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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 2009 Oscar-winning Argentine film titled, El Secreto de sus Ojos, Billy Ray’s Hollywood adaptation of the original looked promising from the get-go thanks to its first-class cast. Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts and Chiwetel Ejiofor are a formidable team and the plot – at least on paper – has enough gravitas to it to produce something solid. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work out that way.
As the man behind the screenplay to 2013’s Captain Phillips, Ray also penned the adaptation and opens proceedings in 2002 with FBI Agent, Ray Caston (Ejiofor), working together with friend and partner Jess Cobb (Roberts) in LA’s counter-terrorism taskforce one year after the events of 9/11. Together with Deputy DA Claire Sloan (Kidman) the task force is busy investigating an L.A-based mosque, looking for any possible criminal activity.
Everything soon changes when, during one of their surveillance routines, Raymond and Jess discover a murder victim near the mosque which turns out to be Jess’ teenage daughter. Thirteen years later, no one has been convicted of the murder, pushing Ray to take matters into his own hands after stumbling on new leads.
Jumping back and forth between 2002 and 2015, Secret in Their Eyes worksin terms of mood and setting; a film noir-like backdrop effectively conveys the grim topics. However, even though the film manages the moving timelines with a great deal of efficiency, there’s a formulaic and unimaginative approach to the basics of the plot which strips it of having any real impact. In addition, one too many subplots - including a romantic entanglement between Kidman and Ejiofor which never really sells - are introduced and instead of focusing on the working relationship and the bond between Ejiofor - a commendable lead - and Roberts - who is captivating as the grieving mother but, criminally underused - the film seemingly lends its focus on more trivial details.
Interesting but never as captivating as its synopsis suggests, Secret in Their Eyes is a decent dramatic thriller, but falls well short of the original – but then what remake ever does?
The fourth and final instalment in The Hunger Games film series is upon us and director Francis Lawrence has injected the closing chapter of Suzanne Collins’ best-selling dystopian adventure with a bit more heart and oomph than from what was witnessed in the first and rather dreary half of this two-part tale. However, although Mockingjay Part 2 is definitely a better and more exciting offering, it’s still not completely free of fault.
Mockingjay Part 2 picks up where Part 1 left off, with Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence) trying to recover after almost being choked to death by her former ‘lover’ and ally, Peeta (Hutcherson), who by the looks of things, seems to have been brainwashed and poisoned with thoughts of killing Katniss. Driven by the anger and her pure hatred for President Snow (Sutherland), Katniss soon escapes District 13 to join an assault on The Capitol under rebel leader, President Coin (Moore), only to discover that there is one last version of the Hunger Games still to play.
One thing’s for sure; Part 2 is a definite improvement over Part 1, which spent most of its time shifting about and setting things up for the big payoff. It’s a problem that we’ve seen before in the waves of adult-fiction novel adaptations – the first half spends so much energy in setting up the second that it fails to convince a stand-alone film. Although the pace picks up, there’s no sense of grandness to what is meant to be a huge finale and, actually, some may even feel underwhelmed by how the plot plays out.
On the plus side, the action is engaging and some of the battle scenes are staged with great attention to detail. In addition, Lawrence is, as always, her fantastic self and she’s once again the anchor on what has been a shaky ship.
As a story which has always attempted to frame the horrors of war through the eyes of a fiercely brave young heroine, so much more could have been done – much like the whole series, there’s something engaging about the finale, but it all feels like a chance missed.