Action Movies

Taken 2

The thesis statement of Taken 2 seems to hold that once you’ve dipped your toe into the criminal world, you’ve entered a murky swamp with an undercurrent that’s just going to keep pulling you deeper down into depravity. When Liam Neeson’s daughter got snatched up by kidnappers in the first Taken, he didn’t handle things by going to the proper authorities, he handled them by tracking the kidnappers down and brutally murdering them one at a time until he got her back. If you’ll remember, it was completely awesome. But it turns out all of those people he killed had families – criminal families – and now they’re out for revenge. In this trailer for Olivier Megaton’s Taken 2, it’s not just the daughter that gets taken, it’s the entire family. So Neeson is going to have to fight extra hard, he’s going to have to dig deep into his cache of skills, and he’s going to have to be as steadfastly brutal as he’s ever been on film before…because he’s got a whole lot of people to kill.

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Up until this point they’ve been calling David Ayer’s upcoming Arnold Schwarzenegger-starring crime film Ten. Which has made sense, because its a story about 10 DEA agents who rip off a drug cartel and then get bumped off one by one. But Ten is also a generic title that could mean just about anything, so in order to make the film stand out and be more recognizable they’ve now given it the super descriptive and unforgettable title of…Breacher. Okay, so that just makes it sound like this is a movie about a whale or a submarine. Who actually knows why they changed the title, but the deed has been done, and the important thing to focus on is that there’s some new casting news that might be of interest. Breacher, as has been reported, comes from a Skip Woods script that’s loosely based off of an Agatha Christie story called “And Then There Were None.” Christie’s original story detailed the systematic comeuppance of ten previously unpunished murderers. Seeing as the very core of this story is a group of people getting what’s coming to them, it’s going to be very necessary for Ayer to compile an ensemble cast. And as much as we all might love to watch Schwarzenegger don various wigs and prosthetics to play every part, that’s kind of Eddie Murphy’s thing, and wouldn’t be appropriate.

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After 1995’s Sylvester Stallone-starring take on the “Judge Dredd” comic series shit the bed and offered film and comic geeks little more than a couple of ironic quotables from a pizza delivery guy played by Rob Schneider, it didn’t seem very likely that anyone would take a shot at revisiting the property anytime soon. Seventeen years must be the statute of limitations on this one though, because here we are in 2012, getting a promotional clip for a new Karl Urban-starring take on the material called Dredd. Having reservations about this film due to past failures in translating the character to live action is understandable, but it’s starting to look like it might not be justified. Dredd recently screened for audiences at Comic-Con, and the buzz coming out of the room was that this new take on the character is much more true to the original comics. Word on the street is that this is a gritty, gory, action-packed shoot ‘em up that has way more in common with the face-punchingly awesome The Raid: Redemption than it does any Sylvester Stallone failures.

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Over Under - Large

If one were to conduct a scientific study meant to determine what the most successful action movie of the 90s was, chances are pretty dang good that Speed would be near the top of the candidates for consideration. A success both financially and critically, this high-octane tale of a bomb on a perpetually moving bus solidified Keanu Reeves as one of Hollywood’s go-to leading men, launched the gigantic career of Sandra Bullock, and even gave its director, Jan de Bont, a success to add to his resume. All of that should be enough to solidify Speed’s place as one of the most important 90s action movies already, and we haven’t even factored in how it also managed to introduce the phrase, “Pop quiz, hotshot,” into the cultural lexicon. So, pop quiz, hotshot: Die Hard was the greatest action movie ever made, but its sequel, Die Hard 2, was a derivative bore churned out by one of the most prolific manufacturers of schlock of the last few decades, Renny Harlin. What do you do? You get the director of the original, the inimitable John McTiernan, to come back for the third film, Die Hard With a Vengeance. DHWAV, from what I can tell, isn’t hated. It’s widely considered to be the second-best entry in the Die Hard franchise, it certainly made its makers some money, and it doesn’t get derided as the death of the franchise like the belated fourth sequel, Live Free or Die Hard, does. But it doesn’t get […]

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The first look we got at Rian Johnson’s upcoming time travel action yarn, Looper, did a solid job of setting up the story and teasing the action. A curiously lantern-jawed Joseph Gordon-Levitt is playing our hero (or, at least, the closest thing we get to one), a hitman for the mob who gets paid handsomely to wait in a field that exists many years in the past, shoot the people the wise guys send back in time as soon as they wink into existence, and then dispose of the body where no future authorities can find them. The wrinkle comes when his latest clean-up job gets sent back in time and a quick locking of the eyes reveals that he’s an equally lantern-jawed version of himself from the future (Bruce Willis). What to do? The new international trailer for the film gives us a bit more of an idea of what is going to be done. Future Gordon-Levitt has come to the past with a plan. And, as you might expect out of a hitman, his plan involves killing someone. Will he be able to set everything right and fix his future, or will his past self – who’s going to be in deep trouble if he doesn’t take his future self out – stop him before he can put his plan in motion? Lots of interesting questions about destiny and how much we can control our future seem to get asked. But, more importantly, everyone involved is shooting guns […]

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Over Under - Large

Kathryn Bigelow is the sort of director who’s been defying perceived gender limitations her entire career. The biggest of those accomplishments came when she became the first woman in history to win the Oscar for Best Director. Her Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, was a tense look at military bomb defusers that created more movie chills than 99% of the horror films that get released in any given year. And it showcased a strong performance from Jeremy Renner that essentially made his career and catapulted him toward being one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Before she ever won her Oscar, however, she was already defying expectations by shattering the myth that a woman couldn’t direct kick-ass action movies. Her 1991 film Point Break is probably one of the most manly movies ever made. It’s about extreme sports-loving adrenaline junky bank robbers, and it stars Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze as the cops and robbers. But, despite the fact that Point Break has a cult audience, it’s viewed by most as being a guilty pleasure, a relic of the early ’90s when cheesy action movies ruled the day. Maybe it’s because Keanu is milking his dense, surfer persona for all it’s worth, or because the movie is so unapologetically an action film, but people just don’t take Point Break seriously these days. And that sucks, because it’s really well-made.

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Sylvester Stallone’s upcoming all-star action extravaganza The Expendables 2 is currently in the midst of a mass scale marketing blitz that recently motored on with the release of its final official poster over at Yahoo! Movies (check out a larger version after the break). Just look at all those big names standing next to each other and try to tell me that it doesn’t get you excited for the possibility of seeing them kick ass on the same screen. These guys are the biggest badasses in movie history, without question, and just the idea of seeing JCVD finally going toe-to-toe with Chuck Norris is enough to make one salivate. But what’s with the name of this franchise? The Expendables? Hardly. These rich old men are anything but, as their films have basically made all the money the action genre has brought in over the last three decades. To paint them as some sort of rag-tag team of underdogs is just downright disingenuous. If rooting for the little guy is your cup of tea, however, then boy do I have an appealing B-team of action badasses for you. Meet the Soldiers of Fortune:

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We’ve known for a while that Channing Tatum was going to play a heroic Secret Service agent who protects the President during an attack on the White House in Roland Emmerich’s upcoming action film White House Down. It’s been a scary proposition to think about, because everybody knows that action star Channing Tatum is the worst Channing Tatum you can get. He’s much better when he’s being funny or dancing, which doesn’t sound like things he’s going to get much of a chance to do in a movie that keeps getting described as “Die Hard in the White House.” Unfortunately, this movie may be giving us the return of the dreaded Wooden Channing Tatum. Some new casting rumors introduce new promise to the production, however. While watching Tatum try to pull off stalwart and stern for two hours is likely to be a chore, his supporting cast just may end up being talented enough to pull him through this one unscathed. First off, Variety has a report that Jamie Foxx is in negotiations to play the President that Tatum is going to be protecting. Barring the casting of Barack Obama himself, Foxx is about the most charismatic man I can think of who could be put into the role of a movie President and pull it off believably, so that’s promising news right there.

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Casting for Jose Padilha’s upcoming reboot of the RoboCop franchise seems to be coming along swimmingly. First he landed up-and-coming The Killing actor Joel Kinnaman to come on board as the main character, Alex Murphy, who starts off as a normal police office and then gets blown away by a bunch of bad guys, resulting in his transformation into a robotic cop. Then he really swung for the fences and got Gary Oldman to agree to come on board as a morally conflicted scientist, the only person in the film who foresees the eventual complications that might come from resurrecting dead people and turning them into robots. The latest bit of casting news might be the biggest of all, however, given the recent world-beating success of The Avengers. Heat Vision is reporting that Jedi Knight, head of SHIELD, and longtime badass Samuel L. Jackson has joined the cast as well. He’ll be playing a character named Pat Novak, who’s said to be a charismatic television mogul. There’s not yet much information out there about how closely Padilha’s remake will resemble Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 version of RoboCop, but seeing as this is a property that naturally lends itself to social criticism, one can assume that Jackson’s character will be used to skewer the greed and irresponsibility of modern media.

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Joe Carnahan’s Liam Neeson vs. wolves thriller The Grey isn’t just one of the most well-regarded releases of this year so far, it’s also a grizzled, badass guy’s film the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while. So you would think Hollywood should be lining up to help Carnahan slip into his next tough guy-themed project as soon as possible. And thankfully, they are. Twitch has word that Carnahan has been given the go-ahead by 20th Century Fox to start work on a passion project he’s been trying to develop for a while called Continue. It’s an action-centric take on the story trope of a protagonist having to re-live the same events over and over again; kind of like a Groundhog Day with guns, or that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the same attack keeps happening, but not in space. Carnahan’s story is about a former soldier who has to keep reliving the day where assassins came to kill him for unknown reasons. Days like that are the worst.

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At this point we’re already knee-deep in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’s promotional campaign. We’ve posted the film’s first trailer, which highlighted Lincoln’s skill with an axe; its red band trailer, which put the spotlight on how crazy its action can get, and now the film’s third trailer is making the rounds; and it’s a promotional piece that finally hammers home the fact that this is a story about Abraham Lincoln. It’s been strange up to this point how little this film’s advertising efforts have stressed the fact that it has a completely ludicrous premise, given that said premise is going to be the main attraction for fans of genre filmmaking. This is a movie about the 16th president of the United States slaughtering blood sucking monsters with kung-fu skills. That’s absurd! Why don’t we focus on that for a minute?

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These days we kind of take it for granted that Liam Neeson is the biggest badass on the planet. But, once upon a time, he was just a budding action star, an actor making a transition from the dramatic roles of his youth to the more throat-punching direction his career has taken recently. Then Taken happened, and suddenly he became the biggest action star on the planet. That modestly budgeted actioner took in $226m worldwide, becoming such a surprise hit that we now find ourselves in the position of eagerly awaiting the sequel. This week, “Entertainment Weekly” is taking advantage of the anticipation by debuting a few stills from the movie, as well as having a little chat with Neeson about what danger his character is going to face this time around. When asked about how Taken 2 ties in to the end of the first film, Neeson explained, “The action is supposed to take place about a year or a year and a half after the first story. It’s a very clever sequel with the usual thrills and spills, but the ante is upped quite a bit in this one.”

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? It’s The Raid. Made with claymation cats. By Lee Hardcastle. Do you need an embossed invitation? What will it cost? Only 3 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films Hat tip to Hobo With a Shotgun director Jason Eisener for sharing this on his site.

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It’s a wild career Peter Berg has created for himself. The kid from Shocker and Aspen Extreme grew up to have an eclectic mix of directorial offerings. Everything from wicked, black comedies like Very Bad Things and damn solid action flicks like The Rundown. He’s even dabbled in the Summer blockbuster like Hancock and this Friday’s Battleship. I think that movie made Cole angry. Berg’s most important work of art came in the form of Friday Night Lights, arguably the best show in the past decade. You be the judge which side of that fence I fall on. Clear eyes. Full heart. Can’t Lose. But we can’t exactly run a Commentary Commentary on the full series run of that show. That would take too long, and there’s not enough Monster in the world to keep the writing juices flowing. So we’ll do one on The Kingdom, Berg’s 2007 film about an FBI investigation of a suicide bombing in Riyadh. That’s in Saudi Arabia, something you’d know if you’ve seen this film’s opening credits. Or watched The Daily Show more often. Enough about TV. On with the Commentary Commentary for The Kingdom.

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The action-comedy is theoretically one of the best movie genres ever, because it lets you laugh and watch stuff explode at the same time. The danger with them is, if the comedy gets too silly, the action scenarios don’t hit with any weight, and if the action sequences get too intense, it’s hard to find any humor in the life and death stuff happening on the screen. You have to skirt the line just right and maintain the perfect tone in order to make an action-comedy successful, and I’ll be a monkey’s uncle, but the new trailer for Hit and Run makes it look like writer/co-director Dax Shepard has hit the nail on the head. Hit and Run is the story of an ex-wheelman in the witness protection program (played by Shepard) who has left his wicked ways behind him and found himself in the incredibly fortunate situation of shacking up with Kristen Bell. Everything in his new life is just peachy – until his former cohorts find out where he is and start hitting people in the noses with golf clubs and demanding untold sums of money. Lots of chase scenes and yelling ensue.

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The level of neon-glowing attention to detail in Panos Cosmatos‘s Beyond the Black Rainbow is intense. The first-time director has taken the images of forbidden horror VHS tapes on rental store shelves and transformed his imagined movies into something very real, and very frightening. It’s a trip into a lonely cult that mixes religion, science and pills. We’ll talk with the writer/director about his psychedelic terror-scape. Plus, Battleship Pretension hosts David Bax and Tyler Smith battle in our Movie News Pop Quiz, and the discussion turns to the nature of superhero movies. Are they an action subgenre? Can there be a superhero movie without any action? Is The Avengers the zenith? Reject Radio starts now. As soon as you click that. Download Episode #133

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Since the end of his political career, action icon Arnold Schwarzenegger has dove back into the world of movie-making head first. He popped into Sylvester Stallone’s action star team-up, The Expendables, for a cameo, he signed on to play an aging Sheriff in Last Stand, and he agreed to work with Stallone again, playing a career inmate in The Tomb. While running into a familiar face from the old days is usually a welcome experience, Arnie’s comeback has been met with doubt and derision by a huge segment of the film fan population. At 65 years of age, should the big guy still be making action movies? When he’s asked to have those big hero moments where he strikes a pose and drops a cheesy pun, will it still play as awesome, or will he now look wrinkled and sad? Up to this point it’s seemed like his comeback roles have been chosen wisely to reflect the realities of being an aging actor. He’s a badass from the old days, a cop at the end of his career, or a veteran convict who’s been locked up for years. Words like “grizzled” and “tough as an old boot” come to mind when you picture Arnie slipping into characters like these. But with his new role, where he’s going to be playing a member of an elite DEA task force, he may be pushing things a little too far. What sort of an elite task force would include a retiree as one […]

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If you got the chance to catch Gareth Evans’s Indonesian martial arts film, The Raid: Redemption, at any point over the last year, or even happened to read any reviews of it, then you know that it was pretty much the most butt-kickingly bad-ass movie that’s come around in a long time, and action fans the world over must be keeping themselves up at night wondering what awesome project Evans is going to add his stylish flare to next. Good news: we don’t have to wait for the info any longer. Deadline Tual is reporting that Universal has acquired a drama called Breaking the Bank in the hopes of using it as a directing vehicle for the filmmaker. Originally developed by Darren Aronofsky and most recently written by Kerry Williamson, Breaking the Bank is based on the life of former MMA fighter Lee Murray, who went from choking people out for money to masterminding the biggest cash heist in history back in 2006. The details of Murray’s life that the film’s script co-opts are said to come from both Howard Sounes’ book “Heist: The True Story of the World’s Biggest Cash Robbery” and a Sports Illustrated article written by L. Jon Wertheim called, funnily enough, “Breaking the Bank.”

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Sylvester Stallone seems to be pretty proud of the work he’s done on his latest film, The Expendables 2. So much so that he’s even dressed up in a suit and tie to premiere the movie’s trailer on IGN (fancy!). Sly says of his new all-star action extravaganza, “If you thought the first movie kicked some serious ass, you haven’t seen anything yet.” For fans of The Expendables, that has to be an exciting bit of music to their action-loving ears. But what of us who thought the first movie was mostly just a disappointing bore? Well, if this new bit of advertising is to be believed, there might be some hope for us as well.

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French actress Isabelle Huppert has been a force in the film world for quite a while now, winning Best Actress awards at Cannes for her work in Violette and The Piano Teacher, and a César for her role in La Cérémonie. Though she’s really only appeared in I Heart Huckabees and episodes of Law & Order: SVU in English-speaking roles (as far as I know?), she’s been a top international actress long enough that most everyone interested in acting and such Stateside should have an idea of who she is. Niels Arden Oplev hasn’t been around the scene for quite as long, but after he took the world by storm directing the Swedish version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, he solidified his place on the list of filmmakers that everyone is keeping their eyeballs on. His success launching that franchise has led to his latest project, Dead Man Down, signing mainstream names like Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Terrence Howard, and Dominic Cooper to its cast. Though shooting on the film started last week in Philadelphia, apparently we’re not at the end of the good news when it comes to its cast.

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