Valdosta Daily Times

March 18, 2014

‘Need for Speed’ needs a plot

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — “Need for Speed” (Action/Crime: 2 hours, 10 minutes)

Starring: Aaron Paul, Dominic Cooper, Imogen Poots, and Rami Malek

Director: Scott Waugh

Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, violence, nudity, sequences of reckless street racing and moments of peril)

Movie Review: Think of this film as a pure popcorn flick. It is pure entertainment for those liking fast cars, flighty women, masculine men doing crazy stunts and car crashes. For others wanting a more convincing, sophisticated story, “Need for Speed” fails.

Toby Marshall (Paul) is a street racer. His life changes after he faces imprisonment on multiple accounts, including theft and murder. Pro-driver Dino Brewster (Cooper) framed Marshall after a mutually lucrative association. Determined to have his revenge, Marshall travels across the United States with a companion he considers annoying, Julia Maddon (Poots). Marshall plans to compete in an underground racing tournament in California. A safe arrival at the tournament will not be easy for Marshall and Maddon. Brewster has promised a nice reward to any mercenary who can stop Marshall from reaching the tournament. Even more, law-enforcement officials are pursuing Marshall for a parole violation.

“Smokey and the Bandit” (1977), “The Cannonball Run” (1981) and “The Fast and the Furious” (2001) are all enjoyable films, but they are not intellectual material. In other words, they are not taxing on the brain. They are pure entertainment, bad stories and all. They worked for their time.

“Need for Speed” is a mixture of these films, and it has a shabby story, too. Yet it is nowhere near as enjoyable as those aforementioned films. Movie audiences are becoming smarter. Producers can only hide a dilapidated story with a certain amount of entertainment for a specified time.

Here, the story is iffy from the beginning. It never establishes its characters. The leads, Paul (“Breaking Bad”), Cooper and Poots, are flat personas. Writers crafted their characters with a poignant flatness. Paul may be a talented actor on television, his performance here is too horizontal. He is unexciting as a lead. He and Cooper are miscast and needed to switch roles. They are both uninteresting as is. They have no established histories worthy enough to make them interesting.

Poots is there, but she is a waste and often inconsistent. She is brilliant and collectively cool at moments and goofy and childishly annoying at others. Her character is uneven.              

Other characters also need work. Scott Mescudi plays as comical relief. He plays this movie’s stereotypical black male. He is funny, loud mouthed and overly cool. He makes the film silly at parts.

While his character is pointlessly childish during some scenes, Rami Malek manages to score points. His role’s actions appear convincing, unlike his co-stars.

Again, poor writing plagues this film. It suffers because the focus is fast cars in action. That part is energetic. Meanwhile, the plot is stupid, making the rest brainless. Still, the action is plentiful enough that it is easy to sit through and easier to forget.   

Grade: C (Plenty of speed running on cheap fuel.)


“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (Animation/Adventure: 1 hour, 33 minutes)

Starring: Ty Burrell, Max Charles, and Ariel Winter

Director: Rob Minkoff

Rated: PG (Violence and brief crude humor)

Movie Review: Based on characters from Jay Ward’s animated television series, “Rocky & Friends” (1959), “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” features Mr. Peabody (Burrell), a super-intelligent canine, and his adopted human son, Sherman (Charles). They are time travelers via use of the Way-Back machine. After Sherman’s adversarial classmate, Penny Peterson (Winter), convinces him to see the Wayback, she puts in motion a set of events that will disrupt the fabric of time. Mr. Peabody and Sherman must act quickly before time unravels.  

“Mr. Peabody & Sherman” originates from the 1959 cartoon. The show was science fiction, involving time travel, where moments in history are the presentation via a dog and his human son. The moments were usually short episodes of genius and clever dialogue. This movie is very similar in that it follows the cartoon series in many ways. It also provides for smart humor and plenty of puns.

Directed by Rob Minkoff (“The Lion King,” 1994), this comical, animated piece has a nice story. However, writer Craig Wright convolutes the plot. The film tries to cram much into a small amount of time. Peabody, Sherman and their time machine are interesting enough with no need for diverting side notes. The end is especially, needlessly complicated.

Despite the extra clutter, plenty of entertainment is provided for family members of all ages. Director Minkoff and screenplay scripter Wright brings the old favorite to the big screen in a plausible manner. It works. Adventure, smart humor and history lessons provide just enough to make all intriguing.

Grade: B- (The way back to fun.)


“The Single Moms Club” (Drama/Comedy: 1 hour, 51 minutes)

Starring: Nia Long, Amy Smart, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao and Cocoa Brown

Director: Tyler Perry

Rated: PG-13 (Strong language, thematic elements and sensuality)

Movie Review: The title for this photoplay is disingenuous. It specifies a group of women who are single, but some are already heavily involved with men and others deeply involved with lovers. A better title would be “The Dating Moms Club.”

Of course, the film is about five women maintaining their families without partners. May (Long), Hillary (Smart), Jan (McLendon-Covey), Esperanza (Henao) and Lytia (Brown) are mothers facing difficulties. They manage their families after their children’s fathers have left them. Life is tough for the women. That all changes when they meet, ditch their differences and begin a Single Moms Club for support.  

Perry is a creative talent. He knows how to take a concept and make it marketable by channeling it to a certain audience, mainly women. He is good at this, but he suffers from the George Lucas syndrome. Perry, like Lucas, is a creative a genius but should not write or direct his own creations. At least, they should not direct screenplays.

As director and screenplay writer, Perry should know when to insert drama and when to have just a drama. This film bounces back and forth. Certain scenes are like comedy; others are serious dramatic moments. The two clash here. Perry forgets that comedy is not always necessary to make a story work. He sets up a nice drama but ruins it with second-rate humor.

“Club” hits all the right notes for tearful moments. This exists because the cast appears tangible and likable, although stereotypical personas. Conversely, the cast’s performances are under par. This is very noticeable during the beginning scenes.

Five women create a neat story, but it is executed poorly and in a rushed fashion. Plenty of drama is provided, but all appears too well planned regarding characters’ lives. Everything neatly falls into place like a fairy tale. This may make one feel good ultimately, but it is elementary writing.

Grade: C (Not many in this club.)