Filled Under: thriller

The taking of Pelham 1 2 3

Aunjanue Ellis

Aunjanue Ellis

Do you love John Travolta like me?

If you do, you will have a lot of fun watching his latest movie, “The taking of Pelham 1 2 3″. With co-star Denzel Washington, the pair of movie superstars  offer two hours of suspense in this thriller taking place in the New York subway.

This movie is a remake of a 1974 movie, both based on the novel of the same name by Morton FreedGood. In this remake directed by Tony Scott (Enemy of the State, Man on Fire), the story remains the same: hijackers take over a New York subway train and its passengers and request a ten million dollar ransom.

If the deadline of one hour is not met, one passenger will be killed every minute.

John Travolta plays “Ryder”, a Wall Street convict seeking revenge for his time in jail, while Denzel Washington is Garber, a demoted MTA official who happened to be there when the train was taken.

From start to end, the storyline centers around their dialogue and the unusual relation that they develop. An angered & desperate maniac who will go all the way to make his point, and a simple likable low-key family man who would not hurt a fly.

James Gandolfini plays the New York Mayor beautifully. He is the one with the responsibility to handle this difficult situation, while trying to preserve his own good image. John Turturro is the hostage negotiator, experienced and methodic.

Aunjanue Ellis plays Garber’s wife and she wants to make sure that he does not forget to bring a gallon of milk when he comes back (if still alive).

This is an action movie and there is a lot of it too, with nice special effects and an excellent camera work.

The message of the movie: if you know something no one else does, you can make a lot of money in the stock market.

The Spirit

Eva Mendes

Eva Mendes

The Spirit is a Frank Miller adaptation of a DC Comics series started in the 40s.

It stars the beautiful Eva Mendes, and the not less beautiful Scarlett Johansson, alongside Samuel L. Jackson.

Frank Miller is a very unusual director and his movies are highly unique. Miller is a writer artist and film director, who originally wrote comic books, and that shows in his movies.

He directed the truly brilliant Sin City, where real footages were merged with a comic books overlay in a way never seen before.

He also produced 300, a movie  of splendid computer generated images mixed with real shots. “The Spirit” follows in the same vein, with the comic books fantasy look overwhelming each scene.

Unfortunately, The Spirit is a much weaker creation than the two other movies. My feeling is that one significant difference stems from the leading actor. In Sin City, Mickey Rourke was amazing as the villain turned hero, genuine, powerful and unstoppable. Mickey truly melted into the comic books images.

In 300, Gerard Butler similarly was the perfect actor for the role of an antique Spartan King who personified glory in War. A true hero and brilliant general defending his country at all cost.

But in The Spirit, Gabriel Macht was too weak an actor for the role. Certainly a fine actor, he nevertheless does not have the personality to represent a convincing masked vigilante fighting crime when the City sleeps, as the Spirit likes to do.

The story follows the general line of DC comics books, with one superhero fighting an equally powerful villain criminal. Here the villain is the person of the “Octopus” (Samuel L. Jackson), whose quest for immortality imperils the entire city. The Spirit is the hero with similarities to Batman, helping the police but staying in the shadows and always keeping his mask.

The Octopus is assisted by his accomplice Silken Floss (Scarlet Johansson) and a herd of easily disposable genetically engineered clones. The Spirit is helped by femme fatale Sand Saref (Eva Mendes) who was his sweet heart from his previous life.

The Spirit does not remember who he is and the truth will be revealed by his arch-nemesis the Octopus, but let us keep the suspense intact.

The message of the movie: Frank Miller makes really beautiful movies.

Taken

a beautiful young actress

Famke Janssen

Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen star in “Taken“.

The movie has done very well in the box office, grossing $144 million domestically 4 months after release. The IMDB rating is 8.0/10, which is fair and puts it in the good movie category.

“Taken” is an action/thriller telling the story of a father whose daughter is kidnapped by Albanian girl traffickers.

Unfortunately for the traffickers, Liam Neeson aka Brian Mills is a retired CIA operatives from their Special Activities Division, called a “preventer”.

As you can imagine, the movie is action packed as it is going to take a lot of bullets, blood and wit for Liam to recover his daughter.

He must find her fast, very fast ,  as he is told that if he cannot locate her in the next 72 hours, she will have disapeared forever into the labyrinth of European prostitution.

The movie is centered on Liam Neeson’s quest for his daughter and it is unusual to see him play such a merciless hero, but his performance is excellent and he deserves A+. The beautiful Famke Janssen plays his ex-wife and mother of his daughter played by Maggie Grace. They certainly both do their part well, but the focus in on Liam Neeson and how he will be able to recover his daughter with nearly to clue to start with.

Yes, but he was a CIA operative, and he knows how to follow a track, however thin it can be. There is of lot of action and it somehow reminds me of “The Bourne Identity” series, which is my opinion is one of the best action/thriller of the past ten years. Without reaching this level, “Taken“will keep you riveted to the screen from start to end.

The character of Brian Mills is also very similar to Jack Bauer from the TV show “24“. But even more ruthless, as this is not just any mission, but a personal situation with his own daughter involved. And he takes NO prisoners.

Most of the movie takes place in Paris. If you like the French Capital, you may recognize some streets or neighborhoods.  The final scene takes place on a boat crusing the river Seine at night. Beautiful scenery of the noctural Seine quais. and bridges.

Pierre Morel who is a new director did an excellent job of directing the movie and you will never get bored while watching. Luc Besson produced and co-wrote the script, which explains the overall qualit and interest found in “Taken“.

The message of the movie: (except the obvious “Do not mess with a retired field CIA operative”): Prostitution and girl trafficking is a SERIOUS problem, not just in Europe, but worldwide.

State of Play

a georgeous young actress

Rachel McAdams

Russell Crow is one of the most likable and talented actors of his generation.

In his latest appearance on the big screen, Russell pairs with Ben Affleck in “State of Play” from Universal Studio Pictures. The movie did reasonably well in the box office with about 31 million dollars three weeks after its release.

State of Play is a rather good movie, but nothing extraordinary, I would say.

The movie’s acting is excellent. Russell Crow runs the show as in all his movies. State of Play revolves around his character Cal McAffrey, who is a maverick, overweight, but talented, intelligent and perspicacious newspaper journalist. Ben Affleck plays Stephen Collins, a Congressman who gets in a lot of trouble. Complementing the two, the lovely Rachel McAdams incarnates Della Frye,  Cal’s colleague journalist from the blogosphere. And Hellen Mirren adds Oscar quality acting in her role as Cameron Lynne who is running the newspaper.

The conflicting relations among this trio of journalists is one of the interesting aspects of the movie, as these three are all great actors. Russell Crow is the cool veteran journalist who knows all the tricks to get any information he needs. His dark side is that even his close friends never know if he is manipulating them to get some information. In this regard, this unorthodox and disillusioned personality is similar to his other recent role as Ed Hoffman in “Body of Lies“.

Rachel McAdams is the fresh out of school motivated (and beautiful) young blogging journalist who is still very idealistic about the profession. She makes a great couple with Russell. And Hellen Mirren is the experienced boss who is trying to lead this team. Unsuccessfully, as no one really leads Russell Crow, who does not hesitate to take the most dangerous paths to uncover the truth.

The plot in itself is one of these recurring corporate conspiracy theories that appear  on a regular basis. This is a genre that the public loves, with many masterpieces such as “Enemy of the State” eleven years ago.  To be honest, the story line from beginning to end is a little pushed to support the various dramatic events occurring during the movie. This is often the case in many movies, but here it seems a bit outstretched.

Murders, mystery, suspicions, they are all there, but it misses a zest of credibility in my opinion to make it all click. The first half of the movie is better than the second. As the story progressively unwinds, the viewer may wonder if this all makes sense or not.

The strongest part of the movie is the interaction between Russell Crow and Rachel McAdams. He must be nearly twice his age and acts in a very detached manner, showing no sign of interest (the usual trick). She is genuinely beautiful, sincere and idealist. The courting is really going in slow motion all the way. No love scene if this is what your are looking for (Russell does not do much of that anyway). A rather clumsy romantic scene toward the end reveals that he may have some interest (?). Yes, Russell plays one of his clumsiest ever role with regard to flirting.

If you like Russell Crow in an action and mystery packed movie, you  will like “State of Play“. But a much better recent achievement from Russell would be “American Gangster” for instance. The IMDB rating of 7.7/10 is fair. The director Kevin Macdonald is only moderately famous and has yet to strike a major hit. The script has been touched by five different writers and this is maybe why is feels a bit shaky.

The message of the movie: there are still idealistic heroes who seek the truth, and only the truth.