Beware the wrath of Liam Neeson. The gruff and angry Irishman returns to kick some politically incorrect foreign ass in Taken 2, a sequel that initially seems to make no sense, until you remember that all awesome action movies (especially those made pre-1990) are nonsensical.
This is only part 2, so it’s too early to tell if Taken could become this generation’s Death Wish. Over the course of five Death Wish films, Charles Bronson managed to make the same mistake (he returns to New York; wife or daughter is murdered) every time, and the results were always the same: pure gold. Not even Bronson’s lifeless performances could ruin the series, either. (I think he died after part 2, and the producers had some best boy shove an arm up his ass to puppeteer him around.) Rather, it had the inverse effect — it showed how soulless the whole exercise was, making the sadistic actions of the cartoony villains all the more unpleasant. And awesome.
In Taken 2, it’s Neeson and his wife’s turn to be taken hostage — a pretty rookie mistake for a cold-blooded CIA operative who killed a bunch of ne’er-do-wells who fucked with his family in part 1. Audiences went bananas for the first instalment, and action-mode Neeson is pretty fantastic (see last year’s brutal and effective The Grey). It’s a career trajectory not unlike Harrison Ford, who was the premier silver fox ass-kicker until he became all angry and Alzheimer-y.
The credits also list Leland Orser in a supporting role (probably as a nerdy bad guy); his mousy weirdness always adds a little punch to whatever he’s in. In particular, see John Carpenter’s Escape from L.A., the best movie ever about escaping from a city. It’s the sequel to Escape from New York, starring Kurt Russell as one-eyed bounty hunter Snake Plissken, which is also hilarious and amazingly lo-fi. You should probably just watch it instead. Pair it with Breakdown, the ultimate “stranger danger” flick, which Russell made after L.A.
You’d think more people would be excited about Frankenweenie, Tim Burton’s feature-length take on his stop-motion short, made way back in 1984. Maybe it’s the black-and-white or bad memories of Corpse Bride (it’s not that bad…), but nobody I talk to seems excited. It’s too bad, as it looks like the first thing Burton has done in ages that has anything of his heart in it — since making Ed Wood, it’s been one glossy, Johnny Depp-vamping project after another. (Okay, Sweeney Todd was pretty good, and I think Sleepy Hollow is one of his best. Really — go watch it again.) You’ll also be treated to the sweet, dulcet tones of Winona Ryder’s voice. Oh Winona, I still love you.
Losers might want to check out Pitch Perfect, about a university all-girl singing group; I’m pretty sure such a thing doesn’t exist except in Glee fans’ feverish, masturbatory fantasies. And I still refuse to believe that this film exists: Butter, starring Jennifer Garner and a bunch of other overacting crazy women, who get all catty over a butter-carving sculpture competition. The trailers don’t make this one look nearly as bitter and satirical as it should be, which only makes my skepticism grow deeper and angrier. I can’t believe that anyone would pay to watch a film about people playing with butter. Then again, some years ago I attended the packed-to-capacity preview screening for Little Man, the Wayans brothers’ “comedy” about a little person passing as a baby so he can rob some family. Or something. Before the film started, they were throwing sparkly soothers on neon strings into the audience; people went fucking apeshit, clawing at each other over the infantile swag. They howled with laughter, and it was horrifying. People will watch anything.