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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.
Based on the memoirs of a real-life U.S Navy SEAL, American Sniper is a vivid and intense story of a sniper who became renowned for the one-hundred and sixty confirmed kills obtained during his four tours in Iraq.
The story is centred on the Texan born and bred patriot, Chris Kyle (Cooper); a rodeo-loving, farm-boy who has been raised with a firm belief in moral justice. After watching the harrowing events of the bombings of the U.S embassies in Eastern Africa, Chris decides to join the Navy SEALS, as a way of offering his support and undying service to the country that he loves.
Shortly after, he meets Taya (Miller); a girl who has vowed never to date a marine but goes ahead and does just that. It’s not long before they decide to marry and raise a family; however, after yet another attack on America – and this time on its own soil on September 11, 2001 –Chris is deployed to serve his country in Iraq.
It is there that he earns the title of ‘The Legend’ – thanks to his sharp eye and incredible precision – soon becoming one of the most proficient snipers in U.S military history. However, his so-called ‘talent’ soon brings the unwanted attention of an equally relentless Iraqi sniper, while life at home begins to show signs of strain.
Attempting to portray the emotional turmoil of war and the internal psychological struggles that follow, American Sniper, unfortunately, chooses to illustrate, and perhaps even celebrate, war as spectacle, completely diverting the film from a character-driven drama and turning it into just another full-blown and relentless war-thriller.
Having been criticised by many for its perceived rhetoric as over-patriotic, pseudo-propaganda, Eastwood – who stepped in to direct after Spielberg withdrew – does manage to infuse just enough tension and grit into the proceedings, but the fact that the script takes many creative liberties with the actual story only further serves to undermine the film.
Equipped with a southern-twang and forty pounds of muscle, Cooper embraces his role with a great amount of seriousness and commitment. The action is executed well and there is enough of it to keep trigger-happy audience satisfied, but its heavy-hand and surprisingly cheesy and overly dramatic set-ups – not to mention laughable props – tell a different story; one that mght well leave you feeling bowled over and bemused.
Well-deserving of all the attention it’s been getting, James Marsh’s Theory of Everything – an emotional and a rousing look inside the life of one Professor Stephen W. Hawking and his loving but, turbulent thirty-year long marriage to Jane Hawking – is nothing short of wonderful.
Sourced from Jane’s 2008 memoir, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, the story begins in 1963, with an exceptionally charming twenty-one physicist, Stephen Hawking (Redmayne), on his way of pursuing his doctorate from the University of Cambridge.
It is there that he first meets the beautiful literature-major student, Jane Wilde (Jones); a devout Christian whose outlook on life – and science in particular – doesn’t necessarily fall in line with his more agnostic and mathematical assessments of human existence.
Just as the love between the two begins to blossom and Stephen begins preparing for his final thesis, he discovers that he is suffering from motor neuron disease; an illness that will soon begin to take away his ability to walk and talk, amongst other things. Having been given only two years to live, the young and the highly-intelligent physicist – whose thirst for knowledge and passion for life refuses to surrender – slowly begins to challenge his weaknesses. However, as he continues to grow professionally, his life at home with Jane – who is single-handedly carrying his physical limitations on her frail shoulders – begins to show signs of despair.
While this is in fact a biopic – a simple and a straightforward one at that – which celebrates the life and work of Hawking, it is also very important to note that this is not a story that goes deep into his rise to fame as the renowned physicist we know today. It’s a much smaller scale story of love and compassion and a one focuses on human endurance, courage and, most of all, hope.
The Theory of Everything is shot beautifully and a real sense of romanticism and nostalgia – driven by a sensual and a tear-jerking classical score – can be felt throughout. It’s an emotionally-rich drama that, although sometimes can feel a little too sugary, manages to stay grounded. It is, to a large degree, thanks to Redmayne’s extraordinary performance audiences will be able to appreciate what is an insightful and meaningful peak inside the private life of one of the most respected and remarkable minds living today.