Speed Racer

I fancied a bit of a departure from my normal film watching/reviewing habits. After hearing massively mixed reviews about “Speed Racer” I thought the only way to be sure in this crazy, crazy world was to watch it myself. Here are the results:

Speed Racer (2008)


The first thing that is noticeable about “Speed Racer” is the fact that it is more colourful than anything else you’ve seen. You’re like a child going into a sweet shop and being in awe of the sheer colours and numbers of all the tooth-rotting treats on display. You get feeling that the Wachowskis (yes, the brothers that directed “The Matrix” trilogy) have really tapped into the mind of a child. Fast cars, sweets, loud noises, a chimp and eye searing colours are all accounted for.

“Go, Speed, go!”

The basic plot is that Speed, the middle child of the Racer family, is obsessed with racing. After the death of his older brother Rex, Speed stiffens his resolve to become the best of the best. Blah, blah, blah. You’ll pick it up soon enough- it’s hardly groundbreaking. Plus, Wikipedia is your friend. The film is based on the “Speed Racer” anime series that was screened in America in the 1960’s and then again in the ’90s. I’m guessing that the “Speed Racer” phenomenon bypassed the good ol’ British Isles.
Anyway, the actual story was much more bearable than I intially thought. Sure, it’s cheesy but with an important difference- it’s not trying to be anything else. It aims directly for the family market and never waivers from trying to be the best family film it can be. It even handles some of the monumental amounts of cheese with surprising skill. Example? Take a look at the opening scene where Speed is close to beating Rex’s record time. Speed deciding to slow down to preserve his late brother’s record could have been a schmaltzfest, but it is done in such a way that it threw me off guard a bit-in a good way. A rare achievement for a film, let alone a film aimed at children.
You may think I’m edging closer and closer to giving “Speed Racer” a glowing review. I’m not. I’m just making it clear that I really respect what the Wachowskis have done. They set out to do a live action anime, and they’ve done it. However, I have problems with some of the other things they’ve done.

Firstly, why is nearly every “bad” character British? Ranging from the aristocratic British toff to the Cock-er-ney thugs, the Hollywood spectrum of British accents is represented here (i.e. two) I don’t notice it in films as much these days, what with terrorism and all its related words making every villian Middle Eastern. But why,”Speed Racer”,why? I thought we were past this, Hollywood! Secondly, as much as I like the primary coloured neon visuals, it can get a bit much sometimes. It’s like having a huge bag of Skittles poured into your eyes. It’s pretty, but it starts to hurt after a while.

“No, he’s going to be the best… if they don’t destroy him first.”

Despite all its flaws, “Speed Racer” does what it set out to do and you can’t help but respect that. Would I recommend it? Yeah- but only because even if you love it or hate it, it’s unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Men in Black

Having not seen this film for years, I decided to check it out again. I was around 10/11 when it was theatrically released and it’s one of the first films I remember seeing at the cinema (some of the others are “Aladdin” and “Batman Forever” just in case you were wondering…) Anyways, does it hold up a staggering 11 years later? Let’s find out before I start to feel old again:

Men In Black (1997)

“Men in Black” is probably one of the first films I really loved. It’s an odd choice for a young filmic love in retrospect. Before I start the “proper” review, let me tell you a little story. I remember begging my father to buy “Men in Black” for me when we were in a shopping mall, I remember his annoyed face as he handed the video over the counter for purchase. I even remember drawing Will Smith’s character in full MIB garb (I guess Tommy Lee Jones’ trademark crag-tacular face was too intricate for my artistic skills at the time) However, just because I loved this film as a kid, it doesn’t mean I’ll be reviewing it through rose-tinted glasses. I mean as a child, I thought drinking white spirit was a good idea (true story) so I’m looking at this film objectively and reviewing what I see, not what I remember.


“You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.”

The plot revolves around a secret organisation called the Men in Black. Their job is to monitor and control alien life on this planet. When veteran Agent Kay (Tommy Lee Jones) is forced to recruit a new partner, he picks young, dynamic N.Y.P.D. officer James Edwards (Will Smith). I could tell you more but then I’d have to “flashy thing” you…

So, is “Men in Black” the film I remembered it to be? Well, yes and no. Yes as in it’s still great but no in the way that I get much more out of this film now. I love the weird ‘n’ wonderful Rick Baker creations that permeate the film. Some of the aliens are just fantastically designed. I love the whole concept of the film too. I think we’ve all got a conspiracy theorist in us somewhere, telling us aliens have landed and it’s all covered up, man. All of that stuff really appeals to me.

The pairing of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith is a perfect example of how to do the “chalk and cheese” buddy comedy duo. Below is how not to do it:

*Shudder*


Another thing “Men in Black” has going for it is the Danny Elfman score. It’s brilliant. Elfman just strikes the tone perfectly with the main MIB theme and is in my opinion some of his best work. It’s also very funny. Some of the interactions between Jay and Kay are genius.

So, anything bad about this film? Well, not really. The “bug” is villainous, Jay and Kay are great and Dr. Weaver (Linda Fiorentino) is suitably sexy and sarcastic in the role. The aliens are all good (especially the Worm guys) and the scale is fantastically judged. Talking of scale, I remember the ending blowing my mind as a child and it really made me smile this time. Mind-fuckery at its most family friendly.

“You don’t like it, you can kiss my furry, little butt.”


Eurgh! I know- a sappy “I love this film” review. I really do, though. I wish they made more films like this these days (MIB II was so disappointing). Watching this and then reflecting on “Step Brothers” and the god-awful “Meet The Spartans” leaves me asking one question- “Where have all the good comedies gone?”

Anyway- “Men in Black” gets an awesome

Step Brothers

With the words “sophomore” and “slump” ringing in my ears it’s time for my review of “Step Brothers”. Let’s start the show.

Step Brothers (2008)

There hasn’t been a great comedy for a while now. In my personal opinion there hasn’t been a good one since “Superbad” last year. Unfortunately, “Step Brothers” doesn’t break that streak. It’s good with elements of greatness. It’s no “Anchorman”, let’s put it that way. Hell, it’s not even on the same level as “Talladega Nights”.

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but I will kick you repeatedly in the balls!”

The basic plot is that two live-at-home middle aged wasters become competitive step brothers after their single parents get married to each other. It’s pretty standard as far as this type of film goes. Obviously, the plot is just an excuse to watch Ferrell and Reilly act like idiots- the very reason I went to see it. I’m not sure why but the film would start to work and then something jarringly unfunny would happen and you are taken out of it again. It’s very stop/start.

Let’s start with the things that work. Firstly, there are no complaints from me about either Ferrell or Reilly. They proved they have great chemistry in “Talladega Nights” and it shows in “Step Brothers”. Obviously they are perfectly suited for the roles of 40 year old man-children and it’s great watching them play off each other. The bonkers one-liners are back too, with lines like “I’m going to take a pillowcase and fill it full of bars of soap and beat the shit out of you!” and “You have the voice of an angel. I mean, it’s like Fergie meets Jesus.” The film is funniest when it lets the two leads do their own thing. Also it was nice to see Mary “Doc Brown’s wife in Back to the Future III” Steenburgen again.

Now for the things that don’t work. It does seem to be too sweary for its own good. It’s not that I hate bad language or anything, it just seemed a bit too much. It’s like when a 5 year old child learns his new favourite four-letter word and says it often. The first few times are funny, but after the 50th time it’s time to smack the child in the head (joking, people!), y’know? Funny doesn’t need to be sweary all the time. I think “Step Brothers” was trying to be a bit of everything. Part gross-out comedy, part satirical, part pop culture referencing- you get the idea. Trouble is, it is always hard to pull something like that off. I think what I liked about “Superbad”, “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and “Anchorman” was the fact that they were focused on what they wanted to do, whereas “Step Brothers” was trying to please everyone, which is always an impossible task. The cold, hard fact is that I expected it to be funnier than it was. That’s not to say it wasn’t funny, just not funny enough.

“Goddamn it, you’re seventeen, stop being a fucking dinosaur and get a job!”

So, would I recommend seeing it? Not sure to be honest. All I know is that I walked away throughly entertained but slightly disappointed as well (also known as KOTCS* syndrome)


*”Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”

Transformers

If you’re reading this you are either a loyal blogee or someone who got lost in the wrong part of ‘Nettown. Either way, stay as we have warm cups of cocoa and some film talk as well. So, on that note:

Transformers (2007)

“Transformers” has been out for quite a while now and has only just been released on Blu-ray Disc (my current obsession) so I thought I’d give it the ol’ Benjamin J. treatment.

“Transformers” has become a bit of a guilty pleasure of mine. I mean, I know it’s not exactly deep or contains any Oscar-worthy performances (the Oscars are becoming farcical these days though, but I digress) but I enjoy it. I enjoyed it in the cinema and I’ve enjoyed it on repeat viewings. I honestly think it’s mainly down to a perfect melding of subject and director.

“This is easily 100 times cooler than Armageddon, I swear to God!”


I’m a bit of a closet fan of Michael Bay’s. I think it’s because of the fact his films don’t pretend to be anything more than they are- big, dumb action movies. “The Rock” and “Bad Boys II” are two of my favourite films, just don’t tell anyone! Christ, it’s like I’m talking about porn or something. In fact, that may not be the worst description. “Transformers” is action porn. Huge explosions, impressive stunts and some astounding CGI effects make up the majority of this film. Sure, there’s the inevitable love story but I mentally skip past that to see giant robots beating the shit out of each other. That’s not to say the love story/human element is bad, in fact it’s above average- it’s just that giant, arse-kicking robots interest me a whole lot more.

I really like Shia LaBoeuf in this film. I think any other young male lead would have given the film a different spin, which I’m not sure I’d like. Megan Fox is surprisingly good too and the below shot is arguably one of the greatest in filmic history:


Wow.

Anyway, as I’ve said. It’s big, dumb fun. That’s not to say it’s completely stupid though. Bay handles the suspension of disbelief element with great skill. Plus, there are some great funny moments- most of them can be attributed to John Turturro, a personal hero of mine.

“I bought a car, turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?”

So, I really do recommend “Transformers” if you’re looking to disengage your brain for a bit and some kick-ass action and effects. You have just under a year to get savvy for the sequel “Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen” before it hits cinemas next summer. What are you waiting for?