JT Film Review

Haywire (2012)

Haywire Review
Review #168

3/5 star

Director – Steven Soderbergh

Cast – Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Channing Tatum, Antonio Banderas, Michael Douglas

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Steven Soderbergh is known for his “one for you, one for me” approach to film making. He’ll do the pop-oriented Ocean movies, but then turn around and do a movie like The Girlfriend Experience or Solaris, which can’t possibly be expected to be blockbusters. I like that approach. It gives him an opportunity to use some top-grade talent and production values in movies that might not otherwise have gotten them.

This one was definitely a “one for me” movie, at least in terms of box office returns, and partly in style. I wonder if the studio thought it would be one for them… It is a flat-out action movie that doesn’t stop for breath, and it has an all-star cast full of upcoming and established stars. So why wasn’t this a blockbuster? Why did it just appear for two seconds on our radar, and then disappear?

Well it’s a bit of a mess. The story is told in a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, and it just confuses the hell out of us. The minimal dialogue doesn’t help either. Perhaps the intent with the flashbacks was to add something to keep us interested, in a movie that is distinctly single-minded. Not a bad idea, I suppose. But what we want to see from this movie is a) Gina Carano kicking ass, and b) all the other awesome actors getting their asses kicked. That would satisfy us, especially coupled with a smart script (which this is, no doubt) and a stylish director such as Soderbergh. But the convoluted flashbacks often leave us wondering who is who and where we are.

Soderbergh is a cold director, or seems to be from the movies I have seen, and a lot of his artsy choices here don’t really mesh with the material. This is a stylish B-movie at heart, and it shouldn’t really be spiced up too much. It loses its edge, and more importantly it loses its focus. This a cup of strong black coffee, but it’s been served to us in a tea-cup. Something is off.

Thankfully the casting director was on her toes for this one, though! Fassbender, McGregor, Tatum, Banderas, Douglas, Paxton. Already I want to see this movie. They are all great, with Ewan McGregor being a stand out as Carano’s slimy boss. I love this guy. I love that he will take on smaller roles, and deliver strong performances in everything he’s in. Perhaps the smaller roles are because he is not as much of a box office draw as he once was, but I’ll see this guy in almost anything.

OVERALL

Haywire is a bit of a missed opportunity. It’s skeleton is a perfectly stylish B-movie, but confusing plot elements and Soderbergh’s impersonal direction threaten to topple the whole house of cards. If there’s anything we need in an action movie its clarity, and we just don’t have it here. We end up with a movie that feels too pulp to be artsy, yet too artsy to be pulp.

Having said that, I am curious to see what this movie would feel like on a second viewing. If we have a grasp on the plot would we be able to appreciate it more? I would argue so. The cast is enjoyable, and Carano certainly impress us with her fight scenes (which are excellently choreographed). I might end up giving this movie a second shot, but I doubt most people would want to. I can give a cautious recommendation as a curiosity, but not much else.

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TRAILER

“Haywire” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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November 27, 2012 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall Review
Review # 166

4/5 stars

Director – Sam Mendes

Cast – Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomie Harris, Albert Finney, Bérénice Lim Marlohe

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Daniel Craig is Bond for the third time in Skyfall. We get the feeling that he’s always wanted to portray Bond as a tired, broken man; and the 23rd Bond movie gives us that with gusto.

We start off with a Bond who is believed dead, but who is really taking some quality time on some un-named Caribbean island. He is a wreck of a man, at least compared to what he once was. Trouble at MI6 leads him back, where he finds his skills have grown very rusty indeed. When undergoing re-assessment Bond finds he can’t hit a target the way he used to; he strides forward angrily, firing round after round. Not one hits a vital area.

But duty calls, and perhaps out of misplaced trust in him, M decides to throw 007 back into the field despite his dismal aptitude scores. He is after terrorist mastermind Silva, a man who has already blown up MI6’s headquarters, and seems to have a strange amount of knowledge of the inner working of Britain’s top spy program. But when it comes down to the final count, we see it’s not skill so much as will that makes the difference here.

Never before has a Bond movie had such a cast. We have the regulars, Dench, Craig, etc. But add onto that Fiennes in a great “English gentleman” role, Bardem as a great villain who sets the perfect tone, Finney as a reliable old caretaker (rumoured to have been planned as a winking role for Sean Connery), even Whishaw as a young and sly Q. This is a cast that screams prestige, and throw in Sam Mendes  as director and we really have something to raise the eyebrow. The movie is well paced, has great action, and even throws a nod to the Bonds of the past. This is the old man’s 50th anniversary, you know.

In retrospect, Bond has come along way from his beginnings in many ways, yet in many other ways he has not. Women can now be field agents, though they may prefer a desk job when all is said and done. 007 still sleeps with every skirt he comes across, and he still has to (inevitably) watch the villain blow them away. He doesn’t have as many cool toys as you may expect, though one particular car makes a crowd pleasing re-appearance. But the most fundamental way that Bond has changed in the last decade or so is to have an added sense of world-weariness. He kills, puns, and fornicates his way across the world, but you get the sense he doesn’t enjoy it as much any more. People argue that Fleming’s books always had a bit of this, but the movies have generally had a more light-hearted approach.  That is gone now. Bond is hewing closer and closer to Bourne.

This isn’t a particularly ground breaking comment, to be sure. But you have to wonder how long this trend will continue. Skyfall has a wonderfully low-key third act, that works very well despite a slight loss of urgency. When a terrorist is seeking M and Bond, they sneak off to a semi-abandoned mansion in Scotland. They take the fight to a remote area, to gain the upper hand and to cause less damage. (This is a wonderfully unexpected turn of events. Since when has Bond cared about collateral damage?) This is not the Bond we expect, and it works, but for how long can it? The reason it works so well is that it flies against convention, but I find myself hoping that what we have here is a strange side route, to be relished for its uniqueness; then we can jump back onto the main road for some “kiss kiss bang bang”, as they say. Indeed, we get a sense of that direction from the final scene. Moneypenny is at her desk, M is in his (!) office, Bond is being handed a dossier marked “Top Secret”, and we even have the coat rack back. Has the Bond train been diverted to its more fun and swashbuckling main line? I must admit, I hope so.

OVERALL

Skyfall is a bit of a departure from the usual Bond tone, but not too much so. It has the perfect tone for what it’s trying to do, and manages to wring a decent bit of fun out of the whole thing. Craig is settling wonderfully into his role, and the rest of the cast is superb. The final scene leaves us waiting with bated breath for the next one, and in the end, what more can we ask for. Skyfall is one of the better Bonds, made all the more interesting by its (comparatively) low-key third act. Bring on Bond 24!

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‘Skyfall’ on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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November 14, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shoot ‘Em Up (2007)

Shoot ‘Em Up Review
Review # 165

3.5/5 stars

Director – Michael Davis

Cast – Clive Owen,Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti, Stephen McHattie

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Right from the very first scene, you will know if this movie is for you. Clive Owen (Mr. Smith), an innocent bystander, sees a man threatening to kill a pregnant woman. Mr. Owen then kills this man with a carrot. He is immediately set upon by henchmen/fellow goons of the dead man, and, via a bullet to an oil pan, he creates a makeshift slip and slide to fling himself past them all. In between these two events he finds time to help the lady give birth, and sever the umbilical cord by shooting it.

Need I say more? Do let me continue.

He carries the baby with him through the rest of the movie, because slimy baddie Paul Giamatti wants it dead for some reason. When we are told the reason, we realize it makes no sense and thus we discard it. The plot just doesn’t matter. Luckily the movie knows this, and takes itself exactly as seriously as we take it, that is, not at all. It should also be mentioned that Monica Belucci tags along as a hooker with a heart of gold. She helps hard ass Mr. Smith with such non-manly things as breast-feeding. They also participate in the mandatory sex scene, but one which quickly morphs into a horrific gun fight. You know all you need to know about the tone of the movie when I tell you that they do not stop screwing when the bullets start flying. You get the sense it just spices things up a bit.

Simply put, this movie makes Sin City look like a down-to-earth thriller. Shoot ‘Em Up is preposterous trash, a C-movie with a miraculously high budget. It is lucky to have stars who know the movie is absolute bull shit, and act accordingly. It gets a bit draggy towards the end, but that can be forgiven. The stunts, shootouts, and acrobatics are so absurd we can’t help but giggle, and go along with the fun. And fun it is.

OVERALL

I can not stress this point enough. In Shoot ‘Em Up, Clive Owen kills a man with a carrot. Voila.

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“Shoot ‘Em Up” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

TRAILER

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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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October 25, 2012 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Road Warrior (Mad Max 2) (1981)

The Road Warrior Review
Review # 163

5/5 stars

Director – George Miller

Cast – Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Emil Minty, Michael Preston

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Filmed in Australia, The Road Warrior is a dirty, rough and tumble, bizarre gem of a movie, perfectly utilizing the Australian Outback’s harsh landscape. Mel Gibson returns to his star making role as “Max”, in what we know in North America as The Road Warrior, known everywhere else as Mad Max 2. The movie follows Max, a loner badass who wanders the desolate dystopian landscape searching for precious gasoline, which has become the only thing of value in this desperate world.

Being a sequel to a movie no one in America saw, we are brought up to speed in a brief prologue, summing up, if not the events, then the tone of the previous movie. Shrunk down to the center of the screen and shown in black and white, it offers the perfect contrast when we smash cut to a close up shot of Max’s wide, intimidating grill. From that moment on the movie kicks into high gear and floors it, right until the final shot.

And what a trip! What a bizarre, adrenaline pumping trip! I originally had no interest in this movie; the stupid looking punk outfits and hairdo’s made the whole thing look like B-level trash. But George Miller knew what to do with the material; he built a consistent world, shot it classy, and keep everything moving. Nothing is treated as if it’s crazy; which just goes to make the crazy stuff digestible.

It has a strangely touching sense of honour and pride about it too. The characters (except for our lead, at the beginning anyway) believe in things, we can sense it. There is a ragtag group who Max falls in with, and we can see that he longs for their family warmth. He deserts them initially, but then comes back. Whether or not he stays is truly at the heart of the character. Well, calling Max a character may be a bit of an overstatement. He’s The Man With No Name, down under. Clint Eastwood, but fallible.

OVERALL

The Road Warrior is fun, fast, and has production values it shouldn’t have gotten in a logical world. It’s no wonder that this series launched Mel Gibson to international stardom. George Miller made a unique movie here. Recommended to action fans, sci-fi fans, and fans of a good time.

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“The Road Warrior” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

TRAILER


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Agree? Disagree? Feel free to leave your comments below!

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October 15, 2012 Posted by | 5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 1980-1989 | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Review
Review #161

3.5/5 stars

Director – Timur Bekmambetov

Cast – Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Anthony Mackie, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Alan Tudyk

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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. That’s quite a title. It catches the eye, and does half of the advertising for you. You know right away if you’ll enjoy the movie, whose plot is also perfectly summarized in the title. The president hunts vampires, there you go. The vampires, of course, decide to fight on the side of the south because slavery provides them with cheap, available food. Bring on the boom-boom-pow.

I have to admit that I had a great time watching this movie. While it is tempting to describe the movie as “so  bad it’s good”, I will resist. That term has always bugged me… It implies that despite a movie being very bad, it was enjoyable. While I understand where the term comes from, surely if the movie was enjoyable, it was good! Now I understand that it means that perhaps the story was ludicrous, or production values very poor, or something along those lines. But still…

This particular movie certainly has a ludicrous story, but the production values aren’t that bad. The characterizations are almost non-existent, but wisely actors were cast who could bring a strong sense of character to underwritten roles. But it is the gung-ho attitude and ballsiness of the movie that make it so enjoyable. During one particular fight scene, a vampire starts throwing horses at the hero. Throwing. Horses.

That right there should tell you if the movie is for you or not.

OVERALL

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a gutsy movie that doesn’t cease to entertain. I honestly didn’t expect to like the movie at all. Maybe it has to do with who you see it with, but I had a ball. Just “check your brain in at the door”. Whatever the hell that means any more.

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“Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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September 25, 2012 Posted by | 3.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

135 – The Mask of Zorro (1998)

The Mask of Zorro REVIEW

4/5 stars

Director – Martin Campbell

Cast – Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Stuart Wilson

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– followed by The Legend of Zorro

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The character of Zorro has not appeared in a major movie since the 1940’s, but he swings back in form under Martin Campbell’s direction, capably portrayed by Antonio Banderas.

Zorro is a swashbuckling adventurer living in California in the early 1800’s, who “retires” and passes his mantle onto a young thief. Hopkins is the elder, and of course Banderas is the younger. The character is really no different from Robin, The Scarlet Pimpernel, or all those other types. He doesn’t quite rob from the rich and give to the poor, but he protects the commoners against various villanous rich folks and governors. He swings on ropes and chandeliers, he fences admirably and rides horses like he is walking.  Given that, though, making the title “Zorro” one that is passed on from one man to another makes for a neat twist. It also essentially gives us two heroes in the movie, especially because Hopkins doesn’t just stay in the mentor role through the whole movie, but actually takes part in the story.

That this movie is so much fun (in general) comes down to the screenplay and great direction. Martin Campbell just came off of Goldeneye, where he successfully re-invigorated another pop culture icon, and has lost little of that sense of fun adventure. Banderas seems a natural for this type of role, he certainly has charisma and action-man sex appeal to spare, while Catherine Zeta-Jones is an absolute bombshell as Hopkins’ son and Banderas’ future wife. This is ably demonstrated in a scene where the pair duel in a barn, their swords slashing away at each others’ clothes; it ends with a half-dressed Catherine gasping as Zorro grabs his hat from her and dashes off into the sunset. It is frankly one of the sexiest scenes I’ve seen in a while.

The ending involves a big confrontation at a gold mine, used to exploit the locals for the benefit of the wealthy landowners. It goes on a bit too long, but that is one of the few specific complaints I have with the movie. That, and Hopkins sometimes seems to be wishing he was in a different movie. That is odd, because he apparently took the role out of excitement to finally be in an action movie.

The late Bob Anderson was the fight choreographer for the movie, the legendary swordsman whose first gig was on an Errol Flynn picture, The Master of Ballantrae. He went on to work on the Star Wars movies, The Princess Brides, Lord of the Rings, and is widely recognized as the best in the field. He later claimed that Banderas was the most talented actor he ever worked with, and we believe it; the fights in this movie are beautiful, they take you right back to all those Basil Rathbone/Errol Flynn movies of the 30’s and 40’s. That fast and smooth spirit is alive and vibrant in The Mask of Zorro, and a large part of why this was such a treat to watch.

OVERALL

The Mask of Zorro is surprisingly funny, romantic, and adventurous. The stars bring everything needed to the parts, and the assured direction keeps the tone light and fun. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an entertaining time at the movies.

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TRAILER 

“The Mask of Zorro” on other websites:

 IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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January 8, 2012 Posted by | 4 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 1990-1999 | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

132 – Centurion (2010)

Centurion REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Neil Marshall

Cast – Michael Fassbender, Dominic West, Olga Kurylenko, Riz Ahmed, Noel Clarke, Imogen Poots, Liam Cunningham, JJ Feild, David Morrissey

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Gory, brutal, and bleak, you could say that Neil Marshall’s Centurion is a low-budget Gladiator. It’s nowhere as good as that excellent (no matter what Roger Ebert says) Ridley Scott movie but, frustratingly, it could have been, with a better script. A looser shooting style would have helped as well I think.

The story follows Fassbender as Quintus Dias, a Roman soldier whose group (the legendary lost Ninth Legion) is wiped out in Scotland by the Picts. Well, they asked for  it, being part of an invading force after all. Strangely, the movie doesn’t really go into that issue, but just focuses on Quintus and a couple comrades as they try to fight their way to the nearest Roman outpost.

Tracking them is a group of Picts led by Etain, played by Olga Kurylenko (perhaps best known as a “Bond girl” from Quantum of Solace). Etain is a warrior out for revenge, after being raped and forced to watch her family being killed, as a young child. She is a mute, and this seems to have enhanced her other abilities, as her skills stop only just short of a ninja. She is one lethal, ass-kicking babe.

Quintus is not sketched out very well, character-wise, and frankly no one in this movie is. This really affects the movie in a bad way, and is the most obvious problem here. The only reason we are given to care for these folks is to hope that we don’t have to see their heads split open by an axe, or their eyes speared through with arrows. Fassbender is fairly charismatic, to be sure, but I would have loved to have seen more. Some subtle delving into these characters pasts perhaps, (other than sitting around a fire and asking “Where are you from” a couple of times), before the next fight/chase scene. The unsure and clumsy climax doesn’t help much either, though where we end up is interesting.

Not to bash the action sequences, which are generally quite good. Neil Marshall does know how to ratchet up tension, and some sequences are quite tense. One scene in particular had me really paying attention, a scene toward the beginning where Quintus’ fellow soldiers are all massacred. The editing is quick and rhythmic; we are shown quick successions of shots where one impact (usually a killing blow) is delivered. We hear and see one death after another, THWACK, TWACK, SLICE, THWAK. It was unnerving, and very effective.

Centurion has a strange contradiction in style. It has a gritty and brutal production design, with harsh landscapes and tense set pieces; yet the camera work is restrained, even sedentary, with a colour design that can be beautiful, yes, but with an almost shiny sheen, that works to counteract the production design.I would have loved to see this movie shot in the style of films like Children of Men. Less shine, more grime. Less restrained camera work, more “documentary style”. I think that would have helped immerse us in the movie a bit more. Add a stronger script and we’re all set.

OVERALL

Centurion never realizes the potential of its premise, as the script reads like a plot summary, rather than a finished project. The action sequences are entertaining though, and Fassbender makes for a good leading man. Some interesting things happen, but could have been done better. With all things considered Centurion is a missed opportunity, but yet is not quite an awful experience. Recommended only if you are into medieval action flicks. Or Fassbender’s abs… there’s a LOT of those on display!

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TRAILER

“Centurion” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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December 29, 2011 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

130 – Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol REVIEW

4.5/5 stars

Director – Brad Bird

Cast – Tom Cruise, Simon Pegg, Paula Patton, Jeremy Renner, Tom Wilkinson, Michael Nyqvist, Vladimir Mashkov, Anil Kapoor, Josh Holloway, Ving Rhames

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– follows Mission Impssible 3

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Ethan Hunt is back, in the fourth movie in the Mission Impossible series. The IMF organization has been framed in a bombing of the Kremlin, and Hunt and team (Pegg, Patton, and Renner) must track down the real culprit to clear their names. It sounds a bit generic, but this is my personal favourite of the franchise.

In fact, this movie is essentially everything you could ask of an action movie. It is fun, exhilarating, and even smart. Who would have thought it, eh? My favourite thing is that most of the set pieces are not just exercises in action, but smarts. You can see the characters thinking “What can I do here?” My favourite moment is a tension-ratcheting one where Pegg and Cruise use a screen and a video camera to make a hallway appear deserted. It was a quiet but gut-tightening sequence. And funny, to boot.

The Mission Impossible series is a bit of an oddity when it comes to franchises. First off is the irregularity of  their releases. The first one was released in 1996, and it has taken 15 years for us to get to the fourth. But mainly there is the difference in style of the films. The first film was definitely a thriller, directed by Brian De Palma. It was sleek, featuring mainly European locations, and its most interesting scene was not one of i’s shootouts, but a neat and quiet moment where Tom Cruise realizes he has been double crossed. MI 2 ramps up to the bombastic, and its stunts come to a near ridiculous level. It was, of course, directed by John Woo. Despite its craziness, it still had a touch of intrigue, and I did enjoy it, though I think it is the worst of the series. Then came the third, (and best to date) movie, directed by JJ Abrams. This one managed to both shrink and expand the Mission Impossible world. We saw much more of the IMF organization and the set pieces were wonderfully executed, but had many more quiet moments between the adventure.  Up to this point, each movie had a distinct style.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol does not try to stake out its own ground, however, instead following the template of the third movie. This was a great decision. It does perhaps lighten up the tone a bit, and is not as dark in places, but it does not feel as near as distinct as the others. In fact, you might almost regard MI 3 and Ghost Protocol as a new series. Tom is a bit older, and the movies are frankly, better.

Another great thing about the series is it’s inconsistent use of actors for the head IMF men. We’ve seen Jon Voight, Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, and now Tom Wilkinson as Hunt’s superiors. This means they can use them in interesting ways, without having to worry about continuity, past or future. They can turn traitor, die, etc.

If I had a problem with this movie it would be with the general uselessness of Renner’s character. He doesn’t do anything particularly noteworthy until the end, and even that doesn’t blow us away. But this is a point I thought of after the movie, so it mustn’t have been that bad. There is a neat continuity tie at the end for those who have seen MI 3 as well, and that was nice to see. Though surely we coul have seen more of Ving Rhames?

OVERALL

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol is a fast-moving and witty adventure, with exciting set pieces and adrenaline to spare. In an age of repeating sequels and remakes, this is one series that I would love to see continue as long as Mr. Cruise wants to keep doing them. Whatever your opinion of Tom Cruise, you have to admit that he is excellent at what he does.

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“Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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December 24, 2011 Posted by | 4.5 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2010-2019 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

126 – Legion (2009)

Legion Review

 2/5 stars

 Director – Scott Charles Stewart

 Cast – Paul Bettany, Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Kate Walsh,Tyrese Gibson, Willa Holland, Charles S. Dutton, Kevin Durand, Adrianne Palicki, Jon Tenney, Doug Jones

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 Legion is another of those insufferable pseudo-religious, heavily CGI’ed creature flicks that are sprouting up. You know the type…

This particular story follows a group of people stuck in a roadside diner during the apocalypse. Not just any apocalypse, this is The Apocalypse. God has decided that Mankind has once again fallen from a position of grace, and He must wipe them out, ala The Great Flood. But no natural disaster will do this time (perhaps God has had enough of Roland Emmerich films too), and he decides to take us all out with zombies; and yes, God hates slow zombies too.

An infected sinner may expect to find their teeth rapidly sharpen, their eyes look like a stoner’s, and may even find they can walk up walls and onto the ceiling. An outside wall appears to be a different matter however, especially if there is a main character on the roof. Apparently they can only walk up walls on the inside of a house. It’s all in the fine print.

But there is hope! The child of one of the embattled survivors is… is… well, it’s actually never said what he is, but we are told over and over again that he is the “Only Hope”, that he “wasn’t meant to be born”. This is explained to us by an ex-angel (Paul Bettany) who was told to kill the baby, but disagreed with God and now fights with the survivors. For defying God he has lost his wings, but we know he is good because he wears a white trench coat, instead of the black ones worn by the other angels. Yet we never know who or what the child is… it’s kind of annoying.

The ending could not be more open-ended, but the problem here is that we have so many questions about the movie we just saw that to promise another is ridiculous. We want questions answered now, not in the next movie. I don’t know whether they were actually planning a sequel, but it felt like it. Frankly, we all like seeing Paul Bettany get some work, but a sequel to this wouldn’t be worth it.

I will give Legion brownie points for trying. There is no campiness here; everything is treated with the utmost sincerity. Unfortunately, that approach led to the other extreme. We have numerous boring monologue scenes that do nothing towards advancing the plot or, it could be argued, enriching the characters; we have a tone that starts at depressingly dingy and gets consistently worse; and we have angels that dress like fetish enthusiasts and apparently attend marksmanship and martial arts courses.

If I have to mention some good things about the movie, I would say that one particular sequence involving an ambush at some gas pumps was actually fairly exciting, until the incident with the child, which crossed a line for me. Those who have seen the movie will know what I mean; those who don’t may be able to guess at what type of thing I am referring. Dennis Quaid is quite good here, playing a role that would be expected of a lesser known character actor, and Charles S. Dutton is very likable as a hook handed cook.

Paul Bettany seems to be heading into B-movie territory, which is a huge pity, because he is a talented man. He was great in those two Russell Crowe movies Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and A Beautiful Mind, and more than hold his won against his forceful co-star. I wish his star had risen a bit higher to be honest. He deserves more than this kind of thing.

OVERALL

Legion is a dingy, dark, and joyless action/horror movie. Its cast may be much better than the movie deserves, but even they can only do so much. Too many questions are left unanswered, and the many boring monologue scenes stop the movie dead in its tracks. I can’t really think of anyone I would recommend this to.

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TRAILER

 “Legion” on other websites:

 IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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August 30, 2011 Posted by | 2 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

109 – Taken (2008)

Taken REVIEW

3/5 stars

Director – Pierre Morel

Cast – Liam Neesom, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Xander Berkeley, Holly Valance, Katie Cassidy

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Taken is a film by French action director Pierre Morel, and starring Liam Neesom as Bryan Mills. The plot is set in motion when Mills’ daughter is kidnapped in Paris. He is told that he has approximately 96 hours to find her before she will vanish into the world of international sex trafficking. Mills, an ex-spy (or ex-CIA/Special Forces, whatever, it’s never explicitly stated) goes on the hunt in a variety chase sequences and martial arts scraps that would almost look at home in a Bourne or Lethal Weapon movie.

This movie has an air of grim determination about it that serves the movie well, and can (at last while watching the movie) help to cover up the huge coincidences and somewhat ridiculous plot points that the movie covers. Afterwards, you may find yourself wondering how some of the events that happened were plausible, or even possible. If the movie had presented itself as a fun action movie with no real purpose it would have been different, but because Taken takes itself so seriously it is a bit harder to look past all the little clichés and coincidences.

However what Taken lacks in originality and realty, it certainly makes up for just by having Liam Neesom in the lead role. Neesom’s seriousness, his slight stoop (which certainly does not suggest an action star), and even his body of work all add up to the impression of a solid main character around which Morel can use all the usual action movie tropes. Unfortunately Neesom had to bring almost all of that to the table himself, because the script really has little characterization beyond “grieving kick-ass father”. Now, having said all this I must admit that there are a couple neat little touches in the beginning of the movie that I quite liked. Neesom is ex-(fill-in-the-blank) and we see him gathering with his friends at a BBQ, and then accepting a little job as security for a pop star at a concert. This makes sense, I thought. What else would retired(whatever-they-were) do for a part-time job?

OVERALL

Taken is quite a cookie-cutter of a movie, but it must be said that it does what it does fairly well. Liam Neesom is largely responsible for the better parts of the film, but the action scenes are executed decently and Bryan Mills’ hunt for his daughter can even be quite thrilling. If you are a fan of action movies you will like this. If you aren’t, well, there are worse ways to spend an hour and a half, but you may want to look elsewhere.

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TRAILER

“Taken” on other websites:

IMDB —– Rotten Tomatoes —– Wikipedia

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September 9, 2010 Posted by | 3 Stars, Film Review, Genre - Action, Year - 2000-2009 | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment