Born To Race Fast Track Keeps Pace With Universal’s Fast And The Furious Franchise

Courtesy:  Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Anchor Bay Entertainment

One part The Fast and the Furious, one part Need for Speed and one part Top Gun, the second installment of Anchor Bay Entertainment’s Born to Race franchise is a movie the surprisingly enough holds its own against its bigger-named counterparts.  There’s no getting around the fact that the franchise, which started with Born to Race back in 2011, is not the first of its kind.  Universal beat Anchor Bay to that punch with its massively popular Fast and Furious franchise.  That aside, there is still plenty to enjoy in this latest installment in the Born to Race franchise.  The central point of the movie’s success is its script (I.E. its writing).  Unlike so many other movies backed by major studios out there, the script for this movie rips off neither its predecessor nor its bigger-named brethren.  Another reason that this movie works as well as it does is its pacing.  The movie moves fast.  But it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers struggling to keep up with the story.   And last but not least to consider is the movie’s casting.  The movie’s heads wiped the slate clean with this movie, casting a while new list of actors to fill its lead roles.  But those actors still get the job done well enough to keep the movie believable.  These three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that despite being an independent release, is a movie that any fan of its genre should see at least once.

The central point of success in Born to Race: Fast Track is its script (I.E. its writing).  There’s no getting around the fact that it is not the first movie of its kind within the race-based action subgenre.  That aside, it actually holds its own surprisingly well against Need for Speed and Universal Studios’ Fast & Furious franchise.  Unlike so many bigger-named movies out there across the genres, Born to Race: Fast Track doesn’t attempt to rip itself off.  Nor does it try to be just another of the aforementioned bigger-named movies in its genre.  The only movie that one could even begin to say it does copy is Tom Cruise’s hit 1986 fighter jet flick Top Gun.  It goes so far as to put lead actor Brett Davern in a pair of aviator sunglasses alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff late in the movie, in a scene that almost directly mirrors one well-known scene from Top Gun.  Even with that blatant lifting, it doesn’t take away from the movie’s overall enjoyment.  As a matter of fact, one could even go so far as to argue that paying such homage to such a classic film without any sense of hamming it up only gives this movie even more credibility.  It would have been so easy for that moment to go overboard.  But it didn’t.  That combined with the fact that the movie’s writers opted to develop a story that didn’t blatantly rip off the Fast & Furious movies makes the movie’s script all the more enjoyable.

The script behind Born to Race’s latest installment is the central point of the movie’s overall enjoyment.  While it obviously does bear quite the semblance to Top Gun in terms of its plot, it doesn’t go so far as to try and be just another Fast & Furious or Need for Speed.  It does at least try to be its own story to a point.  Adding to the movie’s enjoyment is its pacing.  The writing team behind the movie wastes no time setting up the movie’s plot.  And once the plot is established, the writers keep the story moving.  They do so without missing a beat, too.  Most impressive of all is that as fast as the story progresses, it doesn’t move so fast as to leave viewers in its own proverbial dust (bad pun fully intended), wondering what they experienced by the end of the movie’s roughly ninety-minute run time.  It switches gears at all of the right points and never finds itself idling, either.  And yes, both of those bad puns were fully intended, too.  The end result of that smart pacing is a story that movies fast, but not as fast as the cars that take center stage throughout the movie.  Alongside the movie’s solid script, the pacing helps to make Born to Race: Fast Track that much more enjoyable for any fan of all of the racing movies out there.

The pacing of Born to Race: Fast Track’s story and the story itself work together to make the movie one that fans of fast cars will enjoy even with just one watch.  Both elements are important to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment.  There is still one more factor to consider in the movie’s enjoyment.  That factor is the movie’s casting.  The production’s heads wiped the slate clean with this second installment of the franchise.  None of the actors from the franchise’s first movie returned for this installment.  The reason for this happening is anyone’s guess.  It could have been the movie’s heads.  It could have also been that the cast didn’t want to return for a second movie or simply couldn’t due to other commitments.  Regardless, the cast tapped for this movie does its own part to make the movie work.  The new cast members are all quite young.  And most of the cast members are quite well-known in their own right, too.  Lead actor Brett Davern is best known for his time on MTV’s hit series Awkward alongside co-star Beau Mirchoff.  He also has dramatic experience, having acted in bit parts in CSI: Miami, In Plain Sight, and Cold Case.  Mirchoff has also filled roles on CSI: Miami and CBS’ other hit crime drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.  Younger viewers might also recognize him from his work on Disney’s Wizards of Waverly Place TV movie The Wizards Return: Alex vs. Alex.  The movie’s other cast members have their own extensive resumes, too.  That collective experience shows through quite well here.  They are actually quite believable in their roles.  That the cast would take its roles with such seriousness even on a flick from an indie studio shows a great deal of respect both for the studio and for audiences.  It also makes suspension of disbelief that much easier for viewers. And in turn, it makes the movie even more worth at least one watch.

The casting of a group of up-and-coming stars for Born to Race: Fast Track and the cast’s seriousness with its roles goes a long way toward making the movie worth at least one watch.  The movie’s script and by connection its pacing add even more value to the overall presentation.  All three factors together make Born to Race: Fast Track a movie that while being an indie release, is one that any fan of movies with fast cars and young stars will enjoy even with just one watch.  It is available now in stores and online.  It can be ordered direct from Anchor Bay Entertainment’s online store at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=d3c94bf6-38e7-e311-877b-d4ae527c3b65.  More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at

Website: http://www.anchorbayent.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay
Twitter: http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay

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Lionsgate’s “Wings” Sequel Holds Its Own Against Disney’s “Planes” Sequel

Courtesy:  Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate will release the latest installment in its family friendly Wings franchise next Tuesday, July 8thWings: Sky Force Heroes is the follow-up to Lionsgate’s 2012 CG-film Wings.  Ace and Colonel are both back in this latest installment.  But unlike the franchise’s first flick, neither is a fighter jet.  Colonel (voiced once again by Tom Skerritt) is a high performance biplane while Ace (voiced again by Josh Duhamel) is just as high tech as a double prop plane this time out.  The return of the entire voice cast from the first film in the series is only one of the positives to this high flying, family friendly flick.  Anyone that is familiar with Disney’s Planes franchise will appreciate that as with the previous Wings this latest installment bears its own story despite its close similarities to Disney’s franchise.  That is the primary plus to this story.  And last worth noting in this movie is its CG-based “animation” style.  While the story is similar to that of Disney’s new Planes sequel, its look is more closely akin to Fox Searchlight’s 2005 movie Robots than any more recent CG-based movies.  This includes Disney’s properties.  All three of these factors together make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a good family friendly flick that’s worth at least one watch.

There’s no denying that Wings: Sky Force Heroes bears a distinct similarity in its script to that of Disney’s recently premiered Planes sequel Planes: Fire & Rescue.  Despite the similarity in question, Wings: Sky Force Heroes does manage to establish its own identity separate from that of the previously noted movie.  Rather than trying to make this movie into a sequel, the movie’s writing team—Harry Glennon, Mychal Simka, and Jordan Winsen—made it its own movie, complete with its own world.  It just so happens that in this story’s case the two leads go by the same name as the leads in the first of the Wings franchise.  Accepting that, it makes suspension of disbelief much easier in a case such as this.  The ability of viewers to suspend their disbelief makes taking in the story much easier and more enjoyable.

The ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story similar to yet dissimilar to Disney’s Planes: Fire & Rescue is central to the overall enjoyment of the story.  Just as worth noting in the presentation’s success is the return of the entire lead voice cast from the original installment in the Wings franchise.  This is one area in which Lionsgate has truly scored.  Lionsgate has scored in this aspect in that Disney’s animated sequels (and sequels in general) rarely re-unite the cast from their predecessors.  This means potentially entirely new casts must get to know one another.  And that can hinder said sequels greatly.   The chemistry developed between Duhamel (Transformers 1 3), Skerritt (Alien, Ted, Top Gun) and the rest of the Wings cast obviously carried over into this latest high-flying family friendly flick from Lionsgate. And because it did, the cast had no trouble interpreting the story’s script and working together.  The end result was a movie loaded with plenty of family friendly content worth at least one watch.

The return of the complete voice cast from Wings and the ability of the writers behind Wings: Sky Force Heroes to craft a story that established the movie’s own identity both play integral parts in the success of this latest movie from Lionsgate’s Wings franchise. Last but not least of all worth noting about this direct-to-DVD feature is its animation. The movie’s animation sets it apart from anything that Disney, 20th Century Fox, and any other studio has churned out in recent years. It’s tough to tell one studio from another nowadays because it is all so cookie cutter. The closest comparison that can be noted with Wings: Sky Force Heroes is perhaps to Fox Searchlight’s Robots. As forgettable as Robots proved to be, few other studios if any have attempted a movie with a similar look since then. That serves to make the look of this piece stand out even more. That mostly original look to the movie combined with its cast and script come together to make Wings: Sky Force Heroes a truly fun, high-flying, family friendly film worth at least one watch. One thing is for sure, one watch will have spirits soaring just as high as the planes in the movie, given that chance.

Wings: Sky Force Heroes will be available exclusively in Wal-Mart stores and online on DVD/VUDU combo pack next Tuesday, July 8th. More information on this and other titles from Lionsgate is available online at http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate, http://www.lionsgate.com, and http://twitter.com/lionsgatemovies. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pacific Rim Is Fun But Forgettable

Pacific-Rim-poster-BIG

Courtesy: Warner Brothers Studios/Legendary Pictures

Thirty-seven.  According to most news agencies, that is how many sequels will have been churned out in theaters by the time 2013 has winded down.  Those reports go on to say that this is a new record for movie studios.  Those same movie studios have most recently been lambasted by the likes of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas for that glut of franchise flicks.  The pair most recently stated that if Hollywood’s major studios continue on their current track, the movie industry’s implosion won’t be far behind.  Keeping this in mind, what is a movie-goer to do in looking for something that is not a sequel or even prequel in 2013?  The answer would seem simple.  Although in reality it isn’t.  Case in point, the mega-blockbuster, Pacific Rim.

While it isn’t a sequel, or even a prequel or reboot, the latest blockbuster from Warner Brothers Studios and Legendary Pictures is still anything but original.  The Japanese influenced action flick is formulaic and trite.  The whole robots versus giant monsters bit has been done to death.  If one were to take Power Rangers, Godzilla, Independence Day, Top Gun, (Yes there’s even a hint of Top Gun in here believe it or not) and the equally terrible 1989 movie, Robot Jox, and toss them into a pot, they would get this fast paced and underperforming movie that’s more fit for a person with ADD than a more discerning viewer.   Making things worse, writer Travis Beacham has taken elements of each of the aforementioned movies and TV shows, and tossed them in all over the place for a movie that ultimately adds up to nothing.  From its standard stereotypical character types to its equally seemingly ADD influenced writing to the attempts to cover all of this with special effects in hopes of making it look like something substantial, it all adds up to a movie that is more forgettable than fun.

Pacific Rim is a fun movie.  But it is also largely forgettable.  The most blatant of reasons for this is its very concept.  The concept behind this movie is anything but original as already noted.  Robots fighting monsters has been done for roughly two decades or more with the various Japanese shows and movies that influenced America’s hit pop culture phenomenon that is the Power Rangers franchise.  And that franchise itself caused any number of imitators such as the Superhuman Samurai Syber Squad and VR Troopers just to name a couple of so many that have been churned out here stateside since the early 1990s.  This is just the tip of the iceberg in where this movie goes wrong.  Along with those Japanese TV shows and movies from which this movie blatantly lifts, viewers will also see just as much pulled from the likes of Top Gun and Independence Day.  One scene in particular halfway through the movie’s roughly two hour run time sees Raleigh and his co-pilot Mako (Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi respectively) come back victorious from having taken down a pair of kaiju by themselves.  It looks just like a certain scene from Top Gun (and so many other action movies and TV shows).  Heck, for that matter, one could even argue that this harkens all the way back to a scene from the original Star Wars franchise that occurred after the Death Star was destroyed.  It was a near mirror image.  Again, here we have prime examples of just how unoriginal this movie is.  Instead of trying to do anything original, it just pulls scenes from other movies for this story.  It’s not the end of the movie’s faults, either.

Audiences that are familiar with their sci-fi history will take notice of the scenes throughout this movie lifted from so many other movies and TV shows.  The script’s writing hurts the viewing experience just as much as the lifted scenes, if not more so.  We’ll start with the example of Stacker Pentecost’s over-the-top motivational speech to his forces as he triumphantly joins the fight once more having been sidelined for years from fighting the war against the Kaiju, too.  This exact same over-the-top motivational speech style was used in Independence Day and so many other action movies both before and after it.  It makes the whole work come across as that much lazier and anything but serious.  Rather it makes the movie come across as cheesy.  This kind of interpretation by audiences can greatly hurt the movie in the long run. It’s just one of so many other moments much like it.  These moments coarse through the movie right to its final mega-battle scene, taking even more away from its ability to be taken seriously.  Of course, this isn’t the bottom of the barrel.  Things get worse for Pacific Rim in considering the story’s character styles.

In the case of Pacific Rim, audiences are presented with even more standard action movie fare with the characters of Pentecost and Raleigh.  Raleigh is the standard heroic leader character with a mysterious past about which he won’t talk. It makes him even more mysterious to those around him.  But it hardly creates an appeal among audiences for him as he’s hardly the first character of his sort to grace the big screen.  Having covered one of the movie’s main characters, let’s examine another main character in Raleigh.  Raleigh is the standard plays-by-his-own-rules character style seen in all the way back to Han Solo, Wolverine, Maverick, and so many other anti-hero and semi-anti-hero types.  Just as with so much else in this movie, it’s one more factor that has been done to death.  And because of this, the picture becomes even clearer as to why Pacific Rim will ultimately be one more forgotten action movie that will end up in the five-dollar bin at Wal-Mart not long after it debuts on DVD and Blu-ray.

Pacific Rim suffers from so many negatives.  It’s no wonder why it has fallen so short in terms of ticket sales versus its production costs.  However, for all of its negatives, there is at least one positive to Pacific Rim.  That positive is the movie’s special effects.  The special effects in this movie are above par for Summer blockbusters.  Watching the Jaeger (pronounced yager) pilots working together to bring their robots to life to battle the Kaiju (pronounced KI-joo) is something to behold.  The combination of live action and CG effects sets the bar extremely high for other special effects laden movies to come.  So to that extent, those behind the cameras and computer screens deserve their due credit for this.

At the same time that the movie’s special effects are a good thing, they are also a bad thing.  The reason for this is that it is honestly the only positive to the movie.  Had this movie had more laurels on which it could rest, the special effects would not have been a burden.  But sadly, it doesn’t have those other laurels.  And because of this, it will lead many viewers to feel that director Guillermo del Toro is just trying to fool audiences and make them think this is something with substance.  In reality, it has none.  Sure, the graphics and special effects are great.  But audiences should not let this become a smokescreen.  They need to see that being that this is all it has going for it, Pacific Rim is sadly anything but one of the best new theatrical releases of 2013.  It isn’t the year’s worst.  But it is hardly the year’s best, either.  In the long run, it will prove to be little more than a vague memory in the vast expanse that is the world of the action movie.

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