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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.

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.]


  • 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 première 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
        HOT FUZZ and
        ‘should be set texts at every film school, every­where in the world’.
        2001: A SPACE ODESSY
        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 animé 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 Première. 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…