Screened Out: This means war!

Screened Out: This means war!

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
(Starring Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin)
Scott Pilgrim is based on a hipster graphic novel, so illustrative style is always at the forefront of the storytelling. More importantly, in Pilgrim every new relationship requires walk through the landmines that are a lover’s romantic history.

SOPilgrimWorld_537590788.jpgCera is the title character, a bassist in a Toronto garage band. Even though he’s dating a Chinese girl who isn’t yet out of high school (umm, ick), Cera falls for cool chick Winstead. When he starts dating her, he soon finds he has to do superhero showdowns with Winstead’s seven ex-lovers. This culminates in a battle-royal with a smarmy jerk (Schwartzman) who could give Cera’s band a record contract.

Pilgrim never loses its fun image-heavy style. Splashy video-game effects back up manga-style animation. Cartoons meld with real-life action sequences, and every punch and kick is marked with a 1960s Batman-like KABAM! or POW! The battles are never gory or dull. Even segues are clever.

Yes, the flick does flirt with statutory rape laws. It’s also a story about young love, and Cera can make the character fairly annoying when he has to talk instead of fight. There are weird anachronisms; Cera rooms with Culkin, a gay man-ho character who doesn’t really have anything to do with the rest of the story. The constant visual invention, though, makes Pilgrim worth fighting for.

(Starring Dan Trejo, Michele Rodriguez, Robert De Niro, Jessica Alba, Jeff Fahey, Steven Segal, Lindsay Lohan)
There can be joy in watching a purposefully bad film. But not when good actors are forced to portray degrading stereotypes.

Violent Danny Trejo—who usually plays the villainous heavy—is a noble cop who wields a machete as his bloody weapon of choice. He works in Mexico, fighting drug lord Segal. Segal retaliates by slaughtering Trejo’s family. Jump ahead a year, and Trejo is now an illegal immigrant in America. Soon, he’s hired to assassinate a Mexican-hating senator (De Niro). Trejo’s actions launch a blood-soaked, all-out war between rednecks and illegal aliens.

Director Robert Rodriguez (Spy Kids) based Machete on a joke trailer he put into his horror flick Grindhouse. Sadly, most of the punch lines are pandering and vicious, loaded with insensitive portrayals of Mexicans, Americans, men, women…honestly, just about everybody. Sex is crass; there are even moments of incest thrown in for comedy. Some actors—De Niro and Michele Rodriguez—barely escape humiliation. Others, like Segal and Lohan, seem to purposefully debase themselves. American xenophobia is ripe for humor. However, much of the political satire here is too stupid and ugly to laugh at.

Robert Rodriguez is a fairly talented filmmaker; you can even tell in this mess. His sense of action and his art direction are always sound. The few subtler moments are actually funny. These are what save Machete from getting a single star.

(Starring Danny Boon, Dominique Pinon)
French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie, A Very Long Engagement) is a witty visionary. He’s not quite as dark as Tim Burton, nor does he lose momentum like fellow French director Michel Gondry often does. In Micmas, though, the whimsy runs amok, becoming just a little too frothy for its anti-war stance.

SOMicMacs_419244214.jpgA kid loses his dad to a landmine. As an adult (Boon), the orphan is still depressed, spending his sad-sack days working in a video store, lip-synching to classic films. Then, a stray bullet lodges in his head, causing an injury Boon could die from at any moment. After joblessness and homelessness forces Boon to live in a junkyard, he takes up with other wacky homeless. Then he discovers the two arms companies that made the weapons that ruined his life, and he sets out to destroy both corporations, enlisting the help of the other homeless savants.

It isn’t just that Boon’s friends are a contortionist and a human cannonball. But there is too much: a walking calculator, a brilliant machinist, an aging master thief, and a man who collects body parts from dead celebrities and more. The plot’s elaborate mechanics quickly grow convoluted and ridiculous.

Jeunet is a master of visual panache and wonky clown-like humor. Micmacs always remains entertaining.


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