Taken / Commando? Same Difference

Ever since Brian Mills presented his particular set of skills, Liam Neeson has been transformed into an action star. Something that has been lacking recently, with only Jason Statham single handily filling the void. Who would have thought it? Neeson, now in his 60’s, is now the go to guy if you want ruthless bad-ass who takes no prisoners. When Taken was surprise hit at the box office, it was inevitable that a sequel was forthcoming in Taken 2. Why they haven’t called it something else like Taken Again or Taking Lives : Mills’ Wrath, I don’t know.  But as we’re set for old Liam to save his dumb-ass sprog yet again, it got me thinking that, haven’t we seen this before? A former marine, kills countless bad guys on a mission to get his daughter back. Does that sound familiar?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMANDO!

Think about it. Is Liam Neeson the modern day equivalent of Arnie? Though I doubt he has his mussels, he does fill the role of that one man killing machine that Schwarzenegger conveyed in the 80’s. You may think that the link between the two is tangible, however  the two action classics differences lay in the time they where made. Commando is definitely 80’s with its over the top comic book violence and cheesy one liners, making Arnold a star and being it the quintessential action movie of the decade. Taken is nearly opposit in vibe. No comic book gore and ridiculous fights sequences, though some may disagree on that one. No instead it’s relatively gritty and serious with fights that resemble actual fighting techniques, much like the Bourne franchise. It’s a style that most action movies today seem to go for. Unless itself is based on a super hero.

Also, aren’t the two films enjoyed for the same reason. Neither of them have any particular depth other than a mans determination to  retrieve his daughter, but both involve colourful villains meeting their demise at the hands of a one man army. They’re the kind of films that you sit down with your buddies over beers and watch on cheap friday night in. Commando never had a second outing, though it nearly did with a script that turned out to be the greatest action movie of all time Die Hard. So with Taken 2 due in October 4th, could this be anther land mark in its genre, probably not.

 

 

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The Dark Knight Rises : Review

Well, here it is, could this be the perfect end to what maybe the greatest trilogy about a comic book character? Ever since Christopher Nolan wiped the slate clean with Batman Begins and followed it up with one of the run away box office success, The Dark Knight. The anticipation for the next and final instalment has been so immense, that it would be impossible to live up to. So has Nolan done it, or has he dropped the ball like Rami did with Spider-Man 3. Don’t fret bat fans, this is the perfect end to the franchise.

Nolan has always had strong themes in his films, where Begins dealt with fear and The Dark Knight looked at the parallels of both light and dark side, Rises is about secrets that come back to haunt you. Set eight years since the previous instalment, Gotham has had no need for Batman under the legacy Harvey Dent and is on the verge of becoming crime free. However something dark coming, something from Bruce Wayne’s past and he must once again don the cape and rise again as Gotham’s saviour. This darkness is in the form of Bane played by Tom Hardy, who is as calculating as he is menacing and has a connection to Batman’s past. Christian Bale is more evident here with Bruce Wayne taking centre stage, though it is Wayne who his central, not Batman. Within the 165 minute running time, Batman isn’t in it as much as the previous instalments, but this series is was all about Wayne and his journey as the caped crusader. Nolan has always made this series as an ensemble with is cast. Delighting fans by giving secondarily characters with more momentous roles, played by such credible actors such as Michael Cain, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman. Adding depth and a grander universe for Batman to live in. New additions to the cast include Marion Cotillard as a potential business partner Miranda Tate, who maybe Bruce’s last chance at saving Wayne Enterprises. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a Gotham City cop, who could be described as the heart and sole of the film, but the less said about the better to avoid spoilers, lets just say he’s great and move on. Last and by no means least, Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle. Never once referred to as Catwoman, witch is good because that would be stupid, she is portrayed a cat burglar  and Hathaway nearly steals the film. (sorry) Her Selina Kyle is perrrrrrfect… okay i’ll stop. She is slick, resourceful, sexy and very entertaining. Her performance adds the only light touches that exists here as the rest of Rises is very dark and dramatic affair indeed. 

The Dark Knight Rises is a slow burner that feels like an epic and aims for a grand climax with emotional ending. Yes, those of you who thought that you never cry at a Batman film, get ready as this clearly pulls at the heart strings. Nolan takes his time so the audience invests with the characters, that we evan start to feel the villain.

However there are a few flaws with Rises that are minor and that test the reality based world Nolan has created. Such as does Bane’s plan make that much sense, why doesn’t any of the police force have facial hair and the speed of Bruce’s return trip home. Some characters feel like extended cameos and feel like a wast of their talent and screen time. Juno Temple and Matthew Modine for instance. Nevertheless, this is a fine ending to the trilogy with a knock out ending that leave audiences satisfied. Nolan has given us high profile blockbusters that are laced with ideas at the heart of them, where other blockbusters just have explosions. It may not matter that you didn’t catch everything that Bane says first time round, you know you’re going back to watch it again.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g8evyE9TuYk.

Ted : Review

 

 

Seth MacFarlane first feature as director is a novel idea that could fit easily as a premise for one of his cartoons. That is one christmas, a lonely boy makes a wish for his teddy bear to come to life and be his best friend forever. Magically, the next morning his wish comes true and Ted and John are buddies for life. Evan in adolescence, one man and his teddy bear sit on the couch drinking beer and smoke cannabis. All the partying starts to wear thin on John’s girlfriend Lori, (Mila Kunis) who wants his to mature and take responsibility. The CGI bear is a cute creation, evan when miming sexual acts. Voiced by MacFarlane himself with a voice not too dissimilar to Peter Griffin, Ted is the star of the show. He is essentially John’s demon and living embodiment of his inner child, and gets all the best lines. However the real smart move was to cast Mark Wahlberg in the lead as John. Wahlberg has always been a dab hand at comedy. Whether it’s flashing his pecks in Date Night or standing next to Will Farrell, being the funny one in The Other Guys. His mild mannered, understated delivery always sells the jokes and puts him head and shoulders above other comedic leading men. (Ahem…. Sandler) Kunis, a MacFarlane favourite, is charming as always in a role that could have easily been annoying, and just like Wahlberg, she can do comedy in her sleep.

The problems lie in the overall story. The script written by MacFarlane and fellow Family Guy writers Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild, has no real structure. Characters are introduced then forgotten about, only to turn up to used as a plot point. With a running time of 106 minutes, Ted feels over stretched as it juggles with two climaxes. One with the relationship with Lori and the other involving an action chase scene. It’s a shame, as the narrative in this film is a complete mess. Instead, what it is a series of ideas and scenarios put together when what Ted really needs is a tightly focused 90 minute script.

However the main purpose of a film like this is to do one thing. Be funny, and the answer I hear you cry is yes. Much like most of MacFarlane’s comedy, it is silly, irrelevant and there are plenty of laughs to go around. Is watch MacFarlane does best, broad comedy that takes no prisoners without the nasty edge behind them. Evan the mention of 9/11 didn’t feel in bad taste. MacFarlane may not be able to write a feature length script yet, but he can still tell a good joke

 

 

 

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Thomas Jane does some Laundry, Punisher Style

The Punisher is a franchise that hasn’t taken off over the years, with three actors who have taken on the role of Frank Castle. Ray Stevenson’s Punisher fell straight from a graphic noval (as did everything else in Punisher : War Zone) and Dolph Lundgren’s take on the character was, well Dolph Lundgren. But Thomas Jane got the short end of the stick as he nailed his performance while hindered with a low budget and a less than fathfull script. Not getting a second chance must of bothered him some what as he is back as Frank Castle, kind of. While at Comic-Con, Thomas Jane releaved a ten minuet short, directed by Phil Joanou called Dirty Laundry, witch you can check out here

While in San Diego, Jane stated “I wanted to make a fan film for a character I’ve always loved and believed in – a love letter to Frank Castle & his fans. It was an incredible experience with everyone on the project throwing in their time just for the fun of it. It’s been a blast to be a part of from start to finish — we hope the friends of Frank enjoy watching it as much as we did making it.”

While the spacial effects are cheap, it certainly has a hard edge to it and it’s always good to see Jane doing some ass kicking. Having Ron Pealman involed certainly doesn’t hurt. With FOX deleauping a Punisher TV series, they may come knocking on his door. Or maybe Marvel can give it a forth go, maybe he could join The Avengers. Maybe not.

 

 

 

 

 

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A review Round Up

 

The Five-Year Engagement

A charming if over long rom-com staring Jason Segel and the lovely Emily Blunt as a couple who can’t quite seem to made it down the aisle. With some nice surrport by Alison Brie doing a very convincing english accent, the film has too many characters that come and go and fail to be anything significant. However it is funny enough in places and the two leads carry it with charm. (3/5)

 

 

 

 

 

 

God Bless America

Bobcat Goldthwait directs a dark staire on the state of humanity. Staring Joel Murrey (Bill’s brother) as Frank, a divorced man with a child who doesn’t want to know him. Frank’s doctor tells him he has cancer and decides to end it all. Instead he she a episode of My Super Sweet 16 and decides to shoot the youngster instead. This is a very dark film as Frank goes on a rampage to kill anyboby who isn’t nice, accompanied by a 16 year old girl (Tara Lynne Barr) along for the ride. As dark as it maybe, it’s nothing we’ve not seen before, although not this brazen. It plays on the fantasies we may have on petty subjects such as talking in cinemas, taking up two parking spaces and loud mouth TV commentators. The main focus is a take on American Idle and how it exploits and ridicules the less gifted. It works as Goldthwait’s critique on what society has become. Some of it you will agree with but otherwise it’s relatively one note. A dark enjoyable rant, but not much else. (3/5)

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Magic Mike

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Steven Soderbergh second film this year, after the alternative action film Haywire. This time with male strippers, it takes low key approach and a look behind the stage to reveal their not so glamorous life. Starring Channing Tatum  (a former stripper himself) as the aforementioned Magic Mike, takes under his wing Adam AKA The Kid (Alex Pettyfer). The stripping sceans are full of dazzle and humour, while outside of that world is very naturalistic. Tatum turns in another decent performace as an ageing dancer wanting out of the game to create furniture. The story has been done serial times before, but it’s well crafted with decent cast (this isn’t a male showgirls). McMonaughey is great as Dallas the strip club owner who is long in the tooth and takes to expand the business to Miami. Overall Magic Mike is a enjoyable 110 minutes thats more character driven that it is about the abs. Still, i think i need to go to the GYM. (4/5)

 

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Killer Joe : Review

 

Director William Friedkin has made everything from the good (The Exorcist, The French Connection) to the bad (Jade, The Guardian). The one thing that is constant is his maverick sensibilities as a film maker. There is always a kinetic energy within his films weather you like them or not. Killer Joe is a perfect example of such. After the brilliantly paranoid Bug, Friedkin has re-teamed with it’s writer Tracy Letts to give us this dark twisted tale. With an array of dysfunctional trailer trash characters that are far from likable, the film stars Emile Hirsch as Chris, who owes money to some bad people. He visit’s his dad (Thomas Haden Church) and his step mother (Gina Gershon) in their trailer park home, with a plan to have his mother killed and claim the insurance money. The man for the job is a detective Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), who works as a hit man in his spare time. McConaughey has never been better in a role that is both sinister, creepy and smooth all at once. The clicking sound of his ZIPPO lighter working as his own personal theme tune as he casually saunters around like the devil himself. With no money up front, the family have no other option to offer Chris’ young sister Dottie (Juno Temple) to Joe.

 

 

 

It is a very uncomfortable film in many ways. Tackling unsettling a story while finding the humor amongst such a repugnant situation, it walks a very fine line. Temple is another stand out performance as the sweet and somewhat troubled southern bell Dottie. She shines as a little ray of innocence amongst the grimiest surroundings. Friedkin himself has that this is quintessentially a new take on Cinderella, with her Prince Charming a hired killer. The scenes with McConaughey will make your skin crawl. The tension builds until the climatic finale witch pushes everything up to 11 and provides Killer Joe with its infamous moment. I wont spoil it here, but it is the most appalling act involving a peace of fried chicken captured on film. After putting you of having a bargain bucket for life, it ends in a frantic and sudden ending, leaving you in amazement in what you just saw. Friedkin plays with the audiences tastes and threshold, taking us paces where never wish to go, and then invites us to laugh at the ludicrousness of it all.

 

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The Amazing Spider-Man : Review

When is rebooting a franchise too soon? That is what I find myself asking while watching The Amazing Spider-Man. Released ten years since Sam Rami did the rounds before dropping the ball with the unwatchable Spider-Man 3, it stars Andrew Garfield as our friendly neighborhood web slinger. Directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer), the story mainly focuses Peter Parker’s school days and his mission to find the truth about his parents. So onward we go, back to the origin story, witch may bother the audience members who still remember the original back in 2002. However this is a fresh start and with all the success Marvel are having lately, now seem as good as time as any.

 

This version features a story more faithful to the comics with great central performance by Garfield. Rather being portrayed as just geek, Garfield plays Peter as an outsider of the social circles of school. Conveying a more complex character out of Peter Parker that is true to most teenagers, and he nails it as someone who is a loaner. In order to find himself, the so far unexplored, search to find out about his parents makes sense. The appropriately named Webb, is at his best when dealing with Peters life at school and home. Whether he is getting to grips with his new spider like powers or just asking his high school crush Gwen Stacy (the always charming Emma Stone) out on a date, the film is at it’s most enjoyable. Stone is great as the affable Gwen Stacy, bringing her whit and magnetism to the role and the two together have great chemistry. This leaves the action with the new villain The Lizard, a tad too much for the story as a whole. Following the clues left by his parents, he meets scientist Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans down playing his Welsh accent) who experiments with a serum to regrow limbs only to test it out himself transforming him into Jekll and Hyde type creature. Although this ties in well enough with Peter’s story, having another character arc slows the pace down. Having a running time 136 minutes, it could shaved 20 off and deal mainly with Spider-Man and his journey to find purpose in life. However, we have a main antagonist and Ifans does it perfectly well.

 

The rest of the cast are great also. Denis Leary as the police captain who is annoyed by Spider-Man getting in his way, who is also happens to be Gwen’s father. Sally Field plays the head strong Aunt May and the real inspired casting choice to cast Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben who is perfect in that role in every way. This is a perfectly solid blockbuster with everyones favorite wall crawler back to wise cracking form (“Oh no! You have found my weakness, small knives!”), although guilty of few cheesy moments (blue collar works come to Spider-Man’s aid in his hour of need) it seems a reboot wasn’t such a bad thing after all..

Abraham Lincoln : Vampire Hunter

 

 

The new film by Timur Bekmambetov has the promise to be ridiculous fun, but sadly doesn’t deliver. Taking an alternate take on the popular American icon, the film stars Benjamin Walker (channeling a young Liam Neeson) as the historic axe wielding president. With a script written by the book’s author, Seth Grahame-Smith, we go through Lincoln’s entire life from a young boy to being the president of the United States in a strangely POE-faced manner, without any winking towards the camera. It’s an odd experience to see such a ludicrous conception done with a straight face amongst all the CGI affects. Perhaps they had a serious point to make. With Lincoln hunting down those pesky blood suckers, who of course don’t like the idea of abolishing slavery and are in league with the confederacy. So it’s up to our Abraham (Abe to his friends) to not only free the slaves, but to save America from being enslaved.

 

 

 

Walker gives a sold performance as do most of the cast. Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd, Dominic Cooper as vampire hunting mentor Henry Sturgess and Anthony Mackie as Lincoln’s black best friend (yes really), William H. Johnson. However all talents are wasted as the script just throws ideas and characters at the screen in the hope that it will stick and hold together. Rufus Sewell who is a fine actor is given nothing to do when he should be chewing the scenery as the main villain Adam. What left is the grand spectacle of the action scenes witch feather a chase through a stampede of horses and a climax on a train running across a burning bridge. Both sound exciting on paper, unfortunately they are mostly computer generated in a way that seams unreal so lacks any real danger or threat. The real crime of Abraham Vampire: Vampire Hunter is that despite the silly lavish title, it is just dull. The whole appeal of a film with this title is to have fun and relish with such preposterous idea. It’s a film equivalent of a joke told completely out of time.

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