NEW YORK (CNS) — Liam Neeson scowls his way through the sour sequel Taken 2 (Fox). Moviegoers may find themselves displaying a similar expression should they choose to spend a long 90 minutes watching Neeson tangle with — and inevitably best — one anonymous heavy after another.
This time out, Neeson’s Bryan Mills — a retired CIA agent short of fuse but long on mad fighting skills — is up against the machinations of a grudge-bearing Albanian by the name of Murad (Rade Sherbedgia). Murad is out for revenge because Bryan killed his son, the principal baddie of the first installment of the franchise.
Never having been exposed to the civilizing influences of Wal-Mart and the Olive Garden, poor benighted Murad, who’s not only Eastern European but a Muslim to boot, fails to understand that junior had his torturous death at Bryan’s hands coming. So he hatches a plot to kidnap Bryan, Bryan’s ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), and their teen daughter Kim (Maggie Grace).
Since Kim’s previous abduction by Murad’s pride and joy — a serial human trafficker — provided the premise of the earlier go-round, perhaps she should contact Lloyd’s of London at this point and see if they don’t offer an insurance policy for this sort of thing.
The perfunctory setup we witness before Murad springs his trap includes a nod or two in the direction of family togetherness and hints at a possible reconciliation for Bryan and Lenore. But, given that Bryan’s methods of paternal protectiveness resemble those of a Mafia don, the emotions expressed on the way to his killing spree ring hollow.
In reality, mayhem for its own sake seems to be the driving principle behind director Olivier Megaton’s otherwise largely pointless shoot-em-up.
The film contains frequent, sometimes gory violence, including beatings
and torture, brief premarital sensuality, at least one use of profanity
and occasional crude language. The Catholic News Service classification
is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating
is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate
for children under 13.
NEW YORK (CNS) — Extravagant musical TV shows and movies are all the rage, from the campy Glee to the stern-faced Step Up Revolution.
Some of these productions are calculated to appeal exclusively to aspiring entertainers. Others attempt to use song and dance to proclaim a message, whether it be the importance of self-confidence or of social justice.
Pitch Perfect (Universal) avoids these two missteps, offering instead a comedy that is happy to sing its own tune, peopled by an eclectic array of engaging characters. Its occasional lapses into off-key humour, moreover, represent rare departures from a generally pleasing tone.
Loner freshman Beca (Anna Kendrick) — a wannabe DJ with a taste for dark eye shadow and remixed tunes — finds herself a fish out of water at fictional Barden University. But a chance encounter with overly friendly fellow student Chloe (Brittany Snow) — who discovers Beca’s vocal abilities by overhearing her sing in the shower — leads to Beca’s membership in Chloe’s a cappella group, the Bellas.
The Bellas are on track to compete in an annual completion they lost in spectacular fashion the previous year. As they recruit a gaggle of new cohorts, including the audacious Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) — she calls herself that, we learn, to preempt insult — Beca clashes with the ensemble’s traditionally minded leader Aubrey (Anna Camp). She also finds romance with fellow music lover Jesse (Skylar Astin), despite the fact that Jesse belongs to a rival band of all-male warblers.
Director Jason Moore’s multi-melody romp features pop hits whose origins range from the 1980s to the present — from Simple Minds to Rihanna, endowing it with wide appeal.
While Kay Cannon’s enjoyable screenplay — adapted from Mickey Rapkin’s 2008 book Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory — is mostly wholesome, some salty language and a lax outlook on premarital sexuality bar recommendation for youngsters.
The film contains implied nonmarital relationships, adult themes and
references, including to aberrant sexuality, a few uses of profanity,
occasional crude and crass language and an obscene gesture. The Catholic
News Service classification is A-III — adults. The Motion Picture
Association of America rating is PG-13 — parents strongly cautioned.
Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.
NEW YORK (CNS) — Director Tim Burton’s gothic comedy Frankenweenie (Disney) is a skillful 3D animated spoof of horror conventions built around the heart-warming relationship between a boy and his dog.
This black-and-white, stop-motion cartoon — an expanded version of Burton’s 1984 live-action short of the same title — might prove too scary for small fry. But it will delight their older siblings and amuse parents as well.
After his beloved pet — and constant companion — Sparky is killed in an accident, socially isolated but scientifically gifted Victor Frankenstein (voice of Charlie Tahan) uses stock monster-movie methods to bring the pooch back to life.
Despite his subsequent efforts to conceal his breakthrough from his parents (voices of Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short) and from his peers — voiced, among others, by Atticus Shaffer and James Hiroyuki Liao — Victor’s secret gets out. And when his schoolmates try to emulate his feat, the results are temporarily disastrous.
Said classmates constitute an odd assortment of entertainingly eerie figures, including pint-sized versions of characters long ago made famous by Boris Karloff and Peter Lorre. Another familiar genre persona, the Weird Girl (also voiced by O’Hara), becomes the vehicle for the only material in the picture that some might consider objectionable.
The Weird Girl believes that her cat, Mr. Whiskers, is given to prophetic dreams, and that the subject of each dream can be identified by the fact that Mr. Whiskers’ droppings afterward form the first initial of that person’s name. The Weird Girl relates all this — visual aid included — to indicate to Victor that something dramatic is about to happen to him.
Victor’s interest in experimentation is sparked by his Vincent Price-like science teacher, Mr. Rzykruski (voice of Martin Landau). Though a subplot involves Mr. Rzykruski’s persecution at the hands of ignorant townsfolk, there’s no direct connection drawn between their fear of him and their adherence to any form of supernatural belief, religious or otherwise. And while Mr. Rzykruski praises the value of science at some length, he never does so to the disparagement of faith.
The light-hearted tone of John August’s screenplay, moreover, together with the less-than- scientifically plausible events on which so much of the plot turns, make it doubtful that any serious point is being made — apart, perhaps, from a general endorsement of learning in the broadest sense.
The film contains mild scatological humour and some science-fiction
hokum. The Catholic News Service classification is A-I — general
patronage. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG — parental
guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
Copyright (c) 2012 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops