The New Fast & Furious Sizzles and The New Hangover Fizzles.
Fast & Furious 6.
Director: Justin Lin.
Writers: Chris Morgan, Gary Scott Thompson.
Cast: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez.
It's been 12 years now since The Fast and The Furious first came speeding onto the screen, introducing the import racing scene to the mainstream. And, now six films into the franchise, what was once a guilty pleasure among action flick and car enthusiasts alike has been revved up and turned into a fairly legitimate action series.
Credit director Justin Lin for pulling this U-turn with the the Fast and Furious franchise: Since taking over the helm with 2006's Tokyo Drift, Lin has maintained his position in this series' driver's seat rather well — and, more impressive, he's turned it into the stablest and longest-running franchise that Universal Studios currently boasts.
With Fast & Furious 6, you can see how. With a script from longtime series collaborator Chris Morgan, Lin goes all out, pushing the proverbial pedal to the figurative metal, and bringing his high-octane heist subgenre to new, over-the-top levels never before seen on the screen — or, hell, on the road for that matter.
The film's packed with such an absurd amount of balls-to-the-wallness that it's almost impossible not to enjoy it on some level. There are tanks. There are giant planes. And there are enough cool cars here to put your childhood Hot Wheels collection to utter shame.
Gone, of course, are the candy-colored imports in quarter mile drag races. But, in their place, we have some good, old-fashioned American muscle. Some good, old-fashioned America action, too.
Unfortunately, Lin's approaching his finish line with all things Fast and Furious. Although a seventh film is already in the works, Lin's already gone on the record: This installment, his fourth, will also be his last.
But let's not understate what Lin's done here. He's almost singlehandedly proven that directors with indie backgrounds can indeed operate within the big-budget blockbuster — and, better yet, that they can maintain their vision and create something substantial in the process. Also not to be dismissed: Lin's Fast and Furious work offers up a strong case against the always-prevalent argument that all remakes, reboots and sequels are bad.
The big question moving forward is how Universal will handle things in Lin's wake. This series has been a hell of a ride to this point. But with no director yet attached to the next film, the question of how the series will hold up after the studio takes it back into the garage and slaps a new coat of paint on it remains.
Until then, the sixth film's ending offers up at least this much about the coming seventh installment: A noteworthy villain from the past will serve as the antagonist. Also, there will be lots of cars around because duh.
If this series has taught us anything, though, it's that solid machinery alone won't necessarily get you too far. If you want to win some races, you've got to have some talent behind the wheel.
Score: 8 out of 10 Dodge Charger Daytonas.
The Hangover: Part III.
Director: Todd Phillips.
Writers: Todd Phillips, Craig Mazin.
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Zach Galifianakis, John Goodman.
The Wolf Pack's back for a third — and, we're promised, final — debaucherous adventure filled with decapitated giraffes, freeway disasters and “MMMBop.”
And, yes, that's just the opening sequence.
Unfortunately, what was once fresh and hilarious in the 2009's The Hangover has turned into little more than a headache. Sure, this latest installment does have a few more memorable moments in than 2011's Part II boasted, but that's not really saying much considering that the money-grabbing rehash of that second installment was pretty much immediately forgettable. Kind of like a heavy night of partying.
Funny how that works.
The single redeemable quality in this film is the same one seen in the first two takes on this franchise: It's Zach Galifianakis' truly odd portrayal of the man-baby Alan, who is weirder here than ever before. But even Galifianakis seems bored.
You'll LOL here and there, sure. But, for the most part, The Hangover: Part III is nothing more than a failed attempt to win big at the box office and to cash in on what really should have been a standalone film.
Score: 3 out of 10 people named Doug.
Also in theaters this week…
Director: Chris Wedge.
Writers: James V. Hart, William Joyce, Daniel Shere, Tom J. Astle, Matt Ember, Chris Wedge.
Cast: Colin Farrell, Josh Hutcherson, Beyonce Knowles
Looking for something to take the kiddos to this weekend? Epic is pretty much your only option. The animated film from Twentieth Century Fox and the creators of Ice Age tells the story of a teenage girl who gets transported to a forest fantasy land and finds herself caught in the middle of a battle between good and evil. Basically, it's Ferngully, if they replaced Tone Loc with Pitbull, which is less a joke than a warning. Dale!