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Pilgrim-age

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So after an incredible amount of hype (at least incredible to the film’s target audience; more on that in a sec), Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World finally opened this weekend to a lackluster (to put it gently) $10 million of box office, good for fourth place on the weekend. I think a great many geeks people are disappointed by that haul, because, frankly, it means the film’s pretty much a bomb.

I don’t, however, think it’s a failure.

OK, yes, The Expendables made a ton more money this weekend — it opened in first place with about $35 million. But as other people have pointed out, The Expendables will be gone from the public consciousness by a month after the DVD release, while I think Scott Pilgrim is going to live on for years and becomes one of those movies that gets watched over and over and over again, slowly building up a larger audience over time.

Look, while in absolute terms, the movie seems like a dud, it’s A) still far and way the biggest U.S. opening director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) has had yet, and both of his previous movies have had healthy post-theater lives; and B) pretty damn respectable for a movie based on an indie comic with a lead character who is, frankly, a clueless dick. And the soundtrack has been a success, which will go a long way toward keeping the movie alive, as good soundtracks almost always do.

Maybe those of us into such things expected too much, especially after the early trailers were so epicly awesome. But after Kick-Ass opened to big hype and not much money earlier this year, I thought this was likely to happen. We geeks knew the movie was coming and got excited for it; most of the rest of the world didn’t seem to care and didn’t seem to know what a “Scott Pilgrim” was. I think Wright hit this one maybe a little too squarely at his target, which will, again, likely help its long-term prospects as much as it did hurt its short-term ones.

No, this isn’t the death of the comic-book movie, just as the relative failure of Kick-Ass (which still fared better than Scott Pilgrim has so far) didn’t put as much as a smudge on Iron Man 2‘s golden armor. If the next Batman movie opens at under $50 million, then I’ll worry.

(No, I haven’t seen it yet; I was too busy relaxing on a lake in Maine this weekend. But I’m hoping to see it tonight. I’ll be sure to report back once I do.)

Written by Allen

August 17th, 2010 at 9:00 am

Posted in Comic Strips,Movies

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Audacious Laurel

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Sometimes my younger daughter scares me.

Many of you likely to be reading me are fellow movie geeks and several of you are likely audio geeks, and even if you don’t fall into one of those two categories, there’s still a decent chance you’ve heard of the Wilhelm Scream. But for those of you haven’t: the Wilhelm Scream is a stock sound effect of, well, a man screaming, originally taken from the 1951 Western Distant Drums. It’s a fairly distinctive sound clip, and it’s been used in numerous movies, TV shows and cartoons — including pretty much everything George Lucas has directed or produced.[^1] Once you know what it sounds like, it’s easy to identify; there’s even a number of helpful videos on YouTube to help you place it.

Laurel, however, is six-and-a-half. She has no idea how movies are made, has no idea of how audio is produced, has no idea that there even is such a thing as a stock sound effect. Clearly, the entire concept of the Wilhelm Scream is far, far outside of her six-and-a-half years of experience.

Yet last Friday night, while we were watching Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade 1, the scene in that movie which is wilhelmscreamified came up. (For those of you playing along at home, it’s early in the great tank chase sequence about two-thirds of the way into the movie.)

And the scream happens, and Laurel says “Hey, that was the same sound as when [some reference to Star Wars, a series which has a fair amount of wilhelmscreamification in it]!” And I knew immediately what she was talking about, though I was flabbergasted to realize that she did. How the hell was this six-year-old paying enough attention, noticing detail enough, that she can recognize a sound effect used across different movies? It’s not like it gets used that frequently — once a movie, maybe. And it’s not like anyone has ever explained the function of an audio department or the sound effects editor in film production — hell, if anyone was going to explain that to her, it would’ve been me, and I know I haven’t done it.[^3]

I mean, yes, I know that she now understands that movies are things that get made by people, and the same people might be involved in making many movies: when she realized that (to her thinking) Han Solo was playing Indiana Jones, that was a pretty big moment of illumination for her. That’s obvious, though — not noticing that would have been a bigger surprise than noticing it. But this? This was surprising. I almost let out a little Wilhelm Scream of my own.

It’s times like that one when I’m afraid my jokes about her taking over the world when she grows up might not actually be jokes.

Or at the very least, I suppose, maybe it means she’ll grow up to be an audio engineer.

[^1]: Credit for reviving the clip and popularizing its use goes to sound designer extraordinaire and Oscar-winner Ben Burtt, who has assembled the sounds for most of those Lucas movies, a great many Steven Spielberg movies, and worked for the geniuses at Pixar. In fact, not only did he receive yet another Oscar nomination for WALL-E, but provided the voice for the title character.

[^3]: Supposedly, “gifted” children — and there’s no doubt that’s a group of which she’s a member — are particularly attuned to sound. It’s one reason why so many of us…er, them…seem so flinchy at loud noises.


  1. I’d forgotten just how much I loved that movie. And, oh yes, Ben Burtt won an Oscar for sound effects editing for this movie, too. 

Written by Allen

July 12th, 2010 at 9:25 am

Posted in Kids,Movies

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100-Word Review: Up In The Air

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George Clooney has this amazing ability to overlay the same charming, often smug mask over the top of a number of different characters; he looks like a Movie Star, but actually, he’s an Actor. I expected his Ryan Bingham to be a douchebag underneath the Clooney Smirk, but (spoiler!) he’s not. Instead, he’s just a scared, lonely, good-hearted guy with serious commitment issues. Director/co-writer Jason Reitman (Juno) continues his hot streak, playing against story beats he seems to telegraph. Strong performances from Clooney, Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, all of whom were nominated for Oscars (as was Reitman).

Grade: A-

Written by Allen

May 11th, 2010 at 9:03 pm

PSA: Moviegeekz Continues Rolling Along

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Just a reminder that even if it seems I haven’t been updating this site a whole lot lately, it doesn’t mean I’m not writing stuff.  Want to know what I thought of Blade Runner: The Final Cut?  Or about the recent announcement that there will be twice as many contenders for the Best Picture Oscar next year?  Or maybe you’d like to see a newer, less violent trailer for Inglourious Basterds?  (No, I know, Noah…not you.)  Then head on over to Moviegeekz and take it all in there!

Written by Allen

June 26th, 2009 at 10:44 am

Posted in Movies

Pixar’s Stanton to Adapt JOHN CARTER OF MARS

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Now it’s official:  Finding Nemo and WALL-E director Andrew Stanton will be helming his first live-action movie, John Carter of Mars.  The movie, based on the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, will be released under the Disney banner and not the Pixar banner, as was originally rumored/hypothesized, and will be hitting theatres sometime in 2012.

I’m both very excited and a little disappointed with this news.  I have every confidence that the movie’s going to be amazing: Stanton’s already a two-time Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominee — and that’s not even counting the fact that Michael Chabon (one of my favorite novelists) worked on the screenplay, too.  And I’m glad for Stanton in that he’s stretching himself and trying to do something different.  It’s not often that animation directors cross over to live action or vice versa (though Mad Max director George Miller did so with impressive results with Happy Feet).

This means that my two favorite animation directors (combined, they were in charge of four of my top five Pixar movies) are working on live-action flicks instead.  The Incredibles and The Iron Giant director Brad Bird is readying 1906 (also due in 2012) about the great San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires which nearly destroyed the city in — you’ll never believe this — 1906.  It’s not as if I’m worried about Pixar’s output dropping in quality while those guys work on non-animated features.  Up, for instance, was perfectly excellent without any input from either Bird nor Stanton (well, that’s not entirely true; both Bird and Stanton are senior executives at Pixar who surely have input into everything).  But it does mean that we won’t see animated features from either of them until probably 2014 at the very earliest.   I trust them both and will gladly rush out to go see both of their live-action movies.  What little bit I’ve heard about each sounds like they have the potential to be fantastic.  And again, kudos to both for trying new things.

But I’m already looking forward to both of them returning to animation someday.

Written by Allen

June 14th, 2009 at 12:38 pm