Film: Review: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

From the moment the pixellated 8-bit ‘Universal’ logo ushers in the beginning of Scott Pilgrim vs The World, you know this film will never win an Oscar – and it shouldn’t.

Not because it isn’t a work of cinematic brilliance (it is), but because Edgar Wright’s first feature since wrapping Police-based actioner Hot Fuzz is just too geeky for the masses.

The fact that early reports already show the film not setting box offices ablaze in the USA is no surprise since its up against most of the 80s action heroes in the form of The Expendables and a well-established children’s franchise in Toy Story 3.

The story is hum-drum enough: Scott Pilgrim, played by the Superbad Michael Cera, with High School over and no job tying him down has only the haunting memory of his ex-girlfriend breaking his heart to keep him down. He just so happens to be bassist in (almost…) the biggest band in Toronto : Sex Bomb-omb.

Enter 17 year-old schoolgirl Knives (yes, really) who breaks Scott out of his rut when they start going out, that is until pink-haired Ramona Flowers appears to throw a spanner in the works.

As it turns out Ramona has SEVEN evil exs, not boyfriends as she’s keen to note, who Scott must defeat to win her.

Admittedly on paper it makes as much sense as the first few hundred pages of Lord of the Rings, but what makes the film soar above the average comic-book adaptations is style.

Scott’s world isn’t quite the Toronto we (probably don’t) know, apart from geographically this is a world where a ringing phone causes the air to be brazened with the word “BRRIIIIIIING”, computer games teach you complex martial arts and defeated enemies burst into a shower of coins.

Music is a weapon and Scott’s band’s struggle to get a record deal from the illusive G-Man drives the story along, in between watching Cera being pummelled by various imposing opponents.

The seven-strong evil ex roster boasts some impressive names, such as Brandon Routh, better known as Bryan Singer’s Superman and Chris Evans, better known as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four, and soon Marvel’s #1: Captain America.

Like any good comic-book villain each ex has their own evil powers, such as Routh’s telekenisis and mind-reading granted to him by being a ‘hardcore’ vegan, and fatal weaknesses which prove their undoing, of which a particular highlight is the downfall of evil ex #4 Roxie Richter (Mae Whitman) from some unusual contact.

Gaming plays as large a role in the film as music but the most surreal aspect of the action is influenced by Japanese Manga, with screen blurs, cinematic cut scenes and slow motion fighting moves in abundance.

Cera fails to shake his typecasting as the reformed loser Scott, but nonetheless makes you genuinely care about him, while being amused at his oh-so-typical teenaged awkwardness…at 22.

It’s Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay housemate Wallace who is gifted with the best lines, but like previous Wright work Spaced the film would only ever work as an ensemble piece. Luckily the cast compliment each other and those who initially seem one dimensional, such as frowning Sex Bomb-Omb drummer Kim Pine (Alison Pill) often hint at greater depth.

The film itself lives up to what it sets out to be, a story which could well mostly be going on in Scott’s head, and some very polished visual effects bring the audience into the virtual world convincingly, at times making you long for 3D.

For those who enjoyed recent comic-book curve ball Kick Ass this is a sensational follow-up watch, and for those even slightly familiar with any of the plethora of references featured it rewards a little suspension of disbelief hundreds of times over to provide a fantastic fun summer film.

Rating 5/5

James Michael Parry

Pictures: Screen Rant, Filmofilia, The Faster Times

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Music: Reading Festival 2010 Special – Headliners

August’s arrival can mean only one thing – the countdown to Reading Festival 2010 – this year’s alternative music extravaganza has well and truly begun.

Over 100 artists from various music genres and levels of commercial success will take to the six stages over three days at what Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighter’s described as “The best festival in the world”.

Unfortunately with so many countless bands to chose from it can be difficult to choose who to see to guarantee maximum musical enjoyment (and subsequently drunkenness). So, in order to avoid potential panic, This Is Entertainment presents the the first part of the essential Reading Festival ‘Must-see’ Guide.

The big names

The reason people go to festivals is to see the big headline acts right? Perhaps…but it’s not true for everyone.

The beauty of festivals is that so many acts are available all at once, meaning you might wander aimlessly into a tent at 2pm on the Saturday to discover a band you never would have listened to otherwise. The point of this guide as a whole is to give direction to your aimless wanderings, but before all that let’s start with the basics and look at the big names.

Guns ‘n’ Roses

A band out of touch and out of its time grace the Reading Festival stage for the first time – despite appearing at Leeds in 2002, which is surprising considering the bands worldwide fame. In their heyday at the end of the 80s they were one of the world’s most intimidating rock groups, even providing a tune for Terminator 2: Judgement Day in 1991.

Now though, they are a shadow of their former self, with frontman Axl Rose recovering from a decade-long ego trip trying to piece together his magnum opus Chinese Democracy and the fighting between Axl and former band members has dragged on for decades.

Still, there is a new line up – with only Axl remaining as founding member – and fan response to their latest album wasn’t terrible, but I still can’t see them being as fun as Alkaline Trio.

Tracks to catch: Sweet Child O’ Mine, Paradise City, Shackler’s Revenge
Verdict: Miss

Arcade Fire

The radio-friendly indie band of the festival takes control on the Saturday, a theme which echoes down through the rest of the main stage, though more will be overjoyed by the resurgence of drug-fuelled Pete Doherty and The Libertines.

For Arcade Fire though the appearance couldn’t have come at a better time, with their new album The Suburbs assaulting the charts at this very moment after jumping to the number one spot after its release last week.

If you’re wondering what songs the band sing then it’s quite difficult to nail down a song you may have heard of, the style is very much that of modern hippies, a swaying, laid back sort of pop/rock, though one or two tracks might be familiar from BBC television show adverts.

Tracks to catch: Rebellion (Lies), Wake Up, Keep The Car Running
Verdict: Maybe

Blink 182

Another reformation but this time a welcome one, the nasally voiced teenage heart-break-ridden trio have returned to give us a reason to smile as the last act of the weekend.

The pedigree of the band is sketchy at best – strangely people don’t take a band seriously if they run along a road naked in their videos… – but that’s the point of Blink, they entertain first and foremost.

During their last appearance in 2003 the band made even the most tight-faced Blink-haters soften a little with their mixture of boyish banter, catchy tunes and audience participation – at one point they had the audience hold up their phones instead of lighters because “it’s the 21st Century now kids.”

With a new album nearing completion (expected early 2011), fans will be hoping to hear some new songs, and praying they are as good as they remember. It’s been a long time since their last self-titled album in 2003 and the fans are all grown up now, their spirits dampened with years of recession, war and no new pop punk heavyweights around to liven things up.

Tracks to catch: Carousel, The Rock Show, All The Small Things
Verdict: Must See

Stay tuned to This Is Entertainment for more crucial band details…

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Film: Review – Toy Story 3

The 2010 summer blockbuster season continues with a return to Andy’s room in comedic adventure flick Toy Story 3.

After a decade away from UK cinema screens (save some fancy 3D re-releases in the past year) Woody and the gang are up to their old tricks once more.

Andy, who’s voiced by John Morris (the same chap as in the first two films and now a 25 year-old!), is leaving for college and his beloved toys don’t want to be forgotten or thrown away.

Despite their best efforts the gang can’t tear Andy’s attention away from the all-too-familiar vices of modern life and after a mix-up they find themselves being donated to a daycare centre.

Here there’s a host of new, and often familiar, characters, but things aren’t as ‘sunny’ at Sunnyside as they seem.

In typical Disney (well…Pixar) style the story unfolds as organically as a modern fairytale, with some impressive little touches showing the depth of their characters, such as Jessie’s claustrophobia from her trauma in TS2.

The climax swaps the airport setting from its predecessor for a waste disposal plant, frighteningly realised as the fiery Hell on Earth for all toys, as well as alluding to the chilling dystopia from previous work Wall.E, but on a far larger (relative) scale.

The villain of the piece Lotso’ Huggin’ Bear pushes the limit on evil as well as teaching Disney’s usual lesson about why jealousy and bitterness are bad.

Stand-out character is easily Michael Keaton’s Ken, who defines the modern ‘metrosexual’ stereotype with some unusual fashion choices, while pig money box Hamm is graced with his usual selection of cynical quips and Buzz finds a whole new level of comedy after a botched factory reset…

With the rivalry between Woody and Buzz long forgotten the team work together seemlessly as the film builds to a climax with an incredibly touching moment as they are held on the brink of oblivion.

This proves to be only a hint at what’s to come though as the final coda sets tear ducts on maximum as the characters and audience alike say goodbye to a group of characters who they’ve known for over 15 years.

While some suggest the film is merely a vehicle for further merchandising; it’s obvious writers John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (who also directed) have put heart and conviction into this (surely) final chapter to a series which sparked the beginning of a new age of animation.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry

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