For fans of the British trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost -- of which I'm heartily one -- The World's End signifies more than the newest entry into their much loved Cornetto Trilogy (or Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, for Americans unfamiliar with the frozen the English confection). It also represents the end of an era that began with their much beloved Shaun of the Dead (2004) and continued with Hot Fuzz (2007). And while the frenetic, literate and densely packed good humor (I swear that's not an ice cream pun) of those earlier films is still warmly on display, The World's End is tinged with the recognition that youth has passed -- and the bittersweet closure that comes with letting go.
But, no worries. It's not as though The World's End takes itself so seriously as to get all weepy about it.
In the town of Newton Haven in 1990, Gary King (Pegg) and his four primary school chums attempt the Golden Mile, an epic pub crawl that involves downing a pint at twelve different locations. They wash out spectacularly, but Gary remembers it as the best night of his life. Fast forward over 20 years later, and the Once and Future King still lives in the shadow of his teenage nostalgia.
His friends, Oliver (Martin Freeman, The Hobbit); Steven (Paddy Considine, The Bourne Ultimatum); Peter (Eddie Marsan, War Horse) and his bestie, Andy (Nick Frost, obviously) have all moved on to successful adult lives. But Gary, pining for the revelry of the old days convinces them all -- even the teetotaling Andy -- to return to Newton Haven and take another run at the Golden Mile for old times' sake. The four, feeling somewhat sorry for Gary and the recent loss of his mum decide to acquiesce. After all, what's the worst that could happen?
Wow, English Gangs of Toughs Are So Not Terrifying. In the vein of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg and friends head for The World’s End.
But it isn't long before the reunited Beerketeers discover that something is not quite right in their old home town, which has been quietly overtaken by a race of extraterrestrial "robots" who, not unlike The Newsroom's Will McAvoy, are on a mission to civilize.
The sci-fi conceit shouldn't come as shock, though its introduction is the least graceful element of The World's End. Each film in the trilogy satirizes or reinvents (depending on your view) the genre films that mean so much to Wright, Penn and Frost. With Shaun of the Dead, it was zombies, and with Hot Fuzz, it was the action/buddy-cop movies of the early '90s (though it does wind up being a horror-comedy film as much as Shaun). Here we have a not just sci-fi hook, but also a specific kind of social commentary, whose themes on mankind's inherent imperfection dovetail with the regrets and misfortunes of the characters' lives. It's definitely the deepest of the trilogy, if for no other reason than the unacknowledged awareness that the audience for these films has grown along with the filmmakers -- but also because, despite their wonderful style remaining intact, Wright, Pegg and Frost have also matured. A bit.
But The World's End finds its horror roots as much as its predecessors. Where Shaun was a love letter to George Romero, and Hot Fuzz was a hilarious hat tip to American action films (and the British horror classic The Wicker Man, as well as the giallo murder mysteries of Dario Argento), The World's End delivers doses of Carpenter's The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers -- not to mention myriad of Easter eggs for geeks that range from Alien and The Prisoner to the trio's own past work (yes, there is another failed vaulting of the fence gag; it's still funny).
Directed and written by Wright, with Pegg co-writing, The World's End is thick with their trademark sense of humor, but it narratively feels more restrained. It isn't quite as wonderfully frantic as its predecessors, and the robot invasion plot could almost have been sidelined entirely in lieu of just watching these people come to terms with their lives. They are all charming, funny, and strong enough to support a straight character film, genre conventions aside. In fact, the only time the flick felt awkward was in crossing that divide, when Gary first learns, in a hilarious bathroom scene, that the working-class town of Newton Haven has been usurped by literal blue-bloods.
But The World's End quickly overcomes that to deliver pretty much exactly what fans want and love, while doing something tangibly different. It is a beautifully detailed and imaginative blast, extremely well-written, funny (often hilarious), and self-referential in just the right way. The cast is uniformly great, though Eddie Marsan seems a little out of place, and the lovely Rosmund Pike feels like a token female character for Wright, who has seemed less interested in writing women -- instead of girls -- since Shaun. Wright's skills as a director have only grown otherwise, as he handles the comedy, action and larger themes of the human condition and his own visual style with total aplomb. It's also instantly recognizable as a film that will reward repeated viewings, which is why I'm loathe to cast some kind of final judgment on whether or not this is the best film of the Cornetto Trilogy. When I saw Hot Fuzz, at first I didn't like it as much as Shaun of the Dead. After watching it ten more times, I loved it even more so. Scott Pilgrim didn't grab me the same way that it did a dozen viewings later.
I expect that The World's End will endear itself in exactly the same way. I'll certainly see it again, especially since it's the last (?).
Woody Allen is without peer. There is no other filmmaker who owns his movies, good, great or bad (and he's made them all) quite like he does. He's a master of his own style, though he never watches his films again once he's made them. He's a cypher for his own sensibilities, though he claims that he never writes about himself. As film goers, we should all feel somewhat lucky to be living in a time when, once a year we get a new movie from a man who is, quite simply, an American icon. From high comedy to deep drama, from the ridiculous to the sublime, Woody Allen is cinematic comfort food. He'll be remembered for as long as his works exist and people are alive to watch them. It'll take an asteroid to erase his mark on the world.
But the Woodman suffered a slouch in the last decade. For my money, Deconstructing Harry (1997) was the last great thing he'd done until 2011's wonderful, lucid and exciting Midnight in Paris -- which he immediately followed up with the middling disappointment, To Rome with Love.
But with his latest, Blue Jasmine, it seems that the 77-year old auteur is just as invested in making movies as he has always been. And this time around, the results are pretty great.
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett, The Lord of the Rings) is the wife of wealthy New York businessman Hal (Alec Baldwin, The Cooler), who falls on "hard times," and Jasmine is forced to live with her adopted, working-class sister, Ginger (Sally Hawkins, Great Expectations) in San Francisco.
Jasmine is clearly an entitled asshole, and just as clearly ill, having suffered a mental breakdown after Hal has been imprisoned for fraud. While their world has ended, she just can't let go of their seemingly perfect life together. Worse, she's never had to lower herself to the level of actually working for a living or making something out of herself.
Having inadvertently caused her sister's divorce from her former husband Augie (a game changing Andrew "Dice" Clay -- yes, you read that right) after he invested his lottery winnings with the criminal Hal, Jasmine is unsure if her sister still even likes her. But Ginger, now on the verge of marital bliss with her mechanic boyfriend Chili (Bobby Cannavale, Entourage) clearly still loves and looks up to Jasmine, though Jasmine's stuck up stubbornness and clueless classism (as she harps on how Ginger always falls for losers) immediately make the living arrangements uncomfortable. When Jasmine meets the perfect man, Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard), it looks as though her life might be charmed, after all.
Despite the presence of the notorious "Dice" Clay and standup comedy god Louis C.K., Blue Jasmine hews closer to the character dramatics of Husbands and Wives or Hannah and Her Sisters, as opposed to his more expressly comedic, or even light-hearted work (though it isn't without laughs, mostly supplied by Cannavale). Drawing its themes of class and entitlement in the blood of familial bonds, Blue Jasmine's moral subtext affirms the idea that the tangible happiness in front you is probably more real than the siren song of what might have been as long as one is true to themselves.
Allen skillfully directs the narrative of a kept woman falling through the cracks of her illusory life, deftly drawing her out with flashbacks that define Jasmine's character and taking us through an arc where she (sadly) never really changes, but our perceptions of her do.
Blanchett is amazing as Jasmine, and though she shines brightly, she doesn't dim the stellar work from Hawkins, Cannavale, Sarsgaard, the typically great Baldwin and yes, Andrew "Dice" Clay, who redefines himself in a role that should get him nominated for Best Supporting Actor. It felt weird even typing that.
Blue Jasmine is a rare thing, anymore -- a vibrant film from a prolific auteur who trusts his audience and entertains them while happily defying their expectations.
Send all comments and feedback regarding Cinema to email@example.com.
Share this article: