Memorial Day weekend brings mediocrity to the multiplexes.
The likely box-office winner will be "Fast & Furious 6," the latest of the car-racing action franchise. This time the outlaw racers (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Gal Gadot) team up with Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), the Fed who tried to catch them in the last movie, to go after a nasty Eurotrash villain (Luke Evans). The motivation? Hobbs has evidence that Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), the girlfriend of Diesel's character who died in the fourth movie, is really alive and working for the villain. Director Justin Lin, on his fourth outing in the series, presents bigger and more brainless action set pieces, incoherently edited and strung together with the flimsiest of plot threads. The best thing about the movie is also the saddest: It sets up No. 7 quite nicely.
"Epic" is a generic title for a generic animated adventure. It centers on a teen (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) who is magically shrunk down to two inches, where she discovers a civilization of Leaf Men and Boggens, in an eternal battle of life vs. decay in the forest. The visuals (based on William Joyce's picture-book series) are charming, but the story is a snooze.
Of course, "The Hangover Part III" opened on Thursday – and the less said about that humorless movie the better.
The one truly great movie opening this weekend is at the Broadway. "At Any Price" is an emotionally raw family drama in the classic sense – a father-son battle between an Iowa farmer (Dennis Quaid) and his auto-racing son (Zac Efron), happening at the same time the dad's dishonest dealings as a seed salesman are coming back to haunt him and threaten his livelihood. Director/co-writer Ramin Bahrani plays this like a Shakespearean tragedy, and draws a powerhouse performance from Quaid as a glad-hander whose smile masks a growing desperation.
Also at the Broadway this week is "Renoir," a picture-pretty drama set along the French Riviera in 1915. It tells of a young beauty (Christa Theret) who takes a job modelling for the aging painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir (Michel Bouquet), and how she inspires his late-period art while also becoming a muse for his son Jean (Vincent Rottiers), just back from the war and still to launch his career as an acclaimed filmmaker. Director Gilles Bourdos captures the painterly beauty of the location and Theret, but can't string together much of a story behind the visuals.
Lastly, there's the documentary "Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's," a valentine to the New York high-fashion department store Bergdorf Goodman. Director Michael Miele draws some sweet portraits of some of the store's prominent employees, including fashion director Linda Fargo and the store's maven of window design David Hoey. But too much of the film is a procession of glowing and not-too-descriptive soundbites from a parade of fashion designers who have sold their stuff there.