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'Frankenweenie' director Tim Burton likes his mothers
Liam Neeson in 'Taken 2,' which is sorta like 'Schindler's List,' but with way more killing.
"TAKEN 2" (PG-13) HH
LIAM NEESON, MAGGIE GRACE, FAMKE JANSSEN
It's not as good as the first installment, a perfectly straightforward film where bad guys kidnapped a military man's daughter and he used all his deadly skill to get her back.
And, oh, what deadly skills he had.
But critics who've totally panned this sequel have been too hard on it.
It still has Liam Neeson as the protective dad, Bryan, and the likable Maggie Grace as daughter Kim, who, in this film, fights by his side to get back the mother and ex-wife (Famke Janssen) who's been kidnapped.
Things are more complicated this time out as we have a second bit of revenge: The kidnapper is the father of the bad guy Bryan killed in the first film.
It takes longer to get to the action this time around, thanks mostly to a segment where we get to watch Bryan and Kim being father and daughter in a regular sort of suburban atmosphere.
But things get going soon enough, and it's interesting to watch the military-trained father and scared-silly daughter work together to free her mother.
Parents who have fretted over helping children pass a driver's test will enjoy that as a plot point early in the film, especially when it gets turned on its head. Kim is forced to drive while people are shooting machine guns at her and cops are chasing her through crowded city streets.
In the end, this film is still an entertaining outing, using the same underlying message of the first movie--don't go messing with the family of a guy who's trained to kill with his bare hands.
It does make you wonder, however, why this particular family would ever travel abroad again after going 2-for-2 on getting kidnapped. But they surely will. The back story here leaves the potential for some bad guys to try another round of kidnappings.
It just goes to show--if the movie makes enough money, they always leave the door open for a sequel.
But as long as Neeson and Grace are in the cast, it's worth the trip.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence, action, some sensuality. 92 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"FRANKENWEENIE" (PG) HHH
WINONA RYDER, CATHERINE O'HARA, MARTIN SHORT
Though it's a bit too creepy and scary for the very young, Tim Burton's latest does have a sweet sentiment underlying it all.
We see the love a boy feels for the dog that's his only friend, and we feel the pain he feels when that dog dies.
In the world of stop-motion animation, this all becomes a movie in which young Victor Frankenstein--quite the inventor and science buff--manages to resurrect his beloved dog, Sparky, by shooting a quadrillion volts of lightning through him.
The story works best up to that point, with a sweet family and son expertly crafted to show the pain involved in losing a pet.
But the creepiness starts edging in when young Victor has to dig up the dead pup, and it only grows when his friends dig up a host of other dead pets to reanimate.
When those pets come back to life, they're monsters, leading to a battle around the town that does have some fun with the whole Frankenstein legend.
Burton is a good storyteller and has fun with all elements of the film. But his creepy side makes this film a bit more odd and violent than will suit many younger moviegoers, especially those who are terrified by monsters with huge teeth chasing people through the streets.
Rated PG for thematic elements, scary images and action. 87 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"PITCH PERFECT" (PG-13) HH
ANNA KENDRICK, BRITTANY SNOW, REBEL WILSON
This is an odd one, because it's so uneven.
There are moments that are hilarious and creative, with the talented Anna Kendrick joining the goofy Rebel Wilson as two great reasons to see the film.
But the story itself is relatively weak--singing group competitions have been done to death--and there are segments so stupid that you wonder how they made it onscreen.
For instance, a main character doesn't just vomit, but spews twice, and the second round sets up another character to slide through a pile of sick.
It's enough to make you wonder if this movie was put together by committee.
Thankfully, every time you get tired of the weak parts, Kendrick, Wilson or a hilarious twist arrives to make you forget.
Rated PG-13 for sexual material, language and drug references. 112 min. [MC, PV, RA]
H Don't waste your time.
HH Nothing special
HHHH A must-see