Saw some movies last weekend. Some trailers, too. One was for a kidnapping thriller called Taken. A young woman is kidnapped, presumably for ransom, but little do the criminals know that their captive's father is some sort of secret agent badass who will stop at nothing to get his daughter back. Distressingly standard-issue stuff. Even worse, arguably, was The Uninvited -- just the title is so trite it practically begs you to forget it. I mean, this is at least the twelfth movie called The Uninvited. (For the record, there have only been seven Takens.) The plot concerns a teenager who returns home following the death of her mother to find that dad has shacked up with a new girlfriend who, it would appear, is a serial murderess. Also, there are ghosts, J-horror style.

This is not promising. Ordinarily I'd drag myself to these movies out of a sense of obligation, or skip them altogether. (Well, Luc Besson's involvement in Taken would probably ensure a viewing.) But wait -- who are those actors? What is Liam Neeson doing lending his gravitas to a Jason Bourne-style figure with a personal vendetta? And is that Elizabeth Banks, taking time out from being charming and hilarious to play an evil step mother/serial killer who threatens to choke Emily Browning with a pearl necklace? You get the idea. The movies don't look all that interesting -- but add their improbable stars, and I'm merrily shelling out 10 bucks apiece (because in all probability neither film will screen for critics). I've felt this way before; to name a random example, I didn't have to be clubbed and dragged to see Rocknrolla in Toronto because I knew Tom Wilkinson would be playing one of Guy Ritchie's execrable gangsters. (Though in retrospect the character was rather similar to Carmine Falcone.) Even Ben Kingsley's presence in Bloodrayne cheered me up. The easy response is always that they're in it for the easy paycheck, and that may well be the case, but I'm glad for it: world-class acting always spices up schlocky genre films. I'll never understand people who complain about actors taking these roles. It's even better when, as in the case of these two films, the actors are playing against type.

You can see the Taken trailer here, and the Uninvited trailer here. Am I wrong that the speech Neeson delivers wouldn't sound half as awesome coming out of the mouth of, oh, I dunno, Thomas Jane? Or that Elizabeth Banks's sunny disposition might be remarkably creepy in a horror villainness? Thank God for creative casting.