BAD BOYS FOR LIFE

Cert 15 Stars 3

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence return in tandem in this long awaited and disposable action comedy sequel, a violent crime caper which trades heavily on their amiable chemistry and delivers a macho workout of shoot-outs and car chases, but is absolutely abstemious in portraying any sexual activity.

Age can’t diminish Smith’s charismatic swagger, and if you missed Lawrence’s unique brand of tomfoolery, then you’ll be entertained by his performance here, after some years away from the big time.

As Miami cops they’re hunted by a Mexican cartel intent on revenge for the sins of a violent career, a story which leans into the current US political climate with its tales of feckless African-American youths and promiscuous Mexican women with the power of witchcraft.

With Mexico presented as a shanty town of corruption and exporter of terror, drugs and violence to the States, a modicum of balance is offered by the cop’s young, diverse and insanely attractive hi-tech support team, lead by Mexican actress Paola Nunez, and including Vanessa Hudgens and Alexander Ludwig.

Toning down the leering camerawork of the 2005 and 1993 instalments to favour drooling over expensive cars rather than bikini-clad women, Belgian directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah retain the slick, glossy, sun-kissed and hectic style pioneered by original director, Michael Bay, who is on hand to make an indulgent cameo.

Everything is photographed to make a reasonable budget look as if an extravagant amount of money has been spent, however the explosive set-pieces are noticeably smaller than the rival Fast Furious franchise, whose homilies about the nobility and prominence are ripped off by a workaday script.

And unlike the Mission Impossible franchise, the editing and cinematography seem designed to convince none of the actors are doing their own stunts.

With his name on the production titles at the film’s beginning, ahead of his credit on Tom Cruise’s upcoming Top Gun: Maverick, producer Don Simpson is having a banner year – an impressive achievement considering he’s been dead since 1996.

STUBER

Cert 15 93mins Stars 3

Cops and cars cause chaos in this middle of the road mismatched buddy action comedy which never goes full throttle.

Marvel action star Dave Bautista stars as a rule breaking LAPD detective who commandeers Kumail Nanjiani’s Uber taxi to chase down bad guys.

Near blind after eye surgery, the cop is determined to catch the drug dealer who killed his partner, and his obsessive behaviour threatens to thwart the driver’s romantic plans for the evening.

The stars work hard to generate sufficient comedy friction to power the workaday plot, with their banter punctuated by blood-splatting shoot-outs and hard punching fistfights.

Easily the best scene is a shoot-out in an animal hospital where bullets fly to the sound of The Hollies pop song, The Air That I Breathe.

It’s generally not a great advert for LA’s taxi drivers or its police as the pair leave a path of property damage and death in their wake, however there’s a surprising lack of car chases as Nanjiani’s electric car isn’t up to haring around at 100mph in the manner of Steve McQueen in 1968’s car chase classic thriller, Bullit.

Instead the script uses the duo’s generational culture gap to comment on changing ideas of masculinity, while also playfully mocking the conventions of action movies.

A strip club is full of male dancers, which would never have happened to Mel Gibson or Sly Stallone in their all-action heyday.

As Bautista channels old fashioned angry machismo, Nanjiani provides mild mannered metropolitan sensitivity, and both are unable to express their feelings to the women in their lives.

Indonesian action star Iko Uwais, gets to show off some of his intense stunt skills, and Bautista’s co-star Scottish co-star from the Guardians of the Galaxy films, Karen Gillan, appears all too briefly. I wish she’d been allowed to stick around and kick this into a higher gear.

 

SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME

Cert 12A 129mins Stars 4

You won’t believe what you’re seeing in this comic book action adventure as Spider-man hits the high spots in a deliciously deceptive head-spinning romp.

A direct sequel to blockbuster smash, Avengers: Endgame, this is a mischievous mix of sweet high school romcom, fun teenage spy caper and exciting superhero CGI spectacular.

Peter Parker is in romantic pursuit of classmate MJ, on their school’s European vacation, when his costumed alter-ego Spider-man learns heroes don’t get holidays. 

Grumpy secret agent Nick Fury teams Spider-man with superhero Mysterio, which will be a surprise to long-time Spidey fans as Mysterio is one of the web-swinger’s best known arch-villains.

But re-inventing Mysterio as a dimension-hopping hero with a tragic past makes him a more interesting character while also tying this version of Spider-man into last year’s animated Multi-verse adventure.

Parker identifies Mysterio as the man to replace Iron Man as his mentor, and they set about battling the Elementals, extra-dimensional giants with power over air, earth, wind and fire.

Returning with a winning chemistry as Peter Parker and MJ, Brit actor Tom Holland and pop star Zendaya are the beating heart of the film, with her self-contained charisma making MJ the best superhero squeeze since Margot Kidder’s Lois Lane, in 1978’s Superman.

And they’re reunited with the key young cast members of Spider-man: Homecoming, and Marvel fan favourites such as Samuel L. Jackson, Jon Favreau and Marisa Tomei reprise their roles as the adult guardians.

Indie movie star Jake Gyllenhaal brings his unique brand of loopy intensity to Mysterio, and while he often gives the impression of a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders, it’s a useful quality to have when playing a guy trying to save the planet.

Having Parker unveil various old and new Spider-suits is part of a stream of call-backs to previous films, which will have fans cooing in delight.

Plus a pair of fat-rimmed hi-tech spectacles are a knowing wink to Michael Caine’s 1960’s spy, Harry Palmer, and neatly magnify the script’s central concerns.

While the film wears the frothy air of an espionage caper, the tone disguises some very serious thoughts about fake news and multi-media manipulation, while reminding us Parker was employed in other incarnations as a photojournalist.

From dealing with the fallout of Endgame to deciphering what Marvel has in store for Spider-man, there’s a lot to uncover in this, and one of the best secrets is kept until after the credits, so make sure you stay until the absolute end.

OCEAN’S 8

Cert 12A 110mins Stars 4

Be dazzled by a sparkling mix of high crime and haute couture in this hugely enjoyable diamond heist caper.

Sandra Bullock stars in this all female spinoff sequel to the super-successful Ocean’s 11 trilogy, which began way back in 2001.

It featured George Clooney as crook, Danny Ocean, who is supposedly now dead, and now the The Gravity star plays Debbie, his con-artist sister.

Leaving prison on parole after five years inside, she cuts a strikingly strong, sexy and smart figure as she promptly blags her way into an expensive hotel suite with plans for an audacious, risky and hugely profitable con.

Hooking up with former partner-in-crime, Cate Blanchett, they put together a multi-ethnic team of women which includes Mindy Kaling, Sarah Paulson, and Awkwafina.

Helena Bonham Carter is entertainingly distracted as a fashion designer roped in to help, and popstar Rihanna is confident and surprisingly good as the teams technical genius.

It’s fun to hang out with the all-girl gang who have a convincing and easy going chemistry, and each of them is given their moment to shine in the spotlight and demonstrate their varied skills.

Dressed in a series of fabulous outfits, they plan to steal a $150 million necklace from an exclusive fundraising Gala in New York while it’s been worn by a famous actress, played with comic vacuity by Anne Hathaway. Though not everyone knows there is more than one con being played, which raises the stakes for all concerned. 

Cameos by worthies such as Vogue supremo, Anna Wintour, and tennis player, Serena Williams, are thankfully kept to a minimum. And not even the late arrival of James Corden to the party can spoil the fun.

This is a slick and highly polished good time, and is all the better for feeling as if it smells of expensive perfume rather than the men’s locker room.

SHOW DOGS

Cert PG 92mins Stars 3

Enjoy a parade of pampered pooches in this canine crime caper which has a doggy style all of its own.

A New York police department rottweiler teams up with a human FBI agent to go undercover as contestants a Las Vegas dog beauty pageant.

They’re trying to unmask an international animal smuggling ring and rescue a super cute panda cub called Ling-li.

In debt to Tom Hanks’ 1989 Turner and Hooch, but now the animals can talk, courtesy of the voice of rapper, Ludacris, as Max the rottweiler, along with RuPaul and Shaquille O’Neal as fellow contestants.

Best known as the voice of Lego Batman, Will Arnett plays Max’s sidekick, but he’s a far less dynamic crimefighter here.

Raja Gosnell is Hollywood’s top dog for mutt movies having previously directed two live action Scooby Doo movies and 2008’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua.

He embraces the barking mad premise with a straight face, and dog fanciers will fall in puppy love with it.

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

Cert 15 141mins Stars 1

If I hadn’t been so bored watching this cut-price James Bond rip off I would have hated it more.

It’s a horrible bully of a film which insists if you don’t laugh at it’s snobbish, boorish and misogynist humour, you’re the one at fault.

An over long sequel to 2015’s questionable espionage caper, it aims for bigger and brasher which only magnifies its many faults.

Having saved the world last time out Taron Egerton is back with his unconvincing cockney accent as Eggsy. He’s now a fully fledged operative of the secret Kingsman organisation, who are sworn to protect the power of the privileged and wealth .

Eggsy’s pompous mentor Harry Hart was supposedly killed off in the first film, and we have to suffer a laborious explanation for the return of Colin Firth’s brolly wielding agent.

An aristocrat who enjoys lecturing the working class on good manners while beating them up, Hart is incomprehensibly positioned as an aspirational figure.

Star names are roped in to pad out the cast list but poor Channing Tatum and Jeff Bridges are immediately sidelined.

Meanwhile Hanna Alstrom is once again on the bum end of a gag as Princess Tilde, model turned actress Poppy Delevingne is assaulted in a Glastonbury tent, and singer Elton John appears as himself.

Only Julianne Moore as a megalomanic drug dealer holding world to ransom survives with any credit.

The series comic book origins are evident in the wacky building design, casual attitude to mass destruction, paper thin characters and the absence of gravity from action scenes.

Scrabbling around for jokes and ideas, the script borrows from superhero films and Indiana Jones. It proudly lifts a joke from Carry On up the Khyber, which was amusing back in 1968.

Writers Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman find swearing incurably funny and take juvenile delight in their misjudged attempts to be outrageous. There’s no cinematic gold here, only a circle of fools.

THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME

Cert 15 117mins Stars 2

This disappointing female buddy espionage caper has a couple of half-decent action scenes but is firing blanks whenever it aims at comedy.

Bad Mums star, Mila Kunis, has charm to spare as a hapless thirty year old singleton whose secret agent ex-boyfriend persuades her to deliver a computer drive containing terrorist information to a contact in Europe.

Chased by the CIA, MI6, various gangsters and a Russian gymnast-turned-assassin, she endures a series of shoot outs and car chases along a predictable route of European capital cities.

Unfortunately the intensely irritating Kate McKinnon tags along as her sidekick, and the Ghostbusters reboot actress deploys her ineffective improv repertoire of silly accents and gurning faces.

Dumping her entirely wouldn’t affect the plot, would speed up the film and make for a more entertaining experience.

The X-Files’ Gillian Anderson is dleiciously deadpan in a glorified cameo and demonstrates when it comes to being funny, less can be a great deal more.