Death Race is a cross between The Fast and the Furious and The Hunger Games. Ish. Some of the jolty filming was not to my taste, but I liked the premise, morbid though it is: Private prisons run popular, televised and very deadly auto racing competitions on site. Winning first place in five races theoretically earns a release from prison.
Usually I have a low tolerance for stuff breaking, but this movie broke stuff rather joyfully, and somehow I didn’t mind. I wonder where they shot the film and how much they spent. Luckily, the bonus features explained a bit about that.
Death Race 2 (2010) is a prequel.
Death Race 3: Inferno (2013) is a sequel.
Death Race is a kind of remake or prequel of Death Race 2000 (1975).
See also Deathsport (1978).
I am reminded vaguely of:
- Blade Runner, because the cyborg was contemplating its identity.
- Firefly, because it was set in Hong Kong in the future, where there was both English and Chinese.
- X-Men, because it had a theme of mutation and change as necessary for progress.
- Childhood’s End, because evolution made a huge leap to something transcendental.
- RahXephon, because it had weird music.
- The Matrix, because of the green numbers and the neck plugs.
IMO, the exposition was too heavy-handed for the whole thing to come off as subtle and beautiful and deep.
I didn’t like the American voice actors’ performance, which seemed flat or dull, perfunctory. Also, the English subtitles were completely different from the English spoken track.
The source material is Japanese, but the setting really is Hong Kong… In one scene there’s even a jet coming in for a landing at Kai Tak Airport right over the city.
The special features on the disc showcased the beginning of the use of CGI and digital editing; the movie was a combination of hand-drawn and computer techniques.
Speed Racer is the Wachowski siblings’ perhaps underrated, largely unsuccessful adaptation of an anime/manga story about a boy named Speed Racer who dreams of being a professional race car driver like his disgraced, deceased older brother Rex. The racing world eats dreamers for breakfast, though, so Speed’s success requires every ounce of determination he has, as well as help from his mom, his dad, his girlfriend Trixie, his best friend Sparky, his little brother Spritle, a chimpanzee—and a mysterious ally known as Racer X.
For me, this movie is a fantastic dramatization of the passion of the expert and the pursuit and achievement of justice in the face of staggering odds. I love it. I love it for reasons that are more like feelings than they are like reasons. I don’t think I can properly explain.
Beware spoilers below.
Continue reading Speed Racer (2008)
This street-racing movie was set in Germany and had a European flavor.
There are four main characters:
- the female owner of a family garage,
- her boyfriend, who’s a street racer and in law enforcement,
- an American pizza delivery boy who wants to race,
- the wife of a rich German who wants him to teach her to race.
The primary source of tension (there are several) comes from the struggle to keep the nearly bankrupt family garage open.
What sticks in my mind most is a negative. After some kid loses a street race, one of the henchmen of the crime boss cuts his hand off. Yuck!
Madeleine L’Engle’s novel A Wrinkle in Time is an odd mix of fantasy, science-fiction, and Christian self-improvement pitched at young readers and published in 1952. Some aspects of the story lend themselves well to cinematic depiction, but unfortunately the climax is hard to dramatize. That didn’t stop Disney from trying. Although it’s not a great movie (it was made for television, not theaters), I’m glad it exists. I’ve now watched it twice. Yes, that’s a VHS tape.
See below for more thoughts on this adaptation. Beware SPOILERS.
Continue reading Wrinkle in Time (2003)
I am a fan of Tom Cruise, but I thought The Last Samurai was boring and overly sentimentalized.
The patronizing characterization of the Japanese as savages transformed into blind idealization of the Japanese as being actually quite lovely and graceful and heroic, which is just as patronizing.
Technology is depicted as inherently, thoroughly bad because it can magnify the consequences of unjust wars.
The emperor of Japan was portrayed as spineless, right up until the end, where suddenly he cared about the protagonist and his Samurai rebel leader friend.
I like fight scenes that are clever and funny, but all these were either loud, chaotic, and bloody, or slo-mo and serious. Nothing in the movie was funny. I was bored by the entire thing and had to go and get something to do while watching it. Not a winner.
Roger Ebert disagrees with me.