BIG RELEASES: Need for Speed (March 14).
BIG PICTURE: "I can feel love, vengeance and motor oil all swirling together." In one line, Michael Keaton's dubiously named supporting character, Monarch, has summed up this film perfectly. (First the RoboCop reboot and now Monarch; Keaton is in dire need of that pending Beetlejuice sequel). Need for Speed is like Fast & Furious meets ... the five Fast & Furious sequels. Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) plays an ex-con, Tobey, looking for revenge against Dino (Dominic Cooper) the man responsible for his false conviction (ouch) -- and for stealing his girlfriend (way to kick a man while he's down). To do so, he'll need to speed from New York to Los Angeles in 48 hours to compete in a big race -- all with the cops on his trail and a $6-million bounty on his head. Luckily, Tobey appears to be superhuman. He may have only been a simple mechanic and street racer before going to prison, but he has inexplicably emerged as some kind of invulnerable superhuman driver (imagine what one of The Dukes of Hazzard might look like if put through the Jason Bourne spy program). Before his epic drive, Tobey reunites with his shady, street-racing buddies. These boys love speeding, drinking, loose woman and making "yo mama" jokes. (They're like Ocean's Eleven if the 11 signified IQ). Of course, Tobey is accompanied on his cross-country joyride by a sexy love interest (Imogen Poots). Many would-be assassins on four wheels meet them along the way.
Need for Speed is an adolescent male dream come true. Cars swerve, explode and fly off of bridges, transport trucks collide with cars, sex is probably had in cars... I'm willing to bet one of the cars even turns into a Transformer at some point.
FORECAST: "Racing is an art. Racing with passion -- that's high art." That zinger is courtesy of our buddy Monarch again. Fast & Furious fans will feel the Need for Speed, but "high" art this is not.
BIG EVENT: Believe (March 10, NBC, CTV Two, 10 p.m.; regular time slot March 16, 9 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: Bo knows levitation, telekinesis and... the future. Johnny Sequoyah plays a gifted young girl who has always been a magnet for inexplicable phenomenon (imagine Heroes if there was only one hero). Bo has been raised and shielded by a group called the True Believers (essentially a cult with a heart of gold). Her powers are growing and the sinister forces that want to harness them are in hot pursuit. Whoever controls Bo could control the world. From executive producer J.J. Abrams (shouldn't he be busy working on Star Wars?), Believe follows the exploits of Bo and her unlikely protector, a broken, ex-con named Tate (Jake McLaughlin), who sports suspiciously bad hair (his "look" is best described as "Jesus with severe bed head"). Along the way, Bo is bound to give Tate a reason to believe -- if not visit a reason to visit a barber.
FORECAST: My prediction is that Bo also knows baseball and the sinister organization chasing her is Major League Baseball. The season finale will find her engaging in a telekinetic bat fight with New York Yankee Derek Jeter.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Crisis (March 16, NBC, Citytv, 10 p.m.). It's a bad pop culture week for ex-cons, but an even worse one for kids. In Crisis, an elite high school field trip goes very wrong when the bus is ambushed and the children of the world's most powerful people -- including the U.S. president -- are kidnapped. When the bad guys can suddenly blackmail everyone from the president to high-ranking diplomats, military leaders to the business elite, they can accomplish pretty much anything. These kids offer golden tickets to all kinds of shenanigans. Will their high-and-mighty parents become thieves, spies, traitors and killers in order to keep their children safe? Is there a Kardashian relative on the bus? Will Bo from Believe make a series crossover and save them all? So many questions. Gillian Anderson plays an all-powerful CEO, the mother of Amber, one of the kidnapped girls and -- if I know my screenwriters -- a love interest for the president's son. Dermot Mulroney plays Thomas Gibson, one of the trip chaperones and kidnapping victims.
BIG RELEASE: March 11, Eamon McGrath (Exile Part Two)
BIG PICTURE: The greater powers in the music business are quiet this week, so I'll focus on a David instead of a Goliath. Eamon McGrath is a homegrown gem. The Edmonton-born, Toronto-based singer-songwriter releases the second instalment of his serialized, three-part album. McGrath's raspy, bluesy voice is front-and-centre. Whereas Exile Part One seemed to channel '80s indie rock, Part Two sounds more like a '90s grunge homage. From the opening track Canadian Shield - about an epic cross-country trek, to the Neil Young & Crazy Horse-esque Paper Boats, McGrath offers little nods to his native land. McGrath's growling vocals make him sound more poignant when he's quiet and vulnerable, as demonstrated on the solo acoustic track Running from the Cops. After Exile Three comes out later this year, the three EPs will be released together as a vinyl album.
FORECAST: McGrath stuns us all by tackling polka in Exile: Part Three.