“Speed Racer”

“Speed Racer” (photo)

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Nothing in “Speed Racer” is real: not the cars, not the buildings, not the physics, not the stakes, and certainly not the danger. If the Wachowski brothers, creators of “The Matrix” trilogy, were trying to make a movie that looked like a video game, they’ve accomplished their mission — more than once, “Speed Racer” reminded me of something I’d seen just hours before while playing my new copy of Mario Kart Wii. But while absurd racing games that laugh in the face of Sir Isaac Newton can be fun to play, they’re certainly not very fun to watch, especially for two hours straight burdened by merciless editing and lousy subplots.

The story, adapted from a variety of “Speed Racer” cartoons through the decades, involves a threat to the Racer family from a greedy tycoon named Royalton (Roger Allam). He wants Speed (Emile Hirsch) to race for his team and he wants his mechanically inclined Pops (John Goodman) to come with him to build cars for his company. The Racer family is proudly free of sponsors and corporate influence, but the Royalton deal offers financial security and all the luxurious purple clothes that come with it. If there is a meaning buried beneath the gaudy colors and outlandish visuals of “Speed Racer,” it is here, where one could conceivably see the Wachowskis speaking about themselves and their art through Speed’s dilemma. The world of racing in “Speed Racer” is one dominated by big businesses more interested in making money and selling products than real entertainment; it’s not hard to see the similarities to the Hollywood moviemaking machine. The theory is given additional weight by an awkward scene between Speed and his mom (Susan Sarandon) where she makes the argument that Speed’s racing is “everything art should be” and by the fact that, as film is for the Wachowskis, the Racers treat racing as a family business.

Still, tantalizing subtexts aside (I haven’t even gotten into the whole Racer X leather fetishist thing), “Speed Racer” still aims to deliver action and thrills that it never really provides, especially in its leaden, flashback-laden first hour. When Speed does hit the track, the driving sequences are so frenetic and the onslaught of the “Wacky Races”-esque gimmicks is so unrelenting that it’s difficult to keep track of who is doing what to whom, and why, and most importantly how, a question the Wachowskis are clearly not interested in addressing (their screenplay tosses around phrases like “interpositive transponder” as if they mean something).

Paying close attention to the film isn’t necessarily rewarded, though it does reveal a few choice plot holes (like when Pops Racer inexplicably claims that they don’t have a car to use in the Grand Prix, even though we saw Speed driving his Mach 5 without complication just one scene earlier). You’re better served trying to appreciate the races as a sort of technological ballet; at one point at the climax of the film, the swirl of candy-colored car bodies actually morph into an abstract collage of shapes and light. But, c’mon — who goes to “Speed Racer” looking for that?

When the nefarious Royalton teaches Speed a lesson about the “real” history of racing, the Wachowski brothers make the mistake of cutting to old archival footage of real daredevils performing stunts such as hanging onto the hood of a car as it plows through a pile of flaming logs. That’s an awesomely stupid act but it’s also real; a certifiable lunatic driving through some fiery wood and not some actor in a stationary car husk on a green screen stage being shaken by stagehands. The history of movies is littered with great moments of audacious automotive idiocy all made exciting by the fact that real people did them in real cars. The Mach 5 and the rest of the four-wheeled cast of the Wachowski’s digital garage do spectacular things. But I fail to see the point.


New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…


IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.


IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.


The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”


Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).



Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.


And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.


Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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GIFs via Giffy

In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.


Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.


Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!



Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.


Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.


If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.