Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Week Off to Celebrate - HAPPY BIRTHDAY SON!

All summer, I have consistently been Johnny on the Spot with at least a review a week.  Well this week I took off to celebrate.  My son, JACKSON, turned ONE this past week, and we had the occassion to PARTY with friends and family today (Saturday).

This has been a rough week.  Jackson was sick and Tracie and I toggled time off to stay with the boy.  He also had his 1-year wellness exam, which included three shots, which he did not enjoy all too much.  I have been jammed at work with 12-14 hour days every day this week, and come this morning, we were not prepared to party.

The lawn was not pretty, the house was a mess...for most of the morning there was a Jack Bauer clock ticking in the bottom left corner of where ever I was walking.  In a series of perfectly sequenced events, it came together.  Much in thanks to my darling wife, who had asked me all week, how was I going to handle the lawn.  Well I secured a mower on Friday and I bought a weed whacker on Sat morning.  She whipped the house into shape, with a little help from a friend, and with miracle like proportions, the house was readied and decorated. 

Again, angels were sent to help, as two of Tracie's friends, Amy and Ann, showed up early and took on the role of caterer.  The little guy is worth every moment of it and Tracie and I are both so grateful to him for a great first year of life.

Happy Birthday Jackson...Daddy Loves You!

They say the internet is forever...I hope that it is so that the Reel Rhino Jr. will always be able to learn from papa and one day take up the mantle.  Love ya, son!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Second Look at SCOTT PILGRIM and His World

I have made no bones about the fact that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is one of my favorite flicks of the year to date.  I am envious of Edgar Wright, for I truly believe that he has crafted a pop culture masterpiece.  Sadly, I think his film is reaching far too small of an audience.

I made my second trip to see this "epic of epic epicness" today and I must say, it was worth it.  You can read about my first trip here at Reel Rhino vs. Scott Pilgrim

There are nuances that I missed out on my first go around that I caught this time, but perhaps most importantly, this viewing in digital, which I recommend for anyone checking out the flick.

Without letting this film fade into the distance, and much like I did for my other favorite this year, INCEPTION, I wanted to point out some great supporting roles and talk just one more time about the movie.

This movie is a relationship comedy adventure and Edgar Wright delivers on all three accounts.  I wouldn't call this a romantic anything, but instead I have chosen to use the term relationship movie.  I recalled from my first viewing that I didn't think the early set-up and attraction between Ramona and Scott was covered sufficiently for me to believe their romance. 

(BRIEF MOMENT FOR A SUMMARY: Ramona Flowers is the love interest of Scott Pilgrim, who breaks things off with his high school girlfriend (he is 22) in order to pursue Ramona.  Ramona's ex-boyfriend, Gideon, forms a LEAGUE OF EVIL EXES to combat Scott and keep he and Ramona from dating.  Scott's HS GF is Knives Chau and she is exceedingly sweet and you can't help but feel for her in her heartbroken state.  Whew....)

So, back to why I now believe in the Ramona - Scott deal. Basically, Ramona goes quickly from indifference towards Scott to bedding him over the course of one date in one evening.  This seems odd, because this very date, she says, has gone quite badly.  I thought this was the one flaw in the film until I pondered the issue.  Now, I usually save my pondering for more critical issues like world peace, the middle east, and the how to maximize my yearly tax write-offs; but for a movie this good, it seemed worth it. 

Here's what I came up with: the on-a-whim dating, the flip-flopping sexuality, the revenge seeking evil exes, and all of the joy and pain that accompanies it all -- this movie captures perfectly the essence of being a college-aged/twenty-something and trying to navigate the world of romance.  Certainly with to-the-death battles at hand, it can be argued that these are extreme circumstances hyperbolized for our entertainment and yes, Virginia, they do entertain.

On this logic, I forgive my initial thoughts that the relationship was poorly developed.  It may not be 100% believable, but this is a movie that wholly exists in a make-believe world.  For those that argue that Michael Cera could never land Mary Elizabeth fools know that love is blind....Hey, at least half the world dates upwards while the other half claims: LOVE IS BLIND!

Liking this movie 100% depends on whether or not you like Michael Cera.  He is Scott Pilgrim and the things that he does are so fantastical, that if you do not like him, it will likely annoy rather than entertain you.  His fighting persona is more along the lines of NEO from THE MATRIX than the scrawny guy that he is.  That is not a shot at him but rather an observation.  I am a Michael Cera fan and while I thought he was great as Evan in Superbad among many roles, BUT...if this movie didn't exist, I can't think of a scenario in this world where I would have debated his kung-fu ability or his potential value as a sword-fighter.

Enjoying this movie is about having an OPEN MIND.  This movie is hip to the level of being self-aware and almost congratulatory, but the film deserves it.  Many love the masterpiece that is INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, but we don't hold Quentin Tarantino in a bad light for self-declaring it a masterpiece.  Remember the scene where Aldo Raine actually says "I think this just might be my masterpiece."  This is Q's self-declaration of perfection and I think that Wright too realizes that he is toying with perfection as a product of EVERYONE who worked on Scott Pilgrim.  This movie is self-congratulatory enough and it is deservedly so.

My favorite FIVE supporting performances in this masterpiece were these:

KIM PINE played by ALLISON PILL. I think it is her sarcastic and fiery attitude that makes her so attractive as a character.  She is an ex-girlfriend to Scott from their high-school days, and she has the spitfire attitude to get past it, but also to support Scott, albeit using sardonic comments or witty remarks about NOT giving a care one about him. 

MATTHEW PATEL played by SATYA BHABHA.  The song that accompanies Mr. Pilgrim's bewildered battle against this mystically powered evil-ex of apparent Indian decent is classic.  A great musical number that is as much funny as it is a legitimate tribute to the Bollywood song and dance in their films...Edgar Wright nails this!  Bhabha plays this scene brilliantly and this is really the sequence that catapults the plot forward as up until this point, there has only been foreshadowing of battles to come.

JULIE POWERS played by AUBREY PLAZA.  Julie shows up throughout the film and at one point Scott even asks: "Is there anywhere you don't work?"  She is funny and biting in her delivery and she plays the pissy emo friend like no other (that was a compliment, btw).  She doesn't have a lengthy filmography but she has been effective in her previous roles including PARKS AND RECREATION and MYSTERY TEAM.  I hope that her career will continue skyward because of her ability to deliver absolute deadpan insults that do have hints of care in them that make you THINK you should hate her all the while becoming more ENDEARED.

TODD INGRAM payed by BRANDON ROUTH.  I have decided that other than Ramona's fight scenes, that the TODD v. SCOTT battle is my favorite sequence of this film.  Brandon Routh is a hard actor to read. Routh had the physicality to play SUPERMAN, but many argued that he was too emotionless in the role.  I am a SUPERMAN RETURNS apologist and I really enjoyed Routh's turn as the MAN OF STEEL.  I also enjoyed his run on CHUCK and while I think that he does have a relatively monotone delivery in many of his roles, it is usually because he is playing characters that for various reasons are aloof.  I especially liked Routh in FLING which was also known as LIE TO ME, a dramatic romantic comedy of a movie that I am sure I was drawn to in some part because it was shot in and set in Kansas City.  Throw in the ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO cameo and I am in full on love with this guy, and no, not the same way that BRANDON ST. RANDY did!  Many seem not to like his style, but color me a fan, as I very much have enjoyed his films, and his turn as TODD INGRAM was classic.  It was fueled in part by the great lead-in song and comic panel editing and the fact that basically the entire cast was present and played off each other perfectly as the tension built up to the fight.  And the ending to this fight with the cameos and high concept comedy tied to the cameos...well it was classic!

Finally, I give you KNIVES CHAU played to perfection by ELLEN WONG.  WORRY NOT to those of you who were worried you were drooling over this 17 year old...girlfriend to Scott Pilgrim as our film opens....Ms. Wong is actually 25.  As Scott describes his jailbait in the movie...."I am dating a 17 year old Chinese schoolgirl....and its a catholic school....with the uniforms and everything."  This role is catering to the anime/manga stereotypes that are pervasive in our culture.  Her role, though, is written with such care and attention to her heartbreak that you cannot help but empathize.  Who among us has not been heartbroken at some point.  KNIVES delivers her lines with pitch perfect pining that you want to do anything to help this forlorn schoolgirl get back her crush.  And as we see, she turns out to be one with whom not to mess.  Go get 'em, KNIVES!!

 I guess if I had to choose a sixth favorite supporting member of this flick, it would be the music.  I bought the soundtrack as I was enraptured by this grungy sounding punk-pop.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that Beck recorded the studio versions of the Sex Bob Omb portions of the album and that most of the songs exist in their movie version and their studio version.  A great tune is Metric's Black Sheep which was sung in the flick by character Envy Adams (Scott's own Evil-Ex) with bassist Todd Ingram (Routh) and this song marked the start of the great VEGAN caper.  The 8-bit version of THRESHOLD, one of the main tunes running through the film, is a pretty wicked version and it sounds as though it was pulled from some great 1980's version of a NINTENDO classic.
(P.S. ~ Right before I posted this, I decided also that Kieran Culkin's turn as Wallace, Scott's gay roommate, was also awesome.  Then again, there is very little in this film that I do not think is awesome. So I guess that makes seven supporting performances I couldn't live without.)

I loved this movie.  I loved it so much I thought I would pour some more work by my fat little fingers into pounding out REEL RHINO LOVE. 

I said it before, and I'll say it again here: 5 OUT OF 5 HORNS from Reel Rhino.

SEE THIS MOVIE...don't regret in a year, when you do see it, that you missed the chance to see it in full digital glory on the big screen.

Till next time...RR

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Reel Rhino Review: PIRANHA 3-D aka Snakes in a Lake

Yes, I am laughing at my witty title...if we can't laugh at our own jokes, I guess we can't expect anyone else to laugh at them, so I am off to a good start!

Yes, this is SNAKES ON A PLANE for 2010 and I loved the fun time Samuel L gave us on that infamous flight from Hawaii to LA back in 2006.  I also loved the pseudo-Spring Break I spent today at Lake Victoria.

Piranha 3-D is the latest offering into the horror/comedy genre that I love so very much.  I will never forget the first time I saw THE EVIL DEAD and my favorite follow-up, BRUCE CAMPBELL VS THE ARMY OF DARKNESS and also Peter Jackson's DEAD ALIVE!  

I am not nearly as big of a fan of the torture porn that has found a niche today.  There is a strong distinction between the MAN v. Beast/Zombie/Slasher/Serial Killer fun in more traditional horror fare and the MAN v. (bound) MAN scenarios that we get in Hostel and others like it.  I will say, though, that I do love ELI ROTH'S CABIN FEVER.  Great movie!  Cabin Fever 2, I heard not so much, but I will be checking it out soon.  

SAW was a great first entry into that series, but the follow-ups got less creative and more commercial in terms of jamming out a yearly title.  I do have high hopes for Saw 7 aka Saw 3-D.  "They" say it is going to be a much better effort than 2 through 6, but we shall see.  At the very least, "they" also say it will definitely be the last.  I'll be writing more on SAW in a few weeks,

On to Piranha 3-D...what a great time at the theater!  The piranha themselves were decent on-screen villains, but their "digitality" was screaming each time they showed up.  Of course they looked like digital creations, because they were, but were they used too much?  It is a little debated fact that one of the things that made JAWS so iconic was that it was a shark movie that barely showed the shark.  I promise, less fish on-screen with the level of gore we had here, and no one would have been disappointed.

Piranha's practical effects are some of the best of recent years and the volume of blood in this movie rivals the Crazy 88's fight scene in Kill Bill Vol. 1.  I believe I heard at some point that there was LITERALLY a tanker truck of blood brought onto the set.

The practical effects blew the digital effects out of the water and the digital-heavy sequences were actually near distracting.  I saw this on the hallowed (sarcasm implied) AMC ETX system.  I am not yet sold on this and I continue to prefer the IMAX set-up by a landslide.  

Piranha 3-D was directed by Alexandre Aja, the budding auteur behind Mirrors (blech!), The Hills Have Eyes Remake (better), and High Tension (BEST! ~ 2003 French Horror ~ it is excellent!).  Unfortunately, in my book, his quality level has decreased over time, that is at least until this entry into his resume.  Aja does Piranha justice here and for all of his filmography, it can definitely be said that he is one helluva creative filmmaker.

Looking back through time, the original Piranha from 1978 was directed by Joe Dante and 1981's Piranha Two: The Spawning was in part directed by James Cameron.  Perhaps this speaks to the career potential of Aja and I tell you, I hope that it does.

The cast of Piranha 3-D is high quality for genre filmmaking.  Start off with a not-so-secret cameo by Richard Dreyfuss, lampooning his Matt Hooper character from JAWS.  This was a great start to a fun movie.  Tag-on the short but sweet presence of Doc Brown, CHRISTOPHER LLOYD and that trailer-quotable line: "Piranha hunt in packs. The first bite draws blood. The blood draws the pack." 

Elisabeth Shue plays Sheriff Forester and her son Jake is played by Steven R. McQueen.  Jake is about as close as we get to a protagonist, which is odd because his 17 yo high school character is in the midst of one of the biggest romps of full body nudity and R-rated gore since the infamous naked scene in My Bloody Valentine 3-D.  We mostly follow Jake through these remotely intertwined segments and he and his mom come of as our Mother/Son hero pair.

The cast is rounded out Ving Rhames, Jessica Szohr, Dina Meyer, Kelly Brook, and a wonderfully sleazy Jerry O'Connell in a parodied role essentially the embodiment of Joe Francis, creator of Girls Gone Wild.

While they were all great, my favorite was Adam Scott, recently of Party Down and Parks and Recreation fame as well as the straight-guy brother character in Step Brothers (who could ever forget that hug at the end with Farrell and Scott awkwardly embracing one another buddy-man-love style. 

Adam Scott strikes me as a guy who could really turn the corner from funny-man to honest-to-goodness action star.  He's a good looking guy who took his few action sequences here and did a great job!  I can see him stepping into Indiana Jones or National Treasure-esque hero that is the semi-nerdy reluctant hero type.  For now, Parks and Rec will be where we get our Adam Scott-fix.

The story here is simple.  Sheriff Forester is preparing for the first day of the big Spring Break weekend at Lake Victoria, which is Lake Havasu in disguise.  Hijinx definitely ensure and parts of this play more like soft-core porn with full-frontal covered in detail from the gals and in one memorable scene, from one guy as well!

Her prime deputy, Fallon, is played by Rhames and he has several memorable scenes, including one of the most comedic one-liners delivered in the flick, spoken by someone else in response to something he does.

Again, the story.  The story is simple.  SPRING BREAK meets GIRLS GONE WILD meets JAWS.  An earthquake rips a crevice open in the surface of the lake.  And of course there was a prehistoric predatory beast lurking in a huge underwater lake that is now connected to Lake Victoria.  All of those spry young party-goers are in for quite a shock.

The set-up is simple, the execution is excellent.  There are a bevy of build-up kills that tempt the pallet, but once this thing kicks off for real, all rules are out the window and let the blood flow like wine!

The plot unfolds primarily at two, at the Lake Victoria harbor where the party is really hitting full-stride...and two, the "Wild Wild Girls" boat which is out and about around the lake.  The outing is led by O'Connell and his local-guy guide Jake, who reluctantly jumped in to try to impress Kelly, his "she's not my girlfriend" girlfriend.  He had told his mom that he would babysit his little brother and sister.  Of course, the youngin's get into their own hot water and all of their paths cross at points later in this bloody adventure.

Story is not what matters here.  The blood and gore are everything that this movie is all about.  Done effectively and efficiently, there are some scenes that have earned themselves places in the HORROR HALL OF FAME.

I loved watching this movie, but I only liked the movie itself.  I loved the practical effects and not-so-much the digital ones.  The tale that spun it all together was weak, but really, does it matter with a movie like this?  A solid 3.5 horns out of 5 and life is good with this homage to campy horror!

There is definitely room for a sequel, but the big question is, should there be one?  One of the biggest mistakes played out by great camp is that the concept is taken two far.  Minus the potential for TROLL 2: PART 2, most campy horror should be left alone after a successful first go.  Cases in point, Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, the original Piranha, etc... 

A side note about the 3-D.  I saw this in Real-D and I was impressed some of the time.  Other times, the effect made much of the broad sweeping shots look like unimpressive poorly shot matte paintings.  Perhaps they were, but giving depth-of-field can drop background focus and it happens here to almost a fault.

The movie is short at 89 minutes.  This is a super smart move for a flick like this.  Many movies that aspired to be more would have benefited from a little slice and dice in the editing room.  Leave the 2-hour plus efforts to the Christopher Nolan's of the world.  Also, this film earned every bit of its R-rating.  This was how horror exploitation was intended to be. 

I wouldn't have done anything differently and Aja can hold his head high.

Up against The Switch and Nanny McPhee, it actually looks like The Expendables will take the weekend.  Piranha came in 5th for Friday, but it is only playing 3-D and it is a hard R, both points that will hurts its overall weekend.  Vampires Suck and Lottery Ticket, the other two newbies this week, actually rocked second and third.  God help us if VAMPIRES SUCK grabs a top-five spot.  It is the type of movie that doesn't even rise to the level of badly made TV-movies. 

Piranha 3-D = 3.5 horns for the flick, but an honorary 5 horns for a great time at the theater.  A good time (or sad time, or scary time, etc.) is really all you can hope for any time you make the trip to the cinema.  A good time was had and the Reel Rhino can rest happy.

Till later, take care...RR

PS...I often love the evolution of a movie poster.  JAWS was the innovator, Piranha (1978) parodied the oh so recognizable JAWS spot, and again in PIRANHA 3-D, we again see the tribute.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

THE EXPENDABLES (OR how I fell back in love with Slyvester Stallone)

WOW! That was really something.  In a week of superlatives, THE EXPENDABLES delivers on every promise and every expectation.  This movie left me feeling like I was 13 seeing Tango & Cash, Red Heat, Cobra, Commando, Die Hard, etc. for the first time.

The crux of this review is this: GO SEE THIS MOVIE.

The premise, as if it even matters, is this: The Expendables opens with a team of six mercenary soldiers, out on a mission.  The opening roster of expendables includes Sly Stallone as Barney Ross, Jason Statham as Lee Christmas, Jet Li as Ying Yang, Dolph Lundgren as Gunner Jensen, Randy Couture as Toll Road, and Terry Crews as Hale Ceasar.

Toll Road...Ying Yang...I even love the nicknames!! 

This band of brothers is introduced to us in the midst of a mission and they are a mean bunch of mo-fos.  When they are back in the states, we get a few bits and pieces of character development, only to be back within a few minutes, on task and setting up the next job.

This is the MAJOR SPOILED SCENE from the trailer.  I don't even want to repeat it here, but two MAJOR STARS are in the meet scene when the next job for our heroes is being laid out.  What a stupendous BONEHEAD move by the marketing department.  If you have seen the trailer, you probably know what I mean.  At least they didn't spoil the big gag of the scene....the joke in that scene almost made me forgive the original reveal.

Sly is our guy for this big gig down in South America where a former CIA agent is running the drug market through a dictator General, played by David Zayas (my guy Batista from DEXTER as well).  His heavy is a guy named, Paine, rocked out by STONE COLD STEVE AUSTIN.  The former CIA slime-ball is James Munroe, played by ERIC ROBERTS. 

For those of you who don't know, Eric is the elder brother to JULIA ROBERTS and father to the young and lovely EMMA ROBERTS.  To that end, this is looking like a sibling rivalry death match this week, with The Expendables opening opposite of EAT, PRAY, LOVE.

I will not be seeing Eat, Pray, Love.  It is not because I am adverse to chick flicks, but instead because I am just not a huge Julia Roberts fan.  With wife and child and my ability to attend a limited number of flicks a year, I will hold out on Eat, Pray, Love for the home video option.

(Also...sidenote...check out Eric Roberts in The Best of the Best's a classic movie!)

The inside-man helping out our Expendables is actually an inside-woman.  It is Sandra, played by Giselle Itie, and she is the General's daughter.  He has loyalty to family and he lets her continue to live and be the monkey wrench in his operation, even though it costs him so much.  Munroe and Paine are not too happy about this and we end up with a three way conflict between the CIA heavies, the General and his army, and our heroes...THE EXPENDABLES.

There were a few moments at the beginning I thought there was going to be too much talkie and not enough rockie...I was wrong.  Yes, there were a few talkity moments, but really these did in fact help with character development.  What would a movie be without a little backstory?  Not much of a movie at all!

There are two main highlights that set this movie apart from other similar flicks, and neither have to do with the exceptional cast.

1. THE FIGHT SCENES: the fight scenes are well choreographed and play on the strength of whoever might be fighting at that moment.  Stone Cold and Randy Couture both rock the body.  Up close and personal and wrestling/MMA style moves abound and the battle between these two in particular was very anticipated.  My favorite, though, was Jet Li.  It is a true thing of beauty to see him fight.  Tight choreography makes these fights smooth like a ballet and these guys are Swan Laking their asses off!  Perhaps the best thing about these fights is that they are easy to follow and enjoy.  In The A-Team, the fights would have been great, except the close-confine combat was filmed in tight, close-up perspective.  The A-Team gave us unintelligible battles, which had potential and were just okay to watch, but were ultimately a let down.  The Expendables was shot masterfully.  From the hand-to-hand to the gun play, each scene was shot in a very watchable manner, with appropriate use of the extreme close-up as opposed to reliance on it.  The difference shows on the screen.

2. THE WEAPONS: some of the weapons used felt a bit unreal, but they were "realistically unrealistic".  Big guns lead to big kills and they are glorious.  My favorites in the flick are Gunner's at the opening battle and  then Hale's in the epic end fight.  They are the kind of weapons that make a action-movie aficionado  drool...they are characters in their own right and each appearance drew both laugh at the ridiculousness and magnanimity of it all.

This movie is a 50/50 flick.  The first 50% is set-up.  A few action sets with a bunch of character and plot development.   Their stories are funny and touching.  Mickey Rourke plays TOOL, their tattoo guy and former member of the team that Barney and he were a part of.  Rourke's monologue is both moving in content and delivered to perfection. 

Tool is our link to the realistic world.  When they are stateside, minus a few fights that follow these action-magnets around, the U.S. based part of this story is all about facts we need to be more invested in the story.  But, once we hit that foreign soil, let the imaginative fight scenes begin!

Like the weapons, the sea-plane used by the team is a character of its own.  Redecorated to keep the auspices of a legitimate reason for being there.  This plane is bad ass and is equipped with a nose tip high speed machine gun, of what looks like high-powered .50 caliber.

I can't emphasize enough how visceral and graphic these action scenes are.  I actually would say that I would like to have seen this in AMC's new ETX system.  They are hyping it as the next best thing for audiophiles.  I reviewed it a few posts ago, and while I didn't enjoy the movie, I have held my jury out on ETX and maybe this would have been a great test of that supposed stellar sound system?

Ah, this is strictly academic as AMC Barrywoods is only showing The Other Guys at the ETX, so maybe I can get an idea for its functionality at something I like, sometime in the near future.

My rating, 5 of 5 HORNS from the REEL RHINO.  This is was a perfectly executed entry into the action fare.  Sly still has it in a big way.  He impressed us recently directing the better-than-expected Rambo and looking back through history, remember, he is an Oscar nominated writer (ROCKY).  He has given us some bombs through the years, but I think he has learned from the past and we have a Eastwood-esque "getting a little up in the years" run that is happening.  Keep it up Sly.

I think that is all for now.  My dreams of Scott Pilgrim have been fulfilled.  The Expendables have upped this to one of my favorite movie weekends of all time .  Even if I did like Julia Roberts, I think I would avoid Eat, Pray, Love anyways, just to keep the weekend perfect.

Up next for me may be The Girl Who Played With Fire, depending on how the week goes.  Whatever it is, you know I'll be Johnny-on-the-Spot with the review so you can make well-informed movie choices. 

The critics are geniuses of all things, I'm just a guy who loves movies.  Who are you going to trust?  I'm an everyman movie-goer and I am self-admittedly easily entertained.  If you like what I have to say, great.  If not, let me know.  Perhaps the only thing nearly as enjoyable as going to the movies, is writing and talking about them.

Till later, take care...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Scott Pilgrim vs. The Reel Rhino

...Scott Pilgrim wins...1000 points and an extra life!

The Scott Pilgrim vs. The World trailer has been parked at the bottom of the blog for the past month or so.  I have made no bones about the fact that I have been looking forward to this film for some time now.

I was not disappointed.

The Reel Rhino has been accused of being slightly too critical of late.  I apologize for nothing...but, I do respect everyone's right to their own opinions about movies.  I found DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS, THE OTHER GUYS, and SALT to be only slightly entertaining and I thought they were much more disappointing than anything, based mostly on the super-hype surrounding these star-studded flicks.

The drought is over (THANK GOD!). 

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a work of art.  It touches on a run of pop culture ranging from the Nintendo-era video games, to Seinfeld, to punk/dance/techno driven alternative flavor music of today's youth and the musically hip.  Combine this with some of the most fun and inventive fight scenes I have seen in quite some time and you have something that can be described, but not with the justice a viewing of this movie will do for understanding the epic epicness of this epic.

Watching this movie was like watching the Matrix if it were set in the world of Super Mario Brothers with dialogue on par with the wittiest moments of Juno and by scored by The White Stripes.  If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, let me say it has me drooling like an idiot.

Director Edgar Wright is best known to American audiences for Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, both British films that are parodies of the zombie-flick and buddy-cop genres, respectively.  Also out there on the fringe of mainstream cinema was Wright's mock-trailer DON'T at the intermission of the Tarantino/Rodriguez GRINDHOUSE double feature.  A cult fav of Wright fans and recommended watching for any newcomers is his series SPACED, which first paired him with the British comedy duo of Nick Frost and Simon Pegg.
SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD is a showcase of young talent and when combined with a director with Wright's finger on the pulse of pop-culture, the results are genius.  With only a single noticeable bit of product placement for Coke Zero, one could argue that the scenarios are somewhat of a self-aware parody of our CONSUMPTION with the pop world, at the same time as being a very solid entry into the world of pop culture in the films own right.

As a genre, I would call Scott Pilgrim a romance-action-comedy, with emphasis on the comedy complimented beautifully by poetic action set pieces.

This is really a movie better seen than described, but in a nutshell...

Our lovable man-boy hero Scott Pilgrim is played by lovable man-boy actor, Michael Cera.  He opens the film as a member of the three-piece band, Sex Bob Omb.  Speaking of, one of my favorite characters was the fiery red-haired drummer Kim Pine, played masterfully by Allison Pill, who was also genius in Gus Van Sant's MILK.  The band is prepping for an upcoming battle of the bands competition and Scott is slightly distracted by his new high school girlfriend, Knives Chau.  Knives is a presented as an underage, Chinese, Catholic-schoolgirl, and by the accounts of all of Pilgrim's friends, including his gay roommate Wallace (Kieran Culkin) and sister Stacey (Anna Kendrick), Scott is treading into very dangerous and questionable waters. 

Smash cut to a party filled with only the coolest of cool folks in town.  Scott, meet Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead aka Lucy McLane in Live Free or Die Hard).  Ramona, meet Scott.  Scott kicks his lame pick-up game to a fail and then falsely promises to disappear and never to see Ramona again.  Scott, through an purchase (she's a delivery girl), manages to get Ramona to his house and talk her into a date.

The two share an awkward first date and one thing leads to another and Ramona decides to come see Scott and Sex Bob Omb play in the battle of the bands.  It is at this battle that the real battle begins.  Scott meets his first opponent from Ramona's LEAGUE OF EVIL EX'S.  His task, if he wishes to date Ramona, is to defeat all seven of her EVIL EX'S.  The first of his opponents is MATTHEW PATEL, played by Satya Bhabha in only his third acting role, per IMDB.  This first battle is both exhilarating in its presentation and hilarious in its execution.

From here, things really take off!  The full roster of the League of Evil Ex's includes PATEL as well as 
These battles are epic and throw in some year-old heartache thanks to the reappearance of Scott's EX, ENVY, and the pining of the recently dumped KNIVES, and you've got yourself quite an adventure.

Perhaps what is so remarkable is the conversion of Michael Cera into something resembling JET LI in terms of action film fighting ability.  It is unrealistic, but it is this hyper-realism that brings us some of the most entertaining moments.

I loved this movie.  I think it is worth a trip to the theater.  My only regret is that I saw it projected from a film copy and not digital.  I think this film will shine on a digital screen and my next trip to see it will be at a digital theater, I promise you that.

The 400 person auditorium was about 1/4 full and my audience was very responsive in both laughs and back-slapping chatter as folks left the theater, so I think the general reaction was good.  Perhaps not everyone was as giddy like a schoolboy like me, but it is a fun, fun movie to watch. 

This is a PG-13 movie and the curses are few and far between and there is little sex or drugs (but lots of rock n roll!), with only some references to gay relationships that are played for laughs (and not in a bad way, just in a comedic one).  Actually, some of the worst curses are "censored" in a running sight gag with Aubrey Plaza, a brilliant actress who is Julia Powers here and who can also be found on Parks and Recreation, playing April, Ron's agitated assistant.  She brings the same passion to this project and every word out of her mouth brings a smile to my face.

I loved every song in this movie and I will definitely be picking up the soundtrack.  Some of the tunes are a bit more edgy in sound, but intermixed with the 1980's techno-video game feel, it plays pitch perfect to me.

This is my love letter to Scott Pilgrim, Edgar Wright, and to Brian Lee O'Malley, creator of the graphic novel on which this film is based. 

Please go see this movie.  It is one that shouldn't be missed on the big screen. 

5 of 5 BIG HUGE RHINO HORNS for this perfectly executed romp into film.

I will be seeing the EXPENDABLES also this weekend.  I have a good feeling that the REEL RHINO Horn-Meter will be flying high again.  The Expendables is not Shakespeare, but it will be everything that is great about the 1980-2000 era action flicks that star in this summer BLOCKBUSTER.  Stallone, you ma-ma-ma-make me happ-eeee! (See also, Tropic Thunder and Simple Jack!)

For now, get out there and see something...till later, take care...