Monday Morning Critic – Liam Neeson, A Walk Among The Tombstones And The Curious State Of Action Movie Stardom In 2014

MMC

I don’t write about Liam Neeson often, usually to interject funny ideas about how him head butting kangaroos in movies, but this week is slow and there wasn’t much breaking in terms of action film news of note. The biggest news I could find was Sylvester Stallone doing another Rambo sequel, probably because The Expendables 3 did so poorly that it’s his penance to get a 4th film in that franchise jump started, and James McAvoy shaving his head for the next X-Men film. Nothing to really write about, as male pattern baldness and Stallone’s continuing attempts to believe he’s still the biggest action star in the world aren’t anything that deserves a full column about.

But the fact that he’s still trying, and the answer right now is clearly Liam Neeson, amuses me to no end.

Neeson, who opens this upcoming weekend up with A Walk Among the Tombstones, has fallen his way into being Hollywood’s resident action star without having to resort to playing a superhero. If there was one thing Hollywood has gotten right over the past decade it’s that they can still get people interested in action films that aren’t filled with superheroes and CGI. It’s just that the only guy who’s consistently able to do so is one time Oscar nominee Liam Neeson.

Liam Neeson in A Million Ways To Die In The West

Action as a whole in Hollywood is down, creatively and commercially, because the best action films in America are now superhero oriented. Ever since Marvel dropped Iron Man into theatres the way we look at the summer blockbuster season has changed. Long-established franchises like Fast & Furious adopted the sort of over the top action sequences, among others, and studios that didn’t go after superheroes wanted big action franchises that looked like one.

They have identifiable characters, big situations and sometimes powers beyond reckoning. Any film that’s trying to kick start a franchise has so many things that copy

It explains why Pacific Rim, two Hercules movies and The Lone Ranger (among a substantive list of others) found their way into theaters. Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. are the big boys in town, with Warner and its access to DC Comics a counterweight on occasion to the goliath that is Marvel, and thus it’s become an arms race of sorts in Hollywood. If you can’t beat Marvel by having one of their franchises, like Sony does with Spider-Man and Fox with X-Men, you want to be able to craft a franchise that looks like one. It explains the summer movie season being littered with superhero films, action films that look like superhero films and counter programming that’s budgeted at just enough that the spill off of parents refusing to see the latest spandex clad hero with their teenage children (but wanting to see a movie) can get them to profitability.

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When Sylvester Stallone talks about how action stars used to work for their on screen credibility, as opposed to just get CGI powers, there’s a twinge of truth to it. It’s also why guys like Chris Evans, et al, aren’t really stars in that they are just playing popular characters from the American lexicon. It’s kind of like how no one cares about the films Kristin Stewart makes … unless she’s humping a vampire. Neeson, on the other hand, is one of Hollywood’s solid draws in the action genre on a fairly steady basis.

When you look at Neeson’s box office as a star/significant supporting star since Taken sort of vaulted him into action star status, he’s actually been one of the best performers on a consistent basis in action films. He’s actually, on a comparative basis, substantively bigger in the genre than the guy many people look to as the action star of the moment in Jason Statham. Even Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson found sporadic success until a substantive 2013 changed the narrative. Take out that year and Johnson has a ton of underperforming films to his credit and 2014 featured Johnson underperforming domestically in Hercules.

It seems to point to Johnson as more of a product of successful franchises where he was a breath of fresh air, ala Fast & Furious and G.I Joe, rather than his star power elevating it all. Hollywood makes most of its money overseas, of course, and it’s very difficult to gauge just how popular someone is based off of international receipts alone.

neeson-in-TAKEN_2

Domestically is still the best way to gauge an actor’s appeal and right now the one who consistently manages to do so is Neeson, crazy enough. Neeson is the sort of actor who would’ve been an action film star in the 1970s, when guys like Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood carried the genre. The fact that he’s becoming consistently reliable in getting an audience out to action films, no matter how silly they look, is something I don’t think anyone would’ve predicted after Taken came out.

Neeson is kind of becoming the reliable action guy every year two decades, easy, after he should’ve because for some reason he’s resonating with people in a way. It’s curious in this era of super-powered everything that a sixty something Irishman trying to hide his accent has managed to do so well.

Stuff for General George S. Pimpage, Esq

My boy Christian Toto has opened up a new website. Give him some clickage if you don’t mind.

I shrugged at the final film in the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, which you can read here.

I also checked out The Drop, which was solid but utterly predictable.

Joe Corey reviewed Pumpkinhead for y’all.

Murtz voted for Pedro.

And now on MMC … we watch Keanu Reeves get back into full time, full action movies!

If you want to pimp anything email it to me with a good reason why. It helps to bribe me with stuff, just saying ….

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

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This week’s DVD – Skyfall

This popped up in my Netflix queue and seeing it lying around my condo I thought that it would be a fun idea to crack it open again.

I’ve written about this film a lot since its release, of course, so I don’t have anything new to add in that regard. The one thing I find interesting is that the replay value of this film is much like Casino Royale; you can watch it and find better things about it the 2nd, 3rd time. It has a high replay value to it that I find interesting on a number of levels.

Strongly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 tall boys of Red Fox and community college co-eds with low standards at the Fox and Hound

The Maze Runner – A bunch of kids get kidnapped and tossed into a place. They’re seperated from the outside by this big ass maze. Shenanigans ensue.

Skip it – The trailer is terrible and YA novels turned into films are usually about as good as their trailers.

This is Where I Leave You – Jason Bateman walks in on his wife getting filled out by a douche bag and then his dad dies. He goes home and has to deal with his family for a week.

See it – So far this looks to be the funniest film of a year without much good, much less great, comedy in it.

A Walk Among the Tombstones – A guy’s wife has been kidnapped and Liam Nesson is paid to rescue her.

See it – Liam Neeson in an action film? Yeah, I’m there.

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

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