Revenge of the Sequel

The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death

I was excited when I found out that Hammer Films was making a sequel to the Woman in Black. The first movie was charged with energy and scares, and Daniel Radcliffe gave an amazing performance. When I found out the same production team was behind the sequel, I had high expectations. But I shouldn’t have.

woman_in_black_angel_of_death_01The plot takes place during World War 2 when school children have been evacuated to Eel Marsh House to get out of the fighting zones. A young teacher named Eve tries to help the children adapt especially one young man who seems to be haunted by his past. Add a love interest for Eve, and the story starts to go off the rails.

The movie was not at all scary. The best moment was just a repeat of the rocking chair sequence from the first movie. The movie lapses into cheap thrills that every other B horror movie falls back on. Be prepared for creepy hands and eyes that stare at you through holes, but do be worried about being afraid.

The convoluted plot adds nothing to the Woman in Black’s mythos except that if you can’t see her, she can’t hurt you (so I was right as a child?). The plot does not expand on anything related to her or the house’s former owners. Viewers learn things that were in the first film and nothing more. While this makes the sequel self-contained, it’s not really interesting enough to be its own story. This sequel falls flat and the only horror is the price you paid to rent it.


Taken 3

Taken 3 follows suit of another popular trilogy (though one funnier and less bloody). The Liam Neeson action franchise ends like the raucous Hangover trilogy. The third movie is so different than its predecessor that truly truly makes the film less like it doesn’t fit into the franchise and therefore is a bad movie.

But Taken 3, like Hangover 3, isn’t a bad movie in its own right. The movie is standard Neeson fare and he continues to kick ass. (Yes, there is a section where he performs the Grandpa Run, but he’s still a bad ass.) But the plot stays state side and becomes a domestic affair. No one is taken, instead his ex-wife is killed and he has been framed. He use his unique set of skills to escape from the police as well as chase down the culprit.

The first Taken was about brutal violence while the second one speaks of mercy. The third is about just enough. Kill downloadthose who need to be killed and only hurt those as much as needed. This installment and its predecessor have been criticized for lack of insane violence paraded in the first film but honestly the violence mimics the journey of this man.

Gone are the sprawling landscapes of faraway places and this also adds to the different tone of the film. I claim that it is not bad, just different. The movie is about home and what is truly in Bryan’s heart. I can understand how these changes negatively affect those looking for over the top violence or exotic destinations. Personally, I am just glad it’s a break from bad spy movies like 3 Days to Kill and Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit.

Costner vs Neeson

Aging action stars are all the rage in Hollywood right now. But how do dramatic Hollywood stars stack up?

A Movie to Kill

Director McG stays in his favorite genre: spies. Three Days to Kill attempts to add a real storyline to a shoot ‘em up but adds too much cheese for the movie to stand on its own.

amber-heard-in-3-days-to-kill-movie-2Kevin Costner is Ethan Kenner a CIA operative who opts out after he finds out he has brain cancer. He heads to Paris to spend time with his estranged wife and daughter before he dies. But he is brought back into the fold to catch a terrorist only he has seen. When he is promised a magic experimental drub as payment, he can’t turn down.

The cast is a problem. Though I give Costner more credit for this role, he’s not the one that brings the movie down the most. Hailee Steinfeld gets staring credit but her portrayal of a teenage girl is truly one dimensional and stale. Though she has more emotion in 3 Days to Kill than she did in Ender’s Game, she does have the natural talent her Ender Counterpart Abigail Breslin had at an early age. Connie Nielsen as the wife was terrible and, like the daughter, the poorly written and relying on making the mother a nag. The movie does not even use its best character to her best ability. Vivi (played by the fierce Amber Heard) is negated to small roles egging Costner’s character to do her bidding without much explanation.

The movie tries to become a family oriented film but cliché after cliché bogs it down. He teaches his daughter to ride a bicycle, he teaches her to dance, the ex-wife gives in and sleeps with him, and more. The only saving grace in the humor that peppers the movie bringing enjoyment in the dullest or most sappy moments. Luc Besson is often a genius but his basic story is lost in the sap and I want to blame Adi Hasak for that, but I’m sure I can.

Non-Stop Thrills

Liam Neeson has turned into an action star. Many complain that he shouldn’t be. But he is and will continue to be a bad ass. Though critics have a point, he seemed like the least likely action star candidate, he does well with the persona and is always himself.  We love to watch him kick

Non-Stop seems very out there, but it puts itself together well. An Air Marshal must find out who is killing a passenger every twenty minutes. But things get more complicated as things turn against him. His past and life as an alcoholic works against him as staff and passengers turn against him. But Bill never gives up intent on saving those on the plan.

Non-Stop doesn’t stop. The plot is always twining keeping the audience on its toes. What you think you know you don’t. And while the reasons behind the terrorist attack are lame, the actual process is gripping and exciting. You never know who to trust, even questioning the “hero” himself.

Bottom Line: Non-Stop is one if just plain fun (no pun intended).  It’s soars over 3 Days to Kill focusing on action and not family feel good cheese.

Don’t Call Schwarzenegger an Old Fogey

In the era of aged action stars, it is often hard to take a movie seriously when the hero is clearly passed his prime and looks like has might pass out at any minute. Stallone, Ford, and have all suffered. (It seems Liam Neeson is the only except to this rule.) Arnold Schwarzenegger seems to understand this and does what he does best- mix action with humor.

The Last Stand MovieIn his prime Schwarzenegger was kicking ass and taking names. He was chosen as best villain and best hero for playing the same character. He worked with Cameron, stared in the fabulous movie adaptation of Stephen King’s The Running Man, and showed Colin Ferrell what a science fiction movie should really be like. He has never had trouble making fun of himself (see Around the World in 80 Days for example). In fact, my favorite Schwarzenegger film, True Lies, combines great action with dry, witty humor.

As a child, I grew up watching Schwarzenegger, I was so excited about his return to film. But at the same time I was apprehensive; I had seen Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. So it was with trepidation that I went to see The Last Stand.

The Last Stand is the story of Sherriff Owens (Schwarzenegger) who moves from L.A. to a small town on the Arizona border to get away from the bloodshed. When the majority of the town leaves for a football game, Owens and his deputies settle in for an easy weekend. These plans are promptly destroyed when a cartel leader breaks out of custody and heads to their sleepy little town. With the FBI one step behind, it’s up to the Sherriff and his deputies to save the town.

The Last Stand supplies plenty of action with gun fights and car chases. Like every other action movie before it, it includes beyond reality stunts that get viewers fired up. But it balances the over-the-topness with humor. The film knows that it’s got a humorous side and doesn’t take itself too seriously. Owens even cracks jokes about being too old for this. But Schwarzenegger proves he still has it.

The cast includes Johnny Knoxville and Luis Guzmán adding to the humor. I hate to say it, but Knoxville is hilarious as the eccentric weapons collector that has everything down to Conan’s sword. the-last-stand-whysoblu-8The deputy team is also peppered with young attractive guys and girls to balance out the “old fogey” feeling.

Despite large pot holes, The Last Stand is an entertaining romp that gives the same hometown love you get from watching Red Dawn. No one is going to come into our home and destroy it. Viewers easily cheer on the deputies as they go against the cartel boss and outsmart the FBI.

While not a great movie, The Last Stand is fun and contains lots of action. It’s better than most of the “old fogey” movies release lately.

Sitting Down with the Titans

Blu-ray, DVD

Like many action movies of late that don’t star a superhero, Wrath of the Titans came through the theaters without much fanfare. It’s a solid sequel that continues a logical story intertwining myth with creatures and designs from the 1980s original Clash of the Titans.

Sam Worthington returns as Perseus who would rather stay home with his son than protect the world. But when his father Zeus is kidnapped and his power stripped away, Perseus must do something before Kronos escapes from Tartarus and destroys the gods and the world.  Joined by Andromeda, Perseus must collect the three sacred weapons (Zeus’s Lightening Bolt, Hades’ Pitchfork, and Poseidon’s Trident) in order to send Kronos back to his lair.

Worthington, like everything he does, really makes his characters come alive and in this installment he has on more clothes than the original. The interaction between him and Liam Neeson as father and son is explored in more depth and the two work marvelously together. The best part of the sequel is the new cast additions. Rosamund Pike as Andromeda ads a pleasant feminism to a male dominated world. Toby’s Kebbell as Agenov adds humor, and Bill Nighy’s appearance as the weapon maker is fabulous.

The CG is done quite well with most of the monsters blending in well with the humans and the atmosphere. It is some of the costuming that seems a bit much including Zeus’ terrible beard and wig. And why is it that Zeus ages but the only discernable sign of Perseus’ aging is that he has longer hair?  The final battle is choreographed well and enjoyable for the viewers though Hades and Zeus get a little too heart warming.

A better sequel than many other films get, Wrath of the Titans is an enjoyable action thriller that clearly deals with mythology without getting too obtuse or boring. Make sure to pick this one up at the Redbox.

Battleship Stays Afloat

Many times I have been very disappointed in a movie. Often, the preview looks really good, and but when you see it, you realize the best parts of the movie were in the trailer. More rarely, however, does a movie that looks stupid actually exceed any low expectations that I have set for it. Battleship blew away all my expectations.

After seeing the preview, I made jokes about how lame the premise was and that Liam Nesson would do anything these days. My father summed it up succinctly: “It’s Transformers in the waster.” What I hadn’t expected was the humor, the character development, and the edge of your seat suspense that the movie included.

After breaking into a convenience store to score a chicken burrito for his a more, Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsh) joins the navy in order to give his life direction. His over protective brother is an exemplary Commander who is constantly disappointed in his brother (Alexander Skarsgård). After a scuffle with a fellow navy member, Admiral Shane (Liam Nesson) decides to have Hopper removed from the NAVY. During routine war games, Hopper’s fleet comes into contact with an unidentified craft. After sending recon crew, the alien ship puts up a shield that cuts three ships off from the rest of the fleet. The alien quickly decimate two of the destroyers including the one with Hopper’s brother. Hopper is now the commanding officer and Earth’s only defense against the aliens. This rise to leadership is slow and shaky but Hopper leads his crew to victory.

The movie is of course action packed, and because you care about the characters you are moved anymore. You are tense when the USS John Paul Jones is targeted hoping Skarsgård won’t die. Nail biting when Hopper has to abandon ship but the motor is running close to him. Cheer when the cowardly doctor finds courage. Feel relief when Shane gives his consent for Hopper to marry his daughter. The love story is not over done.

The cast shines. Kitsh was not the reason John Carter did not do well; he pulls off the flunkie and the reluctant leader well but then develops into a strong believable leader. Rihanna did not have that annoying over acting reminiscent of Beyonce in Goldmember or Ashantiin Resident Evil Extinction. Her acting was believable as Petty Office Raikes who could both take orders and kick butt. Neeson’s Admiral Shane was both tough and human, a blend that Neeson has done well for years. Brooklyn Decker could have been better cast. Her performance was dry and bland even though she had an admirable professions, she didn’t get more than one dimensional and after a burrito.

The visual effects were stunning, easily rendered into the real world without looking too fakey. The aliens were just enough humanoid to be from a similar planet but different enough to distinguish between human and alien.

A nifty homage to the game was used during a sequence where the Navy is tracking the alien ships using water displacement. Seated in front of a green grid, white and red blips designated where the ships were or weren’t. Each location was used in the jargon from the game. It was a very entertaining way to connect the movie back to the game.

The Battleship in the title is the USS Missouri “MightyMo” that is used to take down the radio signals the aliens are using to contact their reinforcement. The audience willing suspends disbelief when the battleship off and sailing in a matter moments. I was perplexed by one aspect of the plot; if there planet was situated just the right place for life, as is ours, why were the aliens susceptible to our sun? Was theirs in a different state of evolution? Or have I not suspended my disbelief enough?

Though not a movie mast piece, Battleship is an engaging edge of your seat alien thriller. It succeeds from going to shaky premise to cohesive thriller. It was so much better than I had anticipated it to me. I haven’t had this much fun with a movie based on a board game since Clue.