CinemaReviews

Review: The World’s End, Pacific Rim, The Look of Love + School Holiday Roundup

By July 16, 2013 9 Comments

Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddie Considine and Martn Freeman in The world's End

I can imagine some people not enjoying The World’s End. People who don’t care about — or even notice — cinematic craftsmanship, people who think that being self-referential means being self-indulgent, audiences who prefer their action sequences to be cosmic in scale and measured in megabytes per second rather than laughs per minute — I expect those people might feel that the latest masterpiece by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost goes sailing over their heads. After all, a film like The World’s End rewards concentration (and second and third viewings) whereas most blockbusters rely on increasingly destructive spectacle for audiences to get their kicks.

The World's End posterThat’s not to say that this film is light on apocalypse — it promises the end of the world after all — but its core remains the deep friendships between men of a certain age and how those friendships grow when tested — the same theme that infused their previous two films together, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

[pullquote]Pacific Rim shows how loving bad films sometimes means you make bad films.[/pullquote]Pegg plays Gary King, middle-aged lost soul, pining for the glory days of High School and desperate to complete his masterpiece — the 12 pub crawl through Newton Haven known as “The Golden Mile”. He and his mates failed back in 1993 and he’s rounding them up for one last crack at it. His four old mates (played by Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and the wonderful Eddie Marsan) are reluctant to leave their tidy grown-up lives behind but, persuaded, they get to their old stomping grounds only to find they are humanity’s only hope to avoid inter-galactic colonisation.

The World’s End makes every other commercial film this year look like lazy, spineless hackwork. Tightly plotted, solid characters with real development, an emotional core, several layers of subtext — it’s all here and they make it look so easy. It’s 109 minutes and not a moment is wasted. They pack more gags into every scene than anyone has a right to expect and even the jokes advance plot, character and theme. It’s staggering. These three films should be set texts at every film school, everywhere in the world. Flawless.

Pacific Rim posterConsiderably less flawless is Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, a movie inspired by (and dedicated to) the great monster movies of the 20th century — stop-motion pasticine classics by the late Ray Harryhausen and Ishirô Honda (who made Godzilla back in 1954). This is a very 21st Century version, though, with state-of-the-art digital giant robots fighting equally digital slobbery giant monsters that emerge from a portal at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Aliens invading Earth again. The effects are breathtaking — it’s patronising to say that, yes, they really can do anything now, but they can! Like the crappy B-movies that inspired it, Pacific Rim fails on character, acting and plot. The World’s End shows how you can honour your inspirations and still be great. Pacific Rim shows how loving bad films sometimes means you make bad films.

The Look of Love posterAnother disappointment from a director whose previous I am fond of, Michael Winterbottom’s The Look of Love misses an opportunity to use a single character to define a culture they way, say, 24 Hour Party People did with rock journalist Tony Wilson and the Manchester music scene back in 2002. Steve Coogan is also the star of this one, playing Britain’s king of porn, Paul Raymond, who bestrode the seedy side streets of Soho like a moustachioed colossus for four decades.

From the nudie shows at the end of the pier to “classy” entertainments he hoped would rival the Folies Bergere and Moulin Rouge, Raymond was a very British smut-peddler. Seeing as my football team is successfully owned by two chaps who made their fortunes from the very same culture that Raymond started, I’m not going to get prudish or judgmental about the subject. I can say that, by focusing on the dreary family dramas, the film misses an opportunity to discuss why English adult entertainment was so grim, so classless. It also relies too heavily on Coogan’s charisma to restore interest when it so often flags. Sloppy.

The Other Son posterLorraine Levy’s The Other Son is a heavy-handed drama about the fallout from a maternity hospital mix-up in which an Israeli and Palestinian baby are swapped accidentally. Now they are teenagers and the truth is out. I’m not sure how often this actually happens, particularly in an environment so fraught with symbolism to begin with, but somehow this film manages to make the age-old questions of nature vs. nurture seem fairly turgid, and the hands of fate with which the film is concerned are simply replaced by the equally manipulative hands of the screenwriter.

Epic posterA quick final word on the battle for school holiday animated supremacy, raging at a multiplex near you. Monsters University is another Pixar sequel misfire, purporting to tell audiences how beloved (at least by me) characters Mike and Sulley met while navigating Scare School. Despite the presence of Helen Mirren among the voice cast, this one stank of straight-to-video. Big disappointment. I could have sworn that Epic was from the same people that made the Christmas bomb Rise of the Guardians but I was wrong! It’s been spray-painted with the same can of ugly, though, that’s for sure.

Ripping off dozens of already successful children’s stories (not least The Borrowers), Epic is about a society of tiny people living harmoniously in the woods, threatened by the forces of decay, protected by their magic Queen (Beyoncé Knowles). When she dies before appointing a successor, a shrunken human teenager (Amanda Seyfried) is tasked with protecting the sacred bulb, blah, blah, blah. It’s a decent story and my eleven-year-old companion enjoyed herself (and recognised more of the celebrity voices than I did) but, damn, it was ugly.

Despicable Me 2 posterThe champion has to be Despicable Me 2, pitched at such a young age that parents simply have to watch with them (you wouldn’t leave a four-year-old alone in a movie theatre, would you?). This is box office dynamite! Two adult tickets for every child. In fact, I can’t imagine a better cinematic baby-sitter than this one. Undemanding slapstick comedy, animated to a very high level, with maximal cuteness. I have to say, I felt nothing but I could sense the enjoyment coming from the littlies all around me.

[Portions of this review previously appeared in FishHead Magazine.]

 

9 Comments

  • Leith Aitken says:

    It’s interesting you should talk about how The World’s End might fly above the heads of people who believe self-reference equals self-indulgence. I didn’t go to the premiere on Saturday so I haven’t seen it yet, but I have seen a few tweets that bad-mouth the film, including one that called it a “Pretentious action comedy with despicable characters riddled by egomania of its creators.” Some people…

    • Dan says:

      It was precisely comments like that I had in mind. Some people indeed…

      • benjamin hill says:

        I 100% agree with you that the staggering, flawless masterpieces
        SHAUN OF THE DEAD
        HOT FUZZ and
        THE WORLD’S END
        ‘should be set texts at every film school, everywhere in the world’.
        joining
        CITIZEN KANE
        SUNRISE
        TOKYO STORY
        VERTIGO
        BATTLESHIP POTEMKIN
        2001: A SPACE ODESSY
        PERSONA
        METROLPOLIS
        etc etc
        furthermore, I put it to you that Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are the equal of Renoir, Kubrick, Ozu, Lang, Bergman, Murnau, Hitchcock, Eisenstein, Dreyer, Godard, etc etc.

        • Dan says:

          All sarcasm aside, suggesting that filmmakers might learn from great modern craftsmen doesn’t deny the power and influence of the masters.

          It’s not a zero sum game.

          Surprised you left DIE HARD off your list, though.

          • benjamin hill says:

            so you honestly werent being sarcastic in saying ‘The Cornetto trilogy’ were staggering flawless masterpieces that should be set texts at every film school, everywhere?

  • benjamin hill says:

    DIE HARD probably is discussed in a ‘Craftsmanship on Film’ workshop in some film skool…along with every other film ever made, film making being a craft.

    Speaking of craft, know your craft…Ishiro Honda never used stop motion animation and Harryhausen didnt use plasticine.

  • Gordon Poulson says:

    Oh Danny Boy.…. your pipes are clogged.
    What on earth are you talking about. Those 3 Edgar Wright films should be set texts at every film school!
    Tell me you met Edgar or Frost or Pegg when they were here recently.
    You must have. It’s the only possible excuse for that kind of foul ass smooching!
    Any film critic that lays that praise on a hack like Edgar Wright while putting down a clearly superior Guillermo del Toro , needs to re-think his position in life.
    Honestly, it’s embarrassing .
    You mention the films Del Toro is inspired by , then explain he likes bad films and ends up making a bad film. So to make your sound bite, you decide to call Godzilla and all of the films that inspired him “bad”.
    How could you watch Pacific Rim and still come up with such pressbook comparisons as “Harryhausen and Godzilla”?
    Have you seem any anime Dan? Do you truly believe that the films influences only date back to your most obvious examples? It’s lazy, ill-informed and shows you up as someone whose history of film is what others have told you, not what you’ve learned from watching.
    Your film history is so limited that there will never be any surprises in your writings, only cliches.
    Anyone that sees more craft in At Worlds End than Pacific Rim or Lone Ranger simply doesn’t know the first thing about his passion.
    It is your passion Dan isn’t it?
    Because I have never seen more passionless writing as yours.
    Have you been forced into this profession?
    Handed down through generations?

    Dan. I saw in your review of Evil Dead, that you “see everything” .
    Maybe rethink everything. Start over. Try watching films you enjoy, not “everything”.
    Maybe somewhere deep inside is that spark. Because, truely, we see no sign of life here.

  • Danny Mulheron says:

    Hi there Dan,
    I went to World’s end the other night, there were about five people in the audience, and it was I thought very lame. I am sure the pumped up atmosphere of the gala opening must have had an hypnotic effect on you as this is one film that has all the appearances of a comedy but no actual laughs. It is more like a party you wish you hadn’t been invited to. Some rather old Lads teaming up with their actor mates to make a 48 hour film with a bigger budget. As for your love of it’s craftsmanship, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t doubt you loved it, but I think you have been sucked into the matey cliquishness of the mobs that want to be like Pegg and Frost, who whoop at even the creakiest of jokes. It is lazy and boring, I fell asleep and woke up to some tedious debate about earth. Pale ale and White Bread, as dull as a Pub in the Midlands.

    • Dan says:

      Sorry, Danny, we’re just going to have to agree to disagree.

      It’s a harsh call to say I’ve been swept up by the Premiere. I’d like to think after eight years I’m more professional than that. If you look back through these pages, you’ll see I loved Hot Fuzz when it came out (and even fought hard to screen Shaun of the Dead at the Paramount when I was running it). I dig what these guys do and always have.

      And there’s nothing inherently wrong with 48 Hour film…