BIG RELEASE: Fast & Furious 6 (May 24), The Hangover Part III (May 23)
BIG PICTURE: The summer approaches, which means Hollywood is again suffering from the seasonal disorder known as "sequelitus." (It's just like hay fever, only replace "sneezing," "itching" and "congestion" with "Dwayne Johnson," "Robert Downey Jr." and "grown adults in spandex.") Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Paul Walker all reprise their tough-guy roles in this fast and furious road to sensory overload. This time around, the bad boy car thieves are lured out of retirement to work for The Man. As one character summarizes: "We're talking vehicular warfare." Enough said. Meanwhile, The Hangover reunites cast members Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha and Ken Jeong, and adds John Goodman to mix as their new nemesis. Mercifully, this time there will be no wedding, but there will be a zany road trip featuring a hi-jacking, cockfighting, drug abuse... and a speeding convertible driving a giraffe down the freeway. (Or is that last one Fast & Furious? I forget. I hope so. I've always wanted to see Vin Diesel with a giraffe sidekick).
FORECAST: This week's sequels do offer valuable guidance to moviemakers. Take the Fast & Furious franchise on its sixth birthday -- an age appropriate to the maturity of much of its core audience. The lesson? Fast cars + furious alpha males + fast and furious explosions + gyrating women (dancing next to the fast cars) box office magic. Tinseltown: Stop making period pieces or star-studded biographies: put all your money into sports cars, steroids and mini-skirts. As for The Hangover, back again for Round 3, the lessons are mixed: For starters, not every film deserves a sequel; but if you are doubling down on a comedy franchise, Zach Galifianakis should co-star. He singlehandedly made the first sequel watchable and he'll lead this Wolf Pack again.
BIG EVENT: Arrested Development (May 26, Netflix, 12:01 a.m.)
BIG PICTURE: Yes, it could have been an alternate title to the sitcom Two and a Half Men (or the Fast & Furious franchise). Instead, Arrested Development is only one of the best sitcoms of all time. If you don't subscribe to Netflix, now's the time to experiment. The on-demand streaming service will debut 15 new episodes of the cult comedy at 12:01 a.m. The entire original cast of the unjustly cancelled show has reunited, including Michael Cera, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett. Each episode will focus on a single character and help lay the groundwork for the long-discussed Arrested feature film. Those without Netflix, find a friend.Arrested Development was anything but during its 2003-06 run. One of the most sophisticated, razor-sharp sitcoms of all time follows the dysfunctional Bluth family and its self-destructive adventures. (The Bluths are a psychiatrist's dream clients.)
FORECAST: Netflix reunites the cast after seven years. I'm only hoping it can do the same for other shows that ended before their time -- like Perfect Strangers (What are Cousin Larry and Cousin Balki up to in the 21st century?), Firefly (I don't care if they have to kidnap Nathan Fillion from the set of Castle) and Lost (fans are still looking for a "real" final season).
HONOURABLE MENTION: Save Me (May 23, NBC, 10 p.m.). Anne Heche plays a suburban housewife whose near-death experience -- choking on a sandwich -- may have lent her the power to talk to God. Or so she claims. (The same thing happened to me once during a pie-eating competition. And, yes, God does sound like Morgan Freeman). The fact NBC delayed premiering this comedy to the summer means it may very well need divine intervention to survive.
BIG RELEASE ON MAY 21: The National (Trouble Will Find Me)
BIG PICTURE: No, The National is not a spoken word album by the CBC's Peter Mansbridge. Led by the unmistakable baritone rumble of Matt Berninger, this band offers a rare combination: lush, orchestral rock 'n' roll that is both intelligent and deeply stirring. Their haunted, hook-laden songs take simple, well-trodden themes -- from lost loves and broken friendships to human frailty -- and make them seem otherworldly. St. Vincent, Suftjan Stevens and Arcade Fire's Richard Reed are among the many talented guest stars on the Cincinnati-born rockers' new effort.
FORECAST: This one's not for the Fast & Furious crowd. These classically trained musicians offer sombre, introspective lyrics set to lush instrumentation. They're not a good backdrop for car explosions. But if you're a lover of good music, this is the kind of trouble you want to find. Hot off their critically acclaimed album High Violet, The National's new effort will cement their reputation as one of the most eloquent, creatively vibrant bands in the business.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Daft Punk (Random Access Memories). This French electronic duo's first effort since 2005 features guests such as Pharrell Williams, Julian Casablancas and Chilly Gonzalez. (Doesn't anyone make albums on their own anymore?).