Here's the movie question for this weekend: Do you want to race for the moon, or go a date with Veronica Mars?
"Need For Speed" is a racing movie, based on the video-game, that's as full of action as it is full of racing cliches. Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, a street racer caught up in a rivalry with Dino (Dominic Cooper), who left their small town to become a professional driver. When Dino frames Tobey for the death of Tobey's young protege and sacrificial lamb Petey (Harrison Gilbertson), Tobey serves two years in prison and comes out looking for a chance at revenge, which he finds through a high-stakes illegal street race organized by a mysterious figure (Michael Keaton). The action sequences, including one shot in Utah's red-rock country, are intense. But the plot is weak, and Paul's performance is too serious for what's going on around him. (Read The Cricket's column for an interview with "Need For Speed's" stunt coordinator, Lance Gilbert.)
Meanwhile, the "Veronica Mars" movie lands in a few theaters nationwide today (including one in Utah, the Layton Hills 9) causing great glee for the Marshmallows, the rabid fans of the teen private eye who populated her own TV show from 2004 to 2007. Veronica (Kristen Bell) is trying to leave her detective days behind her, having graduated law school and moving to New York. But a call from her ex, Logan (Jason Dohring), who's accused of murdering his rock-star girlfriend, lures Veronica back home to Neptune to see old friends and solve the mystery. Director/co-writer Rob Thomas' thriller is witty and smart, even if the production looks scarcely upgraded from an extended TV episode. (Read how Hollywood's treatment of "Veronica Mars," which also comes out today online for purchase or rental, may be a game-changer.)