Fast cars and minions take over home movie shelves

The Fresno BeeDecember 13, 2013 

This week’s new DVD releases include “Fast & Furious 6” — sure to stir emotions for fans of the movie franchise in the wake of star Paul Walker’s death.

Walker, 40, and a friend, Roger Rodas, died Nov. 30 in a fiery crash on a Valencia, Calif., street. They had attended a fundraiser for Walker’s Reach Out WorldWide charity and were leaving in Rodas’ 2005 Porsche Carrera GT when it crashed into a light pole and a tree and burst into flames.

Walker had been on break from filming the latest installment, and Universal Pictures last week said that production of “Fast & Furious 7” is now on hold.

But “Fast & Furious 6” was scheduled for home-entertainment release this week, and Universal announced that a percentage of proceeds from sales will be donated to Walker’s charity.

“Fast & Furious 6”; Grade B-minus: This is a fun thrill ride as long as director Justin Lin keeps the pedal to the metal in the action scenes. It’s when he moves over to the slow lane to deal with relationships that the movie hits some big potholes.

No film franchise has gone through as big a transformation as this one. It started a dozen years ago with “The Fast and the Furious,” the story of an undercover cop infiltrating the Los Angeles street-racer world to stop a hijacking ring. These days, the team of fast-driving criminals — paced by the gruff Toretto (Vin Diesel) and ex-cop Brian (Walker) — fight international terrorists.

“F&F6” is the kind of movie where logic should be left in park. The action scenes are so big and over the top that, at times, they are laughable, such as a high-flying save by Toretto between two interstate bridges. And the final confrontation, which includes numerous cars dangling from a cargo plane, only works if the runway is 137 miles long.

The scenes are absurd, but this franchise left reality in the dust five films ago. If you want fast cars that stick to the laws of physics, there’s a televised race almost every weekend.

“Despicable Me 2”; Grade B: Super villain Gru (Steve Carell), his adorable girls and all those wonderful Minions are back.

The second film doesn’t have nearly as much heart as the original, but it makes up for that deficiency with a lot more humor. It’s tough to find the same kind of emotional notes that made the original film — the 2010 hit where Gru goes from a super villain who steals the moon to the loving father of three orphans — so enjoyable.

That’s why the sequel leans more on the humor, especially with a much-expanded role for the jabbering, yellow, round assistants known as his Minions. These are the funniest yellow characters this side of “The Simpsons.” Not since the “Madagascar” movies — where the feisty penguins stole the movie — has a group of supporting players been so much fun.

Directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud were smart enough to throw in a steady stream of inane antics by the Minions — particularly the three stooges of Kevin, Bob and Stuart — to get the movie back on its laugh track. The characters are pure silliness, and that works beautifully.

Other DVDs coming out this week:

“Doc Martin, Series 6”: The doctor tackles fatherhood and the return of his mother.

“Battle of the Year”: A break-dancing crew returns to its roots.

“Zombie Night”: Two families must fight zombies to survive the night.

“Jump”: Romantic thriller follows three seemingly unconnected sets of young people.

“Angels Sing”: Film that reminds us a little Christmas cheer can go a long way.

“Adore”: Two women explore the intricacies of love, family, morality and passion.

“The Ultimate Life”: A rich man begins to question what’s important in his life.

“The Seasoning House”: Deaf and mute Angel (Rosie Day) is abducted and sent to a Balkan brothel.

“Cult Movie Marathon: Volume One”: Includes “Invasion of the Bee Girls,” “The Devil’s 8,” “Unholy Rollers” and “Vicious Lips.”

“Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary”: This Julie Andrews movie is being re-released.

“Game: the Sixth Season”: TV series about women who have a boyfriend, husband or son on the same professional football team.

“Touchy Feely”: Comedy about finding your place in the world.

“The Gene Autry Show: The Complete Television Series”: Includes 91 episodes of the western series.

“The Nature of Genius”: This collection features DVD and Blu-ray versions of two outstanding documentaries — “Inspirations” and “Me & Isaac Newton.”

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