Colombiana: A Female-Led Action Thriller That Hits Pretty Close To The Mark

29 08 2011

Colombiana is the sequel-that-never-was to Luc Besson’s 1994 classic, The Professional. The writer/producer revamped his script for the sequel and created an entirely new story, the result of which is Colombiana. Here’s the breakdown:

Cataleya (Zoe Saldana) witnessed the brutal murder of her parents when she was only nine. She quickly dedicated her life to becoming the best assassin she could be. But revenge can’t be ignored, and Cataleya embarks on a quest to rid the world of her family’s murderers.

The Monkey: Colombiana has a solid story. While familiar, the revenge thriller is nearly always satisfying; you can’t help but want to see the bad guys get what’s coming to them. And make the leading protagonist a beautiful, resourceful, gun-toting woman and you’ve got yourself an enjoyable romp, no matter how you spin it. Saldana proved she can carry a movie – she channeled the likes of Milla Jovovich and Angelina Jolie well and added a certain poise and grace of her own.

The supporting cast members were equally strong. Jordi Molla as the go-to henchman, Cliff Curtis as the wise mentor and Callum Blue as the dirty CIA operative delivered standout performances that lent a much-needed gravity to the opera of flying bullets and skin-tight catsuits.

The action was the centerpiece of Colombiana – no surprise here. The filmmakers managed to keep the sequences fresh and entertaining. From MacGyver-like jury-rigging to shark tanks to an all-out one-woman assault on a fortified compound, Colombiana kept the action coming one magazine after another.

The Weasel: Some of the emotional notes of the film were off-key. While we feel bad for nine-year-old Cataleya, and sympathize with her desire to avenge her parents, the transition from avenger to for-hire assassin was glossed over and underdeveloped. Why was it a surprise to her uncle (Curtis) that she was seeking revenge, when that’s why she began her training in the first place? Why did she so carelessly put her remaining family in danger, despite her meticulous nature and attention to safety in all other aspects of her life? These questions were left unanswered in order to move the story along. Unfortunately, no amount of bullets could keep these plot holes plugged.

The weakest link here was FBI agent Ross (Lennie James). His character was late to the game and given too much screentime without enough substance to make the audience care. Ross was intended to be the cat to Cataleya’s mouse, but he ended up being an unnecessary piece of an already muddled puzzle. And while I like Michael Vartan, his turn as the artist/love-interest Danny was underutilized. The character was a foil, meant to humanize Cataleya and give her a glimpse of what her life could be; however, there was far too little development and chemistry between the two to make it a worthwhile plot investment. At some point you realize you don’t care about her romantic entanglements, you just want her to grab a bazooka and blow things to hell.

A stable story peppered with great action and an thoroughly watchable leading lady, Colombiana accomplished what it set out to do and them some. And again I ask…who doesn’t like seeing a gorgeous lady lay the smack down?

3.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Does Zoe Saldana have what it takes to join the kick-ass female action star hall of fame? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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And The Best Animated Feature Oscar Goes To…Avatar?

5 02 2010

The Best Animated Feature Film category was first introduced at the 2001 Academy Awards. The nominees included Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Monsters, Inc. and Shrek, all of them computer animated features. Then, in 2006, both Monster House and Happy Feet were among the three nominees for Best Animated Feature Film. Both films had used an emerging technology, motion-capture, to portray real-life actors’ movements that would later be converted into a digital format. Happy Feet won the 2006 Oscar.

Now, fast-forward four years. The Academy didn’t add any categories for this year’s award show; however, the number of Best Picture nominees has been doubled from five to ten (the last time there were ten Best Picture nominees was in 1943). Among those ten nominated films is the second animated film to ever be nominated for Best Picture: Up. Beauty and the Beast was the first, in 1991. But, if one looks at the five animated movies nominated in this year’s Best Animated Feature category…nope, you’re not seeing double…Up is among the nominees as well.

So how is it that Up can be nominated in both categories? Sure, it’s a feature film (thus the Best Picture nomination). And sure, it’s an animated film (thus the Best Animated Feature nomination). But isn’t that a bit of an unfair advantage? There isn’t a “Best Live-Action Feature” category, is there? And it basically makes the Best Animated Feature category pointless this year. The other animated film nominees didn’t get Best Picture nominations…so, logically, if Up is good enough to be among the Best Picture nominees, it obviously is better than the other nominated animated films, guarantying it a Best Animated Feature Oscar. A bit unfair to the other animated film nominees, in my opinion.

Then, throw this into the mix…why can’t Avatar be nominated for Best Animated Feature?

Sure, Avatar has many live-action characters, sets and props. But the bulk of the film and the film’s major characters are digital, utilizing a similar, albeit more advanced, version of the technology used to make Monster House and Happy Feet. So why can’t Avatar have its cake and eat it too? Up has.

I see this blurry line only getting blurrier. With motion-capture technology becoming more and more advanced, where do we draw the line between live-action and animation? Many critics felt Zoe Saldana should have been nominated for her motion-capture performance as Neytiri in Avatar. But did the Academy think that was going a bit far? It will be a question the Academy, and other awards organizations, will have to address sooner rather than later.

What do you think? Should Up be allowed nominations in both categories? Should Avatar? Where do we draw the line between animation and live-action? Take the poll and share your thoughts in the comments!

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