Tim Burton films are so effortless to enjoy because he makes films for people who love movies. Frankenweenie unwinds as much as a tribute to classic monster movies as a tip of the director’s hat to Joe Dante. Frankenweenie finds Burton in stop-motion territory, in glorious black-and-white. The story was originally one of Burton’s early shorts, a live-action lampoon of the Frankenstein story with a dog as the monster. Burton made another short titled Vincent that featured Price narrating the story and in a full circle of cinema connectivity Frankenweenie has a Price looking character voiced by Martin Landau, another Burton nod to his ‘90s film Ed Wood. Danny Elfman’s score also figures prominently into the scheme of things.

Young Victor Frankenstein reanimates his pet dog Sparky after the canine’s hit by a car. Soon all the geeky kids at school are conducting science experiments that involve creature resurrection from a vampire cat, to a giant turtle (think Gamera), and other cute monstrosities. The Dante references are seen with a bunch of sea monkeys that grow into Gremlins, as well as the classic monster spine that Dante brought to projects like Matinee, Small Soldiers and Looney Tunes: Back in Action. Frankenweenie rates high on the animation scale, but it will never eclipse the perennial holiday favorite Nightmare Before Christmas.

Taken 2 revisits familiar territory. Movies where Liam Neeson kicks ass. The original Taken had one of the great rogue speeches in the kingdom: “I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want. If you are looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you.”

Taken 2 does have some great spy genre scenes like one where Neeson, now a prisoner in an Istanbul basement, uses a cell phone and the sound of a series of grenade explosions to determine his exact location. Neeson also enlists his daughter in his skullduggery arming her and sending her into the frey. With a director named Olivier Megaton you know the action will be concise, efficient and deadly.

–Michael Bergeron