Taken (2008)

Taken

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
The overprotective father.

Interestingly enough, I never did review the first Taken. This is the movie that started it all, jump-starting Liam Neeson’s career into how it’s known now – a type-casted action hero role. Though, if you ask me, that has more to do with him having a mid-life crisis and trying to prove something more than it has to do with anything else. It’s weird, because before Taken, I remember Liam Neeson in countless films that he’s done a really good job in, and while his acting wasn’t the best in Taken, the movie itself was just a lot of fun when it comes right down to it, so let’s talk plot.

I’m not going to pretend you don’t know what the movie is about – because I’m pretty sure whether or not you’ve actually seen it- you know the plot regardless. That being said, I just feel like talking about what happens. You see, Liam Neeson portrays Bryan Mills – a retired CIA agent that just wants to be around his estranged daughter – who takes his existence for granted. In a continued effort to prove his loyalty and love to his daughter, he buys her tickets to Paris, where she is immediately abducted from the airport. Let’s just say it’s back to a particular set of skills in order to track down and kill his daughter’s abductors.

The plot of this movie couldn’t be more simple if it tried to be. Liam Neeson kicks butt and the film isn’t afraid to prove that to the viewer throughout the movie – and all they had to do to prove it was give him a reason to kick butt. Kidnapping his daughter, done, let the show begin. It’s so simple, yet perfect for what it’s going for. It didn’t have to be deep and meaningful, because as a general rule, kidnapping is a very emotional experience from the get go. So even though it’s simple, it also has a lot of heart. No, you won’t really buy that Maggie Grace is Liam Neeson’s daughter, but it’s not really imperative that you do, either. It’s an action movie that wants to be an action movie, I say let it.

As far as the series goes, I’ve only seen the second movie so far, and to be honest, I like them both a lot – mostly because they aren’t trying to be anything that they aren’t. They know if it’s silly and repetitive, but the real reason you watch it isn’t truly for the story and you know it. The thing is, as fun and exciting the action is, and as unimportant as the story is, you still can’t really get away with not complaining about the acting.

I have no idea why, but there was something remarkably off about the acting. Like I’ve said before, I’ve seen Liam Neeson in a lot of movies and have been impressed with his acting ability, but there was something really robotic and amateur about the acting he did in Taken. It’s not only him, either, it seems like everyone in the movie couldn’t figure out how to act, and just like Liam, there was a lot of actors with the proven ability to act in this…so why did they seem so bad at it? My guess is probably the director or editor was a little off sync with what’s typically considered professional, and for the most part…it was just a mistake.

The Good:

Taken is a lot of fun, regardless of how good or bad the movie is on a technical level. Every now and again, you run into movies that are just fun, but critics like to rip them a new one anyways. This is one of those movies.

The Bad:

The acting. It seemed bad for some reason.

The Happening (2008)

Happening

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Shyamalan’s last attempt.

I feel so bad for M. Night Shyamalan. He and I have a similar background in creativity, filmmaking, and a passion for the arts. He even made home movies when he was a kid, like me. People throw blame at him so much, but what they don’t realize is that it’s not really his fault. The best of the best of his films have been stories he’s had in his mind for decades…then producers came around and basically told him he had to keep making more movies, and guess what…they didn’t do so well. The Happening was the last movie he really did based off of his original horror mystery with a twist  design.

To give you an idea of what this movie is about, we are introduced to a pandemic that is affecting the eastern side of the country. What’s basically happening is that – something in the air is causing misfiring’s in the brain, causing people to ultimately kill themselves in very creative ways. School teacher Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg), his wife (Zooey Deschanel) and a friend’s daughter, must escape this pandemic and figure out what it even is. Is it a terrorist attack of some kind, is it the nuclear reactors, or could it be something mysterious in nature? Most importantly, can these people escape what seems to be the end of the world?

Alright, I’ll admit, I liked this more than the general public when I first watched it. That may technically still be true, but I like it a lot less now, and I think I know why. Besides my bias of respecting Shyamalan’s work, it was clear to me that I liked the concept of The Happening. People uncontrollably killing themselves, and no one knows why, and whatever it is – is coming for them. The shots themselves of people committing suicide are very chilling, and I think well done for the most part – which is magnified by the very idea that it’s ultimately inescapable. The overall idea is fascinating – I love this concept, it’s just…everything other than the shots of people killing themselves absolutely sucks.

I have never been so put off by a performance of Mark Wahlberg’s. It’s partially his character writing, sure, but even so – I think he could have still acted better than he did. Most of the dialogue in this movie is so unintelligent. First we’re talking about hot dogs for no reason, and then we’re talking to plastic plants…I don’t have any idea what’s going on, or why in the world it was written this way. The only thing that I can come up with is…filler material. Great, you got all of these chilling images of suicide, and you got a basic concept, but as far as the actual story goes – you have absolutely nothing…not even an ending – because that’s anticlimactic, confusing, and most importantly, stupid.

Also, if you are going for the mystery side of things, great, wonderful! At least pick something a little harder to guess – we know you Mr. Shyamalan. We know you have weird, off-the-bat writing styles. Even if you weren’t writing it – when you have the choice between generic terrorists, generic nuclear plants, and lots of talk and imagery of plants and wind…who do you think you’re fooling? So, right off the bat, you know it has something to do with the plants – so every scene where they try to figure it out wastes your time and makes the characters look even dumber. So, yes, the movie feels a lot longer than it needs to be, because it takes forever to get to the point, and the point isn’t satisfying in the least bit.

The Good:

While a lot of people will tell you The Happening is one of the worst movies ever made, I disagree. Somewhere in the film lies a pretty interesting concept, along with chilling imagery and music that Shyamalan is famous for.

The Bad:

Seriously? Just watch the thing. All it had was a concept. The production wasn’t horrible, surprisingly enough, but the story was wrong, the characters had the worst dialogue, the casting was maybe the worst element out of everything, and it writes itself into it’s own demise.

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008)

HSM3

Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Definitely better production.

So, today I watched the entire High School Musical trilogy. I did. aaand I liked them, so sue me. You know what I noticed? It was touch and go here and there, but in general, each movie got better, ending in a theatrical release for the third movie…which by the way, is really rare…it’s usually the other way around. The first two go to theater and the third is a TV movie that no one cares about…so if I’m being honest, I honestly have no idea why there was never a fourth movie with an all new cast, it only makes sense. At the same time, the story and legend of the films does a good job wrapping up here, and I’m glad they did, because like it or not, High School Musical 3: Senior Year did a good job.

The third and final film in the franchise obviously takes place senior year at East High, and with any other movie dealing with high school seniors, this also deals with the dilemmas of choosing the right college, and what that means for couples in a relationship. For their last ever musical, they decide to do it on themselves in their senior year of high school and the real problems that they are already facing every day.

The first thing you’ll realize with this movie is that it has a remarkably different tone than the previous two. That would be because of the higher movie budget and expectations. It wasn’t allowed to feel like an inky dink Disney Channel Original Movie anymore, now it had the obligation to feel like an official theatrical Disney movie, which even though you don’t think it would, presents a lot of pressure for everyone involved. Obviously, they couldn’t get it to perfection because it’s a third film in a franchise, but in my opinion…they took all of the flaws of the first two movies and corrected them substantially.

One of my complains about the first movie was that they used a different man’s voice for Troy’s singing scenes. Now, that issue was fixed in the second movie, but then the second movie also had way too much focus on the comedic characters and not enough on the High School side of things. The third movie took things back to the high school and it got back to being a musical about a musical. Not only that, but they took it a step further and actually showed us the songs of the movie in a very unique way that you wouldn’t think of. In my humble opinion, the choices made in this movie pertaining to direction were really smart.

I liked the songs in the second movie, but I didn’t think they really upstaged the first movie’s selection…and I think the third did just that. These new songs are more modern, they are written better both lyrically and melodically, and the dances that accompany them are simply mesmerizing. I’m not afraid to say that I really enjoyed the third movie…but I have one confession I have to make. All of the things that make this great in my opinion are all based off of comparisons to the other movies…as a movie all on its own…it’s really hard to say.

I still hold firm that the songs are really fun and the look alone is really great and more professional, but I’m sorry…it’s just inconsistent. You never just see a third movie go to theater. The reason why is because people who were unsure about the series may start here, because this movie actually went to theaters…which is fine, but they wouldn’t have a single clue as to what was happening once they watched it. There’s no real character development or even depth because that stuff was introduced to the audience already. All this movie really is – is an attempt to end things with a bang! That can serve as a real problem.

The Good:

Those of you who are fans of the High School Musical franchise, check this movie out! It takes every problem you may have ever had with the series and vanquishes them before your eyes.

The Bad:

If you are unsure about the franchise and are thinking about starting here because this is the one that actually went to theaters – stop. Your experience will be significantly altered because you won’t really know what’s happening or how they got to this point. Watch the other movies for context.

The Random:

One of my brothers once asked me to come up with my own “The Boys are Back” dance choreography routine in order to make a fun little video. I didn’t do it.