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New release movie reviews - 4 October

Posted by: Jim Schembri | 4 October, 2012 - 2:07 PM
Taken 2

TAKEN 2 ** (92 minutes) M
Watching sexagenarian action man Liam Neeson lurch through Taken 2 reminds us that there was at least one dude missing from the cast of The Expendables. Having rescued his daughter (Maggie Grace) in the 2008 film after notching up a body count that would make Jason Statham weep with envy, Neeson's Bryan Mills has now been targeted by all the unkempt relatives of the henchmen he slaughtered the first time around. This brood of angry Albanians is lead by Rade Serbedzija, the terrific Croatian actor who brought such life to Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999) but who mainly grumbles and grunts his way through the violent proceedings here. The appropriately named French action director Olivier Megaton (Colombiana, Transporter 3) is a nifty hand at mounting car chases and gun fights, but no amount of speed or cutting around Neeson's stunt double - a bit too obvious in some scenes - can paper over the film's myriad plot holes. Put your brain in neutral, stock up on popcorn and sugar drinks and Taken 2 is passable, throwaway entertainment. But as with The Amazing Spider-Man, Expendables 2 and The Bourne Legacy, Taken 2 is the latest in a string of idea-free movies released over the past 12 months that suffers from chronic franchise fatigue. (See our list of Action Movie Cliches)

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MENTAL ** (116 minutes) MA
Having given us the classic Australian comedy Muriel's Wedding (1994), writer/director PJ Hogan returns to sunny suburbia for a second bite of the cherry. Unfortunately, his latest effort is a shrill, uneven affair that is light on laughs and populated with characters who either lack sympathy or deserve more of it. Toni Collette (forever Muriel) plays Shaz, a loud, over-the-top Aussie sheila stereotype who crashes into the lives of budding politician Barry Moochmore (Anthony LaPaglia), his five warring daughters and troubled wife (Rebecca Gibney). The family is in a state of perpetual emotional chaos so naturally Shaz's raffish manner imbues order into the household. She's also involved with the local wildlife expert Trevor Blundell (American actor Liev Schreiber brandishing an impressive Aussie brogue), has issues with clean-freak neighbour Nancy (Kerry Fox) and targets the family's hapless relative Doris (Caroline Goodall). There's considerable ensemble energy in the film's first half as Shaz teaches the girls about self-respect and the joys of anti-bully revenge, but it quickly thins out as the story constantly tries to out-crazy itself. Unlike Muriel's Wedding, there's no emotional anchor or consistency to give all the hijinks in Mental much meaning beyond a few instant chuckles. And the film's messy final act suggests the screenplay needed at least one more pass.

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SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN ***1/2 (86 minutes) M
In what has got to be one of the most bizarre pop music documentaries ever, two South African fans of 1970s American singer Rodriguez embark on a journey to try and unravel the man behind an extraordinary myth. Though his fortunes in America never amounted to anything, his raw, anti-establishment lyrics made him more popular than Elvis in South Africa where Rodriguez was credited with inspiring other musicians to sing out against apartheid. Stories of his on-stage suicide and the meandering money trail from his record sales help propel a singularly fascinating true-life tale that many of its participants still find difficult to believe.

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STARRY, STARRY NIGHT *** (98 minutes) M
Visually beautiful, magic-tinged Taiwanese fantasy-drama about two disenfranchised teenage school kids - Xiao Mei (Xu Jiao) and Zhou Yu-Jie (Lin Hui-min) - whose respective troubles and love of shoplifting lead them to form a friendship. Inspired by the children's graphic novel The Starry Starry Night by Taiwanese writer Jimmy Liao, the film is a wall-to-wall charmer in which the nastiness of the real world is offset by an innocent desire for closure and the presence of some superbly animated characters. It's also a rare co-production between China and Taiwan. Screening at the Nova.

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