Director: Ridley Scott (2012)
Starring: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba
Find it: IMDB

It's a prequel to Alien - only not, except sort of, it is. After discovering some drawings on the wall of a cave, scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) realise that the meaning of life, the universe and everything lies in the far reaches of outer space. All aboard the starship Prometheus, then, where the scientists hope to find the answers they seek. Also, ow, my chest.

They are joined on their Star Trek by an achingly cool Idris Elba, a chilly Charlize Theron, Timothy Spall's son and robot butler Michael Fassbender (with his pants on, for once). If JJ Abrams ever decides to reboot The Next Generation characters, he could do far worse than Michael Fassbender as Data. The actor gives the film's best performance, although that isn't to take anything away from the others. One time girl with the dragon tattoo Noomi Rapace does admirably well as Not-Ripley, bringing an earnest vulnerability to the role. It would have been nice to see more from Elba and Theron, but with such a large cast all vying for time, it's difficult to fit everyone in.

They could have perhaps done without Guy Pearce as one of the Weyland clan,buried beneath heaps of rubbish make-up and doing his worst Monty Burns impression. It would have made more sense to cast the always game Lance Henriksen, seeing as (a) he has history of playing Weylands and (b) he's genuinely quite crinkly nowadays.

While I'm not the biggest Alien fan ever, I was interested to see what Scott might make of his return to that universe. His original bit is effectively a slasher movie in space, but Prometheus has a little more going on under the hood than that. Those big ideas and philosophical musings could lead some to dismiss Prometheus as pretentious, but I found it to be enjoyable and a little bit fascinating. There's plenty of action and horror to go with the navel gazing, and a lot more linking it to the Alien films than I had expected.

Prometheus is an intelligent, fun and very pretty piece of sci-fi, being absolutely enjoyable on its own merits as well as a worthy entry to the Alien series, more than washing out the bad taste left in the mouth after Alien vs Predator and Alien: Resurrection.  In space, everyone can hear you pontificate.


Director: Scott Derrickson (2012)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Juliet Rylance, Clare Foley
Find it: IMDB

True crime writer Ellison (Hawke) sneakily uproots his family from their home and moves them to an infamous murder house where a family were murdered years earlier. No sooner have they moved in than Ellison discovers a box of home movies in the attic. Breaking out the Super 8 projector, he digs right in. What he sees is the worst thing you could possibly find in a box in your attic - a series of found footage movies. It's the equivalent of finding a Paranormal Activity box set in your loft.

These are apparently more real than a Blair Witch though, depicting real murders and atrocities. Rather than calling the police, Ellison delves deeper into the mystery, uncovering the identity of the films' big bad and the nature of the threat. At the same time,  his young son (named Trevor, ewis experiencing a series of horrid night terrors, his daughter conversing with the dead, and things keep going bump in the night. It's all very, well, sinister.

But the word 'sinister' is a promise, a threat, rather than anything concrete. "Threatening or portending evil, harm, or trouble", to go by the dictionary definition. Which Sinister does very well. With its spooky jump-scares, creepy set-up and actually impressive found footage interludes, Sinister portends evil very effectively. But when that evil eventually arrives in the film, it's an entirely non-threatening affair. A scene in which Ellison falls out of his attic is laugh out loud funny. Also, there is nothing less 'sinister' than the name 'Mister Boogie'. I'm sure the filmmakers thought that they were going for some sort of Pennywise the Dancing Clown form of reverse-spookiness, but Mister Boogie is shit. It's a blatant attempt to recreate the Darth Maul demon of Insidious. 

There are some nice ideas at play, and Ethan Hawke is always watchable (even while wearing a cardigan, ew again), but Sinister is a massive disappointment. It's close behind Cabin In the Woods as the most disappointing horror movie of the year.

Taken 2

Director: Olivier Megaton (2012)
Starring: Liam Neeson, Maggie Grace, Famke Janssen
Find it: IMDB

Given that the director's name is Olivier Megaton, one might be lead to expect a lot more explosions from Taken 2 than one actually gets. Weighing in with a puny 12A rating, there are gunfights and fisticuffs aplenty in Taken 2, but never any impact. What it does get right, however, is its title's promise. There's lots of taking going on in Taken 2. Kidnap prone Kim (Grace) manages to stay out of the baddies' clutches, but no such luck for the rest of her family. Particularly taken (again and again) is wife Lenore, mostly because Neeson keeps leaving her behind.

Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills, a man who seems to spend most of his time stalking his daughter and holding crappy barbecues with his camp friends. When ex-wife Lenny's new partner leaves her, Mills decides to cheer the family up by taking them on holiday to Istanbul  There, a welcoming committee is waiting for them - the vengeful relatives of the sex-traffickers Mills killed the last time around. Bryan and Lenny are kidnapped, and it's left to Kim to find them. Considering the events here and those of the last film, Taken 2 should have ended with the Mills family burning their passports and vowing to never take another bloody holiday again.

Taken was a sleeper hit, taking (geddit) many by surprise and bringing about a career resurgence for Liam Neeson as Hollywood's go-to action guy. As with its predecessor, Neeson is the best reason to watch this sequel. It's certainly not for the bloodless action, which ranges between being incomprehensible to uninspired. No, Taken 2 succeeds only because Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills is a hilarious creation. His scenes with Maggie Grace are entirely uncomfortable, like spending the evening with a quietly lecherous relative. I honestly expected one early scene between the two of them to end with a kiss on the lips. He's certainly a lot more lapse in recovering his ex-wife than he was his daughter, constantly leaving her alone, semi-conscious in really dangerous places to get kidnapped again. That's one way to be rid of a third wheel. There are scenes in which Mills actually gets jealous of his daughter's new boyfriend. Taken 2 is a sweet romance between a man and his daughter. It's like a gender-switched Oedipus in reverse. Except this is definitely not Shakespeare.

I'm not being facetious by referring to Janssen's character as 'Lenny', by the way. It's actually Bryan Mills' pet name for his lover. Which just made me think of this, every time he said her name:

Taken 2 is a fun but silly and senseless action thriller with no gore, no grit and no gumption. The genuinely nasty threat of the first film's sex trade baddies gone, Neeson is left battling boring thugs who never stood a chance in the first place. Thankfully the big fella's presence alleviates the film's problems, his performance always fun to watch. The door is left slightly ajar for another sequel, but that would just be taken the piss.