Review: Taken 2

Taken 2

In 2008 Liam Nesson refashioned himself as an action star. After years of playing serious dramatic roles, Nesson kicked some serious ass on the big screen. While not highly acclaimed, Taken was a fan favorite and gathered quite a following. With its cult like success there was no surprise that Taken 2 would quickly be in the works. However, the story of Taken wrapped up so nicely that it seemed unnecessary to have a sequel. Well sadly, that’s not how the movie industry works. So in 2012, Liam Nesson once again portrays the role of retired intelligence agent, Bryan Mills. When Taken ended we found Bryan Mills fresh off kicking every ass in France that had it coming while simultaneously saving his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) from a life of sexual slavery. Pretty admirable if you ask me, Bryan is the ultimate good guy with a mean streak; a real crowd pleaser. When we meet up with Bryan and the crew he is trying desperately to still connect with his daughter. He wants to teach her to drive but she keeps blowing him off, and his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) isn’t make his life any easier. This is a dynamic I found extremely frustrating this time around. So let me get this straight, after the events of Taken we are meant to believe that Kim and Lenore still don’t have the utmost respect for Bryan? Can we get someone to send them a DVD copy of the first movie? Anyway, Bryan invites Kim and Lenore to meet him in Istanbul after he completes a security job. After what happened in France you want to take you daughter to Istanbul? Bryan, at this point you just look like a bad parent, we are all disappointed. Meanwhile the boss, Murad Hoxha, (Rade Šerbedžija) of the Albanian mafia from the first movie is pissed that Bryan killed his men, especially his son. He promises to get revenge no matter what. So the Albanians track Bryan to Istanbul and the plot gets going. Like clockwork, Bryan and Lenore are taken and Hoxha spills the news as to why he came after them.

I had such a fun time watching Taken, but in all honesty I found Taken 2 to be absolutely craven. This was nothing more than a cash grab hoping to cash in on the cult following behind the first movie. I found the movie to lack the bizarre creepiness and visceral action of the first outing. The first movie dealt with a serious topic in an unserious way, but still had an element of mystery. This go around we got none of that. We get a lumbering Nesson who can’t take on the thugs with quite the veracity that he did back in 2008. The action sequences were shot very tightly and felt extremely frenetic. This is a lazy way of shooting action and its sped up to make the appearance of fast paced action. Director Olivier Megaton took over for Pierre Morel and frankly you can tell. Where the first movie had a budget of $26.5 million and felt like a low budget gritty action movie, Taken 2’s budget was $45 million and felt like over-produced schlock. Pointless winks and nods to the first movie, and no care for developing a good story. Why bother giving people a reason to watch when you can just have the hero swing an asp baton around really fast. All the acting was about as good as it was in the first one, but that isn’t saying much. Liam Nesson seemed to absolutely phone this one in. He never seemed too dedicated to making this movie, but rather just stumbling from one scene to the next. I never thought I could dislike Kim and Lenore more than I did in the first movie, but I was wrong! The two characters were vapid and lack any humanity. Never once do I feel that they are happy to be saved by Bryan. They always have the attitude that he could have done it better or faster; stupid Bryan. Olivier Megaton really beats it in that Bryan has a fairly awful life and we should feel sorry for him, I don’t...stop going on these dangerous trips Bryan!

So the final verdict for Taken 2 is a rental or Netflix at best. I was one of those people who had Taken nicely placed on the cult following fun action movie section in my mind. However, Taken 2 is in the you have got to be kidding me section. If any of these people get "Taken" again I don’t want any part of finding out why or how.

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Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Dual Review Matthew's Review:

Flaming lips are pretty awesome right? So one might think, what could go wrong if the whole head is on fire? Apparently a lot. Ghost Rider Spirit of Vengeance holds a grudge against anyone who might have seen the first movie and takes out its vengeful wrath on any who would dare to see the second. This movie is downright ludicrous!

From the very first line delivered by Cage the viewer is cued in to the fact that Neveldine and Taylor are just terrible at storytelling. Cage’s delivery is nonchalant as he discusses how the Rider will eat your soul if you pirate movies. The delivery is about as drab as the line that you just read, that is of course unless you hear Nicolas Cage screaming those words and then you are way off. The story consists of nothing more than strung together chase scenes that look as though they were shot by the same individuals who filmed Jackass. What is more, I am not even sure I fully know what the story was about. There is the simple explanation of the young boy Danny (Fergus Riordan) who was meant to be a vessel for the devil and the Ghost Rider/Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) swoops in to protect him in exchange for his own soul. Simple right? However, that just seems too easy. Were the directors so convoluted in their storytelling that they even made that confusing? My guess is yes!

In retrospect it kind of felt like I was watching the X-games. The Crank directors Neveldine and Taylor are willing to do stupid things in order to get the “perfect shot.”  At the same time it makes me wonder if they would be the same individuals who would try to drink a gallon of milk in a single sitting or staple flyers to their own bodies. He pisses fire twice in the film for god’s sake.

High risk does not always make something good. I am reminded of the Chris Burden artworks in which he had his friend shoot him in the arm in a gallery or nail him to a VW beetle. Click to enlarge

Some of their risks did pay off, but the payout is far less than the potential cost. Light yourself on fire and people will remember you, but will you still be around to see it? I wonder if this epic flop will cause Neveldine and Taylor so much damage that their directing careers will never recover. My guess is no because Hollywood is ok with schlock.

In terms of actor performance, Cage is just downright cagey in his cinematic delivery. His artfulness at being Nicolas Cage cannot be matched. You never know what direction he will approach the role from will he be the calm and caring Cage or the psycho Cage. In one interrogation scene we get a long diatribe about how the Rider is gonna come out! The whole time he is giving this delivery he is twitching, screaming, and widening his eyes. It was hard for me not to laugh in the theater. Idris Elba was one of the only good performances in this film and his role was minimal. If you want to see a bad movie, this is it! If not, beware of the Spirit of Vengeance.

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Jay's Review

When the Rider comes out he’s going to give it to who ever’s got it coming. This line is more accurate than I think anyone could have foreseen. The audience really gets what they had coming when they bought this ticket. When we last left Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) he was the hero of a below average movie with bad cgi, poor dialogue and a poor excuse for a hell cycle. Well let me assure you things have changed! In this latest treatment by the directors of Crank and Gamer, Neveldine and Taylor really changed things up. The hell cycle looks almost 1000% times better. The CGI is much improved. When the Rider does in fact come out we are treated to some pretty excellent CGI work, especially comparative to the first movie. So we are starting off on the right foot! What could possibly go wrong? Well, everything else apparently.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance brings the manic camera work and general attitude of Neveldine/Taylor movies into a superhero universe. Cage embodies this mania throughout the movie and really solidifies the notion of rebooting a series. It’s as if Neveldine/Taylor asked Cage to act as insane as possible and just go with his gut. Here is the problem; Nicolas Cage’s gut is clearly full of MADNESS! In some parts the craziness of it all just works, but it should not have been the default. Like I mentioned before when you have the Ghost Rider on screen he is something to see. His movements are fluid (motion captured of Nicolas Cage) and the flaming skull work is pretty top notch. I was frankly surprised how well it looked for a movie with a 57 million dollar budget.

The general story is poorly executed and too predictable to even care about. The devil needs a new body on Earth; he comes to possess a child. WOW, breaking a lot of new ground there. I don’t think I have seen that kind of plot in almost 2 months. The dialogue between the characters wasn’t much better but tolerable enough to get you to the next big chase scene. Frankly, that’s all the movie felt like, one huge motorcycle chase. The only stand out character besides Cage’s maniac, not in a good way, Johnny Blaze was Idris Elba. He plays an alcoholic monk who commissions the Ghost Rider to save the child. Elba was funny, and gave an otherwise flat character a little bit of flair.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend driving to your local theaters to see the flaming menace, but I had fun watching it. The levels of hilariously bad moments were overwhelming. If you can laugh at the poor jokes, poor acting, and poor dialogue long enough to get you to the chain whipping action you will be fine. However, just catch it on Netflix or Redbox. Wasting money on gas will only make the $10.50 you spent mean that much more. You can here us talk more in depth about the movie on our latest podcast episode, here

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