edgar wright

Mini Reviews: The World’s End, This is the End, Thanks For Sharing and more!

theworldsend_posterThe World’s End – It’s been a bit since Edgar Wright directed a film with his two buddies Simon Pegg and Nick Frost- sure we’ve seen Pegg/Frost together in the nearly terrible PAUL, but I’ve been jonesing for a return to the SHAWN OF THE DEAD and HOT FUZZ type of collaboration. Thankfully 2013 granted that wish with THE WORLD’S END, a film that combines almost all of my favorite things- comedy, action, awesome fight scenes, aliens and drinking.

Wright’s latest effort follows Gary King (Simon Pegg), a man obsessed with completing a legendary pub crawl that he and his friends fell short of years before. Gary manages to talk each of his friends- who don’t think too kindly of him anymore- to accompany him on the pub crawl once again. When they arrive back in town they find their home isn’t quite what it used to be and find themselves not just fighting for their lives, but for the fate of the world.

THE WORLD’S END is the ending chapter of what Wright dubbed the Cornetto trilogy- starting with SHAWN OF THE DEAD, then with HOT FUZZ and ending here in his latest sci fi romp. Now while I believe the film is very funny, filmed spectacularly well and acted just as well- there’s something about the last act that just didn’t fall into place for me.

I don’t have too many big gripes that ruined the movie for me and truth be told with a few more viewings it could end up being my favorite of the aforementioned trilogy. However, after the first one it did leave a little to be desired and luckily I feel this will hold up very well with multiple viewings. Overall THE WORLD’S END is a well shot, funny and exciting little sci-fi buddy comedy that continues to prove just how talented and imaginative Edgar Wright is as a director.

Rating: B+

thanksforsharing_posterThanks For Sharing – I often feel like guys claiming they have a sex addiction to be kind of a joke- a problem for the privileged man, or just a man in general. If there’s one film that truly gets the low lows of the addiction and makes a case for the treatment of such an addiction, it’s SHAME. I’ve grown a bit more sympathetic of the proclaimed addiction, but a movie like THANKS FOR SHARING kind of puts a dent in that sympathy- even if I did get a few good laughs from it.

Who knew that the Hulk suffered so much from an embarrassment if riches in the hanky panky department? THANKS FOR SHARING follows a handful of men as well as one women (played by Pink) as they struggle with the rigors of sex addiction. Mark Ruffalo leads the charge as a man that’s been “sober” for five years and is scared to venture into a relationship with the Gwyneth Paltrow in fear that his addiction will take over.

Ruffalo’s story has the majority of the screen time, followed by Tim Robbins’ older addict that now takes pride in helping people with a variety of addictions, Josh Gad as a perverted doctor that masturbates excessively and lastly Pink who just can’t resist the urge to screw any guy simply because she doesn’t know how to relate to them. Performance wise everyone is actually pretty great, but I feel like Robbins is far more watchable than the rest while Ruffalo just seems to phone it in.

It’s kind of nice to get more of a comedic approach to sex addiction since the drama that is attempted at in regard to it is contrived and silly at times. When We finally get a glimpse at what Ruffalo’s character goes through when his addiction takes hold, it’s the antithesis of what I feel is a joke about the addiction. It’s small lines here and there that serve as why sex addiction is a problem more than the actions- though Gad’s perverse work behavior does give a bit of insight to why it should be contained at times.

THANKS FOR SHARING mines very little that I find meaningful as a drama and succeeds mostly in the comedy, but doesn’t use it to its full potential. It’s great to see Tim Robbins putting in some great work, Josh Gad continues to make somewhat of a name for himself and even Pink adds a bit of fun to the proceedings. Overall the film isn’t quite heavy enough or fun enough to be as memorable as it seems it wants to be.

Rating: B-

thisistheend_posterThis is the End – Time after time chances to see THIS IS THE END in theaters passed me by. It’s a shame really, because I feel like the theatrical experience of this would have been one of the best of the year. The shared experience of enjoying a good laugh with a lot of people is exceedingly rewarding- but on the other hand, the type of comedy at play can also be very polarizing. Male humor is startling and awkward when it’s at its best and it’s something that can disgust and repel members of the opposite gender. THIS IS THE END might easily be one of the funniest films I’ve seen this year, but it loses momentum in the last act and is admittedly a bit awkward to watch if you have a significant other that isn’t digging the vibe it’s putting out.

I love how easy this movie is to describe- what would a bunch of comedic celebrities do when the rapture hits? The answer- argue about their bodily fluids and find varies avenues to take jabs at one another in hilarious ways. The actual story beyond the basic set up is the friendship between Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel as they’ve grown apart over the last few years and they attempt to respark their once strong relationship.

It might be presumptuous to assume this humor is easily consumed by all males, given how subjective comedy can be. Essentially, the humor here is Apatow-esque if Apatow was an extremely immature college student baked out of his mind and had a thing for 90’s boy bands. The raunch factor isn’t totally out of Apatow’s wheelhouse, considering the actors here gained notoriety from films like KNOCKED UP or 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN and TV shows like Freaks and Geeks or Undeclared. Also, the improv nature of the script might wear on some viewers that get a little fatigued by the constant back and forth banter between each character.

The budget is obviously low when you get into shots of the actual apocalypse which lends to the cheap aesthetic that is carried throughout, but the actors are so sharp and clever with their lines that it’s easy to overlook the effects issues that take over during some scenes. The final act of the film is where the film almost completely jumps off the track and the momentum all but dies out. The interactions between characters as the ending finally starts coming into place is extremely weak and the acting is kind of embarrassing- and given the characters are playing exaggerated versions of themselves it doesn’t even come across as naturalistic either. I have fewer problems with the final scene than I do witch the few minutes leading up to it, but it still isn’t near as strong as the rest of the film.

THIS IS THE END flirts with perfection in the face of an obviously low budget and with an extremely simple plot, but trips and falls flat on its face in the home stretch. The humor is laugh out loud funny almost all the way through and even has enough bloodshed and apocalyptic imagery to please horror buffs as well. If you’re a fan of the improvisational style that the actors involved are known for then THIS IS THE END has more than enough good to overcome the extremely weak ending. Be warned that if vulgar humor and imagery even slightly offends you, this might be one to just let slip by the wayside.

Rating: B+

thewaywayback_posterThe Way Way Back – I have a real soft spot for coming of age movies. Everything about them seems to hit all the right chords and turn me into a sappy mess. Particularly stories about the awkward kid that is picked on, left out, looked down upon and can’t seem to find his place- I’m sure one could deduct why that speaks to me. The process of that character finding himself, letting go and being themselves when they find the right people is something that just makes my cold heart turn to mush. THE WAY WAY BACK is a perfect example of everything I just talked about with some incredibly fun and touching performances to bring it all together.

I already kind of summarized exactly what the film is about- an awkward kid, Duncan (Liam James), is on vacation with his mom, his mom’s bf and his mom’s bf’s daughter at a beach house. Duncan’s mom’s bf Trent (Steve Carrel) is a dick and his daughter is your typical annoying teenage brat and his mom seems to put up with more than she probably should in regards to Trent’s behavior and attitude. While on vacation Duncan meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who manages a water park in the area and the two quickly strike a friendship that brings Duncan out of his shell.

Written and directed by the Oscar winning duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (writers of THE DESCENDANTS) the film is not without its beautiful scenery, but more than anything else it’s the relationships and the dialogue that make THE WAY WAY BACK what it is. Sam Rockwell knocks it out if the park in every scene he’s in as a guy that is incredibly comfortable with who he is and lives every moment to its fullest without taking life too seriously. The script is not overly complicated and sticks to the basic fundamentals of a coming of age story, but in that lies it’s strength. It’s relatable to people of all walks of life and accessible for people of all ages.

THE WAY WAY BACK is a sweet and heartwarming coming of age movie with a scene stealing performance from Sam Rockwell. There’s plenty of laughs, drama and angsty teen goodness for the film to find fans of any age. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash prove once again they have quite the talent for human stories with charming humor and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

Rating: A-

monstersuniversity_posterMonsters University – It took years for me to finally check out MONSTERS INC and even then it was only because my wife kind of convinced me to watch it with her. I was a little ashamed of myself since at the time I was in school studying computer animation and while watching that film it reinvigorated my love of the forum. Disney/Pixar fueled my love of animation- specifically CG animation- for so long and to have that gap in my movie knowledge was very disappointing to myself. I preface that only to limp into my nearly mirrored thoughts on MONSTERS UNIVERSITY.

This film serves as a prequel to MONSTERS INC where we see the origins of Sully and Mike’s friendship and what lead them into becoming scarers. The animation style is exactly the same and rather than going for a lot of realistic mapping in favor of an incredibly slick and colorful cartoon-esque animation which is beautiful and stunning in its own right.

The Pixar quality is upheld in every aspect and the only place I could possibly acknowledge a flaw is that it’s so like many of Pixar’s other efforts including MONSTERS INC that it’s become a little redundant. However, I feel like that complaint is utterly useless and silly that we would feel incensed to complain about an embarrassment if riches in quality family entertainment. MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is far beyond other Disney/Pixar disappointments such as CARS AND CARS 2 that it feels petty to say a movie is bad simply because it’s as good but maybe not better than movies from the studio we previously loved.

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY is a great follow up to the original film and follows in its monster sized footsteps maybe a little too much for some. Regardless of the similarities to other movies in the Pixar cannon I believe the film is of extremely high family entertainment quality and one that will please audiences of just about any age- though the kiddos are likely to be more head over heels for it than anyone else.

Rating: B+

whd_posterWhite House Down – Having already seen a White House swigs movie this year and hating the crap out if it I did not have high hopes going into WHITE HOUSE DOWN. I find most of Roland Emmerich’s effects heavy action movies charming on some level, but not one have I felt intellectually challenged by one and this film is not the exception. That being said, I kind of loved this movie even with how incredibly mind numbing and stupid the entire thing was.

Channing Tatum stars as a secret service hopeful currently serving protective duty for the Speaker of the House. He takes his daughter on a tour of the White House after his interview for the secret service doesn’t pan out. While on the tour a group of highly trained mercenaries enact an elaborate takeover of the White House in aim of kidnapping the president and carrying out a plan that has disastrous goals.

All the Emmerich staples are here- incredibly dumb action, goofy one liners, pretty great special effects (one of the many things it has over OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN) and a somewhat bloated run time. Despite its length the film is always entertaining in spite of how dumb it is and you can always see what is happening quite clearly, something else the other White House takeover movie failed spectacularly at.

I’m not foolish enough to sit here and tell you that WHITE HOUSE DOWN is a good movie, but it does exactly what it sets out to do which is be entertaining. It didn’t win me over with stellar writing or even story elements that make any sense whatsoever; it won me over by simply not taking itself too seriously and delivering set pieces that are fun to watch and by being one of the movies it’s easy to shut one’s brain off and enjoy for a short period of time. Every now and again it’s nice to enjoy those empty cinematic calories.

Rating: B

purge_posterThe Purge – Like many other things I think sound like good ideas I sometimes have little faith that they are actually good ideas ideas. When I first watched the trailer for THE PURGE I thought it was an insanely cool concept, but I had strong doubts that it would deliver anything on the level of what I hoped. To an extent I was right, but truth be told this film surprised me and I actually liked far more than I thought I would based on my doubts.

As I debated the concept of THE PURGE, the more ridiculous it became. A distant future where crime is essentially non-existent except for one night a year where, for 12 hours, all crime including murder is 100% legal. The possibilities are endless and instead of exploring those possibilities it focuses on on family headed by Ethan Hawke who are extremely well off due to Hawke’s stellar selling abilities of a heavy duty home security system that nearly everyone in their neighborhood has purchased. The doors close and when the annual Purge begins a bloodied man is seeking help and the son inexplicably shuts the security down long enough to let the man in and inviting a group of psychos looking for him to come down on the house and stop at nothing to get their prey.

The most disappointing thing about THE PURGE is that with all the things that could be done with the concept is that it is staged almost completely within the one house. The tension is great and the performance from the “polite stranger” that wants nothing more than to kill the man Hawke’s family has in their house is nothing short of fantastic in a crazy entertaining sort of way. Everyone else is frustrating beyond belief just because of the actions they make throughout. Stupid horror movie character cliches are out in full force in almost every frame of this film which piles on to the disappointment of the one location nature of it all.

The twists and turns are all equally ridiculous but certainly help to offset the frustration of the characters. What I love is everything that the concept brings to light- the nature of the Purge itself and the social climate it suggests. I only wish that there had been more background on the New Founding Fathers and more insight/visuals as to what is happening all over during the Purge. We can only hope that if there is indeed a sequel it delivers a little more on these levels.

THE PURGE is nowhere near a perfect film- stating the obvious- but it is far more entertaining than it has any right to be given the character flaws and disappointment regarding the one location setting. You should see it if for nothing else than to see Rhys Wakefield’s bizarre but incredibly watchable performance as the film’s main protagonist. There are flaws aplenty, but there is a lot of potential in this concept to carry a franchise and hopefully they improve in the areas this one kind of drops the ball.

Rating: B

internship_posterThe Internship – Eh, that’s really all I have to say about Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson’s latest team up. In the interest of conversation I will elaborate…I guess. I didn’t really have motivation to see THE INTERNSHIP at all, but alas I decided to give it a shot. For the majority of the film it completely justified those feelings and it’s not until the end that it gets into a few “okay” moments that at the most didn’t make me hate myself for riding it out.

Google has a reputation for being an awesome place to work and that’s pretty much all this movie is- even though it does everything it can to paint the people that work there as petty judgmental jerks. Wilson and Vaughn are watch salesmen with zero other skills and when the company they work for goes under they are forced to enter a job market they have almost no hope of successfully navigating. Obviously the next logical step is to apply for internships at one of the most highly sought after place to work in the world with no skill sets. They inexplicably get the opportunity and the rest of the film continues along the same lines of ridiculousness as the set up.

The most relatable aspect of the film is only that if you had nothing to lose why not try and crowbar your way into one of the most profitable businesses in the world. Beyond that, this movie is just stupid. It’s nothing but long shot scenario after long shot scenario that after some point my eyes were rolling so much I was dizzy. Is it not enough to watch two middle aged men with zero tech skills bs there way into an internship filled with hundreds of more than qualified younger applicants that we also have to watch a geek get a girl that’s 1,000,000 times out of his league? These are just some of the frustrating underdog themes at play here and they are all beyond generic.

It isn’t without its crowd pleasing elements and my heart is not made of stone as I mentioned in the end I didn’t completely hate myself, but there just isn’t enough here that I was happy with what I watched. THE INTERNSHIP is loaded with jokes that either don’t work or are recycled from other mediocre movies featuring Vince Vaughn. Rent it if you dare, but you won’t be any wiser to the charms of Google, the heartwarming nature of underdog stories, or that Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were ever good actors.

Rating: D+

theconspiracy_posterThe Conspiracy – Found footage movies are in need of a bit of an overhaul in my opinion. I do enjoy one on occasion, but let’s face it, they are getting a little stale and for the most part, there’s nothing all that new about the slew of recent offerings. THE CONSPIRACY isn’t entirely the saving grace of new found footage movies, but it’s a step in the right direction.

The film has footing in real conspiracy theories that have popped up in recent years and uses them to weave an incredibly intricate little story that has a pair of documentary filmmakers making a film centered on a conspiracy lune that shouts his theories on street corners from a loudspeaker. When that man goes missing one day one of the filmmakers, Aaron, takes it upon himself to find a pattern in the research that was left behind. What he uncovers leads them into the heart of an incredibly dangerous secret society.

I don’t want to say THE CONSPIRACY is 100% original as it borrows bits and pieces from found footage faux documentaries that came before it, but it does weave those elements in a way that at the very least makes it feel new and exciting. The way that a lot of the actual conspiracy theories are mixed in with the plot heightens the rest of the film giving it some extra punch from start to finish.

The actors aren’t particularly memorable, but the situations they find themselves in make for some incredibly tense and freaky moments leading up to a finale that is quite frightening. However, as great as the finale is, the actual end of the film left a lot to be desired as opposed to if it had ended immediately after the final bit of action.

THE CONSPIRACY is a fantastic addition to the found footage universe and one that in spite one or two hiccups is a memorable little shocker with some incredibly spooky moments. The use of blurred faces and distorted voices during the finale are nightmarish and help to make the film stick in your head long after it’s over.

Rating: B+

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Brew & View: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

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The first edition of Brew & View, a post in which I pick a movie and suggest a beer for you to enjoy as you watch said film features 2010’s SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD. I caught Edgar Wright’s video game/comic book film in theaters and was a bit apprehensive at first, but warmed up to over time. I gave it a pretty favorable review in spite of any issues I may have had on the first viewing and it’s become a film I love more and more everytime I watch it even though I still don’t think the romance angle is as effective as I’d like.

There’s an indie spirit to the approach Wright takes to the film, but some pretty awesome flashy sensibilities as well when it comes to the way the fights are choreographed and executed. The humor is what carries this film through along with the visual style and video game flare thrown in just for fun.

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Beer Pairing: Tallgrass Brewing Company’s 8-Bit Pale Ale

The choice here is intentionally transparent as it plays with the video game theme that’s also present in the film. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD opens with the Universal logo and theme in an 8-Bit style animation and music which fits in perfectly with the name of the beer.

What I feel also links these two outside of the obvious name connection is the fact that Tallgrass’ 8-Bit Pale Ale is a beer that I wasn’t quite sure what to think of at first, but only got better as I drank it more. There’s a bit of a citrus taste that comes through on the nose and on the taste making it a light beverage at first but finishes with a bit of a bite- a perfect beverage counterpart for SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD.

Movie Review: Attack The Block (2011)

I sometimes have to approach movies that I’ve been dying to see months before actually getting to see them with a sense of restraint. High levels of anticipation can be dangerous for two main reasons- the movie may end up not living up to the standards you set for it leaving you disappointed and the possibility of giving the film too much credit because you’ve already told yourself you were going to love it. ATTACK THE BLOCK is a film that made all my doubts disappear the second the title card appeared on screen. This is an alien invasion film that’s fun, witty and surprisingly scary at times.

All you really need to know about ATTACK THE BLOCK is that it is set in London, features a group of- for lack of a better word- hoodlums that discover an alien invasion that’s taking place on their block and take it upon themselves to exterminate the problem. Moses (John Boyega) is the leader of the group as the kids do everything they can to outrun, fight and hide from the alien threat as well as other dangers along the way.

ATTACK THE BLOCK begins with the group of protagonists mugging a woman (Jodie Whittaker) before one of the alien’s pods comes crashing down from the sky. It seems like a dangerous choice to show your heroes of the movie in such a despicable act when they are supposed to be characters we as viewers have to connect with and care what happens to them. The great thing about the film is that as thing progress Moses and his friends become much more sympathetic and enjoyable as their characters become more humanized. It’s also a strength of the film to convey a situation where people can band together and work out their issues in the midst of an extreme situation.
The script by Joe Cornish who also acts as director in incredibly sharp and satisfying as it moves almost seamlessly from scene to scene with so many different characters and ideas coming across on screen. There are very few spots to stop and get your bearings before we are thrust into another tense situation with the aliens always right on the heels of the group of kids. There are a ton of laughs had along the way which made it almost impossible for me to not have a phenomenal time watching the film.

The more surprising aspect for me was how tense and even scary certain scene was. The scares are of the jump variety but effective and the tension of the film is done very well. The tension comes from watching the aliens charge toward their victims and the fact that Cornish establishes that just cause there are kids involved doesn’t mean everyone is safe. The humor doesn’t overshadow the tension either- much of the jokes are organic to the situation and blends well with the abnormality of the situation the characters are in.

Aside from writing, and the great performances from the kids two of the strongest aspects of the film are the effects/look of the aliens and an amazing score. The very first alien you see is far different from the rest you see throughout the film which if you’ve seen the trailer you have an idea if not potential spoiler, but they are start black, look like gorillas but with rows of neon colored glowing teeth- and they look incredible. The sound effects for the noises they make are just as astonishing because it just adds to the mood and attitude of the film as well as lending itself to the tension and scares.

The score sounds a bit reminiscent to that of Daft Punk’s score from TRON: LEGACY only I’d venture to say that while I do love Daft Punk’s score, the music in ATTACK THE BLOCK I found more effective. The highlight for me that just sent me over the moon as far as how much I loved the movie was the slow motion during the finale, which just blew me away.

ATTACK THE BLOCK is a film that impressed me on nearly every filmmaking level that speaks to me as a fan. The writing is top notch, the actors take the material to the next level, the soundtrack is amazing, there are thrills, there are chills and the aliens look amazing. From beginning to end there wasn’t a single thing I want to complain about except that I almost wish the film had been a little longer if only because I was loving every second of the film- and some might find the thick English accents hard to understand at times (though it never bothered me). There’s definitely a throwback type of vibe throughout the film, but overall I believe ATTACK THE BLOCK is one of the best modern alien movies since DISTRICT 9 that completely blew me away. ATTACK THE BlOCK should be sought out immediately by anyone and everyone with a love for alien movie and cinema in general.

Strip To Script: Comic Book Heroes On The Big Screen

The summer of 2011 marks a big time of year for the superhero movies that will be bursting through theater speakers to fans all over the world. Each of these superhero characters were born on the pages of comic books and not with the camera. Each year the superhero movies draw large crowds and I’ve always wondered if every single person in the theater is turning out because they read the comics as kids or adults, they were dragged by a fan or if they like me are mostly associated out of context and have a natural curiosity. I didn’t take a poll on this subject, my curiosity is the inner workings of my mind as I’m a product of a sole interest in the visual are of movies, even though I’ve enjoyed the occasional comic here and there.

I’ve sat and thought about all the comics I’ve read in my life and I can really only think of a few. Yet, I find myself liking if not loving a lot of the comic based movies that get released. I love Batman and I get asked all the time what my thoughts on who the villains should be in the upcoming movies when they get made and I’m always going back to the ones I grew up with in the original Batman movies like Catwoman, Bane, Two Face, The Riddler and of course The Joker. Everyone once in a while I absorb information from articles I read or videogames where characters I was previously unfamiliar with are discussed and my memory bank grows a little bit. I often wonder if not being well versed in the source material makes me a less discerning viewer of the films and I would agree if someone said my opinion isn’t fully valid, but only to a small extent. I may not know all the characters and backgrounds but I am able to learn and can make distinctions of their ability to work on film, even if that distinction is not always going to be gospel. I am a member of a specific audience demographic that will see just about anything if it looks agreeable enough up to and including superhero movies that I may not have a thorough frame of reference on. Comic book aficionados may face palm whenever someone like me tries to talk about a comic book universe, but that doesn’t make my opinion any less valuable to someone who might have the same mindset as me.

As I mentioned, I’ve read only a few comic books in my life that include Batman, maybe one or two Spiderman stories and the entire series that makes up the Watchmen graphic novel. I would never even pretend to come off as knowing even slightly more than any random fan about any comic book character. The information I’ve retained over the years comes almost entirely from pop culture information that includes movies, video games and just random information I’ve picked up from friends and people I’ve had conversations with; none of this qualifies me as an expert in anything comic book related. So why is it that these comic book movies appeal to someone like me?

When directors approach the comic book stories they always begin with the origin story. If they were looking to appeal ONLY to the comic book lovers there would be nearly no point in pandering to the uninitiated. As a fan of movies and the possibility of grand special effects along with a hero’s journey, these superhero movies appeal to me a great deal. The opposite end of the spectrum is if the movies appeal to me, why don’t I feel the need to seek out the comic books that they originate from? I wish the answer was complex and controversial, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t actively avoid comic books; the plain boring truth is I just don’t rush out to get them. Movies have always been my escape and the most attractive form of entertainment. Reading always stimulated my imagination, being able to visualize the words on paper, but movies push things a little further by showing you the potential of one’s imagination. All forms of entertainment that includes books, movies and even radio serve as outlets of imagination and have always inspired me to explore my own thoughts and ideas; the choice from there is the medium that fits my personality.

As a kid movies completely captured my imagination. The technology involved and the way they made me feel when one connected with me emotionally or perfectly portrayed how fun going to the movies could be. My allegiance to movies is traced back to those days as a kid, cherishing those moments in the movie theater and waiting in excitement for the next trip to the theater. Reading also has a special place in my heart since I can create the printed world in my own head and in a sense direct the events with my own visual style. Comic books combine the print aspect with the visuals the book represents, giving one a little less control over the images your imagination would conjure up. Movies being my first love (entertainment wise that is) has remained so over the years, because I can connect with it more than I can in the time it takes me to read a book. I am not a fast reader; therefore, it takes me a little longer than most to read a book from cover to cover. Time consumption also factors into my love for movies over books; I can absorb the story told in a movie in the span of an hour and a half or more where a book could take me day, weeks or even a month to find the time to finish from beginning to end. In a world where most people are strapped for time between work, family and any other hobbies that take up time, sometimes finding hours of spare time to read is scarce. I do read books; it just takes a very determined mindset in order to do so.

Comic books are tricky for me. Comic books tend to be much shorter than a full on book, therefore take far less of a time commitment, yet I’ve read far more books than I’ve taken for comic books. If I were to be handed a comic book, I would easily sit down and read it and not feel guilty about what I could have gotten done in that amount of time. Over the years the comic book community to me is a very small but dedicated group of people that are very passionate and loyal to the work they read on a regular basis. In my opinion they are the people that have migrated to that medium in the same way that I migrated primarily to movies. However, more often than not the comic book readers probably love going to the movies just as much as any other person, which mirrors my attitude where if I’m given a comic book I’ll read it and I’ll either enjoy it or not. I’ve never felt the pressure that I must like a movie because that’s the popular consensus or hate a movie because people say that I should. Yet when it comes to comic books, because I am so out of my element in that community I wouldn’t be able to decipher quality from complete crap and the comic book fans would tear any opinion I had either way apart with due precision. Do people that enjoy movies as a secondary source of entertainment feel the same kind of scrutiny if they love or hate a movie?

This argument merges into the point of this piece because of the sheer amount of superhero movies exploding into theaters this summer. Each of them being heroes that I have not read a single comic of, yet will likely see and weigh an opinion on once I do, but without the comic book reference. This is topical because comic book lovers often read movie reviews like anyone else and will weigh their opinions of people’s knowledge of the character to their enjoyment of a movie about a character they were not previously connected to. If I liked a movie like THOR but didn’t read the comic and had critiques of something that a comic lover might have really enjoyed, does that mean that I might have liked it if I had read the comic, or had more bad things to say if it didn’t live up to a comic I might love and then hate how the movie represents it. I won’t lie, the argument I am presenting even gives me a headache.

The first movie I ever saw that was based on a comic book character was Tim Burton’s BATMAN. For the longest time that was one of my all time favorite superhero movies. Nowadays, superhero movies are frequent and thus audiences have much more to choose from. BATMAN BEGINS stole the thrown from BATMAN for me when it was released and then THE DARK KNIGHT came along and the changing of the guard continued. I’ve also enjoyed the likes of films like SPIDERMAN, IRON MAN, KICK ASS, THOR and most recently loved X-MEN: FIRST CLASS. Many of the universes certain characters inhabit have not clicked with me and I had no previous knowledge of, even just listening to friends talk about them. With THOR, the name and the hammer were the only recognizable characteristics and I know absolutely nothing regarding the mythology behind GREEN LANTERN. The upcoming CAPTAIN AMERICA film is another character I have little back story on beyond name and look of the costume. So for me the business behind comic book movies relies heavily on appealing to non-comic book readers and possible even converting those people in order to get them to KEEP coming back for sequels and/or prequels.

The question studios face with these movies is how do they make these superheroes appeal to people that may be looking for more realism than fantasy in their theater escapades. When I see a trailer for a superhero movie I do not always worry if the character’s background will connect with me; I can make the distinction of rather or not I like the mythology once I watch the movie. What I look for is a movie that at least looks like it will be fun, interesting and with enough substance that I will feel the need to see it opening weekend. If it goes down a path that resembles darker grittier tones like THE DARK KNIGHT it has more chances of getting that opening day ticket, but fun absurd superhero movies are not a deal breaker. I am a lover of gorgeous special effects, so when I see a trailer that shows me great special effects, I may not always see it with urgency, but I WILL see it at some point or another. Non-stop action is not always a must, and with the first film in a superhero franchise I expect that there will be a certain amount of character development, but that’s not a free pass to skimp on decent action here and there and a satisfying finale. People that read the comics already have the benefit of all the different character development stories and variety of action beats; the initiated don’t and studios know this so they can’t always please both the readers and the people going in blind.

My biggest problem with some transitions from the illustrated pages to the big screen is dialogue that doesn’t find my ears well. This is a personal preference and in no way reflects all moviegoers, but certain cheesy dialogue just doesn’t appeal to me. I love cheesy dialogue in certain movies, but it has a penchant for making me cringe as well. One example is a line from SPIDERMAN in which the Green Goblin is flying off after a battle with Spiderman and shouts “I’ll get you next time Spiderman,” followed by an over-the-top villainous laugh. In the right movie I’d be ok with that type of delivery, in that one though, I cringed; I can already hear the keyboards furiously typing to refute and berate my dismissal of such a line.

Comic book movies don’t always have to be superheroes though; SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD and 30 DAYS OF NIGHT for example. Of course, we’ve seen what ended up happening with the minimal theatrical success Edgar Wright enjoyed with his effort. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD was a film I really loved but for whatever reason the idea just didn’t click with mainstream audiences. Was it because of the marketing? Was it because it wasn’t a superhero movie? Whatever the reason, it was a film that I feel had a wider appeal than any sales numbers reflected. The ratio of heroic movies to not so heroic movies is generally lopsided as is the box office.

It might seem pointless to state at this juncture but the point of this isn’t merely to force my views on anyone or even to make an overall point to begin with but just as a means to spark the debate. A debate as to rather or not reading the comic book of a character in a movie we are going to see heightens the experience hinders it or has no effect. My personal belief is that as long as the filmmakers deliver a fun well rounded movie, the source material is inconsequential. The argument then is that in the process filmmakers can betray the source material and alienate the comic fans. As I’m not a comic book reader I cannot comment on any film that has stayed true and complimented its source material, but I have heard opinions of movies that actually improved the source material (i.e. KICK ASS).

Over the next few years as these films continue to vary in quality and ticket sales it’s likely we will continue to see more and more hit theaters especially with THE AVENGERS being set up with a series of films (IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THOR etc.). It will be interesting to see if attendance increases or decreases with the barrage of films as audiences either embrace or shun the efforts of Hollywood. With the sheer number over the course of the last few years the Hollywood machine appears focused on an unending assault of films based on previous works, board games and comics. On principle alone it is quite disheartening to see such a lack in creativity with the films begin churned out to make a quick buck instead of throwing money behind high concept original works, even if they don’t all succeed. Realistically the gamble would be equal on both sides since original movies like AVATAR and INCEPTION broke bank at the box office. Not everything is going to be a homerun, but at least with original movies the pitches are random enough to surprise us instead of hurling fastball after fastball till it becomes predictable and boring until one comes along every once in a while with a little extra zip to it.

What are your thoughts on this subject? What are your favorite comic book movies? Least favorite? What are some you’d like to see get made? What are ones that should never get adapted?

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

I am not familiar with the graphic novels that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is based on. I am not the world’s biggest Michael Cera fan, though I really loved Superbad. I am however, an Edgar Wright fan; I liked Sean of the Dead and I loved Hot Fuzz, so with all those factors I was on the fence of rather or not Scott Pilgrim was going to be my cup of tea. I’m happy to say that it fell well within my comfort zone even if it didn’t leave me feeling as enthralled as I would have liked.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is directed by Edgar Wright and stars Michael Cera as our hero, Scott Pilgrim, who plays bass in his band, The Sex Bob-Ombs. Scott is also dating a 17 year old, Knives Chau, that is until he meets Ramona Flowers and he immediately thinks she’s the girl of his dreams. He finds out she works for Amazon so he orders a package and waits for her to deliver it so he can ask her out. They go on a date and everything seemingly goes well, until The Sex Bob-Ombs next show is halted by a man claiming to be an ex of Ramona’s bursts in and begins to fight Scott. Afterwards, Ramona explains to Scott that if they are going to date he has to defeat her seven evil X’s; and if that’s not enough, Knives Chau, not to be ignored has her own plans to try and get Scott back.

For me the stars of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World are the tremendous visual effects, the comedic timing in the script and the fighting. The characters were all cast very well, and the film is very fast paced. There is almost never a dull moment during the film as even parts that would normally drag have a visual that captures your eyes, rather its the instantly melting snow as Ramona skates away, or the on screen narration of sound effects such as “Ring-Ring,” when a telephone rings, or “Ding-Dong,” when someone rings a doorbell. There is literally something going on in every scene that keeps you involved and interested even if it’s the smallest of details.

I made reference to my not being a huge Michael Cera fan before, and that being said I really enjoyed him in this movie. His presence adds a level of humor to the role, especially when you see him flying through the air and fighting the evil X’s in an arcade like style. One of the other highlights in the film was Scott’s gay roommate, Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin); his character is also involved in many of the more effective jokes throughout the film.

When mentioning the visuals of the film, most of them involve the fantastic fight sequences, which are often set up like a Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat style showing Scott and his current opponent across from each other and “VS” in between them. The film employs several videogame references throughout that simply a delight, from the score Scott gets for defeating an opponent, to people bursting into coins after they are defeated. However, it is not only videogame-isms at work from scene to scene; it also has many comic book aspects along with it, to the mundane sound effects being animated on screen to “Pow,” “Bang” etc also filling the screen during fights.

All of the aspects explained above regarding the comic book and videogame symbolisms have the potential to really fly above the heads of many audiences and that’s bound to be what affects its success at the box office over its life in theaters. Those not knowing what they might be in for will leave scratching their heads wondering what in the hell they just saw, but those knowing the source material or those that can just let their guard down and can enjoy the ridiculousness of the over-the-top fighting, quick cuts and fast transitions between scenes will laugh throughout the films run-time.

As far as any knocks against the film go, and mind you it’s not a deal breaker, but the romance/infatuation between Scott and Ramona was not nearly as sentimental or heartwarming as you’d find in “good” romantic comedies. Granted most romantic comedies are loathsome, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does it marginally better than most, it just didn’t work quite as well as I’d have hoped. Other than that, everything else in the film mixes and flows well throughout the film. The characters of Scott and Ramona both play off each other well and are interesting, it’s just the attraction and eventual romance that doesn’t seem to mesh together as well as the comedic elements.

I was also impressed by the music used throughout the film. The opening 8-Bit Universal logo and theme was very cool along with the various choices used in the fights. One cue that made me laugh was the Seinfeld theme used in a scene along with a laugh track during the dialogue, which alone had me hooked and loving each second that passed.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a truly funny and original piece of work. The romance and the fantastical nature of the material make the outcome of the fights seem irrelevant, but it doesn’t harm the film overall as its all tons of fun. Edgar Write continues to impress as a director with this visually impressive adaptation that’s filled to the brim with laughs and exciting fight sequences.