On the celebrity "cool ladder" it usually goes like this: sports stars want to be film stars and film stars want to be rock stars, but rock stars (the real ones) don't want to be anything else. Rock stars understand that talent wanes and fame shrivels and that it's better to burn out than to fade away. So rock stars just giv'r all the time. (Rap stars are the exception that proves the rule — they all grew up watching Scarface and thus want, "the world, and everything in it.")
Sylvester Stallone (age 67) and Arnold Schwarzenegger (age 66) would have made lousy rock stars, but as senior citizen film icons they're actually still holding it down pretty well. Opening Friday at the Whistler Village 8, Escape Plan is the latest in the "geriaction" genre that's surged lately with flicks like The Last Stand, Bullet to the Head and The Expendables.
This time around Stallone plays a crafty undercover operative who troubleshoots prison security systems for a living. If Houdini and MacGyver were somehow able to simultaneously artificially inseminate a test tube that accidentally got mixed up with Rambo and Rocky's test tube, the result would be this guy.
After agreeing to one last job (it's a set-up) Stallone finds himself stranded in the world's most top secret and inescapable prison with the typically bad-ass warden/guards/prisoners and his only hope of surviving is... Arnold Schwarzenegger! It's a buddy film with the two biggest action stars of my lifetime and despite a lot of cookie cutter plotting Escape Plan is pretty fun. Both these guys are old enough to get free coffee at McDonald's and yet somehow they shit kick and banter their way out of trouble while hitting the right chemistry to make things work.
It's fun, not epic (director Mikael Hafstrom still hasn't mastered the action sequence) but at least the 80s trend of classic Schwarzenegger one-liners is back in full force (with hand gestures now) and that alone is worth the admission price. Arnold's crazed performance (or is he just crazy?) actually carries the film and it all goes to show that Hollywood is definitely a much easier place to be a marginally talented old man than an old woman, regardless of her talent.
Speaking of white hair, The Fifth Estate also opens this weekend (but not in Whistler). No, it is not a feature film about the popular CBC investigative journalism show of the same name, but rather a biopic about Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and his quest for truth and freedom in an age of secret oppression and paternalistic governing. Painted as a dramatic thriller (about an internet site), The Fifth Estate fairly obviously seems to be looking to cash in on a timely issue (government/corporate-transparency) without really giving more than a glossy, if frantic, introduction to what ends up being too much information. Like trying to go through thousands of pages of documents, much of the point of The Fifth Estate gets buried under its own weight. Still, if you're not really sure who Assange is (or more importantly Bradley Manning) and why this sort of stuff is important to the future of journalism and life, then this is as good a jumping in point as any.
Back at the Village 8, the Carrie remake also opens, starring Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass) in the title role and Julianne Moore as the mom. No pre-screenings for this one, but who's kidding who — it's almost Halloween and a bloodier version of one of Stephen King's best books is coming out. If that doesn't get you stoked you're probably getting old.