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Due Date: Two Guys on a Road Trip
Before Judd Apatow changed the landscape of comedy with romps led by lovable man-children, director Todd Phillips was the undisputed king of comedy. During the first half of the 2000s, films like Road Trip, Old School and Starsky & Hutch ruled the box office. While Apatow found success exposing the softer side of male vulnerability, Phillips presented a less apologetic version of prolonged male adolescence. This partially explains the surprising success of 2008’s The Hangover, a film that bought back the frat-pack humour to male-centric comedies.
In Due Date, Phillips brings back his newest muse (the breakout star of The Hangover), Galifianakis, the perfect comedian to carry his character’s loose cannon sensibilities. Galifianakis is a performer that can disarm the most offensives, misogynistic and inconsiderate of jokes, and turn it into a well-intended quip. However, as strong and funny as Galifianakis’ persona is, it needs to be planted in deadpan so that its bizarreness can pop; and that’s why paring him with the slick Downey Jr. is an ingenious casting move.
Right off the bat, Ethan Trembley (Galifianakis) gets Peter Highman (Downey) into trouble. He casually chit-chats with him about terrorists and bombs right before their plane to Los Angeles takes off, and as a result; they both get kicked out and added to the no-fly list. Peter becomes visibly stressed: his wife is giving birth to their first child, and not only is he forbidden from flying; but his wallet with all his cash and identification, is on the plane half-way to LA. Peter is left with no other option but to join Ethan on a cross-country road trip and suffer his nonstop chatter and absurd questions.
Due Date sticks to the road-trip formula and invests all its energy in the jokes. The dialogue is snappy and ridiculous, and Galifianakis keeps throwing one off-kilter nugget after the other. Downey plays the straight man to Galifianakis’ clown; but his character has a stronger backbone than a typical yes-man. At times, he’s a sounding board for Galifianakis; but at others, he bursts in alarming rage to offset the silliness, giving Due Date a balancing sense of urgency.
Not quite the laugh riot like The Hangover, Due Date is an extremely enjoyable and hilarious film, where the stakes are continually raised and the complications ensue at a dangerous rate. The film also gives the two leads charming moments together, where they get to learn more about each other. Due Date is a nice dramatic touch in between the non-stop laughter.
What can you say about the seemingly unstoppable force that is Nicolas Cage that hasn’t been said before? A magnet for the most troubled, muddled and just generally exasperating films to hit cinemas in the last five years, his latest work in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage does nothing to change his fortunes.
Despite being based on one a true story that has all the makings of a war epic, the Mario Van Peebles-directed USS Indianapolis bleeds all and any gravitas and emotion out of its incredibly dramatic source material.
The story goes as thus: the eponymous US Navy cruiser delivered the first parts of the atomic bomb that would go on to devastate Hiroshima, before being torpedoed by the Japanese navy, leaving some 300 of the 1000-plus crewmen dead and the rest stranded in shark-infested waters. Said sharks, along with dehydration and salt water poisoning, leave just over 300 survivors to be rescued.
At the centre of the ensuing hubbub is Cage’s Captain McVay, who many, very unreasonably, blame for the death of the 700 or so victims – so you see, it’s a very complex story, but one that very quickly descend into and exercise on how not to make a war film.
The occasional laughable CGI aside, Cage is oddly sedate, bordering on placid, in his role – yes, the central character is possibly the flattest element of the film, while seasoned actors, Tom Sizemore and Thomas Jane, are given little to chew on in their respective roles.
While starting exactly as one would expect a war film to, the wreckage part of the film turns into cheap disaster movie, before turning into a courtroom drama in the final act. It’s a muddle of a film that fails to really drum to the beat of McVay’s potentially brilliant arc as a firm commander that eventually buckles under the unjust pressure he receives back at home.
Bad CGI, a mammoth two hour-plus running time and Nic Cage can be forgiven, but what’s at the heart of this film’s mess is the script. Jumping from event to event, plotline to plotline, at a whim, with Cage’s soft murmured speech used to pave over the transitions, USS Indianapolis’s pacing is that of a film hurrying to stuff as many ideas and threads as possible – expect that’s not the case. Van Peebles tries so hard to build the layers of an epic, when, actually, all he needed to do was tell this simple but stirring story as it is.
Ludicrous, crass but also undeniably fun,Ted 2 - the sequel to Seth MacFarlane’s successful 2012 comedy, Ted –proves to be a more consistent and better drawn-out affair than its predecessor, even if the jokes – which there never seems to be a shortage of– don’t always land where they’re supposed to.
Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, Ted 2 is once again centred on best-buds and avid stoners, John Bennett (Wahlberg) and his talking teddy bear, Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) who, as it turns out, don’t seem to be living out their happily-ever-afters with the women in their lives. See, John has divorced the love-of-his-life, Lori (Kunis), and Ted, who at the beginning of the film shares his “I Do’s” with his human-bride, Tami-Lynn (Barth), is in constant clashes with his new wife.
Deciding that the best way to reconcile and put an end to all the bickering is to start a family, Ted reaches out to his best-friend for help; a decision which soon proves rather messy. However, Ted’s civil rights are soon called in to question by the government who wish to brand Ted as property as oppose to a living thing, leaving John and Ted with no choice but to turn to the rookie – and pot-loving- lawyer, Samantha (Seyfried) for some legal help in an attempt to prove that Ted is a living being with rights of his own. Hence the tagline ‘Legalise Ted’.
Endless pop-culture references and MacFarlane’s distinct brand of abstract toilet humour is once again the integral part of the story. While the first film lent most of its focus on Wahlberg and his romance with Mila Kunis – the actress was written out of the script due to her pregnancy with husband Ashton Kutcher – Ted 2 shifts the focus onto the talking teddy and his battle to be recognised, essentially, as a human.
The decision to shift proves to be a smart move, although the film does tend to take itself a little too seriously at times; in addition, Wahlberg – whose deadpan delivery is almost always spot on – seems to shine more in his secondary role.
Ted 2 is neither ambitious nor smart and its jokes are often offensive and pretty vulgar. Nevertheless, it’s a fun goofy kind of vulgarity that will ensure more box office success and probably even a third film.