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Escape Plan (2013)

Escape-Plan

 

I never really got excited for this film, but the trailer was always worth a laugh or two when I saw it attached to another film I was seeing in theaters. When it finally came time to see it, I approached it with low expectations, but I still expected it to at least be fun…well, that is what some would call “wishful thinking” because this film didn’t even manage to accomplish that.

Here’s the IMDB synopsis for this film:

“When a structural-security authority finds himself set up and incarcerated in the world’s most secret and secure prison, he has to use his skills to escape with help from the inside.”

You would think that, if nothing else, seeing two such legendary action stars as Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger onscreen together would at least be an enjoyable experience, but you’d be wrong…I maybe managed to crack a smile or offer a little chuckle only once or twice, and that was being generous. The film is filled with lame jokes, poor dialogue, and almost non-existent character development, and the villain, played by Jim Caviezel, has zero visible motivation for building this hell of a prison. What does he gain? Don’t tell me money because money offers no explanation for the sadistic way in which these men are imprisoned.

In case you couldn’t tell, I don’t recommend this film. I wanted to like it at least a little bit, even if it was just so I could tell you all that it’s laughably bad, but, sadly, even that’s not the case. Escape Plan is just bad, no laughing to it. The only moderately not-terrible thing I can say about it? At least it’s not incredibly vulgar like Michael Bay’s Pain & Gain (my review) was, aside from the language, of course. I wish I had more to say about this, but I just don’t care enough about it to bring forth the effort. Sorry, folks.

-Chad

Rating: 1.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for violence and language throughout

P.S. – For a more positive, balanced review of this film, check out my pal TJ’s 3.5-star review over at MovieByte.com!


Riddick (2013)

NOTE: Review originally written for and posted at MovieByte.com, and I talked about it with host TJ Draper on Episode 60 of The MovieByte Podcast. To see this post and check out the guys over at MovieByte, click here!

Riddick

I suppose I should preface this review with two things: 1) I did not watch the first two films in this series due to lack of time and interest; 2) I never had any interest in seeing this film. With those items in mind, here I go.

Due to my lack of background on the character, I’ll leave it to IMDB to tell you what the film is about:

Left for dead on a sun-scorched planet, Riddick finds himself up against an alien race of predators. Activating an emergency beacon alerts two ships: one carrying a new breed of mercenary, the other captained by a man from Riddick’s past.

The entire first twenty minutes or so of the film seem determined to show those new to the franchise (i.e. me) who Riddick is and what he is capable of. We’re treated to scene after scene of this superhuman fighting monster after monster, which would be just fine and dandy if it all didn’t become a bit of a bore. After the first two instances of Riddick defying the odds and cheating death, I thought to myself, “Got it, now let’s move on.” But we didn’t. We still have several more scenes of nothing but him travelling a barren wasteland of a planet, killing strange creatures before they can kill him, with Vin Diesel’s deep growl of a voice providing us with what the character is thinking and how he came to be in the situation where he is. He’s hardcore. I get it. Let’s focus on something else.

When we’re finally introduced to other characters, it’s a bit underwhelming because they aren’t any good. First to appear is the mercenary Santana (Jordi Mollá), who makes it clear to us from the start that his only desire is to cut off Riddick’s head, placing it in a box to collect the substantial bounty on his head. As the film progresses, it becomes evident that the main purpose of his character is to provide a sort of comedic relief, which fails in its attempt to be funny. His banter with Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), who landed with another crew seeking out Riddick, is also a poorly executed aspect, with Dahl’s responses to his often crude comments often consisting of the “F word.” In fact, the F word is used a LOT throughout the film, to the point of exhaustion. I can generally overlook its usage once or twice in a film, but beyond that (and certainly as many times as it’s used here) it becomes an extravagant earsore. The rest of the characters don’t bring much else to the table either; aside from the various lackeys, the only other “main character” is Boss Johns (Matt Nable), leader of the second ship to land on the planet. His motivation for hunting down Riddick is pretty thin; Santana’s want for money is more believable reason to hunt down a man than is Johns’ desire for the truth behind the death of his son (who, Wikipedia tells me, was a character in the first film in the series, Pitch Black).

Aside from the poor characters, the dialogue between them is even worse. Banter is often painful in its attempts at humor, the foul language runs amok, and pacing is pretty slow. I also hated the cinematography of the film, with the CGI looking unrealistic (meaning the CGI creatures were very obviously CGI, not unrealistic in nature) and the over-stylization of the locations reminding me too much of Zack Snyder’s 300, another stylized film that I didn’t like. Last but certainly not least, there is needless nudity at two separate points in the film…it literally serves zero purpose in the context of the film. So there’s that.

This film has its audience. I know that. And I tried to be as open-minded as possible while watching this movie. Though it wasn’t a film I particularly cared to see, I had no pre-conceived notions on its quality, and, because I haven’t seen Pitch Black or The Chronicles of Riddick, I had no frame of reference for just how good or bad it might be. Perhaps its that lack of franchise familiarity that made me dislike the film so much. I’ve been told that Riddick is a better film than its two predecessors, and, if I had seen them first, I’m sure I would have liked this one more than I did by comparison. But I only have the opinion I have, and it’s not a good one: Riddick is incredibly violent, loaded with foul language and poor characters, and, though I’m sure it appeals to certain people who like this kind of film, I’m not one of those people and simply can’t recommend seeing it.

-Chad

Rating: 1 (out of 5)

MPAA: R – for strong violence, language and some sexual content/nudity


Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

The last film for me to see of the nine films nominated for Best Picture at the 85th Academy Awards was Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2012, so it’s been out for quite a while. This is another of those films that I knew nothing about until I actually saw it, and, now that I’ve seen it, I still can’t tell you much about it except that it’s touching.

For this film, it seems best to use the short summary found over on its IMDB page: “Faced with both her hot-tempered father’s fading health and melting ice-caps that flood her ramshackle bayou community and unleash ancient aurochs, six-year-old Hushpuppy must learn the ways of courage and love.”

Beasts of the Southern Wild takes place in a world outside of our own, where the people live off the land and have a sort of oneness with nature. After reading a bit about the film, I’ve learned that most (if not all) of the actors who appear have little to no previous acting experience, including the lead actress, Quvenzhané Wallis, who is nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. The lack of acting experience in the film may worry some, but I thought that it gave the movie a sense of authenticity; these are real people. We see everything through Hushpuppy’s (Wallis) six-year-old eyes, meaning that her imagination is ours. Her father, Wink, played by Dwight Henry, may have a “hot-temper,” but it’s shown throughout the film that he loves Hushpuppy and that he wants nothing more than for her to survive, especially if he’s not around to take care of her. The most touching scene in the film has Wink telling Hushpuppy that he’s not trying to get rid of her but that he can’t take care of her because he’s dying. She responds with, “Don’t be saying things about dying,” and, after he tells her that everyone’s daddies die, she responds with, “Not my daddy.” It’s her innocent outlook on life and her sense of responsibility in a world where she must learn to take care of herself that makes her such a passionate character that you love from the start.

One aspect of the film that I didn’t quite understand, though, is the “aurochs” mentioned in the IMDb summary above. They’re introduced early in the film as prehistoric creatures that are trapped in the melting polar ice caps, and the kids are told that the creatures will come and hunt them down once they finally thaw out.  As the movie progresses, we see the ice caps melting, releasing these aurochs, and we see snippets of their travel as they make their way down to the little community of Bathtub. It seems to me that they are simply used as a device to point out the need for Hushpuppy to learn to fend for herself; with the population of Bathtub dwindling and her father being as sick as he is, the time is fast approaching, like the aurochs, for her to be able to survive alone. Nick over at TheMovieSpoiler.com (spoilers in link, obviously) points out that both Hushpuppy and the aurochs are beasts of a nearly extinct species, as the Bathtub community is dwindling.

I don’t want to spoil anything, so it’s best that I wrap it up. This film explores the importance of love, sacrifice, and being one with nature, and I imagine that it’d be hard for anyone to dislike it, though I’d understand if someone didn’t absolutely love it. The cast of unknowns brings a lot to the film, but no one does this better than the young Quvenzhané Wallis, who, at the age of nine, is the youngest actress to ever be nominated in the Best Actress category. I doubt she wins, but her performance as Hushpuppy is strong, brave, thoughtful, and inspiring. Even if you like nothing else about this film, Wallis will still touch your heart. Beasts of the Southern Wild has already grown on me, even in the short time its been since I watched it, and I won’t hesitate to watch it again. A. O. Scott with The New York Times calls it “a blast of sheer improbable joy”…while I’m not sure that “joy” is the right word, it’s still a fantastic film.

-Chad

Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

MPAA: PG-13 – for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality