Taken helped to establish Liam Neeson as Hollywood’s go-to middle-aged tough guy. But critics say what was once fresh has become formulaic, as Taken 3 (like its predecessor) is an over-caffeinated action fest elevated by Neeson’s presence but diminished by its absurd plot. This time out, our hero is framed for the murder of his wife, and must outwit the various cops and intelligence agents on his trail in order to find the real killers. The pundits say that any film with Neeson and Forest Whitaker is sure to contain moments worth watching, but overall Taken 3 is too slackly paced and frenetically edited to work as a giddy pleasure. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames for a gallery of old guys who still bring the pain.)
It’s not easy for a movie to bring history to life, and it’s even more difficult to capture the atmosphere and drama of an event from recent memory. But critics say that’s what director Ava DuVernay has done with Selma, a searing, vital drama that taps into of one of the Civil Rights era’s most tumultuous moments and features an astonishing performance from David Oyelowo as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s an account of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches, where demonstrators met serious resistance at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama, as well as from local and national politicians. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Selma is powerfully acted, beautifully shot, and, above all, emotionally resonant — in short, one of the best films of the year.