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.

LOGAN LUCKY

Cert 12A 118mins Stars 3

Having reportedly retired from making feature films in 2012, the director of classic heist movie Ocean’s 11 can’t resist returning for one more criminal caper.

Sadly for Steven Soderbergh as decent as Logan Lucky is, this is in all ways a down market riff on his glossy 2001 George Clooney Las Vegas smash. Though it is far better than the lamentable and self indulgent Ocean sequels.

Channing Tatum and Adam Driver play the good old Logan boys Jimmy and Clyde, whose family it is locally believed are cursed by ill fortune, hence the title.

Jimmy’s ex wife is taking their daughter to another State and he needs money to hire a lawyer to fight for custody. He’s also just unfairly lost his job at the nearby motor racing track, from which he promptly decides to steal a fortune.

He rounds up a crew which includes Daniel Craig. The 007 star is clearly having a blast a tattooed explosive expert.

Riley Keough, Katie Holmes and Katherine Waterston add glamour, romance and some brains.

Written by the fictitious Rebecca Blunt in the quirky comic style of the Coen Brothers, many suspect the writer was really Soderbergh himself, who has previously used the pseudonym Mary Ann Bernard when working as an editor. If it is him then we know who to blame for various script issues.

With the absence of a bad guy and the police generally incompetent, the good guys are more or less pushing at an open door to get the loot. Nor is it always clear if the film is laughing with or at the dim witted desperadoes and townsfolk.

Subplots featuring Seth MacFarlane as a British racing driver and Hilary Swank as a FBI agent should have been cut to give proceedings a much needed sense of urgency. The pace mirrors the drawl of the hillybilly West Virginia characters.

As Logan Lucky failed to make a killing at the US box office, perhaps early retirement wasn’t such a bad idea after all.