By Robin E. Simmons
If you miss old-school, 80’s style action dramas with iconic leads, look no further than ESCAPE PLAN. There’s no deep meaning here. The big (?) draw is watching Sly and Arnold share the same screen, and they do in numerous scenes. This complicated prison-break thriller from director Mikael Håfström was mostly shot on a great set built in a NASA compound in New Orleans. There’s a futuristic feel to the oppressive, high-tech setting, “The Tomb,” in which Ray Breslin (Stallone) finds himself as a hired “volunteer” prisoner to determine the security in this brutal prison under the control of a sadistic warden (Jim Caviezel).
Quickly Stallone realizes he’s been tricked and wrongly imprisoned for life. Now he must team with fellow inmate Emil Rottmeyer (Schwarzenegger) to devise an escape from this incredibly fortified fortress. Yes, it’s all kind of ridiculous, but it looks great and there are some big twists and surprises. Co-stars Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Vinnie Jones, Vincent D’Onofrio and Amy Ryan are all on the same page. This is a manly movie. It’s a testosterone fueled, brawny action thriller, but the audience I saw it with was skewed mature with a majority of women. And there was applause over the end credits. Go figure. Producer Mark Canton was present before the film started but we were told he had a “medical emergency” and would not return for the Q&A. Rumor had it that Canton made a date with two comely women he met in the lobby, invited them to dinner and discovered there was no escape. Now playing.
Robert Redford is at least 77 (I’m assuming he doesn’t lie about his age). This involving movie is a one-man show about a mature man adrift in the open sea with no clear hope of rescue.
The superior GRAVITY is about a lone woman adrift in space. But it had a deeper resonance of something much more than what appeared with such spectacular resonance in 3D on the big screen.
I kept thinking while watching Redford face his fate that this modest budgeted film was meant more as a showpiece or calling card for Redford and writer-director J.C. Chandor than to tell a meaningful story. I admire Redford’s willingness to do many of his own stunts. And I feared for his nameless character. But I didn’t really care that much. And there were times I was tapping my foot waiting to find out how it all ends.
But make no mistake; there are some tense moments in this drama about a lone man lost at sea. And nothing more. It’s not like the superb KON-TIKI where there was something to prove great risk and poignant loss. I hope Redford is nominated for something. He has not lost his ability to hold our attention while he’s on screen. There’s just something about that grizzled, mature face even if the story is not always that absorbing. Now playing.
I had high hopes and great expectations for the reboot of the movie made from Stephen King’s now classic horror novel that was originally directed by Brian De Palma in 1976.
Chloë Grace Moretz is terrific as Carrie. She has a long and bright career ahead of her. She inhabits the repressed, depressed and emotionally abused teen. And Julianne Moore is exceedingly unsettling as Carrie’s religious fanatic mom. Director Kimberly Peirce has nothing special to say that adds anything unique or contemporary to King’s horror classic. In fact this iteration struck me as an almost word for word re-do of the original screenplay. And that with a lesser ending than the original! Blame lazy (?) screenwriter Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa for the few that haven’t seen the original, I will not recount the big beats of the story – and it’s a good story — so you can at least be surprised if you choose to see this nice looking but totally unnecessary remake. Now playing.
NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:
THE DAY KENNEDY DIED
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. That is a fact beyond dispute. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK’s untimely death, a remarkable collection of exclusive footage reconstructs the story as it happened, moment-by-moment.
Kevin Spacey narrates the story of that tragic day through the memories of some of the people who played a part in those extraordinary events – from the journalist who was with the Kennedy family all day to the nurse who checked his vital signs at Parkland Memorial Hospital to the cop who was with Oswald when he was murdered by Jack Ruby. New interviews and striking, rarely seen footage and photos make vivid the emotions and drama of that day. In all fairness, it must be noted that this Smithsonian sanctioned production comes with the imprimatur of the federally funded institute and as expected, there is no deviation from the official government approved scenario of Oswald as the lone shooter. Even a superficial examination of the now massive evidence raises doubts to the notion that Oswald acted alone – if indeed he acted at all. That said, this is a remarkable collection of images, impressions and memories. Smithsonian/Inception Media. DVD.
INTO THE WHITE
This true-life World War II story of rival soldiers who are faced with the challenge of working together in untamed wilderness in order to stay alive offers no big surprises but is nonetheless compelling and memorable. When both German and English fighter planes are shot down, the surviving men encounter each other in the frozen mountainous region of Norway. Taught by their superiors to fight the enemy to the death, the men realize that they must work together if they are to survive. Starring Stig Hoff (THE THING), David Kross (WAR HORSE) and Rupert Grint (HARRY POTTER) as the enemies who discover unexpected friendship amidst a shared struggle. The film has an authentic feel of time and place. Petter Naess directs. Magnolia. Blu-ray.
The screen version of the William Luce play by the same name had its world premiere at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. It was adapted by writer-director Érik Canuel from the 1996 Broadway production from which Christopher Plummer won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in 1997. Plummer, 82, has long had a fascination with legendary actor John Barrymore and it shows. The Village Voice said: “Christopher Plummer re-creates his Tony-winning performance as the charming louse in his booze-addled final days. Blessed with a script that is witty, insightful to the workings of the narcissistic Hollywood psyche, and often wonderfully bitchy, the film is also a wistful look at faded dreams and opportunities lost due to both vagaries of the business and self-sabotage.” RLJ/Entertainment. DVD.