Friday, May 16, 2008

Speed Racing With Mr. Brooks.

Think you know what the big summer blockbusters will be? If so, be sure to check out EZ's Summer Box Office Challenge - Summer 2008. Basically you are put in charge of a fictional studio, and you have to select which summer films you think will be hits. Simple as that. Best of all, it is free to play. Not to mention that prizes will be award. For more info click here.

Random Song 1: Coldplay - Viva La Vida (buy)
Random Song 2: Death Cab For Cutie - Grapevine Fire (buy)

Speed Racer

As far as summer blockbusters go, "Speed Racer" achieves something that is truly makes the main character a bit player in his own film. Based on the classic cartoon, the latest film from the Wachowski brothers is a train wreck that makes the source material look like Chaucer in comparison. While the film is visually stunning in parts (e.g. Racer X/Truck scene, fight scene on the mountain, etc), the Wachowski's never seem content with settling for one visual style. As a result, you get a film that is part "The Flintstone" (which also featured John Goodman) and part "Phantom Menace". In regards to former, the Wachowski's are determined to make the film look like a living Manga cartoon. Yet they forget that certain things only play well in animated form. An example of this can be found when the directors inter-cut a scene of Spritle and Chim Chim, Speed Racer's younger brother and pet chimp, on a trippy sugar-induced bender amongst a serious conversation between Speed Racer and the head villain. It is moments like this that make "Speed Racer" truly annoying. This also leads me to why the film reminded me of the Phantom Menace.

Similar to George Lucas, the Wachowski's have made the biggest mistake you can make when creating a family film…underestimating their audience. They give Spritle and Chim Chim way too much screen time. Whenever there is a moment that does not require cars doing summersaults, the directors call on Spritle (this year's Jar Jar Binks in regards to annoying characters) to do his shtick. Yes Spritle was annoying in the cartoon, but he was only a bit player who appeared in small doses. Most kids, and adults, watched the show for Speed Racer, the cool cars, and Racer X. Sadly, Racer X is the only real shining spot in the film. Matthew Fox plays the role of the stoic anti-hero perfectly. The same cannot be sad for Emile Hirsch's Speed Racer. He hardly gets to speak in the first part of the film. Speed comes off like the biggest sap ever; rarely do we see the cunning racer/action hero that made him such a fun character in the cartoons. This is probably due to the fact that the Wachowski brothers are more interested making the race scenes a glorified bumper car derby. While the “rally scene” in the middle of the film is probably the closets the film ever gets to the cartoon in terms of racing fun; the majority of the race scenes of cars drop-kicking each other over and over. I can't even explain what happens at the end of the “final race” as it is all bright lights and metal clanging. I can only hope that at some point in the future the Wachowski's will look back on their first film, Bound, and remember how to successfully use style to accompany substance. Currently they seem to have it backwards.

Random Song 3: Adam Tensta - 80's Baby (buy)
Random Song 4: Wolf Parade - Call It A Ritual (buy)

Mr. Brooks

As the title character, Mr. Brooks, Kevin Costner gives easily his best performance since "Open Range". Unfortunately his performance his buried underneath the misguided scope of the film. I actually saw this film on DVD about a month ago, but have not been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because the film had immense potential of being something great, a hidden gem even. Yet Bruce A. Evans, the writer/director, seems to want to make several films at the same time. He rams the film with too many unnecessary plot strands. The most interesting section of the film is the interplay between Costner’s Mr. Brooks, a successful businessman / serial killer trying to go straight; and William Hurt’s Marshall, who is essentially the little devil on Mr. Brooks shoulders. Both actors seem to relish their roles and the chemistry comes off very well on screen. The same can’t be said for the rest of the cast, whose subplots get more screen time than is necessary. First you have Demi Moore as the cop trying to track down Mr. Brooks (only known as the Fingerprint Killer to cops). Not only are we subjected to her divorce issues, but also her second storyline involve a criminal she arrested breaking out of jail. Moore is decent in the role of the determined cop, but her storylines make it hard for the audience to connect with her. As if Moore’s subplots were not enough, we also much endure Dane Cook as a photographer who knows about Mr. Brook’s true nature and wants to learn the art of killing. On top of all that, we have the story of Mr. Brook’s daughter, played by Danielle Panabaker, who abruptly drops out of collage. If Evan had just fleshed psychological cat and mouse game between Costner, Hurt, and Moore; Mr. Brooks would have been a great film. Alas with all the useless subplots, Mr. Brooks is nothing more than a muddled film whose scripted is in desperate need of editing.

Random Song 5: Madonna - Incredible (buy)
Random Song 6: Crystal Castle - Courtship Dating (buy)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

This Iron Man Is Rust Proof

Random Song 1: Usher - Love In This Club (remix) [ft. T.T. and Young Jeezy] (buy)
Random Song 2: Lily Allen - I Could Say (Myspace)
Random Song 3: Flight of the Conchords - Ladies of the World (buy)

Iron Man
After a mix of the successful launches (Spider Man, X-Men, Blade), and horrific failures (Elektra, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, The Hulk), Marvel has once again dipped into its canon of superheroes with hopes of box office gold. Fortunately for them, “Iron Man” is a blockbuster truly worthy of the Marvel branding. The film is faithful to the lore that comic fans have loved for years. Robert Downey Jr. perfectly captures the essence of Tony Stark, the billionaire playboy and weapons manufacturer, who ultimately becomes Iron Man. Downey Jr. finds the perfectly blend of arrogance, humour and heart that made Tony such a complex character in the comics. The film also does a good job of including a lot of references (e.g. S.H.I.E.L.D, Rhodes as War Machine, The Avengers, etc.) that should wet fans appetites for future film installments. Yet you do not need to be a fan of the books to enjoy this film. The movie provides enough action and story to entertain, and bring up to speed, the uninitiated. As with all major comic book tales that jump to the big screen, “Iron Man” is essentially just an origin story. Which mean the film does have a few spots where the pacing lags a tad. Yet the moments are so minor that many will hardly notice. Once the action sequences hit, you will forget that film ever had a slow moment to begin with. “Iron Man” is a fine addition to the canon of superhero movies, and should not be missed by those looking for a fun summer blockbuster.

Random Song 4: Kyrie Kristmanson - Origin of Stars (Myspace)
Random Song 5: The Mary Onettes - Lost (buy)
Random Song 6: Lupe Fiasco - What It Do (Lupe's blog)