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Based on a best-selling novel, After is a painfully melodramatic teen romance. When Tessa Young goes off to college she falls for a cynical loner with a dark past, but her new relationship soon causes a rift between her and her mother; who forces Tessa to choose between them. Newcomer Josephine Langford isn't very good and gives a rather wooden performance. And the script doesn't do anybody any favors, as it's formulaic as all get out and is full of cheesy dialog. Also, the sexual content is pretty tame for a steamy teen sex drama. Incredibly disappointing, After is an uninspired and predictable film with no passion.
Sylvester Stallone takes back the lead role for the third (and likely last) Escape Plan, The Extractors. This time Ray Breslin must break into a black site prison in Latvia know as Devil's Station in order to save the daughter of a Chinese media mogul who's been kidnapped by the son of Beslin's former partner. Devon Sawa makes for a great villain, and the whole son avenging the father thing helps to connect the film to the first one and feel like a true sequel (unlike the last one). Still, the plot is pretty weak and it's clearly pandering to the Chinese audience. Yet the fight choreography is especially good, perhaps the best of this series, and add a lots of energy and excitement to the film. Escape Plan: The Extractors is a step up for the series, but is nowhere near as good as the original.
Full of mystery and intrigue, Escape Room is exciting thriller. When six strangers accept an invitation to participate in an escape room challenge they end up getting more than they bargained for; as the rooms soon turn deadly, changing the challenge into a fight for survival. The production designs for the rooms are incredible, creating really intricate and detailed traps. And the performances are pretty good too. However, the film kind of falls apart in the last act; which starts setting up a sequel and gives an unnecessary peak at the shadow organization behind the escape room. Still, the action scenes are intense and frightening, and the mystery of who the characters are and what has brought them together is compelling. While it has some flaws, Escape Room is a captivating horror film.
Dane Cook delivers the laughs in the screwball comedy Employee of the Month. When a new cashier catches the eye of stock boy Zack Bradley, he attempts to win her favor by winning employee of the month; but to do so he'll have to defeat the current 17 time champion Vince Downey. Cook gives a solid performance, as do his co-stars Jessica Simpson and Dax Shepard. And the comedy is especially well-done, providing some clever and humorous satire about big-box stores. Still, it's a pretty formulaic rom-com, with the usual clichés. Yet while it may lack in originality, Employee of the Month is fun and entertaining.
Elle Fanning stars in Teen Spirit, an indie drama about a young girl who gets the chance to follow her dreams. When a national singing competition holds auditions in a small town on the Isle of White, a teenage waitress named Violet Valenski tries out and partners with a former opera singer who promises to coach her, and get her to the finals. Fanning gives a strong performance and proves to be a pretty good singer too. However, the pacing is a little slow and the plot is bit formulaic, but it does some interesting things with the character development and avoids a few of the more obvious clichés. Also, the soundtrack is really well-done, featuring a good array of pop songs that help to set the right tone. While Teen Spirit has a few problems, it ends up being a rather moving coming-of-age film with something to say.