Escape Plan (2013)

ESCAPE PLAN

Ray Breslin (Sylvester Stallone) and his business partner Lester Clark (Vincent D’Onofrio) run a company which tests prisons all across America. Ray is put into various prisons and exposes their weaknesses and escapes, thus helping future prisons to be designed so that they are escape proof. Ray is asked by the CIA to test out a new super max prison. The prison is designed to hold the most dangerous terrorists still waiting to be interrogated by the government.

escape2

Ray agrees to take the job,and within a day is bound and gagged to be transported to the new prison. There Ray meets the sadistic Warden Hobbes (Jim Caviezel), who duly informs Ray that he will not be leaving the prison. Ray is told that someone has paid good money to ensure he never sees the light of day again. Whilst in prison, Ray meets a man called Rottmayer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who tells Ray that Hobbes has been keeping him in prison as Rottmayer has information on the whereabouts of someone who could rock the financial world.

escape3

Together Ray and Rottmayer hatch a plan to escape the prison. Seeking the help of other prisoners and the prison doctor, Dr. Kyrie (Sam Neill), they come up with a way to escape and bring the prison down. There are bit parts for Vinnie Jones who plays a sadistic prison guard, and also Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson who plays a computer tech, looking to help find out where Ray has been taken. The story is not nearly as ingenious as it thinks it is. It has some clever moments, like when Ray escapes the prison at the start of the movie, but for the most part it feels very tame. Arnie is still finding his feet after being out of the acting game for so long, and looks uncomfortable in some scenes. Stallone is also a bit wooden, but it’s Stallone so he gets a pass. Jim Caviezel is wonderfully as the hammy almost camp Warden Hobbes. He delivers his lines with understated menace and seems to be having a blast.

escape4

Folks like 50 Cent and Vincent D’Onofrio feel wasted in the small roles they have, and don’t really have much to do. There is also the obligatory scene in which Arnie holds a massive machine gun, which happens so often it feels like it’s a clause in his contract. The action is so-so, but the setting means there’s not as much as you’d expect when two action titans meet. Overall however it is worth a watch, and is perfect beer and pizza fodder.

3/5

JM

escape1

 

Black Water Vampire (2014)

vamp3

Investigating the crimes of alleged serial killer Raymond Banks (Bill Oberst Jr.), four friends find a lot more than they bargained for. Every ten years, the bodies of lone females have been found butchered, lying in the woods. The man arrested and charged for the murders was Raymond Banks, however Danielle Mason (Danielle Lozeau) believes that he was coerced into making a confession, and that all is not as it seems. Together with 3 others, they head into the woods and down to Black Water Creek to find out what really took place.

vamp2

This film plays out very similar to The Blair Witch Project, the grandaddy of all found footage movies. You have the obligatory banging at the side of the tent, plus the ominous signs being painted on the trees. For the most part this film is reasonable enough. The acting and production values are quite good. However with Blair Witch, it’s strength’s lay in not revealing the hidden menace in the woods.

vamp5

Sadly in Black Water Vampires case, they just can’t resist showing you what is the cause of all the trouble. Which is sadly it’s undoing. I always say that the unknown is scarier, as it lets your mind conjure up something far more terrifying than what is eventually shown. Keeping the monster hidden and just out of focus would have done a lot more for this movie. It would have given it a far more tense feel and could only have been a good thing.

vamp4

Though it’s not for the want of trying. Everyone one of the main cast give it a good go, but it just isn’t enough. The reveal of the vampire is a bit of a let down. It doesn’t make you jump at any time during the movie, and for some strange reason is out in the daylight too. Sadly Black Water Vampire just can’t create the scares it so desperately seeks. The ending does come out of left field but just doesn’t do it. It tries to give the movie a Twin Peaks vibe that doesn’t quite fit. It’s not a terrible movie, but it’s just not that great either. Worth a watch if there is nothing else on.

2/5

JM

vamp1

The General (1998)

general4

Martin Cahill (Brendan Gleeson) was a notorious Dublin criminal who was shot dead in 1994. This movie charts his life from lowly shoplifter, to one of the most prolific armed robbers in Ireland. It opens up with Cahill’s death, and is then played through from his childhood through to his adult life. Martin Cahill is shown to be a very clever criminal, and enormously charismatic. This I feel is down to the talent of Brendan Gleeson, who plays Cahill with a mischievous streak.

general3

Cahill’s nemesis was an inspector called Ned Kenny (Jon Voight). I must say I was a bit unsure at first that an American actor was playing this character, but Voight’s Irish accent is spot on. He dogs Cahill at every turn, leaving Cahill to come up with ever ingenious ways to foil the police. Martin Cahill would always walk around Dublin with his hood up and his face covered by his hand. All of these little traits are employed here by Brendan Gleeson, who really gets into the character.

general2

However this film does leave a bitter taste in my mouth. It has some really funny moments, and the way Martin Cahill used to outwit the police was hilarious. However in the movie he is displayed as a loveable rogue, a Robin Hood type man of the people, which he wasn’t. Yes he used to help some of the less fortunate out, but he was also a violent armed robber, who even tortured his own gang. Biopics such as this can be hard when the main focus is somebody that you wouldn’t have much sympathy for. However I feel the director John Boorman does his best with the material at hand.

general5

The supporting cast such as Adrian Dunbar, Sean McGinley and Maria Doyle Kennedy are brilliant. The acting on whole, is fantastic. So my rating will reflect that. It’s a film I do enjoy watching, but I do feel that Martin Cahill should have been more accurately displayed. Overall however it is worth visiting if you have never seen it.

4/5

JM

general1

 

The ‘Burbs (1989)

burbs1

Ray Peterson (Tom Hanks) is on holiday at home, looking for some peace and quiet. However Ray’s peace is shattered when he and his neighbours realise that nobody as seen Walter (Gale Gordon) since the new family, The Klopeks, moved in. Together with neighbours Lt. Mark Rumsfield (Bruce Dern) a crazed ex solider, and Art Weingartner (Rick Ducommun), they come to the conclusion that foul play is involved. They begin spying on The Klopeks, believing them to be part of a cannibalistic cult.

burbs2

Even though the paranoid trio have it fixed that their neighbours are cannibals, Ray’s wife Carol (Carrie Fisher) and Rumsfield’s wife Bonnie (Wendy Schaal) try to convince them it’s all in their heads. Are the guys paranoid? Or is there something far more sinister at work in the basement of The Klopek’s house?  The Klopeks are played by Henry Gibson who plays Dr. Werner Klopek, Brother Theodore (Uncle Reuben Klopek) and Courtney Gains (Hans Klopek). They all play their parts wonderfully, really creating an atmosphere an menace, which makes you think that Ray and Co. may not be that crazy after all.

burbs3

The final third is wonderfully manic. The director Joe Dante is clearly having a ball and really lets rip. This film was woefully under appreciated upon release. The blend of dark comedy and horror really didn’t sit well with audiences. Which I find odd. I first watched this way back in ’91 and I just loved it. I lived in a cul-de-sac just like Ray and his neighbours do, so the whole premise really resonated with me. Mainly because as a kid I was always overly suspicious of everyone. The set used for the neighbourhood is the same one that was used for Desperate Housewives, so some viewers may find themselves recognizing it.

burbs4

I just adore this film. I make no secret about this. It’s a film that has been in my overall top 10 for years. It’s a film that I never get bored of watching, and one that I feel still holds up to repeated viewings. I find it hard that there is anyone out there who has never seen this film. If there is however, then I strongly urge you to give it a watch. It’s deliciously dark and has some great comedy.

5/5

JM

burbs5

 

The Birdcage (1996)

bird2

Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) is the owner of The Birdcage, one of the hottest clubs on Miami Beach. His partner Albert Goldman (Nathan Lane) is the star attraction of the club. Their lives are thrown into disarray when Armand’s son, Val (Dan Futterman), tells his father that he’s getting married…to a woman! Val is getting married to Barbara Keeley (Calista Flockhart), daughter of Senator Kevin Keeley (Gene Hackman). There is however one problem. Barbara’s parents don’t know Val’s dad is gay, and are already embroiled in a scandal.

bird5

Val decides it would be best to keep Albert offside, whilst Barbara and her parents visit. However when Armand realises that doing that would hurt Albert’s feelings, he decides on a plan b. One that causes all sorts of hilarious mishaps. Together with their overly camp housekeeper Agador (Hank Azaria), they all put a plan together to make sure the meeting goes smoothly.

bird1

I just love this movie. It is a remake of the French movie ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ (1978), which has a very similar set-up. I have never seen the original, but this version is hilarious. Nathan Lane steals the show as Albert. Bringing heart, warmth and humour to what could have been a very one dimensional role in the hands of another actor. Gene Hackman is fantastic as the ‘ultra-conservative’ Senator Keeley. He plays the serious, straight lace stiff to perfection, and you can tell he’s having a blast. Robin Williams is also fabulous as Armand. You can tell he really loves Albert and will do anything to see that he feels accepted by the Keeley family. He really is a joy to behold.

bird3

Hank Azaria is fantastically funny as Agador, trying to play it straight when the Keeley’s arrive. Being that the story is centred around Val and Barbara, both Calista Flockhart and Dan Futterman feel wasted. I don’t know whether that’s down to their characters being badly written, or the fact that they just aren’t very good actors. Both fail to breathe any sort of life into their roles. Like I said, I really enjoy this film, and it never fails to brighten my day. Well worth a watch.

5/5

JM

bird4

Bloody Homecoming (2012)

blood2

A group of freshman students try to attend the homecoming dance, but are turned away by seniors. However it’s all part of the plan of one freshman, Billy Corbin (Jesse Ferraro) who is looking to have sex with another student. However Billy’s plan goes awry when he is locked in a cupboard and tragically killed in a fire. Fast forward three years, and the group of freshman students are now seniors who will be attending their own homecoming dance.

blood4

However the students begin to receive ominous notes that appear to be written in blood. And now a mysterious figure in a fireman’s suit is stalking the halls looking for retribution over the death of Billy Corbin. Now the students are being picked off one by one and must try to survive their ‘Bloody Homecoming’.

blood3

Some films contain acting and script that is so cringe inducing that you laugh whilst watching it, and actually kind of like. Not so here. This film is just plain bad. The acting is the sort that you would see in a school play, just shy of a nod and a wink at the camera. The script is just as bad and only serves in highlighting the banality of the story itself. It’s a ‘slasher’ movie that can’t even get the slasher point right. There were numerous (very bad) attempts at building and generating suspense, which completely backfired. Even the cheap scares that many inferior films use as a crutch, fail to elicit even a mild scream here. None of the characters are in any way sympathetic, and you really feel no connection to them whatsoever. Making their obvious fates seem like a blessing.

blood5

The production values are not too bad on something that is very clearly low budget. However it can’t save what in my opinion is a terrible movie. The actors, whenever on screen, rush their lines, wearing smiles that make it seem like they can’t believe they’re in a movie. They do nothing to draw you in, making the run time of 81mins seem like an eternity. I will mostly refrain from telling people to steer clear of a movie, instead leaving my rating at the bottom as guidance. I prefer that you watch the film yourself, and come to your own conclusions. We all like different things, and this may very well be someone else’s cup of tea. It’s clear what I think of it, so give it a watch guys and drop a comment on your thoughts once you’ve seen it. Look forward to some great discussions.

1/5

JM

blood1

Stir of Echoes (1999)

echo5

Tom Witzky (Kevin Bacon) is a hard working husband who seems to be grinding his way through life. He and his wife Maggie Witzky (Kathryn Erbe) are invited to a party where the sceptical Tom his asked if he would like to be hypnotized. Tom believing hypnotism to be a joke, agrees, thinking nothing will happen. However to his surprise he completely goes under. When he awakes from the hypnotism, he tells his sister in law Lisa (Illeana Douglas) that it worked, that she managed to hypnotise him.

echo4

However something has awoken in Tom. He is seeing things that he doesn’t want to see. Having reoccurring dreams, and some very disturbing visions. He asks Lisa to reverse the hypnotism, to turn it off, but it’s too late. Now Tom must use his new ‘gift’ to solve a crime. One that is a little closer to home than he’d like.

echo2

There is a lot going for this film that I really like. To begin with the story is very intriguing. Based on a novel by Richard Matheson, and written and directed by David Koepp, this really is a supernatural mystery you’ll want to get behind. It was released around the same time as The Sixth Sense and Blair Witch, when all of those types of movies were really getting peoples attention. Sadly Stir of Echoes was lost amongst the bigger names, which is sad as it’s definitely the better movie. Kevin Bacon is fantastic as Tom. Playing the everyman role fabulously and really reacting like you’d imagine someone would in such strange circumstances. The supporting cast are also really good, with a lot of faces you’ll recognise.

echo3

I have never been hypnotised myself, so I can’t say if it actually works. But the premise is played out quite plausibly, and doesn’t seem too far fetched.  There are some cracking scares, and the whole thing is quite creepy. I would definitely suggest giving it a watch if you have never seen it before.

4/5

JM

Echo1