Taken (2008)


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)


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.