Archives for category: Movies

In an age of information ubiquity, I will never quite accept the logic behind non-simultaneous international release dates. Ignoring the piracy issue, staggering the release of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World a few weeks after the US release date is leaving the potential audience open to the dangers of bad word of mouth. Unless you happen to be Pixar, there’s no way that won’t impact on your business, irrespective of how much or how little truth there is in it. I and mine will be there on opening day, but we’re not the ones you need to win over for the big bucks, however much we would like to believe otherwise.

Anyhoo, tirade over.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is a movie that I suspect I cannot be impartial or unbiased about. Aside from the earlier blog posts on the subject of Scott and his world, the series has a level of resonance for me that pushes it into a special and sheltered part of my brain that is unassailable by logic or reason. The books about the 23 year scroungabout first came out when I was a 23 year old scroungabout. Scott had a young girlfriend, I had just broken up with same. Ramona just came into his life, Olivia into mine. Gay roomates, oddly filtered perceptions of the world, inexplicable break outs into musical dance numbers… The parallels build up in a fashion that is either eerie, awesome, or the apotheosis of apophenia. The point is that objectivity is difficult at best. I want the series to be awesome. I also want the movie to be awesome. Edgar Wright has directed two of my favourite movies in recent years (Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz), has the stellar Spaced under his TV belt and probably the finest taste in music of any popular culture figure in the media today.

How then does Scott’s cinematic tale fare?

Quite well, as it happens. Quite well fared indeed. First the positives: the movie looks and sounds amazing. Opening quietly, the movie quickly charges into a pop art video game frenzy that will in seconds let you know whether you are going to enjoy the movie or not. The video game references are present and plenty, but it is their subtlety that impresses: you may chuckle at the 8-bit tinkling, but you will guffaw when you realise that it is the Zelda load-screen/sleep music playing and then realise that we are seeing Scott dream… The story – such as it is – is effectively adapted from the source, chopping and changing in a way that feels natural, retaining the elements that worked and using them in novel ways. Wright realigns the action of the comic to work so well that you wish they happened that way in the source material. Without spoiling book or film, I will just say that I adore how the movie comes to show Scott’s growth and his change in motivation.

The characters are perfectly realised: people whining about Michael Cera before having even seen the movie can relax, his Scott is just as much of a lovable asshat as he was in the books. It is in the supporting cast that the movie really shines, particularly in regards to Kieran Culkin and Allison Pill as Wallace and Kim respectively. Part of the joy of the books is that the cast are all far more likeable than dear, selfish Scott, and that point is not lost here. The breakthrough, as has been stated time and again, is that of Ellen Wong as Knives Chau, who gets to show just about every emotion under the sun as she transitions from innocent school girl to hardcore jilted lover and finally as a mature adult in the space of two hours. The exes are all well realised, and even allowed some small measure of sympathy if you should feel the need to look for it: While Matthew Patel and Lucas Lee come off as idiots for the most part, Todd is – bless him – the victim of his being exceptionally dumb, while Roxy has the rather legitimate upset of being told she was “just a phase”. The movie does not shy away from the emotional carnage that both Scott and Ramona are creating with their self-involvement…

What then are the negatives? While most of the secondary and tertiary characters maintain a reasonable if reduced presence within the story, there are exceptions. Envy Adams suffers the most, having her two and a half volumes of story compressed down into ten minutes. That she is played a little too insincerely also weakens her plot, as it alters her into a throwaway opponent rather than someone Scott may have unfairly aggrieved. Ramona’s role in the climax is also verging on troubling, lacking an agency that puts her character at risk. There is at least an interesting point – that she is trapped in a series of increasingly abusive relationships and they can be hard to escape without help – but it rings oddly here. Thankfully, that it isn’t just Scott fighting removes a certain amount of the sexual politickery, and his aforementioned change in motivation makes his role in the events much more palatable. Some may quiver at the superfast transitions between the day-to-day antics and the heightened reality of Toronto Combat, but as with Speed Racer before it, that just broke my heart with glee.

It’s very hard for me to be negative about this movie, even when I try my hardest.

The movie is not for everyone, but then nothing should be. Whenever anyone tries, you end up with low grade Adam Sandler movies and monstrosities like Vampires Suck. Attention Hollywood: when you make me sympathetic to Twilight, know that you have done something evry wrong and must be punished. You may love Scott Pilgrim or you may very well hate it: it’s a divisive movie, and all the better for it. I’m tired of unimaginative, plodding movies which try to walk the middle ground between art and commerce. It’s a huge shame that it’s not storming the charts in the way it deserves to, but that’s a quiet blessing, since it means we are less likely to have a dozen shameless rip-off parodies a month which look at the artifice and miss the point.

All in all, it’s a triumph that places Wright three for three in his movie output to date. Even though a part of me knows I’m probably wrong about it on some level, it’s equal to Toy Story 3 in my estimation of movies this year and will be the only film I’ll go to see again in the cinema this Summer. Who cares about objectivity when you can have this much fun? Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is just that good, and if you don’t like it, then I am sorry, but I’m not sure that we can be friends any more…*

(* Hyperbole. You’re still pretty neat.)

Bonus! The prequel cartoon which spoils NOTHING and adds A BIT!

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I’m a smidgen late to the stage with this one, but it has been a long and hectic couple of weeks wherein I had to prioritise movies that will leave the cinema quickly over those that will remain in strength for months. Guess which one of these defines Toy Story 3?

There’s little that can be said about Toy Story 3 that hasn’t already been said, so…

Yes, it is the best movie in the series.
Yes, it was a elegiac tale of loss, family, and the putting away of childish things, but far more important than any of that was the celebration of imagination.
Yes, it did make me cry.
Yes, it was weepery open and unashamed, what I said on Twitter be bonked.
Yes, it was from That Scene in the room towards the end, all the way through to the blue sky.
Yes, Ken was funny, but Barbie was funnier.
Yes, it’s almost worth watching in 3D because it was designed with 3D in mind and the depth of field enhances immersion rather than distracting attention (this one, in fairness, will depend on seeing it in 2D for valid comparison)
Yes, Day & Night was the most impressive short Pixar have created to date.
Yes, it is even better than Presto or One Man Band.

Yes, it was a masterful swan song.
No, I don’t think I’ll see a better movie this year.
Yes, Toy Story is the best movie trilogy in existence.

3D: The latest entertainment innovation that’s already decades old! I fall into that vehemently loud subset that really dislikes 3D movies. Was there a point beyond anti-piracy measures, I would be more sympathetic. But the case for the prosecution mounts very quickly. As flawed as AVATAR was, it was at least designed with 3D projection in mind. Its very purpose was to showcase the marvels of the extra dimension, and so it gets a pass. But anything converted from 2D into 3D (CLASH OF THE TITANS and ALICE IN WONDERLAND being the most noted egregious examples) does not hold this merit; they are simply cash-grabs. It’s a sell-out tactic which has the knock-on effect of taking up twice the number of screens (since the movie will still be shown in 2D) and as a result ousts anything that is lower scale and likely to take in less money.

So then: 3D is going to start killing independent cinema. All those quirky, odd and amazing movies made by new talent for thruppence is going to fall by the wayside even moreso than before. The omniplex has already taken a major toll on independent film makers (quick summary of theory: omniplexes have more screens, so they will offer a greater selection of movies, allowing smaller scale films to get an audience they might not otherwise receive; quick summary of reality: omniplexes will use multiple screens to show the same movies, leading to a reduction of choice); this will increase the problem. If your local cinema didn’t show gems like MOON or BRICK for long, they definitely won’t have them now. I had to go to Dublin to watch FOUR LIONS because my local cinema was busy showing SEX AND THE CITY 2 on multiple screens. The best new directors may have to hope for is discovery by DVD.

I could live with the clear and blatant tastelessness of the cash grab to an extent. It’s a business, 3D is the latest gimmick, much the same as colour and sound were, back in the day. But colourised black & white movies were an abomination unto the world of cinema and man, and no one can argue otherwise. While colourisation then was usually garish and over-saturated, 3D conversion as it stands now actually reduces the colour palette, leading to darker, murkier films. Even ignoring that the mise-en-scene was designed with a very different motion and aesthetic in mind, the loss of colour is a further desecration of the work in question.

A desecration which they have the temerity to charge extra money for. When someone produces something inferior or damaged in any other field, the price is reduced – the suppliers don’t demand that you subsidise their sloppy product. If 3D is the future, then why exactly am I paying extra for something that is a built-in cost of doing business? Particularly given that once paid for, the projector remains a constant that I will continue to pay for thereafter. How much piracy is enabled by the fact that people can’t afford to go to the cinema? How is bumping the price beyond standard inflation going to help your cause, aside from having a diminishing population cover the cost of those who stop going?

We then fall into a more mired area. 3D, when used properly, should immerse you in the narrative. It should make a more cohesive film-going experience. It should enable you to lose yourself in the world of the story to an extent incapable by 2D means. If 3D serves the movie, as opposed to the movie serving 3D, your thoughts must be “Wow! What a great movie!” and not “Wow, what a great 3D spear projecting out of the screen in a wearily phallic fashion.” If it takes you out of the movie, what good is it? It’s simply reducing your involvement with the film. Watching UP in 3D, I was distracted by the 3D moreso than involved, consciously thinking about the the enhancement it provided, rather than the moment it affected. What scenes moved me weren’t based around the added scope, they were based around a man losing his wife, and that man later reading a book.

WHOO! 3D page turning! The cinematic experience Just! Got! Crazy!

It’s little wonder then that I have gone to the cinema twice in as many months. 3D has thus far added nothing but a lot of errata and junk to an experience already fraying in importance for me. I used to go to the cinema every few days; now, I am being alienated by a trend that has put the cart so far in front of the horse that the equine fellow has gotten lost looking for it, fallen off a cliff and is now in desperate need of medical attention. Will the trend continue on its current course? Is there a way to blend my cranky, this ain’t how it were in my day attitude with the modern sensibilities of wrong-headed champions of alleged depth? Can 3D legitimately add something to the filmic language? Are these questions truly rhetorical?

But I digress. Do you know what the biggest problem with 3D is? The bloody 3D glasses. I already wear glasses, dislike contacts and have no intention of getting laser eye surgery. Instead, I have lump the stupid, clunky goggles in front of my required spectacles in order to uncomfortably reap the benefits of 30% colour loss, a higher ticket cost, an often obnoxious crowd and an effect that, if it is successful, I will not actively notice.

Hey hey hey! It’s time to make value judgements on unfinished products, thus exemplifying all that is wrong in the immediacy of internet culture!

THOR
(For some reason, this trailer is not embedding: here’s the direct link, I will try and fix this later)

This is a weird trailer in a lot of ways: opening in media res on an interview intercut with the preceding rough’n’tumble fight is fairly standard to shove in some exposition with Manly Testosterone Juice baiting, but the cut to Asgard is weird unless you have a pre-existing knowledge of the character and or Marvel universe. Where it proceeds from there is interesting, fine and Jim Dandy, but the tonal shift does leave you a little bit uneasy.

The sheer amount of plot revealed is odd as well: the Marvel Studios movies thus far have been pretty straightforward in terms of plot, so I can’t help but think they are a little wary of how people may interpret the mythical Thor being brought into the same world as Iron Man and the Hulk. As ridiculous as all the characters are, there is at least the thematic resonance of Science! between most of the characters, while Thor swings closer to magic (note the compromise: “What you then called magic and now call science, we call both…” or some such). It looks fine, and it should be a fun movie, but it is at more risk of being hampered by the shared universe and the Avengers movie than its predecessors and eventual successor Captain America.

SUCKER PUNCH

A part of me really wants to like this trailer. Superficially, it has that over-the-top Looney Tunes frenzy that I would love to see more of in movies. As interesting and tickling of my personal fetishes it may be however, it is hampered by the fact that it’s the newest movie by Zack Snyder. This is, unless I missed something along the way, Mr Snyder’s first original movie, his others all being remakes or adaptations. This isn’t itself his fault – the current market is obsessed with pre-established audiences – but his adaptations have been somewhat lacking. Dawn of the Dead added nudity and running zombies after 28 Days Later; Watchmen clunkingly missed the point, compressing itself to keep in and amp up the violence, yet missed all the philosophical issues which were the key elements (such as the Gordian Knot and the thesis that SUPERHEROES ARE A BAD THING). 300 meanwhile was slavish to poor material.

As a result, I’m left with the feeling that Sucker Punch will be little more than Nerdbait, throwing mad imagery at us now to build excitement, yet failing to form a cohesive whole. It doesn’t need to be deep – given the imagery, it would be difficult to see how it could be – but I expect that it will swing closer to Van Helsing than Speed Racer, and more is the pity for that. I do hope Snyder proves me wrong – it may well be that playing to the constraints of source material took its toll – but scepticism after his previous movies is warranted, alas.

THE EXPENDABLES

It’s not an official trailer, but as a piece of guerilla marketing it is perfect. Tongue in cheek and aimed precisely at the movie’s target audience, this is what I would love to see more of from trailers: something which gives the tone and style of the film without spoiling the plot or content. And it is funny. Really goddamn funny – I have broken my girlfriend’s heart over how many times I have watched this trailer and added +10 to my sublimated homosexual issues and desires BUT I DO NOT CARE.

If the Expendables is not very good I may very well weep, because this trailer makes me need to love it.

STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED 2

I did not play the previous game on the grounds of not really caring all that much. I suspect I probably won’t play this one either, mostly due to having enough games to get on with. This is not the fault of the cinematic above, which is simply wonderful. Playing as the bad guy can be fun and this has all the hallmarks of being able to do ridiculous, glorious things even if you want to play it straight (I almost always end up playing as a paragon rather than a renegade, even when I would benefit for playing contrary to form. I am a rubbish villain player-character, I just end up feeling intensely guilty) It kills me however that the video game producers have a better idea of how to explore and express how awesome it would be to be a Jedi or a Sith, as the next trailer shows…

STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC

Thanks to the double-whammy of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, I am now a thrall to whatever Bioware put out. The aforementioned give me games that are so well written that I would gladly watch them as TV shows. The characters excite and engage me – I want to be able to talk to them more than the game can reasonably allow. It’s wonderful to see a company that considers writing an integral part of the gaming experience and who strives to make characters I want to spend time in the company of (Tali! Grunt! Morrigan! Alistair!) Even though I am beyond my Star Wars nerd days, the temptation of this company putting out a Star Wars game is over-whelming. Bringing a knife to a light saber fight! Jedi Hadouken! Dragon Age and Mass Effect are the prime time sinks of my year so far: were I to play this as well, it might very well end me.

INCEPCIÓN

Can you say BRRR? Very good!

Sherlock
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s new iteration of mssrs Holmes and Watson is taking the not so radical step of placing them in the modern day. Purists may well bitch, but the point of the original tales being set when they were set is that they were at the time set in the modern day. It’s not a soulless revision of the concept, it’s giving it a new lick of paint.

The marvelously monikered Benedict Cumberbatch is thus far entertaining in the role of Sherlock himself (it is easy to see why the press has been asking if he would be playing the Doctor in Moffat’s other show, however erroneous the suggestion might be), but the stand-out is actually Martin Freeman as Watson. Freeman usually doesn’t show much range in his roles, due in part to the typecasting hangover of The Office, but in Sherlock he gets to play a role quite different to his usual oeuvre. He is still playing an everyman role, but one this time with more flair, drive and ability. It reminds me of why everyone liked him before The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

As to the story itself, it was engaging moreso for the introduction to the world rather than the mystery itself (although the idea of murder by suicide is interesting). The main issue was that at an hour and a half the suspense wasn’t quite able to maintain itself as fully as might be hoped, but as the series at the standard one hour length hereafter, that shouldn’t be an ongoing problem. The emphasis on establishing the world in this instance took precedence, so slight padding was otherwise going to be inevitable. Hopefully, the slight repetition between the visualisation of Holmes’ thought process and exposition will also reduce over the coming episodes (again, I suspect this was an issue of filling the timeslot rather than a determination to make sure the audience is following the story). Overall, it was a good start: I’ll be watching the next few episodes with interest.

True Blood
This is the stupidest and most ridiculous thing I watch, have watched and am likely to watch in the near future. It’s erratic, flailing, over the top nonsense that drives my every notion of craft and criticism crazy with rage. It has managed to realise all of this and has since begun to mock itself, adding with every episode more and more madness to its burgeoning, overloaded Jenga tower of a mythos, including but not limited to: vikings; hillbillies; Jessica; Nazi werewolves; vampire PR and governmental machinations; a vampire queen who plays Yahtzee; every other character mocking Bill’s accent; Talbot’s obsession with decor; town-wide bacchanals; Tara faking Stockholm Syndrome; the single most twisted sex scene to ever air on television; and having Jason Stackhouse kick the crap out of a blatant Robert Pattinson analogue.

It is utterly brilliant in a weird and broken way. It’s a soap opera with fangs: the more insanity the show adds, the better (and the funnier) it becomes. There is little chance that it will last its run without imploding into a hideous mess, but even that mess is likely to be hilarious to watch.

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour
Technically not something I watched, but it gets a mention because it contributed to a magnificent weekend. Having mentioned the series before, and given the theme of closure in the book, it’s certainly apropos! In the aftermath of book 5, Scott is at a loss as to what to do next. Worse, he has begun to regress to the state he was in before the start of the first book: struggling and failing to get over heartbreak. This time however, Scott’s circle of friends has now disintegrated and no one is willing (or able) to deal with Scott’s self-centered funk on an individual basis. The series has always been about moving on and growing up, but here it is put into sharp relief: everyone bar Scott is in a different place, while Scott is trying to retreat from what progress he made rather than deal with his losses and culpability.

The final chapter of Scott’s story is absolutely fantastic, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. O’Malley strips away any pretense that Scott is a victim of circumstance and instead presents us with a man-child trying to allay all his own guilt at the cost of those around him. Whereas before the cast were willing to rationalise his behaviour and even excuse it, he is allowed no such room here and instead must finally face up to his responsibilities and grow up once and for all. This doesn’t mean that we lose the humour and giddy fun that was the hallmark of the series prior: we still have subspace, glowing heads and Scott’s uniquely filtered view of the world, but it is now balanced against his personal realisation and those final, vital and defining choices.

What is also interesting is that it’s in many ways the least dense of the volumes in terms of stories. Looking at it from the outside, it’s Scott bouncing between friends while trying to cope with the state of his life, before launching into the final battle of the story and its resulting epilogue. As the first chapter title states, Things Stop Happening. Instead, it becomes an artistic tour de force as O’Malley drives his art into overdrive and smashes it through the wall. The result is glorious: Scott and his friends have never looked better, nor more expressive or individual.

Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour is in a lot of ways about closure, not just for the characters but the audience as well. Everyone gets a moment to shine, while Scott has a final opportunity to prove his worth not just to his friends and enemies, but also to himself. As sad as it is to see the series end, it’s fitting that the title is appropriate.

Inception
It’s going to be pretty hard to discuss Inception without spoilers of any kind, so before reading any of this, please go watch the movie first. This will still be here when you leave the cinema. I’m typically a stickler for people going into a movie as blind as they can and Inception requires that you know as little as possible for maximum impact. It is hard to avoid spoilers these days, but not entirely impossible (having steadfastedly avoided trailers, previews, podcasts and reviews, it was the posters that got me in the end…) Anyhow, get thee hence if not yet seen, as spoilers follow. Read the rest of this entry »

Gary Shore was in the year ahead of me in college, got all the girls and was generally the Fellow To Watch. I’d be seething in rage were he not, as the trailer above shows, overwhelmingly talented. He is also an utter gentleman: I was kind of a dick in college, so I can state assuredly that his friendly efforts speak volumes for his demeanour and fine mannerly threshold. As it stands, I shall be thoroughly envious of how well he is doing, which is as it should be.* Long story short, he is someone to watch; the very smart people already are paying close attention…

(* Success is something people should want and respect in others, so long as they are not being spiteful or mean-spirited about it. I’m jealous of a ridiculous number of people, but I also know they work a hell of a lot harder than I did or do and so deserve their success commensurately. Knowing Gary as much and as little as I do, I can say from past experience that he pushed himself to the hilt and then some, so fie on and balls to naysayers.)

There are indeed criminal sanctions contained in the relevant UK legislation: the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. These are generally in respect of the wrongful distribution of copyright material, usually on some commercial basis. But the private end user copying a copyright work for personal use is not a criminal; he or she is not a thief; their wrongful act is not theft. As Tim O’Reilly has pointed out, the right term is copyright infringement. At this point, the vested interests – showing their legal illiteracy – will suggest that I am suggesting that it is somehow alright to infringe copyright.

I am not. An infringement of copyright is still wrong; more precisely it is a wrong, for copyright infringement is a tort and a wrong is what the word tort actually means.

There’s more in the link, which I would recommend checking out. It’s a more balanced perspective on the matter of piracy, intellectual rights and the misrepresentation of the law as a means to a profitable end.

What the what, guys? I am fond of the moving-picture shows, but I find a drought in what should be my land of plenty at the moment. Putting Kristen Bell into a movie I have no intention of watching is not what I would describe as a successful example of counter-scheduling, at least in respect to nerd-men and other such cultural grazers who do not follow Foot-the-ball. Delaying the release of Toy Story 3 and insisting on having a simultaneous worldwide release of Twilight is like punching me in the face and daddy bags, then having at the sandwich I was about to enjoy with a rabid stick. I don’t even know how you could get a stick rabid, but you went and did it anyway.

Please make an effort to try harder and release movies that do not make me prefer to wrench my own teeth out in strange and unusual fashion. It’s not hygienic and it will play merry havoc with my insurance costs. I buy your DVDs with moneycashfunds rather than pirate them and this gives me a gross and disturbing over-estimation of my worth to you.

Love,
Brian x x x

Um, yes, it’s all well and good that it’s keeping Jake Gyllenhaal employed and my lady happy at his exposed chest, but I question the logic of anyone who would adapt the games and not include spike pits and buzzsaws. The games weren’t about temporal macguffins any more than they were realistic interpretations of Persia then and now. It’s deathtrap parkour, you ninnies!

(It’s a souffle of a movie – it’ll fill you, but you’ll be hungry ten minutes after and cursing the World Cup for ensuring there’s nothing decent in the cinema…)

More TV and movies! Will I stop this nonsense and talk about something else? Eventually!
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