Inside Movies & DVD with Drew McWeeny
Meet the other two-thirds of Sex Bob-omb
One of the real pleasures of "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" is the way the huge ensemble cast is packed with surprises, people who I may not have been terribly familiar with before this film. In every case, I find that now that I've seen them in these roles, I have a huge affection for them.
Alison Pill's best known role before this for me was probably in "Milk," but I know people really loved her on the second season of "In Treatment," which I haven't seen yet. Each time I've seen "Pilgrim" so far, I find myself really drawn to her portrayal of Kim Pine. Like many of the cast members, she's got this entire movie going on in the background of the main movie, and that rich inner life is what really distinguishes this from much of what I've seen this year. These aren't just types used to fill out the film... they're each such interesting and hilarious people. What I really love about Pill's portrayal of Pine is how her sullen irritation with Scott is played as a joke in much of the film, but she never loses sight of the genuine pain that fuels the character, and she makes it more than just a one-note character.
Mark Webber is a guy who I've never really noticed before, and I feel like an ass saying that. He's made 30 films already, but sometimes it takes a movie like "Scott Pilgrim" and a role like Stephen "The Talent" Stills to make an actor stand out. He's great, perfectly embodying the insecurity and the arrogance that so often collide in the front men of unknown bands. He steals moment after moment that he's onscreen, and I hope this is a launching pad to much bigger things for him.
Why this mockumentary has a chance at being something special
Huck Botko and Andrew Gurland are very dangerous men. I’ve known this for quite a while, but the two new films they're part of reinforce this idea quite persuasively, as they reach out to a wider audience than they've ever had before.
Before the era of "Jackass" and "Punk'd" and Bam Margera doing whatever the f he wants to and Tom Green fellating cow udders, Botko and Gurland were making short films that are still hard to believe when you see them. Botko’s “Dessertumentary” series blew my mind, one of the most openly hostile comic exercises I’ve ever seen. Basically, he had a ton of unresolved aggression towards his family and decided to work it out on film. In the film "Fruit Cake," he bakes a fruit cake for his family, but he has an assortment of homeless people spit in the batter before he cooks it. In subsequent films like "Baked Alaska," "Cheesecake," and "Graham Cracker Cream Pie," he continues to make desserts filled with vile substances including his own semen... desserts that he ends each film by serving to his family members so he can film them while they’re eating. The short films are both hilarious and terrifying, unchecked comic hostility on display.
Right around the same time, Gurland made a feature documentary called "Frat House," a controversial feature he co-directed with Todd ("The Hangover", "Old School") Phillips. It’s ferociously entertaining, and it made quite a stir at the 1998 Sundance Festival, partly because of it’s harrowing and wickedly funny look at college fraternity hazing rituals, and partly because of accusations that the film was more fiction than fact.
Did Ryan Murphy shape a successful movie from the bestselling memoir?
It's a fascinating weekend at the box-office in terms of what is available to viewers, and whatever ends up on top, it feels to me like everyone can find something they'll enjoy if they hit a theater.
I'm on the record already about how much I love "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World," and in a perfect world, it would outgross "Avatar" by Monday. I wish I could be equally enthusiastic about "The Expendables," but the more I think about it, the more disappointed I am by the total lack of ambition of the film, which ultimately just feels like every other crappy direct-to-video Avi Lerner movie with a few more famous faces than normal.
Of the three major releases this weekend, "Eat Pray Love" is probably the least likely fit for my blog, and I've been sent letters in the past from readers outraged over what they see as my bias against "chick flicks." It's somewhat amazing to me that so many smart women will defend a genre that frequently treats them like morons beneath contempt, but I guess I understand the protectiveness. I may think a lot of what gets released in the superhero/comic book genre is junk, but when I read Jeffrey Wells with one of his stupid bitter "I hate fanboy movies" rants, I get defensive on behalf of the good films in the genre that make it worthwhile, conveniently forgetting all the crap that comes along with that. I think it's the same way with women who feel like they are under-served by Hollywood... they'll defend anything that even remotely looks like what they want, hoping they'll get some good films that justify that defense along with the 900 shitty "Kate Hudson needs a dude" movies that get released each year.
Lately, there's been a lot of talk about the Bechdel Test, a way of judging films on a quota system that sounds like a way to balance a shocking injustice at first, but which seems to me to value rigid rules over the simple expression of a point-of-view by an artist. To pass the test, there must be at least two female characters in your film with actual names, they must talk to each other at some point, and it must be about something other than a man. I certainly see the value in looking at your film through that filter, but I don't think every film has to pass that test. I just think it's key that not every film fail that test. More importantly, though, is that a film, whether it fails that test or not, treats its audience with respect and offers up something akin to actual human behavior during its running time, and that is the test that most Hollywood "romantic comedies" or "chick flicks" fail utterly.
Watch the warm-up for our big interview later this week
Edgar Wright is a madman.
I don't understand how he's still able to get out of bed these days. It seems like he's been pulling 30-hour-days on "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" for about four years straight, and yet when I saw him at the press day for the film or when we sat down for a one-hour interview you'll read here later this week, he seemed to be in his typical good spirits. Amazing.
Even more insane, we were just the start of his press duties. Right after he wrapped up in LA, Edgar hit the road with the cast for a multi-city press tour that doesn't wrap up until Austin on Thursday.
This interview is just a warm-up for the longer piece I'll run, but it gives you a wee bit of Edgar in the flesh as opposed to just words on a page. Edgar is now the first person I've ever had a transcriber tell me "never again" over, and I'm guessing it's the combination of unbridled energy and his distinctive accent, as well as several other people sending her Edgar interviews in the same week.
I'm glad we got to put some of our talk on tape, though, because I think he's the best advocate I know for his work, a guy whose enthusiasm for what he's made is evident in every conversation, and who doesn't know how to do things in half-measures. In conversation, Edgar exhibits all the same hyperactive film geek passion that he does in his movies.
It's a good Idea to listen to Stephen Hawking
Anyone who attended the San Diego Comic - Con this year could not have missed the gigantic billboard for the film "Skyline" that graced the face of the hotel overlooking the convention center. In it, what may have been a space ship hovered over a sky-blue skyline and if you got close enough to the building you could see thousands of little people-shaped silhouettes being sucked up into it.
Accompanying the billboard was a truly ingenious "How did they come up with that?" gag where hundreds of little human shapes were carved out of soap bubbles and allowed to rise up over the hotels' air conditioning exhausts in front of the sign and up into the sky.
I noticed these cool little "bubble men" as I raced from press line to press line as one does when one "works the Con" and didn't manage to catch any of the presentations for the film as Drew did.
The one thing I gathered from the sign and the bubble-guys was this: In "Skyline" people get sucked up into a spaceship against a pretty blue sky.
And we return the sentiment in a major way
Last night, I saw "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" for the third time. I know, I know... it's almost ridiculous at this point, but I can't stop. I feel like a 13-year-old "Twilight" fan. I love this movie, and in particular, I love the two ladies in the life of Scott Pilgrim.
It really doesn't matter what your taste is in either boys or girls... someone in this movie is going to ring your bell. It is an adorable cast, top to bottom, and the fact that they're all great in the fights, funny, cool, AND lovely... well, it's just too much to bear.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead has been working for a while now, but she's never really had that one breakthrough role that defined her for audiences. Ramona Flowers is by far the best part she's had, but the very nature of who Ramona is might keep this from being the breakthrough for her. Ramona is unknowable, careful to guard herself, and even at the end of the film, she remains the biggest enigma of the movie.
Ellen Wong is about to steal the hearts of boys of all ages, and for good reason. She took the occasionally psycho Knives Chau of the book and gave her so much heart and soul that she became just as worthy of Scott's love and attention as Ramona, something that wasn't necessarily the case in the books. I've seen some discussion of Knives as a stereotype, and a bit of humorless harumphing from people who feel that she offers a negative image of Asian girls. That's just silly, though. Knives is a sweet, innocent teen girl taking her first steps into defining her own identity, and Ellen nails the character, making her efforts understandable and even endearing. "I didn't even KNOW there was good music until, like, two months ago!" Oh, Knives.
They discuss playing bad and how to be spontaneous on such a precise film
Gentlemen, if you ever want to feel like a total blob of crap, the easiest way to accomplish that is by sitting across from Brandon Routh for a few moments.
Back when "Superman Returns" was about to come out, Legendary Pictures held a special screening of the film on the Warner Lot, and afterwards, guests had the chance to either pose for a photo with Routh or with Kevin Spacey. My wife didn't have to think at all about the choice, dragging me into the line for Routh. In the picture we ended up taking, my wife has a smile on her face I'm not sure I've ever seen directed at me.
And these days? Routh's at least twice as ripped as he was when he played Superman. I can only imagine what would happen if I unleashed her on him now.
Playing the Evil Exes in "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" has got to be one of the best gigs for any actor in 2010, and every single one of the cast members who played an Evil Ex appears to have had an amazing time doing so. Routh is so good in the role that it almost feels like he's rebooting his career here, and for most audiences, this will be an introduction to stage veteran Satya Bhabha.
Sitting down to talk to the two of them, we jumped right in to discuss playing "bad guys" who aren't, strictly speaking, bad, as well as how they were able to be spontaneous on the set of a film as meticulously constructed as this one.
Julie F**king Powers, Scott's kid sister, and the great Wallace Wells all at once? Bliss
Yes, it's finally "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World" week here on HitFix, and we're going to be counting down the days until the release of Edgar Wright's bigscreen adaptation of Bryan Lee O'Malley's six-part comic series with interviews with the cast and the filmmakers.
I wrote about my unconventional afternoon with Michael Cera just before I left on vacation, and in that piece, I talked about the set-up that Universal put together on two different soundstages for those of us also doing video interviews. It was an impressive effort on their part, and no matter what happens with "Scott Pilgrim" when it opens this weekend (I'm crossing my fingers and hoping for $300 million by Monday... is that too optimistic?), no one can say Universal did anything less than bust ass for this film.
The first group I sat down to speak with during the press day was made up of Anna Kendrick (Scott Pilgrim's sister Stacy), Aubrey Plaza (the acerbic Julie Powers), and Kieran Culkin (the scene-stealing Wallace Wells), and it was a nice warm-up for the day.
All three of these actors have plenty of room to shine in the film, and it was great to speak to them as a group. It's obvious that the entire cast has become close during this process, and very protective of each other. It's sweet to see them all as a group, like at the San Diego screening of the film, and to see how very, very happy they are with the final product.
Plus learn which film he feels should have won Mark Wahlberg an Oscar
They should set up a special scientific team to study Adam McKay's brain, because there is something gloriously, wildly wrong with it.
The last time I spoke to McKay was for "Anchorman," and since then, it's been interesting to watch his voice getting more and more clear with each film. It was only after seeing "The Other Guys," though, that it all snapped into focus for me, and I was finally able to articulate to him during this interview exactly what it is that I think distinguishes his work from anyone else making movies right now.
Drew McWeeny: Hey, how are you?
Adam McKay: Good, how are you?
Drew: Good. Good to see you again.
Adam: How are you, man? You have one of the great names by the way.
Drew: Oh, thank you.
Adam: McWeeny, man.
Drew: I've found that people don’t forget it.
Is it possible to be nostalgic for good ol' fashioned mayhem?
There are a few moments during its running time where "The Expendables" manages to become the movie it should be, where it feels effortlessly bloodthirsty and appropriately over-the-top. There are moments of real red-meat action-movie glory, with bodies blown in half and entire buildings vanishing in white-hot explosions and one-liners that actually land a punch.
I've enjoyed this late-career resurgence by Sylvester Stallone. Both "Rocky Balboa" and "Rambo" demonstrated a real understanding of his own iconography, and walking into "The Expendables," I hoped he was going to do the same for his whole cast, and that this would be a knowing celebration of the macho ensemble movie, a great big men-on-a-mission flick with a fat bag of mayhem to unleash on audiences conditioned by modern action films to expect special effects and shaky cams.
And, like I said, there are moments where the film almost pulls it off, but not enough of those moments, and they are unfortunately wrapped in a big limp noodle of a movie, a largely impotent mess that wastes its cast to no memorable effect. Taken as a whole, "The Expendables" is a disappointment, and a frustrating one at that.