Super freaks

Nathan Fillion in a girly wig. Ellen Page being an idiot. Rainn Wilson. Three reasons right there to get your knickers in a twist over James Slither Gunn’s bloody, sly, genre-muddling Super. Scripted long before Kick-Ass but only now making it to screens, it’s of that same ‘bloke becomes superhero’ mould – but is by all accounts filthier. Yes, filthier than a 10-year-old muttering the C word.

Branded an “effed up, low-rent Watchmen” by Wilson, Super follows the comedy crusader’s everyguy Frank. When Frank’s wife (the smokin’ hot Liv Tyler) goes on a drug-slicked bender with Kevin Bacon, Frank transforms himself into superhero Crimson Bolt in an attempt to win her back. If only he was actually any good at rescuing people.

Okay, awesome check list… Page blowing a bloke up with a grenade? Check! Fillion feeling fey as the Holy Avenger? Check! Tyler actually being injected during a druggy re-enactment scene? Uhhh… check! Director-writer Gunn may have branded shooting the thing a “hellish experience” (tight budget purse-strings meant they rushed through a whopping 50 set-ups a day), but Super has ‘runaway cult hit’ status stamped all over it. And not just because it has Nathan Fillion in a girly wig.

Via Total Film

Michael Cera – "I have no perspective on myself whatsoever"

He’s cornered the market in geek, but this summer Michael Cera is cracking open a can of whoop-ass with comic book hero Scott Pilgrim. Total Film finds out where he’s been and where he’s going…

Michael Cera is a quiet chap. Big Hollywood parties? He won’t be there. In-depth career discussions? He’s not fussed. Dating? “I have no idea. I’m still trying to figure it out.” According to Juno co-star Ellen Page he’s also “an incredibly sweet guy – honest, non-judgmental, and every good adjective I can think of”.

Yet despite the soft-toned bashfulness with which Cera has approached many of his on-screen roles, the 22 year old Canadian is heading up the loudest, brashest, most retina-sizzling super-movie of the year with comic book adap Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World. Word is that this leap from geek to chic – with Cera bringing the action as a fist-bruising Manga fighter – could represent a new phase in the young whippersnapper’s flourishing career. But is the nerd shtick really about to be given the kiss of death?

Chatting to Total Film last year midway through shooting Scott Pilgrim, Cera is evidently having a blast (literally, figuratively) embracing a character who’s, shall we say, a little more Luke Skywalker than Jar Jar. “There’s an amazing fight between Mae Whitman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead where they’re using these weapons, and it’s really amazingly done,” the actor reveals. “And there are some other things, like battles with music in them and sword fighting. There’s all sorts of different things.”

Filming in Toronto with Hot Fuzz helmer Edgar Wright, the Pilgrim shoot is a return to the Ontario-hailing actor’s Canada roots. Born in 1988 to a Sicilian, Xerox technician father and a Canadian mother (his surname, pronounced ‘Seh-ra’, apparently translates from the Spanish word for ‘Wax’), Cera’s first post-commercials gig had him voicing a Noddy character in 1999. That same year, having lost an audition to star in The Sixth Sense and in a sign of Hollywood’s cyclical nature, Cera made his first on-screen appearance alongside future Pilgrim co-star Allison Pill in TV movie What Kady Did.

Years of small screen jobs followed, with a baby-faced Cera appearing in episodes of I Was A Sixth Grade Alien and La Femme Nikita, while a brief appearance in Frequency marked his first mainstream movie. By all accounts the youngling was what you’d called a ‘normal teen’, making prank phone calls with his high school buddy and citing The Big Lebowski and Spaceballs as big influences. Did he ever rebel in any way? “I didn’t, too much,” Cera deliberates. “I was working since I was nine years old.”

He’s the kind of guy everybody loves: unassuming, unimposing, quietly droll. “He’s awesome,” gushes Pilgrim co-star-cum-love interest Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays multi-coloured lovely Ramona Flowers. “He’s like the coolest guy ever. I feel so lucky to be able to work with him because he’s so sweet and such a hard working actor. He’s really one of a kind.”

Clearly, Edgar Wright and original Pilgrim comic author Bryan Lee O’Malley feel the same. “Edgar and I were both big fans,” O’Malley tells us, having first caught sight of Cera on smash hit TV series Arrested Development. “When we were first talking about the Pilgrim film Michael was too young, but by the time we actually got to production it was a different story.”

As Scott, Cera takes the lead in a lush, POW!-packed comic book adap that draws on everything from video games and Manga lore to Skins-style twentysomething drama. In the ‘out there’ plot, Scott plays in a band (alongside Pill and Mark Webber), has a gay roommate who is frequently trouser-less (a phenomenal Kieran Culkin)… and must battle the seven evil ex-beaus of new love Ramona if he wants to date her (Chris Evans and Brandon Routh are among them). The ensuing scenes of sword-clashing conflict posed a fresh challenge that Cera whole-armedly embraced.

“I think Michael takes a pummelling in every single fight, which is just funny,” laughs director Wright. Confirms Cera: “I guess the only things we don’t do are like falling from the scaffolding and going through walls and stuff.”

The film’s been tagged by Juno director Jason Reitman (who caught an early screening) as “The Matrix for love”, with Scott having to fight all manner of fiends for the right to claim Ramona’s heart. What does love mean to Cera? “Pure grain alcohol,” the actor deadpans. “I really don’t know. Would anyone have a good answer to that?”

Scott Pilgrim is a change of pace for the twentysomething. Set to introduce him to a whole new audience of movie-goers, the film will also give his existing fans something new to gawp and giggle at. Cera’s perfect for the role. Aside from having his own band (The Long Goodbye), which helped with the flick’s music-heavy leanings, Cera encapsulates the original comic’s dry humour while also bringing the kind of physicality and quirky, pure-hearted warmth that the character demands. (“I don’t want to make the Zac Efron version of Scott Pilgrim,” Wright argued against naysayers, “I mean, shouldn’t he be like an underdog, physically?”)

Pilgrim is also a significant change for the actor, who primed himself as king of the geeks opposite Jonah Hill in the riotous Superbad (as the romantically challenged Evan) and in pregnancy drama Juno. Lanky and awkward but big-eyed and endearing – like a half-grown puppy still attempting to internally order the world – Cera’s popularity and profile hit the jackpot with those megabuck roles.

He doesn’t think he’s responsible for branding his own breed of comedy, though. “No. I don’t feel like that,” the actor asserts. “I’ve just had scripts that I really like come my way that I was lucky to be attached to.” Surely he recognises that he does something different to his peers, though? “I guess. It’s really hard for me to think about it like that. I have no perspective on that, whatsoever.”

By all accounts, Pilgrim could herald the dawn of a new Cera, one who rebuffs laurel-resting in favour of new opportunities. The actor’s appearance in this year’s darkly comic Youth In Revolt (in which he was deliciously funny as his character’s filthy imaginary alter-ego), and now Pilgrim certainly nod in that direction.

So what does the future hold? A re-team with Jonah Hill seems likely. “We’re figuring it out,” Hill said recently. “I imagine that we’ll work together again at some point.” There’s also the Arrested Development movie, and a potential role in the big screen Gilligan’s Island. Looks like the quiet life is officially over for Cera. “For the most part, you just have to let go and go with it,” the actor notes.

Via Total Film

Whip It (2010)

Jammers score. Blockers block. And pivots… well, they sort of block too. If you’re feeling really saucy, you could always whip it. Make sense? If it does, you’re obviously a fan of that oestrogen-infused, hot-wheeled American pastime known as roller derby.

If not, fear not. Drew Barrymore and co are here to educate. Thrashing round a circuit track sporting miniskirts, tattoos and a fair few cross-me-and-die expressions, the gals in Whip It are championing girl power and attitude galore.

What’s it all in aid of? Well, it starts with a girl. Her name’s Bliss (Ellen Page). She’s feeling anything but – “Just defective, I guess.” Seventeen-years-old and her mother’s very own living doll, Bliss wants nothing more than to break free from the beauty pageants and concoct her own flavour of fun.

Which is when she happens upon roller derby. Pledging thrills, spills and frills; it’s everything that has been missing from Bliss’ life. So she secretly joins the ‘Hurl Scouts’ team and becomes brazen alter ego Babe Ruthless. But what will mummy dearest think?

Based on the novel Derby Girl by ex-roller athlete Shauna Cross, Whip It is the directorial debut of one Drew Barrymore. Uh-oh, schmaltz alert! But… wait. Despite having brightened up her fair share of blinding, Prozac-happy rom-coms, this once-rebel-without-a-cause does an admirable job of stripping back the gloss to forge something that ebbs with a cool, authentic indie vibe.

With its teen torment, carefully crafted romance, and Amazonian action heroines, Barrymore’s adaptation adeptly channels the spirit of the sport itself. Rough but heartfelt, her film boasts an edgy ’70s zeal – from no-fuss visuals to a head-banging soundtrack, which features the rockin’ likes of Tilly and the Wall, .38 Special and Goose.

The restrained approach is both a blessing and a curse. An empyrean underwater clinch, a cornfield romp and a moment of heartbreaking, well, heartbreak are all neatly handled. Here, Barrymore isn’t afraid to let these mostly wordless scenes play through images and music.

But when it comes to the sport itself, usually a bombastic blend of genuine athleticism and high camp, she tends to keep the lioness caged. Her biggest frivolity ends up being the unveiling of the circuit track, in which a blackout gives way to a glittering, suspended roller-skate.

At its most basic, Whip It is the story of a girl searching for her identity. Which, naturally, factors in the well-heeled drama of a mother-versus-daughter mêlée. But this threadbare lynchpin is given fresh legs by the combined thesp power of Marcia Gay Harden and teen queen Ellen Page. Harden, as ever, is a force to be reckoned with. Brittle and cold, yet loving and desperate, her interactions with Page’s likeable indie chick afford Whip It its strongest asset.

The addition of Juliette Lewis as bitch-on-wheels Iron Maven is also a masterstroke, though it’s frustrating that her character is kept on a PG leash, reducing her to a sideways snark that lacks the requisite bite.

In the cluttered sports movie sub-genre, it would be easy to diminish Whip It to Bring It On with balls (there’s even a similar bloody-faced ‘Is it bad?’ moment). But where the latter embraced saccharine dairy products (and there’s nothing wrong with that), Whip It establishes itself as a restless nomad with fire in its belly.

Anticipation: Roller-skates still exist? And they’re still cool? Wow! 3

Enjoyment: A killer soundtrack and a sassy, game cast make for a fun-filled roller-ride. 4

In Retrospect: A restrained but accomplished debut from Barrymore, who emerges with minimal bruising. 4

Via Little White Lies