Thrown to the wolves 

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Liam Neeson makes good action flicks — Taken was bad-ass and Hanna was one of the best of last year. This week he's back at it with The Grey, opening Friday at Whistler's Village 8 and the luxurious Garibaldi 5 in Squamish.

The Grey, filmed in the howling winds of Smithers, B.C. is about a group of oil-refinery workers who survive a plane crash in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness, only to learn they're being stalked by a pack of enormously savage wolves. Neeson stars as a sort of worksite security expert who now must lead his grimy crew through unforgiving tundra and keep them safe from the hungry lupine maws that drool in the darkness.

It's all very Jack London-meets-Jaws (with a touch of The Thing and Alive tossed in for good measure) but the cast and characters are decent and deep (you actually almost wish there was more wolf-on-man action by the end).

Neeson brings his A-game every time and The Grey is no different. It's brutal and cold but also smarter than expected and it has a scene where Neeson, who is borderline suicidal from the start of the flick, makes impromptu Wolverine claws out of mini-bar bottles and then punches a wolf in the face. That alone is worth the ticket price.

Village 8 is also opening Man on a Ledge, which I admittedly haven't seen but no other critic on earth (okay, the Internet) seems to like it.

It's a heist flick about a guy who pretends to be a suicidal jumper so his brother and a hot chick in a Wonderbra can pull off a diamond heist in the building across the street. All for a noble cause of course — sticking it to the rich and clearing the faux-jumper's good name. The cast is stacked with Sam Worthington, Elizabeth Banks, Kyra Sedgwick, Ed Burns, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell, but by all accounts the script, dialogue and Sam's American accent are downright preposterous. I sometimes like to go against every critic in the world (Strange Wilderness rules) but I think this one looks to be a renter at best.

But it looks better than One For the Money which is opening in Squamish. Katherine Heigl as a sassy Jersey Girl turned rookie-bail bond recovery agent who goes after big bad Joe Morelli, a crooked cop who just happens to be the same guy who dumped her in high school. Really?

Please, rip out my eyeballs and keep them alive in a jar positioned right in front of Jersey Girl on loop for the rest of eternity. That would be way better than this dog crap.

It is Academy Awards season and that means the contenders start popping up in theatres again. Village 8 is screening Alexander (Sideways) Payne's The Descendants, a George Clooney-on-vacation-in-Hawaii movie about a widower struggling with some crisis about responsibility and the role of family. It's up for Best Picture, Clooney's up for Best Actor, and Payne's up for Best Director.

Not to be outdone, Garibaldi 5 is screening War Horse, the Spielberg flick about the friendship between a man and his horse in the first World War (I swear I'm not making this up). That's also nominated for Best Picture.

There were minor controversies swirling around the release of the nominations (no nods for Angelina) but about all I can tell you is only one Oscar-nominated film features somebody punching a wolf in the face and that's Kung-Fu Panda 2. Let's hope it wins (Angelina does the voice of the Tigress).


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