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Posts Tagged ‘The World’s End’

Whereas most film reviewers and podcasts I follow seem to produce their ‘best of the year’ reviews sometime in early December, I’m finally considering mine now. While our children are getting older and (even) more cine-literate, I still don’t get to the cinema very often, so only a few of my best cinematic experiences of 2013 were either actually at the cinema, or of films released in 2013. Nevertheless, it was a pretty good year for me…

Three sporting films surprised me, not least because my wife Rachel also enjoyed them, a tribute to their storytelling and (in one case especially) the jaw-dropping visuals on the screen.

Moneyball featured great performances from Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill (yes! really…) in the tale of the Oakland A’s baseball team’s rise from the poor relations of the Major League to statistical miracles. Lots of talking and stats about baseball can make for a really engrossing 2 hours.

I’ve already written at length about the brilliant documentary Senna, by Asif Kapadia. Even if you know nothing about, or care not a jot for Formula 1, I urge you to see this. But a terrific companion piece to Senna and its driven hero would be TT(3D): Closer to the Edge, which depicts the life in a week of the Isle of Man TT Races, following a few of the riders as they scream around the tiny, twisting island roads at up to 200mph, battling with uneven kerbstones, roadsigns and drystone walls just inches from the racing line. The spectre of death is never far away and the footage is mind-blowing, but even more astonishing are the men themselves. I don’t think it’s possible for world-class sportsmen to be any further from the pampered prima donnas in the UK Premiership. These guys operate out of winnebagos (or in one case sleeping in the back of a transit van on the beach), they live in modest houses, and if they weren’t doing what they do, would probably be mechanics in their local garage, spending Friday night in the pub with their mates.

Although last year I think I surpassed myself, seeing around 65-70 films, the number of foreign language films was down. Am I losing my arthouse tendencies? But although I didn’t see many, I did see an absolute belter, and it’s not a sombre drama in leaden rooms either. La Haine is a brutal depiction of the Parisian banlieue, featuring a breathless tour de force performance from Vincent Kassel. Shot in stark black & white, it follows three teens from the projects as they mope, drift and blaze their way around Paris, raging at the police and injustice and boredom. You sense from the start it probably won’t end well when the opening narration retells the story of a man falling from the 51st floor, who reassures himself as he passes each floor on the way down “so far, so good”.

La Haine movie

Another striking depiction of a particular community and place is the poetic, ambitious, fantastical (and flawed) Beasts of the Southern Wild. Here we’re in the Deep South of Louisiana, on an island forever under threat from the sea and storms. Poverty is endemic and crippling, housing seems ramshackle at best. They’re literally and figuratively a long way from the American Dream of the 21st Century, but the community spirit is unrivalled. The film focuses on a young girl’s quest to find her father under the imminent approach of a Hurricane-Katrina-like tempest. Thematically it reminded me a lot of Studio Ghibli films, where children (especially girls) take the leading roles, often in the place of irresponsible or simply absent parents. There’s a strong mystical element to the storytelling too, as she fears the invasion of mythical giant beasts (another Ghibli reference…).

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Two films surprised me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’d heard good things about Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, and the DVD had sat on my shelf for more than a year. As (another) comic-book adaptation, I presumed I’d be underwhelmed as I had been so many times before. But this is ultra-violence, profanity and black, black comedy at its best. It’s audacious in ways that most films aren’t. Its daring left me open-mouthed several times; indeed, the least surprising and over-the-top element was Nicolas Cage.

And then there’s Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. I’m a big fan of this British film-maker, from his debut film about low-rent gangsters in Brighton, Down Terrace, to his genre-busting Kill List, he’s never short of interesting, even if he’s not to your taste. The simplest way to describe Sightseers would be a mash-up between Mike Leigh’s brilliant Nuts in May and Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. The most unlikely serial killers take a caravan around Northern England; carnage ensues.

Sightseers

Natural Born Killers?

Two films I expected to love and wasn’t disappointed… Scott Pilgrim vs The World and The World’s End, both directed by Edgar Wright. I’ve been a proper fanboy of this director since I fell in love with his TV series Spaced. These films are simply fantastic in mostly different ways. They know what they want to be and go for it, no holds barred, for good or ill. Hilariously funny but with real depth and charm, excellent acting and inventive direction.

Another great comedy that I feared would be diminished by the hype was Steve Coogan’s Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, in which the eponymous and tragic radio ‘celebrity’ reaches the end of everyone’s tether in 90 minutes of mayhem before becoming an unlikely hero… we laughed a lot. A lot.

Alan Partridge Alpha Papa

I was beginning to think that I’d exhausted the cream of the crop in animation, as we’ve already run through the Pixar and Ghibli catalogues, but Paranorman was a wonderful treat. From the studio that created Coraline, it’s a brilliant mix of CGI and stop-motion animation with fabulous characters and a true love of cinema. There are countless horror genre references that all work. It repays multiple viewing with all sorts of details that are a wonder to behold.

paranorman

Lastly, and I’ve written about these at length, comes the outstanding trilogy Before Sunrise, Before Sunset & Before Midnight. Directed by Richard Linklater and co-written with stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, they depict a relationship in snapshot episodes filmed with 9 years in between each instalment. The actors/characters age, and yet their relationship is so perfectly drawn; the writing, the performances, the dialogue are all filled with humanity, which makes them my films of 2013.

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 I Reckon that Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto” or “Blood & Ice cream” trilogy of films that started with Shaun of the Dead, then Hot Fuzz, and appropriately ends this year with The World’s End is as perfect a set of three comedies as I will ever see. I’ve been a fan of his work (and that of his regular co-writers & leading actors Simon Pegg & Nick Frost) since their amazing TV series Spaced, and they’ve never failed to entertain and delight since then.

If you’ve not already seen The World’s End, I heartily recommend it.

Please be warned that my response to the film here contains many, many spoilers.

The Golden Mile World's End pub list

As I wrote recently, seeing the World’s End reminded me of all sorts of things from my time as a student. At Exeter University, I partook of more than one pub crawl. The one-that-got-away was the fabled Topsham 10. On the other hand, the University Orchestra tackled an annual jaunt around 10 pubs in Exeter City centre, culminating at The Waterfront, which I completed 3 times, not to mention an ill-judged three-legged pub crawl during Rag Week. As Gary King admits during the film,

I’m not proud of that. I am a bit.

Not just funny, but with a real heart

I think what I love most about the Cornetto Trilogy is that for all the genre-twisting cleverness, for all the laugh-out-loud lines and hilarity, they really manage to convey a complexity and a truth in everything they depict that’s all-too-rare in comedies.

Lifelong friends are able to harbour secret resentments that often transform from petty character details into major plot points. Even more, characters are allowed to be unlikable or infuriating (none more so than Gary King), but never without redeeming qualities. The World’s End addresses the stifling, haunting aspects of growing up in a small town, but at the same time celebrates the friendships, the places  and the familiarity that never quite disappears, despite everything. This bittersweet nostalgia called me back to that scene from Mad Men where Don Draper yearns to return to a place where we know that we are loved…

This recognition and indeed firm grasping of the double-edged sword enables Wright to weave a whole series of deeply moving, emotional moments into his films, often shooting them through with dark comedy, but never at the expense of characters, never with cheap jokes. He earns these moments and they all pay off, from Shaun’s moments with his step-dad, mum and best friend in Shaun of the Dead, to any number in The World’s End.

  • Almost from nowhere, Eddie Marsan as Peter Page, the hanger-on of the teenage gang, delivers a monologue reliving years of bullying, that stops us dead in our tracks. Of course, Gary King blunders on regardless, which makes the revelations all the more significant to the viewers
  • Having been shown Gary King’s attitude to his AA class in the first scene of the film, the final sequence throws a whole new light onto what we’ve seen before. His bandaged wrists tell us everything we need to know about the nature of his addictions and what they have done to him, and how his performance down The Golden Mile in Newton Haven is so important to his entire being.
  • As Nick Frost approaches the final pub, he encounters another seductress alien. As she purrs “I want you inside me” into his ear, he steps back and plunges his fist into her stomach, plucking out his wedding-ring that she had stolen earlier in the evening. Knowing what we do about the parlous state of his marriage, this is a true character statement of intent. He’s not giving up that easily, not on this night, not on Gary King, not on his marriage.

Not just funny, but clever too

The World's End friends

Spot the difference…

Edgar Wright’s films demand multiple viewings. The pacing, dialogue, camerawork and visuals move fast from the opening frames, and are literally packed with references. The opening of The World’s End has Gary King narrating his version of the infamous night of Friday 22nd June 1990. Even as I was trying to keep up with all the details in every frame, I knew these would all come back later, brilliantly and seamlessly woven into the fabric of the story.

The attention to detail is astonishing, from Peter Page’s British Home Stores anorak and jeans to Paddy Considine’s secret feelings for Sam. Indeed, the pubs of The Golden Mile are not simply archetypal names, they describe the plot developments that take place within that pub, as this terrific blog explains…

And like the very best genre films, this has plenty to say about the homogenisation of our towns and consumer culture, from identikit High Streets and pubs to a collective dependence on technology. You don’t get that in The Hangover…

Not just funny, but really, really funny

I think I laughed out loud more times in the cinema during the 110 minutes of The World’s End than I can remember. The dialogue is consistently whip-crackingly swift and smart and the visual gags come thick and fast. A few lines and two moments were the standouts for me…

What the f*ck does WTF mean?

I still think nothing that has been suggested in the last 10 minutes beats ‘smashy smashy egg men’.

We’ll always have the disableds.

Get back in your rocket, and fuck off back to LEGOLAND, you c*nts!

That last line nearly had me sliding off my chair in fits of laughter, and I probably missed at least a couple of jokes while I recovered. Then there’s the fight scene in the toilets of The Cross Hands, which starts from absolutely nothing, escalates within seconds to something out of the opening scene Casino Royale, then becomes a major set-piece that lasts for several minutes. While I have a slight quibble about how quickly everyone seems to get really quite good at fighting, there’s still proper character truths in the way they respond to the danger.

Perhaps best of all was Nick Frost / Andy Knightley’s transformation from the teetotal, buttoned-up lawyer into The Pink Hulk. I don’t often cheer in the cinema, but I could have stood and hollered as he wielded bar stools like gigantic Popeye-forearms.

The World's End Nick Frost Pink Hulk

Don’t make him angry…

I’ve read some reviews that have taken against the final scenes beneath The World’s End pub as being just a bit too silly; but I beg to disagree. At the time I was wondering where it was going, and how they were going to end this, but Bill Nighy’s voice of The Network was perhaps the best evocation of the late, great Douglas Adams that I’ve seen. Humans are primitive, stupid and stubborn; it’s a miracle we’ve lasted this long without destroying ourselves. The Higher Beings are world-weary, surreal, mundane, fabulous.

The Network: It’s pointless arguing with you. You will be left to your own devices.

Gary: Really?

The Network: Yeah. Fuck it.

Oh, and when the Cornetto reference finally came, I burst into spontaneous applause.

I’m not at all sure if I can rank the three films of The Cornetto Trilogy, but I know I love every one of them.

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We went to see The World’s End a couple of days ago, the final part of Edgar Wright’s amazing ‘Blood & Icecream’ / ‘Cornetto’ trilogy that includes Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. They are two of my favourite films of recent years, and so it had a lot to live up to. It didn’t disappoint, but more of that another day.

The story revolves around a group of school-friends who revisit their home town to attempt a marathon pub crawl, that they last tackled 16 years ago, on the day they left school. It’s clear that night, Friday 22nd June, 1990, was the end of something; but perhaps not for all the characters. Back then I was in my 2nd year at university, which was itself the end of something for me. Coming out of the film, I was instantly reliving Great Pub Crawls or Nights Out I Can (vaguely) Remember.

I’ve written before about unearthing my old diaries, and I was compelled to seek them out from the loft. June 1990 was the end of my 2nd year, a time filled with parties and drinking and the like. I was 21 years old. It was amazing. Wasn’t it?

Not exactly.

Party Time…

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun…

Don’t get me wrong, we had a terrific time. We went out a lot. During the first weeks of June exams finished, so there were countless opportunities to celebrate the final papers with someone, anyone, everyone. During the last two weeks of June 1990 – as far as my diaries are reliable –  I played three orchestral concerts, 3 gigs with SwingBand, went to two all-night Balls, and was probably very drunk at least 8 times. We had a huge extended circle of friends that stemmed from our 1st Year in Halls of Residence; now we were scattered in smaller houses around Exeter. There was always someone to go and see, someone to have a drink and a good time with. We had been close for two years. It was as good as it gets.

Don’t dream it’s over…

I hope you find your good fortune, I hope you find peace in everything you do. I hope that the colours of the rainbow they colour your clothing. And I hope you find love.

But it was coming to an end. After the summer I was going to study in France for a year. By the time I returned many of my friends would have finished their degrees and left Exeter. It wouldn’t be the same. In that last week of June, people started packing up and going home for the summer in dribs and drabs. What with all the boozing and playing and exam revision it’s clear I was exhausted most of the time. I get the impression I may well have been somewhat manic, and occasionally more than a bit Moody. Sorry everyone.

Angst…

He suddenly recalled the famous myth from Plato’s Symposium. People were hermaphrodites until God split them in two, and now all the halves wander the world over seeking one another.Love is longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.

Apparently, as well as listening to World Party and REM and Hothouse Flowers, I was reading F.Scott Fitzgerald short stories and Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I was a troubled soul, still overflowing with pools of teenage angst, not knowing who I was or what I could be. I still harboured visions of idealised romantic love, but clearly didn’t have the capacity to do anything about it.I blew my horn, playing the Dallas TV fanfare theme instead of the Sea Shanty during our Summer Prom Concert. I belted out solos and choruses with our SwingBand. I danced till we dropped to The Happy Mondays and Primal Scream and The Soup Dragons. But there’s only sketchy details of that in the diaries; there’s a lot more introspection and melancholy.

I was leaving, and starting something new had always been the making of me; going to Boarding School, going to America, going to University, and this time going to France for a year. But at the time, it was hard. Going back to Exeter earlier this year, in person, seeing the physical changes in the buildings and the feel of the campus where I once roamed with my friends, was a weird experience. But going back to the days around 22nd June 1990 in the words of my diaries was harder and more intimate. Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg’s script for The World’s End absolutely nails it.

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