Tag Archives: Liam Neeson

[Review] – Taken 2

14 Oct

Title: Taken 2
Year: 2012
Director: Olivier Megaton
Writers: Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality
Runtime: 91 min
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 21%
Metacritic: 45

The success of Taken back in 2008 was one of the best storylines of that movie year. Pierre Morel‘s film, made by Luc Besson‘s EuropaCorp empire that just produces these mid-level-budget action flicks like clockwork, was a true sleeper hit back in February of 2009. That’s right, the film is a 2008 feature and had premiered that year in many countries but for some reason had its U.S. release held back, eventually being released in the summer of 2009, not only a month that’s seen as a dumping spot for movies but also on the same weekend that the Pittsburgh Steelers won Super Bowl XLIII, so it’s not as though that many people were going to be out and about that weekend.

Continue reading

Advertisements

[Trailer] – Taken 2

21 Jun

The first Taken movie was a big surprise hit, both commercially and critically, and it’s a really rewatchable film in my opinion, so I’m actually looking forward to Taken 2, which has a trailer out now that you can watch after the cut.

Continue reading

[Review] – Battleship

11 May

Title: Battleship
Year: 2012
Director: Peter Berg
Writers: John Hoeber and Erich Hoeber
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Hamish Linklater, Jesse Plemons
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence, action and destruction, and for language
Runtime: 131 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Metacritic: 43

The concept of a film based on Battleship, that classic board game in which you took turns to try to sink your opponents five boats, has always sounded pretty ridiculous. Never mind that it seemingly had absolutely nothing to do with the board game other than the fact that, admittedly, it took place at sea on some pretty huge battleships. But it’s not even a film about naval combat tactics, about one side doing their best to sink the other side’s boats. Because, you see, in Battleship the other side doesn’t really have boats; instead, the other side are aliens. Not even kidding.

Continue reading

[Review] – Lockout

30 Apr

Title: Lockout
Year: 2012
Directors: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger
Writers: James Mather, Stephen St. Leger and Luc Besson, based on an original idea by Mr. Besson
Starring: Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, Peter Stormare
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of violence and action, and language including some sexual references
Runtime: 95 min
IMDb Rating: 6.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 35%
Metacritic: 48

I like Guy Pearce a good deal. And I like what he’s sort of been doing lately in his career in which he’s taking small-ish supporting roles in amazing films with great ensembles. Whether it’s The Hurt Locker, Animal Kingdom or The King’s Speech, he’s been lending his experience and talent in small key roles and really nailing it. In Lockout, however, he’s front and center as Snow, a man who in a near future has been wrongly convicted of a crime, and who’s only shot at freedom depends on him rescuing the President’s daughter from a maximum security prison in outer space that’s been taken over by inmates.

Continue reading

[Review] – Wrath Of The Titans

15 Apr

Title: Wrath of the Titans
Year: 2012
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: Dan Mazeau and David Johnson, based on a story by Mr. Mazeau, Mr. Johnson and Greg Berlanti, based on the original 1981 screenplay by Beverley Cross
Starring: Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Édgar Ramírez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
MPAA Rating: PG-13, intense sequences of fantasy violence and action
Runtime: 99 min
IMDb Rating: 6.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 23%
Metacritic: 37

I remember watching Clash of the Titans in 2010 and not really liking it at all (I gave it a C-), thinking that while director Louis Leterrier certainly seemed to really like the original film he was remaking, he paid no mind whatsoever to any sort of storyline and just dedicated himself to crafting these huge action set pieces, not to mention that it was converted to 3D in post-production which is just a really shameless way to try to get more money. And money it got, bringing in over $490 million at the worldwide box office, which meant of course that a sequel to it was fast-tracked, which in turn resulted in us getting Wrath of the Titans, which, even though sees an improvement in the 3D department, is just as crappy in every other aspect.

Continue reading

The Grey

15 Feb

Title: The Grey
Year: 2012
Director: Joe Carnahan
Writers: Joe Carnahan and Ian MacKenzie Jeffers, based on the short story by Mr. Jeffers
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts, Joe Anderson, Nonso Anozie, James Badge Dale
MPAA Rating: R, violence/disturbing content including bloody images, and for pervasive language
Runtime: 117 min
IMDb Rating: 7.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metacritic: 64

I think it’s very safe to say by now that the career choices Liam Neeson’s made lately to establish himself as a believable mature action hero are all kinds of rad. It all obviously started with the sleeper hit that was Taken which made over $225 million in early 2009, largely in part to how incredibly kick-ass Mr. Neeson was as Bryan Mills, the man who would do anything to get back his kidnapped daughter; you really wouldn’t want to mess with Liam Neeson after seeing that film. After that film’s he’s been Zeus in Clash of the Titans and Hannibal in The A-Team, as well as starred in last year’s Unknown which had a very Taken-ish vibe. Coming up he has sequels to both Clash of the Titans and Taken, as well as a turn in Battleship. So yeah, this guy’s becoming the action man for the over-fifty crowd, and even when the films aren’t great he’s always really awesome in them, so I’m happy about that.

The latest Liam Neeson vehicle to come out is The Grey, directed by Joe Carnahan, and it’s a really gritty tale of survival of a group of people (led by Mr. Neeson’s John Ottway, natch) who are left stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after their plane crashes. Dealing with injuries, as well as the unruly weather and the pack of wolves that surround them, they must find a way to survive. And let me tell you something, this film looks really bloody cold; interviews with the cast members in which they speak of the shooting conditions are awesome to hear because these guys really were in freezing conditions, and it comes through brilliantly on screen, making this whole film look really gritty.

The action stuff is obviously awesome and it looks great, but what really made The Grey stand out to me was that its characters were fully dimensional and you could actually invest in them, and the result is a film that has just as much philosophical value as it does action stuff. That balance was what really drew me to this film and what made it better than what I expected it to be, because it’s a simple moral fable about being a heroic man, about helping others to survive. And I loved that, I loved that it was a straightforward kind of film that brought forth some really cool existential subjects and tackled them without much fuss and in just the most efficient of ways. And it’s that human stuff that gets you to seriously love this film, the action set pieces are just the icing on the cake

Joe Carnahan directed Liam Neeson on The A-Team, and while that film seemed like it was fun to make for Mr. Neeson, it wasn’t all that good (I gave it a C+). This time around however their collaboration brings forth much better results, and actually shows that Mr. Carnahan is a guy who can deliver the goods. Mr. Neeson’s character is the guy hired by the northern Alaskan oil rigs to shoot at wildlife dangers like wolves who may pose threats to the men working on the fields. The way Mr. Neeson speaks of this work, and of the men that choose to do it, in a voiceover at the beginning of the film, is just great, and the sets the tone for the grim circumstances we’re about to be thrust into. After the plane that was transporting him and many others out of their place of work crashes, many die instantly or shortly thereafter, leaving just Ottway and seven others alive.

Ottway being the experienced one takes charge of the group, leading them towards the paths that would have the better chances of keeping them alive. They are aware they’re being hunted by wolves, the unblinking stares of the beasts glowing in the dark, as the men uses torches to keep them at bay. But this isn’t a men-against-wolves story, not at all, because The Grey then becomes a very meditative sort of film that knows how to be patient, and that allows for the tough guys to actually have conversations, which in turn makes them seven individuals and not just seven bodies being hunted. There are roles among the group, that’s true, from a sensitive father to an ex-con who seems to be ready to tackle anything head-on, but this is far more insightful than what you’d expect.

It’s a really tough film this one, and it doesn’t try to mask the fact that these seven men are in a situation in which the odds are set severely against their survival. So don’t expect a super happy ending of any kind, just expect one that, considering all that’s transpired, will be really satisfying, or at least it was to me, and there’s a post-credits scene that you should stay for. I loved The Grey, I honestly did, much more than I thought I would actually, and a lot of that is because of Liam Neeson; the guy brings such a gravitas to his performances that you’re immediately pulled into his story, the fact that The Grey indeed has quite a lot of substance in its story just makes it that much better.

Grade: B+

Unknown

8 Apr

Title: Unknown
Year:
2011
Director:
Jaume Collet-Serra
Writers: Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, based on the novel by Didier van Cauwelaert
Starring:
Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Aidan Quinn, Frank Langella, Bruno Ganz
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, some intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sexual content
Runtime:
113 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
7.2
Rotten Tomatoes:
55%

 

Here is Unknown, a film that many people are seeing as some direct relative of Taken, that 2009 action thriller also starring Liam Neeson that was a smash hit, making over $225 million worldwide and that introduced Mr. Neeson as an action star. And while Unknown isn’t officially related to Taken, it still is a pretty awesome action thriller that serves to really cement Mr. Neeson’s status as a kickass action star. Not to mention the posters for both films look quite similar.

This one isn’t as great as Taken was, I mean, that film that came out two years ago was seriously fantastic, had a great pacing and an even better performance by Mr. Neeson, who we all knew was a terrific actor, but who surprised us coming out as the unlikely action movie hero at 55. This one still has Mr. Neeson doing a great job, but the film, even though has a pretty neat premise, ultimately wasn’t as involving, probably because the intriguing premise was played too far out and ended up looking way too implausible for us to really connect.

But that’s really the only problem I had with Unknown. I mean, the first half of it you get really involved with these characters, but there’s only so much cuckoo stuff you’ll let a film get away with until it loses your involvement, and that’s what happens in the second half. However, the performances are still rock solid, and the action is pretty damn neat, and the intrigue, as implausible as it may be, still makes for a damn fine mystery.

Here’s what I can tell you about the plot for Unknown without really giving much of its surprises away. You have a guy, who slips into a coma after a car accident and then wakes up only to find that no one really remembers him and that, to make matters worse, there’s someone else using his identity, living his life, living with his wife, and that everybody believes that man to be him. That’s a pretty bizarre scenario to create and to inhabit, but because it’s Mr. Neeson playing the confused botanist, this one doesn’t fall flat on its face from that very first scene of revelation.

But even though, as I said, the implausibility of it all does get to a point in which you just don’t love it as much anymore, there’s a whole lot of other things to distract you from it. Mainly, very well crafted action pieces, whether it’s big explosions or thrilling car chases, Unknown has a bit of everything, and every bit of it works. And even if the action doesn’t do it for you, you have a killer cast that damn better will. Mr. Neeson isn’t the only terrific actor on display here, you also have Diane Kruger and January Jones, one just as beautiful as the other, as well as Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella, so yeah, there’s some quality acting here.

Ms. Jones, she who’s pitch-perfect as Betty Draper on the TV masterpiece that is Mad Men (January 2012 honestly can come soon enough), plays Mr. Neeson’s wife here. The one that’s coming along with him to a summit in which he’s scheduled to be present. And fair enough, they get to their destination, Berlin, but he leaves his briefcase at the airport and must return for it, and the taxi he takes back is the one in which the aforementioned accident takes place. He then goes to the conference once he wakes up from the coma, and there he founds that no one recognizes him, and that there’s someone else there with his identity, with his wife at hand.

You can definitely imagine what happens next, because you know Mr. Neeson will never play a character that just crumbles and gets depressed under such extreme situations. He plays characters that won’t stop until they make things right. So this 0ne will then proceed to go all Taken-meets-TheBourneIdentity on us. And it does so in all the right ways, because Mr. Neeson is too good an actor and he makes us believe in him and his quest, he’s just a smart actor, and the way he plays with his character in this one, navigating the streets of Berlin with the help of Ms. Kruger’s character, is pretty damn effective.

And really, any success this film has can be attributed to Mr. Neeson, he’s the film’s strongest link, and he’s the one that carries it to its solid end result. The director, Spaniard Jaume Collet-Serra, isn’t as steady-handed as he should have been, and there were quite a lot of scenes and elements, I think, he could have handled way better. But his star doesn’t let him fail, and as such this is the best film he’s done to date, and considering the three others films he had done have been House of Wax, Goal II: Living the Dream and Orphan at least we can say that the guy has been getting better with every movie. And at least he handled the twists of the film, in a way that was still both surprising and entertaining, which is the only thing this film really needed in order to succeed considering Mr. Neeson was the lead.

And it may sound like I’m kissing Mr. Neeson’s ass quite a bit here. And, hell, if I am it’s for a reason, the man’s just a sensational actor, and this new identity he has found for himself late in his career, of the smart man’s action hero, is one that he’s perfected in just two films. So here’s to Liam Neeson, and to hoping the guy will star in at least one action thriller with a one word title and a man-on-a-mission plot every couple of years.

Grade: B+