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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.
Peter Jackson’s fourteen-year-long Middle-Earth adventure has finally come to a close with the third and final instalment Bilgo Baggins’ journey with The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies; a slightly bloated, but generally successful, finale that boasts plenty of action and technical superiority over its immediate predecessors.
Hitting the ground running and wasting no time in plunging audiences in the deep-end, The Battle of the Five Armies begins exactly where the second film left off, with Smaug (once again voiced superbly by Cumberbatch) setting Lake-town ablaze as Bilbo (Freeman), Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage) and his army of loyal dwarf-followers watch from the Lonely Mountain.
After escaping imprisonment, Bard (Evans) slays Smaug, leaving the endless treasures of the mountain unguarded for Bilbo, Thorin and co. to continue their quest. But as news spreads of Smaug's demise, the lure of the mountain's coveted riches triggers an inevitable path to war.
A With a running time of just over two hours, The Battle of the Five Armies is the shortest of all of The Hobbit entries, though it’s also the most ambitious and visually-creative of the lot. The cinematography is exquisite and the CGI techniques seem to have been pushed to their very limit.
The cast is, as always, steadfast and dependable with Armitage delivering a blockbuster performance as Thorin, though Freeman’s usual whimsical nature and superb comic timing is, surprisingly, underused. Similarly, the rest of the cast, including Lilly as the she-elf, Evans, as the newly-emerged leader of Lake-town, and McKellen take a back-seat.
With this being the finale, it plays out like a climax and is heavy on the action and not much else – as a standalone film, it may feel a little hollow for some, but for fans, it's a fittingly spectacular conclusion to the series.
The tension and atmosphere is palpable in Jim Mickle’s latest genre-bending thriller, Cold in July; a riveting and a deliciously twisted adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s crime-novel of the same name.
Set against a Texan backdrop, Cold in July takes place in the early 80’s and centres on a man dealing with the shock of having killed an intruder in his own home. Richard Dane (Hall) is a quiet and a good-mannered frame worker who live in a small town with his wife, Ann (Shaw), and their young son, Jordan (Hall).
His relatively mundane, but happy, life is sent into turmoil after the deadly confrontation. Despite being assured that the man he shot and killed was a wanted felon, his guilt pushes him to visit the cemetery in which his victim is buried, where he comes by the deceased’s father, Ray (Damici); a paroled convict who seems intent on avenging his son’s death.
If you’ve already had the pleasure of watching Jim Mickle’s efforts in the moody and the somewhat unconventional 2013’s thriller, We Are What We Are, then you probably already know what to expect from the director’s fourth entry.
Following three unconventional horror films, Jim Mickle manages to channel his bloodcurdling standards into something much more grounded without losing his penchant for the unsettling.
Grim, edgy and full of unpredictable twists and turns, Cold in July keeps its audience on its toes the entire way through. As the two main characters begin to interact, things become much more complicated and a potential case of mistaken identity propels the plot into more than just a revenge mission. Just as you think the leads figure out a piece to the puzzle, the story takes a new direction altogether.
Deeply-layered and underlined with a sense of unpredictability throughout, one of Cold in July’s biggest assets is the stellar performance of its cast, who, collectively, manage to keep the story authentic amidst the twists and turns. Leading the way is Hall, who is convincing as an everyman caught up in a violent world; Shepard is his usual fantastic self while Johnson – who comes in a little later into the story – is infectious as a detective with quintessential Texan predilections.
While this film is unlikely to make a huge mainstream impact, it serves as another example of Jim Mickle’s terribly underrated directorial prowess. Its slow, broody build-up doesn’t sit comfortably in the scope of modern thrillers, but given time, it unfolds into a unique piece of filmmaking that will linger with you for days, maybe even weeks, after the credits roll.