When Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) finds one of the people closest to him murdered, he’s instantly a suspect and escapes, intent on clearing his name. No one gets taken in what’s promised to be the last movie in this franchise. The director knows how to make this utterly redundant chapter look alive, with pacy action scenes and a story that rarely gets to breathe. And yet everything about this movie is awfully lazy and unimaginative. Neeson may have a ”special set of skills”, but his heart isn’t in it anymore.
2015-France. 109 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Luc Besson. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Forest Whitaker (Frank Dotzler), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell.
In 2023, most mutants have been wiped out by man-made robots called Sentinels; with the help of Shadowcat (Ellen Page), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is sent back in time to 1973 to kill the Sentinel program before it’s born. A sequel to three X-Men movies (The Last Stand, Wolverine and First Class), this ambitious chapter brings Bryan Singer back to the franchise as director and unites two generations as the older mutants try to influence their younger, more irresponsible selves. The result is a dark, sprawling, exciting and handsome comic-book adventure in 3D with clever political touches, a magnificent cast and, unlike many other genre pics, it delivers in the finale as well.
2014-U.S. 131 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Simon Kinberg, Hutch Parker, Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer. Directed by Bryan Singer. Screenplay: Simon Kinberg. Music, Editing: John Ottman. Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), James McAvoy (Charles Xavier), Michael Fassbender (Erik Lensherr), Jennifer Lawrence, Halle Berry, Nicholas Hoult… Anna Paquin, Ellen Page, Peter Dinklage, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart. Cameos: Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Kelsey Grammer.
Last word:“This is a story about a bad future, not a bad situation with an individual, but a bad future and how do you go back and change that. So it’s a very simple conceit and I pitched it to James Cameron when I was in New Zealand and he put it into physics terms and I wish I could articulate the physics of it, the experimental physics. It deals with the notion that objects and things evolve differently and behave differently when they’re observed and when they’re not observed. So I play with the principle of the travel, in this case it’s consciousness that moves into your younger self, and that traveler is the observer and the observer perceives one thing while the rest of the world perceives something else. In this case, Hugh is the observer.” (Singer, Collider)
THE HERO. THE FUGITIVE. THE WARRIOR. THE SURVIVOR. THE LEGEND.
Logan (Hugh Jackman), who’s trying to put Wolverine in the past, is talked into going to Japan where a billionaire wants to repay a lifelong debt… Another chapter in the X-Men franchise, one that follows some time after X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) and takes inspiration from a 1980s comic book. Logan’s visit to Japan is a shot in the arm, a well-needed change of scenery and atmosphere in the series. The story certainly has lulls, but the samurai influence fits nicely with Logan’s razor-sharp attributes, Jackman still has grizzled charisma aplenty, and the 3D action is exciting.
2013-U.S. 126 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by James Mangold. Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Tao Okamoto (Mariko Yashida), Rila Fukushima (Yukio), Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hal Yamanouchi, Will Yun Lee… Famke Janssen. Cameos: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen.
Trivia: Darren Aronofsky was first slated to direct. Also released in a ten minutes longer version. Followed by X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Logan (2017).
Ever since killing their first witch as children, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton) have been working as professional witch hunters; now, they’re facing a very powerful coven…Dead Snow(2009) director Tommy Wirkola’s first international feature presents a new twist on the old Brothers Grimm tale, complete with bloody showdowns in 3D between the well-armed siblings and their wheezing opponents. Fun, lively, with a game cast (including Famke Janssen as the grand witch), but definitely lacking something that sets it apart.
2013-U.S.-Germany. 88 min. Color. Widescreen. Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola. Cast: Jeremy Renner (Hansel), Gemma Arterton (Gretel), Famke Janssen (Muriel), Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Derek Mears.
Trivia: Co-produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.
FIRST THEY TOOK HIS DAUGHTER. NOW THEY’RE COMING FOR HIM.
When Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) are kidnapped during a trip to Istanbul, their daughter (Maggie Grace) tries to help them break free. The first movie was directed by the Transporter cinematographer, the second by the Transporter 3 director; Luc Besson has obviously built a stable of reliable B-action talent. This sequel connects with the original storywise, but gives Grace more to do. That’s a good thing, because as a whole this corny series is starting to look very tired. Nifty use of hand grenades, though.
2012-France-U.S. 92 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Olivier Megaton. Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen. Cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Rade Serbedzija, Leland Orser, Jon Gries.
HIS DAUGHTER WAS TAKEN. HE HAS 96 HOURS TO GET HER BACK.
When retired CIA operative Bryan Mills’s (Liam Neeson) 17-year-old daughter (Maggie Grace) is kidnapped in Paris, he springs back into action. The Transporter (2002) cinematographer knows how to make this work; together with Luc Besson, Pierre Morel has a knack for making fast-moving, empty but very enjoyable action films where it is easy to sympathize with a charismatic hero’s quest to find an abducted family member. Often illogical and even reactionary (daddy always knows best), with a Rambo-like lead character… but very intense and survives on the strength of Neeson’s superb performance.
2008-France. 91 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Pierre Morel. Screenplay: Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen. Cast: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills), Maggie Grace (Kim), Famke Janssen (Lenore), Xander Berkeley, Leland Orser, Jon Gries.
Trivia: Followed by two sequels, starting with Taken 2(2012), and a TV series, Taken (2017-2018).
Quote: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.” (Neeson on the phone)
A NEW COMEDY ABOUT PEOPLE WHO WILL DO ANYTHING TO GET FAMOUS… OR STAY FAMOUS.
After separating, travel journalist Lee Simon (Kenneth Branagh) and his wife (Judy Davis) enter the singles scene, but Lee in particular learns the pitfalls of trying to find happiness. Director Woody Allen satirizes all the absurd aspects of fame, but offers nothing that he hasn’t explored earlier (that is particularly true for the two leads’ relationships), although fans will appreciate the dialogue and a few amusing sequences. Branagh’s role is the kind of person who depends on the kindness of unstable stars, but he’s basically playing Allen… which is strange to behold.
1998-U.S. 114 min. B/W. Written and directed by Woody Allen. Cinematography: Sven Nykvist. Cast: Kenneth Branagh (Lee Simon), Judy Davis (Robin Simon), Joe Mantegna (Tony Gardella), Leonardo DiCaprio, Winona Ryder, Charlize Theron… Hank Azaria, Melanie Griffith, Famke Janssen, Andre Gregory, Dylan Baker, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Debra Messing, Jeffrey Wright, J.K. Simmons. Cameo: Donald Trump.
Trivia: Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore were allegedly considered for parts.
Quote:“I can’t have sex with you! My body belongs to my husband and there is no way that I could betray him in that way. But what I do from the neck up is a different story.” (Griffith)
SUMMER, 1994. THE GIRLS WERE FLY. THE MUSIC WAS DOPE. AND LUKE WAS JUST TRYING TO DEAL.
New York, 1994; teenager Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is supplying a therapist (Ben Kingsley) with weed in exchange for fatherly advice, but Luke also falls in love with his daughter (Olivia Thirlby). The city becomes an important part of this amusing movie as the characters mourn the demise that Giuliani was orchestrating of the seedy, violent (but free-spirited) New York; it is also effectively scored with contemporary rap music. The script is a study of a lonely teenager having his first real relationship with a girl and is balanced with the comical escapades he shares with her eccentric father. A hint of depth in the story, but Kingsley’s funny performance is the best part.
2008-U.S. 99 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Keith Calder, Felipe Marino, Joe Neurauter. Written and directed by Jonathan Levine. Cast: Ben Kingsley (Jeffrey Squires), Josh Peck (Luke Shapiro), Famke Janssen (Kristin Squires), Olivia Thirlby, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams… Method Man.
Quote:“It used to be you could lick a sheet of acid, hold up a band, fuck a whore in Times Square without anyone batting an eyelash. Now, one blunt, we’re in the clink. This whole city’s fucked!” (Kingsley)
Last word:“I don’t know where the inspiration for that premise came from, I just thought it was kind of funny. But once we got that, I brought a lot of personal stuff into it, being in 1994, the music… I definitely was kind of a dark soul and that’s sort of where it sprung from and then we just continued to – I continued to work on the script with the producers and we got to a place we were happy with and we sent it to Ben Kingsley.” (Levine, FirstShowing.net)
Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush), who got rich designing horror rides for theme parks, invites several people to spend the night at an old house in Los Angeles that was once used as an insane asylum.The 1958 original had a plastic skeleton for audiences to laugh and scream at, but this remake takes things a lot more seriously. This house is so haunted by its former patients that the entire labyrinthine building is sighing and moaning. Intense visual effects, but all the noise and nastiness drain the fun. Rush is worth a look though as a Vincent Price clone.
1999-U.S. 93 min. Color. Directed by William Malone. Cast: Geoffrey Rush (Steven Price), Famke Janssen (Evelyn Stockard-Price), Taye Diggs (Eddie Baker), Bridgette Wilson, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan… Lisa Loeb. Cameo: Peter Graves.
Trivia: Co-produced by Robert Zemeckis. Elizabeth Hurley and Cindy Crawford were allegedly considered for parts. Followed by a direct-to-DVD sequel, Return to House on Haunted Hill (2007).
Considering the amount of unsuccessfully adapted comic book adventures, how fortunate that versatile director Bryan Singer felt he was the right guy to take on this Marvel extravaganza. The story takes place a few years into the future. Professor X (Patrick Stewart) runs a school for gifted young mutants who possess special powers; people fear them but he disagrees with Magneto (Ian McKellen) on how to fight back against those who wish to harm them. Stewart and McKellen lend dignity to their characters; Hugh Jackman is also worth a look in his breakthrough as the edgy Wolverine. A surprisingly short thrill-ride, but with plenty of good action sequences.
2000-U.S. 104 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Ralph Winter, Lauren Shuler Donner. Directed by Bryan Singer. Screenplay: David Hayter. Comic Book: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby. Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Patrick Stewart (Charles ”Professor X” Xavier), Ian McKellen (Eric ”Magneto” Lensherr), Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry… Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Trivia:Dougray Scott was allegedly first cast as Wolverine. Followed by two sequels, starting with X2 (2003). The movie also inspired several spin-offs, including X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and X-Men: First Class (2011).
Last word: “I was very obsessed with the Holocaust as a child and man’s inhumanity to man. And, ultimately, it came from my fear of intolerance. In certain places, for whatever reason, just for being Caucasian or having blue eyes, someone might want to cut my head off. For being American, for being anything, for just being myself, someone might want to destroy me. That concept is so terrifying that it constantly bears exploration.” (Singer, BBC)
After the death of his wife, New York City psychologist David Callaway (Robert De Niro) moves to the countryside with his daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning)… but the girl gets an “imaginary” friend who may have sinister motives. A chiller that starts promisingly, but pretty soon loses its way. The final half-hour is hysterical and the twist is a problem. Actually, it’s a pretty good one, but all the attempts to deceive us before we learn the truth make the story hard to believe. De Niro is less than engaging in a part that needs passion. Fanning, occasionally looking like Wednesday Addams, is better.
2005-U.S. 101 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by John Polson. Cast: Robert De Niro (David Callaway), Dakota Fanning (Emily Callaway), Famke Janssen (Katherine), Elisabeth Shue, Amy Irving, Dylan Baker… Melissa Leo.
James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) must stop his former colleague and friend (Sean Bean) from getting his greedy hands on a dangerous satellite system. The 17th entry in this series came after a six-year hiatus. It’s Brosnan’s first effort as the superspy and he’s an excellent choice – humorous, equally cool and passionate. The world order has changed; there is no longer any Soviet Union and the new M is a woman. However, those ingredients that once made the Bond flicks popular are still here, including the action; there’s a thrilling sequence involving a tank in St. Petersburg. Bean is a fairly anemic villain, but the title song is superb.
1995-Britain-U.S. 130 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Michael G. Wilson, Barbara Broccoli. Directed by Martin Campbell. Screenplay: Jeffrey Caine, Bruce Feirstein. Music: Eric Serra. Song: ”GoldenEye” (performed by Tina Turner). Cast: Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Sean Bean (Alec Trevelyan), Izabella Scorupco (Natalya Simonova), Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Judi Dench… Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming, Desmond Llewelyn. Cameo: Minnie Driver.
Trivia: Goldeneye was the name of Ian Fleming’s beach house in Jamaica. Renny Harlin was allegedly offered to direct the film. Followed by Tomorrow Never Dies (1997).
Quote:“I think you are a sexist, misogynist dinosaur, a relic from the Cold War.” (Dench to Brosnan)
Last word:“I’ve always been a Bond fan since ‘Dr. No’. For ‘GoldenEye’, Martin [Campbell] and I got the videos of all the previous 17 Bond films and spent two days in my apartment watching all of them with bottles of wine and pizzas. We analyzed what it was that made Bond the iconic figure he became so we could capitalize on that. We spoke about trying to modernize the look, when to use a handheld camera and how to use light and darkness. Up until then, the films had a rather traditional look. I was concerned that the Bond producers would want the same but they told us we could do what we thought was right for the project.” (Cinematographer Phil Meheux, Kodak)
As a “cure” for genetic mutations is found in a boy, Magneto (Ian McKellen) declares war on those who want to use the antidote against mutants. Oh, and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is back. The third chapter in this series is inferior to the predecessors, but still well made. The undertones of the story are very political, and the condemnation of conservatism is obvious. The story sags at times, but director Brett Ratner delivers the goods, particularly in a stunning sequence involving the Golden Gate Bridge. The mutants and their talents are fun to watch.
2006-U.S. 104 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Brett Ratner. Cast: Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Halle Berry (Ororo Munroe/Storm), Ian McKellen (Eric ”Magneto” Lensherr), Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin… Kelsey Grammer, Rebecca Romijn, Michael Murphy, Vinnie Jones, R. Lee Ermey, Ellen Page.