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Entries in Liam Neeson (8)

Friday
Nov192010

The Next Three Days

Russell Crowe’s star power seems to be dwindling. Two of his last three films (State of Play, Body of Lies) failed to do much more than fizzle at the box office. While they both went on to surpass their budgets in worldwide ticket sales, their domestic intakes were less than impressive. With that in mind, teaming up with Paul Haggis, director of the 2004 Best Picture winner, Crash, almost seems like a no brainer, but a messy script, uneven pace and a general lack of believability will most likely make The Next Three Days just another blip on Crowe’s devolving career.

Based on the 2007 French film, Pour Elle, the story follows John Brennan (Crowe), a normal family man and college professor who is forced to go to extreme measures to keep his family together. His wife, Lara (Elizabeth Banks), has just been arrested and charged with murdering her boss. Throughout the next few years, she appeals her case and loses every time. The only option left is the Supreme Court, who hasn’t heard a murder case in a very long time and isn’t likely to now. So John, certain that she is innocent, decides he’s going to break her out and bring her home to her child, Luke (Ty Simpkins).

The Next Three Days has a problem that is morally unsound. John knows in his heart that his wife is innocent. He loves her tremendously and refuses to acknowledge the possibility that she could have actually murdered somebody in cold blood. At one point, she even tells him that she did it, to which he simply replies, “I don’t believe you.” We’re supposed to go along with that, but it’s not easy to. Until the final scene, which comes off like a roundabout and more than a little late way of telling us how we were supposed to feel, there is no indication that Lara is innocent. In fact, every sign points to her guilt. She had just had a giant argument with her boss, her fingerprints were found all over the murder weapon, the victim’s blood was found on her jacket and a witness saw her fleeing the scene of the crime. But that’s all supposed to be irrelevant because John loves her. I wasn’t buying it, so the whole movie became useless to me. I didn’t want John to break her out. As far as I could tell, she was guilty and deserved to rot in prison.

The events that unfold in The Next Three Days are about as likely as Ann Coulter taking a liberal stance on anything, which is to say it could happen, but you’d be shocked if it did. John is an English professor (at a community college no less) who hasn’t done a harmful thing in his life. He wouldn’t even know where to begin if he wanted to steal a bag of chips from a 7-Eleven, but he somehow concocts a master plan that spans a giant radius of Philadelphia (complete with a pleasure ride on the metro) where he outmaneuvers the entire police force by accurately predicting their every move. He even plants evidence to send them on a wild goose chase. It gets to the point where you become exhausted. You can only take so many leaps of faith before your legs get tired.

It completely goes off the rails when John buys a gun and starts shooting people up for money (but not before setting a house with a meth lab in the basement on fire). Had I actually cared about what was going on up to this point, I would have found this scene questionable, but I didn’t. The Next Three Days has cinematic ADD, transitioning from the prison break to a shootout to playground shenanigans to romantic entanglements. The pace hits only highs and lows. It’s either moving at a crawl or zooming by.

Sadly, there is a good movie hidden somewhere in here. The Next Three Days is well acted and directed, but it’s only moderately engaging. It’s the type of movie where you’ll find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat in one scene and slumping over it the next. Had the script been tightened up and the proceedings made at least somewhat realistic, this probably would have been a good piece of entertainment, but instead it will sit in your mind for the span of its title and then disappear forever.

The Next Three Days receives 2/5

Friday
Jun112010

The A-Team

I’m an 80’s child. I grew up with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters. I know every word to the Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right (To Party!).” I lived and breathed the “Super Mario Brothers” video game. But some things simply came before my time, namely “The A-Team” whose series was wrapping up by the time I emerged from the womb. Having never seen an episode, I don’t have much to compare it to, but the 2010 movie adaptation is nevertheless tons of fun.

The A-Team follows a group of Army Rangers who are wrongfully accused of a crime and put in prison, but quickly break out only to find themselves on the run to clear their names. There’s Hannibal (Liam Neeson), the fearless leader, Face (Bradley Cooper), the reckless womanizer, Murdock (Sharlto Copley), the mentally unstable pilot, and B.A. (Quinton Jackson), the tough looking pacifist who takes a vow of peace after his wrongful imprisonment.

Truth be told, it’s all rather confusing. There’s a prominent CIA figure named Lynch (Patrick Wilson) who may not be who he claims, the beautiful Charisa Sosa (Jessica Biel) who has had a romantic history with Face and is tracking him down, a group of black op mercenaries who are after the same thing as the A-team, and General Morrison (Gerald McRaney) who is the only person able to legitimize the group’s story and clear their names, but dies unexpectedly in an explosion. It’s another one of those movies where the story is not so much incoherent, but insubstantial. It exists solely as a string of flimsy reasons to get the team to the next wild action scene.

And wild they are. Too many action movies feel generic and outdated, but I saw the team do things here that I’ve never seen before, like fly a tank. Yeah, they fly a tank. It’s an action scene that is clearly over-the-top and unbelievable, but you won’t care because that’s the movie’s goal. It balances its somewhat realistic feeling with its crazy stunts almost perfectly. You’ll always anticipate what is coming next, but you'll never find yourself disappointed. It continually tops itself with more and more ludicrous events at every turn.

It seems pointless to say because it should be readily apparent by now, but this picture rarely takes itself seriously and when it does, well, those are the parts that don’t work out too well. The romance between Face and Charisa works only in the end and the speech from Hannibal on “fighting for what you believe in” is unnecessary. But these are slight moments in an otherwise outrageous movie.

The film’s success comes from many things, but it’s clear that much of it comes not only from the frantic, stylized direction from Joe Carnahan, but also from the terrific performances from the cast. Along with this and Taken, Liam Neeson has proven himself as an awesome action star, Copley shows he’s not a one hit wonder after District 9 and provides most of the film’s many laughs, and Bradley Cooper is charmingly brass as Face. The sole weak point of the group is Jackson, a UFC fighter, whose small previous film roles have not prepared him to carry this character. He’s not terrible, but his inexperience shows.

With a rocking soundtrack and outlandish action scenes, The A-Team emits fun for two hours straight. It may not be for everybody and I’m well aware that many will walk out feeling underwhelmed, but I found it to be a real standout in what has so far been a mediocre year for action movies.

The A-Team receives 4/5

Friday
Apr022010

Clash of the Titans

Something's wrong in Hollywood. It's called 3D. Now, before you naysay my statement, know this. I do not hate 3D. It has a place in film and, perhaps unfortunately, is the next evolutionary step in the future of filmmaking. However, with Avatar still going strong at the box office, Alice in Wonderland still climbing out of the rabbit hole and last week's How to Train Your Dragon enjoying its debut, the last thing we need is another 3D movie, yet here we are with the remake of the 1981 cheese-fest Clash of the Titans. Forget about what those big wig execs up in their ivory watchtowers want you to think. Clash proves that not every movie needs the extra dimension.

What separates this apart from those movies previously mentioned is simple. It was never meant to be in 3D. It was not filmed with that technology, like Avatar, or with the mindset for it to later be converted, as was the case with Alice in Wonderland. No, it was bumped up after the movie studio discovered just how profitable the format could be, considering the extra cost to see one in theaters. Thus, it looks horrid. Some scenes feel unfinished, certain visuals look blurry and at times, the characters seem misshapen with distorted heads and cut off body parts, as seen with the ear in multiple shots. Sometimes, I took my glasses off only to find much of it was barely converted, if at all. I watched whole scenes in crisp clear 2D without the glasses in a supposedly 3D movie. It's a nasty trick by the studio to force you into paying extra money with the notion that you're getting something more. Don't be fooled. You're not.

Regardless of how you're looking at it, you'll most likely wish you weren't at all. Clash of the Titans is an action bombshell, taking the genre and forcefully deflowering it with no regards to style or substance. It uses Greek mythology to prove itself as an epic, but it never does anything to warrant such a title.

Sam Worthington plays Perseus, son of Zeus, played by Liam Neeson. Zeus, a god, mated with a human in an act of revenge, who eventually gave birth to Perseus. Being half-human and half-god, a demi-god if you will, he is thrown into the thick of things when the battle between humans and the gods heats up. You see, the humans have betrayed the gods and Zeus is angry, so he joins with his brother Hades, ruler of the Underworld, played by Ralph Fiennes, to put them in their place. If the people of the city do not sacrifice the beautiful Andromeda, played by Alexa Davalos, a giant Kraken will come and destroy them. Perseus' mission is to figure out how to kill the Kraken and defeat the gods.

Essentially, it's a long winded journey to drably colored locales that all look exactly the same with the hopes of finding the information to take down the giant beast that ends in as boring a fashion as it possibly could. By the time Perseus finally gets to the much talked about Kraken, the creature merely waves his claws around, roars a few times and the movie ends. There's no battle, no showdown and, most importantly, no enjoyment to be had in any of it.

Perseus' journey is never fraught with peril or wonder. It gathers up the extensive history of Greek mythology, but has no fun with it. The PG rated Percy Jackson & the Olympians did more with its source material than this supposed grown-up tale of survival and sacrifice.

And that would be due to the script. This is a very badly written film, with unexplained plot occurrences and dialogue that would be better fit for a fun cornball picture. If you've seen the original film, you know it was a poorly conceived B-movie, yet irresistible in its campiness. This modern update doesn't even reach that status because it takes itself far too seriously.

Going hand in hand are the actors, who all seem half asleep in their performances. Liam Neeson, as established a star as he is, is boring as the god Zeus while Fiennes does little more than channel a less creepy version of Lord Voldemort from his roles in the Harry Potter films. Sam Worthington's banality may be the most egregious, however. He was great in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation despite their mediocrity where he proved himself as an up and coming action star. He was somebody to look out for, but he comes off as a second rate actor from a military commercial here. Sure, he looks strong and menacing, but his goofy way of talking in a loud whisper, not unlike Jack Bauer in 24, is laughable and makes his tough look moot.

Clash of the Titans is a disaster, joining the ranks of big budget travesties like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Land of the Lost. It's one of the worst movies of the year thus far and you should skip it, but if you must see it, take my heed and skip the 3D. Why pay extra when you'll walk out miserable either way?

Clash of the Titans receives 0.5/5

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