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The Last: Naruto The Movie

Synopsis: Two years after the events of the Fourth Shinobi World War, the moon begins to descend towards the Earth. With the moon now a meteor that would destroy everything on impact, Naruto must deal with this new threat.

What I liked:
Save for a few weird moments when they were clearly using the B-team, I thought the animation was great. Hinata’s never looked better and the action was good! I don’t really care for Naruto’s new hair in the film, but I thought it was fine in the manga. The art style of opening sequence alone was fabulous to see on the big screen. I was honestly hoping it would have lasted a little longer but I imagine many painstaking man hours went into making it look that good.

There was more action than I was expecting. Yeah I’m a shipper but I love shounen because of the action. Preview viewers were commenting on how heavy they were pushing the romance element. Yeah it was there and yeah it was cheesy, the fun kind of cheesy, but I was actually expecting even more based on how they were talking about it, so I think it satisfied the action quota and romance quota alike.

I liked the mature feel of the film. The characters are growing up and that certainly made me nostalgic thinking about how far they’ve come. Even still there were a number of scenes that had me laughing and smiling all throughout.

I liked some of the orchestral renditions of the classic Naruto themes. Overall the soundtrack is solid.

The assembled team was very enjoyable. Naruto and Hinata get the most attention naturally, but I think the team was a good choice and everyone played off one another well. Sai is great source of comedy, Shikamaru is good support system for Naruto to get him motivated from a Shinobi standpoint, and Sakura was the NaruHina ship captain emphasizing Hinata’s perspective for Naruto. She also really came through during some crucial moments so I think we see her at her best. It was nice seeing Sakura and Hinata bond because this series has a severe lack of female bromances and they’re my two favorites. Too bad it has to be over boys, but I’ll take what I can get.

Considering that SP worked on this 2 years before the manga ended I thought they resolved NaruHina fairly well. I’ve shipped it for 10 years now. Am I crazy about the time skip? No. I think that if this film didn’t happen then Kishimoto would have resolved it another way within the manga, but this was a worthwhile trade off to portray it in a way that Kishi wasn’t comfortable with penning himself since he isn’t comfortable drawing romance. It acknowledges most manga interactions, and incorporating their past scenes together in order for Naruto to “get it” was a nice touch. It made me feel like they’ve come full circle. I think if this film started production after the manga ended then they could have done a little more since the source material would have been complete, but I understand that they wanted to get this film out in a timely manner to the series’s end; it was inevitable that a couple of things would be lost. All in all that did not ruin my overall feel for the ship or the tone of the film. It felt like a collaboration between Kishimoto and Studio Pierrot and not just Studio Pierrot doing whatever they wanted.

What I didn’t like:
My biggest gripes for the ship were the results of Kishi’s demands: the time skip and the scarf. I still would have preferred them to become canon pre 699. I still would have wanted a movie but I would have liked to have seen more of them already as a couple instead of the flirting and awkwardness and whatnot. That’s just my personal preference. But if there’s any NaruHina story to be told, then I’ll be there with bells on. I think the film accomplished what it set out to do; it pleased its target audience. I think the cheers, reported tears, and overall enthusiasm of the crowd equate to a success.

Next up, the scarf theme, I thought it was cute and I understand the significance since Kishi wanted to tie in how he met his own wife, and I get that it’s a symbol of her feelings, but at times it felt like overkill. To the film’s credit though, it was definitely self aware and made jokes out of how often Hinata was knitting.

One annoyance was that Naruto said Hinata’s name a bajillion times. I’m pretty sure someone tallied it to be about 60+ times; that’s a lot in a 2 hour time span. That became a little much, but it reminded me of when they’d make her say Naruto’s name a bunch of times throughout the series, sometimes out of nowhere when it wasn’t even necessary. They toned it down on her end and that’s fine with me. It’s about time the shoe was on the other foot.

The Sasuke fan in me would have preferred no Sasuke at all. And if there HAD to be Sasuke a cameo then definitely not one of him returning to Konoha of all places. Considering how things ended in the manga between Sasuke and Sakura before the epilogue (if NaruHina’s the yin then SasuSaku’s the yang), this avid SasuSaku shipper (*points to self*) was not feeling that at all. You can’t give me a cameo and then think that should be enough when there are a lot of questions surrounding him. #SorryNotSorry! If they left him out completely it would have been just fine since they weren’t going to do anything with him.

The villain was nothing special but my expectations were so low that he actually wasn’t that bad. He was involved in a few cool action sequences and the NaruHina cockblocks made you love to hate him.

Overall:
For the most part I enjoyed it and I’m glad I get a second chance to watch it next week to see what I missed. After nearly 10 years in the Naruto fandom a film like The Last is a real treat and not to missed by anyone who is a fan of the NaruHina ship.  I decided to attend the first US release with a bunch of fellow friends and fantards that I’ve known since pretty much the beginning!  That made the experience even better. It was certainly more enjoyable for me than the anime has been as of late. It was engaging from beginning to end. It wouldn’t have been as interesting if it weren’t for the NaruHina element but this clearly their best effort for any Naruto movie to date.

I’d give it a 7.5/10.

 

Review + Giveaway! Burned (Fever #7) by Karen Marie Moning

Synopsis: It’s easy to walk away from lies. Power is another thing.

MacKayla Lane would do anything to save the home she loves. A gifted sidhe-seer, she’s already fought and defeated the deadly Sinsar Dubh—an ancient book of terrible evil—yet its hold on her has never been stronger.

When the wall that protected humans from the seductive, insatiable Fae was destroyed on Halloween, long-imprisoned immortals ravaged the planet. Now Dublin is a war zone with factions battling for control. As the city heats up and the ice left by the Hoar Frost King melts, tempers flare, passions run red-hot, and dangerous lines get crossed.

Seelie and Unseelie vie for power against nine ancient immortals who have governed Dublin for millennia; a rival band of sidhe-seers invades the city, determined to claim it for their own; Mac’s former protégé and best friend, Dani “Mega” O’Malley, is now her fierce enemy; and even more urgent, Highland druid Christian MacKeltar has been captured by the Crimson Hag and is being driven deeper into Unseelie madness with each passing day. The only one Mac can depend on is the powerful, dangerous immortal Jericho Barrons, but even their fiery bond is tested by betrayal.

It’s a world where staying alive is a constant struggle, the line between good and evil gets blurred, and every alliance comes at a price. In an epic battle against dark forces, Mac must decide who she can trust, and what her survival is ultimately worth.

Review: This is one of my favorite series.  I read the original 5 books in 6 days because they were just that addictive.  Iced was an entertaining read as well from Dani’s POV.  So where did I falter in my expectations this time around?  Well, I didn’t keep up to date enough with Ms. Moning’s plans. I was under the impression that book’s 6-8 would be from Dani’s POV.  I didn’t want to read up on the synopsis too much, especially since the books were being pushed back due to unforeseen circumstances.  So imagine my surprise to finally get my hands on it and not only is it filled with a million POVs, but it’s mostly Mac’s!

I wasn’t sure how to feel about that.  I like Mac, I really do, but I was looking forward to a break from her until book 9. I wanted to get into the heads of other characters.  Dani may have been annoying for others but she grew on me. I was able to understand where she was coming from as a teen growing up in all of this.  I know these books aren’t YA, but that’s one of the reasons it appealed to me.  I liked the challenge of having her navigate through this rough and unforgiving world, growing up too quickly in order to survive.

Despite my disappointment with the lack of Dani, there were some highlights in the book.  I liked becoming a little more familiar with other characters  for a change.  I just wish this book would have focused on fleshing out a few at a time instead of several. I found myself liking Ryodan’s character more then Iced, so for future books Moning is on the upward trend with him.  Barron’s is Barrons and he has a few memorable quotes.  She does well with keeping him in character which the fans should enjoy. Of course the infamous sex scene of Mac and Barron’s first encounter is officially canon now.  If you didn’t know, Moning wrote it a few years back as a journal entry.  And it’s not much of a spoiler because it will be the first thing you read when you open up the book.  While I am on the fence about my opinion on its resolution, dubious consent aside I do give her props for deciding to tackle the decision head on in the story.  Mac’s certainly endured worse.

If you have come to expect cliffhangers from Moning then you won’t be disappointed here because we get one as tall as the Grand Canyon is wide.  I am not as upset about it because we’ll be getting another book later this year.  It’s just that on my ebook it was at the 90% mark when it happened.  The rest was an appendix describing the world, characters, and creatures so you can imagine that it felt extremely abrupt.  This book was 2-3 years in the making.  It doesn’t feel like that type of effort to me, but I think the next book should give us more to chew on.  Burned still has its highlights and it is absolutely essential to read if you plan to continue the story.

Giveaway

So I’ve got another one! Do you want a copy of my book? Well, you might be in luck!  One lucky winner of my blog will receive a copy of the novel! Just tell me your favorite thing about the Fever Series or if you’re new to it what you’re looking forward to.

How to Enter (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY): My giveaways are only open to followers of Your Urban Fantasy who are 18 years of age or older. In order to enter YOU MUST COMMENT ON THIS ANNOUNCEMENT POST AND INDICATE YOU HAVE DONE SO ON THE RAFFLECOPTER WIDGET! If you’re a new member, sign up on the right panel to follow my blog via email. (Make sure to check your email to confirm your subscription. You should receive a notification immediately, so check your spam folder if you don’t see it right away). Current followers can just say so in their post. The next four opportunities are for bonus entries. Overall, there are up to 5 chances to enter:

  1. Follow this blog via email and comment based on my specifications mentioned before (THIS IS REQUIRED)
  2. Like my review on Amazon  (bonus entry)
  3. “Like” Your Urban Fantasy on Facebook (bonus entry)
  4. Follow me on Twitter (bonus entry)
  5. Tweet about the giveaway (bonus entry – you can do this daily for more entries)

The more entries the better your chance to win! Good luck! And don’t forget to comment!  

The giveaway will run from 2/20/15 – 3/6/15. Good luck!

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Kingsman: The Secret Service

I was in the mood for a seemingly good film this week, so I skipped 50 Shades and opted for this one instead.

Gary “Eggsy” Unwin (played by Taron Egerton) is an at-risk youth headed down the wrong path. With no father figure due to his dad’s death while secretly working for a spy organization, trouble has a way of finding him. However, agent Harry Hart (played by Colin Firth) reaches out to him after discovering his potential, recruiting him to be a trainee for the secret service. He will need to train him fast in order to thwart the plans of Richmond Valentine (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who seeks to launch a worldwide killing spree in hopes of solving global warming.

What I Liked:
I like James Bond and I like Kickass. Kingsman is like a perfect blend of the two. It’s very self aware of the spy movie clichés which is a plus. It’s a lot of fun and very colorful too. It reminded me of films directed by McG like Charlie’s Angels 1 and 2, This Means War, etc. I liked the tones and it was shot well. All the nifty gadgets were cool and they kept getting bigger and better up until the end. A lot of attention was paid to the action scenes to make the movements really snap. Colin Firth as Harry is AWESOME in this. He is obviously a very well respected serious actor, but he is one of the main reasons why this film is as good as it is. I loved seeing him kick butt and I thought he was a good mentor Eggsy. His storyline is the most compelling of the cast to me so I would have liked more exploration there.

Samuel L. Jackson as Valentine is okay. It’s not signature role for him like Nick Fury, but he seemed to be having fun with it.

What I Didn’t Like:
The action is fun, but the CGI is noticeable so it takes some of the realism out of the moment. It’s as if they were considering making it PG-13 but then decided on R and then added more blood and gore to accommodate for it.

Sofia Boutella really stands out as Gazelle, the evil but charming sidekick to Valentine. She’s not your everyday villain that’s for sure. It’s not easy to forget a character with blades for prosthetic legs. While she does do some pretty gnarly things with those blades, I actually think they could have done a little bit more. What we get is certainly adequate though. As a trained dancer she handled the fight choreography well. I certainly would have waived my white flag! I’d like to see her in more projects.

Overall:
It’s fearless, bold, and very entertaining. A sequel would be quite a bit different from the first one, but I would like to see it anyway

Rating: 3.75 / 5 Stars

*This is a guest review for my friends over at The Grand Shuckett

Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels, #7) by Ilona Andrews

Synopsis: As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

Review:  I know I’m late to the party on this one. I surprise even myself, especially since I read Burn for Me first! *slaps self* Bad bad!  But I finally got around to it.  Ilona Andrews is like old faithful. You know you’re getting a good read no matter what.  While I thought this was a good book, it wasn’t my favorite.  There’s a ton of action and it definitely meets the level we’ve come to expect from them.  This one wasn’t a quotable for me as past books though.  I found myself missing Curran a great deal.  Of course, Kate misses him too but that doesn’t cure the itch for their lack of interaction.  They went through a lot of turmoil in the last book so I was expecting the results of that to carry over to this one, but it was as if none of that happened.  I totally guessed Andrea’s new situation, so I snickered to myself a bit on that one. There are game changing moments that are established, but we don’t really see the follow through here.  All of it will have to wait for future books so I was left wanting to read them ASAP.

I also wasn’t so sure about the love scene. I mean, the scene was fine, it’s just that the placement felt a little random. It was like it was an after thought that the authors realized they needed to add  into the book before its end. There have been prior books where sex isn’t depicted at all and I didn’t enjoy it any less.  And because the tone of the book is so action and fantasy oriented, I think placing better overtones throughout the book would have made me think “finally!” instead of “that was random.”

Julie’s short story as a bonus read  was a decent introduction if they want to consider a spin-off.  However, I think I should have waited to pick it up until later because I was still trying to digest the ending of the main story. As a result, I wasn’t as invested as I wanted to be.

Overall the developments were interesting but this can easily fit into the “transition” book category for me. The one plus with waiting so late to read it is that the wait for the next book won’t be quite as long. So yay me!

 

 

Seventh Son Review

I saw the trailers for this going “Oh is that Prince Caspian in a new movie? Indeed it is! He doesn’t get enough work, I say!” Though this movie didn’t look like it was breaking any new ground, I figured I’d give it a try anyway.

Dark Magic rears its ugly head in this fantasy adventure. Decades ago Supernatural champion Master Gregory (played by Jeff Bridges) imprisons witch Mother Malkin (played by Julianne Moore). However, somehow she escapes and wants revenge. She calls upon her siblings lying in wait, enlisting their help to show all of mankind her wrath. She has to get past Master Gregory first though. Gregory takes Tom Ward (played by Ben Barnes) under his wing as his new apprentice, but time is running short until the next red moon, which will allow evil to prevail. He has to teach Tom to overcome dark magic in record time.

What I Liked:  It looks pretty good in IMAX 3D! The film actually makes good use of the 3D capabilities, making it a little more immersive. Some action scenes have a few objects and creatures jumping out at the screen, occasionally startling you. The visuals were nice if a bit unoriginal.

What I Didn’t Like: Ben Barnes’s portrayal of Tom is fine. It’s just that when it came to the character you want to like him, but he does make some pretty silly decisions. He doesn’t listen and that gets him into trouble more than once. And he seems to be a little selfish sometimes, more wrapped up in the girl than saving the world. As a character with his psychic abilities, I just feel like he would be more concerned about getting to the bottom of the disturbing images he’s been seeing.

I like Jeff Bridges, just not as Master Gregory. Though I enjoyed his action scenes, his pronunciation was purposely weird. I didn’t always know what he was saying as his speech came out too garbled. Julianne Moore, I can’t recall seeing her as a villain in the past. Perhaps she’s done it, but I haven’t seen all of her films. It certainly wasn’t the worst character, but I think they could have done more to make her unique. She could have been more sympathetic than I found her. But she got through this mediocre film without me questioning her merits as an actor too much, so that’s a plus.

Overall: Was it a great film? No. Did it bring anything memorable to the table? No. But it’s watchable and if I had to choose between seeing this one and Jupiter Ascending this weekend, then this one is better.

Rating: 2.5 / 5 Stars

*This is a guest review for my buddies over at TheGrandShuckett.com

Jupiter Ascending – Descending is more like it…

jupiter

I guess they thought throwing the Wachowski name on this film would hype it up as if we were in for some real quality.  But I didn’t forget about Matrix 2 and 3 (while the original remains one of my favorite films of all time).  And then pushing this film back didn’t inspire much hope either.  Even still, I was curious about what they’d do with a film carrying a $175 million price tag.

Jupiter Jones (played by Mila Kunis) was always destined for greatness.  Of course it doesn’t start out that way, as she lives a life as a housecleaner doing backbreaking and tireless work. But that’s about to drastically change when she meets Caine (played by Channing Tatum), an otherworldly hunter who travels to earth to find her and lead her to her future.  Jupiter is the reincarnation of royalty who must claim an extraordinary inheritance that will shape the future of the universe.

What I Liked:
The visuals were nice. I thought some of the creature designs were imaginative and it was eye candy for any sci-fi fan.

What I Didn’t Like:
The acting.  Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum felt so out of place here.  I can usually handle Kunis in comedy and roles where I don’t have to take her seriously.  But here, her dramatic acting could use a lot of work.  I felt no sympathy for her woes and her delivery just didn’t feel natural at all.  I actually was expecting Channing to be the worst of the two, but he annoyed me a lot less. No, I still don’t buy him as a sci-fi guy.  22 Jump Street? I was there! Magic Mike? I was there! Magic Mike 2? I’ll be there! But Channing Tatum with elf ears? It’s only good to see out of curiosity to confirm that this is not the genre for him.  Their chemistry was off for me too so it was hard to buy them as a couple.

They weren’t the worst offenders though. Eddie Redmayne, what were you thinking? For anybody who found Christian Bale’s voice as the Dark Knight irritating, multiply that by 10 for Redmayne’s portrayal of Balem Abrasax, villain and Jupiter’s biggest obstacle to fulfilling her destiny.  And to think he might have an Oscar by next month… Not saying he’s not a good actor.  This is just the perfect example of what a bad role can do.

The storytelling didn’t make a lot of sense at times. The premise was not nearly as deep as it could have been.  The editing didn’t help matters.  It felt a bit odd in certain places.  There were pacing issues and strange cuts that ruined the flow, even to the point of eliciting laughs from the audience occasionally.

Overall:
If I am looking at my watch constantly during the last half hour of a $175 million movie, there is a serious problem. Nothing is more disappointing than wasted potential. There were a lot of missteps with this one unfortunately and the sooner the studios can put this one behind them, the better.

Rating: 1.5 / 5 Stars

*This review is a guest review for my friends over at The Grand Shuckett.

GIVEAWAY WINNER!! Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews!

Thank you guys for entering the giveaway! It’s always nice to see a bunch of readers enthusiastic enough to read new things by this wonderful author. The winner randomly chosen to receive a copy of Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy, #6) by Ilona Andrews is:

Patricia

Congrats! Please keep an eye out for an email from me so that I can get your contact info.  Again, thank you all for participating.  Check out my Giveaways page for info on past giveaways as well as those that I have lined up next!  I’m keepin ‘em comin’!  I’m almost finished with Burned (Fever #7) by Moning so I’ll have a review and giveaway ready for that preeeetty soon!

 

 

Cursed Moon (Prospero’s War #2) by Jaye Wells – No sophomore slump here!

Synopsis:  When a rare Blue Moon upsets the magical balance in the city, Detective Kate Prospero and her Magical Enforcement colleagues pitch in to help Babylon PD keep the peace. Between potions going haywire and everyone’s emotions running high, every cop in the city is on edge. But the moon’s impact is especially strong for Kate who’s wrestling with guilt over falling off the magic wagon. After a rogue wizard steals dangerous potions from the local covens, Kate worries their suspect is building a dirty magic bomb. Her team must find the anarchist rogue before the covens catch him, and make sure they defuse the bomb before the Blue Moon deadline. Failure is never an option, but success will require Kate to come clean about her secrets

Review: I normally don’t do police procedural novels, but this has a distinct feel for me and the characters are taking on their own personalities.  Jaye Wells really brings this world to life.  Our protagonist has her fair share of struggles trying to refrain from the use of magic.  Remember, it’s a bit different how it works in this world. Magic is practically a metaphor for drug use, from requiring AA meetings to “cooking.”  As a Breaking Bad fan, that always amuses me.  Kate is really feeling the effects of her decisions from the first book which reinforces how unique this brand of magic is.  I like that the characters are somewhat realistic.  They have their flaws and make bad and selfish decisions just like anyone else.  I found them relatable and I actually am becoming invested in her relationships with those around her, including her brother and best friend.  She’s caught between a rock and  a hard place.

I found it entertaining from beginning to end. I do get a hint of a love triangle brewing, so you might want to steer clear if that trope irks you to no end.  I don’t like them either and if it gets to be too much I will table this series until we have a definitive answer.  But for now I’m enjoying the ride and the author’s *ahem* vivid and morbid imagination.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  Overall it was a more even book than the first one.  The first novel started off strong and lost some steam toward the end, but this one is a bit more even and strong all throughout. I am looking forward to visiting this world again.

 

The Boy Next Door – An R-Rated Lifetime Movie!

Let’s just call a spade a spade here? This film is J. Lo’s vanity project. Even still I was eager to see it, ready to laugh at it for all the wrong reasons. They can’t all be good, right?

High school teacher Claire Peterson (played by Jennifer Lopez) learns there’s something a bit more sinister behind the pretty face of her seemingly charming and irresistible new neighbor, Noah (played by newcomer Ryan Guzman). Newly enrolled at her high school, the “mature” senior student comes to town to care for his ailing relative, befriending Claire and her son in the process. Still dealing with the effects of her marriage on the rocks, she gives in to Noah’s advances. Realizing her mistake she desperately tries to cut ties, but the obsessive Noah has other ideas…

What I Liked: I was amused that this film turned out to be an R-rated Lifetime movie. It was full of clichés and bad lines, but there were rarely any dull moments. It surprised me a little bit because it turned out to be racier than I was expecting even though they conveniently cover J. Lo’s naughty bits. You have to give it to her though. She’s 45 and a mother of twins. Her figure is out of this world. If she wants to show it off, good for her. She is aware of her place in Hollywood and she exploits that accordingly.

Guzman is pure eye candy. As Noah he is crazy and you definitely want to see him get what’s coming, but he is a pretty man. And personally, while I have no plans to see this upcoming film as I’d rather endure a session of water boarding (#SorryNotSorry but those books were dreadful drivel), I can objectively say Guzman qualifies as a suitable Christian Grey. He’s better looking than who they currently have and he encompassed that controlling, creepy, pervy stalker vibe well, with an Oedipus complex to boot (why do the crazy ones always have mommy issues?). Either way, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of him in the future.

What I Didn’t Like: For a movie of this level, obviously the acting and the script are sub par. But I wasn’t expecting anything Oscar worthy and I certainly didn’t get it. Was it predictable most of the time? Yes. Is Ryan Guzman remotely believable as anything other than a dude pushing 30? No. But all of that ended up being part of the fun. The film does take a pretty gory turn in the end so you might want to be prepared for that. It turned from a thriller to a horror film out of nowhere.

Overall: Based on the trailer I knew what I was getting myself into when I sat down to see this. The film was everything I thought it was going to be, if not a little more. Honestly it’s one of those films that so bad it’s good. I was entertained all throughout and the crowd appeared to be as well, critics included. I think it is best seen with a crowd because you can laugh together and react to a few shocking and ridiculous moments. It’s a great popcorn flick and nothing more.

Rating: An enthusiastic 2.5/ 5 Stars

Taken 3 – Boldly Goes Where We’ve Been Before


It’s Taken (get it? get it?) three movies but retired covert operative Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson) and his ex-wife, Lenore (played by Famke Janssen), have found their way back to each other. Unfortunately, their reunion is short lived before she is murdered. Framed for the crime, Bryan has to evade the FBI and CIA and every law enforcement agency under the sun while trying to solve Lenore’s murder and exact revenge. In this third and (supposedly) final entry, he must rely on his “particular set of skills” to track down her killers and protect their daughter, Kim (played by Maggie Grace). Does he have it in him to do it one last time?

I’ll admit, the Taken franchise is a guilty pleasure for me. I think the first one is the best one and a solid film. The sequels though? Not so much, though I will say that Taken 3 is an improvement on Taken 2. It’s a fun popcorn flick with action and characters we’ve become familiar with over the years. I think I read that Liam Neeson received a hefty $20 million paycheck to return, and opening at $40 million it appears it was a wise financial decision. I certainly can’t fault the guy. I enjoy his films for what they are and he’s a likable personality. But you definitely watch the film feeling that money was the goal and not much more. While it had its moments, this film definitely felt like a run of the mill, unmemorable PG-13 action flick. An R rating could have added more grit, but that would mean less money. A better commitment to bring the franchise to a satisfying close would have been better.

I liked the addition of Forrest Whitaker to the film. Right away you knew they were going to do a bit more for him than turn him into your run of the mill police chief. He added humor quite a few times throughout the movie, though he alone isn’t enough to make this a good film.
Maggie Grace is in her 30s now and I have to say I never found her to be a believable teenager, even in the first film. It was actually the worst in the first film honestly. But certain things happen in this film that will mature the character more I think, so in the event that there are sequels, you can buy it.

All in all, if you have to see this film, see it. But while it’s better than Taken 2, you should still keep your expectations low. The first one is far and away the best.  I also wouldn’t buy into the whole idea that “It Ends Here” like we see plastered in large letters on this poster.  I think it won’t truly “end” until they stop making good money off the name. It’s Hollywood after all…