The Universe is Expanding

Men in Black: International is not the way you make a Men in Black movie. Since that 21 Jump Street crossover thankfully failed to materialize, a rebootquel was made instead. Something I barely followed because the idea didn’t interest me. You just can’t replace Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. The only returning characters are Agent O, Frank the pug, and the worms. J and K only appear in a painting. Although I will admit that Thor and Valkyrie themselves Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson did sound encouraging. Against all odds, Men in Black: International became yet another case of a movie solely banking on star power. Since the idea of a globetrotting adventure isn’t half as interesting as it should be. Aliens in foreign lands don’t really make for great comedy. Speaking of which, MIB: International shouldn’t even be labelled a comedy. There are jokes, but they hardly ever land. The story focuses on newly appointed Agent M (a position unofficially offered to Michael Jackson). She’s sent to work at London with Agent H. Their assignment is too needlessly complicated to remember. All I can say is that they end up in different countries, befriend a small alien, and fight many unimportant alien antagonists. The biggest problem by far is the overly long runtime. The original trilogy knew to keep things light, fast paced, and funny. Men in Black: International does practically none of that. I just wish I had a Neuralizer to forget the painfully dull experience.

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Agent H (right) and Agent M (left) take aim

Preceded by: Men in Black 3

Skills that Make Me a Nightmare for People Like You

Taken 3 took the series in too much of a different direction. After three of these movies, at some point you have to wonder if he’s just a bad parent. Aside from the last 10 or so minutes, Kim once again isn’t taken. In fact, nobody is taken. Taken 3 is more of a lesser version of The Fugitive. Despite being a very big deal in Taken 2, Bryan Mills’ ex-wife Lenore is callously killed off. With Bryan being framed for her murder. All the action takes place in America with the police acting as the primary obstacle. So no one is taken and there are no foreign locations. What’s the point of even calling it a Taken movie? Probably the most confusing thing about the sequel is the recasting of Kim’s stepdad. He was an older man before, but now he’s younger and suddenly villainous. Not even the inclusion of Forest Whitaker can make up for its lackluster story. Plus you can tell Liam Neeson is less into the action role this time around. Speaking of action, it’s nothing short of disorienting this time around. Really the only thing Taken 3 takes is your time.

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Bryan Mills goes on the run

Preceded by: Taken 2

Skills I Have Acquired Over a Very Long Career

Taken 2 took the series in pretty much the same exact direction. One of the problems with making a sequel to a title with a very particular premise is that they’re doomed to repeat themselves. Only Bryan Mills’ daughter isn’t once again taken like most people assumed. Instead Bryan and his ex-wife Lenore are taken while vacationing in Istanbul. The man responsible happens to be a devoted father himself. The father of the bastard responsible for the sex trafficking ring in the first movie seeking revenge. As a result of not being taken, Kim is given a much bigger role than before. She’s no action star like Liam Neeson, but she is somewhat capable. Although even though the takee is different, Taken 2 still plays out the same. There’s still a ticking clock, foreign enemies in a foreign land, and a determined Bryan Mills who kills anyone in his way. The action can be just a bit more difficult to watch. Due to a series of quick edits and shaky cam. Its percentage is much lower, but really I would put the sequel in the same boat as the first Taken. The only thing Taken 2 doesn’t have going for it is the surprise factor.

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Bryan Mills makes a call

Preceded by: Taken & Followed by: Taken 3

I Have a Very Particular Set of Skills

Taken has taken Liam Neeson’s career to new heights. Happy father’s day everyone! Today I thought I’d talk about one of the most badass fathers in recent memory. Taken was something I simply couldn’t ignore. Since it spawn a hundred memes and ushered in a new wave of Liam Neeson action roles. Despite his age, Neeson was perfectly capable of handling a role this physically demanding. Taken begins with father Bryan Mills getting his daughter Kim a birthday present. Bryan is divorced and retired from the CIA. All he has is his daughter and friends who were also in the CIA. While on a trip to Paris, Kim and her friend are taken as Bryan speaks with his daughter on the phone. This is obviously the most memorable scene in the movie. As the tension builds and Bryan’s experience shines through. He doesn’t know who they are or what they want. He can’t afford a ransom, but tells them that he has a very particular set of skill. And that if they don’t let her go, he will kill them. His very intimidating threat ends with a voice simply saying “Good luck.” I actually learned the entire monologue long before I even saw the movie. Bryan will stop at nothing to rescue Kim from a despicable gang of sex traffickers. Even resorting to torture. The action is fast paced with just the right amount of urgency to support its set up. Taken goes to show that a father’s love knows no bounds.

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Bryan Mills makes a threatening call

Followed by: Taken 2

Talking in Tokyo

Lost in Translation is the story of strangers in a strange land. After proving to be not much of an actress, Sofia Coppola tried her hand at directing. First with The Virgin Suicides and second with the much more critically acclaimed Lost in Translation. Like I said in my Godfather Part III review, her father is a great director, wouldn’t it be obvious that she’d be a great director too. She even ended up winning an Oscar for Best original Screenplay. Making them the only father-daughter duo to win the same award. Sofia Coppola based the movie on her own experiences in Japan. The idea of two people talking in Tokyo for an hour may not sound all that interesting, but it’s actually quite engaging. Since Coppola cast unconventional actors as the leads. Scarlett Johansson who only did supporting parts at the time and Bill Murray who is mostly known for comedy. Lost in Translation opens with a shot of Johansson’s butt (I’m still not sure why). Then it follows aging actor Bob Harris who is filming Japanese Whiskey commercials in Tokyo. Where he has trouble communicating. Eventually he has a chance encounter with Charlotte. The young wife of a celebrity photographer. You would think two people with such an age difference would have nothing to talk about, but they’re more alike than you think. They explore the bright streets of Tokyo together and just find comfort in one another. The movie is only R because of an out of nowhere strip club scene. Lost in Translation famously ends with the two parting ways, but not before Bob whispers something in Charlotte’s ear. Something that will forever remain a mystery. Lost in Translation is the best kind of midlife crisis.

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Bob and Charlotte hang out

My My, How Can I Resist You?

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, my my, how can I resist you? While Mamma Mia! was very much a guilty pleasure, its sequel was a surprise hit that no one could have predicted. They succeed because they went the Godfather Part II route. By having it be both a sequel and a prequel. The sequel portion focuses on Sophie trying to reopen her mother’s Greek hotel after her death. Since Meryl Streep doesn’t usually do sequels. She also happens to be pregnant, so she enlists the help of her friends and fathers. Her grandmother also drops by for an unannounced visit. Cher’s presence is always welcome even if it’s hard to buy her as Meryl Streep’s mother. The prequel portion of the movie is a far bigger highlight. It details the crazy adventures Donna went on when she was younger. Including how she ended up with Harry, Sam, and Bill all around the same time. It’s quite remarkable how well every younger actor matches their older counterparts. Especially Lily James as young Donna. I didn’t think it was possible for someone to upstage Meryl Streep, but she pulls it off. Her singing voice is better and her story is much more interesting. I was also pleased to hear a few more ABBA songs that I was familiar with. Like “Waterloo” and “Fernando.” Of course they couldn’t resist doing “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia” again. With the removal of what didn’t work previously, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again was really when I had the time of my life.

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Donna and her family

Preceded by: Mamma Mia!

Dancing Queen

Mamma Mia! is all about ABBA. A swedish musical group popular in the 70’s and 80’s. Save for there two biggest hits, I never considered myself an expert of ABBA songs. So I never really considered seeing Mamma Mia! At least not until I listened to more of their music. All I knew about the movie was that it was considered a guilty pleasure. Mamma Mia! is based on a jukebox musical of the same name. It takes place on a Greek island during a wedding. Amanda Seyfried plays the bride to be Sophie. She has a dream that her father will be able to walk her down the aisle. Her only dilemma is not knowing who that is. So she decides to invite every potential father to the wedding in the hopes that she figures it out. Since her mother Donna was with three separate men at the same time. All played by familiar actors. Pierce Brosnan as Sam, Colin Firth as Harry, and Stellan Skarsgård as Bill. She tries, but I think it’s safe to say this is one performance Meryl Streep ain’t winning awards for. Her singing voice isn’t exactly suited for pop. Speaking of singing voices, Pierce Brosnan should stick to acting. Mamma Mia! mostly suffers from common rom-com clichés. There’s also a problem with the placement of songs in the story. Since ABBA songs are pre-existing, they have to fit them in whether they make sense or not. Not that it isn’t a lot of fun seeing elaborate dance numbers for songs like “Dancing Queen” and “Mamma Mia.” Mamma Mia! is beautiful to look at and can be very enjoyable if you’re willing to accept its silly plot.

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Sophie and her family

Followed by: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

The Hunt Has Evolved

The Predator is easily the dumbest thing to come out of the Predator franchise. Not even the full circle return of Shane Black as director is enough to keep it from being one bad decision after another. The Predator is also the only standalone Predator movie I saw in theaters. It takes its R rating to extremes by really going overboard with the gore. Even if some of it is fluorescent green. I really don’t get why these sequels think gratuitous blood shed is necessary. The Predator ties every movie together (even the Alien vs. Predator movies). That includes references, previously seen weapons, and Gary Busey’s son playing his Predator 2 character’s son. The Predator ended up being a mess because it couldn’t focus on one thing. The crew/cast this time is a group of military outcasts. What really annoyed me was all the forced humor injected into the movie. Actors like Keegan-Michael Key make jokes that don’t seem to end. Then there’s a plot point about Olivia Munn’s scientist studying the predators. There’s also an extremely out of place kid with autism played by Jacob Tremblay. Since they figured it worked for Aliens, but everything he does is unbearably cringy. Like using a predator helmet for trick-or-treating. There are two predators in this one. A classic predator kills one second and tries to save humanity the next. The other is a giant that’s supposed to be the next evolution. The predator dogs make a return as well. The giant predator’s reason for hunting is so stupid that it’s almost laughable. Forced comedy, forced exposition, and a forced message, The Predator fails because it represents the worst in some current franchise movies.

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A classic Predator meets the next evolution

Preceded by: Predators

Run, Hide, Scream, Pray

Alien: Covenant has the difficult task of continuing the philosophy established in Prometheus and delivering a much more straightforward Alien movie. The prequel was so distant from the quadrilogy that it didn’t seem like a possibility. Then again, Ridley Scott decided to give the fans what they wanted all along. Alien: Covenant was the first movie in the series that I was officially old enough to see. I’m glad considering the uncomfortable amount of graphic violence and shower scene. Alien: Covenant is so bloody that I’d almost call it a slasher film. Set in 2104, a crew/cast of colonizer couples make their way to a new planet on the ship Covenant. Katherine Waterston’s Daniels is probably the closet thing to a worthy Ripley successor. The only other noteworthy crew member is played by Danny McBride. James Franco is also in the movie very briefly, but his scenes are all in online shorts for some reason. While on their mission, the crew stops on a planet they believe to be a paradise. Until one threat after another makes it a nightmare. Yet another species of alien is introduced. When two crew members inhale some kind of spore, a Neomorph bursts out of their mouth and spine. The Neomorph is basically a pointy headed albino Xenomorph. Something that feels like it belongs in a different movie. Speaking of Xenomorph, it turns out the android David is responsible for their creation. Michael Fassbender once again gives the best performance as David and another android named Walter. Two Xenomorphs appear, but they’re still not quite the same as the original. They’re more spider-like. David becomes increasingly sinister and the end is left ambiguous. With the franchise up in the air, Alien: Covenant leaves things on an unsettling note.

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The Xenomorph attaches itself to the ship

Preceded by: Prometheus

The Prometheus School of Running Away from Things

Prometheus is the sort of prequel to Alien that answers almost nothing about its universe. After the abysmally bad Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem, both franchises decided to go their separate ways. The idea for a prequel came long before the crossover happened. James Cameron had the idea, but Ridley Scott ended up being the one to return. His ideas were interesting to say the least. Since I knew it was going to be a big deal, I made much more of an effort to see Prometheus. Being underaged, my mom had to accompany us. Which wasn’t too bad, since the movie barely earns its R rating. Prometheus is set between the years 2089 and 2093. It follows a crew/cast of scientists that travel to a distant planet on the ship Prometheus. Elizabeth Shaw hopes to find an extraterrestrial species she believes is responsible for our creation. The philosophical pseudo religious nature of the story can come off as pretentious at times. Her crew includes the captain Janek, supervisor Vickers, her lover Charlie, and an advanced android named David. Michael Fassbender’s performance is a clear standout. For a bunch of smart people, they really do make a lot of dumb decisions. Like touching everything they see or only running in straight lines. The aliens they do encounter are a bit overly complex. There’s black goo that can either make you sick or turn you into a zombie and a snake-like creature that serves no purpose. The only real question answered is who the Space Jockeys are. They’re big white humanoid “gods” referred to as Engineers. The goo mixed with sex, creates a squid baby, that grows into a giant that facehugs an Engineer, and creates a creature that only sort of looks like a Xenomorph. It’s all very confusing, and so is Guy Pierce in old person makeup playing another Weyland. Prometheus has stunning visuals, but it’s a little over ambitious for its own good.

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An Engineer

Followed by: Alien Resurrection & Alien: Covenant