Run All Night- Review

3 04 2015

Run_All_Night_Liam_Neeson_Poster

Run All Night is one of those films Liam Neeson fans will flock to, but maybe not other moviegoers. That’s a doggone shame, because it has a surprising bit of emotional weight, and is better than some of his latest offerings (looking at you, Taken 2 and 3). Speaking of which, no it’s not Taken 4, all you haters. Neeson plays a bit against his everyman hero type this time as Jimmy Conlon. Honestly it’s almost hard to root for him at times. Jimmy is a guy who’s hasn’t just become an alcoholic or lost touch with his family- he straight up murdered innocent people for his  “best friend” Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris) for years, and now he’s a pathetic shell of a man, wavering between apathy and regret. So, not quite an ex-CIA family man. Along the way, he delivers the “best” worst party Santa ever, but that’s another story.

 

Joel Kinnaman Conlon

At least they haven’t taken his son.

 

It’s little layers like this that help the film rise above the average action flick. Ed Harris and Liam Neeson work well together, helping sell their (soured) friendship. They’ve been through bad and good together (mostly bad), and even though it’s obvious the relationship has been a bad influence on Jimmy (and maybe even Shawn), they cling to some sense of loyalty even to the end. The conversations they have about having to kill the other strike an odd tone, and highlight how lost the two criminals are in their own actions.

 

Shawn Maguire

The friend your mother warned you about.

 

So blah blah story, how is the action, you impatiently inquire? Well, let’s just say that once the plot gets moving Liam starts Neeson-ing everything and everyone and doesn’t let up. There are several standout moments, including close combat inside a burning inferno, and a slick slow-motion rifle scene that reminded me of Non-Stop‘s crazy climax. Neeson is still fun to watch as an action hero, and Joel Kinnaman fills in nicely as his son Mike Conlon. While Mike coaches boxing, ultimately his character ends up watching or running while Papa Jimmy clears the room. Rapper “Common” brings a formidable opponent as hitman Andrew Price. My only issue with his character is the ridiculous laser that remains on and brightly pointing the entire movie. What’s with that? I get it’s there to look cool in the fog and darkness, but would an elite hit man really give his presence away like that? It’s not even a sniper, just a sidearm.

Common Rapper Andrew Price

Sweet laser tag arena.

 

Finally, amidst the chaotic firefights and chases, we get a wonderful introspective moment where the weight of his choices (and life) finally hits Jimmy. It’s not played off in a corny way- instead it becomes a surprisingly emotional moment that stuck with me a little longer after the credits. The ending may or may not be surprising to the audience, but let’s say there’s more to think about than a typical guilty pleasure Neeson action flick. Don’t take my word for it- check this one out for yourselves. Or else, Jimmy will come for you.

 





100% Accurate Movie Predictions for 2015

4 01 2015

Well it’s that time of the year again, where I make shockingly-on-point predictions about upcoming cinematic offerings. These have all been carefully selected using Google and an impossibly low level of effort. Are we in for a treat this year, or a big, steaming pile of sequels?

 

Tak3n

Stop taking his blasted stuff!

January 9- Taken 3

Haha! That last question was a joke! Get ready for the third Taken movie- hot on the heels of the first mediocre sequel. So, what gets taken this time, besides Liam Neeson’s soul? Well it turns out the only thing taken this time (SPOILER ALERT) is Bryan Mill’s wife- permanently. Yep, remember those happy endings, where he saves his family and reunites with his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen)? Well, to quote the studios, “Forget that junk, let’s have Neeson get framed for her murder!” Meanwhile, the CIA, FBI and police all try to hunt down our hero.

Prediction: It’s Liam Neeson kicking butt, so you can bet this will at least enjoy mild success for a weekend or two. Word of mouth will ultimately kill it, because some people will miss the whole American-beating-up-foreigners aspect.

 

mila_kunis

I see we’re trying the Matrix outfits again.

Feb 6- Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is found on Earth by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered action hero, who tells her she’s important (because of confusing reasons or something) and will “alter the balance of the cosmos” (I swear that’s a quote from the official description). Also, Jupiter Jones is a terrible name.

Prediction: The promos say “From the Creators of the Matrix Trilogy,” which isn’t the best reference, but honestly have the Wachowski siblings come out with anything else that’s worth mentioning? If all people mercifully remember is the first Matrix movie, and nothing else about the other two, you may get some tickets from an audience that’s willing to forgive Mila Kunis for her awful witch in Oz the Great and Powerful.

 

Feb 13- Fifty Shades of Grey

I’m going to assume that if you’re reading this article, you are already an educated and discerning individual who doesn’t need my sarcasm to know a bad movie.

Prediction: Some will say this embarrassing pimple of a film didn’t go far enough, and others too far. Either way, let’s have a moment of silence for all the poor bro’s who will get forced into the theater by their emotionally-unstable significant others.

 

Kevin James

Wow! April looks awful!

April 17- Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Paul Blart (Kevin James) continues his cautionary tale for washed-up comedians in the sequel to the critically-acclaimed Mall Cop. I sure hope there’s some fat jokes in this one!

Prediction: Adam Sandler and Eddie Murphy will be jealous they weren’t involved. The positive side is you can instantly de-friend anyone on Facebook who mentions this film in a positive light.

 

Avengers_teaser

*Spider-Man not included.

May 1- The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and the rest of the Avengers reassemble to further build their retirement funds. Expect awkward conversations about why they didn’t assemble to help out on Thor 2, where the universe practically imploded, or why not even one of them called to check up on Captain America after his near-death experience. Also count on Captain Cameo (Stan Lee) making an appearance.

Prediction: Hah, you don’t need a blog to tell you that this movie will create a shower of gold bars over Marvel Studios, and will push them full steam into their next 75 comic book movies.

May 15- Pitch Perfect 2

Because the ladies need something to watch while their guy friends watch Avengers the third weekend in a row.

Prediction: See above.

 

Comic-Con

Because Disney World was closed.

June 12- Jurassic World

Imagine a world where citizens are willing to pay to see dinosaurs up-close again, even after one or two disastrous encounters where lives were lost. Imagine this awful business plan is again picked up by well-meaning but ultimately profit-driven people in suits who know that the jaded public will fall for anything. Are the story writers being intentionally ironic with us?

Prediction: Obviously this isn’t going to be better than the original, so the most I can hope for this is gentle critics and lowered expectations from fans. Because profits…find a way.

 

Jai Arnold Schwarzenegger

Terminator heads hate sunny fields.

July 1- Terminator: Genisys

It’s a new Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) and a new Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke)…with an aging Terminator robot (Aging Arnold Schwarzenegger) in an alternate timeline. Apparently Terminators actually age now. They probably will have a crazy shootout scene in the Terminator Retirement Home, with all the other time-traveling robot assassins who couldn’t take out one dude.  At least the misspelled title will drive my OCD friends crazy.

Prediction: Arnold hasn’t been the biggest draw lately, and this is a tired series that should have gone to bed a couple of decades ago. They’ll probably draw a profit, but we won’t be telling our grandchildren about where we were when we first saw Terminator: Genisys.

 

Hunger Games Jennifer Lawrence

(Cue whistling)

Nov 20 – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2

It’s the second part of a sequel to a sequel, based on the least popular book of The Hunger Games trilogy. Even with all that cynicism, you and I will probably be in the ticket line opening weekend.

Prediction: If I remember correctly, Part I didn’t do as well in theaters, partly because of the extra fluff inserted to make the book into two movies. However, it’s the last entry of the movie series, so it’ll draw in enough profit to finance a giant party in The Capitol.

Star Wars

Admit it. You just stopped breathing for a moment.

December 18 – Star Wars: Episode VII

Like a jilted lover who doesn’t know any better, the nerd in everyone will return to the Star Wars universe this winter. Our favorite characters are now 30 years older, but there will be no Jar Jar Binks or whiny pre-Vader. Could this be the movie that finally brings balance to the Lucas? Or is it a trap?

Prediction: It’s probably a trap. But a very effective trap that will take all our money.





Non-Stop Review

4 03 2014

Liam Neeson

Joining the ranks of movies that dampen the public’s love of flying, Non-Stop reminds us that, even in a plane, Liam Neeson can still thrash people while maintaining his charming Irish accent. It’s an action/suspense movie that has managed to give Liam yet another week in the top box office position (the first being his role as Bad Cop in The Lego Movie). So does this flight take off or does it leave us all feeling like we just ate Delta Airline’s idea of a meal?

Bad Cop Liam Neeson Bill

Bad Cop in a Plane!

Federal air marshall Bill Marks (Liam Neeson) gets contacted over text by a mysterious person, who threatens to kill one passenger every 20 minutes unless 150 million dollars are transferred to a specific bank account (yes, we see stop watches continually throughout the movie). From that setup, it’s off  to a pleasantly well-done game of cat and mouse with a strong whodunnit feel. The majority of movie plays off the question, how would you find a silent killer in a crowded plane? Could it be  that passenger, the pilots, the crew, or that little girl with her teddy bear? And is Julianne Moore‘s character Jen Summers helping or thwarting his efforts?

Bill Marks Nancy

Discussing in-flight meals.

My only complaint about the movie would be the final 15-20 minutes. We finally realize what’s going one, but then the movie goes to crazy town and never quite leaves. Of course, I’m giving it a small pass since this is partly an action movie, but after the relatively quiet tension of the rest of the movie, it just feels a little too bombastic. That said, my favorite Liam Neeson moment was in the finale, where he straight-up Liam Neesons someone in the coolest way possible. My theater applauded, and Liam’s name became a verb for epic take-downs. It is interesting how Liam Neeson almost seems to have his own genre at this point, but that’s not a bad thing.

Professor Trelawney

Julianne does her best Professor Trelawney impersonation.

I would place this as the finale of Liam Neeson’s unofficial action trilogy- Taken, Unknown, and now Non-Stop (Taken 2 never happened). While it does dial back on Liam Neeson-ing thugs, the suspense was enough to keep me focused the whole movie.  If either of those earlier movies brought you joy, than now is the time to buy your ticket, post-haste!

Liam Neeson sign

This billboard is Liam Neesoning this building.





The Lego Movie Review

14 02 2014
The Lego Movie Banner promo

I just wish they had spelled out the premise a little more.

Full disclosure- years ago I was the biggest Lego maniac around. I built for hours, learning valuable life skills like how to build a space base or a giant robot to storm the gates of the medieval castle. Lego was the junk! So, of course I drove my mature self into that theater, and I watched an animated movie about Lego people. Is it worth your time, or is this a shameless cash-in?

Lego Movie poster

Above: my childhood. (Minus Unikitty, of course.)

This is a shorter review, so here’s a shorter answer: this movie took me by surprise. It’s quirky, funny, and wonderfully random at times, bringing the all-around good feelings that Pixar films used to give. Basically, normal, everyman Emmet (Chris Pratt) is “chosen” by hippie-wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) to save the Lego universe from the clutches of the evil Lord Business (Will Ferrell). Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and her boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett ) also help Emmet realize his role as the MasterBuilder. But first they have to escape the ever-looming henchman Bad Cop (Liam Neeson) and his army of robots. Typical Shakespearean drama, am I right? By the way, Shakespeare also makes an appearance with Lincoln, because of course he does.

Bad Cop and Lord Business. Subtle.

Bad Cop and Lord Business. (Subtle naming going on here .)

Obviously, The Lego Movie never takes itself seriously, yet still manages to stay on target and somehow pull the emotional strings towards the end. The animation is half of the charm. They filled the movie with tons of slick action sequences, yet the style is intentionally meant to resemble all those stop-motion Lego videos on Youtube. The humor ranges from clever to goofy and usually hits the mark, coming from the same directors who worked on Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs  and (surprisingly) 21 Jump Street. All the actors seem to be having a blast, most notably Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell, who milk their villainous dialogue for all it’s worth. Alison Brie as Unikitty also had some laugh-out-loud psychotic moments. And, let’s just say Will Arnett as Jerk Batman is awesome.

All in all, this movie knows what it is and sticks with it. The screenwriters nailed what draws so many kids to Lego- imagination. Throw in a little nostalgia, a little emotion, and endless gags, and the end result is a movie that will entertain more than just kids.





Stolen Review- Cage Steals the Show in a Bad Way

11 04 2013
Nicolas Cage Poster

Cute Poster.

 

1. Stolen is the tale of how a group of friends wasted a perfectly good 1.5 hours of their precious lives in a failed attempt to laugh at a bad movie. Wait, you wanted the movie review instead of my viewing review? Okay, how about a broad summary? Stolen is basically every cliched action movie rolled into a Nicolas Cage.

 

Rage Nicolas Cage

2. I think I remember the Redbox description saying something along the lines of “When someone steals the daughter of the world’s greatest thief (Nicolas Cage)-” and then I stopped reading and got ready for a laugh-fest of Cage trying to be Liam Neeson in Taken. However, in the end the movie got the last laugh, because a bad-but-hilarious Star Wars Christmas Special this was not. It was just bad.

 

Put the bunny back in the box. -Nic Cage

Put the bunny back in the box. -Nic Cage

 

3. For a better example of how I felt, imagine going to a comedy show for a specific person, and when you got there he (or she, ladies) wasn’t performing. Instead, it’s Nicolas Cage on Stage. Well, how bad could it be, you ask, because he’ll either be funny, or he’ll try to be funny and you’ll get to laugh at him either way. Now, imagine he looks you in the eye, takes your favorite coat, walks back onstage, and rubs it in dog dirt for 96 minutes-and you won’t leave because he has your coat.

 

Nicolas Funny Scream

I love pictures of Nicolas Cage.

 

4. The gang’s all here- The World’s Best Thief, the Detective Who Has Chased Thief His Entire Career But Admires Him, the Generic Bad Guy Who Wants Revenge And A Back Rub, the Plot Device Daughter, and the Two Dimensional Love Interest.

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.

 

5. The music is BIZARRELY HORRIBLE. Imagine the worst overblown-jazz-whatever action movie soundtrack from the 90’s, 60’s, and heck, the 80’s, and then blending them together. Then you put this music of dated cheesiness into a modern film and watch as the viewers begin to question the merit of living at all.

 

Nicolas Cage Meme Valentine

Ladies….

 

6. What I’m trying to say is this movie steals plots, characters, and weird music. Don’t let it steal your time and money.





The 9 Most Surprising Movies of 2012 (from my point of view)

6 01 2013

Surprises aren’t always a good thing; you never know if the gift box is hiding an iPhone 5 or a Nikki Minaj album. This isn’t my top movies of 2012. These are the movies that surprised me the most by exceeding or defiling my expectations, so movies that I knew would be good (Avengers),  mediocre (The Amazing Spider-Man, Hunger Games) or bad (Twilight) aren’t included.

1. Les Miserables- To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the soundtrack as much as I did. In case my blogs have fooled you, I’m not the most cultured guy in the coffee shop. Musicals in particular (or operettas, for all you hipsters) have had as much impact on my life as a steak does for a vegan. That said, I LIKED the songs. I almost even bought some. So there you go. Good Surprise.

Les Miserables Poster

(Humming soundtrack)

 

2. The Grey-So in case you didn’t see the trailer for The Grey, it looked like Taken, but with wolves instead. Get ready as a team of men crash a plane, band together and fight wolves in an epic tale of survival! And Liam Neeson punches wolves! A lot! Ok. First, this is like the opposite of a survival movie (spoilers). Second, it wasn’t a wolf-punching fun-fest either, and they showed the last scene in the trailer. I maybe could have enjoyed this depressing, thoughtful movie if it hadn’t been advertised so differently. Bad Surprise.

3. Dark Knight Rises-So,  my review of this movie is pretty biased, as I’m both a Nolan and Batman fanboy at heart, but at the same time the movie was nothing like I thought it would be. I was expecting Dark Knight 2, but what we got had more of the Batman Begins feel with a disaster/war movie feel instead of Dark Knight‘s crime noir inspiration. Some people may have been turned off, but I loved how it ended the trilogy on such an epic scale, even if the second one’s still my favorite (yeah, it’s Joker). Good Surprise.

Dark Knight Rises Funny Charles

This is why you don’t watch pirated version.

 

4. Skyfall-The trailer was pretty slick, but I’ve never been a mega-fan of Bond movies (sorry, England). It turns out I really enjoyed the ride this time, including everything from the interesting locations to the psycho villain. Good Surprise. 

Daniel Craig Skyfall

Bond is sad the sky is falling.

5.Prometheus-Prometheus is like a stylish, self-inflated person who claims to tell you everything, but midway though his explanation you realize he knew less than you did. And then he shuts the car door on his hand. This movie wanted to be so ground-breaking and smart, but as I already pointed out, it consisted mostly of smoke and mirrors and added more questions. And had characters dying in the dumbest way possible, like running away from a falling ship the longest way possible. Bad Surprise.

Prometheus Falling Ship

This deserved a repost. Click to enlarge.

6. Lockout-This movie looked like a fun, dumb movie, with at least an interesting premise (prison break in space). However, it was actually just a dumb movie. Period. I walked out of the theater and counted all the better things I could have done with all that wasted time, like build a pirate-themed ant farm. Bad Surprise.

7. The expendables 2-Sure, it was loud and dumb and starred aging action stars, but we knew that, right? What I didn’t know was how hard I would laugh at the overblown hilarity, with a Chuck Norris joke summing up the whole movie. Good Surprise.

Had to have a meme somewhere.

Had to have a meme somewhere.

8. Wreck-it Ralph- This was the most Pixar-quality animated move of the year, and it didn’t come from Pixar. It even tried to pull my heart strings, but I held it off like a man. Good Surprise.

 

9. The Hobbit- Immaculately reproduced sets that made me want to have second breakfast while re-watching the original trilogy? Good Surprise. Annoying CGI Goblin KingBad Surprise. 

Dex and Goblin King

I still call plagiarism.





Argo 5-Point Review (Where Was Liam Neeson?)

24 10 2012
Argo Promo Image

Affleck, Destroyer of Worlds, with giant camera.

 

1. Argo is a better Taken movie than Taken 2. Even if you’re up to snuff on your history, it’s still a smart, enjoyable and tense ride. While the pacing may be better than Taken 2, I still argue that if Liam Neeson had been in charge of rescuing the hostages, we’d have a much shorter film with a higher body count.

2. Ben Affleck is in it! And I still called it “smart, enjoyable!” But seriously, Affleck’s character is the anchor of the movie, keeping our attention without falling into overacting.

3. Usually with these “based on a true story” movies I brace myself and unconsciously look for obvious Hollywood changes. This time, however, I was so into the movie I really didn’t care. During the end credits, they even show pics of the real hostages next to their film representatives, and I gotta admit it’s pretty spot on.

4. That is, except Ben Affleck’s character, which is coincidentally the only one they don’t show side-by-side. That’s because his name is Tony Mendez, and he is not a white dude. Look, I know it’s Ben’s movie, but still it’s kind of an odd decision, and I thought it was a fake name for most of the movie because it’s so blatant.

 

The Real Tony Mendez

Pictured: Not Ben Affleck.

 

5. While parts of the movie (mostly the finale) were juiced up a bit for the screen, what we have here is one of the more incredible covert operations of United States history finally being told, and it’s done well. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to join Hollywood or the CIA at the end. Even if Liam Neeson didn’t bulldoze his way through.

 

One more thought- The fake movie “Argo” was completely terrible and the world’s a better place for it not existing (Blue Wookies?! Really?).