Yikes, looks like I missed some days. Ah, well, here we go...
FAST & FURIOUS:
God, but I hate this franchise even as I like most of the people in it. This new fourth installment acts as though #2 never happened (while a brief character-cameo in the first scenes establishes that #3 has YET to happen) reuniting the main cast from the first for what turns out to be a pretty generic smuggling caper. The most interesting part is ruminating on how much has changed since the original, when Paul Walker was a blandly-irritating youth icon in the Tiger Beat mold, Michelle Rodriguez was still riding the wave of post-"Girlfight" hype and Vin Diesel was a new star just starting to emerge into "name status." Now, eight years later, Walker is cementing status as a "grown" star with offbeat projects like "Running Scared," Rodriguez has spent the recent past better known as a tabloid fixture for arrests and bisexual adventurism than as an actress, while Diesel is still trying to pick up the pieces of a career that followed bad advice into "next big thing" action heroism and ran smack into a wall. Sadly, Jordana Brewster (also back) remains a criminally unappreciated actress.
It's a story about a rich (but not rich enough, it turns out) high-minded college grad who's forced by financial circumstance to spend a summer working at a creaky amusement park in his hometown. There, he meets (can ya guess?) an interesting crop of quirky but endearing characters and falls hard for a girl who (betcha can't guess!) is as hard-bitten and experienced as he is naive (aww, how'd ya guess?) but is hiding a secret pain. Okay, so originality isn't it's strong suit, but it's the details that count: What at first looks to be the umpteenth knockoff of Caddyshack gets it's mileage from making it's stock characters just real enough to feel surprising even though all the beats you're expecting are there. Kristen Stewart is the standout as the female lead - she's so good in this it makes me even sadder to think about what appearing in the awful "Twilight" series is potentially going to do to her career.