Taken 2 (2012)

Listen to Me Carefully, Kim.  Your Mother is Going to be Taken.

Taken 2 (2012)It’s been a while since I was last inspired by a RedBox.  You’ll eventually come to find that the two movies I picked on this day were not inspired, but were picked with a shrug.  And that hurts me to admit about today’s movie.  This movie’s predecessor was the tits.  It smacked you in the face with its penis and downright dared you not to like it, but you still could not. At least I could not.  I loved the first movie so much that I instantly became excited when I saw that IMDb said they were making a sequel when I was writing the review for the first movie.  But then doubt began to sink in.  What if this was just a money grab?  This was a dangerous situation, and one that demanded caution on my part.  So I gave it some time after it came out, only to find that fans and critics alike did not seem to be enjoying the sequel.  In despair, I waited until the movie finally found its way to a RedBox before I was willing to give it a shot.  This movie is Taken 2, written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, directed by Olivier Megaton, and starring Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Rade Šerbedžija (one of few names I’ve had to copy and paste to spell correctly), Leland Orser, Jon Gries, D.B. Sweeney, Luke Grimes, and Kevork Malikyan.

After the events of the first movie, the Albanian mob find themselves a little sore over how many people Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) awesomed all over.  They set their mind on taking revenge, but ONLY if coincidence brings him and his family onto their continent.  Thankfully for the mob leader Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), Bryan is going to Istanbul on a short assignment and he’s invited his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) and their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) out for a vacation.  Oh man!  Someone is about to get taken up in this piece!  Hell, maybe two!  …Oh yeah, there’s also some shit about Kim failing her driver’s test, and also she has a boyfriend that Bryan doesn’t like.  That is probably also as crucial to the story as the taken stuff.

What Olivier did to the Taken series really was like dropping a 10 Megaton bomb on it.  I winced when I thought of that.  Then I decided to share it with you.  This movie was disappointing.  It didn’t manage to capture a sliver of the awesomeness of its predecessor.  It tried to compare itself to the original by not really changing the story at all, and did the dumbest version of amping it up I’ve seen in a while.  The story for the first movie was never that complex, but you can’t just say, “This time, TWO people get taken.  That’s why we named the movie Taken TWO!  We are the most clever mother fuckers that ever were!”  But at least the first movie knew to take their simple story and slap some awesome on it to overcome their problems.  In this movie, the dumb daughter is saving Liam?  Fuck that!  Liam does the saving in this family!  They also really seemed exhausted by the possibility of writing dialogue in this movie.  They’d get started strong and then fall asleep before the sentence ended.  Like when Kim was talking to Bryan about what Lenore said about when they met.  She said, “When you met, it was … super special.”  That line was super special.  That’s like fuckin’ poetry.  Emily fuckin’ Dickinson over here!  …Is that a poet?  The biggest problem I had with the movie was, sadly, the premise for the entire movie.  The villain’s motivation made no sense, but it’s also something you see a lot in action movies.  Obviously, if you kill a mobster’s son, he’s coming after you.  That seems logical.  But where’s the logical side of his brain when it comes to the reason this guy killed his son?  He killed your son because your son was going to sell his daughter into the sex slavery trade.  If I had a kid and he was killed trying to do something horrible to someone, I’d say, “Well, that’ll happen.  Now no one will know what a shitty job I did raising the boy.”  I guess that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting movie, and they even point out that break in logic in the movie, but the mobster is having none of that.

The action of the movie was okay, but I never really felt that thrilled about it.  I didn’t even like looking at most of the movie.  For some reason, they decided that the only proper way to display this movie to us was to crank the saturation of it up to 11.  I don’t remember the first movie being so ugly that I didn’t want to even look at it.  They did a few vaguely clever things in the movie – such as Bryan telling Kim to set off grenades so that he could count how long it took for the sound to reach him – but they also did some dumb things.  I know that Movie Making 101 says that when someone hangs up a phone, the other person hears the dial tone so that they can stare at the phone and look morose.  But this is the smartphone generation and iPhones don’t do that.  The fisticuffs in the movie didn’t happen nearly often enough for my liking, but when they did they were mostly fine.  The last fight was the one that caused the most problems for me, but mainly just because I didn’t know how Bryan ended it.  He was fighting what was basically the Albanian version of him, and they were going punch for punch for the majority of the fight, but then Bryan dropped him on his back and slid him down into a seated position.  Did he just knock the wind out of him so well that he never got it back?  ‘Cause that dude was dead from something the Three Stooges used to do every day.  If you want to say that Bryan slammed the dude down on the corner and broke his neck or something, then I’m going to have to ask you to show your work.  Did you learn nothing from math class?

The cast in this movie did a fine enough job, but most of the characters got on my nerves.  Maggie Grace as the daughter most of all.  First of all, her memory is super short term.  Right in the beginning of this movie, she gets all pissy with Liam because he interrupts her boyfriend trying to get to second base with her.  Have you already forgotten that he also interrupted a Sheik making you the Thursday wife in his harem?  I think he’s got a bit of a head start on you ever getting angry at him again for his fatherly duties.  I also felt like she brought a lot of the stuff to the movie that I felt was wasted space, such as her driving test stuff and the stuff about her boyfriend.  Also, at the end when you have your boyfriend come have a milkshake with the family, the line, “Don’t shoot this one,” was maybe in poor taste.  Liam might take it poorly because his daughter thinks he’s a mindless killer, and the boyfriend probably wants to keep the fact that Liam will literally kill the shit out of him out of his mind for as long as possible.  Liam brought as much awesome as he could to the movie, but there really wasn’t much he could do to salvage it.  I did think that a good father and driving instructor would have told his daughter good job on outrunning that train, but that she should never do that again.  Famke had a pretty easy job on this movie because about halfway in she got really drowsy and spent the rest of the movie half asleep.  But the worst performances in this movie were definitely the Albanian mobsters.  They’re trying to sneak up on the ex-CIA guy that killed the shit out of all their buddies, but their idea of incognito is to be the only people in all of Istanbul wearing track suits like they were a uniform.

Taken 2 was not a good movie, but I’m still excited for the possibility of a Taken 3.  Taken was awesome enough to give them a third chance.  The story was the story from Taken, amped up in the most unimaginative way it could be, and it didn’t even have good enough action to counter-balance that.  You could say that the first movie set the bar too high, but I feel like this movie would’ve sucked with or without the comparison.  There’s no good reason to watch this movie.  Taken 2 gets “Hey Dad, please don’t shoot this one” out of “When a dog has a bone, the last thing you want to do is take it from him.”

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Fire in the Sky (1993)

They Took Him.

Today’s review was inspired by nothing more than random fancy.  I had nothing else that I felt I wanted to review for the day as I had just taken care of a requested movie yesterday and felt like I would make today a “Me” day.  So I decided to browse around my Netflix instant queue to see what it had to offer, and today’s movie caught my eye.  I’ve never seen today’s movie before, but I’m certainly aware of many of the people acting in it.  I felt like I had heard of the movie before and that it was regarded as a classic, but as I check it now on Rotten Tomatoes, it appears as if fans and critics both agree that it’s nothing special.  Well I watched it anyway.  Will I agree with them?  We’ll find out in my review of Fire in the Sky, based on a book by Travis Walton, written by Tracy Tormé, directed by Robert Lieberman, and starring D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, James Garner, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, Henry Thomas, Bradley Gregg, Noble Willingham, Kathleen Wilhoite, Georgia Emelin, and Scott MacDonald.

Five loggers walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Why the long face?”  The answer is that their friend Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) has gone missing.  Worst joke I’ve ever heard.  Well Lieutenant Frank Watters (James Garner) wants to get to the bottom of it.  He sits down with the five loggers – Mike Rogers (Robert Patrick), Allan Dallis (Craig Sheffer), David Whitlock (Peter Berg), Greg Hayes (Henry Thomas), and Bobby Cogdill (Bradley Gregg) – for questioning.  They tell the officer about how they went into the woods to cut down some trees.  On the way back, they see a strange light coming from behind the tree line that they describe as a “fire in the sky”.  As they drive closer, they find a UFO hovering above the ground.  Walton gets out of the car and goes closer to investigate, despite the protests of the rest of the people in the truck.  Turns out they were right because a beam of light shines on Walton, seemingly killing him.  In a panic, the group leaves, but Mike later goes back and is unable to find Walton.  Needless to say, the cops do not believe their story.  And neither does the rest of the town.  But is it true?  And where’s Travis?  You’ll find out if you watch the movie.

There’s a very good chance that the cover of this movie just made me think it was Close Encounters of the Third Kind.  I still haven’t seen that movie, but I imagine it was better than this one.  That’s not to say this movie was bad, but I also wouldn’t say it was great.  It was just okay.  A fairly typical UFO abduction movie with a couple of interesting things to set it apart a little bit, and it also gets some steam from being based on a “true” story.  I like the setup to the movie because it actually makes us think there’s a possibility that the whole thing is made up.  The five guys walk into the bar with looks that make you think they just accidentally raped and murdered someone, talking about agreeing on their story before the cops show up.  Then the story is told in flashback for a little bit, but you don’t really get a feeling about what actually happened until later in the movie, when Travis shows up again.  The look also holds up fairly nicely.  I like how the ship looked, being a typical saucer design but with a bottom that moved like lava.  The lighting used was a big part of the movie as well.  I liked how the red light looked from behind the tree line, and I liked the white light that engulfed Travis.  I also liked the stained-glass window in the back of the church they showed a few times with the light shining down on Jesus in a strange symbolism.  The scene of Walton inside the spaceship was also really good.  It was the stuff of nightmares, put on screen.

The performances were mostly good in the movie, but not too many in ways that stood out particularly well.  Robert Patrick did a good job having to react to the townspeople that all believed he and his friends murdered Walton.  D.B. Sweeney also did a pretty good job of coming off completely shell shocked after he was returned by the aliens.  Craig Sheffer did a good enough job, but he was also playing an asshole.  He reminded me of Lieutenant Dan, but he had legs.

So there’s not really a whole lot to say about Fire in the Sky.  It’s not great, but it’s not bad either.  It just kind of exists.  It’s a typical UFO abduction movie, set apart a little by not telling the audience for sure if it actually is a UFO abduction or a murder mystery for the bulk of the movie.  The movie looks good, so it’s got that going for it, and the performances are solid.  The movie just isn’t noteworthy in any way.  You can watch it, or you can skip it.  But those are your only two choices.  Fire in the Sky gets “Oh they won’t come back.  I don’t think they like me” out of “I told you chuckleheads that story was never gonna work.”

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