Taken review

Liam Neeson stars in this action thriller, directed by Pierre Morrel, about a retired CIA agent who has to tap into his specific set of skills in order to save his daughter, who is kidnapped while on holiday in Paris with her parents, the film stars Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Leland Orser.

Taken follows a familiar feeling plot layout for an action thriller involving a kidnapping but it does something different, that different thing is Bryan Mills, a modern cowboy in a sense, Neeson is really well cast as Mills and makes for a pretty badass fighter. While the rest of the cast is also good, Bryans family unit is believable and Maggie Grace is great as Kim, really selling the emotional ordeal that she goes through which makes you sympathize with her and root for Bryan.

The film works because of its well crafted action, tense and frenetic, it’s shot in a way that plainly shows you the gritty, brutality of one on one combat so yeah the film is quite violent but never needlessly so and surprisingly Neeson makes a pretty good action star, sparring off well against the bad guys which results in some exciting set pieces.  The fights themselves are well choreographed and pretty much all pretty tense, even though you can expect Bryan to get through them and despite expectations you may have while you watched, you’ll likely still be gripped nonetheless and that’s a credit to the film as it has an interesting plot. And while the bad guys are cookie cutter henchmen and throwaway characters for the most part, even they are made to serve a purpose and made to look extra vile and bad, to make you want the Bryan to win all the more, Neeson just naturally has a sort of calming and trustworthy aura about him and this translates to the screen with him as Bryan, being a character you root for the whole way.

Neeson is very much the cult action hero these days and Taken is the film that properly launched him in that sort of role, it works a a tense action thriller and is an engaging watch despite its predictable plot, of course spawning Taken 2 and Taken 3 which developed on how people in Bryans’ family could be taken in even more elaborate ways.


. Good performances

. Very well done action scenes

. Engaging plot

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 teaser trailer


So this kinda came out of nowhere but yeah, we have our first official look at Guardians 2, very much in a similar vein to Guardians 1 or prime (however you want to call it) with ‘Hooked on a feeling’ playing, but things seem a bit more sombre and serious this time around, as we see various members of the guardians doing their thing in a few scenes and yes, former ravager Yondu is now a Guardian and we see him with Rocket.

We also see Nebula as well as Drax and Gamora but no Baby Groot…. of course not, he’s right near the end on Rockets’ shoulder.

Anyway the tone is not all serious and the latter half shows us some of the levity and banter you can expect, with Drax telling Peter Quill some home truths, though there does look to be a fair amount of action as well from the short snippets we can see. On the whole while we really don’t see a lot from this and while it is just a teaser, it’s looking pretty good and is a upcoming film that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I have full faith James Gunn has done a good job with this anticipated sequel and it should be a blast, where it will rank in the MCU and how it will compare to Guardians 1 however, remains to be seen but I have high hopes.

The Wolf Of Wall Street review

Martin Scorcese directs The Wolf Of Wall Street, a biographical drama and true story about the life of Jordan Belfort, his rise to dizzying success and riches as a stock broker and his involvement in crime, corruption and lifestyle of hedonism, the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, Matthew McConaughey, Kyle Chandler, Jon Bernthal.

Scorcese is a master at crafting epic dramas and The Wolf Of Wall Street is no exception, almost feeling like a modern day gangster story but without the gangsters as we follow the life of Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as he discovers shares in the 80s and quickly rises to prominence and vast wealth, his story is a fascinating one brought entertainingly to life by Scorcese and a stellar cast. With DiCaprio definitely stealing the show in a great performance, humorous, emotional and often intense, he’s a great embodiment of the person that Jordan Belfort supposedly was like at the time, while his best friend Donnie (Jonah Hill) is pretty consistently funny and surprisingly good in a more dramatic role for himself, working well with DiCaprio in a lot of scenes.

Jordan Belforts’ relationships are an important aspect of the story and we see how he struggles to stay faithful to the women in his life, especially with him relating to Naomi (Margot Robbie) who is awesome in her breakout role, being more than a match for DiCaprio as Belfort, the two of them have a rocky ride to say the least but a believable and entertaining ride to say the least.

Scorcese works well in depicting the insane, crazy world with no limits that some of the super rich in America actually lived in, in times gone by, expertly directed to emphasize the things that Belfort and his cohorts did, not necessarily glorifying or demonizing their actions in my view but just showing a depiction of events that happened and leaving the audience to judge for themselves – something which I think is a sign of intelligent directing. Some of the events presented are pretty crazy and borderline ‘unrealistic’ which highlights the hedonism and extremes certain people in that industry live to in the 80s and while you watch, you’re probably well along for the ride because of the great storytelling, put together by Scorceses’ deft touch.

Most of the good, memorable scenes couldn’t have worked without DiCaprio being so good, in the scenes without narration or music, he brings that intensity and you can really feel it, while in other scenes the writing shines in its comedic value. The writing as a whole for the film is fantastic and works well to serve the characters and each scene, the dialogue between characters feels like real people talking about things, albeit things rich stockbrokers would have talked about and the conversations between the authorities and Jordan Belfort are also great to watch. That yacht scene between DiCaprio and Kyle Chandler springs to mind, with some palpable intensity and tension.

The plot is great because it really gets you invested in the characters that it presents, whether you love or hate Belfort and what he’s doing, you care and you want to find out what happens next and as things go on, seeing the things that he goes through, you will feel something one way or the other. And while being very long and maybe feeling like it drags a bit at the end, the story is brilliant and very well portrayed via the expert mind and craftsmanship of Scorcese.


. Plot is engaging throughout despite the 180 minute runtime

. Has some fantastic performances, especially DiCaprio, Hill

. The more dramatic and emotional moments hit well, good blend of humour with drama as well

Warrior review

Warrior, directed by Gavin O’Connor is a sports drams centred on mixed martial arts as the son of a former boxer is put through his paces, training in MMA and excelling at it, fast becoming renowned for his talent, he ends up clashing with his estranged older brother, the film stars Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison, Frank Grillo.

The film is a great character drama, driven by the differing lives and situations of the two brothers, Brendan (Joel Edgerton) and Tommy (Tom Hardy) and their relationship to their recovering alcoholic father Paddy (Nick Nolte), Tommy is a returning US marine who unintentionally gets attention drawn to himself after he enters the ring and shows his skills, he gets into MMA after learning about a $5,000,000 prize for the tournaments winner. While his brother, a high school physics teacher, Brendan is struggling to pay the bills and provide for his family, after being suspended from the school he takes in amateur fights for money and eventually works his way into MMA.

The characters relationships in the film are they key to it being such a great drama and the Conlon family is dysfunctional to say the least, the two brothers aren’t on good terms and the conflict between them is palpable, while the two of them in their own way are very driven individuals and focused on succeeding in their new dedication – MMA. And while the fight scenes are well done and great to watch, seeing the characters really dedicate their time to training and fighting is good, knowing the stakes that exist for them both and what the money could do for them, the story really has a good emotional payoff and is quite tense in some scenes, knowing either of them could do badly and get beaten, though you know Tommy probably won’t as he’s just a beast in the ring.

There are some pretty great performances in Warrior though, delivered by Edgerton and Hardy especially who really envelope their roles and seem quite dedicated, the both of them having trained extensively for months in real life to nail the moves and get the physique. And fittingly, the fights in the film are intense and in your face, with effective use of filming to importantly allow you to see everything that’s going on and not get a shaky-cam feel to the action, you feel every hit and get close ups of characters after they get hit, emphasizing the physicality and intensity of the sport. Also the plot develops in an engaging way, being slightly unbelievable with Tommy just blazing past everyone but you really want to see how things pan out and who wins the tournament, Brendan and Tommys’ final fight is a great emotional pay off and nudges the film to a satisfying emotional crescendo and conclusion Warrior overall is a great drama with brilliant performances, a captivating story shot well which is engaging from the offset.


. Intense performances from Hardy, Edgerton

. Great fight scenes

. Interesting story

Zero Dark Thirty review

Zero Dark Thirty, directed by Kathryn Bigelow is the story of the events taking place across the middle east as the US hunted for the worlds most wanted man – Osama Bin Laden, eventually finding him via navy seal team 6 in May 2011, the film stars Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Jessica Chastain.

Bigelow works well in crafting gritty dramatizations of real life events. namely in the months and even years leading up to the final mission to find and take out Bin Laden, the overall story is surprisingly filled out and you get a sense of the scope of the overall mission, taking years of resources, hearsay, scouting and even torture to get out information on Bin Ladens’ whereabouts. The film was somewhat controversial in its subject material, some feeling it was a bit too soon to make the film about a real life event that happened just the year before the films release in 2012, but I think it works decently enough as a story.

The film is actually quite tense in moments, especially in the later portion of the film with the seal team 6 raid and the filming reflects that with the team moving in darkness, you get the feeling of chaos and frenetic action that must have taken place in the real event, the final missions well shot and quickly cut to reflect the team going in and is very tense, even though we already know how things went down.

The performances present are quite strong however, driven mainly by Jessica Chastain as Maya, the analyst who continued to work on the mission to find information on Bin Ladens’ whereabouts and never gave up, Chastain really delivers that drive to reach her goal and hits the emotional points in the story well, while Jason Clarke as Dan also brings a good performance. As this is a drama and the nitty gritty details on trying to find a wanted terrorist leader wouldn’t make the most exciting movie, things are dramatized a bit, torture is controversially included as are other events that Maya gets caught up in, including a terrorist bombing, all adding to the plots engagement. And even with the slower, dialogue driven moment with Maya chasing up leads or trying to do interviews, it’s interesting to see how she gradually gets closer to pinpointing Bin Laden, culminating in a feeling of relief and victory when they finally get solid information on where he is. Though you should bear in mind that while this was based on real events, there’s a clear element of creative licence with the material in order to make an engaging story.

The film isn’t really good because of its characters, though they do bring a human element to what’s going on, it’s good because of the story itself and the huge scope of it all, it’s pretty incredible to think of the events as a whole in the hunt for a man badly wanted in the West and the steps that the US took to get to him.


. Engaging plot in most parts though it does feel a bit scattered in terms of how the story is told

. Has some strong performances

. Maybe simplifies and dramatises the real life efforts to find Bin Laden