Friday, 19 July 2013

The World's End - review

"Have you ever had one of those nights that started out like any other and became the best night of your life?"
Gary King certainly did, and 22 years down the line he still thinks about that night and so he rounds up his childhood friends aka "The Five Musketeers" and they head back to their hometown of Newton Haven to have another crack at The Golden Mile. 5 guys. 12 pubs. 50 pints... 60 pints.
But the times they are a changing and it's not long into the crawl that things turn a bit "Invasion Of The Boddingtons Snatchers" and the lads will have more than a hangover to deal with if they are to make it to The World's End...

The best friendships are the ones where years could have passed without seeing each other but within half an hour, the old camaraderie and jokes are flowing as fast as the beer and its as if nothing has changed at all.
This is certainly the case with messieurs Wright, Pegg and Frost. It has been six years since Hot Fuzz and they seamlessly pick up where they left off with a terrific opening sequence outlining the ill-fated pub crawl with Wright's traditional smash cut and frenetic editing, an eclectic and killer soundtrack and a script that is smart, funny and multi-layered.
However beyond the appearance of a particular ice cream, a fence gag and fruit machine sound effect, this is an all-together more grown up flavour of Cornetto.
Gone are the multitude of pop culture references and the gag-ratio has been toned down in favour of something much more reflective, nostalgic and ultimately bittersweet. Although I can guarantee that a certain line that features the word Legoland will become one of the quotes of the year.
The film makers themselves have admitted that they are older and not the same people they were when they first worked together on Spaced and Shaun Of The Dead so it would be have foolish to try and act that like they were still in their twenties... They just leave that to their main character.

One of the main themes of the film is the notion that you can't keep living in the past, like a shark you have to keep moving forward or die. And with Gary King what we have on our hands is a dead shark.
Gary is unable to realise this at first, even with help from his best friends, and in many ways bears resemblance to one of 2013's other cinematic (and literary) nostalgics, The Great Gatsby.
Nick Carraway says the line "You can't repeat the past" to which Gatsby replies "Why of course you can".
Gatsby has spent most of his life and fortune in one long party, trying to recapture that one perfect moment in his life (his relationship and love with Daisy Buchanan), a pursuit which is ultimately doomed...
Similar to Gary and his attempt to conquer the Golden Mile.
His character can come across as selfish and annoying but we've all had a friend like that yet underneath there is a sadness which makes him a rather tragic anti-hero.
It is a refreshing change to see Pegg & Frost mix up the dynamic by having Frost play the straight man while Pegg gets to play the comical f*ck up this time round. They may have swapped roles but the chemistry is still there and you really get a sense of the history between the two.
There is a scene between them in the final pub which went to places one would never have expected when the trilogy started nearly ten years ago, leaving me with a lump in my throat and is the best on screen work that Pegg and Frost have ever done.

The Cornetto Trilogy has always managed to draw some incredible talent into appearing in these films and once again they have assembled one of the best British ensemble casts outside of the Harry Potter franchise.
A whole host of familiar faces (and voices) pop up in cameos alongside newcomers like Rosamund Pike and Eddie Marsan who fit in perfectly with Paddy Considine rounding out The Five Musketeers along with Martin Freeman who excels in what might be the trickiest role to play outside of Pegg's.
The reason they have been able to continue to attract this level of talent is down to the quality of the script and filmmaking.
Each part of the trilogy has featured at its core, an individual or small group fighting against the homogenisation of an external force, whether that be zombies, the NWA or The Network.
Wright & Pegg have taken genres typically associated with Hollywood (the zombie horror, action blockbuster and science-fiction) and grounded them in a very British reality by having them becoming an obstacle to the protagonist's main goal (Shaun getting his girlfriend back, Angel trying to solve a Midsomer Murder Mystery and the quest to conquer The Golden Mile).
The World's End has just the right level of juxtaposition that allows Wright to deftly move between the ridiculous and the sublime, effortlessly moving between comedy and tragedy. For example, going from a heartfelt confessional moment of pain and regret to a beautifully choreographed bar brawl that combines drunken monkey style Kung fu and early 90s' WWE moves, but never at the expense of character.
Plus the scripts are very densely plotted that there is much to enjoy on multiple viewings with the names of the pubs acting as chapter titles for the action and even subtly hints at how the plot will unfold from the very beginning. This is also goes for the soundtrack which features several classic tracks from the early Nineties that fit the mood perfectly but also contain many lyrics that echo emotions and actions that drive the story.
If there were to be any criticisms, it may lie with the final epilogue which feels just a touch out of place with the rest of the film but it does provide one of the main running gags which helps tie the whole trilogy together.
The World's End might not have been the conclusion to the Cornetto Trilogy that people were perhaps expecting but I've tried to think of another way it could have ended and my mind is drawing a complete "blank".
The best films are the ones that stay with you long after you leave the cinema, the ones that speak to you on a personal level, like the filmmakers wrote it specifically for you and I feel that this one more than the others in the trilogy will grow to fill that place in many cinemagoers hearts (particularly ones of a certain age) as they take stock, reflect on life and get in touch with some old friends for a nostalgic trip back down memory lane to their own Golden Mile.

4 stars

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

The Edgar Wright Takeover at The Prince Charles Cinema review - An Epic Of Epic Epicness

Anyone who knows me will know that I am not adverse to the odd film-going experience that other people may find, extreme.
I've done a 12 hour round trip to Glasgow to catch the first screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the IMAX, I've hosted a Dark Knight Trilogy at The Belmont Picturehouse dressed as The Joker (including Nurse outfit) and I've watched every single one of Empire Magazine's Top 500 films in one year (on top of new releases).
However the event on Saturday 7th July would be on a whole different level in terms of endurance.
Edgar Wright is one of my favourite directors and one of the most exciting talents working in the film industry today and to coincide with the upcoming release of The World's End, The Prince Charles Cinema just off Leicester Square had organised a 16.5 hour Edgar Wright Takeover.
The Prince Charles is famous for its repertory programming and events and there was a buzz of excitement growing outside the cinema, helped by the awesome readograph message. Could the event be an "Epic of Epic Epicness" or would it amount to nothing more than sitting around eating peanuts in the dark?

Since 16.5 hours is a long time to spend in a cinema, it was important to have a steady source of snackage and therefore I'd sourced a selection of themed snacks to sustain me over the night including Hog Lumps, Twiglets (caution - violence may ensue) and Jaffa Cakes in my coat pocket. Only thing missing was a pint of Bovril!

"280 eager fans begin their own version of the Golden Mile.
16.5 hours from A Fistful Of Fingers to Scott Pilgrim Vs The World"

The evening kicked off with Edgar Wright happily chastising us for choosing to spend part of the hottest weekend of the year inside a darkened room watching his life's work and provided a layout of the night/morning ahead but also promised a few surprises... However a preview screening of The World's End would not be on the cards sadly, ha ha.

First up was Edgar Wright's debut feature film A Fistful Of Fingers, a Western filmed in his hometown of Wells, Somerset, which hadn't been in cinemas since it played The Prince Charles in 1995.
It might have received a 1 star review in Empire Magazine (oh how times have changed!) and is clearly the work of a young filmmaker just starting out but the film is full of the technical inventiveness and whipsmart gags (the "Nun shall pass" gag being a highlight) that would become his trademark style and could be described as "If Zucker/Abraham/Zucker had created a mash-up of Blazing Saddles & Monty Python And The Holy Grail".

Edgar returned for a quick Q&A on the film in which he was frank and honest about it, the story behind the Jeremy Beadle cameo, how the film's lead Graham Low appeared in Hot Fuzz as the Living Statue and whether we might ever see it as an extra on a future DVD release.
He then bid us farewell and hoped we would all enjoy the rest of the event and that he would be back in the morning to make sure we were all still here!

First bathroom break followed and I had to pee, not due to boredom but necessity, and in a nice touch the staff had placed "Pee Bars" above the urinals.
The gaps between each segment were kept to 5-10 minutes each time in order to quicken the pace of the event and keep everyone's attention focused on the screen but the brief breaks were a hive of activity with long queues for the bathrooms, people stretching their legs, shouts of "Can I get any of you c*nts a drink?" and "Do you want anything from the shop?" as they went to the bar.
The PCC staff were also filming audience reactions and had a photo booth set up with props including cricket bat, vinyl records, etc.

Each segment began with a special bonus treat and we got the first episode of The Random Adventures of Brandon Generator, the online graphic novel that was created with the help of fans.
Spaced is my all-time favourite TV show and seeing it on the big screen was one of the main draws of the event for me.
I have watched the series many, many times but the show is so well written and performed that another viewing unlocked new gags and references that I hadn't noticed before.
Initially I was surprised that we wouldn't be watching the whole two seasons back-to-back, which would have meant the event would have run in chronological order, but it turned out to be a very smart move to break it down into runs of 3-4 episodes as Episode 3, featuring the zombie segment, was the inspiration for the first instalment of the Cornetto trilogy Shaun Of The Dead.

No real signs of fatigue in the audience at this point but I had one minor irritation, my eyes. The weather in London that weekend was glorious and as a pasty white Scotsman I had needed some protection so in the words of Buffalo Bill, "it puts the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again", but during the day it had melted off my face into my eyes and ended up irritating my eyes which I continued to rub for the entire night and I was forced to purchase eye drops and apply some between each film. I didn't care if my eyeballs bled (a distinct possibility when the time came round to watching Scott Pilgrim) nothing could stop me watching the big screen.

Preceded by the Don't trailer that Wright directed for Grindhouse, it was time to watch everyone's favourite "Rom-Zom-Com" on the big screen for the first time since I saw it on release back in 2004.
Still remains a pitch-perfect blend between comedy and horror with a host of random crowd-pleasing moments like the C-Bomb that ITV2 always cuts, Bill Nighy's amazing pivot turn and the pool cue fight to Don't Stop Me Now.

We were now into Sunday and approaching the halfway point in the marathon with the conclusion of Brandon Generator and the second part of Spaced season 1 including my favourite episode of that season, the clubbing episode and the introduction of Michael Smiley's Tyres.

After another quick pit stop we were off to the country and "this shit just got real" with Hot Fuzz. Once again Wright and Pegg's script perfectly balances the culture clash of Bruckheimer action with a Midsomer Murder Mystery heavily influenced by The Wicker Man.
If nothing else, the film proved that Timothy Dalton needs to appear on the big screen more often and that dropkicking a granny in the face is never not funny!

After being treated to a fun home video clip of a young Edgar Wright's appearance on Going Live, we cracked on with Season 2 of Spaced and having just watched Season 1 earlier it was clear to see the leaps and bounds that Wright had developed as a director in that time as it was a lot more cinematic in terms of visual flair.
The first three episodes also included the fallout of The Phantom Menace and Reece Shearsmith's unique delivery of the line "aw yeah, I hadn't thought of that!".

Still wasn't suffering from any general fatigue symptoms but my eyes looked as if they had been on the receiving end of an entire can of mace.
No time to worry about that though as the "bonus features" kept on coming with a selection of music videos including a Bluetones song that allowed Edgar to indulge his love for Bugsy Malone.
Meanwhile in the city of Toronto, Canada Scott Pilgrim was battling his way through the League of Evil Exes in the only comic book movie where Michael Cera defeats Superman AND Captain America... "That's actually hilarious".
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World might not have had the box office success that it deserved but it showed that after the Britishness of Shaun and Fuzz that Wright was extremely comfortable working in the US studio system and the action scenes proved that the upcoming adaptation of Ant Man for Marvel was in safe hands as we were to find out... but more on that later.

As promised, Edgar returned after Scott Pilgrim Vs The World to check up on how we were all doing and brought Jaffa Cakes for everyone. However he had brought so many he needed a friend to help him carry them and out popped Nick Frost to the delight of the crowd.
After dishing out 300+ Jaffa Cakes for breakfast the two stuck around for a hilarious and expletive-laden impromptu Q&A.

Highlights included:

  • when asked if he could film a biopic on anyone who would it be Edgar lamented that unfortunately all his childhood idols were now paedophiles which would make it rather tricky
  • debating whether a Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit
  • Edgar & Nick leading the screen in a rendition of Happy Birthday to a lucky fan

  • I was fortunate enough to be able to ask a question, well I asked it after Wright complimented my Shaun Cosplay outfit but pointed out that Shaun wasn't Scottish so to ask it again in an English accent so putting on a stereotypical posh voice (to which he dubbed me "Downton Shaun") I asked them if they wrote the scripts for The Cornetto Trilogy with certain actors in mind (not including Pegg & Frost's roles of course) and hope they get them or if they tailor the script following casting.
    Edgar admitted they write with actors in mind as it makes it easier to write to their voices and they have been very fortunate with all the great people that they have worked with.

    The finishing line was in sight when the roof nearly blew off the auditorium as we were treated to one last surprise from Mr Wright... NO, not The World's End but the Ant Man test footage that was screened at Comic Con and it would be fair to say the crowd approved of the sequence that showed Hank Pym switching between sizes as he fought his way down a guarded corridor. I had previously seen it on YouTube but it looked amazing up on the big screen.
    The marathon drew to a close with the final four episodes of Spaced featuring Edgar Wright's favourite episode (which also happens to be mine and many others) 2.5 Gone.
    There is always clamour for another season of the show but I feel that it ended on the perfect note and besides the best UK comedy shows only have 2 seasons (Fawlty Towers, The Office).

    "Skip to the end..."

    So 16.5 hours later, a couple of hundred people emerged from the darkened auditorium into the blinding sunshine for the traditional Prince Charles Marathon Survivor photograph which quickly descended into a Spaced-style gunfight.
    Finally the icing on a very delicious cake of awesome came in the form of the item that has become synonymous with Edgar Wright's work... A free Cornetto!

    And so that was the end of the Edgar Wright Takeover and I can honestly say that it was one of the best experiences I've ever had in a cinema. So much so that even though I live in Aberdeen, I bought a year's membership for the cinema as I can guarantee it won't be the last event I attend there.
    There are more ways than ever to view movies (DVD, streaming, on a tablet/phone) and between ever-shrinking theatrical windows & multi-platform releases there is a danger that the trip to the cinema will become the minority choice for many consumers.
    However I don't care how big your widescreen TV at home is, nothing can recreate the feeling you get when you watch a movie that you love on the big screen surrounded by people who feel the same way.
    I believe that repertory programming and special event cinema, like that being done at The Prince Charles, generates that sense of community, of belonging to something and being around others who appreciate and enjoy it too, is the way forward and will keep the big screen experience alive and kicking.
    A huge thanks and a big thumbs up to the staff at The Prince Charles Cinema (and Edgar Wright and Nick Frost) for organising such a successful event and long may it continue.