Films Seen In 2013

THE WORLD’S END might be the best thing Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright have done since SPACED, certainly of the things they’ve done together anyway.

I have my reservations about SCOTT PILGRIM, but what Edgar achieves in terms of visualising a comic book language for the screen, isn’t one of them. Mostly I think my relative coolness toward that film is something to do with no longer being part of the target audience. It’s a very good film, it just doesn’t hit me anywhere emotionally enough to really impact, but I’ve enjoyed it every time I’ve seen it.

I still think SPACED is the peak of both Pegg and Wright’s achievements though.

I really like SHAUN OF THE DEAD, but on first viewing I was a little disappointed. It was good, but it was a grower. HOT FUZZ meanwhile remains for me a missed opportunity. I didn’t find it all that funny, and the plot they use –  by dipping out of a crime/action movie plotting/iconography, to dabble in SCREAM territory, just didn’t gel.

Mostly though my problem was that, while it’s an okay movie, it doesn’t succeed as an action film. I always felt that there’s a perfectly workable way of doing an action movie in an English village. That having spent the first two thirds of the movie explaining why none of that action movie stuff happens in the real world and especially not in England, when the guns came out, I wanted them to be shot guns. It could have worked. A car chase involving trucks or tractors on a winding country lane etc. But they played it BROAD (I use the capitals advisedly) instead of following Shane Black or BUTCH AND SUNDANCE in having action packed adventure that was essentially dramatic and propulsive, but which happened to be funny within the reality of the world on screen.

But back to the present. Because, while some people will argue and I’m very sure that some will disagree, THE WORLD’S END hit home on first viewing.

Wright is less flashy but keeps the story barreling along, while this is easily Pegg’ s most accomplished work as an actor for some time. Funny and (for me) at times genuinely moving.

I’ll be interested to hear how it plays in the states, given that the jokes about the ‘Wetherspooning’ of damn near every British pub seem very specific, likewise the specifics of how our town centres have become so homogenized (again it’s the details that they get so very right here, that I’m assuming will land a bigger laugh on home ground).

I found it funnier, but also more complex in it’s humour than the prior two movies in this unofficial trilogy, the laughs often uncomfortable. The central character frequently unlikable, but always watchable, always fascinating, always compelling. Given how much Hollywood seems obsessed with having ‘likeable’ characters, it’s a real joy to see a protagonist who is quite frankly a twat most of the time. And yet, I won’t be surprised if people find that part of what is uncomfortable in some of the funniest scenes, and quietly wince inducing in others, is that they recognise the behaviour,in themselves as much as other people. For most of us, thankfully, we’ve moved on. Gary King (Pegg) remains locked in the most embarrassing years of his life

Apart from the epilogue (which didn’t quite work for me) I had a ball with the film. Like I say, even SHAUN OF THE DEAD didn’t hit me fully on first viewing – it still fell short of what I’d come to expect from watching SPACED – but THIS film hit me dead on.

First film I saw at the cinema since beginning to seriously work at my recovery. Not only a relief – because for the most part, the movies I have managed to see in cinemas in the last few years have disappointed me – but a joy.

As for that epilogue, it just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t quite work. It’s an addition that shifts the tone a little, not unlike the fairly silly epilogue in SHAUN. But it worked there. Felt connected and consistent.

Here, I think they flub the tone maybe. I’m not sure it’s right to have it on there at all, but done differently, a little more gritty a little more sombre, maybe it could have worked.

As it is, the only way that I can justify it, is to think that it’s a set up for a sequel. Maybe Pegg and Wright have plans to do a post apocalyptic MAD MAX/HARDWARE kind of movie set in the UK?

With regard to my feelings about SPACED… the reason I still hold SPACED in higher esteem than any of the Pegg/Wright movies is that I really think they lack for not having Jessica Hynes (formerly Stephenson) involved, either onscreen or in the writing. At its simplest that’s evident in the lack of anything resembling really fleshed out female characters in any of the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. But in that loss they also lose more interesting, complicated and amusing responses and interplay from their male characters. There’s more that I can’t quite put a finger on, but the films lack the richness and genuinely original clash of mood and reality within the cartoon genre riffs and Wright’s whip-pan comic book Evil Dead 2 styling, that Stevenson brought to the show. No matter that I really like the films, I can’t help but feel the lack of that indefinable something, which it seems was all about Jessica’s involvement…

Viewed at City Screen York, Screen 2. Good picture, good sound, comfy seats. Audience respectful of basic cinema etiquette. Optimum viewing environment.

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