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Review: Need For Speed

Like Fast and Furious meets Rush without coherent dialogue or plot

Aaron Paul gets behind the wheel. Watch a Behind the Scenes Clip above.

Need for Speed is the upcoming movie adaptation of the popular video game series of the same name. It seems like a cynical move, cashing in on a pre-established brand name and the success of the Fast and Furious franchise. Yet with director Scott Waugh (Act of Valor) and Emmy-winner Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), it seemed like they might be able to pull off a smart, car-racing drama, in the vein of Ron Howard's under-appreciated Rush. The result, however, is filled with some awesome racing sequences, and lots of cliches.

What worked: The car races are loud, intense, and a hell of a lot of fun. Waugh opted to film all of the car stunts practically, even putting his actors through stunt driving school to get shots of them actually driving. It pays off in the action sequences, as does his guerrilla style of shooting. You can tell that the expensive car you are watching is really flipping through the air with an expensive camera strapped onto it. There is a stunt about midway through (that has kind of been spoiled in the marketing) that will make your jaw drop, and it makes the climax seem a little underwhelming in comparison. There were also some really gratifying moments of triumph were the music sweeps over you. Finally, Aaron Paul is good as the talented and stern racer, though he is given pretty simple dialogue to work with. 

What didn't work: Almost all of the dialogue is pretty bad, and the plot doesn't make any sense. That's 100% not the reason anyone goes to see Need for Speed, though, so it doesn't really matter. The movie falls into a lot of generic action movie cliches, especially when it comes to the romantic subplot with Imogen Poots (That Awkward Moment). The comedic relief from Scott Mescudi (aka "Kid Cudi") and Michael Keaton (Bettlejuice) is weird and it falls a little flat. And, although it is to be expected, this film has the most blatant product placement since The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I'm talking about 5% of the movie being devoted to closeups of the car logos, and people going on about how great that brand's cars are.

Overall, Need for Speed is just OK. The plot and dialogue are mediocre, but the action is really great, especially the racing scene at the midpoint of the movie. The visuals of the film are made even more impressive because of the fact that all of the stunts were preformed without the use of CGI. Check it out if you're in the mood for some dumb, nonsensical, car-racing fun.

Need for Speed comes out March 14th.

Rating: 2/5 Stars

Review: Non-Stop

Like Taken meets Snakes on a Plane

Liam Neeson has regain control of the plane using his special set of skills. Watch the Trailer above.

Non-Stop is a fast-paced thriller about an alcoholic air marshal (Liam Neeson) aboard a plane who starts getting texts threatening to kill a passenger every two minutes unless $150 million is transferred to his account.

I went in with low expectations based on the previous work of Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown), since he tends to introduce exciting premises that lack payoff and fall flat. Fortunately, with Non-Stop he follows through and pays off on just about everything introduced in the initial premise.

Liam Neeson, as usual, is awesome as the badass who must operate outside of the law. Along for the ride are a few familiar faces: Julianne Moore (Children of Men), Corey Stoll (House of Cards), and current Oscar-nominee Lupita Nyong'o (12 Years a Slave) who is severely underused. The supporting performances really elevate the film, populating the plane with a few stereotypical, but mostly likable characters.

If this film seems formulaic, that's because it is--it is riddled with action-movie cliches, expected plot-twists, and a few unexpected plot-twists. At times the movie can be patronizing. From the opening scene on, it ceaselessly and obviously reminds you of the main character's flaws: his alcoholism and relationship with his daughter. The movie also consistently pats itself on the back for being "not-racist," seemingly impressed with itself every time it subverts our (presumed) expectations by showing a Black or Middle Eastern character who does not turn out to be an antagonist.

Visually, Non-Stop makes the most out of its single plane setting. There are some fresh and exciting action scenes, and the climax will have you on the edge of your seat. There are some cool sequences I've never seen take place in a movie set on a plane, which often disregard common sense and physics.

Ultimately, Non-Stop is so-bad-it's-good. It elicits a lot of unintentional laughter, and just barely misses the mark of being a logical thriller, but it's a whole lot of fun.

Non-Stop comes out on Feb 28, 2014

Rating: 3/5 Stars