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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.
Taking on what’s probably one of the most implausible premises known to man, the latest offering from Training Day director, Antoine Fuqua, goes a little too far on bending the laws of reason and logic in the exceptionally contrived, cheesy and the remarkably violent, The Equalizer.
The story follows the life of one Robert McCall (Washington); a friendly, cautious and an unassuming middle-aged man who spends his days working the floors of a local Home-Mart, before returning home to a tidy one-bedroom apartment to eat his dinners alone. Suffering from a serious case of insomnia – and what appears to be a generous touch of OCD – Robert spends most of his evenings at a local diner, rearranging cutlery, reading books and enjoying the unobtrusive company of other restless souls.
On one such night, he befriends Teri (Moretz); a troubled young woman - and a frequent diner visitor – who earns her cash working as a high-end hooker for anunforgiving Russian pimp, Slavi (Munier). It’s obvious to Robert, who takes an instant liking to the young girl, that she has lost her way and encourages her to change her world and pursue her dreams of becoming a singer. Unfortunately, things don’t go so well for Teri, who - as Robert soon finds out - is landed in the hospital by her employers.
Unable to sit back and ignore, Robert decides to take matters into his own hands and soon finds his way to Slavi – and the rest of his crew - to buy Teri’s freedom from them. However, when the Russians decline, Robert has no choice but to take extreme measures; a move which quickly puts him in the crosshairs of the Russian mob.
The Equalizer is actually based, very loosely, on a little television show from the late eighties. However, the similarities stop at the character’s name; everything else has been changed and tailored to fit Washington’s trademark bad-ass passiveness, which just so happens to echo his character from the highly superior Man on Fire. Taking its time to develop, the first half of the film is dedicated to introducing us to the main character which is actually pretty engaging. However, the script loses its shape the minute the violence is unleashed. It's here that Fuqua, who also decides to channel in every single cliché from the book of revenge, crumbles and the idea of a man fighting – totally unaided - against the Russian mob seems like something that is probably better saved for the Die Hard franchise instead.
One thing is for certain, though, without Washington’s captivating and grounded presence, The Equalizer wouldn’t have amounted to very much.
Careless and seemingly unable to find its own footing, the lack of heart and originality found in the latest reimagining of the ‘80s comic-book and film series franchise is disappointing and while there are moments of praise to consider, its shortcomings are a little difficult to disregard.
The streets of New York are terrorised by an underground criminal organization called the Foot Clan, commanded by an ominous figure known as Shredder (Masamune). At the heart of it all is the ambitious TV reporter, April O’Neil (Fox), who – despite the continuing objections from her clearly-besotted cameraman, Vernon (Arnett) – is looking to break out of reporting irrelevant news pieces and move on to much bigger stories.
Her timing, as it happens, couldn’t be better when, while out investigating a lead one night at the docks April witnesses members of the Foot Clan in a hard-hitting confrontation with a group of shadowy ninja-like figures. Determined to reveal the identities of these so-called vigilantes, April soon finds herself face-to-face with the talking and walking six-foot masked turtles, otherwise known as Leonardo (Ploszek), Raphael (Ritchson), Donatello (Howard) and Michelangelo (Fisher).
Raised in the City’s sewers by their rat-master, Splinter (Shalhoub), the four turtles have been training for years to stand up to Shredder and they are soon given that chance when they learn of the plans of a poisonous gas being released over the city.
There seems to be a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity in Jonathan Liebesman’s approach to the subject at hand and the challenge of reviving a thirty-year-old iconic franchise proves to be a rather tricky task for the Wrath of the Titans director. Written by an army of writers and produced by Michael Bay, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles suffers from an sloppy script , awkward pacing and, despite efforts give the very concept a little more depth the end-result feels shallow and undercooked.
Luckily, the action and the visual effects are pretty refined and while the surprisingly potent violence can be a little bit too much to bear, you can tell that a lot of time and effort went into the digital creation of the mutants themselves and the world around them.
Regrettably, the performances are just as unmemorable as the story itself; this applies to Fox most, who seems to be stuck with the same staggered expression the whole way through. The motion-capture translates quite satisfyingly, though the menacing presence of Shredder and the righteous aura of Splinter is never fully realised.
The film as a whole is polished but is short on subtlety and complexity, never finding the charm and nostalgia that initially triggered so much interest in the project.