Monthly Archives: January 2019

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

“I kind of feel like I’m on drugs when I’m with you. Not that I do drugs. Unless you do drugs. Then I do drugs all the time, every drug.”

Edgar Wright is a vibrant, visual filmmaker and it’s very likely, if you consider yourself a novice film watcher, that you may never see a film like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World again. It’s chapters removed from many creative novella you’re bound to experience during your time on this planet. It’s excessively quirky and nerdy but it’s also like watching a strobe light for two hours. Some may get a headache watching this. That’s a shame because Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is truly splendid.

Wright certainly has a flair for the dramatic and does things aesthetically I’ve never seen in all the years I’ve watched cinema. He takes comic-like to another level. If you’ve ever read a comic book and wondered what that would be like in live-action, this would be it and it’s…pretty damn good.

The moments where a vehicle such as this usually stalls never come up. Wright, in addition to throwing all sorts of colors and angles on the screen, is also a detailed editor. I often talk about my appreciation for screenwriters and directors who let no tape go to waste and Wright, at least in this escapade, demonstrates that same belief. Some dialogue drags but is balanced by something happening aside of the focal point, reminding us of what we’re really here for.

The dialogue is witty and pokey, sometimes tiptoeing across the line into something of deeper meaning before jumping back and returning to its roots. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is unapologetically itself, no matter how much the crowd starts to throw glances. There are some moments that don’t quite hit but a lot of those seemed destined not to, as if we’re all in on this joke falling flat.

It’s optically gratifying, your eyes darting every which way, absorbing all the nutrients this film is feeding you while your ears do your best to catch up. This is a film in overdrive. It is loud and it is fast and it has no break time. It is the friend constantly pushing you through doors you know you should go through but never develop the backbone to do yourself. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is the attitude that gets you to the best points in life, to experience life’s greatest thrills and loves. It turns your weaknesses into a gag and mocks your inability to act. It is the push out the door we all need. It’s a push out the door for 112 minutes.

And despite being a coming of age comedy, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has some solid stunt choreography. It’s not of the blockbuster variety but it pays homage to the comic books of old and takes that style with it to set, the “pow whams” plastered over the background.

The cast features a deep lineup, all riding a conveyor belt of an assortment of candies and characters. Michael Cera is especially good here, nailing down the so so awkward.

As visually alluring as Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is and as clever and inventive as it is, it does suffer at the character position. At times, it feels like people coming from stage left to say their lines before leaving stage right. The writing is great but a film structured this way is bound to suffer in this area.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (TakenCaptain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe Avengers)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The 40-Year-Old VirginThe ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable Guy)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RoadDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Death Race, Wind RiverTommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International Assassin)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: 88.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is like living inside of a kaleidoscope inside of a comic book for two hours. You can’t help but be awed. It’s a shame this film did so poorly at the box office and wasn’t cherished for the creative wonder that it is.

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Movie Review: Death Race

Image result for death race movie poster free use“Okay, cocksucker. F*** with me and we’ll see who shits on the sidewalk.”

Been waiting to watch this one for a bit. Say hello, 2019.

With this piece comes the return of Winners and Losers, a series I’ve left dormant for far too long. Updates will be put up by end of the week and Round 3 is on its way. Hopefully Statham can get his score in the green again.

I watched Killer Elite the other day. Gonna watch it a third time at some point later this year for the last time. It’s a doozy.

Was hoping Death Race might be a breath of fresh air. It was not.

Death Race comes from the same vein as The Running Man: deadly reality television in a world rife with economic turmoil and anarchy. Nearing close to the apocalypse it seems, it’s a dog-eat-dog world. The end makes people do desperate things and become the darkest versions of themselves. There are no heroes, only victors.

There are quite a couple of motifs that could be exploited here: survival, the life and death of morality, desperation and what any creature does when they’re pushed to the brink.

Paul W.S. Anderson is not the guy to go to if you want real storytelling. If you handed Paul a canvas to paint, he’d probably unload a shotgun on it. On one of his more creative days, maybe he’d be generous enough to use paintballs.

Let’s not mix words. Paul W.S. Anderson is the guy who throws chaos on a camera lens and calls it entertainment. Watching the Resident Evil films (thankfully only watched one though I’ll see them all eventually) is like being injected with epilepsy. It’s very perverse and very direct but also very blunt and uncomplicated. Bashing someone’s head in with a baseball bat doesn’t take a lot of talent. Cutting them 100 times and keeping them alive is far more terrifying and insightful. Paul much prefers option A.

And that’s fine, by the way. This post isn’t about how awful of a director Mr. Anderson is. It is only a comment that Paul W.S. Anderson either doesn’t excel or doesn’t prefer stories that involve high-end character focus or dynamic story arcs. His talents are in the visual arena. While the Resident Evil franchise sometimes does a solid job filming in a video game frame of reference, it also becomes corny and visually glaring at times. He doesn’t have a fine hand, in my opinion. He has a brazen one. That works sometimes. Michael Bay has a brazen hand, too and he’s seen quite a few of his films hit box office gold.

But if you put this story to print, it would be bland. It would not be a fun read. The dialogue isn’t compelling, aside from that line I included at the top. There would be a lot of boring chapters and I can’t imagine doing a reading for this would be that interactive. The idea of Frankenstein is an opportunity waiting to be seized: a man with a mask because of all the wrecks he’s been in but also a man who seems to be incapable of losing or dying. Symbols can be powerful things.

Yet Anderson wouldn’t seize on that potential and neither will the penmanship. It’s just pushing towards the next time Paul gets to unload some bullets and bazookas.

Death Race isn’t a race against time or against tension. It’s a race to the next time Anderson gets to explode some shit.

Which is again fine. If you want braindead entertainment, you’ll love this, but if you’re looking for character, the intangibles that true story offers, look elsewhere. Anderson isn’t going to give it to you. I do think that says something about Anderson’s breadth or lack thereof as a director. Even one obsessed with the visuals knows when an avenue as large as this should be taken. Something other than the equivalent of a mannequin in that car would make those explosions look more visceral and feel more impactful. As it stands, Statham could be blown to Uranus and it wouldn’t matter. It’s the sort of neglectful storytelling that pisses me off. I am not an Anderson fan.

Hollywood’s business structure is also responsible for this waste. This reeks of suits in a board room putting together a storyboard in a half hour, throwing $45 million at a dude known for explosive dunces and watches the green come in from those who are willing to settle for this second-rate entertainment.

I don’t know if you can even call Death Race art. It’s disingenuous and wholly incompetent. Anderson still has a fair touch for visuals but to fully ignore everything else that makes stories what they are is malpractice and he deserves to be criticized for it.

Once again, if you’re new to my blog, I’ve always ranked movies on a scale of 0-100 (I don’t know why, I just always have). Here’s the grading scale.  

90-100  It’s a great movie and definitely one worth buying. (TakenCaptain America: Civil WarDeadpoolAvengers: Age of UltronThe Avengers)

80-89   It was a pretty good movie and definitely one worth seeing, but it doesn’t quite scratch my top ten percentile. (The 40-Year-Old VirginThe ConjuringSinisterOlympus Has FallenThe Cable Guy)

70-79   It’s okay but I’ve seen better. It has its moments, but it has its flaws, too. (Ip Man 2Ip ManKong: Skull IslandThe InvitationHush)

60-69   It’s got plenty wrong with it but I still got enjoyment out of this one. (The RoadDoctor StrangeJohnny MnemonicJason BourneSuicide SquadBatman Forever)

50-59   This movie isn’t intolerable but it’s not blowing my mind either. I’m trying really hard to get some sort of enjoyment out of this. (Wind RiverTommy BoyDeath NoteTrue Memoirs of an International AssassinThe Great Wall)

40-49   This movie is just mediocre. It’s not doing anything other than the bare minimal, so morbidly boring that sometimes I’m actually angry I watched this. (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No TalesPower RangersUnderworld: EvolutionBatman & RobinBloodsport)

30-39   Definitely worse than mediocre, the 30′s ironically define the 1930′s, full of depression, lack of accomplishments, poverty and just so dumb. (High-RiseMost Likely to DieIndependence Day: ResurgenceThe Crow: City of AngelsCenturion)

20-29   What did I just watch? Cliches, stupidity, nothingness, did I mention stupidity? Just…wow. (The SnowmanAvalanche SharksCatwomanThe GunmanThe Visit)

0-19      Watching this movie resulted in one or more of the following: seizure, loss of brain cells, falling asleep/unconsciousness, feel you wasted your time/day, accomplished nothing for you, left the movie knowing less about it then you did going into it, constantly asking yourself why you came to see this movie, or near-death experience. In short, staring at a wall was just as entertaining as watching this movie. This movie deserved a sticker or a label that said, “WARNING: EXTREME AMOUNT OF SUCKAGE.” (The Coed and the Zombie StonerThe Forbidden DimensionsCyborgOutcastSabotage)

My score for Death Race: 50.

Death Race plays a fiddle of violence and gearheads but does nothing to truly separate itself from the pack. It’s a formula that’s been done before and I simply can’t give it props for that. It’s another loss on Statham’s record. I’m still a fan but man, he has some blots on his rap sheet with me.

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One Team, One Jersey: Miami Dolphins

With the beginning of a new year comes the beginning of a new series. I’ve spent hundreds of hours (not an exaggeration) enthralled in game film sessions, reading player profiles, scrounging through stat sheets and scanning the histories of all the NFL franchises. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Welcome to One Team, One Jersey.

As a jersey collector and connoisseur, I am constantly expanding my repertoire and so I thought I should probably expand my search to all the teams of pro football. Buying every jersey I want would be too expensive though. Picking one for each team is reasonable and so became the idea that is One Team, One Jersey.

If you could only have one jersey from each NFL team, who would it be? There are a few ground rules:

The player you choose must have played for that team more than any other AND must have been on that team’s roster during the 2017 season.

Aside from that, it’s up to you what you prioritize: character, statistical production, championships, a combination of the three. Your call.

Who will you choose?

The trend of sad franchises continues as we transition to the Miami Dolphins. Their fan base is still parading their undefeated 1972 squad whilst forgetting that they wasted the career of one of the greatest players to ever pick up a pigskin, Mr. Dan Marino. The mere concept you had a top-ten quarterback on your squad for 17 seasons and could only get to one Super Bowl is quite a damning statement on your management. Perhaps it is like it was with Peyton or Aaron Rodgers. Perhaps he was just on a choke job team or maybe he never performed well in the playoffs.

*checks records*

Yup, I have come to the conclusion your franchise is a choke job. For God’s sake, the last game you had Marino, you lost 62-7 to the Jaguars. That’s hard to believe actually.

*pulls out film*

My Lord, it happened.

What a perfect summation of the state of your franchise. Since drafting Ryan Tannehill, the first time in almost 30 years you’d taken a quarterback in the first round (guess who), you have been on the cusp of the playoffs only to fail to make the playoffs by faltering against mediocre opponents. I’ll admit I was a Tannehill supporter for a little there because it felt like he was one rung away from success but he never made it over the hill and has in fact fallen down it with Jill.

His best year was 2014 when he broke 4,000 yards and carried a 27/12 TD/INT split with a 66 completion percentage. His numbers in 2016 were actually slightly better but the team overall played its best during that 2014 season. The Dolphins would be smart to move in a different direction at the quarterback position but we know how NFL executives are with basic quarterbacks. They’d rather stay put than take the risk to get better.

We could take Jay Ajayi, who was traded midseason to the eventual champion Eagles. However, I’ve never really seen anything crazy about Ajayi. He’s got top-end speed and his acceleration and cuts are fine but he doesn’t have the explosiveness that I love in my running backs. Other than “I’m faster than you” plays, he isn’t doing much on highlight reels.

Jarvis Landry is a yards after catch monster. His rankings since his rookie year (overall/among WRs): ’14 18th/10th ’15 6th/3rd ’16 4th/1st ’17 12th/4th.

He has big play ability but lacks the size (5’11”) to make plays vertically. Odell Beckham Jr. is also 5’11” but had an insane 38.5 vertical at his combine. Landry’s was 28.5.

Landry is the quintessential slot receiver and the embodiment of a returner and a running back at the receiver position. He’s a crisp enough route runner to create space and then use that space to put defenders in a blender. That playmaking ability makes him a magnet for target shares, which has no doubt helped him reach milestones in receptions.

Still, at his size, you have to wonder if he has a ceiling. There may be inherent bias with me but when I watch AB, Julio or OBJ, I feel like those guys could do anything at any moment. Landry is simply not in that tier. He’s a top-ten receiver and definitely one I wouldn’t look forward to gameplanning against but he’s not a probable HOFer. He doesn’t have that consistent fear factor. Last year, he averaged 8.8 ypc. Most elite pass catchers average 14. Yeah, Landry was getting thrown to by the corpse of Jay Cutler but Landry has never had a season where he averaged more than 12.1 ypc, which tells you Landry runs a lot of short digs and slants and works for every yard on the stat sheet. It also means he isn’t the type of guy to win a 50-50 ball during a two-minute drill in the fourth quarter. He doesn’t have the speed (clocked at 4.77 at the combine) to take the top off defenses.

Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, only 32 NFL players have ever accumulated 100 sacks in a season. With Cameron Wake sitting at 98 after this season, he has a legitimate shot to become #33. Before starting his NFL career, Wake went undrafted and up north, winning Rookie of the Year, two Defensive Player of the Year Awards and became the first player to win TSN’s Gladiator of the Year in the Canadian Football League. To accomplish that, Wake had 39 (!) sacks in two seasons. It seems fair to say Wake would have already hit the century mark if his time in the NFL had started sooner.

And so despite the playmaking ability of Landry, I’ve got to take the game changer in Cameron Wake. Gotta respect a self-made man.

My pick: Cameron Wake. My jersey: Home Green.

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