Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

May 28, 2013

CALLERI: Two movie franchises ("Fast & Furious" and "Hangover") help set a new box office record

Niagara Gazette — What we commonly know as Hollywood, that amalgam of movie studios large and small, has long captured the imagination of the world when it comes to the reach of motion pictures.

Box office grosses are slavishly followed, and because it is Hollywood, with its penchant for backstabbing, there’s some glee when a competing studio’s big picture fails.

Two franchise films helped fuel Memorial Day ticket sales to a new record for that holiday weekend. “Fast And Furious 6” and “The Hangover Part III” helped propel the overall holiday box office to over $315 million. The previous Memorial Day record was $296 million in 2011.

“Fast And The Furious 6” led the way with around $122 million, which wouldn’t surprise its fans. More stunning to some was the weakness of the third “Hangover” entry, which suffered from lackluster word-of-mouth. Of course, only in Hollywood does a take of $63.4 million signal trouble.

I am not excited by every one of the “Fast And Furious” movies, but I enjoyed the illegal Los Angeles street racing theme (using supercharged Japanese compact cars) in the first film in the series, released in 2001. I especially enjoyed the fifth installment, “Fast Five” from 2011, which is considered the creative high-water mark of these action and heist pictures. Number 3, “The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift,” from 2006, isn’t that strong, but I always like the international settings used in the series and think Toyko is an astonishing city visually, so I found pleasure in the movie.

Faster than you can read a map, “Fast & Furious 6” leaps from the Canary Islands to Moscow to London in the breathless opening minutes of the film. At one point, super-skilled driver Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) will entice the audience with: “let’s go for a little ride.”

It’s generally accepted that Diesel, Paul Walker, Michele Rodriguez, and Jordana Brewster are the primary stars of the “F&F” movies, although Diesel was not in the second entry and Walker skipped “Tokyo Drift.” Both Michele Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster missed numbers 2 and 3. Because the overriding theme of these pictures is the importance of family (or high speed-driving gang togetherness), the camaraderie of the main characters is essential to the success of the franchise. Audiences look for unity and they want familiarity from these movies. Rodriguez’s Letty was “killed” in the fourth film, returned in No. 5, and is now walking on the dark side. Two other key characters might be dead at the end of No. 6, but that’s a maybe.

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