Thursday, December 23, 2010

DVD Roundup: How to Train Scott Pilgrim?

Two of the better rated movies of the year (98% and 80% Fresh, but 90% and 85% liked them, respectively) I missed in theaters.  I wasn't impressed by either movie trailers and didn't see them, much to my dismay, as they were pretty amazing movies.  How to Train Your Dragon and Scott Pilgrim vs The World were both terrific and I wish I'd seen both in theaters since it was easy to see how they would be enhanced by the theater experience.  Dragon is the story of Hiccup, a young Viking whose island is constantly attacked by dragons, but who hasn't yet found his place in a society which values large, brutish, dragon-killers rather than the puny, inventor Hiccup already is.  During an attack, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) manages to take down an elusive type of dragon, Night Fury, with one of his inventions.  However, no one believes him, and he goes to find the dragon, befriends him and starts learning more about dragons from "Toothless".  When he's forced into dragon-training (how to kill dragons, not train them) Hiccup excels due to all the lessons he has learned from Toothless.  However, he knows the day is coming when he'll be required to kill dragons - something he's not sure he can do.  I won't spoil the big climax, but as it's an animated movie, know that it mostly ends well.  The other major voices are Gerard Butler as his viking leader father, Craig Ferguson as Hiccup's mentor,  and America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as the object of Hiccup's affection.  I don't much about vikings, but I didn't think they were Scottish as the accents would suggest.  Either way, the movie is brilliant - its originality is terrific, the voices are funny, and the different types of dragons add both color and humor - they're like a pet combo of horses, dogs, and cats.  Perhaps not terribly rewatchable for adults, but kids will love this movie over and over.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was finally Dreamworks' year for the Oscar with a more original story than Toy Story 3, and some of the best animation they've yet produced.  4 of 5 stars/lambs

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is based on a graphic novel and took a new approach to bringing such things to life - to not attempt to translate the world of the graphic novel into a version of reality, but rather to recreate the tone of the world in all its diversion from real life.  With sound words appearing when people hit each other, with coins appearing when a fight is won, all the other rules of video games apply.  Pilgrim (Michael Cera with his worst haircut yet) is in a band that rocks (they're part of a battle of the bands), and he lives with his gay roommate Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin - hysterical!) and is dating a high school student, Knives Chau.  However, he has a dream about and then meets Ramona Flowers.  He falls for her but knows he'll have to defeat her 7 evil exes (not all boyfriends, just exes).  This is only part of where the movie moves into comic book territory - Scott can go into a room and come out having changed his clothes instantly.  The rest of the movie follows the advance of Pilgrim and Flowers romance, interrupted by battles with her exes - some from middle school to the most recent ex.  Great actors play almost all of them (a few I didn't recognize) and the battle scenes are particularly amazing.  At first I questioned how Scott knew how to fight, but once you realize everyone can do that kind of thing (it's just part of the world they're in) it stops being strange and you just accept that anything is possible.  The music is good - though some of the dance numbers felt out of place.  I'm excited to go back and listen to a few podcasts I skipped last summer (Matineecast and Frankly, My Dear specifically) that talked about the movie so I can see how it was received.  Not the greatest acting, but incredibly original in content, story, and particularly effects.  Alison Pill was especially funny as were any conversations between Culkin and Cera ("Don't want you gaying up the place")  Overall 4 of 5 stars/lambs


The Mad Hatter said...

Hell yeah - what you have there is one awesome day of movie-watchin'! Both of these flicks were amongst my very favorites of the year.

Fun? In Toronto??

As a fan of the Scott Pilgrim books, I was quite happy with how they were adapted, even if a few of my favorite little Toronto moments didn't quite make the jump.

Fletch said...

Ditto what Hatter said, just not quite as voraciously. I really enjoyed both of these, probably closer to the level that you did, Jess.

And obviously, you train Scott Pilgrim with evil former dragons.

Nick said...

My top 2 favorite movies of this year.

Jess said...

Yeah, I really liked both. I would give them 5's for originality no problem - I find derivative filmmaking to be the bane of my current existence (besides my thesis of course). It really was a pretty great day watching them back to back. There were flaws in both that I already mentioned, but I have no problem believing people adored these movies.