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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.
Formidable, heartfelt and elegant are just a few words one can use to describe Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as woman coming to grips with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. Based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, the devastating truths behind this silent yet deadly disease are passionately explored by the writing-directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, whose uncomplicated and honest portrayal provides the story with plenty of grace and power.
As a highly successful and respected professor of linguistics at Columbia University, the fifty year old Dr. Alice Howland (Moore) has always held a high regard for communication and the intricate workings of the human mind. There are only two things in life that she treasures the most; her sense of intellect – a part of herself that is constantly fed – and her husband, John (Baldwin), and their three children, Anna (Bosworth), Tom (Parrish) and Lydia (Stewart).
During a visit for a lecture, Alice soon begins to notice signs of memory loss after words fail her during her speech. A series of memory tests soon confirm the worst; a particularly rare Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease with a genetic component, meaning her kids might have it, too.
Eating away at her one small bite at a time, Alice is determined not to let her disease erase everything she holds dear. However, as she descends further and further into her own absent-mind there is nothing anyone can do except sit and watch her disappear.
Still Alice’s story is straightforward, refreshingly honest and doesn’t play on sympathy in its approach to the lead character’s personal sense of shame and indignity as she falls further and further away from everything that has helped shape her into what she is today. Moore’s towering performance – a sublime and authentic one at that – carries the film and watching her confront this alienating illness is touching and heartbreaking.
It’s by no means a perfect film and its shortcomings, if you can even really call them that, come in the shape of the two-dimensionality of the other characters; Baldwin is a little plain as the caring but overly passive husband and Stewart is her emotionless self as the rebellious black sheep of the family.
However, whatever their weaknesses may be, the focus is on Moore and her riveting and beautifully-layered performance which ultimately, makes Still Alice a grand and striking drama.
Justin Reardon’s feature-length directorial debut, Playing it Cool, sees an attempt at bring some freshness and originality to the rom-com genre falling into the same old clichés.
Dreaming of one day becoming a successful action screenwriter, the main character of the piece – simply referred to as ‘Narrator’ and played by Chris Evans – isn’t all that enthusiastic about being handed the task of scripting a romantic comedy. See, he’s never been in love – a side-effect from his mother’s abandonment when he was only a young boy – and therefore, he’s unable to see himself writing something that he ‘doesn’t believe in’.
Enter ‘Her’ (Monaghan); a beautiful young woman he meets at a charity event. Sparks fly and he is instantly smitten; however, she’s already engaged to be married to handsome and aloof Brit, ‘Stuffy’ (Gruffudd). Powerless to get her out of his mind – a place filled with a vivid, and often dramatic, writer’s imagination – emotions soon spiral out of control and, well, you know the rest.
Desperately trying to swerve away from the lovely-dovey trappings of the genre, Playing it Cool is the kind of film that’s really difficult to pin-down. Is it a rom-com parody? Or, is it just another movie that begins by dismissing the very notion of romance before eventually falling into the very hole it’s been trying to avoid from the beginning? We’ll go for the latter. Already drawing comparison to movies such as Amelie and 500 Days of Summer – a notion that’s awfully difficult to grasp to begin with – the story lacks the charm, focus and the overall substance that made the aforementioned movies the cinematic success they are.
In fairness, though, the two leads do share some genuine onscreen chemistry; however, the movie’s relatively unexciting script is not smart, strong -or creative enough to take advantage of the fact. Monaghan is the stronger of the two; her charm is infectious and it’s easy to see why any guy would fall for her while Evans, who just doesn’t seem right for the role, tries his best to stick it out. However, just like the story itself, he just doesn’t seem comfortable in his own skin – stick to being Captain America.
Essentially, the problem here is that this is a film that tries too hard to be unique, quirky, ironically, doesn’t play it cool one bit.