Movie Review: Non-Stop

Fighter Pilot: “Agent Marks, our fighter squad has you in our sights. Do you hear me?”

Bill Marks: “We’re running out of time! Do YOU hear ME?”

 

 

Well! This is a bit late, isn’t it?

My veteran readers are well aware that by some law of physics or another, it’s impossible for me to post movie reviews on time, when they would actually be helpful to people. As it was, I’d post a movie review a few weeks late and apologize for the delay. Then I’d promise the next one would be on time.

And my readers and I were all like:

So, anyway, my implied policy now is, movie reviews must be late. Also, I’m crazy busy. Which is why I’m posting this now, even though I saw the film on its release date eleven days ago. As usual, I’ll keep this free of spoilers.

The setup:

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Non-Stop, just think Taken on an airplane. Liam Neeson portrays Bill Marks, a nearly retired air Marshall who’s detached from his family and a former alcoholic. During a flight to London, he receives a text message saying that if he doesn’t wire $150 million dollars into an account, someone on the plane will die every twenty minutes. But this threat turns out to be the start of a much bigger plan.

It’s a simple but enticing premise. No, the movie won’t rock your socks off or anything, but it more than lives up to its hype. From the moment the plane leaves the runway, the action kicks off and doesn’t stop until…well, I won’t spoil how it ends. But it’s a pretty crazy flight.

What I liked:

As you might expect, the film’s number one asset in my opinion was Liam Neeson. Let’s momentarily set aside the fact that I have a huge man crush on him and will see pretty much anything he’s in, as long as he’s shouting at and/or killing someone.

(But seriously. This man could recite phone book to me and I would be thoroughly entertained.

And if you didn’t think there was a video out there of Liam Neeson reading Justin Bieber lyrics, you haven’t looked through the internet as hard as I have.)

Ahem. Anyway.

Apart from that, he still does well in this role. If another actor were the lead, I’d probably give this movie an average rating. My bro Liam makes it highly enjoyable.

Other assets: since you’re wondering, no, it isn’t a stupid plot. As far as I can tell from my experience, mystery thrillers tend to either play out how you’d expect, or they pleasantly surprise you and keep things interesting. Non-Stop does the second. You won’t be mind-blown or anything by the big reveal, but you probably won’t figure it out, either.

The action is excellent. Just picture everything cool you can do with an unknown enemy, mystery plot and Liam Neeson all mashed together on an airplane, and it’s done in this movie. Liam Neeson makes several takedowns which drew applause from my fellow moviegoers in the theater.

Have I mentioned Liam Neeson yet?

What I didn’t like:

Okay, so when you REALLY look at the plot, you can find a few holes. No gaping ones, but this movie doesn’t exactly hold up under microscopic inspection. I personally don’t care that much. It’s an entertainment film! It’s not supposed to have any grand message or flawless storyline. Its only job is to keep you on the edge of your seat, and I think it accomplishes that.

In conclusion: This movie lives up to its promise, and while it’s not the most mind-wrenching film of the year, it’s one of the most thrilling ones I’ve seen in a while. Plus, you know. Liam Neeson.

Rate: 7 out of 10 Liam Neesons.

liamneesonrating

Four Movies That Should Have Sequels and Four That Shouldn’t

“The only reason I would write a sequel is if I were struck by an idea that I felt to be equal to the original. Too many sequels diminish the original.”

–  Dean Koontz

 

My post today is straightforward: first I’ll list four movies that I believe should get sequels. Then I’ll list four more movies that are getting sequels but shouldn’t. Enjoy!

 

Four Movies That Should Get Sequels:

1.  The National Treasure Franchise

This is one of those movie franchises where no one can figure out why a sequel hasn’t been done yet. Maybe not every single person thinks the films are amazing, but enough people thought National Treasure 2 was good to earn it nearly half a billion dollars when it opened. Since then, though, it’s dropped off the face of the Earth. Why? Last I’d heard, Jerry Bruckheimer announced back in 2010 that a script for the movie was finished. Justin Bartha has had time to make the entire Hangover trilogy since the last National Treasure movie. Get going, guys!

2.  The Chronicles of Narnia movies

I get that people either love or hate this series, but I personally love it. I’ve read the books countless times, but this is one of the few cases where I’ve enjoyed every movie better than the novel. I think the team behind this franchise is genius, and Prince Caspian is still one of my favorite movies.

So, what’s the hold-up?

Well, there’s an entire mess of paperwork that has since gotten in the way, and essentially, no studio is allowed to make another Narnia film until 2018. By then the kid actors will most likely be way too old to play their parts in any future films. Which is really annoying, because I don’t think any reboot could top these adaptions.

 3. The Taken series

I know, I know, every character in this series has already been taken at some point or another, and by now there’s literally no one left to kidnap. I know that Taken 2 just barely got by, scraping on the untapped elements of the first movie, and by now there’s really nothing left to do with the franchise. I understand and agree with all of that.

My argument?

Liam. Neeson.

If Apple is so smart, why haven't they made him the voice of SIRI yet?

If Apple is so smart, why haven’t they made him the voice of SIRI yet?

 

 4.  Super 8

Ah, you knew I was going to throw in a personal choice.

I admit that this is the kind of movie where a sequel would probably ruin it. After all, everyone’s stories came to a close, the movie ended on a happy note, and it was a lot of fun. Turning it into a series would feel weird, and to be honest, I probably would be disappointed if that actually happened. But, this is my favorite movie, so I feel like I should hope for a sequel just to give J.J. Abrams a chance to wow me a second time.

 

Four Movies That Shouldn’t Get Sequels (But they are anyway):

 1.  The Transformers series

I like to think of this series as a marathon runner who started off great, tripped and sprained their leg on the second lap, hobbled along for a bit, then recovered enough to make a passable finish. That being said, they shouldn’t be running again anytime soon.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Transformers series overall. The first one is a great movie; the second one, not so much, but the third one is decent entertainment. That being said, I don’t see any way to properly make a fourth movie, especially one that dumps the entire human cast. Stay back, producers! Unfortunately, said film already has a release date of June 27, 2014, one year from today.

What’s more unfortunate is that I’ll probably end up seeing it anyway.

2.  Inception

To address the obvious first: Inception is an awesome movie. The concept of breaking into subconscious worlds through dreams is a great one, and the emotions coupled with the action scenes make this an unforgettable film. I love the actors, the story, the twists, and the dynamic bits, even if the whole thing is almost three hours long.

But, let’s be honest. How in the world would Christopher Nolan pull off a sequel that’s better than, or even as good as, this movie? It finishes up all of its subplots, literally ending at the beginning of the story. It’s a closed loop.

So, I don’t know why the entire cast has signed on for sequels. But, luckily it’s in the planning stages, so maybe Nolan will do the smart thing (which he’s good at when it comes to filmmaking) and let this brilliance stay put.

 3.  The Pirates of the Caribbean series

I’ve probably never loved a series this much and wanted so desperately for it to end. Originally, The Curse of the Black Pearl was supposed to be a standalone film, and it worked out well that way. Then the production team decided to make not one but two more sequels.

And guess what? I loved those just as much! In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say the third film is the best (then the first, then the second). They’re all great. By the end of this trilogy, the story truly was finished, tied up in a neat, humorous, heartwarming little bow.

Then On Stranger Tides happened.

I try to keep meanness off my blog, so I won’t get into the fourth PotC movie, but suffice it to say this ruined the series for me. Please, producers: I barely escaped with my life from your fourth movie…don’t finish off the fans with a fifth. I admire Johnny Depp enough to see practically anything he’s in, so don’t trap me!

4.  The Final Destination movies

You’re supposed to write about what you know. Which means I’m not going to go on too long here, because I haven’t seen any of these movies. But just on principle, I don’t think there should be any sequels to this five-film series, even though there are two back-to-back ones in the works.

I’ll let the Philosoraptor meme explain why:

(I didn't make this meme, though I wish I had)

(I didn’t make this meme, though I wish I had)

It’s a good point.

Why Narnia is Awesome (Movie Review: Prince Caspian)

 “Things never happen the same way twice, dear one.”

 –  Aslan, to Lucy

 

Prince Caspian PosterAlright, I admit it: I’m a thirteen year old trapped in a seventeen year old’s body.

So what? The Narnia film series is great, and I was quite sad to learn there won’t be any more movies in it. So tonight I’m reviewing the best of the three, Prince Caspian, on the four-year anniversary of its DVD release.

I saw this back in June 2008, when I was thirteen, in the summer before eighth grade. I was just sitting at home, watching the first movie in the series when a few of my friends called, asking if I wanted to see the new one in theaters the next day. It became my new favorite movie (to be knocked down from its pedestal by Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in 2009), and here are my spoiler-free thoughts on it.

 The movie has a strong premise to begin with: one year has passed in England since the Pevensie family’s last adventure, but 1300 years have passed in Narnia. Now it’s ruled by a group called the Telmarines, led by King Miraz. Miraz’s son, Caspian, flees the castle to avoid being murdered and sets out to find the original kings and queens, so they can take their world back.

There were many things to love about this movie. For one thing, the screenwriters did a spectacular job of reconstructing the book into a screenplay. The book is, forgive me, quite awful in terms of chronology. Literally half of it is the Pevensies sitting around a fire hearing about all these death-defying adventures Caspian has gone through, and the real story only lasts a few chapters after that. But Andrew Adamson—director, producer and head screenwriter of this fantastic franchise—handles the plot with stunning ease, turning it into an action-packed adventure that remains remarkably faithful to the book.

The rest of the production is great, too. All of the actors return, brilliant as ever, and Ben Barnes is perfectly cast as the titular character. The effects are as sharp as can be. The whole adventure aspect of it is just so much fun, and for some reason it’s cooler to see the kids on their own rather than being guided by the Beavers and Mr. Tumnus.

The battle sequences are much more epic in this than in the first movie, and certainly better than the conclusion to the trilogy, Dawn Treader. The added castle raid was a smart decision on the writers’ part, and the battlefield sequence at the end is pretty awesome. For goodness’ sake, the MPAA says the movie is PG for “epic battle action.”

And of course, Aslan returns! Admittedly, he doesn’t have as much screen time as in the first movie, but he still plays his role with awesomeness (and come on…it’s Liam Neeson!)

I would list some of my favorite scenes, but actually, I loved pretty much the entire movie. If I had to pick one, it would be the resurrection scene, if only because of the acting mixed with great effects.

And despite all of this, my absolute favorite thing about the movie has to be the score. Harry Gregson-Williams is one of my favorite modern-day composers, and this is easily his best work. The Narnia theme music is beautiful, and I still have it on my iPod four years later.

In conclusion: a more than fitting adaption with great effects, quality acting, epic battle sequences and a breathtaking score to encompass it all, this is one movie that pays respect to the genre of meaningful fantasy and manages to have quite a bit of fun doing it, too.

Rate: 8 out of 10.

Taken by Surprise (Movie Review: Taken 2)

“Listen to me carefully, Kim. Stay focused; this next part is very important. Your mother…and I…are going to be taken.”

I’m somewhat upset right now, because yesterday—having read critics’ opinions that this movie was awful—I prepared a pun for my own review. “The producers have Taken this series a bit 2 far.” I’m upset; I can’t use that now…because as it turns out, I loved every minute of this movie.

Before I start: let me clear the air and say that when it comes to movies, old or new, I’ll always start my reviews of them by specifying whether or not said review includes spoilers. That being said, this particular one doesn’t.

The general premise: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), his wife Lenore and daughter Kim go on a trip to Istanbul. There, a group of men plot and carry out revenge against Mills for his killing their friends in the last movie.

My first thoughts back in June, when I heard that a sequel to Taken was in the works:

  1. Wow, his daughter has some horrendous luck
  2. How are they going to make this different from last time?

The screenwriters addressed both. Instead of his daughter being kidnapped once again, the setup is reversed: Mills and his wife are both taken, and it’s up for Kim to rescue them (with Mills helping her from the inside).

I know it seems like I’ve just ruined the movie for you, but the thing is, that’s only the START of it. From there, Mills sets out to track down both his wife and daughter, as well as the man who took them so they never have to worry about this again.

What I liked about this movie:

  • It wasn’t anywhere near the same concept as last time; it was a nonstop chase with everyone going in different directions rather than a one-man hunt
  • The daughter and mother had much more expanded roles throughout
  • There was a definitive villain
  • It easily had as much heart/emotion as the last movie
  • Much more thought was put into the script this time around

I know, most of the critics and moviegoers disagree with this. I think the reason people didn’t like this movie is the same reason I didn’t enjoy the second Sherlock Holmes as much as the first: because it felt different.

This was nothing like the first film, where someone gets taken and Liam Neeson goes on a boss rampage to get them back. Instead, a chaotic mess results in he and his wife being kidnapped, and escape is only the first step in the nonstop adventure.

I was afraid it would just be full of car chases, shooting and not much else. There was plenty of that to go around, but also included were several touching scenes between Mills and his daughter, a rebuilding of romance with his wife, and an excellent one-on-one conversation with the movie’s villain.

If you’re worried about there not being any of the clever hunting techniques that we loved in the first movie, don’t be. Neeson still has the skills, as demonstrated at one point when he has his daughter set off grenades so he can count the seconds until he hears them. Liam Neeson is still Liam Neeson, every bit as awesome as he was the last time around. Slap that with a more intelligent script, and this is one enjoyable movie.

That being said, I want to end by warning you not to get your hopes up if you haven’t seen it yet. While the movie contains many positive aspects, it also goes in a completely opposite direction in terms of plot. If you want to see the Mills family’s story move forward, you’re getting exactly that, and it’s pretty entertaining. But if you want to be blown away, don’t expect to be. Just because it’s well-made doesn’t mean it’s the best movie ever…it just means everyone did their job in keeping the sequel from being the total wreck many people were anticipating.

So, in short: if you want more Liam Neeson in a new, fresh storyline with expanded backstory, you have it. Just don’t go in with any assumptions, and you might be pleasantly surprised by where the plot takes you. As for me, I came home last night already excited for a third installment.

And then one little snag occurred to me.

So, who’s left to take?

Rate: 7 out of 10.