[font=Arial][color=DarkRed]Speed Racer - I was wary of this film from the first frame. I think the original [i]Speed Racer[/i] cartoon is dopey and insipid. I didn't really want to pay to have my retinas destroyed by the candy-coated color scheme of the big-budget movie. But I must say, I didn't hate this movie and that's a major accomplishment. That's not to say Speed Racer is a good movie; its script is cheesy, the dialogue is silly, the comedy is dead on arrival, and many of the races end up becoming incoherent flashes of color and noise. But God help me, the Wachowski brothers have produced a unique movie experience that will likely induce epileptic seizures. [i]Speed Racer[/i] has way too much plot going on for a cartoon about a kid who races a fast car. The movie reminds me in a lot of ways of the [i]Wacky Races[/i] cartoon where the various teams have theme-driven cars. This provides for plenty of outlandish action sequences that manage to tickle the senses, that is, when the images are somewhat stable. The movie aspires to be a "family film" and with that comes the half-hearted moral message (corporations are evil) and a reminder that family is important. Did I mention there's also a monkey that gets treated like a member of the family? The movie sometimes feels like the cinematic equivalent of an ice cream headache, but you're unlikely to see anything like it again in the near future. That may be both a good and a bad thing.
Nate's Grade: C+
Then She Found Me - Actress Helen Hunt's directorial debut is an altogether pleasant film experience without achieving anything memorable or truly accomplished. It's a simple story of a 40-something grade school teacher (Hunt) torn between her man-boy husband (Matthew Broderick) and a student's hot father (Colin Firth, who seems to be a middle-aged woman's dream come true). The extra plotline where Hunt discovers the identity of her biological mother (Bette Midler) never truly seems to coalesce with the romantic foibles. [i]Then She Found Me[/i] has a noticeably wry tone, like that of a world-weary adult that's been-there-done-that. That specific and welcomed tone helps keep the viewer alert and mostly satisfied from beginning to end. It isn't a warm or sappy movie despite some sitcom-level plot complications. The acting is fairly amusing, though somewhat one-note (the foursome of actors rarely break from the one-sentence descriptions of their characters). The most shocking aspect of the flick is how weathered and gaunt Hunt looks, which is a refreshing and realistic turn for the actress. Hunt is competent behind the camera but doesn't prove much else when it comes to directorial skills. [i]Then She Found Me[/i] is a mildly affecting movie that passes the time well. Stick around to catch acclaimed author Salman Rushdie as Hunt's OB-GYN.
Nate's Grade: B
The Spiderwick Chronicles - This imaginative fantasy family film is adapted from five books from the [i]Spiderwick[/i] series, so you'll be forgiven for thinking that it packs a lot of storylines at a brisk pace. This 97-minute film should appeal to all members of the family because, while derivative, it has plenty of action, interesting fantasy characters, and even some palpable thrills. The movie has a better handle over interspersing psychological real-world drama with the monsters. Freddie Highmore is the best special effect in the film as he plays two twins who are vastly different in personality and temperament. Director Mark Waters ([i]Mean Girls[/i]) deals with the fantastic but also makes the film feel grounded, never letting the otherworldly elements to take over. The movie is a modestly entertaining escapade.
Nate's Grade: B
Drillbit Taylor - This is a case where a movie feels stuck between two different aims. The premise of a group of geeks hiring a bodyguard to protect them from high school bullies feels dramatically dated, like an idea that John Hughes could have cranked out over a weekend in the 1980s. Owen Wilson stars as a homeless Army vet that agrees to be the bodyguard but he intends to fleece the kids of their money. Eventually the film culminates in the geek trio violently fighting the bully, which is kind of a weird climax to a mainstream teen-centered film. The main bully is actually psychotically dangerous and the movie exists in a realm where every adult character is a cretin or a moron. Don't even think about security in the school. The jokes aren't as lively or clever as the movie would like to think, but special credit must be awarded for collecting a group of teen actors that look authentically geeky. [i]Drillbit Taylor[/i] is a safe vehicle for Wilson because he's played a variation of this zen-cool character in many movies. I'm honestly surprised that Seth Rogen is a co-writer and that Judd Apatow produced this flick. This is noticeable below their standards. This movie isn't anything special and it's tonally all over the place, but then it does have some funny situations, some amusing character interplay, and some dependable slapstick. Think of it as a sanitized PG version of [i]Superbad[/i] combined with an 80s movie.
Nate's Grade: C+
Deception - Is there a more tired and pathetic genre of filmmaking than that of the erotic thriller? [i]Deception[/i] is just about as lazy and bland as its title. The casting director got every role wrong. Ewan McGregor is an accounting nerd that befriends a swanky playboy (Hugh Jackman) and they accidentally switch phones. Of course this leads to people mistaking an accounting nerd for a swanky playboy, and McGregor is introduced to an underground web of anonymous sex (hasn't anyone heard about craig's list?). I suppose the rich would rather take a chance on a stranger than have their handlers recruit some tail. Michelle Williams is completely wrong as the femme fatale who OF COURSE is in on the scheme. [i]Deception[/i] plays out exactly as you could predict, and it even bears a somewhat strong resemblance to 2005's [i]Derailed[/i], another mediocre thriller of little thrills. The chilly cinematography by Dante Spinotti is way too good for this kind of film. It seems that erotic thrillers have graduated from soft focus close-ups of copulating couples set to saxophone music to ? soft focus close-ups of copulating couples set to electronica beats. I suppose that's progress for a genre defined by ridiculous plots, unrealistic characters acting like idiots, and, oh yeah, boobs.
Nate's Grade: C[/color][/font]