Archives for posts with tag: Liam Neeson

Grade B

The ups and downs and craziness of love and loss are explored in “Love Actually.”  The highly talented cast and multiple, intertwining storylines elevates this Rom-Com above its peers.   Yes, most of the storylines are predictable; but a few are surprising in how they turn out.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Love Actually” is the scene when a woman realizes that her husband is cheating on her.  Tears flow from her eyes, then she slowly composes herself, puts on a happy face, goes into the living room and joyfully tells her children and her cheating husband that its time for them to all go out for their fun, family, Christmas outing.

Be warned: this movie is full of cliches and corniness; but it’s also romantic, funny, tragic, hopeful and surprising.   A bit like life.

— M

 

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Written and directed by George Lucas — six of the most fearsome words to movie fans, these are.

“The Phantom Menace” is the first part of the prequel trilogy to the “Star Wars” movies.  Lucas goes way back here…before Luke Skywalker was born, before Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, before the dark times, before the Empire.

Senator Palpatine (who would become the Emperor) has created a false threat — a phantom menace — about a growing conflict involving taxation of trade routes and embargos and invasion and war, all to set in motion events that will allow him to rise in power as he promises to bring order throughout the galaxy.   Put into this turmoil are two Jedi Knights — Liam Neeson and his apprentice, Ewan Mcgregor (playing a young, Ben Kenobi) — who, throughout their mission, encounter the droids R2-D2 and C3PO, a young Anakin, and Anakin’s future wife (played by Natalie Portman).

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we are first introduced to R2-D2.  Portman’s ship is under attack, and her deflector shield has been damaged.  Four Astromech droids are sent outside to mend the broken parts, and three are quickly destroyed by enemy laser beams.  R2-D2 is the last droid standing, and it manages to bypass the thingamajig’s energy particle dilithium crystal thingies to repair the damage.  R2 saves the day, setting a precedent that will last all six episodes.

As most “Star Wars” fans may have guessed, my most memorable, movie moment of “The Phantom Menace” is the lightsaber duel between McGregor and Ray Park (playing Darth Maul).   Whatever problems the movie had — and it had plenty of them — they all went away when Darth Maul emerged and his light staff lit up to fight  Neeson and McGregor.  Unfortunately, when the duel was over, we were again in the world of Lucas’ shortcomings.

I want to be fair to Lucas.  I believe the man is a genius when it comes to filmmaking.  It’s not that he lost that ability, it’s that he lost his focus: instead of focusing on the story and characters, he started focusing on the costumes and special effects and sound effects and action sequences.   There are parts in “Episode 1” that shows his talents: the droid army entering Naboo’s capital is similar to the Nazis entering Paris during WW II; the duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul; and Lucas’ great use of the subject of a government creating threats to instill fear in those they govern, in hopes the people will give the government more power to supposedly provide greater protection for the people.

All of the good things above are crushed by the following: Jar Jar Binks (and his way of talking that sounds like a black buffoon of early movies); horrible dialogue throughout the movie (“Are you an angel?” — I almost throw up every time I hear that line); the Trade Federation who sound like stereotypical, old Jewish men; the character Watto who sounds like a stereotypical Arab man; enemy droids who talk like idiots (“roger roger”); the lack of emotion on Anakin’s mother when Anakin leaves her (was she not capable of acting like a distraught mother who may never see her young son again — in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for not casting someone who was capable of doing so — or did she have the talent to do so but Lucas didn’t see a need for all that drama, in which case it’s Lucas’ fault for lacking the vision to know that the separation scene should have been more emotionally devastating).   Okay, I’ll stop beating a dead horse.

“The Phantom Menace” is light years away from being in the same league as “The Empire Strikes Back,” but it still has to be seen by every “Star Wars” fan because it’s part of the story, whether you like it or not.  We’re stuck with that movie…search your feelings, you know it to be true.

— M

 

 

In “Taken,” his daughter (Maggie Grace) went missing.  In “Taken 2,” his daughter and wife (Famke Janssen) went missing.  In “Taken 3,” his wife goes missing.   If “Taken 4” gets made, what will be missing…the audience?  This series is getting old, and so is Liam Neeson, the star of the “Taken” movies.  Don’t get me wrong, I like older characters — I have more common with them since I’m no Spring chicken myself.  But Neeson — despite the fancy, quick editing during his fight scenes — sometimes looks slow and tired (and I’m not talking about fight scenes when his character is injured).

Okay, here’s the quickie of the story: Janssen is killed and Neeson is framed for the murder.  Neeson goes on the run, beating the hell out of the LAPD and causing dozens of car crashes as he solves the puzzle of who killed his ex-wife and why.  The audience is sent on a wild ride (made more wild with the overuse of fast cutting and a camera so shaky I wondered if the cameraman had Parkinson’s Disease) as we get closer to the end and the truth, which thankfully had some decent plot twists to keep the movie from becoming too predictable.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Taken 3” is **SPOILER ALERT** the scene near the end when Neeson has proven his innocence and he is having a conversation with Forest Whitaker, who plays a cop in charge of Janssen’s murder investigation.  Whitaker lets Neeson go but asks that he doesn’t leave the city in case he has further questions.  Are you kidding!  Neeson put a lot of cops in the hospital, directly caused high speed car chases that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage and probably dozens injured if not dead — I know he’s a white guy, but come on!  I’m calling shenanigans!

Overall, “Taken 3” is worthy of taking 109 minutes of your time.  For those who have seen the first two movies, you may as well finish the trilogy; Liam Neeson is a likeable actor who plays a likeable character; the movie moves fast and has lots of action to keep you awake; and there is a big gunfight where a bad guy has a big gun but no pants.

— M

 

In this third Christian Bale, Batman movie, Gotham City’s Dark Knight (played by Bale) has not made an appearance in years because Bruce Wayne’s/Batman’s body and soul have been worn out from years of fighting crime and being hunted by the police.  Bale is just fine being a recluse and nursing his physical and psychological wounds as cops handle Gotham City’s criminal elements — until a new threat arrives: Bane (played by Tom Hardy).   Using new gadgets that add strength to his weakened body, Bale suits up again and goes toe to toe against Hardy.  The fight goes horribly wrong for Bale, as he underestimates the power and skill and determination that Hardy has; and Bale finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation as Hardy proceeds with his plan to destroy Gotham City.

Director and screenwriter Christopher Nolan has given us another dark, deep and disturbing work of art in “The Dark Knight Rises.”  The movie explores subjects such as: corruption in the police force; lying for the public good, and how the lies can quickly get out of hand and become worse than telling the truth in the first place; the need to leave a loved one because the loved one’s self-destructive lifestyle will do harm to those around him; finding in yourself the strength and purpose to rise out of a literal and figurative pit; and how much of yourself are you willing to sacrifice in order to achieve your goals.

In this movie, we get to see a few new toys in Batman’s arsenal.   The most interesting is what I think is called The Wing, basically a hovercraft.  And there is the handheld, Electro Magnetic Pulse gun that will destroy the electronics in any device.   And yes, Batman still doesn’t use a gun.  He has cannons that can demolish buildings, but he uses no guns.  Why? Because his parents were killed by guns.  This has always been a problem I had with the Batman character, and why he isn’t one of my favorite comic book characters.  In the comic books, Batman is always saying that guns are for weak, cowardly criminals.   Hey, a gun is a tool.  It can be used for good or bad.   And we know Batman has lots of tools (gadgets) that he uses.  Does that make him weak and cowardly, or crafty and intelligent?  You use what you can to get the job done.  If his parents were killed by someone using a knife, would Batman not use any blade in his arsenal, and instead use guns?

Guns or no guns, Batman doesn’t make an appearance until almost halfway into the movie.  I’m sure Nolan got an earful from studio execs about that one.  But I believe Nolan did the right thing.  It allows the audience to be on pins and needles waiting for Batman to show up, and when he does finally show, it makes the experience more rewarding.  Like waiting until you’re very hungry to eat your favorite food.  Nolan defied Hollywood convention in not showing the costumed hero until much later in the movie, and it paid off handsomely.

I have two memorable, movie moments from “The Dark Knight Rises.”  In second place — SPOILER ALERT HERE — is the last shot of the movie when Gotham Police Officer Blake goes into the Batcave, and steps onto a platform that quickly rises to reveal all that is within.  Oh, Officer Blake’s first name is Robin.

My most memorable, movie moment of “The Dark Knight Rises” is the scene where Michael Caine (who plays Alfred) is telling Bale that he is leaving because he refuses to watch Bale continue to fight crime as Batman and most likely end up being killed.  Caine tells Bale that Bale has done enough as Batman, and that he can help Gotham better as Bruce Wayne.  Caine sees no end to Bale’s crime fighting as Batman if he doesn’t stop at this moment, and the pain of seeing Bale waste his life on his nightly crusades is too much for Caine to bear.  This is the most powerful scene in the movie, dealing with wanting and needing to leave someone you love very much because you can no longer take seeing that person continue with his/her obsession that you know will ultimately lead to that person’s destruction.  For those who have never been in that situation you won’t understand Caine’s decision to leave.  You’ll think that Caine should have just stuck it out and help Bale do what he needed to do.  For those who have been in this situation, you’ll understand the pain that Caine is dealing with; and know that he is leaving only because Caine has reached his emotional breaking point that will manifest itself into some physical sickness if he stays.  Sometimes you have to let people go and let them do what they have to do.

“The Dark Knight Rises” is an entertaining and emotionally satisfying ending to the Nolan/Bale Batman trilogy, worthy of being bought on BD to add to your collection of great movies. Of course, the very last shot offers hints of more to come.  Typical of big budget, profitable, Hollywood movies: a little hedge in case another movie is greenlit; but if not, then the last movie stands on its own as a great ending.

M

Very loosely based on the Battleship board/electronic games, “Battleship” surprisingly gives an entertaining and suspenseful story of U.S. Naval forces and a few civilians fighting an alien invasion.  The movie stars Taylor Kitsch, Brooklyn Decker, Alexander Skarsgard, and Liam Neeson; and is directed by Peter Berg.   There’s nothing deep or complex about “Battleship.”  It is your standard, action/adventure/sci-fi flick that has big, loud, action sequences, a few dramatic moments, and many b.s. parts.   “Battleship” is nowhere near as engaging as a Michael Bay movie — no, I’m not being sarcastic here, as I like Michael Bay movies — but it’s good enough.

The movie opens with silly humans sending an electronic hello to a planet that is believed to hold life, perhaps intelligent life.   Oh, there’s life all right; and the aliens are about as vicious and warlike as we are.  So, the aliens decide to send 5 ships to scout out the planet that gave them an invite; but one of the alien spacecraft hits an Earth satellite and crashes. It turns out the crashed spaceship was the communications ship.  Huh?  The aliens weren’t intelligent enough to avoid a satellite?  And they didn’t have some kind of force field to protect their ships?  They used a super duper force field when they landed; but they didn’t have it for their precious ships?  B.s.

Kitsch starts off as a loser living with his brother, Skarsgard, who an officer in the Navy.  Kitsch is intelligent but has no ambitions and no self control.  He’s a stoner dude.  Skarsgard forces him to join the Navy.  Fast forward a few years later and Kitsch is a Lieutenant in the U.S.N.  But he’s still reckless and has no self control.   How the hell did he become an officer?  B.s.

When the U.S.N. ships that are trapped within the alien force field first come into contact with the alien ships, instead of sending low-level grunts to investigate, they pull a “Star Trek” and send higher ranking soldiers who should be manning other posts to do the dirty work.  B.s.  Yeah, I know, they want to give Kitsch and Rihanna more face time — still, b.s.

So you’d think all these b.s. moments (there are more than what I wrote about) would ruin the movie?  Nope.   There are plenty of good moments that salvage “Battleship” and turn it into a good flick, relative to the movies in its class.   Case in point: the sequence when Kitsch maneuvers his Destroyer so that he takes advantage of the sun at his back in order to blind the oncoming alien attack ship.  It echoes those brilliant moves Capt. Kirk makes to turn a losing situation into a victorious one.  It’s also my most memorable, movie moment.

First runner up regarding the memorable movie moment of “Battleship” is the sequence when Kitsch and his crew are using buoys in order to “see” where the alien ships are.  Using an electronic grid in the weapons control room, they fire missiles toward where they think the alien ships will go next.  Some missiles miss, some hit.   Yup, similar to the board/electronic game!

A question to the eggheads out there who just can’t wait to make first contact with intelligent, extra-terrestrial life: do you go walking up to strangers and start conversations and invite them to come to your home?  No?  Why not?  Is it because those strangers could be looney tunes and they could chop your ass off to put in the freezer for a midnight snack?  Uh-huh.  But you’re okay with contacting alien life and inviting them here.  Aliens could be bigger whackos than us humans.  Put that in your pocket protector.

M

Did you see the “Clash of The Titans” remake?  I did.  Did you like it?  I thought it was okay.  Eh.  Well, however you felt for the remake, that’s how you’ll feel for the remake’s sequel, “Wrath of The Titans.”  If I had paid $12 to see this movie, I would’ve had more wrath than the Titans.  But I got the DVD from the library, and it was free (thanks, library!), so instead of having wrath I just shrugged my shoulders and went on with my day.

“Wrath…” is not based on some storyline from Greek mythology.  Sure, some of the characters are there but that’s about it.  Apparently some people in Hollywood thought the remake of “Clash of The Titans” was awesome and merited a sequel.  Maybe those same people were not thinking correctly due to the effects of whatever drugs they were using.  Whatever the case, we have a movie that has great special effects, a boring hero played by an actor who doesn’t have what it takes to carry an A-list movie, a script that needs more polishing, and editing that seemed rushed (you know how one scene ends and another begins, and you’re like, “I think there should’ve been something else put between those two”).

Sam Worthington is not worthy of playing Perseus.  In this movie or the previous one.  Not that a better actor would’ve made the movie much better — there’s only so much an actor can do with a mediocre script.  He just doesn’t have the “it factor”: that thing that makes an actor a star.  Worthington is capable, as a Honda Civic is capable of taking you from here to there; but a Jaguar XKR-S…now that’s transportation.   See the difference?

Well, “Wrath…” has Zeus complaining that people don’t pray to the gods anymore, and they are losing their powers.  To make things worse, Zeus’ bro Hades wants to release their father, Kronos, whom they imprisoned.  Kronos is a Titan, by the way.  But we have the plural version of Titan in the title.  So what other Titan is there?   I know not, as Kronos was the only Titan I saw in the movie.  Anyway, Kronos is released and Zeus tries to stop his father from destroying the world, but Zeus is weakened from battle and being tortured, and therefore needs his son, Perseus to get some weapons together to defeat Kronos.  Hmmm…I wondered throughout the movie why Perseus didn’t get the army of thousands of men to pray to Zeus to make him more powerful.  Makes sense, right?

This movie tries to have depth by dealing with father and son issues, the strength of human will, believing in yourself…I didn’t buy it.  You know why?  The main character, Perseus, was boring!  Worthington is boring!  Plus Perseus’ son always has that scared, stupid look like he’s seeing a breast for the first time.

This is a prime example of throwing a ton of money into a movie and thinking that will cure it’s ills.  Nope.  Money can buy talent, but it doesn’t increase the talents of the people you already have.

So what is my most memorable, movie moment of “Wrath of The Titans?”  The scene where Hephaestus tells some humans that the mind is the biggest trap of all.  That was deep.  How many of us allow ourselves to stagnate in life because we don’t believe in ourselves, or we’re just afraid of going for our dreams?

Playing it safe and going balls out to make our dreams come true have their merits.  I think the hard part is walking a fine line between the two.

M

With so many scared, talentless, idiotic and drug addicted Hollywood executives, we are given tons of re-makes and movies based on television series.  I’m surprised that it took Hollywood this long to make a movie based on the 1980s hit series that I watched when I was a teenager.  And I’m glad they did make this movie, because it has a similar feel to the tv series; and it is fun, highly entertaining, very loud, over the top, and as improbable as a politician being faithful to his wife.

Two things make “The A-Team” work: a fast pace and very likeable characters (Hannibal, Faceman, B.A., and Murdock).  You just want these guys to win.   Special effects, big name movie stars, fancy editing, cool music…those are nothing compared to the importance of the audience connecting with the main characters.  A movie that fails to create characters that the audience will emotionally connect to — be it negatively or positively — is a movie that is in danger of being a “rice cake”: no substance and leaving you unsatisfied.  Well, “The A-Team” is no “rice cake.” I enjoyed watching it and I recommend it to any fan of the series.

Oh, Dirk Benedict (the original Faceman) and Dwight Shultz (the original Murdock) make appearances in this movie.  George Peppard couldn’t be part of the movie due to circumstances beyond his control.   Mr. T didn’t want to be in the movie partly because characters are killed in this movie.  Hmm…true, the series didn’t kill anyone, as far as I can remember.  But I also remember we made fun of the series because of that.  No matter how many times a car would flip or how many bullets were flying, no one got killed!

As I said, this movie is highly unrealistic, so I don’t know why this one scene bothered me: when Hannibal disappears into the darkness as two Rottweilers run toward him to maul him.  A struggle is heard, followed by dogs whimpering, then the two Rotties run away, their collars now joined by a pair of handcuffs.  I think I just wanted to see exactly how Hannibal did it, no matter how ridiculous the manner.

My most memorable movie moment of “The A-Team” is the sequence where the A-Team steals a military, cargo plane carrying a tank; and they get chased by 2 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles that try to shoot the A-Team down with missiles and machine-gun fire.  This is one of the most ridiculous, action sequences I’ve ever seen; and I wouldn’t be surprised if the idea for it was created by writers and Hollywood execs having a 48 hour orgy in a mansion where the hookers and drugs flowed freely.  And you know what?  I liked it!  The ridiculous, action sequence, that is.  Not the 2 day orgy with hookers and drugs.  Although I would like that, too, just without the drugs.

M

In the Alaskan wilderness, a man contemplates suicide because he thinks his life no longer has any meaning.  Emotionally alone in a bleak, cold part of the world, he takes a job protecting oil workers from wolves.  He finds no happiness or satisfaction in his existence.  Until the plane that he and dozens of oil workers are in crashes.  Most of us have had moments of hopelessness and unbearable sadness; but when our backs are against a wall and there is an imminent threat to our survival, that’s when most of us choose to live, and we fight.  We fight for every minute of life.

The suicidal, main character in “The Grey” is played by Liam Neeson, who always does a great job showing not so subtle, negative emotions on his face.  He is one of seven survivors of the plane crash; and he quickly takes charge of the group as they fight shock, injuries, hunger, the cold, hopelessness, and seven, relentless wolves.  The Alpha Male wolf quickly focuses on Neeson, who doesn’t take a step back like the rest of his group as the Alpha Male wolf steps forward to get a feel for the humans.  Alpha against Alpha.

The wolves attack the humans every time the humans become careless, and it is painful to watch most of the men do stupid things that put them in danger.  This is one of the many head scratching moments of the movie.  Some viewers complain that real wolves don’t act like the way they do in the movie.   Some viewers say the humans would’ve been frozen soon after the crash.  Well…there’s what is supposed to happen according to textbooks; and there’s what actually happens in real life.  Usually the two differ significantly.

I work in a dangerous part of a newspaper company.  I usually drive a motorized, pallet mover that weighs almost as much as a Mazda Miata and it can lift and move over a ton of cargo.  We’re supposed to be trained to operate these machines.  We’re supposed to honk when we’re near people so they don’t accidentally cross our paths.  We’re supposed to report any problems with these pallet movers.  We’re supposed to slow down when approaching intersections or people.  We’re supposed to do many things that would help prevent accidents with these things.  Unfortunately, what I see and experience is a stark contrast to what we’re supposed to be doing.  And if I ever did a movie about my job, my managers and managers of similar operations would say my movie is unrealistic because the characters do things that would never be tolerated by management.  Let me assure you that many safety rules are broken in my workplace every day, with most managers turning a blind eye to what is happening.  Why?  Well, production always has priority over safety, especially when we’re behind schedule and the product has to get out as fast as possible.  The faster we go, the more dangerous things get.

I wish my job and the wolves in “The Grey” operated according to textbooks.  It would make my life safer, and all the plane crash survivors in “The Grey” would be on their merry way to civilization without being eaten by wild animals.  But my job is dangerous and I have to deal with it.  And you, the audience, have to deal with the fact that animals don’t always behave according to what that guy with the foreign accent tells you on the Discovery Channel.

One thing we should all not deal with is the shotgun shells issue.  Neeson uses a rifle in his job.   Rifles do not use shotgun shells.  So what’s he doing with shotgun shells?   Maybe he also had a shotgun?  It’s not mentioned in the movie.  So why the shotgun shells?   So that Neeson and his group can create “bang sticks” using shotgun shells as the explosive tip.  Lazy screenwriting, lazy filmmaking.

You’ll be surprised to know that I like this movie very much.  For the simple reason that the main character refuses to give up, even when he knows that his situation is most likely hopeless.  He continues to fight for every minute, every second of life.  It is the struggle, the possibility of death coming to him at any second that makes him appreciate life.

My most memorable, movie moment in “The Grey” is the scene where Neeson, a non-believer of god, screams at god to help him, to prove to him that god is real.  Neeson screams, “F@#k faith, earn it!”  When nothing happens, Neeson says, “F#*k it, I’ll do it myself.”

Absolutely, god damned right.

M

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