2010’s In Film Day 5 (2015)

January – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)

Oh yes, damn this is good. This film is so good you forget how pretentious the title is. It’s a two hour film that’s made to look like one continuous shot, and it manages it. You’re not sitting there going “oh, well that was the obvious cut there”. It’s done SO well that you can’t help but be impressed by it. Also, Keaton is amazing in it.

February – The Interview

It Follows also came out this month, and I’d much rather talk about that as it’s a SUPERB horror film, set in somehow the past and the future, it’s great. So why am I talking about this? Because this had a bigger influence on reality, nearly starting a war between America and North Korea. Can you imagine if that actually happened? Historians would have to mention a comedy film in regards to a war. Wars are supposed to be about important things; for a country to get freedom from the nation that’s oppressing it, to stop a genocidal Charlie Chaplin invading Belgium, or because a president is facing impeachment and wants a distraction. To me, the most interesting part of this story isn’t that it happened, mainly because most of the leaks were standard industry bullshit and backstabbing. The most interesting part was when Sony threatened to sue any news agencies that reported on it. Bold tactic, and one I’m very glad didn’t work. “Oi, news, stop reporting on things!” The news is mostly bullshit anyway, if it had any less substance it would qualify as toilet roll (very hard to do with the digital edition).

March – The Voices

I had to mention this. This is one of my favourite films of all time. I was looking forward to this film since it was first announced, when all I knew was the director and the actor involved. Persepolis is one of my favourite things of all time (as evidenced here), so the fact the author of that was directing this piqued my interest, then Ryan Reynolds was announced as the lead actor and I was more excited than I should have been. The only film I have been checking the internet for information for during production. If this was bad it would have ruined everything, but luckily it’s REALLY REALLY good. Funny, beautifully shot, and the most WTF ending I’ve seen in a long time. It both comes out of nowhere and makes perfect sense. Also, it’s a surprisingly good take on mental health. Yes it’s horrifying at times, and sometimes it’s hilarious, but it’s also surprisingly poignant. Fuck it, I’m linking the trailer too, you have to see this.

April – The Duff

Yeah, Age Of Ultron came out this month, but I said everything I needed to about that here. John Wick came out too, but there are 2 sequels to that I can talk about, plus I mentioned it in depth here. Plus I don’t talk about this film that much when I really should. It’s better than Mean Girls, and that film is enjoyable. It really hits the marks you need it to. If it wasn’t for Edge Of Seventeen then this would be the best teen movie I’ve seen at cinema.

May – The Big Game

You know what? I’m not going to say anything here. I’m going to directly quote our other writer and what he said about it back in 2015:

“”As spectacular as it is funny” “Samuel L Jackson has his tongue firmly in his cheek”. I wish either of these statements were true about this still born mess, failing to be dumb fun. The concept is great; a wimpy President played by Samuel L Jackson is chased through the mountains by terrorists and is helped by a badass child warrior. This should be as fun and or as campy as Olympus has fallen, or White House down…but instead, the kid isn’t a badass at all and spends most the film trying to find himself and failing; and though all his lines are wimpy, Jackson still plays it like a badass, so it’s just awkward. For a film apparently just going for fun, it takes its story and characters’ much too seriously, and its biggest failure is trying to distil genuine arcs and development on these blocks of wood.””

June – Spy

Yeah, it was really slim picking this month. I blame Minions. That also came out this month so studios didn’t release much against it. This is probably the best one of the month. Definitely, my favourite Jason Statham performance as he just leans into the ridiculousness of who he is.

July – The Gallows

I’m going to quote the same blog that the Big Game quote came from for this.

There was a lot of bad films this year but this tops the list for absolutely NOTHING about it working. It was badly shot, the actors were shit, the characters were annoying, the “twist” didn’t make sense in terms of plot and seemed to be an asspull, the jump scare ruined what would have actually been an okay ending (seriously, if you have a moment in your film where a character gives a monologue on stage and then the lights go out and the curtain goes down: END THE FILM THERE!), the characters were the most annoying people I’ve seen outside of Twitter.  

Still accurate, although on reflection, maybe Big Game was worse.

August – Vacation

Over 4 years later and I’m still trying to figure out who this film is aimed at. It contains lots of nods and winks at the previous films in the Vacation franchise, but the type of humour is very different so the odds of someone liking both are quite low, but people who didn’t watch any of the others are unlikely to get the references. Although the weirdest comparison between the two is how much Chevy Chase has changed. The story is kind of bland. In fact, let’s be honest, the story is completely irrelevant, the jokes carry the story, not the other way around. Not so much a film, more a series of different sketches. But let’s face it nobody is watching this for the story are they? They’re watching it for the laughs, and this film does have that. But a lot of them are so predictable, you can spot a lot of jokes coming miles away, you just sit there waiting for the inevitable punchline, by which time the wait has meant it is almost as painful as being punched in the face.

September – Bill

A wonderfully silly kids movie. The closest we’ve got to a modern Monty Python movie. Not as educational as the TV show it’s based on, and the songs aren’t as impressive, but it’s still very funny. Side note; I was going to talk about another film here, one which horribly disappointed me. But then I read about how the writer is a massive sex pest, so fuck that guy.

October – Macbeth

This is mainly here to remind me that I really need to see it. It was mentioned on a podcast I listen to called How2Survive and they highly recommended it. Probably the best movie podcast I listen to at the moment, and I’ve picked a terrible time to recommend it as they’ve just gone on a break for a few months. But essentially they take a film and discuss how to survive (OMG I just realised why they called the podcast that) it, whilst also discussing the film. I love it, it’s a unique idea. Although I have to be honest I very rarely remember their how to survive tips, I mainly recall the random discussions (especially when they refer to wikihow) and the obvious love for films that they have. Also their politics (by which I mean, they also think women are people) match mine, which is always nice to hear. Listen to it here.

November – Lady In The Van

Damn this was a good month, a month where Bridge Of Spies isn’t the best movie of the month. It’s mainly the script. The dialogue is delightful. There’s a plot device which isn’t utilised enough to be truly effective, and the author cameo is too obvious to the point where I didn’t know what he looked like but I still knew that was him.

December – Christmas With The Coopers

This film tried to be Love Actually, and failed (or as one person I nearly worked with would say “this film tried to be love. Actually and failed”). Mainly because the characters are quite unsympathetic, and it goes on way way too long. They have a good ending point but then someone gets taken to hospital and it adds another 20 minutes. I can barely remember anything from it, without looking at the poster I can’t even remember who is in it. I think Steve Martin voiced a dog.

Baby Driver/Spiderman: Homecoming

There’s something to be said for the accidental double bill. Films that have nothing to do with each other but seem like they belong together anyway. The best example of this lately I feel is Spotlight and The Big Short. They came out at different times, and were about completely different topics, but tonally they felt very similar. There’s a similar feeling with these two films, only this time it’s actually a lot easier to quantify; they’re both modern films containing a slight throwback feel to them. Baby Driver is basically a modern car chase film, a twenty-first century Bullitt, whereas Spiderman: Homecoming is basically a John Hughes movie with superpowers. Both of them are throwback films for the modern age, you don’t lose anything going into them without knowing the history of their respective genre-homages, but you do gain if you’re aware of them.

So what were they like? I’ll start with Spiderman. I actually liked it. The plot was simplistic but it was still better than at least 50% of MCU films purely because it had a compelling villain. Michael Keaton’s character (he plays some sort of Birdman) makes sense. You’re not watching it thinking “what a terrible person, glad he’s not real”, you’re thinking “he’s actually making a lot of sense. I see where he’s coming from, and in a way, I agree with him”. He’s the most compelling villain in the MCU so far, and the performance matches the writing. A lot of comic book fans were disappointed that they changed his appearance for the films, I don’t particularly care about it to be honest, mainly because it would be really hard to take THIS seriously.

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I know that this talk about “taking it seriously” makes this sound like it’s attempting to be super serious and gritty, thank God they didn’t do that, this film is fun as hell. Even the colours are better than lots of superhero films. A lot of films have orange and blue as the main colours, but use them against dark backdrops, this uses those colours but uses them against light. It’s very summer-ey in appearance. It’s also really funny. The characters are well written and have great lines, Zendeya’s character in particular is a great collection of sarcasm and apathy which I really identify with for some reason. She has the best lines throughout and is one of the films many comedic highlights. In terms of comedy though, most of the best moments from the non-main characters belong to Jacob Batalon’s Ned, who absolutely owns his role as “guy in a chair”. He also helps provide an audience surrogate, since the film starts with him already as hero, many people expected the origin to either be ignored, or told in flashbacks. It did neither, it had Ned ask questions and we found out small details from that, not so much that we were re-covering old ground, and not so little that people new to the franchise were confused. So in summary; very good, very fun, and I think it’s safe to say that Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man, although part of that is due to the way he’s written, he’s actually written as an adolescent, the villains he faces aren’t ones who are going to destroy the world, the main villain is basically an unfriendly neighbourhood villain.

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This scene is genuinely one of the best written scenes so far this year

So, onto Baby Driver. If you’re interested in film you need to see this, a true masterpiece of film-making. Almost the entire film has music alongside it, it’s a film which you could put on in the background at a party and just listen to it, and it would work (I will prove that one day). Yes, the plot is wafer thin, but it’s so fun you don’t notice. You don’t sit there thinking “well I know how this story is going to end”, you think “oh my God! Did you see that?”. It’s a non-blockbuster version of spectacle cinema. Everything about the way it’s made just works, the way the music complements the action and vice versa, the way the car chases are impressive without being unrealistic, the fact that Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey continue to exist.

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Even Jamie Foxx agrees

The most annoying thing about this film is that you will never see anything else like it, but lots films will claim to be like it. The love and dedication that goes into this is obvious. This was not “film by committee”, this was a true passion project, and it shows through every inch of the screen. It’s also surprisingly American. The open road, the American dream, diners with endless coffee are all essential to the story, so it’s weird that such an American film was made by a Brit, this feels like the film where Edgar Wright has finally stepped away from under the shadow of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. In an ideal world Scott Pilgrim would have done that, but at least it has finally happened. One of the best films I’ve seen this year on a technical level, from the opening scene right through to the closing credits it never stops impressing, never slows down, which considering it’s almost 2 hours long is incredibly impressive.

So that’s Baby Driver and Spiderman:Homecoming. Both flawed but worth a watch. Both destined to be movies people put on and watch in large groups. Both have been put on my “buy on dvd” list. So how can I end this? The same way I end everything; cover song! Here’s an acoustic cover of the Spider-Man theme song, enjoy, then check out their other stuff on the youtube and their twitter.

Why we love the Scott Pilgrim Comics (and who we’d have cast)

 

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Like most I saw the 2010 Edgar Wright adaption of the Scott Pilgrim comics, named after the Second volume, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, before I knew anything of the comic, and I thoroughly enjoyed it for the quirky video gamey action comedy it was. And with what little I knew about the comics I was led to believe that the film was a fairly accurate version of the Scott Pilgrim story. Having now read the series (and loved it), it is not it turns out…well not completely.

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Writt413DrfEHYBL._SX342_BO1,204,203,200_en by Bryan Lee O’Malley, I have been a fan of his work since I read his latest graphic novel, the funny and poignant Seconds, and his first graphic novel the very poignant and funny Lost at Sea; both of which are excellent. But Scott Pilgrim is his greatest achievement so far; combining fun and funny geekerific humor with an interesting story and a host of relatable characters.

tumblr_le4ojxn9qH1qao2elNow as I said the film is an action comedy, with the romance there to thread together all the epic fight scenes and video game gags, and when it comes to fights and gags the film has it fucking spot on! The look, style and tone of each fight is very true to the style of the comics, and even the tweaks and changes they made to the fights (in the comic the twins are robotic engineers not techno musicians) are very in keeping with it. There is even a lot of dialogue and scenes recreated verbatim from the comic….but (and I think you could all feel that coming) despite all these aspects (which are basically the movie) it gets right, I have come to dislike the film. This isn’t just because of all the fascinating side-character backstory and development they left out, that’s just adaption for you, or that the lead characters Scott and Ramona are fairly off (though I will get to that). It’s because it got the tone and heart of the story wrong.

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Nega Scott is also more than a last second joke

The action and comedy is right, but Scott Pilgrim isn’t an action comedy, it’s a surprisingly nuanced romantic dramedy about the trials and tribulations of mature love, and learning to accept that change is inevitable and the more you run from it the worse of a person you become (the fact all the Ex’s turn into coins (change) isn’t just because video games); with the awesome video gamey world and fights being the sprinkles on top of the cake, not the cake itself. It’s like if the 60’s Batman was the definitive adaptation of Batman; okay it got some things right but there’s more to it than that.

tumblr_n04c5zpItu1t72jf6o3_r1_1280I know and accept that when adapting a six volume series into a two hour film a lot of details are going to have to be changed and left out, but I can’t forgive that the core of the book (the maturing and the romance) was one of them! And I KNOW it’s there in the film…But Scott and Ramona’s romance is there just for motivation and plot so that the fights scenes can happen…but it’s not what the film is about. I would have been fine for them to cut one or two of the ex’s out (the twin’s being the easiest) in favor of more time to develop the romance, but nope, perish the thought of missing one minute of the nerdgasm fight scenes.

And by the end it claims that Scott has gotten better as a person, but that just feels mostly tacked on because it needed to be there not because it earned it, and don’t even get me started on Ramona’s character…actually do, because that leads me into…

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aww what a sweet moment, wasn’t this so good in the….oh wait…

Who we would of cast….and I talk about characters n’ stuff.

This isn’t going to be a full cast list, as apart from the leads, I think the casting, from Scott’s friends to the Evil Ex’s, was pretty spot on all around.yrb6l4dl

The Problem with Michael Cera as Scott Pilgrim: Honestly he’s okay, not terrible just michael-ceraokay. He captured the geekiness and immaturity of Scott well enough, and was funny and likable to a point…because he was just playing Michael Cera. What he really lacked was the charm and boundless charisma Scott has, that despite his looser ways draws people to him, and makes sense how he has so many friends and ex’s. Cera is just too meek and awkward to pull that off, Scotts the loveable slacker (like Fry from Futurama really), not just an awkward dweeb. He also couldn’t connect with the emotional side of Scott, which to those who have read the series know is vital to his character, Cera always opting for a gag or funny line over a real moment (and I know that’s on Edgar Write just as much).

Rudderless-Movie-Featured-ImageAnton Yelchin as Scott Pilgrim: not a perfect fit, but the damn closest I could think of. His most famous turn as Chekov in the Star Trek reboot (that isn’t his real accent by the way) proves he can be funny, dorky, and energetic. His lead role in the enjoyable Fright Night remake shows he can lead a film with charisma and be plenty charming. And his role in the underrated romantic drama Like Crazy, more than proves he has the dramatic chops to add the depth and lonely nuance Cera sorely lacked.

 

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Same lines but a much more adorable vibe than the film

The problem with Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers: She’s just too calm lo1tk3b3faced and cool to me Ramona. The Romona Flowers’ of the comics is an emotional tornado of spunk and bad decisions, yes there is a cool hipness to her, but most of all she is an adorable, free spirited, mess, who has just as much growing up to do as Scott; that’s why you bought them together. Mary Elizabeth Winstead just looked and acted too good for Scott in the film, gone is the hyperness and vulnerability, in its place smugness and an air of sweet superiority. It always felt like she was just playing with Scott and not actually interested in him deeply.
Her character as a whole is fucking terrible when compared to the books really, but the biggest unforgivable flaw (and I know this is a problem with Edgar Wright’s adaption) is that she is never a damsel in distress in the comic! She can always take care of herself, be it fighting or running away, and that’s clearly seen most of all in that, SHE DOSEN’T GO BACK TO GIDEON! Though it’s made clear he still has an emotional hold on her, she never returns to her clearly abusive Ex like some weak willed doormat, instead leaving on her own journey of self-discovery to work out how she feels about Scott before returning to help kick Gideon’s ass together. Now I know the film came out before the comic had finished, and they did a pretty good job in predicting where the story goes and the points it needed to touch upon, but I think we all can agree Edgar Wright could of delivered something better than the old save the princess scenario. And I don’t agree “But video game!” is a valid reason.

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THAT’S MORE LIKE IT!

emma-stone-short-bob-haircutAnyway…
Emma Stone as Ramona Flowers: I don’t think I even need to go much into why this would work, we all know how good Emma Stone is, from Crazy, Stupid, Love, to Birdman; and with every way I’ve described Ramona from the comics, who else could do it better?

 

 

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The comic has quite a few quiet moments of self reflection

 

 

It wasn’t till I wrote this that I realized how quickly and how much I’ve come to dislike the movie of Scott Pilgrim, so I’ll wrap this up. If you like or even love the film, more power to you, it’s a great action comedy with more heart than I think I gave it credit for, but for those looking for something more I can’t recommend the comic book series enough. All the side characters you love get buckets more of development, especially Scott’s band mates, and his own ex’s Knives and Envy. It’s sweet, funny, and just damn fine literature; a comedy that knows the heart is something to cherish and care for, and not just pull badass katanas from.