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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.
Taking its cues from David Memet's provocative play, Sexual Perversity in Chicago, About Last Night is a remake of a 1986 Edward Zwick film. Being the latest romantic comedy claiming to take a deeper looks at the age-old subjects of love, sex and relationships, it holds just enough charm and humour to make it an admirable addition to cinema-cheese.
Set on the sunny-streets of L.A, the film follows two best friends; businessman Danny (Ealy) and his motor-mouth best friend, Bernie (Hart). Like many other men their age, the duo’s measure of success lays in how many women they hook up with and they naturally have no interest in looking for or finding ‘the one’.
However, things soon change for them both when Bernie meets the sexy and equally feisty, Joan (Hall), while his best-bud strikes up an immediate connection with Joan's beautiful roommate, Debbie (Bryant).
Time passes by and each couple have shared a fair amount of ups and downs in their respective relationships; Bernie and Joan's hot-headed union is on rocky grounds, while Danny and Debbie – who have moved from a one-night stand status to a full-blown live-in relationship – are questioning whether their relationship will weather the storm of uncertainty and returning exes.
The cast is well-fitted to this type of comedy and, thanks to their on-screen presence, they manage to convey their day-to-day hardships in a way the audiences can easily relate to. Vibrant and infectious, Hart – recently seen alongside Ice Cube in the buddy-cop comedy, Ride Along – puts his over-the-top energy to good use, whilst the dynamics shared with Hall is the movie's key draw. Meanwhile, Ealy's and Bryant's more sedate alliance - told through a gushy, overly-sentimental eye for romance – is satisfying as the meat of the plot, but not as exciting.
Directed by Hot Tub Machine's Steve Pink, the film’s premise is fairly familiar; boy-meets-girl, they share one night of steamy passion, fall in love, move in, before the inevitable question "am I ready for this?" reels its ugly head. However, despite its somewhat conventional and unsurprising setup, the script - written by Bachelorette's Leslye Headland – keeps things relatively light, humorous and, at times, even emotionally stirring.
About Last Night manages to put its own spin of realism and good-natured humour on the forever-entertaining, battle-of-the-sexes; forgettable yet extremely engaging, the dialogue, along with the cast's biting chemistry could easily set this as the best date-movie of the year, thus far.
Zack Snyder wowed audiences back in 2006 with his super-slick fictionalised retelling of the infamous Battle of Thermopylae in 300. Now, the long-awaited sequel is here; bloodthirsty and unforgiving, it's safe to say that 300: Rise of an Empire will not disappoint fans of the first film.
Serving as both a sequel and a prequel, 300: Rise of an Empire takes its attention away from the Spartans and their army of noble men, this time putting its focus on the origins of their enemies and the wider ramifications of the events from the first film. The story is centred on Athenian General, Themistocles (Stapleton); a fearless warrior who, during the Battle of Marathon, fatally injured King Darius I (Naor), the great leader of Persia and father of God-King-to-be Xerxes (Santoro).
Ignited with anger and an incredible desire to spill Grecian blood, Greek-born Persian warrior, Artemisia (Green) plans to transform Prince Xerxes from a fearful Prince into a Persian God-King, to ultimately guide their people into war with the Greeks.
Ten years later, Xerxes is ready to send his troops into battle, concurrently engaging King Leonidas and his 300 Spartan men in the overwhelming Battle of Thermopylae, as well as General Themistocles, who goes on to battle Artemisia's naval army at sea. The fate of Greece lies entirely with Themistocles, whose army is once again devastatingly outnumbered, but whose determination and courage go a long way in their fight for freedom.
Santoro returns to reprise his role as the towering giant that is Xerxes and although the character’s backstory is one of the most engaging elements of the film, the Brazilian actor fails to offer any depth to the complex kind. As the lawful Queen Gorgo, Headey retains a very royal pride intensity as the wife of the fallen Leonidas, while Stapleton – as the film’s lead – delivers just enough to score a passing grade, but ultimately lacks the charm and presence of Gerard Butler.
On the other hand, adding Green into the picture is arguably one of best decisions that the filmmakers could have made; as the trouble-brewing Artemisia, she steals the show.
Sticking to the same visual aesthetic, 300: Rise of an Empire is just as absorbing as its predecessor, with director Noam Murro given the freedom to paint on a much larger – and bloodier – canvas.
Although the thrust and energy of 300 seems like an awfully difficult feature to replicate, there are still plenty of adrenaline-pumping moments behind the blood-stained battles to make 300: Rise of an Empire an enjoyable follow-up.