Monday Morning Critic – 1.30.11 – Liam Neeson and The Grey Sequel Ideas, Warrior and Nick Nolte

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

With nothing I want to really write about happening last week, outside of an Oscar reactions column, I’ve decided to look at my favorite film of the past weekend: The Grey. That and frankly Travis did an Oscar reactions column that I agreed with for the most part; one thing I don’t like is repeating of the same exact opinion. Different reasons for liking the same film is something I dig; part of the universality of film is that we can like the same films but for wildly different reasons.

I figure it’s time for something relatively amusing to me and a text conversation with my buddy Nick the Stand Up got me thinking. The Grey was pretty badass this weekend and knowing Hollywood someone’s thinking it’d make for a great franchise. Travis wrote a great review of it, and you can read his review here, and I absolutely loved it. I didn’t write a review because my thoughts on the film were similar to his, of course, but Nick suggested that somewhere a Hollywood executive wanted to get a sequel rolling.

It was a great film and it doesn’t really need one but we have seen Mean Girls 2 go to direct to video and Daddy Day Camp get into theatres without Eddie Murphy so anything’s possible.

Nick’s idea was that they ought to talk to the Weinsteins about a third Piranha film with Neeson attached, thus letting him punch fish after he crash lands at Spring Break. I thought that was a ridiculous idea, stating “they’ll find a way better place to dump him in this time.” Thus the wheels started grinding in my head and, since we’re not going to get an A-Team sequel anytime in the near future, it’s time to explore sequel opportunities with The Grey. Why?

Because Liam Neeson is somehow becoming the go-to action star well after his youth faded.

It’s the craziest aspect of career reinvention if you think about it. Neeson didn’t just mainline steroids and pump iron like he was a teenager to develop a physique for the ages. He didn’t get plastic surgery to make him look 20 years younger and isn’t embarrassing himself like John Wayne did at the end of his career playing a tough guy that he isn’t anymore. He’s playing the old veteran hand that still has enough to hang in there but not as much as he had in his youth. Neeson has essentially carved out a niche as the older guy with just enough veteran craftiness to still be on top, like a baseball picture that has developed a slider to go along with a nasty curveball and a fastball that still has juice on it.

People identify with that and it’s why he can go from mentoring both Batman and Obi-Wan Kenobi to leading The A-Team. He’s believable, for a movie at least, in beating people up because he’s crafty instead of just purely over-powering. And with Taken 2 showing that Neeson is up for a franchise, why not The Grey 2?

If you’re going to make a sequel out of something because audiences come out for known quantities on a regular basis, why not The Grey as a sort of manly, ass-kicking franchise for a star that could use one? I mean there are so many different places to go and things to punch that the possibilities are endless. Thus I present one of the usual “tongue in cheek” list things that I’ve been known for over the year. The film’s ending is a bit open ended in a way; we never see a real conclusion. You can easily act as if the happy ending Joe Carnahan refused to throw on and BHAM! Money-making franchise that lets Carnahan do his passion project (Killing Pablo) and gives us more of Neeson beating various animals up.

I kept thinking how you could make a sequel to this film. Of course you’d just set it somewhere else with new cast members to replace the dead ones and voila! It’s like making a Hangover sequel in a way; mainly you just have less alcohol fueled shenanigans and more animals being punched. Thus, to steal a line from my always witty movie friend henceforth known only as EKG, I present the following.

Top 10 The Grey Sequel Ideas: Punches on Wolves Edition

10. The Grey – Outback Adventures

John Ottway (Liam Neeson) crash lands in the middle of the Australian outback, hundreds of miles from civilization and without cell phone reception. Trapped in the middle of a horribly hot Australian summer, with water running low and his co-workers relying on him to get him out of this alive, Ottway has only method of survival: head-butting kangaroos and drinking Fosters.

9. The Grey – South Pole Escape

Ottway crash lands at the South Pole due to a drunken pilot deciding to take a “shortcut” en route home, without any cell phone reception and stuck in the snow. This time baby penguins and polar bears collude with Moby Dick to try and eliminate any evidence of Liam Neeson. His response? Seal clubbing, polar bear punching and whale smashing awesomeness!

8. The Grey – Spike Lee’s Wild Ride

Ottway is on his way home when his plane goes into a time portal. Waking up in rural Alabama in the 1950s, it’s time for the grizzled survivalist to takes on racial stereotypes and Italians with fists of righteousness. All the while he has to be careful not to mess up the timeline so he still gets born and doesn’t end up being his own grandfather.

7. The Grey – Great Wall of China

After his plane crashes into rural China, Ottway is once again far from civilization. This time the most dangerous animal in the world is stalking his every move, waiting for him and his team of hard ass roughnecks: the dreaded and vicious Panda Bear!

6. The Grey – African Madness

Crashing in the South African jungles, armed with nothing but some discarded vuvuzelas, Ottway has to find a way to get back home to his wife again. As he suffers through the heat of one of the most brutal terrains in the world, he faces another force of nature trying to kill him. What can one man do? One thing: punch some giraffes!

5. The Grey – Retirement Sucks

After retiring to become a small town sheriff in Zainesville, Ohio, Ottway is getting used to the quiet life of harassing teenagers and those not driving good cars after dark when he’s called into action. Haunted by his memories of what he did to survive in the first film, Ottway is a broken man and no longer the badass man of action he once had to be. But his quiet country life is about to change for the worse as a wild man has released his own personal zoo into the wild; snake punching may be good for the skin but is it good for the soul?

4. The Grey – Jersey Shore

Crash landing onto the shores of New Jersey, Ottway is far from civilization and missing his wife. What’s stopping him from getting back to her? Juiced up gorilla Guidos and their prostitute girlfriends have surrounded their camp and are slowly stalking them. As he and his team are surrounded by a bunch of raging imbeciles who want nothing more than to do their laundry of Ed Hardy dress shirts and Tapout gear, inject copious amounts of steroids and casually sex each other in increasingly degrading ways, Ottway has to find a way to survive the dreaded shores of New Jersey long enough to be rescued. It may be time to Liam Leeson to bang the beat … with his fists!

3. The Grey – Siberian Hell

Crash landing in Russia’s wasteland of Siberia, Ottway and his team find shelter in an Old Russian Gulag. Trapped in a blizzard like before, waiting for their rescue, Kodiak bears in Russia are going to find out a deadly lesson. In Russia, Liam Neeson punches you!

2. The Grey – Mumbai Madness

Crash landing in the middle of India, far from civilization, Ottway and his team has to band together to survive in deepest, darkest India. Since I’m not sure what animals are in there, or really anything else about the country besides Bollywood and bad jokes about call centers, let’s just presume Liam Neeson punches a cow or something.

1. The Grey – Brazilian Getaway

Crash landing into the jungles of Brazil, and far from civilization, Ottway and his team are stuck in the part of Brazil that doesn’t have vale tudo fights and beautiful, barely clothed women. Stuck in the jungle, it’s time for some Amazon exploring as the team has to navigate the perilous domain and reach civilization during the peak of Carnivale! Look for some jaguars to be jabbed, hawks eating hooks and a rhea learning to like Liam Neeson’s powerful right hand.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Warrior

One of the best pieces of news from Oscar nomination announcements was that Nick Nolte garnered one for Warrior. It is his third, the other two being for Prince of Tides and Affliction, and he’s in one of the craziest groups of nominees ever. Anytime you have Christopher Plummer, Max Von Sydow, Kenneth Branagh and Jonah Hill with Nolte you’d think that it was for Best Actor, not in the Supporting category, and that Hill was kind of a cruel joke or a throw in because there were only four worthy nominations and you had to have five.

Kind of like how when you used to go to Blockbuster you had to buy something like Chain Reaction to round out the “Four for 20$” deal back in the day when you had three you wanted and didn’t want to pay full price.

But this is an actual thing, especially with Hill getting nominated, and thus Best Supporting Actor becomes one of the more interesting categories in years for nominations. My love of Nick Nolte starred with 48 Hours as a youth, of which I’ve written about before, and I was genuinely happy to see Warrior get nominated for something as both a film fan and as a fan of Mixed Martial Arts.

Nolte was one of my favorite supporting performances of the year in my #2 rated film of 2011 because of the dynamic behind it. It’s about a family split being healed with one first step because of those directly affected, not because of a father winning everyone back in a wacky or melodramatic way. I loved Nolte in the film because while the film’s story arc was about the two brothers reconciling in a way, I like the undercurrent of Paddy trying to put together his family again. He knows he’s blown it and it won’t happen because of what he’s done but he still holds out hope. The cutting in of his reading Moby Dick, and of Ahab chasing the white whale, is such a great metaphor.

Ahab’s vanity was that he didn’t know when to quit; he dies a victim of his own obsession. Paddy’s hopes of a family again die with the final realization that his children don’t want him. They don’t need him, and every parent is expected to have that moment when their children outgrow that basic need, but the fact that they don’t want him in their life as a friend or a father is such a poignant part of the film. If you want to read my full thoughts on the film, you can click here from when it was in theatres. Needless to say, great film and you ought to see it.

Highly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

Big Miracle – Three whales get trapped under ice. Shenanigans ensue

Skip it – I didn’t care about this when it actually happened. Don’t care now that it’s a romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and the guy from The Office that isn’t Steve Carrell or the guy who looks like Newt Gingrich.

Chronicle – Three kids get superpowers.

See it – The found footage type film has been done to death with horror films but as a superhero type film it could be interesting.

The Woman in Black – Daniel Radcliffe is an attorney handling someone’s estate or something. I think.

See It – Radcliffe may be known as Harry Potter, perhaps for the rest of his career, but I’m curious to see what he does after Potter. And this will be the first big clue to see if he can ride that franchise into becoming a serious actor and/or movie star or if he’ll be forever cast as the boy wizard.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @MMCritic_Kubryk.

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