Non-Stop (2014): Liam Neeson returns in Taken: Plane edition! This time, the bad guys are trying to take out an airplane and pin it on Neeson. And Neeson must stop them. In DRAMATIC fashion.
So.....I love these Neeson movies. It's becoming annualish. The Grey was (and still is) the best of all of them, but others like Taken and Unknown were good as well. We won't talk about Taken 2. That said, Non-Stop does a solid job following in the footsteps of these enjoyable movies, even though it doesn't do anything new or out of the ordinary. It is a very standard action whodunit, even though (for the most part) it is fairly enjoyable.
So first up, the acting. Neeson does not show off his acting chops here as much as he does in The Grey. For the most part he plays a very generic hero unfortunately. I'd say there's about one scene of him....you know....acting, but other than that the rest of the time he's just grunting and yelling at people to do what he wants. Very much in the spirits of Taken. Oh, and his family is gone! I think he says what about my family or something along those lines at some point exactly like he did in Taken and I was like, "Ah! He said it! He said it!" and got all excited for the wrong reasons. However, one thing this movie absolutely does right is have a strong cast around Neeson. Usually, you can figure out who the bad guy is in a mystery movie just because he's the one recognizable actor playing a (seemingly) useless role. But not here! Here, there are several big name actors playing various passengers. My favorite was Corey Stoll, (House of Cards) but let's just take a moment to recognize the fact that Lupita Nyong'o is in this. And has LITERALLY 4 lines as a throwaway flight attendant character. Wait, what? Like 12 Years A Slave, might win Best Supporting Actress Lupita Nyong'o? Yup. That Lupita Nyong'o. I saw her here and I was like "Yes! Time to see what else she can do!" Didn't happen. Obviously this was filmed before her success in 12 Years A Slave, so we are going to have to wait for....well.....her next project to see what she can do. Whenever that is. Oh and Julianne Moore is in this. She is really good at making her character my favorite character in whatever movie I'm watching. And she does it again here, being the only character in this movie that is relatable to. Or not Liam Neeson.
Ok it sounds like I'm bashing this movie. I don't mean to do that. While it is generic, it is still fun! Well, for the first two acts at least. The third act of this movie succumbs to the world of cliques in order to reach the finish line. While it does not stoop down to Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit levels in terms of completely torpedoing the story, it did become not enjoyable in the final 30 minutes of the 106 minute movie. One thing this movie failed to do was convince me that the villain would do what he did based on the reasons he provided once he was revealed. Which is a really extravagant and rather unnecessary way of me saying that I did not for a second buy the villain's character motivations. For a second. I felt I needed to say that again just to add emphasis. FOR A SECOND. RAH. Sorry. But ya, it didn't do it for me. And then there are a few more hilariously bad moments in the final few minutes of the film that really kind of killed the whole movie for me unfortunately. I was having so much fun in the first and second acts too! Gosh! There were some cool points brought up, like is Neeson the bad guy or not? This leads to some pretty cool scenes with dramatical tension between Neeson and the rest of the passengers as newscasts start talking about how Liam Neeson hijacked a plane and the passengers see this. Those were definitely the coolest moments of the movie. But then the third act happened.
To sum up, I would still say go see this if you are a Neeson fan. While he doesn't act all that much, it is still Liam Neeson. In a movie. Being a badass. If you like mystery flicks, it's not the worst thing in the world. There have definitely been worse movies to come out of this genre. Average. That just about sums up this movie. Maybe just above. But for a February release, this is not the worst thing to happen to the movies by any means. Just....don't expect too much.
The Critique: Liam Neeson.
The Recommendiation: Liam Neeson.
Rewatchability: Liam Neeson.
Where to See It: From Netflix on your couch. With Liam Neeson.
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average. Also known as Liam Neeson.
Top Photo: http://blogs-images.forbes.com/scottmendelson/files/2014/02/Non-Stop-LN1.jpg
Liam Neeson: http://www.quickmeme.com/img/65/659777f2d6a63232f5640ce3d1c4b267ef888dbfc34c0292092e58a944bfe2c4.jpg
Punches Wolves: http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs70/f/2012/031/c/4/liam_neeson_by_cowman2000-d4o9xwc.jpg
Pompeii (2014): A slave-turned-gladiator finds himself in a race against time to save his true love, who has been betrothed to a corrupt Roman Senator. As Mount Vesuvius erupts, he must fight to save his beloved as Pompeii crumbles around him.
I just had to use IMDB's description here. Couldn't help it, because it is rather funny and shows the primary fault of this movie, which I'll get to in a bit. Ok so first off, if you don't care about ancient Rome or about gladiators, just stop reading. You will find no enjoyment in this movie. The love story is basically awful, mostly because guess what? Emily Browning (Sucker Punch) is STILL terrible. She basically single-handily torpedoes any chance of a convincing love story occurring. So, go see Kevin Hart's About Last Night if you want a good love story in the theaters right now. Don't waste your time here. Ok? Ok. Bye!
Still here? Oh hey. Let's actually talk about the incredibly mixed bag that is Pompeii. Here's the main problem with this movie: it's directed by the overly-serious Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, AVP) if he could've turned this into a classic Roland Emmerich dumb-but-fun disaster film, it probably would've been a lot of, well, fun! Instead, we get way too much poorly-written character development, and an un-buyable love story. On top of the awesome and well-choreographed gladiator fights (the best part of the movie, by the way) and, you know, the part where Vesuvius erupts. It takes so long for the movie to get to this. If Pompeii had erupted in the first 20 minutes of this 98 minute film, it probably would've been a bit more enjoyable! Just....forget the character development, guys. It has a great ending, if you can stick with the movie until then. But it is short! And for the most part once it gets going I never felt bored. So that was nice! You want a stark contrast to show how good this movie was while simultaneously it was so laughably bad? No? Too bad. So a lot of people die in this movie. Obviously, cause, you know, Mt. Vesuvius. But one of the main bad guys dies in a way that was so awesome I actually cheered in the movie theater. It was amazing! Right there with the death of the Witch King in Lord of the Rings for a totally badass death scene. But, at the same time, this movie has some of the worst deaths I've ever seen. Ready? Picture this: slow-motion-falling-off-a-cliff death scene. Of a good guy. I mean, who thinks that's a good idea? WHO THINKS THAT'S A GOOD IDEA???? I was rolling with laughter. There's no way around it. There was a lot of incompetency on this staff. They were just like, "Ah f*ck it. We'll give it a shot!" And later, "Oh, it doesn't work? F*ck it. We'll do it anyway." Bet that's exactly how it went.
The acting had some pretty stark contrasts as well. Kiefer Sutherland (24) was hilariously incompetent. He was hogging the screen like nothing else by over-exaggerating EVERYTHING. It was pretty bad. And Emily Browning was TERRIBLE. She has like one facial expression. That's it! They should've had her maid, played by Jessica Lucas (from Cloverfield and actually a vastly underrated actress) and Browning switch roles. If they had, maybe MAYBE it would've made the love story a little convincing. Even though yes I know Lucas would never be royalty in ancient Rome, but who cares! It's a big stupid action movie anyway. It wasn't all bad though. Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) and Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity from The Matrix trilogy....wait, what?) were good as Browning's parents. Actually, they had one of the cooler moments of the movie. Now, ready for this name? Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje was the best part of this acting posse. Much like his role of Mr. Eko in Lost, he quickly became my favorite character. And it was only after the movie when I IMDB'd him that I remembered that he was from Lost. This guy is a great actor, and I really want to see him in more movies. Please? However, and I've been saving him for last intentionally, the person everyone wants to see who may sort of like this movie is Kit Harington. Jon Snow is the lead here, but....he doesn't really add anything. He wasn't bad by any means, but he wasn't memorable either. He switched between mostly the same two expressions much like he does in Game of Thrones, and while it was cool seeing him lead a full-length movie, I can't say that now I see him making it big outside of GOT. He was not memorable. In short, if you love Jon Snow, you should watch this. But if you are just a casual Snow fan such as myself, it's not worth your time to see just him. He gets a solid 5.5/10 in the acting department.
Did I cover everything? Basically. The volcanic eruption is cool. Definitely more realistic than Dante's Peak but I think that is to be expected. Something about the whole 17-year time difference. Wait, 17 years? Damn I'm old. The destruction is told pretty vividly, but you are clearly expected to care about these characters. And outside of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, I didn't care about anyone. So is it worth your time? Yes. If you like this sort of thing. But it's definitely not worth $10. The main problem is exactly what the IMDB description implies: it tries way too hard to be serious. Just be a big stupid action movie! That's fine guys. Nothing wrong with that. Ask Roland Emmerich to direct this next time.
The Critique: An evenly mixed bag of good and bad. Ok acting, but poor direction and a poor script makes this very forgettable.
The Recommendation: If you love Kit Harington, Rome, Pompeii, or gladiators, go see it. If not, avoid like the bloody plague.
Where to See It: Redbox or Netflix. Pop open a few beers, bring a few friends over, and have some fun.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
So I'm doing something a little different this time. These are the last two movies up for Best Picture this year that I have not seen and reviewed. I wasn't going to review either initially but I figured that wouldn't be fair to these movies, so I'm going to try to review both of them in a paragraph. I don't know if it's going to work. Ready?
Nebraska (2013): Father and son travel across a few states to collect the father's million dollars that he won through an entirely illegitimate letter in the mail. Bonding ensues.
Bruce Dern and Will Forte are the reasons to go see this if you want a good ol' fashioned father-son bonding movie. They have phenomenal chemistry together and made the movie extremely interesting, despite the fact that I didn't completely buy some of the changes-of-heart that Dern has (supposedly) towards the end. The supporting cast is great as well, with Bob Odenkirk of Breaking Bad acclaim and June Squibb leading the way. Squibb as Dern's wife is awesome, by the way. She may be the centerpiece of what is far and away the worst scene in the movie involving a cemetery, but she had about three DAMN moments all throughout the movie. The movie is well-told, with a fantastic classic Alexander Payne-style ending. I really had no major problem here, minus Dern's character as a whole. It is shot in black and white, which I'm still not a huge fan of, and the story is not one that will appeal to the masses, but it was still wildly enjoyable. If you want some father bonding time, watch this movie with him. You will enjoy it!
My number: 8.5/10 Somewhere between great and awesome
Philomena (2013): British journalist Martin Sixsmith discovers Philomena Lee, an Irish mother searching for her long lost son, and helps her find out the truth about him.
Damn. Talk about a movie I didn't see coming. I don't think anyone did. But holy crap is it good. The acting is superb, including Steve Coogan, and the screenplay is even better. I'd say the screenplay is the reason that Steve Coogan is as great as he is. The writing (also co-written by Coogan and Jeff Pope) allows Coogan to bring out his comedic side without it dominating the picture. Of course, the star here is Judi Dench. This movie is another wonderful reminder of how good Dench is as an actress. I tend to forget that when I see her play M in the Bond films. (Besides Skyfall) But she is brilliant as the lead, creating one of the most interesting female characters I saw on screen in 2013. Actually, she just might be the most interesting female character I saw on a screen in 2013. I'm going to have to add her to the best acting performances....anyway, the story is remarkable. While some of the journalism ethics issues that are brought up in the movie are mostly ignored towards the end, and this is the biggest fault of the film, the main storyline revolving around Philomena was heart-wrenching. Honestly? This is getting an absolute must-see recommendation from me. This just might be the best British movie since The King's Speech. Just might.
My number: 9/10 Awesome
Since I am reviewing both, I will now talk about both. WHOA. I CAN DO THAT. If you are to see one of these two movies, absolutely see Philomena. Honestly I was surprised at how much more invested I was with this story than I was Nebraska, despite my ability to relate to Nebraska's story in a way. The acting in Philomena is better, but only slightly. I think it's just the writing. The writing of Philomena is a bit more dramatized than that of Nebraska, and I tend to like that. Alexander Payne keeps Nebraska insanely down-to-earth, which isn't necessarily my cup of tea. It might be for you, but not for me. So, while Philomena may not be one of the best films of 2013, (I don't know where it ranks yet exactly) it is definitely worth your time. So there you go! I think I did them justice. Thanks for reading everyone!
The Lego Movie (2014): An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together. Here's the trailer in case you somehow missed it.
So this movie is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I think ADD would be a great way to describe it. At least for the first two acts, the movie is frantically paced, with a million things happening on screen all at once. However, the movie does slow down in its pacing quite a bit in the third act. Is this a bad thing? No. Absolutely not. It is welcomed actually, as it brings on a few surprisingly emotional moments towards the end of the movie. However the third act is also where this movie lost me. I won't spoil, but I will say a new element is introduced here that I didn't buy at all to bring on these emotional moments. And that will be the difference between me calling this February movie one of the best movies we'll see in 2014 (which many people are already saying) and me just saying that it was....well....really good. It really all depends on whether you buy the big moment of the third act or not. So, let's dive into it shall we?
First off, holy crap the voice acting. I was a little worried about this part, as I figured guys like Morgan Freeman, (making fun of every God character he's ever played) Liam Neeson, and Will Ferrel (Lord Business) were just going to use this movie for a paycheck. They didn't. Actually, Liam Neeson specifically puts in a truly remarkable performance with his character, Bad Cop. I figured he of all people would be phoning it in but DAMN! It was possibly the best voice-performance of the movie. And the rest of the cast? Awesome as well. Chris Pratt (Moneyball, Her, Wanted) was fantastic as the lead. (Emmet) He's got a great future ahead of him: he has great comedic timing, he's charming, and he's lovable. Elizabeth Banks, (Wyldstyle) Charlie Day, (Benny) Allison Brie, (Unikitty) Nick Offerman, (Metal Beard) and Will Arnett (Batman) all round out the main cast of the movie. Everyone besides Elizabeth Banks was fantastic. Banks was just...ok. Is that a bad thing? No. I just think she needs more than her voice to create a good character. But that's ok! Then there are the cameos. Since it's Lego and they have made Legos for everything you can possibly imagine, there are a lot A LOT of hilarious cameos. I won't tell you who the cameos are, rather I'll share who voices them. Will Forte, Dave Franco, Cobie Smulders, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Shaq, and others all make appearances here. Some even for just a line or two. Like I'm pretty sure Will Forte has one line. And Smulders. This crew spared no expense with bringing in great actors to do these voices. And we haven't even talked about the animation.
Holy crap the animation is some of the best I've ever seen. Some of the opening shots of the city Emmet lives in are absolutely breathtaking. Not only did the crew go all out in making the Lego characters and environments look as realistic as possible, they made virtually the entire movie look like stop-motion animation. As in all of the Legos do not just look like real Legos, they act like real Legos too. THEY ACT LIKE REAL LEGOS. They stick to this formula so loyally that I was 100% convinced that at least part of this movie really was shot with stop-motion animation. Not one second of it was. Not one. And it's 100% loyal to Legos, too. Even when the villains are firing their guns at our heroes, all the bullets look like plastic. When buildings collapse or water gets spilled for whatever reason, it's all composed entirely of Legos. The attention to detail here is amazing. I will say the one time the animation looked a little fake was when our heroes were on the open ocean. They tried creating moving waves out of Legos, and as bold of an idea it was to create choppy seas as opposed to calm ones, they just didn't quite get there. But this is nitpicking at its finest. Seriously, this is right there with Frozen for the best animation I've ever seen. Please make a sequel guys.
This movie....it's as much for our age as it is for kids. Actually, that's another thing I'm hearing: the kids are not enjoying this movie as much as the older folks are. It makes sense. The nostalgic moments, or the references to other movies (which were incredibly smart, like animating a train wreck EXACTLY like the big train wreck in 2013's The Lone Ranger is shot) or the final homily the film provides in the third act are all addressed to our generation or to the parents of the kids watching this movie. At the end of this movie it will be the parents crying. And the kids are going to be sitting there like....what? Similar to how the Toy Story franchise keeps it's parents engaged, there will be plenty of that here too. However, I hear that the parents aren't just liking this a little bit more than the kids, they are liking it a LOT more than the kids. In terms of this being a kids movie, it is so rapidly paced in the set-up period that I'm hearing the kids are just not enjoying this movie nearly as much as we are. That and what happens in the third act are the two primary gripes against this film. And again, I'm in the minority in terms of not buying into the third act. I wish I could explain why, but I really can't without spoiling anything. Actually, you know what? Spoiler section at the end. I have to explain this.
Anyway, much like Frozen, this is getting my absolute must-see recommendation for anyone who likes movies. While the third act didn't sit right with me, and it will lower my score a lot, if you do buy it, this will very likely be one of the best movies of 2014. If you had a childhood with Legos, or like movies, or have the spirit of a child somewhere inside you, or have actual kids of your own, GO SEE THIS. In 2D. Oh ya almost forgot! I saw it in 3D, and the 3D did not add much. Definitely not enough to warrant the extra money. So, don't waste your money there. You will get just as good a viewing experience in 2D as you would in 3D. BUT GO SEE THIS. NOW. STOP WHAT YOU'RE DOING AND GO WATCH THE LEGO MOVIE. Now to try to get Everything is Awesome out of my head....probably going to be unsuccessful at that.
The Critique: a kids movie aimed at our generation/parents, The Lego Movie is full of laughs, excitement, action, spectacular animation, and emotional tension. It's going to be very tough to take this down for at least being the best children's movie of 2014.
The Recommendation: unless if you are a soulless, heartless monster, go see this movie. Now.
The Verdict: 8/10 Great. If I had bought the third act it would've been flirting with a 10. Just saying.
Oscar Talk: That's right, FEBRUARY 2014 OSCAR TALK. This will most certainly be nominated for best animated movie of 2014. It may even sneak into Best Picture too, given how large the field is. Everything is Awesome may also make an appearance into Best Original Song, but probably not. It is a great song though. Now, GO SEE THIS.
SPOILER ALERT. BEWARE SPOILERS ARE FORTHCOMING. DID I MENTION SPOILERS? NO. OK. SPOILER ALERT.
Ok so I'm assuming if you read this you've seen the movie. In the third act, a literal human element is introduced with Will Ferrel and a kid. While what happens here with Will Ferrel realizing that his kid is incredibly talented and everything may leave many parents in tears, I just saw it as a forced homily to show why good parenting is important. There were many hints of this along the way if you were paying attention to the movie, and I'm sure there was definitely a way that they could've kept the movie entirely within the Lego universe while simultaneously introducing this element, but they had to make it real. Honestly, and I know I'm going to get some criticism for comparing these two movies, this reminded me a lot of a forced Adam Sandler homily on why family is important. Which is in every single movie he's a part of. While The Lego Movie is nothing like a Sandler movie, it's third act still made me think of that. And introducing the human element totally blew up the story too. Obviously you are supposed to suspend disbelief when watching a kid's movie, but when they did this and showed the entire world we had been seeing throughout the movie made out of real-life Legos, it totally took me out of the story as I couldn't help but think of the logistics behind what we were seeing. I'm sorry guys, but while many people may love this part, I just didn't buy it. I would love to see the real-life recreation they made though. I'm sure it's on display somewhere. After all 15 million actual Legos took part in that. It better be on display somewhere....
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