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Blacklight Review | Liam Neeson Doing Liam Neeson Things

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Who would’ve thought that a movie about a father trying to rescue his daughter who was kidnapped following U2 on tour (that poor girl!) would begin one of the best second acts in an actors’ career? It almost feels like an event in the first quarter of every year when a new Liam Neeson action-thriller graces the screen. There have been some great ones (I’m a big advocate of Non-Stop), and some forgettable ones (A Walk Among The Tombstones), but the one thing that cannot be denied is that Liam Neeson still kicks any and every ass in his way; even at 69 years old. Enter Blacklight, which is beginning to show Neeson’s age. I’ll admit, I missed The Ice Road, but I do remember there being some physical limitations in last year’s The Marksman. But what Neeson couldn’t do physically was compensated in the form of an endearing story about the bond between Neeson’s character and the young boy he is helping escape the cartel. Unfortunately, Blacklight has a lack of interesting characters outside of Neeson and plays more like a part-Liam Neeson action movie and part-90s political thriller, with the sum of the parts not equaling a great action movie.

Blacklight follows Travis Block (Liam Neeson), an FBI operative who gets entwined in a government conspiracy.

Liam Neeson in Blacklight. Photo courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment and Open Road Films.

Now, with a synopsis like that, no one should be expecting great cinema from Blacklight. It’s a story that involves the usual tropes of the genre: Travis is roped back into his duties (which he generally follows blindly); Travis’ family life is a mess, including an estranged daughter and a granddaughter who is the light in his life; a conspiracy theorist, Dusty, (Talyor John Smith) who is made out to be a martyr of sorts; and a journalist who is divided between honest reporting and getting the headlines.

Blacklight is directed by Mark Williams, who directed one of the other Liam Neeson-led Open Road Films-Briarcliff Entertainment collaborations, Honest Thief, which was certainly not one of the brighter spots in Neeson’s filmography, but credit is due to the premise if nothing else. Having Neeson being framed while just trying to keep his nose clean was a cool twist, and some level of star power behind Neeson: Anthony Ramos, Jai Courtney, Kate Walsh, Robert Patrick.

Williams takes a film like Blacklight about as far as you can, but stylistic choices such as plenty of zoom-ins (that I think are supposed to represent a character having a flashback or regaining some locked-away memory). The zoom-ins are worse in action scenes where it feels more like a cutscene in an RPG video game than a movie.

The action, which is 98% of why people see these movies, is lackluster at best. I mentioned Neeson’s age beginning to show, and it’s most evident in foot chases, where the characters being chased have to be slowed down by nameless characters (e.g. security guards) while Neeson catches up off-screen, and fistfights. Neeson can still deliver believable left and rights, but there’s a point where a character has Travis on the ropes, holding his arm up while pinning him to the ground. If you really wanted to stop Travis from continuing to pursue you, kick that arm and it’s broken. Instead, that character just kicks him in the body and continues to run off. This is not advocating for Neeson to get his arm broken in a movie, and maybe the pulled-back nature of the action is due to one of three things: the PG-13 rating, Neeson’s age, or Neeson having some clause in his contract that exempts him from taking that sort of punishment a la Vin Diesel and The Rock’s F&F contracts that stipulated that each actor had even punches or whatever the case was. Either way, the action (thankfully) didn’t feature any of the ridiculous quick edits that you’d see in either of the Taken sequels (maybe even the first, I don’t remember it being as egregious) where you wouldn’t see the action taking place, you’d hear whiffs of punches, grunting, and eventually, someone would hit the ground. Mercifully, that is not the case in Blacklight, but you just get action scenes that Neeson’s character in Unknown would remember.

But Neeson’s characters have also evolved. They went from just kicking your ass to trapping the bad guys inside while locking them in with one of those digital home systems that you can control on your phone and slamming on the brakes so the person in the backseat has a face-to-face interaction with the seat in front of them. It’s what parents do when their kids are fighting in the backseat. No, just me? Moving on…

Exempt from any of the same star power aside from Neeson is Blacklight. Trade Anthony Ramos for Taylor John Smith, whose only remarkable character trait is his eyes that would get him as a model for any cologne he would want. Emmy Raver-Lampman is fine, but her character of Mira gets bogged down in the melodramatic “scoop or be scooped” plot as a journalist. It’s like the film wanted to go with a House of Cards-like plotline, but settled on a plot where Mira hardly gets into any trouble aside from being scooped. Gabriella Sengos — who plays Travis’ granddaughter, Natalie — is another standout but mostly for the fact that she has wholesome interactions with Neeson.

None of that is to say that Neeson has some unique and great performance in Blacklight; hardly the case, but you can always count on him giving you the same type of protagonist that makes him this generation’s Clint Eastwood. When we first meet Travis, he is driving a sports car as if he’s on the way to meet La Familia at the barbeque (that makes two F&F references!). The only thing more amazing than that imagery is the fact that Neeson looks nowhere near 69. The man has aged like a fine wine since the 90s, and it continues to be one of the Wonders of the World.

Blacklight isn’t anything that you haven’t seen if you have watched any of Liam Neeson’s previous action-thrillers from the last decade or In The Line of Fire for that matter, and it stinks that the main plot didn’t put any sort of spin on the Liam Neeson genre like recent entries Non-Stop, Honest Thief and The Marksman did. But luckily, it still feels like there is tread left on Neeson’s action career tires, and let’s hope that like Travis in the film, he won’t hang it up any time soon. We’re reaching the point to just be thankful for Neeson’s willingness and ability to continue churning out action movies once (or recently, twice) a year. Memory, directed by Martin Campbell (Casino Royale, The Protégé), is coming later this spring from Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment, who must be big Neeson fans if they keep producing and distributing his movies. Maybe Memory can get the Neeson genre back on track.

Open Road Films and Briarcliff Entertainment will release Blacklight on February 11.

FILM RATING

Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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Adventure

Arthur the King is an Epic Masterpiece

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Arthur the King movie poster (Lionsgate Films)

Here follows the review of Arthur the King, a story of deep connection between people and dogs. Not all heroes wear capes, some have wagging tails and would cross a river (and jungle) for you.

Plot

Desperate for one last chance to win, Michael Light convinces a sponsor to back him and a team of athletes for the Adventure Racing World Championship in the Dominican Republic. As the team gets pushed to the outer limits of endurance, a dog named Arthur comes along for the ride, redefining what victory, loyalty and friendship truly means.

Arthur Foundation

Mikael Lindnord raced through a jungle in Ecuador and after feeding a few meatballs to a stray dog made a friend for life. The dog followed Mikael and his team through the rough terrain. Mikael named the dog Arthur and took him back home with him.

Arthur and Mikael Lindnord (Photo taken by Krister Goransson)

The Arthur Foundation collaborates with various organizations in different countries that work towards animal welfare.

Click on the following links to reach out to Mikael Lindnord.

Movie Review (no spoilers)

The movie is based on the memoir, Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord, who was the athlete who participated in the Adventure Racing World Championship in Ecuador. It is important to note in the movie they refer to him as Michael Light. Even though the original race took place in Ecuador, the movie changed the location to the Dominican Republic. The original race took place in 2014, while in the movie the race takes place in 2018.

Mark Wahlberg portrays the part of the Mikael and delivers an excellent performance alongside Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. Ukai, a stray dog, was a real champion portraying the role of Arthur. The film takes us through picturesque locations in the Dominican Republic. The suspense was felt at every turn and corner and you are kept glued to the screen with a gripping storyline. The story balances the journey of Mikael and Arthur and eventually joins their path like a jigsaw puzzle.

Mark Wahlberg as Mikael Light (Lionsgate Films)

A fictional backstory is provided of Mikael’s competitive journey as well as the journey that Arthur took to get to Mikael. The movie successfully tells a deep story of connection between dogs and people. If you want to know more about the real story, you can check your local bookstore or Amazon for a copy of Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home

This movie is a 5 out of 5 for me. The connection between Mikael and Arthur is brought to life in this epic masterpiece. Arthur found a home in the heart of Mikael and thanks to Mark Wahlberg and Ukai, this film adaptation of ‘Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home’ became a memorable movie.

The trailer doesn’t spoil any of the important scenes of the movie. Arthur the King has a runtime of 1 hour and 30 minutes. There is no post-credits scene so no need to wait till the end.

Arthur the King Official Trailer (Lionsgate Films)

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Entertainment

A Must-See Satanic Panic Horror – Late Night With the Devil

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Written and directed by Cameron Cairnes & Colin Cairnes, Late Night With the Devil follows a late night TV host Jack Delroy, fighting the plummeting viewership of his show by welcoming in people from the occult in order to change that, but of course, everything doesn’t go as smooth as planned.

David Dastmalchian as Jack Delroy Late Night With the Devil (2023)

David Dastmalchian has appeared in a lot of films however always in smaller roles including The Dark Knight, Prisoners and more recently The Suicide Squad. This film allows Dastmalchian to take on the lead role of Jack Delroy, the host of the late night show at the centre of this film, and he genuinely does a great job. There’s a real range of emotions which his character goes through during the course of this film and he depicts them so well.

If you’re a fan of the horror genre, you’re going to really appreciate the use of practical effects in this. There’s plenty of stretchy and gooey gore for all of the horror fanatics that will have you shouting at the screen. 

From left to right: Laura Gordon, Ingrid Torelli, David Dastmalchian, Ian Bliss

If you want to hear my full thoughts, check out my review over on YouTube and let me know your opinions in the comments.

Late Night With the Devil will be released in cinemas from 22nd March and on Shudder on 19th April.

FILM RATING
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Reviews

‘I Love You, Guys’ Review | A Poignant Exploration of Celebrity Vulnerability and Human Resilience

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We are living in an era where celebrities are worshipped like deities and sometimes, people forget that he or she is also a normal human being. If we feel happy or sad at certain moments, they do as well and even though a lot of people always surround them, they get vulnerable too. Although a lot of filmmakers forget to show that aspect of their lives, Billie Melissa Rogan takes the bold approach of showing the truth. Her directorial debut, ‘I Love You, Guys,’ is a poignant story about a celebrity fighting her inner self to maintain her celebrity image. The result is a stunning piece of art that resonates long after the end credits roll in.

The short film opens with a profound close-up of the young singing sensation named Sky (Becky Bush). She has made a name for herself by making and singing really exceptional songs. As a result, she is adored by her fans. Even though it feels like Sky has everything she wants, viewers see her submerged in a bathtub as she tries to battle her anxiety. Just then, Sky gets a phone that she’d be performing state-side. Now, that’s where we get to know about her vulnerable state for the first time. Although she says that she is really happy with the above-mentioned news, her face tells a different story. Despite her impending stardom, Sky has not started to feel the massive weight of mounting pressure, a sentiment audiences get to see in her conversations with bandmate Ryan (Pedro Leandro) and girlfriend Taylor (Celi Crossland).

Becky Bush in a still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

As the story moves forward, we get to know that ‘I Love You, Guys’ is about the fragile nature of the human spirit as much as it is about celebrity culture. It not only navigates themes of depression, it also highlights the turbulent emotional journey of Sky. One of the best aspects of the film is how Rogan masterfully brings Cory Varney’s screenplay to life. She managed to capture every minor detail of Sky’s emotions with utmost precision. Despite the fact that it is her first-ever film as a director, we get a sense that we are watching a flick helmed by a seasoned filmmaker.

Another aspect that makes this film such a compelling watch is its cinematography. Jenni Suitiala has done a phenomenal in showing expressions through vibrant colors and Rogan has made full use of the settings to give viewers a visually striking film. Whether it is heated arguments or silent moments of despair, each frame feels authentic and draws audiences into Sky’s personal life.

Apart from Rogan’s direction, Varney’s script is this film’s biggest strength. The writer has undoubtedly done a stunning job of showing the humanity of these characters. There’s a reason why Sky’s struggles feel very personal and it is because we have endured such moments in life. Moments where we doubt ourselves even when we know we are more than capable of doing a particular thing. Not every smiling person is happy. Sometimes he or she is smiling just so that no one finds out about the tough times they are going through.

A still from ‘I Love You, Guys’ (Jumpcut Studios)

Acting-wise, Becky Bush has given a performance that is surely going to open several doors for her. She delivers a magnificent performance by infusing Sky with a beautiful balance of vulnerability and strength. The way she manages to convey an innumerable amount of emotions is spectacular. I believe this is one of the most apt depictions of mental turmoil. Meanwhile, Pedro Leandro and Celi Crossland are just as spectacular. Every interaction between the characters feels genuine and nuanced.

All in all, ‘I Love You, Guys’ is a testament to how resilient a human spirit can be. In just 15 minutes, Rogan, Varney, and Bush take viewers on a journey that’s thought-provoking and talks about a subject that no one talks about. The writing, direction, and performances achieve a lot more than just viewers’ attention. The film offers a compelling examination of the human cost of pursuing fame and success. A poignant story that touches on themes of ambition, relationships, and self-discovery.

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