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escapeplan-still

To be honest I almost didn’t see this, from the trailers it looked like a rental, and after the abysmal The Last Stand I wasn’t excited about another questionable movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger in it. Yet I’m glad I let myself get dragged into seeing this because to my delight I found a lot more to Escape Plan than I’d expected.

Sylvester Stallone stars as Ray Breslin, a man who breaks out of maximum security prisons for a living so their deficiencies can be fixed. His latest assignment a privately owned, off the record facility called the Tomb where the world’s worst of the worst are disappeared to. When Ray is double-crossed and set up for a permanent stay he must put his talents to the test and escape a supposedly inescapable prison that makes a stay at Guantanamo Bay look like a honeymoon at the Bellagio. Aiding him is Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Rottmayer, a tough resourceful inmate, and watching over the facility is the cruel warden played by Jim Caviezel, designer of the Tomb and a man who has literally read the book Ray wrote on prison security (he’s got a copy on his desk.)

Escape Plan isn’t interested in tackling weighty subjects like incarceration in the United States or the legally and morally questionable extrajudicial prison systems where some secretly wind up. There are explosions, shootouts, and slugfests in this film. Yet they don’t dominate the entirety of the movie so this isn’t exactly the typical rollercoaster action vehicle you’d expect from either of these actors. For most of its 115 minutes it’s more of a thriller with an elaborate escape plan and twists and turns in the plot. Breslin must outwit the system and its architect Warden Hobbes, probing and observing to find the Tomb’s vulnerabilities.

At times it’s too convenient and our villains deaf, dumb, blind, and stupid when required. For example, early in his stay at the Tomb we see Breslin with Rottmayer casually walking near a guard, openly talking about an escape plan. Breslin and Rottmayer are easily the two most dangerous inmates but no one sweats them being inseparable until two-thirds of the way into the movie. Things like these strain your suspension of disbelief, but its never actually broken so the attempts at escape keep you interested and excited over the course of the movie. Okay… maybe it’s kind of broken when Stallone’s character MacGyvers a sextant out of random trash and is able to more or less figure out exactly where he is from the latitude and climate during that time of year… but it’s mostly never broken!

The performances are solid. Stallone puts in a strong showing with his usual acting, I think it will just come down to whether or not you like what Sly’s built his career on. Jim Caviezel is delightfully evil as Warden Hobbes. In The Last Stand Arnold Schwarzenegger was tired and dull just like that movie, making me question why he bothered unretiring. However, with this film I had to eat a healthy plate of crow and I did it with a big grin. Arnold dominates as the funny and tough Rottmayer with undeniable screen presence and charisma, reminding you there’s a reason he was one of the world’s biggest stars in his prime. He supplies plenty of laughs and keeps the film from taking itself too seriously.

Considering each of Sly’s and Arnie’s last movies bombed, Escape Plan likely won’t be in theaters for very long. This isn’t necessarily the special-effects heavy action extravaganza that benefits from a theater-going experience, but if you like Stallone or Schwarzenegger, heck even if you just want to see a decent flick, think twice before passing this up. It’s true that for the box office this pairing would’ve been better thirty years ago, but it’s still great to see these two legends have lengthy screentime together. Not because of any sense of novelty, but because they have great chemistry and play off each other well in a genuinely good movie that’s a little different from their usual fare.

***½

Arnold Schwarzenegger announced yesterday that he would be returning to The Terminator franchise.  Rumor is that he would play a human character.  Arnold also revealed his plans to also star in the new Conan the Barbarian movie as well as a new Twins movie. Terminator 5 will start shooting in January.

Today comes news that Arnold would return to The Expendables 3.  Other Casting rumors for the new Expendables movie have Mel Gibson as the villain and Jackie Chan, Nicolas Cage, Wesley Snipes, and Milla Jovovich joining the cast.  Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, and Mickey Rourke are rumored to be reprising their roles from earlier movies. The Expendables 3 begins shooting in August.

What can I say about this one? I did not like the first one and yet, thanks to an old friend of mine, I’m now the not so proud owner of the following statement; “I saw The Expendables 2 in theaters.” What can I say about this film that you cannot already predict from the trailers that were released? Was the acting bad??? Yeah, you didn’t see that one come a mile away? Is the action good??? It’s actually underwhelming. Are the one liners are rapid fired?!? Of course they are!

(spoilers follow) The Expendables 2 follows the group as they are black mailed into doing a top secret mission for the mysterious Church (Bruce Willis) that sees them heading to Eastern Europe. However, before they can complete the mission, they are thrown for a whirlwind when one of the members of the team is brutally killed and their loot is stolen. Now, they’re on both a mission for Church and a mission of revenge as they find themselves becoming heroes in one of the most unlikely places. This is a film riddled with cliches and judging from the plot line I just provided, it shows you that there’s no ingenuity here. You’ve seen this plot a hundred times before and I know we’ll see a rehash of it down the line. For a men on a mission-vigilante-revenge tale it is not even executed all that well. The plot will get you shaking your head more then once and that’s just a big no-no in my book.

The film’s best actor is actually its youngest one in Liam Hemsworth and I cannot help but feel that he, like his brother Chris, is a future action star. The guy has great screen presence and easily held his own against all these action vets. Speaking of them, how in the hell did Jean Claude Van Damme become the most entertaining of them all?!? As Jean Vilian, he was brilliant as the film’s bad guy and I cannot help but think that he should be sticking to playing the villain and this might be his best turn since starring in JCVD. I will say that Chuck Norris’ entrance in the film was a hoot and his presence on the screen was appreciated after so many years off, but I absolutely hated that they butchered the classic “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” music to elevate his character. That really wasn’t cool.

The story of the film was really stupid though and in the end the novelty of the premise is wearing off. Not sure if I’ll be back for a third installment, but I know that these guys had enough fun to want to come back. And how can you blame them? They have nothing else going for them. Well, except for Arnie and Stallone. And maybe JCVD if he can build some momentum and stick to more comedic roles. Was this film a good bad film? Yes. Just wait for this one to hit a Redbox near you. Not worth the price of admission. Everybody in this film has done better. Everybody.

*½

Release Date: August 17, 2012
Studio: Universal
Director: Simon West
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, Chuck Norris, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Charisma Carpenter, Terry Crews, Bruce Willis, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Plot: The Expendables are reunited when Mr. Church enlists them to take on a seemingly simple job. When things go wrong, the Expendables are compelled to seek revenge in hostile territory, where the odds are stacked against them. Hell-bent on payback, the crew cuts a swath of destruction through opposing forces, wreaking havoc and shutting down an unexpected threat in the nick of time – five tons of weapons-grade plutonium, more than enough to change the balance of power in the world. But that’s nothing compared to the justice they serve against the villainous adversary they seek revenge from.

Thoughts: I feel like I’m in a minority when I say that I’m not a big fan of the first Expendables. To me it was like a lot of the straight to DVD films that most of the cast was starring in before this big nostalgic reunion. It was too violent for its own good with poor acting, poor story telling, and poor directing- even if the cast was having a blast on screen (literally and figuratively).

For me, I do have some raised expectations when it comes to The Expendables 2, with a change in director and writers. But most of all because of the inclusion of some of the more funnier leading action man of yesteryear in Arnie, Bruce Willis, and Jean Claude Van Damme (who also impressed the hell out of me in JCVD). I’m hoping for a film that improves on the first one. The trailers have been pretty cool and I’m hoping this is just a lot more fun then the first film and that it becomes a little more cheesey (on purpose) and a bit little less serious. If director Simon West gets the tone right this time around, I think it will be safe to say that The Expendables is the newest action franchise for a lot of these yesteryearers,. I’m just hoping this one pans out, especially since I’d like to see a few new Chuck Norris movies- it has been far too long, even if he’s spent his break saying things that, well, I don’t necessarily agree with.

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It is a new week, and there is a lot going on.

  • Warner Brothers Animation has announced a new Green Lantern series that will be fully computer-generated. It is set to follow Hal Jordan, Kilowog, and an unspecific Red Lantern.  This is the first fully computer generated series with DC Comics superheroes.  There is rumored to be a Batman CG series that will follow this one also.  I’m not sure how I feel about this. I love classic animation and DC/WB put on some great superhero shows. I guess I’ll give the new style shows a chance, but if it isn’t broken, I don’t see why they are trying to “fix” it.
  • I have to do a shout out for myself, please head over to YouTube and watch The Paw! It is a little modern noir. You can also watch it on our side bar, thanks!
  • Scott Pilgrim vs the World has a new i-trailer! This movie looks awesome, and I can’t wait to see it.
  • The Twilight Saga took home 12 award wins at the Teen Choice Awards, proving once again that teens are stupid.
  • This is shaping up to be a really awesome weekend at the movies. In addition to the above mentioned Scott Pilgrim, we also have Stallone’s action flick The ExpendablesExpendables features the biggest cast of ass kickers ever assembled. I can’t wait to sit down and finish off two large popcorn buckets while it’s on.
  • Enjoying any summer TV shows? Movies? Video games? Comics? Books? Music? Let us know in the comments!

Stallone as The Punisher

AICN has been doing another round of fan Q&As with action movie legend Sylvester Stallone in anticipation for his upcoming flick The Expendables (which hits theaters of August 13th, 2010). These Q&As are awesome, with Stallone sharing stories about past films and dropping a lot of behind the scenes nuggets along the way. One of the questions Sly got was as follows…

“Have you ever been approached about playing the Punisher and do you have any thoughts about/interest in the character? None of the filmatizations have quite hit the spot and I always thought you were the obvious choice. Especially now you are the only actor I can imagine capable of pulling off an undiluted portrayal of Frank Castle with his Vietnam war origin intact. My imaginary dream project would be a run of HBO miniseries’ adapting Garth Ennis’ defining run on Punisher MAX mixing real-life horrors with bloody vigilante justice. You are probably not familiar with it, but with Rambo fresh in mind the material and sensibilities should be right up your alley.”

To which, he replied…

“I’m very interested in THE PUNISHER on several levels and think the story should be resuscitated with or without me. Its just always been mounted improperly.”

If I was Marvel Studios, I’d be on the phone with Stallone’s people right now.  Who could better step into the shoes of Marvel’s ultimate vigilante then one of the biggest action movie stars of all time? Not only does Sly look the part, but he could direct the thing better than anyone Marvel has gotten in the past.  Bring the gore of the latest Rambo, with the broken ex-boxer of Rocky Balboa and you have Frank Castle. A man with nothing, fighting for vengeance and to make sure no one loses what he has already lost. At Comic-con, Marvel Studios revealed that they have gotten the rights for The Punisher back and that they would like to make a movie that does his justice, well Marvel, now is your chance!

Check out day 5 of Stallone’s fan Q&A here, click on cool news for the rest.