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Director James Wan is a magician. He has all the tricks... Sleight of
hand... Misdirection... Creating illusions that will terrify you to the
core, without having to resort to gore or cheap thrills. Granted he is
a master of making you jump out your seat, of making your heart skip a
beat, but it's his ability to force you to hold your breath that makes
his Conjuring movies so appealing and so much fun to watch. The camera
pans and tilts at weird angles. The foreground and background focus and
blur interchangeably as if to visually bend reality. A voice whispers
in the dark. And through all this, somewhere in the back of your mind,
the nagging horror that horrified you when you watched the Exorcist for
the very first time, five words:
Based on a true story.
Like the first Conjuring (brilliant movie) the sequel is a dramatization of a case investigated by real life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. The first Conjuring described the events of a house haunted by a witch called Bathsheba. The Warrens were often tackling multiple cases at once, and to emphasize the emotional stress that came with it, the first Conjuring also detailed the Warrens' experiences with a doll named Anabelle that reportedly came to life, possessed by an evil spirit, that is to this day locked away in a glass case in the back of the Warren household.
In Part 2 we are re-introduced to the Warrens by reminding us of the case that catapulted the couple into the public eye, the murders in Amityville. The majority of this film, however, actually takes place across the pond in London, where a strange entity disturbed the peace of a poor, struggling single-mom and her four children. This became the most documented paranormal case in history, an entity known as the Enfield Poltergeist.
The Conjuring 2 has a great cast. Frances 'O Connor plays Peggy Hodgson, the single mom who has to hold the house together in the midst of all the horror, including all the ridicule from non-believers. She's a mother trying and failing to maintain sanity. She wants to be brave for her kids, yet can't help but to be visibly agitated. Her youngest son Billy, a little boy with a stutter, is adorable, constantly bullied by his peers but is overwhelmed with boundless joy at the sight of a biscuit! The one who stole the show, however, was Madison Wolfe as Janet Hodgson, who in the real-life haunting was the entity's favorite target. Definitely see shades of Linda Blair in her performance.
Other players like Simon McBurney as Maurice Gross, the British paranormal investigator who was primarily involved with the Enfield Poltergeist, even the constables who corroborated that some freaky stuff went down in the house, look and act just like those involved in the real case (did some investigating of my own on YouTube).
Of course the real heroes of the film are Ed and Lorraine Warren played by Patrick Wilson (Insidious) and Vera Fermiga (Bates Motel) - as you can see both actors have a tendency towards dark material. They are an attractive couple, extremely likable, and as in the first Conjuring, there's a sense of adoration and compassion for the work the Warrens do. Both Patrick and Vera have this uncanny ability to make you feel comforted one minute, but with a slight contortion of the face, you know something is wrong. "I've got a bad feeling about this." Regardless whether you believe in this stuff or not, there's admiration for a couple who have dedicated their lives to helping others, freeing the tormented from inexplicable horrors when no one else can. Ed and Lorraine Warrens were the only ones outside of the clergy who were authorized by the Catholic Church to perform exorcisms.
"Based on a true story" should always be taken with a grain of salt. There are definitely some fantastical terrors that are there for show, inspired by nightmares as seen in Insidious or the Babadook. Like the first Conjuring, they don't turn a blind eye to alternative explanations for the events that take place, and allow you to view the subject from the skeptic's standpoint before diving headfirst into the dark realm of the beyond. One thing for sure is that the filmmakers have respect for the original material, pulling from old photographs to recreate the real settings, down to the details of the posters on their bedroom walls. What better example is there of respect for the material than this: prior to filming Conjuring Part 2, the filmmakers had a Catholic priest come in to bless the set. Apparently eerie occurrences took place when they filmed the first Conjuring movie.
I ain't afraid of no ghosts. No poltergeist is going to stop Director James Wan and Writers Chad and Carey Hayes from telling the amazing story of Ed and Lorraine Warren, and with many more cases yet to be explored, I really hope they can conjure up another one.
Ant-Man must have been a challenge for these filmmakers. The preceding
films from the Avengers Universe featured an epic roster of
out-of-this-world heroes whose names alone make you tinkle a little:
IRON MAN, THOR, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY
there's Ant-Man. (Womp-womp) While die-hard fans of the comics would
recognize Ant-Man as an original member of the ensemble, the general
audience may be left to wonder WTF?!
Ant-Man, do you even lift, Bro?
The filmmakers must have been aware of this, considering the tongue-in-cheek treatment of the script. With a screenplay largely penned by Shaun of the Dead legend Edgar Wright, and built upon by other great comedic writers, Joe Cornish (Attack the Bock), Adam McKay (Anchorman), and Ant-Man himself Paul Rudd, Ant-Man does indeed do some heavy lifting, delivering one of the funniest, most entertaining, and visually satisfying superhero movies to date.
The ant super-suit is sick. Red and silver with bulging insectoid eyes, it looks like a modern day motocross version of the Japanese monster slayer Ultraman. As soon as he hits the shrink button, you are sucked into a world so awesome you have no choice but to brace yourself and see where the ride takes you. Stan Lee wanted to make this movie in the 80's but ironically Disney, the production company behind today's Ant-Man, already had a shrinking movie of its own in the works. While "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" was amazing in its time, I couldn't be happier that they waited for the movie effects of today to let Ant- Man zip this way and that, from our world to the minuscule one and back. Coincidentally an ant saved the kids from a giant scorpion in that Rick Moranis classic, and in Ant-Man the ants also play a major role in saving the day. That's right. His power is not only to shrink to the size of an ant, but also to control an army of them. In that respect, this movie is unlike any superhero movie you've ever seen.
The Pym Particle, created by Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has the ability to shrink a living human being. Think of the possibilities! Microsurgery, mobility, and of course, warfare! The latter makes Dr. Pym realize just how dangerous this technology really is and he decides to cease research and development altogether. Years pass, and the existence of this technology is reduced to a myth. What Dr. Pym didn't know is that his own assistant Darren Cross (Corey Stoll, House of Cards) had been obsessing over this myth and has been trying to replicate this technology on his own. Stoll has a unique ability to make you sympathize for his character at times, but can also be straight up scary.
Dr. Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, Lost) know they have to stop Cross but keep butting heads. Hope is a badass, but Pym refuses to let her get involved, which reveals some deeper, more serious daddy issues. Their only hope is Scott Lang (Paul Rudd, my man crush), an ex-convict who was a professional burglar, not a robber because Lang insists that implies physical violence, and he's not about that life. To pull off the job, Lang enlists his original heist crew, played by David Dastmalchian, Rapper T.I., and Michael Peña, who offers some of the most hilarious scenes in the movie. What ensues is an adventure, a comedy, an action movie and a heist rolled into one Little Debbie oatmeal cookie crumb of elephantine excitement and pure elation. If you haven't noticed, I like this movie.
Close friends may say I am biased because it stars Paul Rudd, whom I have been enamored with ever since Clueless. When Cher realized she was in love with Josh, I too realized Paul Rudd is my number one man crush. Let me close this by taking a moment to acknowledge how perfect Paul Rudd is in the role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man. He is a master at self-deprecating humor, as seen in movies like "I Love You, Man" and "Knocked Up" and his role as Mike Hannigan on "Friends." This is a necessity when you see how Ant-Man may have somewhat of a Napoleon Complex when he inevitably has to measure up against the mighty Avengers. Paul Rudd has shown his chops as a dramatic actor in movies like "The Shape of Things" and "Admission," and again here in Ant- Man as an estranged father, who wants nothing more than to spend more time with his daughter Cassie. While elements of his various roles can be seen in Ant-Man this was nothing like anything Paul Rudd has ever done before, and he pulled it off.
His dedication can be seen not only in the moment that reveals his handsomely chiseled abs. In preparation for the role, Paul Rudd bought an ant farm to study. Even after he finished shooting, he decided to keep it. Just when you thought you couldn't fall in love with Paul Rudd any further. On the week the movie was released, Paul Rudd earned a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and deservedly so. Somehow it's not the star that immortalizes him in film history. It's his stellar performance in Ant-Man, the movie that will shrink and find its way into your heart and stay there forever.
Oz the Great and Powerful joins the ranks of Avatar and Life of Pi in
creating a world so vivid and immersive, you would be doing yourself a
disservice to wait for DVD. There is no other way to watch it than in
IMAX 3D. I was smiling from ear to ear from one sequence to the next,
surprises at every turn, a Disney attraction within itself. Literally
from the very beginning. The opening title sequence is one of the most
impressive showcases of 3D I've seen. It's as wondrous, if not more so,
as the dazzling world in Tim Burton's Wonderland, only with more
memorable characters and a better story.
The true wizard behind the emerald curtain is master director Sam Raimi. He is one of the most versatile directors around, and what he has created here is one of the scariest, funniest, and most charming Disney movies in recent memory. Raimi brings a little Evil Dead demon magic to scenes designed to frighten you. Thankfully his mastery in horror is equaled by his comedic timing, so the little pretties who watch the movie will be able to sleep at night. Finley is the most adorable flying monkey in a bellhop costume you'll ever meet, and the porcelain China doll is a roller-coaster of emotions, broken one minute and quick to show you she's not so fragile the next. They are both beautifully animated and voiced to perfection. Sometimes you wish animated characters can win Best Supporting Actor (ahem- Gollum!).
To use this much special effects but still create the atmosphere of a vintage Technicolor classic is an astounding achievement. Like the opening sequence, there are scenes shot with the aesthetic of a paper doll puppet show, or that French Trip to the Moon movie (like the Smashing Pumpkins Tonight, Tonight video). Other moments submerge you in a world of color, magic, and music (by Danny Elfman) like some kind of living, breathing Fantasia. Many scenes can easily be translated to a Disneyland thrill ride, or a spot on the laser-light Fantasmic spectacular. Whether or not that's done deliberately, who cares? It makes for a thoroughly entertaining movie.
This movie tells the back story of the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz before he was so Great and Powerful, when he was a lowly carnival magician named Oscar from Kansas. He could convince you to believe with mind-blowing illusions, but sadly isn't equipped with the stuff that Messiahs are made of. He is crooked and inconsiderate; he lies, cheats, and steals; he's pretty much everything a wizard-genie-messiah is not, and still you can't help but love the guy, which has lots to do with James Franco's natural likability.
When he crash lands in Oz, he is forced to perform the greatest trick of all. He not only has to convince the citizens of Oz that he is the prophesied Great Wizard sent to restore harmony in the land, he also has to convince the three great witches of the realm, three women who not only possess power beyond words, but are also insanely beautiful, a dangerous combination that may be too much for a mere mortal to bear. A world like this demands a wizard whose predecessors include Merlin, Gandalf, and Dumbledore. This wizard's heroes are Houdini and Thomas Edison, and for now that will have to do.
Sam Raimi, Ang Lee, James Cameron, Peter Jackson, and Joss Whedon are all wizards in their own right, reminding us there are still reasons to see a movie at the movie theater.
The life of Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is best summed up in the words
of another beloved street rat, "All this for a loaf of bread?"
From that single loaf, we become witness to an epic game of cat-and- mouse (between Wolverine and The Gladiator), the birth of a revolution, and a gut-wrenching performance from Anne Hathaway you won't ever forget.
The movie was filmed in five months, and is the first musical film adaptation to record the audio live, rather than have the actors lipsync over a pre-recorded studio track. Tom Hooper's decision to film the actors live evokes some of the most powerful scenes in recent memory, particularly from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, both deserving of Oscar nods. His use of extreme close-ups (REALLY extreme close-ups) and long, uninterrupted takes gives a raw, gritty quality to the film that brings out the true pain and suffering of the Miserable.
While there is much that goes on in this sweeping tale involving the excitement of an uprising, and a short-lived love triangle not unlike the one in Victor Hugo's other masterpiece The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the story is all about redemption, and redemption comes in the form of Jean Valjean. He spent 20 years in captivity, and his only crime was being a good uncle: he stole a loaf of bread to feed his starving nephew. Those 20 years moved Jean Valjean to lose faith. The real story of Les Miserables is Jean Valjean's quest to find it again.
Problem is, the road to recovery is blocked by the lawman Javert (Russell Crowe), who forces Valjean to play Catch Me If You Can a la Frank Abagnale. Like the nugget that won't flush, Javert keeps coming back. He suffers from a classic case of hubris, and refuses to see Valjean as anything more than a criminal. The only thing that keeps Valjean going is Colette, I mean, Cosette (Isabelle Allen/Amanda Seyfried).
While Allen is absolutely adorable as young Cosette, and worth fighting for, Seyfried shines in the role of the woman Cosette has come to be, her voice so angelic you soon forget she used to predict the weather with her boobs. While Javert represents Pride, the only obstacle in Valjean's road to redemption, Cosette serves as Hope and the only guiding light. Valjean takes it upon himself to raise Cosette, after discovering he inadvertently led Cosette's mother's life to ruin.
Not since Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta has any female performance looked so tragic yet so beautiful as Anne Hathaway in her role as Fantine. As brief as her appearance was in the film, she killed the role and stole the show. If Anne Hathaway doesn't get an Oscar, I will shave my head.
How did they deliver such an ambitious film in so little time? For one they had the right crew. The composers and lyricists of the original musical were heavily involved with production. It also helps to have Tom Hooper as Quarterback. Hooper was masterful in telling a simple story about a king with a speech impediment, and is the perfect captain to helm the ship that takes us on a voyage of so many emotions. There's even ample room for humor provided by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, which was much needed in a story so miserable. They both have big names and have the effortless ability to bring big laughs. The same can be said for the entire cast. Not the big names and the big laughs part, but the effortlessness in their abilities to know their roles and to own them. Did I mention Anne Hathaway deserves an Oscar?
Catwoman and Wolverine in one of the most epic musicals of all time. Who'da thunk it? At least we're already used to seeing Jackman with Mutton Chops. Too bad Jean Valjean can't Berserker Barrage his way out of this tragedy. He does, however, have the power to heal himself, only it takes much, much longer. He heals himself through humility, through forgiveness, and through moving musical soliloquies that show us how powerful we can be even when we are most miserable.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The trailer alone, garnered much buzz for Disney's latest 3D adventure.
Seeing some of'the great video game villains of all time assembled in
one room was just too good to be true. The hype was elevated to even
greater heights given its ubiquitous presence at San Diego Comic Con.
In the back of mind I kept thinking, "THEY'RE GONNA WRECK IT!"
Thankfully, the movie succeeds in creating a heartfelt tribute to the golden era of the 80's arcade, decorated here and there with familiar cameos that are both nostalgic and laugh out loud hilarious. The actual video game characters and their respective worlds don't play as big a role in the movie as I imagined. My wishful, nerdy brain hoped Ralph would be jumping through pipes in Mushroom Kingdom, riding horseback through Hyrule and blasting away at baddies alongside Mega Man and who knows who else. This didn't happen, and may have to do with the price of buying the rights to some of these iconic images. But the new world Disney Animation Studios created is rich with surprises, and rivals that of Monstropolis, Toy Story, and the Kingdom of Far and Far Away.
Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by the incomparable John C. Reilly) is the Donkey Kong to Fix-It Felix, Jr.'s Mario in a fictional 80's arcade game. The game itself is believable enough to have existed during the era. Ralph, along with other villains in various games throughout the ages, share the same plight of feeling under-appreciated by gamers and other citizens of the video game world.
The breaking point for Ralph was the 30th Anniversary for the "Fix-it Felix, Jr." arcade. To commemorate the event, Felix throws a party in the penthouse of the game's high-rise apartment complex, a party that Ralph wasn't invited to. (The DJ of this party offered another cameo I really wasn't expecting and left me in awe of this tribute to electronic art.)
What sets Ralph apart from all the other villains is that he is determined to actually do something about the unfortunate role of "Bad Guy" he was programmed to assume. He intends to jump to different arcades in order to become a hero in another game. This act of invading a game other than your own is mysteriously referred to as "Going Turbo" by the other inhabitants of the video game world. It's considered taboo, especially since it runs the risk of permanent death: dying outside your own game makes it impossible to regenerate.
After a series of unfortunate events, Ralph eventually crash lands into Sugar Rush, a cross between the worlds of Candy Land and Mario Kart. There he befriends the adorable Vanellope (voiced by the lovely Sarah Silverman), who like Ralph is seen as an outcast in her game. In her case, she is considered a freak due to her tendency to glitch out. To Vanellope, racing runs deep within her code, but the only thing stopping her is the candy land's ruler the Candy King, who is adamant on keeping her out of the race.
Ralph's spontaneous hero's journey spells trouble for the rest of the video game world. Due to Ralph's disappearance, the "Fix-it Felix, Jr." game is in danger of being unplugged, leaving Felix with the hefty responsibility of retrieving his clumsy counterpart. Ralph's brief stint in a Halo-esque game called "Hero's Duty" is also a big nuisance to the foxy Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch). She must now track down and exterminate a Cybug that Ralph mistakenly helped escape from the game. If the bug goes viral, it could destroy every game in Mr. Litwak's entire arcade for good.
The video game setting offers awesome moments of creativity for the Disney animators, from the way the characters are drawn and animated, to the way their lives are portrayed outside of their own game. The voice talent is also really impressive across the board. While the movie isn't the all-out Smash Brothers brawl many were expecting, the movie comes with loads of surprises that are sure to delight and entertain a wide audience, gamers and non-gamers alike.
The movie could not have come at a better time. People who grew up during the era of the arcade are now starting to have families of their own, and are very likely to laugh along with the children they bring to the theaters. This same video game generation also witnessed the Disney Renaissance of the early 90's: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and the Lion King. With Wreck-It Ralph destined to be an instant classic, following the success of the equally impressive Tangled, we are in for a new Disney Renaissance for a whole new generation.
Note: Get there early enough for an excellent animated short, and stay to watch the credits roll if you haven't yet satisfied your nerdy gamer fix.
Rather than your ordinary Once Upon a Time, the story of Tangled starts
with a voice-over from Flynn Ryder, our egotistical antihero, warning
you that this is a story about how he died. This American Beauty style
prologue is a clear indication that although it's a Disney movie, this
story is not without the darkness of Grimm. As Disney's 50th animated
feature film, Disney freaks and general moviegoers alike will be
pleased to find that Tangled is worthy of the golden hallmark. It's
beautifully animated, full of surprises, and really funny. I'll even go
so far as to say it has the power to jerk a few tears.
Disney decided to go with an alternate title instead of sticking to the original Rapunzel. It works because this imaginative retelling seems to be a little more than a story about a girl with long hair. It's also a story about an old woman consumed with a fear of dying. Her name is Gothel, and she's the figure that sets all the action in motion by kidnapping the baby princess at birth. She did this because she's aware of the magical properties that lay hidden in our heroine's golden locks: sing a special song to it, and you can live forever.
Gothel hides Rapunzel away in a tower, raises her as her own, and forbids her from seeing the light of day, urging the world is an evil place. This is creepy within itself, and among all the Disney villains, Gothel is by far one of the creepiest, reminiscent of the mom in Stephen King's Carrie, from the scary way she keeps her daughter sheltered down to the scary way she is ultimately defeated.
Gothel at least had the decency to provide Rapunzel with a library of books. This has kept Rapunzel occupied for all the 18 years she spent in isolation, and has made her apt at a range of activities some of us may never learn: painting, paper mache, charting stars. Still, she longs to see the world, if only to find the source of the floating lanterns: mysterious lights that fill the sky every year on the night of her birthday.
Flynn Ryder's not your average knight-in-shining armor. He's more like Gaston in a Han Solo costume. Poor Flynn is in enough trouble as it is, constantly hounded down for stealing a prized possession from the royal family. Aside from the palace guards, Flynn has to deal with twin goons that resemble Jason Stathem and a tenacious police horse. Next thing you know, Flynn is stuck with a teenage girl in desperate need of rebellion.
Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi provide the speaking and singing voices for our two protagonists, and do a phenomenal job. The voice acting is pitch perfect, just like the music composed by the legendary Academy Award-winning Alan Menken.
I can't wait to see Rapunzel at Disneyland, not just because she's smoking hot, but also because it'll be entertaining to see eight guards following close behind to accommodate her long head of hair. The 260 million dollar budget makes this the most expensive animated feature to date. Considering the magic it will bring to households 50 more years down the road, Tangled is worth every penny.
"Going the Distance" is a common tale of boy meets girl, but girl lives
thousands of miles away. It's a surprise that this common tale has not
yet been the main premise for a movie, at least not to my knowledge,
and they pull it off wonderfully.
Sure the movie is formulaic. They meet in a special way (a game of Centipede at a bar) and run into a conflict (she's only in New York for a summer internship). There is no mind-blowing plot line, no epic Shyamalan twist, but Going the Distance is funny, and it has heart. I'll be honest, I wasn't in a rush to see this movie. As a fan of both Barrymore's and Long's work, it looked good, but I wasn't expecting to laugh as hard as I did, mostly spawning from simple dialog instead of broad physical gags, namely the phone sex scene. More and more comedies are leaning towards vulgarity to make us laugh, and I'm happy to say this comedy is one of them.
Funny moments also come from the support system: Erin (Barrymore, Wedding Singer) confides in her older sister Corinne, while Garrett (Long, Waiting) turns to his drinking buddies. The support isn't really support at all, as Corinne (Applegate, Anchorman) constantly feeds Erin nuggets of paranoia and logic to show her that long distance just doesn't work. On top of that, Corinne has a hyperactive four-year old who can only be tamed with the word "Statue." Meanwhile, it's impossible for Garrett to carry a conversation with his long-distance girlfriend without getting harassed and mocked by his male brethren, his coworker Box (Jason Sudeikis, "SNL") who offers completely inapplicable bromantic advice, and his omnipresent roommate Dan (Charlie Day, "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia").
Barrymore is no stranger to the Rom-Com, but while her past flings possess a more fairy-tale quality, her latest on-screen relationship is the most realistic. Justin Long is awesome at playing the awkward everyman, and given his inability to figure out how a tanning salon operates, he is a regular Ross Gellar.
The film ends abruptly, but it's not the destination it's the journey, right? I heard Justin Long interview on a morning radio show in San Diego, and he confessed his fear of this particular movie's reception. Fear not, Mr. Mac, this movie is not a PC.
The movie opens with an 8-bit recreation of the Universal Pictures
company logo, complete with a new rendition of the studio's fanfare
done in nostalgic MIDI format. Ah the good old days of fat video game
cartridges that never work until you blow into the microchip slot. For
me, this was love at first sight as Edgar Wright (Director, Shaun of
the Dead) prepares you for a crazy ride through the trying times of
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), a young romantic determined to literally
fight his way into the heart of his one true love, Ramona Flowers (Mary
Elizabeth Winstead). You will find yourself entranced by the dazzling
visuals backed by a score made up of head-thumping punk rock and
classic video game themes. This truly is an epic of epic epicness.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is adapted from a popular series of graphic novels written by Bryan Lee O'Malley. Inspired by punk rock, Manga comics, video games, and Kung Fu classics, this movie is a modern telling of a classic love story, catered to the MTV Generation. That's not to say anyone born outside of this generation won't enjoy the ride. No joke falls flat. Instead they fly at you in vivid color. The movie reads like a comic book and plays like a video game. Like a comic book, the text is an integral part of the storytelling. A series of D's flies out of Scott Pilgrim's bass guitar in rhythmic fashion as he prepares for a killer solo. An occasional onomatopoeia flashes across the screen with a THWOMP or THUNK of someone's head, reminiscent of the Adam West Batman. Like a video game, every bad guy Pilgrim kills spontaneously bursts into coins, accumulating a score that serves no purpose. It's a wacky game of Whose Line is it Anyway where the points don't matter but you find yourself rooting for a winner.
I was reminded of Tarantino's Kill Bill. The hero has a list of people to kill, but unlike the Bride, Pilgrim isn't out looking for trouble. The trouble finds him in the form of The League of the Seven Exes, a dark alliance formed by Ramona's latest ex, Gideon Gordon Graves (Jason Schwartzman), whose sole purpose is to challenge any romantic soul brave enough to seek the heart of the impulsive, attractive, and elusive Ramona Flowers. Every ex that Pilgrim encounters offers a different kind of fight, a new challenging way for Scott to win, and another chance for Wright to bring you an entertaining display of light and sound.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World introduces you to a wild ensemble of characters. Scott Pilgrim himself is a scrawny, unassuming young man who seems harmless at first until you discover the impressive track record of broken hearts he's left along the way. One of those broken hearts belongs to the girl drummer in his indy punk rock band, the Sex Bob-Ombs, another endearing Nintendo reference. Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) is his Chinese high school girlfriend, head-over-heels in love with her boyfriend and completely obsessed with his band. Pilgrim's anal sister (Anna Kendrick) and his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin) also offer big laughs.
Like Tarantino in Kill Bill, Wright is given a playground with no rules. The fourth wall is almost nonexistent and nobody ever asks why, not the people watching the movie nor the people in the movie. You sit back, suspend all belief, and hope that Scott Pilgrim beats the game. Like Miyamoto's Super Mario Brothers, Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a game you will want to play again and again and again.
"Original" and "Unconventional" seem to be the common words used to
describe "Kick-Ass". The movie climbed to the number one spot in the
box office opening weekend, climbed up the prestigious IMDb Top 250
Movies of All Time, and has climbed into the hearts of moviegoers
across the country. Unfortunately, all of this, especially the premise
of the movie itself, is completely misleading.
A painfully mediocre high school student wants to make a difference in his own dull life and in the violence-ridden streets of his own city. Our antihero wants to become a superhero. The story starts off on the right note, getting us engaged and bringing on some good laughs in the process. He has no revenge story, no Martial Arts training, no money to get a hold on any cool gadgets. However, what begins as an "unconventional" and "original" superhero story, takes a turn and becomes the same typical, cliché, and generic superhero story it intends and claims to drift away from.
By some freak accident, he acquires a damaged nerve system that significantly decreases the sensation of pain, and even gets some cool metal plates integrated into his skeleton. Cool! Like accidentally getting bitten by a radioactive spider.
Then he meets Bid Daddy and Hit Girl. People love Hit Girl, and what's not to love? She's an 11-year old kid who can say bad words, dodge bullets, and kill a dozen bad guys at once. People say this movie has no gimmicks. An 11-year-old kid who can say bad words, dodge bullets, and kill a dozen bad guys at once is a total gimmick. Big Daddy is a supercop with a vendetta and Hit Girl is his daughter who has learned everything a supercop knows. They have a revenge story, and even have a ton of money which allows them to buy a bunch of fancy new weapons. Cool! Just like Batman.
Sure there may be some entertainment value in it for you, (if you're into a couple masturbation scenes and an 11-year old girl getting shot at) and the acting is convincing enough, given the ridiculousness of the story. The movie only falls short in being something other than what it claims to be. "Kick-Ass" is not "original" (see Blankman) and is not "unconventional" (see Spider-Man and Batman).
The last I checked, at the bottom of the Top 250 List was "Toy Story 2," which is more than a hundred spots short of the place "Kick-Ass" landed so quickly. If you want to see a movie that's a hundred times more original and unconventional than "Kick-Ass", see the movie that's at the bottom of the list.
An opening disclaimer sets the tone for the rest of the movie: ironic
and so true. The movie is fun, frustrating, simple, difficult,
triumphant, and depressing, much like the nature of any loving
relationship. (500) Days of Summer is a traditional love story told in
a nontraditional fashion, combining and contrasting over-the-top
fantasy with harsh reality. Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, boy loves
girl, girl doesn't love boy because her divorced parents destroyed the
very idea of true love sending the boy into a downward spiral of sorrow
Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is an aspiring architect that writes greeting cards for a living. Of course, he has an even greater aspiration to one day find true love, a curse and a blessing that was embedded in his innocent mind after watching "The Graduate" at a young and tender age. His life changes completely when a new Executive Assistant joins the office: Summer Finn (the beautiful Zooey Deschanel), and she's like a modern-day Audrey Hepburn. Who wouldn't fall in love with an Audrey Hepburn? A drunken office karaoke session and a long-awaited kiss later, Tom and Summer Finn are goofing off and holding hands at an IKEA. (Aww, Tom and Finn. How cute.) Their relationship is reminiscent of Joel and Clementine from "Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind." Like Eternal, their story is told nonlinearly. We ping-pong between different stages of their relationship, from Day (1) to Day (500), revealing both the beauty and the tragedy of Tom's pursuit to win Summer Finn.
The difference is, Tom doesn't have a machine to erase any trace of Summer, but must instead live with the pain that scarred him so deeply. What Tom does have is a great support system: two close buddies who care for him sincerely but have no clue how to handle this unhealthy situation, and a kid sister who happens to say all the right things.
Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel are perfect in this movie. He is tossed around both emotionally and physically, from extreme highs to terrible lows, and if you don't cheer for him, then you have no heart. She just owns the screen, and everything about her makes it easy to see why a guy would spend (500) days pining for this woman.
There are some amazing moments in this movie, beyond the content. Like Eternal's Michel Gondry, Director Marc Webb started his career making music videos ("All That I've Got" by The Used and "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" by MCR, amongst other countless greats). It's no wonder why his feature film debut is as artistic and as entertaining as it truly is. This is Day (1) of a film career that is no doubt going to be an enjoyable one to watch.
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