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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.
There’s no real reason why Hollywood hasn’t totally embraced Jake Gyllenhaal; but it just hasn’t. While he may not fit the mould of the empirical Hollywood hunk, he has proven in the last five years that he can carry a movie and carry it will – which is the case in boxing drama, Southpaw.
A traditional story of redemption through and through, the Antoine Fuqua-directed film falls into the same pitfalls that the majority of sports films fall into, but it’s the performance of Gyllenhaal and Fuqua’s ability to put together memorable scenes that give Southpaw its worth.
The story tells of world champion boxer, Billy Hope (Gyllenhaal), and his struggle to cope with the death of his wife Maureen (McAdams) during a brawl with a prospective – and of course cocky and arrogant –challenger. An injury that threatens his ability to see, a quick descent into guilt-ridden alcoholism, growing debt and the loss of his daughter to child protection services are just a few of the things that drive Hope to taking a job at a gym, where he meets Titus ‘Tick’ Wills (Whitaker), who helps Billy get on the track to recovery.
There are plenty of clichés flying about in Southpaw, but there are moments that will send a little shiver down your spine and linger long after the credits roll – and it’s largely owed to Mr Gyllenhaal. He’s intense, he’s committed and he’s utterly convincing as a man trying to get his life back on track after a horrific incident that he comes to blame himself for. At times, the plot feels formulaic – and it is, almost verging on predictable – but it’s a formula that is executed well; Fuqua, like he did with Training Day, has a knack of infusing single scenes with a huge amount of emotion, passion and intensity.
This is not Rocky – it’s grim, it’s grey and it doesn’t necessarily glamorise boxing and the spectacle that surrounds it. This is not a film that will win awards or be talked about in twenty years as a classic, but it certainly is an emotional ride.
Like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler before her, Amy Schumer is the in comedienne in Hollywood right now and her first major role couldn’t have come under the conductorship of a better person; Judd Apatow. The man who had a hand in The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad and Anchorman is comedy royalty in Hollywood and, as a director, has a knack for bringing out the best in his actors with his very character-driven comedies and does exactly that with Schumer, giving her a perfect platform to introduce herself to the world.
There isn’t exactly much that you could call innovative with the plot of Trainwreck and so all of its enjoyment is owed to the actors themselves. The story follows Schumer’s character, also named Amy, and her toil and trouble in the game of love. Barely functioning as an active member of society, Amy drinks to get drunk, smokes to get high and jumps in bed with strange men to forget – all that despite being in a relationship with a gym-rat ably played by WWE wrestler and occasional actor, John Cena.
Through her work with a magazine, she comes to meet a sports doctor, Aaron Conners (Hader), and end up falling for each other, with the only potential obstacle standing in the way of a future together being Amy’s fear of commitment.
Again, there’s not a lot about the plot that will blow you away; two lovers-to-be come to fall for each other in unlikely circumstances, an event brings to light a problem with one or more of them which builds a barrier between them, before one of them has the courage to make a compromise and they live happily ever after. It’s the basic template that all romantically infused films are based on and there’s no getting away from it, especially when thrown in a hotpot with comedy.
But it’s Schumer and her supporting cast – as well as that Judd Apatow touch – that keep the viewer engaged in what is otherwise a pedestrian story. The humour is sharp and witty, but, most importantly, the characters are very relatable, with the script not falling back on clichés. The viewer isn’t expected to see the characters through rose-tinted shades; it doesn’t boil down people to good or bad; they’re just human.
More important than all that, however, is that Trainwreck is funny, ridiculous, but at times endearing – a perfect recipe for a rom-com.