Film Review: Taken 2

Taken Film Poster

After the worldwide $226m financial success of Taken, and the unexpected discovery of Liam Neeson as an uncompromising action hero, it’s no great surprise to see County Antrem’s finest return for another one man rescue act.

Following the classic ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ maxim, foreigners are still bad, the good guy saving his family is still ridiculously outnumbered but the overall effect is a languid sequel displaying far less imagination.

The film opens with the same deliberate setting-the-scene pace as the original. We head to the green mountains of Albania to witness the funerals of those killed from the first film, and vengeance being sworn cartoon style. “We will have our revenge!” says Murad (Rade Šerbedžija), head of the group of surviving relatives, who plan to avenge their deaths by taking out Brian and his family.

Action man

Meanwhile, back in LA, former CIA Operative Brian’s (Neeson) ex wife Lenore (Famke Jansen) is splitting up with her wealthy husband, while his daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) has a new boyfriend and is nervous about failing her driving test again.

The pace quickens once Brian heads to Istanbul for a work assignment and, despite initially having refused, his ex-wife and daughter decide to surpise him and join him there. Kim tries to rekindle her parents’ romance by staying in the hotel pool and leaving them the two of them to head out to town. The Armenians been watching Brian while this has been happening and are ready to execute their plan. They kidnap him and his wife but despite being tied up Brian is able to call his daughter through a device hidden in his shoe to warn her. Kim really shows herself to be her father’s daughter by this point as she is able to follow his MacGuyver like instructions and locate him after an exhilarating rooftop chase. Cue some more action, including a lengthy and uninspiring car chase, the search for Brian’s wife and an anticlimactic scene when Brian comes face to face with an underwhelming Šerbedžija.

Maggie Grace

It’s all rather disappointing. Whereas the original had the surprise element of a family man revealing himself to have an exceptional sense of resourcefulness, impressive combat skills and ruthless attitude to enemies, this film adds little. Instead of the sinister, well organised inside, there is no great sense of planning or conspiracy this time from the bad guys this time, seemingly relying on numerical advantage and surprise attack. There is a new director, (the awesomely named Olivier Megaton) but very little originality and it feels like an inferior retread. This time there is no memorable “I will hunt you down and I will kill you” type speech, the action is all hurriedly edited and clumsily shot, no intensity with any the villains and memorable death scenes.

In succeeding in getting the film down to 12 from a 15 four years ago with Taken, the film aims for a wider audience but ends up forgetting why most of us liked the original. Anyone thinking this film will be anyway better than the first film will be the ones Taken in.

Film Quizzes: Air

With the release today of Liam Neeson’s film Non-Stop, about his character’s need to save the lives of his fellow airline passengersit’s a reminder of how many films are set in the air. See if you feel on cloud nine after taking this quiz. As ever, the films are in order with the answers below so feel free to comment.

Film Quizzes - Air Film 1 (1940s)

Film Quizzes - Air Film 2 (1980s)

Film Quizzes - Air Film 3 (1990s)

Film Quizzes - Air Film 4 (1990s)

Film Quizzes - Air Film 5 (2000+)

Film Quizzes - Air Film 6 (2000+)

Answers below

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Foreign Favourites Series: Lady Vengeance

One of the unexpected delights in setting up the Foreign Favourites series has been discovering new bloggers and their enthusiasm to contribute. This includes Laura O at Filmnerdblog, whose site is a delightful mix of film genres housing detailed and well written reviews. I have been catching up for lost time and really recommend you have a look too.

Lady Vengeance film poster

Film Favourites series: Lady Vengeance

Overview

Lady Vengeance is the final film in what’s become known as South Korean writer/director, Chan-Wook Park’s, Vengeance Trilogy.  And what a finale it is!  Don’t worry if you haven’t seen Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance or Oldboy, it isn’t that kind of trilogy.  Each film stands alone on its own merits and tells a separate story about unrelated characters and events.

So, to Lady Vengeance.  This film tells the story of Geum-ja Lee, a beautiful young woman who, when we meet her, has just completed a thirteen and a half year prison sentence for kidnapping and murdering a little boy.  So far, so grim, right?  Stick with it.

Upon her release, Guem-ja, sets the wheels in motion for an elaborate and gruesome revenge plot against the man she holds responsible for her incarceration.  Park shows how ‘kind-hearted’ Guem-ja is now a cold, determined, manipulative and damaged woman, as desperate for redemption as retribution.

We’re also treated to a series of flashbacks which shows her innocence and naiveté before the crime, as well as her time in prison.  In these scenes she seems to be a quiet and unassuming character, although we soon see that she has a dark side, even if her actions have good motives.  And that, dear readers, is pretty much all I’d like to say about the plot.  I fear to say any more may spoil it for those of you who’ve not yet seen it, but might want to one day.

Lady Vengeance

My two pence

I was hooked right from the opening credits…that music!  It somehow conveys a sense of mystery and intrigue, not to mention foreboding.   Listen to it here

Lady Vengeance is visually striking too, from the opening sequence where Guem-ja leaves prison to the scenes in the deserted school, there is some really memorable imagery.  Yeong-ae Lee shines as the tragic Guem-ja, the ultimate anti-heroine, successfully expressing the full gamut of emotions.  While there’s a solid supporting cast of characters, it’s Yeong-ae Lee who carries this film.

Lest I give the wrong impression, I should say that Lady Vengeance is flawed.  It takes long while to get going and at times the story seems muddled and a little confusing.  But for all that it is a truly unique story, perhaps partly because the vengeful protagonist is a woman.

While it certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste – it’ll be too violent for some – much of the violence here takes place off-screen, unlike the utterly brutal (and brilliant) Oldboy.  If you’re able to cope with a generous dose of blood in your films, give Lady Vengeance a go.

Scenic shot

Score: 8/10
Watch the trailer here

My thanks to Filmnerdblog for participating, and for such an impressive review. I haven’t seen it, but with such a positive write-up I probably will for sure. 

Awards: The Lighthouse Award

The highly awesome Petite Magique has kindly nominated me for The Lighthouse Award. I had no idea this award even existed so my pleasant surprise was double. Before I carry on with the rules of the award, a quick note to check out Petite Magique’s blog. She writes posts that vary from helpful, supportive, creative and inspirational, and is always worth reading.

The Lighthouse Award

The rules for the Lighthouse Award are:

1. Display the award certificate on your blog.

2. Inform your nominees of their award nominations.

3. Share three ways that you like to help other people.

4. There is no limit to the number of people that you can nominate.

5. Don’t forget to have fun!!

My nominees. I know this is quite a lot and I wouldn’t usually do this many, but rules are meant to be broken. I had a check and I think you all accept awards but if it’s not your sort of thing, no pressure.

Audrey Hepburn Books

Blogged by Anna

Caragale

Eye of Lynx

Film Grimoire

Gill McGrath

Klling

Little Write Lies

M C Dulac

Poor but Honest

Square One Notes

Table 9 Mutant

Verbal Spew

Where the Wild Things Are

And now, 3 things I do that help other people

1. I compliment people. Not in a cut and paste, one comment fits all sort of way, but in a genuine and accurate manner. If someone has a cool feature or trait, or creates something great in any form I’ll tell them.

2. I always encourage people to come to me with their problems. Sometimes they want advice, sometimes to vent, sometimes to have their mind taken off it. Either way, they are always welcome and I will never judge.

3. I like to think I’m a helpful and generous guy. That includes frequently lending out my things, even though I know it will usually be quite a while before I get them back.

Things to See: Turner and the Sea

James Mallord William Turner was prodigiously gifted, with a highly prolific output, an unending passion for art, and the unerring desire to keep challenging himself. For all his talent though, he always seemed happiest when capturing the British seas. Therefore, the chance to see his phenomenal nautical work up close at the Turner and the Sea was one I was never going to let pass. 

Turner and the Sea

Greenwich, East London, is filled with maritime history, and it’s also famous for giving its name to the Greenwich Meridian (longitude) and GMT (Greenwich Mean Time). The National Maritime Museum is the perfect place to host an exhibition of JMW Tutner’s work, as well as other notable maritime artists of the time.

I’m familiar with quite a bit of his work, but standing right in front of his paintings you are reminded just how extraordinary his talent was. Also included are work by other artists, including romantic British painter John Constable, Willem van de Velde, Thomas Gainsborough and Claude-Joseph Vernet. But as good as their paintings are, they highlight just what made Turner so memorable, and just why he has left such a legacy.

Fishermen at Sea

Fishermen at Sea was Turner’s first oil painting to be exhibited at the Royal Academy. Just 21 years old at the time, it’s a phenomenal piece of art, majestically capturing the erratic waves, the luminous moon and the fishermen between them. It’s long been my favourite work of his.

Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth

Now for the Painter

The Shipwreck

Other highlights that detail the dangerous waves include Snow Storm – Steam-Boat off a Harbour’s Mouth, Now for the Painter and The Shipwreck. Turner also appreciates the beauty in calmer seas. The ones that stand out most to me with that aspect are Rockets and Blue Lights, Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Midnight and The Battle of Trafalgar. 

Rockets and Blue Lights

Keelmen Heaving in Coals by Midnight

The Battle of Trafalgar

But the exhibition wouldn’t have been the same without The Fighting Temeraire. Voted as the most popular painting in Britain in 2005, it is the perfect combination of modernity and tradition that Turner placed so much value in. The HMS Temeraire had played a leading role in Britain winning the Napoleoanic war, and was about to be broken up for scrap. Turner paints it being dragged by a small tug boat, with the symbolsim of being able to go forward but thanks to the glory of the past. The visual metaphor of a glorious sun setting in the background is a beautifully spectacular touch.

The Fighting Temeraire

Turner and the Sea is open until 21 April 2014. It’s £10 for a regular ticket but there are different concessions. If you have the chance, you should definitely see it. Beauty is timeless, and with art it dates even less.