REVIEW: MAN ON FIRE

 

CAST

Denzel Washington (The Equalizer)
Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black)
Marc Anthony (Hackers)
Christopher Walken (The Prophecy)
Giancarlo Giannini (Hannibal)
Rachel Ticotin (Total Recall)
Jesús Ochoa (Only God Knows)
Mickey Rourke (Iron Man 2)

In 2003, burnt-out ex-CIA (SAD/SOG) Paramilitary operations officer and former U.S. Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance officer John Creasy (Denzel Washington) visits his old comrade Paul Rayburn (Christopher Walken), who runs a security firm in Mexico. Because of the extremely high rate of kidnappings in Mexico City for ransoms, wealthy businessman Samuel Ramos (Marc Anthony) hires Creasy through Rayburn to guard his nine-year-old daughter “Pita” (Dakota Fanning). However, Samuel is having money problems and intends to keep Creasy on only long enough to satisfy the requirements to renew his kidnap and ransom insurance on Pita. Creasy suffers from alcoholism, depression and severe guilt as a result of his former black ops work. Drinking heavily, Creasy attempts suicide with his pistol, but the cartridge fails to fire when he pulls the trigger. He calls Rayburn, who says that “a bullet always tells the truth.” At first, Creasy distances himself from Pita, but soon he becomes a surrogate father to the girl, allowing him to stop drinking and find a purpose in his life.One day, while Creasy is escorting Pita from her piano lesson, a group of gunmen try to kidnap her. Creasy kills four of the kidnappers, including two corrupt policemen, in a shoot out, but he is shot multiple times and collapses from his wounds, and the abductors escape with Pita, who Creasy had commanded to flee, but returned to the collapsed Creasy. Creasy is hospitalized, but is moved to a veterinary hospital by Miguel Manzano (Giancarlo Giannini), a senior agent of the Agencia Federal de Investigación (AFI), who suspects Creasy will be killed by rogue police. Meanwhile, the Ramoses agree to deliver a dead drop ransom of US$10 million per the instructions of “La Voz” (“The Voice”) (Roberto Sosa), the mastermind behind the kidnapping ring. Samuel’s attorney, Jordan Kalfus (Mickey Rourke), and police detective Victor Fuentes (Jesús Ochoa) arrange for the ransom money to be collected from Samuel’s kidnapping insurance policy, then delivered to the kidnappers. The drop, however, is ambushed by members of “La Hermandad”, a powerful crime syndicate composed of corrupt police officers, who steal the money and kill The Voice’s nephew in the process. The Voice notifies the Ramoses that Pita will be killed in retribution.Creasy leaves the hospital before fully recovering, swearing to Pita’s mother Lisa (Radha Mitchell) that he will kill everyone involved in her daughter’s abduction. Rayburn helps Creasy purchase black market firearms, a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and explosives. Mariana Guerrero (Rachel Ticotin), a journalist investigating kidnappings, and Manzano also offer their support. Creasy tracks down low-level operatives involved in various stages of the kidnapping, torturing each for information about other operatives, then killing them in brutal ways, eventually learning from Fuentes, who is revealed to be the “president” of “La Hermandad”, that the bags they stole at the ransom drop contained only $2.5 million of actual currency while the rest was blank paper.Creasy finds Kalfus murdered and then finds evidence of his questionable financial dealings with Samuel. He confronts Samuel and Lisa for the truth behind the kidnapping. Samuel confesses to Creasy and Lisa that he agreed to Kalfus’ plan to stage Pita’s kidnapping, so he could pay off business debts by fraudulently collecting the insurance money. He planned to keep $5 million for himself and split the rest between Kalfus and the kidnappers. He was told that Pita would watch cartoons for a couple days and be returned after the ransom was paid, but Fuentes, who had been promised a cut of the money by Kalfus, became greedy and betrayed him and Samuel to try and take the entire ransom for himself. Samuel held Kalfus responsible for the botched drop and confesses to killing him after learning that Kalfus knew about Fuentes’ corruption. Creasy then leaves Samuel with a pistol and the misfired round, which works for Samuel when he commits suicide.Using the information provided by Creasy, The Voice’s identity is revealed by Manzano to be Daniel Sánchez, who Mariana exposes on the front page of her newspaper. Creasy sneaks into the home of Sánchez’s ex-wife and children, and is shot by his brother Aurelio (Gero Camilo), whom Creasy then captures. Creasy calls Daniel Sánchez and threatens to kill all of his family unless he gives himself up, but Sánchez reveals that Pita is still alive, and offers her in exchange for Aurelio and Creasy. Creasy and Pita share a tearful goodbye before he surrenders himself to Sánchez’ men, as Pita is released into her mother’s arms. Creasy dies peacefully from his gunshot injuries. Daniel Sánchez is later killed by Manzano during an AFI arrest raid.Style trumps substance in Man on Fire, a slick, brooding reunion of Crimson Tide star Denzel Washington and director Tony Scott. Prolific screenwriter Brian Helgeland (Mystic River, L.A. Confidential) sets a solid emotional foundation for Washington’s tormented character, and Scott’s stylistic excess compensates for a distended plot that’s both repellently violent and viscerally absorbing. Man on Fire is roughly on par with Scott’s similar 1990 film Revenge, efficiently satisfying Washington’s incendiary bloodlust under a heavy blanket of humid, doom-laden atmosphere

Advertisements

REVIEW: SWEET HOME ALABAMA

CAST

Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line)
Josh Lucas (Hulk)
Patrick Dempsey (Transformers 3)
Ethan Embry (Can’t Hardly Wait)
Mary Kay Place (The Big Chill)
Fred Ward (Chain Reaction)
Candice Bergen (Boston Legal)
Jean Smart (The Accountant)
Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire)
Melanie Lynsky (Heavenly Creatures)
Courtney Gains (Children of The Corn)
Mary Lynn Rajskub (24)
Rhona Mitra (Underwolrd 3)
Kevin Sussman (Ugly Betty)
Sean Bridgers (Nell)

The film opens on a stormy Alabama beach with two children, Melanie Smooter and Jake Perry. Jake has brought Melanie out to show her the glass sculptures that result when sand is struck by lightning. They discuss their future together, with Jake asserting they will be married one day. In the present day, Melanie has changed her last name to Carmichael, a rich local family, to hide her poor Southern roots. She is a successful up-and-coming fashion designer in New York City. After becoming engaged to Andrew, Melanie goes home alone to Alabama to tell her parents. In reality she is going to procure a divorce from her estranged husband Jake. Andrew’s mother, the Mayor of New York, expresses doubt that Melanie is good enough for her son, whom she is grooming to eventually run for President of the United States. In Alabama, Melanie asks Jake why he has returned the divorce papers unsigned for the last seven years, but he orders her out of his house, eventually calling the sheriff (another childhood friend) to intervene. When Melanie’s father brings her home from the station she announces her engagement. Hoping to spur Jake to sign the papers, Melanie empties out his checking account, after learning that her name is still on it. Jake says he will sign the papers in the morning, lamenting “nobody finds their soulmate when they’re ten years old”. Following Jake to a local bar, Melanie gets drunk and embarrasses herself in front of her childhood friends, expressing disgust at their lifestyle, confessing that Jake got her pregnant as teens and outing a mutual friend, Bobby Ray Carmichael. When Melanie wakes up the next morning, the divorce papers are lying on her bed, finally signed by Jake.Melanie visits the Carmichael plantation to apologize to Bobby Ray, where she is cornered by a private detective sent to dig up dirt for the mayor. Realizing her predicament, Bobby Ray pretends to be her cousin, backing up her pretense that this is her childhood home. Melanie soon reconciles with her other friends, and learns that Jake followed her to New York City to win her back—intimidated by the size of Manhattan, he returned home determined to make something of himself first. Melanie now realizes why Jake never signed the divorce papers. Andrew arrives at the Carmichael Plantation to surprise Melanie. Jake takes him to a Civil War reenactment, where Melanie is with her father. On the way, knowing who Andrew is, Jake regales him with the story of “Felony” Melanie Smooter, a young girl who once tied dynamite to a cat’s tail and then was arrested after it ran into the bank. When Andrew sees Melanie at the battlefield, she tells him Jake is her ex-husband. When her father introduces himself as Earl Smooter, Andrew realizes that Melanie has lied to him about who she really is and leaves. Andrew soon appears at Melanie’s parents’ house, having gotten over the shock and admitting he still wants to marry her, here in Alabama.Once Melanie’s friends from New York arrive, they browse at a glazier whose wares they all have admired in New York, only to realize it is Jake.

Melanie’s lawyer interrupts the wedding ceremony, bringing the divorce papers that Melanie herself has missed signing. Melanie hesitates, realizing her love for Jake. She wishes Andrew luck in finding a good woman. Andrew, distressed but showing no ill-feelings, wishes her well in return. His mother explodes, berating Andrew for risking his promising political career and verbally attacking Melanie. She then insults the town and Melanie’s mother, for which Melanie punches her in the jaw, to the cheers of the crowd. Melanie, in her wedding gown in the rain, finds Jake planting metal rods in the beach to draw lighting to create more sand sculptures. She tells him they are still married, and asks why he didn’t tell her he came to New York. They repeat the conversation from when they were children about why they want to be married. As Jake and Melanie kiss, sheriff Wade “arrests” them and takes them to the bar owned by Jake’s mother, where their friends and family are waiting. The pair finally get their long-awaited first dance as husband and wife, to the tune of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama”. A mid-credits sequence shows that they have a daughter, Melanie continues to thrive as a designer and Jake opens a “Deep South Glass” franchise in New York.The concept and plot is very smart, when the tone is told with humour even in situations that are serious. In fact, if the movie hadn’t had humor, it would of fallen apart. The humor is lifting the story to a little more than just good. It is so fun, so full of genial and amusing characters, excellent acting and an excellent ending.

REVIEW: WAR OF THE WORLDS (2005)

CAST

Tom Cruise (Minoity Report)
Dakota Fanning (Man on Fire)
Justin Chatwin (Dragonball Evolution)
Miranda Otto (I, Frankenstein)
Tim Robbins (Green Lantern)
Rick Gonzalez (Arrow)
Yul Vazquez (The Ex)
Lenny Venito (The Neighbors)
Lisa Ann Walter (Killers)
Ann Robinson (Imitation of Life)
Gene Barry (The Atomic City)
Morgan Freeman (The Dark Knight)
Dee Bradley Baker (American Dad)
Ty Simpkins (Iron Man 3)
Daniel Eric Gold (Ugly Betty)
Columbus Short (The Losers)

A narrator explains how humans were unaware that a race of extraterrestrials was making plans to occupy Earth. Ray Ferrier is a divorced crane operator longshoreman who works at a dock in Brooklyn, New York and lives in Bayonne, New Jersey. Ray is estranged from his children. His former wife, Mary Ann, later drops off the children, 10-year-old daughter Rachel and teenage son Robbie, at Ray’s house on her way to visit her parents in Boston. Unexplained changes in the weather occur, including lightning that strikes multiple times in the middle of an intersection and disrupts all electricity.

Ray joins the crowd at the scene of the lightning strikes, and witnesses a massive “Tripod” war machine emerge from the ground and use alien weaponry to incinerate most of the witnesses, zapping them out of existence, turning them to a grey dust and the remains of their clothes fluttering down. Ray collects his children, steals a car and drives to Mary Ann’s home in suburban New Jersey to take refuge. The next morning, he discovers that a Boeing 747 has crashed in the street. A news team scavenging for food explain that there are multiple Tripods that have attacked major cities including New York City, Paris, Washington, D.C., and London, and have force shields to protect them from human weapons. They also explain that the lightning was how the aliens were able to enter the Tripods. Ray decides to take the kids to Boston to be with their mother. The three are forced to abandon the stolen car after a mob takes it by force. They later survive a Tripod attack which causes a Hudson River ferry to sink. During a desperate battle between U.S. Marines and the aliens, Ray is forced to choose between being separated from Rachel and preventing Robbie from joining the fight; he lets Robbie go with the Marines, who are overwhelmed. While escaping, Ray and Rachel are offered shelter by Harlan Ogilvy, who presumes that the aliens had buried their technology on Earth millions of years ago and has delusions that they can fight against the aliens themselves by observing their operations, as they are right next to their camp.

The three remain undetected for two days, even as a probe and a group of the aliens themselves explore the basement. The next morning, Ogilvy suffers a mental breakdown while witnessing a Tripod harvesting human blood and tissue to fertilize an alien vegetation. The tripod’s inject a tube into the humans and drain out their blood, in a very vicious manner. Convinced that Ogilvy’s mad shouting jeopardizes his daughter’s life, Ray reluctantly kills him. The basement hideout is exposed when a second probe catches them sleeping. Rachel is soon abducted by a nearby Tripod; Ray immediately allows himself to be abducted, being placed in the same cage with Rachel and other prisoners. As the aliens select him for harvesting, Ray takes a belt of grenades into the machine, having pulled out the pins. The Tripod is destroyed and releases the cage, with Ray and Rachel, and a number of other prisoners, making it out alive.

Ray and Rachel arrive in a devastated Boston, where the vegetation is dying and most of the Tripods have collapsed. Ray notices birds landing on an active Tripod, indicating that its shields are off. Ray alerts the soldiers escorting his refugee group and they shoot it down. As the soldiers advance on the downed Tripod, a hatch opens releasing a liquid; a sickly alien struggles halfway out, and then dies immediately. Ray and Rachel reach Mary Ann’s parents’ house, where they are reunited with Mary Ann and, to their surprise, Robbie. The closing narration reveals that the aliens were immune to man’s machines but they and their vegetation were not immune to the microbes present on Earth and that “from the moment the invaders arrived, breathed our air, ate and drank, they were doomed,” finally quoting Wells himself, that given mankind’s birthright “neither do men live nor die in vain”.A loose adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel of the same name, ‘War of the Worlds’ directed by Cinema Giant Steven Spielberg is a Magnificent Watch. Compelling, Shocking, Solid & Unforgettable, This 2005 Box-Office Blockbuster holds tremendous repeat viewing value!

REVIEW: CORALINE

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Teri Hatcher (Lois & Clark)
Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous)
Dawn French (The Vicar of Dibley)
Keith David (Pitch Black)
Ian McShane (Hercules)

In the opening credits, hands made of sewing needles create a button-eyed doll to resemble a girl before sending it out into a void. The doll is of Coraline Jones, an 11-year-old who moves with her parents to Ashland into the Pink Palace Apartments. The other residents include retired actresses Miss Spink and Miss Forcible and eccentric Russian acrobat Mr. Bobinsky.Coraline’s parents neglect her, being busy working on a garden catalogue. She meets Wyborn “Wybie” Lovat, the grandson of the landlady, Mrs. Lovat, and also meets a black cat that follows him. While exploring, she is given a doll that resembles her by Wybie and finds a small brick-sealed door which can be unlocked only by a small black key with a button handle. That night, Coraline follows a mouse through the door, where she discovers the bricks gone, replaced by a corridor. Coraline goes through into the Other World, where doubles of the real-world residents have buttons for eyes. Her Other Mother and Father are more warm and attentive than her real parents. After dinner, she goes to sleep in her Other Bedroom. To her dismay, Coraline wakes up in her real bedroom and is unable to convince her parents that she visited the Other World.Despite vague warnings from her neighbors, Coraline frequents the Other World during night. She meets the mute Other Wybie, the Other Mr. Bobinsky, and the Other Misses Spink and Forcible, who are young and perform theatrical acts. When the Cat also enters the Other World, it is able to talk.On the third visit, the Other Mother invites Coraline to stay forever, but buttons must be sewn over her eyes. Horrified, Coraline attempts to flee. The Cat reveals to her the true sinister nature of the Other Mother and the Other World. She demands the Other Mother let her go home, but she transforms into a grotesque version of herself and imprisons Coraline in a dark chamber behind a mirror. Inside, Coraline meets the ghosts of the Other Mother’s previous victims, including Mrs. Lovat’s long-lost twin sister. The ghosts reveal that the Other Mother sent them rag dolls that resembled them in order to spy on them and find out what was wrong with their lives. The Other Mother then lured them into the Other World, where she promised them endless games and entertainment, but once they accepted her offer, she sewed buttons over their eyes and “ate up their lives”. To free their souls, their real eyes need to be retrieved. Coraline promises to find them.She is suddenly pulled out by the Other Wybie, whose mouth has been stitched shut. He helps her escape. Back in the real world, Coraline is led by the Cat to a mirror in which she sees her parents writing “HELP US”. She also discovers a rag doll that resembles them fused together, indicating that the Other Mother has kidnapped them. Coraline then burns the doll.Coraline returns to the Other World to propose a “game” to the Other Mother. If she cannot find her parents and the children’s eyes, she will stay forever. Coraline manages to retrieve the children’s eyes. The Other World gradually turns into grey stone and disintegrates, leaving only the living room in the Other Pink Palace. She confronts the Other Mother, who now has an arachnoid form, with sewing needles for hands. A ghost child warns her that the Other Mother will never let her go, even if she wins. Coraline finds and frees her parents from a snow globe and throws the Cat onto the Other Mother’s face; the Cat rips her button eyes out. Coraline escapes, slamming the door on the Other Mother’s hand, severing it. Her parents return home with no memory of what occurred.

The ghosts appear to Coraline in a dream to warn her that she must get rid of the key. As Coraline prepares to drop the key into a well, she is attacked by the Other Mother’s severed hand, but is saved by Wybie, who crushes it with a rock. Coraline throws the key and the pieces of the hand down the well. The next day, Coraline hosts a garden party for her neighbors and prepares to tell Mrs. Lovat about her sister.

Good and imaginative story, delighting visuals, creepiness from the beginning and a couple scary scenes make this an enjoyable film.

REVIEW: HIDE AND SEEK

CAST

Robert De Niro (Joy)
Dakota Fanning (Taken)
Famke Janssen (X-Men)
Elisabeth hsue (Hollow Man_
Amy Irving (Carrie)
Dylan Baker (The Cell)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Robert John Burke (Robocop 3)
Josh Flitter (Ace Ventura Jr)

Following his discovery of the body of his wife (Amy Irving) in a bathtub after her apparent suicide, Dr. David Callaway (Robert De Niro), a psychologist working in New York City, decides to move with his 9-year-old daughter Emily (Dakota Fanning) to Upstate New York. There, Emily makes an apparently imaginary friend she calls “Charlie”. Her friendship with Charlie begins to disturb David when he discovers their cat dead in the bathtub, whom Emily claims was a victim of “Charlie”. Meanwhile, David suffers from nightmares of the New Year’s Eve party that occurred the night before his wife died.
When a family friend, Dr. Katherine Carson (Famke Janssen), comes to visit David and Emily, Emily reveals that she and Charlie have a mutual desire to upset her father. Soon, they meet Laura (Melissa Leo) and Stephen (Robert John Burke) who are their neighbors. David is wary of their unusual interest in Emily. He later discovers that the reason for this is that the couple had a daughter who recently died from cancer and looked like Emily. Later, when David visits Laura, she nervously and ambiguously implies that her husband has begun abusing her in response to their child’s death, emotionally and perhaps even physically. David meets Elizabeth Young (Elisabeth Shue), a local woman, and her niece, Amy, who is roughly the same age as Emily. Hoping to cultivate a new, healthy friendship for Emily, David sets up a play date for her. Amy is anxious to become friends immediately, but the play date is spoiled when Emily cuts up Amy’s doll’s face. After Amy runs out of the house, Emily tells David that she doesn’t need any more friends. Despite the unsuccessful play date, David and Elizabeth hit it off. David invites her over to dinner one night, where Emily acts increasingly hostile towards her. Some time later, Elizabeth visits the house, hoping to make peace with Emily. When Emily tells her that she is playing hide-and-seek with Charlie, Elizabeth indulges her by pretending to look for Charlie. When she opens the closet, someone bursts out and pushes Elizabeth out a second-story window to her death.
After the police discover her car crashed near David’s house, David asks Emily what happened. Emily claims Charlie caused her death by pushing her out the window and forced Emily to help him move the body. She tells David the location of her body. A terrified David discovers Elizabeth’s body in the bathroom in a bathtub full of blood. David asks Emily where Charlie is, and Emily tells him that Charlie has “just left”. David, armed with a knife, goes outside, where he meets the neighbor who has become friends with Emily.David assumes that his neighbor is Charlie and begins to act aggressively. Becoming suspicious that David has killed his own daughter, the neighbor asks to see Emily, but David cuts the neighbor with his knife. The neighbor then calls the police. Back in the house, David finds that, although he has been in his study many times (listening to his stereo and writing a journal), the boxes were actually never unpacked after the move. With this, David realizes that he has split personality and that Charlie is not imaginary at all, but that in fact “Charlie” is David himself. Whenever “Charlie” would emerge, David was in his study. Charlie was actually in control. David also realizes that under his Charlie personality, he killed his wife and then made it appear to be a suicide. He also fully recalls the events of the New Year’s Eve party the night before his wife’s death. Immediately after the countdown to midnight, David noticed his wife slip away. He followed her and caught her having sex in a stairwell with another guest. “Charlie” was created as a way for David’s rage to destroy his wife, something that the docile David himself was too decent to do. Emily knew the entire time about her father’s split personality, but did not tell him out of fear that he would revert to Charlie and hurt her.

Once Charlie’s identity and horrible deeds are realized to David, he becomes completely consumed by Charlie, leading him to murder the local sheriff (Dylan Baker), who arrives to investigate the previous altercation. Emily calls Katherine for help. Katherine arrives and is pushed down the basement stairs by ‘Charlie’. Charlie/David, determined to play a hideous game of hide-and-seek with Emily once again, starts counting. Emily dashes and hides. She tricks Charlie and manages to lock herself in her room. As Charlie tries to break in, she climbs out from the window and runs into the cave where she originally met Charlie. Meanwhile, Katherine takes the gun from the dead sheriff, breaks out of the basement, and finds Charlie looking for Emily in the cave. Charlie pretends to be David and attacks Katherine when she lowers her guard. Katherine begs for David to come out and fight his murderous other personality. Charlie tells Katherine that David no longer exists; from the minute David discovered the truth about himself, this enabled Charlie to fully take over. Emily emerges from her hiding place, begging Charlie to let Katherine go. Her distraction allows Katherine to shoot Charlie, killing him at last.
Sometime later, Emily is preparing for school in her new life with Katherine. But Emily’s drawing of herself with Katherine has two heads, suggesting that due to the trauma of witnessing what happened to her father, Emily now also suffers from split personality.Overall, with a good storyline, great performances, a creepy feel, a bit of suspense, you will never want to play Hide and Seek again.

REVIEW: TAKEN (2002)

CAST

Dakota Fanning (War of The Worlds)
Eric Close (American Snuper)
Catherine Dent (Terminator: TSCC)
Joel Gretsch (V)
John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone)
Tine Holmes (Half Nelson)
Steve Burton (Cyber Tracker)
Julie Benz (Angel)
Stacy Grant (Shanghai Noon)
Jason Gray-Stanford (Bones)
Michael Moriarty (Courage Under Fire)
Rob LaBelle (Jack Frost)
Julie Ann Emery (Fargo)
Adam Kaufman (Buffy: The Vampire Slayer)
James McDaniel (Sleepy Hollow)
Ian Tracey (Bates Motel)
Ryan Robbins (Arrow)
Willie Garson (Stargate SG.1)
Ryan Hurst (Bates Motel)
James Kirk (X-Men 2)
Anton Yelchin (Star Trek)
Kevin Durand (X-Men Origins)
Brenda James (Slither)
Chad Morgan (The Purge: Anarchy)
Jonathan Young (Sanctuary)
Ryan Merriman (Final Destination 3)
Brent Stait (Andromeda)
Emily Holmes (The Wicker Man)
Erin Karpluk (Being Erica)
David Paetkau (Flashpoint)
Fulvio Cecere (Valentine)
Jim Byrnes (Highlander: The Series)
Matt Frewer (Watchmen)
Desmond Harrington (Ghost Ship)
Alessandro Juliani (Smallville)
Emily Bergl (Carrie 2)
Britt Irvin (V)
Camille Sullivan (The Birdwatcher)
Ben Cotton (Stargate: Atlantis)
Elle Fanning (Super 8)
Gabrielle Rose (Dark Angel)
Roger Cross (Arrow)
Brian Markinson (Izombie)
Linda Ko (Antitrust)
Peter Bryant (Legends of Tomorrow)
Justin Chatwin (Taking Lives)
Gwynyth Walsh (Van Helsing)
Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project)

From none other than visionary Steven Spielberg comes TAKEN (2002), which I first saw during it’s initial run on the BBC. I admire the scope, ambition, and emotion attached to this entertaining mini series.It starts off in 1944, with Russell Keys, along with his bomber crew, being ‘taken’ by an alien spacecraft during their WWII mission. The crew is experimented on, but Keys is essentially the lone survivor. Keys returns home with PTSD, not due to war, but due to the alien experience. This compels him to leave his wife and child to solve the mystery. Eventually, the aliens take Russell’s teen son Jesse Keys. The aliens obviously see an internal resolve in the Keys’ men that distinguishes them from the rest of the human race.
A second parallel story starts around 1947, and involves the lone survivor of a downed alien spacecraft that manages to take human form as “John” , who seeks refuge on a Texas farm owned by Sally Clarke, a hard-working waitress and single mother of two. John and Sally bond and she is impregnated, leading to a human-alien hybrid Jacob Clarke (superbly played by then-newcomer Anton Yelchin, now known for being the new Chekhov in the re-booted Star Trek franchise).The final parallel story also starts in 1947 in the infamous Roswell, New Mexico, where the local Air Force has found John’s downed ship and his 4 alien compadres who did not survive. Backed by the government, the military takes over the super-secret project, which starts off being briefly led by Colonel Campbell and is soon taken over by his ambitious son-in-law Captain Owen Crawford (brilliantly played by Joel Gretsch), military intelligence officer. Gretsch perfectly essays the role of megalomaniacal Crawford, who runs the project with unapologetic brio. I really felt that Gretsch’s character carried the first few episodes (spanning 1947 to 1962) with strong support from the other actors.
Taken’s first half  storytelling is strong, a perfect balance of science fiction, politics, speculation, and drama. One really buys into the premise that these goings-on could have actually happened. It’s definitely not fiction that many an American have reported UFO sightings and alien experiences over the years, and this miniseries is one of the better attempts at relaying this message to the viewer.
With the second half of the mini series the puzzle pieces finally start to come together to an interesting conclusion. Emily Burgl (as Lisa Clarke) and Andy Kaufman (as Charlie Keys) were commendable as the adult versions of the last respective offspring of the Clarke-Keys clans, the main highlight of the second half was  was the performance of newcomer Dakota Fanning (who plays Allie) whose wonderful narration is a key to the series overall success. She stole the show from all of her adult counterparts. I would definitely recommend the miniseries based on ambition and overall scope and the tightly woven storytellingthe show demonstrates. It’s an epic Sci-Fi story that is intriguing and at times touching. It wasthe series that made Dakota Fanning a star.

REVIEW: THE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN – PART 2

CAST
Kristin Stewart (Snow White & The Huntsman)
Robert Pattinson (Sword Xanten)
Taylor Lautner (Tracers)
Peter Facinelli (Supergirl)
Elizabeth Reaser (The Ex List)
Ashley Greene (Burying The Ex)
Jackson Rathbone (S.Darko)
Kellan Lutz (The Legend of Hercules)
Nikki Reed (Sleepy Hollow)
Billy Burke (Red Riding Hood)
Maggie Grace (Lost)
Jamie Campbell Bower (Sweeney Todd)
Christopher Heyerdahl (Sanctuary)
Michael Sheen (Underworld)
Daniel Cudmore (X-Men 2)
Dakota Fanning (Taken)
Cameron Bright (The Butterfly Effect)
Mia Maestro (Alias)
Judith Shekoni (Heroes Reborn)
Lee Pace (The Hobbit)
 
Bella awakens from her transformation from human to vampire, aware of her new abilities, but unaware of changes within the coven, such as Jacob having imprinted on her child, Renesmee. It also appears that Bella’s father, Charlie, has been attempting to contact the Cullens for updates on Bella’s illness. They intend to tell him she didn’t survive, which requires that they move away from Forks, Washington to protect their identities. Jacob, desperate not to lose Renesmee, tells Charlie that Bella is in fact alive and well, and explains that Bella had to change in order to survive. He morphs into a wolf, revealing his tribe’s shape-shifting power, but does not tell Charlie about vampires.
 
Several months pass with Carlisle monitoring Renesmee’s rapid growth. On an outing in the woods, a bitter Irina sees Renesmee from a distance and believes her to be an immortal child. Immortal children were vampires who were changed in childhood, and because they could not be trained nor restrained, they destroyed entire villages. They were eventually executed, as were the parents who created them, and the creation of such children outlawed. Irina goes to the Volturi to report what she has seen. Alice sees the Volturi and Irina coming to kill the Cullens and instructs the others to gather as many witnesses as they can to testify that Renesmee is not an immortal. The Cullens begin to summon witnesses, such as the Denali family. One of the Denali, Eleazar, later discovers that Bella has a special ability: a powerful mental shield which had protected her from Edward’s mind reading even when she was human, and which she can now extend to protect others from mental attacks.
3696d4affd4b2e847380b40b0444a5de
As some of their potential witnesses are attacked and prevented from supporting the Cullens, Carlisle and Edward realize they may have to fight the Volturi. Their witnesses ultimately agree to stand with them in battle, having realized the Volturi increase the Guard by falsely accusing covens of crimes, destroy them and then recruit vampires with gifts. The Volturi arrive prepared for battle, led by Aro, who is eager to obtain the gifted members of the Cullen coven as part of his guard. Aro is allowed to touch Renesmee, and is convinced that she is not an immortal child. Irina is brought forth and takes full responsibility for her mistake, leading to her immediate death. Aro still insists that Renesmee may pose a risk in the future, validating his claim that battle is necessary. Before any violence, Alice shares with Aro her vision of the battle that is to come, during which both sides sustain heavy casualties, including Aro who would also die. Aro believes her, giving Alice and Jasper an opportunity to reveal their witness (a half mortal half vampire just like Renesmee). The witness proves that he is not a threat, supporting the notion that Renesmee is not a threat. The Volturi unhappily leave without a fight.
Back at the Cullen home, Alice glimpses the future, seeing Edward and Bella together with Jacob and a fully matured Renesmee also together. Edward reads Alice’s mind and feels relieved that Renesmee has Jacob to protect her. Alone in the meadow, Bella pushes her mental shield away and finally allows Edward a peek into her mind, showing him every precious moment she and Edward shared together and the two share a kiss after Bella telling Edward, “No one has ever loved anyone as much as I love you”, and both Edward and Bella saying they’ll love and be together forever. The end credits present the cast members from all five films.
I enjoyed seeing the characters develop, especially  Stewart who steals the show. She has grown into a respectable actress and she has turned a wooden and unlikable character (in the novel) into someone you root for in the film.