Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) – Film Review

One of my all-time favourite films, my favourite Edgar Wright film, and a film I’d always recommend to any film fan. ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is a super stylised, incredibly-fun action-comedy, utilising some great CG effects along with brilliant editing and writing, I honestly can’t see anyone not enjoying this well-crafted piece of filmmaking.

Plot Summary: ‘Scott Pilgrim’ is an unemployed twenty-three-year-old gamer in a going-nowhere garage rock band, while dating an underage seventeen-year-old high school girl: ‘Knives Chau.’ He comes across the girl of his dreams… that is until he discovers that he must defeat her seven evil exes in order to win her heart…

This over-the-top concept for a narrative is taken from the comic book series of the same name, and provides an insanely fun, hilarious and surprisingly emotional story. Edgar Wright truly directs the film with all his creativity and charm, using the ‘comic book nature’ of the story to its full advantage, with every scene usually containing many visual jokes or comic book like effects, mostly inspired by ‘Scott’s internal love for video games, music and comic books.

Speaking of: ‘Scott Pilgrim,’ he is portrayed expertly here by Michael Cera. Always coming off as awkward, funny and charismatic from beginning to end. The rest of the cast are also fantastic however, with Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kieran Kyle Culkin, Ellen Wong and Jason Schwartzman all being great within their roles. Truly giving life to their characters, and bringing Edgar Wright’s dialogue to another level. I also personally enjoyed Chris Evans as ‘Lucas Lee’ (the second evil ex), as he always manages to get an enormous laugh out of me every watch, but this isn’t to say all of the evil exes aren’t given their own distinct personalities and fighting styles.

The cinematography by Bill Pope is very well done throughout the film’s run-time and really backs up the already effective editing. Once again similar to the CG effects, the cinematography and editing are also used for comedy many times throughout the film. Many techniques like these really help the film feel fresh and really fit with the tone. The film also has the usual bright colour palette to be expected from this director, this also backs up the tone very well and feels reminiscent of the comic book series in a few shots.

Although the original score by Nigel Godrich is heavily overshadowed by a great choice of songs, very similar to Edgar Wright’s other film: ‘Baby Driver.’ Every piece of music whether created by the band within the story or not, always seems to fit the scene very well and backs-up ‘Scott’s passion for music.

The action scenes are also extremely well-done throughout the film, utilising stunts very well mixed-in with some nice effects. All alongside the interesting locations used throughout the film. The film also does a great job of combining music with the visuals throughout, both within and out of the various action scenes during the runtime.

If I had to give any criticism of this film it would most likely be the reincorporation throughout the story, as some characters/ideas do sometimes appear and then never appear again within the story, can make the film feel a little jolted at times. This along with the pretty quick pacing, the film can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. However, as the story is based on multiple different comic book issues with a similar story structure, I wouldn’t say it’s an enormous problem and can be overlooked.

‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ is the pinnacle of a stylised film in my opinion, making great use of all elements of filmmaking to create a truly incredible experience. Along with the enjoyable story and likeable developed characters, there really isn’t much to dislike about ‘Scott Pilgrim.’ Personally, I adore this film to pieces and would always recommend giving it a watch. Final Rating: 9/10.

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The Shape of Water (2017) – Film Review

Without question one of my favourite films from director Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak), this strange story of a woman falling in love with an other-worldly fish creature really pushes the limits on both attractive visuals and storytelling. Combing outstanding some cinematography and great make-up effects alongside some memorable performances by Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones, with Michael Shannon also stepping-in as the menacing antagonist. For one truly incredible cinematic experience.

Plot Summary: Inside a hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely ‘Elisa’ is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. But ‘Elisa’s life is soon changed forever when she and her co-worker: ‘Zelda’ discover a secret classified experiment lurking behind large closed-doors…

This completely bazaar plot is no doubt an instant turn-off for some viewers, but I personally feel director Guillermo del Toro truly brings all his charm and passion to this project. As the film is an absolute pleasure to watch from beginning-to-end, which is even more impressive considering both of the film’s protagonists: ‘Elisa’ and ‘The Amphibian Man,’ are completely mute for the entirety of the runtime. In fact, one of Octavia Spencer’s favourite things about the screenplay was the fact that, by letting the main couple be mute, most of the dialogue comes from a black woman and a closeted gay man. Who would have both experienced real-world oppression during the 1960s setting of the film.

Despite actor Doug Jones being in heavy make-up prosthetics to portray ‘The Amphibian Man’ for all his screen-time, he actually is able to invoke a variety of emotions, and shares plenty of chemistry with his co-star Sally Hawkins as ‘Elisa,’ with the supporting cast of Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer and Lauren Lee Smith also being surprisingly excellent given their character’s limited time on-screen.

Alongside the phenomenal cinematography by Dan Laustsen, which contains an enormous amount of beautiful shots throughout the narrative (with the dark blue colour palette also helping to add to the film’s visuals). In addition to this, the wonderful original score by Alexandre Desplat also adds another outstanding soundtrack to his already overflowing catalogue. As this beautiful (yet unusual) romantic score with an almost French-like feel, is very impactful in many moments throughout the film. Particularly with the opening scene however, as the opening shot glides slowly through a flooded room set to the my personal favourite track of the film: ‘The Shape of Water,’ preparing the viewer for the strange story that lies ahead.

As well as the marvellous cast, the writing throughout the film is also fantastic, as del Toro writes the script almost like poetry at points. Forming a romantic bond between the two main protagonists as the film progresses, alongside this the film has plenty of subtle commentary on the time-period, backing-up the film’s overall theme of the things that make us different, whether that be because we are deaf, blind, or possibly even some kind of weird fish-creature, which I personally found very compelling.

One of my personal favourite elements of the film is definitely the make-up and prosthetics, as every second of screen-time we get with ‘The Amphibian Man’ the make-up effects look completely flawless, with many aspects of the strange and original design being inspired by real animals. Which is nothing new to this director however, as del Toro has always been known for creating incredible creatures of dark fantasy, such as in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ and the ‘Hellboy’ series. Although used less than what many may initially think, the CGI throughout the film is also used very effectivity, amplifying many of the effects around the creature rather than distracting from them. On my initial watch, I also couldn’t help but think that this is definitely a Guillermo del Toro film through and through, as with another director at the helm, I could definitely see this film not working, but del Toro truly brings his ‘A’ game here.

In conclusion, I honestly believe ‘The Shape of Water’ may be one of my all-time favourite films, and definitely one of favourite films of 2017. As the relationship between the two protagonists and the journey they go on is memorising from start-to-finish. Backed-up by some amazing cinematography, a great original score as well as the make-up and CG effects, whilst perhaps not a film for everyone, it is an extremely well-made film regardless. Final Rating: 9/10.

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Corpse Bride (2005) – Film Review

Tim Burton’s twisted story of a man accidentally marrying a deceased bride could certainly be seen as too dark for an animated family adventure by some, but the film actually blends many of its dark scenes with plenty of heart and humour throughout. Making this stop-motion flick not quite one of the director’s best, but definitely a must-watch for fans of the unique director.

Plot Summary: When a shy groom (Victor Van Dort) practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from her grave assuming he has married her. Before he knows it, ‘Victor’ soon finds himself in the land of the dead, and now must find a way to return to the land of the living before he loses his still-living wife forever.

Alongside the entertaining narrative, throughout the film there are various different musical sequences, which were surprisingly entertaining considering I’m usually not a huge fan of musical numbers in film. But I actually found many of the songs throughout the film actually added to the plot and gave the film another creative element which worked really well when combined with the brilliant original score by Danny Elfman.

Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter portray: ‘Victor’ and his accidental ‘Corpse Bride,’ alongside the supporting cast of Emily Watson and Paul Whitehouse. Who are all pretty great, with the two leads in particular having pretty some great chemistry with each other, which really added to some of the romantic scenes throughout runtime (especially when it comes to an animated film). The cast also features Richard E. Grant, who portrays the villous: ‘Barkis Bittern’ perfectly, coming off as very sly, rude and intelligent from start-to-finish.

The cinematography by Pete Kozachik is pretty effective considering his previous work is usually far from the realm of stop-motion animation, as although there is definitely room for improvement, the cinematography is interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged throughout the film’s story.

Without a doubt, the original score by Danny Elfman is definitely one of the best elements of the film, as well as being one of my favourites for a Tim Burton flick. As while not quite on the level of the original: ‘Batman’ or ‘Edward Scissorhands’ for example, the entire soundtrack still perfectly captures the creepy tone of the film, as well as many of it’s more emotional moments, all adding to both an extremely memorable and beautiful score. Especially the tracks: ‘Main Titles’ and ‘End Credits Pt. 1,’ which are my two personal favourites.

The stop-motion animation throughout the film is simply outstanding, as each character’s unique design influences their movements, with many of the characters having very interesting and over-the-top designs which perfectly fit within the world of a Tim Burton story. The film also has an unexpectedly ranged colour palette, as in addition to the usual dark Burton-esque colours. The film surprisingly also uses a large range of bright greens, purples and reds in a few scenes, which all really help the film stand-out, and give a little more light to many of the miniature sets and various characters.

To conclude, while I didn’t expect to enjoy ‘Corpse Bride’ as much as I did, the film’s fantastic stop-motion animation, great humour and emotional scenes all topped with the unique Tim Burton style, I’d say the film is a pretty solid watch aside from the occasional cheesy joke or scene. Final Rating: 8/10.

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