Napalm in the Morning

Nursing a potentially debilitating movie addiction.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

In this movie, you’ll see (hear?) hilarious one-liners,

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A complete disregard for the laws of gravity,

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And a girl with hair like this.

hair like this

We can’t be friends unless you’ve seen Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This is the same guy who directed Shaun of the Dead. You’re alright, Edgar Wright. You’re alright.

This movie is adapted from Canadian comic artist Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim. Even if you’re not into comics, do yourself a really big favour and read it.

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The story takes place in Toronto, where twenty-something slacker Scott (Michael Cera) has just started dating a high-schooler, to the mockery of his friends. But then he meets Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a neon-haired, roller-skating, dimension-travelling American. He’s instantly attracted to her but is kind of too much of a wuss to break up with his current sort-of girlfriend.

Side-note: Everyone is attracted to Ramona Flowers. Everyone. Even you.

ramona flowers

Scott and Ramona start hanging out, but he’s informed that if he wants to go out with her he’ll have to defeat her Seven Evil Exes. Video game logic seems to apply to this particular version of Toronto – actions produce physical sound effects, sword and kung-fu duels are commonplace, and bosses explode into coins when they’re defeated. If Scott wants to win the rights to Ramona’s love, he will be forced to face Gideon, the most evil ex of all.

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Even if you haven’t read the comics, everything about his movie screams cult classic. I’m pretty certain even non-nerds will love it – but I can’t say that for sure, since I really have no idea what it’s like to be a non-nerd. Imagine. Not being a nerd.

Film Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

If you are a fan of the comics, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised how faithful to them the movie is. The end, however, if completely different – at the time the movie was developed Bryan Lee O’Malley had not yet written the last book in the series. While he gave suggestions to the script writers on which direction to take the story, the book and movie ultimately have their own interpretations of the ending.

Scott Pilgrim is one of few print-to-movie adaptations where I am incredibly pleased with the casting. I have no idea where the casting director found these people, but the relatively unknown actors seem to have been ripped straight from the comic. I cannot, however, fully express the depths of my hatred of the casting of Michael Cera as Scott. Scott is supposed to be a hyper, charismatic, kind-of-unlikeable-yet-weirdly-loveable douche. Instead, he’s a vacant, mildly befuddled, and entirely obnoxious douche. Fortunately, even Michael Cera can’t diminish my love for this movie.

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Kill it with fire.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is face paced, quirky, and almost manic – viewers who are used to comic books and video games will immediately get it. But the casual viewer might not be sure what to make of it. This is a movie that might only appeal to genre-fans, but to them it is an instant classic.

And it’s just

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So

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Quotable.

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One final thought: Everyone wants Wallace Wells to be their best friend. Everyone. Even you.

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

In this movie, you’ll see Robert Downey Jr. missing some fingers,

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Robert Downey Jr. draping himself over Val Kilmer,

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And Robert Downey Jr. staring at a boob.

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For even more Robert Downey Jr. shenanigans, watch Shane Black’s 2005 film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer have incredible onscreen chemistry in their roles as Harry and Perry. Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer’s comic timing always leaves me pausing, rewinding, and rewatching a certain line again and again. A cautionary tale: If you laugh too loud you will scare the neighbours.

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Sidenote: Is it just me, or is it impossible to talk about Robert Downey Jr. without saying his full name?

Robert? Downey Jr.? Mr. Downey? They all just sound so wrong.

Anyway. The movie. Right. Now, this movie constantly breaks the fourth wall. It pretty much ignores the fourth wall. It didn’t get the memo when the fourth wall was built.

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See?

Robert Downey Jr. is Harry Lockhart, the protagonist and narrator. While attempting a robbery with his friend, Harry is chased by the police and his friend is killed. He ducks into a building to evade the police, where incidentally an audition is being held. The script coincidentally mirrors the death of his friend, and Harry has a bit of a dramatic outburst – but the producers mistake him for a method actor and hire him on the spot. Wacky.

Harry finds himself at a Hollywood party, where he meets private investigator Gay Perry van Shrike. People call him that because he is gay. Perry has been hired to help Harry better understand his role. He also runs into his childhood crush, Harmony Lane. She’s had a tough life and has become a bit of a crazy person.

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Bitch be trippin’.

Now, from this point it gets complicated.

The next day, Perry takes Harry on a mock stake out – but by coincidence, they witness a vehicle and body being dumped in a lake. Harmony calls Perry and hires him to look into the suspicious death of her sister, and Harry finds a planted gun and the lake corpse in his shower. He begs Perry to help him, and they dump the corpse back in the lake. It is found and identified as Veronica Dexter, the daughter of a wealthy actor with whom she only recently resolved a lengthy feud over an inheritance.

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What is going on? Was the suicide of Harmony’s sister in fact murder? Who is trying to frame Harry? Who killed the wealthy daughter? How are these incidences connected? Will Harry get the girl? Or will Harry and Perry give up and elope to Vegas? We just don’t know.

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I’m trying to get you watch the movie, of course. I’m not going to tell you what happens. Not letting you off that easy. I promise you’ll enjoy it, because you’ll get to see Robert Downey Jr. doing lots of ridiculous things.

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Despite the suicide and murder and what have you, this movie is most memorable for its clever comedy. It both pokes fun at and celebrates the buddy cop and hardboiled detective genres. The pleasure it takes in satirizing formulaic tropes is incredibly enjoyable. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a relatively unknown and far unappreciated gem, and you won’t regret giving it a go.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate you. Val Kilmer does too.

the end

Shaun of the Dead

In this movie, you’ll see pretty much every British actor ever,

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Creative use of a cricket bat,

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And, well, a whole lot of zombies.

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That’s because it’s a zombie movie. If “comedy-horror” sounds like your cup of tea, then watch Edgar Wright’s 2006 movie Shaun of the Dead. If it does not sound like your cup of tea then you should probably watch it anyway, you narrow-minded ass.

The film is one of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy, the other two being Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, which will come out later this year. In each movie, a character buys a Cornetto icecream. If that’s not an arbitrary naming process then I don’t know what is.

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All three star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, actual married couple.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost

I lied. They’re not married. But they should be.

Though Shaun of the Dead is a mostly-comedic parody of zombie films, it is still, ultimately, a zombie film. There will be blood. Don’t watch it with your toddler.

Simon Pegg plays Shaun, a salesman who’s in a bit of a rut. He doesn’t get along with his stepfather Phillip and his roommate hates his best friend, Ed (Nick Frost). His relationship with his girlfriend Liz is falling apart – they never get to spend time alone because either Ed or her flatmates are always around.

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After Shaun forgets to book a table for their anniversary, Liz finally dumps him. Heartbroken and exhausted after a night of heavy drinking, he goes about his daily routine. Something is a bit…off. Shaun is too hungover to notice.

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I think I can say for certain that this is one of the only movies where the main character is completely oblivious to the fact that the zombie apocalypse is happening around him. Realistically, that’s probably exactly how it’d go down – I’d hide in my room for a hardcore Netflix marathon, and emerge three days later only to realize that everyone I know and love has been devoured by the undead.

Shaun and Ed only realize what is happening after watching a news report on TV. The report is confirmed when a zombie attacks their house. They fend it off a bit unconventionally.

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Shaun calls his mom, who reveals that her husband Phillip has been bitten. Shaun and Ed decide that the house isn’t safe, and make a plan to collect Shaun’s mother, kill Phillip, get Liz and her flatmates, and then go to their favourite (and heavily fortified) bar, the Winchester.

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But Shaun’s flatmate Eric has been turned into a zombie – and he’s inside the house. Thus follows the single best reaction to a zombie in the history of anything.

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Zombies turn Simon Pegg into a distraught Southern lady.

Shaun of the Dead is probably one of the finest pieces of British cinema. It is critically acclaimed and has been nominated for and won numerous awards, including several BAFTAs. Aside from the brilliant screenplay and clever comedy, what really makes this movie shine is the friendship of Shaun and Ed – and the fact that it mirrors the real life friendship between Pegg and Frost. Bromance truly can conquer anything.

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And remember, in the event of a zombie apocalypse:

keep calm

The Fall

In this movie, you’ll see Lee Pace being sexy,

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Breath-takingly gorgeous scenery,

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And an exceedingly stylish head-fan.

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If that sounds like good fun then you should probably watch Tarsem Singh’s 2006 movie The Fall. I should warn you in advance – while this movie is incredible, a good portion of my love for it probably stems from the fact that I have an unhealthy obsession with Lee Pace.

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I mean, look at him.

Anyway, let’s get this show on the road. The Fall is a difficult movie to describe. Film critic Roger Ebert probably put it best: “You might want to see it for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it.” It’s indisputably the most visually stunning movie I’ve ever seen – it incorporates scenery from almost twenty countries, including India, France, Africa, China, and Fiji. The landscapes seem to be torn straight from a fairy tale, but are in fact real places from around the world.

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I’m getting Labyrinth flashbacks.

The “true” setting of the film is within an American hospital in the year 1915, where stuntman Roy (Lee Pace) is recovering from a  catastrophic fall that left him unable to walk. There, he meets Alexandria, a little girl with a broken arm. Alexandria is played by Catinca Untaru, a 6-year-old Romanian girl who had never acted before in her life.  She is pretty much the cutest thing you have ever seen.

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My favourite thing about The Fall is that the scenes with Roy and Alexandria are almost entirely unscripted – in many cases the little girl did not realize that she was being filmed, and so the story was crafted from her natural interaction with Pace. In fact, most of the cast and crew were led to believe that Lee Pace was actually a paraplegic. When a crew member walked into a room and saw Pace standing up, he almost fainted!

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Roy tells Alexandria stories to alleviate her boredom. She inserts people she has seen around the hospital into the roles of the characters in the story, and the two craft an epic adventure of fantastical landscapes and eccentric heroes and villains.

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But Roy is dangerously suicidal. He has lost his job, girlfriend, mobility – everything he believed made his life worth living. In Alexandria he sees a way to control his fate. He tells the little girl that he will not continue the story unless she steals him some “medicine.” He intends to use the drugs to commit suicide. But Alexandria misinterprets the E that Roy shows her will be on the bottle as a 3, and as a result she doesn’t get him nearly enough pills to carry through with his plan.

Fun fact: This particular plot point was included into the story because Catinca Untaru actually misread the E as a 3.

Roy tries and fails several times to kill himself, and thus spirals further into alcoholism and depression. In her desire to ease his sadness and hear the ending of the story, Alexandria tries to steal some medicine again – but she falls from a high shelf, and badly hits her head.

When she wakes up, Roy is there to visit her. But he is emotionally shattered, guilty over his manipulation of an innocent little girl. He begins to craft the conclusion of the story, but kills off all of the characters the two have created together. He doesn’t believe that stories can have a happy ending.

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I won’t spoil it, but if the finale of this movie doesn’t make you cry then you probably have no soul.

The Fall could easily be written off as a weird artsy film, but the connection between Pace and Untaru practually drags you into emotional investment in the story. Lee Pace is a heartbreakingly authentic actor, and I swear that’s not just the hormones talking.

Please watch The Fall. Do it for me.

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Do it for Lee Pace.

Labyrinth

In this movie, you’ll see David Bowie in very tight pants,

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An oddly adorable orangutan thing,

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And…whatever’s going on here.

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The 1986 cult film Labyrinth is great, and I’m going to tell you why you should think it’s great.

First, a little background. In the wake of his nightmare-inducing film The Dark Crystal, director Jim Henson set out to make something a little more accessible and a little less distressing. He managed to get Terry Jones of Monty Python fame on board to co-write the script, so you already know that this is gonna be good. Labyrinth stars a 14-year-old Jennifer Connelly (Requiem for a Dream) as average plucky schoolgirl Sarah, and David Bowie as a sexy vulture – I mean, as Jareth the Goblin King.

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Labyrinth would not be what it is without the glittery perfection that is Bowie. I’m sure you are not in the least bit surprised by that.

Not gonna lie, Connelly is kind of a shitty actor. David Bowie is a perfect actor and anyone who argues otherwise will get punched in the nose. The two share a super creepy sexual tension – but how could that have been avoided? IT’S DAVID BOWIE.

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But seriously, stop it guys. So, you may ask: Other than David Bowie, what the heck is this movie about? I was just getting to that, my dear impatient reader.

Sarah is your average American teen with a plucky spirit and can-do attitude. She is also a total whiner. One night she is forced to babysit her baby brother Toby. She has a complete meltdown over how nothing is fair and her life is the worst thing ever, and wishes for the Goblin King Jareth to take Toby away and free her from a life of indentured servitude. But wishes never come true, right? There’s no such thing as the Goblin King.

WRONG. Here comes David Bowie, in one of the most fabulous and sparkly entrances in cinematic history.

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Wow. Those are very tight pants.

Being the good dude that he is, Jareth informs Sarah that he has taken Toby to his crazy magical Labyrinth. But Sarah is an ungrateful jerk, and demands that he return her brother immediately. They strike a deal – if Sarah can make it to the castle in the centre of the Labyrinth in thirteen hours, she’ll get her brother back. And so, the epic adventure commences.

the labyrinth

In the Labyrinth, Sarah meets Hoggle, a distressingly wrinkly dwarf, Ludo, the aforementioned orangutan-creature, and Sir Didymus, a well-dressed knight who is also a fox. Muskrat? I don’t know what he is.

On their journey the eclectic band experiences betrayal, epic battle, and impromptu musical numbers. Along the way, they learn the true meaning of friendship. Isn’t that nice. Sarah also learns that sometimes shit just isn’t fair and she’s just going to have to get over that.

Labyrinth also provides us with this exchange, which has since been reenacted at every one of my family gatherings.

At one point Sarah is hypnotized and hallucinates attending a lavish masque ball, where Jareth attempts to seduce her. She’s fourteen, dude. Stop. But Labyrinth is, ultimately, a movie about the difficult transition from adolescense to adulthood (through attraction toward David Bowie). I think that’s a theme we can all get behind.

In one of the coolest scenes of the movie, Sarah gets to the castle and finds herself in an M.C. Escher-esque room of stairs. She chases Toby all over the place while Jareth sings about how hot she is and flips over stuff.

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They meet for a final confrontation, where Jareth offers to be Sarah’s sex slave – but she decides that she is a strong independent woman who don’t need no man and is freed from the Labyrinth along with her brother. At least, that’s how I remember it.

Then Sarah and her friends from the Labyrinth have a totally rad party in her room and everyone lives happily ever after. Jareth is sad he didn’t get laid.

Labyrinth is ridiculously fun and frequently rather clever – but for the love of god, don’t take it too seriously. Watch it, guys. You probably won’t regret it.

bowie out

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