Liam Neeson & Maggie Grace in the Movie Taken
Liam Neeson stars as Bryan in Taken
"Taken," which tells the story of how Liam Neeson blows a gasket and flies off to France and kills 75 Albanians in 90 minutes, is crisp, efficient and deeply insane.
Neeson, who now resembles an aging Labrador retriever, all angles and mournful eyes and jumpy eagerness, plays a former CIA spook whose clandestine career bled into his home and made blood sausage of his family.
His wife has divorced him, taken their 17-year-old daughter and remarried. She now lives a life of entitlement behind the stone walls of a Los Angeles mansion, the estate of her new industrialist husband.
Neeson's character, Bryan Mills, is so protective of his daughter that he moves to L.A. to be within reach of her. He is paranoid about the potential dangers, and so humorless he could be played for parody -- thankfully, though, St. Guilty Pleasure has shined upon us, and this thing is serious.
It also feels, already, a couple of weeks into the Obama administration, like a relic of a former political atmosphere -- despite being made by French producer Luc Besson and some of the European folks behind that hurtling go-go-go "Transporter" series. The bad guys are French, Eastern European, and a handful of generic Middle Eastern stereotypes.
And although daddy means well, he tears apart society to prove it.
But first: Bryan's daughter (Maggie Grace) asks to fly to Europe with her best friend, and Bryan says this is a bad idea because there are evildoers in the world, but his daughter says she just wants to follow U2 across the continent ("all the kids do it," Bryan's wife says), so Bryan agrees begrudgingly and within minutes -- nay, seconds -- of stepping into Charles de Gaulle International, his daughter and friend are kidnapped by sex traffickers. Told ya. The good news is that they've been spared sitting through 17 renditions of "Where the Streets Have No Name." The bad news is that they're about to be sold into slavery.
Bryan has 96 hours to find her. Why 96? Because that's the number his fellow former-CIA friends pull out of their, ahem, back pockets.
After the first 20 minutes, however -- during which I found myself pining for the days of Generic Harrison Ford Action Vehicles and that signature scowl ("Give me back my daughter!" "Get off my plane!") -- it wasn't hard settling into Oskar Schindler, Avenging Angel. Neeson is too smart an actor to step into the path of a picture with this much forward momentum.
The movie overheats cleanly around him, moving from nuts to stupid without pausing for sentiment or logic or even the sort of basic explanation most filmmakers would accept as fundamental.
Instead, see this and you will want to slam someone's head against a table, which is a nice feeling, assuming you don't act on it.
"You can't run around tearing down Paris," friend Jean-Claude tells him. "I would tear down the Eiffel Tower, Jean-Claude!" he shouts, then proceeds to karate-chop his way through mimes, baguette peddlers and the cast of Cirque du Soleil (if I remember correctly).
Neeson is cold-eyed and brutal, Jason Bourne-esque, as he works his way ever closer to his daughter, who may already be drugged and shipped away to Whoknowswhere.
There is no mythology, no irony, no real soul -- just a Charles Bronson simplicity about the whole affair. Which, in the hands of director Pierre Morel, of the equally speedy "District B13," is the whole point -- an entertaining appreciation of efficiency itself.
Check out the trailer for 'Taken'
Taken MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language).
Running time: 1:31.
Starring: Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills); Maggie Grace (Kim); Leland Orser (Sam); Katie Cassidy (Amanda); Famke Janssen (Lenore).
Directed by Pierre Morel; written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen; photographed by Michel Abramowicz; edited by Frederic Thoraval; production design by Hugues Tissandier; music by Nathaniel Mechaly; produced by Besson. A 20th Century Fox release.
"Slumdog Millionaire" Leads the Way
81st Academy Award Oscar Winners 2009
In much the same manner that the film captured the hearts of movie-goers, "Slumdog Millionaire" captured the hearts and votes of the Academy garnering 8 Oscars in total, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Sean Penn won his second Best Actor Academy Award for his role as Harvey Milk in the movie "Milk," while Kate Winslett won her first Oscar in the Best Actress category for he role as Hanna Schmitz in "The Reader."
Heath Ledger won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as the Joker in "The Dark Knight," posthumously. Ledger died on January 22, 2008 after an accidental drug overdose. Penelope Cruz won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Elena Maria in "Vicky Christina Barcelona."
"WALL-E" took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature:
This year's top Academy Awards nominated film, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" with 13 Oscar nominations, won 3 Oscars (Achievement in Art Direction, Makeup & Visual Effects).
Recent Movie Reviews - Films in Theaters
Joaquin Phoenix plays Leonard who's in his 30s but living with his parents after a broken engagement, a bout of depression and a suicide attempt. His parents push him toward a nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw), but he's drawn to a bubbly blond neighbor (Gwyneth Paltrow). The film is a small, delicate concoction of moods and moments, focused squarely on the talented Phoenix.
Directed by Bruce Hendricks, who also fashioned the recent Miley Cyrus 3-D concert movie, this ostensible concert documentary is awkwardly stitched together from candy-gloss arena concert footage and somewhat grimier-looking backstage/limo/hotel room moments. The Brothers come across more machine-tooled than homespun. Their grasps for authenticity -- they do write their own songs and play their instruments -- just feel like another layer of artifice, and their songs bleed together, one bouncing clap-along chorus to the next.
The International (2-1/2 Stars)
Clive Owen & Naomi Watts in the Movie The International
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Confessions of a Shopaholic (1-1/2 Stars)
Isla Fisher & Hugh Dancy in the Movie Confessions of a Shopaholic
This thin, largely unfunny comedy marries lazy filmmaking with bad timing -- a recession probably isn't the right time for a movie about a woman whose passion is shopping for high-end clothes. Star Isla Fisher ("Wedding Crashers") is charming enough, but this material is so predictable and leaden that she has no prayer of keeping it afloat.
Friday the 13th (1-1/2 Stars)
Clive Jared Padalecki & Danielle Panabaker in the Movie Friday the 13th
Having endured a series of increasingly bizarre sequels, machete-wielding Jason Voorhees hits the reset button and starts anew -- Mickey Rourke-esque, if you will. This new "Friday the 13th," savvier and snappier than the 1980 original, is a needed return to simplicity: A diverse group of teens visits Camp Crystal Lake, where they engage in naughty behavior before being impaled. After years of "Hostel"-style torture, this straightforward arrow-through-the-eye-socket approach is almost refreshing.
The Class Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie The Class
This fantastic film takes place in a working-class, multiethnic Parisian middle school, where an unruly world of conflict, frustration and joy comes to life. Francois Begaudeau plays a version of himself; he taught in a Paris middle school and wrote a book about it, and "The Class" distills that book into a year in the life of a teacher and his combative, highly stimulating students. A documentary approach is the key to the film's success, with real students playing characters, some based on themselves, some not. In French, with English subtitles.
Coraline Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie Coraline
An intelligent preteen (Dakota Fanning) discovers a tiny door in the wall of her immense home that leads to a parallel universe offering a brighter, more inviting version of the same house, and her same parents. "Coraline" may not be for all tastes, and it's certainly not for all kids, given its macabre premise. But Henry Selick's film advances the stop-motion animation genre through that most heartening of attributes: quality. It pulls audiences into a meticulously detailed universe, familiar in many respects, menacing in others.
Fanboys Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie Fanboys
This comedy follows a quintet of Star Wars fanatics on a 1998 journey from Ohio to their Holy Grail: George Lucas Skywalker Ranch in California, where they hope to bust into the joint and sneak a look at a work print of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It all should have been wilder and funnier. For a comedy of fanboy insanity to fly, it has to be a little less beholden to the pop-culture phenoms it is satirizing, however affectionately.
He's Just Not That Into You Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie He's Just Not That Into You
The film adaptation of Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo's 2004 relationship-advice book is a sprawling, many-threaded series of stories, most of which contradict the book's advice about moving on when facing a lack of commitment. Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore and Ben Affleck head the cast of this romantic comedy, which has some fun with its bubble-gum tone until a rash of ridiculous happy endings takes all the bite out of the premise
Pink Panther 2 Movie Review & Trailer
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie Pink Panther 2
This disposable Pink Panther sequel follows the 2006 remake and once again features Steve Martin as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. The cast (which also includes Emily Mortimer, Andy Garcia, John Cleese and Lily Tomlin) sprints way out ahead of the material. Most of it would work twice as well if the filmmakers had eased up and allowed the performers to interact -- to do their thing in medium shot, without a lot of pushy close-ups and overemphasis, so that their bodies might inform what their faces are up to.
Push Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie Push
Psychic experiments started by the Nazis are being continued by the U.S. government, and so a telekinetic (Chris Evans) and a clairvoyant (Dakota Fanning) must recover a powerful experimental drug in the jam-packed streets of Hong Kong before a government agent (Djimon Hounsou) gets his hands on it. Director Paul McGuigan ("Lucky Number Slevin") has never been keen on plot logic, and that might be fine if his inscrutable film offered anything other than lush images of Hong Kong
Renee Zellweger plays a hotshot Miami businesswoman whose firm assigns her to oversee a workforce reduction at a food-processing plant in New Ulm, Minn. Easygoing Harry Connick Jr. plays the union rep.
The Uninvited Movie Review
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie The Uninvited
After a stay in a psychiatric clinic, teenager Anna (Emily Browning) returns home, with her father (David Strathairn) now engaged to the caregiver (Elizabeth Banks) who oversaw Anna's invalid mother in her last days, before a fatal fire. Anna attempted suicide after the tragedy, and now she's plagued by visions, one of which appears to be her late mother, crying out for revenge.
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Academy Award Oscar Nomination for Best Foreign Film
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Outlander Movie Review & Trailer
Michael Phillips reviews the Movie Outlander
Viking warriors and a stoic intergalactic traveler (Jim Caviezel) join forces in the eighth century to combat an enormous beetle with whiplash stingers.
- Paul Blart: Mall Cop
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- Bride Wars
- Not Easily Broken
- The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
- Marley & Me
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- Bedtime Stories
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- Dark Streets
- Nothing Like The Holidays
- Cadillac Records
- Nobel Son
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- Quantum of Solace
- Slumdog Millionaire
- Madagascar Escape 2 Africa
- Role Models
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- Zack & Miri Make A Porno
- I've Loved You So Long
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- High School Musical 3: Senior Year
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- Ellen Page as Juno MacGuff in Juno
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- Johnny Depp as Sweeney Todd
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- No Country wins Best Picture, Best Director. Daniel Day-Lewis wins best actor for his role in "There Will Be Blood". Javier Bardem, Tilda Swinton Win Supporting Role Academy Awards, Ratatouille awarded Oscar for Best Animation Feature