This weekend, as you search for a movie to watch, you can either go out to see Rush (which opens in New York and Los Angeles before expanding next weekend), or stay home and pick one of approximately 14 billion options available on streaming over a variety of services, be it Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, On Demand, or other sites. Every Friday, Vulture tries to make life easier by narrowing it down to a handful of heartily recommended options. This week we recommend the ultimate racing blockbuster, portraits of drivers young and old, and a mind-bending cartoon that moves at lightning speed.
Days of Thunder
At the time, reviews for Tony Scott’s pedal-to-the-floor NASCAR picture were decidedly mixed. Many bemoaned the fact that producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson essentially replicated Top Gun with a different high-speed vehicle. Oh, if the critics of 1990 only knew what was to come.
The Top Gun comparisons aren’t off base. With a hotshot Tom Cruise once again in the driver’s seat, Days of Thunder speeds through dramatic moments and prioritizes the thrills. It’s appropriate that White Snake provided the movie’s theme song — Cruise’s brooding romance with Nicole Kidman’s neurosurgeon and his “addiction” to the road are written like the lyrics of a late-eighties rock anthem. Silly as it is though, Scott is able to make his adrenaline-fueled racing scenes feel like fights to the death. (Available on Netflix)
Is the need for speed genetic? The nature vs. nurture argument powers Marshall Curry’s documentary, which follows two boys and a girl in their quest to be professional racers. The kids, all under the age of 13, compete in the World Karting Association with the same look of determination that pushed Tom Cruise past the finish line. The trio couldn’t be more different — Annabeth faces adversity in a male-dominated sport and clings to religion; Josh is a do-gooder who pulls up in a trailer worthy of Jeff Gordon; Brandon lives with his grandparents and has serious anger issues he hopes to quell in the present season — but they share a common goal: to win. While most kids settle for a round of tag in the schoolyard, the subjects of Racing Dreams clamor for greater victory. It’s absorbing. (Available on Hulu, Netflix)
Take the engine of Hanna-Barbera’s Wacky Races and fit it inside Dragon Ball Z and you’d have a vehicle that still only runs about half the speed of 2009’s Redline. Animatrix director Takeshi Koike injects the racing genre with a heavy dose of psychedelia in this madcap sci-fi film. As with most racing movies, the setup is fairly generic: Living under the thumb of robot oppression, driver JP is recruited to take part on the “Redline” tournament, the fastest set of races in the entire galaxy. Conspiracies and human rebellion abound, and while the story is intriguing, Koike’s interests are stimulating our sense of sight. Even those frightened off by anime in the past should be drawn to Redline’s kinetic visuals, a fury of splashy colors and hyperdetailed, hand-drawn action. It’s something to behold that only complements memories of Saturday mornings spent with Speed Racer. (Available on Hulu)
“Pure driving, pure racing, that’s what makes me happy.”
Ayrton Senna was a World Champion of Formula 1 racing — a title considered just under “God” for much of the global community. Senna matched the respect shown to him by fans with a glowing love for the sport. Even his wife admitted that Senna’s first love was driving. If there’s a person emblematic of the potential glory of Formula 1 — and its grave dangers — it’s Senna.
Asif Kapadia’s doc relies heavily on archival footage of the famed racer, from press conferences to Formula 1 footage to home video clips. It pulls back the curtain on the icon with exhilarating force; there’s no question here why Senna continued to race. Even when conditions were imperfect, Senna couldn’t deny himself the rush. Thanks to Senna’s pulsating score and pristine editing, we feel the same high watching him go. (Available on Netflix)