“Escape Plan” trailer – Sly and Arnie go to jail?

As if the continued success of “The Expendables” franchise wasn’t proof positive that there’s an audience for 80’s retro action cinema, here’s the trailer for what Sly and Arnold did next – prison break drama, “Escape Plan” (or “The Tomb”, as it was titled last August when I posted a news story about the flick).

This trailer – which originally premiered over at IGN.com – offers more of a look at the story and confirms that I will be lining up come opening weekend this autumn to see still burly, elderly men thumping the bejesus out of stunt men young enough to be their grandsons.

What can I tell you?   I’m a fan of Sly’s and will see him in just about anything (and, yes – that does include his faintly risible 1989 prison flick “Lock Up”), especially if he’s managed to rope Arnold in for the ride.

There’s something so cheerily high-concept about the pitch – genius prison designer falsely imprisoned inside the escape-proof facility that he designed! – that you can’t let minor fripperies like the two stars combined age being 133 years old distract you from the simple pleasures of cinematic mayhem being (hopefully) wrought well.

The film opens on 27 September in the UK and in the US on 18 October.

“Lockout” review – the future is funny-looking…

Moody blue future?
Moody blue future?

One-man producing machine Luc Besson likes his genre movies.  Witness his success with “The Transporter” series, the “Taken” films, the “Taxi” series and the “District 13” movies.  The guy knows how to crank out a relatively inexpensive B-movie and have it succeed on a global scale.

The recent Cannes film festival, for example, revealed that we’ll be getting Chinese co-produced, Statham-less entries in “The Transporter” franchise (there’s already been a cable tv series based on the concept) and a U.S. remake of “District 13” is in the works with Paul Walker and the Rza under the title “Brick Mansions”.

Last year’s “Lockout” was another would-be franchise-starter from the writer/director/producer, pitting indie fixture and unlikely action hero Guy Pearce into a sci-fi prison movie with more than a hint of Snake Plissken about it.

It’s a tale of disgraced Secret Service agent Snow (Pearce), framed for the murder of a friend and about to spend thirty years in enforced stasis when the U.S. president’s daughter is taken hostage aboard orbital space prison M.S. One.  And that’s about as much as you get in terms of story – this is a very stripped-down film with a brisk running time of 95 minutes and no time for fripperies such as nuance or romance.

In fact, the closest thing that this film has to a romantic sub-plot is the opening sequence, which has Snow being repeatedly smacked in the kisser during an interrogation flashback as he cracks wise at a reliably oily and bastardly Peter Stomare.

Milk.  Good for you. Apparently...
Milk. Good for you. Apparently…

As in the aforementioned adventures of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell’s Cycloptic badass, the kidnapping of a politician’s daughter drives the plot and forces our right guy to be in the wrong place to sort things out and Pearce does a great job of embodying the world-weary traits which we’ve come to expect from the post “Die Hard” action hero.

He sells the fights and stunts well, delivers the script’s great, Shane Black-esque one-liners with aplomb and might have a lucrative future headlining mid-budget B-genre flicks like these – he’s helped by having a truly detestable bad guy to butt heads with in the form of Joe Gilgun, whose hair-trigger psychopath has never met a human being he wouldn’t be happy to blow away with a large handgun.  Gosh, but he’s unpleasant (and I’m not talking about his wandering, not-quite-Begbie-from “Trainspotting” Glasgow accent)

The rest of the cast are fine – Maggie Grace makes for a spunky, witty heroine and conscience for the hero – though the script contrives a little too much to have them meet cute and bicker, setting up a romantic sub-plot which the film rather puts to one side in a rush to blow things up.  Vincent Regan is good value, too, as the nominal leader of the prison uprising – he’s got one of those, “I recognize you from that film…” faces.

One thing is certainly of note – in an age where we go to see science fiction films at the cinema and routinely marvel at the gleaming production design and bleeding-edge visual effects, “Lockout” is a movie which has some of the most eye-poppingly bad CG effects that you could ever hope to see.  Seriously.  There’s a chase sequence at the outset of the film which was apparently rendered on a Spectrum 48K and, for all I know, may have been streaming into the movie from a cassette tape.

Witness, if you will:

A sequence which cost at least £25 to make...
A sequence which cost at least £25 to make…(image via The Knights Blog)

James Cameron is questioning his professional choices as you read this review.  For realsies.

To sum things up – if “Lockout” is playing on TV one night and you happen upon it whilst channel surfing, you’ll probably have a lot of fun with it if only to play ‘spot-the-homage’ and wince at some of the more clout-around-the-ears moments of fisticuffs.  It has good dialogue, occasionally insane plotting (Parachutes?  Really?) and a scrappy charm which is hard not to embrace as an established fan of little genre movies which try to bely their budgets (this funky little effort cost $15 million to make, fact fans).

It’s not a film which you have to own unless you like your action sci-fi unpretentious, eye-wateringly violent and shepherded to the screen by Luc Besson – a small demographic to be sure, but if that’s you, you could certainly do worse than to pick up this film.

 

“Fast and Furious 6” review – well-done absurd fun…

All roads lead to this...
All roads lead to this…

The reinvention of the “Fast & Furious” movie series continues with part six.

Where the first three movies cleaved to a fairly distinctive vision of tuner car street racing action and outlaw posturing, the fourth, fifth and sixth films have gradually shifted the focus from quarter-mile pink-slip challenges and drifting shenanigans to increasingly daft, ramped-up action sequences.

“Fast 6” has the gumption to nod to this, giving series mainstay Vin Diesel a moment of wry rumination with more recent addition to the ranks, Dwayne Johnson where they archly discuss Dominic Toretto’s graduation from half-inching DVD players in East L.A. to masterminding globe-trotting, vehicular-assisted heists.

At this point, the “Fast 6” movies have metamorphosed into a blue-collar hybrid of James Bond flick and street-level, bling-bling “Ocean’s Eleven”-esque caper. If you can process the notion that these films now bear the same relation to reality as does the glossy, rabidly capitalistic fantasia of a mid-90’s R&B video, then the escalating lunacy of the set-pieces in this film will hold no concern for you.  It need hardly be said that if you require your evening’s filmic entertainment to possess some grounding in reality then this flick probably isn’t for you.

The film shifts the action from Rio in the last movie to Europe, with a rogue mercenary, Owen Shaw (played with eye-twinkling, goatee-stroking menace by Welsh actor Luke Evans) leading a mirror universe crew of badasses on a fuzzily drawn mission to steal a military McGuffin for sale to the highest bidder.  And that’s mostly it – there’s quite a lot of guff about Dom’s crew being family, a bit of retconning to draw events from 3,4 & 5 together and some comedic diversions but the major business of the film is to stage ever bigger and more elaborate car stunts.

And on that level, “Fast 6” delivers value for money.

A chase through London uses the tight restrictions of London’s layout to great effect, which is then casually upstaged by a Dom/Letty chase which is edge-of-the-seat stuff that’s subsequently schooled by a much-ballyhooed Spanish highway destruction derby which has to be seen to be believed (not least for the amount of innocent bystanders who must have flattened or paralysed during its duration).  And then there’s a bit with a plane.

Biceps bigger than your head?  Check.
Biceps bigger than your head? Check.

The plot makes not a lick of sense, with Dwayne Johnson’s government agent character Luke Hobbs, as but one example,  making decisions during the course of the tale which would have seen him fired, tried and jailed for 150 years if this were a film which took place in our universe.

As this sequel happens in the “Furious”-verse, Hobbs’ gun-t0-head, “Hulk Smash!” brand of catastrophic, city-trashing operational oversight merely keeps the story constantly redlining – he’s like an on-screen stand-in for director Justin Lin, supervising his morally murky, all-star crew of wrong-uns in the manner of a hyper-caffeinated fourteen year-old boy playing an open world Xbox game seeking the fastest way to cause abject chaos with the digital tools at his disposal.

After delivering a suitably cataclysmic ending – one which hasn’t quite been spoiled by its front and centre reveal in the movie’s trailers – departing director Lin offers a tantalising glimpse of next summer’s seventh (!) film with a post-credits teaser which offers closure for Sung Kang’s Han and a look at who will be foolishly pitting their wits against Dom, Brian and Co next time out.

It’s not Woody Allen.  Just saying.

Is “Fast Six” nonsense?  Absolutely.  Is it entertaining?  Completely.

 

“Pacific Rim” trailer 1, Giant Fracking Monsters 0

Alright, it’s Jaeger time.  Let’s do this.

Guillermo Del Toro’s epic rock-em, sock-em monster mash picture “Pacific Rim” is one of this summer’s biggest gambles but it’s one that I really want to see, and I have no real history to speak of with the “Godzilla”-like flicks and Mech Animes which this film so lovingly homages.  Love Del Toro, but I’m no “Gojira” fanboy, so you know that I’m coming from a position of relatively well-adjusted geekdom.

It opens in the States and the UK on the 12th of July.  A perfect season to sit in an air-conditioned megaplex and watch ancient alien beasts get smacked up by giant robots using container ships as baseball bats, wouldn’t you agree.

Plus – Idris Elba is cancelling the apocalypse.  And do you want to argue with Stringer Bell?

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“About Time” – Richard Curtis does…sci fi?

 

Remember the film version of “The Time Traveller’s Wife”?   Yeah, me too.

Comprehensively destroying Audrey Niffenegger‘s brilliant novel, it’s one of those movies which actually makes me angry – how many potential readers of that wonderful book were actively turned off by the film and never got a chance to enjoy a story which is genuinely heart-wrenching, full of ideas and gloriously drawn characters who live on in the memory long after reading?

Apparently, Rachel McAdams may have felt a need to atone for her presence in that bloody awful film as she’s front and centre in the new film from the Don of Rom-Com, Richard Curtis.  And boy does 2013’s “About Time” seem a little bit…familiar?

In the nicest way, that is – I’m really rather keen to see Curtis play around in territory which is reasonably uncharted for him, given his triumphant previous brush with sci-fi.  Obviously, the presence of Greatest Living Englishman Bill Nighy certainly helps, as does appealing lead Domhnall Gleeson, last seen breaking hearts in series two of Charlie Brooker’s “Black Mirror”.  

As for Ms McAdams – she gets the benefit of the doubt.  It’s not her fault that director Robert Schwentke’s Hollywood movies suggest somebody taking the money and running…

“Imaginaerum” teaser trailer online

This one is purely for the Nightwish fans out there.  Everyone else…well, this won’t take long.

Image

If you like this band as much as I do, you’ll probably be aware of their film project, inspired by the music on their most recent album Imaginaerum“, which relates the death-bed fever dreams of an ageing composer whose reflections on his life are intermingled with his fantasies and his life’s creative works.

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The song "Slow, Love, Slow" will be in the film if this still is any indicator.

The first teaser trailer for the film is available on YouTube via Nightwish’s channel and looks about as heavily indebted to Terry Gilliam and his brand of emotional, artistic, expansive fantasy as it’s possible to be – which is a recommendation in my book.  I’m getting Fellini, Gilliam, riffs, Marco‘s beard and singer Anette Olzon looking like she’s auditioning for “The Fabulous Baker Boys 2” from this trailer, which make me very intrigued to see more of this film.

Marco Hietala- possessed of one of Rock's best screams...

I doubt that it will make a lick of sense and I wouldn’t have it any other way…

Kate Beckinsale back in “Underworld: Awakening”, Lycan community nonplussed…

Loud Emo tunes, stylised goth posing, in 3D, with the Becks - at this point, they're making these flicks for me...

After the mostly Beckinsale-less prequel film, “Underworld – Rise of the Lycans”, the producers of the “Underworld” movies have seen sense and made another entry in the series, with Kate Beckinsale returning as moody, PVC-clad, werewolf smasher Selene.

“Underworld: Awakening” is due out in January 2012 everywhere in the world apart from the UK.  Seriously.  The official website lists an opening date for seemingly every other territory in the world apart from mine.  Hmm.  I suspect that the film will be out in the same time frame, but it does seem quite weird to omit the country of Beckinsale’s birth from that list.

Cynics would say that to miss the fourth film in this series is to miss nothing very much, but as I’m a fan of this admittedly goofy and absurd genre film series, I’m not one of them.

Deportment, style and the ability to separate your neck from your shoulders. What's not to love?

I love that these movies are so serious!  The ‘Vamps vs Were…sorry, Lycans‘ fiction of the films is so earnest and considered that it attains far more of a place in my heart than if it were just being chucked out in the market place to earn a quick buck (Any writer of fan fiction must look at this series and think “If they can do it, why can’t I?”).

The predominantly European settings also mark this out as different for me – which makes me wonder if this fourth, shot-in-Canada film will have a rather generic look, given that a good 60% of the SF tv shows that I watch are shot in the Great White North: I’ll be waiting for Callum Keith Rennie to show up every five minutes.

If you’re wanting to see the latest trailer, you can find it here – expect the Becks in PVC, lots of sliding through hordes of disposable bad guys, plate glass explosions, earnest posing atop buildings at night and yes, the promise that the movie is in 3D, as all genre horror/action movies must be nowadays.

It's going to happen, isn't it?

Of course, the pressing question which must be answered is this: when are Screen Gems and Impact Pictures going to get together and make the ultimate throw-down – Kate Beckinsale vs Milla Jovovich in an “Underworld”/”Resident Evil” fan-service mash-up?  For the love of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, it practically writes itself.