Taken – “Pilot Episode” (2016, USA, Colour, 43m) ∗∗½ pr. Luc Besson; d. Alex Graves; w. Alexander Cary; ph. Thomas Kloss; m. Trevor Morris; ed. Jordan Goldman; exec. pr. Thomas Anargyros, Luc Besson, Alexander Cary, Edouard de Vésinne, Matthew Gross. Cast: Clive Standen, Gaius Charles, Brooklyn Sudano, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Michael Irby, Jose Pablo Cantillo, James Landry Hébert, Jennifer Beals, Jennifer Marsala, Simu Liu, Ali Kazmi, Celeste Desjardins, Victoria Snow. Former Green Beret Bryan Mills (Standen) must overcome a personal tragedy, in order to get revenge while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. Standen is no substitute for Liam Neeson in this TV prequel to the TAKEN movie trilogy. Whilst the star lacks charisma and the dialogue feels like its been extracted from a scripting manual, the pilot sets up the series neatly enough and is well shot. There are also enough competently staged action sequences to enliven the standard espionage plot.
Safe House (2012; USA/South Africa/Japan; Colour; 115m) ∗∗∗ d. Daniel Espinosa; w. David Guggenheim; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Ramin Djawadi. Cast: Denzel Washington, Ryan Reynolds, Vera Farmiga, Brendan Gleeson, Sam Shepard, Rubén Blades, Nora Arnezeder, Robert Patrick, Liam Cunningham, Joel Kinnaman, Fares Fares. A young CIA agent is tasked with looking after a fugitive in a safe house. But when the safe house is attacked, he finds himself on the run with his charge. Washington and Reynolds are main assets of otherwise routine espionage action thriller. The action scenes lose tension due to haphazard nature of the editing and the script lacks depth in characterisation and plot. 
Star Trek Beyond (2016; USA; Colour; 122m) ∗∗∗ d. Justin Lin; w. Simon Pegg, Doug Jung, Roberto Orci, John D. Payne, Patrick McKay; ph. Stephen F. Windon; m. Michael Giacchino. Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Idris Elba, Sofia Boutella, Joseph Gatt, Deep Roy, Lydia Wilson, Joe Taslim, Adam DiMarco, Ashley Edner, Christian Sloan, Jodi Haynes. When the Enterprise is nearly destroyed and strands Kirk (Pine) and his crew on a remote planet with no means of communication. Kirk must then work with the elements to reunite his crew and get back to Earth. Big, action-packed blockbuster helped by the great chemistry between the cast, but hampered by a weak, often contrived, story and the anaesthetizing effect of its grandstand set-pieces. Also shot in 3-D. 
Die Hard With a Vengeance (1995; USA; Technicolor; 131m) ∗∗∗½ d. John McTiernan; w. Jonathan Hensleigh; ph. Peter Menzies Jr.; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons, Graham Greene, Colleen Camp, Sam Phillips, Anthony Peck, Larry Bryggman, Nicholas Wyman, Kevin Chamberlin, Sharon Washington, Stephen Pearlman, Aldis Hodge, Mischa Hausserman, Michael Alexander Jackson. John McClane and a store owner must play a bomber’s deadly game as they race around New York while trying to stop him. Third in this highly entertaining, if increasingly preposterous, series. The byplay between Willis and Jackson adds to the winning formula. Action and destruction on a huge scale. Followed by DIE HARD 4.0 (2007). 
Die Hard 2 (1990; USA; DeLuxe; 124m) ∗∗∗∗ d. Renny Harlin; w. Steven E. de Souza, Doug Richardson; ph. Oliver Wood; m. Michael Kamen. Cast: Bruce Willis, Bonnie Bedelia, William Atherton, Franco Nero, Reginald VelJohnson, William Sadler, John Amos, Dennis Franz, Art Evans, John Leguizamo, Fred Dalton Thompson, Tom Bower, Sheila McCarthy, Don Harvey, Tony Ganios. John McClane, officer of the LAPD and hero of the Nakatomi Hostage Crisis, attempts to avert disaster as rogue military officials seize control of Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. Effective follow-up is another entertaining action thriller with Willis again excellent. Airport and winter setting is well-used and the set-pieces are well executed. Based on the novel “58 Minutes” by Walter Wager. This film was originally titled DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER. Followed by DIE HARD: WITH A VENGEANCE (1995). 
Omega Man, The (1971; USA; Technicolor; 98m) ∗∗∗ d. Boris Sagal; w. John William, Joyce Hooper Corrington; ph. Russell Metty; m. Ron Grainer. Cast: Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash, Paul Koslo, Lincoln Kilpatrick, Eric Laneuville, John Dierkes, Brian Tochi, Jill Giraldi, Anna Aries, DeVeren Bookwalter, Monika Henreid, Linda Redfearn, Forrest Wood. An Army doctor struggles to create a cure for the plague that wiped out most of the human race. Enjoyable adaptation, despite its limitations, which creates an eerie post-apocalyptic atmosphere. Heston delivers a typically square-jawed performance, whilst Zerbe stands out as the leader of “The Family”. Based on the novel “I Am Legend” by Richard Matheson. Previously filmed as THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964) and remade as I AM LEGEND (2007). [PG]
Fear is the Key (1972; UK; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗½ d. Michael Tuchner; w. Robert Carrington; ph. Alex Thomson; m. Roy Budd. Cast: Barry Newman, Suzy Kendall, John Vernon, Dolph Sweet, Ben Kingsley, Ray McAnally, Peter Marinker, Elliott Sullivan, Roland Brand, Tony Anholt. Following the death of his family in an aeroplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. Taut thriller with an exciting, if over-extended car chase right at the start and a suspenseful ticking clock conclusion on the sea bed sandwiching more familiar espionage elements. Newman makes an effective action hero and Tuchner directs with style. Based on the novel by Alistair MacLean. 
Nice Guys, The (2015; USA; Colour; 116m) ∗∗∗ d. Shane Black; w. Shane Black, Anthony Bagarozzi; ph. Philippe Rousselot; m. David Buckley, John Ottman. Cast: Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling, Matt Bomer, Kim Basinger, Margaret Qualley, Keith David, Beau Knapp, Yaya DaCosta, Ty Simpkins, Jack Kilmer, Hannibal Buress. In Los Angeles in 1977, a private investigator and an unlicensed enforcer uncover a conspiracy when they team up to trace a missing young woman. Gosling and Crowe have a great chemistry and do their best with a lame script that struggles to find the balance between thrills and comedy. The result is a diverting entertainment that leaves you with the feeling it could have been so much better. 
Twister (1996; USA; Technicolor; 113m) ∗∗∗½ d. Jan de Bont; w. Michael Crichton, Anne-Marie Martin; ph. Jack N. Green; m. Mark Mancina. Cast: Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, Cary Elwes, Jami Gertz, Lois Smith, Alan Ruck, Zach Grenier, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Scott Thomson, Todd Field, Sean Whalen, Gregory Sporleder, Joey Slotnick, Wendle Josepher. Advanced storm chasers on the brink of divorce, must join together to create an advanced weather alert system by putting themselves in the cross-hairs of extremely violent tornadoes. Action-packed blockbuster may be made to look familiar through its conventional plotting, but has likeable characters and the pace never lets up. Hunt and Paxton make capable leads and the effects are top-notch. [PG]
Taken (2008; France/USA/UK; Colour; 93m) ∗∗∗ d. Pierre Morel; w. Luc Besson, Robert Mark Kamen; ph. Michel Abramowicz; m. Nathaniel Méchaly. Cast: Liam Neeson, Famke Janssen, Maggie Grace, Goran Kostic, Katie Cassidy, Leland Orser, Jon Gries, David Warshofsky, Holly Valance, Xander Berkeley, Olivier Rabourdin, Gerard Watkins, Arben Bajraktaraj, Nathan Rippy, Camille Japy. A retired CIA agent travels across Europe and relies on his old skills to save his estranged daughter, who has been kidnapped while on a trip to Paris. Slick and efficient action movie is tightly edited so it moves at a sufficient enough pace to disguise its incredulities. Neeson is excellent and gives the movie its edge. Followed by two sequels.