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John Drew

Speed Racer (2008)

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After several aborted attempts, including by one by Lethal Weapon director Richard Donner, it looks as though Speed Racer is going to hit the big screen. I, for one, hope that the technical team doesn't try to modernize the cars. I hope they stay as true to the original animated series as possible.

Story here.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Christina Ricci? With the Wachowskis?

Strange days have found us. Strange days have tracked us down.

-s.

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Ordinarily, I'd be super-excited about anything like this, but John Goodman as Pops Racer will ruin it for me.

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If this first look at the Mach 5 is any indicator, then the tech team has made it clear they are attempting to be faithful to the look of the original series. Wooohooo!

speed-racerx-large.jpg

LOST star Matthew Fox has been announced to play Racer X.

Full article here.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Link to video unvailing of the Mach 5, in Potsdam, Germany, plus interviews with some of the cast. Check out the jet black hair on most of the principles.

Filming began yesterday.

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Chim Chim on the rampage...

PETA Concerns Over Chimp Attack on Movie Set

Animal rights campaigners are furious at reports a chimpanzee was beaten on the set of the new Speed Racer movie. The chimp was allegedly attacked after it bit an actor on the set of Speed Racer, which stars Christina Ricci and Emile Hirsch. And animal rights group People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are taking the claims seriously - officials have fired off a letter to film producer Joel Silver begging him not to use live animals in his movies. The letter, obtained by WENN, reads, "We are in receipt of information that may upset you. We've received several troubling complaints from people who have been on the Speed Racer set and report that the main chimpanzee 'actor' has been beaten and has bitten one of the human actors." But a movie spokesperson believes PETA bosses may have reacted too hastily, confirming a young actor was bitten, but strongly denying reports the chimpanzee was beaten, insisting, "Our company does not tolerate the mistreatment of animals... and there has been no animal abuse on the set of Speed Racer. An American Humane Association safety representative has been on set at all times when animals have been present." But PETA isn't satisfied, adding in a second letter, also obtained by WENN, "No humane representative is closely monitoring those animals while off-set or during pre-production training - the very places where abuse is most likely to occur - so we regret to say that the assurances you offer are meaningless."

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Link to video unvailing of the Mach 5, in Potsdam, Germany, plus interviews with some of the cast. Check out the jet black hair on most of the principles.

Filming began yesterday.

Could anyone else hear Tim Robbins gagging in the background while Susan Sarandon pretended to be excited about this project?

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Harry Knowles has seen the Speed Racer trailer, and he, um, likes it.

And he's not the only one:

While I'm not really allowed to say anything about anything for another 24 hours or so, let me just say that I have seen something (hint: Knowles has seen it too) with regards to Speed Racer that is so unbelievably awesome -- you seriously have no idea how insane this film is going to look. No idea.

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USA Today has just posted some stills from the film, and based on these, I think it could either be totally ridiculous or totally awesome.

"The effects are beyond belief. We called it 'car fu,' because it was like kung fu with the cars," Silver says. "We couldn't have made this movie until right now."

But effects, he says, take a back seat to the Wachowskis' true love of the old series: the cars, costumes and message.

"It obviously has a present-day aesthetic to it," Silver says. "But it's still a great yarn about family and not selling out. That's an important message to the (Wachowskis) and why we all connected to the show."

Apparently, a trailer ran on "Entertainment Tonight" last night but Google doesn't turn anything up yet.

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Oops... the trailer set to premier tonight on ET.

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Get your HD trailer here:

http://movies.aol.com/movie/speed-racer-2008/28066/main

I recommend single-stepping through the CGI shots. They go by too fast at normal speed to really see what's going on. Visually, this is a really ambitious film. I have no idea yet whether it will work or be one of the most memorable failures in recent memory. I do think that this isn't a movie you're at all likely to forget once you've seen it.

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I posted some thoughts on the trailer here.

I like it... I think. It could be an absolute thrill of a film, or a total mess. I love the concept of the film's look, at least. I remember folks saying that the Wachowskis captured the anime look with The Matrix, but I think it's obvious that Speed Racer -- just based on the trailer and stills -- easily trumps that film (and so would, I'd argue, Casshern). There are so many visual flourishes in that trailer that used to be within anime's purview alone.

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Someone mentioned this over on Twitch, and the more I think about it, the more I agree. The style of Speed Racer totally reminds me of live-action adaptation of the (in)famous Cutie Honey anime series. Like the Wachowskis, Hideaki Anno didn't so much adapt the anime as realize it, giving all of those "anime-only" flourishes flesh and form. And for the most part, it worked -- I thought Cutie Honey was an absolute blast (my review). Completely nonsensical and over-the-top, but done with such wild abandon and infectious glee that it was difficult to ignore.

So the sort of thing that the Wachowskis seem to be doing here is not entirely without precedent. Which doesn't mean that Speed Racer is going to be automatically great -- it could still be a wreck of a movie (npi) -- but I do have some confidence that it at least the potential to be an awful lot of fun.

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'Speed Racer' aims for multiple tie-ins

Joel Silver has always wanted one of his movies plastered on the front of a cereal box. But making films like "Die Hard," "Predator," "Lethal Weapon" or even "The Matrix" trilogy doesn't land the brands. "I've lived my life as an R-rated man," Silver says. Not any more. "Speed Racer," the actioner throttling into theaters May 9, is targeting a G rating. What's more, Silver not only gets his cover of Cheerios -- he gets a McDonald's Happy Meal, Hot Wheels cars and Lego playsets.

Variety, January 25

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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IIt could be an absolute thrill of a film, or a total mess.

Yes.

I saw the film Saturday and need to figure out what I thought of it. A real breakthrough in some ways, but it's hard to see if it will influence future films, a la The Matrix, or be a fading one-time experience that quickly evaporates, a la Dick Tracy.

Edited by Christian

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John Podhoretz draws an analogy that I was thinking of during the movie:

This is what Tim Burton's version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the really disappointing one with Johnny Depp) should have looked like.

--Well, not exactly the analogy I was thinking of. I've never seen the Burton/Depp version, but as I was thinking of a visual parallel for Speed Racer, the best I could come up with is the Gene Wilder version of Willy Wonka. However, it's been a LONG time since I've sat through that one, so I'm not sure my memory is altogether accurate. Lots of hyper-real colors and wonderment.

Huh. This, from the same review, hadn't occurred to me while watching the film:

Astonishingly, Speed Racer features five separate speeches--two of them by Susan Sarandon--in which the title character is told how proud people are of him, and how he needs to trust his feelings, and how family is the most important thing, and how they love him. Every one of these speeches is followed by a hug. The schmaltz is laid on so thick it's not entirely apparent whether it is intended seriously or whether the filmmakers are attempting a very lame parody of tender television-show moments.

What DID occur to me was how brazenly kid-friendly this movie is. No attempt to be a "tweener" movie, or something that might make kids want to feel more mature than they are. I was disappointed that the script throws in a few four-letter words, marring what would otherwise have been a spectacular kids' movie. As it is, it's still spectacular in some ways, but I'm not convinced it's a landmark. I wanted it to be. I thought it was. And then ... the thing just plum wore me out. But it has a great finish, when the finish finally arrives. People in the audience I saw it with burst into applause, and I wanted to join them, although the chaotic finale had me confused as to what, exactly, happened. I just know that it was really cool. :)

Edited by Christian

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Christian: What is the age appropriateness of the film?

That's a good question. It's suitable for younger kids but I'm not sure how young. I didn't take my 5-year-old because loud noises frighten her, and I suspected, correctly, that this film would be on the loud side. I don't think there's any objectionable content unless you count the few instances of cussing. I do, so that's a mark against the film. I'm not sure I count it enough that it would prevent me from taking an older child who would like everything else in the film, but my kids aren't quite old enough for me to be basing that judgment on experience. I do know that my kids are probably more timid and shy than others, and appear to be "late bloomers" in terms of early-in-life landmarks. They haven't seen many films in the theater.

As for others, if it's between taking the kids to Speed Racer or Iron Man, then it's no contest. Speed Racer is the more appropriate choice.

Edited by Christian

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Cinematical's review:

Speed Racer plays like a car-crazed visual wonder -- it looks and feels like what pop artist Roy Lichtenstein would dream if you locked him in a room full of gas fumes, gave him only candy to eat and showed him nothing but Tron, Indianapolis 500 footage, episodes of the '60s Batman TV show and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. All at the same time. With the volume very, very high.

...the film's star, in the end, is the Wachowskis -- they've created a visually stunning entertainment that blurs the line between animation and live-action through high-tech wizardry and sheer velocity. And keeping Speed Racer a family film blunts some of the ironies inherent to the material: This is a multi-million dollar film backed by a huge corporation about how a small group of friends can thwart a major corporation, and it's weird to see so much auto-erotic racing action at a time when gas is over four dollars a gallon -- but you'd have to be some kind of commie weirdo to think about those things when Hirsch zooms around the track while the laws of physics smile and look the other way.

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AICN's Moriarty chimes in:

In the end, I am more than a little blown away by the sheer ambition on display here. You may see films you enjoy more this summer, and you may decide that this film's style and storytelling isn't for you, but you can't say that this is anything less than heartfelt and experimental and singular in the way it goes about its business. I commend Warner Bros. and Joel Silver for backing such an extreme vision, and I salute the Wachowskis for pulling it off. SPEED RACER isn't a children's film... it's a family film, ideal for anyone who has an open mind. My son loved it as much as my mother-in-law did, and that's a pretty rare thing. It

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Yeah, I just handed in a pretty positive review, although the few four-letter words were disappointing to me and not terribly "cute." Still, the film is so unapologetically kid-centric, in a good way, that I find myself, like Moriarity, somewhat in awe of the brothers Wachowski. Regardless of how many people go to see this film, it's an artistic accomplishment, at times a real marvel.

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I haven't seen the movie yet, so I'll reserve judgement. But this bit of Jim Emerson's less than glowing review over at RogerEbert.com made milk come out of my nose...

Neither is "Speed Racer" a commercial avant-garde film (though fans of the Wachowski brothers may wish to make such claims), unless you still consider Laserium shows of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" to be cutting edge. (Lights! Shapes! Colors! Motion! Money!) And there's nothing terribly adventurous these days about Eisensteinian montage treated as if it were William S. Burroughs' "cut up" technique -- with digital clips randomly scrambled like pixelated confetti.

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Dennis Cozzalio raves, and wonders why so many critics were so dismissive.

I'm feeling a little guilty about this, because although I enjoyed this movie and handed in what I thought was a pretty positive review, my editor gave it a very qualified headline that, upon re-reading the review, has me wondering if the piece is all that positive after all! I'd be curious to hear anyone else's thoughts on this. Do you think the headline betrayed the review, or accurately captured it? Just wondering.

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I'm feeling a little guilty about this, because although I enjoyed this movie and handed in what I thought was a pretty positive review, my editor gave it a very qualified headline that, upon re-reading the review, has me wondering if the piece is all that positive after all! I'd be curious to hear anyone else's thoughts on this. Do you think the headline betrayed the review, or accurately captured it? Just wondering.

This is kind of on the same topic that I posted this morning over on the Critical Cliches forum. Although the headline to your piece is one of that would interest me in the review, I think your review was much more positive than the headline leads the reader to believe. At least it wasn't a "witty" pun headline, like those I was admonishing on the other forum. I think some editors need to check with their reviewers whether or not the headlines support the gist of the review, IMHO.

Edited by Baal_T'shuvah

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Christian,

I thought your review put the film about where I put it at 3-of-4. So, yes, I think the headline doesn't fit well. But it is still a good headline. I have found that our editors do a good job at grabbing attention, which is their job. Ours is to deliver something once they get the door open.

I am a great Matrix fan - but felt that the special effects in this film are just a little much. For example, the conversation between two of the characters in which we see them layered upon themselves again and again is distracting and made me think - they did it just because they could - rather than - that's a neat effect.

But I liked the morality of the tale and scored it WHOLESOME. The Spritle giving the finger was out of place and should have been left out. But the true moral issues come down well. I loved Chim-Chim.

Denny

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Do you think the headline betrayed the review, or accurately captured it? Just wondering.

I think the headline would more accurately reflect the review if the order of adjectives were reversed, say "Spectacular Effects Overcome Weak Story"

I saw the film and loved it. I'll admit, I was more of a Speed Racer geek when I was a kid than an Iron Man or Transformers geek. I thought the visual effects fit the Speed Racer anime theme perfectly. The film works because the colors were so extreme and over-the-top that the film exists in its own world. I'm not a big fan of excessive use of CGI, but liked the CGI because it fit into this world, as opposed to a film like Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End, where the CGI seemed like a foreign intrusion into a real-world landscape.

As far as the story goes, I think the simplicity of the story serves the film well. A more complex story with these effects would have been too much of an overload.

The film is too long, and could have been a half-hour shorter. And there was too much of Spritle and the monkey. But I liked the sense of wonder I found in this film, and that the film showed the importance of a loving family. I'd give it a 9/10.

Edited by Crow

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