I have been desperate to see Paddington 2 for a while now even though, until this week, I hadn’t seen the first film. When it first came out in 2014 I wasn’t sure it was ever going to be able to capture the brilliance that I remembered from childhood. I was a cynical 26 year old who wouldn’t admit to wanting to see a children’s film. So I never did. I guess it begs the question, why, then, was I so desperate to see its sequel? Well, for one thing, my friend doesn’t bloody stop going on about how great it is recently. For another, it’s got a 100% certified fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for a fair few BAFTAs. Now I realise that it’s never wise to read too much into the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes but there aren’t many films who have ever managed it. So I guess there was more to this than met my sceptical eye. It was time to finally catch-up on what I’d missed so I watched the first film. It wasn’t completely perfect but I absolutely loved it. It was funny, sweet, and wonderfully British. Everything that is so great about the Paddington stories by Michael Bond was brought to life thanks to Paul King’s film. And Benjamin Wishaw? He was clearly born to play a talking bear who loves marmalade and looks great in hats. How could I not, after that, make it my mission to see the second?
So, you may have noticed that this week’s Throwback Thursday post has actually become a Frowback Friday post. Last night was my work’s Christmas party so I was a little too busy to be posting. It also means, considering I started work at 7 am this morning, that I had no fucking sleep so I’m totally exhausted. So, I imagine this is going to be a pretty dire review of Spectre. I meant to write it as soon as I got home but, because I’m such a pathetic individual, I fell asleep instead. I’m not even 30 yet and I can longer cope with a night of shenanigans without every muscle in my body aching. It’s not as if I was even hungover. At least that would make sense. I’m just pathetic. Anyway, I’m here to review Spectre, which I watched for the first time this week. I loved Skyfall so was really interested in seeing how the follow up would work out. There was a time when it was believed to be Daniel Craig’s final time in the role so it was kind of bittersweet. I wasn’t entirely convinced that Craig would make a good Bond but he’s really grown on me. I think he’s perfect so it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. I love T Hiddle but really don’t think he should get it. Equally, I think Tom Hardy is amazing in every way but I have my doubts. My top choice? Idris Elba. Do I think it’s likely? Well, he’s getting on in age a bit so who knows. Anyway, Spectre has a lot to live up to for many fans. Skyfall had done so many wonderful things and we all felt Craig deserved a decent farewell. Plus, it was the first film for ages without Judy Dench. I bloody love that woman and everything she did within this franchise. I know The Grand Budapest Hotel really turned me around on Ralph Fiennes but I still wasn’t sure he could live up to the Dench. I mean she doesn’t give a shit about the CIA. Her role as M was phenomenal. But I digress and I really do need to get to bed asap.
Spectre takes us to just after the events that ended Skyfall. The old MI5 building is in a state of disrepair and the new M (Ralph Fiennes) is having to cope with a potential takeover from the Joint Intelligence Service. In light of recent events it looks like the JIS will scrap the 00 programme all together; something that becomes all the more likely after Bond causes utter devastation whilst in Mexcio. It turns out 007 got a posthumous message from the Judy Dench M and James is now on the hunt for a secret villain who could threaten everyone’s safety. However, after his actions, Bond is given a suspension from field work so must work in secret with the help of Q (Ben Wishaw) and Moneypenny (Naomie Harris). As James finds out more information, it becomes clear that the present case has a strong link with his past. But who is the mysterious figure at the centre of everything?
I didn’t really know what to think about Spectre going in. I was excited but I’d heard mixed things about it when it came out. Obviously there was a chance this was just post-Skyfall fallout where anything the film did would have been seen as not good enough. However, it could just be a fairly underwhelming film. At the very least, the opening song by Sam Smith was the worst Bond song since Carly Simon’s effort. I mean I didn’t like Skyfall but this made that seem fucking amazing. It’s even more of a shame considering the opening title sequence is visually stunning. I’d say it’s one of the best ones ever made. A bloody great start to this film.
Just as the pre-credits sequence is perhaps the best thing we’ve seen in the Daniel Craig era of Bond. We see James in Mexico during the Day of the Dead, wearing a skull mask and walking through the carnival with a beautiful lady. He then leaves his companion and casually strolls over rooftops to spy on his target. It’s such a brilliant and understated piece that just works so well. It’s the kind of gripping sequence that should be saved for the end of a movie not the beginning. It’ll have you hooked.
Which is good because the rest of the film is a little less solid. The storyline follows up from Skyfall’s link with Bond’s past and makes 007’s vendetta with the big bad personal. Apparently, it’s not enough just to want to stop people endangering lives anymore; you have to want to stop them because they’re wronged you personally. There is a lot to this film that just makes it seem like they aren’t even trying any more. It’s a pain by number Bond that you could, genuinely, play 007 Bingo watching. We have the insane gadget that only becomes useful in the final seconds before Bond’s potential death; the two women who get very little development but are lucky enough to shag Britain’s horniest agent; there are enough car chases in weirdly quite cities to satisfy anyone who loves everything Jeremy Clarkson says; and there is the return of a villain who has had more comebacks than the Rolling Stones. This is the perfect Bond film for any fan of the franchise as a whole.
It’s not a bad film though and I really enjoyed it. Daniel Craig’s time as Bond has brought the grit back to the series and, in the past 2 films, we have seen a slight return in the camp comedy of Roger Moore’s era. However, story is becoming a problem. There is so much potential, especially with Ralph Fienne’s M (who deserves his own franchise by the way), that I kind of wish had been used more. This film would have been seen as exceptional after Quantum of Solace but we’re in a post-Skyfall era. This just isn’t quite good enough.
I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed the first Kingsman movie. It was an insane but really enjoyable spy film that even managed to make Colin Firth seem edgy and cool. I never would have thought it was possible but I guess Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman did the same thing with Nicolas Cage in Kickass. Kingsman is one of those weird films that everyone seems to love. Even my mother watched it when it was on Netflix. It had the benefit of being batshit crazy, incredibly funny, and well-made. It was perfectly over-the-top and a perfect antidote for the decreasingly self-aware Bond franchise. In recent years, James Bond has gone from being a camp British icon to something of a Hollywood bad boy. He no longer feels the need for insane and unnecessary gadgetry and, instead, uses her sheer muscle mass and martial arts skills to get the job done. Kickass took us back to a time when spies were gentlemen carrying umbrella guns and exploding pens. It was great. So, I was pretty gosh darn excited by the prospect of the second one. Especially when it was announced that Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges and Halle Berry were all joining the cast as an American version of the UK’s Kingsman organisation. All 3 of those actors are, in their own way, incredibly talented. As you probably know if you’ve read some of my stuff before, I have developed a love of Channing Tatum since I discovered he has a sense of humour about himself and now I long to see all of his films. I swear it’s all about his comic timing… there’s definitely nothing of interest to me underneath his shirt. No way. Never.
The sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s 2005 spy film, Kingsman: The Secret Service doesn’t so much try to carry on the great things as it tries to overshadow them. There is no sense that the second film in the series is going to take things lying down. It is bigger, brasher, more violent and even sillier. Yes, that’s right, even sillier than a film starring an assassin with blades for legs. This one does star Elton John though. Considering how weird the first film is, it’was incredibly unlikely that I’d ever be able to sit and say the second film makes it look almost normal in comparison. But it does. The Golden Circle could certainly do with some refinement but it still contains the same breathtaking stunts and camera work that made the first film so entertaining. As long as your basic requirements for this film revolve around good guys kicking the arses of bad guys then it’ll be satisfying enough.
The Golden Circle sees the unlikely hero from the first film, Eggsy (Taron Egerton), coming up against a dangerous drug baron, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who is essentially holding the world’s drug users to ransom. When Eggsy has a near-death run in with former Kingsman applicant Charlie he finds himself on the tail of the Golden Circle; a drugs cartel who rules the world’s drug trade. When Poppy poisons her merchandise, drugs users all over the globe start showing signs of an illness which leads to a quick and horrible death. Poppy plans to make a deal with President of the United States but, after the rest of the Kingsman were taken out, Eggsy seeks help from his American counterparts, the Statesmen, to bring her down.
It is the introduction of the Statesmen that gives this film such a different feel. Once the majority of the orignal cast have been dispensed with, Eggsy is left with only Merlin (Mark Strong) for company. So we are introduced to American agents in the shape of Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges, Halle Berry and Pedro Pascal. All these characters show great potential but they never quite excite as much as the original cast. There is a certain amount of chemistry missing between the newbies and the olds here. You’ll miss the interactions between Eggsy and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) or his fellow new Kingsman Roxy. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Pedro Pascal’s face but even watching him utilise an electro lasso doesn’t make up for the absences.
There is a lot of bloat in this second film that really slows the film down. Not only have we got to go through the process of finding and introducing the Statesmen, which messes with the pace, but then we find out Harry is alive. It’s not exactly a spoiler because he’s been all over the promotional material but, yes, after his grizzly death in the first film Harry is back… kind of. I like Colin Firth in the first film but his return here takes way too much time away from the main story. It ultimately doesn’t add enough to justify lengthening the film that much. No matter how cool Firth looks in an eye patch.
It is not until late on that the film really gets going. After the opening fight scene, that’s where we see most of the super impressive and visually stunning fight scenes that the first film got so right. I mean, speaking critically, I could have done without the rehash of the original’s “manners maketh man” scene but Pedro Pascal is so phenomenally sexy that I can forgive it. It is these insane and completely cartoon-like fight scenes that make the Kingsman films so fantastic. The visual gags, stunts and CGI all come together to create something so absurd yet so appealing. The filmmakers know what they’re doing by now so they’re all pretty by the book but they will still capture an audiences’ attention.
I can’t say that I liked this film more than the original but I did like this film. Well, most of this film. There is a horrible, creepy and unnecessary plot strand that sees Eggsy have to plant a tracking device in an incredibly intimate area that just feels misjudged…. especially in this current climate in Hollywood. However, the rest of the film is silly and funny enough to keep fans of the first film relatively happy. Even if Channing Tatum is horribly underused and overdressed for the duration.
I’m not going to lie to you guys, my schedule has gone a little awry this week. I didn’t watch anything for today’s post yesterday as I intended so had to quickly find something appropriate whilst browsing Netflix as soon as I got home from work. It’s the end of my working week so I’m pretty tired and just picked the first film that seemed like an easy watch. It certainly doesn’t link to my review of 6 Days from earlier this week. I do prefer it when there seems to be some method to my madness but that definitely isn’t the case. However, I’m a consummate professional so should be able to come up with a logical reason if you’ll give me a moments thought. Ahem. I opened Tuesday’s post talking about how Jamie Bell will always be Billy Elliot in my eyes, which links to the star of today’s film I guess. To me and most people in the world, Hugh Grant is, and forever will be, the bumbling, floppy haired idiot who starred in loads of Richard Curtis romantic comedies. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to take him seriously in anything and have just come to believe that any Hugh Grant film I see will basically just be Notting Hill 2 or something. Which is fine, I guess, as I don’t exactly go rushing out to see Hugh Grant movies any more. This isn’t the 90s for fuck’s sake. However, it is late on a Thursday night and, having to be up early to get shit done tomorrow, Notting Hill seemed like a fairly adequate choice for my viewing pleasure. It’s actually been ages since I saw it.
I pride myself on my dislike of romantic-comedies. It’s not that I think they’re inherently bad films or that I’m too much of cynic to enjoy them. Contrary to popular belief, my heart isn’t made of stone and I’m a sucker for a good love story every now and then. The key word being, of course, a “good” love story. I find most rom-coms that I’ve ever seen to be annoyingly unrealistic and just far too predictable. Every single meet-cute that you see on screen is absolutely absurd and, were they to happen in real life, would in no way lead to anyone falling in love. The romantic-comedy is just a massive cliche based around the basic premise of boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy desperately tries to win girl back with massive romantic gesture. It’s up to the individual writer to fill in the remaining time with any number of awful coincidences and stupid misunderstandings that keep the pair apart for as long as possible. After all, we’ve got to amp up that emotional drama level.
As rom-coms go, Notting Hill has a a pretty long running time so there are plenty of chances to keep the two potential lovers from getting together. Is it too long a film? Definitely. Does it matter? To be honest, you don’t really feel the drag too much because this film exists in such a pleasant bubble that you can’t help but get dragged in. The London of Richard Curtis’ Notting Hill is that twee and cutesy version of England where everyone lives by the “Keep calm and carry on” system and, when things get bad, sticks the kettle on and opens some biscuits. This isn’t real London by any stretch of the imagination. The cast of characters is part of that increasingly eccentric breed of British people that exists in Hollywood to cover up the fact that, in reality, British people are just a bunch of dickheads. Notting Hill isn’t just a romantic-comedy; it’s a fucking fairy tale.
The unbelievable narrative sees travel book shop owner Will Thacker (Hugh Grant) meet mega Hollywood starlet Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) when she decides to browse his shop for a book about Turkey (obviously). When he accidentally spills orange juice on her, the actress agrees to go into this perfect strangers house to change and gets about a course of events that sees Will fraudulently claim to be a member of the press, chase Anna across London and, basically, make a huge tit of himself every chance he gets. There’s a lot of guff about real people falling in love with a celebrity and the intrusion of the press but, when it comes down to it, Notting Hill is like any other Curtis rom-com.
However, after watching it again I am annoyed to say that I kind of enjoyed it. I mean it’s as predictable and silly as any film of this genre but there is something quite nice about it. Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts are both good in their roles and you can’t help but want this two attractive bastards to just make it work. Will’s group of weirdo, outcast friends seem like a super nice bunch of people who, despite never being able to exist in real life, add a great layer of humour and heart to the main narrative. The film does experience an obvious dip in quality as it goes along but not so much that it drags along. The opening is funny and kind of heartwarming in its own way and the first press junket scene is still a joy to watch.
Despite a few misguided attempts to make a point about journalism and privacy, this isn’t a serious or clever film. It doesn’t need to be. It’s just the story of a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her. And, despite my hard, hard heart, that’s fucking adorable.
The problem with an actor playing an iconic role early on in their career means that they are forever carrying that character around on their shoulders. Look at Daniel Radcliffe who, despite seeming to take every random opportunity that comes his way, is finding it difficult to come out of the shadow of the Boy Who Lived. As much as I want to watch every new film he stars in as a new Daniel Radcliffe film I can’t help but see Harry Potter everywhere. Similarly, I have often had problems separating Jamie Bell from Billy Elliot. As such, every role that I’ve watched Bell play has just seemed more childish than it should have done. He’s tried to do plenty of serious stuff over the years but all I see is that young ballet dancer pretending to be a grown-up. Which is a massive shame because I really like Jamie Bell. He just hasn’t ever quite found that one role that changed the way people, or at least I, perceive him. For the last few years he’s done a variety of different thigns that have had varying degrees of success. He was perfect as the title character in The Adventures of Tintin but was recently in the reboot of Fantastic Four that never really worked. I admit that I was
unconvinced after seeing that he was going to star in a film as a member of the SAS. Would I ever be able to see anything other than Billy Elliot with a gun?
Going into 6 Days I didn’t really know a great deal about the Iranian Embassy siege that took place in London in May 1980 but, considering the number of recent terrorist attacks around the world in the last 12 months or so, it seems like a rather prescient story to make a film about. 37 years on, the world is facing even greater atrocities than the ones carried out at Princes Gate just 1 year into Margaret Thatcher’s government. On 30th April that year a group of Iranian Arab men stormed the embassy in Kensington and held 26 people hostage. Threatening the lives of those they hel, the group demanded the release of a group prisoners in Khuzestan and their safe passage out of the UK. The Prime Minister and her Tory government refused to agree to these demands so a siege ensued for the next 6 days. Whilst the SAS were on standby to storm the building, negotiators successfully saw the release of a handful of hostages by agreeing to a few of their more minor demands. It wasn’t until one of the hostages was killed that the special forces regiment carried out an assault and brought the siege to and end.
- Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
- Vintage Penguins
Instagram is both a wonderful and a terrible thing. It makes me so happy to share my book collection with other, interested people and I love seeing other people’s books. However, it does make me more aware that I’m lacking certain things. When planning a recent post I discovered that I didn’t have any purple Penguin books. I decided it was time to rectify that as, now that I’ve also stumbled across a couple of the hard to find grey ones, I only need Purple to complete me Penguin rainbow. The purple are also pretty rare to find these days so I’m extremely excited about this purchase and regret nothing. Despite my new plan to try and stick to a ‘one in one out’ rule that will only let me buy a new book when I finish one. The rate I’m going it’ll be months before I can buy another book!
- Netflix Binges:, IT Crowd, Green Wing,
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
There is something so wonderfully British about The Borrowers by Mary Norton. A small family who survive by, let’s be honest, stealing bits and bobs from the humans whose house they inhabit. Norton wrote a beloved series of books about thieves and managed to make it seem perfectly reasonable. It might have something to do with the fact that she finally answers the question regarding all of those random objects that go missing without a trace in your house. Ever put down a paperclip or something and gone back to find it not there anymore? It’s alright, a Borrower probably just used it to make some sort of climbing device. I don’t remember reading the books as a child but I do remember the BBC television series starring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton. That was definitely a British classic and something I was reminded of in my third year of university whilst studying a children’s literature course. That series was the second of two television adaptions of Mary Norton’s works but it wasn’t until 1997 that these tiny people made their way onto the big screen. Whilst writing my review of The Sense of an Ending I was trying to think back to the first time I would probably have seen Jim Broadbent acting in anything. I can’t remember for sure but I’d bet The Borrowers would definitely be one of them.
In December this year, The Borrowers will celebrate it’s 20th anniversary. This makes me feel old. I’m not sure that I remember going to the cinema to see it but I do know that I watched it when I was young. It’s also the kind of film that is shown regularly during holidays on the BBC so children would have something to distract themselves with. I tend to look back on it with the same fondness that I nostalgically have for anything from my youth but, really, I don’t know how much I really liked this film. I mean, there was never anything wrong with it but it was certainly a stark contrast to the calm and gentle television series I remembered from 1992. The Borrowers took the characters from Mary Norton’s popular series of books and gave them the Hollywood treatment. Well, kind of. We don’t actually have to sit through a film where the Clock family speak with American accents and everything has been transported to an apartment in New York or anything. But, this is a big, brash and action-packed adventure.
It follows a similar enough structure to the novel but places the Clock family in far more perilous situations. In Mr and Mrs Lenders’ minds, things going missing is an everyday occurrence but their son, Peter, believes there is something in their house taking their stuff. We know he’s right, of course, because there is a family of Borrowers living under his floorboards. Head of the family, Pod (Jim Broadbent) is keen to teach his young children Arriety (Flora Newbigin) and Peagreen (Tom Felton) about the ways of borrowing and how to avoid being seen by humans; the dreaded Borrower squishing Beans. Their mother, Homily (Celia Imrie) has doubts about whether they are ready, which seem to be well-founded after Arriety manages to get herself locked in a freezer. Unwilling to live a life hiding under the floorboard, Arriety yearns for adventure and, on a nighttime stroll, manages to be spotted by Peter. Instead of squishing the tiny being, Peter befriends Arriety against her father’s wishes. When an evil lawyer (John Goodman) attempts to steal their home, Peter and the Clock family must work together to see the rightful owners get their property back.
The Borrowers is your basic good vs evil plot where both sides are trying to get their hands on something: in this case a will. There isn’t a great deal going on in terms of narrative but there is certainly enough action squeezed in to make it feel worthwhile. Whilst searching for the document, evil lawyer, Ocious Potter, discovers Arriety and Peagreen and swiftly calls in an exterminator. This leads to a frantic cat and mouse chase where the two humans seek to destroy the tiny children. There’s a lot of children’s movie violence on display here where nobody really gets hurt but the threat is clear. There’s potential gassing, electrocution, drowning, burning, falling and much more besides. Watching it now, it seems quite vicious for a kid’s movie but, I guess, 90s children like myself must have been made of sturdier stuff. The film keeps quite a good pace and is always moving from one big set piece to another. It is constantly entertaining.
I can’t necessarily say the film has aged well over 20 years but, for the most part, the special effects hold up. It’s one of those films that has a lot in there but it never really dominates. It is the overly CGI’d stuff that ages the worst and, thankfully, most of this is worked around using camera trickery. What is really wonderful about this film, though, is how charming it is. It may have been amped up for cinema but there is still a great sense of Britishness here. The films location is, when you really look into it, kind of confusing but, thanks to the set design, it doesn’t matter. This all just exists in a weird reality where Americans and English people live without any question as to where or when they are. This is just a storybook town where logic doesn’t matter at all. It also boasts an incredible, if truly 90s, cast. Broadbent and Imrie are wonderful as the Clock parents and, I must say, it never gets old seeing a very young Draco Malfoy get trapped in a milk bottle. Then you have cameos from the likes of Mark Williams, Hugh Laurie and Ruby Wax. There’s just something so lovely about this film that stays true to the original source whilst also giving a new generation of children the loud noises and danger they expected.
Despite all of my best efforts I am still without a computer of my own. Not, I would like to point out, because of my limited skills but because of the postal service. I am awaiting an important component to arrive before I attempt to revive my busted laptop. So, I’m once again writing today’s post fairly quickly during an interval in which I have access to the internet outside of my phone. Which is a shame because I’ve wanted to see this film for ages. The Julian Barnes novel it was adapted from sat on my bookshelf, unread, for years. As winners of the Man Booker Prize go, it’s a pretty small book but I just couldn’t bring myself to read it. Until a few years ago when I did and promptly realised that I probably should have waited for a bit longer. It was a great book, don’t get me wrong, but I think it deserved a better reader. It was one of those books that really takes you to the heart of a character and explore’s the idea that our individual history’s will always be, in some respects, unreliable. I definitely want to read it again because Barnes is a great writer and it’s such a complex but readable story. So, when I discovered it was being turned into a film starring the fabulous Jim Broadbent I knew it was going to be a must see for this year.
The other week, as I was going to sleep, it suddenly crossed my mind that, one day, Judi Dench is going to die. I mean it’s an inevitability but it was an incredibly sad thought that kept me up a good few hours. I never really thought of myself as being terribly attached to Judi Dench but this nighttime realisation really hit me. She’s both a brilliant actor and, from what I can tell, an incredibly lovely human being. I try not to get too caught up in the social media frenzy of melodrama when news hits of a the death of a famous person but I would be genuinely saddened by this. I only mention this because, upon watching The Sense of an Ending, I felt the very same thing about Jim Broadbent. He’s the kind of actor that turns up in things that you wouldn’t really expect and, as such, has probably been a big part of my cultural upbringing. Having the ability to turn his hand to anything has meant he has been seen in some of my favourite films and television series. Without wishing to sound like an absolute dickhead, a world without Jim Broadbent would be a sadder one.
It is Broadbent, after all, that makes the film adaptation of The Sense of an Ending so compelling to watch. As is often the case with book to film manoeuvres, there is a lot that has been lost in translation. The film really only scrapes the surface of the novel and neatens everything off into a pleasant Hollywood ending. It never quite reaches the dizzying heights that Barnes managed to. Yet, thanks to Broadbent’s turn as Tony Webster, the film is perfectly watchable and quite enjoyable. The role is ideal for the actor and he gets to play every old man stereotype perfectly whilst also exploring the deeper history that is hidden away. This isn’t the jolly old gent that has become the Broadbent staple of the past few years. Tony is a curmudgeonly man who tends to put his own interests first. He’s a little pompous and rude but has a deep love for his daughter (Michelle Dockery) and ex-wife (Harriet Walter). He is content to live his life as he always has until a blast from his past forces him to review his version of history.
When the mother of his first love dies she leaves him something in her will. Whilst this is confusing enough, matters are further complicated when his ex-girlfriend (Charlotte Rampling) refuses to hand over the diary. It was written by Tony’s best friend from school Adrian (Joe Alwyn) who committed suicide whilst he was at university. Adrian, Tony and Veronica had been part of a love triangle of sorts after Tony introduced his friend to his lover. Instead of reacting in the understanding way that he’d always allowed himself to remember, Veronica reintroduces Tony to the awful truth regarding the end of their friendship. A venomous letter, written in the heat of the moment, not only destroyed the relationship of the young men but set about a series of events that had a monumental affect on many people’s lives. Tony must come face-to-face with this truth and, as a result, come to terms with the man he really is.
The Sense of an Ending is, at its most basic, a story about how history is recorded. We are told history is written by the victors to highlight their heroism but, by that same token, it must also be written by the bad guys who wish to diminish their role in proceedings. Once Veronica comes back into his life Tony comes to understand that the good guy he thought he was was merely a whitewashed version he allowed himself to remember. I really enjoyed this film but I was a fan of the book. It isn’t the greatest of adaptations so I can see that some people might not see the appeal. The narrative that takes us back to Tony and Adrian’s youth are wonderful and vivacious scenes that work well with the slower insights into contemporary London. Full of their references to Dylan Thomas and a youthful hunger to learn and impress people with their knowledge. However, as the film plods on the message wears a little thinner and the final reveal doesn’t quite have the same impact as the book. It all feels a little flat by the end.
That’s not to say that it isn’t perfectly enjoyable in its own right. Jim Broadbent and co are all remarkable in their roles and bring the complexity of each relationship to light. The story has its absorbing moments and themes that really resonate through the whole narrative. However, for a film all about first love there is a lack of passion on show. It’s as is the film didn’t really know what ending it was supposed to be showcasing and everything got a bit muddled. There is a sense of a grandeur here that only a film adapted from such a critically acclaimed novel really has. It never allows itself to ease into the story or the characters and is constantly aware of everything it has to do. It’s a shame because, really, the performances are all rather enjoyable and Broadbent carries the whole thing off remarkably.
So, after my big spiel yesterday about a fresh start and uploading more content my bloody laptop has decided to have a huge breakdown. It means I’m having to find whatever means necessary to post today’s TBT whilst also figuring out I can put my questionable computer skills into good use to save it. At the very least I’ll do better than my University flatmate who managed to blow my PC whilst trying to save his own, pretty ancient machine. Anyway, enough of my technological woes. I’ve managed to get access to the internet without having to type a lengthy review on my phone. A prospect I really wasn’t looking forward to. It’s bad enough having to type the captions for my Instagram posts. I don’t know if I just have particularly chubby fingers but my iPhone keyboard clearly isn’t made for me to use. I honestly don’t understand how people can write anything longer than a tweet on a touchscreen. Now I realise that I’ve gone full Grandma pretty quickly here but, as I’ve mentioned a lot recently, I’m starting to feel my age a bit. It is exactly 5 months til I turn 30 but, in my head, I still believe that I’m 16. It’s not the ageing itself that I feel upset about; I’ve always been something of an old woman so am really looking forward to having a valid excuse to stay inside playing scrabble all day. It’s just that I’ve done so little in the last 30 years. I’ve had the same job since I was 16 and, if my recent applications are anything to go by, I’ll be hanging on to it for some time to come. I know I’m a fully fledged adult now but, surely, this is too son for a mid-life crisis? I haven’t even learnt to drive yet so I don’t know how I’m going to fulfil the necessary requirement of buying a sports car.
Perhaps it is my current mood of reevaluating my life that convinced me to watch The World’s End again? Or maybe it’s just because I’ve been pretty obsessed with Edgar Wright since I watched Baby Driver? Whatever the reason, I felt that I needed to give the film another watch. My love of the British director isn’t a new thing and I’ve been a fan of his work since I first watched Spaced way back when. I, like pretty much every living human being ever, adored the first two films in, what has affectionately been dubbed, the Cornetto trilogy. Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz are two of the greatest British comedies of the last few years and have never really been equalled since. So I was looking forward to seeing what Wright and co-writer Simon Pegg came up with next. Unfortunately, back in 2013, I came out of the film fairly disappointed. I don’t know whether it was the darker tone or the increase in special effects but something felt off about it. As far as I was concerned I was never going to see it again.
As it turns out, I’m super glad that I did. The World’s End is an incredibly clever film that manages to be both incredibly funny and very shrewd about modern society. There is plenty of commentary about the “Starbucking” of the British pub and loads of digs at the teenage male ego that never really disappears. It feels incredibly different from the previous two films but it also feels like a natural end to the trilogy. This is about a group of men facing the realities of life and the very different ways that they approach it. I guess in my current state of introspection made it easier to relate but I can’t help but feel a little kinship with Simon Pegg’s Gary King. I mean I’m not going to face my current crisis by trying to sink 12 pints in one night but I get where the fear is coming from.
It is Gary’s realisation that his life peaked on a night in June in 1990 that prompts him to round up his old friends and finish the pub crawl they failed to complete as teenagers. Unlike Gary, the rest of the group have accepted their maturity and are all seemingly happily married with children or experiencing professional success. They take a little persuading but, as we come to understand, there is no point arguing with Gary. The five men return to their home town with the intention of drinking one beer in each of the 12 pubs on the Golden Mile. However, upon returning to Newton Haven they uncover a secret that’s set to derail their plans. What started out as a group of childhood friends reminiscing over a pint quickly descends into as science-fiction horror that invokes some great classic films.
The opening to The World’s End is the film’s main let down. The process of ‘getting the band back together’ takes a bit of time and messes with the pace. It isn’t until the boys are, literally, on the road that everything starts falling into place. Edgar Wright, as usual, is an expert at keeping things moving and manages to make even the most mundane things seem like events to get excited about. This film has the same Wright look and feel that keeps fans coming back for more. The World’s End is a breath of fresh air amidst a sea of underwhelming blockbusters. It is a film that is full of joy and has been made for the sole purpose of entertainment. Even with an added budget and greater scope, the film never manages to lose the heart and soul that has been such a key part of the entire trilogy.
Pegg and his co-stars, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine and Eddie Marsan, make a wonderful group and, despite all of the great action sequences, I found myself wanting some more moments of them interacting. This is a group of men who, in their own ways, are unhappy with their lots in life and haunted by their past. Their angry conversations around a pub table with a pint in hand are wonderful. Although, it is not something that is lost in the massive and incredibly impressive action sequences that come thick and fast towards the film’s finale. It is a film that never loses sight of what it is or what it wants to portray. It may be making broader commentaries but The World’s End is a film full of friendship and love. Like the Wright/Pegg predecessors, it is a wonderfully British film that tackles a traditional film genre in a unique but highly joyous way. I’m glad I gave this a second watch. It’s the kind of film that only improves with further viewings.
When you’re the creator of an iconic character it can be super difficult to get yourself out from under its shadow. Steve Coogan has tried to move away from just being the guy who plays Alan Partridge but nothing else has ever really stuck. Let’s be honest, he’s appeared in some utter shite over the years and it’s not been pretty. In more recent years he has made the move that most comedy performers over a certain age try and picked more serious roles. Gone straight if you will. It was a different story back in 2001 when he co-wrote and starred in his own British comedy crime caper. For some reason, when The Parole Officer came out it was constantly being compared to the Ealing crime comedies from the 1950s and 1960s. I guess there were just no real expectations for British comedies in the early 2000s so anything that got made was deemed kind of successful. It was the same year that the Vinnie Jones comedy vehicle Mean Machine and a film about a hairdresser from Keighley starring Alan Rickman were released, after all. When the greatest British comedy to be released that year was Bridget Jones’ Diary then maybe I can see why people got so excited. Nowadays, Coogan seems pretty embarrassed to have ever made the film and, in 2015, stated that he doesn’t understand why anyone likes it. I’ve known a load of people who loved this film but, really, they aren’t the kind of people who I would ever seek advice from. On any subject matter. However, it’s been a really long time since I saw this film so, after I so harshly critiqued it during my Tuesday review this week, I decided it was time to see if it really was as bad as I remembered.
Alan Partridge claimed The Parole Officer was “unarguably the greatest film ever made”. We have to assume that he’s at least a little biased, of course, on account of it being his creator, Steve Coogan’s film, and, you know, cause he’s a fucking fictional character. Rewatching the film in 2017 I was struck by 2 things: number 1, Stannis Baratheon and Cersei Lannister are both pretending to be British police officers and, number 2, this is a fucking awful film. It’s weird to think of a time when Steve Coogan was having to try so fucking hard to make it in Hollywood but this film is proof of the murky depths he was once willing to sink to. It’s sad and more cringe inducing than anything Alan Partridge has done in his illustrious career. The major positive I have for it is, because it was made during a time when British comedies tended not to wander too far beyond the 90 minute mark, it’s short. I mean it still felt like I was watching it for a good few days but, in reality, I didn’t actually have to waste too much time on it.
The Parole Officer is not a fresh British comedy and, instead, uses a really tired situation but with additionally gross-out gags. It’s trying to do the same thing that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg did so successfully just 3 years later with Shaun of the Dead but failing. With their Cornetto Trilogy, Wright and Pegg managed to repurpose the narratives of classic Hollywood genres for use in a UK landscape without it seeming too gimmicky. Here, Coogan and co-writer, Henry Normal, just lazily implant the premise of films like The Italian Job in the North of England. It just ends up being overly twee and nonsensical. It needed a more careful hand instead of just putting Coogan on a rollercoaster in Blackpool and calling it a day. It’s just infuriating to watch this film and know how much better it could have been. Instead, the narrative is just a mess that is full of holes, dropped storylines and so many awful attempts to push comedy where there shouldn’t be any.
Coogan, obviously, has the starring role as the titular Parole Officer, Simon Garden, who accidentally witnesses a murder carried out by a corrupt cop (Stephen Dillane). He is threatened with going to prison for the crime unless he shuts his mouth and leaves Manchester forever. In order to clear his name, Simon puts together a plan to rob a banks and retrieve a VHS tape showing the truth. He creates a crew using the only 3 criminals that he has successfully convinced to go straight and a teenage joy rider he was trying to help. At the same time, Simon is attempting to romance the way out of his league WPC Emmap (Lena Headey) who, for reasons not shown during the film, has fallen for the charms that nobody else seems to realise Simon has.
Despite boasting a great cast, everything about The Parole Officer feels kind of flat. The actors all do as great a job as they can but it never comes together. It always feels like we’re watching a terrible film instead of being engrossed in a fantastically woven tale. Although, Dillane is memorable as the bent copper who threatens Simon and the trio of ex-criminals fair much better than Coogan himself. It helps that they are played by the likes of Om Puri and Ben Miller, of course, but they all get some fairly decent moments. What is majorly disappointing is that none of the characters have any real depth. Coogan clearly has a talent for creating well-rounded characters but nobody, not even Simon, feels fleshed out. You don’t really know anything about anybody or why we should give a shit about them. This film is so desperate to get to the action and the gags that it skips the important stuff.
There is certainly an issue with pacing and editing in this film. The first 30 minutes are a confusing mess which feels as though major parts of the story have been cut. People suddenly talk to each other like old friends and seem to know things they really shouldn’t. And that’s exactly the point where you realise that you still have an hour of this shit to sit through. The script has a decent stab at creating some comedy to move things along but most of it falls flat in the end. There are a couple of really funny moments but, for the most part, it relies too heavily on physical comedy or gross-out gags. I can see why Steve Coogan regrets making this film. I regretted watching it again before I was even half-way through. There is very little to really celebrate here. It deserves props for getting such an amazing cast together but it ruins it by not giving them anything to do. Considering how great we know Coogan can be, The Parole Officer it’s even more insane that this film is as bad as it is.