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[WATCHED: December 17, 2010] Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

I was delighted to finally get to see Scott Pilgrim vs the World on DVD. And man, it did not disappoint.  I love Michael Cera, so even though he’s not who I pictured as Scott Pilgrim, he played the character quite wonderfully (although he was within the realm of the “Michael Cera” character, he had an air of the sinister about him which was quite captivating).

The movie did  great job at capturing the hyper real video game quality of the books (I love all the little extra details which were not cute comic book details (like the phones printing RIIIIIIIIING) but simply part of the world they lived in.

I thought that the compression of this long (but not too long) series was wonderfully done.  Although I missed some aspects of the book, I thought it was all handled very well.  Plus, I liked the increased presence of the awesome Wallace and I really liked the way they adjusted the Knives storyline so that it could conclude at the same time as Ramona’s.  That’s very different from the final book, and, while I think the book’s version is more elegant (and fitting a longer story), for the movie, that truncation worked very well and allowed for a fantastic conclusion.  The end was great thanks to the introduction of the cool video game that Scott and Knives play early in the movie–a game which was made up for the movie.

I’m also thrilled to finally know how to pronounced Sex Bob-omb and I’m also thrilled to hear how much they rocked (Beck did most of the band music and über-god Nigel Godrich made the score for the rest of the film. Other great bands on the soundtrack include Metric, Broken Social Scene, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala.  I sort of ignored the soundtrack when it came out but I think i may have to go check it out now.

So in the movie, Scott must battle Ramona’s seven evil exes to win her love.  As for the seven evil exes themselves, they were all fun (and nicely diverse).  I enjoyed seeing Ann Veal (her?) working with George Michael Bluth again and Jason Schwartzman was simply terrific as the evil Gideon.  Also terrific was Satya Bhabha as the over-the-top first evil ex and Chris Evans as the bad-ass actor boyfriend.  I was only bummed that the Katayanagi brothers were given kind of short shrift (but hey you can only have so many characters).  The fight scenes were really well executed and fun.

The only weakness I would say in the film is that I thought Ramona was a little flat.  It was hard to know just what was so compelling about her for Scott (aside from the act that she was in his mind-portal all that time).  The book gives more details that show their relationship build, but the movie left that out.  I’ve never seen her in anything else, so I don’t know whose fault that was.  This compromises the ending a little bit because the decision between Knives and Ramona is actually kind of difficult (where it really shouldn’t be).  And yet, I thought the ending was really well done, with Ellen Wong really stealing the show).

The DVD itself is pretty awesome and there are a ton of special features.  Although Scott Pilgrim vs the Bloopers was a major let-down.  The movie is so understated that none of the bloopers are over-the-top hilarious.  However, the trivia track that you can play during the movie (I watched about ten minutes of it) was very interesting.  I especially enjoyed reading how parts of the movie that were finished before the book actually made their way into the book because O’Malley liked them so much.

I’m also thrilled that they filmed the movie in Toronto.  The trivia track points out all kinds of interesting locations.  From The Torontoist:

The first thing Wright did when he met O’Malley here in 2005 was visit all the real-life locations.”Pretty much everything that was in the book, we shot the same place Bryan had drawn,” he says.

A perfect example is the house in which Scott and his pal Wallace live. In reality, O’Malley lived at 27 Alberta Avenue, though he thinly disguised it as “Albert Avenue.”

As any true fan knows, however, the drawings in the book are actually at number 65, down the street. So, that’s where they shot, turning the garage door into the apartment door.

And there’s plenty more details in that article.  Like that those romantic and perilous stairs are real stairs on Baldwin St.  (I love crap like that).

It’s a really enjoyable romp of a film, unjustly ignored in the theaters.  And perhaps best of all…in no way is it setting itself up for a sequel!  A movie that just ends….how novel!

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SOUNDTRACK: THEM CROOKED VULTURES-Them Crooked Vultures (2010).

So whose group is this?  Dave Grohl’s? Josh Homme’s? John Paul Jones’? (This question is kind of answered in the excellent Austin City Limits episode).  But while the question is a but silly, it’s also not.  This band sounds like Josh Homme (who pretty much makes into gold whatever he does) playing his own blend of rock over what is undeniably Led Zeppelin’s bassist.

There are times when it is so evident that JPJ played classic Led Zep riffs that you almost think Vultures are just ripping off Led Zeppelin.  Until you realize it’s the same guy and therefore it’s totally okay.  And Dave Grohl…after years away from the drums, it’s like he has a new vengeance to beat the crap out them.  I don’t know if his style is unmistakable, but once you know it’s Grohl, it’s very obvious that it’s him.

And the songs are really great.  A cool mixture of Homme’s Queens of the Stone Age sleaze within a solid, classic rock framework.  Many of the songs have monster, stomping riffs that are catchy and fantastic.  The longer songs (5 are over 5 minutes) loosen the band up a bit, with some jamming and fun middle sections.  But when they’re not jamming, the music is tight and fast and loud, and they play off of each other wonderfully.  There’s not a bad song in the bunch.

A few times while listening to the disc, I’ve felt that maybe it was a tad long (66 minutes of non-stop music).  But since this is ostensibly a one-off project, why shouldn’t they pack the disc full of everything they can?  Of course, if they can make a second album, that is as cool and interesting as this, I’ll welcome it right away too.

[READ: November 23, 2010] Scott Pilgrim’s Finest Hour

I have yet to see the movie of Scott Pilgrim (primarily because I never get to the movies anymore, but also because the DVD hasn’t come back at my library yet).  But I’m pretty psyched that I was able to read the final volume before seeing the movie. [I’m also hugely embarrassed to be so out of the loop that I didn’t realize the book came out BEFORE the movie–come on!]

But now, behold, the climax of this excellent series.

To summarize: Scott Pilgrim (the guy with the sword up on the cover) is in love with Ramona Flowers.  But in order to win her completely he must battle her seven evil exes.  The battles are video-game inspired (and are consequently surreal and funny).  And the revelation of the individual exes is also amusing.

This final volume is somewhat surprising in its contemplativeness.  While longing and depression are par for the course in the series, this volume was surprising for its early lack of action (leading up to the final showdown of course). The great news is that O’Malley handles this non-action with skill, and scenes of Scott moping and slouching around are amusing, not dull.  There’s also a great deal of introspection (again, handled deftly).  All of this navel gazing makes sense because at the end of Vol. 5 Ramona disappeared with neither explanation nor clue. (more…)

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sp5SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 5: Sonic Youth Featuring Kim Gordon/DJ Olive/Ikue Mori (2000).

syr5The fifth SYR disc is rather different from the others in that the only SY member is Kim.  This is a sort of side project for Kim, Ikue Mori and DJ Olive. They’ve played shows together as well.

This disc is also different because it features a number of short songs rather than a couple of long ones.  It also features a lot of different instrumentation: turntables, keyboards, that sort of thing.  Most of the tracks are instrumental (more or less) although a few have Kim’s vocals on it.  And Yuka Honda from Cibo Matto does vocals on one track.

Kim’s side projects (like Free Kitten) are usually pretty abrasive. She lets her freak flag fly with her vocals.  And that in a nutshell will determine whether you like this or not.  Kim is playing mostly guitar, so the other instruments tend to take over a bit.

It’s always interesting when SY mixes it up with another band or solo artist.  But it doesn’t really make it a SY record, proper.

Oh, and all of the writing on the disc is in Japanese.

[READ: August 25, 2009] Scott Pilgrim vs the Universe

There’s a new Scott Pilgrim website which lets us know that Volume 6 will be out in 2010.  I can’t wait that long!

This 5th volume seemed a bit different from the other four.  The lines were crisper, it seemed like Ramona looked a little bit different (her eyes were bigger or something) and overall, the volume was a lot darker (in tone).

Today is Scott’s 24th birthday (he’s now the same age as Ramona, yup he finally asked her).

But at a party Steven Stills tells Knives that Scott had cheated on Knives with Ramona and on Ramona with Knives (which wasn’t true exactly), which sets Knives off again.  She violently confronts Ramona and when she says why, Ramona gets pissed too.

At this same party, Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends (the twins Kyle and Ken Katayanagi) show up.  Scott prepares to fight them, but they send their robot after him instead.  The fight continues downstairs while everyone pretty much goes to other rooms, kind of bored with the whole escapade.

We also see a bit of Ramona and Scott’s domestic life (Ramona runs errands all day and Scott does, well, nothing). (more…)

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vol 4SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-Silver Session for Jason Knuth (1998).

silverThis record came about for two reasons. One was the suicide of longtime Sonic Youth fan (whom the band didn’t know) Jason Knuth.  And the second was because when they tried to record vocal tracks for One Thousand Leaves, the band upstairs was so loud, it kept interfering with their recording.

So, SY turned all of their amps all the way up, put all of their guitars and basses against said amps, turned on a boombox for feedback fun and then left the room.  They say it was so loud that even with hands pressed against their ears it was still too physically oppressive to be in the room.

The band recorded it all (of course) but rather than releasing it all like some kind of Metal Machine Music, they cut the tracks down into small chunks (“Silver Shirt” is 7 minutes long but most are about 4, with “Silver Son” and “Silver Breeze” being under 2).  They also somehow turned what sounds like a noisy disturbing mess into rather pretty ambient pieces.  (In honesty, I have to believe that the band was in the room with for some pieces, since some of “Silver Flower” seems to have strumming on it).  And “Silver Son” actually has a beat of sorts to it.

As with the other disc in the SYR series, these aren’t really songs. They’re not even what you think of as Sonic Youth, but they are interesting experiments (some are actually quite nice).  Not for everyone (heck, hardly for anyone) but if you’re intrigued, its worth checking out.

[READ: August 23, 2009] Scott Pilgrim Gets It Together

This volume mixes things up a bit for the series.  The cover is a wicked reflective style, and there are even 8 color pages at the beginning of the story (that work as a sort of catch up device).  I didn’t really like the color pages all that much to be honest. While it was nice to see that Ramona’s hair is blue, for the most part the color pages felt a bit more mechanical than the regular pages (the edges were crisper, which I didn’t really care for). But whatever, don’t complain about a free addition.

As for the story itself, it seems to up the ante in intensity. (more…)

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vol3SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 3: Invito Al Ĉielo (1998).

syr3This SYR release adds Jim O’Rourke to the mix (O’Rourke played with with them on A Thousand Leaves too).  I’ve always been aware of O’Rourke but I’ve never really listened to any of the bands that he’s been associated with (and there’s a lot).  So, I’m not sure what his actual contributions are, but he seems to be pushing the SY members into a much more noisy/abstract direction.  (A few samples of Gastr Del Sol shows them to be pretty out there, so perhaps pushing SY in a direction that was not too far from where they’d go on their own.  And, I rather liked the Gastr stuff, too).

The EP is nearly an hour with 2 songs over 20 minutes long.  And, the most fascinating parts come from the most unexpected places: Kim plays trupmet!  There’s keybaords!  And all of the text is in Esperanto.

This disc doesn’t diverge too much from the first two…it’s noisy and discordant and full of lots of experimentation.  There’s some good stuff on here, but there’s also a lot of it.

[READ August 9, 2009] Scott Pilgrim & The Infinite Sadness

Things get pretty intense in Vol 3 of this series.  We get an in-depth look ant Envy Adams, Scott’s first girlfriend and lead singer of The Clash at Demonhead.  TCaD have asked Scott’s band Sex Bob-omb to open for them, but there are clearly underlying reasons behind this.

One of them is that another of Ramona’s evil ex-boyfriends is the bassist in the band.  And, another more narratively interesting reason is to give a peek into Scott’s past.  We learn that Envy was a rather shy young girl, until she slowly grew out of her shell (and changed her name to Envy), and then became the extroverted lead singer.

Todd Ingram, the evil-ex is a vegan.  (more…)

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scott2SOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH-SYR 2: Slaapkamers Met Slagroom (1997).

syr2The second SYR release is like the other side of the coin from SYR1.  The premise is the same, the players are the same, but the result is rather different.

The first track is nearly as long as the previous disc (17 + minutes) and it seems to run through a variety of song styles (including noise experiments) before settling down into a noisy improv.  The third track features the first “vocals” on these discs–rather unsettling sounds that Kim spits out.  (Online lyrics pages say that there are actual words here so I’ll take their word for it; I just like to think of them as vocal stylings).

While SYR1 was a smoother listen, this one is more jagged.  Not quite the noisefest they are capable of but not exactly easy listening either.

For this disc all of the titles, liner notes etc. are in Dutch.  (SYR1 was in French).  Each volume in the series is in a different language.

[READ: August 9, 2009] Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

The second volume of the series, (and the one the film is named after) continues the exciting saga of Scott Pilgrim and his band Sex Bob-omb.

This second volume introduces us to The Clash at Demonhead, the band that Scott’s ex-girlfriend took to stardom, after they kicked Scott out of the band, of course.

But before we get to the Knives Chu’s new favorite band,we learn about the origins of her former favorite band: Sex Bob-omb.  We see how Scott and Kim first met and why she acts so strangely around him.

But more importantly, plotwise, we get to meet Ramona’s second evil ex-boyfriend, Lucas Lee.  He is a broody actor who also just happens to be in Toronto filming a new picture.  And fight they do.

But they’re not the only ones who do battle in this volume.  There’s a rip-roaring battle scene between Knives and Ramona that takes place in the beautiful Toronto Reference Library.

But the book is more than fighting and music: there’s a cooking lesson for making vegan shepherd’s pie.  Veganism will loom large in Vol 3!   And there’s even more fun asides (with captions and comments about various characters) in this volume.  I especially enjoyed the ones that give the characters’ states of mind.

While the first volume was certainly fun, it feels like he is having even more fun with volume two.  It’s a very fun series, and the books are very fast reads (for better or worse…often worse.)

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pilgrimSOUNDTRACK: SONIC YOUTH -SYR 1 Anagrama (1997).

syr1

After Washing Machine, Sonic Youth began recording a series of EPs (that gradually grew into longer discs) in which they explored their improvisation/longer piece needs.

And so SYR1 was released.

It contains for tracks and runs about 25 minute.  It’s not simply guitar feedback or waves of distortion.  Rather it is songs built around themes which are followed to their logical ends.

Thee EPs aren’t for everyone. There’s no lyrics, there’s no choruses.  It’s sort of like how the end of “The Diamond Sea” was a chance for SY to let loose and see what happened. I can’t even say that the songs and motifs are necessarily memorable (although I’m led to believe that some have cropped up on the proper albums).  I don’t listen to these a lot, but they are fun to put on from time to time, if you’re in an avant garde mood.

[READ August 9, 2009] Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

I had read this book a few years ago.  But I had read it in bits and pieces over several weeks, and so I didn’t feel like I had a real grasp of the story.  This is especially true because the story begins simply enough and then turns into a wild hallucinogenic story that is very funny, very very funny, in fact, but also incredibly surreal.

When I was at BEA in New York this year I ran into the guy from Oni Press who told me that they are making a film of Scott Pilgrim, which is pretty fantastic.  I’m rather looking forward to seeing it.  But because there are so many interesting visual things going on in th graphic novel, I can’t help but wonder how they will transform them.  And also, Book 6 of this series may be written with a different ending from the film, so that should be fun, too.

But speaking of the visuals….

O’Malley’s style is utterly fascinating.  When I first started reading, I felt like the artwork was “sloppy” in that sort of stylized sloppiness that people take some time to achieve.  (I think mostly this is because of the character’s eyes.  They are a refined sort of manga but the pupils are so large that i found it disconcerting.)  But when reading it through this time, I realized not only is it not sloppy, it is meticulously designed in a very cool way.  Take Scott’s hair, which is commented about through the series.  I’m not going to go and spout on about how long he must have spent getting his hair just right, but clearly there was effort and planning in the length and style, even if it is primarily drawn with a  few broad triangles. (more…)

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