Run All Night


Viewed – 25 August 2015  Online-rental

When Liam Neeson defied expectations and proved a credible action star in the breakout hit Taken, I couldn’t wait to see what would come next.  However what we did get were a series of thrillers that all seemed to come from the same blueprint, delivering entertainment of rapidly deteriorating quality … Taken’s own sequels a prime example.

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However I came to this fairly well reviewed revenge thriller with a degree of optimism because well, Neeson is still a solid screen presence and with the right script can really deliver the goods.  Sadly then this wasn’t the case here.  Neeson plays a down on his luck mobster, estranged from his son and still hanging out with his gangster friend Ed Harris.  Yet one night Ed Harris’ loose-cannon son gets in a sticky situation with some Albanian drug dealers and is soon involved in murder – that get’s witnessed by Neeson’s limousine driver son.  Neeson then has to protect his only son from this unhinged hoodlum that he’s forced to kill, which pisses off old friend Harris – and so sets forth a night of retribution and well, a lot of running.

Slightly convoluted story aside, the concept here is decent, and the performances, especially Harris and Neeson are not bad.  RoboCop remake’s Joel Kinnaman is also passable as Neeson’s clean-cut son … but the big let down here is the direction from usually commendable Jaume Collet-Serra (the underrated ‘Unknown’ and cult classic ‘Orphan’).  He chooses to shoot the whole movie like a rapidly edited pop-video that really didn’t suit the gritty, realistic tone and spoils pretty much every attempt at a good moment.  A car chase is dizzying and just not enjoyable to watch.  Shoot outs get tiresome very quickly, and even quiet character moments are awash with camera angles that don’t stay in one place for more than a second.  The writing is also pretty lazy and get’s rather silly at times just to help the plot along (leave the hit man alive?  Really??).

Some plot elements like how Neeson won’t let his son fire a gun and the father / son bonding or the friendship between Harris and Neeson, helped give the movie some depth – and in better hands, could have made for much more memorable fair (Michael Mann comes to mind, considering we get a steal of Heat’s famous coffee shop scene).  But no, this was just sloppy style for the sake of sloppy style, that took any potential and ruined it.

Verdict:  2 /5

Gone Baby Gone


Viewed – 01 February 2014  Netflix

Taken me a while to review this and it seemed the most interesting choice on Netflix as I was perusing titles suitable for both my mother and father to watch at same time … so anything particularly violent or with sex in it is usually out the window.  This 2007 drama stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan as a 30 something couple who are also private investigators.  They get hired by the dysfunctional family of a recently kidnapped girl after the Police fail to produce leads.  Will they manage to find the girl when the authorities could not?

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Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and Directed by Ben Affleck, who has increasingly made a name for himself as a director with titles like the Oscar-magnet Argo … this I feel is his most assured and meaningful film, with a real-world relevance in reflection to those missing children headlines we hear about.  Co-starring Morgan Freeman as a world-weary Police Chief (isn’t he always?) and Ed Harris as a special agent Casey turns to during his investigation, this has decent performances across the board.  Although taking a while to warm to, Ben’s younger sibling proved a believable and watchable lead and well, I’m a fan of the gorgeous Monaghan who again proves convincing.  It doesn’t gloss over the more harrowing aspects of child abduction neither.  For a movie watched with my parents, the language was stronger than I felt necessary, but that’s my only sticking point.

The story had plenty of twists and turns, keeping me guessing throughout (although I got lost a little) and even when I thought I had it figured out, pretty much guessing one of the bad guys early on … the final morality-punch was a surprise, leaving me thinking ever since.  Well worth checking out.

Verdict:  4 /5

Man On A Ledge


Viewed – 16 June 2012  Pay-per-view

Sam Worthington is steadily becoming the go-to actor for big budget event pictures with a quality list of titles behind him including Avatar, Terminator Salvation and to a lesser extent Clash Of The Titans.  So I was happy to see him in something a (little) more down to earth, even if for the duration he’s stuck on a ledge looking down over Manhattan.  You see, he plays a wrongly convicted escaped felon hell-bent on proving his innocence, and a female negotiator with a few of her own problems is on hand to help … if she chooses to believe his story.

This is a fairly decent concept, borrowing it seems from similar one location scenarios like Phone Booth.  Yet here as revealed in the trailer something else is afoot and the ledge thing is more a decoy to take attention off a diamond heist happening in the building across the street.  Co-starring the gorgeous Elizabeth Banks (30 Rock) as well as Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot), this is thrilling and enjoyable.  It lacks a bit of credibility in its diamond heist plot device and supporting actors including a grimacing Ed Harris are fairly clichéd.  Also the back story leading up to why Worthington goes to such lengths to prove his innocence and just how he got set up are poorly explored, and towards the end it does get very far-fetched.

The performances are solid however and the film looks stylish and does crack along at a good enough pace to mean I never checked my watch.  For such a concept though, this should have been a lot smarter than it actually turned out to be.

Verdict:  3 /5

Apollo 13


Viewed – 04 May 2010  Blu-ray

15th Anniversary Edition

During a career high for Tom Hanks in the nineties where he scored big with Forrest Gump, Philadelphia and Saving Private Ryan, this was another one of those big name movies that garnered plenty of attention.  Telling the true story of the troubled Apollo 13 moon expedition, following in the footsteps of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, Hanks plays Jim Lovell, heading a band of three astronauts as they journey into space.  Along for the ride is Kevin Bacon and Bill Paxton, and with acclaimed director Ron Howard at the helm, this was a recipe made in heaven.

Although on paper this should be boring, the movie allows what is primarily a two setting show between the space capsule & mission control in Houston, to still be utterly gripping, as the astronauts attempt to rectify an accident that threatens the whole mission, whilst the experts on earth attempt to figure out how to get their boys home.  With stunning attention to detail (the zero gravity is a joy to behold) and solid performances, especially from Hanks who carries the movie and gives a very human, likable performance, and Ed Harris as Mission Control’s chief who commands every line he’s given with convincing authority.  Paxton and Bacon fair a little worse, given little to do but point fingers at each other and squabble, and the scenes involving the families whilst believable are not that fully fleshed out – with only Hanks’ family getting much screen time. 

Ron Howard’s direction has always felt like Spielberg in my opinion, with a similar love of family values, big special effects and americana – but this remains one of his best efforts to date.  The authentic sets (and some incredible work from Digital Domain), makes this a crowd pleasing experience, even if at times it drags, and the ending is never in question, taking away some of the tension.   Yet the story is still something that needed to be told and should leave you humbled by just how much risk mankind will take to reach new horizons.

The Blu-ray is packed with features, with archive footage of the Apollo 13 mission, picture-in-picture historical and technical information, an invaluable commentary from Ron Howard aswell as another from astronaut Jim Lovell and his wife, and plenty of behind the scenes stuff.  The picture is eye-catching but suffers a little from what looks like ringing or edge enhancement, and the colours seem a little overblown.  But overall the detail is high and sound-wise this packs a punch with the launch especially shaking the room. 

Verdict:  4 /5

National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets


Viewed – 11 Jan 2008  Blu-ray

This being my first review of a Blu-ray title, forgive me for gushing.  Lets get the obvious stuff out of the way first – the picture and sound to this baby is first class, with every wrinkle on Nic Cage’s weathered face and every crease of fabric and crumble of a stone wall, represented in vivid detail.  I also noticed that the sound seemed much deeper and crisper than on a DVD.  I was very impressed.

This modern take on Indiana Jones archaeological adventuring is the follow up to the underwhelming but enjoyable NT #1 (duh!) and has a wise cracking, quite funny Nicholas Cage on fine form even though I feel this kind of audience pleasing pop corn entertainment is beneath an actor once wowing critics as a suicidal drunk in Leaving Las Vegas.  Joined by two other treasure hunters (gadget guy Justin Bartha and ex-squeeze Diane Kruger) as well as a scene stealing Jon Voight and Helen Mirren; after the revelation that a lost diary page could ruin the family name in the history books, a quest begins to discover the hidden city of gold and prove the family name’s innocence.  Ok it sounds rubbish, but with a kidnapping of the President (!), globe trotting to Buckingham Palace and sneaking around The White House, as well as car chases, caves, booby traps…and a sneering Ed Harris – its hard not to get caught up in the hokum, and if like me you’re a sucker for conspiracy theories, American history etc, then you’ll have a great time with this.

It does nothing new and borrows shamelessly from much better plotted films…but at the end of the day, has plenty of personality – and sometimes that just about makes all the silly stuff work.

Verdict:  3 /5