Short Movie Review: Daybreakers

In the near future, vampires rule society, humans are rounded up like cattle, and when the blood supply gets low, the vampires turn monstrous. Cue the human resistance who discovers a cure for vampirism and takes great risks blah blah blah ho hum etc. I’d heard this movie was bad, but it isn’t; it’s just entirely predictable and completely uninteresting beyond the otherwise promising premise. It’s paint-by-numbers Hollywood filmmaking, which is why you probably never heard of it despite at least a couple high-profile cast members (Willem Dafoe and Ethan Hawke). Not a terrible way to spend an hour and a half on a sick day, but probably not worth the effort I put into finding a torrent for a working file that wasn’t in Spanish.

Short Movie Review: Tron Legacy

Fun, appropriately retro-futuristic Daft Punk soundtrack. Striking, generally interesting visuals. Bland, relatively inoffensive plot. Unobtrusive, probably unnecessary 3D. Confusing, surprising lack of attention to the title character.

Short Movie Review: Inglorious Basterds

Over two and a half hours, Quentin Tarantino offers two parallel stories of people committed to killing Nazis. This culminates in a wrought-out scene of “vengeance porn” against the major personalities of the Third Reich, which you’d think Tarantino’s target audience would have participated in itself over the last decade or so of violent, WWII-based video games.

Tarantino appears to think that methodical pacing makes horrifically violent scenes even more striking when they do finally occur. Unfortunately, as we learned in Death Proof, slow segments without tension, humor, or necessary narrative development are still boring. Personally, I am no longer willing to sit through a movie this long unless it is a freaking masterpiece, or at least full of hobbits and magic.

Short Movie Review: Machete

This is the kind of movie in which “foreshadowing” means mentioning offhand that the human intestines are 10 times the length of the whole human body. The main thing being foreshadowed is: “This will come up again next time Danny Trejo kills a bunch of dudes.”

If you enjoyed Tarantino’s and Rodriguez’s Grindhouse, and secretly hoped that the fake Machete trailer between features would actually get made into a movie someday, then the feature-length realization of Machete probably won’t disappoint. I didn’t think it was as good enjoyable as the Planet Terror half of Grindhouse, but I did prefer it in some ways over Death Proof (which started too slow for my liking). Probably Machete could have been improved by cutting out about 10-15 minutes of dialog scenes (and, optionally, replacing them with more scenes of people getting horribly dismembered), but overall, it elicited enough laughs and groans over its 100+ minutes to make me glad I went.

Short Movie Review: The Boondock Saints 2

Mostly dull. Leads me to question whether the first one was actually as clever and self-aware as I had thought it was. Don’t bother.

Even Shorter Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (Jason version)

They nailed precisely half of the equation that made this one of the best comics ever: the juvenile playfulness. Too bad the other half—the humorously, painfully familiar emotional realism—couldn’t fit in a Hollywood movie. Good soundtrack, though, and definitely recommended if you enjoy seeing people burst into spare change when killed.

Short Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Dan’s Take)

Tony has already regaled you with the tale of our adventure to see *Scott Pilgrim vs. The World* and [his review](—as with *most* things Tony says—is spot on. In some ways, as we discussed after the film, it would have been better not to have the comic so fresh in your head, because you find yourself waiting for jokes or looking for characters. That said, the film stands on its own, with plenty of quips and situations that are more “inspired by” the comic than ripped directly from the page. The casting is pretty much spot on for the most part, though it’s also worth noting that in many ways Michael Cera’s portrays a fundamentally different Scott Pilgrim than the protagonist of the comics (he lacks the manic energy of the latter). As a long-time fan of director Edgar Wright’s work, though, I maintain that the man is [three]([for]([three]( in feature filmdom. At the same time, though, I found myself thinking about halfway through that I couldn’t wait until somebody inevitably adapts the series to a television show so we can see all the parts that got left out.

Medium Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Due to unexpected good fortune your protagonists were able to see a sneak preview of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World on Tuesday, here’s what Tony thought:

One sentence summary for folks who haven’t read the comics: Canadian slacker/rocker Scott Pilgrim falls for Ramona Flowers but discovers he must defeat the league of Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes if he is to date her.  (Maybe you’d like to watch the trailer.)

Is Scott Pilgrim vs. The World a good movie and/or a good adaptation of a comic? I have a hard time thinking about the movie without dissecting the choices Edgar Wright makes in adapting the six volume graphic novel series to a 2 hour movie. I knew going into it that the movie would have to make some tricky choices about pacing and cutting scenes and characters. The graphic novels chronicling the ups and downs of a year in Scott Pilgrim’s life work fine as discrete chapters but would probably feel awkward as movie. So the movie takes place over a few weeks (time passes oddly in Toronto) with Ramona’s exes coming at Scott fast and furiously. The backstories of Ramona’s exes are heavily condensed or basically not explored at all in some cases. Scott’s relationship with his drummer and girlfriend Kim Pine, a source of ongoing tension and slow reveal in the comic, is more or less gone in the movie.  A variety of secondary characters are omitted or make only token appearances (we never see The Clash at Demonhead’s cyborg drummer in action for example.) Also worth noting: the movie was completed before Bryan Lee O’Malley finished the sixth book in the series, so though they clearly knew how he was planning to end the series it won’t be exactly the same. Balancing out for the adjustments to characters (and some plot points) fans of the comic will be happy to see a surprising number of scenes recreated shot for shot with the original dialogue in place.

So after you finish obsessing on all the little adjustments and tweaks to the plot and characters how is it at a movie? Pretty good I’d say. Consistently funny and amusing with great visuals it was fun the whole way through. The music of Scott’s Band Sex Bob-omb (provided by Beck) adds a lot to the experience that obviously wasn’t there in the comics, and works as a great example of how adapting a comic means you can do a lot more than just filming it shot for shot. The actors were all fine and the degree to which they looked like their comic counterparts is uncanny in places. Overall Scott Pilgrim vs. The World does a great job of faithful adapting much of the source material while also being fun and creative.

Reading other reviews of the movie which criticize the surreal elements of the story suggest to me that unsurprisingly the people who wouldn’t have enjoyed the comic wouldn’t enjoy the movie. I particularly like how one critic derided the movie as un-appealing to anyone who didn’t grow up with Nintendo (or as I call them, super old people.)

I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and I hope you will too.

Short Movie Review: Whiteout

I can’t think about Whiteout without remembering how I had to buy the graphic novel twice because my original copy was stolen when Dan’s car got broken into many years back. (Also stolen: my graphing calculator, a frisbee, and a ridiculously clunky pre-ipod CD player that could handle MP3 CDs.)

So, Whiteout is the film based on Grek Rucka’s graphic novel about a U.S. Marshal solving a murder mystery in Antarctica(!) I enjoyed the comic but I passed on seeing this in the theatre due the weak reviews it received from critics. Unfortunately I should probably have passed on Netflixing it. It’s that lame.

Rucka’s underlying story is still mostly there, but the pacing of the film is so awful that it’s just crippled in the adaptation. All of the character that seemed quirky or mysterious in the comics come across as bland and uninteresting in the film. It also suffers from a glut of Hollywood/committee style dumbing down with elements like flashbacks (because the audience couldn’t possibly remember what we showed them 25 minutes ago), complete removal of any discussion of the history/politics of Antarcita (that are critical to why solving the murder is so hard in the comic), and the gender switch out of a major character, I guess to serve as possible love interest where that didn’t exist before? (Also we wouldn’t want to market a movie with two strong female leads, right?) Also sad: the comic ends with a cool Mexican standoff that resolves unexpectedly, the film has a silly extended fight sequence that didn’t quite make sense.

So yeah, really not worth your time even if you like the source material. Antarctica is a pretty sweet setting for a story though, go reread the comic, or if you want to see a movie set there rewatch John Carpenter’s 1982 classic The Thing.

Short Movie Review: The Mutant Chronicles

I watched this movie today because I was feeling sick. It did not help. It is the worst game-to-movie adaptation I have seen since Mortal Kombat Annihilation. I might have forgiven it if only there had been an ezoghoul, but there was not. I don’t know which is funnier: that I actually finished it, or that the end implies that they actually thought this might get a sequel.