant (The Back-Up Plan). Guys, is this really who you want telling you what "the most entertaining action thriller of the year" is? Tell him to go have a 10-calorie Dr. Pepper and shut the hell up.

Weeks ago we saw a tweet from Open Road proclaiming what Access Hollywood's Scott Mantz thought of Lockout:

"Lockout is a Knockout! Guy Pearce is an awesome action hero!”

Anyone who would take the rhyming pun path in exclaiming their love of a film, particularly one in a "professional" capacity deserves to be locked in an outer space prison. We tweeted back Open Road in the hopes they wouldn't embarrass themselves by using such a lame bit of praise. They didn't listen.

"Action-packed. Ridiculously entertaining. A knockout. Fast-paced" - Scott Mantz

In recent commercials though, Mantz's Dr. Seussery has been removed and simply reduced to the following:

"Fast-paced, action packed and loads of fun." - Scott Mantz

And then back again in the newspapers:

"A knockout! fast-paced, action-packed and ridiculously entertaining." - Scott Mantz

"Fast-paced" is kind of Mantz's thing. It has to be if you're going to be in the game of competitive quote whoring, where the lack of any written thoughts by said whore must quickly translate into 5 or 10 whoppers that the studio can then use and attribute to someone other than themselves. But, seriously, it's kind of the thing he grips to.

"Fast-paced, action-packed and very funny." (Rush Hour 3)
"Gripping, fast-paced fun." (Limitless)
"A smart, gripping, fast-paced and immensely entertaining suspense thriller! A crowd-pleaser all the way!" (The Next Three Days)
"Fast-paced, gripping and provocative" (Law-Abiding Citizen)
"Apes rule! Gripping, suspenseful, provocative, fast-paced and extremely entertaining!" (Rise of the Planet of the Apes)

Like "Apes rule" do you? Cause if he's not going to rhyme that title, he's going to find other ways to connect the dots from adjective to title. See if you can spot them here:

"An out-of-this-world cinematic experience!" (In the Shadow of the Moon)
"An adrenaline-fueled thrill ride!" (Crank)
"Genuinely moving, powerfully acted, and totally unforgettable! The best movie of the year." (Water For Elephants)
"Gripping, intense and very entertaining. It will keep you on the edge of your seat." (Edge of Darkness)

Not too hard to play on that last one. It's also kind of his thing.

"The Kingdom will blow you away! A provocative, pulse-pounding action thriller! Gripping, riveting and totally engaging – will keep you on the edge of your seat!" (The Kingdom)
"Smart and gripping! A top-notch political thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat! Crowe is at the top of his game!" (State of Play)
"The year’s most exciting movie! A thrilling, intense adventure that will keep you on the edge of your seat!" (Poseidon)
"Riveting! A psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat." (Stay)

We don't care if it's a good or a bad movie that Scott Mantz is quoted on. We don't care if he writes the occasional review. And we use the word "occasional" very loosely. He's a whore, plain and simple on a show whose sole purpose is to promote studio product at all costs. That instantly cheapens anything he has to say about a film, whether it be Lockout, The Departed or whatever. You want puns, follow Fake Gene Shalit on Twitter (@fakeshalit)

Now, we have saved the best for last. Or the worst. No, he is not the worst quote whore out there. Nor would I even brand him with that label, despite him jokingly lobbying for Criticwatch consideration every time one of his quotes is used. Edward Douglas is actually one of my many film festival pals. Not a trip to Sundance or Toronto goes by without us conversing in line or saving a seat for the other at a screening. But today, Ed, you are getting your wish. For you have come up with a line that should send disbelief up and down the film-loving world and one that actually displaces Carrie Keagan's idiotic Green Lantern description of it being "Star Wars meets Iron Man." Ready, film lovers? Lockout is...

"Die Hard meets Blade Runner" - Edward Douglas

Please tell us you are kidding, Ed. Please let us in on the ruse that you mashed up, inarguably, two of the best films of their respective action and science-fiction genres in order to specifically get quoted on this film. Unlike most quote whores you write reviews. Which meant you thought that line, wrote it and let it out. I have other colleagues I am friendly with who liked Lockout, so this is certainly not about disagreement. God bless ya for liking such an unwatchable turd (sans Guy Pearce's performance), but there should be no disagreement in just how nutty that comparison is. Let's break it down, shall we?

+ = ???

The Die Hard part is a no-brainer. Invoking the name of Die Hard to describe Lockout is more of a hopeful press notes kind of comparison since any film where one man must sneak around to take out a group of baddies is going to precede the word "meets" in any description. But precisely where does Blade Runner come into play? Other than Lockout having a sci-fi element set in the future, how do you compare the two even in the barest of pros and cons. Blade Runner has no prison. Lockout has no robots (except maybe Maggie Grace.) Blade Runner is not set in space. Lockout will never be confused with a detective story or film noir. Blade Runner has inspired multiple re-releases, director cuts, books, video games and solidified its director, Ridley Scott, as a legend in the science fiction community despite him taking another 30 years to go back to the genre. Lockout so far has inspired a description that puts it in the running for the dumbest quote of the year. Let's check back in 2042 to see if anyone remembers it. But we will let Mr. Douglas respond in kind:

"Woohoo! After ten and a half years writing reviews, I finally feel like I've achieved something!

But all kidding aside and since I know that part of the point of Criticwatch is to try to get into the heads of those who give these quotes and figure out "What on earth were they thinking?" I can let you in on a few "behind the curtain" bits. First of all, I really liked the movie, a LOT, both when I first saw it a few months ago and when I saw it again a couple weeks back. Even woke up early to catch a 10AM screening of it just to refresh my memory before interviewing the director and writing my review. Mind you, I never said that the movie was as good as either of those classics of those genre, but just that I liked how the two genres were mashed together. In fact, an alternate I gave them was "Die Hard as filtered through Blade Runner" and then gave them probably five or six other quotes.

I'll be the first to admit (and I do in my review) how much of the movie is homage bordering on being completely derivative but it was the skill that the filmmakers fused them together which is why I enjoyed it. Looking back at some of the other quotes I gave (example: "Fast-paced, funny and fantastic!" Ouch!!!), I clearly like the movie that I wanted to be involved in the marketing campaign in hopes that people who like movies like Die Hard and Blade Runner would give it a shot. Here's hoping those who don't think Lockout should be uttered in the same breath as them don't form a lynch mob and come after me!
" - Edward Douglas

There you have it. As I told him back, the Blade Runner comparison still makes no sense. Next time try "Die Hard meets Escape From New York" just as the filmmakers tried...and failed. Miserably.

"On the other hand," according to Douglas, "it opens with an interrogation scene (ala Blade Runner) and it involves world-building and political commentary through science fiction, which is certainly part of the appeal of Blade Runner... but yeah, I probably should have said 'Die Hard as directed by Ridley Scott' or something like that cause it was really more about the look of the movie and it was sci-fi than anything about the actual plot."

In the meantime, I'll see you in Toronto Ed so I can give you an official Moe slap. Just like in The Three Stooges which Maria Salas says is "fun for the whole family." We're not out of the woods yet.

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