Scott Pilgrim saves me from BSG

Scott Pilgrim
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

I’ve managed to watch 26 episodes of Battlestar Galactica over the last 2-3 days. I’ve also been staring at my online teaching profile until my eyeballs bled (OK, not quite but I did have to go to the opticians). I thought I deserved a break so I scooted across Edinburgh, despite the flipping road closure at Holyrood Park, and went to see:

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

“Chicken isn’t vegan?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: regular young guy in a band meets an amazing girl who takes his heart only he finds out he has to defeat her seven evil ex’s in mortal video-game-style combat to be with her. As you do.

I had a hell of a job picking a single piece of dialogue for the section above as this film is just so ridiculously quotable. It’s based on a series of comic books and it’s presented in a hugely comic-like style. Imagine something akin to Sin City crossed with the Mortal Kombat games.

Michael Cera plays his usual typecast character (check out Youth in Revolt and Superbad – actually, don’t check out Superbad as it sucks) as the eponymous Pilgrim. He starts the film dating a Chinese schoolgirl (Ellen Wong) until the dream girl Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) enters his life.

Very quickly he finds himself fighting her seven evil ex’s for the right to date her. Quite how he happens to be a martial arts badass is beyond me, but – hey – it’s a film with sound effects appearing as text in the background. I’ll let that slip. Also how one of the bands in the film can consist of a woman on vocals, a bassist and a drummer. What, no guitars?

Anyway.

The film proceeds at a pace fast enough that nobody should get bored. The quick dialogue and deadpan performances make it all the more amusing as well as the excellent use of effects to bolster the scenery. Lovely little touches to make it appear more like a graphic novel had my inner geek giggling manically.

I doubt it has the legs for a sequel and I overheard someone on the way out saying he found it a shame that they’d crammed all six books into one movie. As such I assume they’ve got no source material to work into a sequel although there was a hint of the possibility of one just before the end credits.

Frankly, that’s fine with me. It’s a great piece of escapism, is crammed full of superb dialogue and visual humour and doesn’t even for a moment try to take itself seriously. To try and stretch that out for another 90 minutes or so would, I’m sure, result in something nowhere near as enjoyable.

Not that that ever stops Hollywood from trying.

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Film Feast

"Invictus" sneak preview in Hsinchu,...
Invictus (honestly!)

Four Film Friday this time – Invictus, Youth in Revolt, Astro Boy and Edge of Darkness. I’ll try to get through them quickly…

Invictus

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) becomes President of South Africa and decides to use the upcoming Rugby World Cup as a means of unifying the country.

I don’t like rugby, on the whole. This worked in my favour going into this film as it’s based on real events and I didn’t know what the outcome would be as I had no idea who won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Clint Eastwood directs, Freeman is – as ever – simply superb and Matt Damon captains the Springboks.

How close is it to what really happened? Who knows. I’m sure there are certain key scenes and events which mirror history but there’s always room for dramatisation (Wikipedia has a small list). Thankfully it’s not overly-sentimental or symbolic, though it does push this from time to time.

Both Freeman and Damon pull off decent accents although some of the other actors appear somewhat stilted, especially towards the beginning of the movie.

This is a good film. Not overstated, not grandstanding, and a very good story. The obvious link between a battered country finding its feet and being led by someone who’s overcoming the odds is very much mirrored by their rugby team’s efforts. If I have a complaint, it’s the huge over-use of slow-motion to enhance “dramatic effect” near the end.

Youth in Revolt

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Boy meets girl, boy has to become bad boy to get girl, boy goes a little too far…

Michael Cera plays two parts in this film – Nick and the alter-ego Francois that he creates to get the girl, Sheeni (Portia Doubleday). The only other film I’ve seen Cera in was Superbad and that lived up to its title. Youth in Revolt is marginally better but still lacks greatness.

If there’s one thing that stands out, it’s the amusing animated segments interspersed throughout the live action. They don’t really add to the story, but they’re amusing and the one at the start got one of the loudest laughs in the theatre. It’s worth watching the one over the end credits as well.

Amusing in places, messy in others. Next!

Astro Boy

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Scientist creates uber-bad killer robot, and also a robotic replica of his dead son. Cue obvious battle.

I’m not a Manga geek so I don’t know how this hold up to the original, however it’s kind of “OK” as a CGI Hollywood version. There’s no denying the quality of the voice cast: Nicolas Cage, Donald Sutherland, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nighy, Charlize Theron… However, the script needs more work. Or more jokes.

Visually it’s nice, but CGI films are all starting to look a little samey now. There’s no real imagination in Astro Boy. If you want a mechanical visual feast, check out Robots from a few years back.

The kids will like its simplicity, but adults will miss the added depths, double meanings and references present in films such as Toy Story or Planet 51.

Edge of Darkness

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a cop’s daughter is gunned down in front of him on his doorstep, so he sets out to find out who did it

This film is based on a BBC drama from some years ago which I vaguely recall watching. Obviously, it’s been shifted to the US but well re-written to make it fit both geographically and in a modern timeline.

However, while the drama had several hour-long episodes to fit everything in, the film version has only 117 minutes. As a result, Mel Gibson‘s efforts to locate his daughter’s killer and work his way through the conspiracy tree is often a little messy.

Ray Winstone’s role is rather hard to pin down. We know he’s there but who the hell actually is he? Other than an English guy who swears a lot (i.e. he’s playing himself again).

The film begins well enough, but the thrills and spills promised by the trailer really don’t occur. There’s a lot of soul-searching and threats by Gibson’s character mixed with very occasional bursts of fast driving. It is a drama, not an action thriller – but the trailer is misleading.

It’s a good story, too. But as I said it’s compressed into too short a time. Some questions are left unanswered while other bits of evidence are thrown in and the viewer is left wondering where they came from.

Well-acted, good story but just not suited for film form without better scripting.

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