The armoured avenger is back on track in IRON MAN 3 (12: Walt Disney) by returning to basics after the disappointing first sequel.
This adventure, which sees the man-in-the-can hunt for the mastermind behind a series of bombings, boasts impressive CGI action and a substantial and involving story to match.
When a villain known as the Mandarin (a brilliant performance from Ben Kingsley) begins his terror campaign, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is attacked in his Malibu home and feared dead.
He soon realises the Mandarin has ties to Aldrich Killian (a superbly villainous Guy Pearce), a scientist from Stark’s past whose Extremis virus is being used to turn disabled war veterans into invincible super soldiers.
Director Shane Black and co-writer Drew Pearce fill the unpredictable plot with some smart surprises, breezy black humour and a great sense of fun.
And there’s no shortage of visual spectacle, with highlights including a wholesale trashing of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, a breathtaking midair rescue and an explosive dockside climax.
> While there’s no doubting the technical proficiency of FAST & FURIOUS 6 (12: Universal), this street-racing series is showing signs of franchise fatigue.
In the fifth sequel, the cars and cast are transported to an unrecognisably traffic-free London for more tyre-squealing action.
Ex-con Vin Diesel and former cop and new father Paul Walker are tempted to bring their fugitive gang out of retirement for “one last job” when Dwayne Johnson’s federal agent promises them a pardon.
Between deafening set-pieces, ranging from an inventive and witty daylight tank chase on a Spanish motorway to a murky, confusing night-time assault on a hulking Russian cargo plane, the pit-stop banter falls clangingly flat.
Diesel’s low-rumbling platitudes about “family” and “the code” are barely audible, while Welshman Luke Evans’ ex-SAS baddie lacks boo-hiss villainy.
Yet a glimmer of hope is offered in the post-credits tease, which introduces a much better bet for the gang’s adversary in part seven.
> The Hangover’s screenwriters directed tiresome gross-out romp 21 & OVER (15: Momentum), in which there’s an eerie absence of funny lines and ideas.
This post-teen comedy plays a bit like Harold & Kumar and the depressing American Pie sequels, without the gags.
Miles Teller has the Seann William Scott role of the wisecracking party animal who coerces his more strait-laced buddy Casey (Skylar Astin) and their mutual friend Jeff Chang (Justin Chon) into an ill-advised night on the town.
The plan is to celebrate Jeff’s 21st birthday – and his official drinking age – despite the fact that Jeff’s crucial med exam is the next morning.
What could possibly go wrong?
Racial stereotype gags about Asians being super-overachievers are misjudged, though probably not more so than anything else in the movie.
Co-directors Scott Moore and Jon Lucas have substantial writing credits under their belts, but this dire campus comedy resembles an early script that they’ve dusted off.