I had pretty good experiences this week with not one but two movies rated 6 and under (which is pretty low) on IMDB
Atlas Shrugged, Part II: A mixed bag, but generally better than the first. The first episode had incredibly lush, beautiful settings, particularly for a low budget indie movie. But the acting was stilted and sub-par. Or perhaps the directing was sub par, with poor timing in the editing and dialog. Whatever. It was not always easy to watch.
The second movie is not as visually interesting, but it tossed out most of the actors from the first movie (a nearly unprecedented step for a sequel) and started over. As a result, the actors were much better. Though I perhaps could wish Dagny was younger and a bit hotter, she and the actor who played Rearden really did a much better job (though there is very little romantic spark between them). And, as a first in any Ayn Rand movie I have ever seen, there were actually protagonists I might hang out with in a bar.
The one failure of both movies is that, perhaps in my own unique interpretation of Atlas Shrugged, I have always viewed the world at large, and its pain and downfall, as the real protagonist of the book. We won't get into the well-discussed flatness of Rand's characters, but what she does really well -- in fact the whole point of the book to me -- is tracing socialism to its logical ends. For me, the climactic moment of the book is Jeff Allen's story of the fate of 20th Century Motors. Little of this world-wilting-under-creeping-socialism really comes out well in the movie -- its more about Hank and Dagny being harassed personally. Also, the movie makes the mistake of trying to touch many bases in the book but ends up giving them short shrift - e.g. Jeff Allen's story, D'Anconia's great money speech, Reardon's trial, etc.
I would rate this as worth seeing for the Ayn Rand fan - it falls short but certainly does not induce any cringes (if only one could say that about the Star Wars prequels).
Lockout: This is a remake of "Escape from New York", with a space prison substituting for Manhattan and the President's daughter standing in for the President. The movie lacks the basic awesomeness of converting Manhattan to a prison. In fact, only one thing in the whole movie works, and that is the protagonist played by Guy Pierce (who also starred in two of my favorite movies, LA Confidential and Memento).
The movie is a total loss when he is not on screen. The basic plot is stupid, the supporting characters are predictable and irritating, the physics are absurd, and the special effects are weak. The movie is full of action movie cliche's -- the hero throwing out humorous quips (ala Die Hard or any Governator movie), the unlikely buddy angle, the reluctant romantic plot. But Pierce is very funny, and is thoroughly entertaining when onscreen. I think he does the best job at playing the wisecracking, cynical hero that I have seen in years.