Film Friday: ‘Fast Five’ and ‘Prom’

by W. Andrew Powell

Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Vin Diesel in Fast Five

Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Vin Diesel in Fast Five

Opening in theatres this week: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster take driving to extremes in the action extravaganza Fast Five; a group of teenagers deal with the drama of their last high school dance in Prom; plus a look at the animated sequel, Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil.

Fast Five [IMAX]
Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris
Director: Justin Lin

The Fast and the Furious franchise has been anything but what you would call an action masterpiece, but it has been popular enough to keep the fan interested, the actors paid, and the sequels coming one after another. The surprise this time out is that somehow director Justin Lin finally got the formula right with the first critically well-received release since the original.

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker star once again as Dominic and Brian, the ex-con and ex-cop duo who are on the run with Mia, played by Jordana Brewster. With no where else to go, the three outlaws have escaped to Rio de Janeiro where they’re aiming to pull off one last job that could earn them their freedom.

Working with a team of drivers, their goal is to take down the man who wants to kill them, and at the same time they have to elude the agent who is chasing them from one end of the country to the other. Racing across Brazil, Dom and Brian will have the fight of their lives to stay out of the reach of the agent’s task force that is chasing hot on their tails while they work to finish this last, epic job that could finally change their lives.

Lin is of course not new to the Fast and the Furious, he’s helped drive the franchise into the ground with two of the worst reviewed films in the series, Fast & Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. Somehow though, he and screenwriter Chris Morgan have turned things around for Fast Five, and the critics have been honest about how amazed they were with the results.

“Defying laws of physics, laws of acting, and the law of diminishing returns,” wrote Steven Rea for the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Fast Five delivers a ridiculously fun mix of motorized macho mayhem and multicultural bonding.”

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone was also impressed with the results, like many other critics, writing in his review, “Fast Five will push all your action buttons, and some you haven’t thought of. So what if you hate yourself in the morning.”

Starring: Aimee Teegarden, Thomas McDonell, Siu Yin Chang, De’Vaughn Nixon, Kylie Bunbury, Raini Rodriguez
Director: Joe Nussbaum

In the latest teen-drama from Walt Disney Pictures, a group of beautiful high school kids are headed to their prom and it promises to be an interesting night of emotions, laughs and tears as people come together and break apart.

Aimee Teegarden stars as Nova, a girl who wants the perfect prom, but she’s having a hard time dealing with Jesse, played by Thomas McDonell, who keeps getting in the way–a guy she also realizes she has a crush on. At the same time, Mei and Tyler, played by Yin Chang and De’Vaughn Nixon, have secrets, and everyone else is fighting with their issues, hopes, dreams and insecurities for the big night as they all try to make it memorable.

From Sleepover director Joe Nussbaum, who oddly enough also directed American Pie Presents The Naked Mile and the well-known short, George Lucas in Love, Prom has failed to earn praise from reviewers, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to pull in teens in droves this weekend.

As Tom Horgen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote, “Prom is pure bubble gum, from its shiny wrapping to its mushy insides to its fleeting aftertaste. And sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with chewing bubble gum.”

While Linda Barnard of the Toronto Star commented, “The cast is likeable enough, although nobody is called upon to do much more than look elated or crushed, depending on the circumstances.”

Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil
Starring: Hayden Panettiere, Patrick Warburton, Joan Cusack, David Ogden Stiers, Glenn Close, Cory Edwards, Bill Hader
Director: Mike Disa

Lastly there’s Hoodwinked Too: Hood vs. Evil, the least anticipated sequel of the season, and a film with the kind of reviews that suggest it should have gone straight to DVD.

In this animated sequel, Red, voiced by Hayden Panettiere, is training with the group known as the Sisters of the Hood, but she has to finish her training early when a wicked witch, voiced by Joan Cusack, abducts Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler). With the help of Granny, voiced by Glenn Close, the Wolf (Patrick Warburton), and the rest of the gang, Red will have to embark on another caper to save the kids from the clutches of the evil witch.

Michelle Orange of the Village Voice called the sequel, “One of the more depressing, desensitizing experiences I’ve had in a theater,” adding that the film “feels as computer-generated as its creepy, talking-ceramic-toy style of animation.

And Todd McCarthy of Hollywood Reporter wrote, “Hoodwinked is the way audiences will feel after this mercenary sequel.”

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