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Movie Reviews

Taken
Directed by Pierre Morel
Review by Mike Maniscalco

"Taken" reinforces something that many of us learned a long time ago: don't mess with a former CIA operative. Liam Neeson plays Bryan Mills, a divorced, middle-aged former CIA "preventer" who's trying to rebuild his relationship with his seventeen year old daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). Kim is trying to get permission from her parents to travel to Europe with her nineteen year old friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) to follow U2's summer concert. Neeson does not like the idea but succumbs to the pressure put on him by Kim and her mother.

Once Kim arrives in Europe, it does't take long for everything to go to hell. Kim is kidnapped in Paris by Albanian immigrants who run a "sex slave" operation. Neeson estimates that he has about 96 hours to find her and immediately the action begins. Neeson takes on a Charles Bronson-type mentality and will use "any means necessary" to save his daughter. The movie keeps you on the edge of your seat and even does a good job developing Neeson's character; he's not just a kick-ass operative but someone who most fathers can relate to.

The movie is definitely worth the ten dollar admission fee and I guarantee you won't feel "taken" after you see it. If by chance you are a father whose daughter is planning a trip to Europe, remember that the movie is fiction. Otherwise, you may be calling the travel agent for a refund.

Coraline
Directed by Henry Selick

Review by Tony Sheppard

"Coraline" is a stop-motion animation in the technical style of films like "A Nightmare Before Christmas" and "The Corpse Bride," but with a deceptively friendlier appearance. It's exceptionally well-made, with a vast number of models and interchangeable parts, and is worth seeking out in 3D form as the visual effects are similarly excellent. However while high praise and awe seem inherently appropriate, it also seems oddly like complimenting an obsessive-compulsive for attention to detail – although that detail is certainly breathtaking at times.

Coraline and her parents move to a new apartment in a weird old house in a seemingly barren landscape. Her mother and father produce a seed catalog and, like many work-at-home parents, they may be literally present but their work keeps them as figuratively distant as a far away office might. This leaves Coraline to explore the house, and the equally odd neighbors, including a tiny door in the living room wall (apparently Coraline missed "Pan's Labyrinth").

It's a very simple story that one might associate with a children's movie, but the basic structure and the imagery and thematic elements seem somewhat at odds. Not quite a kids' story with adult themes or an adult movie with a childish plot, it's caught between a PG rating (which it carries) and a PG13 and it requires the ability to process themes of abduction and death (and enormous breasts). I found myself trying to decide who the intended audience is (somewhat like last year's demographically-challenged Speed Racer) but it doesn't seem to be the young kids who might find the publicity images appealing. While it will appeal to older fans of twisted tales, such as the award-winning source material, it may take others a bit by surprise.

He's Just Not That Into You
Directed by Ken Kwapis
Review by Katie Monson

As we are growing up, young girls are told that the only reason boys are mean to us is because they like us. I never could wrap my head around that thought, but it seems for a lot of women, that this theory just might hold over into adulthood. "He's Just Not That Into You" sets the record straight. If he doesn't call you, if he isn't sleeping with you, if he is cheating on you, if he is doing anything that makes you feel like less than an equal partner in your relationship, then he is just not that into you.

"He's Just Not That Into You" tells the story of seven people living in Baltimore. Gigi (Gennifer Goodwin) is having a hard time finding a man who will call her back. Alex (Justin Long) becomes her guru on all things men, and opens Gigi's eyes to the fact that she deserves a guy that is going to be nice to her and like her. Janine (Jennifer Connelly) is just not sure if she can trust her husband, Ben (Bradley Cooper) who has a hard time keeping away from Anna (Scarlett Johansson). Anna must make a decision between Ben, the sexy married guy, or Connor (Kevin Connolly), a sweet standby. Mary (Drew Barrymore) learns the ins and outs of finding love in the 21st Century world of technology.

With an all star cast, I was a little afraid that the movie would rely too much on the draw of the big stars and not enough on the writing, but overall it was a good film. It was very funny, but much of the humor came from the minor characters. There were a few moments when the movie seemed to drag a little, especially in the beginning, but it definitely picked up. The movie has a predictable ending, but I was happy about how it ended.

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