X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

★★★★

X Men Days of Future Past PosterDirector: Bryan Singer

Release Date: May 22nd, 2014 (UK); May 23rd, 2014 (US)

Genre: Action; Adventure; Fantasy

Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence

Whereas Matthew Vaugh’s franchise revitaliser X-Men: First Class gained plaudits for its cast-iron story told with an injection of slickness and youthful energy, this next stop in mutant-ville is something quite different indeed. Ambition is the word that instantly springs to mind; from the moment livelihood-altering time travel is suggested (though it’s more mind travel) until the film’s final buzz-inducing reel, X-Men: Days of Future Past presents a whirlwind of famous faces enraptured in a spider’s web of plot, humour and enticing entertainment. Along the way Bryan Singer’s instalment exhumes a few hiccups, particularly as well-versed characters get caught up in allegiance purgatory, and the film’s lack of transparency when it comes to who wears the most villainous shoes is a problem too. But d’you know what? It’s tough to get anywhere without ambition, and this Inception-cum-Minority Report outing sprinkled with comic book enthusiasm has enormous ambition. Unsurprisingly then, it gets somewhere.

It’s 2023 and the world is being pillaged by Sentinel robots that bare only grudges, towards mutants and humans alike. Long-time enemies Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) congregate with a number of X-Men and hatch a plan to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) mind south, back to 1973, in an attempt to cut the Sentinel problem at its source — that is, Mystique’s (Jennifer Lawrence) assassination of Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage). Wolverine’s solitary hope in regards to changing the course of history lies in tandem with a united mutant front, where differences are pushed to the side for the greater good. Only, this proves to be an obstacle for Professor X and Magneto’s younger selves, the duo irrevocably at odds over morality.

Days of Future Past purveys an ever-increasing sense of magnitude. As the film progresses we entertain thoughts of grandeur, that this might be a final hurrah for some. There are so many faces on screen that the loss of simply just one begins to feel unlikely. Many will succumb, we feel, and this undoubtedly instils a weighty load atop proceedings. At one point Trask urges the need for his Sentinel program: “A common enemy against the ultimate enemy… extinction.” The line represents this all-or-nothing undercurrent that drives events, ushering forth supreme unpredictability. The most engaging X-Men films are those that contort whichever mutant-human relationship is in fashion during said time period, and here we begin to see the inner-workings of primitive convolution.

Much like its predecessor, Days of Future Past wears the international climate within which the film is primarily set like a rain jacket on a cloudy day: posing relevant questions and suitably prepared for any proceeding answers. We’ve advanced a few decades since First Class and are now thoroughly engulfed a Vietnam War culture where blame is tossed left and right like a hot potato and international relations are frazzled at best. Musings over corporate-compelled destruction of the mutant race are a reflection of US military intervention across Asia. Discussions between the suit-wearing brass are centred on geopolitics, the language bolstering accusation and condemnation. (“You will have lost two wars in one lifetime.”) Despite an inordinate helping of fantastical powers such as shape-shifting and object manipulation — a stadium relocation is equally as impressive as it daunting — the shrouding of events in familiar histories gives the film vital realism that otherwise might be lost. At various points, Newton Thomas Sigel’s cinematography shape-shifts into stock footage of JFK assassination ilk, further furnishing authenticity.

Action sequences that spawn from the aforementioned clash of mutant and humankind are exhilarating. Carrying a wonderful visual gloss, these moments serve to get the heart pumping and, admirably, never oust the film’s emotional prerogative. Though, the same cannot be said for plot goings-on. It’s not universally indecipherable, however the narrative does falter on occasion. As Wolverine awakens in 1973, “First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” consciously lamenting with poignancy in the air around him, there’s a struggle between reality and non-reality that never fully realises closure. His present self is dropped into the past, but where is his past self? The Wolverine character hits a stumbling block or two as the film progresses. His main objective is to rally the X-troops, but that’s about it. Afterwards, the mutant mainstay becomes something of a generic piece in the puzzle. An impeding notion arises, therefore, that him being selected to go back in time is more of a Hugh Jackman star power issue as opposed to a Wolverine character arc issue. “You sent back the wrong man,” says the Aussie.

Nonetheless it is the characters who generally hold the key to success. A few have never been better relayed on screen. As young Charles Xavier, James McAvoy steals the show in a performance of initial enduring frailty and disillusionment. He has lost everything, yet refrains from morphing into a charity case. Rather, our sympathy is earned through the Scot’s heart-wrenching depiction of a broken man, one of McAvoy’s best turns to date. A scene between he and his older manifestation is arguably the best of the entire piece, a memorable moment made so with the aid of Patrick Stewart. On the flip side, Michael Fassbender’s domineering Magneto is cold and calculated; we never truly know where his allegiance lies. The impressiveness in Fassbender’s performance comes by way of a subtle regret that he exudes, a nuance that holds greater verve as Magneto embraces his thirst for resolution. Jennifer Lawrence is icy as Mystique, her desire for revenge both ambiguous and purposeful.

Though Mystique engages in a number of villainous acts, she’s never intended to be the definitive villain. In fact there is no real categorical antagonist here. The closest we get is Peter Dinklage’s suit-wearing scientist Bolivar Trask, though his infrequent appearances on screen tend to hinder any evil momentum. “Trask is the enemy,” we are informed and, although his Sentinel program is born from an unsavoury mindset, Dinklage never really comes across as the heinous bad guy that he probably should. Days of Future Past is layered with humour, often successful attempts too, and Quicksilver speeds off with many of the funniest moments. Evan Peters emits wit as quick as his feet, striking up a comedic dynamic with the dry banter of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. Listen out for Jim Croce’s “If I Could Save Time in a Bottle” and look out for the ensuing scene; intuitive excellence.

Despite a small helping of problems associated with narrative, X-Men: Days of Future Past manages to leave a lasting impression on us, an emotional impact bred by the people involved and the morals that they relay. This has a special aura surrounding it, a magnitude that usurps its few flaws. Regardless, we ought to applaud scoping aim, particularly when the aimer just about hits bullseye.

I suspect Singer and company have been practising their darts.

X-Men Days of Future Past - James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): 20th Century Fox

After Earth (2013)

After Earth PosterDirector: M. Night Shyamalan

Release Date: May 31st, 2013 (US); June 7th, 2013 (UK)

Genre: Action; Adventure; Science-fiction

Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith

M. Night Shyamalan has a grand idea. His mind urging him forth, he embarks upon creating a film shepherded by characters who are inherently devoid of emotion. It’s not that emotional attachment is hard to come by, rather, that these people strive valiantly to become absolutely emotionally detached. An inspired scheme. Someone give the Academy a call. Only, hold the phone for a moment. A bunch of characters whose individual and collective M.O. is to be uninterested and, subsequently, uninteresting? I digress, our gallant director must have a couple of top actors lined up who’ll be able to effectively balance this indifference with microscopic poignancy. Is that the Academy on hold- wait a minute. Will Smith, a quintessential purveyor of emotion — be it comedic or dramatic — and his extremely unseasoned son, are our emotionless duo? Who wrote this thing? Ah.

Unable to harness his impassioned outbursts, Kitai (Jaden Smith) is rejected by the cadets. He’s physically capable, but an inability to ‘ghost’ — hide one’s feelings in order to battle the Ursas, creatures that can smell fear — puts a dampener on Kitai’s attempts to impress his father Cypher (Will Smith). The pair share a disgruntled relationship that is a product of Cypher’s long stays away from home and Kitai’s self-condemning attitude in regard to his sister’s death. Midway through a family bonding trip, their spacecraft crashes on the now uninhabited Earth, leaving Cypher injured and Kitai as the duo’s only chance of survival.

An Ursas is loose and Kitai must repress emotion. Prepare for 100 minutes awkwardly depicting a person’s attempt to be boring. This premise is After Earth’s most debilitating problem, of which there are many. Renowned for his twists, we’re crying out for an M. Night Shyamalan tide-turner in the face of events that struggle to spark and ultimately dissolve into a sea of monotony. Devoid of any nuances designed to connect character and viewer, the film tries to infuse heaps of sentiment by way of inventing a dramatic predicament; the crash forces an incapacitated father to rely on his son who is mentally unequipped for the dangers ahead. But straight away this concept flails without emotional gravitas. There’s no tension as happenings are hampered by a lack of realism: surrounded by an almost universally dead crew, it’s inconceivable that Kitai would escape a plane crash without so much as a skin laceration. Heck, even dad Cypher’s broken leg sounds pretty welcoming considering he has just been zapped by whirling turbulence. (Always wear your seat belt kids.) After Earth is as diluted as science-fiction gets, plain-tasting and without scope. Look away now Stanley.

Neither Will nor Jaden is afforded much in the way of a relatable character, but the senior Smith should know better. Cypher does a lot of sensing — a trait that seems to come with the reticent territory from which he spawns — and it’s a shame that Will was unable to sense just how hopeless After Earth promised to be before putting pen to contract. In this sense the actors are more idiotic than their characters, but it’s not a foregone conclusion by any means. At one point, junior notices that a significant portion of his breathing equipment has been destroyed and opts not to tell senior. Why? Who knows? Maybe it’s because he’s scared of his father’s reaction to wasted Jammie Dodgers. At least by lying Kitai is awake and therefore offering some sort of interaction with the audience rather than sleeping, a popular action of his that consumes at least half of the runtime and subsequently jars an already wobbly narrative flow. Though in fairness, if it wasn’t for an inordinate amount of caffeine, he mightn’t have been the only one dozing. Perhaps I should have indulged in some of Cypher’s painkillers – y’know, the tablets that he decides not to take for fear of drowsiness before succumbing to his unconscious anyway?

There’s an overbearing sense of woodenness going on too, and it’s not simply the vast array of trees that now cover an unpopulated Earth. Everything is very mechanical: the way people walk, the way people speak, and especially the way people act. Will and Jaden were authentic as a pair in The Pursuit of Happyness, their family connection purveyed with total wholeheartedness. In that outing we believed in them as father and son, not simply because that is reality, but because the two transferred their reality to the screen in a genuine manner. Here, it’s difficult to gain sight of this beneficial legitimacy as two poorly construed characters terminally intrude, along with a script that occasionally has us reconsidering The Phantom Menace for Best Original Screenplay (“I will guide you, it’ll be like I’m right there with you,” says assured father to timid son).

In seeking emotionless vigour, both Will and Jaden act as if they’ve just been told that McDonald’s is out of Big Macs whilst incurring the wrath of a food-demanding hangover; faces unwaveringly sorrowful, eyebrows lapsing and pupils heavy, emotionless but also purposeless. Next time nobody ought to invite Tony Montana over to any script-writing sessions, then we might see a film with dialogue that hasn’t been tanned by a machine gun. Cypher informs Kitai, “You are not a ranger,” before ordering his non-ranger son around a little more, probably in a similar vein to that which he instructs his rangers. These holes devour our lead actors and leave them stranded, unable to escape. It’s worth noting that there are one or two faint bids at humour, chuckle-inducing to a point, but gags that primarily urge us to contemplate the reasoning behind Shyamalan’s decision to present his piece with such a dreary and serious tone in the first place — a tone that, it turns out, doesn’t succeed in being all that serious anyway.

This recipe for disaster might boast a visual sheen that is moderately impressive — if not invariably cut-and-paste when it comes to Mordor-esque volcanoes — but it tanks in every other department. There are bad films, however there aren’t too many $130 million bad films. After Earth scores high in said category and, given its lofty price tag, that’s pretty unforgivable.

After Earth - Jaden

Images credit: IMP Awards, Collider

Images copyright (©): Columbia Pictures

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

★★

Director: Antoine Fuqua

Release Date: March 22nd, 2013 (US); April 17th, 2013 (UK)

Genre: Action; Thriller

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott

As far as attacks on the White House go, Olympus Has Fallen trudges its way across the vast lawn with a disappointingly uninspired plod. Bluntly, it’s a film that just doesn’t get much right. Antoine Fuqua’s take on the internal threat to homeland and presidential security saga struggles in areas where it should thrive — notably notions of simplicity — before subsequently becoming entangled in a tonal muddle as it oddly tries to venture into the faux-documentary realm without any conviction. The latter, coupled alongside some shoddy looking CGI attempts, creates a distinctly undesirable televisual shimmer; for $70 million it all feels slightly cheap. Without the macho zest of Gerard Butler, this may very well have been a complete disaster.

The walking embodiment of a tragic evening in the life of both men, Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) has been removed from Presidential protection duties as the mere sight of him rekindles harrowing memories in the fraught mind of President Asher (Aaron Eckhart). Now chained to a desk job in an office only a few blocks from the White House, the hardy soul is again summoned to defend nation and state as a result of terrorist infiltration. With the Leader of the Free World at the mercy of North Korean guerrilla forces and the very real prospect of US nuclear destruction on the table, Mike sees a chance not to simply become a hero — that’s not enough — but at redemption.

Sounds reasonably straightforward, right? The age-old tale of man (or woman), pride and mind wounded, given the opportunity to reclaim fortitude and settle a previous score. Mike Banning’s journey epitomises this narrative. Heck, he even has the inherently restorative wife in his corner (she’s a nurse); their relationship strained by past decisions and Mike’s resultant self-serving of personal blame when there really isn’t any to be gobbled. Adhering to a well-versed formula is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the adherence is sincere and peppered with an occasional murmuring of intuition. Only, you’re more likely to find a needle in haystack than intuition around these parts.

On one hand, the simplicity is executed sloppily, furnishing a sense of genericism over what could’ve been enjoyable modesty. Visual discrepancies bear the brunt of detriment here — the opening act is hampered by a flow of images that closer resemble the presentation of a video game than a Hollywood film. Later, drones waver around the sky without appearing fully embedded in the landscape, hinting at some sort of blending issue. The graphical inadequacies do sort themselves out when the action slows down and digital enhancement is dumped for more conventional techniques. Yet on the other hand, director Antoine Fuqua unveils vague ramblings of a documentary-style aesthetic. We often watch as labels appear inconspicuously beside characters on screen, each textual nugget informing us of the individual’s name and occupation. It chimes as an attempt to induce a sense of realism or to imply a degree of truth (because not much else is believable), but instead feels lazy. Boasting a portfolio of films including the likes of Training Day, Fuqua is evidently better than this.

Narratively, we don’t get off on the best foot. Driving in blizzard conditions as horrendous as those depicted in the opening act hints at senselessness, particularly given the President of the United States is a passenger. Instantly there arises a lingering anxiety that this will only be the first in a long line of foolish happenings and, true to form, shortly thereafter a conveyor belt of outrageous decision-making is set in motion (at one point the order is given to shoot down aircraft over a busy Washington DC). Nonsense often generates humour, but in a film that preposterously takes itself far too seriously nonsense wholly reduces any semblance of sympathy for the characters on-screen, which is a pretty significant problem given the horrendous predicament that many find themselves in.

A severe tonal struggle exists between the intended air of sobriety and seriousness, and a plot that reeks retro strands: North Korean bad guys, invading and controlling, targeting the President and threatening nuclear catastrophe. It’s a throwback and, to a degree, a fairly camp one. Unsurprisingly, a clear victor fails to emerge between the pair of duelling tones, as the serious ploy comes across as slightly over-egged and the nostalgic effect only exists in principle. As a result the film is devoid of both tension and giggles, unless you get a kick out of lines such as, “They’ve taken the White House!” (a greater helping of which certainly would not have negatively impacted proceedings.)

Performances are almost universally uninspired, with the exception of Gerard Butler’s effort. As Mike Banning, Butler manages to inject a small helping of gusto whenever he is present on-screen and also during breaks from under-his-breath muttering. The role is ultimately one-dimensional but that’s no more than required, fuelling the simplicity fire. It’s also a dimension more than most of the other deliveries. As President Asher, Aaron Eckhart has very little to do other than conjure the occasional grimace which, incidentally, looks the same irrespective of whether or not he’s missing out on ice-cream or being held hostage by terrorists. Perhaps the most problematic character is Dylan McDermott’s Secret Service agent Dave Forbes whose moral dynamic flip-flops around more than a fish out of water. Female persons are inexcusably shunted to background; the likes of Radha Mitchell, Ashley Judd and Melissa Leo are less than secondary factors. Morgan Freeman ought to get back to be being God.

Olympus Has Fallen unfortunately stumbles and falls from the get-go, struggling to regain any semblance of steady-footedness thenceforth. A decent Gerard Butler performance cannot prevent the inevitable stern wave of unnecessarily harsh undertones from washing away any potential puddles of fun. It’s not great.

The Raid: Redemption (2011)

The brilliant Alex has allowed me to be part of his Foreign Favourites series – check it out! – and I have complied with a review of The Raid: Redemption. Thanks again Alex, have a read if you’re interested!

Alex Raphael

There have been all kinds of benefits to doing the Foreign Favourites series. There has been a fantastic reviews of films, 

the opportunity to show off some fantastic reviewers and even more inspiration to see more great films.  I haven’t been aware of Adam of Consumed by Film for too long but his site is awesome. Detailed film reviews, TV features, topical film commentary and his quotation of Ferris Bueller in his About Page is a very persuasive argument as to why you should check his site out

Before I get going, I’d like to offer my many thanks to Alex for letting me be a part of his terrific Foreign Favourites film series. There have been some really excellent reads so far. The Raid 2: Berandal is out April 11th buds!

The Raid film poster

Quick Synopsis: A group of highly skilled SWAT officers find themselves on the brink of disaster as they attempt to…

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A Good Day to Die Hard (2013)

★★

Director: John Moore

Release Date: February 14th, 2013 (UK and US)

Genre: Action; Crime; Thriller

Starring: Bruce Willis, Jai Courtney

If Jai Courtney wasn’t a younger, less-bald Bruce Willis he probably wouldn’t have been part of A Good Day to Die Hard. Similarly, if Live Free or Die Hard hadn’t scooped up almost $400 million at the box office, six years later we wouldn’t have to sit through this shallowest of John McClane sequels. A total horror-show it ain’t, but apparently some people don’t think cricket is boring and most of us hate that. After a long journey extending all they back to terror in the tower in 1988, there has been a severe breakdown at stop five. Though after two and a half decades spent invariably recycling old material, what more d’you expect?

A less capable, more cigar-and-newspaper-on-a-Sunday-morning appearing John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels to Russia upon hearing that his son has had a run-in with the law having been arrested for an assassination attempt. In reality, Jack (Jai Courtney) is an undercover CIA agent working to bring down dangerous and corrupt government official, Viktor Chagarin, although John doesn’t realise this, probably because of that age thing. An explosion coordinated by Chagarin during the resultant trial allows Jack and whistle-blower Yuri Komarov (Sebastian Koch) to escape custody, and chaos ensues.

The film is stuck between trying too hard to be slyly comedic on one hand and a serious action flick on the other. The original Die Hard got this mix spot on, mainly because the premise was ridiculously exciting, Willis looked interested and Alan Rickman delivered one of the finest villainous performances in recent cinema history. Here the narrative is a poorly executed mess and Willis looks like a guy who has randomly invaded a film set while on his holidays abroad, perhaps thinking it’s all part of a Russian cultural process. There are also more bad-guys on show than laughs, although having said that you’d be hard-pushed to exude more than a handful chuckles.

The plot then. Wearing more holes than an unending golf course, it doesn’t take long to induce a succession of wearisome head-shakes. After essentially saving the world throughout his previous four films, you’d expect John McClane to have a bit of know-how about him when it comes to dealing with machine-gun wielding terrorists. Apparently not anymore: his first conversation with Jack comes nonchalantly in the presence of bullets harpooning all over the place and the odd explosion going off. Ah, it’s probably to do with the age thing. There are far too many contrivances, the most notable being an endless progression of villains, each one ‘badder’ than the next. It gets so ludicrous that McClane himself to switching sides wouldn’t come as a total shock (hey, that sounds like a better film). I think son Jack gets it right as at one point he alludes to, “Making it up as we go”.

Sticking with Jai Courtney, he’s not a bad actor at all. In fact he’s fairly decent in this given the retched dialogue that’s being spluttered about: “But I’m your father”; “And I’m your daughter,” is probably the worst of a bad bunch that collectively cannot be saved by ‘knock, knock’ jokes or even former franchise favourites (“Yippee ki-yay…”). Willis’ spark as McClane is non-existent; the eccentric hero has turned charisma vacuum. Again the script really doesn’t help matters and there aren’t any outlandish sequences that give Willis the platform to be his glorious former action-star self, however the man simply looks like he really cannot be bothered with it all. One of the major let downs of the entire film is how little the super-talented Mary Elizabeth Winstead is utilised. McClane’s daughter was introduced in the previous outing and is relegated to a beginning and end cameo. Her only real contribution is offering McClane an ‘Idiot’s Travel Guide’ before his journey to Russia. That must be another age joke then. Given the lack of intuition on display, her scarcity is even more criminal.

On the plus side the action scenes do look great, having evolved to even grander scale this time around. In particular the helicopter scene at the end is excellently executed and actually gives the film a bit of oomph to clutch onto towards its climax. Unfortunately no visual escapade can save proceedings, and the only other glaring positive to take from A Good Day to Die Hard is that you only have to sit through an hour and a half before checking it off your list of films never to sit through again. The sheer disappointment stems from the franchise’s previous successes, principally the pleasantly surprising Live Free or Die Hard, and therefore there can be no excuses dealt in serving up this newest nonsense.

They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. On this evidence you can’t teach an old dog much else either. If only McClane had made do with living free, nevertheless, this is probably a good day for the Die Hard adventure to die hard.

Taken 2 (2012)

★★

Director: Olivier Megaton

Release Date: October 4th, 2012 (UK); October 5th, 2012 (US)

Genre: Action; Crime; Thriller

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen

For a moderately more age-wise gentleman — compared to that of an average action star — Liam Neeson carries out his fair share of ass-kickings in Taken 2. This would not be a problem on the following bases: the film in question is a comedy and/or parody of action, such as RED; Neeson gets lucky once or twice, perhaps via enemy mistake; Neeson has capable assistance… or at the very least, assistance. Unfortunately none of these three apply in Taken 2, and along with a far too coincidental and convoluted plot, the novelty of a 60-year-old Liam Neeson overcoming gang of thugs after gang of thugs has worn off a tad since 2008.

Set primarily in Istanbul and sometime after the events of its predecessor, Taken 2 sees Bryan Mills, his estranged wife Lenore and daughter Kim, once again the targets of a group of criminals led by the man whose son Mills killed previously. After the trio find themselves separated and hunted by the vicious mobsters, it is down to Mills to rescue his family and put an end to the terror they have suffered at the hands of the Albanian gang.

90 percent of the problems which Taken 2 faces stem from the derisory plot that the film is ungratefully saddled with. Firstly, it is far too coincidental. Suspension of disbelief is a key factor in enjoying a film, but when a film is trying to be taken (ahem) as seriously as Taken 2 is, there has to be a degree of realism surrounding it. Instead, a number of events just happen to occur at the correct time, without justification. For instance, near the beginning of the film Neeson’s character Bryan Mills just happens to find his estranged wife upset at her house after her partner just happened to cancel their significant plans a few moments before. Okay, perhaps this case of coincidence is just a one-off — it is possible, right? Fast-forward a few scenes and, separated by the Atlantic Ocean, Neeson is in the midst of leaving his wife and daughter a message on their phone when, out of nowhere, they appear behind him. When a film is delivering by way of captivating its audience, inconsequential issues such as these would not be brought to fruition in any way. Taken 2 struggles to live up to the pulsating levels set by the first film, and therefore the viewer has nothing better to do than be distracted by coincidence. Did I mention that Neeson’s daughter Kim, played by Maggie Grace, has a squabble with her father over the importance of driving lessons at the start of proceedings? No reason.

The film also fails to place its characters in sensible scenarios, resulting in not only the story feeling unrealistic, but also the characters being perceived as slightly hokey. At one point, Kim is throwing loud, destructive grenades around the busiest city in Turkey, yet somehow manages to draw very little attention to herself. For someone who got caught by criminals after hiding under a bed(!) in Taken, those are some hefty stealth abilities. The illogical nature of the plot is surprising as the writer, Luc Besson, also wrote the screenplay for the first film (in what looks set to become a series), where goings-on made sense and more often than not had a reason behind them. There are illogical and puzzling tendencies aplenty this time around though, including a scene involving apparent intentional friendly fire which, again, makes absolutely no sense when taking into account the opening few minutes of the film.

As mentioned just a moment ago, Taken 2 is written by the same individual who wrote the gritty, hard-hitting and pleasantly surprising Taken — Luc Besson. In Taken, Besson created a visceral story with simplicity and some of the most quotable dialogue in recent cinema history. In Taken 2, he has recreated Taken with very little of that peppered around the story. The novelty of the first film was the rebirth of Liam Neeson as an action star, and a pretty believable one at that. Sadly, this novelty seems to have vanished in the sequel and Neeson does not quite come across as affirming and in control as he did previously. That is not to say that he — nor any of the other cast members — are particularly poor in their roles, rather they all provide solid performances. This time around however, there is hardly anything memorable about their portrayals.

The film is not without some merit. The action scenes are efficiently choreographed and succinctly delivered throughout, providing just about all the entertainment there is to be had. An action film’s number one priority is to deliver enjoyable fight and chase sequences, and Taken 2 does that. It also looks terrific, with the contrast between the colourful wealthy parts of Istanbul, to the grey, gravelly sections of the criminal underworld, adding an immersing setting to the film. Director Olivier Megaton does not set out to make a bad film and in all honesty Taken 2 is not a horrible, unwatchable mess — nowhere near that. It just could have been a whole lot better.

It is fitting that the song played over the credits is one associated with a television advert, because Taken 2 essentially feels like an extended advert for Taken. At its very best, the film is little more than a run-of-the-mill action flick.

Towards the end, Liam Neeson rebuffs a question with, “Because I’m tired of it all.” Me too Liam.

Me too.

Credit: The Movie Mash
Credit: The Movie Mash

Genre Toppers

Having spent the past few days thinking about different ideas and topics to write about, I have come up with a new ‘feature’, if you will.

Instead of primarily relaying new film announcements or reviewing recent film releases (which I will still do, obviously) I think it is time to write about my some of favourite films that I have had the pleasure of viewing throughout my nineteen years of existence.

However, rather than just creating a generic top ten list, I have decided to focus on particular genres and decipher my favourite films encompassed by each genre. I have yet to decide how many genres I will include, but you can count on the usual ones being in there (drama, horror, sci-fi, action, comedy and so on).

The plan is to lay out five top films in each genre and then give a sort of ‘mini-review’ of each film, basically outlining why I like the film so much.

Watch out for my first genre list which will be available to read either later today or tomorrow, and will be titled something like “CBF’s Genre Toppers: (insert genre)”. CBF stands for Consumed by Film, but you already knew that.

The word ‘genre’ is really getting on my nerves now.