Famke Janssen

Taken Famke Janssen and Maggie Grace

Contrary to popular belief, not all mega-successful movies get an automatic sequel. Often, a pitched battle rages over the right to add a +1 on the end of whatever movie just made a gazillion dollars worldwide. Take Taken 3. The addition of that “3″ was no cakewalk. At first, Liam Neeson was adamant that the film shouldn’t be made, that a single family would suffer three takings to be completely absurd. “It’s just bad parenting,” Neeson argued. Then, Fox offered him $20M to change his mind. He did. But there was a catch: Neeson’s agreement meant Fox had to implement a strict “No Taking” policy for Taken 3. No daughters would be taken. No wives. Not a single Liam Neeson. Which begs the question: what’s everyone supposed to do instead?

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hansel and gretel witch hunters 04

The other day I received an email from a reader who is quite familiar with Tommy Wirkola’s background. He tells me that, while at film school, the director pitched something with the title “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” and received the following response from a professor: “never mention it again before you’re standing in front of Hollywood executives.” Even if the story is embellished at all (our reader says it was in the Norwegian press), it’s a perfect prologue for the fairy tale-like fantasy of the film industry and a harsh set up for the sad truth about million-dollar ideas. Wirkola did wind up in Hollywood and has made a feature called Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Of course he did, because it’s the sort of title that goes a long way in the business. The only pitch necessary is in those four words — we have well-known characters and a simple premise all spelled out right there. But just because it’s a genuinely clever concept and, more importantly, an easily sellable product, that doesn’t make it a movie worth seeing. Wirkola never gives us anything more creative than those four words, unfortunately, and even worse, he directs his unimaginative script with so little care and spirit that you’d think he hadn’t been sitting on this project for so many years.

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Taken 2

Pierre Morel’s 2009 hit Taken was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise on several levels. It turned the 56-year-old Liam Neeson into a legitimate action star, it re-framed the idea of January being a dumping ground for Hollywood leftovers and best of all, it was damn entertaining in its ridiculous simplicity. Its box office take guaranteed a sequel, but what should have been a sure thing was instead kneecapped by co-writer/franchise-creator Luc Besson‘s decision to hand the reins to the awesomely named  but otherwise utterly incompetent Olivier Megaton. In the sequel, ex-CIA agent and current bodyguard Bryan Mills (Neeson) finally has the relationship with his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) and ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) that he’s so desperately craved. An upcoming protection gig in Istanbul seems like the ideal locale for a “family” vacation so the ladies surprise Mills after his assignment for some Turkish R&R. But they’re not the only members of the surprise committee.

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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Everybody has heard the old fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. It’s a story about two little German children, a cannibal witch with a taste for tender flesh, a ginger bread house, and a blazing hot industrial oven. One question most people probably have never asked, however, is what happens after the story ends. Well director/co-writer of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow), did ask that question, and what he decided is that those little scamps probably “got a taste for witch blood” and grew up to be leather-clad badasses who hunt down witches with their extensive knowledge of kung fu and never-ending arsenal of futuristic firepower.

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Taken 2

Why would this family go on vacation to Eastern Europe? Why? Why do it? After your daughter was kidnapped, forced to wear a glittery bikini and stood minutes away from being sold into a harem, why would you not bed down in the exact center of the United States (Lebanon, Kansas by the way) and resume life as quietly as possible? The new trailer for Taken 2 raises this important question, but it also continues to prove that Liam Neeson is a badass not to be trifled with. The opening sequence is perfect, taking on the perspective of the sex trade mafia as Bryan Mills has become somewhat of a legend that needs to be taken out. And take him out, they shall. Or at least they’ll try. Check out the trailer for yourself as you ponder why Maggie Grace is pretending to be 14 years old when her character is at least 20.

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All this Summer, Movies We Love is transforming itself (by getting into a bikini) to celebrate the movies we love that came out in the hottest months. This week, we fall in love all over again with X2. “Have you ever tried…not being a mutant?” Synopsis After a solitary mutant who can teleport attacks the President, a secret military squad led by a man named Stryker (Brian Cox) is given carte blanche to find and capture the students and teachers at Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. But the mutants, especially Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), recently returned from his trip to the North, aren’t going to go quietly. Instead, the team made up of Storm (Halle Berry), Jean Gray (Famke Janssen), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) work to seek out the squad’s base where they are holding the captured Professor X (Patrick Stewart). But the X-Men aren’t alone. Joining in the hunt is the telaporting assassin, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), Magneto (Ian McKellan) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), who have called a truce with the team in what may be an inevitable war with the human race.

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As the only literate Reject, it’s my duty to find the latest, the greatest and the untouched classics that would make great source material for film adaptations. I read so you don’t have to. The end of the world is coming pretty soon, and the best way to be prepared for it is to read this book by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Don’t be caught with your pants down during the end times. Know your future, gird your loins, avoid gorgeous red heads that make you angry for no apparent reason, and keep a close eye on that neighborhood gang of kids that seems totally harmless. They’re probably hanging out with the Antichrist.

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FSR

Kevin Carr reviews the movies the studios didn’t allow him to see early this week: Taken and The Uninvited.

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I love threats, I receive them all the time from all of you. I also love them when they are included in movie posters — especially when they are for movies that look pretty badass. Take for example, Liam Neeson in Taken.

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7 Days of 007: Bond Girls

The beauty of James Bond is that the women in his universe are more gorgeous than most of the girls we’ll meet in the real world. We take a look at the creme of that particular crop.

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Writer/Director Jonathan Levine has brought his incredibly intelligent, amazingly cast film to Sundance to delight audiences — especially those who were children of the 90s.

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