On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 21, 2015

If only these Taken movies escalated themselves to an R-rating we might have something of more aspiration here. Instead, this series quickly dissolved into quick cash grabs that felt like little more than afterthoughts to everyone involved. The original film seemingly caught everyone off guard with its brilliant marketing campaign and the inherent rush of excitement it delivered to the point that when we were looking for more of the same from the sequel, none of those surprising feelings were readily available. It seemed the general consensus on the Olivier Megaton-directed sequel was that it was rather horrible and resorted to showing Liam Neeson's Bryan Mills smother folks to death rather than doing anything that was actually impressive. And yet, here we are with the third and presumably final film (again directed by Megaton no less) and it does little to redeem the legacy of what was originally the film responsible for bringing us the Neesploitation period, but may actually tarnish that legacy the more I continue to think and write about the film. If one wonders why such a pedigreed actor such as Neeson would continue to return to a series that has long since run its course you'd only have to look as far as his paycheck to find an answer. To be clear: Taken 3 had a reported budget of $48 million and almost half of that budget was consumed by the actors salary. For this third film Neeson was paid a handsome, and very exclusive, $20 million. So, if you thought the makers of this unnecessary sequel might take the road less traveled or that Mr. Neeson might use his pull and demand he only appear in the film if they came up with a story that truly justified another film you're sorely out of luck as he is laughing all the way to the bank. Audience clearly didn't care back in January though because despite the second film being little more than a cash grab with little effort to hide that intention and this third film being more of the same, folks still showed up in droves when they could have been seeing Selma, arguably the best film of 2014, just down the hall instead. Full review here. F

Cake wants to be a lot more than it is, but it is nothing short of well-intentioned with something resembling ambition. What is even more fascinating about a film such as this is the alternate universe where Jennifer Aniston became a strictly dramatic actress and this film is given more weight than it's currently receiving. Given Aniston is largely known for her comedic work and as something of a lesser, more archetypal actress it is when she does something pointedly dramatic it's automatically assumed it's nothing more than an Oscar bid. This could be taken in a number of ways given Aniston not only stars as the face on the poster here, but executive produced the effort and so one might cynically see it as a power play to cast herself in a movie she wouldn't normally be picked for putting herself in better standing as a "real" actress. The thing is, Aniston has already proved she's a real actress if not with 2002's The Good Girl, but with her inherent ability to relate to almost anyone in the audience. Aniston, especially in her comedies, has always had the uncanny ability to serve as the common audience members way into the world of whatever movie she is starring in with the added bonus of being what every female viewer would like to envision themselves as physically and an ideal image of what every male viewer imagines himself being with. Aniston is one of us, or at least she is able to convey that sense of community, and while many may not consider her exceptionally talented it's difficult to find anyone who doesn't necessarily like her. While one may not consider that talent, it certainly takes a lot of skill. In Cake, Aniston uses this skill of relatabilty to gain access to the psychology of a lost cause. Aniston's character, Claire Bennett, is a mysterious figure to us, frustrated and consistently irritated by the people around her. We don't know why, but this is who we go on a journey with and in the end it's not so much about Aniston's performance as it is the disappointing fact she's still looking for the right vehicle with which she might spread her wings. Full review here. C+

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