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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Famke Janssen

Celebrity (1998)

Never mind. I’m fine with being a peasant.

After divorcing his wife, Lee (Kenneth Branagh) now has a new mission in life and that’s to be dive deeper and further into the entertainment industry, where he’ll be able to wine and dine with all sorts of celebrities, be a part of their lives, and see the world through their eyes. However, Lee gets too close to some and often times, he finds himself struggling to keep himself calm, cool, and collected, while all sorts of decadence and debauchery is occurring around him. Meanwhile, Lee’s ex-wife, Robin (Judy Davis) is trying her hardest to live life without fully losing it. While she’s working at a talent agency, she doesn’t really know where to go next with her love life. That is, until she meets the charming and successful TV producer Tony (Joe Mantegna), who not only strikes up a romance with her, but also brings her into the celebrity-world – the same one that Lee himself seems to be way too comfortable in.

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

Pictured: Not Woody Allen

In the same sort of spirit he had with Deconstructing Harry a year earlier, Celebrity finds Woody Allen with a fiery passion to get something off of his chest. However, instead of throwing all of his anger around towards those around him who he holds most near and dear to his life, Woody positions everything towards the whole celebrity culture in and of itself. Which isn’t to say that he makes fun of celebrities and mainstream talent (which he does do), but more or less that he criticizes the whole idea of being an actual “celebrity”; in Woody’s eyes, it isn’t if you have any talent, per se, is what makes you the biggest and brightest celebrity, sometimes it just matters who you’ve slept with and whether or not you’re at the right place, at the right time.

Sounds pretty smart and interesting, right? And heck, you’d even assume that someone who has to deal with celebrities, pop-culture, and tabloid sensations as much as Woody Allen has had to, that there would be some shred of humanely brutal truth, eh?

Well, unfortunately, Celebrity is not that kind of movie.

Instead, it’s one where Woody Allen tries to recycle old themes and ideas that he’s worked with before, but this time, with a much larger ensemble, more unlikable characters, way more of a disjointed plot, and well, the biggest issue of all, no originality or fun. Even in some of Woody’s worst features (of which there are quite a few), you do sort of get the sense that he’s still having fun, even if he doesn’t totally feel any sort of passion or creativity within the project itself. Here, with Celebrity, a part of me wonders where the inspiration actually began – I already know where it ends (at the very beginning of the flick), but why did Woody want to make this movie, about these characters, and using this story?

The question remains in the air, as there’s so many characters to choose from, it’s hard to really pin-point which one’s are actually more annoying and underdeveloped than certain others. But to make that decision a little easier for yourself, just watch whatever Judy Davis and Kenneth Branagh are doing here because, oh my, they’re quite terrible. And honestly, I don’t take any pride in saying any of that; both are extremely likable and interesting talents who have honestly knocked it out of the park, more times than they’ve actually struck out, but for some reason here, they’re incredibly miscast.

Seeing as how he never worked with Woody before, it’s understandable why Branagh was miscast, but Judy Davis?

Really, Woody?!?

Anyway. the biggest issue with Davis is that her character is so over-the-top, neurotic and crazy, that you almost get the sense that she’s doing a parody of what a crazy person should look, act and feel like. It’s never believable for a second and just seems like an act, above everything else. Then again, when compared to Branagh’s impersonation of Allen, Davis almost looks Oscar-worthy, because man oh man, he’s even worse. Though it’s never been too clear who’s idea it was to have Branagh act-out in every Woody-mannerism known to man (I say it was Woody’s, but hey, that’s just me), either way, it doesn’t work and just hurts Branagh; his constant flailing around, stuttering, pausing, and general awkwardness is painful to watch because, like with Davis, we know he’s acting. We never get a sense that he’s actually “a person”, but more or less, “a character” that Woody has written and made into another version of him.

Bebe knows best.

Bebe knows best.

And while nobody else is bad as Davis and Branagh, they’re not really all that much better, either. In fact, despite the huge list of impressive names, no one here really stands-out, or is ever given as much time as they should; Joe Mantegna and Famke Janssen are probably the only two who get actual real time in the spotlight, whereas all of the names get pushed to the side for what can sometimes be constituted as “glorified cameos”. Even Leonardo DiCaprio, in his very young-form, shows up, curses a lot, assaults Gretchen Mol at least a dozen times, snorts coke, has sex, and never hits a single comedic-note.

Of course though, that’s not Leo’s, or anybody else’s fault, except for Woody Allen himself.

While it may appear like Celebrity is Woody’s worst, it really isn’t; it’s got a funny moment or two spliced between all of the silly love-triangles and pretentious speeches, but there’s not enough. And honestly, Woody really missed the opportunity on reeling in to Hollywood and the celebrity-culture itself. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about it, so why not let your feelings heard loud and clear for the whole wide world?

Couldn’t hurt, right?

Consensus: Despite an immensely stacked and talented list of actors, Celebrity fails by not being funny, interesting, or original enough of a Woody Allen comedy, that sometimes wants to be satire, but then, other times, doesn’t want to be.

3.5 / 10

They've stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven't stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

They’ve stopped following Gretchen around, but they haven’t stopped following Leo. Thankfully.

Photos Courtesy of: A Woody a Week

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Taken 3 (2015)

This family should just never step outside ever again.

After a few run-ins with foreign thugs, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) can finally sit back, relax, and soak in that his family, for once in what seems like an eternity, is safe and sound. His daughter (Maggie Grace) seems to be spending some lovely time with her new boyfriend (Jonny Weston), as well as getting an education in college; his ex-wife (Famke Janssen), is also currently dating (Dougray Scott), but doesn’t know whether or not she should take it to the next level; and there’s even a possibility of their being another member of the Mills family. However, that all goes away once Bryan’s ex-wife mysteriously turns up dead and, wouldn’t you know it, Bryan’s the one who is framed for it. Without standing by and allowing for himself to be wrongfully imprisoned, Bryan takes justice into his own hands, goes on the run, and does whatever he can to clear his name. That means kicking a lot of ass, questioning a lot of folks, and figuring out just who the hell is behind all of this. Also trying to do the same is Inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), somebody who believes Bryan is innocent, even if he can’t fully prove it just yet.

"Act your age, missy!"

“Act your age, missy!”

Unlike everybody else on the face of the planet, I was never so hot with the Taken franchise to begin with. Sure, it was a neat concept – place an aging-actor, well-respected actor in an action-packed, take-no-names role and just let him be as menacing and scary as humanly possible. However, both movies hardly ever did anything for me. The first Taken was too serious for its own good, and if we’re being honest here, Taken 2 may have been a bit better for me, if only because it was absolutely balls-out wild and hardly ever made excuses for itself. Action movies that are like always win my heart, even if they do feature one of their characters throwing random grenades all over a city.

But hey, let bygones be bygones.

Now, with Taken 3, it seems like the franchise has finally hit its peak, or I guess, lack thereof. The story itself always showed signs of getting old, tired and stale, and that’s exactly what this movie proves as fact. There’s no real story here, except that Liam Neeson is on the run in a Fugitive-kind of way, where we’re left to sit back and enjoy all of the crazy, adrenaline-fueled close-calls he runs into to protect his life, as well as his family members. Honestly, it’s kind of a bore to watch, which shouldn’t at all be the case.

Some of that problem is due to the fact that the story just isn’t all that engaging to begin with, but it’s also because Olivier Megaton’s direction is constantly irritating. Rather than allowing for us to see how an action-sequence plays out, who is affected in it and why, Megaton feels the urgent need to shake the camera up all over the place, and cut every single shot that comes the slightest bit close to hitting four seconds. In a way, it’s almost nauseating and makes it seem like Megaton knows he’s not working with anything worth writing home about, so he just does whatever he can to distract us, in the most manipulatively obvious way possible.

Where’s Tony Scott when you need him?

Also, let me not forget to mention that this movie is PG-13 in the worst kind of way possible. People get their throats slit, shot in the face, blow-up in car accidents, stabbed in the abdomens, and so on and so forth, and there is absolutely no blood to be found. I get that the powers that be behind Taken 3 wanted to appeal to a larger-audience, so rather than scaring the hell out of anyone who wanted to have a good old time at the theater and not think of the harsh consequences for such violent acts as these, they wanted to soften it all up, without showing any sort of ketchup whatsoever. Like with Megaton’s direction, Taken 3 is made solely to distract you from the real problems that may be lurking within the movie itself and rather than being sly, or even coy about it, it’s easy to pick apart every little problem it has, which makes it all the easier to see why this trilogy needs to end, and end now.

"Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired."

“Excuse me, miss? Have you seen my agent anywhere? They seriously need to be fired.”

Which is definitely a shame because this is the same franchise that helped re-invigorate Liam Neeson’s career. Say whatever you will about these movies, without the first Taken, we wouldn’t have the Liam Neeson we see and sometimes love, in today’s world, had it not been for the unpredictable popularity of that movie. It helps that Neeson brings some gravitas to this role and allows for Bryan Mills to feel more of an actual, living, breathing human being who also just so happens to be able to karate-chop people to death. However, here, in his third-outing as this character, Neeson seems tired and, dare I say it, bored. And he definitely should be. The guy’s had some of his best roles in the past few years, with a lot better movies, and from what it seems, there’s only more of them to come.

So, people, whatever you do, don’t feel bad for Liam Neeson. The dude’s going to be mighty fine for many years to come.

The ones who you should probably feel bad for are the likes of Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, and new-to-the-franchise Dougray Scott. Because, honestly, I don’t know if either of these three are going to get anymore shots at glory like they have with these movies. No offense to Grace, but she’s never been the best actress for this role (especially considering she’s always looked 30, whenever she was supposed to be roughly around 17 to 21), and here, those problems show. She’s got at least one look on her face throughout this whole movie and she wears it to a T. Though I can’t say much about Janssen, due to the fact that she dies pretty early on, the relationship she has with Bryan borders on being friendly, to downright four-play and it makes you wonder whether these two are going to just let all of the bullshit go away and bang, right here and now. That’s the movie I would have liked to see, but sadly, didn’t. Oh well.

Then, of course, we have Dougray Scott, who has actually been pretty good in past movies, but is pretty terrible here. He’s forced to do some sort of American-accent that does not at all work one bit for him, and his character is so clearly not who he says he is at first, that when we eventually get to see some of his true colors come out, it’s no surprise to us whatsoever. And as for Forest Whitaker, he’s just here to service the plot, occasionally dueling out a nice bit of charm here and there. But mostly though, he’s left to just eat bagels.

And there’s your sales-pitch, everybody.

Consensus: With hardly any story to work with, Taken 3 is a relatively boring, aimless piece of PG-13 action, where people practically get beheaded, and there’s not so much as a pint of blood to be found.

3 / 10 = Crapola!!

It's okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

It’s okay, Liam. Just get rid of it and let the good times roll.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

The Faculty (1998)

Don’t we all think our teachers are body-snatching aliens?

A geek (Elijah Wood) finds a small mollusk on a football field. He thinks it’s a new discovery until the school’s teachers start behaving very Children Of The Corn ish and become obsessed with the element of water. This is where many of the teenagers band together, all cliques aside and find out just what the hell is up with their teachers, why they’re acting so funny, and just hope that they don’t become like one of them. Because let’s face it: No high school kid wants to be a teacher, and if they do, they don’t want to be like THEIR high school teacher.

If you look up the term “slasher movie” in the 90’s dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture and a short bio of writer Kevin Williamson, who basically re-invented the horror movie franchise back in then with both Scream and Scream 2, among others. Then, if you look up “movie genius” in the same dictionary, you’ll probably see a picture and a short bio of Quentin Tarantino, but a synonym would probably be Robert Rodriguez. Putting them together for one, big horror movie seems like a pretty awesome idea full of wacky, zany fun and originality, right?

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Only due to a supposed alien-invasion are they even considering being around one another.

Well, it saddens to me say this, but disappointment ensues. But how?

In case you haven’t been able to tell, this is a lot like The Invasion of the Body Snatchers mixed with the kid from The Breakfast Club. It may not sound like the coolest idea ever, but Williamson and Rodriguez at least do a good job of making it entertaining with a couple of actual thrilling moments. This follows the same formula of your usual horror movie with the constant jumps and scares that we have come to know (and sometimes love) with the genre, and they work pretty effectively here. You can’t go into this expecting anything you haven’t ever really seen before, nor can you really expect something that breaks down the whole horror movie conventions, because not only has Williamson done that many times before, but he’s practically perfected it by now that it’s become somewhat predictable. You just got to go into this expecting an exciting and sometimes, funny ride that comes from two geniuses like Williamson and Rodriguez.

However, that’s the exact problem with this flick: Most have come to expect more from these two talents just because of what they have been able to do in the past, and to see them collaborate on a feature that’s anything but awesome, is really sad. With Williamson, we get some moments where these kids talk in a very self-referential about how they know that aliens exist, why they exist, and what they can do just to stop them; as well as a lot of references to other sci-fi flicks out there like Men in Black, E.T., and even The Invasion of the Body Snatchers itself, but it sort of comes off as a cheap rip-off because it’s so damn obvious that Williamson is basing this plot off of those flicks, so he thinks by referencing them in his own movie will give it some sort of gratitude and make it seem like less of a rip-off. So instead, it comes off just exactly like that and it’s sort of one of the golden rules where it doesn’t matter if you reference the film or not, if you are ripping it off, plain and simply, you are ripping it off! Bam!

As for Rodriguez, seeing what he can do with an ordinary story and take it in all of these different twists and turns, it’s pretty disappointing when he gives us a flick that’s not only pretty predictable from start to finish, but one that seems like it could have been directed by anybody. There’s no turtles, no Antonio Banderas, no Mexicano music playing somewhere in the background, and no vampires getting their heads blown off by George Clooney. Nope, instead it just seems like one of those typical horror movies that seems like it could have gone somewhere magical with this premise, but goes exactly to where you would expect it to go, which, given the talent that’s involved behind-the-camera, is a bit of a bummer.

Gosh, teachers!! You're so annoyingly weird!!

Gosh, teachers!! You’re so annoyingly weird!!

What makes this movie a little more appealing is the young cast, and deciphering who has had the biggest star out of all of them is now. And to be honest, I can’t really say since everybody seems like they’re on the somewhat same page. Elijah Wood is here as the typical geek that obviously knows something is up with all of the teachers and faculty at his school, and plays up that whole nerdy act with him very well. However, how many times have we seen this guy do that act before? Yeah, so it does kind of get old after awhile, no matter how early in his career it was. Josh Hartnett, being the stud that he is, plays the slacker who gets held-back, sells drugs and quite possibly gets it on with his very hot teacher. Hartnett’s good for this role and it’s a real wonder why he doesn’t do more with his career, although I feel like the novelty of a young, hot, charming dude has sort of worn-off and been thrown over to Channing Tatum.

Shawn Hatosy plays the jock that just wants to be known for being smart, and he’s pretty good at it. It’s a shame that he hasn’t really been showing up in much, except for Alpha Dog, where he played a total dick, but in a good way. Jordana Brewster plays the bitchy, high school newspaper-editor that seems to always be on everybody’s case about lord knows what, but she’s fine with it and I think she still deserves more hits at drama because I think this gal can really make it work, if given the chance. There’s a whole bunch of other peeps in this cast that’s worth talking about, but really, I don’t want to be here forever so just check the film out yourself and see all of these familiar faces who may, or may not be, showing their faces around anymore.

Consensus: Though it can be a lot of fun with some goofy references to other horror flicks that inspires it, The Faculty never fully comes through on its own as an original or different kind of horror thriller, and more as a carbon-copy of the movies it can’t help but crack jokes at and about.

5.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Okay, well I don't think he counts as anything.

Okay, well I don’t think he counts as anything.

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBJoblo

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

Wait till the Gingerbread Man comes around. There gon’ be some hell to pay.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton play the titular characters, who fifteen years after their gingerbread house incident, have turned into ruthless witch hunters. However, they run into a problem when an evil and powerful witch (played by Famke Janssen), finds her way into the town, taking all of the children, and bring back old memories that the two thought they had stored-away for years. Always count on Jean Grey to throw everybody a curve ball.

The fact that the trailers blew, was barely screened for any critics, and was actually supposed to come-out last year, I knew that there was going to be nothing all that amazing or great for me to watch, but then again, it’s January so what is? However, after seeing the train-wreck that was Movie 43, not too long before this, I thought to myself, “Nothing could be as bad as that. Nothing.” Thankfully, this movie didn’t prove me wrong but at the same time, still didn’t do much for me, either. Once again, just another lame-o day at the movies, people. Thankfully, the month of January is just about over. Woo-wee!

This was one of those films that I saw very recently that left me feeling very, very strange. I remember watching the movie, having an okay time, not hating myself for watching it, and not really caring what was going on with the movie. However, as soon as the credits rolled, I was out of there as quick as a banshee, got right into my car, drove home, jammed-out to some Nas (total white boy stuff), got home, sat-down, got ready to write this review, and yet: I couldn’t think of a single, damn thing I liked about it but also, couldn’t think of a single, damn thing I didn’t like about either. That may all sound very odd and strange to you all, but this movie did nothing to my mind, to my mood, or to my movie-viewing. It was literally there for me to kill time, have a watch at the movies, eat some popcorn (extra butter, too), drink some soda (Sprite to be exact), and enjoy myself, all while doing so. Maybe it’s weird because I feel more like a movie-audience member than I actually did a movie-critic, but the fact of the matter remains: nothing really happened to me while watching this movie.

Dude, just go back to disarming bombs.

Dude, just go back to disarming bombs or something.

Despite this strange problem that occurred to me after the movie, I still do recall having a nice-amount of fun with this movie, and not just in the, I’m-trying-to-get-over-a-really-really-bad-movie-I-just-saw-way, either. I actually enjoyed myself with this movie and I think that it’s because of the R-rating that allowed for itself to go the limits that it oh so rightfully needed. Because of the R-rating, we get more action, more gore, more nudity, more language, and more limbs and parts of the body, just flying-around. There’s a real, unadulterated sense-of-joy to this movie that is definitely contagious as you may find yourself paying more and more attention to the action and all of the other crazy shenanigans  more than what really matters like plot, direction, characters, and script. The reason why it’s important you don’t pay attention to those elements, is because they sort of suck here in this movie.

Saying that everything in this movie, other than the action, just “sucks”, doesn’t seem right but it also seems suitable. The action may be able to keep you distracted for a little bit of time, but when it all goes away and you have to actually get involved with these characters, their tensions, their traits, and the story that they have to them: then the film starts to lose credibility, or any that it had going for itself in the first-place. The dialogue isn’t even that shitty, it’s just bland and dull, and makes me feel like if I was flashed $5,000 in front-of my face, I could have written it too. I probably wouldn’t have as been as witty to include the several F-bombs here and there, but still, it’s the type of script that features little to nothing new or refreshing you haven’t seen or heard done before. It’s just there to serve the action, the story, and the actors. And oh dear: the poor actors.

By saying, “the poor actors”, I don’t actually mean “poor” in the sense that they don’t have a dime to spend because I’m pretty sure that they are well-off wherever they may be residing now, but more or less that they are “poor”, because as much fun and delight as they may be having; it never fully comes onto us in-return. Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner are fine as Hansel and Gretel and definitely seem like they have a nice bro-sis chemistry that shines throughout the whole movie, but also feel like they deserve a whole lot more to their names. Maybe more to Renner, than to Arterton, but none the less, both deserve better scripts and better characters to work with and no matter how much charm they may bring to these characters, Hansel and Gretel still never feel like they have the type of personalities that win you over from the start. Other than some subplot about how their parents really died, we don’t get to know too much about them, what makes them tick, and who they really are, enough for us to feel like we know them and can totally root them on. They’re just the type of superheros that are there to kill witches, walk around from town-to-town, and say the F-word, whenever they feel is necessary. Well, them and the two-bit script.

If that was my sister, I'm sorry, but I would be tempted.

If that was my sister, I’m sorry, but I would be tempted.

Two, other actors that are here as villains that seem to be having fun are Peter Stormare and Famke Janssen, who are both character-actors that know what to do, how to do it, and make it look good. They both seem like they are having just as much fun as Arterton and Renner are, on the opposite-sides of the spectrum, but still never really pop-off the screen. Instead, they are just there to serve the plot, to show how bad and evil certain characters can be, and most of all, just chew scenery like nobody’s business. If that’s all they were called on for to do, then hey; good for them. But when it comes to giving me villains/characters I’m going to remember next month, or hell, in the next 10 minutes; nope, can’t say I’ll recall much. I guess that last statement could sort of be used to described this whole, damn movie. Oh well. It’s January.

Consensus: For an-hour-and-a-half movie, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters never seems to slow-down, nor does it ever really seem to bore the piss out of a person, but it doesn’t offer anything new, flashy, or memorable to the action-genre and will probably leave your brain, as quickly as the extra large soda of Coke (or in my case, Sprite) leaves your body.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

I'd still tap. Hey, come on! It's Famke Janssen!

Yup, still tempted.

Taken 2 (2012)

Dude, just stay away from foreign countries.

He came, he saw, he kicked-ass, and took his daughter back (Maggie Grace), and basically lived a life he thought was all fine and dandy, until now. That’s right, this time around, it’s Neeson’s wife (Famke Janssen) who is kidnapped and instead of Paris, it’s going to be Istanbul, and it’s all by the man (Rade Sherbedgia) who wants revenge on Neeson for what he did to his family.

In all honesty, I was very surprised by how much of a success Taken was when it was released way back when in 2009. It did feature a pretty cool trailer, but for what was essentially a pretty lame thriller idea, with a big-name that hasn’t really been big since the first Star Wars prequel, and to top it all off, a film that was released in the dead-heart of January, aka a time nobody goes to see movies cause they’re all pooped-out from seeing the same crap, drunk on egg nog for the past 2 weeks. So, that’s basically why I never understood how the hell it was numero uno at the box-office for about 3 weeks, boosted Qui-Gon Jinn’s career back-up to “action hero” stardom, and made itself destine for a sequel, and possibly more. However, despite all my angry ranting and rambling, I can’t say I hate the idea of a sequel to that film, especially when this is the type of stuff we get.

Even though I wasn’t a huge fan of the original, Taken still had it’s moments of fun that made the final-product all the more enjoyable. The problem I had with that story was how it would always start-and-stop and always kill the momentum it had going for itself, by focusing too much on the whole internal-crisis that was going on with Neeson and the thought of his daughter going out there and bangin’ dudes under the influence of drugs. I’m not saying he’s wrong to be upset about that, but come on man, go out there and start shootin’ some fuckers and get revenge. That’s exactly what this film is from the 25-minute mark to the end of the whole movie. Need I remind you, that the whole movie itself runs a steady and swift 91 minutes, so that’s basically about an hour of pure mayhem, fun, action, and Oskar Schindler looking as bad-ass as he can look.

Director Olivier Megaton obviously knows the type of movie he’s making here, and you know what? He doesn’t care what you think about it or how you want to look at, he’s having fun and that’s all that matters to him, as it should because it had an extremely positive effect on a group of a d-bags like my friend and I who went to go see this. What’s so exciting and fun about this action is that there is never a dull moment in it to where you think, “Oh great, they’re slowing things down to focus on character-development.” Nope, there’s none of that at all here because we already know who these characters are, what purpose they serve to the story, and why they are motivated to save each other’s lives. We don’t need any freakin’ back-story, we need some freakin’ action and that’s exactly what Megaton delivers on.

However, this is obviously the case where you may have to not only leave your brain at the door, but also have it delivered to you when you’re sleeping in the middle of the night so you sure as hell don’t remember half of the crap you see here because the more you think of it, the more you’re going to ask yourself, “What in the fuck did I just watch?”. Seriously, this movie is one of the dumber ones I have seen the whole year so far and in ways, that’s a compliment, and in others, it’s too distracting to even be considered anything. It’s just there and never seems to go away.

For instance, one of the only subplots that make a difference in this “story” is how Neeson’s daughter is finally learning how to drive with a permit. Now, anybody that ever remembers having a permit, sure as hell remembers how hard it was to go 5 mph down a long-road without falling to the side of the road at least once. I sure as hell do, and if that’s not the exact type of example that has happened to you, something along those lines definitely have and it just goes to show you that when you’re driving a car with your permit, shit is pretty stressful. That’s what really took me by surprise here as the daughter not only goes over 80 mph in very tight and narrow side-streets, but does it all without barely hitting anything, and/or crashing it in the first five-seconds of being behind the wheel. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been so bad either, if it hadn’t been going on for 5 minutes where it was just her driving as if she was taking over Ryan Gosling’s job from Drive, when in reality, the girl still doesn’t know how to master the art of parallel parking, if there ever was one (you city people know what I’m talking about). This example is just one of the many, I do repeat, many of times that this movie just comes off as downright stupid and if you don’t like that with you’re action movies, then stay the hell away and go off and wait for The Avengers 2 to come out in 2014, or whenever the hell Joss Whedon has that planned.

Once again, much to my douchy surprise, Liam Neeson is the big-draw with this flick and as so he should be, the guy still has the talent to pull a character like Bryan Mills, off perfectly. Neeson just has this certain amount of likability and warmth to him that makes you sympathize with his over-protective ways and also make you believe that he’s got everything under-control, when half of the time he’s got a gun pointing straight at his dome. But Neeson is also able to totally switch that off in a heartbeat and make him, your worst nightmare by pulling out all of the stops to succeed in the end and do everything in his power, to kick the ever-loving shit out of you. Neeson does that so well here, but I think it’s his time to eventually hang-it up after this, at least with action anyway. It’s not that Neeson isn’t good nor believable with these roles, because he surprisingly is, it’s just that he seems to old (60) for a role that has the guy moving around, shooting guns, beating the tar out of dudes half his age, and still not be able to break a bone of get a hernia. I love you and all, Liam, but maybe it’s time to go back to drama and see if you got one, last Oscar-push left in ya. That’s all I’m saying, though.

Maggie Grace, despite her out-of-nowhere expertise of driving, does a nice job as the sweet but determined daughter of Bryan, but also seems a bit hard to believe as a girl that is still 17 and going for her learner’s permit. It also surprised me that the first-shot of her that we get is her getting groped by her boy-toy, when in reality, I would think that someone who just got drugged-up and raped by a bunch of Russian mobsters, would still feel a little dramatized and not allow anyone to touch her in that way and to just take it slow. Basically, any girl that’s like that with me would be tossed-out as quick as 1-week old pie, but since it’s Maggie Grace, ehh, I think can withstand the wait. Rade Sherbedgia is here in his 100,000th anniversary appearance as playing the stereotypical, Russian villain that never seems to do a nice thing throughout the whole movie, and is still pretty good at it, even if his character does seem a bit overly-dicky with what he’s doing. I mean honestly, if this guy was a real Russian mobster, wouldn’t he at least understand that family-values are family-values and shouldn’t really blame Bryan for going out there and killing his son, considering his son attacked, drugged-up, and captured Bryan’s daughter? I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking about it too much but doesn’t sound like a real mobster to me. Where’s Don Corleone when you need him?

Consensus: Taken 2 is your typical unneeded, stupid, and unintentionally sequel that seems to get pushed-out every couple of times a year, but for this time, it’s actually fun and keeps your eyes moving along with the quick-fire pace at 91 minutes of pure adrenaline fun, and Liam Neeson bad-assery.

5.5/10=Rental!!

Made (2001)

Being a player: money! Being a mobster: not so money.

Bobby (Jon Favreau) is an aspiring boxer who refuses to abandon his dreams, despite the urgings of his friend Ricky (Vince Vaughn) to pursue a higher position in the organisation of old-time mob boss Max (Peter Falk), who offer both of them a job.

OK, so who doesn’t love Swingers? I think it’s pretty safe to say that everybody does but I think that people loved it so much that maybe they weren’t able to even give this film a shot. Maybe they shouldn’t have gotten rid of Doug Liman in the first place, huh?

With Jon Favreau taking over writing and directing duties, the film gets a very personal feel from him as he keeps the story moving as well as the hand-held camera style that almost makes it seem like we’re watching a documentary in a way. What I can say about this flick that Favreau does do well with its story is that he keeps it somewhat character-based, where we see a lot of interaction between his character and Ricky, whether they’re fighting, arguing, or showing that they have each other’s back, you can tell that these guys have been life-long friends ever since they were little tikes. Also, when you do practically have the main two guys from Swingers, you have to expect a nice amount of laughs and even though they definitely aren’t as rapid as I would have expected, I still had some nice laughs and chuckles here and there that held me over for the rest of the flick. That Dustin Diamond cameo was probably my favorite part of this flick now that I think about it, but also very random.

Where I think Favreau messed up with this film was not giving us much to care about, let alone, anything cool with the plot to see. Granted, Swingers didn’t really have much a plot other than just a bunch of guys hitting on chicks and trying to get laid, but at least that film had a whole bunch of buddy-buddy energy that kept it going, this plot sort of just meanders on and on. Actually, some of it I thought would have done better as a drama because you have all of these problems with these characters and even at times, they are scared to death that they may get “whacked” but the film treats it as a joke, but an unfunny joke at that. And I also guess that the joke of this movie was that they just wanted to go from scene to scene to scene of showing Vaughn ramble on like an ass and have Favreau play off him as the long suffering friend that can’t seem to escape his childhood buddy. Lame, lame, lame!

However, even when the film does try its hardest to go into drama, it comes off pretty corny. The “relationship” that the film tries to force down our throat between Favreau and Famke Janssen was totally unbelievable and very predictable as to how it was all going to end, and even as cute as the kid was, the film uses her more as a reason why Favreau has something to live for. Hey, I don’t mind when a film tries to give us reasons to care for a character, but when the reasons are as contrived and obvious as this, then don’t expect me to even care. Also, what the hell is this dude doing with a chick that basically rides on dude’s erections for a living? Come on Jonnny!

With ‘Swingers’, it’s pretty much the same thing where you have Vince Vaughn playing Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau playing Jon Favreau, which isn’t so bad really. Vaughn is a wild-fire pretty much throughout this whole flick and just doesn’t let loose of his energy one bit. He’s funny, quick, and a character that makes you feel so damn uncomfortable because of some of the shit he says with the people he’s around. Favreau is also pretty good as Bobby, and gives another one of his silent, but lovable guy performances that we see from him so very often. But hey, that’s not a complaint. Also be on the look-out for two little performances given here by Peter Falk as the menacing gangster, Max, and a menacing “gangsta” named Ruiz, played by none other than Sean “Puffy” Combs. Yes people, before Get Him to the Greek, Puffy played another bad-ass mofo.

Consensus: Made is basically living off the legend of Swingers but still has enough laughs and good performances to hold you over, even if the contrived emotions of the so-so plot are too obvious to ignore the whole time.

5.5/10=Rental!!

X-Men 3: The Last Stand (2006)

This is where the mutants started to get annoying.

When scientists develop a miracle drug to treat unwanted mutations, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his heroic band of X-Men must battle a group of mutants known as the Brotherhood, led by Xavier’s former ally (Ian McKellen).

So after checking this whole series out, I’ve come to realize that Bryan Singer is awesome and Brett Ratner is stupid. Basically sums up this film pretty well.

The action is what really will hold you over this whole film, even though all of it looks like it was done for a video-game. There were a lot of cool special effects used here such as the Golden Gate Bridge being moved, a cool scene with a lake being turned inside out, and just about every single shot in the last 30 minutes. You get constant carnage left and right, and for the most part, it was good carnage and I could tell what was actually going on.

However, there’s not a real story here to keep me going. For some odd reason I felt bored for the first hour or so, just watching this story develop because nothing felt as meaningful or atmospheric as the first two did. I didn’t feel like Ratner really knew exactly what to do with all of these mutants and characters, so instead only focused on about two or three, and the rest were just sort of just shoved off to the side.

This one’s also a little bit more silly than the last two, which I didn’t really mind, but a lot of this just didn’t feel as genuine as Singer’s did. The screen-writers and directors took away what made the first two movies so good— the character story lines. The depth that the characters had in the first two movies was almost nowhere to be found in the third.

These interesting story lines were replaced by a movie completely full of “big booms”. Don’t get me wrong, I love a well filmed battle scene, they really help move a film along, but I don’t like it when they take the place of character plots. Ratner’s main problem is that he doesn’t know the difference between a glamorous action movie and a glamorous action movie with a well developed set of characters conforming to a great story, and sadly that plays out here.

The cast here is full of familiar faces such as Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Shawn Ashmore, and Anna Paquin. Plus there’s also some new faces with the likes of Kelsey Grammar (why?!?), Ben Foster, Vinnie Jones, and Ellen Page. Everybody here tries their best to their advantage but the script doesn’t even care if they are in this story or not and it doesn’t matter what they do with their lines, there all so cheesy and meant for the next big explosion.

Consensus: It may sound like I hate this film but I don’t. The problem with X3: The Last Stand is that it’s terribly weak compared to the first two because it’s more about the action, and less about the actual characters that inhabit this story. The action is good and the special effects will hold you over, but compared to Bryan Singer’s first two, this last installment is lame.

5/10=Rental!!

X2: X-Men United (2003)

The freaks are back, and surprisingly a lot better this time around.

Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his team of genetically gifted superheroes face a rising tide of anti-mutant sentiment led by Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox). Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) must join their usual nemeses Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) to unhinge Stryker’s scheme to exterminate all mutants.

After watching the first X-Men film, I was bummed to say that it wasn’t as awesome as I once thought it was. Then, when I watched this, I realized just how awesome this one actually was.

Director Bryan Singer knows what he’s doing with this material here and takes the events of the first film and builds on them in such a way that when you see the credits you know that big things have happened. There is a lot of action here but there is also a deep story about being accepted in a world that won’t even look at you without judging you as well.

Singer knows how to balance a good story with some great action, and as the story kept getting deeper and deeper, the action kept on getting better and better, something I thought could never happen in a superhero film.

In the first one, I thought they focused too much on way too many characters, but here the movie is more focused on these characters throughout this moving story, and it doesn’t start dragging at all. This one actually felt more epic as well with its story and I guess that’s how all superhero films should be, but when you have something like Mutants vs. Army, you know you’re going to be in some pretty big shit.

The special effects are just plain awful (as in “awe full” – funny how a word can have two diametrically opposed meanings). Seamless integration with the live action, astounding in their inventiveness, so enticing that you want to be a mutant yourself. Exactly what special effects should be. They are worth the price of admission all on their own.

My problem with this film was that I did feel that there were some plot holes that I didn’t fully understand. Such as all these mutants can use their powers against a normal human-being and kill them right away, but when this young dude named Pyro throws fire balls at these people, nothing happens except a little sun burnt. These mofos should be dead! There were also some problems I thought that the plot had as it went along but I don’t want to give away too much here.

The cast from the first one is back, and better than ever actually. Hugh Jackman continues to be excellent as the angry and awesome Wolverine. The guy is not just dedicated, he’s frustrated but he never lets that stop him from finding the right thing to do, whether it’s protecting the weak or punishing the bad. Jackman totally improves his performance from the first one, and does a great job here as always. Patrick Stewart is also very good as Professor Xavier; the evil and maniacal Magneto, is played just so so well by Ian McKellen; and Brian Cox plays William Stryker, to the point as to where every time he was on screen, I just wanted somebody to beat his ass. All your other favourite mutants are also more interesting and more advanced than they were in the first film. Halle Berry’s Storm is sexier and more dangerous, while Famke Janssen manages to overcome Jean Grey’s hairdo (the worst I’ve seen on an actor in a long time) and really kick ass. The new mutant in this film is Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who is a little strange but at the same time very innocent and there’s something about him that you just like. Everybody else does a great job here too, there’s just so many to talk about though and so little time.

Consensus: Despite some plot holes, X2 is a total improvement from the first showing a lot more action, special effects, and a more deeper and darker story-line that will take you by storm (pun intended) and won’t let you go until the credits are up.

9/10=Full Pricee!!

X-Men (2000)

The beginning of the freaks!

Amid increasing fear and bigotry, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) provides a safe haven for powerful outcasts like Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Storm (Halle Berry), who are genetically gifted mutants — and the world’s newest, most persecuted minority group. In an explosive battle for freedom and honor, the X-Men take on Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his band of evil mutants, who relish the public’s paranoia.

Director Bryan Singer, who also did The Usual Suspects, does a good job with this material because he doesn’t get too chaotic with all of this action. The effects are seamless, not a big thing in these days of CGI, but still a difficult thing when dealing with human beings who keep moving around and talking. It’s good to watch a film where it isn’t always possible to tell which are the fake shots and which ones really happened. Now of course, there are action sequences here that are pretty awesome, but he also allows a lot of down-time for these characters to talk and be developed. However, that’s where my real problem with this film lies.

I liked how this is a film that’s based more on its characters than other superhero films, but there is almost too much time devoted to the characters. These characters were cool but the problem was that the film focuses too much on them and not the story so the big climax at the end, ends up being sort of anti-climactic.

I also felt like there was something missing from this final product because although they show all these different powers that all these different superheros have, it almost never seems to add up. It’s no secret that the studio rushed this film so it could make the summer blockbuster deadline. There are some lovely details that would’ve made this film extraodinary but didn’t make it thanks to the dollar driven movie studio.

Though, the main reason why I enjoyed this a lot is because I love X-Men, and even though the story may be a bit weak, you still can’t help but love all these characters. Hugh Jackman is perfectly cast as Wolverine because he has that total bad-ass look to him, and those funny side-cracks to him that just make him a likable superhero from the beginning. Patrick Stewart is also great as Professor Charles Xavier mainly because he’s just that lovable old man, who is always one step ahead of every one else. Ian McKellen is a perfect villain as Magneto, and brings out the devious attributes within Magneto that make him such a memorable villain. Everybody else here is pretty good too such as Halle Berry as Storm, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, James Marsden as Cyclops, Anna Paquin as Rogue, and the always sexy Rebecca Romijn as Mystique.

Consensus: The action is fun and the ensemble is perfectly acted, but the story is too centered on all these different characters, rather than focusing on a good story, but if you’re a fan of the comics you’ll have a good time.

6/10=Rental!!

I Spy (2002)

Dr. Doolittle and the famous Wilson brother, together. This has got to be good.

There’s no love lost between undefeated middleweight fighter Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) and CIA superstar Alex Scott (Owen Wilson) — a mismatched pair who are teamed up by the government to track down a missing stealth bomber in this action-comedy. If they’re to accomplish their dangerous mission, they’d better find a way to get along first.

I’m too young to remember the TV series (even taking into account the endless retro repeats) but from watching the movie version of “I Spy” I get the impression that it’s nothing like the original.

I don’t know what they were trying to do with this movie, spoof spy films, or be funny, but it really is just lazy. Barely anything worked here. The comedy was stale that had about over 20 sex jokes, a couple of nut shots, and oh also Owen Wilson singing Marvin Gaye, now that is comedy my friends. I highly doubt that this film was even trying to be somewhat entertaining, cause in my book the only comedy came from watching these two random son-of-a-bitches together.

This is an odd pairing, and both are actually very funny on plenty of other work that they have done, but right here these two are just drop-dead terrible. Well, it’s not so much that these guys are terrible, cause they actually are trying to make this material work, and do a somewhat decent job, it’s just that the script totally lets them down. I don’t think these two met with each other before the film to build up any sense of chemistry, so when they were put out there to be “the odd couple”, it all seemed like they just met each other for the first time in their lives. Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy in a way deserve better, but at the same time, they deserve to get their asses kicked for this crap. Also, don’t forget to look out there for Famke Janssen, bringing all of her acting chops to the screen. In case none of you could tell, that was indeed sarcasm.

Consensus: Lazy, and terribly written, I Spy doesn’t do anything cool, or fun whatsoever. It just squeezes the life out of these two good comedic actors, and basically has them saying some of the worst lines I have ever heard in a comedy.

1/10=SomeOleBullShitt!!!

Taken (2009)

Don’t mess with Liam Neeson’s family. Or just don’t mess with Liam Neeson in general.

While vacationing with a friend in Paris, an American girl (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped by a gang of human traffickers intent on selling her into forced prostitution. Working against the clock, her ex-spy father (Liam Neeson) must pull out all the stops to save her.

This film proves two things: 1) Liam Neeson can act in anything by just playing them, and 2) director Pierre Morel can make some great exciting action-filled movies but cannot write an effective original screenplay at all. The film suffers from its totally lackluster script.

The relationship between Neeson and his daughter didn’t feel real or true at all and if anything it just felt like two actors playing father and daughter. Oh wait for a second that’s what it was, so basically they did just a horrible job at that. Much of the screenplay is very cliched, and most of the lines in this film feel a little too familiar to other action filled movies.

The movie sort of felt like a big-budget 80’s action film where one man fights off against a thousand people. This was cool to see in such a 21st century way but in all it was a laugh fest since the film was very corny and highly unrealistic. Also many of the villains seemed so dumb and not very much of a threat.

The high point of this film has got to be the action. Its exciting, over-the-top, and ultimately very violent. Just seeing Liam Neeson lay the whoop down on some Frenches is a sight to see. The film’s action is completely outrageous but that’s the best thing about the film it keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Liam Neeson also shines very well in this film showing a great sense of raw edgieness that we have seen many times before but this more in a way that makes him dominant. He totally feels like a James Bond that knows kung-fu. Maggie Grace is great as the clueless, naive, rich, spoiled daughter that is kidnapped, while Famke Janssen as the equally naive, and estranged ex-wife of Neeson, pulls her role off well.

The film is very brainless but has a raw performance from Liam Neeson and features some high quality action that keeps you entertained throughout.

7/10=Rental!!!