Tag Archives: Liam Neeson

A Monster Calls

STORIES ARE WILD CREATURES.

amonstercallsConor O’Malley (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with his mother’s terminal illness and a bully at school when late one night he has an encounter with a ”monster”, a giant yew tree that has three stories to tell him. Patrick Ness brings his children’s book (and Jim Kay’s illustrations) vividly to life in collaboration with an impressive filmmaker who makes it impossible for us not to shed tears. But this isn’t a simpleminded tearjerker; its complex and for children totally relevant and relatable message about the nature of grief is illustrated in smart, symbolic ways where animation and fantasy blend into real life. Young MacDougall is perfectly cast as the boy who’s struggling with himself.

2016-Spain-Britain-U.S. Part Animated. 108 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Belén Atienza. Directed by J.A. Bayona. Screenplay, Novel: Patrick Ness. Cast: Lewis MacDougall (Conor O’Malley), Sigourney Weaver (Grandmother), Felicity Jones (Lizzie O’Malley), Toby Kebbell, James Melville, Lily-Rose Aslandogdu… Geraldine Chaplin. Voice of Liam Neeson.

Trivia: The novel was originally started by Siobhan Dowd, but she passed away before finishing it. Tom Holland served as a stand-in as the Monster during the making of the film.

Last word: “I have lots of friends who are illustrators, and we talk a lot about how what you don’t see is more important than what you can see in a painting. In that sense, I didn’t want to see the faces of the characters in the animated stories. For me, they’re more ideas than characters, so I thought, ‘I don’t want to see actors playing them.’ I realized the best way to do that was with drawings. So then it made perfect sense that Conor himself drew the characters. That created an immediate connection to me, because I was obsessed with drawing when I was a kid. And then I started to feel the whole story in an even more personal way.” (Bayona, The Verge)

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The Mission

themissionIn the 1750s, a South American Jesuit community led by Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) resist a Madrid decision to transfer the area to Portugal, which allows slavery. Two years after The Killing Fields (1984), director Roland Joffé received a lot of attention for another emotional, reality-based drama depicting colonialism and a conflict played out in the name of power and the church. The local population is portrayed in a lyrical light, exquisitely photographed, with a powerful, moving score by Ennio Morricone. The story is simple, but the filmmakers engage us with their compassionate, very cinematic approach. Among the characters, Robert De Niro’s repentant slave trader is a stand-out.

1986-Britain. 125 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by David Puttnam, Fernando Ghia. Directed by Roland Joffé. Screenplay: Robert Bolt. Cinematography: Chris Menges. Music: Ennio Morricone. Editing: Jim Clark. Cast: Robert De Niro (Rodrigo Mendoza), Jeremy Irons (Father Gabriel), Ray McAnally (Cardinal Altamirano), Aidan Quinn, Cherie Lunghi, Ronald Pickup… Liam Neeson.

Oscar: Best Cinematography. Golden Globes: Best Screenplay, Original Score. BAFTA: Best Supporting Actor (McAnally), Editing, Score. Cannes: Palme d’Or.

Last word: “I started working with Robert (Bolt). Robert had just had a stroke and he was such a brave man. I mean, he struggled with his language and everything and he sort of fought his way back in front of my eyes. So he knew everything about the story and I’d sort of look into his face … and his eyes … and they’d be full of understanding. Although the words couldn’t quite come out, he’d write them down with sort of a shaky hand. I just got more and more involved and I fell in love with the project. I simply felt that it was a great story with some sort of eternal value.” (Joffé, DVD Movie Guide)

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Taken 3

IT ENDS HERE.

taken3When 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.

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The Prophet

theprophetKahlil Gibran’s popular 1923 book consists of prose poetry essays and this ambitious animated adaptation has several short, poetic segments touching on the nature of love, freedom, work etc. Each one was designed by a seasoned animator/filmmaker under Roger Allers’s supervision, and the segments are held together by a frame story starring a poet deemed dangerous by his country’s autocratic rulers. Very uneven, with some mediocre comedy relief. The inspirational, inclusive message of Gibran’s poems are likely best experienced in their original form.

2015-U.S.-Canada-France-Ireland-Lebanon-Qatar. Animated. 84 min. Color. Produced by Salma Hayek, Clark Peterson, Ron Senkowski, Jose Tamez. Written and directed by Roger Allers. Book: Kahlil Gibran. Voices of Liam Neeson (Mustafa), Salma Hayek (Kamila), John Krasinski (Halim), Alfred Molina, Quvenzhané Wallis, Frank Langella.

Trivia: Full title onscreen: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet. The animators include among others Bill Plympton, Nina Paley, Joann Sfar and Tomm Moore.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

huntsmanwinterswarThis continuation of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) is both a prequel and a sequel, as we get to see how Eric (Chris Hemsworth) was raised into a fighter by Queen Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) icy sister (Emily Blunt), only to fall out of favor. Later, after Ravenna’s demise, Eric becomes involved in a search for her mirror whose powers are still toxic. Uneven visual effects, in pointless 3D, almost becomes symbolic of how slapdash and contrived the film feels; Kristen Stewart’s absence is another curious detail. Still, may entertain preteen girls.

2016-U.S. 114 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Cast: Chris Hemsworth (Eric), Charlize Theron (Ravenna), Emily Blunt (Freya), Jessica Chastain (Sara), Nick Frost, Sam Claflin… Rob Brydon. Narrated by Liam Neeson.

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Hollywood Stars in Super Bowl Ads 2016

This year’s crop of Super Bowl ads was truly star-studded. We had the expected amount of new trailers (where most movies seemed to focus on the end of the world as we know it), but let’s take a look at what brands Hollywood stars supported.

The following line-up of ads is courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

Amy Schumer, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd – This is an election year, so here we have Schumer and Rogen passionately campaigning for the Bud Light Party. The way the election looks this year, this could be an actual political party…

Willem Dafoe, Eugene Levy – Snickers has made a few very funny and eye-catching ads with celebrities, and this one is no exception. Prepare to meet the always intense Willem Dafoe as Marilyn Monroe. Seamless special effects.

Alec Baldwin, Jason Schwartzman – This ad for the voice command gizmo Amazon Echo pits Baldwin against Dan Marino, and also finds time to plug a new song by Missy Elliott.

Liam Neeson, Ridley Scott – Ridley Scott produced this slick ad for a new LG TV set, done like a ludicrous thriller. Not really a new “1984” (the landmark ad Scott did for Apple), but still cool – and Neeson co-stars with his son Micheal. Directed by Scott’s son Jake.

Ryan Reynolds – Can’t get enough of Ryan Reynolds? Welcome to Ryanville, the place where everybody is Ryan Reynolds. A silly, pretty farfetched Hyundai ad.

Kevin Hart, Peter Berg – Another ad for Hyundai, this one has Kevin Hart as an overprotective dad taking advantage of a “car finder” feature. Directed by Peter Berg.

Helen Mirren – Budweiser is a frequent feature of the Super Bowl ads. Here we have Dame Helen Mirren letting drunk drivers have it.. because she’s British and stern, I guess?

Harvey Keitel – This ad for BMW’s Mini fights against labels like “chick car”, employing sports icons Tony Hawk and Serena Williams. But there’s also Harvey Keitel near the end.

Jeff Goldblum – The star appeared not only in the new Independence Day: Resurgence spot, but in this ad for Apartments.com. Amusing, and he can take a lot of credit for it.

Christopher Walken – Another car ad, this time for Kia. Has nothing to do with the car really, but the ad does introduce the concept of a “Walken closet”, and I would love one of those, please.

Cars and beer. The Super Bowl ads are indeed familiar in a very dad-centric way. No real standout this year, though. 

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Maureen O’Hara 1920-2015

Maureen O’Hara died today in her sleep, 95 years old, according to her manager. The Irish-American actress is interviewed in the clip above, by Larry King in 2000 on CNN; it’s an interesting look back at her career. It also captures her well, as the feisty, independent woman she was. Many have focused on O’Hara’s good looks, but above all she radiated strength in a very appealing way.

O’Hara was born in a Dublin suburb. She dreamed of becoming an actress, but studied business to please her father who wanted to make sure that she had a “real” job to fall back on. After a screen test, she was discovered by Charles Laughton and cast in Alfred Hitchcock’s Jamaica Inn (1939). At the start of World War II, O’Hara’s contract was sold to RKO and she got her major breakthrough in the Oscar-winning How Green Was My Valley (1941), where she played the daughter of a Welsh miner. The clip above shows O’Hara in one of her best movies, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).

In the late 1940s, O’Hara did one of her most fondly remembered roles, as the mother of Natalie Wood in the yuletide classic Miracle on 34th Street (1947). In 1948, she also acted against John Wayne for the first time; she ended up doing five movies with him, most notably The Quiet Man (1952; watch the beautifully directed clip above). Their last film together, Big Jake (1971), also became O’Hara’s goodbye to Hollywood – at least until Only the Lonely, which was her lauded comeback twenty years later, in a colorful role as John Candy’s mother. 

O’Hara was married three times, but chose not to marry again after the death of her last husband in 1978. She suffered a stroke in 2005 and spent her last years living with her grandson in Idaho. In the Larry King interview, O’Hara says that she would like to be 102 years old. She came pretty close.

In the clip above from 2014, Liam Neeson introduces O’Hara at the Governor’s Awards where she received an honorary Oscar. Watch him celebrate his “first crush”. 

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Ted 2

TED IS COMING, AGAIN.

ted2In order to save his failing marriage to Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth), Ted agrees to have a baby… but that process forces the teddybear to fight for the right to be a person, not property. It would be the easiest thing in the world to argue why this sequel deserves a lower grade – the set-up is pretty similar to the original, the villain is the same guy (Giovanni Ribisi) and the story, which bravely tries to connect Ted’s status to the civil-rights struggle and even the Dred Scott case, feels mostly as an excuse to get the gang back together for a few more politically incorrect jokes. But the thing is – it’s still funny, and a little endearing at times.

2015-U.S. 115 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Cast: Mark Wahlberg (John Bennett), Amanda Seyfried (Samantha Leslie Jackson), Jessica Barth (Tami-Lynn), Giovanni Ribisi, Morgan Freeman, John Slattery. Voice of Seth MacFarlane (Ted). Narrated by Patrick Stewart. Cameos: Sam J. Jones, Jimmy Kimmel, Jay Leno, Liam Neeson.

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Entourage

THE RIDE AIN’T OVER.

entourage15Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), now a studio boss, agrees to let Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) direct his first movie, but when the project needs more money the Texas financiers start making awkward demands… This big-screen adaptation of the 2004-2011 TV series will satisfy die-hard fans, but not many others. Nothing much has seriously happened in the lives of these hopelessly childish characters. Their shallow Hollywood issues are fun to follow for a while – a whole movie is asking a lot, though. Grenier is still not very convincing as Tinseltown’s biggest star, but some of the cameos are amusing.

2015-U.S. 104 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Rob Weiss. Written and directed by Doug Ellin. Cast: Kevin Connolly (Eric Murphy), Adrian Grenier (Vincent Chase), Kevin Dillon (Johnny “Drama” Chase), Jerry Ferrara (Salvatore “Turtle” Assante), Jeremy Piven, Perrey Reeves… Billy Bob Thornton, Haley Joel Osment. Cameos: Jessica Alba, Martin Landau, David Arquette, Liam Neeson, Warren Buffett, Piers Morgan, Gary Busey, Andrew Dice Clay, Common, Mark Cuban, Jon Favreau, Kelsey Grammer, Ed O’Neill, Armie Hammer, Calvin Harris, Thierry Henry, Matt Lauer, Bob Saget, David Spade, George Takei, Mike Tyson, Mark Wahlberg, Pharrell Williams.

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Run All Night

NO SIN GOES UNPUNISHED. 

runallnightWhen Mike Conlon (Joel Kinnaman) accidentally witnesses a mob hit, he’s forced to rely on his estranged father (Liam Neeson), a former killer who used to work for the man (Ed Harris) who’s now chasing them. The third collaboration between Neeson and the director is another exciting thriller, this time set in New York City over 16 hours. Everything is familiar, including the final showdown where the appearance of a certain character is meant to come across as a surprise; we’ve certainly also seen Neeson before as a washed-up drunk who redeems himself. Still, very intense, with a terrific cast and effective use of the city.

2015-U.S. 114 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. Cast: Liam Neeson (Jimmy Conlon), Ed Harris (Shawn Maguire), Joel Kinnaman (Mike Conlon), Boyd Holbrook, Bruce McGill, Genesis Rodriguez… Vincent D’Onofrio, Common. Cameo: Nick Nolte.

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Hollywood Stars in Super Bowl Ads 2015

The ad everybody keeps talking about after this year’s Super Bowl was undeniably the one featuring a dead kid. But this movie and TV blog would like to focus on what Hollywood stars have lent their names to this year:

Jeff Bridges – In a spot promoting website builder Squarespace, the star is literally putting people to sleep.

Bryan Cranston – Walter White from Breaking Bad is back as maybe not your preferred pharmacist in an entertaining spot for insurance company Esurance.

Mindy Kaling & Matt Damon – The TV star is invisible in this so-so ad for insurance company Nationwide (same one that made the dead kid ad).

Kim Kardashian – We can probably only take the reality star seriously if she’s making fun of herself. And this is a funny ad for T-Mobile.

Danny Trejo & Steve Buscemi – There have been several amusing “hungry” ads for Snickers; this is one of the wackiest, featuring The Brady Bunch.

Katie Couric & Bryant Gumbel – Stretching the idea of “Hollywood stars” here a bit, but this is a clever BMW ad that has a little fun with the former Today show hosts and the progress of technology.

Chelsea Handler & Sarah Silverman – Well, the first T-Mobile ad with Kardashian was really good. And this one is really lame.

Pierce Brosnan – The former James Bond has fun with his action-star persona in this effective ad for Kia.

Liam Neeson – The star loves to make fun of his character from Taken and this ad for the game “Clash of Clans” is a great example.

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The Lego Movie

THE STORY OF A NOBODY WHO SAVED EVERYBODY.

 

legomovieIn the city of Bricksburg, happy-go-lucky construction worker Emmet Brickowoski meets a woman who believes that he is “the Special”, a person who is ultimately capable of stopping a superweapon. It may have looked like a stupid idea on paper, but the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (2009) directors deliver a smart and well-paced adventure for kids and grownups alike. Gets off to a predictable start but overcomes its noisiness by playing around with every aspect of the Lego universe in ways that are creative and funny. The full range of its ambition becomes clear in the last 20 minutes and gets at the very heart of how we use Lego in our lives.

2014-U.S. Part Animated. 100 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Roy Lee, Dan Lin. Written and directed by Phil Lord, Christopher Miller. Song: “Everything is Awesome” (Shawn Patterson, Joshua Bartholomew, Lisa Harriton, Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone). Cast: Will Ferrell (Lord Business/The Man Upstairs). Voices of Chris Pratt (Emmet Brickowoski), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop), Elizabeth Banks (Wyldstyle/Lucy), Will Arnett, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill… Will Forte, Dave Franco, Shaquille O’Neal, Channing Tatum, Billy Dee Williams.

Trivia: Williams and Anthony Daniels provide the voices of their Star Wars characters Lando Calrissian and C-3PO. Followed by a spin-off movie, The Lego Batman Movie (2017).

BAFTA: Best Animated Film.

Last word: “We just kept doing it until they forced us to stop. From the beginning, we were really skeptical of a LEGO movie, like any sane person should be. We just decided, ‘Well, there is a way to do it that would be kind of cool and not feel like it’s a giant commercial for toys.’ Luckily, the people at Warners and those over at the LEGO group were cool with that. We were like, ‘Really?! You’ll let us do this? All right! At some point, someone is going to tell us we have to stop, right?’ And here we are four years later!” (Miller, Coming Soon)

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Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

IT’S KIND OF A BIG DEAL.

anchorman2After getting kicked out of a prestigious news job in NYC, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) is offered to join the world’s first 24-hour news channel, and gets the old gang back together. Getting this sequel off the ground took its sweet time, and once again it seems impossible to create a coherent story around these characters. The CNN satire could have been smarter, but there’s a charming outrageousness to the whole project that’s irresistible; very silly and very funny at times. Chock-full of amusing cameos, but Ferrell is a wonder to behold; no one can look as dim-witted straight through an entire film.

2013-U.S. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Directed by Adam McKay. Cast: Will Ferrell (Ron Burgundy), Steve Carell (Brick Tamland), Paul Rudd (Brian Fantana), David Koechner, Christina Applegate, Meagan Good… Dylan Baker, Greg Kinnear, James Marsden, Kristen Wiig, Fred Willard, Harrison Ford. Cameos: Sacha Baron Cohen, Marion Cotillard, Jim Carrey, Will Smith, Kirsten Dunst, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly, Vince Vaughn, Kanye West, Drake.

Trivia: Jennifer Lawrence was allegedly considered for a role. Also available in 124 min. and 143 min. cuts.

Quote: “It doesn’t matter whose fault the break-up was, I was stubborn, you were like a mentally ill whore from the 1800s.” (Ferrell to Applegate)

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