When a somewhat under-the-radar movie breaks out in a big way, it's natural for producers to go back to the well and make a sequel. The problem is when this happens with a movie that wasn't really left open-ended. So with Taken 2, as with The Hangover 2, you get a lot of characters saying what the audience is: variations on "I can't believe this is happening again!" But calling it out doesn't excuse it.
The pop culture world is all about payback this week, with Liam Neeson returning to the big screen to exact all sorts of bloody Eurocentric revenge in Taken 2 (if you're not excited for this film, don't worry, Samuel L. Jackson's enthusiasm is enough for all of us) and Emily Thorne continuing to make the 1 percent suffer on the second season of ABC's Revenge. With the exception of matters pertaining to soup rivalries and questionable film sequels, we here at Grantland consider ourselves pacifists, but perhaps that's why we enjoy watching bad things happen to bad people in the relative safety of film and television, where the blood is fake and the eyeballs replaceable.
Silver: Let me give you a brief look into my brain. When I lie down at night, I don’t think about what went on that day, or what might happen the next — I don’t even think about my wife and kid. I think about what actors/actresses working now would be good fits for remakes of some of my favorite films (for instance, I think a younger Jim Carrey as Hooper, Don Cheadle as Brody, and Liam Neeson as Quint would be great for a remake of Jaws). The character and actor I had the hardest time separating was Bruce Campbell from Evil Dead’s Ash (for the obvious reasons). Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog had me thinking Nathan Fillion could probably do a solid job, but after seeing the trailer for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, I’m now convinced that Jeremy Renner would be perfect (FYI ... I know there’s a remake of E.D. coming, but Ash isn’t in it). Renner delivers every line in this trailer so seriously, yet so clearly with tongue firmly in cheek. The Internet kind of hated on this trailer this week, and for good reason: It sells the film as a straight-up action/horror flick. But look closer. Gary Sanchez Productions (i.e., Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, and Chris Henchy) developed this project and are credited as producers. So my expectations are more Army of Darkness and less Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I’ve now watched this trailer three times, and have laughed harder with each viewing. If Renner at any point in the film says, “Come get some!,” I think I’ll just lose it.
This new clip for Taken 2 doesn't offer anything we don't already know about the sequel — gloriously, and with a righteous lack of shame, the powers that be (Olivier Megaton has stepped in for Pierre Morel in the director's chair, but Luc Besson is still executive producing and co-writing) have gone and made the exact same movie again. Good. Great. As it should be. Much more important is the little bit before the clip starts, when our dude Liam Neeson looks straight into the camera and threatens to kidnap and torture us all if we don't keep watching. He's already spoofing himself! The second movie hasn't even come out yet, and he's already spoofing himself! No one is having more fun doing anything right now than Liam Neeson is as he's getting taken and saving people from getting taken.
Silver: Brad Pitt should just forget about mass-appeal fare like Moneyball and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. He’s so perfectly suited for characters that exist on the fringes — 12 Monkeys, Fight Club, Inglourious Basterds, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Even if they’re expansive thematically and visually, Pitt is a performer who shines when he’s more understated, so smaller, more intimate narratives like Killing Them Softly play to his strengths. With KTS, Pitt reunites with Jesse James writer/director Andrew Dominick, and looks at ease playing a sleazy enforcer called in to “clean up” after a gangster’s card game gets held up. Although this film feels a little cheekier, it definitely exudes a Drive vibe. Like Nicolas Winding Refn, Softly director Dominick appears to have infused his offshore sensibilities and visuals into this inherently American story (Dominick is from New Zealand). I’m also looking forward to seeing Pitt and James Gandolfini onscreen together again. The two of them had terrific chemistry in Gore Verbinski’s underrated The Mexican.
Silver: Since the French have been unwavering in their love and support for Woody Allen, it seems apropos that this overt Allen homage would come from a Frenchman. Well, to be specific, a Frenchwoman. And to be even more specific, a super-talented Frenchwoman named Julie Delpy. 2 Days in New York looks adorable and hilarious. Delpy has carved out a nice place for herself in the contemporary adult film space. She goes away for a while, people forget about her, and then she releases a new film and reminds everyone how talented a filmmaker she is. And good for Delpy for remembering that Chris Rock is also an actor. (Don’t believe me? See Nurse Betty.)