Film Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Also known as: Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life (working title)
Release Date: July 27th, 2010 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Michael Bacall, Edgar Wright
Based on: Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley
Music by: Nigel Godrich
Cast: Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Culkin, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Alison Pill, Brandon Routh, Jason Schwartzman, Brie Larson, Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman, Ellen Wong, Nelson Franklin, Thomas Jane, Clifton Collins Jr., Bill Hader (voice)

Universal Pictures, Marc Platt Productions, Big Talk Productions, 112 Minutes

Review:

“When I’m around you, I kind of feel like I’m on drugs. Not that I do drugs. Unless you do drugs, in which case I do them all the time. All of them.” – Scott Pilgrim

I haven’t watched this since it came out in theaters. From memory, I liked it at the time but strangely, I’ve never felt the urge to rewatch it until now, nine years later. And that was mainly just to review it, as I’m a fan of Edgar Wright’s work and Scott Pilgrim still seems to be beloved by comic book fans after all this time.

Well, I didn’t really enjoy it as much as I had hoped. Maybe I’m older, or since I’ve seen this, I sort of know what to expect from it so the razzle dazzle doesn’t awe me as it once did or maybe it just isn’t a good movie as far as its story, characters and purpose goes.

To start, this is an amazing looking picture on its surface. I really dig that the filmmakers committed to the bit and gave us a true live action version of the comic without trying to rework it into something more realistic. The special effects are spectacular, the musical numbers are cool and this film is really impressive in that regard. I love it for its style and how it is all conveyed on screen.

However, the whole story is focused on one of the worst romances I have ever had to sit through in a film. Scott is obsessed with Ramona, but she acts like that girl who is too cool for everyone at all the parties she feels the need to keep going to. But really, she’s just a broken person with bad hair that delivers packages for Amazon Canada like a total twentysomething normie just trying to pay for hair dye, thrift shop clothes, avocado toast and her 1/9th of the rent.

Still, her personality is off putting as fuck but then so is Scott’s, as he just acts like whatever he thinks she wants and he even treats his current girlfriend like shit and doesn’t really seem to know who he is, what he wants or where he’s going. He just knows that he’s obsessed over some hipster douche with weird hair and now has to fight a bunch of her exes in order to maybe date her. But she is so indifferent and noncommittal for almost the entire picture that Scott just comes off as a dopey puppy that needs to have his heart crushed.

Normally I wouldn’t be so harsh on something like this but it is this budding relationship that is the framework for the entire narrative. Sad pussy puts it all on the line for salty nihilist weirdo bitch that kinda maybe likes him right this minute but has no idea how she will feel in five minutes.

There is no lesson to be learned on this journey.

I’ve never read the comic because I don’t have much interest in it but I hope the relationship in the source material isn’t this shallow and stupid.

The only reason why this doesn’t get a terrible rating from me is that the visuals and the style of this film are so alluring and perfectly presented in the film medium that the picture does put me in awe in that regard. This is a really cool and fun movie to look at and I dig the music. The surface is superb, it just turns to crap when you get past the polish, bright lights and groovy tunes.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, as well as the Kick Ass movies and Zombieland.

Film Review: Black Christmas (2006)

Also known as: Black X-Mas (DVD box title), Noël Noir (French Canadian), Negra Navidad (Spain)
Release Date: December 15th, 2006 (UK, Ireland, Poland)
Directed by: Glen Morgan
Written by: Glen Morgan
Based on: Black Christmas by A. Roy Moore
Music by: Shirley Walker
Cast: Katie Cassidy, Michelle Trachtenberg, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Oliver Hudson, Lacey Chabert, Kristen Cloke, Andrea Martin

2929 Productions, Hard Eight Pictures, Hoban Segal Productions, Dimension Films, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 84 Minutes (European cut), 91 Minutes (US cut)

Review:

“I’m sorry, but that-that fuckin’ voice, that was not Megan or Kyle. That was the fucking devil, and he was not talking to us, he was talking to Billy.” – Melissa Kitt

Being a huge fan of the original Black Christmas, I never really wanted to see this remake, which I heard was a steaming pile of shit. Well, it is a steaming pile of shit but I figured that a lot of time has passed since it came out and it is just after Christmas and I was tired of watching the same old stuff, year after year. Frankly, I’ve got my holiday movie staples and I plowed through them all pretty quickly this holiday season. Plus, sometimes I do watch shitty movies in order to review them. Sometimes I like torturing myself with bad films. Okay, all the time. Whatever.

I guess there are two positives I can say about this film. One, is that it tried to be ambitious and original with its story, expanding on the simplicity of the original. Two, I thought the cinematography and the lighting were well done.

But let me take that first example and tear it apart because even though ambition is good, poor execution can make it blow up in your face and that’s exactly what happened here. You see, this isn’t a film that needed to be expanded on. Nope. The first one worked because of its simplicity and its straightforward story. It had some mystery to it, you never really saw the killer except for an eye and his madness didn’t need to be justified by beating the audience over the head like a dead horse with an unnecessary and overly complicated backstory. The killer is yellow because he was born with a rare liver condition?! Huh?! Seriously, what?! And now there is a one-eyed sister with Hulk like strength?! Were they trying to ripoff the Yellow Bastard from Sin City, which had come out a year before this.

The film stars a who’s who of mid-’00s starlets: Katie Cassidy, Lacey Chabert, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Michelle “where the hell did she go” Trachtenberg. Cassidy, as much as I love her on Arrow, really had a reputation for being in poor horror classic remakes, between this, A Nightmare On Elm Street and When A Stranger Calls. I hope she’s gotten that out of her system because she’s pretty solid as Black Canary or whoever the hell she is on Arrow now.

Andrea Martin, who appeared in the original, returned for this. I hope she regrets her decision and she at least got a nice check for her role in this turkey turd.

This movie is an abomination: period. I’d rather enter myself into a holiday fruitcake eating contest than ever watch this thing again.

This obviously needs to be ran through the Cinespiria Shitometer. The results read,”Type 4 Stool: Like a sausage or snake, smooth and soft.”

Rating: 2/10

Film Review: Grindhouse (2007)

While I have seen both Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof multiple times, I never got to see the full-length version of Grindhouse until now.

When it came out in 2007, only one theater near me carried it and it wasn’t there very long, so I missed it. Also, the films were released separately, as expanded editions, when they hit store shelves. There wasn’t a full version of Grindhouse available after its theatrical run.

When I subscribed to Starz via my Amazon Fire Stick, I saw that the full version of the movie was available and thus, I could finally rectify this cinematic injustice. I’m really glad that I did because these films actually play much better in this format, as double-billed companion pieces to one another.

Plus, I finally got to see the trailers, as a part of this overall experience, even though I have seen them on YouTube multiple times since 2007.

Robert Rodriguez’s trailer for Machete was a highlight of the film and it was so good that it became its own motion picture and then expanded into a franchise. Rob Zombie’s Werewolf Women of the SS trailer was interesting enough, as a trailer, but doesn’t seem like something that will work as a full-length feature. The same can be said for Edgar Wright’s Don’t. Now Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving should be made into a full-length slasher film in the same vein as Machete. Roth has hinted at making it and I hope he eventually does.

This film also spawned a contest for fans to make fake trailers in the grindhouse style. This lead to the full-length feature Hobo With A Shotgun, which was a hell of a lot of fun. I need to re-watch it and review it in the near future.

Moving beyond the fake trailers, we have the two big films that make up the bulk of the Grindhouse experience. So let me get into each film and discuss them on their own.

Planet Terror (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
Written by: Robert Rodriguez
Music by: Robert Rodriguez
Cast: Rose McGowan, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Jeff Fahey, Josh Brolin, Marley Shelton, Stacy Ferguson, Bruce Willis, Naveen Andrews, Electra Avellan, Elise Avellan, Quentin Tarantino, Tom  Savini, Michael Parks

Rodriguez International Pictures, Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 103 Minutes

Review:

“Now you’ve got a gal in your wrecked truck with a missing leg? A missing leg that’s now missing?” – Sheriff Hague

Planet Terror has always been my favorite of the two movies in Grindhouse. That still stands, as I love just about everything about it. It may even be my favorite Robert Rodriguez picture but it is a close race between this, From Dusk Till Dawn, Machete and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.

The film is essentially a zombie outbreak movie but it is really gross, even for that genre. People’s faces start bubbling into puss and there is a lot of blood and other strange bodily fluids oozing out of people throughout the movie. There are also lots of severed testicles and a melting penis. It’s a gross movie but it is still well done and it doesn’t overtake the picture making it a mindless gore festival.

Planet Terror has a lot of depth and character development for a movie loaded with a ton of people. Everyone has an interesting story and it is cool seeing it all play out as these people eventually come together in an effort to escape the growing threat of a zombie apocalypse.

It also really fits the old school 1970s exploitation style of horror pictures that populated grindhouse theaters in big cities. The cinematography really captures the right vibe and kudos to the extra graininess and inconsistent look of different shots in the same sequences.

The practical effects also work well in making this film fit the grindhouse mold. Sometimes there is obvious CGI and it is a reminder that this isn’t a true 70s grindhouse picture but it isn’t a distraction and it serves its purpose well enough.

The cast is also phenomenal. I remember that when I first saw this, that I hoped it would open up doors for Freddy Rodriguez. He’s still not anywhere close to being a household name but his character of El Wray should reappear in some way, in some other Rodriguez picture. He’s a guy too cool to just be confined to this one movie.

This is also my favorite thing that Rose McGowan has ever done. Plus you get a very evil Josh Brolin, an enchanting Marley Shelton, a bad ass Michael Biehn, plus Michael Parks, Tom Savini, Bruce Willis, Lost‘s Naveen Andrews and Quentin Tarantino as his most despicable character to date. Jeff Fahey, who is always stellar, really kills it in this movie as J.T. the Texas B-B-Q king. Also, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas has never looked better.

Planet Terror is unique, even for a film in a tired genre. It takes the zombie formula and ups the ante in every way possible. Rodriguez made a fine picture that should be mentioned alongside other great zombie classics.

Death Proof (2007):

Release Date: April 6th, 2007
Directed by: Quentin Tarantino
Written by: Quentin Tarantino
Music by: Rachel Levy, Jack Nitzsche, Mary Ramos
Cast: Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Vanessa Ferlito, Jordan Ladd, Rose McGowan, Sydney Tamiia Poitier, Tracie Thoms, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Zoe Bell, Eli Roth, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Parks, James Parks, Marley Shelton

Troublemaker Studios, Dimension Films, 114 Minutes

Review:

“Because it was a fifty fifty shot on wheter you’d be going left or right. You see we’re both going left. You could have just as easily been going left, too. And if that was the case… It would have been a while before you started getting scared. But since you’re going the other way, I’m afraid you’re gonna have to start getting scared… immediately!” – Stuntman Mike

When I first saw Death Proof, it didn’t resonate with me. I mean, I enjoyed it enough but it just didn’t compare to the work that Quentin Tarantino did before it. I still feel this way but I have more of an appreciation for the film now. Also, seeing it in the Grindhouse format, which is more condensed, serves the film better.

The problem I initially had with the film, and some of Tarantino’s other pictures, is that it is way too talky. Sure, he writes great dialogue but sometimes it can run on for far too long. Death Proof in its longer running time falls victim to this. The condensed Grindhouse version, however, is better balanced.

Another problem with the film, is that many of the characters just aren’t likable. This is especially true for the first group of girls we meet. At least the second group felt more like friends and their conversations came across as more natural and authentic.

Kurt Russell initially knocks it out of the park as the killer driver, Stuntman Mike. However, as the film and his character evolves, he completely loses the cool bad ass shtick and becomes a giant whining weeny. His character transformation isn’t a bad thing, it is just how it is executed that makes it a problem.

The one thing that really makes this a cool picture, however, is the cars and the stunts. Tarantino selected some seriously bad ass automobiles that were homages to films that influenced him. The stunt work and action was amazing and the sequence of the first major accident was shot and executed stupendously.

The problem with the film, being that it is supposed to be a grindhouse throwback, is that it needed more balls-to-the-wall mayhem and less chit chat. The fact that this has a lot more dialogue than Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror but somehow can’t develop characters as well is pretty baffling. Tarantino would just rather focus on cool conversations on subjects that directly interest him than to have any sort of meaningful character development. You just don’t care about these people in the same way you care about those in Planet Terror.

Regardless of my criticisms, I do still like this movie. But to be honest, I still think it is the worst film in Quentin Tarantino’s oeuvre. Granted, that doesn’t mean much, as everything he’s done has been fairly great in some way.

In the end, this is still entertaining as hell and who doesn’t love muscle car chaos and kick ass chicks?

Additional directorial credits:

Robert Rodriguez – Machete trailer
Rob Zombie – Werewolf Women of the SS trailer
Edgar Wright – Don’t trailer
Eli Roth – Thanksgiving trailer

Additional acting credits from the fake trailer segments: Danny Trejo, Nicolas Cage, Sheri Moon Zombie, Cheech Marin, Udo Kier, Tom Towles, Sybil Danning, Bill Moseley, Will Arnett, Nick Frost, Jason Issacs, Simon Pegg, Peter Serafinowicz

Film Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

Release Date: March 8th, 2016 (New York City Premiere)
Directed by: Dan Trachtenberg
Written by: Josh Campbell, Matt Stuecken, Damien Chazelle
Music by: Bear McCreary
Cast: John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr.

Bad Robot Productions, Paramount Pictures, 103 Minutes

10_cloverfield_laneReview:

I finally got around to seeing this. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Cloverfield and I’m not keen on the found footage style of filmmaking. Considering that this wasn’t shot like that and that it was a different story entirely, I wanted to give it a shot. Plus, it had John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in it.

For the most part, this film takes place in one small location. It has to be a hard feat to create an engaging picture without the use of a broader environment. 10 Cloverfield Lane makes good use of its small space though. It was an entertaining movie and kept you captivated throughout.

The film only uses three actors, apart from a small scene with someone else appearing briefly. Overall, it is a very minimalist experience. But less is more with this movie, as the actors carrying the load are quite capable.

The story sees Winstead’s Michelle get into a bad car accident. She wakes up chained to a wall. Goodman’s Howard reveals himself and tells her that they are in a bunker, there is no help outside and that there was some sort of attack. Michelle fights back and doesn’t accept what Howard tells her, until she gets to the window to the outside and sees things for herself. John Gallagher, Jr. plays Emmett, an employee of Howard’s that also lives in the bunker. As time goes on, Howard becomes more and more unhinged and dangerous. Michelle and Emmett then conspire to get out of the bunker. The bulk of the film deals with getting outside and being free of Howard. However, once outside, things take a really strange twist, which is where this film becomes an extension of J.J. Abrams’ Cloverfield brand.

I liked this picture for the most part. The real story is the conflict between the three people in the bunker; that is the real movie here. Once that part is resolved and the film goes outside, the real movie is over. What we get next is fifteen minutes of sci-fi craziness that just feels entirely out of place. This film spent 90 percent of its time being a really great thriller and then gives us 10 percent that is a totally different film. Sure, you anticipate something outside of the bunker but emotionally, that was secondary to the situation inside. For me, it just didn’t fit. And to someone who might not make the connection to Cloverfield, a film that is eight years older than this one and now kind of forgotten, they will probably be caught off guard. There just isn’t really a reason to go the route that they do with the ending. It feels cheap and stupid and the threats outside aren’t that cool looking to begin with.

10 Cloverfield Lane, despite finding itself in Bizarro World at the end, is still a solid movie. Goodman was fantastic and completely scary, Winstead put in some of her best acting to date and Gallagher was really likable as Emmett. It probably would have been a better film overall, had the emergence from the bunker been met with a far off scene of what was outside, as opposed to being immediately overwhelmed by it. The film nailed the “less is more” concept but then ignored it at the very end.