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Friday movie roundup: The fast and the curious
Here's the movie question for this weekend: Do you want to race for the moon, or go a date with Veronica Mars?
"Need For Speed" is a racing movie, based on the video-game, that's as full of action as it is full of racing cliches. Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, a street racer caught up in a rivalry with Dino (Dominic Cooper), who left their small town to become a professional driver. When Dino frames Tobey for the death of Tobey's young protege and sacrificial lamb Petey (Harrison Gilbertson), Tobey serves two years in prison — and comes out looking for a chance at revenge, which he finds through a high-stakes illegal street race organized by a mysterious figure (Michael Keaton). The action sequences, including one shot in Utah's red-rock country, are intense. But the plot is weak, and Paul's performance is too serious for what's going on around him. (Read The Cricket's column for an interview with "Need For Speed's" stunt coordinator, Lance Gilbert.)
Meanwhile, the "Veronica Mars" movie lands in a few theaters nationwide today (including one in Utah, the Layton Hills 9) — causing great glee for the Marshmallows, the rabid fans of the teen private eye who populated her own TV show from 2004 to 2007. Veronica (Kristen Bell) is trying to leave her detective days behind her, having graduated law school and moving to New York. But a call from her ex, Logan (Jason Dohring), who's accused of murdering his rock-star girlfriend, lures Veronica back home to Neptune to see old friends and solve the mystery. Director/co-writer Rob Thomas' thriller is witty and smart, even if the production looks scarcely upgraded from an extended TV episode. (Read how Hollywood's treatment of "Veronica Mars," which also comes out today online for purchase or rental, may be a game-changer.)
The week's best movie is over at the Broadway: "Omar," one of this year's foreign-language Oscar nominees. This hard-hitting drama from Palestine follows Omar (Adam Bakri), a young baker who gets caught up in a "freedom fighter" group that kills an Israeli soldier. Omar gets caught by the authorities and is given a choice: Rot in prison, or become an informant. Director Hany Abu-Assad paints an indelible portrait of people caught up in the no-win situation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The documentary "Tim's Vermeer" chronicles the obsessive pursuit of inventor/entrepreneur Tim Jenison's dream of figuring out how the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer painted such detailed, light-infused masterpieces. His technological discoveries are fascinating, but the way the filmmakers — the magic team of Penn & Teller (Teller directed, Penn Jillette produced and narrates) presents Jenison's story is rather dry and lacking in wonder.
The Tower has the Canadian-made heist thriller "The Art of the Steal," a talky and predictable foray into "Ocean's 11" territory. It stars Kurt Russell as a motorcycle driver lured back into the art-thievery game by his larcenous half-brother Nicky (Matt Dillon). This one has its comic moments, but viewers can see the plot twists coming a mile off.
Lastly, there's "The Single Moms Club," the latest comedy-drama from Tyler Perry. It was not screened for local critics.