UK Cinema Releases: Friday 27th August 2010


Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (Universal): This live action adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series is the story of a Toronto bass playing geek (Michael Cera) who falls in love with a delivery girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), only to realise he must fight her ‘seven evil exes’.

What follows is an action-comedy hybrid in which director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) throws a barrage of visual artillery at the screen in order to recreate the look of comics and computer games.

Although it will have a devoted fan base, a question mark remains over the mainstream appeal of the material and the hyperactive way in which unfolds.

Although I found the film a colossal disappointment, especially given Wright’s track record, it is likely to find a more receptive audience here in the UK amongst a certain niche.

However Universal will have good reason to be nervous after it opened in the US two weeks ago. Despite mostly warm reviews, huge buzz at Comic-con, the fawning support of leading geeky websites, plenty of tweets and an expensive marketing campaign, it absolutely bombed, leaving many at the studio scratching their heads in disbelief. [Empire Leicester Square & Nationwide / 12A]

Grown Ups (Sony Pictures): Adam Sandler’s latest goofy comedy is about five friends (Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider) who reunite after thirty years to celebrate a Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Despite a torrent of negative reviews this has actually made a decent chunk of money worldwide, although it will probably be swiftly forgotten in the coming months. [Nationwide / 12A]

The Girl Who Played With Fire (Momentum Pictures): The second film adapted from the enormously successful Stieg Larsson trilogy of novels sees Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) return to Sweden after a year abroad only to fall under suspicion for murdering a journalist and his wife.

Although the Hollywood version of Larsson’s Millennium trilogy is under way with David Fincher at the helm, these native versions have done excellent business in Europe and with the novels still selling at a rapid pace, the second film is also likely to prove an art house hit. [Key Cities / 15]

Diary Of A Wimpy Kid (20th Century Fox): A live action (and partly animated) comedy film based on the illustrated books by Jeff Kinney. It stars Zachary Gordon as a kid having a tough time at school and also features Rachael Harris, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick and Chloë Moretz.

Strictly aimed at family audiences, it arrives with little buzz and seems like it will find a bigger audience on DVD. [Nationwide / PG]

Avatar: Special Edition (20th Century Fox): James Cameron’s futuristic sci-fi blockbuster about an injured marine (Sam Worthington) who goes native on an alien planet gets a full re-release despite already being the most successful film of all time at the global box office.

This version will feature around 10 minutes of extra footage but it will be interesting to see how it does. The target audience appears to be those who didn’t see it first time around in 3D and those who want to see it again. [Nationwide / 12A]


Dog Pound (Optimum Releasing): Based on Alan Clarke’s Scum, this prison drama focusing on youthful delinquents in the US (although actually shot in Canada) by French director Kim Chapiron. [Key Cities / 18]

The Last Seven (Metrodome Distribution): A low budget British thriller which features Danny Dyer and Tamer Hassan. [Key Cities / 18]

The Maid (Artificial Eye): A Chilean drama from director Sebastián Silva about a maid (Catalina Saavedra) who serves an upper-middle-class family. [Key Cities / 15]

Wah Do Dem (Picturehouse): A US indie film about a twenty-something drifter (Sean Bones) who ends up travelling to Jamaica. [Key Cities / 15]

The Leopard (bfi Distribution): A re-release for Luscio Visconti’s epic 1963 film about the upheavals in 1860s Sicily, starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon.


> UK DVD and Blu-ray picks for this week including The Gold Rush and Lebanon
> Get local cinema showtimes for your area via Google Movies

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

Scott Pilgrim vs The World


A nerd fantasia designed for an audience obsessed with comics and video games, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a crushing disappointment.

Adapted from Bryan Lee O’Malley’s comic series, it is the story of a Toronto bass playing geek (Michael Cera) who falls in love with a delivery girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), only to realise he must fight her ‘seven evil exes’.

What follows is an action-comedy hybrid in which director Edgar Wright throws a barrage of visual artillery at the screen in order to recreate the look of comics and computer games.

This means when characters ring a doorbell we actually see the sound visualised with a “Ding-Dong” and when characters are punched we see “Ka-Pows!” like the 1960s Batman series.

A bewildering array of techniques are employed throughout: split-screen, aspect-ratio shifts, zooms, CGI, animation, super-quick edits, Manga-styled transitions and laugh tracks are just some of the tools used in dramatising Pilgrim’s journey.

In some ways the ambition of the film is admirable. Like The Wachowski Bros’ Speed Racer (2008) it tries to do something genuinely different with the visual language of cinema.

But also like that film, it remains a hollow exercise in cinematic technique that contains little emotion or charm beneath the endless layers of visual distraction.

Compared to Wright’s previous work, the central characters are surprisingly hard to care for. The protagonist is a dull, self-obsessed narcissist, whilst the girl he is fighting for doesn’t seem to care all that much. As for the exes they are just levels to be completed.

Michael Cera now seems entombed in the nebbish screen persona audiences first saw in Superbad (2007). That splendid breakout performance has now become a depressing template for his subsequent career.

The exes he does battle with (including Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman) are little more than one-note jokes and the whole narrative feels like TV episodes stitched together to resemble a feature.

Wright has previously managed to combine visual flair with genuine heart. With the TV series Spaced (1999-2001) and his last two films, Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), he managed a great balance of humour, brains and genuine emotion.

This film has many surface similarities with Spaced: twenty-something slackers, a frenetic editing and shooting style, numerous pop culture references and a slow-burning romance.

But in Scott Pilgrim the techniques are turned up to such a degree that they squeeze the life out of the core story and it is hard to care about anything on screen.

The one noticeable improvement over Wright’s previous films is the clarity and crispness of Bill Pope’s cinematography, but that only comes across in the more realistic scenes, which are frequently intercut with a barrage of hyperactive effects.

Certain sequences feel like a visual dirty bomb has gone off in the cinema. But for what? A romantic story with little romance and characters on screen who are almost literally cartoons?

Part of the wider problem is that the whole film is played as one long, fantastical joke, but there isn’t really much at stake when humans explode into coins and produce flaming swords from their chests.

All the gaming references are a little misleading. Although it certainly tries to co-opt the feel of them, games have rules and logic, two qualities which are mostly absent here.

Are the fights on which the film hinges meant to be extended fantasies? It isn’t really clear, although by the middle of the film I no longer cared as nothing is ever really at stake.

The notion that the ‘evil exes’ are some of metaphor for the baggage of previous relationships is never really developed amidst all the glib chaos going on.

The whole film has seemingly been designed to play like a trailer: fast paced to the point of blurry incoherence and packed with moments to excite an expectant fan base.

Mainstream Hollywood needs directors like Edgar Wright as he is a genuinely fresh and talented voice, but Scott Pilgrim vs The World is major misstep.

There are some who will lap up the deep layers of sarcasm, Nintendo-nostalgia and cooler-than-cool vibes in this film.

A loyal, cult-like audience may feel it was made for them – in many ways, it was – but for those who aren’t blinded by the aching hipness of it all, it is likely to prove a shallow exercise in geeky nonsense.

> Official site
> Scott Pilgrim vs. The World at the IMDb
> Find out more about the original comic book at Slate