(Photo by Open Roadt/courtesy Everett Collection)

All Liam Neeson Movies Ranked by Tomatometer

After a major film debut with 1981’s Excalibur, Liam Neeson spent the rest of that swingin’ decade slowly climbing the acting ladder. (See him randomly in Krull, The MissionThe Dead Pool, and more, for example.) But after holding his own opposite Patrick Swayze in 1989’s Next of Kin, Neeson was at last upgraded to star for Sam Raimi’s dark superhero movie Darkman…where he spends most of the movie disfigured and fully covered in bandages. Still, Darkman was a financial success, especially for an original superhero IP in this era, and Neeson carried on with lending his baritone gravitas in dramas like the Certified Fresh Husbands and Wives.

In 1994, Neeson nabbed his only Oscar acting nomination with the monumental Schindler’s List, which would go on to win Best Picture for producer Steven Spielberg, who of course also got Best Director. Neeson took on another significant title historical role a few years later with Michael Collins, before entering the pop cultural fray as the decidedly unhistorical (though we suppose it depends on who you ask) Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace. And after that, just into the 21st century, Neeson appeared in Gangs of New York, Kingdom of Heaven, and Batman Begins. A resume that includes working with Raimi, Spielberg, Allen, Lucas, Scorsese, Scott, and Nolan? Sounds like that’d be a career peak for most…

And yet 2008’s Taken was still to come, which would transform Neeson into the go-to mid-budget action guy, create a cottage industry of similar flicks to follow in its wake. Some were pretty good (Cold Pursuit, A Walk Among The Tombstones), others came out decent (The Commuter, Non-Stop), a few were god-awful (Taken 2, Taken 3), and some were one was amazing (The Grey).

We also recently saw Neeson’s softer side resurface with Ordinary Love, his first romantic film since 2003’s Love Actually and one of the best-reviewed films of his career, proving he remains as versatile as ever. To celebrate his birthday, we take a look back on all Liam Neeson movies ranked by Tomatometer!

#72

The Nut Job (2014)
13%

#72
Adjusted Score: 16603%
Critics Consensus: Hampered by an unlikable central character and source material stretched too thin to cover its brief running time, The Nut Job will provoke an allergic reaction in all but the least demanding moviegoers.
Synopsis: After he accidentally destroys the winter food supply of his fellow Liberty Park residents, Surly (Will Arnett), a squirrel, is... [More]
Directed By: Peter Lepeniotis

#71

Taken 3 (2014)
13%

#71
Adjusted Score: 17468%
Critics Consensus: Hampered by toothless PG-13 action sequences, incoherent direction, and a hackneyed plot, Taken 3 serves as a clear signal that it's well past time to retire this franchise.
Synopsis: Ex-covert operative Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen), are enjoying a reconciliation when Lenore is brutally... [More]
Directed By: Olivier Megaton

#70

The Other Man (2008)
15%

#70
Adjusted Score: 15749%
Critics Consensus: Despite the best efforts of a talented cast, The Other Man is talky, witless, and tension-free.
Synopsis: When his shoe-designer wife, Lisa (Laura Linney), disappears while on one of her frequent business trips, computer executive Peter (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Richard Eyre

#69

The Haunting (1999)
17%

#69
Adjusted Score: 20193%
Critics Consensus: Sophisticated visual effects fail to offset awkward performances and an uneven script.
Synopsis: This horror tale focuses on visitors to the secluded mansion of Hill House who have been called to the isolated... [More]
Directed By: Jan de Bont

#68
#68
Adjusted Score: 3927%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Scottish miner Danny Scoular (Liam Neeson) loses his job, and, when his past as a political activist prevents him from... [More]
Directed By: David Leland

#67

Taken 2 (2012)
22%

#67
Adjusted Score: 29094%
Critics Consensus: Taken 2 is largely bereft of the kinetic thrills -- and surprises -- that made the original a hit.
Synopsis: Two years ago, retired CIA agent Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) used his "particular set of skills" to rescue his daughter,... [More]
Directed By: Olivier Megaton

#66
Adjusted Score: 42864%
Critics Consensus: Amiable yet forgettable, MiB International grinds its stars' substantial chemistry through the gears of a franchise running low on reasons to continue.
Synopsis: The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe but so have the villains of the universe. To keep... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

#65

Under Suspicion (1991)
25%

#65
Adjusted Score: 8862%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: In the late 1950s, British police officer Tony Aaron (Liam Neeson) resigns from the force after sleeping with Hazel (Maggie... [More]
Directed By: Simon Moore

#64

After.Life (2009)
25%

#64
Adjusted Score: 26377%
Critics Consensus: It has an interesting premise and admirable ambitions, but After.Life fails to deliver enough twists or thrills to sustain its creepy atmosphere.
Synopsis: Following a terrible car crash, a woman (Christina Ricci) awakes to find an enigmatic mortician (Liam Neeson) preparing her for... [More]

#63

Third Person (2013)
25%

#63
Adjusted Score: 29027%
Critics Consensus: Third Person finds writer-director Paul Haggis working with a stellar cast and a worthy premise; unfortunately, he fails to fashion a consistently compelling movie out of the intriguing ingredients at his disposal.
Synopsis: An acclaimed novelist (Liam Neeson) struggles to write an analysis of love in one of three stories, each set in... [More]
Directed By: Paul Haggis

#62

Gun Shy (2000)
26%

#62
Adjusted Score: 25905%
Critics Consensus: A dark comedy of the low brow nature -- filled with fart and gay jokes. Even Liam Neeson and Sandra Bullock cannot save this failure.
Synopsis: Legendary undercover DEA agent Charlie Mayough (Liam Neeson) has suddenly lost his nerves of steel. On the verge of a... [More]
Directed By: Eric Blakeney

#61
#61
Adjusted Score: 33193%
Critics Consensus: Its 3D effects are an improvement over its predecessor's, but in nearly every other respect, Wrath of the Titans fails to improve upon the stilted acting, wooden dialogue, and chaos-driven plot of the franchise's first installment.
Synopsis: Ten years after defeating the Kraken, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is living a quieter life as a fisherman and sole parent... [More]
Directed By: Jonathan Liebesman

#60
#60
Adjusted Score: 37287%
Critics Consensus: An obviously affectionate remake of the 1981 original, Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans doesn't offer enough visual thrills to offset the deficiencies of its script.
Synopsis: Perseus (Sam Worthington), the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), is caught in a war between gods and is helpless to... [More]
Directed By: Louis Leterrier

#59

High Spirits (1988)
27%

#59
Adjusted Score: 26344%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Irish hotelier Peter Plunkett (Peter O'Toole) attempts to fill the chronic vacancies at his castle by launching an advertising campaign... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan

#58

Before and After (1996)
32%

#58
Adjusted Score: 31360%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: The lives of Carolyn Ryan (Meryl Streep), a small-town doctor, and her artist husband, Ben (Liam Neeson), are shaken up... [More]
Directed By: Barbet Schroeder

#57

Krull (1983)
32%

#57
Adjusted Score: 32328%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: On the planet of Krull, an evil creature called the Beast decimates the world's army and kidnaps the lovely Princess... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

#56
Adjusted Score: 41958%
Critics Consensus: While it offers a few laughs and boasts a talented cast, Seth MacFarlane's overlong, aimless A Million Ways to Die in the West is a disappointingly scattershot affair.
Synopsis: Mild-mannered sheep farmer Albert Stark (Seth MacFarlane) feels certain that the Western frontier is trying to kill him, then he... [More]
Directed By: Seth MacFarlane

#55

Battleship (2012)
34%

#55
Adjusted Score: 42586%
Critics Consensus: It may offer energetic escapism for less demanding filmgoers, but Battleship is too loud, poorly written, and formulaic to justify its expense -- and a lot less fun than its source material.
Synopsis: Lt. Alex Hopper (Taylor Kitsch) is a weapons officer aboard the destroyer USS John Paul Jones, while his older brother,... [More]
Directed By: Peter Berg

#54
Adjusted Score: 41389%
Critics Consensus: Mark Felt may dramatize the man behind Deep Throat, but its stodgy treatment of history offers little insight into the famous whistleblower.
Synopsis: Lifelong G-Man Mark Felt, aka "Deep Throat," leaks information to the press that helps to uncover the Watergate scandal of... [More]
Directed By: Peter Landesman

#53

The Marksman (2021)
39%

#53
Adjusted Score: 44125%
Critics Consensus: The Marksman benefits from having Liam Neeson in the lead, but this formulaic action thriller should have aimed higher.
Synopsis: Hardened Arizona rancher Jim Hanson (Liam Neeson) simply wants to be left alone as he fends off eviction notices and... [More]
Directed By: Robert Lorenz

#52

Honest Thief (2020)
40%

#52
Adjusted Score: 45865%
Critics Consensus: Guilty of first-degree squandering, Honest Thief returns Liam Neeson to late-period action thriller mode but neglects to supply much of a story.
Synopsis: Hoping to cut a deal, a professional bank robber agrees to return all the money he stole in exchange for... [More]
Directed By: Mark Williams

#51
#51
Adjusted Score: 46536%
Critics Consensus: Although it's an objective and handsomely presented take on the Crusades, Kingdom of Heaven lacks depth.
Synopsis: Still in grief over his wife's sudden death, village blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) joins his long-estranged father, Baron Godfrey (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Ridley Scott

#50
#50
Adjusted Score: 40570%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Gen. Douglas MacArthur (Liam Neeson) conducts a covert operation behind enemy lines to infiltrate North Korean headquarters.... [More]
Directed By: John H. Lee

#49

Khumba (2013)
44%

#49
Adjusted Score: 37217%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: After his herd rejects him for having only half his stripes, a young zebra (Jake T. Austin) sets out on... [More]
Directed By: Anthony Silverston

#48

Shining Through (1992)
41%

#48
Adjusted Score: 31151%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Spirited New Yorker Linda Voss (Melanie Griffith) goes to work for international lawyer and secret Office of Strategic Services operative... [More]
Directed By: David Seltzer

#47

Made in Italy (2020)
45%

#47
Adjusted Score: 50085%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A London artist and his estranged son try to mend their relationship as they work together to repair a dilapidated... [More]
Directed By: James D'Arcy

#46

The A-Team (2010)
49%

#46
Adjusted Score: 56211%
Critics Consensus: The A-Team assembles a top-rate cast only to ditch the show's appealingly silly premise for explosive yet muddled blockbuster filmmaking.
Synopsis: A man who loves when a plan comes together, Hannibal Smith (Liam Neeson) leads a close-knit team of elite operatives.... [More]
Directed By: Joe Carnahan

#45

The Good Mother (1988)
50%

#45
Adjusted Score: 50074%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A Boston woman's (Diane Keaton) ex-husband sues for custody of their daughter after an incident over her live-in lover (Liam... [More]
Directed By: Leonard Nimoy

#44
Adjusted Score: 56089%
Critics Consensus: Its leisurely, businesslike pace won't win the franchise many new fans, but Voyage of the Dawn Treader restores some of the Narnia franchise's lost luster with strong performances and impressive special effects.
Synopsis: Visiting their annoying cousin, Eustace, Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund Pevensie (Skandar Keynes) come across a painting of a majestic... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

#43
#43
Adjusted Score: 56171%
Critics Consensus: Russell Crowe and Elizabeth Banks give it their all, but their solid performances aren't quite enough to compensate for The Next Three Days' uneven pace and implausible plot.
Synopsis: Life for John and Lara Brennan (Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks) is miserable after she is convicted of a murder she... [More]
Directed By: Paul Haggis

#42

Chloe (2009)
51%

#42
Adjusted Score: 55919%
Critics Consensus: Despite its promising pedigree and a titillating premise, Chloe ultimately fails to deliver the heat -- or the thrills -- expected of a sexual thriller.
Synopsis: Catherine and David Stewart (Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson) are a well-to-do couple living in a posh area of Toronto, but... [More]
Directed By: Atom Egoyan

#41
Adjusted Score: 62032%
Critics Consensus: Burdened by exposition and populated with stock characters, The Phantom Menace gets the Star Wars prequels off to a bumpy -- albeit visually dazzling -- start.
Synopsis: Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is a young apprentice Jedi knight under the tutelage of Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) ; Anakin... [More]
Directed By: George Lucas

#40

Ethan Frome (1993)
50%

#40
Adjusted Score: 50163%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: A farmer (Liam Neeson) with an invalid wife (Joan Allen) falls in love with her cousin (Patricia Arquette) in snowy... [More]
Directed By: John Madden

#39

Nell (1994)
55%

#39
Adjusted Score: 55613%
Critics Consensus: Despite a committed performance by Jodie Foster, Nell opts for ponderous melodrama instead of engaging with the ethical dilemmas of socializing its titular wild child.
Synopsis: Cut off from the modern world, Nell (Jodie Foster) is a wild child, who has lived her entire life with... [More]
Directed By: Michael Apted

#38

Seraphim Falls (2006)
55%

#38
Adjusted Score: 58080%
Critics Consensus: A brutal, slow-moving drama that unfolds among some great-looking scenery.
Synopsis: Gideon (Pierce Brosnan), a former Union officer, finds himself the prey of a manhunt led by Carver (Liam Neeson), Gideon's... [More]
Directed By: David Von Ancken

#37

Unknown (2011)
55%

#37
Adjusted Score: 61875%
Critics Consensus: Liam Neeson elevates the proceedings considerably, but Unknown is ultimately too derivative -- and implausible -- to take advantage of its intriguing premise.
Synopsis: After a serious car accident in Berlin, Dr. Martin Harris (Liam Neeson) awakes to find his world in utter chaos.... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra

#36

The Commuter (2018)
55%

#36
Adjusted Score: 67878%
Critics Consensus: The Commuter's cast is better than its workmanlike script - which helps make this reasonably diverting Liam Neeson action thriller worth the price of a matinee ticket or rental, if not a full-price ticket.
Synopsis: Insurance salesman Michael is on his daily commute home, which quickly becomes anything but routine. After being contacted by a... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra

#35

The Dead Pool (1988)
55%

#35
Adjusted Score: 55952%
Critics Consensus: While it offers its fair share of violent thrills and tough wit, The Dead Pool ends the Dirty Harry series on an uninspired note.
Synopsis: In the fifth installment of the Dirty Harry series, gritty cop Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood) is fresh off the conviction... [More]
Directed By: Buddy Van Horn

#34

Next of Kin (1989)
56%

#34
Adjusted Score: 48024%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: When their brother Gerald (Bill Paxton) is murdered by a Chicago mobster (Adam Baldwin), Truman (Patrick Swayze) and Briar Gates... [More]
Directed By: John Irvin

#33
#33
Adjusted Score: 61452%
Critics Consensus: Well-acted if monotonous drama about a transvestite prostitute in London during the 1970s.
Synopsis: As a baby, Patrick (Cillian Murphy) is left by his mother on the steps of the rectory in their small... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan

#32

Taken (2008)
59%

#32
Adjusted Score: 65056%
Critics Consensus: Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.
Synopsis: Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson), a former government operative, is trying to reconnect with his daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Then his... [More]
Directed By: Pierre Morel

#31

Run All Night (2015)
59%

#31
Adjusted Score: 66336%
Critics Consensus: Liam Neeson is in typically fine form, but Run All Night suffers from a convoluted plot and workmanlike execution.
Synopsis: Longtime hit man Jimmy Conlon (Liam Neeson), best friend of mob boss Shawn Maguire (Ed Harris), has seen better days.... [More]
Directed By: Jaume Collet-Serra

#30
#30
Adjusted Score: 65445%
Critics Consensus: A gripping drama even though the filmmakers have taken liberties with the facts.
Synopsis: Follows Captain Alexi Vostrikov (Harrison Ford) who, at the height of the Cold War, is ordered to take over command... [More]
Directed By: Kathryn Bigelow

#29

Leap of Faith (1992)
64%

#29
Adjusted Score: 64131%
Critics Consensus: Steve Martin's layered performance transcends the somewhat undercooked narrative of Leap of Faith.
Synopsis: Touring Christian evangelist Jonas Nightengale (Steve Martin) and his cohorts tend to put on their bogus faith-healing revivals in major... [More]
Directed By: Richard Pearce

#28

The Mission (1986)
67%

#28
Adjusted Score: 67928%
Critics Consensus: The Mission is a well-meaning epic given delicate heft by its sumptuous visuals and a standout score by Ennio Morricone, but its staid presentation never stirs an emotional investment in its characters.
Synopsis: Jesuit priest Father Gabriel (Jeremy Irons) enters the Guarani lands in South America with the purpose of converting the natives... [More]
Directed By: Roland Joffé

#27

Love Actually (2003)
64%

#27
Adjusted Score: 71835%
Critics Consensus: A sugary tale overstuffed with too many stories. Still, the cast charms.
Synopsis: Nine intertwined stories examine the complexities of the one emotion that connects us all: love. Among the characters explored are... [More]
Directed By: Richard Curtis

#26
Adjusted Score: 68852%
Critics Consensus: Kahlil Gibran's the Prophet is a thrillingly lovely adaptation of the classic text, albeit one that doesn't quite capture the magic of its source material.
Synopsis: A dissident being kept under house arrest recounts valuable lessons in a series of vignettes while a mischievous young woman... [More]
Directed By: Roger Allers

#25
Adjusted Score: 73677%
Critics Consensus: The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is an entertaining family adventure worthy of the standard set by its predecessor.
Synopsis: One year after their previous adventure, the Pevensie children (Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell) return to the... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson

#24

Suspect (1987)
67%

#24
Adjusted Score: 66728%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Carl Anderson (Liam Neeson), a deaf, mute and homeless war veteran, is arrested for the murder of a prominent judge's... [More]
Directed By: Peter Yates

#23
Adjusted Score: 73750%
Critics Consensus: A Walk Among the Tombstones doesn't entirely transcend its genre clichés, but it does offer Liam Neeson one of his more compelling roles in recent memory, and that's often enough.
Synopsis: Matt Scudder (Liam Neeson), formerly part of the NYPD, now works as an unlicensed private detective. His latest client is... [More]
Directed By: Scott Frank

#22

Cold Pursuit (2019)
68%

#22
Adjusted Score: 79210%
Critics Consensus: Cold Pursuit delivers the action audiences expect from a Liam Neeson thriller -- along with humor and a sophisticated streak that make this an uncommonly effective remake.
Synopsis: Nels Coxman's quiet life as a snowplow driver comes crashing down when his beloved son dies under mysterious circumstances. His... [More]
Directed By: Hans Petter Moland

#21

Rob Roy (1995)
73%

#21
Adjusted Score: 74417%
Critics Consensus: Rob Roy is an old-fashioned swashbuckler that benefits greatly from fine performances by Liam Neeson, Jessica Lange, and Tim Roth.
Synopsis: In 18th century Scotland, Robert Roy MacGregor (Liam Neeson) is the head of a proud Highlands clan that herds cattle.... [More]
Directed By: Michael Caton-Jones

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 79189%
Critics Consensus: Though flawed, the sprawling, messy Gangs of New York is redeemed by impressive production design and Day-Lewis's electrifying performance.
Synopsis: Amsterdam Vallon (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a young Irish immigrant released from prison. He returns to the Five Points seeking revenge... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#19

The Bounty (1984)
74%

#19
Adjusted Score: 73806%
Critics Consensus: Thanks in large part to its cast, and Anthony Hopkins in particular, The Bounty's retelling of the mutiny on the HMS Bounty is an intelligent, engaging adventure saga.
Synopsis: Captain Bligh (Anthony Hopkins) struggles to restore discipline among the crew of the HMS Bounty after the ship has an... [More]
Directed By: Roger Donaldson

#18

Les Miserables (1998)
75%

#18
Adjusted Score: 76845%
Critics Consensus: This intelligent, handsomely crafted adaptation of Victor Hugo's classic novel condenses the story's developments without blunting its emotional impact.
Synopsis: After serving a lengthy prison sentence, Jean Valjean (Liam Neeson) turns his life around after an act of kindness opens... [More]
Directed By: Bille August

#17
#17
Adjusted Score: 75999%
Critics Consensus: Oliver Hirschbiegel's dramatic take on "The Troubles" is an actor's showcase -- and Liam Neeson and James Nesbitt are more than up to the challenge.
Synopsis: In 1970s Northern Ireland, young Joe Griffin watches in horror as the teenage leader of a UVF cell shoots Joe's... [More]
Directed By: Oliver Hirschbiegel

#16
Adjusted Score: 83788%
Critics Consensus: With first-rate special effects and compelling storytelling, this adaptation stays faithful to its source material and will please moviegoers of all ages.
Synopsis: During the World War II bombings of London, four English siblings are sent to a country house where they will... [More]
Directed By: Andrew Adamson

#15

Michael Collins (1996)
78%

#15
Adjusted Score: 79493%
Critics Consensus: As impressively ambitious as it is satisfyingly impactful, Michael Collins honors its subject's remarkable achievements with a magnetic performance from Liam Neeson in the title role.
Synopsis: In the early 20th century, Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) leads the Irish Republican Army with the help of his friends... [More]
Directed By: Neil Jordan

#14

The Grey (2012)
79%

#14
Adjusted Score: 86838%
Critics Consensus: The Grey is an exciting tale of survival, populated with fleshed-out characters and a surprising philosophical agenda.
Synopsis: Following a grueling five-week shift at an Alaskan oil refinery, workers led by sharpshooter John Ottway (Liam Neeson) are flying... [More]
Directed By: Joe Carnahan

#13

Excalibur (1981)
74%

#13
Adjusted Score: 80413%
Critics Consensus: John Boorman's operatic, opulent take on the legend of King Arthur is visually remarkable, and features strong performances from an all-star lineup of British thespians.
Synopsis: The magical sword of Excalibur starts off in the hands of British lord Uther Pendragon (Gabriel Byrne) and then, years... [More]
Directed By: John Boorman

#12

Silence (2016)
83%

#12
Adjusted Score: 103532%
Critics Consensus: Silence ends Martin Scorsese's decades-long creative quest with a thoughtful, emotionally resonant look at spirituality and human nature that stands among the director's finest works.
Synopsis: Two 17th-century Portuguese missionaries, Father Sebastian Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Francisco Garupe (Adam Driver), embark on a perilous journey... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#11

Darkman (1990)
83%

#11
Adjusted Score: 87217%
Critics Consensus: Gruesome and deliciously broad, Sam Raimi's Darkman bears the haunted soulfulness of gothic tragedy while packing the stylistic verve of onomatopoeia springing off a comic strip page.
Synopsis: When thugs employed by a crime boss lead a vicious assault on Dr. Peyton Wilder (Liam Neeson), leaving him literally... [More]
Directed By: Sam Raimi

#10

Batman Begins (2005)
84%

#10
Adjusted Score: 95916%
Critics Consensus: Brooding and dark, but also exciting and smart, Batman Begins is a film that understands the essence of one of the definitive superheroes.
Synopsis: A young Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels to the Far East, where he's trained in the martial arts by Henri... [More]
Directed By: Christopher Nolan

#9

A Monster Calls (2016)
86%

#9
Adjusted Score: 105962%
Critics Consensus: A Monster Calls deftly balances dark themes and fantastical elements to deliver an engrossing and uncommonly moving entry in the crowded coming-of-age genre.
Synopsis: Conor (Lewis MacDougall) is dealing with far more than other boys his age. His beloved and devoted mother (Felicity Jones)... [More]
Directed By: J.A. Bayona

#8
Adjusted Score: 103035%
Critics Consensus: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs avoids anthology pitfalls with a consistent collection tied together by the Coen brothers' signature blend of dark drama and black humor.
Synopsis: An anthology of six short films that take place in 19th-century post-Civil War era during the settling of the Old... [More]
Directed By: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

#7

Kinsey (2004)
90%

#7
Adjusted Score: 96185%
Critics Consensus: A biopic of the sex researcher is hailed as adventurous, clever, and subversive, with fine performances by Liam Neeson and Laura Linney.
Synopsis: Biology professor Alfred Kinsey (Liam Neeson) has a perfectly respectable life teaching and doing research at Indiana University along with... [More]
Directed By: Bill Condon

#6

Widows (2018)
91%

#6
Adjusted Score: 116986%
Critics Consensus: Widows rounds up a stellar ensemble for a heist thriller that mixes popcorn entertainment with a message - and marks another artistic leap for director Steve McQueen.
Synopsis: A police shootout leaves four thieves dead during an explosive armed robbery attempt in Chicago. Their widows -- Veronica, Linda,... [More]
Directed By: Steve McQueen

#5

Ponyo (2008)
91%

#5
Adjusted Score: 96828%
Critics Consensus: While not Miyazaki's best film, Ponyo is a visually stunning fairy tale that's a sweetly poetic treat for children of all ages.
Synopsis: During a forbidden excursion to see the surface world, a goldfish princess encounters a human boy named Sosuke, who gives... [More]
Directed By: Hayao Miyazaki

#4

Ordinary Love (2019)
93%

#4
Adjusted Score: 100529%
Critics Consensus: Led by strong performances from Lesley Manville and Liam Neeson, Ordinary Love wrings heartrending drama out of one couple's medical travails.
Synopsis: Joan and Tom have been married for many years. An everyday couple with a remarkable love, there is an ease... [More]

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 96165%
Critics Consensus: Husbands and Wives is a blistering, emotionally raw snapshot of two marriages self-destructing.
Synopsis: Gabe (Woody Allen) and his wife, Judy (Mia Farrow), are shocked to discover that their best friends, Sally (Judy Davis)... [More]
Directed By: Woody Allen

#2

The LEGO Movie (2014)
96%

#2
Adjusted Score: 105885%
Critics Consensus: Boasting beautiful animation, a charming voice cast, laugh-a-minute gags, and a surprisingly thoughtful story, The Lego Movie is colorful fun for all ages.
Synopsis: Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figurine who always follows the rules, is mistakenly identified as the Special -- an... [More]

#1

Schindler's List (1993)
98%

#1
Adjusted Score: 108404%
Critics Consensus: Schindler's List blends the abject horror of the Holocaust with Steven Spielberg's signature tender humanism to create the director's dramatic masterpiece.
Synopsis: Businessman Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson) arrives in Krakow in 1939, ready to make his fortune from World War II, which... [More]
Directed By: Steven Spielberg

They’ve been a long time coming, but Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan are reaching the climax with Fifty Shades Freed, opening wide this Friday. And if history is any indication (Grey and Darker are 25% and 10% respectively on the Tomatometer), Freed won’t be hitting the spot with critics, prompting this week’s gallery of the most Rotten movie trilogies ever.

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Clive Standen just wrapped filming on NBC’s spring series Taken, in which he plays former Green Beret Bryan Mills, the man with a particular set of skills. Those skills made Mills famous when actor Liam Neeson played the character in the 2008 Taken film and its sequels.

From Executive Producer Luc Besson, the 2017 TV prequel stars Standen as a younger Mills dealing with personal tragedy as he sets off on his CIA career and hones those skills.

But first, the British actor had to polish his courtly manners for his role as Rollo, sibling to King Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) in History’s Vikings, which returns for its midseason premiere in November.

When we last saw him in April in episode 10 of season 4, Rollo was enjoying the adoration and appreciation of the people of Francia after driving back the Viking horde led by none other than Ragnar. He’s a formerly wild and woolly Viking in the French court who’s been tamed (somewhat) and groomed (sort of) by his princess wife, Gisla (Morgane Polanski).


 Debbie Day for Rotten Tomatoes: Where is Rollo at the start of the upcoming episode?

Clive Standen: We left him being crowned by the king and being called Caesar. He’s seemingly got everything he could possibly have ever wanted and ever dreamed that he could succeed at: He has the princess that genuinely loves him. He has a whole people, a whole realm of people that back him and believes in him. And he has that king, King Charles (Lothaire Bluteau), who’s like a father figure he never had. So now, he really has stepped out of the shadow of Ragnar Lothbrok, accomplished so much, and got so much faith within both Viking society and within Francia.

But as we all know, when you want something for so long and you never really achieved it, you have no idea how it’s going to feel when you get it. So may be a case of the grass is not greener on the other side. Is it all it’s cracked up to be or is he going to be in the middle of a Viking midlife crisis? And rather than be the Ferrari or Porsche that the modern man often pines for in a midlife crisis, it’s going to be the longboat maybe that Rollo is missing and wanting.

It’s still a tricky road for him going into the second part of the season. He was born to raid and fight — those are his own words from season 1. With the responsibility of being the Duke of Normandy and having the whole realm of Francia under his wing, is he going to be allowed to fight? Is he going to be too important? Is he going to be allowed to flex his muscle, so to speak? So, maybe all those type things start to get in the way of his satisfaction and happiness.


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RT: The show has been so successful in showing how his background and his character clashes so greatly with that of his wife, but she came around to him and embraced that sort of wildness of him.

Standen: As much as they love each other and as much as there is a genuine connection between Gisla and Rollo, I think the one thing that worries her and probably worries himself that deep down is whether his Viking roots are still embedded in his psyche from an early age. If you get brought up in religion from birth and it’s a very conflicting religion from the one he’s now embraced, is it going to come back to haunt him? When everyone in Francia hears thunder and lightning in a storm, is it thunder and lightning to Rollo or is he still hearing Thor?

I think that worries Gisla a little bit: whether he really has put his Viking past behind him. You can change and teach someone the fashions of the time and the etiquette, but religion is a big thing, and I’m not sure once you believe in these gods, can you truly just leave them behind. That may be one of the confrontations the two are going to have going forward as a power couple.

RT: Rollo has had so many ups and downs and so many disappointments, then he comes to this point where his power and influence explodes, but he has to give up everything in order to have that.

Standen: I think he had all of his chips on the table. When he first came to France in season 3, he didn’t really realize what an uphill struggle it was going to be. Being offered the princess, the title, the land, it seemed like a win-win to him at the time. But he didn’t really realize the last time these people had seen him, he was the marauding crazy bear berserker running down the streets of Paris murdering people. And these are the same people that are meant to embrace him as Count Rollo. I don’t think he realized what an uphill struggle it was going to be when learning the fashion, the etiquette, the discipline of being a ruler. When he realizes the princess is someone that he’s fallen for, I think that was the incentive, and that was what I was attracted to in season 3 is that he did it all for love.

It think now he’s mastered that, he’s transformed himself completely, entirely, and I think it’s unfair to say that he — It’s funny when a lead character of a TV show speaks and the audience believes, they never doubt it. Like in real life, just because someone says something out loud doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what they mean, or necessarily that’s what they believe. So when Ragnar turns around to Rollo on the boat and says, “When everyone wanted you dead, I kept you alive, and you betrayed me. You betrayed your people,” and we have to an extent. But Rollo has done so many things for Ragnar over the years. He’s had his face cut to pieces in season 1 to protect his brother’s whereabouts. He lied and fought for him. There’s so many times where Ragnar has just kept him down and kept him in his shadow, that now Rollo is well and truly, almost like a phoenix from the flames, is just going to reinvent himself till he can shine.



I don’t think he necessarily has betrayed his people or left his people, because they never were his people. He was never allowed to be one of Ragnar’s people within Kattegat. He was always kept on the sidelines. If anything, he’s going home because he’s found his people. He’s found someone that loves him and admires him and is his rock within the relationship. He’s also got people that genuinely embrace him as a ruler and respect him and enable him to spread his wings and be his true self and explore who he can be.

So I kind of think of it more as he’s gone home, than he’s betrayed and left his brethren.

RT: If you apply the formula of the character’s life to say, just a modern anybody anywhere, how scary and difficult it would be to completely uproot yourself and put yourself in an entirely new culture and thrive. It’s an interesting arc for anyone who’s ever felt sort of out of their element, in their element. You know what I mean?

Standen: When I was offered the character by Michael Hirst and his troupe, right back at the beginning of my journey, I’d read the first two scripts and I realized what a base person Rollo was. In that second episode, he’s seen raping a slave. He’s very selfish, he’s very self-centered, and he lives on the margin. I’d done a lot of research on the role before day one of shooting, and I’d realized who this man was in history, and he’s worthy of the history books. He’s far more famous, has accomplished far more real things, genuine things in Viking society within the time period than Ragnar Lothbrok or any of the other Vikings ever did.

So he seemingly on paper, and in the written words in the history books, seems to be this ruler, this duke of Normandy, this great leader, and I couldn’t understand why Michael had written him so base. But also that was the challenge and the incentive to play the character, because I really knew how big an arc it was going to be. How I’m smashing this character down to pieces in the beginning, and I’ve got to piece him back together slowly over season after season, turn him into this man that is worth of being the great, great, great grandfather of William the Conqueror.


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RT: Why do you think that Michael Hirst wrote him so base? Is there truth in that characterization of him?

Standen: To be fair, history books, in most of them, the truth lies in the middle somewhere. Take Rollo as an example. Many historians writing about Rollo over the ages, and sometimes he’s written in the sagas. He has his own saga in Iceland, which is about Rollo the walker, which paints him into a man who’s stealing from the king, and he gets banished, finds his way; it’s like a fairy tale story.

Then there’s other documentation that comes from Dudo of Saint-Quentin, who was an historian writing 400 years after Rollo had lived, who was writing for the current Duke of Normandy. So he’s been commissioned to write the lineage of the current Duke of Normandy, so he’s obviously, it’s going to be full of propaganda, because he’s going to write Rollo to be this amazing leader, this perfect man, because he wants to show off where the current Duke of Normandy comes from.


vikings-season-4_rollo-desk_700x380So you can’t really take that as being true, and you also can’t believe that necessarily some of these Viking characters are fighting dragons or orcs and things as well. You kind of have to find the real person in the middle of it, because there’s so much propaganda involved in the history books. Vikings were one of the few cultures that didn’t write anything down. They were illiterate. So most of what was recorded about the Vikings was written by Christians in the invaded country. History is usually recorded by the invaders, not the invaded, but in this case it was. It was the Christian monks that reported on the Vikings being these horrible, marauding devils who came from the ocean that raped and pillaged the land. But you haven’t heard the Vikings side of it. And it’s the same when it comes to the characters.

Michael starts him off at the base level because the drama needs to go somewhere. But it’s also as simple as, at the writing, you’ve got two brothers playing against each other, and you need to make very clear very quickly which one the audience has to root for, which is Ragnar Lothbrok. So you make one brother a little bit more base and a little bit more living around the margins. Every Viking was raping slaves and things. They had slaves and they were allowed to do what they wanted with them. Just because you see Rollo doing it on screen doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the only one to be doing it. It obviously lets the audience know that because you don’t see Ragnar Lothbrok do it, then you’ll be rooting for him.

vikings-season-4_ragnar-rollo_700x380The long answer I feel is that Michael actually wrote Rollo to be a 50-year-old cousin of Ragnar Lothbrok in the beginning. Because the biggest artistic license we take with history really in the show is that Ragnar and Rollo were never brothers in history. They lived nearly a hundred years apart, but they both had an extremely amazing adventurous story to tell, so to get them both in the drama, what better device than to make them brothers.

I was offered the role of Rollo, and it changed to become a younger character and the brother of Ragnar. So I suppose that’s where it came from, because he was probably always meant to be the slightly older, jolly, crazy Viking.

RT: What can people expect in the next few episodes that they’re going to see between Ragnar and Rollo. Will they have much interaction at all? Can you say? Or no?

Standen: I think Rollo and Ragnar, even if they don’t share as much screen time as they used to, they probably have far more of a connection now. I think Rollo’s absence at the end of first half of season 4 is the catalyst for Ragnar’s evident downfall. He’s come to Paris. He’s tried to be too big for his boots, for want of a better phrase. And Rollo has sent him packing. He’s also been addicted to drugs, and there’s nothing like your brother smacking a few, seven bells into you to kind of get you off the drugs.

So he’s going back, and now I think his sons are growing up, and they kind of want to travel their own path, just as Rollo did. And now he’s gone from one brother who wants to step out of the shadow and know what he’s worthy of and capable of, and that’s the way that Ragnar dealt with it, by fighting him on the battlefield, to try to reign him in and contain him and punish him. But he’s going to go back to four other sons who are going to want to do the same thing. Who are going to want to escape the name of Ragnar Lothbrok. They want to fly the nest. So it’s kind of almost the beginning of the end for Ragnar, his trip up the Viking totem pole. I think Rollo is always going to be there to haunt him, even if he’s not there physically.


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RT: I don’t know if it’s premature, but do we know anything about season 5? Is it too early? Can’t say anything? I noticed you have a new series. So —

Standen: An amazing series. It kind of nearly killed me. I’ve only just finished. It’s my first week off. I’m spending the whole time off just trying to recover. Long hours. It’s Taken. I don’t know how much I can say about it, but I can tell you a little bit. Taken is the prequel to the films you may have seen with Liam Neeson, but it’s not a direct prequel in time frame, as it’s set in 2016. It’s a younger Bryan Mills.

In the pilot, you very quickly see the same kind of character that you see in the film, where something traumatic and tragic happens in his family, and Bryan is a one man wrecking ball who tries to go out of his way on his own to try and put it right. But he hasn’t got that particular set of skills yet. He’s a rough diamond, and the CIA, Christina Hart, played by Jennifer Beals, and her vice-ops team are watching him closely and using him as bait, if anything. But then they see this man with heart and a kind of work in progress, and by the end of the pilot, they kind of take him on under their wing and then recruit him into this black-ops team. So it’s about how he acquires that particular set of skills.

It’s written by Alex Cary, who wrote most of the episodes of Homeland up until now. He’s a fantastic writer. It’s really written in the real world. It’s not a crazy silly action show. It’s what I pride myself on in Vikings as well. In Taken, everything this man does is real. He’s a spy. He’s not going to be running and doing back flips and spin-kicks up the walls like has been in some of these silly action films that have just been full of sound and fury. They signify nothing to the real world kind of situation whether these guys can be in and amongst every one of us right now protecting America and sweeping the dirt under the carpet.

It’s very different than anything out there at the moment, I think. It’s got the fast pace of a show like 24. It’s relentless, but it’s also got the integrity and the real world scenarios of a show like Homeland.

The character is Bryan Mills, and his main super power — if he has one — is forward momentum and the desire to protect people. When most people freeze and clam up and run in the other direction, he goes forward and gets the job done. So it’s brutal. I’ve been throwing myself in front of cars and doing assisted Krav Maga, close combat fighting with stunt men that are far bigger than me. It’s exciting. I can’t wait. It’s going to be on the 27th of February on NBC, Monday night.


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RT: I’m really stoked for you. That’s such a great property.

Standen: My time is here, but we are doing 20 episodes of Vikings. I know that they’re only on episode 10 right now. Episode nine, I think. That’s all I can say. There’s nothing, just because I’m doing another show doesn’t mean I’m not on the other show. I just means I might be really, really busy.

RT: It’s better to be really, really busy than not busy enough. That’s so exciting. The movie Patient Zero is also coming out, yes?

Standen: I’ve been so busy with Taken, I literally have been doing 18- to 20-hour shoots on Taken, so I really haven’t had a life other than just taking my kids to school after a night shoot with no strength, then kissing my wife good night. You might know more than me.

RT: What does the next year look like for you?

Standen: I’m excited for people to see Taken, I really am. It’s the first time I’ve had this, I’m in every scene. It’s a standalone leading character, and Bryan Mills is such a great character in the first film with Liam Neeson. I got to meet him, which is kind of iconic for me. I’ve always been a massive fan of Liam Neeson and now I’m kind of stepping in his boots. I’ve put everything I possibly can into to it.

It’s a network show, and it’s got half the budget of some of these big massive epics. But I think we have such a great team and I do all my own stunts, within reason. I mean obviously some of the car chase stuff is just too dangerous for me to get involved in, piling up and spinning cars down the road. But all of the fight scenes and all of the stunts, running, jumping, climbing trees kind of stuff is all me, and I’ve really put everything I possibly can into it. And a lot of the skills I learned growing up — I’ve been an international Muay Thai boxer, and I’ve done lots of stunt work before, so I’ve kind of put it front and center in this job.


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And also some of the stuff that I’ve learned through Vikings, about getting the camera on the action, just feeling the pain and actually getting — If the actor is involved in all of the action, you can really connect. You can see the anger, the cowardice, the fear, whatever emotion he’s going through. There has to be a story through the action or otherwise it’s meaningless. And that’s what my problem is with a lot of these big action films, they shoot the back of the stunt man’s head all the way through it and you can’t connect with the character.

I’m very proud to say I’ve done everything myself on this. They have moments where they put the camera right bang in the center of the action, and you can see Bryan Mills, you can feel his pain, you can feel his hurt. Because it is one of those things, he’s a little wrecking ball. I’m really proud, and I can’t wait for people to see it.

I think it might offer something a bit different, even the character himself, I think, is full of heart. He’s not as suave as James Bond. He’s not as tall as Ethan Hunt in Mission Impossible, but they’ve all got the wise-cracking lines. They’re all a bit too cool for school, where Bryan is just a normal guy and everyone can relate to him. That’s why I think the film was so successful. He’s just a guy. He’s a dad and his daughter has been kidnapped, and he’ll do everything in his power to get her back, and you’re with him on that journey.

TAKEN -- "Pilot" -- Pictured: (l-r) Clive Standen as Bryan Mills, Victoria Snow as Sarah Mills -- (Photo by: Cristos Kalohoridis/NBC)I think that’s what Alex Cary, the writer of the Taken TV show, is so good at. He takes you on a journey every week. You feel like he’s just like you and I. He has a few extra skills up his sleeve. But you feel his pain, you feel emotion and empathy for him because he’s real. He’s not tall and suave. He trips, he falls, he gets back up again. He’s a gentleman, and an honorable and decent person with a good moral compass.

Vikings returns Nov. 30 at 9 p.m. ET on History
Taken’s first season premieres Feb. 27 at 10 p.m. ET on NBC


Hart and Johnson: The world’s two unlikeliest megastars join forces this week for Central Intelligence, playing former high school classmates who reunite and get embroiled in international action courtesy of the CIA. Since its inception in 1947, Hollywood has committed plenty of celluloid around the agency’s foundation of espionage and top-secret missions, inspiring this week’s gallery: the best and worst CIA agents in movie history.

 

It’s been a rough month for family-friendly theatrical releases, so once again we look to the DVD shelf, where we find an action sequel (Taken 2) and an education drama (Won’t Back Down). Read on to find out what’s appropriate for the whole family.

New On DVD:



Taken 2

22%

What’s it about? Liam Neeson is back as retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, who must use every skill in his arsenal when he and his ex-wife are kidnapped in Istanbul by the vengeance-driven family members of the folks who abducted Mills’ daughter last time.

Who’s it for? It’s rated PG-13 “for intense sequences of violence and action, and some sensuality.” It’s probably nothing your teens haven’t seen before, but it’s certainly too much for anyone younger.

Is it any good? Critics say Taken 2 is essentially a rehash of its predecessor, but without the logic, coherence, and excitement required to keep it fresh.



Won’t Back Down

35%

What’s it about? Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal star as a teacher and a single mom, respectively, who become so disillusioned by the bureaucratic rigidity of the local public school system that they start a grass-roots movement to wrest control from the teachers union.

Who’s it for? It’s rated PG “for thematic elements and language.” It’s probably safe for kids, though they might not want to watch a movie about education policy; teens may be more receptive.

Is it any good? Critics say Won’t Back Down is well-acted, but its script fails to lend dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform.

This week on home video, we start with an action sequel and a mediocre supernatural thriller. Then, Woody Allen visits another European city, and a couple of solid actresses try to make a point about education reform. Then we’ve got an inspirational documentary about a scrappy ball team, as well as another about an iconic American city. See below for the full list!



Taken 2

22%

Back in 2008, Taken was a refreshing early-year treat, featuring Liam Neeson in a no-holds-barred thriller laying waste to bad guys. It was a bit of mindless action that fell just shy of Freshness at 58%, but it was exactly what audiences were looking for and it became a surprise hit. Of course, a sequel was inevitable, and last year we got Taken 2, a subpar follow-up in which Neeson’s ex-CIA agent, Bryan Mills, finds himself and his wife at the mercy of the father of one of his previous victims. Again, he must use his wily training to escape with this family intact. Critics were decidedly unimpressed with this second effort, which featured some recycled character development, a more ludicrous plot, and bigger, less satisfying action. At 21% on the Tomatometer, it’s probably safe to say this one won’t be remembered as fondly as its predecessor.



The Possession

39%

The Possession‘s unimaginative title isn’t helped by the fact that it’s allegedly “based on true events,” which is fast becoming a horror cliché in its own right. This late-August fright flick centers around a young girl named Em (Natasha Calis), who becomes curiously obsessed with a mysterious wooden box she picked up at a yard sale. Her recently divorced parents Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) are at first wary of young Em’s fascination with the object, but as Em’s behavior becomes more bizarre and unexplained events begin occurring, they suspect a larger evil is at work. Some found the first act of the film suitably eerie and atmospheric, with a handful of genuine chills, but most felt The Possession ultimately fell back on all too familiar horror conventions, robbing it of its initial effectiveness. At 39% on the Tomatometer, you may find this a sufficient chiller if you’re familiar with the folkloric dybbuks, but it’s also possible you may not be affected at all.



To Rome with Love

46%

Woody Allen is one of the most prolific directors of our time, and he?s still working today. Unfortunately for him, this means that for every Vicky Cristina Barcelona or Midnight in Paris, there’s also a Scoop or Cassandra’s Dream. We regret to inform you that To Rome with Love shares company with the latter two films. The ensemble cast here includes, among others, Penelope Cruz, Jesse Eisenberg, Greta Gerwig, Ellen Page, Alec Baldwin, Roberto Benigni, and of course, Allen himself in a series of four unrelated vignettes all taking place in the titular city. While critics conceded the film painted a warm portrait of Rome, many also felt there wasn’t anything particularly intriguing or remarkable about it, leaving them to pine for his next “classic.”



Won’t Back Down

35%

Politics aside, if you’re planning to craft a film around a somewhat controversial subject, it’s best not to water it down for the masses, no matter what the studio’s accountants and marketing people tell you. Won’t Back Down seeks to tackle the topic of education reform in favor of handing control over the school system to the parents, but by oversimplifying the issues, the film instead has been deemed heavy-handed and disingenuous by many critics. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play a pair of mothers who attempt to turn around their children’s inner city school, all the while facing an uncooperative bureaucracy and pressure from those who would see them fail. They make sacrifices, fight corruption, and risk everything to ensure a brighter future for their kids. Critics gave Won’t Back Down a 33%, stating that the film is so obviously calculated and emotionally patronizing that any debate on the topic is rendered powerless. Even if you agree with its stance, chances are you may roll your eyes once or twice as the story plays out.



The Other Dream Team

88%

At least a couple of us here at RT are big basketball fans, and we’ve been around long enough to remember the glorious “Dream Team” the US fielded in the Barcelona Olympics of 1992. Having said that, we also rather fondly remember players like Sarunas Marciulonis and Arvydas Sabonis, which is why The Other Dream Team, seen by almost no one when it was released last year, is getting a writeup here today. The Other Dream Team focuses specifically on the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team of 1992, who became symbols of democracy when the Soviet Union fell at the end of 1991 and Lithuania gained its independence. Just four years after a Soviet team, powered primarily by four Lithuanian players, took the gold over the US in Seoul, Lithuania fought its way to a Bronze finish in the shadow of the NBA’s “Dream Team;” this film depicts the culture of elite athletes both behind the Iron Curtain and after its fall. At 88%, The Other Dream Team is essentially an inspirational underdog sports movie, but it features enough real-world heft and lively footage to make it a thoughtful, entertaining documentary that you don’t have to be a sports buff to enjoy.



Detropia

86%

Another overlooked film from last year that made just slightly more money than The Other Dream Team, Detropia tells a very American story, one that’s been made quietly familiar to us over the past several years. Utilizing interview clips to narrate the experience, Detropia depicts the contemporary realities of Detroit, Michigan — a decaying industrial city once known for its auto factories and soul music — as described primarily by three of its residents: a video blogger, a nightclub owner, and the local president of the United Auto Workers. Directors Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, whose previous effort Jesus Camp earned an Oscar nod, bring the same hands-off approach to Detropia, and critics say the result is a fascinating, compassionate, and artfully rendered portrait of urban transformation. At 84% on the Tomatometer, it’s worth a look for a sobering glimpse at an iconic American metropolis.

Also available this week:

The booming North American box office was ruled by two stars who have successfully rebranded themselves in recent years with Liam Neeson’s action sequel Taken 2 remaining in first place for a second week in a row while Ben Affleck’s hostage crisis thriller Argo led a five-pack of new releases with a solid debut in the runner-up spot. Also opening well was the new horror hit Sinister in third as the overall marketplace was once again sharply ahead of last year’s grosses for a third straight weekend.

Audiences powered Taken 2 into the top spot again as the kidnapping hit grossed an estimated $22.5M in its sophomore frame pushing the ten-day tally to a strong $86.8M. The Fox release played like a typical action sequel falling 55% from its better-than-expected $49.5M debut. The decline was far greater than the 17% dip that its predecessor enjoyed in February 2009, but that was a leggy sleeper hit that moviegoers found over time thanks to sensational word-of-mouth. Taken 2 is on track to finish its domestic run with $135-140M which would put it just shy of the $145M of Taken. This is the first time Neeson has ever been the solo anchor of a number one hit over back-to-back weekends.

Audiences around the world continued to line up for the actor’s special set of skills as Taken 2 grossed an estimated $41M from international markets for a global weekend of $63.5M. The sequel has amassed $132.8M overseas and a stellar $219.6M worldwide to date.

Ben Affleck’s hostage thriller Argo enjoyed a solid debut in second place with an estimated $20.1M from 3,232 theaters for a good $6,225 average. The R-rated film based on the true story of a CIA agent’s covert operation into Iran to rescue Americans in hiding during the hostage crisis won top marks from both film critics and paying audiences alike. Reviews were glowing across the board and audiences polled by CinemaScore gave a rare A+ grade which bodes well for the film’s long-term playability. Set in the aftermath of the 1979 attack on the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Argo skewed extremely old and more female. Studio research showed that a whopping 74% of the audience was over age 35 and 54% were women. Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman acted along with Affleck who played the lead.

Argo did not reach the heights of Affleck’s last film The Town – another critically acclaimed drama with Oscar buzz released in the fall. That one, also released by Warner Bros., opened to $23.8M and a $8,322 average in September 2010 on its way to a $92.2M final. Despite being showered with awards buzz at the time of its release, it failed to earn a Best Picture Oscar nomination which many industry experts predicted it would earn. With its more contemporary story and younger cast, Town played a bit younger. Argo could find itself with better legs thanks to its older audience plus it seems likely to score more points with Academy voters. Argo’s pro-America theme should continue to play well at the box office during this election season with all types of voters and the next two weekends will offer very little direct competition so solid holds are likely.

The new fright flick Sinister scared up the best opening for any horror film in ten months and placed third for the frame with an estimated $18.3M. The Summit title released by new owner Lionsgate averaged a stellar $7,222 from 2,527 theaters and was even the number one movie in the country on opening day beating Taken 2 by $425,000 on Friday before taking a drop on Saturday while all other films saw gains. The R-rated chiller stars Ethan Hawke but was sold more on its behind-the-scenes team with materials promoting that it was from the makers of the wildly successful Paranormal Activity films and Insidious.

That helped the well-reviewed Sinister post big numbers upfront but grosses fell 8% on Saturday and the C+ CinemaScore grade indicates the usual fast-burning horror road ahead – especially with Paranormal Activity 4 opening this Thursday night starting with 9:00pm shows on both conventional and IMAX screens. Exit polls indicated a young adult audience as 67% of the crowd was in the 18-34 age range while 54% was male. Sinister beat out recent openings for horror titles like August’s The Possession ($17.7M) and September’s House at the End of the Street ($12.3M).

Sony claimed the next two spots with a hit and a miss. The animated comedy Hotel Transylvania collected an estimated $17.3M in its third weekend, down 36%, pushing the cume past the century mark to $102.2M. It’s now the 13th $100M+ domestic grosser for Adam Sandler over the past 14 years. Though not sold as a Sandler vehicle, the spooky toon features the comedian voicing the main character Dracula. With Halloween still more than two weeks away, Hotel should continue to thrive at the box office and surpass $140M.

The funnyman’s I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry co-star Kevin James stumbled with his new broad comedy Here Comes the Boom which opened in fifth with an estimated $12M from 3,014 locations for a lukewarm $3,981 average. The PG-rated pic about a teacher who enters Mixed Martial Arts to earn money for his school played to a mixed crowd of families and general audiences and with a male skew. Reviews were mostly negative, though critical comments generally play a small role in the commercial playability of movies like these. Boom was produced by Sandler’s Happy Madison production company and directed by Frank Coraci (The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy). On the bright side, it earned a good A grade from CinemaScore though that does not guarantee legs in the weeks ahead.

In its second weekend of wide play, the college comedy Pitch Perfect dropped a reasonable 37% to an estimated $9.3M for a cume to date of $36.1M for Universal. The hold was certainly good, but not too impressive considering the very high exit polls it got from audiences. Still, the $17M production should finish up as a nice moneymaker in the $60M range before overseas and other ancillaries are factored in.

Disney’s stop-motion toon Frankenweenie fell by 39% in its sophomore round to an estimated $7M – another good but not exceptional hold for a quality film. The Tim Burton creation has grossed $22M in ten days and may be headed for a disappointing $40M final. The sci-fi pic Looper got hit hard falling 48% to an estimated $6.3M giving Sony $51.4M to date.

Competition for adult audiences proved to be too fierce this weekend for the well-reviewed crime saga Seven Psychopaths which opened poorly in ninth place with just $4.3M, according to estimates. The CBS release averaged a weak $2,889 from 1,480 playdates and will have a hard time as it tries to expand in two weeks to more of the country. Studio research showed that 62% of the audience was male and 71% was over 25. The CinemaScore was a decent B+. With Taken 2, Argo, and Looper to choose from, the target audience for Psychopaths found more high profile options to go with. Christopher Walken, Colin Farrell, and Woody Harrelson led the ensemble cast for the R-rated film.

The indie drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower starring Harry Potter’s Emma Watson jumped into the top ten in its national expansion grossing an estimated $2.2M putting it in tenth place. The Summit film widened from 221 to 726 locations and witnessed its per-theater average drop to a mild $2,983. Total to date is $6.2M.

Audiences rejected the Ayn Rand story Atlas Shrugged Part II which debuted outside the top ten despite a wide release in 1,012 theaters grossing an estimated $1.7M for a dismal $1,700 average. The opening weekend gross was identical to the bow that Part I generated in April 2011 however that one was released in less than one third of the theaters with only 299 sites for a more solid $5,640 average. Part II was backed by a larger investment into marketing and distribution but fans mostly ignored it.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $119.2M which was up a hefty 64% from last year when Real Steel remained at number one with $16.3M; and up a scant 2% from 2010 when Jackass 3D opened on top with a then-record $50.4M.

Liam Neeson rocked the global box office with his much-anticipated kidnapping sequel Taken 2 which scored the best opening ever for an action film in the September-October corridor grossing an estimated $50M. The Fox hit debuted in 3,661 theaters and averaged a spectacular $13,657 per location. The PG-13 film doubled the $24.7M bow of its predecessor which was released on Super Bowl weekend in January 2009. Reviews were mostly negative, however audiences disregarded critics and came out for Neeson who proved once again his ample starpower. Since Taken, he has rebranded himself as the thinking man’s action hero and ticket buyers have responded. This is the actor’s second time anchoring a number one hit this year following The Grey which debuted to $19.7M in January. He also hit number one last year in Unknown which bowed to $21.9M.



Taken 2, which involves a kidnapping plot to capture Neeson’s retired CIA agent character as well as his ex-wife and daughter who are on holiday together in Istanbul, played broadly as males made up 52% of the audience. 56% was 25 and older while the CinemaScore grade was a B+, respectable for a sequel. Friday started red hot with $18.5M, Saturday inched up 3% to $19.1M and Sunday is estimated to drop 35% to $12.4M. Action films in the fall are often affected by football on Sundays, but with Monday being the Columbus Day holiday, the studio is expecting continued solid results. Taken 2 performed much like a summer action film as movies of this genre have never opened close to $50M at this time of year. The biggest openings to date for action films in the months of September and October have been $33M for 1998’s Rush Hour and $36.5M for 2002’s Red Dragon which was a suspense thriller, but marketed to an adult action crowd.



The jump in opening weekend sales for the new Taken was similar to what the second Jason Bourne film did. The original installment The Bourne Identity debuted to $27.1M in June 2002 while the sequel The Bourne Supremacy jumped 94% to $52.5M for its debut in July 2004. Taken 2 and Supremacy both benefited from the good will that their predecessors generated during their leggy runs at the box office. People who found the films after the first three days made sure that the second time around they came out on opening weekend for another adventure with a character they grew attached to. Both franchises feature gritty action anchored by a solo hero with lethal skills. The third Bourne film soared even higher at the box office. No word yet on a third round of Taken although it would certainly make financial sense.



International moviegoers also lined up for Liam Neeson as Taken 2 grossed an estimated $55M from mostly openings in new territories. The global gross now stands at $117M with plenty more to come. It has been a busy year for Neeson. He has been on the big screen in 2012 with all of his top-grossing characters – Qui-Gon Jinn in the Star Wars Episode I 3D release, Ra’s Al Ghul in The Dark Knight Rises, Bryan Mills in Taken 2 & Zeus in Wrath of the Titans.



Last weekend’s most popular film Hotel Transylvania dropped down to second place but still attracted a huge audience of paying customers. Sony’s PG-rated monster toon grossed an estimated $26.3M, which would be impressive as an opening weekend, and dropped by a reasonable 38%. After only ten days, the Adam Sandler-led film has spooked up a stellar $76M and could be on track to end its domestic run in the area of $140M. With nothing for kids opening until after Halloween, the road ahead looks bright for Hotel.



The college comedy Pitch Perfect expanded nationwide and landed in third place with $14.7M following its potent limited bow last week. Universal’s PG-13 pic about an all-female a cappella group averaged a good $5,320 from 2,770 theaters with holdover locations dropping by only 26%. The cume for the low-budget $17M film is now $21.6M on its way to $55M or more. Studio research showed that women made up an overwhelming portion of the audience as 81% of the crowd was female. 55% were under 25 and the film connected primarily to teen and young adult females. The studio is hoping that positive buzz will broaden the audience over the weeks ahead. Males often avoid films like these upfront, but can get drawn in down the road after hearing many recommendations from friends as was the case with Universal’s Bridesmaids last year.



The well-reviewed sci-fi actioner Looper enjoyed a good hold in its second weekend grossing an estimated $12.2M for a 41% decline. The Sony release has taken in $40.3M in ten days and looks headed for a final tally of around $70M.



Opening poorly in fifth place was Tim Burton’s animated film Frankenweenie with an estimated $11.5M from 3,005 theaters for a mild $3,827 average. It was the third 3D creepy comedy toon aimed at kids in the last two months and the worst performer on opening weekend. August’s ParaNorman opened better with $14.1M while last week’s Transylvania ended up opening much better than expected with $42.5M providing intense competition this weekend since both were aimed at the exact same crowd.



Despite having much better reviews, Frankenweenie was a less mainstream film with its black-and-white and claymation style making Hotel the more popular choice for families looking for a pre-Halloween laugh. The CinemaScore for the Burton pic was a decent B+ and with the pumpkin holiday still a few weeks away, the PG-rated film has a chance to show some legs if good word-of-mouth spreads. Its story about a boy who reanimates his dead dog made the appeal more narrow so strong buzz will be needed for Disney to find long-term success against its competitors.



Dropping 49% to an estimated $4M was the cop thriller End of Watch which has collected $32.8M so far for Open Road. Clint Eastwood’s Trouble with the Curve followed with an estimated $3.9M, down 47%, for a $29.7M total for Warner Bros. The horror film House at the End of the Street fell 48% to an estimated $3.7M putting the Relativity release at $27.5M.



The acclaimed drama The Master held up well slipping only 31% to an estimated $1.8M for The Weinstein Co. which has grossed $12.3M to date. Disney and Pixar rounded out the top ten with its 3D release of Finding Nemo which took a sharp hit tumbling 62% to an estimated $1.6M for a $39M sum. That boosted the lifetime tally to $378.7M.



The top ten films grossed an estimated $129.7M which was up a sharp 62% from last year when Real Steel debuted at number one with $27.3M; and up 69% from 2010 when The Social Network remained on top with $15.5M.

This week at the movies, we’ve got a kidnapping plot (Taken 2, starring Liam Neeson and Famke Janssen), a reanimated pooch (Frankenweenie, with voice work from Charlie Tahan and Winona Ryder), and a cappella all-stars (Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow). What do the critics have to say?



Taken 2

22%

Why would anyone mess with Liam Neeson’s family again, given the brutal swath he cut in the first Taken? That’s a great question, say critics, who find Taken 2 to be largely bereft of the kinetic thrills — and surprises — that made the original a hit. Neeson is back as retired CIA agent Bryan Mills, who must use every skill in his arsenal when his ex-wife and daughter are kidnapped in Istanbul by vengeance-driven family members of the folks who abducted Mills’ daughter last time. The pundits say Taken 2 is essentially a rehash of its predecessor, but without the logic, coherence, and excitement required to keep it fresh. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames, in which we present a gallery of rough-and-tumble old guys.)



Frankenweenie

87%

Tim Burton has always had a taste for the macabre, and a love for outsiders. Critics say those fixations dovetail nicely in Frankenweenie, an energetic stop-motion horror movie spoof with lovingly crafted visuals and a heartfelt, oddball story. Young Victor is a lonely middle schooler who spends his days working on bizarre science projects in the company of his faithful dog Sparky. When Sparky is fatally wounded, Victor is able to bring him back to life; in doing so, however, he unwittingly unleashes a plague of monsters on his normally placid hometown. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Frankenweenie may not be Burton’s best, its twisted sensibility and sweetness harkens back to the director’s earlier classics. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Burton’s best-reviewed films.)



Pitch Perfect

81%

At first glance, Pitch Perfect sounds like little more than a big-screen Glee. However, critics say this tale of a college a cappella competition has panache and goofy good humor that make it stand out from the pack. Anna Kendrick stars as a new kid on campus who goes looking for a new clique and finds one in the form of the school’s a cappella ensemble. Can our heroine’s hip taste in tunes shake up the group’s staid arrangements — and make it a contender at the big singing competition? The pundits say Pitch Perfect‘s plot is awfully tired, but the performances — particularly the scene-stealing Rebel Wilson — are excellent, and the musical numbers are toe-tapping as well. (Find out Kendrick’s Five Favorite Films here.)

Also opening this week in limited release:

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