Tag Archive | "Liam Neeson"

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New Releases: February 28, 2014

Posted on 27 February 2014 by William Gatevackes

sonofgodposter1. Son of God (Fox, 3,256 Theaters, 138 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Very seldom does there come a film that has the highest theater count and I know nothing about it. This is one of those times.

Based just on the name of this film, I thought it be a drama about kids living in a slum in some Second or Third World country. I felt foolish when I found out that it was another in a long line of Jesus bio-pics.

It is being release on the weekend before the start of Lent. But it has no promotion, no stars (the biggest name, nay, only name in the film, is Roma Downey, who also produced), which gives the inflated theater count an air of a desperate cash grab. The critical drubbing the film is getting over at Rotten Tomatoes adds more evidence to that claim.

Non-StopPoster2. Non-Stop (Universal, 3,090 Theaters,106 Minutes, Rated PG-13): And now, Taken on a plane.

Okay, that’s a bit unfair. It’s more like Die Hard on a plane. It only gets compare to Taken because it has Liam Neeson in it.

Neeson plays a U.S. Flight Marshall who gets a text saying that one person on the plane he is protecting will die every 20 minutes unless a great deal of money is transferred into a bank account. Problem is, the back account is registered to him. Now the extortion has become a frame job. And Neeson has to figure out what’d going on before he’s grounded permanently.

The film has a great cast–Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery (YES!), Lupita Nyong’o,–but will it be enough to overcome the tricky concept. We’ll see.

anchormanrrated poster3. Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues Super-Sized R-Rated Version (Paramount, 1,317 Theaters, 143 Minutes, Rated R): For those of you who thought this film needed some more language, drug use, sexual material and references when it was released last year, well, you’re in luck.

The film returns back in theaters this week for one week only with a R-Rated cut that is 24 minutes than last year’s version with an nigh impossible 763 new jokes included.

You can rush out to go see it this weekend, or you can wait a few weeks until it comes out on home video on April 1st and get all the versions in one convenient package. Your choice.

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Liam Neeson Returning For TAKEN 3

Posted on 25 June 2013 by Rich Drees

Taken

Liam Neeson has a particular set of skills and it appears that it costs $20 million to get their services. That’s the amount the actor will receive for reviving his popular retired CIA agent character Bryan Mills from the Taken franchise for a third installment.

Deadline is reporting on Neeson’s paycheck and that franchise producer Luc Besson and his EuropaCorp shingle is happy to pay it. The first film, in which Neeson heads to Europe to rescue his daughter from sex-slave traders, cost a paltry $25 million but which grossed over $226 million at the box office. Taken 2 managed to avoid the rule of thumb concerning diminishing returns for sequels earning over $376 million against its $45 million budget.

The next step is to extend offers to Maggie Grace and Famke Janssen, the actors who played Mills’ daughter and ex-wife respectively in the first two films. Besson is currently working with franchise scripter Robert Mark Kamen on the screenplay for the new installment. The production is expected to start shooting next February, though no director has been signed to the project.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: The Non-Comic Book Superhero, Part III

Posted on 22 March 2013 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, we’ll talk about the second of three of the best “superhero” film franchises that only appeared in comics after the films were released. 

MV5BMjEzMDY0NjkzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODIxMTkwMw@@._V1._SX640_SY407_If Sam Raimi was able to get his hands on The Shadow, we’d probably be talking about something else today. And if he was able to secure the rights to Batman, we’d be talking about his early forays into  superhero filmmaking a whole lot sooner.

See, rumor has it Raimi tried to get those two properties in the 1990s but wasn’t able to. That’s why he came up with Darkman, a character based on a short story of his that pulled its influences from those two properties mentioned above and other diverse inspirations that ran the gamut from  The Phantom of the Opera to Universal’s monster films.  And while seeing Raimi’s unique style on The Shadow and Batman would rock, it hard to imagine that it would be much better than what we got—one of the best superhero films not to be based on a comic book.

l_128656_0099365_5ea62f12Sam Raimi had only three major films to his credit when he gave us Darkman, his first studio feature, but what films they were—The Evil Dead, The Evil Dead II, and Crimewave. Crimewave, which Raimi co-wrote with the Coen Brothers, could be considered either an underrated gem or a film flawed by studio influence, depending on who you ask. But the Evil Dead series was where Raimi made his name. The plot is fairly simple—a bunch of young people head out to the woods only to run into a bunch of demons—but the execution is superb. The film wasn’t afraid to mix gore with loads of humor, and Raimi’s trademark directing style broke all sorts of boundaries on how a movie could be shot. The films acted as both a sterling example of the horror film and a satiric comment on them at the same time. It’s no wonder the films became cult favorites.

It’s with this behind him that Raimi got the chance to do Darkman at Universal. If he thought he had a problem with studio interference during Crimewave, he was mistaken. His relationship with the studio while making Darkman made his experience with Crimewave seem like a walk in the park.

The studio required twelve drafts from five different screenwriters, including Raimi and his brother, Ivan. The editor the studio provided refused to follow Raimi’s storyboards and eventually left after the production started.  A round of negative test screenings compelled the studio to force Raimi into recutting the film to one that would fare better.

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All and all, it would be safe to say that the film that arrived in theaters was not exactly the one that Raimi set out to make. Regardless of that fact, it was a great film, and a good example on how to bring a superhero character to the screen.

Darkman is Dr. Peyton Westlake, a scientist working on a synthetic skin to help burn victims. He’s made some results, but the skin he’s developed is photosensitive and breaks down after an hour and a half in sunlight. While he is working on his fake skin, gangsters break in to the laboratory looking for a document Westlake’s girlfriend hid there. After finding the document, the gangsters rig the lab to explode and leave Westlake to die.  However, Westlake survives and is left hideously scarred. Doctors cut access to his nerve receptors to save him from a life of pain, but that process causes his adrenaline production to go unchecked, giving him superhuman strength and stamina. He decides to use his false skin technology and his heightened abilities to go after the gangsters that tried to kill him.

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Raimi is helped quite a bit by having Liam Neeson, future Oscar nominee, to play Westlake and prior Oscar nominee/future Oscar winner Frances McDormand playing his girlfriend, Julie. And the film lives up to the responsibility of having two Oscar-caliber actors in the leads. It is deeper than you’d expect from the subject matter. The film examines how even righteous vengeance can be corrupting to the soul, and how once you cross certain lines, it is impossible to go back to the way things were.   All of this wrapped up in a package that includes Raimi’s unique visual style and in-your-face humor and shocks.

When I saw Darkman in the theaters, I thought that it was as close as you could get to the perfect Batman film. If you swapped out the characters, changed the plot a bit, the psychological examination the film puts its lead character through would fit for Bruce Wayne just as well as it would for Peyton Westlake. But Raimi would go onto another superhero first, a certain web-headed hero we’ll be talking about a little later.

Darkman has two, direct-to-video sequels. The first was Darkman II: The Return of Durant:

Arnold Vosloo stepped in for Neeson in the title role and Raimi took on a producer’s role in the series. This sequel apparently did well enough that it garnered a second sequel, Darkman III: Die, Darkman, Die, also starring Vosloo in the title role:

darkman-3--die-darkman-die-movie-poster-1996-1020230647Plans were made to bring Darkman to the small screen (a pilot was filmed but never aired) and to the Broadway stage (although there have been off-Broadway plays based on the film), but to date, none have panned out. The character did make his way into comic books, two miniseries from Marvel that were published around the time the film came out and one from Dynamite Entertainment in 2006 that paired up Darkman with another Sam Raimi creation, Ash from the Evil Dead films, in a book called Darkman versus the Army of Darkness.

Next time, we’ll cover a franchise that had the makings to be one of the best comic book-esque film series to hit the cineplex before it flew off the rails with its second installment.

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Ferrell, Neeson And Brie Sign Up For Lego Movie

Posted on 12 November 2012 by Rich Drees

Will Farrell, Liam Neeson and Allison Brie will be heading to Legoland to provide voices for the upcoming 3D animated feature Lego: The Piece Of Resistance.

The trio join Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett and Morgan Freeman. Pratt will voice the part of Emmett, an average denizen of Legoland who is mistaken for being the all-powerful Master Builder and a threat to the current ruler of Legoland, the evil tyrant President Business. Farrell will play Business while Neeson will be his right-hand man Bad Cop. Brie will play someone who helps Emmett escape from President Business’s men and who harbors a “powerful secret.”  (Do we  need three guesses on what it might be?)

The film is set for a February 7, 2014 release.

Via Deadline.

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New Releases: October 5, 2012

Posted on 04 October 2012 by William Gatevackes

1. Taken 2 (Fox, 3,661 Theaters, 91 Minutes, Rated PG-13): You can’t say he didn’t warn them. ” 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.”

They took his daughter anyway and, well, Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) looked for them, found them and killed them (in Taken). But the parents of the original kidnappers Mills killed don’t really care that their son was warned, they’re out for vengeance. When the Mills’ take a family vacation in Istanbul (Really? Who vacations in Istanbul? And why would you go back to Europe after what happened in the first film?), it Mills and his ex-wife who are taken. Big Mistake.

2. Frankenweenie (Disney, 3,005 Theaters, 87 Minutes, Rated PG): It’s not often that I direct has the opportunity to go back and remake a film that got him fired. But that’s what is happening this week.

Way back in 1984, Tim Burton made a live-action short about a boy who brings his dog back to life for Disney. In a classic case of a director’s style not meshing with a studio’s public image, Disney fired Burton for wasting their money and buried the film. Well, buried it until Burton made a name for himself with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman. Then Disney decided to release it on home video.

Now, Burton and Disney have mended their fences and the director is is revisiting that short via stop motion animation.

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HISTORY OF THE COMIC BOOK FILM: Batman Begins Again

Posted on 18 May 2012 by William Gatevackes

In a multi-part series, Comic Book Film Editor William Gatevackes will be tracing the history of comic book movies from the earliest days of the film serials to today’s big blockbusters and beyond. Along with the history lesson, Bill will be covering some of the most prominent comic book films over the years and why they were so special. This time, the Bat-franchise goes back to the beginning with Batman Begins and to the Academy Awards with The Dark Knight.

After the debacle that was Batman & Robin, Warner Brothers was looking to start over at square one. Joel Schumacher thought that was an excellent idea, and said as much in a 1998 interview with Entertainment Weekly:

It’s unlikely the studio will stick with the shticky tone of Batman & Robin. But if it does, count Schumacher out. ”The only way I would do another Batfilm is if we went back to the basics,” says Schumacher. His ideal Batman movie would be based on Miller’s Batman: Year One, a prequel to The Dark Knight Returns, a no-frills account of Batman’s first year of crime fighting. ”It would be nice to take the bigger-is-better concept out of it,” he says, ”and just go pure.”

Schumacher had originally wanted to adapt Frank Miller’s legendary origin redo when he signed on for Batman Forever, but Warners’ executives, wanting a more kid accessible piece, ignored his wishes. They would ignore his wishes again. But this time, it would be with him doing a reboot based on Batman: Year One.  The studio thought that was a good idea, but were looking to Miller and director Darren Aronofsky to handle it.

While this seemed like a comic fans’ dream—Miller co-writing a script with a hot, up-and-coming director in Aronofsky—it was not meant to be. The version of Miller’s script I read had more in common with his Sin City comics than his 1987 storyline that the film was named after. This version found Bruce Wayne living on the streets, working as a mechanic at a garage in the bad part of town, directly across the street from a whorehouse. It was heavy on violence and adult themes, something that would have been perfect for the Martin Scorcese/Robert DeNiro pairing in the 1970s but ill fitting for a 2000 Warner Brothers studio looking for a PG-13 film to bring in the teens.

The studio, after briefly considering a Batman vs. Superman film, would turn to Christopher Nolan next. Nolan gained much acclaim for co-writing and directing the inventive indie drama, Memento. He was still a relatively unproven director—this film would only be his third big studio film he directed—but Warners made an excellent choice. The film Nolan made, Batman Begins, ranks up there with the best comic book films ever made.

Nolan paired with David S. Goyer, a Hollywood screenwriter with comic book writing experience, to create a film that while wasn’t  directly adapted from any one particular comic book, drew pieces from the overall Batman comic book history to create their narrative. The plot involves Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne’s training to become Gotham City’s protector, eventually saving it from destruction by his former mentor, Ra’s Al Ghul (Liam Neeson).

The entire cast of the film is the best cast any comic book film has had or likely will have. It was chock full of Oscar winners (Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and, eventually, Bale), Oscar nominees (Tom Wilkinson, Ken Watanabe, Neeson) and quality actors like Cillian Murphy and Gary Oldman. Oldman, who would eventually get an Oscar nod too, was especially good as the film’s moral center, James Gordon. Playing against type as a decent, honest man, Oldman gives one of his best, if somewhat underrated,performances of his illustrious career.

It seemed like it would be almost impossible for Nolan to top what he did with Batman Begins, but he did it on The Dark Knight with the help of a spectacular addition to the cast—Heath Ledger.

Heath Ledger’s untimely death of an accidental prescription drug overdose has added a mythic quality to his performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight, that his deep immersion in the character scarred his psyche in a manner that led to his overdose (the drugs found in Ledger’s system are commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia). It feels unseemly even to bring it up, but I do so to make the point that the performance would have been mythic even if Ledger survived.  His Joker is the defining Joker. And I am saying that while having the utmost respect for the work Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill have done with the character.

The Joker is written in the movie as a force of nature, an agent of chaos. He exists to destroy the fabric of society. He is a cipher—his history is unknown and his motives are unclear.  This is not an easy role to play. It could be the perfect opportunity make it hammy or give a portrayal that was out of place with the film as a whole. Ledger gave a scary, realistic performance that was totally believable. All the posthumous accolades that Ledger received, including becoming the first star from a comic book movie to win an Oscar, are all well deserved.

However, all the accolades that Ledger receives takes away from a great film and the solid performances of the other new additions to the cast—Aaron Eckhart as the tragic figure of Harvey Dent/Two-Face, and Maggie Gyllenhaal replacing Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes (a vast improvement, I must say).

The Dark Knight set yet another impossible task for the next sequel to try and top it. That task begins in a few weeks when The Dark Knight Rises is released.

This film promises to be the last in the series, introducing Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) and Bane (Tom Hardy) into the mix. It looks like Ra’s Al Ghul will be returning as well, either in a flashback or, well, if you knew the comics, you’ll know of another way he could come back. The plot is timely too, supposedly tying into the disenfranchised poor versus the entitled rich that was the basis for the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Where the franchise goes from here is anyone’s guess. While Nolan is staying on to produce the next phase of the Batman film life cycle, it looks like whatever comes next will be a fresh start.

Next time, we look at a time when everything Marvel touched cinematically did not turn to gold. In fact, movies were made that we never seen at all.

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Hollywood’s New Kind Of Originality

Posted on 15 May 2012 by William Gatevackes

A film called Dark Shadows opened last week. It shares the same name and a number of characters with a cult soap opera from the late 60s, early 70s. Both feature time-tossed vampires who join their descendants 200 years in the future. However, the film plays the story as a wacky fish-out-of-water comedy while the soap opera, which was campy because, well, it was a soap opera with a production budget of $5, portrayed the story as a somber Gothic romance.

This week, Battleship opens. It shares its name with a Milton-Bradley board game that was first introduced in 1943. The game is advertised as a game of naval strategy where players try to sink each others armadas first by guessing location of ships on a grid. The film, which was based on the game, features the U.S. Navy combating a sea-based alien invasion force.

Now, this won’t be the kind of post that criticizes Hollywood for their lack of originality. Hollywood has always adapted  works from other media for the screen. That is not necessarily a bad thing. To prove my point, let’s take a look at the Top 10 films on the 2007 version of AFI’s “100 Years…100 Movies” list.

Now, you can argue semantics about this list all night–this film should be higher, that one lower, this film included, that one not–but we can pretty much all agree that these are great films. What do we see here? We have five films based on novels or plays (The Godfather, Casablanca, Gone With the Wind, Vertigo, and The Wizard of Oz), four films based on or inspired by the lives of real people (Raging Bull, Lawrence of Arabia, Schindler’s List and Citizen Kane, which was a fictionalized account of William Randolph Hearst’s life) and one inspired by Hollywood’s history (Singin’ in the Rain). Not one wholly original, but great films nonetheless.

But those were adaptations done right. Unfortunately, Hollywood has the nasty habit of wanting to put their own stamp on properties they adapt, usually with not-so-good results. And Dark Shadows and Battleship take this habit to a dangerous and puzzling new level.

Now, I’m not naive as to think that every original work should be adapted to the screen with no changes. I realize that it would be impossible for eight seasons of a TV series, 300 pages of a novel, or 200 issues of a comic book to be squeezed into one two-hour movie. But doing a good adaptation means keeping the stuff that works, keeping the same tone and characterization, and if you are going to change anything, change it to the better. The problem lies in the fact that the film studios definition of better doesn’t really end up as being better.

This problem, unfortunately, is nothing new. Studios have been making changes to classic works from other medium for decades. Whether it be modern literature, like The Bonfire of the Vanities (Does the journalist need to be British? Why can’t it be Bruce Willis? And does Sherman McCoy have to be such a erudite jerk? Why can’t he be nice, like Tom Hanks? And why have spot-on, social satire? Wouldn’t broad comedy be better?), classic literature like The Scarlet Letter (You know what would make kids pay more attention to the book in school? If Hester diddled herself in the tub.), comic books like Jonah Hex (What? The character is basically the cowboy antihero archetype that led Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson to stardom? That will never work in films. Give him superpowers, have him stop an anacronistic weapon of mass destruction, and, please, make it campy), or video games, like Super Mario Brothers (You know who the best actors to play a pair of Italian plumbers would be? An British Cockney and a Latino American! And Dennis Hopper playing their turtle nemesis! It’s like printing money!), more than one film adaptation was ruined by studio’s “improvement.” But Dark Shadows and Battleship take these kind of changes to an entirely new, and dangerous level.

Dark Shadows is the latest example of a film trying to present a property that is loved by a large, cult audience while having the studio, or, in this case, the director put their own stamp on the project. But what it really is just an unnecessary form of this type of marketing.

While I don’t deny that Dark Shadows does have a following, the fans of the show are not exactly in the 18-35 demographic that make films a hit. It was before my time and I’m way out of that demographic.

And, really? Do you need help marketing a movie where Tim Burton directs Johnny Depp again? You could have kept the fish out of water/man out of time plot, you could have even kept the main character a vampire,  you could have kept the premise the same and not have it tie into Dark Shadows at all and people would most likely still have come to see it.

The real reason that the film is called Dark Shadows is because Tim Burton was a fan of the series and wanted to do his own take on it, a take even he knew that fans of the TV show wouldn’t like. I’m sure Burton probably sold the idea to studios using the TV shows built in fan base. But this was Burton co-opting an existing property for his own use when he could have, and should have, created something original that would have still allowed him to say what he wanted to say. Dark Shadows fans have a right to be upset.

The case with Battleship is even more absurd. It’s not really a case of an adaptation being screwed up by Hollywood, because, really, if there was any way to adapt that particular board game, it would probably an even worse film than this one.

One of the producers of this film is Hasbro, the toy company that bought out Milton Bradley and owns the rights to G.I. Joe, Transformers and, you guessed it, Battleship (And Candy Land, which also has a film in the works). What happened was that Hasbro saw how much money they could make on films with the first two properties, so they decided to make a film out of every piece of intellectual property they own, whether making it into a film made sense or not. Personally, I cannot wait for Easy-Bake Oven: The Movie.

Battleship, like Dark Shadows, is a film that could have been released under another name and still do probably the same amount of business. Also, like Dark Shadows, the demographic of the source material will probably not follow it to the big screen even it was an exact representation of the game. What we have here is a generic alien invasion flick with the twist that the invasion takes place at sea.

Yes, rumor has it that there will be a scene in the film that mimics the gameplay of the original game, and I’m fairly certain that at some point in the film we will see a character, most likely Liam Neeson’s, pull a pair of binoculars away from their faces, squint off into a point just past where the camera was placed, and utter with grim, steely reserve, “They sank my battleship” (or some variation there of). But other than that, the film could have been called Aliens At Sea and it would not have made a bit of difference, except that it would have been mocked slightly less in the press.

So this is what the state of the film adaptation is today. The source material is reduced to a name only, a name Hollywood can use to practice a new kind of originality. The names become tools for directors to work out the issues they had with the original source or companies to earn a quick buck from their intellectual property in by any means necessary. Hollywood has always been accused of not caring about the books, TV shows and comics they adapt. At least now, they are being honest about it. And they get to have the best of both worlds–a film with a recognizable public image that is an “original” creation by the Hollywood establishment.

Unfortunately, this trend will not stop here. By now we should all be familiar Michael Bay’s Ninja Turtles, which every one from Bay to co-creator Kevin Eastman have promised fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles would deliver “everything that made [them] become fans in the first place.” Everything except the characters being Teenagers (they will be a bit older) or Mutants (they’re aliens). They couch these changes as “building a richer world,” as if the world that made the Turtles a pop culture phenomenon for thirty years wasn’t rich enough.

And you thought Demi Moore writhing in a bathtub was bad.

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New Releases: March 30

Posted on 29 March 2012 by William Gatevackes

1. Wrath Of The Titans (Warner Brothers, More Than 3,500 Theaters, 99 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Well, here’s something you don’t see everyday–a sequel to a remake. 2010′s Clash of the Titans was one of the first films where international grosses played a part in making it a hit. It made a paltry $163 million domestically versus a $125 million budget, but its $330 million take overseas is what help bring this sequel around.

Sam Worthington is back as Perseus, who is back in the Titan fighting business when Hades and Ares conspire with the Titans to capture Zeus in order to wrestle power from him. Perseus is tasked with trying to free Zeus and save the world.

Jonathan Liebesman replaces Louis Leterrier as director, but many of international cast that compose the main players, including Liam Neeson and Ralph Finnes, return.  This should mean that the film will have as good a run overseas as the first one did. FYI, Liebesman will be directing that controversial Ninja Turtles film, so if you TMNT fans want to start your boycotts early, start them here.

2. Mirror Mirror (Relativity, @3,200 Theaters, 106 Minutes, Rated PG): In case you haven’t been reading FilmBuffOnline as much as you should, there will be two Snow White themed films being released this year. Both feature twists on the fairy tale where Snow White a more active role in opposing the evil queen and both feature an Academy Award-winning actresses playing the queen.

This film hits first and features America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts playing said queen and Lily Collins playing Snow. Snow White and the Huntsman open June 1st and features Kristen Stewart playing Snow White and Charlize Theron as the Queen.

Which one should you see? Well, that depends on what kind of new take on Snow White suits your fancy. This one is the lighter of the two, and might skew closer to the Disney film in tone.  Snow White and the Huntsman appears to be darker and more violent of the two. Something to consider if you are taking the kiddies with you.

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New Releases: February 10

Posted on 09 February 2012 by William Gatevackes

1. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (Warner Brothers, 3,470 Theaters, Rated PG): This is one of those “okay, we’ll call it a sequel” sequels. When 2008′s Journey to the Center of the Earth became an unexpected success (over #241 million worldwide), a sequel seemed likely but there was none in the works since financial success was anything but assured.

The script for this movie was intended to be a standalone film which was rewritten to take part in the franchise. Gone are Brendan Fraser and director Eric Brevig. Sticking around is Josh Hutcherson as Sean and the quest to find a missing relative (this time it’s grandpa, played by Michael Caine). New this time around is Dwayne Johnson as Sean’s mom’s boyfriend/adult chaperone (awkward!), animals who are either much bigger than they should be or much smaller than they should be, and Vanessa Hudgens as Sean’s love interest.

I guess it does come close enough to the first Journey to qualify as a sequel, but it probably would be better as a stand alone film.

2. Safe House (Universal, 3,118 Theaters, 115 Minutes, Rated R): Denzel Washington is back to playing a bad guy…or is he?

Washington is playing Tobin Frost, an ex-CIA agent who has gone over to the dark side. When he is captured by his former employers, he is put in a safe house managed by Ryan Reynolds. When a group of bad guys storm the supposedly safe location, Washington and Reynolds must go on the run. They must trust in each other in order to save their lives, which is hard because neither one trusts the other at all.

Not that I know anything about the film, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Washington’s character was a good guy all along or had run afoul of a criminal element in the CIA.

Regardless, even more interesting than that is seeing how Ryan Reynolds fares acting with Washington. I like Reynolds as an actor, but he’s not in the same league as Washington, one of the best actors of this generation.


3. The Vow (Sony/Screen Gems, 2,958 Theaters, 104 Minutes, Rated PG-13): I love the way they are marketing this film. “Starring Channing Tatum from Dear John. Rachel McAdams from The Notebook.” And there’s a lot of emphasis placed on that fact. It’s the producer’s way of saying, “Listen, these two actors have experience in sappy, romantic films about two, star-crossed lovers who try to get together despite whatever fate throws in their way, which is just the kind of thing that happens in this film. If past performance is any indication of future results, this should be the best movie ever! Come see it!” If it works, expect a cycle of other actors from other sappy romances to become interchangable within the genre. It will become mix and match cinema.

And what does fate throw at these to young lovebirds? A car accident, a coma and partial amnesia, all thrown directly at McAdams’ character. This causes her to forget that she is married to Tautm’s character, and he is forced to win her back. Supposedly based on a true story, but, really, if you have legal documents that state you are married to someone, pictures from a wedding, and friends and family telling you that you are married, are you just going to ignore all that and make your hubby woo you all over again?

4. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace 3D (FOX, 2,655 Theaters, 136 Minutes, Rated PG): The wife and I were coming out of the movies the other day and we saw a poster for this film in a display case right next to one for the Titanic rerelease, and I said to her, “Why doesn’t Hollywood just stop making new films and rerelease all their classic films over and over again.” I mean, royalties and residuals have to be cheaper than paying new actors to do new stuff right? Andit’s not like Hollywood isn’t already being slammed for its lack of originality. That way at least they’d be up front about it.

Of course, I’m being sarcastic. But seeing those two posters right next to each other made me realize that the wave of the future is actually a wave to the past.

Anyhow, if there’s anyone who knows anything about wringing the most money out of a franchise, it’s George Lucas. And here he is, rereleasing the Star Wars franchise yet another time to theaters to capitalize on the moribund trend that is 3-D. And he’s starting with the weakest installment to boot. There are some good things (whenever Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor are on screen alone, the opening battle, Darth Maul, the closing battle, the spry version of Yoda), but the bad (Jar Jar Binks, Jake Lloyd’s performance, Jar Jar Binks, the thinly veiled and insulting cultural stereotypes, Jar Jar Binks, the nonsensical plot points, and Jar Jar Binks) far outweigh them in such a way that no amount of 3-D can fix. My advice? Wait until they get to episode IV until you head back into the theaters. Wait until this version hits DVD and Blu-Ray, which will be the 573rd and 574th version of a Star Wars film to hit home video.

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New Releases: January 27

Posted on 26 January 2012 by William Gatevackes

1. The Grey (Open Road Films, @2,850Theaters, 117 Minutes, Rated R): So, over the last couple years, Liam Neeson has fought against all odds to save his daughter from white slavers in Paris, has fought against all odds to save his identity from a sinister conspiracy in Berlin, and, now, fights against all odds to save his life from a pack of wolves in Alaska. If I was Neeson, I’d just stay home.

Yes, a plane accident sets Neeson and his team of oil drillers down in the wilderness where the local wolf population sees them as intruders/lunch. It’s up to Neeson to lead his people to civilization by kicking as much wolf ass as he can.

This is a formula that works for Neeson, so this might not be that bad to see. But you know what I’d like to see? Neeson in a role that earns Oscar talk. He’s long overdue.

2. Man On A Ledge (Summit Entertainment, @2,800 Screens, 102 Minutes, Rated PG-13): This is a pretty high concept which ever way you look at it.

The plot appears to be about an ex-cop who is on a ledge of a high-rise building and threatening to jump. Seems he was sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and now he wants to end it all.

However, as his cry for help is going on, thieves are attempting to steal some diamonds. Is the suicide attempt real and the buglary a coincidence, or is the ex-cop in on the robbery and trying to draw attention away from the crime? Or is there something else going on?

The film’s mix of a crime caper with a personal drama is a unique concept as well. If it works, this could be a pretty darn good film.

3. One For The Money (Lionsgate, @2,700 Theaters, 106 Minutes, Rated PG-13): Stephanie Plum is one of the most popular female characters in modern genre fiction. She has appeared in 18 novels (the latest? Explosive Eighteen), four novellas, a bunch of short stories and has made Janet Evanovich (one assumes) a very rich woman. She is a character with quirks and personality out the wazoo with a large and loyal fanbase eager for more adventures of the female bounty hunter.

So, why then is the adaptation of the first novel in Evanovich’s Plum series sneaking into theaters this week under the radar? I have not seen anywhere near the amount of publicity this film should have received or needs to make a mark. Is the film that bad? Has Katherine Heigl’s stock plummeted that much that her movies are risky propositions? I don’t know.

Regardless, it is interesting to see the “brokeback pose,” most often seen done by female superheroes on comic covers, put into play on the film’s poster. It couldn’t have been easy for Heigl to stand in such a way that patrons can look at both her derriere and her breasts at the same time. I hope her efforts bring some people in to see the movie at least.

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