Movie Reviews: 'Selma' and 'Taken 3'

Get the details of the new releases.

ByDavid Blaustein
January 09, 2015, 1:11 PM

— -- Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo and Oprah Winfrey

Rated PG-13

Five out of five stars

There would never be a bad time for director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma” to come out, but right now feels like the best possible time for this accessible, palpable story of our awful and embarrassing recent history of violent racial oppression.

Think about this: We sent a man into outer space before we gave U.S. men and women on Earth the absolute right to vote. The residue of the civil rights movement persists across the years and still turns up in places like Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York.

Selma isn’t a sweeping film about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life from beginning to end. Instead, DuVernay chooses to focus on a defining moment for him and the civil rights movement: The effort by King (David Oyelowo) to get the black people of Selma, Alabama, the right to vote.

It’s a moment that encapsulated the brilliant balance, strategy, humanity and fortitude of one of the greatest leaders this world has ever known.

While there are many fine supporting performances here (Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Oprah Winfrey, Tim Roth and Andre Holland, to name a few), “Selma” soars thanks to the collaboration between DuVernay and Oyelowo, who transformed into King using a perfect combination of restraint and commitment. It is the kind of performance every actor dreams of but only few pull off.

DuVernay also exercises considerable restraint showing the quiet rage and humanity of her subjects while eliciting the truth from all of her actors. Without giving anything away, there is a scene at the beginning of this movie that is so brilliantly executed, it may and should stay with you the rest of your life.

Paul Webb’s script puts us in Selma, as well as in the Oval Office with King and President Lyndon Johnson (Tom Wilkinson). It puts us on the Edmund Pettus Bridge March 7, 1965, when King and other peaceful marchers to Montgomery, Alabama, were attacked by armed officers. It puts us in King’s command center debating strategy, and in his home while he struggles to keep his marriage afloat.

“Selma” doesn’t treat King as a saint. Instead, he’s portrayed as a man with saintly aspirations. This isn’t just one of the best movies of 2014 (it came out in limited release last year). It’s the most relevant and certainly the most important.

PHOTO: Liam Neeson appears in "Taken 3".
Liam Neeson appears in "Taken 3".
20th Century Fox

“Taken 3”

Starring Liam Neeson

Rated PG-13

One-and-a-half out of five stars

“Taken 3” may be this movie’s title, but the only thing taken here will be your money if you decide to pay to see what is the worst film in this franchise.

Liam Neeson reprises his role as the coolest AARP or CIA operative on the planet, Bryan Mills. Millsy (I’m going to call him Millsy) is framed for the murder of his ex-wife, Lenore (Famke Janssen). She texts him that she’s coming over to his apartment and asks Millsy to pick up bagels.

When he returns, she’s in his bed, dead. Millsy finds her body about 20 seconds after he picks up a bloody knife, stuck in the hallway floor outside the bedroom.

I’m going to rewind. A day or two earlier, Lenore paid Bryan (OK, I’ll call him Bryan) an unannounced visit. She walked right into his apartment because his door was open and unlocked. I’m not sure whether Bryan saw the first two movies, but based on the all the people who wanted and still want to kill him, why in hell would he leave his door open? I know Bryan’s a tough guy, but come on.

About 30 seconds after he finds Lenore’s body, the cops swarm the apartment like bros swarming a beer pong table at a Dave Matthews concert. There’s no place to go except out the window, which is how Bryan makes his miraculous escape.

But now he’s going to have to deal with police inspector Franck Dotzler (Forest Whitaker), whose intellectual crime-solving prowess involves eating bagels. I’m not kidding.

Also in the mix is Stuart (Dougray Scott), Lenore’s filthy-rich husband, as well as Bryan’s daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace), the woman who started this whole franchise six years ago by getting kidnapped, or “taken.”

Sure, there’s one exciting chase scene and some of the camerawork and stunts are impressive, but there’s zero substance in “Taken 3.” Franck chases Bryan, who’s out to prove he has been framed and, man, is it boring and contrived.

And though part of the fun of the “Taken” movies, by design, is seeing an older guy like Bryan kicking serious butt, this franchise, like Bryan himself, is showing its age.

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