Posts tagged Liam Neeson
No matter how stressful driving lessons with your parents might have been, they can’t even compare to the ones Kim Mills (Maggie Grace) must endure in “Taken 2.” If you saw “Taken,” then you already know how anal retentive and protective her ex-spy father Bryan (Liam Neeson) is. Heck, after she was kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers in that film, he pieced together clues to swiftly rescue her, leaving an enormous pile of dead bodies in his wake. That being the case, he’s definitely not the kind of overbearing guy you’d want giving you automotive instruction.
Why are driving lessons even a topic of conversation with an action flick like “Taken 2?” Well, because unfortunately, Kim’s inability to pass a driver’s test is actually a relevant plot point. With angry Albanians in hot pursuit and her father shooting at them, Kim must overcome her vehicular struggles by speeding through narrow streets, dodging baddies at every turn. Pretty ridiculous right? Sadly it gets worse.
Direct sequels are for suckers. That seems to be Christopher Nolan’s motto when it comes to his Batman trilogy. Just like its predecessor, Nolan’s final Batman flick is only a slight continuation of the previous chapter’s events. No one mentions the Joker out of respect for Heath Ledger’s passing, but “The Dark Knight Rises” is still a satisfying conclusion to the series. That’s because this tale explores similar themes to the other movies, while introducing some compelling new ones. In doing so, it becomes a fantastic bookend to the saga.
“The Dark Knight Rises” picks up eight years after “The Dark Knight” at time when Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) has long since hung up Batman’s cowl. During that time Wayne sustained a serious injury that left him with a limp, and he lost most of his family’s fortune. Since then he has lived as a disgraced recluse with his faithful butler Alfred (Michael Caine) as his only company.
Bruce considers coming out of retirement after he crosses paths with a mysterious cat burglar named Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway), who viewers might know better as Catwoman. What seals the deal though is the appearance of a muscular masked terrorist named Bane (Tom Hardy), who quickly overwhelms the Gotham City police. Despite being older and out of shape, Wayne becomes Batman again because he believes that no one else can stop Bane.
Right in the beginning Nolan lets you know that “TDKR” will be an emotionally intense outing, with a mesmerizing plane hijacking set to Hans Zimmer’s thumping score. The writer/director takes his story to incredibly dark places, especially when exploring Bruce and Alfred’s eroding relationship. Some of the movie’s most heartbreaking scenes involve Alfred’s vain attempts to stop Bruce from placing himself in harm’s way again. Nolan’s tale also contains violent backlash to the economic injustice perpetrated by Gotham’s richest members, something that feels timely in the wake of recent Occupy protests.
Like Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson) from “Batman Begins,” Bane is a bad guy with the specific agenda of destroying Gotham so that it can start over. As villain Bane is much scarier because he can literally crush men with his bare hands. Every time Batman gets hit with one of Bane’s ferocious punches, you wince in pain for him. Bane’s voice, which sounds like a mix of Darth Vader and Dorian Tyrell from “The Mask,” is easier to understand than it was in trailers for the film, but sadly there are still a few moments when he’s nearly unintelligible.
Thankfully Batman and Commissioner Gordon aren’t the only ones fighting Bane in “TDKR.” They receive assistance from Selina Kyle, who is more ally than foe in this picture, and an idealistic young cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Anne Hathaway surprisingly plays Catwoman with minimal camp and holds her own in action scenes. Gordon-Levitt is also enjoyable as the unflinchingly honest Blake.
While Nolan effectively uses the film’s 144 minute run time, his story gets diluted by focusing on so many characters at once. Batman himself almost seems to take a backseat in his own movie. Sometimes that works well with Nolan’s series-long emphasis on Batman a symbol rather than a person. In other moments Batman’s absence just bores you. At least Batman’s gadgets are the coolest they’ve been in the franchise. His jet “The Bat” is exceptionally badass.
Without spoiling the ending, Nolan wraps things up nicely, while impressively leaving them open-ended at the same time. As a whole, “The Dark Knight Rises” is better than “Batman Begins,” although not nearly as powerful as “The Dark Knight.” All we can hope is that Nolan’s epic Batman franchise won’t be besmirched with a reboot, for at least a few years.
My Grade: B
“Unknown” ultimately just blends Jason Bourne with Bryan Mills, the badass role Neeson played in “Taken,” while adding a tad bit of Dr. Richard Walker from “Frantic.” The resulting cocktail is still enjoyable though: one part amnesiac, one part violent revenge seeker, a splash of an American teaming up with a European, and slightly diluted fighting abilities.
College professor Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) arrives in Germany with his wife Elizabeth (January Jones) to attend a biotechnical conference, where he’s slated to present to the leading scientist Professor Bressler (Sebastian Koch). As Harris leaves the airport, his suitcase is misplaced, which rather unbelievably, he does not notice until arriving at his hotel. The frantic professor hops a cab back to the airport; however his journey is cut short when he gets into a car accident.
Harris awakens days later in a hospital bed to discover he has been in a coma. Surprised that no one has come to check on him, the confused man checks out so that he can find his wife. After he arrives back at his hotel and corners Elizabeth, he’s disturbed that she does not appear to recognize him. What’s even more frightening is that another man (Aiden Quinn) claims to be Dr. Martin Harris, and he has the documentation to prove it.
Bewildered and dejected, but not deterred, Harris tracks down his cab driver Gina (Diane Kruger), the only one that can vouch for him. With Gina’s help he attempts to prove his identity and piece together his memory. In the process of validating his story, Harris and Gina discover that they are in grave danger, and the pair is forced on the run until they can figure out a plan.
Though Dr. Martin Harris shares certain similarities with Jason Bourne and Bryan Mills, he sets himself apart in “Unknown” by his fighting abilities. Unlike Mills or Bourne, Martin Harris is more vulnerable to injury. What Harris lacks in precision, he makes up for in sheer determination, because he’ll take a beating and still keep coming until the bad guy is dead. Neeson’s unflinching fortitude in the role is part of what makes him so fun to watch.
In “Unknown” Jaume Collet-Serra creates danger and excitement through scrappy hand-to-hand fight scenes and white-knuckle car chases through the streets of Berlin. The fight sequences are mostly shot in the same disorganized way they occur between the characters, but the driving is more skillfully cut, splicing in jumps to Harris’ maneuvers with the wheel and the stick-shift as he dodges baddies. There’s more thriller than action, but fans of both camps should have a good time even if they’ve seen comparable movies before.
My Grade: B+
“Clash of the Titans” chronicles the adventures of Perseus (Sam Worthington), who is part man and part god. In the ancient Greek world, this demigod’s father is Zeus (Liam Neeson), king of the gods. As a baby Perseus is cast into the sea to die by an evil king, but he is saved by a fisherman and his wife. The fisherman and his wife raise Perseus as their own, teaching him the simple ways of their trade.
Meanwhile, the people of Greece grow tired of appeasing the gods and the citizens of Argos declare war on the gods. Their declaration of war angers Zeus, who decides to allow his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld, to unleash his evil wrath upon the humans. Hades tells the humans that he will set his beast the Kraken upon the people of Argos in retaliation for their bold acts unless they sacrifice the princess of Argos.
Perseus is present in Argos for Hades’ ultimatum to the people, and he is told of his divine heritage by a mysterious woman named Io (Gemma Atherton). He is hurriedly convinced that he is the only person capable of stopping the gods from exacting their violent plans and he is tasked with leading the crusade to save humanity. Perseus and a group of soldiers from Argos set out on an epic journey which will take them all the way to the underworld and back in order to stop Hades and the Kraken. From there the story for “Clash of the Titans” is really just your standard action adventure film, riddled with difficult side quests that would frustrate any seasoned role-playing gamer.
The art direction is probably the most solid aspect of this film. Presenting a vivid interpretation of ancient times, the costumes and the CG look really cool. Ralph Fiennes as Hades reigns down fire and brimstone and in a way that’s eerily reminiscent of the smoke monster from “Lost.” With makeup, the filmmakers do an excellent job of making him and Liam Neeson look like brothers.
Despite my complaints about the 3-D making my head hurt, there were actually two times where the 3-D impressed me: in a scene from the beginning showing the cosmos and in a scene with the Kraken where ocean foam is being thrashed everywhere. Space looks so beautiful and massive through the lens of 3-D, while the ocean action made me feel like I was being sprayed in the face with seawater.
Pretty visuals though is where the film ceased to amaze me. It’s story is cliché and its dialogue woefully corny. It attempts to make some action movie type one-liners that feel out-of-place in ancient times. Sam Worthington generates a few yucks here and there, though mostly keeping it pretty serious.
His performance is certainly nothing to write home about, but I blame that more on the bad writing. The screenwriters never give enough time to the conflict between Perseus’ human roots and his divine lineage. Worthington seems to roll with the punches like the audience, bouncing from one mini-quest to another, until he finally arrives at the end, taking little time to reflect on where he’s been.
If you like epic action and CG battles then you should probably see this film in the theater, because I don’t think it will have the same re-watch value at home. I’m just glad however that I did not have to pay to see this movie.
My Grade: C-