Kam On Film: ‘Fast Five,’ ‘Guy And Madeline…’ And More!

Fast Five

Universal Pictures

Rated PG-13 for profanity, sexuality and intense violence.

Ex-Cop And Ex-Con Reunite In Rio For Final Heist

When we first met Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) a decade ago in The Fast And The Furious, the decorated police detective went rogue to help career criminal Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) evade justice for masterminding a string of multimillion-dollar truck hijackings. Four sequels later, we find the pair up to their old tricks, although the ex-cop is now with the FBI while the ex-con has just being sentenced to life without parole for murdering a mobster during a heroin sting gone bad.

After the opening credits, Brian frees Dom again by ramming an L.A. Country Sheriff’s bus with a muscle car and flipping it over before it has a chance to reach the penitentiary. Following the daring escape, the buddies go their separate ways after agreeing to rendezvous in Rio de Janeiro.

Down in Brazil, Dominic learns that Brian’s girlfriend, Mia (Jordana Brewster), is pregnant, which coincidentally means that he’s about to become an uncle because she happens to be his sister. But rather than begin buying baby clothes and otherwise preparing for the arrival of the little bundle of joy, the trio decides to hatch a plan to pull off the proverbial “one last heist” certain to set them up for the rest of their lives.

It seems that the local drug kingpin, Herman Reyes (Joaquim de Almeida), has managed to amass a cool $100 million in cash. However, our retirement-ready heroes realize that they need to assemble a crack team of experts if they’re going to relieve the ruthless mobster of his ill-gotten gains.

So, they entice half-dozen former associates to South America from the far ends of the Earth with the promise of a big payday. The gang includes technical geek Tej Parker (Ludacris), smooth-talking con artist Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) and weapons whiz Gisele (Gal Gadot), as well as getaway drivers Tego Leo (Tego Calderon), Han Lue (Sung Kang) and Ric Santos (Don Omar).

The elaborate scheme involves scaring Reyes into hiding all of his loot in one place, so that they’ll only have a single safe to crack. However, this proves more of a challenge than anticipated between the corrupt Rio cops and the arrival of a detail of Federal Agents led by Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who are also looking for Reyes.

Fans of The Fast And The Furious franchise are well aware of what to expect next, namely, a dazzling display of stunt driving and death-defying car chases involving souped-up stolen automobiles. Since any subtlety in the protagonists’ strategy invariably ends up tossed out the window, one might wonder why they even bother to go to such great pains to incorporate sophistication into their formula in the first place.

That disclaimer aside, Fast Five does nevertheless deliver in terms of harmless, high-octane mayhem for folks satiated cinematically by non-stop action and special effects alone.

Excellent (4 stars).

Running time: 130 minutes.

Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench

Cinema Guild

Jazzy Musical Makes Its Way To DVD

Melancholy Madeline (Desiree Garcia) sits alone freezing on a park bench in Boston contemplating what just happened after being dumped by her boyfriend on a chilly winter day. Meanwhile, her equally wistful ex, Guy (Jason Palmer), trudges home through the snow with his trumpet slung lazily over his shoulder. Upon arriving at his apartment, in utter resignation he removes a picture from the wall taken of the two of them during much happier times.

This is the poignant point of departure of Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench, an intriguing flashback flick deconstructing the demise of a young couple’s troubled relationship. Guy is played by Jason Palmer, an accomplished jazz trumpeter in his own right, while triple threat Desiree Garcia proves just as formidable acting, singing and dancing as Madeline.

The movie marks the remarkable writing and directorial debut of Damien Chazelle who exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of cinematic history here, interweaving a dizzying number of allusions to the work of legendary directors like John Cassavetes, Jean-Luc Godard and Busby Berkeley.

As engaging as the picture’s premise is, its original score by Justin Hurwitz and its shadowy cinematography coming courtesy of seductively grainy, black and white 16mm film make it even more engaging. The movie’s magical musical renditions, a delightful blend of jazz and show tunes, range from impromptu improvisations to catchy, carefully choreographed song and dance numbers.

If all of the above isn’t enough to whet your curiosity, consider the plot, which complicates into a compelling love triangle when Guy’s head is turned by flaky temptress Elena (Sandha Khin) while riding the subway. And when he develops existential angst over his ensuing girl troubles, he seeks solace on stage playing his instrument.

A toe-tapping tribute to Boston reminiscent of Woody Allen’s heartfelt homage to his own beloved Manhattan!

Excellent (4 stars).

Running time: 82 minutes.

DVD Extras: Deleted scenes, essay by film critic Amy Taubin, “Behind-the-Scenes” and “Song Writing” featurettes, audio commentary by director Damien Chazelle and composer Justin Hurwitz, and the theatrical trailer.


Kam’s Kapsules:

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun

For movies opening May 6, 2011

The Beaver (PG-13 for profanity, sexuality, drug use, mature themes and disturbing content). Jodie Foster directs and co-stars opposite Mel Gibson in this ventriloquist’s dummy dramedy about a depressed CEO who only talks to his wife and sons (Anton Yelchin and Riley Thompson Stewart) through his hand puppet. With Jennifer Lawrence, Cherry Jones and Zachary Booth and featuring cameos by Terry Gross, Jon Stewart and Matt Lauer.

Jumping The Broom (PG-13 for sexuality and profanity). Ghetto-meets-bourgie comedy about the sparks that fly when the families of a bride (Paula Patton) and groom (Laz Alonso) from opposite sides of the tracks converge on Martha’s Vineyard for an eventful weekend wedding. Ensemble includes Angela Bassett, Loretta Devine, Meagan Good, DeRay Davis, Mike Epps, Romeo, Gary Dourdan and Bishop T. D. Jakes.

Something Borrowed (PG-13 for sexuality and drug use). Romantic comedy based on Emily Giffin’s novel of the same name about the complications which ensue after a successful attorney without much of a love life (Ginnifer Goodwin) sleeps with her best friend’s (Kate Hudson) fiancé (Colin Egglesfield) on her 30th birthday. With John Krasinski, Jill Eikenberry and Ashley Williams.

Thor (PG-13 for intense action and violence). Aussie Chris Hemsworth stars as the Marvel Comics superhero from another planet exiled to Earth where he puts his mighty hammer to good use as an intrepid defender of the planet. Cast includes Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, Renee Russo, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson and Jeremy Renner.

The Colors Of The Mountain (Unrated). End of innocence saga set in the Colombian countryside about the plight of a 9-year-old boy (Hernan Mauricio Ocampo) who unwittingly lands in the middle of a civil war conflict after he and a couple of buddies (Genaro Aristizabal and Nolberto Sanchez) chase an errant soccer ball into a field booby-trapped by guerillas with lethal landmines. (In Spanish with subtitles.)

Daydream Nation (R for sexuality, profanity, violent images and teen drug and alcohol abuse). Romance drama revolving around a precocious, 17-year-old from the big city (Kat Dennings) who moves with her widowed father (Ted Whittall) to a small town where she becomes embroiled in a love triangle with a teacher (Josh Lucas) and a stoner classmate (Reece Thompson).

Extraordinary Stories (Unrated). A trio of mysteries set in Argentina weaving a surrealistic, cinematic tapestry involving missing persons, buried treasure and desperate jailbirds. With Hector Diaz, Walter Jakob and Klaus Dietze. (In Spanish and English with subtitles).

Forks Over Knives (PG for smoking and mature themes). Vegan documentary endeavoring to substantiate the proposition that most of the degenerative diseases afflicting humanity are a consequence of eating animals and processed foods. Featuring commentary by Junshi Chen, Gene Baur and Dr. Doug Lisle.

Harvest (R for profanity and brief sexuality). Skeletons-out-of-the-closet drama about the tensions which surface among members of a grieving family reunited for the summer in the wake of the passing of its beloved patriarch (Robert Loggia). Cast includes Jack Carpenter, Barbara Barrie, Arye Gross and Victoria Clark.

Hobo With A Shotgun (Unrated). Revenge comedy about a homeless vigilante (Rutger Hauer) recently arrived in a town called Hope, who sets about dispensing double-barreled street justice to corrupt cops, pedophiles and other dastardly evildoers. With Gregory Smith, Nick Bateman and Brian Downey.

An Invisible Sign (Unrated). Jessica Alba stars in this adaptation of Aimee Bender‘s best-seller of the same name about a 20-year-old schoolteacher who uses math as a means of helping students deal with emotional crises. Cast includes J.K. Simmons, Sonia Braga, Bailee Madison and Chris Messina.

Last Night (R for profanity). Seven-year itch saga a housewife (Keira Knightley) who goes out for drinks with an old flame (Guillaume Canet) on the same evening that her husband (Sam Worthington) finds himself tempted by an attractive colleague (Eva Mendes) while away on a business trip.

Lord Byron (Unrated). Midlife crisis dramedy about an incurable romantic (Paul Baptiste), living with his ex-wife (Renee King) and kids, who fritters away his days pursuing loose women and smoking weed. With Katryn Schmidt, Justin Bickham, Joseph Diaz and Rosco Hall.

Octubre (Unrated). Peruvian morality play set in Lima, about a lonely loan shark (Bruno Odar) who leans on the shoulder of his pious, next-door neighbor (Gabriela Velasquez) for help with caring for the newborn (Sheryl Sanchez) deposited on his doorstep by a prostitute he used to frequent. (In Spanish with subtitles)

Passion Play (R for sexuality, nudity, profanity, violence and drug use). Mickey Rourke and Megan Fox co-star in this crime thriller about a down-and-out jazz trumpeter who finds salvation with the help of a circus sideshow freak while on the run from a ruthless mobster (Bill Murray). Support cast includes Bud Cort, Rhys Ifans and Charlie Brown.

Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (Unrated). “Advance to Go” documentary explores the history of the classic board game while profiling some of the colorful players competing for the coveted title of Monopoly World Champ.