Geoff Cox’s DVD reviews: The Expendables 3, The Congress, Begin Again, Planes 2: Fire & Rescue

The Expendables 3

The Expendables 3

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There’s the usual winning mix of wisecracking banter and mass destruction in the latest instalment of the macho Expendables franchise.

Soldier of fortune Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) retires his ageing crew of mercenaries in favour of youthful hotshots in THE EXPENDABLES 3 (12: Lionsgate).

Their mission is to capture a ruthless arms dealer (Mel Gibson), who also happens to be The Expendables’ co-founder. But when the new kids are captured, it’s “the grey team” (including Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jet Li) who come to the explosive rescue.

As well as the mad combat skills, take-no-prisoners attitude and jokey references to the action heroes’ pasts, there are some dull soul-searching stretches and the climactic duel is lame.

The most epic battle in the series so far errs on the cheesy side, but there are solid additions to the old fogey fight club (Wesley Snipes, Kellan Lutz, Kelsey Grammer and Harrison Ford), with Antonio Banderas making the biggest impression as the over-excitable, too-talkative Galgo.

> The humour is dark and incisive in surreal part-animated drama THE CONGRESS (15: Studio Canal) from Israeli director Ari Folman.

He casts Robin Wright as, erm, Robin Wright, a Hollywood actress whose agent (Harvey Keitel) is convincing her to accept a proposition from an oily film executive (Danny Huston) that would see her give up all rights to her image for two decades.

It’s an especially bold turn by Wright, who bears the brunt of some very harsh dialogue. After she signs up, the film fast-forwards 20 years. Now, on the way to the mysterious ‘Congress’ of the title, she drinks from an ampoule containing an unidentified drug and enters an anarchic, animated version of Hollywood populated by famous faces in caricature.

An entertaining film becomes a lot more wayward at this point, but even though it never quite seals the satirical promise of its first half, it does throw up some dazzling and very amusing ideas.

> Two damaged souls attempt to heal themselves through music in uplifting romantic drama BEGIN AGAIN (15: Entertainment One). Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a washed-up record producer whose glory days are a distant memory. Gretta (Keira Knightley) is a British singer/songwriter heartbroken after splitting up with her boyfriend-cum-recording partner.

Both their lives are changed for the better, however, when Dan witnesses Gretta performing on stage and persuades her to record an album on the streets of New York.

Some of the original songs are pleasant and the cast acquit themselves well. James Corden nabs some laughs as Gretta’s busker friend, while the always excellent Ruffalo delivers plenty of charm.

> Dusty (Dane Cook), the famous racing airplane, learns that his engine is damaged and he must shift gears and find a new career in PLANES 2: FIRE & RESCUE (PG: Walt Disney). He joins an elite corps of firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park.

When a massive fire threatens the park, Dusty, with the help of fearless colleagues Blade Ranger, Dipper, Windlifter, Cabbie and the Smokejumpers, learns what it takes to become a real hero.

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