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Taken 3 Bryan Mills, Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Jonny Weston,

Taken3: when he’s framed for the murder of his wife ‘Dad of the year’ Bryan Mills needs to clear his name, and keep his daughter out of danger. For a blockbuster film the action sequences are frustratingly disappointing – looks like they’d been filmed for a more violent edit, then cut down to get the lowest certificate possible; leaving them disjointed, and Neeson looking like he’s barely trying (Seagal in Russia style). More generally, everything about this is lifted and slightly shifted from the first movie: he meets the wife, but they’re getting on slightly better; there’s a torture scene, but it’s waterboarding instead of electricity; he meets the lads, but they’re golfing instead of BBQ-ing; they have a chase, but instead of a boat, it’s a plane; Kim’s gift it a teddy bear instead of a karaoke machine… There’s too much time spent re-treading overly familiar ground, trying to add depth to one-dimensional (and already established) characters and relationships – at the expanse of time that should have been piling up Eastern-European bodies. Despite being a derivative and inferior shadow of the first movie, Taken 3 is nowhere near as terrible as the 1* reviews would suggest; it’s just that with the first film being so great the sequels taste all the more bitter.

Score: 4/10

More widely; the Taken trilogy (and Expendables) perfectly sum up the problem with successful “one-hit wonders”. Both were originally Hard-18 blood-and-guts nasty / B-movies, kneecapped to a more timid 15 for the second installment, then a paralysing 12A for the third – removing any semblance of the original films which weren’t actually all that different, but had the edge in terms of violence, and no expectations

Taken 3 Panda Bryan Mills, Liam Neeson, Forest Whitaker, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen, Dougray Scott, Sam Spruell, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Jonny Weston,

FuckYeaPANDA: So long, and thanks for all the dosh

JAPANORAMA - Kat Scratch BANNER JAPAN-O-RAMAThe Wolverine 01 - Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke JanssenThe Wolverine: In a way, Wolverine epitomises everything about Japan that you see through Hollywood films: there’s ninjas everywhere, and everyone knows Katrate; crazy districts full of neon lights and big billboards (Shinjuku and Akihabara); old-fashioned houses with sliding shoji walls and tatami floors; technology and Robots everywhere (in this case a 10ft tall mecha-Samurai!!); temples, on every corner; Yakuza interference – obviously; love hotels, The Bullet Train (Shinkansen); and the Tokyo Tower is in the back of every city shot. Yet, whilst it’s using and abusing all of the lazy ‘This is Japan’ stuff we know, it doesn’t feel like it’s exploiting the culture – there’s a lot of nice touches, from the undestractable pachinko players, salarymen in Osaka looking for hostesses, and things like upright chopsticks in food.

THE WOLVERINEAs for the film itself, it feels like three completely separate movies. The first third is a rock solid, well-executed set-up starting in WWII, and laying the ground for the rest of the film. The middle feels like a dip into a tired and clichéd mystery/conspiracy storyline, and the finale – well that just feels like something from a spazzy sci-fi movie, with bald snake-women, giant robots with flaming swords and a whole lot of gratuitous OTT action. I’m surprised at the 12A rating in the UK, as it feels slanted towards a more mature audience than most comic adaptations – including a nice thread of Logan’s dry humour. The Jean Gray plot device is a little hammy, although never going to turn down Famke Yansen in a silky nightgown! Jackman’s on fire, he is the embodiment of Wolverine – down to his permanently-exposed torso – wouldn’t want to be the guy that will inevitably have to re-boot the franchise in 5-10 years as the new Logan. The Japanese cast are also all on form. Overall, The Wolverine is a pretty satisfying comic book movie, but the ever-changing story and tone prevent you from becoming fully immersed in the movie.

Score: 6.5/10

The Wolverine 03 - Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Will Yun Lee, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Brian Tee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Famke Janssen

Taken 2: Bryan Mills and his ‘very particular set of skills’ are hunted down by the relatives of the bad guys from Paris (Taken). If Mr Megaton had stuck to the surefire winning formula of the first film, he’d have been OK, however, he strays way off topic. Action, drama and no-brain story: 66% – this is far to silly to have any sense of drama or threat. Hard-hitting fight-scenes: 33% – my beloved, worn-down, Taken DVD is 18-rated, this was a 12A, with all of the bloody bone-crunching edges are taken off. Liam Neeson acting well: – 15% – he totally looks like he can not be arsed here, as do most of the cast. A brief list of the memorable moments tell you more about the tone of the film that any sensible review could:

  • Maggie Grace gratuitously running around in a Bikini
  • Maggie Gracehaving not passed her driving test – executing perfect evasive/offensive driving
  • Maggie Grace throwing grenades on Istanbul roofs so Neeson can locate her.
  • Neeson being left in a room, alone, for a long time
  • Neeson having a mini-phone in his pocket
  • Neeson walking through Istanbul navigating using only his ears.

Overall, it feels like far more like a “Shit, we accidentally got a worldwide hit from a B-movie – may as well cash-in with a rushed sequel” affair, over a well-thought out, original, nasty, well done action flick. All that being said, Taken 2 is nowhere near as bad as the critics have made it out to be, there’s more than enough mindless action scenes to keep audiences entertained.

Score: 5.5/10

GoldenEye: [Spoilers] when a global terrorist organisation steals a civilisation-busting weapon system called GoldenEye only one super spy can save the world from the looming doom.

Can a normal man catch up with a heavy, aerodynamic aeroplane... Duh!!

Who’s this idiot-hole jumping off the side of a reservoir and grapple-gunning his way to the bottom? Then taking on a room full of Russians, then stealing a bike, then the plane in mid air… The guy’s insane! This is an outstanding pre-title sequence with 007 and 006 (but how did he get there?) carrying out a break-in at a Russian chemical plant – definitely one of the best, most exciting, most tense and most action-packed of the intros. The (now legendary) N64 game captured facility so well when you see the film again.

It's all 6s and 7s in this scene - and film!

With the fantastic Licence to Kill proving to be a box office misfire – I blame the studio – and the franchise stuck in a rut for over five years the series was having a bit of an identity crisis, and it definitely shows in GoldenEye, which to me feels like a half-arsed re-boot.

Not particularly menacing, unless you have a fear of penis-shaped noses

On one hand we have the good old Commies getting themselves into trouble, a trusty space weapon of doom, a villain that wants to wrong all of the world’s rights, a bunch of big-budget action set pieces, enough explosives to match Licence to Kill and some truly awful accents (taxi  for Janssen & Cumming)… It’s like nothing’s changed.

M, a lady, in a Bond film.... OUTRAGE!!!!

On the other hand hand we have a new Bond (with an 80s lady haircut), a new female M (with a boys haircut), a new Moneypenny (with a drag queen haircut – I’M SO CONFUSED!). Despite having a typical Bond story, there’s something different about it… The original parts are all here, but it just doesn’t feel the same! In one of the film’s most telling scenes M notes that in a post Cold War world James Bond is a sexist, irrelevant dinosaur – shame on her!! A few other characters also jibe with Bond about being old hat…Definitely uncalled for given what JB has done over the years, and guess who has to save the day / world / girl / civilisation again!?!? – idiots!!

Bond nerd and Bond girl, two great characters that are both crucial to the story

As far as the new Bond goes, I really rate Brosnan. Growing up through his films (this was the first one I saw in in a cinema, thanks mum!) he’s the Bond of my era, but also, looking back through the years – for me, he’s the first ‘full package’. Sure, Connery is the Bond – oozing charm and humour, Lazenby was the timid one, Moore too theatrical and Dalton quite mysterious – Brosnan rolls all these traits into one performance, creating a full character for the first time.

Sharpe and Steele - surely a winning 00-combo!

Other unforgettable moments from GoldenEye are the: Tank Vs Train fight, the sexually charged vixen Onatopp (hubba hubba), unashamed 1990s SFX abuse with everything and everyone being blown and smashed up, the blatant IBM advertising, “I am invincible” and the super-cool satellite fight at the end.

Xenia Onatopp: has the gadget to rule all gadgets, killer thighs

For the first time in decades we have a great (and quite large) number of solid – fleshed out – characters that all bounce off and balance each other – because although the action is memorable in GoldenEye, it’s really the cast that have to make us believe that the world’s change AND push the picture forward. While it’s more of a facelift than a proper restart the Bond team did well to nail GoldenEye and save the feanchise that so many had written off. Solid 90s blockbuster.

Score: 7/10

A massive tank, drifting 'round corners and through buildings... awesome

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Sean Bean – pretty insane, wants to throw the UK to the dogs!! 7
Henchmen: Femke Janssen, Penis-nose’d Russian, Invincible Boris. 7
Bond Girls: Femke Jannsen – likes it rough. Programmer chick – very attractive. 8
Action: Opening Scene, Car Chase, Jail Breakout, Tank Chase, Antena & Base destruction 7

First film and we've already seen Brosnan's Ohhhhhhh-Ohhhh face!

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Bonus round - so you'll never, EVER look at this poster the same again

Taken: (Extended ‘Harder’ Cut) a stupid girl runs off to Europe to follow a U2 tour, and if that doesn’t warrant getting kidnapped I don’t know what does! Naturally, her badass daddy (conveniently ex CIA covert / black ops) has to sort it all out. My favourite thing about Taken is that it has an amazing mix of action, drama and a no-brain story. It’s very realistic; the fighting’s well-choreographed but never really over-the-top, there’s also a great – no holds barred – authenticity on the human trafficking story. Despite seeing this a few times my heart still ends up in the stomach when Kim gets kidnapped. Above all that, Laim Neeson’s on top form, showing his acting and action abilities in equal measure. I guess the downside is that it doesn’t exactly make you want to visit Paris in a rush. Unashamedly in the same vein as Bourne, 24, Man on Fire-type movies but other than that, you can’t fault this much!

Score: 8.5/10