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“Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”
a review by Darby O’Gill

I’m going to try and do the best that I can to explain exactly what’s going on in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. It’s based on a graphic novel series by Brian Lee O’Malley, but it’s not a comic about superheroes, it’s more of a romantic/comedy heavily laced with video game pop culture. Take that and add the one of a kind vision of writer/director Edgar Wright and you got pure movie magic. Wright is best known for his mixture of comedy and action in such films as Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz, but Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is more like that of his earlier work on the BBC TV series, Spaced. And much like Spaced, Pilgrim uses a sense of everyday life, but mixes it with creative camera movement and flashy pop culture references, to give the movie a look and feel that can only be described as Edgar Wright at his best.

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is just your average twentysomething slacker, whose garage band has just managed to recruit its first female groupie, and knows that fame and fortune can’t be too far behind. But, life as Scott knows it is about to change forever, when the girl of his dreams rollerblades her way into his life. Some girls come with baggage, but Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) comes with her own League of Evil Exes, and if Scott wants to be with her, he’s going to have to defeat all seven of them. This is where the video game references kind of come into play. It’s more of a parallel really, like that of The Warriors, where the main character’s journey is laid out in the format of levels. And the fights seem to mirror the reality of musicals, but instead of breaking out into song when emotions get to their breaking point, in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World they just breakout into fights. I personally prefer the latter. It’s like Street Fighter meets When Harry Met Sally, with maybe a splash of Clerks. The other thing I really loved was Wright’s use of text in the film. It’s so well integrated into the look and feel of the movie, that it really sticks with you after words. The feeling that you have when you leave the theatre is amazing. I couldn’t tell you the last time a movie got me this fired up after seeing it. Is it going to win an Academy Award? Probably not, but the bottom line here is that Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is hands down the best movie of the summer, if not the year! No, really. It could even be my favorite Edgar Wright movie to date. I’ll need to see it a few more times, and I can guarantee that I will, before knowing that for sure. But, one thing I do know for sure is that you have got to go see this movie!

Rating:


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“Kick-Ass”
a review by Darby O’Gill

You don’t need super powers to make a difference, which is exactly what high school student Dave Lizewski finds out when he throws on a pair of tights and decides to fight crime. Well, he gets his ass kicked first, but then realizes that you don’t really need powers to be a superhero. I’m not going to be cliché, and say that Kick-Ass kicks ass, even though it totally does. I’m not even going to say that I’ll kick your ass, if you don’t go see Kick-Ass. Nope, you’re not going to find any of those cheesy play-on-words in this review. Instead, I’m just going to say, you’ve really got to see this movie.

Based on the comic book by the same name, Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson, a nerdy high school kid that wants to be a superhero. He can’t believe that no one has ever tried it before. But little does Dave know, there is already a father and daughter superhero team is his city. They’re currently in training to take down the city’s biggest crime boss. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz, might not have powers either, but they do have a weapons arsenal that could bring the crime in the city to its knees. I’m telling you, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen a ten year old girl kill a room full of baddies, and Nicolas Cage do a classic Adam West impersonation. The good news is that you can see both of those wonderful things in Kick-Ass. It’s basically Spider-Man meets Superbad, with a healthy side of Steven Seagal. This movie really does do an amazing job of mixing its genres and giving the audience a ride they’ll never forget. I think the trailers I’ve seen for Kick-Ass have made it look hokier than it actually is, but having seen the movie, I can say that it’s just the way they packaged the clips. When you see the movie, which you should, it’ll have a completely different feel to it. I’m sorry, I know I said I wouldn’t do it, but it’s got to be said… Kick-Ass does in fact, kick ass! This movie is just simply a good time, and much like The Hangover and Superbad, you’re going to want to see it in the theater, because people are definitely going to be talking about this one.

Rating:


“Surrogates”
a review Darby O’Gill

In the near future people no longer leave there homes, instead they jack-in to a surrogate robot that they operate like a car. The really trippy thing is that surrogates also drive cars, so a person can operate a surrogate and a car at the same time. Did I just blow your minds? The movie is based on the 2005 comic book series The Surrogate and takes place in a world of robots, where crime is almost nonexistent, almost. When an unknown device seems to kill not only Surrogates, but also their operators, Detective Greer, played by Bruce Willis, finds himself investigating the first homicide in over a decade. Surrogates, being machines, are stronger and faster than a normal person. They can also be or look like anything. It’s the internet in everyday life. What looks like a hot twenty-eight year old girl, is really a fat fifty-four year old man. It kind of makes you wonder why there isn’t more crime. If anyone could look like anything, why wouldn’t they be robbing banks or something? I’m getting off subject, but it’s a good point. Back to the story at hand; while investigating the murders, Greer’s Surrogate gets destroyed, and Greer is forced to go out into the world without a Surrogate to continue his investigation, and uncovers a much deeper plot against the Surrogates. It’s really cool the way they deal with this part of the story. Willis’ character is just overwhelmed by his senses the first time out on his own. You really realize these people have been locked up in their houses with no real contact with the outside world, and it’s almost like quitting an addiction. At times you really can’t help but notice just how close we could be to that. Every day something else comes out that keeps us in touch with people, but without ever having to see them. It’s kind of scary. Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking wow this sounds like a great movie, and I would like nothing more than to tell you that this is the case, but sadly it’s not. The problem with Surrogates is that they had a chance to do something new, but instead just seemed to play it safe, and go through the motions. This truly could have been the next Blade Runner, well okay, maybe not. But, it could have been something great. The ideas are there, but everything you see is something you’ve pretty much seen before. It’s a fun movie and well worth seeing, but I just wish they would have taken it to that next level. Would somebody, please give Hollywood their balls back! We’re so close to getting something good here. The one thing I really did like wasn’t in the movie. Elizabeth Banks! I’ve always enjoyed her performances in movies, but I think I’m an even bigger fan of hers now. She was an executive producer on this film, and yet she doesn’t appear in it. As a producer, she could have easily given herself a role in the movie, but she didn’t. The only time most actors produce a project is to guarantee they can be in it, but not Ms. Banks. It says a lot about her character, and I am now a bigger fan because of it.

Rating:
3 Little People


Tokyo!
a review by Darby O’Gill

In the spirit of Four Rooms and Paris, Je T’aime comes Tokyo! a collection of three short films about Tokyo, as told by three visionary directors, Michel Gondry, Leos Carax, and Bong Joon-Ho. We’re going to take a look at the three films individually, and then rate the project as a whole.

First we have “Interior Design” by New York based French director Michel Gondry. Gondry based his short on a graphic novel by Gabrielle Bell, called “Cecil and Jordan in New York.” In Gondry’s version, it’s the story of a young couple moving to Tokyo, and crashing at a friend’s flat as they look for one of their own. Hiroko, played by Ayako Fujitani, was the more together of the couple, but seems to find herself being the less than useful one in Tokyo. As days turn into weeks, Hiroko finds herself more and more out of place. Until one day a strange event leads her to find her place in the world. All the stories in this collection are that of surrealism, but Gondry’s is definitely the most surreal. Wonderfully shot, and with an amazing special effect shot you would only come to expect from Michel Gondry.

Next we have “Merde” by French director Leos Carax. Now I have to say this one surprised me. Not the short itself, but the fact that it wasn’t directed by Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly watched this entire short thinking it was Joon-Ho, and even thought I was seeing signs of his film style throughout. Wow. It’s not Bong Joon-Ho, but it is Leos Carax’s short, and quite simply the best of the collection. It’s the story of a “creature,” or more like a homeless full grown leprechaun, that crawls out of the sewers and wreaks havoc on the streets of Tokyo. A frightened Tokyo reports various sightings of the creature on the news and even holds a bizarre trial for the creature. I mean, you can see why I thought it was Joon-Ho: a creature that lives in the sewer, has a smoky white eye, spreads horror across Tokyo via newscasts, and is a plot heavily laced with offbeat humor. This short is fantastic! The cinematography is amazing and the performance of Denis Lavant as the creature is purely stellar. “Merde” is anything but shit. I would love to see more of this story some day.

And now, sadly, we have to talk about the last short in this collection, “Shaking Tokyo,” by South Korean director Bong Joon-Ho. I honestly have to say, that I was really looking forward to this director’s piece. The Host was an amazing film that I’m so glad I heard about in time to be able to see it when it opened in theatres, and was more than excited to see something new from its director Bong Joon-Ho. I just wish it was “Merde” and not “Shaking Tokyo.” The story in “Shaking Tokyo,” is that of a man that is a shut-in that has shut himself out of the outside world for the last ten years, but it’s in the eleventh year that his world crashes down around him. I’ve got to say this story is really weak. It wants to be grand; but it’s a short, and doesn’t have the time to take its time. It also keeps the viewer in the dark, which is the case in all three of these stories. But, in “Shaking Tokyo” it keeps you in the dark, and never really lets you know what the hell is going on. Joon-Ho has an amazing sense of the characters in his films, and this is no different. His characters don’t have to say a word, and yet just looking at them through his lens seems to speak a thousand words. I only wish the story had more time, to make it worth telling. It’s just sad that the movie has to end its collection with this short. It might have been better off in the middle of the film.

Rating:

3.5 Little People


DVD Special Features:

  • Making of “Interior Design”
  • Making of “Merde”
  • Making of “Shaking Tokyo”
  • Director Interviews
  • Photo Gallery
  • Trailer

The “Making of” featurettes are outstanding! No, truly. They’re even longer than the short films themselves. Each one gives you an amazing look into the very distinct directing style of each visionary director. Gondry likes to keep the film rolling. By doing so he feels it doesn’t let the actors get out of the moment. It’s quite ingenious really, because when a film crew cuts, they stop down for a good ten or twenty minutes. Hair and make-up step in, the lighting team checks lights, and actors stop being their characters. This concept is new to the “Tokyo!” actors working on “Interior Design,” and it takes a little while to warm-up to the idea of not cutting at the end of a take. Also, during the behind the scenes interview with Ayumi Ito, it sounds like someone’s having sex in the background, but it’s just the interviewer. It took me a few minutes to figure out. She should just quietly listen to what the actors have to say.

When it comes to Leos Carax, I was amazed to find out that he shot the first street scene at least, without a permit and in a total gorilla filmmaking style. In his “Making of,” we watch the cast and crew rehearse, step by step, the pacing of the scene off site. It’s truly filmmaking at its best. Also, watching Carax and Lavant develop the character of the creature is fantastic. Which brings us once again to Bong Joon-Ho, but this time it’s good news. His “Making of” finally let us in on what he was trying to say. I think the real downfall of his short is that he’s not the type of director that can be rushed or given a time restraint. I’ve never seen a director pay more attention to the timing of a shot and his actors, almost to a fault. But it’s clear that is what makes his filmmaking so unique. Sadly, this project just doesn’t lend itself to that style of filmmaking. The one saving grace is that in the “Director Interviews,” it seemed clear, to me that is, that even Joon-Ho wasn’t pleased with the outcome of his short. Seeing him talk about what he was trying to do in the short definitely helps you see the short in a different light; but it still doesn’t change the fact that it doesn’t work.

DVD Special Feature Rating:

4 Little People