FAST & FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS & SHAW: 3 STARS
The "Fast & Furious" movies have gone, in less than twelve instalments, from sublimely silly car chase flicks to simply silly. They get bigger and badder each time out, revving up the action to include international intrigue, crazier stunts, more stars and more pedal-to-the-metal action. This weekend the core franchise splinters off with the majestically titled "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw."
The new film is a showcase for two returning characters, Diplomatic Security Service agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), former British Special Forces assassin-turned-mercenary. But this isn't Butch and Sundance. These guys do not like one another and with good reason. Years before, Hobbs had arrested Shaw, throwing him in prison for the vehicular murder of Han Lue. Since then they have never missed an opportunity to trade blows and witty one-liners.
After cyber-genetically enhanced anarchist Brixton "I am the future of mankind" Lore (Idris Elba) threatens to unleash a bio-hazard — "It'll turn your body into a bag of hot soup." — framing MI6 agent (and Shaw's sister) Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) in the process, the titular enemies reluctantly team up.
At one point Hattie says to Hobbs, "There is nothing subtle about you," and she may as well have been talking about the movie, not the character. "Hobbs & Shaw" is a wild rumpus of a movie. First gun shot and grenade blast happen within the first minute. First casualty and car crash in three minutes. First self-tazing and assault with a champagne bottle within five minutes.
This is the kind of movie you get when you mix and match "The Terminator," a low-key Thanos wannabe — ie: a villain who thinks over population is destroying the world — and some bodybuilding action stars. It's the kind of movie summer was invented for. Loud and proud, its most redeeming feature is that it will play in luxurious air-conditioned theatres on blistering hot days.
It's a bit of fun, a generic movie that succeeds through volume, slapstick action and the charisma of its three leads. The only connection it has to "Fast & Furious," aside from the element of community between outlaws is well represented, is in title only. "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw" is a vehicle for Johnson, Statham and Kirby and by the time The Rock's mother is threatening people with her flip-flop, the movie develops a severe case of the sillies from which it (or the franchise, because, yes, this is set up for a sequel) may never recover.
"Hobbs & Shaw" manages to both rev its engine and spin its wheels, providing some hare-brained action and charming actors but not much else.
DAVID CROSBY: REMEMBER MY NAME: 4 ½ STARS
David Crosby has eight stents in his heart, the most you can have, and a laundry list of famous former colleagues with whom he no longer speaks. "All really dislike me, strongly," he says.
He's a jailbird, a two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, and is still gunning for a third induction, just to make Eric Clapton jealous. He's a guy who says he wants to be loving, but admits to alienating people in his life with a temper he cannot control. He's a prickly pear with the voice of an angel and the subject of "David Crosby: Remember My Name," a new documentary that transcends the usual rock doc career retrospective to create an unflinching portrait of the man one bandmate called "insufferable."
Directed by A.J. Eaton and featuring interviews by Cameron Crowe, who first interviewed Crosby in 1974, the movie hits all the points you expect. From a Hollywood childhood with a cinematographer father who never told his son he loved him, to the heady days of the Laurel Canyon scene that gave birth to The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash (and later Young) to hanging out with The Beatles and being dumped by Joni Mitchell in a song, his early days are amply covered. Fast forward to the darker stuff, heroin addiction ("Addiction takes you over like fire takes over a burning building," he says.), the death of his longtime girlfriend Christine Hinton and a stretch in a Texas prison for drug and weapon charges. All are covered with extraordinary candor by filmmaker and subject alike.
"David Crosby: Remember My Name" never feels like a shill for Crosby or an advertisement for a new record. Although it contains biographical elements and plenty of nicely chosen archival footage, it's not a Ken Burns style historical piece. Instead it's a deeply felt tribute to a man who has left his mark but wants more. Crosby's face brims with emotion as he discusses the past and concern as he talks about the future. "I'm afraid of dying, and I'm close," he says. "I'd like to have more time." It's those moments that separate "Remember My Name" from the average bio. In an era of curated celebrity content the honesty on display here, coupled with some truly great music, is refreshing and fascinating.
TEL AVIV ON FIRE: 3 STARS
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict gets a comic spin in "Tel Aviv on Fire," a playful new farce from director Sameh Zoabi.
The action centres around Salam (Kais Nashif), a Palestinian living in Israel. He's a production assistant on a 1967 set soap opera about the days leading up to the Six-Day War, a job that came courtesy of his producer uncle Bassem (Nadim Sawahlha). Titled "Tel Aviv On Fire," the show stars spy-trainer Marwan (Ashraf Farah) his pupil Tala (Lubna Azabal), who will eventually be good enough to steal military secrets from General Yehuda Edelman (Yousef Sweid).
Salam, who is fluent in Hebrew, works on set correcting the pronunciation of hard to say words on the Palestinian soap opera. When a writing job comes up he jumps at it in an attempt to impress his ex-girlfriend Maryam (Maisa Abd Alhady) even though he has little to no screenwriting talent.
On his way into work one day he meets Captain Assi Tzur (Yaniv Biton), an official at the checkpoint between Ramallah from East Jerusalem. The Captain, a fan of the soap, gives him ideas for the show in exchange for hummus and the guarantee that the series end in Tala and Edelman's wedding. Salam agrees but soon finds himself stuck in the middle between Assi and his producers who want a different ending.
The farcical "Tel Aviv on Fire" works because it is a heightened often absurd story brought to life by terrific performances by the cast. Nashif earned an acting award at the Venice Film Festival but the cast is uniformly strong, able to poke fun at the political posturing inherent in the story without ever losing the humanity at the heart of the story.
"Tel Aviv on Fire" is a rarity, a comedy from the Middle East, and while it is based around a soap opera never falls into the trap of becoming conventional. Instead, it treads on unpredictable ground, using ironic humour to illuminate cultural differences.