Saturday, February 21, 2009


In the movie Taken, Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills who is a retired special ops agent who's daughter is kidnapped by a human trafficking/prostitution ring while she is visiting Paris. He is forced to put his skills into action as he attempts to locate and rescue her before a 96 hour window closes. Since much of this movie takes place in France it has the same European feel as the Bourne series. I also could have sworn it had the exact same sound track during the many action scenes.

If you like seeing middle aged men beat the crap out of bad guys then this movie is for you. It is very intense and violent and it has been quite a while since I found myself so riveted to a movie. This was written by Luc Beeson but has a much more realistic feel to it than his Transporter movies. There is the obligatory inability of bad guys to shoot the hero at close range with machine guns, but I have given up on this criticism since almost every action movie I have ever seen if guilty of it.

Maggie Grace was very convincing as the clueless 17 year old daughter, but Liam Neeson steals the show. During some moments he is cool headed and calm as Quigon Jin, but at other times he unleashes his fury in a precise and controlled fashion. The main thing I learned from watching this movie is that you don't mess with Liam Neeson's daughter. I could relate to his vengeful anger. He gives John McClane, Jason Bourne, and Jack Bauer, a run for their money This was one of the better movies I have seen in a while. I give it 8.2 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Max Payne

There seems to be a trend of movies coming out based on video games. The first few I remember were Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, and Tomb Raider. Then there was Final Fantasy, Resident Evil, Boodrayne, and now Max Payne. I can't wait until Donkey Kong or Frogger come out on the big screen. I had heard a few people say how disappointing Max Payne was so I had very low expectations going in. Combining that with the fact that the movie is based on a video game I was not expecting a Shakespearean experience. What really pushed me over the edge to rent it was a free rental code at Red Box so I didn't mind taking a chance.

When I saw the preview for this I thought it looked like Van Helsing or Constantine since it showed monsters flying around and supernatural stuff in each scene. I had never heard of Max Payne and had no idea what it was about. I learned it was a story about a cop trying to solve the mystery of his wife's murder. Despite the scary special effects in the previews it turned out being more of a detective story.

The movie may not have bee that great, but one thing I did like about it was the stylized dark film noir look. I liked the cinematography and the look of the movie. The visuals reminded me of the previews I had seen for Sin City and Watchmen. I thought it was strange that it seemed to be snowing weird cotton like snow in every single scene. Maybe that has something to do with the video game?

Spoiler: As soon as I saw Beau Bridges in the movie I said to myself "he is the bad guy". How did I know that the trusted family friend would end up betraying the hero and trying to kill him? Because that is exactly what happened with Beau's brother Jeff Bridges in Iron Man. I was not going to get faked out by a Bridges that easily again.

So my summary of the movie is it had cool visuals but even a shallow guy like myself can not allow the merits of special effects to compensate for missing ingredients vital to a good movie. I did not think it was nearly as bad as I had heard it was but still it only gets a 6.2 out of 10 stars. What do you expect from a video game. At least it was not "Pong- The Final Countdown"

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Charleton Heston

There have been many cool actors in the history of cinema. There are men who play tough guys and then there are actors who are tough guys. Some of the tougher actors I have enjoyed over the years are: Sean Connery, John Wayne, Mel Gibson, Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Paul Newman, and Russell Crowe. This is an impressive group, but I'd have to say my all time favorite is Charleton Heston.

I remember the first time my dad took me to see Ben Hur. I was blown away. It was a long movie for a little kid to sit through but the rowing galley scene and the chariot races kept my attention and I have claimed it as my favorite movie ever since then. I have enjoyed seeing almost any movie Charleton Heston appeared in.

I especially love it when he would get mad and scream his lines. He did it with such dramatic style that it was almost comical. William Shatner is the only other person who can come close to delivering a line with as much emotional flare. Some of my favorites quotes are "Get your stinking paws off me you damn dirty ape!" or "I'ts a madhouse!" from The Planet of the Apes. Then you have the famous line of "Soylent Green is people!". I'm sure you can still hear his authoritative voice as Moses saying "Thus saith the Lord", or "Let my people go."

It didn't matter if he was playing Michelangelo, Ben Hur, El Cid, or Moses, he could deliver his exaggerated lines like no one else. Charleton Heston could read the dictionary and make it an emotional event. Off the screen in real life he continued this pattern when he spoke for the NRA saying "You can have my rifle when you pry it from my cold dead hands."

Even when he wore a handkerchief around his neck in The Omega man and Soylent Green as was the horrible style in the 70's, he was still cool. I don't think anyone else could pull that off. I know this is late for a tribute since he passed away last April, but my hat is off to Charleton Heston for being the studliest actor in movie history.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D. is a futuristic movie about a mercenary who is hired to transport a young woman from Russia to America. In a departure from his usual roles Vin Diesel plays a tough action hero. So maybe it's the same role he's always known for, but the poor rating I give this movie can't be pinned on Diesel. I love futuristic action movies but was disappointed with this one so this will be a short review.

The movie had my attention at the beginning. I was totally shocked to see the main character butcher and stir fry a cat for his dinner. I'm sure that scene didn't win any glowing reviews from PETA. The movie pretty much went down hill from there. I know better than to criticize unrealistic details when you are dealing with a science fiction movie. I usually cut that genre some slack when I see something fake, but it was hard for me to watch the characters outrun missiles while riding on snowmobiles.

I think my wife summed it up best when she said "that actually had some potential to be a good movie but they blew it." I agreed with her. It seemed to be missing something but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it just needed a logical plot that wasn't riddled with holes. I had a hard time caring about this movie by the time it was over. I give it 5.4 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Express

I love sports and inspirational stories so why was I a little reluctant to see this movie? Maybe it was just overload from seeing so many movies like Glory Road, Remember the Titans, Miracle, Cinderella Man, Hoosiers, We Are Marshall, Rudy, Friday Night Lights, The Rookie, etc. I enjoyed most of these movies, but the problem I've had with this genre is that many of these movies are merely based on true events. These stories always seem to loose some of the magic when you find out the game didn't come down to a last second play or that certain events in the movie were exaggerated or completely fabricated. I think I'd still be more impressed with a sports movie that is 100% accurate even if it's a little less dramatic or exciting. That's one reason I liked the documentary Hoop Dreams.

Now that I've disclosed my prejudice against this genre, I have to admit I did enjoyed this movie. I thought Rob Brown did a great job of Playing Ernie Davis. I haven't been a huge Dennis Quaid fan but I think this is one of his better roles. I empathized with Davis' plight and the irony of being the star of the team yet being treated like a second class citizen. I think the strongest thing this movie had going for it was the subject matter showing the racial tension and how backwards things were during that time in history.

If you enjoy sports movies based on true events then you will probably enjoy The Express. I give it 7.0 out of 10 stars.
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