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February 2011 -
The World's End (2013)
A Film About Grown-Ups Looking Back... Made by Grown-Ups Looking Back
The World's End is about characters who have grown-up but are drawn back into their younger years. Immediately, it seems this is a comparison that can be made with Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in their making of this film.
For me, Gary King (played by Pegg) represents the youthful side of both the film's characters and of Pegg, Frost and Wright; fun, playful, reckless but forgotten and moving away from. However, once coerced into reminiscing, it all comes back.
This is reflected in the film itself which starts off rather slow and dry, and surprisingly, isn't as funny as what it ought to be. So although it does take a bit longer to get going than may be desired, once it does, the laughter flows freely pretty much right through until the end of the film. I have no hesitations in saying it is a funny film.
However, while the laughter is mostly consistent - coming from another fine Pegg and Wright script - the final 10-15 minutes are, in fact, a bit clunky and long-winded despite containing some of the most heartfelt moments of the trilogy.
Nevertheless, it is a joy to see Pegg and Frost on-screen together again. They crack jokes left, right and centre as we are used to but due to Gary and Andy's (Frost) rocky relationship, it's not often with each other. This lack of warmth in their relationship, though a bold change from the previous films, does strain at times and presents a rather unwanted opposite here and there to what we are used to - friends, fun, immature. There are, in effect, 5 leads which does sometimes hinder the Pegg-Frost double-team.
However, since there are 5 leads, this patch is mostly covered up. Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan and Paddy Considine do an excellent job as King's high-school buddies, the latter in particular - Considine is a gem.
The World's End is the strongest film, thematically, in the Cornetto Trilogy. It's about adulthood vs adolescence, regret, friendship and above all the state of modern society. It does not nod nearly as much towards or satirise genre like Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. No, instead the nods and satire are mostly out and the themes are in.
This is half-welcome, half-disappointing for the final film of the trilogy. On one hand, since the other two satirise film genres it is odd the this doesn't and honestly, a bit disappointing. This is much more of it's own beast but, for a Pegg, Wright and Frost film, it does feel far too much of an unexplored area. On the other hand, the concerns of the central plot and the thematic content give the film the strength to round off the trilogy in a fitting and appropriate way.
Furthermore, The World's End contains many of the little recurring elements from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz which show such loving attention to detail and continuity: the Cornettos, the Wright short-shot montages, the fantastic soundtrack, the amazing use of the word 'C**t', the noise of the pub fruit machine, and many other little details that have made appearances in the previous two films are here.
Not only are these recurring details present but so too are some of Wright, Pegg and Frost's collaborators with their own fantastic cameos. I won't give any away specifically but there are actors from previous films in the trilogy and beyond (stretching back to Spaced, here) making appearances and it's actually rather heart-warming. Evidently, roots have not been forgotten.
However, the impressive camera-work of Shaun of the Dead (with it's long, Steadicam tracking shots) and Hot Fuzz (the well-studied and executed shots deriving from the action blockbuster genre) was not as present this time round. In The World's End, the CGI gets in the way too often for the camera-work to shine and this is most apparent in the film's several fight scenes. Fun though they are, they seem off-kilter and as if they have been tinkered with a little too much. Though I don't think it is as adventurous with the camera-work, it is still a fine looking film which I credit with Edgar Wright's choice to continue shooting on film instead of digital.
Despite what may appear to be a lot of grumbling with The World's End it is still very accomplished and probably one of the better films I will see this year. Is it funny? Certainly, without a doubt. Is it as funny as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz? Not quite. And it is the memory and affection for these two films and the frankly unavoidable and inevitable comparisons between them which unintentionally hurt The World's End.
The influence of these two films, on the other hand - how they got where they are to make this film - has undoubtedly not been forgotten. However, the plot itself and the more heavy thematic content in place of the fun, snappy genre references, give Pegg, Wright and Frost the air of saying that there will always be time to reflect, have fun and cherish the memories of younger, more immature days but that they are older and more mature now and it is time to move on (though I don't wish suggest that they wanted this film done and out the way - a lot of love clearly went into it, as with the whole trilogy). If this is the message we are to be left with, I will say that is a fitting way to end any a trilogy.
A desire for just a little more immaturity and laughter lingers over The World's End nevertheless but it is still a very good film, one I would not hesitate to recommend, and I am forever grateful to Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and the rest of their crew for completing an unforgettable trilogy.
Project X (2012)
Was expecting a lot worse
I'm going to be honest, I can get a bit snobby with films like these and of the special effects blockbusters and stoner comedies ilk.
I went into this as I'd have went into those - expecting very little based on reviews.
Let's have a look.
Does it have a plot? Not really. Proper characters? Not really. Is it crude and crass? Very. Is it morally questionable? Certainly. Is it pointless? Very. Is it really even a film? Arguably not. Is it still entertaining? Yes.
Before watching this, I watched Rock of Ages and that was a chore for most of its 136 minute runtime. In comparison, the hour and 20 odd minutes I spent watching this flew by. To be fair to most critics trashing it; it is rather without artistic merit but I'm just happy I wasn't sat there bored out of my skull.
I'm actually quite surprised at myself. As I said, I usually wouldn't go for a film like this (and I certainly don't love it) but it could have been a lot worse.
Still want to punch Costa in his obnoxious bloody face, though.
The Wise Kids (2011)
Could have been so much more
The Wise Kids, though a fairly good film, leaves me feeling disappointed. I did have high hopes for this and I must admit, they weren't quite met. Here's why.
The film, I believe, has two (debatably three) strong and convincing characters and performances: Tim, Bree (and Austin). The rest are hampered with unconvincing acting and iffy dialogue - the guiltiest party being Laura. Austin comes to by the end, but Tim and Bree were the only consistent characters and also, I'd say, the only believable relationship.
Which moves onto the next point: relationships. For a film about community, more exposition and depth was required with the full cast of characters and their respective roles within the community (Bree's father, the old woman and the atheist woman spring to the forefront of my mind but all of them, to be honest) More time should have been spent with them and explaining more about them. This applies to both lead and secondary characters - Tim and Bree are good characters, yes, but not perfect. Certainly, more was needed on the the three main characters' relationship as a whole - more focus was required with that.
As a result of this lack of depth, the ending feels weak and unsatisfying; since things aren't properly secured down at the start, it's a lot more difficult for it to be at the end.
This is where The Wise Kids needs to prioritise. It often focuses on less important plot points where it should be explaining more we need to know (such as their aforementioned relationships and situations, such as whenever Tim came out to his dad, and the biggest of all: Tim's absent mother - a HUGE hole in the film)
So basically, it needs more depth. It isn't a shallow film by any means, I certainly think it has it's heart in the right place with regards to it's themes and the film as a whole, but it did require more depth for both to work properly.
As I said, I was very much drawn into Bree and Tim. I think the film required a bit more with them but with the time they were given, they were great and what actually made the film worth watching. Certainly The Wise Kids' strongest element.
Yet I can't and won't shy away from the fact that I still felt unsatisfied, as much as it disappoints me to say. The film just needed more attention and focus both from the director and in the editing room.
I wish there was more discussion (I do quite crave it) but unfortunately, not many people have seen this. Maybe a few more reviews can get the ball rolling!
An 82-minute cup of tea.
Spreads warmth throughout, with little gaps were you have to refill the cup, but ultimately leaves you feeling happy inside.
I love nearly everything about this film. The acting, the cinematography, the themes it gets across. All in all, a very natural, beautiful and at times, bittersweet film.
The only few things I would criticise is that 1) there is a scene or two where the 6-year old girl, Jeanne, speaks with the mind of someone a lot older. Yes, the bond between her and Laure/Mickael is very tight but some of the things she said felt a bit unnatural for her age.
Don't get wrong, however, these occurrences are few and far between and the relationship they had was so heart-warming. It was one of the things I enjoyed most.
My second criticism is hardly even a criticism - It's too short! I was just left wanting to see more.
There are more cynical people out there, I imagine, who would question this film and it's viewers after some of the things we see on-screen i.e the bath scene, and a few others because Laure/Mickael is 10. However, for this film to work, and because it is after all, an innocent film, you have to view it through completely innocent eyes. I'd feel sorry for anyone who disregards this film through being unable to do that.
I would lastly question the decision in the script to make the mother pregnant but maybe that's something I just didn't quite pick up on.
I gave Tomboy an 8/10 after seeing it last year but it's been bumped up to an 9 after a second viewing. It's an amazing piece of work lead by very impressive performances from Malon Lévanne (Jeanne) and Zoé Héran (Laure/Mickael)
I'm afraid I have to count this among the few films this year that I was quite excited by but ultimately left me disappointed.
I found a lot of it was quite cheap (mostly from a good deal of the melodramatic acting on display) and throughout the film I couldn't wrap my head around the choice of shooting.
The camera-work felt very out of place. For example, one scene could have five or six different angles with one using grain, another with use of quick zooms and then another with quick pans and the culminating effect felt very fake, as if belonging to a run-of-the-mill TV crime drama. It genuinely hampered my viewing of the film.
Adrien Brody does well enough despite wearing almost the same facial expression for most of the film and the few touching moments of the 97 come from his interaction with Grandpa. There's chemistry there but there are simply no sparks between other characters.
There are a few good cameo performances from Bryan Cranston and James Caan yet they don't seem to add anything to the film and this is amongst dubious performances from the supporting cast (Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks and Betty Kaye). There was a lot more to be left wanting from them. On the other hand, that's possibly the result of the writing as their characters don't feel overly convincing.
I hate singling an actor out as the worst but I can't not mention Lucy Liu who overacted just about every second she was on screen. She was the main culprit of the melodramatic acting scattered amongst this film. Cringe just about does it justice.
One of it's bigger problems is that it tries to handle too much. Education, youth, family problems, childhood trauma and prostitution amongst others and the result is that none of these issues are tackled full-on instead being treated bit by bit.
Bryan Cranston said he took his part in this as he liked the script and believed in it. I don't doubt his judgement, personally, but if that's the truth then I'm very surprised by the film's execution of it. A long way off for a director who (just about) gave us American History X.
I loathe being so negative about a film, one of which there were elements to like, but I guess it stems from the great sense of disappointment and dissatisfaction Detachment left me with.
An Important, Educational Film But Lacking
I believe films about the Holocaust are very important to teach young children the true story about what happened despite the cruelty of it all and this film does so, to a point.
It's quite slow but the very good acting holds it in place and keeps it interesting from start to finish. However, I do have to criticise the role of the Mother. I don't think it was the acting, I just don't think she was very well written.
The ending is what this film will be remembered for mostly though. It has a monstrous, devastating power and it hits like a brick wall and is a stark contrast to the slow, calm, nearly gentle tone of the film as a whole. Of course, there is a constant underlying threat but Bruno's innocence is purely portrayed: Sweet, gentle, innocent and naive. Again, that's what gives the ending such power.
What I didn't like was...
The pace. It's slow for a reason but sometimes too slow and even though it isn't quite true of the film, seemed rather uneventful.
Also, as I already said, the character of the mother.
Lastly, and most importantly, the believability. English is spoken of course where it would otherwise have been German. Now, a grown man could quite possible speak two languages fluently - Pavel; German and his mother tongue - but an 8 year old boy, I don't buy. Shmuel isn't German and I find it unbelievable that he can speak it at that age, fluently. He isn't from Germany. Bruno: "That's a strange name" so the two shouldn't be able to converse.
Could be accused of nitpicking but once this crept into my head, I couldn't quite believe the rest of the film.
Also, in terms of believability, it's too soft. A 12A, yes, but for a Holocaust film... I know they can't be overtly brutal, and that wouldn't suit this film, but the Holocaust was and we don't see any of it really.
It's mostly implied for obvious reasons but I think something that wasn't too explicit and had a bit of grit (excluding the ending of course) could have went a long way in showing the cruelty of it all. I think some of what is implied in the film might be missed by the younger members watching.
A good film it is, with strong acting (particularly from Asa Butterfield) but lacks a factor of believability.
Hunky Dory (2011)
Poor Combination of Glee and Across the Universe with too many characters.
Hunky Dory tries to emulate what has already come before it in terms of musicals; Glee and Across the Universe, neither of which I have to say I'm a fan of but I'm willing to give anything a chance so I decided to see Hunky Dory.
The generic coming-of-age plots are held together by the show the kids are performing in with Minnie Driver at the helm but that's the problem; there are simply too many characters. In fact, there are a dozen and it's just too much to try and take in. No criticism towards the actors but 12 different characters to follow just gets confusing and bogged down. Now, 3 or 4 main story lines I think would have worked perfectly but we aren't given the chance to engage with any of the characters as their stories are jotted all over the film and it's hard to remember who's doing what, who's going where and frankly, it's just hard to care.
The musical numbers, as enjoyable and respectfully done as they are, sometimes seem just to be thrown in for the sheer hell of it. It suffers from 'Across the Universe syndrome' in that, the songs they perform happen to tie in with exactly what the characters are feeling and going through. Now that might work for some people but I'm not a big fan. It's just too corny. I did find myself getting quite into some of the songs however, the covers are good, as is the soundtrack. I just love Bowie in honesty!
I'm not a fan of the film, obviously, but I will say it's good for it's music and soundtrack. That isn't enough reason to go and see it however and I would say it could definitely be given a miss.