AMC has set the date for the second half of Fear the Walking Dead’s fourth season – Sunday, August 12 (9/8C).
A failed suicide attempt leads to a reunion of old friends in About Alex, a quietly intense little film about life, love and the false intimacy created by modern telecommunications.
Lockout is to Escape From New York what Battle Beyond The Stars was to The Magnificent Seven and The Seven Samurai – a low-budget romp that transplants one’s setting [Battle Beyond The Star to space from the old west or ancient Japan; Lockout to space from a post-apocalyptic New York that’s been turned into a gigantic prison].. The plot remains the same, but the setting and the characters’ names have changed. The result is fast-paced, violent entertainment that’s enhanced by witty dialogue and just enough unexpected variations on time worn themes to keep the audience guessing.
Maggie Grace is best known for the TV Show Lost and playing the kidnapped daughter in Taken. Her star is rapidly rising and later this year she’ll be the main villain in the concluding chapter of the mega hit Twilight franchise and she just wrapped the sequel to Taken. She talks about all of this in a recent roundtable interview. Lockout opens April 13.
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Faster opens with a glowering Driver [Dwayne Johnson] being cuffed and escorted to the warden’s office. From Driver’s perspective, the warden’s words slowly fade away into nothingness. Once out of prison, he begins to run, pausing to pick up a car [a pimped out Chevelle SS] and stopping only as long as it takes to kill people. Which people? In this fast-paced, efficient vengeance flick, that information is doled out by a judicious use of flashbacks, photos and, occasionally [very little] dialogue.
A retired spy’s daughter is kidnapped to be sold as a sex slave [the slightly skeevey part]. The ex-spy hunts the men who kidnapped her. As premises go, this one is simple, direct and a bit odd to find in a PG-13 film – but we are talking about a Luc Besson production, so maybe it’s not really a surprise.
What is a surprise is that Taken, co-written by Besson [Leon, The Professional and The Fifth Element] and Robert Mark Kamen [The Karate Kid, The Transporter], and directed by Pierre Morel [District B13], is better than the premise suggests. This mostly because it takes a bit of time to establish that our protagonist, Bryan Mills [Liam Neeson] has retired because he wants to reconnect with his daughter, Kim [Maggie Grace]. We believe him because we see how disappointed he is when her mother, Lenore [Famke Janssen] and step-father, Stuart [Xander Berkley] upstage him at her birthday party [he brings her an expensive karaoke machine, but Stuart gives her a horse].
When she and her mother persuade him to sign a waiver allowing Kim to go to Paris, his warnings of danger fall on deaf ears and – sure enough – she and her friend are kidnapped. Then comes the phone conversation we saw in the trailer – followed by Mills taking action. Although Neeson is not a small guy, he does a good job of making himself seem ordinary as he begins tracking down the kidnappers, but once he swings into action, he becomes a force of nature.
Morel keeps the action up front and his pacing builds as Mills works himself up the chain of command – starting with the spotter who set up Kim and her friend. The usual ingredients of a Besson production are here – fights, chases, explosions – but because we buy into Mills as a father, there is a little more gravity, a little more at stake than usual.
Taken is entertaining but, ultimately, reliant on one performance. If you buy Neeson as Mills, then you’ll enjoy the movie. If not, you won’t. I did.
Final Grade: B-