Film » Film Clips

Capsule reviews of films playing the week of April 29

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FAST & FURIOUS The best part of Fast & Furious is its tagline – "New Model. Original Parts." – which means that the studio wonk who created it deserves the big bucks more than anybody who actually appears in the film. It's a catchy line because it advertises the fact that all four stars of 2001's The Fast and the Furious – Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster – have reunited for this fourth entry in the series. Unfortunately, this is one star vehicle that seems permanently stuck in "reverse." The best performer of the quartet, Rodriguez, disappears from the proceedings fairly early, as director Justin Lin and writer Chris Morgan apparently decided to make this even more of a Toys for Boys romp than its predecessors – Brewster's character is, as before, an utter stiff, while the other women (occasionally seen making out with each other) are merely decorative props. That leaves more time for Diesel (as outlaw hot-rodder Dominic Toretto) and Walker (as lawman hot-rodder Brian O'Conner) to engage in competitive bouts of piston envy, each trying to prove to the other that only he has a crankshaft large enough to take down the drug kingpin responsible for the murder of a close friend. The opening vehicular set-piece is a doozy, but subsequent racing sequences resemble nothing more than video game sessions. Diesel tries to recapture the brooding brand of charisma that made him a star, but he seems to be losing his grip on that elusive quality. As for Walker, he's more boring than ever: His acting is so somnambular that even his car's steering wheel stands a better chance at grabbing an Oscar nomination. **

THE GOLDEN BOYS Between them, David Carradine, Rip Torn and Bruce Dern have racked up 147 years of screen time, and The Golden Boys capitalizes on that vast pool of experience by allowing these veteran performers full rein to work their movie mojo. It's impossible to recommend this piffle to anyone who doesn't possess an ounce of interest in these accomplished thespians or the filmic heritage from which they draw, but seniors and cinema buffs might derive some modest measure of pleasure from the end result. Working from a 1904 novel by Joseph C. Lincoln titled Cap'n Eri: A Story of the Coast, this centers on three septuagenerian sea captains sharing a Cape Cod home. Deciding that they need a woman to look after them – but unwilling to pay for a housekeeper – the crusty trio decides that one of them must immediately find a wife. Captain Zeb (Carradine) and Captain Perez (Dern) are let off the hook when Captain Jerry (Torn) loses the coin toss, but once the chosen woman – the sensible, middle-aged Martha (Mariel Hemingway) – enters their lives, the other two men find themselves captivated by her charm and intelligence. Charles Durning, looking shockingly frail at 86, turns up as a God-fearing man who believes actions speak louder than words, while John Savage, the spring chicken among the males at the age of 59, appears as a city slicker who wants to introduce (gasp!) rum to this quiet community. Other characters flutter in and out of the story, but really, all that matters here is the triumvirate heading the cast. These three vets are a delight to watch, even if the movie around them remains soggy. **1/2

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD John Malkovich's greatest performance will probably always remain his turn as, well, John Malkovich in Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, but that's not to say this versatile actor isn't always adding memorable bits to an increasingly impressive portfolio. Thanks to writer-director Sean McGinly, Malkovich triumphs again, this time portraying the title role in The Great Buck Howard. A slight yet satisfying show-biz tale that occasionally recalls such similar works as Broadway Danny Rose and My Favorite Year, this focuses on Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man who quits law school in order to find out what he really wants to do with his life. As he tries to figure it out, he takes a job as the road manager for Buck Howard, a temperamental mentalist who's convinced that his comeback rests just around the corner. As portrayed by Malkovich, Buck is a man who's by turns sympathetic, cruel, charming and egotistical. It's a socko piece of acting, and while the likable Hanks is rarely more than adequate, Emily Blunt comes along (playing a no-nonsense publicist) and more than holds her own with a sly, charming performance. From narcissistic entertainers to overzealous fans, The Great Buck Howard has something to say about almost everyone positioned up and down the chain of command. This expose is more congenial than acidic, but it's difficult not to like any movie in which a character states, "My college roommate was managing a multimillion dollar hedge fund, and here I was, helping Buck Howard with his benefit starring Gary Coleman and the guy from the Police Academy movies." ***

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