There’s a relatively tedious, though not unfounded at all, cliché about Hollywood making market-tested films that appeal to x demographic by including x types of characters embodied by beautiful stars and putting them in romantic/funny/exciting/all three situations and BOOM:  Instahit.  It’s generally a lot more complicated than that, as there’s bound to be someone along the creative line who has a whiff of the artist about them, or at the very least actors who know how to work a script in their favour, and a director or an editor who can nurture that into something vaguely entertaining.  I don’t know know anything at all about the development or the production of McG’s This Means War, but if there ever was a film that played right into that cliché about clueless moneymen suits at the studio putting an entire movie together and creating exactly what they think a “successful” (not “good”, mind) product would be, this is it.  Read the rest of this entry »

It begins with a serene, but ominous, shot of the Alaskan mountains at dawn before harshly cutting to the hazy orange light of an oil refinery facility at night.  The man (technology) versus nature duality is established immediately, and knowing roughly what the film was about, I had a pretty good idea of where this was headed.  Ottway (Liam Neeson) begins reading what we soon find out to be a letter explaining the hellish circumstances of his job and the place he finds himself.  He marches about the facility with a gun, shooting infringing animals and protecting the workers, whom he describes as “ex-cons, fugitives, drifters…assholes”.  This view is confirmed as soon as he enters the facility’s bar, where we hear loud music and watch as a ludicrously cliché bar fight escalates into smashing tables.  Very quickly, the music fades and we see the soft-lit vision of a woman in bed with Ottway, and though well-shot, it feels even a little more cliché than the bar fight – to the cynical mind, at least.  We get an idea of just how much despair Ottway is in when he leaves the bar and puts a gun in his mouth, the would-be final act interrupted by the howling of wolves.  He eventually boards a plane bound for Anchorage with an assortment of ne’er-do-wells and roughnecks, and a fantastically tense plane crash scene later, he and the few survivors are stuck in the cold, snowy wilderness. Read the rest of this entry »

Taken

March 18, 2009

Seven weeks into its US run, Taken is still holding strong in the box office top five. It has seen less than a 10% drop from week to week for most of that time, which you’ll know is very unusual if you keep up with box office trends (as I’m sure you all do). At close to $127 million in domestic grosses, it is the second-highest grossing film of the year so far (and it’s outpacing the highest grossing, Paul Blart: Mall Cop). Now it most definitely won’t stay that way, and it’s true that this time of year is generally thin on big releases, but it still says something about the cultural draw of the film. Made for around $40 million, this is a huge coup for a moderately budgeted film starring an unlikely action hero. I really shouldn’t play the armchair culture pundit, asking the questions about why this film seems to resonate so well in America and what that says about the country as a whole, but I can’t help myself. I’m probably over-thinking a mindless movie, but after watching it, questions were raised.

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