We Want Action: The Losers (2010)

Man, I had a great time watching The Losers tonight. As I said a while back, I was really looking forward to this movie along with The A-Team and The Expendables, one of which I haven’t seen yet and the other I loved. All three movies are action movies with tough badasses up against a tough mission, with Losers and A-Team both being about a team that was set up and attempting to clean up their good names. The Losers is a military team consisting of dudes with cool nicknames like Clay (Henry Dean Morgan), Roque (Idris Elba), Cougar (Oscar Jaenada), Jensen (Chris Evans) and Pooch (Columbus Short) who get burned by a guy named Max and set out to get revenge on him, later adding bad ass chicj Aisha (Zoe Saldana) to their little gang. First off, this cast is pretty rad. I haven’t seen Elba in The Wire but did enjoy him on The Office, plus the movie stars the Comedian from Watchmen, the blue chick from Avatar, one of my favorite characters from Studio 60 and the Human Torch. Fun stuff.

More fun, of course, is the flick, which doesn’t seem to go more than 10 minutes before getting into another rad action scene. The movie’s pretty easy to follow, though it does get a little wild with a weapon that seems to disintegrate islands, though I was glad they didn’t go with the regular old MacGuffin and actually showed the weapon of mass destruction in action. Other than that you’ve got the usual amount of ass kicking and plot twisting. I guess it’s a little by the numbers as far as the plot goes, but there’s enough other stuff going on that I didn’t really notice until looking back on it now.

The action scenes are top notch. There’s one earlier in the film with Aisha facing off against Clay that involves trashing a hotel room that catches on fire. It was such a visual fight without getting too wrapped up in the jerky fight scenes we’ve been assaulted with lately. Sure there’s speed-up then slow-down moments, but they seemed to serve the fight to my eyes. In fact, I was doing some writing while the movie was playing, but every time an action scene kicked off, I was drawn away from the computer and couldn’t take my eyes off the TV. The movie’s bright color palette in general helped with this as well, especially with scenes like the one with Cougar and Jensen working in a doll factory.

I also really dug the characters who all felt well acted and well rounded without having too much bogging them down. You get a good enough sense of who each one is thanks to the role they fill on the team and what we see here and there throughout the movie. Evans and Morgan really shined for me with the former’s humor and the latter’s general bad assness. Evans as the torch was one of the few bright spots in the otherwise boring Fantastic Four movies and I had only seen Morgan in the shark jumping episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and his role as the Comedian, so it was nice to see him get some more screentime and flex those cool muscles instead of getting murdered either by his girlfriend or Ozymandias.

My only real problem with the movie was the character of Max (Jason Patric) who was just a bit over the top for my tastes. He makes lots of lame jokes and changes his mind about huge plans all the time. I get wanting to add a layer to the character, but I started questioning how a man this flighty could run an organization big enough to mess with the Losers, which kind of breaks up the foundation of the movie a little. Not a good move. There’s also a bit at the end that will be considered a SPOILER. In a rad moment, Max throws a pressure switch off a high point where he and Clay are having a standoff. Clay dives into the water, grabbing the device in just enough time, but when he gets out of the water, the rest of the gang roll up in a yellow stretch Hummer limo. But I don’t understand why Cougar, the sharp shooter of the bunch, wasn’t still at his post to take Max out. Or any of the other guys on the team. It’s a little weird, but not a bad enough moment to completely kill the movie for me.

All in all, I had a great time with this movie, which is good because I really didn’t like one of the other two flicks I watched today. It can’t be ignored that The Losers is based on a comic book of the same name by Andy Diggle and Jock. The only reason I hadn’t mentioned it before is because I haven’t read them, though after watching the movie, I want to now and will probably start tracking them down on Sequential Swap.

Canceled TV Cavalcade: Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip (2006-2007)

Yeah, I know I’m using a pun on the whole Canceled Comics Cavalcade with my semi-frequent Roseanne posts, but what can I say? A good title is a good title.

Back in 2006 I was pretty excited because there were two shows coming out that were based around a Saturday Night Live-like sketch comedy show. Many people actually took sides between 30 Rock and Studio 60 and I was one of them, but I totally sided with Studio 60. The show was created by TV royalty Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme who have had varying levels of success with their partnerships. West Wing, which I haven’t watched, lasted plenty of seasons while Sports Night, which I did watch and loved, lasted only one season, just like Studio 60.

The concept is that an SNL-like show set in California starring DL Hughley, Sarah Paulson, Nathan Cordrry and a series of other actors including Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg gets taken over by former head writer and producer Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford after their old boss loses it on TV and tells people how it really is. Meanwhile, Amanda Peet plays a brand new executive at the TV station who’s first day coincides with the old boss’s meltdown. It’s her idea to get Perry and Whitford even though her boss/fellow exec Steven Weber isn’t so sure about it. From there you get fictionalized accounts of the politics of television from the boardroom to the writers room and a series of relationships like Whitford and Peet’s burgeoning romance and the crazy-complex history between Paulson and Perry who have dated and broken up more time than Ross and Rachel on Perry’s former show. 

I absolutely love this show. For one thing, it’s got that signature Sorkin walk and talk format with the camera following characters from one place to the other and moving the story forward in that very natural manner. When I was working at the magazine and there were more people there, this is kind of how things would be sometimes. I also like watching shows about writing and the process of writing. Perry finds himself in a writer’s room with a former writer whose wife and daughter died recently (Mark McKinney), a failing stand-up comedian (Colombus Short) and a writer from the room who hasn’t had a sketch on the show yet (my beloved Lucy Davis from the amazing British Office) and basically takes the reigns and ends up doing most of the show himself. I can kind of relate to how things when towards the end of my tenure at the magazine, but not nearly to that degree. As a writer myself, I’ve definitely had to deal with writer’s block and feeling like my material just isn’t good enough.

Now, of course, I’ve never been in a comedy TV writing room. I have been in rooms trying to come up with ideas for TTT, but I’m guessing it’s not really the same thing. My point is that I don’t know how accurate the portrayal is, but I also don’t really care because I always had fun with what was going on. I also appreciate how the show really gets into the nuts and bolts of putting a TV show like this on, unlike 30 Rock, which I also love. Heck, if you pay attention, you can learn something about the bedhind-the-scenes type stuff from Timothy Busfield’s role as the guy in the control room.

I’m also envious of the relationship between Perry and Whitford. They’re basically two dudes who met while working on the show and became friends. After their mysterious departure from the show within a show (which we find out about by the end of the series) they stuck together and paired up to write and direct successful movies. I’d like to have that kind of working relationship with someone. Their relationship is written and directed so well it reminds me of a lot of the people I used to work with and am still friends with now. Even their names, Matt and Danny, sound really good together. It’s those little touches that reveal more detailed writing.

Anyway, the question that always comes up when talking about a show that only lasted one season is “does it end well?” While there are definitely some smaller story elements that could have been carried on in a second season and oh how I wish it had, all of the major elements do get addressed by the end of the series. From the relationship between Perry and Paulson to Whitford’s relationship with Peet are her child. It’s a little more satisfying than something like Freaks & Geeks which still ended well, but left things on a total cliffhanger/set up for the next season. I highly recommend this show for anyone.