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The Last Stand

Everyone knows anything starring Arnold Schwarzenegger will never be considered high art.  Usually full of explosions, gun-fights and fierce battles many have been huge hits.  A decade after his last leading role he returns to the explosive fray with ‘The Last Stand’. If his extended cameo in last year’s ‘The Expendables 2’ was an appetiser, his latest is surely his main course with an ammo armada sure to satisfy his most ardent fans.

 

Sommerton Junction is a sleepy Arizona town where not much happens.  Its Sheriff, Ray Owens (Arnold Schwarzenegger), tries to maintain a semblance of authority whilst nursing past regrets.  His world is shaken when a fearsome drug baron escapes custody and heads towards his turf.  Aided by FBI agent Bannister (Forest Whitaker) and strange arms collector Lewis (Johnny Knoxville), Owens ensures his latest adversary is greeted with a bullet-fuelled Armageddon.

 

The question fans want to ask is ‘does The Last Stand deliver the goods?’.  The answer is a resounding yes with tons of weaponry put to good use.  There’s never going to be anything substantial in an Arnie movie, although his latest is one of his best of his later career.  He looks a bit grizzled these days but he still ensures his character kicks butt.  Thankfully he is backed by a decent script and support cast happily joining the malarkey.

 

Kim Ji-Woon’s direction is a huge asset as he skilfully handles the action.  Although it’s difficult in making something new from a standard formula, his nod to Western genre staples serves it well.  This is aided by an interesting story focussing on three separate events at once.  This allows the characters to develop with their eventual meeting having more impact.  Each scene logically follows the next with the mix of humour and action just right.

 

Having some depth preventing it from being a standard throwaway escapist flick ‘The Last Stand’ is enjoyable fun.  It’s a pleasure seeing Arnie back doing what he does best with his subsequent projects hopefully mirroring the good quality of his current outrageous adventure.

 

Rating out of 10:  7

Beautiful Creatures

Like most current teenage-skewed films, ‘Beautiful Creatures’ is based on a fantasy book series.  Experiencing a recent genre resurgence it appears anything having a mystical and romantic element is quickly turned into a movie.  Some like the ‘Twilight’ series have made a fortune whilst others have faded from view.  ‘Beautiful Creatures’ gamely attempts to rake in the cash for its producers although it eventually turns into a very bland product.  It has some spark although not enough to break free of the formulaic shackles commercial cinema insists on enforcing.

 

Lena (Alice Englert) is a new arrival in the town of Gatlin.  Hiding a dark secret, she becomes friends with Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich).  An easily bored soul, Ethan is quickly bewitched by Lena’s charms.  Little does he know her magical allure is real as she possesses special powers.  Forced to participate in The Claiming – sending her into the realms of dark or light – their relationship takes a turn none could foresee.

 

‘Beautiful Creatures’ is a production of two halves.  Its first pokes knowing fun at the conventions set by ‘Twilight’ with some deliciously over the top performances.  Unfortunately these are dragged down by a slow second act indulging in the very conventions it initially mocked.  This robs it of its uniqueness with an increasingly complicated back-story ruining the simple premise.  Its’ derivative nature also spoils its coming of age angle further drawing-out events.

 

Despite the disappointing quality distortion, director Richard LaGravenese successfully captures the strange atmosphere enveloping his characters.  Their attempts in escaping the confines of the small religiously-fuelled township effectively reveal the motivations for their actions.  Even if its story plods to a limp conclusion the cast, including Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson, capture the sinister charm of their roles with ease.

 

More fun than most of its type ‘Beautiful Creatures’ ultimately amounts to very little.  Decent CGI and acting can only go so far with its overall generic nature changing it from being a potential innovator to another imitator.

 

Rating out of 10:  6