Run All Night (2015)

Released March 13, 2015. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Starring Liam Neeson, Ed Harris, Joel Kinnaman. Written by Brad Ingelsby. 1hr., 54 min.

Vengeance and a father’s love pair up on a long December night

Featuring a visually pleasing style and packing a surprisingly emotional punch, Run All Night will please anyone looking for a concise narrative that happens over one long night.

Fate pits best friends Jimmy Conlon, portrayed by Liam Neeson, and Shawn Maguire, Ed Harris, against each other in a deadly situation when Jimmy is forced to kill Shawn’s son to protect his own kin. Maguire’s son Danny, the up-and-coming supporting star Boyd Holbrook (A Walk Among the Tombstones), kills a pair of Albanians in a local gang after he tries to bring drugs to the family business. The entire situation is a product of Danny’s insolence and need for independence – to handle a problem on his own, like his father suggested. Surely, this is not what he meant.

His father is a legitimate business man, also known as a New York mafia boss, who won’t bring drugs back to his city after he had a bad experience amongst his workers once before. Michael, portrayed by RoboCop’s Joel Kinnaman, comes into this when he drove the to-be-murdered Albanians to Danny’s home. He is a limousine driver and family man, with a seriously estranged relationship with his own father – a former hitman for Shawn Maguire.

Now Jimmy is retired, but his nightmares of those he has killed have not rested. He’s drunk and tattered, playing the flawed hero he seems to play at least once a year nowadays, notably in 2014’s Non-Stop and A Walk Among the Tombstones.

Common as Andrew Price. (Source)

Common as Andrew Price. (Source)

Hey, if it works, it works. It feels even more familiar here, however, since this has such a similar style to Non-Stop, which director Jaume Collet-Serra also helmed. It has a different framing – New York circa Christmas time, but it’s about as much of a Christmas flick as Die Hard. There’s also a prominent NHL game in play throughout – the New York Rangers versus the New Jersey Devils, perhaps to display the city’s culture. It later works cleverly into the screenplay, which is written by Brad Ingelsby, writer of 2013’s Out of the Furnace. Similar settings, scenes and tone make this more familiar.

Run All Night isn’t memorable because of its originality, but because of its emotionally interesting narrative. Jimmy will largely do anything to protect Michael and that shows a father’s love for his son, even if they don’t know each other well. However, Michael’s bitterness towards his father becomes so sporadically extreme, that the character is sometimes too unlikable.

Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon. (Source)

Liam Neeson as Jimmy Conlon. (Source)

During the quicker action scenes, the editing becomes hectic. That’s one of the weaker technical aspects of the film; but the redeeming cinematography is smooth.  The action scenes work because they are fun and have personality. But there are scenes that don’t work – like uninspired bouts of ruthlessness just so it can show that these characters can be brutal. Or a bathroom brawl for lack of realism, since they make a lot of noise – and how does no one hear the commotion in the commode in a crowded subway station?

A fun antagonist includes a hitman portrayed the Oscar-winning Common. He’s called to be robotic and calculated as Andrew Price, but ends up being the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of assassins, particularly when he’s called to put on his nice guy act, and then he becomes monstrous. Vincent D’Onofrio portrays Detective Harding, an antagonizing, prejudiced officer who has been gunning for Jimmy “Gravedigger” Conlon for years. His assumptions of Jimmy and his son are sometimes downright mean.

Director Jaume Collet-Serra does bring his best action film yet to the table. He expertly deals with themes of regrets in life through Conlon, largely signified through a repeated line with former bestie Maguire, “Wherever we’re going, when we cross that line, we’re going together.” It’s fascinating that a family member’s death because of intense circumstances can cause him to be so vengeful, but the way that writer Ingelsby doesn’t delve into it well enough causes him to be more basic than he could have been. Collet-Serra handles the emotions well and builds great tension throughout.

3 stars

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The Nut Job (2014)

The Nut JobReleased: January 17, 2014. Directed by: Peter Lepeniotis. Starring: Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Liam Neeson. Runtime: 85 min.

Apparently, it takes three writers, two to write the screenplay and one to think of the story, to write a really bad animated movie tailored mostly for the kids’ enjoyment. There’s three mildly amusing laughs, but that’s about it for the laughs for anyone over the age of 10, unless one of your comedy weaknesses is squirrels farting. “The Nut Job” follows the adventures of Surly the squirrel (Will Arnett) who, after destroying the city park’s food supply for the winter, is banished to the scary city. He is not alone, as he is accompanied by his best friend, a mute rat named Buddy. With luck on their side, they find a Nut store (and arbitrarily start to dance to Psy’s “Gagnam Style,” where you have to wonder how they’re hearing the music) where there’s enough nuts to feed the park for many winters to come. But that’s only if Surly is gonna share! He enlists the help of his acquaintances (because he’s too cool to have more than one friend; one at a time, friends and neighbours) to rob the store of their nut supply.

Dancing aimlessly to music they're not really hearing

Dancing aimlessly to music they’re not really hearing

The premise is designed in a way that might appeal to adults, because, hey, it’s a still a heist film. It’s handled poorly with dumb humour and too many nut puns, like “Hey, don’t go nuts on me,” crap like that. This is sort-of like the premise of “Over the Hedge,” because these are both films about a group of wild animals collecting food, and there’s a character here that’s a mix between Steve Carrell’s Hammy and the adorable lemur from the “Madagascar” franchise. This is such a poor movie because it’s, underneath it all, partly an uncharismatic, full-length version of the Scrat character before each “Ice Age” film. And for this to have any sort-of critical access, I think it’s important that the main protagonist isn’t entirely unlikable.

"We're gonna starve!"

“We’re gonna starve!”

Surly’s personality completely matches the name he’s given; he’s mean and whenever he seems to be opening up, he gets pissed off and pushes the person away. That might be because of vulnerability and the fear of being hurt, but he comes off as a selfish prick and I don’t know why anyone would want to watch any film depicting this character. He’s just uncharismatic and he’s all about himself, it’s just not a fun attitude to watch. Sharing is caring, Surly, you idiot.  Will Arnett’s voice performance is rather bland as him, as if he’s sort-of phoning it in. If you want to experience his voice work, just see his work as Batman in “The Lego Movie” instead. Katherine Heigl is unremarkable as her character Andi. Liam Neeson is okay as Raccoon, the leader of the park animals in New York. Brendan Fraser is trying too hard in a bland sort-of way as Grayson, the squirrel that the parks sees as the hero; and Grayson is too stupid to realize he’s a scaredy cat. Maya Rudolph has an energy in her voice work that brings something partly tolerable to the film. Still not very funny, but not completely awful. She plays a pug owned by the people who own the nut shop.

The film’s animation is the one redeeming quality. Funny thing, it has a look where in the background there are lines that come down and across that look as if the characters are in a dome, like that scene in “Scooby Doo and the Cyber Chase” when the world they’re in becomes vibrant and shows the lines around them, that they’re not yet home. If you know what I mean, maybe I’m just seeing things, it’s noticeable (did anyone else see it?) – and it seemed to have a post-production quality of animation, like it was almost completed but not quite, but the filmmakers said anyway, “Good enough, ship it off to theatres.”

The characters are completed, and the backgrounds are pretty nice, but it seems like they forgot to erase the lines in the background. One thing that is strange is the colour choice of the main character; a purple squirrel? Granted, it’s colourful and it’ll catch the kid’s attention, but boy does it not make sense. Maybe he fell into a can with purple paint and it didn’t get the stain out entirely? Maybe he couldn’t hook up with enough squirrel biddies and got the sister version of blue balls? Purple balls? Get it? Oh, there’s a clever animated sequence during the credits featuring the animaetd version of a popular singer in the end credits singing a popular and upbeat song. It confirms the filmmaker’s insecurities with their own film, shoving in a song that doesn’t have much to do with the film, only to convince you that you had one hell of a good time.

By the way, the people who own the nut shop but it for a heist of their own. They’re digging a tunnel in the basement to the bank supposedly nearby, “The Ladykillers”style. They’re the usual stupid henchmen and random boss you see in animated thug movies. There’s one henchy who is all mysterious and cringes when he hears a dog whistle; which is strange because it never gets explained why his hearing is so hyperactive enough to hear it. Anyway, it makes sense that they’d buy a nut shop; because the only people would walk into the nut shop are those who would ask: “Why do you own a store that only sells nuts?” No one’s going to go in there; alternatively they could have just ran a VCR repair shop. The film wouldn’t happen if that were the case, but that’s not such a bad thing. Mostly because this is a really bad movie. The characters are so lame, you’re probably going to root for starvation to win.

Score25/100

The Lego Movie (2014)

The Lego MovieReleased: February 7, 2014. Directed by: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Starring: Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman. Runtime: 100 min.

“The LEGO Movie” isn’t just a great animated film, it’s filled with humour and satirical jabs at corporate America, namely the leader of the lego world being called President Business; the fact that if you’re on TV, people are going to listen to you; and coffee being priced at $37 for the public (here’s looking at you and your overpriced coffee, Starbuck’s). It’s a clever take on totalitarianism, a sort-of dictatorship where a leader has full control over a part of society. President Business (voiced by Will Ferrell) takes control by giving good citizens tacos, distracting citizens by a TV show called “Where’s my pants?” after he says “Non-behaving citizens will be put to sleep!” If that show wouldn’t be distracting, I don’t know what would be. He also keeps the people satisfied by a catchy song that literally plays on every radio station called “Everything is Awesome.”

How did the tyrannical President Business get into power, you might ask? In another realm of the LEGO universe (where he is known as Lord Business), he stole a super weapon called the Kragl from the master of all master builders, Vitruvius (voiced by Morgan Freeman), which grants him ultimate power. Before Business is able to take it, V speaks of a prophecy – a master builder who finds the piece of Resistance will come along and be the most talented, most brilliant and most important person ever and challenge Business’ plans to glue the universe together.

The person who fills this prophecy is not one that you might expect. He, Emmet (Chris Pratt) is a completely ordinary LEGO minifigure that looks like all the rest of the LEGOs, and he becomes the one to fill this prophecy completely by accident. There’s a charm about it because it’s so unexpected that the one will be so ordinary, making this feel like a subtle underdog story, at least to me. It boasts a message that everyone is special in their own way, even if you don’t think so at first. To all the master builders of the universe, this guy looks totally useless; mostly because he’s a victim of conformity in the realm Pres Business rules. Emmet’s favourite song is “Everything is Awesome,” his favourite TV show is “Where’s my pants?” and he follows instructions because he wants tacos. Building instructions helps Emmet, and otherwise, he doesn’t know what to do without them. (The difference between him and other master builders is funny because it’s hard for original thinkers to follow instructions, it seems).

Business is a clever ruler because by giving these people instructions, he doesn’t let them have a solitary original thought. He needs everything to be in tip-top-shape, and he asks for perfection at every turn, not letting anyone build anything that they want. I think a main message of the film is imagination, something the President doesn’t believe in, at all.

Since master builders can build something out of nothing, I think this film urges children all over the world to use their imagination and create cool LEGO structures, and use their imagination in other parts of life. To build something out of nothing, and it says that everyone can be a master builder if they want to be. I think there’s sheer brilliance in the idea that this world looks like it could be derived from the minds of children, but I don’t think the story would be as smart. The settings are just stunning and creative, and some might particularly like the animation used in the smoke, explosions and water. It’s a whole world made of LEGO, and it’s incredibly detailed (the great animation is thanks to Animal Logic) This film is, of course, also nice advertisement for the LEGO product, but it is a lot more layered than just a big toy advertisement like the “G.I. Joe” flicks or the blockbuster franchise “Transformers”.

The humour will keep both children and adults entertained, because writers and directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have such referential and clever senses of humour. They reference things from “The Terminator” to “Clash of the Titans” to “The Godfather”, and one of the realm’s names is a clever play on the world in “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (Middle Zealand – a mash of Middle Earth and New Zealand, the filming location of those films). There are a lot of big laughs in this, and some spectacular action sequences, where teamwork is used; making this sort-of like the superhero teamwork movie many anticipate. I enjoyed this as much as I wanted to enjoy “The Avengers.” With the film’s humour, Lord and Miller are experienced to entertain both children and adults, by tackling animated movies (the two “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” films) and R-rated action comedies (“21 Jump Street”). The real charm about the Lord/Miller pair is that they keep surprising us with films that could be decent, but turn out to be pretty extraordinary; and this is no different. One character they created I was amused by is Bad Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson), who plays to the Good Cop/Bad Cop strategy used by interrogators. He has a bit of a split personality, you can say, but I’ll let you watch that hilarity unfold for yourselves.

The other characters are great because they are great presences. Emmet is a relateable hero because he is so average, and his love interest Wildstyle (Elizabeth Banks) is great because they are so alike in ways. Other characters on the lovable LEGO save the world team include a crazed pirate called Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), an all-too positive cat with a unicorn horn called UniKitty (Alison Brie), 1970s Space Guy named Ben (Charlie Day) and the hilarious caped orphan himself, Batman (Will Arnett)! There are many other classic characters at the meeting of the Master Builders (ones from the DC Universe, among a lot of others), and they’re great cameos – but nothing more, really. It’s good because if they were more, the film would be too crowded. There’s enough characters and hilarity to keep the film moving at a brisk pace.

Score96/100

Taken 2 (2012) Review

Taken 2

Release Date: October 5, 2012

Director: Olivier Megaton

Stars: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace

Runtime: 92 min

Tagline: First they took his daughter. Now they’re coming for him.

I had a bit too much fun trashing this one.

Taken 2 is an occasionally enjoyable, but generally unsatisfying, sequel.

Bryan Mills is going on a business trip (I guess he came out of retirement) to Istanbul, Turkey. His ex-wife Lenore and his daughter Kim tag along after a few days because their own trip got cancelled last minute. What Mills isn’t aware of is, the father of a man he killed on his first mission to rescue his daughter, is out for revenge. Mills must use his acquired set of skills that he acquired over a very long career, and enhanced in the first film, to save his and his family’s lives and get home safely.

I didn’t love this, nor I did like it very much, but I didn’t absolutely loathe every part of it.

I really had a hard time believing some of the content that was happening. There was hardly a suspension of disbelief anymore, because some unbelievable ideas really bothered me. Remember that Robin Williams film, Flubber (1997)? Well if you don’t, there was this little green flexible rubber (I guess, thus flubber) thing that could stretch a long way. Imagine that as my belief of the film, but it’s one of those dud flubber’s that snap really easily. It’s sort of like a rubber band.*

*Maybe I should have just made the rubber band comparison… Oh well, I wanted to use that Flubber reference, okay! I think it’s a little clever, and I only get clever ideas every so often.

Okay, I’ll chat about some of the content that just bothered me.

1. Exotic trips so close together. This seems like it happens only a few months after the events in Paris, so if Kim gets kidnapped there, why would they want to take another trip to an exotic and probably criminal area like Istanbul? How good are the police forces going to be? Just come to Canada or something, we have a great police force. Better yet, why leave the country at all? Go to Hawaii or something!

2. Ninja daughter in training. When did the daughter become so skilled? It’s not like she acquired those skills over a very long career, she only acquired some of them in a 90-minute first film. Okay, it’s all right because they didn’t make her have a shot like an assassin, and she was driving pretty recklessly, but what’s up with that grenade throwing? There’s really no way one could be that accurate with a grenade on their first throw. I guess they could practice with baseballs, but baseballs don’t explode. It doesn’t seem likely at the time. And, she has wicked perfect math skills, and she draws a near-perfect circle. How could one do that under that much stress?

3. Bryan and Kim treat this as if it is an everyday occurrence  Lenore, who is just there and makes this pretty messy sequel even longer, freaks out a little bit. But Bryan and Kim had the tendency to just treat it like it happens so often, it might as well be an everyday occurence like walking a dog.

4. Maggie Grace’s age. Maggie, Maggie. We audiences are not this stupid. The gig is up, you sexy 29-year old, you. You’re playing a seventeen (almost eighteen) year old. And, you’re not very convincing.

5. Nearly exact same final showdown as the first one. Mills fights one prime henchmen, and then faces the big old bad guy. Just like in the first one. It’s a similar fighting scene, but it’s just a little more frustrating, as the first one. And, the henchmen has the same exact knife as the prime henchmen in the first one. I know it’s probably like a group knife, but the henchmen was fighting Mills nearly exactly the same way as a primary henchmen in the first one did.

6. Marriage Rebuilding 101, ran by Hollywood. What a great way to try to rebuild a marriage! Get kidnapped, it seems like such a bonding experience! Yeah, what a great way to rekindle a lost relationship.

Okay, I’m done with tearing apart the unbelievable content. Did I miss anything? Probably.

I’ll talk about what was sort of good about it. The same simple premise is used, but it sometimes can be effective, but not nearly as effective as the first. It just drags on in a lot of areas. Admittedly, some of the action sequences were pretty good. Some were better than others, and some were just draining, predictable, and messy. It’s enjoyable at times and pretty quickly paced, but it lost my attention at times.

Now for the next part of it that really bothered me. It’s practically the same premise as the first, or at least extremely similar. It’s like they consulted with The Hangover Part II director Todd Phillips, to see how they could make the same film twice. That brings me to this:

How to Make the Same Film Twice, For Dummies by Daniel Prinn

Step 1: Consult with Todd Phillips, because he’s the one who prominently made the same comedy twice.

Step 2: Go to your documents. Find the screenplay of the first film.

Step 3: Open up a new word document. Okay, do you have it open?

Step 4: Now, go over to the original screenplay: copy it, and paste it to the new document.

Step 5: Now replace with only daughter being kidnapped, to the whole family being kidnapped.

Step 6: And now find every reference to Paris, and replace it with Istanbul.

Step 7: Did you do all that? Okay, good.

Step 8: Put in the mailbox, send it to a big studio like Fox, and start raking in the money.

Yeah, baby! Getting money!

Some of the flashback visuals, or visuals used when someone is drugged, was just really rough and hard on the eyes. Especially, the opening credits. That was truly bothersome. But, the landscape was admittedly pretty great.

At the beginning, as an introduction to the plot that shall follow, the narrative kept alternating between L.A. and Albania, and it felt like two different plots for the first (approximately) twenty minutes.

If I have learned anything from this action series, it’s that the earth is occupied by many men who are bent on revenge.

The Mills family is just about the family representation of Princess Peach. They just keep getting kidnapped all the time, one would think they would learn from the first film. Though, if you ever get kidnapped, just call Bryan Mills at 1-888-789-TKN2, for assistance to get out of the jam. He’ll help you out.

“Hey, Mario. Can you come save us? Yup, we’ve gotten kidnapped again…”

In one line of dialogue, Neeson even commented on how there will probably be a second sequel. He seemed to say it reluctantly, too.

Taken 2 is a generally unsatisfying sequel that has some enjoyable moments, but also very poor action sequences. The characters are still pretty lame, and no one believes Maggie Grace is really seventeen years old. I probably had more fun reviewing the film than I did watching it. Join us for the inevitable second sequel, where one of these things may just get taken from him: one of his buddies, grandchildren, identity, pet goldfish, or, GOD FORBID, his favourite weapon.

50/100

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

The Dark Knight Rises

Release Date: July 20, 2012

Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway

Runtime: 165 min

Tagline: A fire will rise.

This one was quite impressive.

   Eight years after Batman took the fall for Harvey Dent’s crimes, a new terrorist leader has come to the surface in Gotham. There hasn’t been a spotting of Batman for eight years, and Bruce Wayne has become a recluse around the same time. Wayne must overcome his own personal turmoil and once again protect the city that has branded him an enemy.

It’s a great summer blockbuster that offers many incredible thrills great plot execution, some great twists and turns, and great direction and writing from Christopher Nolan.

The character of Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) wasn’t all that great. She offered a nice presence, but she wasn’t developed well enough as the other characters. The other new characters, like Bane or Officer John Blake or Miranda, are really good, and got solid character development. Although, other new characters like Daggett or Stryver, weren’t very interesting at all and weren’t extremely well-developed. The old characters are, as expected, as great as always.

The usual great Nolan atmosphere is offered, and it is one heck of a super-hero film. Its only possessive flaw is the sometimes slow build-up, and the plot feels a little too overused. Of course, what can you expect from a super-hero film? It will obviously have the whole hero vs. villain play-out, and this one has an extremely memorable climax. Its length may also feel like a flaw to some, but really and truly it doesn’t feel nearly as long as it actually is. Also, some of the realism of the whole thing feels off in areas.

This was obviously highly anticipated, and it really does live up to its hype. The cast is stellar, and Tom Hardy delivers a great performance – considering all he must act with are his eyes, voice, and gestures. His British drone and sometimes barely-audible dialogue make his character cringe-worthy, but the majority of his dialogue was understandable – if you listen very well. The subtitles should be helpful to those who will watch it on home media.

Now, here come the inevitable comparisons to the first two films, and the villains before Bane. The Dark Knight Rises isn’t nearly as great as The Dark Knight, but it is much better than Batman Begins. The atmospheric action was greater in D.K., and it had more memorable scenes. Though, this was still amazing. In this Nolan trilogy, Bane is better than Ra’s Al Ghul (as Ken Watanabe), but not Cillian Murphy’s The Scarecrow, Two-Face or especially not The Joker. All Bane has really is a frightening stature, strength, and the whole mystery of why he’s wearing that freaking eerie inhaler thingy-ma-bobber. That isn’t very scary, right…? He’s probably not the best villain because he doesn’t use a whole lot of psychological warfare. Heath Ledger’s The Joker used that all-too-well, and he was downright terrifying with his extreme psychopathic nature. The Scarecrow was just really cool, and he obviously used psychology as a weapon as he poisoned his victims with that gas to make them hallucinate like crazy.

This flick stars Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, with Liam Neeson and Juno Temple.

The Dark Knight Rises is an extremely impressive piece of cinema that may be flawed, but still awesome. The length may threaten some, but it is an experience that should be had, and even people who don’t like super-heroes can enjoy this. It isn’t as great as The Dark Knight, as [it was] expected, but this is still quite must-see. This is a summer blockbuster at its finest which should snatch up an extremely respectable amount of awards.

90/100

Taken – A great action experience.

Taken

Release Date: January 30, 2009

Director: Pierre Morel

Stars: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

Runtime: 93 min

Tagline: “I don’t know who you are, but if you don’t let my daughter go, I will find you and I will kill you.”

It’s a great concept that sometimes doesn’t execute itself all that well, but is nonetheless bullets of fun.

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA agent who is trying to strike up a relationship with his now seventeen year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). She soon takes a trip to Paris, and finds herself kidnapped for the purpose of human trafficking. The ring is ran by a gang of Albanians who hook the female tourists on drugs and then prostitute them as an organized business. Mills then travels to Paris in an attempt to find his daughter and bring her back to the U.S. before his appointed window of 96 hours runs out. He must do this, no matter the cost – even if the streets run with blood and nothing but havoc is raised for the French police and former colleagues.

Taken offers a fine experience, that sometimes drags on, but is an overall great concept that is nothing but fun. There’s hardly a message wrapped up in here, just good old fashioned badass-ness. I guess if there was a message to take from this, it would be ‘do anything for your family, no matter the cost’.

One thing I didn’t like about the film was why he was trying to strike up a relationship with his daughter at this point in her life. I mean, she’s seventeen and she’d rather be off with her friends doing teenage and irresponsible activities. Also, Maggie Grace was like what, twenty-six when she played this seventeen year-old? That’s just a little ridiculous, could the studio not find a better actress to do the part? I won’t complain too much though, she performs fairly well – I like her.

The phone monologue is pretty awesome, and is definitely the best part of the film – that you can see in the trailer. It doesn’t run on too long, but some scenes are a little draining. The body count in this movie is crazy. The car chases are pretty memorable, but a lot of the kills aren’t anything that special.

Liam Neeson’s character is pretty sweet, but his ex-wife was hardly likable at all. Who likes a complaining old broad? It’s a great thing that she’s a minor character. One should understand my lack of excitement for her being a larger character in the sequel to this.

Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, Katie Cassidy, Holly Valance and Xander Berkeley headline this action delight.

While Taken is a great concept with some poor pacing, it isn’t shy of being an action great. It does offer some memorable sequences, but the average ones are also, unfortunately, high in numbers. This movie is a self-aware action delight that satisfies on many levels.

75/100

– Daniel Prinn

The Grey (2012)

The Grey

Release Date: January 27, 2012

Director: Joe Carnahan

Stars: Liam Neeson, Dermot Mulroney, Frank Grillo

Runtime: 117 min

Tagline: Live or die on this day.

The Grey was a pleasant surprise.

After their plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, six oil-workers are led to survival by a skilled huntsman (Neeson). What they soon find out is that they are being stalked by a pack of hungry wolves.

It’s actually a pretty great thrill ride, and I cannot think of any other survival film that I had a better time with than this. Liam Neeson delivers in this film, along with others who I was quite impressed by.

I liked how they did the casting in a fashion of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in the way that they had one central, well-known actor (in this case: Neeson; in Cuckoo’s Nest case: Jack Nicholson) and other moderately unknown (as I was hardly familiar with any of the other actors, with the exception of James Badge Dale as I had seen him in The Conspirator and the bad film adaptation of Lord of the Flies) actors. In this fashion, the audience takes more to the lead actor.

I was rather satisfied with the film, and the direction (as I didn’t like Carnahan’s project, Smokin’ Aces).

The thrills were grand, the plot execution was actually pretty impressive, and the character development was quite good. The only two complaints I have about the film is that at times, there was too much talking and not enough action – which, in turn, made for swell character development. It was also really quite anti-climactic; but just fast forward to after the end credits, there’s a really brief scene.

It was filled with thrills, pure entertainment, and quite a few sentimental moments.

And it has a really awesome poem that’s a nice theme of the film: “Once more into the fray. Into the last good fight I’ll ever know. Live and die on this day. Live and die on this day.”

The film is like an awesome mix between Frozen and the badass qualities of a really good Liam Neeson action flick.

If survival films, or Liam Neeson, or good movies in general are your thing, this is a film that is worth checking out. It offered nice thrills and good characters.

80/100