Taken 2: Same As It Ever Was

by Ethan Alter October 5, 2012 6:01 am
<i>Taken 2</i>: Same As It Ever Was

Dumped into American theaters in January 2009, few people expected the French-produced action movie Taken to do much business on these shores, even with a noted star like Liam Neeson in the lead role. But not only did the film become a hit, it was a massive hit, almost doubling its international gross over the course of its domestic theatrical run. It also gave Neeson a whole new career as a bankable action star, paving the way for such movies as The A-Team, Unknown and The Grey (well, one out of three ain't bad). A sequel was unnecessary, but also inevitable and this time around, Taken 2 is getting the prime October berth and major ad campaign that befits a big Hollywood (by way of Europe) blockbuster. So the release recipe is a bit different, but the movie itself turns out to be exactly the same.

Non-Stop: The Air Up There

by Ethan Alter February 28, 2014 6:00 am
<i>Non-Stop</i>: The Air Up There

During the course of his unlikely late-career stint as an action hero, Liam Neeson has logged plenty of flight time traveling to exotic locations like France, Turkey, Alaska and Germany to kick ass. So it's understandable that the nearly retirement-age actor is cashing in some of those frequent flier miles by saying yes to Non-Stop, a thriller that keeps him in a confined space (specifically a transatlantic airline) instead of traipsing through the urban and/or natural wilderness. The other benefit of keeping the action confined to a single set is that the filmmakers have more money to recruit a higher-caliber cast, which is how this glorified B-movie is able to recruit such noted thespians as Julianne Moore, Scoot McNairy, Corey Stoll, Michelle Dockery and current Oscar nominee Lupita Nyong'o. It doesn't give these folks anything challenging to do, mind you, but if you're going to be stuck on a six-hour New York-to-London flight, it helps to enjoy the company of the passengers and crew.

Wrath of the Titans: Forget the Kraken!

by Ethan Alter March 30, 2012 6:00 am
<i>Wrath of the Titans:</i> Forget the Kraken!

Pity poor Wrath of the Titans; arriving in theaters a week after The Hunger Games stormed the box office with its youthful heroine, stripped-down action sequences and pointed social commentary, that film makes this overproduced, underwritten F/X extravaganza look about as ancient as the Greek myths it's (very loosely) based on.

The Grey: Man Vs. Wild

by Ethan Alter January 27, 2012 6:00 am
<i>The Grey</i>: Man Vs. Wild

Early on in Joe Carnahan's gritty survival tale The Grey, there's a moment that's so serenely peaceful, I almost didn't want it to end, especially knowing what was to come. The scene in question takes place aboard a chartered plane that's flying a crew of oil company grunts to a drilling station in the far reaches of Alaska. Before the aircraft lifted off into the friendly skies, the guys were laughing, talking and busting each other's chops, as if they were in a locker room instead of a mid-size jet. Now that the plane's at cruising altitude though, they're all nabbing some much-needed shuteye. The cabin lights are dimmed, tray tables are up and in a locked position and the passengers are quietly slumbering, their breath misting in the chilled air. It's a beautifully evocative moment -- perhaps the best single scene Carnahan has ever staged -- one that immediately establishes an aura of calm and safety.

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