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Escape Plan: Sylvester & Arnie Join Forces
Following the roaring success of The Expendables and its unnecessary sequel, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for their first ever one-on-one, on-screen matchup in Escape Plan. Directed by Swedish filmmaker, Mikael Hafstrom – the man behind 2007 horror-thriller 1408 and 2005's Derailed – the film, unfortunately, falls short of both its promise and potential.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a highly skilful escape artist who specialises in testing the reliability of security systems used in maximum security prisons. As the co-owner of Breslin-Clark, with partner Lester Clark (D'Onofrio), Ray's job entails a few rather unconventional tasks; after gaining access to prisons, he escapes to highlight the security's faults.
His work soon draws attention from the CIA, who are keen to have the expert test a security system in their latest high-tech slammer. The multi-million dollar deal, however, doesn't sit well with Ray's devoted colleagues, Hush (50 Cent) and Abigail (Ryan), who find the whole thing a little suspicious. Despite his partners' hesitations, Ray agrees to the deal and soon finds himself sharing quarters with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.
Soon after his arrival, and after the meeting with the prison's warden Hobbes (Caviezel), Ray senses that something is wrong; no one seems to know who he is or what he's there to accomplish. Realising that he needs to escape the as soon as possible, Ray befriends Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and the duo soon learn that escaping the prison walls is not as easy as they think.
Never ones to shy away from the spotlight, it's surprising to learn that this long-awaited matchup has been in the works for quite some time. Therefore, it's even more surprising that neither actor appears fully connected to their roles. Seemingly set in their ways, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger rely heavily on a repertoire of cheesy one liners and overflowing bravado.
Additionally, almost every scene is shot with extreme close-ups, which proves rather unflattering for the time-worn stars. With very few action scenes, Stallone and Schwarzenegger are given little room to do what they do best. Meanwhile, despite being full of familiar faces, the supporting cast are neglected by the story, instead giving the spotlight to a watered down Sylvester and Arnie.
Escape Plan is filled with recognisable action film traits – but not the good kind. This is a film with a predictable plot, awful dialogue and far too many clichés, whose only potential redeeming features are equally downtrodden.
Sinking the already-shaky horror-genre deeper into further oblivion, Ouija – based on a popular spirit-summoning board-game from the 1890’s – is, unfortunately, nothing to get excited about.
Written and directed by Stiles White – along with the penning support of Juliet Snowden – the story is centred on best friends, Laine (Cooke) and Debbie (Henning), who, ever since they were young girls, loved to indulge in a childish and seemingly harmless play using the Ouija board.
Several years later, however, Laine is shocked to learn that Debbie has killed herself and even more surprised to learn that – after visiting her home – that there is evidence of Debbie playing with the Ouija board all by herself; a big no-no in the world of spirits and magic. In order to get to resolve the mystery surrounding her death, Laine calls upon the help of her sister, Sarah (Coto), friend, Trevor, (Kagasoff) and Debbie’s boyfriend, Pete (Smith), to play with the Ouija board and summon Debbie’s spirit.
However, things turn upside down when they accidentally end up summoning an evil spirit who, unlike Debbie, wishes to spread harm upon the group. Now, Laine, who brought everyone into this mess in the first place, needs to find a way to shut the portal - between earth and the life beyond - before it’s too late.
Although the idea of turning a popular board-game into a movie doesn’t sound all that ridiculous and the material seems generally interesting, there just isn’t enough imagination or character in Ouija to make it worthwhile. Lacking depth and character, the film relies a little bit too much on the jump-scare tactic and the lack of suspense and tension only adds to its weak attempt to create a frightening horror experience.
Adding salt to the wound, the characters are just as weak thanks to the poorly-scripted material. Cooke leads the way as the only character of note and the relatively new face won’t have harmed her future prospects. The rest of the cast, unfortunately, simply don’t register and ultimately fail to convey a single genuine emotion.
Ouija is tedious, unimaginative and seemingly uninterested in elaborating and expanding on its own source material.
Back in 2002, a straight-to-DVD adaptation of the novel, Left Behind, left what could have been a potentially interesting film franchise a horrible mess. For some reason, a Hollywood bigwig decided to give the green-light to a new adaptation.
Left Behind begins its story at JFK airport where we meet Chloe Steele (Thompson); a college student who has just arrived home to celebrate the birthday of her pilot father, Captain Rayford (Cage). Unfortunately, her father, portrayed as a heartbreaking player amongst his peers, is unable to attend; he has decided to work the overnight flight to London – in order to get away from his wife, Irene (Thompson), and her newly-found relationship with God – and also, to have a little bit more time to canoodle with the attractive air hostess, Hattie (Whelan).
Disappointed by her father’s no-show, Chloe soon pours her heart out to TV reporter, Buck Williams (Murray), whom she meets before he boards her father’s flight. Soon after, she heads home to see her mom but only to end up having a heated argument – mainly about religion – forcing her to storm out and take her younger brother, Raymie (Dodson), out to the mall. However, strange happenings soon begin to take place when millions of people – including Raymie – mysteriously disappear, leaving only their clothing and belongings behind. Similar occurrences take place on her father’s flight, leaving the Captain and what is left of his passengers, wondering what or who could be responsible for the catastrophe and whether ‘The Rapture’ is nigh.
Based on a popular book series of the same name written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins, there are no words to describe just how terrible and poorly-executed Left Behind really is. There’s zero cohesiveness to the story and the production values are embarrassingly cheap.
Poorly paced and filled with a lot of unnecessary dialogue – everyone seems to have something to say – most of the story takes place within the confinement of the airplane and it takes a really long time before anything remotely exciting happens.
In what appears to be one of his most questionable roles to date, Cage is his usual melodramatic self, while Thompson’s character as a born-again Christian brings embodies the notion’s clichés and stereotypes without a shade of pragmatism. The only member of the cast to bring any kind of sincere conviction to his role is Murray, as the helpful TV reporter.
Overall, Left Behind is a shockingly poor and devastatingly boring take on the ‘end of days’ and it is, just like it states, probably just better off left behind.