Welcome back movie hivers and boy do we have a lot to get to this week. Not only does this week bring back one of cinemas most recognizable icons, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a new movie, but MGM announced they have plans to re-make one of their most famous and beloved movies, Ben-Hur. For my Blu-ray/DVD pick of the week Liam Neeson returns as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills in Taken 2.
Let the Chariot Races Begin...Again!
A few years ago it looked as if bankruptcy was going to put MGM out for the count for good, but here they are, stronger than ever. After an extremely strong fourth quarter with Skyfall ($1.03 billion) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($887.7 million and growing) MGM has set their sights on the grand daddy of all motion pictures, a re-telling of Ben-Hur. In 1959 the William Wyler directed epic and starring Charleton Heston won 11 Academy Awards including best picture, best actor and best director so this is no small undertaking bringing this particular story back to the big screen. MGM has purchased a Ben-Hur spec script from Keith Clarke (he scripted the Peter Weir-directed The Way Back) and the script is said to be more faithful to the original novel and much different than the previous picture. You can read the plot details below according to Deadline:
This film will tell the formative story of the characters as they grew up best friends before the Roman Empire took control of Jerusalem. Judah Ben-Hur was a Jewish prince and Messala the son of a Roman tax collector. After the latter leaves to be educated in Rome for five years, the young man returns with a different attitude. Messala mocks Judah and his religion and when a procession passes by Judah’s house and a roof tile accidentally falls and hits the governor, Messala betrays his childhood friend and manipulates it so that Judah is sold into slavery and certain death on a Roman warship, with his mother and sister thrown in prison for life.
Judah doesn’t die, and vows revenge on Messala which, like in the films, culminates in the famed chariot races. There is another way the script differs from the movie, in that it will tell the parallel tale of Jesus Christ, with whom Ben-Hur has several encounters which moves him to become a believer in the Messiah, and which culminates in Christ being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate. Intertwined in all this is the lifelong struggle between Ben-Hur and Messala.
Movies Opening this Weekend
The Last Stand - Rated R - Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Johnny Knoxville, Jamie Alexander, Forest Whitaker and Peter Stormare
Arnold Schwarzenegger returns in his first leading role since 2003's Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. The Last Stand follows the leader of a drug cartel after he busts out of a courhouse and speeds to the Mexican border, where the only thing in his path is a sheriff (Schwarzenegger) and his inexperienced staff.
Broken City - Rated R - Starring - Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright and Barry Pepper
In a city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) seeks redemption and revenge after bein double-crossed and then framed by its most powerful figure: Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe).
MAMA - Rated PG-13 - Starring - Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nelisse
Annabel (Chastain) and Lucas (Waldau) are faced with the challenge of raising his young nieces that were left alone in the forest for 5 years...but how alone were they?
Silver Linings Playbook - Rated R - Starring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Robert De Niro
After spending four years in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano (Cooper) moves back in with his mother and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany (Golden Globe winner Jennfier Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
Blu-Ray/DVD Pick of the Week - Taken 2
One of the questions that always comes up when a movie like Taken 2 comes out is "was it as good as the first one?" Taken was one of those movies where everything that you hoped would go right did. The script was simple but engaging, the lead, known for doing more serious, dramatic material, reinvented himself as an aging action star and the action scenes were spectactular. It was one of best examples of a great genre movie and with its huge success the inevitable sequel is surely to follow. So back to the question, "is it any good?" The straight forward answer is yes. While Taken 2 doesn't boast the same amount of panache as the original it does feel like it has a reason for being other than to capitalize on the first film's success.
One of the biggest mistakes most movies fall into when following up a big hit is it's just more of the same and done on a lesser level. Taken 2 actually feels like a genuine progession of the story and its characters and answers one of the questions that action movies almost always fail to answer. Once the good guy has elimintaed all the bad guys what happens to them? and better yet who loved these hooligans? Taken 2 answers that question with a great sequence at the very beginning of the film. We see fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers burying their dead and mourning. Sure the bad guys were evil, but even the most evil scumbags have mothers that love them. Taken 2 is about the fallens family members taking their revenge against our hero.
Liam Neeson returns as ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills who now travels the world working as a high end body guard. After he completes a job in Istanbul, Turkey his ex-wife (Famke Janssen) and daughter (Maggie Grace) come to visit. The bad guys have a nefarius plan to kidnap all three of them then kill Bryans family in front of him before killing him. You'd think after all the carnage Bryan caused in the first movie the bad guys would have learned that this is a guy you just don't mess with. Cut your losses and move on. Lets just say that they should have left well enough alone. Taken 2 is a very enjoyable ride and a welcome sequel in the action genre. Now the question is "will there be a Taken 3 and will it be any good?" Let the speculation begin.