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4.1 out of 5 stars
Speed Racer [Blu-ray]
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93 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on July 15, 2008
I can understand why some people might dislike this movie (just look at its box-office) but the one undeniable fact is that it perfectly captures the spirit of the TV show which was never really associated with profound human feelings. It's amazing how everyone involved in it simply decided to give it their all. Just look at the conviction with which Susan Sarandon and John Goodman recited lines that clearly feel out of a cartoon. Usually I hate movies with quick cuts and gratuitous CG effects and SPEED RACER is 135 minutes of quick cuts and CG so I guess nostalgia goes a long way. I was so glad they included the sound effect of the Mach 5 jumping over and over again. My only real complaint about the movie is that there was a little bit too much of the chimp for my taste.
I can't blame anyone for complaining on leaving the theater with a headache. The world outside the theater I saw SPEED RACER in looked so slow once the movie ended, this is one exhausting film but certainly worth it.
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87 of 94 people found the following review helpful
Recently it seems like cartoon and comic books are about the only thing that gets made into blockbuster movies. While Transformers made the robots look like real living hulks of metal in the real world, and there's just no telling what the proposed Robotech movie will look like if it ever actually comes out, Speed Racer takes what is becoming the rather unpopular method of visual style. If you've seen Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow, you're familiar with it. Everything has a computer-adjusted color look to it, a super-crisp, super-sharp look reminiscent of the stop-motion films of yesteryear. And like those films that made the 80's so much fun for fantasy and sci-fi fans, Speed Racer features fantastic landscapes like nothing else on Earth (only now they are computer-generated instead of hand-painted).

The story of Speed Racer the movie actually exactly the same as the old cartoon show of the 1960's. Speed Racer (yeah, that's actually his name) is an aspiring race car driver looking to become the best and win races, with Pop's company supplying the car and mechanic, and his mom, little brother Spritle, girlfriend Trixie and family pet chimp for support. Corporate thugs notice and try to either destroy, bankrupt, or otherwise make trouble for Racer Motors, and Speed teams up with Racer X (who may or may not be his presumed dead brother Rex), Inspector Detector, and a few friends he meets along the way, to bring down the bad guys and save the day. Yeah, nothing too complex story-wise, but hey, that's why you loved the cartoon show, right?

Everything a Cartoon Should Be

When I first heard there was going to be a Speed Racer movie by the makers of the Matrix, I was worried. Animated features and video games don't really have a good history as feature films. But after seeing Speed Racer in the theater five times, I have to admit, they got it pretty much perfect. The trick with making a cartoon movie live action, and intentionally making it look cartoony, is that you have to push everything into a consistent cartoon universe and have it make sense in it's context. In other words, you have to make things exaggerated, but not the point of total impossibility in the world you have created. You see in the Speed Racer world, cars have insane power, traction, control, and speed. So when you see the Mach 5 speeding around corners in insane power-slides, yeah it looks like a cartoon, but you accept it as actually happening in that cartoon. It never looks out of place. When the engine roars and cars explode into flames it isn't silly, it's movie magic of the best kind, like when Luke's X-Wing lands that shot into the Death Star in Star Wars.

It's hard to describe without actually seeing it for yourself, but the cartoon universe of Speed Racer really is created wonderfully in this film. Everything from the sky to the furniture has an over-exposed super-vivid quality to it, like a technicolor gone mad. There is CGI backgrounds galore, but they jive perfectly with that universe as well, because everyone is wearing super-bright colors as well, and everything is always in razor sharp focus. Actually, this may be the movie to make me upgrade to a Blue Ray player, because it has to be the ultimate benchmark for color, contrast, and sharpness for a long time to come.

The world of Speed Racer is amazing enough, but the way that the film is acted, shot, directed, and scored musically is what combines to make it a 10 out of 10. For starters, everyone is just so INTO their roles. Susan Sarandon as Mom and John Goodman as Pop Racer are both absolutely perfect, managing to become those stereotypical cartoon caricatures and at the same never come across as cheesy, over-the-top or unrealistic. Again, in the context of the film, they are part of the Universe. Pop talks to Speed like he really is his son, mom gives a heart-warming speech about how proud she is of Speed that really gets to you if you know what it's like to love your family. Never does anyone betray even slightly that they think their names are ridiculous or that they are saying silly lines. EVERYONE gives their lines like they are absolutely real. And if you're making a Star Wars or a Speed Racer, that makes the movie in the end. Everyone was great. From the mechanic and the little brother (a lot less annoying than the Spritle of the cartoon) to the absolutely gorgeous and incredibly cute-looking Trixie played to perfection by Christina Ricci (where the heck has she been and why now of all times did she decide to play a sweet, loveable babe instead of all those crazy weird Gothic-horror type roles?), you gotta love them all. I especially was overjoyed by how well Racer X was portrayed with icy stoicism. Just wonderful.

The near constant use of deep focus photography and other camera techniques, combined with tons of digital screen wipes and other minor tricks, results in an incredibly slick presentation that cascades past the screen like panels of a comic book in glorious living color. The comedy and dramatic buttons are always pushed to great effect, all while keeping things from getting too far from the light-hearted entertainment that Speed Racer should be. And when the orchestral remix of the Speed Racer theme kicks in, it's just magic.

You really can't expect much more from this movie than it already is. It's true to the spirit of Speed Racer, the characters are all acted perfectly, the story is classic, there are tons of great moments and Speed Racer tributes (like Speed's wearing his trademark blue shirt and red handkerchief and his classic pose when he jumps from the Mach 5, or the sound effect made every time the Mach 5's jump jacks are used). Speed Racer may not be perfect. The villains feel more Hanna Barbara than Speed Racer, the sprinkling of swear-words (and Spritle giving someone the finger?) really don't jive in the kid-friendly Speed Racer universe, and the visual style of this film is definitely not for everyone. But...

If you're like me and love comic books, video games, and anime, if you like to watch old shows just as much as new ones, if crazy CGI and a movie shot entirely with blue-screens makes you smile, and the Speed Racer theme kicking in full-blast just as Speed makes a triumphant comeback makes you cheer... this is the movie for you!
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65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on May 10, 2008
"When I watch you do some of the things you do," says Susan Sarandon in the Wachowski Brothers' "Speed Racer," "you take my breath away." This line pretty much sums up how I felt about the movie. "Speed Racer" is an absolute visual masterpiece, retooling the look of anime into an exciting, hyper-realized world of vibrant creativity. Every shot is like a cartoon brought to life, the neutral shades of the real world replaced with bold shades of red, blue, green, yellow, purple, and orange. It doesn't present us with a vision of the future so much as it presents an alternate reality, where racing tracks and cars defy gravity. Here's a film you have to see more than once for the imagery alone, because chances are you'll miss more than a few details along the way--every square inch of the screen is packed with visual delights almost all throughout. It isn't often you come across a movie this stunning, this lively, and this fun.

Based on the 1960s cartoon series created by Tatsuo Yoshida, "Speed Racer" puts it foot on the gas as soon as the Warner Bros. logo appears, interweaving the title character's back story with a heart-pounding race. Even as a young boy, Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) has known nothing other than automobile racing; now as a professional racer himself, Speed is haunted by the death of his big brother, Rex (Scott Porter), a racing superstar who crashed eight years ago on a cross-country rally. The public believed that corporate sponsorship changed Rex into a money-grubbing backstabber, forcing him to turn his back on racing altogether. Naturally, Speed and his family are now completely against sponsorships of any kind, especially his father, appropriately named Pops (John Goodman). For this family, it's about racing, not money.

Here enters Royalton (Roger Allam), a slick corporate mogul who tempts Speed with the fame and fortune associated with being sponsored. In essence, Royalton wants Speed to sell his soul, much like Rex sold his. Despite an impressive city suite and the top-of-the-line cars manufactured in a highly efficient factory, Speed refuses to make a deal. Royalton angrily lets him in on a little secret: Car races are always fixed because, contrary to what Speed was raised to believe, making money is what racing is all about. With the help of his girlfriend, Trixie (Christina Ricci), and a mysterious masked man known only as Racer X (Matthew Fox), Speed infiltrates a number of races in an attempt to destroy Royalton's reputation as well as the need for corporate sponsorship. This won't be so easy, though; numerous factions are in cahoots with one another, all of which connect with Royalton to some degree.

If this sounds absolutely ridiculous, keep in mind that plot is not what "Speed Racer" depends on. This movie thrives on imaginative digital effects and spectacular racing sequences, all of which rely on lightening-quick edits and creative camera tricks for maximum entertainment. In this completely fantasy world, racecourses look like oversized Hot Wheels tracks, with sharp inclined curves, completely vertical drops, gaps to jump, and a variety of loops. Speed and his beloved car--the Mach 5--navigate these roller coaster-like twists and turns with ease and accuracy, as one would expect from a cartoon adaptation. Cityscapes are colossal, brightly colored, and sterile, looking much like the Worlds of Tomorrow depicted in science fiction pulp magazines. The sunny sky is a deep, rich shade of light blue, and it's accented with puffball clouds that are pure white. On DVD, one could easily pause a frame of this film and stare at it for hours while absorbing every single detail.

Just as impressive are the side characters, all of which add a little something to the story. Speed's youngest brother, Spritle (Paulie Litt), is a loveable scamp who often stows away in the trunk of the Mach 5. Always at his side is Chim Chim, his beloved pet chimp; together, they act as the film's comedy relief. Speed's mother (Susan Sarandon) is a caring woman who can weld car parts after making a mean stack of pancakes. The family mechanic, Sparky (Kick Gurry), absolutely shines during a wonderfully cartoonish martial arts sequence, one that makes you laugh just as much as it makes you cheer.

In a nutshell, "Speed Racer" has set a new standard for digital filmmaking, a standard previously set by brilliant films such as "Sin City" and "300." It's sure to snag Oscar nominations for visual effects, costumes, and cinematography, as well it should; watching this movie is an exhilarating experience, a perfect mixture of hard-driving action, childish whimsy, and visual creativity. The abundant imagery acts as a counterpart to Michael Giacchino's score, a cheerful opus that adapts the original theme song "Go Speed Racer Go." But all this wouldn't have worked without the actors, all of which were perfectly cast. Hirsch makes the title character both determined and vulnerable. Ricci gives Trixie a wide-eyed innocence that I absolutely loved. Allam is deliciously evil as Royalton, a sniveling, conniving villain you just love to hate. Sarandon and Goodman are convincingly down-to-earth as the parents of a racecar driver. And I have to give a lot of credit to young Paulie Litt, who not only delivered some of the film's best lines, but also played his part in the spirit of good fun. "Speed Racer" was all in good fun, definitely one of the year's most entertaining films.
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48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Note to reader: Strange vote totals, yes? It's just the work of a cyber stalker--

Wow, what a start to our summer adventures!!

"Speed Racer" the movie and "Go Speed Racer Go," the single title song by Ali Dee and the Deekompressors, had us hip hopping out the theater door, down the sidewalk, and into the car, then jumping and spinning along, singing "Go Speed Racer Go." They (the Pretend Children) were singing to me, the great aunt, because I was whirling and jolting in my Pretend Mach 8 Ford Escape down the freeway home. Hey, I was down for that movie.

Watching the spinning images, neon lighted, anime-inspired, digitally produced, toons-like panels with insertion of real people in the mix was a visual feast and imminent barf all in one. Dizzying. Spiraling. Flipping. Neon lights (more). Crashing. Just to suggest the mental images of the race scenes. During a couple of close-up montages of the cars before digitizing began, I glimpsed real-time, real-life tiny model cars (my great-nephew has a huge collection). And in some of the martial arts fight-stop-go scenes, especially one with John Goodman, I was slooshed with a moment of a set-up of Goodman just standing there ready to squash the ninja before digitized action thrust him into zoom speed action.

(Actually, if I had never digitally filmed my own video, I might not have recognized those scenes, but I have and I did. Did it take away from the movie? No way. Actually, I felt privy to a second of movie making magic.)

As for acting, I was awed by everyone, especially the coolly suave Emile Hirsch (looking like a young Charlie Sheen) as Speed Racer; Christina Ricci, who I was sure was really Susan Sarandon's daughter with those big eyes and similar facial expressions; Roger Allam, as the big corporate villain, who played a Michael Caine-like villain almost as well as Caine does himself; John Goodman, who played, well, Goodman as Pops, Speed's father. Stealer of every scene in which he appeared was young Paulie Litt, Speed's little brother, who I was definitely sure was Goodman's real life son because the resemblance was so uncanny.

The story line was so complicated and told in such a complicated, back and forth manner, both narratively and visually (you'll have to see the movie to understand as this is a new kind of movie making and story telling, sort of magic realism on screen), that I was certain the Pretend Children would not understand. I quizzed them as I was hip hopping down the street to the car, while the boy was laughing and beseeching me not to embarrass him. I stopped. Their answers indicated complete understanding. Either I have little geniuses or the movie told its story in a less complicated manner than I first believed.

Is "Speed Racer" a good movie from a 9-year-old's standpoint? "I've had two good things happen two days in a row," he said. "I went to Chuck E. Cheese's yesterday and today I saw "Speed Racer."

You decide.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2008
One of the coolest and most unique-looking movies I have ever seen. The Wachowski's have created a unique vision of the original 1960's cartoon while remaining faithful to the source. Bright vibrant colors, fast moving cars, anime-style action sequences and plenty of humor make for one fun movie. It's great for the whole family.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 17, 2008
I wish American movie viewers would have given speedracer a chance. With a dismal 44 million dollar domestic gross, there is much little hope for a second film which needs to be told. To be honest, speed racer took race car films to the ground breaking next level, just as The Matrix did for Science Fiction. Both the Matrix, and Speedracer had me the viewer emotionally envolved, and dazed by the visual effects. We are lucky to have the unique young tallent of Emile Hirsch portraying the role of Speed. And if Suzan Surandon is willing to play the role of Speeds mother, obviously the screenplay had much depth which most action films lack. Last note to all Bluray owners, don't bother renting Speedracer, just buy it. It is a good quality film, and it is going to look amaizing on your HD t.v.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on May 13, 2008
Somebody insisted that this film is only for kids 6-15. I am 52 years old, and I absolutely was blown away by 'Speedracer'.

I did not grow up with the 'Speedracer' cartoon. I know very little about the storylines. I also have learned that, over the years, not to always listen to critics, especially during the summer when films like 'Iron-Man' are dominating theatres. That said, 'Speedracer', from the makers of 'Matrix', is another extremely imaginative film. 'Speedracer' is FILLED (I emphasize this) with: tons of exciting car action (of course), loads of humor, a lot of tender moments, GREAT special effects, and a lot more action. And the music is fantastic. Watching 'Speedracer' is an experience, like a Disneyland ride. You are sitting in the theatre, but the filmmakers somehow pull you into the action (this wasn't IMAX). It's thrilling. As for the actors? Goodman, Sarandon, Hirsch (as Speedracer) and Christina Ricci, not to mention the rest of the cast, are just having fun with the rest of us. The story is good vs. evil, nothing more. What else do we need from a wonderful thrill ride??? Please don't listen to critics. And please consider what this poorly marketed film has to deal with: 'Iron-Man', next week 'Narnia', then 'Indiana Jones'... The list goes on. No wonder 'Speedracer' gets lost in the shuffle. This is a film that may be before its' time, as was 'Matrix'. Go see 'Speedracer'. It's for the kids. It's for the adults. And it is never offensive.

'Speedracer' is so exciting and warm-hearted and funny you will find yourself laughing and cheering all at the same time while you are trying in vain to wipe away the tears in your eyes. See it just once. I guarantee you will want to tell your friends. They will love it!!!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2008
Those who have watched this film will undoubtedly be familiar with the old Japanese Cartoon that it's based upon. Most viewers will also most likely be familiar with the Wachowski Brothers biggest work, the Matrix Trilogy. They have delivered again with this fast paced, colourful and beautifully designed anime adaptation. I say beautiful but I can't really describe it any other way except to call the whole thing magnificent. The Wachowski's are real visionaries when it comes to movie making. With Speed Racer they took their artistic genius and put a whole new spin on it. The races are fast paced and truly artistic when displaying the race backgrounds, colours and general sequences involving crashes are unashamedly cartoon-like. Even the fight scenes are insanely ridiculous but unbelievably fun.

The story starts with a kid who has natural racing instincts and idolises his brother, Rex Racer who at the time is one of the greatest auto mobile racers of the time. His brother Rex is unfortunately killed in a race after signing with another racing team and leaving the family team. Speed grows up to become one of the best racers in the world racing for his team Racer Motors. One day he's offered an extremely generous offer from the slimy, yet extremely rich Mr. Royalton, owner of the conglomerate Royalton Industries. Speed has always been taught by his family never to trust these big corporations as they are responsible for the death of his brother. He turns down Mr. Royalton's offer. Bitter about the rejection Royalton starts to reveal how he's deluded about racing and how companies have been fixing races for years in exchange for profit. He threatens to destroy the Racer family and Speeds future of racing. After making good on his initial threats, Speed bands together with his girlfriend Trixie, his one time rival Racer X and Taejo Togokhan and enters into the Casa Cristo 5000. A deadly cross country rally in an effort to expose Royalton and his companies corruption.

You will have to watch the film to find out what happens next, just trust me when I say you're not going to be disappointed. This movie is just shockingly great, it's not only good on the CGI side of things, but it's also supported by an excellent story and cast. I love Emile Hirsch's work and he doesn't disappoint in this cult favourite role. The real gem of this film has to be Roger Allam. His role as the sleazy and manipulative Royalton really comes off well and he's a character that you really come to dispise. He's not a massively known actor, but when in a role of this kind and pulling it off so well, you have to wonder why he isn't bigger than he is.

A wonderful movie that is enjoyable for the whole family. I can imagine the beauty would be multiplied by 100 in HD so I can't wait to get it on Blu-Ray myself.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 24, 2008
Based on the highly successful cartoon series from the 1960s, "Speed Racer" delivers a knockout punch sure to rev up everyone's engine.

As a young boy, Speed always looked up to his older brother Rex (Scott Porter). Rex was a highly successful driver who became legendary with his thrilling driving. However, Rex became involved with some corporate sponsors who believed racing was all about money. Rex was now viewed by his fellow drivers as being reckless as well as a thug who was only racing to make money. So, Rex decided to fake his own death.

Meanwhile, Speed (Emile Hirsch) has become a very good driver in his own right. He has shown the natural ability to win races at the highest level. This talent has been noticed by E.A. Royalton (Roger Allam), owner of Royalton Racing. E.A. has decided to try to lure Speed into signing on with his team. Speed and his family are wooed by Royalton, and soon, Speed is asked to sign on. He declines, deciding rather to stay on with his father's (John Goodman) independent team.

Speed's decision infuriates Royalton to no end, and he vows to ruin Speed and Racer Racing at all costs. But, Speed, with the help of Trixie (Christina Ricci) and Racer X (Matthew Fox) have a plan of their own in mind for Royalton. Will they be successful?

This is a first-rate movie. The special effects are some of the best I've seen, and the acting is very good as well. All of the familiar names from the TV series are included. Spritle (Paulie Litt) and his sidekick Chim-Chim still manage to get themselves into loads of mischief. Sparky (Kick Gurry) helps keep the Mach 5 and later, Mach 6, in tip top shape. Inspector Detector is on the job trying to solve the affairs of Royalton Racing. Other well-known Speed Racer characters such as Cruncher Block and Snake Oiler make appearances in the movie, too.

I give this movie my highest recommendation. The special effects are terrific, and seeing the old names again is loads of fun. Don't miss Speed Racer; its a high-speed rush to the finish line!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on September 18, 2008
The Legend is back, in another spectacular triumph for the Wachowski brothers. They were the exact right choice to write and direct this resurrection of essentially a simplistic early-anime kiddie cartoon from my childhood. Within the context of what they had to work with, the results were better than one might expect; they pulled off a completely original re-telling of the franchise story line, while staying at the same time completely faithful to the original family-values sensibilities of it.

There was stellar casting, lots of action, humor and drama, a compelling story line with an interesting subplot, an unprecedented CGI environment for the racing action, and even hints of a post-apocalyptic future, while staying non-violent, and kid-friendly throughout. Adults have to put up with a little too much Spridle and ChimChim, kids have to try and sort out complex flashback time distortions, so the minor annoyances balanced each other out, and were worth it in their appeal to both types of audiences.

The whole "art-direction" vibe was very early seventies, neatly contrasted with a technologically-sophisticated near future. The Blu-ray disc that I viewed was as good, maybe better visually, than anything I have watched on my PS3, and the surround sound encoding on it was nothing short of spectacular, from the racing car sounds to the brilliantly updated theme song/soundtrack. Even the final credit thing/closing song were somewhat entertaining, for once, with the chimp jamming recklessly on a go-cart to a fun type of hip-hop song.

They pretty much covered the whole 36-episode storyline, so there will either be no sequel, or they will have to write some brand new material for the franchise. I think that puts them in a similar position to the one they were in after they made the first Matrix film, as they have a very hard act to follow, but the Wachowskis were obviously inspired when they wrote this screenplay, so there's hope for more high-quality, family-friendly drama, action, and comedy from this long-standing franchise.

I will admit that if the the connection to my childhood wasn't involved, I would be rating this movie four stars. But if you're a fan of the original from past years gone by, the rating stands!
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