Monday, September 22, 2008

Speed Racer

I'm not exactly sure why I wanted to watch this; I think it was mostly curiosity. I was a big fan of the Wachowski brothers' The Matrix (I'll admit it, liked all three of 'em), although I was annoyed by V for Vendetta (and laughed out loud at some parts that weren't supposed to be funny). Having never watched the Speed Racer cartoon series, my curiosity was thus further heightened. I was not rewarded.

Most movies based on comic books or cartoons try to explain the backstory to bring everybody up to speed, specifically those unfamiliar with the series. Speed Racer's effort felt forced and inadequate. I came close to turning it off after 20-30 minutes, but the establishment of the arch enemy kept me from hitting the power button. I still don't know whether or not I made the right decision.

What I'm sure of, however, is that I probably would've loved this movie if I were 10 or 11 years old. Racing, explosions, cheesey jokes, visual stimulation, and a fairly simple plot. At times, this movie reminded me of the pod race in Star Wars: Episode I, but thankfully it wasn't that annoying or stupid. The CG was amazing at times and Xbox-good at others, and probably didn't help the pod-racing comparisons; this probably would've looked great at IMAX.

Casting for this movie had a few blips: John Goodman seemed like an odd choice for Speed Racer's father, but since I've never seen the cartoon, maybe I'm wrong here. Emile Hirsch, who played Speed Racer, only confirmed my previous suspicions that he's not a good actor.

Grade: C-
Blurb: Unless you own an IMAX, haven't gone through puberty yet, or are a devotee of the cartoon, you should probably check out some other movie. Any other movie... except Revolver or The Grifters.

Monday, September 8, 2008


This is the first Norwegian film I think I've ever seen. I think I liked it.

Reprise tells the story of two friends who are both trying to get their manuscripts published at the same time. You'd think this would be a typical story of jealousy or something like that, but the one who got his work published ends up in a mental institution for six months while the one who went unpublished tries to help his friend after the former's release (a bulk of the film focuses on what happens after the release from the institution). Kudos for not being a hackneyed storyline.

Something unique here is that the film begins with an unknown narrator telling the story of "what would have happened" if both friends had been published simultaneously... then, fade to black, and the real story unfolds. At the film's end, the same thing [narration] happens about how the story "would have" ended and... then it ends. At first I found this frustrating, but the more I've let the movie simmer in the back of my mind, the more I find it a fitting ending. (Sidenote: the word for "stop" in Norwegian is "slutt" which flashes on the screen at the film's end ... just don't be offended and/or confused when that happens :)

Well acted, well directed, and an interesting story to boot.

Final Grade: B
Blurb: This isn't an easy movie to watch and it's not filled with puppy dogs and rainbows, but if you want a relational drama--with subtitles--then you might rent Reprise.