Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The World's End

This post is just for fun. I am not doing an assignment or following any criteria.

As I mentioned in my post on the Moodle forum, one of the foreign films I was most looking forward to seeing was The World's End. Well, last night my boyfriend and I went to a showing at Marcus South Shore Cinema (hot damn ticket prices are insane), and holy Hole in the Wall, fellow Anglophiles: that was one epic pub crawl. Writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/lead actor Simon Pegg did not let the audience down in their final installment of the Blood & Ice Cream trilogy. I would go so far as to say they outdid themselves. (Both blokes also created the comedic telley series Spacedwhich deserves a look even if you don't enjoy this movie.)

Rated R for pervasive language including sexual references.

Personally, I have been a fan of these works for a while, so I realize it is possible the uninitiated might not really 'get' the whole cult of the Cornetto Trilogy (so-called because of the frozen treat's appearance in each installment). It has to do with the films' unique stylistic choices. Puntastic BAFTA nominee Shaun of the Dead was a self-dubbed ZomCom in which the lead attempted to get a grip on his life and sort out troubled affairs with his girlfriend, mother, stepfather, and deadbeat best friend—the basic formula for a tame romantic comedy. Add to that the zombie apocalypse, and it turns into something entirely, brilliantly different. Then, in Hot Fuzz, we get more blood & gore effects with the addition of action film parody. Gruesome murders committed by bat-shit scary adversaries in an otherwise friendly, rural English town plays well alongside Pegg's über-efficient copper character and Frost's trope of bumbling-yet-trustworthy sidekick. The twist is what gets you hooked in Dead and Fuzz, but it's the three-dimensional characters, their quirky relationships, snappy dialogue, and eventual reunion, forgiveness, and badassery that win over the audience. In the end, if you want to watch these movies to inevitably become a part of the fanbase, support your favourite actors, or just to enjoy a series of intelligent satires, I encourage you to do so.

I foresee a marathon once TWE is available on DVD...

It would be easy go on for ages as to why the strawberry and classic flavors are so tasty, but in this post I aim to discuss mint. The World's End was more than fun. The fast-paced script and amusing characters played by actors well picked for their roles was a good start. Then came the expert camerawork that helped to capture impressively choreographed fight scenes and stunts (including ye olde fence-jump) alongside the utterly convincing VFX (this film had the largest budget of the three at $20 million). Production design was flawless, truly capturing the feel of something-gone-wrong-in-Newton-Haven—something that was greatly aided by the score. The sprinkling on the cone for me, though, was the mirroring technique for which Wright and Pegg are famous. There's the obvious one seen in the trailer, where the five friends grow up to be mostly like their childhood counterparts...especially 'The Famous Cock' Gary King. A lot of mirroring takes place in dialogue, and one of my favourite things to do with these movies is re-watch and try to catch all the references and ongoing jokes. It is nearly impossible to get most of them the first time around because of how well they are woven into the script by the writers, which screams just how much they love their work. (Also, huzzah for DVD commentaries!)

Not too spoilery.
A good snippet of the type of humour and action prevalent in the film.

The plot itself is exceptional but, as I don't want to spoil it for anyone, my comment ends here. As for the other elements of film...you may want to punch Pegg's arrogant and alcoholic character in the face, yet you do eventually get to understand why he is such a prick as he vainly searches for his lost youth. The supporting cast are incorporated superbly and play well off of one another. As they make their way along The Golden Mile, their collective judgment becoming clouded as they get more and more pissed, as a member of the audience I became genuinely concerned about their survival. Even the antagonists have a good reason for existing (a point which seemed a tad shaky in Hot Fuzz).

This may sound like a clichéd line in the movie review universe but, when I walked into the theater, I really was not expecting much. Shaun of the Dead seemed like an anomaly in the world of comedy because it was so peculiarly distinctive and successful. My past experience with trilogies has been pretty poor, but I can honestly say that The World's End stood up to my assumptions and exceeded by far what I had hoped. The first part of the movie took on a different approach, and I am grateful that the creators did not exhaust past blueprints simply because they had 'worked before'. While part of a trilogy, each movie can actually stand on its own without the viewer needing to have seen the previous. Even so, TWE truly was something in its own right.

The epic end of the movie—and trilogy—had me wanting to live in the 'verse. I won't spoil it but will say that it definitely was not what I had anticipated. Dead & Fuzz both had a return to some sort of normalcy...although that definition might be a bit strained when you consider zombies appearing on reality and chat shows. At any rate, I would love to see TWE continue on, perhaps in the world of comics.

The Five Musketeers
(Left to Right: Oliver (Freeman), Steven (Considine), Gary (Pegg), Andy (Frost), Peter (Marsan)

Lastly, I think it is important to touch on the comedic aspect. TWE is of course hilarious and uses profanity better than most works of the same genre from other countries...but why is that? There is certainly a difference between American and English wit (people from this county tend to say that Brits exhibit 'black humour'), and it is my personal opinion that comedy birthed in the UK is less say-what-you mean and more irony-based. That definitely shows in The World's End. Ricky Gervais wrote an article on the subject a couple years back for TIME Ideas, so I will link you directly. He lays things out much better—and with much more insight—than I can:
A slightly spoilery but well-written article on TWE:
For further information:
Leave a comment if you want to talk more about any movie from the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, the actors/actresses *cough*football-head*cough*, or American v. English tastes in humour.

UPDATE September 13, 2013:  As of today, an edited version of this blog post/review is available on Alverno Alpha: Click here to read it!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Introductory Post: Stoker

This is just to try out posting on Blogger. I am not doing an assignment or following any criteria.

I've wanted to discuss (i.e., not review) the movie Stoker, the first English-language film by director Park Chan-wook (of Oldboy fame), since it first became available here in the US back in March. This is one of those movies you want to write an entire paper on using a multitude of formal film disciplines in order to dissect it in its entirety...only I didn't, because this is still technically summer vacation & ain't nobody got time for that.

Rated R for disturbing violent and sexual content.

If you haven't seen it already, you must. The coming-of-age aspect of this story mixes so incredibly well with the mystery/horror/psychological thriller genres that I could simply die from satisfaction. The creepy, multi-faceted characters and their twisted relationships, immersive scenery, a slew of symbolism, the beautifully eerie soundtrack (by composer Clint Mansell), diverse camera shots & angles, extreme colour saturation, stylized storytelling; everything is brilliant and could be analyzed down to the very last detail whilst still blowing your ever-loving mind. It even has Hitchcockian influences, as if it weren't  amazing enough already.

Girlhood v. Womanhood; the shoes as symbols

The writing credits go to Wentworth Miller (yup, the lead actor from Prison Break) who did an astounding job. He even used a pseudonym when submitting the work so that his status would not have an effect on whether it was picked up or not, thereby rendering any preconceptions of him as a writer moot. Miller later revealed that his script was loosely influenced by Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt and, if they are familiar with his general works, the audience can pick out a few similar themes, plot devices, and motifs between the two films. Overall, Miller's screenwriting meshed very well with Park Chan-wook's abilities as a director. There is also the added bonus of performers skilled in the art of taking your breath away, like well-known actress Nicole Kidman, fellow Australian Mia Wasikowska, and proper English gent Matthew Goode.

I personally find the official trailer a bit spoilery, so watch at your own risk!

Because this course has not actually started yet, I will not debate too much over if Stoker is an international film or not. Despite the Korean director and litany of 'foreign-born' performers, everyone onscreen speaks with an American accent. You might think that's fine, they're acting, that is what they were paid to do and America is where the story takes place. Fair enough...I would agree. Note, however, that the entire movie was filmed in the state of Tennessee...yet, it came out in cinemas overseas before becoming available only in select theaters within the U.S. Interestingly, this is a movie by Fox Searchlight Pictures, which also did such titles as Slumdog Millionaire (legitimately though arguably oddly defined as 'a British drama') and Black Swan (an American film that, for some reason, was also only released in select theaters). The question that arises here is whether or not these movies should be considered blockbuster Hollywood films or otherwise. Fox Searchlight Pictures retains distribution rights overseas, but—in certain cases—when it releases major motion pictures to America it seems to change hands with Warner Bros. On IMDB it is listed as UK | USA, but if it was funded by the United Kingdom and came out there first...well, the UK isn't 'here', so it's foreign, right?

I obviously do not know enough about company credits to argue one way or the other. While Fox Searchlight Pictures is credited as Stoker's producing company, so is Indian Paintbrush & Scott Free Productions, making everything all the more tangled. What should matter is if it is a good movie or not, which I beleive it most certainly is.

The Stokers
Left to Right: Evelyn (Kidman), India (Wasikowska), Charles (Goode)

Well, that was my first blog post. If anyone wishes to discuss Stoker further or ask any questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Here are some non-spoilery reviews you might find interesting: