TBT – The World’s End (2013)

British, Edgar Wright, films, fucking creepy, fucking funny, fucking weird, Martin Freeman, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Pierce Brosnan, reviews, Simon Pegg, TBT, trilogy

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.

TBT – Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

alan rickman, Martin Freeman, sci-fi, TBT

Continuing to remember the dearly departed Alan Rickman, I look back to another of is recent films that showed off his humour. Before I get into it, I have to be honest with you: I haven’t read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know it’s probably part of my ticket out of geekdom but I’ve never got round to it. My father’s a fan of Douglas Adams and it’s something I’ve always felt I should have read. It’s not something I tend to broadcast and I know enough Adams’ quotes to be able too hold my own should the need arise. However, that doesn’t escape the fact that I never got through the book. I tried, God knows I did, but it wasn’t something I ever finished. I don’t understand why because I managed to get through fucking Tolkein which is much more of a struggle.

So, when this came out I was pretty much going in blind. I mean I knew the basic plot but had no real clue about the intricacies about the narrative. Still, I know enough about Adams to understand the whole thing is based around a twee, Britishness and humour that most Hollywood audiences aren’t ready for. Was a big movie production really the best place to translate Adams’ ideas onto the big screen?

Of course, that is the situation we were left with. Martin Freeman, then a relative unknown outside of fans of The Office, takes the lead role of Arthur Dent, a human whose life takes one unexpected turn after the other. When his home is bulldozed to make way for a bypass, Arthur feels like life can’t get any worse. Then a group of aliens obliterate his planet to make way for a hyperspace expressway. With only his friend, and secret alien Ford (Mos Def) for company, Arthur has to come to terms with a life that is much more complicated than any Thursday ever had been.

His life gets more difficult when the hitchhikers are picked up by the stolen ship involved in the fake kidnapping of Galaxy President Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell). Luckily though, fellow human Tricia “Trillian” McMillan (Zooey Deschanel) who Arthur has a bit of a thing for. The misfits band together to go on an epic journey to discover the answer to life, the universe and everything by first finding the ultimate question.

Now, if this all sounds complicated then it’s probably mostly down to the way I’m describing it. I’m really fucking tired and went out after work which means I’m writing this at the worst possible time with only 6 minutes before midnight. Hitchhikers Guide is actually a a lovely film that brings a lot of the comforting British humour that Adams is so well known for. It’s a bit quirky and weird but, ultimately, it’s watchable, funny and warm.

Martin Freeman is a great addition to the cast as Arthur and plays the hapless hero role as well as he has done before and since. He is joined by a selection of British and American actors who make for a fairly hit-and-miss cast. The American side tend to miss the mark and fail to connect with the Britishness that is required. It’s a poor turn from everyone’s favourite quirky girl, Zooey Deschanel, and Mos Def just looks lost. However, Sam Rockwell puts one back in the American net and plays Zaphod beautifully. He almost steals the show.

However, the scene stealer really is Alan Rickman himself as the voice of Mavin the depressed android on Beeblebrox’s ship. Rickman is perfect in the role and nails the humour. There is nobody who could have done it better. With his distinctive voice and beat perfect comedy timing, this is one of Rickman’s best modern roles.

Director Garth Jennings, a former music video director, nails the necessary camp, shitty BBC production value styling that the adaptation required. It isn’t a polished production because it didn’t want to be one. It ensures that nothing of Adams’s original gets lost in the potential Hollywood sci-fi epic that Hitchhikers could have been. The aliens look like they’re straight off an original series Dr Who episode and the guide itself is a hulking great book voiced by the incredibly British Stephen Fry. It may veer into messy on occasion but for the majority of its run time the film is never anything but intentionally dicey.

I can’t claim that this a faithful representation of the original book but I can say that it’s a fun and heart-warming tale. With a great leading man and some interesting supporting cast, it sums up the British approach to science fiction. It’s something we want to try our hand at but we are always aware of our limitations.

Top 10 Wen-sday – Top Ten Sherlock Episodes

Benedict Cumberbatch, list, Mark Gatiss, Martin Freeman, Sherlock Holmes, Top 10

So with the new year comes some new additions to my blogging schedule. You will hopefully already have seen my new Monday and Tuesday topics. However, I’m pleased to announce a new, monthly addition. Yes folks, the first Wednesday of the month I will bestow upon you a Top Ten List of my choosing. I bet you can’t hold in your excitement. Now Top 5 Wednesday is already a thing on Goodreads but I think this has a much more appealing sounding name. I’m always on the lookout for opportunities to make things sound more palatable. If you work with me and ask for a Caesar salad then you’d better say “can I have a Caeser pleaser” or you’ll risk my ignoring you. Of course, if I was only doing this based on the sound of the title then it would be Top Two Tuesday but that would be a fucking waste of everyone’s time. So here we are.

TBT – Sherlock: A Study in Pink

Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Gatiss, Martin Freeman, modernisation, Sherlock Holmes, TBT, television

Today is New Year’s Eve and people all around the world are excitedly waiting for the biggest event in the calendar. Yes, we are a few hours away from the Sherlock special. The first episode in almost a year, which is admittedly less time than we’ve been kept waiting in the past. An episode that take us back to the world of the books and places Tumblr’s favourite Otter in Victorian England. It’s an exciting concept and has allowed Martin Freeman to sport a much more impressive moustache than the last one. Now, I’ve not always been on board with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ modern Sherlock and still only really like a couple of episodes in seasons 1 and 2 and all of season 3. I just feel like they keep mixing up Arthur Conan Doyle with Doctor Who and it’s really fucking annoying. I understand the logic: you want to persuade your already loyal Whovians to follow your new series so you make it so fucking familiar its like their watching the same show. It makes sense. It just doesn’t always feel right to me. I know it’s a modern interpretation but Sherlock is sometimes too quirky for my liking. I like my Holmes to be more stiff-upper-lipped than bouncy.

Still, back in 2010 I eagerly watched the first episode along with the rest of my family. Being major fans of the books, my father and I felt like we had a lot riding on this. To be honest, I liked the first episode. It struggled from the usual first episode problems but was promising. It was the second episode that stopped me watching. In fact it wasn’t until a good couple of years later that I finished series 1 and series 2. The scene in where Sherlock looks for clues in the office just pissed me off. That’s not Sherlock: that’s the Doctor.

It’s not even the fact that I’m a stubborn purist, The idea of modernising Sherlock Holmes was a fantastic one and the casting was superb. I’ll forget about any original material when something well-written and enjoyable is on offer, ‘The Blind Banker’ is one of the shittest things I’ve ever seen. You know how Star Wars purists feels about the prequels? Yeah, that’s how I feel about series 1 episode 2 of Sherlock.

Anyway, I’ve since changed my mind… at least partially. It’s all thanks to Mark Gatiss really. His Hounds of the Baskerville episode is the best thing in the entire fucking series, That man is one of the best television writers we have at our disposal and I always look forward to anything he’s helped to craft. It’s equally telling that the best episode of series 1 is also written by Gatiss. I dread to think what Sherlock would have been like without him.

But I digress. Before we see a more traditional version of the character we have come to know and love, I think it’s prudent to look back at the Cumberbatch’s first outing as the great detective. There was a lot of pressure all round when ‘Study in Pink’ first aired. How well would the modernisation work without the whole thing feeling like a bit of a gimmick? How well would the stories translate into a modern setting? And, most importantly of all, who would play the wiseman?

‘Study in Pink’ may not have fully proved that the new series was destined for greatness it certainly showed there was great potential. The use of social media and new mobile technology were used greatly and the graphics on screen allowed them to fit into the narrative. It is no new idea that Sherlock liked to be ahead of the times and loved to play with gadgets. It fits in with his character that he would utilise the internet and smartphones in his investigation.

As for the story, the plot isn’t the greatest crime mystery ever crafted but it works. There are few unanswered questions and a few dodgy moments but, in the end, it holds up. Obviously, the first episode of any series has the awkward task of introducing the concept and the characters. It had to bring our main characters together and create the dynamic duo. It had to quickly allow the audience to get to grips with Sherlock’s character and his history with the supporting cast. The actual case is neither here nor there but it has all the hallmarks of a traditional Holmesian tale.

What really made the series great was the casting. The supporting cast is amazing with Lousie Brealey, Mark Gastiss and Una Stubbs standing out. Although, for my part, I’ll always have a soft-spot for Rupert Graves’ Lestrade. Not only is he astoundingly handsome but is a bloody good actor. Of course the main event is in the casting of Holmes and Watson themselves. Bringing together Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is quite honestly the greatest thing that Steven Moffat has ever done. It’s no wonder that Tumblr have accept the pair as a tried and tested ship. You can tell the success of a television pairing by the number of people drawing pictures of them in romantic situations and writing fanfiction about them adopting children together.

‘A Study in Pink’ deserved a much better follow-up than ‘The Blind Banker’. It’s a smart and stylish episode that showcases the talents of its actors. It is a strong opening episode that hinted at great things to come. You can tell that Gatiss and Moffat know their stuff in terms of Conan Doyle law and truly enjoyed updating the tales. It’s just as obvious that all the actors involved relish their roles and loved making the series. I’ll never be truly convinced that this is absolute greatest adaptation of the tales we’ll ever see but I’ve come around to the idea that it’s the best we’ve got at the moment.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)

Benedict Cumberbatch, CGI, dragon, fantasy, Martin Freeman, Middle Earth, motion capture, Orlando Bloom, Peter Jackson, review, Tolkien

The Hobbit came out last year amid great despair that it wasn’t a fitting adaptation of Tolkien’s loved children’s fantasy. As you may recall, I loved it and thought the real-time Dwarf dinner would have been exactly how Tolkien would have envisioned a film version of his simple tale. I was filled with excitement for the second instalment as soon as I stepped out of the cinema that first time but, thanks to the pressures of Christmas and a shortage of staff at work, I was left to wait until last week to view it. With the state of mind I was in, Peter Jackson would have had to do something horrific for me not to be even slightly impressed. Particularly when one of my many great loves, Benedict Cumberbatch, was the sexy voice of Smaug the dragon.

The Hobbit (2012)

Andy Serkis, fantasy, Martin Freeman, Middle Earth, motion capture, Peter Jackson, Tolkien
241899id8_TheHobbit_Intl_BILBO_27x40_KEYART.indd(I found it hard to try and maintain an objective view whilst writing this as I openly admit to falling in love with this film (is that possible? Hell if people in Japan can marry video game characters I can love a film) from the opening sequence. Apologies for any gushing praise that may infiltrate this piece… although not really because, as we all know, “love means never having to say you’re sorry”.)