Taken 2 beats Argo in the box office

Liam Neeson in Take 2

Critical darling and Oscar buzz king, Argo, failed to dethrone Taken 2, which held to the crown of domestic and foreign box offices for the second consecutive weekend, drawing $22.5 million (total 86.8) and $41 million (total $132.8) respectively.

Starring Liam Neeson, the action sequel follows a CIA agent, who has to rescue his kidnapped wife from his enemies while vacationing in Istanbul.

Ben Affleck’s political thriller Argo was not far behind in the second spot, opening in the US to a strong $20.1 million.  The critically acclaimed historical film is based on the real-life story of CIA agent Tony Mendez (played by Affleck) who contrived a plan to rescue 6 US embassy employees, who had escape to the Canadian Ambassador’s house when their embassy was invaded by Iranian demonstrators following the 1979 revolutions.

The third spot was claimed by horror flick Sinister, which debuted to $18.3 in the US. The film centers on a true-crime writer (Ethan Hawke) whose family plunged into danger after he finds a box of gruesome home movies.

Animated family comedy Hotel Transylvania showed no sign of slowing down in its third weekend, capturing the fourth spot and grossing $17.3 million in the US and taking the third spot with $13.7 million overseas. The film’s total so far has reached $100 million in the US and $49.3 million in foreign markets.

Voiced by Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Kevin James, the 3D film seas classic monsters gathering at a Hotel in Transylvania to celebrate Dracula’s daughter birthday.

Another Kevin James starrer, Here Comes the Boom, which was also produced by Adam Sandler, opened soft in the fifth spot with $12 million. The comedy follows a high school biology teacher, who takes on mixed-martial art fighting in order to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities.

In the meantime, the international market witnessed a smashing debut of Tsunami disaster movie, Impossible,  which shot to the second spot with $13.4 million. Starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, the film, which tells the real-life story of a family reunification after a shattering experience during the 2003 Tsunami, made all its money in Spain, where it had been produced.

Taken 2 takes over the box office

Liam Neeson in Taken 2

In spite of being savaged by critics, action sequel Taken 2 stormed to the top of the box office in its opening weekend, grossing $50 million in North America and $53 million internationally. The original Taken debuted with less than half this sum in 2009.

Not only did the film help drive the season’s sluggish ticket sales up 43% over the same weekend last year, it also has cemented its lead Liam Neeson, who plays a retired CIA agent rescuing his kidnapped wife from his vengeful enemies in Istanbul, as a bankable action star.

Holdover Hotel Transylvania lost the crown but stayed strong over the weekend with $26 million in the US box office. The 3D animation, which features the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Kevin James, was ranked 4th overseas with $13 million, bringing its global cume to $105.3 million.

The third spot was claimed by the teen musical comedy Pitch Perfect, which opened with $14.7 million in the US. Produced for only $17 million, the film stars Anna Kendrick as a new student who helps reviving an all-female cappella singing group in her college.

Sci-fi time travel thriller, Looper, lands in the 4th spot in the US with $12.2 million and drops to the 2nd spot in the foreign market with $10 million (without counting China). Directed by Rian Johnson, the film centers on an assassin (Joseph Gordon Levitt) who is tasked by the mob to execute his future self (Bruce Willis).

Languishing in the 5th spot was Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie, which opens with a disappointing $11.5 million in the US. The 3D animation is an expanded remake of Burton’s 1984 short film with the same title. A homage to Shelley’s Frankenstein, the film tells the story of a kid who brings his dead dog back to life.

Is Liam Neeson converting to Islam? – interview

Husam Asi with Liam Neeson

Irish actor, Liam Neeson made headlines in June, when he talked about his fascination with the Islamic faith, sparking reports that he was converting to Islam. His publicist, however, was quick to deny the claims in an email he had sent me, saying that “his client is not, nor has he ever been converting to Islam.”

But speaking to Neeson at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in downtown New York, where he was promoting his latest action thriller, Taken 2, I got the impression that he was deeply affected by the sounds of Islamic call for prayer that he heard 5 times a day while shooting the movie in Istanbul.

“The first week, this call to prayer was like ‘will they ever stop?’” the star recalls, with wondrous eyes. “The second week, it’s just getting under my skin. By the third week, it was like I couldn’t live without it. It really became hypnotic and very, very moving for me in a very, very special way, very beautiful.”

So moving, that he bought CD’s of Islamic chants, which he puts on before bedtime to help him sleep.

Born in North Ireland, Neeson, whose father was a custodian at a catholic school, was brought up a very strict Catholic. In fact, he was the altar boy in the local church. But he became disenchanted by his Catholic faith, when it failed to soothe his soul and fill the spiritual void that was left by the tragic death of his wife Natasha Richardson in 2009, following a skiing accident in Canada. “I guess I’m somewhat lapsed as a practicing Catholic,” he reflects in his soft voice.

Frankly, I have not seen the Oscar-nominated actor in such high spirit since 2009; he had invariably looked stricken by profound grief. Whether it’s his new-found spiritually or the passing of time that healed the wounds of his agonizing loss, he wouldn’t say. “It’s personal,” he insists. He wouldn’t also elaborate on his own religious convictions other than speaking abstractly about spirituality.

“I am a big believer in acts of kindness, no matter how small that is. Thank you notes and giving to charity are very, very important,” he says.

Although he began performing in the mid-70’s as part of an Irish acting company, the 60-year-old gained international recognition  when Spielberg cast him to portray the German industrialist in Schindler’s List (1993), which earned him his first Academy Award nomination. He followed it with compelling performances in Michael Collins (1996)  and Kinsey (2004), but it was his action roles in films such as Star Wars: Episode I- The Phantom Menace” (1999) The A-Team (2010) and Taken (2008) that endowed him with the widest appeal to moviegoers.
In addition to the sequel Taken 2, which is due to be released next week, earlier this year, he starred in the thriller The Grey.  Currently, he is getting into shape -not spiritually-  to play a grieved writer in a Paul Haggis movie.

“I’ve got a couple of bed scenes with Olivia Wilde, so the push ups continue,” he quips.

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