Here’s a quick rundown on 2 flicks still in theaters (Magic in the Moonlight and Lucy) and 2 on Netflix (Blood Ties and Blue Ruin):
Magic in the Moonlight – Woody Allen’s latest is a postcard pretty period-piece set on the sun-splashed French coast and countryside. Here a renowned magician (Colin Firth) travels to France at the behest of his friend to debunk an American spiritualist (Emma Stone). The whole film, like Emma Stone (luminously photographed in classic Allen fashion to play up her best features – that red hair, those blue eyes, that mischievous smile) is ridiculously good-looking and light on its feet. Stone soaks up the sun and Allen’s directorial affections, plumbing her plucky personality to its most glorious depths. Her performance, which takes on the allure of a subtle silent film starlet, is almost transcendent. The film, far from Allen’s greatest, is sill a pleasure to watch, and would’ve been forgettable if not for Stone’s classically styled star turn. Word on the street is she’s signed up for another Allen flick. Like her character, clever girl.
Bottom Line: Spin once. Watch out for Emma Stone’s next Woody.
And now producer/writer Luc Besson and director Pierre Morel present the comedy event of the year!
Here’s the pitch: Two spoiled obnoxious teenage girls from California go to France and get kidnapped by a group of Albanians trafficking dumb tourists into sex slavery to the highest bidders–and you guessed it, one of those high bidders is a Middle Eastern sheik. But oh yeah, did I mention one of those girl’s fathers just happens to be a retired Jack Bauer-style super-spy who’s about reign down a sh*t-storm on the streets of Paris in order to rescue his idiot daughter? And guess what–it’s Liam Neeson!
Yes, there is a bit of a novelty factor in watching the guy who played Oskar Schindler go against type and get crazy on these moronic dirt-bags. And gosh darn it, Liam does his best with the role. I can’t remember the last time a film was sold to the American public entirely on the sound of one man’s voice reading dialog. He alone makes the otherwise unbearable film watchable. However, let’s be honest. As much fun as it is to watch Liam Neeson outrun a speeding car or electrocute some guy or kill a dude with a broken bottle, Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino was a far better and more refined example of grizzled old guy “badassery”, and it was a hell of a lot funnier, and fancy that, had a moral.
What we have here in Taken is tone deaf French filmmakers sticking their nose up at Americans and spreading xenophobia abroad. I’m pretty sure they thought there were making a slick black comedy that no American would see through. Had they manifested this with a harder edge or more overtly satirical tone, they might’ve been on to something. Instead we get a second-rate episode of “24” watered down by a PG-13 rating that takes away any possibility of entertainment on even an exploitative level.
Bottom line: Don’t be fooled by Liam Neeson’s voice. He commanded our attention in the teaser trailers, but this should be film not taken.