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Weekend Movie Preview: 'Taken 2,' 'Frankenweenie,' 'Pitch Perfect' & More

October 5th, 2012 11:00am EDT

Taken 2 Poster This weekend at the movies Liam Neeson is back as tough ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills in “Taken 2,” Tim Burton delivers the feature-length version of his animated short “Frankenweenie,” Anna Kendrick sings her heart out in the comedy “Pitch Perfect,” Nicole Kidman gets scandalous in the thriller “The Paperboy,” a collaboration of directors subject you to nightmarish found footage in the horror anthology “V/H/S.”

I’ve seen “Taken 2,” “Frankenweenie,” and “V/H/S,” so I’ll share my thoughts on those.

MY PICKS: “Taken 2,” “The Paperboy,” and "V/H/S"

TAKEN 2

While vacationing with his family in Istanbul, retired CIA operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his wife (Famke Janssen) are taken captive by relatives of the men he killed while rescuing his daughter (Maggie Grace) from the human trafficking ring in “Taken.” While being held prisoner, Mills enlists help from his daughter to escape.

Director: Olivier Megaton (“Colombiana,” “Transporter 3”)

Writers: Luc Besson (“Taken,” “The Transporter”) and Robert Mark Kamen (“Colombiana,” “Taken”)

MY TAKE: Originally I was incredibly excited about the return of Bryan Mills. After the intensity and awesomeness of “Taken,” I was anxious to see Bryan Mills on-screen for another round of ass-kicking. Although the concept of relatives coming after him for revenge is a bit cartoonish, I shrugged it off since I had a feeling the filmmakers would deliver awesome action.

My enthusiasm started to evaporate however once I realized that “Taken 2” would feature more of the daughter character. Aside from the fact it’s hilarious that the 30-year-old Grace is playing someone half her real age, Besson and Kamen have her character do some pretty ludicrous things. Following his capture, Mills gives her directions via phone of how to find him. These ridiculous instructions involve her lobbing grenades all over the city so he can hear the explosions and pinpoint their distance. There’s also a laughable scene where she’s forced to drive in a car chase despite her inability to pass her driver’s test.

As silly as this movie turned out to be, there are still entertaining action sequences and a heartwarming family element. The funny thing is that Luc Besson’s writing on a bad day was still better than “Bourne Legacy.”

My Grade: B-

FRANKENWEENIE

After Victor’s pet canine Sparky is killed by a car, the young scientist (Charlie Tahan) decides to bring him back to life with an unnatural electrical experiment. But after the bolt-necked creature shocks and terrorizes Victor’s neighbors, he has to convince everyone, including his parents, that despite Sparky’s appearance, he’s still man’s best friend.

Director: Tim Burton (“Dark Shadows,” “Alice in Wonderland”)

Writer: John August (“Dark Shadows,” “Corpse Bride”)

Based On: Burton’s 1984 short by the same name

Notable Voice Actors: Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Landau, Winona Ryder

MY TAKE: “Frankenweenie” isn’t Tim Burton’s best movie by any means; however it’s not his worst either. It’s a very average animated tale geared toward kids. There are no serious consequences for the misbehavior of children in the film and no major lessons other than to stay true to oneself.

All of the characters in the flick are obvious stereotypes: tall, skinny, fat, foreign, old, and creepy. These pigeonholes are meant to evoke a lot of humor, although they really just come off cliché. The one good thing about the characters is that they’re all unapologetic about who they are. They don’t really care about what others think about their personalities and appearance. When it comes to voice acting, accents really come and go which is annoying, but less so once you realize those are the voices done by child actors.

There are two redeeming aspects to this film: a fluffy triangular-mouthed cat named Mr. Whiskers and the gorgeous style of animation. For some reason I couldn’t help laughing every time Mr. Whiskers came on screen, even though he didn’t actually do much. Burton’s methods of animation also lend themselves nicely to 3D. I was really impressed by all the textures presented in the movie; things like grass and hair had surprising depth. Certain dissolves really popped in 3D as well. Burton clearly labors to give this film a B monster movie look in homage to old cinema, something he’s quite successful in doing.

My Grade: C+

PITCH PERFECT

Beca (Anna Kendrick), a freshman at Barden University is wheedled into joining The Bellas, her college’s all-girls singing group. With Beca’s much needed energy in the repertoire, The Bellas challenge their all male rivals in a campus contest.

Director: Jason Moore (“Brothers & Sisters,” “Everwood”)

Writers: Kay Cannon (“30 Rock”)

Based On: A book by Mickey Rapkin

Notable Supporting Actors: Rebel Wilson, Elizabeth Banks, John Michael Higgins, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

ORIGINALITY RATING: Medium. Given the fact that this movie is coming out post-“Glee,” I would think that it would be heavily influenced by it. Turns out though, that the book the film is based on predates the Fox television show. However this does look like other dance/singing competition movies on the surface. Once you watch the trailer, you can immediately see that “Pitch Perfect” has a lot more attitude and cruder humor. Strangely enough Anna Kendrick’s character isn’t even the most amusing in these clips. It’s Rebel Wilson’s sassy alter ego Fat Amy who seems like she’ll produce the best laughs. There’s a decent montage of performed pieces, but the one that sounds the coolest is the “Riff off” between a cappella groups of “No Diggity.” If all the numbers in the movie are that entertaining, then this could be a really enjoyable flick.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: Fans of Fox’s television show “Glee” and Broadway musical aficionados. If you appreciate Anna Kendrick in comedic roles and you’re interested to hear her singing abilities, then you should watch “Pitch Perfect.”

THE PAPERBOY

A reporter (Zac Efron) returns to his Florida hometown in order to examine a case involving a death row inmate (John Cusack).

Director/Writer: Lee Daniels (“Precious,” “Shadowboxer”)

Co-Writer: Peter Dexter (“Michael,” “Mulholland Falls”)

Based On: Dexter’s novel by the same name

Notable Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo, Scott Glenn

ORIGINALITY RATING: High. If the actual film is anywhere near exciting as this trailer, than “The Paperboy” could be one of the best thrillers this year. The trailer sucks you in right away with its fast-paced use of multiple screens and its feisty period music. Then it builds up the intensity with Zac Efron and Matthew McConaughey’s efforts to get John Cusack’s death row inmate out of prison as the music becomes increasingly in-your-face. I like that McConaughey has been stepping outside his comfort zone more often lately to play complex roles, and I must admit that Nicole Kidman’s sultry character seems very manipulative. Both of their parts have definitely piqued my curiosity.

WHO SHOULD SEE IT: People who like dark southern crime thrillers in the vein of “Cape Fear.” If you’re anxious to see how actors like Efron, McConaughey, and Kidman do in roles outside their typical norm, then you should catch “The Paperboy.”

V/H/S

A group of hooligans are hired to burglarize a remote house in order to recover a rare VHS tape, but after ransacking the house, they discover more horrific found footage than they ever bargained for.

Directors: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Chad Villella, Ti West, Adam Wingard

Writers: Simon Barrett, Matt Betinneli-Olpin, David Bruckner, Tyler Gillett, Justin Martinez, Glenn McQuaid, Nicholas Tecosky, Chad Villella, Ti West

My TAKE: I saw this horror anthology at this year’s IFF Boston and generally enjoyed it. Although I did feel like it was a better idea in theory than in practice. Trying to squeeze six stories into 93 minutes meant that they had to cut character development short. I think this idea would have worked better as a television show because each episode could cover a single tape. That being said, there are some really unhinged voyeuristic vignettes with enough blood and guts to satisfy most horror junkies.

For more of my thoughts on “V/H/S,” check out my full review.

Related: Frankenweenie, Pitch Perfect, Taken 2, The Paperboy, VHS, Starpulse Exclusives, Movies, Movie Reviews, Movie Trailers, Columns, Weekend Movie Preview

Photo Credits: © © EUROPACORP – M6 FILMS - GRIVE PRODUCTIONS. All rights reserved. Not for sale or duplication, © Disney Enterprises, Inc, © Universal Pictures, © Millenium Entertainment, © Magnet Releasing ,

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