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Escape Plan: Sylvester & Arnie Join Forces
Following the roaring success of The Expendables and its unnecessary sequel, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger team up for their first ever one-on-one, on-screen matchup in Escape Plan. Directed by Swedish filmmaker, Mikael Hafstrom – the man behind 2007 horror-thriller 1408 and 2005's Derailed – the film, unfortunately, falls short of both its promise and potential.
Ray Breslin (Stallone) is a highly skilful escape artist who specialises in testing the reliability of security systems used in maximum security prisons. As the co-owner of Breslin-Clark, with partner Lester Clark (D'Onofrio), Ray's job entails a few rather unconventional tasks; after gaining access to prisons, he escapes to highlight the security's faults.
His work soon draws attention from the CIA, who are keen to have the expert test a security system in their latest high-tech slammer. The multi-million dollar deal, however, doesn't sit well with Ray's devoted colleagues, Hush (50 Cent) and Abigail (Ryan), who find the whole thing a little suspicious. Despite his partners' hesitations, Ray agrees to the deal and soon finds himself sharing quarters with some of the most dangerous criminals in the world.
Soon after his arrival, and after the meeting with the prison's warden Hobbes (Caviezel), Ray senses that something is wrong; no one seems to know who he is or what he's there to accomplish. Realising that he needs to escape the as soon as possible, Ray befriends Emil Rottmayer (Schwarzenegger) and the duo soon learn that escaping the prison walls is not as easy as they think.
Never ones to shy away from the spotlight, it's surprising to learn that this long-awaited matchup has been in the works for quite some time. Therefore, it's even more surprising that neither actor appears fully connected to their roles. Seemingly set in their ways, both Stallone and Schwarzenegger rely heavily on a repertoire of cheesy one liners and overflowing bravado.
Additionally, almost every scene is shot with extreme close-ups, which proves rather unflattering for the time-worn stars. With very few action scenes, Stallone and Schwarzenegger are given little room to do what they do best. Meanwhile, despite being full of familiar faces, the supporting cast are neglected by the story, instead giving the spotlight to a watered down Sylvester and Arnie.
Escape Plan is filled with recognisable action film traits – but not the good kind. This is a film with a predictable plot, awful dialogue and far too many clichés, whose only potential redeeming features are equally downtrodden.
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.
Chances are that the average moviegoer won’t be all that familiar with Ant-Man – not unless you’re a hardcore Marvel fanatic – but the previous anonymity of miniature-sized superhero who dates back to the 60s, doesn’t prevent it from becoming one of the most entertaining and successful combinations of action and comedy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Directed by Peyton Reed, the story is centered on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd); a skilled cat burglar who is ready to reunite with his young daughter, Cassie (Fortson), and put his life back on track after a stint in prison. However, finding the right line of work for an ex-felon is never easy and Scott is soon reeled back into his old ways by his friend and ex-cellmate, Luis (Peña), who convinces him to break into a San Francisco mansion to steal an old man’s fortune. After a successful break in, Scott finds no money; just motorcycle-type suit and a helmet. Convinced that the job is a total bust, Scott is soon shocked to learn that once he dons the suit and presses a special button, he is reduced to ant-size. Amazed at the discovery, Scott soon comes face-to-face with the suit’s inventor, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who’s looking to find someone with the right set of skills to take over on his invention and help him put a stop to his one-time protégé, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), who has taken over his company and is now getting ready to unleash ‘Yellowjacket’; a special-suit threatening to endanger world order.
Much like last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the humour not only plays a large part of Ant-Man, but serves to be the driving force of the film. Embellished with a bold colour palette, Ant-Man looks fantastic it never becomes overbearing – something that many superhero’s tend to adopt. Written by Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Rudd himself, Ant-man’s screenplay is engaging and smart enough to give the audience the time to get to know and invest in the characters fully.
Speaking of characters, the cast is superb and for those who had doubts that Rudd - yes, the same guy who plays Mike on Friends - could pull it off, will be pleasantly surprised. Sporting an impressive six-pack, Rudd is extremely likable – and flexible – as the eponymous character, while Douglas, as the scene-stealing scientist, is the quiet force of the film.
Playing out as more of a comedy than a straightforward super-hero action, Ant-Man never takes itself too seriously and, even though it’s not as visually grand or as explosive as any of the Avengers films, it is still more than capable of standing on its own. Two (unlikely) thumbs up. How Ant-Man will come to play apart in the wider plot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be interesting to see.