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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.
Known for his unique voice and understated approach to telling a story, writer-director, Jeff Nichols – see Take Shelter, Mud – returns with yet another distinctive and beautifully crafted tale of parenthood and faith in the undeniably special, Midnight Special.
The film tells the story of Roy (the always present and the always game Mr. Michael Shannon) who - together with his childhood friend Lucas (Edgerton) - has kidnapped his biological son, Alton (Lieberher), from a creepy cult run by Alton’s ‘adoptive’ father Calvin Meyer (Shepherd).
Where they are going is seemingly unclear but, what we do learn is that Alton – who spends most of the time wearing blue swimming goggles – is no ordinary child and that he possesses certain supernatural abilities that has not only drawn the attention of Meyer’s cult – who believe that Alton is their saviour – but that of the government as well.
Out on the run from seemingly everyone, Roy – who soon reaches out to Alton’s mother Sarah (Dunst) for the much-needed support - is willing and ready to do just about anything to keep his boy from harm which, naturally, only ends up putting them all against a number of obstacles and a great deal of danger along the way.
To truly and fully experience Nichols’ latest film, is to try and go in knowing as little as possible about the plot; the less you know, the bigger the impact. Staying one step ahead of the audience, the mysteries surrounding the story are gradually revealed, with Nichols making sure that all of his secrets and relevant story threads are exposed in their own time, ultimately providing the film with a quietly intensifying and slow-burning energy which is hard to shake off.
Gorgeously photographed, the mood and the atmosphere – which are supported by David Wingo’s hauntingly beautiful John Carpenter-esque musical score – is almost palpable, while the story’s 80’s retro setting – reminiscent of movies like E.T and Deep Impact – is beautifully captured and made relevant to the audiences of today. On the downside, however, some of the story threads could have done with a bit more exploration and had they had a bit more onscreen involvement, they could have carried a slightly deeper effect.
Marking his fourth collaboration with the talented director, Michael Shannon – quite possibly one of the most compelling actors working today – gives yet another all-in performance of a troubled father. Meanwhile, Lieberher shows great versatility for such a young actor, whilst Edgerton and Dunst are both complex and rooted in their respective performances.
Captivating and emotional, Nichols’ Midnight Special is an easy recommendation; a thoughtfully executed and a powerfully told sci-fi tale which uses on its wonderfully created visuals and unspoken words to convey its story.
Tapping into the historically disappointing world of videogame adaptations, Duncan Jones’ rather ambitious take on Warcraft – a popular real-time strategy game played by millions of fans around the world– hasn’t done much to change the perception that games just don’t translate all that well into films. While it has a big, sprawling universe to play with, Warcraft’s timeworn plot and over-the-top epic fantasy ambitions are difficult to digest.
The story begins with a fearsome tribe of giant Orcs fleeing their former rundown land of Draenor and entering the peaceful realm of Azeroth - a land ruled by King Llane (Cooper) and Lady Taria (Negga). Guided by Orc chief Blackhand (Brown) and Gul’dan’s (Wu) fearsome and unwavering leadership, the Orcs soon begin waging attacks on unsuspecting humans with the intention of claiming their land as their new home.
However, not all Orcs are happy with the savagery of the recent attacks, including Orc Soldier Durotan (Kebbell), who is worried about Gul’dan’s ruthless tactics and believes that a co-existence with the humans is possible. Meanwhile, in Azeroth, the King has called upon his loyal knight, Anduin Lothar (Fimmel), to come up with a plan of defense against the merciless tribe.
This basic plot is just the tip of the iceberg; with at least another ten characters and a handful of other subplots, Warcraft is one complicated and overwritten mess. Those unfamiliar with the videogame will definitely have a hard time understanding what’s going on, with Jones – who co-writes the script with Charles Leavitt - offering very little explanation and background to the creatures and the history behind the fantasy worlds they inhabit. Featuring every single epic fantasy trait under the sun, the film struggles to balance one too many ideas and never really stops for effect or any significant development for audiences to connect to.
The heavy CGI presence – you can almost see the green screens – is also another damaging factor to the production. While one could reasonably argue that there is plenty of craftsmanship involved with each and every shot, the sloppy and often heavy-handed editing, as well as the synthetic feel of the entire setup, gives this overcrowded film a seemingly empty presence. Another videogame movie misfire.