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Escape Plan (2013)
I wanted an Escape Plan out of the cinema!!
A distinct lack of action heroes in 2013 and the public's obsession with recreating nostalgic moments has meant that Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone are very much in demand, 30 years after the peaks of their respective film careers. After the massively adored yet not very good Expendables, the pair return for Escape Plan, which as the title overtly suggests, focuses centrally on an escape plan. Hopefully this is a no-nonsense film that doesn't take itself too seriously or run too long, or I'll probably hatch an escape plan from the cinema....
Ray Breslin (Stallone) possibly has the worst job I've ever heard of: he intentionally becomes an inmate at various prisons and duly escapes, revealing the safety flaws each prison has and then selling them security tips to make a profit. In essence, he gets paid to stay in prison for numerous months at a time. Stallone doesn't really have any facial expressions in this film so it's hard to tell whether his character enjoys his life or not, or whether he even knows how to string a coherent sentence together. Anyway, soon enough Breslin is offered 5 MILLION dollars to be sent to a new secret prison and try to escape, but once arriving their he realises it's all a setup and he actually can't get out. Thus, he gains the help of inmate Emilt Rottmayer (Arnie) to try and escape using sheer strength and occasional flickers of intellect. The evil guards patrolling the hi-tech prison are led by former footballer Vinnie Jones, so it clearly won't be hard to escape.
This was an average film to put it nicely: it took itself far too seriously, and so the ridiculous plot and acting felt like a drag rather than the ironic parody it should have disguised itself as. Arnie and Stallone have their share of one-liners and gun battles, and even team up with Muslim inmates in the prison, as if to show they are representing a new, inclusive America. Brings a tear to my eye. Not to say it's a horrendous film, some of it was enjoyable, and the story goes along at a nice pace, but it just lacked that bit of you know....logic. Overall, it's not a film you would watch again, or even watch to the end, but if you're a fan of basic action films with no depth I'd probably recommend it.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Kick-Ass came out of nowhere in 2010 and turned out to be one the most refreshing films to be released this decade, a super-hero film that didn't hold back on language or violence, it was the antithesis to all the Marvel films being released and had a clear identity which separated it from any other film from the genre; it remains to this day the only film I've seen at the cinema that received a standing ovation from the audience afterwards. Well, three years on, the inevitable sequel hits the screens, with the added casting of Jim Carrey to the cast (who then promptly went on record to say the film was far too violent for him to promote): surely Kick-Ass 2 can't be a failure?
Beginning virtually from where the last film ended, Mindy aka ''Hit- Girl'' is still recovering from the death of her father and trying to fight crime in the city dressed as a now 15 year old super-hero, along with the help of Dave, aka Kick Ass himself. However, things begin to change when Mindy promises her new foster father (played by Morris Chestnut of Boyz N the Hood fame) she'll hang up her crime-fighting boots. This leaves Kick Ass deciding to join a superhero crew of crime- fighters dedicated to making the world a better place, but also a crew who suddenly find themselves being chased by Super Villain ''Red Mist'', now known by a different,more unusual name.
This film was very identical to the first instalment, but that's not a problem, it was still an excellent film, the over-the-top violence and humour consistently entertain and the plot is madcap enough to keep the audience guessing what each twist will hold. The only disappointment for me personally was that Jim Carrey was very subdued in his role and not as funny or crazy as I imagined he would be in a film of this nature. Overall, not a film for the easily offended, but a great film for the rest of us.
The Purge (2013)
The Purge, great concept....not so great film
Humans have a natural instinct as predators to kill, but society forces us to repress these feelings by living in a ''civilized'' way....according to new Ethan Hawke led film The Purge, a very interesting concept of a film, which explores a future society in which all crime is allowed for one night a year...
It's 2022 (not actually that far away), and unemployment in America is 1%, crime is at an all-time low, and generally, everybody seems happy, especially James Sandin (Hawke), a rich citizen who makes his fortune selling security systems for houses to use during the annual Purge. Basically the reason why unemployment and crime is so low is because, for one night a year, a Purge occurs, where all crime (murder, raper robbery, the whole lot) is made legal, and no police or emergency services are allowed to interfere. Mad. But also intriguing. James and his family happily avoid the Purge by using a security system outside their large house while the rest of society kills each other, but all that changes when their youngest son Charlie decides to let a stranger into the house......
This starts off as a really captivating film, the concept of legal crime kept me hooked, but soon enough, it descends into a stereotypical action film where Ethan Hawke fights off gangs from his house with a variety of handguns,and all originality gets lost in a haze of bullets (literally). The short running time (85mins) and variety of twists every 5 minutes makes sure that it doesn't get too boring, so overall a decent watch, but nothing that provokes any thinking afterwards.
6/10- A lesser version of Panic Room
Welcome to the Punch (2013)
Fails to land the knockout punch
When thinking about English Police dramas, The Bill usually comes to mind, episodes where two overweight police officers would run around estates trying to find out who robbed the local Sainsbury's. Thankfully, Welcome To The Punch, is a lot more sophisticated and glamorous than that, directed by Eran Creevy ,(who also made the fantastic Shifty), this film features quite possibly the most beautiful presentation of London as a modern city that I've ever seen on the big screen. But visuals are only part of a film, so how was the rest of it....
Dropping us right into the middle of a complicated heist, we see rugged cop Max (James McAvoy) ignore orders and get shot in the leg by one of the criminals (Mark Strong, bald bad guy from Sherlock Holmes). The film then zoom three years into the future and we're on board a plane, where a young Asian/Arab man reveals he's been shot and runs off the plane (it hadn't taken off yet, or that would have just been silly), whereby he calls his dad to come and help him.... his dad who happens to be the criminal we saw shoot the cop three years ago!!! Madness. This all leads to a broken down and now permanently injured cop Max realising that this is his big chance to get vengeance for what happened three years ago....but is everything as clear as it seems, who is he actually chasing?
This film is no classic, in fact, it's just about verging on being a good film, for all the spectacular scenes of explosions and shoot outs, there lacks an intensity to the film, James McAvoy does well in his scenes as a cop who's seemingly given up on life, but it's hard to really believe he is a tough and guilt-ridden cop when he still looks about 12 years old (even with a beard). To it's credit, the story does manage to change it's focus numerous times, and these twists initially kept me engaged with the plot, characters we hate manage to gain sympathy and vice-versa, but after a while, the plot just becomes too complicated, and verges on becoming a comedy. So overall, a decent film, one worth checking out on a Friday night if you're a fan of action, but in no ways a film that changes the genre.
Side Effects (2013)
The only side effect to watching this film is that it makes you think... a lot!
Erin Brockovich, Ocean's Eleven, Traffic, Che...all great and completely varied films directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has apparently announced Side Effects as the last film he will make before retiring. No pressure then...
The film's story focuses on the use of prescription drugs and the effects they can have on a person's mind....whilst I'm aware that this sounds like a pretty bland plot for an exciting film, the plot is deceiving, as the film is more focused on swerving the audience with various twists and turns, forcing us to play detective but ultimately tricking us at every corner. A psychological mammoth of a film. Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara of Dragon Tattoo fame) opens the film waiting for her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) to be released from prison. Emily and Martin endure a fractured relationship upon his release: she is depressed and tries to kill herself, whilst he wants to go back to his old ways of crime. Enter Jude Law as the calm-mannered psychologist Jonathan, who prescribes Emily drugs to help her with depression, using new drugs on the market, which have, as the title suggests, some sort of apparent side effects to them.....
To delve any more into the plot would ruin it, let's just say the story takes massive swerves and the ending of the film resembles nothing of the initial plot which I've described above. It's sophisticated, well- made, and has a slow pace to it which creates a sort of surreal nature to the events of the film. Jude Law stands out as the cool psychologist with everything at his feet, his character holds the film together with the gripping nature of his performance, whilst the presence of Catherine Zeta-Jones also ends up benefiting the film (for once, some may argue). It is a strange film, it has a style that a few people may not enjoy, but I really liked it, it was very similar to Shutter Island, and by the end of the film all the guesses I made about where the conclusion was going were completely wrong, and that's a credit to it's originality. Highly recommended.
Lo imposible (2012)
Emotional and Epic
With it being a New Year, I thought I'd go and see a comedy to kick off the 2013 film season. Unfortunately there wasn't any comedies showing at my Cinema so I ended up seeing this film about the 2004 South-East Asian Tsunami which killed over 250,000 people and displaced millions. Not what I had in mind as a cheery film, but oh well....
So basically we have a family that include married couple Henry and Maria Bennett (played Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts), a classic middle- class couple, as suggested by the fact they spend most their time on the plane travelling to Thailand worrying if they set the alarm to their house back in Japan, and also their three sons all string sentences together without saying ''Bruv'' or ''Innit'', so they must be Middle- Class. Anyway the family arrive at their resort in Thailand, and all is going pleasantly when.....yes arriving in spectacular fashion, almost like the rise of Godzilla, the Tsunami arrives and decimates everything in site. The family is split in the wreckage of it all and the film then deals with them all trying ti locate each other, if they all managed to survive that is....
The film was actually very good, a simple search story made gargantuan by the amazing effects used to portray the actual Tsunami, it literally comes at such a speed and power that leaves you in bewilderment and gives you a better idea that news reports of what it was all like at the time. They also have the classic ''Titanic'' Hollywood orchestra as the soundtrack whilst this is happening just to add to the emotional intensity, alongside top notch acting from McGregor, Watts and Tom Holland as 12 year old son Lucas. The main complaint, and flaw of the film, however lies in the fact we hardly see any actual Asian people, in a film about an Asian tragedy. The main Asians in the film are tribesmen and doctors who seem unable to apply composure or logic to any of the hectic situations occurring, we don't see any Asian characters searching frantically for loved ones or showing pain at losing those they love, unlike our Western Heroes here.
So overall, aside from the debatable premise of casting for the film, which you'd expect from Hollywood, it remains a good, epic, emotional film if you watch it for what it is.
Texas Chainsaw 3D (2013)
So appallingly bad it works as a great comedy
Horror movies just don't scare people these days. Today's society is so desensitised to violent images that a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, made in 1974 and banned for being so terrifying, just appears funny nowadays. So the logical thing to do is make horror films which are so bad they are comedies, hilarious comedies, which ironically mock horror films of the past. Well, at least I think that's what the makers of Texas Chainsaw 3D have done....
Continuing from the old 1974 version, the plot is really original and groundbreaking. I lie. The plot is based on the usual ''bunch of teenagers find themselves in abandoned house, where mad killer finds them and kills them one by one whilst each teenager is in state of nudity'' story, and includes R&B singer Trey Songz in the cast (his character spends most of the film listening to Trey Songz songs as if they were the greatest pieces of music ever created). The film then attempts to become slightly deep by having a link to family run through the film, and we find ourselves being encouraged to cheer for ''Leatherface'', (the psychotic chainsaw-wielding maniac who wears human faces as a mask), as he tries to protect his cousin from police officers who justifiably want her out the way (seeing as her family is full of psychotic killers). A ridiculous ending is made all the worse with a hint that there could be a sequel on the horizon. Oh yes, the 3D is virtually non-existent, it would probably be a better film if you took the glasses off and just watched a blurry film whilst making up your own, logical plot.
3/10- The 3 points come solely from the script, which unintentionally provides so many laughs, due to being so awfully bad.
Midnight's Children (2012)
Satisfying adaptation of a grand story
Midnight's Children, that mammoth book written by Salman Rushdie which all English Literature Undergraduates are forced to read and marvel at, finally gets a long-awaited film adaptation. Having read the book many years ago, I never imagined anybody would be bold enough to actually film the text, with all it's magical realism and grand sweeps through the course of history, so let's see how this goes...
Telling the story of Saleem, born on the stroke of Midnight on August 15th 1947 i.e when India finally became an independent nation, whose life is altered from the minute he is born, as he is given to the wrong parents, rich parents, and thus afforded a life of luxury that he was not destined to have. On top of that, he has magical powers (that aren't that great to be honest), and finds that every child born at Midnight on August 15th also has magic powers, it's like the Power Rangers: India. What thus follows is a story narrated by Rushdie himself, as Saleem's life links and progresses with the historical and political turmoil taking part in India throughout the century, ( Partitions, Civil Wars, States of Emergency), and Saleem, much like India at the time, struggles and battles to find out his own identity.
The film does well in scaling down the content of the novel, it's more of a drama with bits of comedy, than a grand epic or fantasy, and parts do feel rushed as the viewer is transported from year to year without any sense of anything really linking together, despite the valiant attempts of Rushdie narrating the whole story. However, it is still a film that does manage to vividly depict a fascinating period in history with lots of very visual scenes that leave a lasting impression, and more importantly, it links it all together with individual plights, to add that emotional intensity. So overall I'd still recommend it.
The Man with the Iron Fists (2012)
Hip-Hop and Martial Arts....surely this must be good right?
Hip-Hop and Martial Arts, two of my favourite things, come together in The Man With Iron Fists, directed by RZA of rap group Wu-Tang Clan, a group that make no secret of their love for the old Kung Fu classics in nearly every track they make, and as a bonus the film is also ''presented'' by Quentin Tarantino, so surely this has to be good right? Wrong. The main negative being that this film is unsure whether it's trying to be a serious Martial Arts film or a cheesy homage to old 1970's films like Enter the Dragon or Drunken Master, and what we get is something that lies in the middle: a plot not good enough to be taken seriously and a film not funny or outrageous enough to work as a homage to past films (like Kill Bill done to perfection).
The story is the usual ''band of villagers unite to take on outside force of bad guys'', and this time our 19th Century villagers consist of a freed slave who finds himself in China working as Blacksmith (played by RZA), an English soldier (Russell Crowe) and a brothel owner (Lucy Liu). The plot is the central weakness of the film; there are nice fight scenes splattered with beautiful gore throughout the film, and there are moments where the cinema was laughing out loud, but overall, the film just feels flat, not helped by the simple fact that we know what's going to happen as it's been done a million times before. Stories like this only work when the script is full of intelligent and captivating dialogue or memorable characters, but sadly both Crowe and Liu fail to impress in their slightly minimal and withdrawn roles, whilst RZA shows literally no emotion in his role, he just seems like a civilian who got lost on a film set. Ironically the script lacks the sort of creativity a Tarantino film would have and the film just ends up seeming empty.
Bonus points for WWE fans like myself, as legend Dave Batista pops up as a villain who can turn into steel! Also the fight scenes with their creative ways of brutality must be applauded for sheer originality and the soundtrack is immense as expected coming from Wu-Tang alumni, but ultimately, a film that failed to live up to expectations.
On the Road (2012)
A film that makes you want to travel and partyyyyy
Based on Jack Kerouac's amazing and well-regarded novel of the same name, On the Road is a period drama set in the 1940's, detailing one man's journey to find inspiration in both his writing and in life. Our main character Sal lives in thriving New York but wants an adventure, which leads him to meet Dean, a wild and slightly psychotic young man with a penchant for weed and threesomes. There follows a journey across America filled with drugs, wild sex, and more drugs, with a flurry of characters all taking part in the antics, including Kirsten Dunst, Kristen Stewart, Amy Adams, Steve Buscemi and Terrence Howard amongst others (not the actual actors, but characters played by them of course).
This was actually a great film, the period of time was captured well, it felt like the bustling 1940s and it didn't hold back when it came to scenes, with a few people in the cinema even going so far as to leave at certain points in the film (losers). Nevertheless the variety of settings and different characters kept it entertaining, yet the overall sadness of the film combined with the great performances of the powerhouse actors listed above added a lot of depth to the film, it was a story that kept me interested, despite the last 30 or so minutes feeling rushed. Definitely recommended.