Milka Duno – Speed Racer

June 6, 2008 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

NASCAR racecar driver Milka Duno has always led a life in the fast lane.

As the first Latina to ever qualify for the prestigious Indianapolis 500 last year, Duno has been working tirelessly on the track to make a name for herself in a male-dominated sport.

“It’s really amazing when I think about it,” Duno told me about her success in the racecar circuit during a phone interview from Miami. “It has been something very incredible for me.”

Today, Duno, who recently finished 16th in the Road Runner Turbo Indy 300 at the Kansas Speedway, has ventured into two new career opportunities away from pit lane. On May 9, Duno will make her feature film debut in “Speed Racer,” based on a Japanese anime cartoon series in the ’60s. The film is directed by Larry and Andy Wachowski, the creators of the “Matrix” trilogy, and stars Emile Hirsch (“Into the Wild”) and Christina Ricci (“Black Snake Moan”). In “Speed Racer,” Duno plays racecar driver Kellie Gearbox.

“[The role in “Speed Racer”] is a role that I filmed in Germany,” Duno said. “I learned so much and thank the Wachowski brothers for letting me [be] in this movie. How many people would love to be in a movie like this one?”

Simultaneous with the premiere of the movie, Duno, who was born in Caracas, Venezuela, will release a bilingual children’s book called Go Milka Go! The book depicts Duno as a racecar driving cartoon character who teaches children the importance of education.

Duno knows a bit about going to school. Along with her passion for racecar driving, Duno is also a certified naval engineer and holds four master’s degrees in organizational development, naval architecture, fishing and aquaculture and maritime business.

Duno says it was a sacrifice to move from Venezuela to the United States but one that she made because she knew she would have better opportunities in the states. Whether a young boy or girl wants to aspire to become a racecar driver, doctor or zoologist, Duno says getting an education is the key to realizing any dreams.

“The best advice I can give to kids is to go to school,” Duno said. “I want them to get inspiration from athletes. It’s my contribution to them.”

Speed Racer

May 14, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Emile Hirsch, Christina Ricci, John Goodman
Directed by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)
Written by: Andy and Larry Wachowski (“The Matrix”)

Apparently, Japanese influence in Hollywood doesn’t always have to come from remakes of the country’s eerie horror films like “Ju-On” or “Ringu.” Now, Japanese anime is the next genre to be translated into American-made films. We get our first mainstream taste of it with “Speed Racer,” based on the Japanese cartoon of the 1960’s.

Directed by Andy and Larry Wachowski of “The Matrix” trilogy fame, “Speed Racer” is a psychedelic romp for little boys under 10 and off-road racers who are counting down the days when the Baja 1000 includes vehicles equipped with tire shredders for those drivers who get a bit to close. Sure, it’s much more fun than watching caution laps in NASCAR , but then what isn’t?

In “Speed Racer,” which is actually the name of our protagonist, Emile Hirsch (who was fantastic in last year’s “Into the Wild”) stars as the titular racecar-driving character. As the next big star on the track, everyone wants a piece of Speed, especially the corporations who want him to drop his family-run racing team (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon play his loving parents; Christina Ricci plays Trixie, Speed’s girlfriend) and sign up with them. The shadiest of the bunch is led by a scheming billionaire named Royalton (Roger Allam), who promises Speed the world if he signs on the dotted line.

When Speed refuses, however, Royalton makes it his personal mission to do anything in his power to keep him from ever crossing the finish line anywhere he decides to race. In steps a mysterious, masked racer known as Racer X (Matthew Fox, who doesn’t even seem to want to be part of the production in certain scenes) ready to team up with Speed and expose Royalton for the professional snake he really is.

Inundated with special effects (except for the humans and a chimpanzee named Chim Chim, everything is), the Wachowski brothers slam on the gas for “Speed Racer” and never let up. It might be a good thing for those of you who walk around with an IV pumping caffeine in your bloodstream 24-7, but for the rest of us the Tokyo drifting on a futuristic racetrack becomes overdone after a while.

Although the family dynamic keep the fluorescent film grounded at times, the script isn’t nearly as sensible as it needs to be to recommend to anyone outside its demographic. Of course, that’s not necessarily what the Wachowski brothers were going for. Its seems they wanted the silliness of the “Pows” and “Whams” of the old-school “Batman” TV series mixed with their own stylistic vision and a video-game feel (Mario Kart is the most obvious). At the end, it’s all one big bowl of colorful, soggy Trix. And who are Trix for boys and girls?