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.
That’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.
After years of auteur theory we have become conditioned to describe films as products of their director and so in my first draft of this review I started off talking about Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids. But it isn’t really Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids, it’s Kristen Wiig’s Bridesmaids. She co-wrote it (with Annie Mumolo), co-produced it and stars in it as Annie, a thirty-something single woman living in Milwaukee, having a hard time of things (but a comedy hard time of things, this isn’t Down to the Bone or something from Romania).
Still, she’s lost all her money in a failed baking business (blamed on the economy not her marvellous cakes), she’s flatting with two awful English siblings who have no idea of boundaries and her best friend (Maya Rudolph from Away We Go) is getting married while she is in an entirely unsatisfactory ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement with douche Jon Hamm.
Someone described melodrama to me the other day as “unearned emotion” and that’s a helpful way to look at a few of this week’s offerings. Firstly the glossy adaptation of Sara Gruen’s bestselling novel of romance and tragedy at the circus, Water for Elephants. Twilight’s Robert Pattinson plays veterinary student Jacob who, after the death of his parents, runs away to join Christoph Waltz’s struggling Depression-era circus. There he falls in love with Waltz’s downtrodden but beautiful wife Reese Witherspoon (and also Rosie the downtrodden but beautiful new elephant).
Director Francis Lawrence makes a token attempt to show us the gritty and desperate side of Depression life but in the end the high fructose corn syrup of traditional Hollywood romance smothers everything. Pattinson remains dead behind the eyes as always, Witherspoon fails to convince as an acrobat and Waltz repeats his Oscar-winning psychopathic Nazi from Inglourious Basterds only without the great Tarantino dialogue.
Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, two very English sci-fi and comic book fans on a dream holiday: Comic-Con in San Diego then rent an RV and drive to the most famous UFO sites in the States (Area 51, Roswell New Mexico, etc.) While nerding it happily around the place they witness a car crash and discover the only survivor is a three foot tall alien (big head, big eyes) named Paul. He’s a wise-cracking smart-ass with the entirely appropriate voice of Seth Rogen and he’s been enjoying the hospitality of the US government for fifty years until they finally decide to cut him up to see how his brain works. So he escapes.
Your correspondent is a big fan of young English director Edgar Wright. His first two features, in collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, were the redoubtably entertaining Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. There’s a wonderful percussive energy to Wright’s filmmaking which brooks no boredom. So, I was looking forward to his latest film, the heavily promoted comic book adaptation Scott Pilgrim vs. the World which opened worldwide this week. And I really wanted to like it. No, strike that. I did like it. I just didn’t love it the way the film so desperately wants to be loved.
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera from Juno) is a young Toronto slacker who plays bass in a terrible band and has just begun dating a high school girl. If he seems without much in the way of ambition that may be because he is still grieving after being dumped a year ago, or it may be that he simply lacks ambition.