Category Archives: Movies

‘Taken’ Movie Review

Liam Neeson makes Jack Bauer look like a wimp in Taken, a ridiculously silly action drama directed by Pierre Morel (District B13). Taken‘s like aBourne movie without the brains, a film made solely to satisfy action junkies who care not one iota about plot as long as there’s plenty of bloodshed and a substantial number of dead bodies piled up by the time the credits roll on by. If all you want out of your movie-going dollar is to watch one man overcome incalculably high odds to rescue his daughter from evil foreigners (Americans, good – everyone else, bad), thenTaken is the movie for you. 

The Story

Bryan Mills (Neeson) quits his job as a ‘preventer’ working for the CIA or FBI or another organization known by its initials to try and connect with his daughter Kim who he pretty much ignored while she was growing up. Now that she’s turning 17, Bryan’s decided it’s time to try and have a relationship with Kim. His ex-wife’s not happy about his sudden desire to become a part of their daughter’s life, but Bryan’s convinced it’s the thing to do.Now retired, Bryan lives off his pension and money made from taking the occasional odd job with his ex-government agency buddies. One job finds him and his three ex co-workers guarding a pop singer on her way into and out of a concert. Now, we never find out why this pop singer is attacked after leaving the stage, but she is and Bryan happens to be the temporary bodyguard who saves her. She, of course, is grateful and gives him a reward for his bravery that you know is going to figure big somewhere down the line in the film.

…As I’m typing this out, all that’s going through my head is the fact that none of this plot nonsense matters one little bit. Rather than continue on in detail, here’s all you really need to know:

Liam Neeson in ‘Taken.’

Bryan is skilled with guns, knives, his hands, torture devices, stealing cars, and breaking and entering. Kim is a perky 17 year old virgin spoiled by her mom and super wealthy stepdad who buys her a pony on her 17th birthday while her real dad can only afford a small karaoke machine. Why a pony and not a car? She’s 17 not 10… But I digress. Against her dad’s best judgment she goes on vacation with her 19 year old best friend to Paris. Everything she tells her dad she’ll be doing there is a lie. Dad is super suspicious. His worst nightmare comes true as soon as Kim hits French soil. Daddy’s pristine princess is this flame that attracts all manner of bad men, all of whom will rue the day they chose her to mess with as Bryan has no qualms whatsoever about killing (which puts him one up on Mr. Pony Buyer). That’s Taken

The Cast

Liam Neeson is a surprisingly believable man of action. Taken shows us a side of Neeson we haven’t seen before and given a better script to work off of, it might be fun to see Neeson take on a kick ass, take no prisoners sort of character again. Neeson’s intense and most definitely scary as a dad with just the right training and disposition to rescue his precious daughter from the clutches of the evil slave-trading, prostitute making, villains who chose the wrong girl to take advantage of. This is all Neeson’s show as every other character is just window dressing or there for him to kill. Even Maggie Grace as Kim and Famke Janssen as his ex-wife Lenore are nothing more than one-dimensional decorations in this action-heavy killfest. 

The Bottom Line

Liam Neeson in ‘Taken.’

Taken doesn’t care who it offends, what ethnic groups might be insulted by their portrayal in the film, how sinister everything French is made out to be, or the fact all events that occur in the film’s 94 minutes defy probability and logic. When the hero’s outnumbered, why is it the bad guys attack one at a time? Why do half a dozen men stand around and wait their turn instead of acting as a group? Why don’t bullets hit their mark when the men firing them are highly trained bodyguards or killers or something of the sort? Why doesn’t this ex-government agent ask his buddies to help him track down his daughter? If you’re asking these questions and expect reasonable, logical answers from the script by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, then you’re expecting far, far too much from Taken.Go in with low expectations for the script but high expectations for the way the action’s staged (the hand-to-hand combat is particularly well choreographed), and you’ll be satisfied. But, again, this is only a movie for diehard action fans. All others should avoid theaters screening Taken at all costs.


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‘Chronicle’ Gives Fresh Take on Stale Genre


Three kids go in a underground cave and come up superheroes in this new film

If you suddenly got supernatural powers would you use them to rescue pretty, innocent girls and save the tri-state area? If you believe superhero movies, that’s the typical course of action. One day you’re a geeky little schnook and then BOOM! the next thing you’re battling tooth-and-nail for the safety of the metropolis.

But that’s not really what many people would probably do. Take Andrew, Matt and Steve, for instance. One day they wake up with the power to move things with their minds and their first instinct is to use it to build things with LEGOs, blow up their classmates’ skirts and win beer pong. Basically, they’re typical upperclassmen in high school not superheroes. If you want a film about altruism, go next door to “Big Miracle.”

I should backtrack and mention that the main characters of Josh Trank’s “Chronicle” didn’t just randomly wake up telekinetic. There is, like in all good sci-fi tales, an origin story. Andrew is a meek high school student with an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who’s dying of cancer. At school, he’s either ignored or bullied. One day, he’s persuaded by his popular cousin Matt to go to a rave in an abandoned barn. Matt’s friend Steve, who’s running for class president, finds a perfectly circular hole in the woods behind the party. Because they’re curious and have the irresponsibility of drunk teenagers, each descends into the pit with nothing but the light from their phones. They find something down there, but what is anybody’s guess. The glowing, crystalline object is probably meant to be extraterrestrial, but it’s never confirmed nor does it really matter.

What’s important is that, the next day the three boys wake up with the power to move things with their minds. They quickly figure out their new power is like a muscle, with exercise it gets bigger and more powerful. First it’s all fun and games. They especially enjoy the fact they can now fly and spend hours playing football among the clouds.

But soon reality calls and a telekinetic stunt goes too far. Matt and Andrew are scared and frightened by the never-before-realized ramifications of their superpowers and pledge to make rules. With great power becomes great responsibility isn’t just for Spider-Man.

But Andrew doesn’t want rules or responsibility. He’s been kicked around all his life and now he has the power, which he starts using in more and more callus ways.

Something New

This description may make “Chronicle” sound like a typical sci-fi movie. It isn’t. It’s far too smart, rarely does an action movie have a sense of adventure and a brain. Director Trank films the whole movie in that first person, “Paranormal Activity” way. Andrew records his surroundings everywhere he goes and so does a pretty blonde student named Casey. We later see security camera footage and clips from the 5 o’clock news, but i’m getting ahead of myself. The camera technique may sound like gimmick, but just think of how many people keep daily blogs or have Flip cams or iPhones in their bags. It can be a bit self-conscious in the beginning but the camera style does give a gritty authentic to what is mostly a science fiction film.

Trank also really knows how to use the do-it-yourself photography. He wisely paces the first 45 minutes or so slowly, giving us time to get to know each character and really understand them. This is more a film about psychology than pyrotechnics. The slow build makes the gangbusters climax all the more abrupt and thrilling, as well as emotionally rewarding.

Sure, the kids are self-centered and immature, but they are regular teenagers. Played by unknowns Dane DeHaan, Alex Russel, Michael Jordan and Ashley Hinshaw, the cast is fresh-faced and natural. Their action scenes are played well but so are the ones of them just fooling around. Which are also helped by the naturalistic script by Max Landis (son of director John Landis).

When “Chronicle” wants to be a big budget action film, it does so wonderfully. But it also works well as a 21st century parable about the cost of power. Much like Stephen King’s “Carrie” (a film which “Chronicles” owes a lot, both in story and atmosphere), Landis uses the supernatural as a way to explore his characters and expose their inner-demons. Andrew always had the impulse, just not the power.

We all know bullying is a big issue and there are multiple stories each year where a kid just snaps and brings a gun to school. “Chronicle” is such a story; except that Andrew isn’t given a gun, he’s given telekinesis. They say that the meek shall inherit the earth, but if we are to learn anything from this film, maybe that expression should come with an asterisk.

‘Journey 2’ the Strangest, Laziest Cinematic Island


The Rock, Michael Caine and Vanessa Hudgens all take part in this outlandish fantasy film.

There’s a whole scene in “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” where The Rock and Michael Caine sit around a campfire and the ex-wrestler takes out a ukulele and sings all three verses of “What A Wonderful World.” Caine’s grandson had injured his ankle and The Rock’s song was meant to make to take his pain away. If it was me with the broken ankle, I would have asked to chew on one of the tree-sized mushrooms growing a few feet away.

That scene, which takes place about halfway through the film, is noteworthy for two reasons. One is self-explanatory. The Rock. Is singing. To Michael Caine. ‘Nuff said. The other reason is that it is the turning point in the movie when this wonderfully, ridiculously overblown family adventure movie went from being just silly and boring to a strangely (although mildly) entertaining fantasy film.

“Journey 2” is supposedly a sequel to 2008’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” a film I have not seen nor have any plan to. A quick Google search revealed that Josh Hutcherson is the only actor to stay with the franchise. He plays Sean, an adventitious high school student with a bad case of I-Hate-My-Step-Dad Syndrome. After breaking into a satellite research center, he intercepts an encrypted message from his long lost grandfather. Although his relationship with stepdad Hank (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is distant at best, the two start to bond over the code, which spells out the coordinates of a mysterious island off the coast of Palau where Grandpa is living. Somehow, Sean instantly rightly knows the island is the very same one that appeared in books by Jules Verne, Robert Lewis and Jonathon Swift.

The two instantly embark to Palau where they meet a local tour guide named Gabato (Luis Guzmán, in a performance that would make Jim Varney look subtle) and his beautiful, accent-free daughter Kailani (Vanessa Hudgens). While on their tour, the rusty helicopter losses control and they crash lands on the mysterious island. There, they find themselves in a fantasyland populated by giant insects, a volcano made of gold and beautiful CGI matte-paintings. They also run into Grandpa (Michael Caine), who has had made himself a “Swiss Family Robinson-esuqe” home complete with an elevator and working appliances out of nothing more than driftwood.

Together, the group learns that island is quickly sinking in the ocean (?) and that they must travel to the other side of the island to find the abandoned Nautilus submarine (??). The rest of the film is spent battling giant bugs, traipsing through colorful, 3D backgrounds, speaking horrifically stilted dialogue (“Where there are giant eggs, there must be a giant mother!”) and, oh yes, more unfunny mugging courtesy of Mr. Guzmán.

Way Out There

No one with a right mind would call this a good movie. The story is boring and uninspired, the acting over-the-top, the jokes lame, the morals heavy-handed and even the special effects seem lazy and underwhelming. But there’s just something weirdly entertaining about the whole cinematic mess.

In what other movie can you see an Oscar-winner riding a giant bee, a tight shot of Vanessa Hudgen’s 3D behind wriggling through the opening of Captain Nemo’s mausoleum, The Rock punching a giant lizard or Louis Guzmán throwing berries at The Rock’s flexing pecs, which ricochet off him and fly out at the audience.

I was also left wondering how Michael Caine’s character could build such a miraculous penthouse on a deserted island, why he didn’t take pocketfuls of gold and go home or how Sean and Hank could leave the country for a couple weeks with no repercussion from work or school. There are no answers to these questions, obviously. This is a far too silly and unambitious movie for those kinds of things. But they did keep me entertained during the first half when my mind was wandering more than the characters across the island.

But then The Rock took out a ukulele and things started to change. The movie didn’t get better, per se, but it did start to win me over with its wacky antics and freewheeling sense of adventure.

I’d like to think that director Brad Peyton knew he was making a bad movie; the kind of wonderfully cheesy adventure popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s. If so, he succeeds in making a moderately fun flick that will keep the kiddies entertained and won’t leave the parents in a coma. I hope Peyton knows his film is outlandish schlock. I shutter to think of the alternative.

But either way, at least I got to see Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson sucker punch a CGI, 3D lizard. So I guess we have that.

As a side note, before the movie there are two things of interest: A short film plays before “Journey 2” that is the first CGI Looney Tunes short ever made called “Daffy’s Rhapsody.” As true as the material may be to the original shorts (the audio does come from a recording done in the 1950s by Mel Blanc), the computer generated makeover just doesn’t seen to suit Daffy and Porky. It’s like watching Charlie Brown in 3D. Some things are just meant to stay in hand drawn animation. The other thing of note is a trailer for “The Hobbit,” which made me more emotional than I care to admit. Now that’s a movie about a dangerous, fantastical journey I want to see.


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Julianne Hough hit the Dancing with the Stars floor twice on Tuesday to promote her new movie Footloose


Julianne Hough hit the Dancing with the Stars floor twice on Tuesday to promote her new movie Footloose.


Footloose opens Friday (Oct. 14), but Julianne Hough got the party started early with a dance-tastic tribute on Tuesday’s (Oct. 11) Dancing with the Stars.

It’s been two and a half years since Julianne Hough graced the Dancing with the Stars dance floor and she looked like she had never left during her performance on Tuesday’s show.

Kenny Wormald reveals relationship status>>

With her movie Footloose opening this week, she took to the floor to celebrate the movie’s title with a routine she shared with co-star Kenny Wormald.

The performance began with a beautiful number to Holding Out For A Hero and then morphed into a rocking good time of Footloose backed by the vocal stylings of Blake Shelton and we have to say, if we weren’t excited for the debut of the movie before, we are now.

Kristin Cavallari leaves the DWTS ballroom — why so soon?

Julianne Hough wasn’t going to show up to her old stomping grounds and not do a routine with her brother, pro Derek Hough.

Julianne returned later in the show and shook her tail feather with bro Derek, doing their version of the jive.

These two are the most exciting dancers. It’s hard to believe they haven’t danced together on the DWTS stage since season 8.

What did you think of Julianne Hough’s return to Dancing with the Stars? Does it make you miss her more?

Head over to our comments section to talk about Footloose and tell us if you’ll be catching it on Friday.

“Jack and Jill” confirms it: Sandler is the new Tyler Perry


U.S. actor Adam Sandler poses next to a cardboard cutout of his character during the film premiere of ''Jack and Jill'' in Cancun, July 10, 2011. REUTERS/Victor Ruiz Garcia

By Alonso Duralde

Fri Nov 11, 2011 11:59am EST

LOS ANGELES ( – Grotesquely caricatured, over-the-top drag? Check. Schmaltzy, comedy-killing homilies about the importance of family? Check. Loud, stupid scatological humor that makes the latest “Harold & Kumar” movie look like Moliere? Check. Patronizing digs at atheists? Check.

“Jack and Jill” makes it official: Adam Sandler is Tyler Perry.

And while this new comedy featuring Sandler as male and female fraternal twins offers the occasional silly chuckle, just like Perry’s Madea movies, it’s another train wreck from the fine folks at Happy Madison, Sandler’s production company.

What makes “Jack and Jill” different from the star’s usual catastrophes is that there are enough successful elements to make one think that this film might actually have worked had it not been left in the legendarily clumsy hands of Dennis Dugan, Sandler’s go-to director. With someone at the helm who possesses a modicum of taste and comedic timing, this dorky farce could have made it off the launching pad.

If there’s one reason to see “Jack and Jill,” it’s for Al Pacino’s over-the-top performance as Al Pacino, a neurotic actor who barks gibberish orders at foreign-language-speaking staff, freaks out when cell phones ring during his performances, and finds himself helplessly smitten with Jill Sadelstein (Sandler), a dorky spinster from the Bronx who’s in L.A. spending the holidays with her short-fused brother Jack (Sandler), a director of TV commercials.

Jack keeps trying to rid himself of Jill, who is loud, obnoxious, and mostly clueless about the world around her, but her Thanksgiving visit extends into Hanukkah and eventually New Year’s, first because of her refusal to leave and later because Jack needs Jill so that he can land Pacino to do a spot for an new Dunkin Donuts coffee drink called a “Dunkaccino.”

Watching Sandler get all goosey in a dress reminded me that he’s the new millennial Jerry Lewis, a somewhat dashing Jewish leading man (and Sandler brings his Jewishness front and center, in this film particularly) who feels most comfortable playing child-men or doing the least subtle drag imaginable. And the scenes in which Jill resists Pacino’s advances, while understanding none of his cultural references, will make you wish that Sandler had abandoned Jack and just played Jill throughout.

But no, Jack has to be an abrasive jerk to his sister so that, in the final act, he can learn his lesson and embrace his twin and blah blah blah fart joke.

While the scenes of Pacino and Johnny Depp playing themselves are pretty hilarious, the movie pours on the L.A. locations as though the audience were an out-of-town client whom Jack is trying to impress. “Look!” Dugan and Sandler seem to be yelling, “We can shoot our stupid movie at a Lakers game! And at Morton’s! And on the set of ‘The Price Is Right’!”

We’ve grown to take this sort of movie magic for granted, but the twinning of Sandler is seamless throughout; you’ll quickly forget the trickery and over-the-shoulder shots involved in turning one actor into two characters.

Less impressive, however, is the use of the supporting cast. Thankfully, we get a minimum of Sandler’s posse of irritants (Nick Swardson, Allen Covert, David Spade, et al.), but why cast Katie Holmes as Jack’s converted-shiksa wife and then give her literally not one thing to do?

At no time during “Jack and Jill” did I find myself praying for the sweet release of death, which automatically makes it better than “Just Go With It,” but it’s still a juvenile mess. Still, I laughed enough to where I’d recommend catching this one on cable, which is a recommendation I’m more likely to give to Tyler Perry’s movies than to Adam Sandler’s.


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Tom Cruise Makes a Comeback with ‘Mission: Impossible 4’


Tom Cruise - The Celebrity 100

When Mission: Impossible 3 hit theaters in in 2006, it was the beginning of what looked like the end of Tom Cruise‘s career. Cruise had been acting “erratic” over the past few months. He had famously jumped on Oprah Winfrey‘s couch because of his enthusiasm over his new relationship with Katie Holmes. He had a very public fight with Brooke Shields over the use of antidepressants and was more outspoken than every about Scientology.

Viacom head Sumner Redstone blamed Cruise’s behavior on the lackluster box office performance of Mission: Impossible 3 and severed Paramount’s ties with Cruise.

Since then Cruise’s movies have underperformed at the box office. Mission: Impossible 3 actually ended up earning $400 million at the box office. The closest he’s come to that in the past five years is last year’s Knight & Day which brought in $262 million globally.

With Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol thought Cruise is proving that it’s never wise to count the movie star completely out. Paramount (now on good terms with Cruise again) rolled out the film last week in limited (mostly IMAX) release and the movie brought in a healthy $15 million at the box office. That made the film the highest-grossing limited release debut ever beating outBridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (for real).

This weekend the film will expand 3,400 theater and Exhibitor Relations expects it will top the five-day holiday box office with $37 million. That might not sound like a lot (consider the recent Harry Potter movie opened to $170 million over three days), but it’s enough to put the movie on track for healthy earnings.  The film outbuzzed the Sherlock Holmes sequel last week and it’s getting great reviews. Mission: Impossible 4 earns a 97 out of 100 on Rotten Tomatoes.

Cruise has been playing the ultimate movie star promoting the movie. Recent tabloid photos show Cruise ice skating with his daughter, Suri. There have been no Scientology scandals — only glamorous movie stars at exotic locations like Mumbai and Dubai.


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‘Breaking Dawn’ Passes $500 Million Mark Worldwide


Movie hits half-billion mark in less than two weeks.

By Gil Kaufman

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 1”
 looks to dominate the box office for a good long time. After two weeks atop
 the list of top-grossing movies, the penultimate film in the vampires and werewolves epic has already raked in more than $508 million worldwide.



According to The Hollywood Reporter, the movie is the ninth film this year to push past the half-billion mark globally, hitting the mark in just 12 days of release. So far, the movie has grossed $223.4 million in North America and $285 million internationally, for a grand total of $508.4 million.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the success of this film and a franchise that the fans have continued to support over the past several years,” said Summit Entertainment co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger in a statement. “Thank you to all involved with the films from the actors, filmmakers and Stephenie Meyer to the most important group of all, the global fan base that continues to drive a desire for more Edward, Jacob and Bella.”

MTV News asked experts how long this domination can go on, especially since the only competition this weekend is the NC-17-rated full-frontal indie flick “Shame.”

“It’ll be close between [‘Breaking Dawn – Part 1’] and ‘The Muppets,’ because [‘The Muppets’] has much better word of mouth,”’s Phil Contrino, noting that it was too soon to say which would come out on top. He also predicted that the movie should finish its domestic run in the $300 million range and stay near the top until such holiday blockbusters as “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” and “Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol” on December 21.

“The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” is scheduled to hit U.S. theaters on November 16, 2012.


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