Taken 3 (Home Release) Audio Review: Arthritic Actioner


Director: Olivier Megaton

Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Stars: Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

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Release date: January 21st, 2015

Distributors: 20th Century Fox, EuropaCorp

Countries: France, USA

Running time: 109 minutes


 

 

1/5

Review:

Run All Night Audio Review: Liam Neeson vs. New York


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writer: Brad Ingelsby

Stars: Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman, Common

run_all_night


Release date: March 9th, 2015

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 114 minutes


 

3½/5

Review:

A Walk Among the Tombstones Review – Takin’ Charge


Director: Scott Frank

Writers: Scott Frank (screenplay), Lawrence Block (novel)

Stars: Liam Neeson, Dan Stevens, David Harbour, Boyd Holbrook


Release date: September 19th, 2014

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 113 minutes


 

3½/5

Best part: Neeson’s charisma.

Worst part: The near-laughable bleakness.

Believe it or not, grimy pot-boiler A Walk Among the Tombstones is a game-changer. Recently, a specific trend has pulled scores of action-loving cinema-goers back to the theatre. This particular current, sprouting up only a couple of years ago, has been kind certain demographics. In addition, the big-name actors involved  have been given full-scale career revivals. Thanks to Kevin Costner vehicle  3 Days to Kill and Denzel Washington/Antoine Fuqua’s  latest collaboration The Equalizer, this resurgence of veteran anti-heroes shows no sign of slowing down.

Liam Neeson shuffling through action-thriller premises.

Liam Neeson shuffling through action-thriller premises.

With A Walk Among the Tombstones, one headliner is making amends for recent poor career choices. Liam Neeson, despite being one of Hollywood’s most popular leads, has recently been dealt several hits and misses. Since 2008’s surprise hit Taken, the Irish badass has landed major studio gigs from The A-Team to A Million Ways to Die in the West. Picking every script he’s given, his immense charisma and professionalism support his A-list status. Having languished in Non-Stop‘s reputation-destroying aura, his latest effort makes for a remarkable return to form. The story, despite resembling Neeson’s preceding sleep-walk-like efforts, delivers enough thrills to win over detractors. In the first scene, set in 1991, troubled detective Matthew Scudder (Neeson) – whilst on duty – walks into a bar, downs an Irish coffee, then skims the headlines. Soon after, three latino gang-bangers kill the bartender, steal some cash, and leave. After Scudder thwarts the robbery, the movie jumps to 1999. We then follow Scudder – now an unlicensed private investigator aided by Alcoholics Anonymous – through the ultimate doomsday mission. Hired by notorious drug kingpin Kenny Kristo and his dodgy brother (Boyd Holbrook), our lead tracks down Kenny’s wife’s kidnappers. The perpetrators, Ray (David Harbour) and Albert (Adam David Thompson), are on a kidnap/murder rampage without end. Along the way, Scudder’s friendship with street urchin T.J. (Brian “Astro” Bradley) becomes a distraction.

Dan Stevens continuing his remarkable hot-streak.

Dan Stevens continuing his remarkable hot-streak.

Based on Lawrence Block’s highly-rated crime novel, A Walk Among the Tombstones tackles the famed writer’s tropes with vigour and confidence. The narrative, etching itself into the consciousness, embraces its airport-thriller roots whilst crafting its own identity. Teetering between Neeson-action and crime-thriller ticks, the movie’s intentions strike a chord. Unlike most ‘Neesoners’, known to delve into dull pure nonsense, the movie’s existential shades and killers-punishing-criminals premise elevate it above most big-budget schlockers. As one of 2014’s more invigorating efforts, the story steadily, and intelligently, moves from one plot-point and revelation to the next. Like with Scandinavian detective-thrillers, the narrative revels in the genre’s darkest-possible tones. As the investigation takes several disturbing turns, the movie switches between grounded character study, fun actioner, and bleak crime-drama. From the first highly disturbing frame onwards, writer/director Scott Frank (The Lookout) succinctly, and passionately, delicately covers the material’s moral, ethical, and thematic depths. Examining every intrinsic detail, this adaptation turns mind-numbing and derivative ideas into worthwhile bursts of energy. His narrative, breaking off into slight sub-plots and character arcs, injects emotion and stakes into key moments. However, with Frank’s infatuation with Block turned up to 11, the darkness becomes laughable within the second and third acts.

“I do favours for people. In return, they give me gifts.” (Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), A Walk Among the Tombstones).

Our killers on the loose!

Our killers on the loose!

Fuelled by unlikeable people, disturbing crimes, paranoia, and tragic backstories, this concentrated dose of evil becomes tiresome and nonsensical. By setting this action-thriller in 1999, themes of identity crisis and man-made chaos come with the territory. Sadly, the Y2K commentary escapes the central, police-procedural plot-line. Reserved for only a couple of throwaway lines, the themes rift against the cop-thriller vibe. However, despite the over-ambitiousness, Frank still crafts emotional heft whenever possible. Thanks to Mihai Malaimaire, Jr.’s cinematography, the movie’s atmospheric aesthetic bolsters Frank’s straight-laced direction. Adding unique camera angles and movements to peculiar sequences, his flourishes bolster this otherwise morbid experience. In addition, the sound design amplifies each action beat. Elevating Scudder’s significant presence, the gunshots and punches strike with brute force. Despite the positives, the movie occasionally delves into bafflingly pretentious tangents. Marked by slo-mo flourishes and a manipulative score, certain scenes do little but extend the movie’s egregious run-time. However, even in its corniest moments, Neeson’s otherworldly aura lends gravitas to this stock-standard crime-thriller. Fitting the tragic anti-hero role like a glove, his thunderous tone and impressive frame make up for the character’s cliched development. Boosting his polarising action-hero resurgence, the movie makes for a major step in the right direction. In addition, Stevens, a breakout star thanks to Downton Abbey and The Guest, excels in his underwritten, Red Herring role.

Resembling 90s-style crime-thrillers like Ransom and Payback, A Walk Among the Tombstones comes off like a Mel Gibson vehicle driven by a universe-conquering Irishman. Bolstered by Neeson’s monstrous aura, the movie excels whenever he’s on-screen. Thankfully, that’s most of the time. However, despite Frank’s competent screenplay and direction, some stylistic and thematic choices hinder this hearty effort. Adding to 2014’s film noir/crime-thriller resurgence, the movie flaunts Hollywood’s gothic/manic-depressive side.

Verdict: Neeson’s notable return to form.

Franchise Fix – The Dark Knight Trilogy


Well, as far as superhero-action movies go, we have come to this point in our epic saga. Unquestionably, this genre has reached its proverbial peak. Certain entries, defying extreme expectations, have taken it upon themselves to stand out. How are they different exactly? They, above all else, have soared, dipped, punched, and stretched to elevate themselves above the meandering competition. So, what separates a Captain America from a Ghost Rider? It all starts with the seed of an idea, before growing it into an all-encompassing entity.

Nowadays, forced to pay ridiculous ticket prices, the average film-goer determines each superhero flick’s chances of success. To succeed, you need to deliver an action flick people will go see more than once. However, the other side of the coin is one of torrential, Twitter-fuelled critical comments and poor box-office performances. Of course, top spot on the superhero franchise podium belongs to the Dark Knight trilogy. Despite varying in quality between efforts, Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s trilogy series has sparked a wave of darker, meatier blockbusters. With that said, each instalment delivers significant highs and debilitating lows. Like the caped crusader, however, they all manage to pick themselves up.

3. The Dark Knight Rises

As the highly anticipated franchise capper, The Dark Knight Rises had a helluva lot to live up to. Resting on Nolan and co.’s previous successes, the final product had the potential to be the best of the series. However, with rumours, videos, and images threatening to spoil the movie’s intricate plot, it seemed destined to continue the trend of underwhelming third instalments in superhero franchises. Fittingly, after its mega-successful release, this instalment was met with polarising reactions from critics, fans, and common film-goers.

Some people, looking past minor quarrels, saw fit to compliment Nolan for completing his game-changing franchise. Sadly, however, many people felt the opposite. Criticising villain Bane’s vocal patterns, the leaps in logic, and egregious run-time, this instalment’s detractors nearly threw it into the Spider-Man 3/X-Men: The Last Stand/Blade: Trinity pit of doom. Thanks to Nolan’s seminal final Batman flick’s mixed response, The Dark Knight Rises comes off as the trilogy’s third best instalment.

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Bane vs. Batman vs. Gotham’s soul.

With that said, I said “third best” and not “worst” for a reason. With minor plot-holes and character faults getting in many people’s way, the movie delivers more-than-enough positives. Nolan, at the very least, should be admired for pulling off such a gargantuan trilogy capper. In fact, the movie, thanks to its emotional heft and stunning performances, is more dystopian drama than superhero extravaganza. With Bane’s spectacular introduction pitting man against machine, this instalment seemed destined to follow charismatic characters through a dire journey. Of course, despite Bane’s raw power and regal presence, you can’t go past Christian Bale’s scintillating turn as a dilapidated Bruce Wayne/Batman.

Providing his best Caped Crusader performance, Bale’s energy and purposeful mannerisms propel his extraordinary character arc here. With an 8-year hiatus, Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman, Alfred’s betrayal, and Bane’s might to deal with, Wayne’s raw determination pushes him ahead of this instalment’s other well-drawn heroes and villains.

2. Batman Begins

Before the era of reboots, reboots, and more reboots, one origin tale took it upon itself to change the system. Batman Begins, introducing the average cinema-goer to a sickeningly dark version of the Caped Crusader, did its job in delivering something fresh and original for its time. In an age of sugar-coated blockbusters, this reboot opened the doors to several superhero origin movies willing to embrace their characters’ first ventures into crime fighting and personal discoveries.

The narrative, as usual for superhero reboots, kicks off with a younger version of the titular figure. Refreshingly so, his friendship with family friend Rachel Dawes kicks off this transcendent and touching superhero-action flick. With a child’s innocence smashing into said child’s greatest fears, the opening delivers an appropriate leap off the blocks. From there, Batman Begins falls into a pit of despair and anger. With a thirty-something Wayne (Christian Bale) meeting wise nobleman Ras Al Ghul (Liam Neeson), the lead’s journey transforms him from a rebellious fighter into an intriguing symbol of hope.

Batman Begins – the Caped Crusader’s true origin story.

Tackling several  weighty issues, Batman Begins looks into its own soul and examines Batman’s undying aura. With an arresting story wrestling with a claustrophobic atmosphere, this uncompromising thriller aims higher than whiz-bang effects and generic genre twists. From the first Batman sequence onwards, Christopher Nolan presents this fan favourite DC character as a philosophically bruised anti-hero willing to destroy anyone in his way. Like its sepia-esque colour palette, the tone pushes us into each gloriously dour setting. Fusing his Memento/Insomnia darkness with the comic series’ free-flowing nature, Batman Begins threw Nolan into another realm of fame and possibility.

Despite all this, it’s the cast members involved which divert Batman Begins from the Summer tent-pole blur.  Rounded out by Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Katie Holmes, Morgan Freeman and Cillian Murphy, the movie’s talented ensemble brought Oscar-calibre vibes to this intensifying superhero adventure. With movies like Man of Steel and The Incredible Hulk borrowing ideas and sequences from Nolan’s first Bat-flick, Batman Begins, 9 years on, still stands up to intense scrutiny.

1. The Dark Knight

I know, it’s a complete cliché to place The Dark Knight on top of any kind of ‘Best of…’ list. I’ll admit, my extreme infatuation with this feature might be clouding my judgement. However, I think I speak for a helluva lot of people when I proclaim this action-drama to be the best action movie of the past 10 years. Up there with the likes of There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, this superhero flick is an instant classic that future generations will discover and fall in love with the way we all did. The Dark Knight, Nolan’s magnum opus, is a triumph on every level.

Thanks to scintillating action sequences and pitch-perfect performances, this sequel proves itself worthy of repeat viewings and intense analysis. From the opening back heist sequence onwards, this superhero flick establishes itself as an unbeatable and transcendent. Despite soaring above and beyond the competition, the movie intrinsically examines the evils of good and the strengths of evil. As our characters stand on a knife’s edge, Gotham City’s newest resident seeks to turn everything inside out. Painting each character in shades of grey, The Dark Knight matches crime-thrillers like The Departed and Heat point for point.

Heath Ledger’s momentous portrayal of the Joker.

Of course, credit belongs to Nolan for elevating the genre from its cartoonish roots to a more mature and meaningful place. taking a real-world approach to the Cape Crusader, The Dark Knight  amicably discusses the consequences of vigilantism. Is Batman doing right by the citizens or his own sense of valour? The movie’s greatest moments belong to Batman’s fight against the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Harvey Dent/Two Face (Aaron Eckhart). With Gotham’s tug of war becoming increasingly violent, The Dark Knight lets loose on our society’s fragile world view. Wayne’s ego, now interlocking with his motivations, seeks to push him towards hanging up the cape and cowl. Establishing connections between Wayne, Alfred (Caine), and Lucius Fox (Freeman), the quieter moments cement this movie’s place in the annals of blockbuster cinema.

Despite delivering thorough questions and answers, The Dark Knight dons a core entertainment value at opportune moments. Blissfully so, the action sequences reach sky-high levels of fun. The Bat-pod chase through Gotham ends with pure gusto and awe-inspiring technical savvy. The truck flip alone is cause for celebration. By breaking up the light and dark moments, The Dark Knight proves its own worth as a momentous turning point for blockbuster filmmaking.

Ps. check out this video, it sums up everything awesome and immaculate about this series! Enjoy!

Non-Stop Review – The ‘Neesoner’


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Writers: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach, Ryan Engle

Stars: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Corey Stoll


Release date: February 28th, 2014 

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 106 minutes


 

2½/5

Best part: Liam Neeson.

Worst part: The baffling plot twists.

Celebrated Irish actor Liam Neeson has had a whirlwind career. Predicting his career trajectory has been, and still is, like predicting a hurricane’s turbulent path. The theatre actor’s life soared after his Oscar nominated turn in Schindler’s List. However, with Taken becoming a sleeper hit back in 2008, his recent career choices have spoken for themselves. Neeson’s jarring predicament, considering his recent script choices, is seemingly a harsh reality. His new blockbuster, Non-Stop, is part of a significant problem. The movie, despite its broadly entertaining moments, is a bafflingly idiotic action-thriller. 

Liam Neeson.

Soaring to the top of the US box office immediately after its release, the movie will push studios to throw Neeson into similar fare. Fortunately, for Neeson at least, he stands head-and-shoulders above his movie. Along with being one of Hollywood’s tallest actors, his might stems from raw power. Admittedly, with Neeson being one of tinsel town’s most popular actors, I could spend this entire review simply praising his existence. Here, like with previous efforts, he plays an all-encompassing badass with a point to prove. US federal air marshal Bill Marks (Neeson), from the opening scene, is presented as a danger to himself and others. Forced to watch over British Aqualantic Flight 10 journey from New York to London, his steely edge pushes him through air travel’s vacuous processes. Pushing past the security gate and multiple passengers, Marks, obviously, bears a disturbingly dark past. Burdened by his daughter’s death to Leukaemia, the alcoholic divorcee’s brash nature is about to get significantly worse. During the flight, after introducing himself to sensitive passenger Jen Summers (Julianne Moore), Marks is sent text messages from a mysterious source. The culprit, identified him/herself as one of the passengers/crew, threatens the disgruntled air marshal. Soon enough, the passenger threatens to kill someone every 20 minutes unless $150 million is transferred into a specialised account. Upon discovering the suspect’s true intentions, Marks finds himself on a knife’s edge. Beyond the ensuing fist-fights, speeches, and gun shots, the post-911/Transport Security Authority commentary is the movie’s biggest obstacle. Arguably, the movie’s degrading messages should’ve been left on the tarmac.

Julianne Moore.

Marks, one to hit first and ask questions later, becomes the real target of the suspect’s diabolical plan. Admittedly, to people coming into Non-Stop cold, the premise might seem promising. In addition, despite the gargantuan flaws, this is nowhere near Neeson’s worst effort. Sitting on the Neeson-o-meter between his enjoyably frantic action-dramas (Taken, The Grey) and drearily unwatchable blockbusters (Taken 2, the Clash of the Titans series), Non-Stop could and should have been more interesting. Obviously, the movie rests entirely on Neeson’s star power. In every frame, Neeson’s character pieces together this egregious puzzle. Unfortunately, neither he nor director Jaume Collet-Serra, who previously worked together on Unknown, can save this preposterous and uneasy narrative. With several clues peppered around the aircraft, the screenplay’s in-your-face attitude delivers a stupefying and nonsensical answer for each intriguing question. The suspect’s plan, though intense at first, becomes steadily unconscionable. From the first murder onward, the story’s implausible sequence of events relinquishes Non-Stop of tangibility, tension and genuine chills. Threatening to topple over at any moment, the debilitating narrative kicks into overdrive long after the 45-minute mark. Despite Collet-Serra’s commendable efforts, the discomforting tonal shifts highlight Non-Stop‘s greatest inconsistencies and plot holes. Starting off as a nail-biting drama-thriller, the movie’s first half heads in the right direction. However, after the premise is examined and explained, the second half becomes a tedious and laughable action flick. Despite the Speed-like premise, this thriller transitions into Red Eye‘s inferior relation. Essentially, this is what happens when Strangers on a Train meets Snakes on a Plane.

“I’m not hijacking this plane. I’m trying to save it!” (Bill Marks (Liam Neeson), Non-Stop).

The supporting travellers.

On top of its tonal issues, Non-Stop sports an overabundance of tiresome cliches, plot contrivances, and irritating characters. Containing more red herrings than a Scandinavian fish market, this action flick spends its first half charting stereotypes and over-the-top moments. Remember, it only get worse from there. With twists and turns hastily thrown into each scene, the final third’s revelations aren’t worth mentioning. Yes, they are that ridiculous! Despite these issues, some credit should go to Collet-Serra for the first half. Saving otherwise abominable material, his attention to detail and unique visual flourishes become bursts of fresh air within this blatantly preposterous adventure. Aware of the claustrophobic setting, Collet-Serra’s style puts the “thrill” in “xenophobic and forgettable action-thriller” (the screenwriters add everything else). The director adds a cold, distant tinge to this straight-laced thrill-ride. Toning each colour pattern down to a bleak shade of grey, Collet-Serra strives for an intense aura. Aiming for reality (within the first two-thirds, at least), he illuminates the setting’s more unsettling aspects. Outdoing himself, his camera techniques loop, pan, and whirl around characters. The action sequences definitely aren’t for the faint hearted. With turbulence and cramped areas becoming major obstacles, the Bourne-like fist fights are worthwhile. Unfortunately, the final third’s CGI-fuelled roller-coaster ride is deftly unsatisfactory. Beyond Neeson and Moore’s acting talents, there’s little to enjoy. The supporting characters – played by Corey Stoll (House of Cards), Scoot McNairy (Argo), Michelle Dockery (Downton Abbey), and Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) – are silly hindrances.

Thankfully, damning Non-Stop with faint praise, this action flick lives up to its title’s promise. This gritty but irritating thrill-ride is chock-a-block with potentially mesmerising moments and charming actors. Unfortunately, before its confusing denouement, Neeson’s latest effort descends into hokey territory. Neeson, at the very least, should think before choosing his next project. Schindler’s List and Kinsey now seem like distant memories.

Verdict: A stupefying and mildly distasteful action-thriller. 

Taken 2 Review – Second-rate Massacre


Director: Olivier Megaton

Writers: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen

Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Serbedzjia


Release date: October 5th, 2013

Distributors: EuropaCorp Distribution, 20th Century Fox

Country: France

Running time: 91 minutes


 

2/5

Best part: Liam Neeson.

Worst part: Poor action set-pieces.

In 2008, Taken became a worldwide box office success and critically acclaimed French-American thriller. It turned into a surprise hit for contemporary action cinema and changed the career of now 60 year old veteran actor Liam Neeson. The original’s comfort food-like enjoyability not only created Neeson’s current action hero status but was a rare win for French action cinema great Luc Besson. As it was several notches above most contemporary action schlock with Besson’s name on it as co-writer and producer, it was inevitable that a sequel would occur. Unfortunately, Taken 2 becomes what everyone feared the original was going to be.

Liam Neeson.

This clinical and forgettable action flick takes the fun out of the original, turning a gritty look at Eastern Europe into a much bigger yet blander Hollywood-ised follow up. This time, the string of slimy Albanian mafia members murdered by Bryan Mills (Neeson) in the original are now being laid to rest. Mafia boss and father of one of Mills’ victims (Serbedzjia) vows vengeance on his son’s murderer. Joining Mills in Turkey, ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) are still trying to move on from Kim’s abduction. But the mafia soon catches up to them, leaving the resourceful Mills and his family to escape their captors and destroy the avenging European villains once and for all.Continuing Neeson’s busy year after The Grey, Wrath of the Titans and Battleship, Taken 2 is an unoriginal, disappointing and dull action thriller. Borrowing elements from influential action thrillers and directors from the past decade, what is left is a shadow of the subtle yet violent original.

Maggie Grace.

Maggie Grace.

Tony Scott’s frayed visuals and grunge soundtrack are replayed over and over, without creating a suitable tone for every dirt covered setting and brutal murder. Along with blatantly borrowing two songs from last year’s Drive soundtrack, Director Olivier Megaton (one of Besson’s regulars with The Transporter 3 and Columbiana to his credit) sorely replaces brutality with scale, decreasing the emotional and visceral impact of the low budget original. With the original effectively focusing on the European mafia’s sex and drug trafficking trades, the sequel quickly falls into generic revenge thriller territory. Neeson’s ageing anti hero and overly protective father searching for his daughter created a scary yet affable character for Neeson’s dramatic talents. The new film repeats several of Mills’ ‘particular set of skills’, not only simplifying his awareness of every street corner and sound but blandly flashing back to already witnessed events. Despite Neeson’s usual charisma, his character here is little more than a generic Bourne-like action hero. The family’s problems cover the first 40 minutes of this boring pseudo-remake. What should be discussed about their previous overseas travels is only touched on in flashback, instead discussing uninteresting quarrels such as Kim’s driving lessons. The film from this point on is a xenophobic and excessive look at European culture. Turkey apparently contains nothing but mob informants on every corner and a serious lack of competent authorities. 

“I have to make sure these people never bother us again in our lives.” (Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), Taken 2).

Famke Janssen.

Famke Janssen.

The implausibilities of every situation are fun to point out, yet take more of the realism away from this relatively low key thriller. The seemingly unlimited number of European villains are continually mowed down by Neeson with relative ease. While the instructions given to his daughter running around Istanbul quickly extend to unsubtle heroic actions, particularly involving grenades going off in broad daylight. The action sequences, though choreographed with a realistic and bone-crunching style, suffer from quick cuts, confusing digital strobing effects and shaking cameras. Taking away from the brutality and impact of the original, the bloodless and confusing action sequences are the result of Taken 2 being sorely cut down to fit the film’s inexplicable M15+ rating. While the film’s climactic Bourne Supremacy-like taxi cab chase is edited too tightly around every twist and turn through Istanbul’s narrow streets. Luckily, the performances save this generic actioner from being completely interminable. Neeson pulls off the heroic secret agent role with a balance of ferocity and charm. Grace steps up to the role of her parent’s saviour with vulnerability. While Janssen and Serbedzjia are underused in important roles.

Ultimately, the film takes too long to decide what it wants to do. With an uneven pace and one generic twist and turn after another, what is left is very little to recommend and a classic example of sequelitis. Dear Mr. Neeson, please pick better material!

Verdict: Stick with the original.

Battleship Review – Battle: Pacific Ocean


Director: Peter Berg

Writers: Jon Hoeber, Erich Hoeber

Stars: Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Liam Neeson, Rhianna


Release date: May 18th, 2012

Distributor: Universal Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 131 minutes


 

2/5

 Best part: The first action sequence.

Wort part: The jingoistic flair.

Starting off by saying Hollywood is out of ideas is obvious when applying that statement to Battleship. With a ridiculous concept in creating a special effects extravaganza based on the popular yet plotless board game of the same name, It makes you wonder what Hollywood may decide to adapt next. This film provides some visual stimulus but little beyond that to satisfy either film aficionados or even fans of the classic board game itself.

Taylor Kitsch & Tadanobu Asano.

Taylor Kitsch & Tadanobu Asano.

We begin our descent into nostalgia and mind numbing stupidity with renegade and good for nothing slacker Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) and his brother Stone (Alexander Skarsgard); celebrating a birthday, family ties and Naval prowess. When Hopper tries to impress Samantha (Brooklyn Decker) and ends up breaking the law, he is forced by Stone to join him in the Navy. We then join them in full uniform and unlimited egotism as the annual Naval war games between the USA and Japan get under way in Hawaii. Due to scientists sending a signal to a planet much like ours in another galaxy, a strange cluster of objects fall out of the sky and into the Pacific Ocean. Disrupting the fleets in action, this alien group reigns war upon them and threatens the imminent destruction of mankind. Its now up to misfit Hopper and a sole Naval fleet to set aside differences and save the world from an overwhelming enemy.

Rhianna.

Rhianna.

Battleship is a prime example of the slapdash effort both directors and screenwriters put into blockbusters such as this each year. With the Transformers sequels and Battle: Los Angeles also suffering from major script and directorial failings, providing nothing more than a cash grab for a general audience is becoming more noticeable with each one of these cliche sci-fi action flicks. Peter Berg (The Kingdom, Hancock), who should be able to provide a convincing level of flair as acclaimed director Michael Mann’s protege, leaves behind entertaining characters and clever moments of comedy seen particularly in Welcome to the Jungle in order to achieve the conventional. This film may stand as one of the most generic blockbusters in recent memory. Even when looking down the cast list we see the who’s who of popular culture, several trying to make a name for themselves in one way or another. First off, Kitsch, fresh from the recent fantasy adventure epic John Carter, provides his usual emotionless delivery for another bland lead character role. While pop-star Rhianna, essentially playing Vasquez from Aliens, is unable to hold off her Caribbean accent when spouting several of the film’s many unnecessary one liners. Also suffering is an unconvincing Brooklyn Decker as Hopper’s girlfriend and soon to be fiancee. While phoning it in is Liam Neeson as Admiral Shane, who seems wasted in a role involving little more than a glorified cameo.

“We are going to die. You’re going to die, I’m going to die, we’re all going to die… just not today.” (Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch), Battleship).

 One of many Naval battles.

One of many Naval battles.

In their defence however, the dialogue throughout is solely based on endless references to Sun Tsu’s The Art of War, corny speeches proclaiming America’s ability to do anything and eye-rollingly tedious one liners. Battleship‘s moments of comedy fall flat and border on offensive; particularly when providing a one sided view of the Japanese. While the jingoistic view of American accomplishment is irritatingly pumped into this film, along with the unsubtle commercialisation of the Navy and Marine Corps. Loving shots of naval vessels and obvious metaphors for peace created by the US try too hard to convey a flag waving subtext. The noisy, special effect driven action sequences may look beautiful, but fail to provide any real creativity. Buildings fall down, people are needlessly killed in large quantities, free ways are crushed by Transformer-esque alien burrowers and battleships fire endlessly at alien spacecraft while being fired upon themselves. This repetitive and monotonous level of destruction does however start off promising. The first battleship sequence, one of few elements resembling anything from the board game, is choreographed, paced and photographed to create a thrilling 10 minute fight to the death against overwhelming and unknown odds. The aliens themselves, despite possessing some of the weirdest spiky beards in memory, are one dimensional at best. Their Halo-like jumpsuits along with conventional grey, slimy designs provide an uninteresting enemy for our heroes to bravely face.

With Hollywood scrambling for ideas, we’ve reached the point where Battleship is the biggest blockbuster on the menu. Sinking the director, cast, and Universal Pictures, this bomb destroys all the ships on the board!

Verdict: A mind-numbing and excessive blockbuster. 

Wrath of the Titans Review – Swords and Sam-dals


Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Writers: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson

Stars: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike


Release date: March 30th, 2012

Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures

Country: USA

Running time: 99 minutes


 

2½/5

Best part: The sumptuous visuals.

Worst part: The lack of depth.

Illustrating a world of grotesque monsters, bearded gods and vivid desert landscapes, Wrath of the Titans, despite conveying many problems from the lacklustre 2010 original, emphasises and exaggerates its mythological action-adventure appeal; creating a fun, special effect fuelled popcorn feature aimed primarily at fathers and sons, but not carved into the stone of memorable Hollywood spectacle.

Sam Worthington.

Sam Worthington.

This enjoyable romp through fantasised Greek mythology cleverly begins its journey with re-telling the brave events of fisherman turned demi-god Perseus (Sam Worthington) in the first adventure. We revisit him in a small village, fishing with his young son and teaching the ways of honest living. But war between the gods almost immediately disrupts the peace Perseus created as titans and traitors threaten the existence of mankind. With Zeus in great peril and murmurs of the titan’s release, its up to Perseus, spirited warrior queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and the son of Poseidon, Agenor (Toby Kebbell), to reach the underworld and destroy the minions and masters of hell once and for all.

Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson.

Wrath of the Titans lives up to its name by delivering exactly what it promises. There’s Wrath, and there’s Titans. The film’s simplicity leaves room to showcase one cracking action sequence after another. Director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles) Turns what could easily be video game-like hack and slash monster mashes into breath taking set pieces, each one excitingly increasing in quality. The fast pacing aids the brisk yet captivating action set pieces while the threats of annihilation by monsters, gods and the almighty Kronos build to a thrilling and climactic final third. With shaky cam and quick cuts plaguing the original, the sequel defies all expectations in its most appealing elements by showcasing immersive tracking and panning shots, fluid choreography, beautiful CGI effects and sharp sound editing. The maze sequence is filmed and designed with the ingenuity and epic scope of a labyrinth inside the mind of  Christopher Nolan. Unlike the disappointing misuse of the monsters in the original, the raw, wriggling and disgusting creations in this film create one startlingly imposing threat after another. They range from slobbering minotaurs, to blood stained siamese twin warriors called Makhai, to Cyclops’s looking remarkably like British soccer hooligans. Much like the original, its over dependence on action set pieces leaves much to be desired with the script and story telling.

“We may not be gods. But we do what people say can’t be done, we hope when there isn’t any… whatever odds we face, we prevail.” (Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Wrath of the Titans).

Rosamund Pike & Bill Nighy.

Rosamund Pike & Bill Nighy.

With a story solely based on following the characters struggle against every monster in the Greek isles, it falls flat on its face as its hollow interior leaves nothing but a straightforward quest for our gaggle of misfit characters. Plot twists based on the bonds between fathers, sons and brothers become increasingly confusing as this theme is just one of many opportunities sorely wasted by a conventional screenplay. One and two dimensional characterisations and stilted dialogue also harm proceedings as Wrath of the Titans noticeably lacks a necessary emotional connection. The cast does an adequate job with the little they’re given. Worthington drastically improves on his dull performance in the original through a charismatic yet stoic portrayal of this fabled yet modest hero, while surprisingly convincing in his comedic moments. Kebbell as the wise-cracking thief and demigod Agenor lifts the tone slightly with clever one liners. Pike as the love interest seldom gets enough screen time to make her normally gorgeous presence known. While older actors such as Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston and Bill Nighy are captivating yet suffer due to lacking screen time, unclear character motivation or diminutive story involvement. Fiennes and Neeson deliver great chemistry between each other; creating a believable relationship as brothers.

Banking on the success of Worthington and Liebesman, Wrath of the Titans is obviously a made-by-focus-group action flick. Being a sequel to one of the biggest flops of 2010, the movie barely scrapes by on pure adrenaline and brute force.

Verdict: A shallow yet entertaining action-adventure sequel.