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THE SCREENING ROOM: Speed-racing Iron Man made of honor in Vegas
Life’s a gas with “Speed Racer”
The Wachowski brothers (“The Matrix” trilogy) are back in theaters family friendly-style with “Speed Racer” — a kaleidoscope of live-action animation excitement starring a slew of Hollywood favorites. Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) is Speed Racer, an up-and-coming racing star who must fight for what the sport is really about in the face of corporate greed. Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as Mom and Pops Racer and Christina Ricci the wide-eyed girlfriend Trixie headline a supporting cast of big names in the tale about what’s truly important in life. With fantastical racetracks (reminiscent of Sega Sonic the Hedgehog video games), ninjas, headhunters and more, the movie is shockingly colorful, like a pack of Skittles melted all over the screen. But what some might see as actors talking to tennis balls in front of green screens turns out to be a sweet story and an entertaining ride for those willing to suspend reality.
Matthew Fox rounds out the cast as the masked Racer X, who delivers each mysterious line with the same slick purr as a well-oiled T-180. Questions arise and adventures ensue as Speed and Co. try to redeem the dignity of racing and restore their family name while driving some seriously awesome cars in a racing world without rules. Take the whole family — and perhaps a pair of sunglasses — to this one while it’s on the big screen.
“Iron Man” is made of gold
If Robert Downey Jr. was looking for a way back into the mainstream hearts of America, he’s certainly found it. Viewers will be wanting more of him as Iron Man for years to come.
The first of this year’s booming blockbuster super heroes, “Iron Man” follows Maxim modelizer and arms-developing celebrity Tony Stark (Downey Jr.), whose capture in Afghanistan leaves him with no other choice than to build the ultimate weapons survival suit. Rocketing himself out of captivity, Stark takes on a dual identity as a sarcastic genius by day and a metallic crime-fighting powerhouse by night. Directed by Jon Favreau and also starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges, “Iron Man” explodes in a feast of coolness comic fans will love. There’s a heart beneath all the futuristic hardware that keeps the enticing action tied to reality. Expect the crew to be back for more, and stay until after the credits on this one.
Sidekicks steal show in “Vegas”
Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher star as two opposites in a battle of the sexes in “What Happens in Vegas,” a factory-made string of hijinx which leans on its secondary characters to hit the heights of hilarity. Kutcher plays Jack, an easy-does-it furniture maker who is fired by his dad from the family business. Diaz plays Joy, a type-A New Yorker who’s good intentions string up a scheduling chokehold on her fiancé, causing him to dump her at his apartment while all their friends hide in the closet, waiting to surprise him for his birthday.
To blow off some steam, the two hit Las Vegas with their closest pals (Rob Corddry and Lake Bell). Thanks to fate (or a very convenient plot line), they meet, drink and get merry, earning themselves colossal hangovers and — whoops! — a marriage.
But before the two can say “annulment,” Jack plays a slot machine with Joy’s quarter and hits a $3 million jackpot. Sentenced to six months of hard marriage by a judge before the money can be touched, the two enter the ultimate showdown. He prides himself on not being marriage material, she’s so focused she practically breathes teal and taffeta. She’s high-maintenance, he’s a relationship sofa spud. Their ensuing trickery is comical but used — just watch Kutcher in “Just Married” if you don’t want to spend $9 at the theater — but Corddry and Bell’s few appearances rack up a handful of laugh-out-loud moments that just about make the rest worthwhile. The two trade jabs like “If I could make someone dead with my mind it would be you,” and are backed by a full supporting cast that delivers the funny fantastically. Written by Dana Fox (“The Wedding Date”) and also starring Treat Williams and Queen Latifah, Joy and Jack’s story putters along predictably, like any mainstream rom-com, but lucky for them, their sidekicks’ wisecracks cash in the laughs and roll out a win.
McDreamy falls flat with “Honor”
Patrick Dempsey trades in his scrubs and steamy elevator rides for a mini-kilt and deflated humor in “Made of Honor,” a story about Casanovaian skirt-chaser Tom (Dempsey), who leans on his best pal Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) for true human connection between sexual rompings. The two are a pair of TV-land New Yorkers, the kind who live in fabulous apartments, never have to work and can spend all day hanging around Big Apple landmarks telling inside jokes and eating off each other’s plates.
But it’s at the same time Tom realizes he’s in love with Hannah that Hannah announces she’s getting married. And not only does her new man complete her every dream and finish her every sentence, he’s a rich, hunky Scottish duke to boot. Hannah asks Tom to be her maid of honor, leaving Tom not only wondering where his manhood went, but how he’s going to win back the woman he loves.
Directed by Paul Weiland and written by Adam Sztykiel and Deborah Kaplan (“Can’t Hardly Wait”), the movie is nothing that hasn’t been seen before. Instead it’s a splicing together of bits and pieces of the past decade’s chic flicks that creates a new take on a story most viewers could probably have written and directed themselves, let alone watched with their eyes closed.
Tom employs his basketball buddies to take down the wedding from the inside out, while Hannah’s fiancé (Kevin McKidd) stands around looking brutishly good-looking using words like “fortnight” and “wee.”
Dempsey’s plays for laughs at times leaves the audience missing his cool “Grey’s” exterior (though the producers did manage to get him on a ferryboat, go figure), and the film’s ending can be spotted a mile away. But it does manage to include a few heartfelt moments, and fans of Dempsey’s or sappy cinema will find it a pleasant take on a story told many times over. WU