Friday, November 6, 2009


Somehow I missed this movie completely when it came out a year or so ago. I probably dismissed it as just another crappy pseudo-thriller but I have to give Taken some props. It was really enjoyable...right up to the end where it kind of tanked for me. More on that below.

In Taken, Neeson plays a down-on-his luck former government agent whose daughter is kidnapped from her “I’m a rich white girl following U2 all summer” European tour to be presumably sold into a human sex trafficking ring. Neeson’s Bryan Mills kicks into high gear to cunningly find and take down every person involved in the kidnapping of his daughter.

Taken is a formula thriller but somehow it worked for me. Maybe it was because there was no dramatic “reveal” of the bad guy. We know pretty much from the start who it is and we just get to sit back and watch Liam Neeson kick ass and take names until he finds him.

What works for the film is how much I have a huge crush on Liam Neeson, making me blind to any fault he might have in acting, and blind to many faults in the script. Also, there’s a lot of good fighting and vanquishing of bad guys that makes it fun to watch.

What’s bad? Well, here goes…
1. His daughter? Seriously, that was some horrific acting. Like every time she ran to give her dad or mom a hug it resembled a five-year-old running to a giant lollipop. SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD-GIRLS DO NOT RUN LIKE THAT. Ever. And they hate their parents. They scowl. There is a good deal of eye rolling. They don’t make goofy arms-out-flappy-legs-dances up to their mommies.

2. Mills’ ex-wife, played by Famke Jannsen. Her character was trite, poorly written and about as formulaic as it can get. She was upset that her daughter was kidnapped! No! I can’t believe it!

3. The ending. Oh, Taken. You had me right up until the end. I don’t want to give anything away but let’s just say that the ending was full of body count and not so full of dialogue. It just wrapped up so abruptly I felt like we never go the chance to feel very vanquished. And then that goddamn daughter did another one of those goofy runs and I just had to shut the whole thing off. It’s a good thing Liam Neeson is so incredibly, terribly dashing or I might have hated it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Away We Go

Away We Go is one of those movies that feels like it’s a studio movie masquerading as an independent film. More polished than a true indy – too rough to be Hollywood. Unfortunately, it falls into the trap of being a melancholy movie with an interesting soundtrack and not much else happening for the whole damn film -- except a lot of eloquent conversations that real people never have.

The film centers on a young, driftless couple who find themselves pregnant and in search of a place to call home. The movie follows them on a vast road trip where they audition cities in which to lay down roots. Along the way, we meet an amusing cast of characters who steal the show from the drab, chemistry-challenged leads, Maya Rudolph and John Krasinski [who plays Jim from The Office with a scruffier beard. What a marvel of costuming!]

That being said, Away we Go is enjoyable and is probably worth watching for Maggie Gyllenhaal’s insanely crunchy-granola-toddler-breastfeeding-hippie mama character alone. If you’ve ever encountered one of those family-bed fascists in your own life, you will squeal with delight at how pompous and self-righteous she is. "Do you plan to hide your lovemaking from your children?" she asks Maya Rudolph with an air of implied reproach when she questions how they all sleep in one bed together. Another notable cameo is Allison Janney who is just terrific as usual playing a loudmouthed, booze-soaked cougar. She’s dynamite. Go rent it, you’ll enjoy it.