FSR’s Weekly Report Card for 01.30.09

FSR's Weekly Report Card


Studio: 20th Century Fox

Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, some drug references and language.

Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Katie Cassidy, Famke Janssen and Xander Berkeley

Directed by: Pierre Morel

What it’s about: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a former spy who has given up the spook game to be closer to his 17-year-old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) in Los Angeles. After she convinces him to let her go on a Parisian vacation, she is kidnapped by human traffickers. Mills goes on the warpath and opens up a whole bucket of whup-ass on the kidnappers, tearing through Paris like a fat man at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

What I liked: I absolutely loved the unapologetic nature of this film. As a parent, I can understand the single-minded rage you would feel if someone were to kidnap your own kids. Liam Neeson plays a formidable action figure, and I can easily see a franchise in the waiting with this film. Think John McClane with a bigger, badassier build.

Taken serves as a fantastic action piece, which is to be expected with Luc Besson behind the movie. It seems to be a bit of a mix between The Transporter and the Bourne series. Even though it was still a Hollywood-style adventure film, things seemed relatively grounded and believable.

Like some other films – like Hostel and Turistas – this movie will make a lot of parents think twice before letting their kids go un-chaperoned on an international vacation.

What I didn’t: For as awesome Taken was as an action film, the technical side had some problems. The sound mix was somewhat muted, even during the explosions and car chases, and the look of the film see-sawed between fine cinematography and pixelated video.

Finally, Maggie Grace was a throwaway performer in this movie. Any attractive girl could have done the part. When she was at home, she appeared to be a spoiled brat with the mentality of a 13-year-old, and when she was in Europe with the Paris pimps, she just wandered through the scenes. I suppose it was a good thing that she was kidnapped and kept out of sight for much of the movie.

Who is gonna like this movie: Action junkies, Liam Neeson fans and parents looking for an excuse to say no to their kids’ travels.

Grade: A-


Studio: DreamWorks

Rated: PG-13 for violent and disturbing images, thematic material, sexual content, language and teen drinking.

Starring: Emily Browning, Elizabeth Banks, Arielle Kebbel, David Strathairn, John Prowse

Directed by: Charles Guard and Thomas Guard

What it’s about: Anna (Emily Browning) gets home from a mental institution to discover her father (David Strathairn) is canoodling with the nurse (Elizabeth Banks) of her mother, who recently died. Anna thinks that Nurse Rachel is planning on killing her and her sister Alex (Arielle Kebbel) so she can have the dad all to herself.

What I liked: In many ways, this reminded me of one of the other January horror flicks, The Unborn. Like The Unborn, The Uninvited has some really killer visuals, although David Goyer did a better job with the creepy kids. It manages to achieve an atmosphere of dread, with the imagery and the eerie score courtesy of Christopher Young.

As far as Asian horror remakes go, this one is relatively accessible to the American audience, and the ending gives us something different from all the Ring and Grudge knock-offs.

What I didn’t: While the visuals were cool, this movie was also like The Unborn because it was haphazardly written. There was a certain feel of an early 80s horror movie more than an Asian remake, but that didn’t save some stilted dialogue and goofy characterizations.

And although I appreciated a little substance to the plot in the end, I couldn’t help but feel that the Guard Brothers were trying to emulate M. Night Shyamalan… and not terribly well.

Finally, I know Elizabeth Banks is a looker, but she’s not that great of an actress. Haven’t we seen enough movies with her in them?

Who is gonna like this movie: Asian horror remake fans and anyone who likes to look at Arielle Kebbel in a bikini.

Grade: C-

Kevin Carr crawled from the primordial ooze in the early 1970s. He grew up watching movies to the point of irritation for his friends and was a font of useless movie knowledge until he decided to put that knowledge to good use. Now, Kevin is a nationally syndicated critic, heard on dozens of radio stations around the country, and his reviews appear in a variety of online outlets. Kevin is also a proud member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Central Ohio Film Critics Association (COFCA).

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