Cinemax Friday: Relentless IV: Ashes to Ashes (1994, dir by Oley Sassone)

Sam Deitz (Leo Rossi) is back to hunt one last serial killer in this, the last of the Relentless films.

This time the killer is a boring nonentity.  He’s not as interesting as the killers played by Miles O’Keeffee or William Forsythe.  Nor is he as unintentionally funny as the one played by Judd Nelson in the first Relentless film.  Instead, he’s just your run-of-the-mill religious fanatic, killing sinners and performing rituals.  His trademark is that he only kills the person that he wants to kill.  Anyone else who might be around is just taken out with a stun gun.  That’s a boring if considerate trademark.

Deitz is assigned to track down the killer, along with his new partner, Jessica Pareti (Colleen Coffey).  While Deitz is trying to solve the case, he’s also having to deal with his rebellious teenage son (Christopher Pettiet).  Between this film and the last, Deitz’s ex-wife died and now Deitz is a single father.  He and his son barely know each other.  Deitz tries to keep his son under control while all his son wants to do is spend time with his girlfriend, Sherrie (Lisa Robin Kelly).

Relentless IV is the least interesting of the Relentless film.  It’s so trapped by the now-stale Relentless formula that not even the casting of Famke Janssen as a possible femme fatale can save it.  Janssen is a psychiatrist who is connected not only to one of the victims but possibly to the killer as well.  She and Deitz are obviously attracted to each other and Deitz is torn between that attraction and treating her like a possible suspect.  The relationship between Deitz and the doctor has potential but it keeps getting sidetraced by scenes of Deitz trying to deal with his teenage son and it never really lives up to what it could have been.  Janssen is beautiful and Rossi gives a typically good performance but watching the film, it’s obvious that there wasn’t much left to do with the character of Detective Sam Deitz.

Direct-to-video mainstay Oley Sassone directs in a flat and unmemorable manner and the entire film just seems tired.  When the best your serial killer can do is kill someone with a Campbell’s soup can, you know you’re running on empty.  There would not be a Relentless V.  Hopefully, Sam Deitz finally found some peace and figured out how to balance being an intense New Yorker with living in laid back California.

Cleaning Out The DVR, Again #19: Jack of the Red Hearts (dir by Janet Grillo)

(Lisa is currently in the process of trying to clean out her DVR by watching and reviewing all 40 of the movies that she recorded from the start of March to the end of June.  She’s trying to get it all done by July 10th!  Will she make it!?  Keep visiting the site to find out!)


The 19th film on my DVR was Jack of The Red Hearts, which I recorded off of the Lifetime Movie Network on April 27th.

I have to admit that I was a little bit surprised as I watched Jack of the Red Hearts.  While it seemed to have a typical Lifetime premise — a runaway fakes her identity and moves in with a troubled family — it didn’t feel like a typical Lifetime film.  For one thing, the cast was made up of actors like Soul Surfer‘s AnnaSophia Robb, The Bling Ring‘s Israel Broussard, and the X-Men‘s Famke Janssen.  None of these people are exactly big stars but they’re still not Lifetime regulars.  While the premise may have been Lifetime-friendly, the portrayal of an 11 year-old autistic girl (played by Taylor Richardson) definitely seemed a bit more realistic than one would usually expect from a made-for-TV movie.  Finally, there were more than a few occasions when it was obvious that some of the dialogue had been overdubbed, in order to make the language more appropriate for television.

So, I did some research and I discovered that Jack of the Red Hearts was not originally made for Lifetime.  Instead, it’s an indie film that was directed by Janet Grillo and written by Jennifer Deaton, both of whom drew on their own experiences of raising an autistic child.  Jack of the Red Hearts did the festival circuit in 2015 and even got a very limited theatrical release back in February.

Jack of the Red Hearts tells the story of Jack (AnnaSophia Robb), an 18 year-old high school drop out who is on probation.  When we first meet Jack, she’s helping her younger sister, Coke (Sophia Anna Caruso), break out of foster care.  AnnaSophia and Sophia Anna are both totally believable as sisters and their scenes together are so believable that you even forgive the fact that they’re named Jack and Coke.  Jack wants to take care of her sister but she’s broke and she’s homeless.  In order to rescue Coke from the foster home, Jack has to get a job and enough money to rent an apartment.

And what better way to get a job than by stealing someone else’s identity!  After Jack sees some flyers asking “Are you good with children?,” she shows up at the home of Kay (Famke Janssen) and Mark (Scott Cohen).  Jack claims that her name is Donna and that she’s the nanny that Kay previously hired over the telephone.  Despite having neither training nor a high school degree, Jack is soon taking care of autistic Glory (Taylor Richardson).

Glory is nonverbal and sometimes violent and her family, while loving, struggles to adjust to not only her behavior but also their inability to understand what the world is like for her.  (The film occasionally tries to show us the world through Glory’s eyes and it works a lot better than you might expect.)  When Jack initially reacts to Glory’s behavior by snapping at her and occasionally getting rough (at one point, she slaps away Glory’s hand when Glory suddenly tries to grab food off her plate), you wince but at the same time, you understand Jack’s frustration.  Richardson, who is not autistic in real life, fully commits herself to the role and the film deserves a lot of credit for not sentimentalizing her condition or its effect on her family.  Unlike most Lifetime films, this one takes place in a frequently cluttered and chaotic house and Kay is portrayed as literally being on the verge of a neurotic meltdown.

Though it takes a while, Jack starts to care about Glory and finally, she even starts to make some progress with Glory.  And again, it should be pointed out that the film does not portray Jack as a miracle worker, though Jack does watch The Miracle Worker on television at one point.  The progress is slow but, the film says, it is progress and that’s the important thing.  Jack also develops an attraction to Glory’s brother, Robert (Israel Broussard).  Robert, however, is the only member of the family to suspect that Jack may not be telling the truth about who she is…

Because Jack of the Red Hearts was on the Lifetime Movie Network, I kept waiting for the scene in which Jack would either seduce Kay’s husband or try to kidnap Glory.  Thankfully, that scene never came, though the film still has its share of melodramatic moments.  Jack of the Red Hearts is, in many ways, a predictable film but it’s also an achingly sincere film and Robb, Broussard, Janssen, and especially Taylor Richardson all give excellent and empathetic performances.

This is a sweetly well-intentioned and bravely unsentimental film and definitely one to keep an eye out for.

Playing Catch-Up With 6 Quickie Reviews: The Big Game, The Connection, Graduation Day, McFarland USA, Taken 3, and War Room

Here are 6 more reviews of 6 other films that I watched this year.  Why six?  Because Lisa doesn’t do odd numbers, that’s why.

The Big Game (dir by Jalmari Helander)

In The Big Game, Samuel L. Jackson plays the President of the United States and you would think that fact alone would make this film an instant classic.  Unfortunately, this film never really takes advantage of the inherent coolness of Samuel L. Jackson playing the leader of the free world.  When Air Force One is sabotaged and crashes in the wilderness of Finland, President Jackson has to rely on a young hunter (Onni Tommila) from a group of CIA agents disguised as terrorists.  Tommila does a pretty good job and the scenery looks great but at no point does Samuel L. Jackson says, “Check out this executive action, motherfucker,” and that’s a huge missed opportunity.  As for the rest of the film, it takes itself a bit too seriously and if you can’t figure out the big twist from the minute the movie starts, you obviously haven’t seen enough movies.

The Connection (dir by Cedric Jiminez)

Taking place over the 1970s, the French crime thriller tells the largely true story of the efforts of a French judge (played by Jean Dujardin) to take down a ruthless gangster (Gilles Lellouche) who is the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in the world.  The Connection run for a bit too long but, ultimately, it’s a stylish thriller that does a very good job of creating a world where literally no one can be trusted.  Dujardin, best known here in the States for his Oscar-winning role in The Artist, does a great job playing an honest man who is nearly driven to the point of insanity by the corruption all around him.

Graduation Day (dir by Chris Stokes)

Hey, it’s another found footage horror film!  Bleh!  Now, I should admit that this horror film — which is NOT a remake of that classic 1980s slasher — does have a fairly clever twist towards the end, that goes a long way towards explaining a lot of the inconsistencies that, up until that point, had pretty much dominated the film.  But, even with that in mind and admitting that Unfriended and Devil’s Due worked wonders with the concept, it’s still hard to feel any enthusiasm about yet another found footage horror film.

McFarland USA (dir by Niki Caro)

McFarland USA is an extremely predictable but likable movie.  Kevin Costner plays a former football coach who, while teaching at a mostly Latino high school, organizes a cross country team that goes on to win the state championship.  It’s based on a true story and, at the end of the film, all of the real people appear alongside the actors who played them.  There’s nothing about this film that will surprise you but it’s still fairly well-done.  Even Kevin Costner, who usually gets on my last nerve, gives a good performance.

Taken 3 (dir by Olivier Megaton)

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is back and he’s killing even more people!  Fortunately, they’re all bad people but you really do have to wonder what type of dreams Bryan has whenever he goes to sleep.  In Taken 3, Bryan’s wife (Famke Janssen) has been murdered and Bryan has been framed.  He has to solve the case and kill the bad guys while staying one step ahead of the police (represented by a bored-looking Forest Whitaker).  Neeson does all of his usual Taken stuff — the intense phone conversation, the steely glare, and all the rest — but at this point, it has literally been parodied to death.  If you’re into watching Liam Neeson kill ugly people, Taken 3 will provide you with adequate entertainment but, for the most part, it’s but a shadow of the first Taken.

War Room (dir by Alex Kendrick)

I saw the War Room in Oklahoma.  It was being shown as part of a double feature with The Martian, of all things!  Anyway, this film is about an upper middle class family that hits rock bottom but they’re saved by the power of prayer!  Lots and lots of prayer!  Seriously, this film almost qualifies as “prayer porn.”  Anyway, the film was badly acted, badly written, incredibly heavy-handed, and ran on way too long but, on the plus side, it did eventually end.

Trailer: Taken 3 (Official)


Why are bad guys still messing with Liam Neeson…I mean Bryan Mills. He literally took on an Albanian gang in Paris (of all places) who were kidnapping young, female tourists to sell to Parisian sex-slave auctioneer who only did business with a very exclusive clientele. Then the hometown relatives of said Albanian gangsters tried to take him out. That didn’t work out so well.

Now, this coming January just when Bryan thought his life as a retired government worker with a unique set of skills can finally enjoy retirement with his lovely daughter and rekindle his relationship with his ex-wife people are out to be quite the killjoy once again.

Taken 3 will see Liam Neeson back as Bryan Mills, Maggie Grace as his daughter Kimmy and joined by Forest Whitaker as an LAPD inspector tasked with taking him down for a murder he didn’t commit. Once again this sequel will be helmed by that French director with the awesome name: Olivier Megaton.

Some people say Taken 3 (will not call it Tak3n) is just a rehash of The Fugitive, but I disagree. Richard Kimble never broke people’s throats and shot many people in their heads to find those responsible. The throat breaking alone puts Bryan Mills heads above Richard Kimble.

Taken 3 is set for January 9, 2015 release date.

Back to School #52: The Faculty (dir by Robert Rodriguez)


Have you ever wanted to see Jon Stewart get stabbed in the eye with a hypodermic needle?

If you answered yes, then 1998’s The Faculty might be the film for you!

The Faculty takes a look at what happens when a new alien species happens to turn up outside of a painfully normal high school in Ohio.  By painfully normal, I mean that Herrington High School is just as messed up as you would expect a suburban high school to be.  The teachers are all underpaid and resentful of their principal (Bebe Neuwrith).  Prof. Furlong (Jon Stewart) is the overqualified science teacher who will perhaps be a little too excited about the chance to examine a new alien species.  Coach Willis (Robert Patrick) is the emotionally shut off coach of the school’s losing football team.  Mrs. Olson (Piper Laurie) is the drama teacher who struggles to promote creativity in a school that’s more interested in blind conformity.  Miss Burke (Famke Janssen) is the teacher who cares too much.  And, finally, there’s Nurse Harper (Salma Hayek), who looks a lot like Salma Hayek.

And, as typical as the teachers may be, the students are even more so.  We get to know a few and they all neatly fit into the expected stereotypes.  Casey (Elijah Wood) is the nerdy outcast who is regularly picked on by … well, by everyone.  Deliliah (Jordana Brewster) is the status-obsessed head cheerleader who has just broken up with her boyfriend, Stan (Shawn Hatosy), because he quit the football team.  Zeke (Josh Hartnett) is the school rebel, the kid who is repeating his senior year and who sells synthetic drugs out of the trunk of his car.  Stokes (Clea DuVall) is an intentional outcast who pretends to be a lesbian and has a crush on Stan.  And finally, there’s Marybeth (Laura Harris), a new transfer student who speaks with a Southern accent.

These students would seem to have nothing in common but they’re going to have to work together because the entire faculty of Herrington High has been taken over by aliens!  Fortunately, the aliens are vulnerable to Zeke’s drugs, which is something that is learned after Jon Stewart takes a hypodermic to the eye…

When one looks over the top Texas filmmakers (director like Terrence Malick, Richard Linklater, Mike Judge, and David Gorden Green), Robert Rodriguez often comes across as being both the most likable and the least interesting.  Like his frequent collaborator Quentin Tarantino, Rodriguez fills his movies with references and homages to other films but, unlike Tarantino, there rarely seems to be much going on behind all of those references.  However, Rodriguez’s referential style works well in The Faculty because, along with acting as an homage to both Invasion of the Body Snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing, The Faculty also manages to tap into a universal truth.

Teachers are weird!

Or, at least, they seem weird when you’re a student.  Now that I’m out of high school, I can look back and see that my teachers were actually pretty normal.  They were people who did their jobs and, as much as I like to think that I was everyone’s all-time favorite, I’m sure that there have been other brilliant, asthmatic, redheaded, aspiring ballerinas who have sat in their class.  My teachers spent a lot of time talking about things that I may not have been interested in but that wasn’t because they were obsessed with talking to me about algebra or chemistry or anything like that.  They were just doing their job, just like everyone else does.

But, seriously, when you’re a student, it’s easy to believe that your teachers have been possessed by an alien life form.

Probably the best thing about The Faculty is the fact that the aliens cause the teachers to act in ways that are the exact opposite of their usual personalities.  For most of the teachers, this means that they turn into homicidal lunatics.  But, in the case of Coach Willis, this actually leads to him not only becoming a happy, well-adjusted human being but it also turns him into a good coach.  Suddenly, Willis is getting emotional about the games, his team loves him, and he even gets a win!

Go Coach Willis!

As for the film itself, it’s not bad at all.

Lisa’s rating: 7 out of 10.

Trash Film Guru Vs. The Summer Blockbusters : “X-Men : Days Of Future Past”

At this point, I freely admit to being a little bit confused : X-Men : Days Of Future Past opens to a somewhat lower box office take than The Amazing Spider-Man 2 did, which was only slightly behind the opening-frame receipts generated for Captain America : The Winter Soldier, and yet Cap and the X-Men are both considered “successes,” while Spidey’s considered a “disappointment” — even though, last I checked, its’ total gross ticket sales were only about $50 million behind Cap’s despite the fact that it opened a full month later?    Chances are probably good  that it will even end up closing the gap here at some point, but no matter — the die appears to have  already been cast. The stench of that rat I mentioned smelling in my Spider-Man review a couple weeks back? It’s getting a lot stronger now.

Needless to say, I’ve got a theory as to what’s going on here, and it builds upon my theory already expounded upon in that just-mentioned prior review : Disney/Marvel actively wants the Spider-Man franchise back, but the X-Men? Not so much. At least not yet.

How else to explain this clearly-orchestrated PR campaign? Look, internet movie critics are an easy bunch to buy off : for a free ticket, or even the promise of some kind of other free swag in the future, you can get thousands of people to say whatever you want them to. And from there, you can get thousands of others to mimic the already-established meme of whether a given flick is “successful” or not, because gosh, who would dare contradict the well-established critics and box-office analysts who have already passed judgment on the merits of a particular work? For the price of probably less than $10,000 in either payments or promises, DisMar has the movie-going public right where they want us, echoing their nonsensical party line and unsupported-by-the-facts pronouncements.

Needless to say, I don’t feel like playing along — for the most part. But there’s one area where I do agree with the general consensus, even if the fix is in : X-Men : Days Of Future Past is a really good superhero flick. And that might just throw a wrench in Marvel’s “this one’s dying on the vine, let’s just wait it out and see what happens” game plan.



Seriously, friends, this one has everything and the kitchen sink going on, but somehow returning director Bryan Singer (more on him in a minute) juggles every ball thrown in the air and makes it work : the “divergent timelines” conceit that forms the core of the plot never gets confusing even though it easily could; the action sequences are brisk and spectacular; the characters are uniformly believable and compelling; and the performances, from perhaps the most star-studded cast ever assembled for a comic-book film, are all first rate. When you’ve got Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Ellen Page, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, Peter Dinklage, Shawn Ashmore, Halle Berry, Michael Lerner, Booboo Stewart, Omar Sy, Kelsey Grammer, Anna Paquin, James Marsden and Famke Janssen all punching the same time clock, it goes without saying that  some are going to have more to do than others, but nobody seems intent on stealing the show for themselves, which is no mean feat considering the sheer number of sizable egos that must be involved here. Sure, the script puts most of the onus of Wolverine, the young Professor Xavier, the young Magneto, the young Beast, the young Mystique,  and the villainous Dr. Bolivar Trask, but that doesn’t mean everybody else doesn’t give their admittedly smaller parts at least a reasonable effort. Shit, I’m not sure how you even get stars of the stature of Page, Berry and Paquin to even accept what are essentially tertiary-at-best roles (does Paquin even have a line of dialogue?), but somehow they keep showing up for X-Men flicks, and in this case the place doesn’t even seem that crowded. Shit, Singer even manages to sneak in quick cameo for Wolverine co-creator Len Wein.


In many ways what makes  Days Of Future Past so successful is that fact that it’s actually more a direct sequel to First Class (which I also thoroughly enjoyed) than it is the initial X-trilogy, and some of the continuity changes that the end results of this film apparently seal into place even seem to undo how those first three films “wound up,” but whatever — the end result here is a franchise that feels like it’s been given a new lease on life after treading water for a good half-decade or so. I mentioned just a moment ago that I really dug First Class, but you can’t get by on prequels forever. At some point a movie needed to come along that propelled the X-Men franchise forward, and this does so with plenty of style and flair.

Plus, the whole thing’s a lot of fun — sure, some of the dialogue is overly- verbose and clunky and painfully expository, but those instances are rare, and actually stand out in contrast to the general ease and flow of the rest of the film. And while the premise itself requires a heavy dose of suspension of disbelief, let’s be honest here — what super-hero movie doesn’t? At least this one rewards your willingness to go with the flow in ways that even highly-touted fare like Joss Whedon’s The Avengers (a favorite target of my ire, I admit, but only because it really does suck, no matter what anyone else thinks) could never hope to manage. Plus, audiences get a chance so see Dinklage prove that he can” bring it”  in each and every role he takes on, not just on Game Of Thrones — something those of us who have been fans of his work ever since The Station Agent have long maintained.


In case it weren’t painfully obvious already, I thoroughly enjoyed X-Men : Days Of Future Past, and after appearing to flounder in the wake of the risible Valkyrie, my faith in Bryan Singer as a director has probably never been higher — unfortunately (here’s where that “more on him in a minute” comes in), I can’t say the same in regards to my faith in Bryan Singer as a human being. I won’t kid you — the sexual abuse allegations that have been leveled against him really bother the shit out of me. And no, it has nothing to do with Singer’s sexual orientation : I don’t care if a person is straight, gay, or somewhere in between, any and all relationships — whether serious, casual, or less than casual — between consenting adults are fine by me. Everybody likes to get laid, have at it. But age of consent laws are there for a reason, and kids and teens are, and should be, off limits to grown adults. The fact that  the “fan” community seems so eager to point out that Singer’s accuser has filed civil rather than criminal charges and that he’s apparently done so in the past is both irrelevant to the reality of what may or may not have occurred,  and represents a clear case of reprehensible victim-shaming of the highest order. Sure, everyone’s innocent until proven guilty, but assuming, or even implying, that somebody who’s been brave enough to come forward with claims this serious just has to be a liar because they’re choosing to address this issue in ways that others either don’t understand or approve of is beneath contempt. Maybe we’ll never know the whole truth of this matter, but if Singer did what’s he’s been accused of, then he’s got some serious issues and needs some serious help and sure,  I feel some amount if sympathy for whatever turmoil is boiling away inside his mind — but not half as much as I do for the teen boy (s) that he’s victimized (if he has). I don’t want to see him condemned in the court of public opinion if he’s completely innocent, but I don’t want to see his accuser condemned, either, and that’s what’s been happening. Sex between adults and those not legally deemed to be adults (in most states that’s 18, in some 16) is against the law, period, and if Singer did, in fact, engage in the sort of behavior that’s been alleged,   then I’m done with him from here on out. End of rant.

Regardless of what’s he’s done in his off-hours, though, the perhaps-tragic fact (depending on how legal proceedings play out) remains that what he’s done while on company time just can’t be denied in this case. I wish I could love X-Men : Days Of Future Past with a totally clean conscience, sure, but I can’t deny that I loved it just because it may have been directed by a guy whose personal behavior is both sleazy and illegal. It’s a complex set of circumstances to weigh in one’s mind, to be sure, but so goes life. I wish its murky waters were easier to navigate, but they never have been, and they’re never going to be.

As for the future of all things X-Men, I’ll make one easy prediction right now : when this thing hits home viewing “platforms” in a few months’ time, look for a bevy of reviews along the lines of “ya know, maybe this this isn’t quite as good as we thought at first” and “on second viewing, the flaws in this one are obvious” — not because such sentiments will be true, but because Days Of Future Past is so well-done, and opens up so many possible avenues for the franchise going forward, that Marvel’s gonna want to start one of their infamous “whisper campaigns” to try to undermine the public’s confidence in having it in “other hands” and get it back in their own  grubby, greedy paws.

Trailer: The Wolverine (CinemaCon Exclusive)


First we had the WonderCon Exclusive trailer for Pacific Rim drop a couple days ago. Now we have the CinemaCon Exclusive trailer for the upcoming The Wolverine which looks to be an improvement from this film’s first trailer.

This trailer for The Wolverine looks to emphasize the action in the film instead of the film’s story. We get many scenes of Wolverine doing what he does best. For fans of the character this storyline and setting should be recognizable as being based off of the Chris Claremont and Frank Miller mini-series about the character that helped create one of this character’s better backstory.

The Wolverine drops in the theaters on July 26, 2013.

Source: AMC Theaters

James Bond Review: Goldeneye (dir. by Martin Campbell)

After License to Kill, there was darkness.

The Bond Franchise would hit the longest lull in the series history, a break of about 6 years before Goldeneye came into fruition. I remember seeing the poster for Goldeneye in a subway station and the shock of both finding out there was finally a Bond film and that they managed to pick one of my favorite Bond choices at the time in Pierce Brosnan.

Albert “Cubby” Broccoli was upset with the response of License to Kill after its release. In the process, he decided to try something new and perhaps go with a different writer / director pairing. John Glen did a number of the Bond films leading up to this, and like a change in coaching, Broccoli may have felt it wasn’t going where it should. MGM, who was in the process of dying (and let’s face it, MGM was like that for some time), were in a deal that would allow the new owners to publish the Bond movies on TV without any consent or control from EON Productions. It was basically a fight to hold on to the ownership of the entire Bond Library, from what I’m finding. I could be wrong there, but it’s how I read into it.

Additionally, Dalton was supposed to do a third Bond film, but the issues between MGM and EON lasted so long that he eventually decided to bow out. Brosnan was approached to play Bond right after Moore finished A View to A Kill, but was unable to do so due to the success of Remington Steele. It was only after License to Kill (and Dalton’s departure) that the offer came back again and this time he jumped right on it.

One of the challenges for Goldeneye was to come up with a story for Bond. With the Cold War ending around the beginning of the decade, they couldn’t use General Gogol and the other angles that worked well in previous 007 files. The story that was made was seemingly tailored to work around that. Goldeneye deals with a joint mission with James and Alex Trevelyan (Sean Bean), who is also 006. During the mission, 006 is believed killed and Bond is able to both complete the job and escape. Bond later discovers that Trevelyan is alive and is behind a plot to fire an orbital EMP that would let him rob all of the banks in London via an electronic transfer. The film concentrates on how Bond doesn’t exactly fit in, considering that so much has changed around him.

One thing that Goldeneye really failed at was the music. Instead of the traditional Orchestra like tones from John Barry, they went with The Professional’s Eric Serra. The music was a mixture of electronic sounds and beats, a major departure from everything that Bond fans up until that point knew. For a number of Bond fans, the music just didn’t work for the film in any way (or only marginally made sense). This would be later rectified in Tomorrow Never Dies and a composer change. Here’s a bit of trivia: The end song of Goldeneye, “The Experience of Love” is actually a song made for The Professional, and an instrumental version of that song can be heard in that film’s soundtrack. Not the first time that’s happened musically – A James Horner track for James Cameron’s Aliens can be heard in the movie Die Hard – but it is a first for a Bond film, as far as I can tell.

Martin Campbell took over the directing for Goldeneye. While he doesn’t have a perfect track record (see Green Lantern and The Legend of Zorro), he was able to pull an action film together. He did so well with Goldeneye that he was actually brought on to film Casino Royale, possibly because both films were different kinds of reboots.

Another notable difference in Goldeneye is the introduction of Dame Judi Dench as “M”. It marks the first time that M is played by a woman. Her candor towards James is that he is “a relic of the Cold War” and a “misogynist dinosaur”. The chemistry between Brosnan and Dench is a bit rough when compared to her work with Daniel Craig, but the change also lends to an interesting dynamic. For someone who is considered a ladies man, here 007 is having to answer to a woman. Not terrible by any means, but it’s a shake up in the scheme of things. A younger Moneypenny (Samantha Bond) is also introduced, whose attitude is similar to M’s, but not as venomous. Desmond Llewelyn returns as Q, providing Bond with a BMW, outfitted with all of the regular gear. Although an Aston Martin DB5 was used in the beginning of the movie, it’s not the same car that Bond uses for the rest of the film. Where Moore was a Lotus driver and Dalton an Aston Martin one, Brosnan would be found behind BMW’s for the span of his 007 career.

For the Bond girls, two are better than one, and for Goldeneye we were given Izabella Scorupco as Natalia Simonova, a programmer with knowledge of how to stop the Goldeneye and a witness to the attack and theft of the device. The other is Xenia Onatopp, a former Soviet helicopter pilot and assassin, played by X-Men’s Famke Janssen. Jansen’s character is a bit cliche in that she kills with her thighs, but one has to wonder if that was just a carry over from what EON had to work with in previous films.

I thought Sean Bean was a great choice for a Bond Villain. At the time, he was young and dynamic, so  his character was able to hold his own with Bond in the fighting scenes and had a great plan with what he wanted to do with Goldeneye. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Bond guys be of the actual fighting type, rather than ones who let their henchmen do it for them. Speaking of henchmen, Alan Cumming’s hacker was more funny than fearsome to me, providing a comic relief to the film. Robbie Coltrane also adds a bit of humor as a contact of Bond’s that leads him to Trevelyan.

Goldeneye is also the first Bond movie to have it’s very own console based video game, and the impact of that game as a first person console shooter was huge at the time. We leave you with Tina Turner’s theme to the movie, with the assistance of Bono and the Edge. Tomorrow, we take on Tomorrow Never Dies.

Trailer: Taken 2 (Official)

Taken was the surprise hit of 2009 as audiences bought into Liam Neeson as the baddest of badasses. One would rarely think of him as an action-thriller hero. He’s done tough guy, man of action roles in the past but they tended to be of the mentor types. It was the Luc Besson-produced Taken that first made Neeson as a believable action hero.

The film was a simple enough revenge fare. One would thnk that the film’s ending was closure enough that a sequel wasn’t needed, but Hollywood won’t have none of that. It took a year or so, but soon enough 20th Century Fox purchased the rights to the sequel to Taken and quickly greenlit the project.

It’s now 2012 and Neeson’s former CIA black ops character, Bryan Mills, is back to do what he does best and that’s kill, torture and main (not in that particular order every time) every gangster and criminal who gets in his way as he tries to save not just his daughter (again), but his ex-wife as well as they vacation in that hotbed of spying and intrigue,

Istanbul. Luc Leterrier is not helming the sequel but another Besson protege in Olivier Megaton. Now with a name such as Megaton one should expect some explosive action and the trailer hints at such. Here’s to hoping that the film doesn’t go too overboard with the killing and maiming and torturing (again not in that order when they occur each and everytime).

Taken 2 is set for an October 5, 2012 release date.

Review: Taken (dir. by Pierre Morel)

In 2009 a little film coming out of France gained a buzz from on-line film bloggers. The film wasn’t the latest arthouse attempt to relive the glory days of French New Wave. It wasn’t a film that’s become part of the extreme French horror that’s becme all the rage in the horror circles in the past decade or so. This film was an action-thriller starring Irish actor Liam Neeson with an ensemble cast of actors from the US, UK, France and Albania. The film I am talking about is Taken by French filmmaker Pierre Morel (his previous film, District 13 with it’s parkour action scenes would make it a cult hit) and produced by his mentor Luc Besson.

Taken at its most basic core is a film about a father’s love for his daughter who has gotten herself kidnapped by Albanian sex-traffickers while on vacation in Paris, France. Liam Neeson’s character gets introduced as a retired government worker and divorcee whose attempt to reconnect with Kim his teenage daughter (played by Maggie Grace of Lost). His attempts to impress his daughter and make her happy gets upstaged by his ex-wife’s richer husband and stepfather to his daughter. It doesn’t help that Neeson’s character Bryan Mills has skillsets not easily translated to the civilian sector. He’d take an offer of a bodyguard gig from one of his former co-workers and it’s during this security job that we get a clue as to what sort of government employee Bryan Mills was before his decision to retire.

Moving forward we finally get past the introductions of the characters (Famke Janssen as Mills’ ex-wife really comes across as a major harridan who seems intent on punishing Mills for selfish reasons). Mills learns of a trip Kim will be taking with her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to follow U2’s European concert tour. Mills, the clearheaded parent, doesn’t like this plan to have his daughter galavanting across Europe without adult supervision, but his guilt for having neglected Kim while he was working for the government plus his ex-wife’s insistence that Kim take the trip makes him relent, but not without giving her some advice to stay safe.

To say that Kim and Amanda get into a heap of trouble right as soon as they arrive in Paris would be an understatement. The two get kidnapped while staying at the luxury apartment of Amanda’s cousin. Before Kim is taken by the masked intruders (who’ve already taken Amanda) she’s able to make a desperate phone call to her father. Calm, collected and knowing that her daughter’s abduction was an inevitability, Mills instructs his daughter to relay to him as much information as possible about those abducting her. With that information in hand Mills heads to Paris to find his daughter (and to punish those who dare kidnap her).

From then on Taken becomes an action-thriller which barely gives the audience a chance to take a breather. Mills knows his time frame when it comes to finding his daughter gets shorter and shorter thus goes about his job searching for her in a deadly efficient manner. Mills becomes Jack Bauer and Jason Bourne rolled into one. There’s no witty, debonair Bond in this character. Mills goes about his business of interrogating, killing and gathering information with cold, calculating efficiency which leaves no room for Bondesque dialogue. The story moving forward once Mills arrive in Paris becomes almost an extension of Mills’ character. Writers Besson and fellow collaborator Robert Mark Kamen keep the dialogue to the barest minimum. We learn more about Neeson’s character through his actions more than we do during character interactions with other players in the film.

The film hinges on the audience buying Liam Neeson as a deadly, ex-CIA operative who manages to survive every violent encounter throughout the film (some by his own doing and others just trying to survive through it). From how people have reacted to this film and Neeson’s character I would say that it’s a big definitive yes that we buy Neeson as someone akin to Bauer and Bourne. In fact, I would say that Neeson’s Bryan Mills would be the more dangerous of the three. He has no compunction about using torture to gather information and barely breaks a sweat when killing those involved in some way in his daughter’s abduction. He has no bouts of guilt about what he has done in the past (probably killing as a secret agent) , what he’s doing in the present (killing to find his daughter) and what he’ll be doing in the future (probably thinking killing thoughts about anyone who will look at his daughter funny). Neeson’s Bryan Mills is a cold, efficient killing machine who doesn’t use fancy moves to take out his opponents and willing to shoot them in the back if it ends the fight in his favor.

The action sequences in Taken has some parkour influences, but not enough to make it distracting. There were no Michael Bay-style skewed camera angles, slo-mo shots and ADHD-style editing. Morel actually keeps the frenetic editing that made the Jason Bourne fight scenes so dynamic to a minimum. There’s just enough of it to make the fight scenes look brutal and painful, but not enough to make people nauseous. The climactic action sequence on the yacht of a rich buyer of sex-slaves goes by so quickly yet was more entertaining than half the prolonged action scenes from Bay’s Transformers sequel.

The rest of the cast barely keep up with Neeson in the film. They become tertiary characters whose job were to give Neeson’s character the motivations he needs to get the job done. I will say that Maggie Grace as Kim was believable as a teenager even down to the spoiled teen she starts off in the beginning. But again her character was just there to motivate Neeson’s character to go back to doing what he did well and that’s kick ass (he’d probably do it just as well while chewing bubble gum).

In the end, Taken was an action-thriller which more than surprised many people. It cemented Liam Neeson as one badass dude in the same league as Kiefer Sutherland’s Bauer and Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. The film became a showcase for people to witness Neeson kickass and do it believably while Morel does just enough to keep the film from becoming too ridiculous. While Taken won’t herald the coming of another era of French New Wave, it does succeed in doing what it set out to do and that’s entertain, thrill and just give the audience some kickass escapist fare that some big-budgeted Hollywood studio titles never seem to do.