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Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World: Life as a Video Game
There isn’t a clear point of reference to pin down where Scott Pilgrim’s style, worldview or logic originated. It’s a pop culture melting pot where manga, rock n’ roll and video games are mashed up together to form something completely original with its own unique visual language. So much about Scott Pilgrim is unworldly and fantastical that by the time an emo boy smashes through the wall to duel Scott (Cera), it comes off as perfectly normal; if not inevitable.
The film is based on the comic book sensation of the same name where– almost like the classic Super Mario Bros game– Scott Pilgrim has to fight a league of evil exes to get to Ramona (Winstead), the girl of his dreams. And just like in the video game, Scott wins bonus points and collects scattered coins after he completes each level.
Set in the city of Toronto, Scott Pilgrim’s world consists mostly of hanging out at trendy venues, record-shopping, ranting with his friends over coffee and practicing with his garage band, Sex Bob-omb. His life is plagued with callousness and drenched in irony, and even his likeminded peers give him a hard time about his frivolousness. When he first meets Ramona, his infatuation finally gives him the drive to go out and aspire to something.
As Scott engages with Ramona’s exes in one eye-popping fight scene after another; his state of arrested development gets challenged. Here, the film uncovers the insecurity of a generation that is so hung up on being cool; it stifles their emotional development.
Director Edgar Wright (Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) stretches the full power of his imagination here. His cinematic and pop culture wealth serves him best when he transforms the panels onto the screen, pushing the sequences through a video-game filter and then rendering them in flawless, cotton-candy veneer. The inventive pacing blurs the timeline; so the film can follow emotional threads uninterrupted without feeling tricky or conceited.
Despite the film’s visual inventiveness and joyful demeanour; there is a fundamental flaw undermining Scott Pilgrim: the vacant emotional core propelling the central romance. In the nonstop calibration of everything hip and witty, the film can never bring itself to deliver a single moment of genuine sorrow without shrugging it off instantly. When Scott breaks down in front of his roommate in a desperate plea for human compassion, his friend gives him a pep talk right out of a soap opera, which is further emphasized by a sappy score; playing the drama for laughs instead of digging for any hidden truth.
Scott Pilgrim works for the most part, and even though it consciously chooses to shun humility and heart in favour of retaining its edge; its visual and narrative invention are undeniably groundbreaking. From start to finish, the film blasts feverishly with an infectious sense of fun. It’s an invigorating ride in a world where videogame logic prevails, and love is just a push button away.
Inspired by Casey Sherman and Michael J Tourgias’ 2009 non-fiction book, The Finest Hours: The True Story of the U.S Coast Guard’s Most Daring Sea Rescue, Craig Gillespie’s rescue-drama is an occasionally compelling film, but bearing in mind this is supposed to be the retelling of one of the greatest sea rescues in the history of sea rescues, the end-result is a little flatter and isn’t distinguished as one might expect.
Taking place on 1952, off the coast of Massachusetts, a raging storm has caused two oil tankers - the SS Fort Mercer and SS Pendleton – to split in half. While most of the rescue boats have been deployed to assist the Mercer, the crew on Pendleton - led by the first assistant engineer, Ray Sybert (Affleck) – weren’t able to send out a rescue signal and are now left at the mercy of the sea.
Meanwhile on land, docile-looking Coast Guard captain, Bernie (Pine) has been given instructions by his commanding officer, Daniel (Bana) to undertake the risky rescue-mission after the Pendleton’s location is discovered. Aware of the consequences, Bernie, along with a handful of men, heads out into the stormy night.
What keeps The Finest Hours afloat, so to speak, is the fact that it’s inspired by real-life events – this in itself gives the plot a sense of gravitas. If this was a fictional plot, however, it would have been thrown out long before it reached the big screen, despite, for the most part, telling its story in a relatively compelling and capable manner.
The problem is that it’s all a little run-of-the-mill. Giving the subjects of loyalty and bravery the classic, melodramatic Hollywood touch, the familiarity of the story is inviting, yes, but it’s also highly derivative and predictable. In addition, the nautical jargon used in the film is confusing and keeping up with the technicalities distracts from the human elements of the plot.
However, the film’s biggest setback comes with the decision to screen it in 3D, which is not only distracting, but also terribly disorienting; most of the film takes place at night, so trying to keep up with what’s going on is almost impossible.
The performances offered by what is a solid cast, meanwhile, are engaging enough to keep things balanced – Pine is surprisingly reserved but affective, while Affleck shines as the skilful engineer. Overall, though, it’s just not strong or heartfelt enough to keep its head above water (sorry, we can’t help it) and deliver a story which fitting of its real-life story.
If you’re idea of ‘funny’ is watching Robert De Niro making a complete and utter fool of himself as a filthy and foul-mouthed senior on a ‘life-changing’ journey sexual pursuits, then Dan Mazer’s Dirty Grandpa is a must see. However, if you would rather spare yourself the torture of having the image of the legendary, Oscar-winning actor tarnished for good, then you are advised to look for your dirty laughs elsewhere.
The story is centred on Jason Kelly (Efron); an uptight corporate lawyer who, having given up on his dreams of one day becoming a renowned photographer, is now - rather begrudgingly - working for his controlling lawyer dad, David (Mulroney). When his grandmother dies from cancer, his grandpa Dick (De Niro) - a retired military mechanic whom Jason was really close to as a kid - decides to guilt his grandson into driving him from his home in Atlanta, Georgia down to Florida, so he can honour and fulfil his late spouse’s dying wishes who has asked him to let loose a little.
Only a week away from his essentially arranged marriage to the beautiful but bossy Meredith (Hough), Jason - not wanting to disappoint his recently widowed grandpa - reluctantly agrees. However, he soon discovers that Dick has other reasons for their little road trip, when, after running into a couple of Jason’s friends old from college – including the promiscuous hottie, Lenore (Plaza) – Dick persuades Jason to take a little detour through Daytona Beach; a popular spring break spot for college students, where he can do some serious skirt-chasing and, yes, get laid.
Dirty Grandpa - directed by Borat producer Dan Mazer and first-time screenwriter John Phillips - is neither funny nor smart and watching it unfold on the big-screen is a grating, painful experience. Instead of focusing on offering quality laughs, the film seems more interested in shocking throughout its one-hundred-minute runtime, which include a never-ending stream of racial slurs, genital-based humour and profane-filled one-liners that seem to be on the repeat for most of the movie.
Robert De Niro - in what has proven to be one of his worst roles of his career - is, well, very unlike himself and while some might find his sex-crazed and dirty-mouthed ways novel and, dare we say, entertaining, there will also be many of those who will feel nothing but embarrassment for the seventy-two-year old actor. Efron, meanwhile, is Efron and spends most of the time shirtless.
It’s a rather tiring experience and while its particular brand of toilet-humour has its audience, the sloppiness and the lack of trying in Dirty Grandpa is almost insulting.