Furious 7

Furious 7 brings exhilarating vehicle chases, violent hand-to-hand combat, fiery explosions, a really bad bad guy, a tribute to a fallen star and… Kurt Russell!

Not to mention skydiving cars and trucks, a visit to the glossy Abu Dhabi, a major cat fight and computer snooping worse than anything the NSA has come up with.

But Furious 7 is not just about the spectacle of reckless actions in and out of cars. It’s also about the camaraderie of the ensemble. They are courageous (mostly) and cool to be sure, but they also have a bit of fun and some tender moments, too.

The poster for Furious 7 has a double meaning. It’s the 7th film in the series and the 7 people shown are the key characters. Dom (Vin Diesel), Brian (Paul Walker), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Hobbs (Dwayne [The Rock] Johnson), Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Mia (Jordana Brewster) are the team that takes on the Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and terrorist Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).

Shaw, a former British black ops killer, is bent on avenging the death of his brother (from Furious 6) and Jakande wants to grab the God’s Eye computer program. Meanwhile, the Furious crew is recruited by Mr. Noboby (Kurt Russell) to fetch the programmer who can help prevent God’s Eye from getting into the wrong hands. She’s the gorgeous Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel).

Not that you should be concerned with the plot. Just enjoy the chases, the crashes, the close calls, the mayhem and the energy Furious 7 delivers to the screen. Director James Wan doesn’t let the respites from action last very long.

What about Paul Walker? He died 16 months ago when he crashed his Porsche, but his character Brian is a vital part of the film. Over half of the scenes were shot before he died. His brothers worked as stand-ins and CGI can do amazing things. There’s a nice sequence at the end of the movie that remembers Paul Walker.

Furious 7 is a review-proof movie. It will be huge. Last year’s Captain America: Winter Soldier set the April record with a $95 million open. Expect Dom, Brian and crew to zoom past that mark.

The Bling Ring

Not much going on in The Bling Ring. It’s an hour and a half of high school kids in Los Angeles robbing stars’ homes, smoking dope, snorting coke, Facebooking and partying. Everything happens to the accompaniment of a contemporary, mostly hip-hop, soundtrack. And then they get caught. The End.

Their modus operandi is to monitor gossip websites, find out when famous stars are out of town, Google their addresses and break in. It’s all too easy. These stars apparently haven’t heard about security alarms and systems that summon police when tripped. Paris Hilton leaves a key under her front doormat. That’s hot! She also apparently leaves her dog and pet monkey at home alone. This movie is supposedly based on true events.

The clothes and the shoes and the bling and the stars homes are spectacular. Some of the cars, including a Porsche that gets taken for a joyride, are also nice.

The five kids pulling off these capers (four girls and a boy) are based in Calabasas, in the hills just west of L.A.’s San Fernando Valley. They are little more than caricatures. The best-known star in the movie is Emma Watson, who stars as Nicki, a party girl. Rebecca (Katie Chang) is the ringleader. Marc (Israel Broussard), a young man who seems to be coming to grips with his sexual orientation, is the geek who follows stars activities online.

Director Sofia Coppola’s movie is mainly about settings and props. The capers and the loot are the focal points, not the characters. Among the movie’s best scenes is a long static shot that shows Rebecca and Marc running around inside Audrina Partidge’s home in the Hollywood Hills, up and down stairs, lights flashing on and off. It stands out in contrast to the film’s otherwise frenetic pace.

Coppola’s movie rubs up against real life by mentioning the stars names whose homes are robbed: Lindsay Lohan, Megan Fox, Orlando Bloom, among others.

But the action that drives the movie’s flimsy plot is repetitious. Home invasion after home invasion, looting after looting, party after party. As someone once said about a boring city, “There’s no there there.” There’s not much there here in The Bling Ring either.

Rated R.