Liam Neeson’s ‘Non-Stop’ demonstrates the Rise of the Ageing Action Hero

Tomorrow sees Liam Neeson’s return as yet another antique action hero in Non-Stop [1], the story of an air marshall whose passenger flight is held hostage to the tune of $150m. Since 2008 hit Taken reminded audiences that the older gent can still kick ass and hold his own at the box office, Neeson, 61, has starred in a spate of action flicks including The A-Team, Unknown and Taken 2, and is showing no signs of slowing, with Taken 3 already announced [2] and lead roles in upcoming action thrillers A Walk Among The Tombstones (fall 2014) and Run All Night (2015). Whilst Neeson initially dismissed the possibility of reprising his character, Bryan Mills, in a third Taken movie, joking, “that’s just bad parenting,” he was reportedly enticed back to the role with a handsome $20 million cheque [3]. Nice work if you can get it, but the real question is: why can he get it? Why is Hollywood paying out sums of that scale for action stars in their twilight years? One thing is clear, Neeson is far from the only oldie picking up the gun; there are plenty of other stars clamouring to put the silver back in silverscreen…

Arnold Schwarzenegger, or affectionately, “Arnie”, 66, exploded back in to cinemas after his political hiatus in action ensemble blow-ups, The Expendables and The Expendables 2. He subsequently manned the minigun in The Last Stand and then again reunited with Sylvester Stallone, 67, for more high-octane action in last year’s Escape Plan. Not to be left out, The Expendables 3 will see Harrison Ford, 71, joining the current posse alongside Mel Gibson, 58, who, despite leading the excellent and criminally underrated prison thiller, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, a few years ago, isn’t exactly bankable these days. (In fact, given his chequered and controversial past, for many it’s a mystery his career has even survived this long. I, for one, thought The Beaver was his death knell.)

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How to be one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood

So you’ve seen the highest grossing actors list, dollar signs have fluttered like birds around your punch-drunk noggin, and you’ve realised that with your unique acting chops, winning charisma and burning lust for fame, you too could become a bona-fide Forbes listed gold magnet in Hollywood’s perpetually booming movie machine. Your parents always told you that anything was possible, and they were right, but here are a few pointers to keep in mind when you’re aiming to shoot for the stars:

Start out sporty and don’t ever give up on your six pack. Without a doubt, action heroes are the biggest money-makers, and revealing your innards like Thor doesn’t happen over night. Aside from vigorously hitting the gym, finding an exhilarating passion is probably a good idea: Chris Hemsworth has a lifetime love of surfing [1], Dwayne Johnson wrestled since childhood, rising to fame as WWE nutcase ‘The Rock’, and the late Paul Walker started every morning with a few hours of Brazilian jiu jitsu [2]. Even the oldies have athletic backgrounds; John Goodman won a football scholarship to university, Billy Crystal obsessed over baseball and Steve Carrell has always had a knack for ice hockey.

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Over-50 and acting? Join the Wizard’s Institute…

After reading Damian Lewis’ disparaging comments towards Ian McKellen and McKellen’s mild-mannered if acerbic retort, were you left wondering if perhaps Lewis was on to something? Well ponder no longer…

Ian McKellen, charged with conspiracy to conjure aged 74 but first offense aged 62. The assumed target of Lewis’ initial critical comments, McKellen is obviously best known for his towering role of Gandalf in all of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth epics. I’ll leave it to commenters to debate whether perhaps his turn as metal-morphing mentalist Magneto in the X-Men franchise also qualifies – my own guess, probably not.

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Is it time to give up on film ratings altogether?

“The reliability and validity of the movie ratings system are problematic, and its usefulness for parents limited,” declared a study published on Monday in which researchers of the University of Pennsylvania concluded that US film ratings barely distinguish between levels of violence depicted in PG-13s and R rated films [1]. Following so swiftly after a separate study last month determined that the level of gun violence in PG-13s exceeds that of films rated R and has tripled since 1985 when MPAA ratings began [2], is it time to stop questioning the efficacy and merits of the rating system and instead consider scrapping or replacing it altogether?

Perhaps it is inevitable that any group dictating age specific censorship will draw criticism, be it the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) or the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), but studies specifically undermining the classification of films and highlighting deep flaws in the rating process underline an urgent need to reform or replace the current system. Amy Bleakley, the lead author of Monday’s study suggests: “It seems like [the ratings system] is not necessarily doing the job it set out to do in terms of shielding youth from inappropriate content” [3] and it’s hard to argue, but I suppose it all depends on what you consider to be ‘inappropriate content’.

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Hunger Games: Catching Fire epitomises the potent draw of cinema for pre-film advertisers.

There was a time when turning up to a film late guaranteed that you would be fumbling in the dark for a seat. These days, you can whack an extra hour on your parking ticket, because pre-film adverts, trailers and infomercials will extend the screening time by at least another thirty minutes.

Blazing dramatically in to cinemas, in the US alone, The Hunger Games grossed over $161 million on its opening weekend, the highest November box office, and the fourth highest of all time [1]. That’s a lot of bums on seats, and an unrivalled captive audience for advertisers. According to Digital Cinema Media (DCM), research shows that 89% of cinemagoers watch cinema on-screen advertising [2] – an unsurprising figure, given that the entire audience is sat gazing at the screen in expectation for their film to start, the same film that, in all probability, they just paid an extortionate entry fee to view.

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