Review: The World’s End (2013)

The World's End

Nine years after the release of Shaun Of The Dead, and five years after Hot Fuzz, The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy draws to a sufficient, if unexceptional, close with The World’s End. Reuniting director Edgar Wright with stars Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, The World’s End is an amusing, heartwarming and nostalgia-filled comedy adventure that works well at the time, but leaves little to chew on once the end credits have rolled. Continue reading “Review: The World’s End (2013)”

Review: The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (2011)

An avid fan, and the sole person trusted by Hergé to adapt his comic books, Steven Spielberg joins forces with Peter Jackson to bring the iconic drawings to life through the art of motion capture: a method which both filmmakers believe unrivalled for representing the author’s bewitching world.

Combining elements from three of Hergé’s celebrated tales, The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn centres on plucky newspaper reporter Tintin (Jamie Bell) and his attempts to find the treasure of Sir Francis Continue reading “Review: The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn (2011)”

Review: The Guard (2011)

Writer-director John Michael McDonagh (brother of In Bruges’ Martin McDonagh) makes his feature length directorial debut with action-comedy The Guard – a welcome variation on the typical buddy-cop format. The film centres on Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson): a drug-taking, prostitute-loving and socially unorthodox Irish cop who – when an international drug-smuggling gang decides to start using the small town as a hub for their illegal deliveries – is teamed up with FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to investigate.

What ensues follows a fairly typical action-comedy structure, and it doesn’t deviate much throughout the majority of the film. However, rather than focusing heavily on forgettable plot strands, McDonagh admirably shifts the attention to Boyle’s character, and occasionally to his peculiar relationship with Everett. He lets the subplots arise from and fall back into the background in equal measure. At times, the narrative wavers enough for viewers to begin to question the film’s purpose and overall direction, but it mostly remains surprisingly focused. For a debut feature, this is no easy task.

McDonagh’s script, much like his brother’s for In Bruges, is packed full of profane humour, unforgettable one-liners and an array of distinctive characters. He has also instilled it with a subtle, yet acutely aware social commentary that not only impiously takes the piss out of Irish culture, but also makes you very aware of the seriousness of the underlying racism and the lay of the law. It often playfully nudges at the edge of disbelief, but – considering the comical take on the subject matter – it always reins itself in and never pushes the audience too far. The dialogue in particular is extremely enjoyable, breathing life into each individual character, while the welcome self-awareness pays undeniable homage to the likes of Edgar Wright and Diablo Cody.

Gleeson nails Boyle’s unconventional nature perfectly, and he delivers a wonderfully whimsical and forthright performance, adding a feeling of improvisation to the already blistering dialogue. This is also evident in the way he approaches the relationship with Cheadle’s uptight Everett. Despite being almost polar opposites, the pair share a tangible bond.

Big fans of Cheadle may be displeased at how little screen time Everett is allowed, but this is Gleeson’s vehicle through and through. While it’s a shame that his character’s background and ethics are skimmed over, it simply wouldn’t make sense for McDonagh to spend any more time on the supporting cast. Admittedly, they all hold their own in their respective roles, with Mark Strong and Fionnula Flanagan delivering particularly noteworthy performances. Strong inhabits the lead drug-smuggler Clive Cornell with a cool ease, while Flanagan delights as Boyle’s whiskey-swigging mother.

Aside from a comparatively inconclusive and evasive third act and the under-explored dynamic between Boyle and the trio of villains, The Guard is an admirably executed and often hilarious variation on the overdone action-comedy genre, elevated by stand-out performances across the board and an extraordinarily well-executed script from McDonagh.

Review: Paul (2011)

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite in yet another bromance buddy film, this time from director Greg Motolla.

Paul sees two best friends, Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) embark upon a tour of UFO landing sites after visiting Comic-Con in San Diego. Fleeing into the night after angering some aggressive rednecks, they have a chance encounter with Paul (Seth Rogen), a wise-cracking alien who implores them to take him with them before he gets dragged back to Area 51.

All too keen to indulge in a geek fantasy, the two nerds stash Paul in the back of their rented RV and attempt to return him to his landing site. But things don’t go quite according to plan when they accidentally kidnap a trailer park attendant (Kristen Wiig) and discover that they have an FBI agent on their trail (Jason Bateman).

For the most part, the story is solid. It impressively finds the right balance between road movie and alien flick, and results in an old fashioned, grand, amped-up final showdown.

Motolla’s direction, however, is all-too tame and demonstrates that a Pegg and Frost film is banal without their counterpart Edgar Wright. Mottola makes a commendable effort, but is clearly out of his comfort zone.

Pegg and Frost, even without Wright, put their real-life friendship to good use and create a likable duo, with naturally blowing, witty banter and individualistic personalities, enough to differentiate them from their previous on-screen personaes.

Seth Rogen proves to be a inspired choice for Paul, reminding audiences he is in fact a talented actor, and not the one hit wonder he was in danger of becoming. And Kristen Wiig, in her first mainstream film, shows off her natural comedic talent, getting her own fair share of laughs in amongst an already headstrong cast.

Jane Lynch and Sigourney Weaver, though awarded with limited screen time, both bring a remarkable sweet-wise quality to their respective roles, making you ache for more.

Paul is an adequately enlivening Saturday night movie, with gratifying gags, a savvy cast and enough sci-fi references to keep everyone happy.

Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)

Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a story of a 22-year-old bassist, Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera), who plays in a band called Sex Bob-Omb and dates a high school girl (Ellen Wong). Everything changes when he happens upon Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who infects his brain, which eventually becomes an obsession of his.

Not is all well, though, as Ramona comes with some heavy baggage. The baggage just so happens to be in the form of seven evil exes, all of which have super powers. Scott must defeat each evil ex in order to take his love affair with Ramona to the next level. The evil exes themselves (portrayed by Chris Evans, Brandon Routh, Jason Swartzman, Mae Whitman, Keita and Shoto Saito and Satya Bhabha), despite their brief on-screen presence, are a welcome addition to the film, while never detracting from the films overall purpose.

The partnership between Cera’s Scott and Winstead’s Ramona is pitch-perfect. Combing her effortless, beyond cliché nature, with his haphazard, anxious being may sound like a recipe for disaster, but the pair make it work, en-capturing audiences attention, making us care about their relationship.

Another reason Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World works so well is due to the supporting cast. Not only do Cera and Elizabeth provide a likeable, and explorable love affair, but co-stars such as Kieran Culkin, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza and Johnny Simmons all shine in their respective parts, delivering laugh-out-loud one-liners and welcome sub-plots to the main story-arc. Ellen Wong and Anna Kendrick in particular administer stand-out performances, showcasing their incredibly diverse talent.

Wright’s direction is superb, managing to make the film visually spectacular and inventive, whilst maintaining an old-fashioned, youthful nature. Fusing live-action with video-game and comic-book intellect was always going to be a risk, but Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World pulls it off perfectly.

The films screenplay, an adaptation of Bryan O’Malley’s comic-book series, has so many levels, that there’s sure to be something on offer for everyone. On the surface, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is all about the zany action sequences, awkward teenage humour and video-game references. Underneath, however, there’s a whole new level of meaning, one that explores the true meaning of love and how relationships are never easy, but full of obstacles couples must overcome to reach their destiny.

While the awkward subject matter and unfortunately poorly-executed marketing campaign ended up hurting the box office gross, the film will undoubtedly find a home on DVD amongst young, or the young-at heart who like zany indie films that explore deep, poignant ideas, inter-cut by lots of crazy, heart-pounding, fighting scenes and witty dialogue.

Seek it out. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World is a film that deserves an appreciative audience.