December Blind Spot Review: Love Actually (2003)


“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
– Prime Minister

SYNOPSIS: Follows the lives of eight very different couples in dealing with their love lives in various loosely interrelated tales all set during a frantic month before Christmas in London, England. – via IMDB

love actually hugh grant love actually i'm in love

GRADE 6.5Initially this was supposed to work out as my February Blind Spot (that was an age ago, right?!), but then everything was so damn Christmassy in here I knew it was not going to work out for that. Seeing as I don’t usually do holiday themed posts, I thought I would hold Love Actually over for December. Long holdover! Anyway, Love Actually is that typical soppy romance (though not nearly as bad as some can be), but in the long run it is a pretty forgettable movie. I am saying this based on when watching it, I remembered having seen scenes, though not how they play out. Some of the stories and characters could certainly have used a little more development and time (for instance, I love Martin Freeman, but his story arc seemed to be squeezed in every now and again, as well as Kris Marshall’s escapades and decision to check out the States). The performances all round were pretty good, and it was an impressive cast to pull together for this one. Had a good few giggles at Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy was a nightmare but also someone to laugh at, and Thomas Brodie-Sangster was just too damn adorable for words. I was very happy that I did not have to watch Keira Knightley for any length of time, I really don’t like her, and I really thought the whole thing going on between Juliet and Mark was just messed up. She married Mark’s best friend, they should both just leave it at that! The pacing was a bit of an issue at times, and naturally some stories were far more interesting and engaging than others, and I was not always a fan of the soundtrack. There are things that work and things that don’t work in this movie, but it is certainly not the worst movie of its kind that you could be wasting your time on and it is a very Christmas-heavy movie, but there we have it. I can at least cross it off my list and say I have seen it. People are always going on and on about this movie. Finally I am included in the conversation!

Review: Gangs of New York (2002)

Gangs of New York 2002 Movie Poster

“When you kill a king, you don’t stab him in the dark. You kill him where the entire court can watch him die.”
– Amsterdam Vallon

For months I have been trying to source the time and energy to watch this movie again. I haven’t watched it years, and got very nostalgic reading a list of someone’s top movies recently. It was time again to go back to the filthy streets of New York and a time that has almost been long forgotten and view the tale anew.

Priest Vallon
Priest Vallon

“Priest” Vallon (Liam Neeson) leads his Irish people and their supporters to fight for their place in America. However, opposing gang leader, Bill “The Butcher” Cutting (Daniel Day-Lewis), has very different feelings about the foreigners infiltrating their land. Calling a final show down in New York between the “Natives” (people born in America) and the Dead Rabbits (Irish Catholics), the men fight until the very death. Young Amsterdam Vallon (Cian McCormack) watches his father, the Priest, killed before his very eyes, and runs. He will not be a captive of the Butcher, and he will never stop fighting, not until his father’s death is avenged. He is, however, caught by the Butcher’s henchmen, and sent to an orphanage.

The Butcher in Town Gangs of New York
The Butcher walks the streets fearlessly

Sixteen years later, Amsterdam (Leonardo DiCaprio) returns to New York from the Hellgate Orphanage. Intent on seeking revenge on the man that murdered his father. He is shocked and surprised to see some of his father’s right hand men grovelling and in league with Bill, and cannot believe that things have gone the way they have. Bill has control over the Five Points of Manhatten, and is revered and feared by all. He runs into his old friend, Johnny Sirocco (Henry Thomas), who is the only person who knows his true identity. Slowly but surely Amsterdam works his way into the Butcher’s inner circle, while falling through a very passionate relationship with Jenny Everdeane (Cameron Diaz). Bill takes an especial liking to Amsterdam, and he rapidly climbs the ranks as well as in the esteem of the Butcher.

Gangs of New York Fight
Street brawls

However, New York is riddled with issues, and William “Boss” Tweed (Jim Broadbent) makes use of Bill to keep people in check as well as have certain things done, though this is done on the down low. Amsterdam makes the Butcher a lot of money, and is taught kill shots by the master, who deeply respects the Priest all those years ago, and sees him as the only man worth ever fighting. In between all this, Amsterdam and Jenny are getting hotter and colder all the time, and this does nothing other than piss his friend off, who has guessed at what Amsterdam plans for the Butcher, and gives in out of anger and jealousy, spilling the beans on Amsterdam’s identity.

Gangs of New York New War
Amsterdam Vallon, resurrecting the Dead Rabbits

Surviving the ordeal that Bill put him through, Amsterdam is set on fighting, and comes back with everything he has got. Jenny helps him regain his strength, and whatever past she and the Butcher had, it is over, and she has chosen. From elections to street brawls, the Irish and their supporters are now ready to stand and fight, to take their stand. They will no longer be crushed.

Things get a little mad when the Dead Rabbits run Walter “Monk” McGinn (Brendan Gleeson) for Mayor and he wins. Bill takes this personally and takes care of Monk himself, killing him publicly. This has opened a new avenue to the people of the towns. Bill has asserted his dominance again, but Amsterdam will hear nothing of it. Apparently, neither will Boss Tweed. Full scale riots ripple through the streets and soon catch momentum. Meanwhile, Amsterdam and Bill are intent on ending their turf war, and their people stand by them. Who will control the Five Points when this is over? Will the Irish have a place in the New York that rises from the ashes?

Gangs of New York scores 7/10. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance was simply breathtaking, and he was a great choice. Leonardo DiCaprio was again, for me, suited for the work that he did, and I don’t know why everyone is so upset with his portrayal. He was good, as always, and impressed me. The film was put together well, albeit very long, every question was answered, and in extreme detail. It was interesting to watch a father’s legacy picked up by his son, and continued effortlessly. History was woven into a story that was about something completely different, but Martin Scorcese pulled it off without a hitch. The Butcher was a great character for me, and the psyche behind these men is strange. It was honourable for them to do what they did as well as how they did it. Still, I am not blown away by Cameron Diaz’s acting capabilities, but she was better in this role than most things I have seen her in. She was not as jarring as I thought she would be the first time I saw that she would feature in the flick. A great story with a great cast, it was a wonderful film to watch!

Review: Taken 2 (2012)

Taken 2 Poster

“I have to find them… and bring your mom back. And then I have to make sure these people never bother us again in our lives.”
– Bryan Mills

I actually wanted to watch this right after I finished the first one, and did not realize that so much time had passed in between my two viewings. I did not expect greatness from this, but damn, maybe a bit more than we got?

Retired CIA Agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) continues his life since saving his daughter, Kim’s (Maggie Grace), life. His ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen) and her husband, Stuart (Xander Berkeley), are pretty much through with one another since what happened when Kim was almost trafficked. Bryan steps in, trying to comfort Lenore as well as get Kim’s life together so she can get her license. He is unimpressed to learn that Kim has a boyfriend, Jamie (Luke Grimes). What he does not know, however, is that he is a wanted man after all the slayings he inflicted when looking for Kim. The families cry for vengeance, and are led by Murad Krasniqi (Rade Sherbedzija), the father of the man Bryan strapped to a chair and electrocuted.

Payback is a bitch

Lenore is upset when Stuart cancels their trip to China for Kim’s spring break, and Bryan offers that they come and stay in Istanbul with him after he has finished a job. They arrive before he decides to pack up and leave, surprising him. He is so thrilled. Soon, Kim starts playing matchmaker between her parents. On their way out one day, Kim says she will not be joining her folks. They leave together, laughing about how it will be, when Bryan notices a car tailing them. He gets Lenore out, but despite all his efforts, he and his ex-wife are taken. Bryan informs Kim of this via the phone just before it all happens, and urges her to seek safety. After all the slayings to save his daughter, this would have had to happen at some stage I guess…

Rocking that stick
Apparently rocking that stick

Kim becomes instrumental in helping Bryan escape from the people, as well as retrieving her mother. Bryan’s best friend, Sam (Leland Orser), who helped plan the surprise for Bryan with Lenore, needs to step up again and see how he can be of assistance to Bryan, but is not the most elemental in the plot. Bryan’s training kicks in full on and he starts devising an escape, even if the plan is rudimentary at best. Bryan needs to learn to not be so overly protective of Kim, and she becomes his greatest help. They need to recover their family and return home to safety as soon as possible.

Will Bryan be able to protect his daughter as well as recover his wife with minimal damage? How will he get rid of the Albanian gang if they are so intent on revenge?

With long teeth I am going to give Taken 2 a 4/10. I mean, I knew there was no ways it was going to be as good as the first (sequels rarely are), but I really expected a bit more than this. I don’t know, all of it was a bit wooden. Liam Neeson was, as always, great, but the rest of the movie did not really flow (even with him!). Not the dialogue, not the acting, and the story left a lot to be desired. Not even the action sequences helped this movie out at all. I don’t know, Taken was fantastic, and there was a lot of hype surrounding it, and there must have been much higher expectations for this one, but Luc Besson let us down, and could not live up to his predecessor. I hated how his daughter battled to drive an automatic back in the States but can suddenly rock a manual as if she at the very least has a defensive/advanced driving course under her belt. Pfffff. I could not buy into that logic, sorry. So no, this movie is actually one that you can go without seeing.

Review: Taken (2008)


“You don’t remember me? We spoke on the phone two days ago. I told you I would find you.”
– Bryan Mills

Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) is a retired CIA operative that has moved to California to be closer to his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). His ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), has remarried Stuart (Xander Berkeley), and he seems to outdo Bryan on all fronts. Bryan is trying his hardest, but it seems Stuart is always upstaging him. Kim just turned seventeen and Bryan buys her an expensive karaoke machine because she always wanted to be a singer.

Friends come over to visit Bryan, and Sam (Leland Orser) convinces Bryan to take on a quick and easy job getting a singer to and from her gig. He decides to do it, as it is a few hours work for a decent sum of cash, and scores points with his daughter when she hears her father is looking after Sheerah (Holly Valance). Things go wrong at the show, and Bryan saves Sheerah’s life, and she is now indebted to him, and sets him up with her vocal trainer and manager’s numbers for him so he can take Kim there and maybe realize her dream of becoming a singer.

He thinks he has his foot half in the door when Kim calls him to meet with her for coffee, and unbeknownst to him, Lenore joins them. It eventually comes out that Kim wants him to sign off on her travel documents to let her leave the country for France, seeing as she is under eighteen.

Bryan is very unimpressed, and after arguments and all of that, he finally signs off on her forms with a very strict set of rules. When dropping her at the airport, Kim asks her father what he did for a living, and he briefly explained his position as that of “preventor”, and that it made him very aware of the brutalities of the world. Once at the airport, Bryan finds out that his daughter is in actual fact not going to see the museums around Paris, but follow U2’s European Tour. As upset as he is, his wife makes an issue out of his just letting it go, and against his better judgment, he does.

When Kim and her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) arrive in Paris, they are greeted by a man who offers to share their cab with them, and he invites them to a party later. Amanda shares too much information about their living arrangements with him, and he calls his friends up. Bryan establishes that Kim’s flight landed hours before and that she has not called, and so he decides to ring her. Kim only answers on the second call, and in the space of a few minutes, sees Amanda getting taken by some strange men. Bryan’s “preventor” instincts kick in, and he walks his daughter through what is about to happen to her.


Now Bryan needs to save his little girl in a foreign country, from men that his contacts have discovered to be a human trafficking ring. He has a window of roughly ninety-six hours to recover his daughter before she slips off the face of the earth. Time is against him, and he works rapidly, calling is as many of  his old contacts as he can to track his daughter down and bring her home safely. Lenore finally realizes the importance of what Bryan did and what he gave up. As time runs out, the path of destruction he leaves in his wake grows, and starts setting alarm bells off for the French authorities  who want him out of their country as soon as possible.

Taken scores a definite 7.5/10 for me. I loved the movie the first time I watched it, and I thoroughly enjoyed it again. It has tainted my perception of travelling a little bit, but the world is my oyster and will still be explored in detail! I did, however, come to the conclusion that I need to find a friend with a very specific skill set… maybe I can have my brother trained? Taken was incredibly action packed,  but had enough emotion put into it to bring a sense of realism to it. There was not really an overkill of anything in particular, and the aspects were all brought together very well. The betrayal is potent, and the desperation is tangible. I still think it is great how Liam Neeson plays his roles, and so successfully, too. He is awesome, and plays his hardcore yet emotional roles very well. It is terrifying to think that trafficking happens every single day, and I think that this movie awoke the brutal truth of it all to many people.