'What Happens': Leave It in Vegas

Daniel Holloway, film critic for Metro Newspapers, offers a roundup of weekend movie releases, including his take What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas, Speed Racer and Surfwise.

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MIKE PESCA, host:

When your name is Speed Racer, there's not a lot of options about what you're going to do with your life. You're probably going to wind up being a speed racer. And that is exactly what happened to the man in the movies. The weird part is that his brother, a heart surgeon, he actually works in a Loews in Encino.

It's funny. Life is funny. Daniel Holloway, now that's a pseudonym also. His given name was Guy Moviewatcher. And then he changed it to Daniel Holloway in an attempt to skirt destiny. But then, you know what? You can't avoid fate. And your fate, Mr. Guy Moviewatcher, is to join us today on the BPP to talk about the latest films. Hello, Guy.

Mr. DANIEL HOLLOWAY (Film Critic, Metro Newspapers): Hello, Mike! Yeah, I actually wanted to be a television critic, and Guy Moviewatcher wasn't going to work for that.

PESCA: Right, yeah! That was too far afield. Yeah, yeah. You could have also, you know, gone the route of the - your cousin, Fella, who gives his opinion without being asked. But we are asking you. We want to know - and did you go to "Speed Racer," go?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, I did go "Speed Racer"...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Go to "Speed Racer," go. And I was - I had mixed feelings. Let's put it that way.

PESCA: Ya! What were the good part of the mix?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: The good part of the mix was that the, you know, this was the Wachowskis' first film since "The Matrix." And whatever you liked about "The Matrix," you're probably going to like about this movie, meaning the action sequences. Now they are a lot different. This is a kids' movie. And they adopted this really great, really bright color palette and applied it to the same sort of things they were doing in "The Matrix," except with an awesome race car.

And so you get a lot of awesome action sequences. The problem is the Wachowskis have never met an awesome action sequence that they can't mess up with a lot of tedious exposition. And they do a lot of that, especially in the first hour of the movie. You know, Speed will be driving the Mach 5 through these insane racetracks that the Wachowskis have built, computer-generated racetracks that defy all types of laws of physics.

PESCA: Right.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: And you just want to watch them drive the car. And they can't let him drive the darn car without cutting to multiple flashbacks and people talking and - you know, they write their films, too. And they shouldn't. They should not be allowed near a computer that has any type of word-processing program on it.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Whoa, Daniel!

PESCA: Well, if you think following the Speed Racer learning to drive on film is tough, we're going to play a little of that on radio. Here, let's listen.

(Soundbite of movie "Speed Racer")

Unidentified Actor: Feel that shimmy? It's your hind legs trying to outrun your front.

Mr. NICHOLAS ELIA: (As Young Speed) What do I do?

Unidentified Actor: Stop steering and start driving. This ain't no dead piece of metal. The car's are living, breathing thing, and she's alive. You can feel her talking to you. Telling you what she wants, what she needs. All you've got to do is listen, close your eyes and listen.

PESCA: And that clip is typical of the level of dialogue and also the fact that every scene is underscored by pretty intense music. What do you think of the adjectives assault of bombastic, at times painful, to describe this movie?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: I think that would probably work. You know, those words are words that I would definitely use to describe the last two "Matrix" films. And particularly that clip that you played there reminded me of the thing that annoyed me most about those films, which was just how self-important the movies are.

PESCA: I know.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: This movie, it's certainly not as self-important, but you certainly get that, you know, that Speed's - the sense of destiny around Speed is being pounded into your head, bludgeoned into your head, over and over again.

PESCA: Well, I guess they know that the lead character has attention deficit disorder. They show him in a - I saw it on an IMAX - they show him in a classroom and he can't fill out a test. And he fidgets and he needs to race. So their lead character has attention deficit disorder. They're trying to instill in their audience attention deficit disorder. And I guess they feel that it worked because they've got to say the same thing 14 times or else people won't pay attention.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: You know, and maybe that's not - maybe that's not a bad strategy. Maybe there's a lot of people out there with ADD and this is the perfect thing. But I really think you've got to give the audience a little bit more credit than that.

PESCA: Most of the reviews have been terrible. But some people do say things like, you know, I could see in 20 years this thing having a cult-like status.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: It's really cool to look at. I mean, it could - it's not - the thing is, though, there's definitely some "Blade Runner" qualities to it visually. But it's not smart the way that "Blade Runner" is. And there's no one doing anything that is done in that movie on an intellectual level.

PESCA: Let's move to "What Happens in Vegas," a movie based on a tagline from a chamber of commerce. I think that might say it all. Give us a little idea of the plot of this movie, Daniel.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: The plot is that Ashton Kutcher loses his job. Cameron Diaz gets dumped by her boyfriend. They both head separately to Vegas, get drunk, wind up married. He uses her quarter to win three million dollars in a slot machine. She tries to take half the money. They go to court. And Dennis Miller tells them to stay married for six months before he'll give either of them half the money. And then they start beating into each other.

PESCA: There is really no point to watch the movie now. That was succinct.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: There was no point for me to watch it. I wish I'd just read the description on the Internet and pretended to have seen it. But I unfortunately did see it.

PESCA: Let's hear a little clip of Jack and Joy, the two characters played by Ashton and Cameron, meeting for a drink.

(Soundbite of movie "What Happens in Vegas")

Mr. ASHTON KUTCHER: (As Jack Fuller) So, Joy. What brings you to Sin City?

Ms. CAMERON DIAZ: (As Joy McNally) Oh just, being spontaneous, cutting loose like everyone else. How about yourself?

Mr. KUTCHER: (As Jack Fuller) Me? I just got fired. So cheers to that!

PESCA: So, Daniel, did you think this is the kind of movie where you saw every twist and turn coming from a mile away?

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, it's - yeah, if you can call them twists and turns. I mean, you basically see that it's more like looking up a staircase that drops off into hell.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: With a big bowling ball descending the staircase. One thing this movie does do is the age difference between Ashton Kutcher and Cameron Diaz, it usually works the other way where the male is older than the woman. And I was wondering...

Mr. MARTIN: She's only like a couple of years older, isn't she?

PESCA: Yeah, but well, in real life, he dates - or is married? No, dates Demi Moore.

MARTIN: They're married.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Yeah, if she's six years older than him, to be honest, like, it's not - they're both still disgustingly attractive people. It's not really that distracting. And considering the number of times that you see, like, I don't know Abe Vigoda cast opposite Scarlett Johansson.

PESCA: I'd watch that movie by the way. I did a little search, and Patrick Dempsey was 10 years older than Reese Witherspoon in "Sweet Home Alabama." Kate Hudson, 15 years younger than Matt Dillon in "You, Me and Dupree." Harrison Ford, 27 years younger than Anne Heche in "Six Days, Seven Nights." And no one talks about this. But "Lord of the Rings," Viggo Mortensen, 27 years older than Liv Tyler.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Jeez!

PESCA: Yeah.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Twenty-seven years older?

PESCA: Well, he's - I think he's 50, Viggo Mortensen.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Man!

PESCA: Very quickly, you like the documentary "Surfwise"? Very quickly.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Fantastic movie. It's about a guy named Dorian "Doc" Paskowitz who raised his family as surfing nomads. He had a wife and nine kids. They spent more than two decades in a 24-foot RV traveling the U.S., surfing, eating gruel, running around half-naked. And this film consists of interviews with the now-grown children and the aged parents, and also some - you know, they were stars of the surfing scene so they attracted a lot of television crews at the time.

MARTIN: Cool.

PESCA: Daniel Holloway, who writes reviews for Metro Newspapers, happy vacation, Daniel!

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Hey, thanks guys.

MARTIN: Come back soon.

Mr. HOLLOWAY: Will do.

MARTIN: Next up on the BPP, China's answer to "American Idol," a film about that. We're going to talk with the documentary maker. This is The Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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