MM Top 5: Liam Neeson Roles

Last fortnight’s edition of the series has been very well received and has already become the second most viewed after only two weeks. Continuing the theme of screen icons, I’ve decided to look at the best roles of a man who has only recently become one of the most sought after actors in the world. Who? Liam Neeson of course!

As always, spoilers will feature this fortnight, so please look away now if you don’t want to ruin the films!

5. Daniel: Love Actually: Dir: Richard Curtis
5: Daniel

5: Daniel

The Film: Love Actually is a marmite film, you either love it or you despise it. Directed by rom-com connoisseur Richard Curtis, it was released in 2003 to impressive box-office takings despite its mediocre reviews. With a budget of $45m, Love Actually managed to bring in a whopping $247m worldwide to become of the most financially successful British romantic comedies ever.

With a whole host of British talent including the likes of Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Hugh Grant and Rowan Atkinson, the story centres on a group of people living very different lives in the run-up to Christmas. Watch out for an overzealous jeweller played by Rowan Atkinson which will have you in stitches.

The film itself is very basic, with no bangs and no shocks but what it does have is a lot of Christmas cheer, a good helping of teary eyes and of course a nice dollop of cheese to warm the cockles. So, like marmite, give it a go, you never know what could happen…

The Role: It would be particularly easy to include five films that starred Liam Neeson as an ‘action hero’, someone who isn’t afraid of getting his hands dirty to look good up on the silver screen, a modern day Arnold Schwarzenegger if you will. However, not including his role as Daniel here would be downright criminal as it shows his softer side brilliantly. The Irish actor is definitely good at beating people up as we will see later on, but there are scenes in Love Actually which show just how versatile he truly is.

Whilst the film itself may divide audiences across the world, the performances from everyone involved, especially Neeson, certainly don’t and that is why a 5th placing here is thoroughly well-deserved.

Click to buy Love Actually  (UK Readers Only)

4. John Ottway: The Grey, Dir: Joe Carnahan
4: John Ottway

4: John Ottway

The Film: The Grey remains one of my favourite films from 2011. Fitting into the thriller genre, the movie follows a group of men stranded in the Alaskan wilderness after a serious plane crash. Much to their dismay, they are hunted by a pack of hungry grey wolves, one of the most feared predators on the planet. The only way for them to survive is to keep moving, but it’s easier said than done in a place so desolate.

Directed by Joe Carnahan, The Grey was well received by critics but suffered at the box office due to stiff competition on its December 11th release date. On a budget of $25m, it grossed just over $77m, a success, but not as pleasing as it could’ve been given the right timing and the right marketing campaign. Nevertheless, the film is a crowd-pleaser, with a brilliant score, terrific acting and some truly terrifying scares. For an in depth review of The Grey, Click Here.

The Role: Neeson really put everything he had into the performance here, and whilst it lacks the character development of some of his other characters, that is down to the script writers and not Liam’s excellent work. The character of John Ottway is a broken man who has tried numerous times to end his own life – to no avail.

After the plane crash which killed over half of the passengers on-board, he and the survivors head out into the wilderness in search of aid with Neeson’s character leading the pack. His strong, confident performance here really paid off and you felt every strain and heartbreak he suffered along the way as the reality of death slowly seeped back into his mind. The role was physically demanding with cold, wet shoots that were often hampered by the weather.

His role here may not be as deep as some others, but the fact Liam managed to pull off such a fantastic and credible performance despite poor filming conditions makes it all the more remarkable.

Click to buy The Grey  (UK Readers Only)

3. Aslan: The Chronicles of Narnia: TLWW, Dir: Andrew Adamson
3: Aslan

3: Aslan

The Film: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is in my humble opinion, one of the best family fantasy films ever made, and it is hugely underrated. Whilst it proved a powerhouse at the global box-office, taking just shy of $750m, it was less enthusiastically received my some critics who argued that it was a shallow mess that robbed everything that was great about C.S Lewis’ dramatic novel.

The film starred a huge array of acting talent, with the likes of Tilda Swinton, James McAvoy, Dawn French, Ray Winstone and Jim Broadbent amongst others and followed the story of a gateway to a magical land filled with adventure and danger. A must for any good children’s fantasy film.

Filled with charming special effects, stunning scenery and some great performances, this film opened a gateway for adaptations of Lewis’ other novels, and whilst neither of the two successors were as warmly received as this, they both brought in big bucks at the box office.

The Role: By 2005, Neeson had already proved he was an incredibly versatile actor, with lead roles in Star Wars and an Oscar nominated performance in Schindler’s List, but the Irish born thespian had never taken on a voice only role, something which it is claimed he had always wanted to do. What better way to start than with one of the greatest characters in children’s literature; Aslan. This mighty lion had been brought to life before but never with such a gravelly, awe-inspiring vocal performance as Liam gave to him.

Aslan needed to be a powerful beast with a warm heart and Neeson brought this to him. A well-deserved bronze medal in this fortnight’s MM Top 5.

Click to buy The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe  (UK Readers Only)

2. Oskar Schindler: Schindler’s List, Dir: Steven Spielberg
2: Oskar Schindler

2: Oskar Schindler

The Film: Schindler’s List is one of the most positively reviewed films of all time, and it regularly received full marks from critics and audiences from around the world who said it was a defining moment in cinema history. It also marked a huge turning point in the careers of everyone involved. Director Steven Spielberg was already making his mark as the king of blockbuster cinema, but after his two releases in 1993, one being this and the other being the year’s highest grossing film Jurassic Park, he cemented his place at the top of the pecking order and he has never looked back.

It also performed exceptionally at the box-office with its miniscule budget of $22m being turned into a handsome profit of almost $300m. The film proved very profitable for Universal Pictures and Spielberg’s own production company, Amblin Entertainment.

With stars like Liam Neeson and Sir Ben Kingsley in lead roles and a poignant score from John Williams, it had all the right ingredients for a deliciously moving portrait of the life of Oskar Schindler.

The Role: Liam Neeson had remained largely undetected at the time Steven Spielberg was fashioning his 1993 masterpiece, but after a casting call for the role of Oskar Schindler, the veteran director knew he had found the right man for the job.

Neeson played Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees during the holocaust. A harrowing film at best and one that should not be watched lightly, Liam gave a brilliant performance alongside Ben Kingsley and Ralph Fiennes. There is no doubt the film will always have been one of the most emotional ever brought to the silver screen, with or without Neeson’s involvement, but his passion for acting really comes across brilliantly on screen.

It is impossible to truly understand just how horrific these events were in the past, but even the small glimpse we see here, the terror of Schindler being discovered by the authorities, is enough to put a lump in your throat thanks to a resonant performance from Liam Neeson. It really is a wonderfully moving portrait and from director Steven Spielberg a thank you, to the man who saved so many lives.

Click to buy Schindler’s List (UK Readers Only)

1. Bryan Mills: Taken, Dir: Pierre Morel
1: Bryan Mills

1: Bryan Mills

The Film: Released in 2009, Taken was a massive hit for director Pierre Morel and 20th Century Fox who had no idea just how popular the film was going to be. After release, fans raved about the tense plot and excellent acting, and for the majority, the critics were doing the same. The numbers speak for themselves, a budget of $25m was recouped in no time and by November 9th 2013, Taken has grossed a massive $225m worldwide. There’s no wonder a good, if rather pointless sequel was released last year.

The film follows the life of ex-CIA agent Bryan Mills (Neeson) as he comes to terms with his retirement and relocation to be closer to his teenage daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) who lives with ex-wife Lenora (Famke Janssen). Unfortunately it isn’t plain sailing for Bryan as Kim is kidnapped whilst holidaying with friends in Paris. From here-on in, the film takes the viewer on a rollercoaster ride as Bryan searches Paris for his daughter before it is too late.

The Role: This is the role that made people sit up and realise that Liam Neeson was a fantastic action hero. From his tall stature, to his gruff Irish accent, he was physically and mentally intimidating and a perfect fit for a film such as this.

The movie itself suffered from a lack of plot and a very poor sense of direction, but it really didn’t matter as we saw Bryan Mills go head to head with drug smugglers, traffickers and even French politicians, beating his way through them with as much force as a bulldozer to save his little girl.

Neeson has now signed on to play Mills in a third Taken film, and whilst this was met with dismay from fans of his work, there is no denying that seeing him punch some bad guys is a massive guilty pleasure and hugely deserving of a gold medal in this fornight’s MM Top 5.

Click to buy Taken   (UK Readers Only)

An Honourable Mention

Peyton Westlake – Darkman, Dir: Sam Raimi

Henri Ducard – Batman Begins, Dir: Christopher Nolan

Valjean – Les Miserables, Dir: Bille August

Priest Vallon – Gangs of New York, Dir: Martin Scorsese

Which do you think was best, or perhaps none of those float your boat? Vote in our fortnightly poll and share your views in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

MM Top 5: Movie Plane Crashes

The MM Top 5 series returns after a two month break, and kicking off as we mean to go on, this edition looks at the top 5 Movie Plane Crashes. Starting from this week, there will be a new layout to the series with each nominee being separated into categories to describe the film, why it has placed in its respective position and other features depending on the topic. Plus, check out our new hyperlinks, clicking on the name of the nominee will take you to an outsourced page to give you even more information on each item for a truly interactive experience. Enjoy!

Oh, and please be aware, there will be spoilers!

5. Knowing: 2009, Dir: Alex Proyas
5: Knowing

5: Knowing

The Film: Knowing was released in the spring of 2009 to a mixed reception by critics and fans of lead actor Nicolas Cage. However, its lukewarm response was overshadowed by some impressive box office takings, over $180m worldwide on a relatively modest budget of just $50m.

Cage starred as Jonathan Koestler, a widowed, single father of one living in the sparse town of Lexington, Massachusetts who notices some strange patterns in the numbers found in a time capsule dug up by his son at school. As time goes on, Koestler notices that these digits foreshadow certain disasters, past and present.

The Scene: Stuck in traffic, Cage gets out of his vehicle to talk to a police officer, who suddenly turns and runs away. After looking behind him, Cage’s character sees a large jetliner as it slams through a set of power lines and cars as it explodes at the side of the road.

If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the sight of people running engulfed in flames is enough to make some people turn away from the screen. It is a truly terrifying sequence and one which serves as the highlight of a much understated but ultimately average Nic Cage action adventure. Sorry Nicolas, but 5th is where you place in this edition.

Click to buy Knowing  (UK Readers Only)

4. Final Destination: 2000, Dir: James Wong
4: Final Destination

4: Final Destination

The Film: Final Destination is a rare thing, a horror film which manages to do everything right. Creating a new premise which had never been done before, it revitalised a seriously flagging genre and captivated blood lovers across the globe. Its success has been truly unbelievable, with 4 sequels and a rumoured 5th on the way, the series has grown from strength to strength, as long as you forget the 4th instalment that is.

The first film, released in 2000 was ridiculous fun. Its cringe worthy dialogue and vomit inducing death scenes perfectly captured 21st Century horror. Starring Devon Sawa and Ali Larter, it followed a group of high-school students and their teachers after they survived a horrific plane crash, but one-by-one, death picked them off and sent them on their way in a series of ludicrous scenes not afraid of using the blood effects.

The Scene: A turbulent take-off leaves passengers on board flight 180 with white knuckles, but sighs of relief are heard all around when things start to even out again, but it doesn’t last long. Suddenly, the plane shakes violently, with cabin lights constantly flickering on and off.

As oxygen masks descend into the cabin, a severe explosion tears through the aircraft, causing the seats to break free from their mounting, which sends them into the night sky. Finally, the camera switches back to the airport where horrified passengers see the plane explode, with the resulting shockwave shattering the windows. This was a brilliantly choreographed scene which still serves as one of the series’ highlights.

Click to buy Final Destination  (UK Readers Only)

3. Con Air: 1997, Dir: Simon West
3: Con Air

3: Con Air

The Film: Con Air remains one of the finest action films ever released in cinemas and has a cult following with many throughout the world. It was released as a summer blockbuster which had to compete with the likes of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Titanic, it performed moderately well at the global box office, earning over $220m on a budget of $75m.

Starring Nicolas Cage, John Malkovich and John Cusack as well as a host of other big Hollywood names, Con Air followed the story of some of America’s most dangerous criminals and parolee Cameron Poe (Cage) as they travelled to a new maximum security facility. However, things don’t run to plan as the criminals hijack the plane, sending the viewer on a terrifying journey to see whether Poe will get his parole at all!

The Scene: Trigger-happy Agent Malloy, played by Colm Meaney, is in pursuit of the hijacked plane in an Apache helicopter. Arming the aircraft, Malloy looks for a target lock when Nicolas Cage’s character radios through to say that he’s taken control of the plane. Malloy stops his attack but it’s too little, too late, after firing at it numerous times, the plane is heading for the ground.

As the jet approaches Las Vegas, the pilot informs Cage that the plane simply will not make it to the airport, and they’ll have to emergency land on the strip. Exciting!

The plane passes over the crowded streets of Las Vegas, clipping the Hard Rock Casino’s giant guitar logo before colliding with the ground as well as several different vehicles, trees and street signs. It’s all rendered in truly terrible CGI, but is an amazing scene to watch nonetheless.

After a bit of a bump, a flash and a sparkle, the aircraft comes to rest, with notably less in the way of wings, tail and fuselage than it started with all those hours ago. It’s an exciting sequence that allows the viewer to truly escape into the film, but the shoddy CGI stops it from clinching the silver medal in this MM Top 5.

Click to buy Con Air  (UK Readers Only)

2. The Grey: 2011, Joe Carnahan
2: The Grey

2: The Grey

The Film: It is possible that The Grey is perhaps the most understated film of 2011. Starring Liam Neeson as the central character, the film grossed less than $100m at the worldwide box office yet remains one of the finest thriller creature features ever released. Director Joe Carnahan utilises some breath-taking scenery to great effect and the story is as deep as you would want it to be for the genre.

Neeson plays deeply troubled John Ottway, a sharpshooter working in the Alaskan wilderness, protecting a team of workers who are hunting for oil. On the last day of work before the holiday season, the plane which carries the team to civilisation crashes, stranding them in a deadly game of cat and mouse with a pack of wolves. For an in depth review of The Grey, Click Here.

The Scene: In a scene which for me clinched it as the best movie plane crash ever until the winner below stole the crown, Liam Neeson’s character John Ottway is relaxing on his journey back to civilisation when all of a sudden, an explosion rips through the cabin knocking some passengers out and causing others to freeze in panic. This part of the sequence is exceptionally tense and makes the audience feel incredibly claustrophobic as the plane tears through the sky, wind and snow rushing past the people on board.

Once on the ground, the surviving members of the team realise they have landed in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. Ottway knows this isn’t good and sure enough, each of them is picked off by a pack of hungry grey wolves, leaving only a couple of members hiking to safety. The entire film is an absolute rollercoaster ride of tension and relentless claustrophobia, but the plane crash sequence is truly horrifying and fully deserves the silver medal in this fortnight’s list.

Click to buy The Grey  (UK Readers Only)

1. World War Z: 2013, Dir: Marc Forster
1: World War Z

1: World War Z

The Film: World War Z was a film plagued by production problems, constant reshoots, recasting and soundtrack issues, so even making it to the cinema was an achievement for director Marc Forster. What is an even greater achievement however is at how damn good this film is.

With Brad Pitt at the helm and a supporting cast which includes Peter Capaldi (the new Dr Who), World War Z has cemented its place as one of the best films of 2013. Predicted to be a worldwide flop at the box office, it actually did rather well, grossing over $530m on a budget just shy of $200m.

Pitt stars as Gerry Lane, an ex UN advisor now living as a full-time parent in Philadelphia. After an unnamed virus takes over billions of people across the globe, turning them into blood thirsty zombies, Pitt is thrown back into the ring to try and find out just what was the source of the epidemic. For an in depth review of World War Z, Click Here.

The Scene: As Lane and his injured soldier partner Segen board a flight to leave the hordes of zombies attacking Jerusalem, they relax and finally think their ordeal is over. How wrong they are! A stowaway zombie boards the plane and begins infecting members of the crew and some unlucky passengers.

Realising there is no way out of the predicament they are in, Pitt’s character throws a grenade, which then explodes, blasting a huge hole in the side of the plane. As zombies and remaining passengers are sucked out of the disintegrating aircraft, Pitt and his partner strap themselves in and brace for the emergency landing. Utilising the rolling Welsh hills as a backdrop, the plane comes into land in excruciatingly impressive fashion, colliding with coniferous trees and breaking up into several pieces. It is one of the finest films of 2013 and its plane crash will no doubt go down in history as one of the most tense, electrifying pieces of aviation disaster cinema ever. A fully deserved gold medal in this MM Top 5.

Click to buy World War Z  (UK Readers Only)

An Honourable Mention

Jurassic Park III – 2001, Dir: Joe Johnston

Cast Away – 2000, Dir: Robert Zemeckis

United 93 – 2006, Dir: Paul Greengrass

Which do you think was best, or perhaps none of those float your boat? Vote in our fortnightly poll and share your views in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

2012 in film: The Top 5!

It’s taken some thinking about, but, the day is finally here. After hours of research and deliberation, I have finally decided on the top 5 films of this year. As said previously, 2012 hasn’t been a fantastic year for film, heck, it hasn’t even been a great year, but it’s been a good year and here are 5 of the best so far.

5. Prometheus

Prometheus: Number 5

Ridley Scott returned to our screens in a big way this summer with Prometheus. After a year’s worth of hype, the film finally arrived in cinemas across the globe and broke numerous records along with it. From its eerie, beautifully realised 3D landscape, to the performance of a certain Mr. Michael Fassbender, this film really does showcase special effects and acting at its best. However, it was not without its flaws; as a standalone film, it worked brilliantly but for many, who were comparing it to the Alien franchise, it seemed like a jumbled mess of ideas with numerous plot holes and questionable direction choices. As such, it makes it into the Top 5, but only just.

4. The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games: Number 4

Jennifer Lawrence finally got the big break she deserved in a film which took the spirit of its source material and matched it well on the big screen. Yes, the 12a certificate it was blighted with was ridiculous and meant many elements of the book were lost, but again, for special effects and character performances, it pips Prometheus by only a small margin. It definitely deserves to be in the Top 5, but no higher than number 4.

3. The Grey

The Grey: Number 3

Joe Carnahan’s thriller really turned the survival genre on its head when it was released earlier this year. From the stellar performance of Liam Neeson to the bewildering and stunning Alaskan landscape, none of which was in CGI or tacky 3D. From being on the edge of your seat to biting your nails, the mood is constantly changing. There is another reason why it made number 3 in my Top 5 films of 2012 however; this was supposed to be a quiet, spring flick but it exceeded all expectations and fully deserves its spot as the bronze medallist in this list.

2. Marvel’s Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble: Number 2

Avengers Assemble has become a worldwide phenomenon and a film which fully deserves that word being used against it. Breaking hundreds of box office records across the world and becoming the 3rd highest grossing film of all time, Marvel’s biggest film ever was more than just style over substance. Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America all had decent screen time in their fight to save the world and what a fight it was. Joss Whedon came to Marvel as a newcomer and all we can hope is that he is first in line to direct a follow up to this astonishing film. Peerless special effects, fabulous performances from most of the cast and a real story helped this film achieve worldwide success and even better, a silver medal in my Top 5.

1. War Horse

War Horse: Number 1

Here we are, the number 1 spot. Steven Spielberg’s latest masterpiece continues to cement the director as the king of blockbuster cinema. His timing and style has ensured throughout the years that his films become classics in their eras and War Horse is no exception. Despite being a little sentimental at times and shamelessly so, it ticks all the boxes for a solid family film. Amazing performances from all the cast (especially the horses) and stunning cinematography, combined with John Williams’ best score since Jurassic Park; this really is a film to behold in order to understand how wonderful it is. As such, it is my top film of 2012 so far.

What about you? Would you agree here or change the films I have included? Let me know and leave a comment in the box below.

The Grey (2012): Review

Is there ever a better match up than Liam Neeson and a good solid action flick? This reviewer thinks not and this is exactly what we have here. However, Joe Carnahan’s latest offering, The Grey is a lot more than the formulaic paint by numbers action movie. Continue reading