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Archive for August, 2010

So, a warning: this will be a long-winded review, more so than most of my reviews. This film worked on me in so many levels that I’m sure by the end of this, you will think that this review will the equivalent  of a Twilight blogger talking about the importance of Taylor Lautners bare chest.  But man,  I have a lot to say.

I think the best way I could put my thoughts together is to break my feelings of the flick down in chunks, explaining the different reasons why this movie worked on me. So like the amount of Ramona’s evil exes, I got seven topics on how I love this movie.

1. It’s a brilliant adaptation: If you’ve read my last two blogs about adaptations,(see here: http://tiny.cc/i9bm5, and here: http://tiny.cc/xopgi) finding the right balance between being true to the source material and finding your own voice is very tricky. I think this film should be a textbook example of how to this right. Future comic adaptations should take note on what this film did.

When the film does the scenes straight from the comic, I smiled at how well they did it (Wallace’s drunk scene with Scott was so perfect I couldn’t stop squealing.) but when the film does deviate, (Roxy’s fight with Scott is completely different from the books) they still find ways to incorporate OTHER scenes, lines, or moments from the series. Even when they don’t go that far, the new ideas they come up with still fit. The change in the Lucas Lee fight(having them fight while Lucas is shooting a movie scene) was a great cinematic change and still fits the tone of the whole series. I mean, they even made the use of comic book sound efx text in a smart and non distracting manner.

2. It’s got a great cast: The casting was so spot on here, and each one giving one memorable performance after another.

First off, Micheal Cera IS Scott Pilgrim. It was the concern for many fans for a while, (even me) but Cera nails it. The first scene in the film proved it for me. The tone of his performance, the attitude, is so spot on Scott Pilgrim. Micheal is playing the role kinda differently then what you would think a “Micheal Cera” role is. He only really slips in to his usual  schtick when the scene calls for it, but I think it fits the film and it doesn’t bother me.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s challenge is to make sure Ramona doesn’t come off as a bitch. If we don’t like Ramona, then the film fails. Winstead rises to the challenge. Her performance convincingly conveys a quiet hurt. Not to spoil the ending(and I’m not) but the look on her eyes at the end of the film says so much.

Newcomer Ellen Wong is going to break the hearts of young boys (and some men). I’ll be honest, Knives Chau was not really a favorite character from the books for me.  She was always in danger of being annoying, but Ellen brings so much charm and heart to the role. Kinda like how J.K. Simmons’s performance as J. Jonah Jameson got me to love the character in the Spider-Man films, Wong made Knives into a character that I loved.

Alison Pill and Mark Webber does great things with their role as Kim Pine and Stephen Stills (with Pill really nailing the sarastic tone of Kim), but  I want to focus on Johnny Simmons for a second. Johnny plays Young Neil, a character from the books I had little reaction to. He was decent character, but not one of much note for me. Simmons took that character and does wonders with him. There’s a scene were Simmons is standing on the side of the stage as the band plays, and he quietly sings a long with the song. That fucking killed me.

I could go on. Kieran Culkin stealing every scene he’s in as Wallace Wells, Chris Evans KILLING as Lucas Lee, Brandon Routh showcasing killer timing as Todd Ingram, Satya Bhabha setting the tone of the Evil Exes perfectly as Matthew Patel, and Jason Schwartzman rules as Gideon Graves. God, I haven’t even mentioned Aubrey Plaza, Mae Whitman and… I need to go on to the next topic, I could do a whole blog on the cast alone.

3. It’s a good romantic comedy: There’s realistic emotions going on here. When you go out with someone new, you want to believe that their ex is a terrible person, or else why would they dump the person your with right? Whenever you get out of a long and emotional break up, you still want companionship. You want the next relationship to be easy and simple, and that’s what you try to find.

Both the comic and the film found a fun and unique way to exam these feelings and themes. A lot of people have been through the emotions that these characters have been. Yeah, there are plenty of laughs that go with these, but they never forget to take the feelings from a real and relatable place, unlike a movie  say… ANY other romantic comedy in the last 10 years.

4. It’s a rockin musical: One of the hard things to convey in the comics is the music, which the film has a great advantage over it. The music is great with authentic songs from the likes of Metric, Broken Social Scene, Chris Murphy, and Beck(!!). The music sounds like legitimate rock music, the songs “Threshold” and “Black Sheep” being my two favorites.

I also love the detail in the sound design for the songs. Sex-Bob-Ombs music sounds like it was recorded in a garage while The Clash at Demonhead has that slick studio sound. I also love how the music performances were visually interpreted. You can and hear and SEE how the band plays with the great use of the animation lines. That visual look was especially helpful in one of the coolest battle of the bands sequences in films…maybe because of the fact that the bands are actually BATTLING!

5. It’s a bad ass martial arts movie: For a while,  I’ve been obsess with watching asian action films. Hong Kong, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese….I’ve seen tons. In the last 15 years I can name a few films in Hollywood that reach the level of well shot fight scenes that these asian films have. Scott Pilgrim can now be added on that list.

It must be said how good the film is that it’s taken me this long to write about the action. The rest of the movie can be total garbage but I could still say the action scenes are great. I’ve sat through worse films for an amazing action scene. The fact that I love the rest of the movie only makes the fight scenes even better.

They are brilliantly shot. Edgar Wright knew that he had to have  plenty of long, wide takes to see the fight choreography. He knew how to cut in, when to slow down and when to ramp it up. I haven’t seen this much inventiveness in martial arts battles since Stephen Chow. (Director of Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer)

6. It’s the film Edgar Wright has been building his whole career for: Well, ok probably not, but I can tell this is the film that Edgar Wright went buck wild!

The film lets Edgar do all the things he loves; his clever editing choices, off-kilter humor, breaks in reality, visual references to other films etc.  He gets to play with all his favorite tools and he gets to use it in a film that perfectly utilizes in one cohesive film.

The inner fanboy in me would like to think that movie exist in the same universe as SPACED, the show Edgar co-created with Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes. The film feels like a big screen extension of the show.

See what I mean.

7. It’s like the movie was made for me: It just felt like this movie contains so many things that I personally love.

It’s full of the kind of humor I love, the visual film-making style I eat up, the kind of music I listen to, and the kind of well-rounded, full of personality that I love to watch. God, I mean,  Scott’s drink of choice is Coke Zero, my favorite soda now a days.

It’s almost as if Edgar Wright, co-screenwriter Micheal Becall and the comics creator Bryan Lee O’Malley went into my head and decided to create a story for me.

Hell, I tried to MAKE this film in 2007.

My student film, Rival Siblings, was full of goofy comedy, martial arts action, people  unrealistically fighting over personal problems instead of talking about them. I was trying to make an Edgar Wright martial arts film basically, and I knew it. In a way, I guess I kinda wanted to see this film so badly, I decided to make one for myself while I waited for it.

Thankfully Edgar Wright DID make his film, and as you can tell, I’m so happy that he did.

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I walked around tonight.

Yeah, ok, not really something to write about, but this was different.

Currently I’m working on a big reality show. Due to a confidentiality clause I can’t say what I’m doing on the show. All you need to know is that the hours are long and the schedule is LATE. The neat part of the job is that I’m in a legitimate studio lot, one where a lot of famous shows and movie have been filmed in.

While I am working, the plus of the job is that I have a bit of down time.  Most of the down time is used to either waste away online, write my blog (::ahem::) or eat at the 24 hour kitchen.

Tonight I was enjoying a late night piece of toast with jam as one of my coworkers came in.  We started shooting the shit and talking about how we’re trying to stay awake.

“I just did a bit of a jog to keep me up man.” my co-worker said.

“Good call.”

“I walked around the New York set too, it’s pretty freaking rad.”

“Really!” I replied “That’s a pretty damn good idea.”

“Dude, do it, it’s pretty neat down there. It’s kinda freaky too at this hour too.”

Inspired, I finished my toast and quickly headed out to do a bit of wandering.

I started wandering around the lot, peaking my head in at any open sound stages and found my way to the New York street set.

It’s an open set, used for exteriors. Shows such as Seinfeld were shot on this street (hell I even found the store front for the Soup Nazi’s shop.) It was mostly dark, and lit by the moon and any small amounts of lights nearby. I would be lying if I didn’t walk in a little scared. Not scared of being caught, but it was pretty convincing at night. It felt so real that I could have sworn I’d seen a homeless guy sleeping near a stoop.

Now the walk wasn’t that long…because it wasn’t that long of a set. I was done walking in “New York” before I even started.

I wondered around a little bit more on the lot, looking at the suburban area sets and such. It was nice.

On my way back to set I realized one thing about myself.

No matter how long I’ve been actually working in this industry, I still get excited about the whole filmmaking process. I still love looking at sets, or watching a scene get filmed. I’m still super curious when I see film crew on the streets of LA because I want to know what they’re shooting.

Yeah, this industry is hard and challenging to ones ego and self-esteem, but I’m glad I’m still able to maintain my naive look and feeling on film. Walking around a set is still magic for me, and I hope I never lose that.

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It’s no secret how much I’m looking forward to Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

(image to the right is me with Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O’Malley)

The films coming out this week and I’ve been ready for it, even getting ready for disappointment.

Huh?

Let me explain. Every time I watch a movie based on a book or comic that I’ve read, I get a little bit disappointed. The disappointment comes from a stupid place. It always come from the fact that the film didn’t include stuff that I liked from the source material.  Dumb right? No matter what, even if the film is great, I still wish they kept that ONE thing that made the source material so great to me.

Now, I’m aware why things don’t make it to the finale film. Not enough screen time, the scene is not needed for the for a feature film, too hard to do for a movie…etc.

With Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World specifically, I’ve been trying to get my mind-set for the changes the film will have.  You see, theres fun to be had in enjoying the film version too.  That’s the exciting thing about adaptations. It’s gives you new things to enjoy in the story you already love, and you get to see the fun of other creative ways the story can change (unlike a certain Airbending movie that came out this year that was afraid to adapt and change).

One of my favorite books of all time is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but just because the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory changes plenty of things from the book to the film, doesn’t mean I don’t love the film version just the same. It’s different, yes, but it’s still the same story and tone the book has but it’s creative in making its own thing.

Films like Fight Club and even the recent Kick-Ass movies showcase changes that worked better then the original source material. The ending to the Fight Club film is completely different from the book, BUT even Fight Clubs author Chuck Palahniuk admits that the film has a better end then his book. I personally think the characterization of Red Mist in the Kick-Ass film is far stronger and better developed in the film then it was in the book.

To the fans that want the film to be exactly the same as the source material, I beg them, please look with better eyes. What I want in an adaptation is this; get the characters right, get the tone right, and the get the spirit right. Make a good movie using what made the source material worked in the first place.

So yeah, I know I’ll be a tiny bit bummed that certain things from the books won’t make it to the film (Lisa Miller, the obvious downplay of Scott and Kim’s past,  Knives dad slicing a bus in half…) but at best, all I’m asking is simple. A good movie.

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I guess it makes sense. Hell, it’s almost fair. Film buffs complain all the time how Hollywood is unoriginal for remaking Asian films, but did you know that are several asian films that have remade Hollywood as well? Heres some recent ones that I though were interesting….

 Celluar in Hollywood….

which became Connected in Hong Kong…

I am a huge fan of the Coen Brothers first film Blood Simple…

But  acclaimed filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Hero, To Live, and House of Flying Daggers) just recently did his own fun looking spin on the film…

Can you honestly believe what film this  japanese movie is remaking…

Yep, even Patrick Swayze movies aren’t safe from the remake train.(But to be fair, who said they were?)

I leave you now, with the japanese remake of an indy film based on a beloved Paul Giamatti film…

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