Tag Archives: arnold schwarzenegger

Review: ‘Aftermath’

dfn-aftermath-300It may be cinematic sacrilege to say, but I much prefer the introspective, human Arnold Schwarzenegger over the Terminator one. With films like Maggie (2015) and now Aftermath, the iconic actor seems to be reconciling himself with the march of time and its gentler view on growing older and wiser.

Based on a true story about the mid-air collision of two planes over Germany in the early 2000’s, Elliot Lester’s film proceeds to observe the paths of two disparate men connected by the event, a father who loses loved ones on the flight (played by Schwarzenegger) and the air traffic controller (Scoot McNairy) on duty.

Beginning with Schwarzenegger, Aftermath follows him up until the point he reaches the airport to pick up his family before he’s gently whisked away into the office corridors and given the horrific news. The film then reverts back to McNairy and details his actions that night in a breathlessly staged scene that details exactly how the collision happened.

From there, Aftermath focuses on the compounding sadness and confusion both men harbor. As the grieving father, Schwarzenegger holds in most of the pain, portraying his sadness through subtle body language. His hulking frame slowly crumbles and hunches under the weight. It’s a good performance, but more integral to the film is McNairy’s role as Jake. He certainly gets the showier scenes, but the progression of emotions he displays makes for a far more compelling study of blame and guilt than anything else in the film.

Written by Javier Gullon and directed by Lester, Aftermath is a sturdy, efficient drama bolstered by two solid performances. Even if one senses where the film is headed about halfway through with the introduction of a plot device that always spells disaster in the third act, Aftermath wisely deals in the grey. Neither Schwarzenegger nor McNairy are demonized or moralized. They simply act and react with purposeful drive.

Though some elements of this story have been changed for dramatic purpose, the most interesting detail of this entire event lies in the real life aftermath. Vitaly Kaloyev (named Roman in the film and played by Schwarzenegger) became re-installed in Russian life and hailed as a hero for his actions. Lester’s film places Roman at an equally knotty moral crossroad and then, also, lets him off the hook. Unfortunately, the cycle of grief and retribution will most likely continue in future generations. That alone is the most mordant point of the story.

Aftermath opens in the Dallas/Fort Worth area on Friday, April 7 at the AMC Mesquite 30. It also begins on VOD platforms the same day.

Review: ‘Terminator Genisys’

'Terminator Genisys'
‘Terminator Genisys’
A curiously lumpen yet assaultive adventure, Terminator: Genisys is a collection of climactic moments laid end to end, in the feverish hope that they will add up to something.

They do not.

It’s a very loud movie, with nearly every, wearingly familiar action sequence crying out for attention as though it were something special. Alan Taylor, who directed several dozen episodes of often acclaimed television shows before making his feature debut with Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World in 2012, helms the movie as though it were a double-length, “very special” episode of Game of Thrones (one of the shows he directed), the historical fantasy tropes replaced with time travel obfuscation.

Emilia Clarke, another hardy Game of Thrones veteran, looks splendid in her many action poses as Sarah Connor, a redoubtable heroine whose characterization here falls somewhere in the cracks between the first two movies in the franchise, in that distant era before sequels were viewed more as stepping stones to additional installments in a never-ending series. Clarke, however, is stuck for much of the movie between Jai Courtney and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former a good-looking, well-muscled, rather empty cypher as Sarah’s would-be savior/lover Kyle Reese, and the latter an older but no less sturdy and lethal Terminator who is programmed to protect Sarah at all costs.

The screenplay, credited to Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island) and Patrick Lussier (Drive Angry), struggles mightily to devise a new scenario in which the key franchise properties may co-exist, and decides to toss out the third and fourth installments, which is no great loss. The story begins in 2037, with the defeat of the planet-wide network of self-aware, intelligent machines known as Skynet. The battle has been led by John Conner (Jason Clarke), but at the moment of triumph, he realizes that Skynet has used its trump card, a time-travel device that sends a Terminator back to 1984 so it can kill John’s mother, Sarah. John has served as mentor to Kyle Reese, and so Kyle is chosen to chase through time after the Terminator and protect Sarah.

Obeisance is paid to James Cameron’s original film as well as the first sequel, in the person of a very dedicated T-1000 (Byung-hun Lee), before the plot begins to diverge and new, overlapping strands emerge, taking convenient advantage of time-travel loopholes and character twists to push the film forward.

Watching Terminator Genisys is an exhausting experience. The rat-a-tat action sequences have no rhyme or reason to them, and they are framed and edited in the outdated modern style, in which motion is prized over coherence. The desperate attempt to recast Schwarzenegger’s Terminator as an even more sympathetic machine — Sarah calls him “Pops,” just because — becomes more cloying as the narrative fizzles out, especially due to the absence of chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Jai Courtney. Jason Clarke is stuck with a thankless role; J.K. Simmons shows up as a cop, for reasons that are never apparent.

Emilia Clarke probably fares best out of the whole mess, constantly giving hope that the movie will rise above its routine intentions, while Schwarzenegger does exactly what’s expected of him: act like a machine, move well, and crisply deliver his lines. The movie as a whole delivers a similar, minimum load of interest and excitement.

The film will have advance preview screenings at select theaters this evening before opening wide across Dallas on Wednesday, July 1.

Review: ‘Maggie’

'Maggie' (Roadside Attraction)
‘Maggie’ (Roadside Attraction)
The zombie film has undergone so many reboots, iterations and dismantling that it takes something particularly unique to resonate.

In Henry Hobson’s debut film Maggie, that something is Arnold Schwarzenegger in a supporting role as a father struggling to maintain the serenity of ordinary home life as the zombie infection spreads around them. Despite the big name, the film is far removed from the idea of stunt casting. Yes, Schwarzenegger might draw more people to this than someone else, but Maggie works (and actually excels) because it’s a mournful, contemplative effort that denies the easy route of extraneous violence and typical zombie gore and emphasizes the pervasive sadness of losing touch with one’s humanity.

Essentially a father-daughter indie drama with the apocalypse as their backdrop, Maggie wastes little time in establishing any residual history of just how the plague began. Via snippets of radio transmission, we learn of some virus sweeping the world in which people experience “the turn” and become hungry for human flesh. Crops are ordered to be burned and anyone harboring an infected person outside of certain quarantine zones could be liable for punishment.

In this confused haze, Wade (Schwarzenegger) stumbles through a quarantine ward searching for his infected daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) after she ran away from home and was eventually found in urban Kansas City, wandering the streets homeless and scavenging for food. Given preferential treatment by his good friend Dr. Vern (Jodi Moore), Wade is allowed to take his daughter home and care for her until it’s time she be brought to a quarantine.

The logic here is that infection ranges from two to eight weeks, with symptoms and signs already clearly established, which allows authorities and clinical physicians a certain set of guidelines to act within. Body parts begin to decay, eyes turn a milky white and the infected maintains their personalty, feelings and reasons of deduction right up until the end and “the turn.” It’s a frightening and potent parable, much like the recently released It Follows, which attributes old school horror film specifications onto the damned youth of modern day America.

From there, Maggie becomes a slow-burn, sad waiting game. The local police (J.D. Evermore and Douglas Griffin) continually provide paranoia through their random “check-ups” on the farm. Step mother Caroline (Joely Richardson) doesn’t understand how to react and Wade continually evaluates the possibilities of how he’ll handle the end when it comes. There are no great infected horde homestead battles, just small, intimate ruminations that feel as oppressive and grand as any melee scenarios on the hugely successful The Walking Dead series.

As Maggie, Abigail Breslin does a touching job, striking the right amount of teenage awkwardness within her impossible situation, even still calling up an old boyfriend and hesitating when the answering machine clicks on, scared and unsure of exactly what to say. Likewise, Schwarzenegger, hidden behind a scruffy beard and weathered face, gives a solemn performance. If not for his unmistakable voice, one might not even recognize the former action star beneath his measured gait and quiet eyes that carefully watch and observe every twitch of his daughter as she descends into the clutches of the infection.

Filmmaker Hobsen, based on a script by John Scott 3, crafts poetic mood and tempo throughout. Even though the low budget touchstones are there, Maggie never feels burdened by them. And because the film chooses to magnify the inner turmoil of the zombie apocalypse, it’s fitting that we’re given only three or four settings and a handful of characters to tighten our focus.

After all, George A. Romero’s original vision in the film that started it all, Night of the Living Dead, was ultimately a subversive, independent treatise on racial inequality of the day. It’s only fitting that Maggie extends the incubation period for what feels like an agonizing amount of time to allow for lots of hand-wringing and emotional stasis in which we’re forced to observe a loved one waste away in front of our eyes. Apply any current sickness to that equation and, like Romero, the film has a lot on its subversive mind.

The film will open in limited release at the AMC Grapevine Mills and Look Cinemas in Dallas on Friday, May 8, as well as Video on Demand the same date.

Review: ‘Escape Plan’ Arrives 20 Years Past Its Expiration Date

Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in 'Escape Plan' (Summit)
Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in ‘Escape Plan’ (Summit)
Arriving two decades past its expiration date, Escape Plan would like everyone to drink the spoiled milk and forget that Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are now senior citiens.

Eschewing jokes about their respective ages — officially, Stallone is 67 years of age and Schwarzenegger is 66 — and pretending that the actors are in peak physical form, the film blithely posits that they are muscle men locked up in a maximum security prison, location unknown, for reasons unknown. Stallone has spent the past seven years testing the federal prison system, allowing himself to be incarcerated, and then attempting to escape. It seems he has been successful every time, enabling the private security firm he co-founded to charge $2.5 million for a job that may last several months.

But now somebody wants him locked up forever, so he has to break out to find out!

Escape Plan cries out for a tagline like that, best intoned by a baritone voice that rumbles like thunder. To go by the evidence on screen, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger appear to be years younger than what they are — no fair cutting open their bodies to count the rings on their intestines — so the willful wish fulfillment that the two biggest action stars of the 80s and early 90s has a basis in a faux-reality that is achieved by tasteful makeup and, especially, very kind lighting and glamour photography by Brendan Galvin (Mirror Mirror, Immortals).

Mikael Håfström, a once-promising talent from Sweden (2003’s Evil, 2004’s Drowning Ghost) who has shown flashes of inspiration in English-language genre fare such as Derailed, 1408, and The Rite, seems to have been defeated by the lackluster material cooked up in the screenplay, which is credited to Miles Chapman and Jason Keller. The structure is sturdy enough, but the dialogue is noticeably absent the wisecracks needed to leaven the potential burden of a prison that is meant for individuals deemed dangerous to the U.S. government. Stallone and Schwarzenegger speak their lines with a comic rhythm that is all set-up and no pay-off; too often they deliver a rejoinder that falls completely flat.

A pervasive sense of torpor envelops the film. In part, that’s because it should have been set in the 1980s, which would have allowed those concerned about Stallone’s character to prowl around the outwide world, rattling cages — or, at least, expend some shoe leather — tracking down answers to how their boss and friend has disappeared entirely. Instead, the modern-day setting requires that the extremely capable Amy Ryan, and also the less capable but game Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson sit in front of computer screens and type.

Within the prison, the production had the good sense to hire Jim Caviezel and Sam Neill to play the sadistic prison warden and sympathetic doctor, respectively. Yet the two extremely talented actors are given nothing interesting to do; the warden must not be too evil and the doctor must not be too kind, for reasons that are never explained. This “creative” decision drain whatever possibility of drama might have been drummed up if they were allowed to display a wider range of emotion.

At various points of their careers, Stallone and Schwarzenegger have been perfectly willing to make fun of their most famous personas. Here they play it (almost) absolutely straight, as though they were still younger men who did not need to be doubled in every scene involving a fight and/or any type of strenuous physical activity. Their spirit is willing but their flesh is weak, which is exactly what we would expect from anyone their age.

There is no shame in growing old, and why Escape Plan pulls the wool over its own eyes is mystifying. Let us celebrate the wrinkles and the liver spots and the gray hair, and allow senior citizens to kick ass with their brains rather than their brawn. And let us especially leave behind tired action movies that pretend to be something they are not.

The film opens wide across the Metroplex on Friday, October 18.