As the title suggests, this is the fifth in the Fast and Furious franchise. Dominic (Vin Diesel) and his crew find themselves on the wrong side of the law once again, this time in Rio de Janeiro. Director Justin Lin has taken the hugely improbable action of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) and pushed it up several notches, with a couple of set piece automotive heist sequences whose only purpose is to push the stunt crew to new heights of imaginative mayhem. As for the rest of the movie, the hot chicks in tight pants and muscle men in clinging T-shirts could have come out of any number of previous Vin Diesel vehicles.
Water for Elephants
A great big three-ring circus of a movie featuring Robert Pattinson, for whom Water for Elephants is a big push to escape the mantle of his Twilight fame and establish himself as something more than cinema’s best-looking vampire. Unfortunately, Pattinson cuts a rather glum figure in this glittering drama about a veterinary student who abandons his studies to work in a traveling circus. Set in depression era America, with great production values and the usually charming presence of costar Reese Witherspoon. Pattinson’s character worships a woman he can never have and is pretty cut up about it for most of the movie. This hardly seems to matter much since the chemistry between Witherspoon and Rosie the elephant is a lot more convincing than the romantic sparks between the two leads.
A Chinese Ghost Story 2011 (倩女幽魂2011)
In revisiting the classic Chinese ghostly romance A Chinese Ghost Story (倩女幽魂), made back in 1987 and credited by many as a seminal work in bringing Hong Kong cinema to the Western market, Wilson Yip (葉偉信) has taken on a big challenge. Yip, a veteran director fresh from his success with the two Ip Man movies, has been able to draw on some of the top talent in the industry, and the film reportedly had a budget of over US$20 million, which is huge for this kind of production. Unfortunately, riffing off a classic work fails to generate any fireworks. Despite the updated special effects, the remake is likely to have people digging through their VHS tapes for the original.
Bedevilled (Kim Bok-nam salinsageonui jeonmal)
A psychological drama that swings sharply into horror during its latter stages, Bedevilled has earned praise from fans of Asian horror for its willingness to build slowly, rooting the horrific finale in strongly depicted characters. Hae-won is a city girl on the verge of career burnout who goes to a small undeveloped island were she meets childhood friend Bok Nam, who has been writing her for years despite a total lack of response. Bok Nam has become a virtual slave to the inhabitants of the island, and Hae-won’s indifference to her plight pushes her over the edge. There is some great bloodletting action with a sickle and top-class acting from actress Seo Yeong Hie as the worm that turned.
Days We Stared at the Sun (他們在畢業的前一天爆炸精華版)
A cinematic reworking of a television series of the same name that was shown on Taiwan’s Public Television Service (公視) in December last year. The story is about a group of high school students — their dreams, fantasies, their failures and of course their romantic entanglements — and generated a huge Internet response. While drawing on much of the action that took place in the five-episode mini-series, director Cheng Yu-chieh (鄭有傑) has also changed, added or re-shot a large number of scenes to make this condensed version work in cinematic terms.