SNITCH (Ric Roman Waugh, 2013)

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The Rock was woefully miscast in this thinking man’s action movie. Was Liam Neeson too busy?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published March 10, 1013.)

NON-STOP (Jaume Collet-Sera, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Non-Stop:

1. It’s interesting how Liam Neeson has taken the Jodie Foster route of starting as a serious dramatic actor then moving on to commercial thrillers. Not that there’s anything wrong with it. He brings a certain amount of depth in these generic thrillers that make them watchable. (Oh, I guess this is his Flightplan.)

2. I love Lupita Nyong’o and I haven’t even seen 12 Years a Slave. It’s too bad we don’t get to see her do much in this one. She rocked that flight attendant outfit, though. Always a fashion royalty.

3. Forget the plot and suspend your disbelief. Too much analysis and critical thinking will spoil your enjoyment of the movie.

4. I love Julianne Moore but she was so annoying here. Wait, her character’s supposed to be annoying? What a brilliant actress!! (Die-hard fan.)

5. Too many red herrings almost spoiled this stew. It was still fun to play the guessing game, though.

6. There was this money shot of Neeson in full action hero mode (you’ll know it when you see it) that made people cheer in their seats. Cheesy fun, I tell you.

7. I couldn’t breathe during the last few minutes of the movie that I grabbed tightly on my inhaler. I also gasped loudly in one heart-pounding scene (again, you’ll know it when you see it). Yes, I’m dramatic like that.

8. I’m sure this won’t be shown in any of your international flights any time soon.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published March 1, 2014.)

3 DAYS TO KILL (McG, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on 3 Days to Kill:

1. A movie doesn’t need to be directed by Luc Besson to feel like a Luc Besson movie. This one seemed to be a Besson movie with heart.

2. Dear Kevin Costner, Liam Neeson called and said that he’s got the Taken sequels covered.

Costner tried his best to be the next thinking man’s action hero but it was just so hard to erase The Bodyguard from memory. Plus, Neeson will always hold on to that title.

3. Hailee Steinfeld was good as a rebellious teenager. I still can’t believe she’s not in The Hunger Games.

4. The movie felt disjointed with all the graphic violence interspersed with poignant scenes between father and daughter. Two scenes stood out though: one involving a bike lesson and the other a spaghetti recipe.

5. Not bad if you have a couple of hours to kill.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

(Originally published February 23, 2014.)

THE GREY (Joe Carnahan, 2012)

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A plodding survival movie that began strongly with a plane crash reminiscent of Lost. From thereon, it asked the viewers to suspend their disbelief and go along as they battled a CGI pack of… meh.

Liam Neeson tried to save his dignity and somewhat succeeded until that painful religious bit towards the end. The movie had scenes of real terror but they were too few and far between. Where was the pay-off?

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published February 3, 2012.)

TAKEN 3 (Olivier Megaton, 2014)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on Taken 3:

1. I think the first Taken movie was an instant favorite of daughters everywhere. I’m sure it made them feel safe knowing the extent that their fathers would do to show their love for them. Consider it an action-packed version of Father of the Bride.

2. In this third movie, Liam Neeson displayed his love for his daughter by giving her a giant panda on her birthday. Her survival was more of an after-thought and everything else was just to save his reputation.

3. For the most part, this was actually a lame-brained version of The Fugitive. There was even a tunnel scene here reminiscent of that movie (homage?). All it needed was a one-armed man.

4. Speaking of the villain, it was hard to take him seriously with that Dumb and Dumber bowl cut. In one scene, he fought in his tighty-whities and his bulge (that would put Justin Bieber’s photoshopped Calvin Klein ads to shame) just proved to be a distraction. To some women, I mean.

5. Neeson’s character was asked, “Why do you have to be so honorable?” And therein lay my biggest problem with the entire movie.

In the first two, all the violence was driven by his agenda to save his daughter and wife. Here, he resorted to all kinds of violence even involving innocent people just to prove his own innocence.

One scene showed him causing a stampede in a college (really??). Why did he have to consider himself above the law when a simple trial would have proven his innocence? I just kept thinking, “Anong ipinaglalaban mo?”

6. Olivier Megaton also directed Transporter 3. His idea of an action sequence was to show the exact same scene of a flying truck container from five different angles. This could very well have been directed by Francis Jun Posadas.

7. Why was the MTRCB so strict when it came to sexuality but very lenient with violence? This movie where people got shot by all kinds of guns in all areas of the body just merited a Parental Guidance. Seriously, a PG-rating for excessive violence? Watching this with a kid a few rows behind me actually made me feel uncomfortable.

8. Whatever happened to Dougray Scott’s career? Ever since he passed on the role of Wolverine in the first X-Men movie, he hadn’t done anything significant to launch himself as a leading man. Unless you count his role as Teri Hatcher’s boyfriend in Desperate Housewives.

9. A lot of scenes here didn’t make any sense to me. He made his (pregnant) daughter drink a potion to make her nauseous when he could have just asked her to meet in the school bathroom at a specific time. In another scene, he used a defibrillator to attack henchmen just for the cool concept of seeing someone getting attacked with a defibrillator. And where did he get that anyway? Yet in another, he rammed his vehicle on the wheels of a plane that was about to take off even if his daughter who he was trying to save in the first place was onboard. Oh, and Forrest Whitaker (in the Tommy Lee Jones role) announced in the end that he knew that Neeson was innocent from the start because of his Warm Bagel Theory. So why did they go through all that goose chase? Oh, then we wouldn’t have a movie. Don’t bother.

10. Wait, who got taken??

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

(Originally published January 18, 2015.)

THE COMMUTER (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2018)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Commuter:

1. Can Hollywood please give Liam Neeson’s reel family and friends a break? Why do they always have to be the unfortunate ones to suffer? After the Taken films, Non-Stop, and now this, what other mode of transportation is left that will cause him and his ilk a lot of trouble?

See, this is the very reason why I’m not hoping for that Love Actually sequel. I don’t want to see his stepson Sam suddenly getting kidnapped aboard a ship on Christmas Day.

2. I really liked the opening montage that showed the utter tedium of any working person’s life (waking up at the exact same time every single day, doing the same mundane morning ritual, traversing the same path on a daily commute, all while the seasons changed). Unfortunately, what could have been an insightful morality tale turned into a trashy (albeit stylized) thriller. Definitely as original as Neeson making his signature threats on the phone.

3. How preposterous was that story? The villains obviously had all the resources in their hands, but they still could not pull off a simple assassination? Why would they even need him when they had the power to track his every movement on that moving train?

I hadn’t seen this much cat-and-mouse game silliness since James Marsden and Cameron Diaz agreed to push the deadly button in The Box.

4. What saved this one from being a complete trainwreck were the impressive action sequences. There was a fight scene that was shot in one long continuous take where you could feel every punch in the face (except for Neeson who was neither bloodied up nor bruised after that encounter). It also had a sequence where he was dragged under the train and had to roll away from it, narrowly missing its deadly wheels. I could swear one audience member almost fainted after that one.

5. When the survivors started placing wet newspapers to cover the windows, I was reminded of the same scene in Train to Busan and actually wished that there were zombies on that train. Liam Neeson vs the undead. Hmm, really cool concept.

6. “I’m Spartacus!”

“No, I’m Spartacus!”

“Girl, please. I’m Spartacus!”

*groan*

7. I found it really funny that after the train got derailed and he survived an army of snipers, his family arrived and consoled him like he just came home from another day at work. Come to think of it, it was indeed just another typical Liam Neeson work day.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, 2016)

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SPOILER ALERT!!

My notes on The Huntsman: Winter’s War:

1. One of the best decisions made in this unnecessary prequel/sequel was the removal of Kristen Stewart, whose Snow White was already sleepwalking through the first movie even before she bit into the poisoned apple. If I were that bored, I would probably be sleeping with my married director, too.

The other good thing was bringing back the wonderful Charlize Theron, fully inhabiting the role of wicked Queen Ravenna, truly the most enchanting creature in that mythical land. I wasn’t even sure why she had to listen to her gong-like golden mirror lie that she wasn’t the fairest of them all. Seriously, in what world would she be less gorgeous than anyone (molting gold or otherwise)? Oh right, this was a fantasy.

2. Wait, what happened to the vanity story? Did Queen Ravenna have the King killed as well because he had fairer, more younger-looking skin than her? I expected her to be shallow, but I didn’t realize that she was this unexplainably treacherous.

3. It was obvious that Liam Neeson provided the voiceover here because every time I felt my eyelids drooping, I could actually hear him saying, “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. But if you fall asleep, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you” and I would be fully awake once again.

4. With the current weather, I think Ice Queen Freya (played by Emily Blunt) would be the perfect BFF. Forget airconditioning, her touch alone would send literal shivers down your spine. Plus, wouldn’t it be fun to sing-along to Let It Go while she cast these icicles all around you? You could probably borrow her gorgeous outfits for Halloween, too. (First dibs on the one with the divine train.) And don’t get started on that polar bear fit for a grand entrance in any formal party.

5. Just so people wouldn’t forget that Chris Hemsworth was surrounded by talented actresses and was still part of the movie, he got his own topless tampisaw sa batis scene. Will those abs be front and center in Thor: Ragnarok as well? Asking for a friend.

6. Speaking of talented, I couldn’t believe that Jessica Chastain actually accepted the thankless role of female warrior Sara where she had to go full pabebe mode (refer to Anna Kendrick in Mr. Right) even if she was way too old for it. Besides, her weird accent sounded like a cross between Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn and Madonna after visiting England. Whatever happened to our Oscar dreams?

7. “Love ends in betrayal. Always.” Oh my, Sara was even more jaded than my friend Alfrenette (not her real name) and this was a girl whose heart got trampled on by the most evil queens on the planet. Sara, similar to what I always told my friend, all you really needed was some good *** (it was pie, just in case you were curious).

8. Great, we’re stuck with just two dwarves and they ended up to be Grumpy and Chubby (and their girlfriends). They were supposed to be the funny ones, but were just mildly entertaining. Wait, that makes me sound both grumpy and chubby! Argh!!

9. Similar to Mara Clara, I immediately knew that that eternity necklace would figure prominently in a key scene. (“She is not Cupid. I doubt that an arrow to the heart is an expression of her love.” Har har!) And that hanging bridge? Of course it would get cut off.

10. I hear Ravenna and I think Mulawin.

11. More questions about the movie:

* Why did they have to fight Ravenna if all they needed to do was destroy the mirror? Were they too scared to have seven years of bad luck?

* Why didn’t the Ice Queen use her freezing powers to stop the bleeding? Hadn’t she heard of a cold compress (or cryotherapy)?

* Why didn’t the frozen dwarves shatter into tiny ice pieces similar to what happened to Ice Queen’s boyfriend? (And don’t tell me it was because he fell down to the ground.)

12. Seriously, I had this really strange theory that the Ice Queen’s daughter wasn’t killed and that it was Snow White, thus her name (and Kojic soap complexion). No wonder I’m an unemployed writer.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

TAKEN (Pierre Morel, 2008)

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It’s probably the best Luc Besson movie that he didn’t direct.

Liam Neeson gives a standout performance securing his spot as the thinking man’s action star. This movie is the ultimate nightmare of all parents. With this and Hostel, I’m actually having second thoughts on that European vacation fantasy.

That said, the movie raises a lot of questions that will probably make the self-righteous’ heads explode. An eye for an eye might make the world go blind but it makes one hell of a popcorn flick, too. Morality gets thrown out the window for comeuppance.

Now that’s what I call an action movie.

Rating: 4/5