I have to say I almost skipped this movie because the title sounds so much like a Western. I just kept picturing Clint Eastwood at a cemetery at high noon for the shootout, a low whistling music in the background...you see my point. This movie, however, is most definitely not a Western. Here, action mainstay Liam Neeson helps a man find out what happened when his wife is abducted. Sound familiar? Rest assured, it's not Taken; this film is something much darker, and much less satisfying.
Summer is over—maybe not according to the calendar; but according to the cineplex, it is.
Let me just start off by saying I love Liam Neeson. I think he is an extremely talented and wildly underrated actor. Plus, I always attributed his personal tragedy (wife Natasha Richardson was killed in a skiing accident in 2009) as a contributing factor to his shift in genre preference. The guy went from Kinsey and Schindler’s List to The A-Team and Taken 2 (and 3). Then, I saw an interview with Neeson last week, where he all but told Anderson Cooper that if there were a $10-million paycheck in it, he’d make the movie. His window as an action star was closing and he intended to milk it for every dime. I’m paraphrasing, of course. Well, that certainly explains things. Like a linebacker who has been traded from the Seahawks to the Texans, he’s just playing out his contract until retirement. So, Non-Stop…
Well, we are mid-awards season—an underwhelming awards season at that—and we’re finally through January, notoriously the worst month of the year for movies. It’s gray outside and grim in the cineplex. Nevertheless, refusing to give up on a Hollywood that seems to have done nothing but disappoint over the past year, we look to the future. We cling to the hope that when the new buds appear, so will a new crop of movies--a bountiful harvest of action, comedy, drama and suspense. So, renew your Netflix account and Hulu Plus for the next couple of weeks, and then get excited to go to the movies.
First of all if you haven’t seen Taken, the first one, drop what you’re doing and rent it--it's the best action movie since Die Hard. That being said, of course, they were going to make a sequel. Why wouldn’t Liam Neeson want some beach-house money? Yes, it pales in comparison to the first one. Yes, it’s a tad dismissive. Yes, there’s a palpable sense that the actors are going through the motions, but yes, I loved every minute.
So the movie Battleship opened last weekend. The film stars Liam Neeson—who clearly needed some beach-house money—pop star Rihanna and Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Brooklyn Decker. They play naval officers who must fight an invading alien armada. As you can see, other than the title, the movie has little in common with the board game for which it was named. And that’s probably a good thing. I mean, you don’t see Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer squaring off over a game of Battleship, but with cross-promotions and marketing opportunities, the concept speaks to Hollywood’s sensibility: money.
**Spoiler Alert: May contain spoilers about the outcome of this film**
I think that American film critics sometimes are afraid to give a movie with subtitles a bad review. As if it means they didn’t understand its depth and complexity, or perhaps they can’t read. Of course, the notion that there are no bad foreign language films is absurd. True, most bad ones don’t make it to the U.S., but still. Of course, if a foreign language film is really, really good, you could just wait a year and someone will remake it in English, just like this film. Oh wait, I saw Taken, so maybe somebody already did. The bad news: Point Blank is a convoluted, over-the-top thriller with a head-scratching plot that is full of holes. The good news: You won’t care.
There’s an old expression: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. There’s another old expression: Don’t mess with success. Apparently, after the first installment became a surprise smash, people all over Hollywood were shaking hands with the producers and writers saying just that—and only that. Now, the first one was a great comedy, so there may not be a problem with creating a tin type. However, the two big differences are biggies: It’s a little less funny and a lot more seedy. Let’s see if you can tell from this quick comparison where they went awry.
I hate reviewing movies like this (sound familiar?) Take The Sixth Sense, if I tell you there is the most unbelievable twist at the end, you spend most of the movie trying—probably successfully—to figure it out and when the expected twist happens, it’s underwhelming. Now don’t get me wrong, this movie is no Sixth Sense, but it does have an original and very well-constructed plot. It also has one other essential component of an enjoyable movie: Liam Neeson.
Most of the time studios promote a movie in a way that prompts the most ticket sales. They might, for example, hide a comedy’s darker side (Get Him to the Greek) or keep secret a tragic ending (Remember Me) in order to maximize box office returns. So I think it’s fair to say with a lot of films you don’t always get what you were expecting. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. Say what you want about The A-Team, it is certainly not a movie like that. If you’re over the age of 35 you remember the original TV show—probably with great affection. This movie is just what you’d expect: an action-packed, surprisingly well-scripted and well-acted tale of the good guys sticking it to the man.
Now would be a good time to talk about something we learned about in high school: willing suspension of disbelief. It’s known in the Baldwin household as the ‘because it’s a movie’ response. It’s the thing that lets you turn off the part of your brain that says, Batman probably couldn’t survive that jump, and just go with it. Whether you are making a movie like this, acting in a movie like this or watching a movie like this: you have to invest. And Clash of the Titans certainly has given you the cast and special effects to do just that.
I guess I should have known what to expect when a film is described as an ‘erotic thriller,’ but I truly was not prepared. What started as a civilized trip to Plaza Frontenac slowly morphed into something else entirely: me and eight or so men all watching soft core porn.
The holidays are over. I know that because I’m exhausted, retaining water and there is a dead evergreen in my driveway. It’s that calm, albeit gloomy, time of year where we can all curl up with a good book—that’s code for start watching the new season of American Idol. It’s also a good time to hit the local Cineplex—although over the next year or so you might experience a little déjà vu. We’ve all witnessed the dearth of creative forces in Hollywood, and it’s easy to see why. Why pay someone to come up with a risky, expensive project that could cost you your job if it flops when you can stick with the tried and true?
When will the bad guys learn? Do not mess with the families of slightly off-kilter former black-ops assassins. They do not handle it well. Here is another in a long, distinguished line of revenge action films. If you’re sick of the dark, methodical Oscar contenders, this is the film for you. And another thing: with the world the way it is, it seems the only way to keep our kids safe is to lock them in their rooms, although with the Internet that may not even be a solution.
I‘m not a huge fan of this franchise, or the genre adventure fantasy, for that matter. I endured if not enjoyed the first one, and I did the same with this, largely due to two things: Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) and William Moseley (Peter). The title character is one of the most attractive, charismatic young actors I have seen in a long time, and as for Moseley, someone is going to have to seriously convince me he is not Brad Pitt’s illegitimate son. Yum! And I say that with complete embarrassment knowing full well I am old enough to be his Mum.