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Rush Hour 3

Modern Hollywood seems to deem it essential that franchises have a third entry. Beginning in 1998, the Rush Hour series reaches its own third outing dictated by an assumed contractual obligation.  Given that the second film was released six years ago, it would have been great had the writers taken the time to deliver a knock out new entry.  Rush Hour 3 unfortunately follows the trend of recent trilogies, having a sloppily constructed screenplay whose sole purpose seems to be to round out the franchise.  
Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker), re-unite to bring down an international crime syndicate.  When a friend is shot in an assassination attempt, they learn of a secret list that details its’ members.  Following the trail to Paris, they become involved in a triad gang whose leader has a past connection to Lee.  The cross cultural crime busters attempt to clean the French streets of evil in their own bumbling and action packed manner.
The pairing of Tucker and Asian action star Jackie Chan was one of the series’ pleasures.  While Tucker provided the laughs, Chan dished out his own brand of inventive balletic action.  Toned down for an American audience, Chan’s skills nevertheless shone through showing why he has become an action legend.  Rush Hour 3 sadly sees Chan’s skills underused, while Tucker’s constant screeching wears thin.  The thin script exposes the plot holes serving as a feeble plod through the series’ back catalogue.  Brett Ratner’s limp direction crassly overstates the French clichés, providing the scenery but none of the previous comic book colour.
Chan’s wasted talents are a reflection on the overall film.  Max Von Sydow, Roman Polanski and Maggie Smith are all wasted in pitifully small roles, with only Tucker getting ample screentime.  The threadbare action never generates excitement with the clever showmanship of previous films missing.  Having ‘light relief’ in an action film is all very well, but if there isn’t any action from which to have relief then it’s meaningless.  Very few set pieces linger in the memory, with only Lalo Schifrin’s swanky music providing any interest.
In their rush to provide a third outing, the films producers forgot to provide something worth watching.  The ramshackle screenplay and lifeless action adds nothing new to a series which thankfully seems to be at an end.  Hopefully Jackie Chan can return to making solid action films rather than this homogenised cinematic version of junk food.
Rating out of 10:  1

Stardust

Promoting movies these days takes genuine skill. Selling films that appear to be blockbusters but in reality are megaton bombs is a key to good promotion.  Stardust is one such fantasy film with ads promising the earth but ending up delivering the backyard instead.  Whilst it boasts a great cast, the nightmarish script pinches bits from much better fantasy films without adding any new ingredients.
Divided by a great wall that splits their land, the village of Wall is a party to strange events.  Tristan (Charlie Cox) promises to catch a falling star to prove his love to his girlfriend.  Venturing into the country’s forbidden half, he discovers the star has turned into the female form of Yvaine (Claire Danes). Yvaine’s arrival causes a cavalcade of otherworldly miscreants, including wicked witch Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), to begin the quest to capture her for their own nefarious ends.  With help from the likes of cross dressing pirate Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro), Tristan finds his noble romantic deed has taken on a bizarre epic quest.
Stardust fails as a timeless fantasy by having a confusing narrative over burdened with camp humour.  Mixing elements of Shakespeare’s works and Celtic myths, the script’s unevenness unsuccessfully draws the viewer into its world.  Playing like a poor mans Terry Gilliam fantasy, Stardust never seems to take flight and enjoy the wonder of its’ universe.   The use of contemporary humour drags the film from a fantastical realm into fantastic silliness.  Seemingly having a joke at, and not with the audience, the films messy indulgence hides some potentially intriguing plot angles.
Director Matthew Vaughn handles the swashbuckling action with ease, but neutralises any gains with logic leaps even a fantasy cannot hide. The casting is its’ saving grace.  Michelle Pfeiffer and De Niro camp it up outrageously, almost treating the script with the deserved disdain.  Their amusing scenes liven up the dull story although De Niro in drag may cause some people nightmares.  Charlie Cox as the swashbuckling hero equips himself well, capturing the classic matinee idol role.  The production design provides a pleasing visual feast that distracts from the achingly slow moving screenplay.
Steadfastly remaining unfocused in tone, Stardust’s brew of humour and fantasy conjures up an unpleasant cinematic odyssey for its audience.  Only Pfeiffer’s and De Niro’s fruity performances provide interest in a film that quickly fades away like a burning supernova.
Rating out of 10:  3