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Modern English Society

The World’s End: Sending one down the hatch before everything goes down the tubes.
The World’s End: Sending one down the hatch before everything goes down the tubes.

Ah, raised stakes. Is there any movie you can’t weaken, even as you seek to ratchet up the significance and tension of the crisis at hand? My top-of-the-head answer for favorite film of Summer 2013 is Mud, which tells the story of two boys attempting to help a wanted man escape from an island in the middle of a river. That’s it. No fate of the galaxy, no conquering the world, not even a few million lives at stake. Just one man in a jam, looking for understanding and a boat motor.

Movie

Shaun of the Dead **

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British takeoff, or send-up as you prefer, of George Romero's imaginative, morbidly witty zombie film, <em>Dawn of the Dead</em>. All of the imagination in this one has gone into the humor and none into the horror. Put more simply, all of it has gone into Shaun (and his associates) and none into the Dead, who could pass for direct spillover from the outskirts of Romero's Pittsburgh. Co-writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg make great sport, early on, playing on our expectations — raising false alarms — by zeroing in on the zombie-like demeanor of the ordinary man on the street. But while the real zombies await their cue in the wings, the first order of business is to scope out, at leisure, the social dynamics of the central ensemble: the title character (Pegg), a white-shirted clerk in an electronics store, who neglects his long-suffering girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) and uncomplaining mother (Penelope Wilton) in preference for the company of the slobby slacker (Nick Frost) with whom he has been best friends since boyhood; and a romantically linked couple (Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran) who take the side of the girlfriend, the male of the couple taking her side so ardently as to arouse the suspicions of his own girlfriend. Where the Romero film, and its vision of America, was centered around the shopping mall, this one, and its vision of twenty-something Brits of arrested development, is centered around the pub. (Rhymes with hub.) The only place our Shaun can ever think to go — whether to make up to his girlfriend on a Special Night Out or to fortify himself against an army of zombies — is the place he goes every night of his life: "You got your pint. You got your pig snacks. What more do you want?" There would be no insult in saying that, nimble and diligent though this comedy is, it is not quite as funny, and not nearly as scary, as the Romero prototype. Or to say it another way: the joke in the Romero is not only more double-edged — the zombies and the humans both have their own reasons to gravitate to the mall — but at the same time it is less of a joke. The shopping mall as a refuge is a genuinely good idea.

Find showtimes

So. There’s this great movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg’s character is stuck in a rut; either life hasn’t worked out because he hasn’t quite grown up or he hasn’t quite grown up because life hasn’t worked out. Either way, he’s a little too fond of the pub. But a zombie outbreak — one that initially goes unnoticed because of certain aspects of modern English society — forces Pegg to confront his failings. That film is called Shaun of the Dead, and it came out in 2004.

So. There’s this other movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg’s character is stuck in a rut; either life hasn’t worked out because he hasn’t quite grown up, or he hasn’t quite grown up because life hasn’t worked out. Either way, he’s a little too fond of the pub. But an alien invasion — one that initially goes unnoticed because of certain aspects of modern English society — forces Pegg to confront his failings. That film is called The World’s End, and it comes out Friday.

There are, of course, differences between the two — some of them welcome, some less so.

Movie

World's End *

thumbnail

The final chapter in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy, and very much a raised-stakes version of the first entry, <em>Shaun of the Dead</em>. In <em>Shaun</em>, a town was taken over by zombies, and the hero was forced to confront his failings. In <em>World's End</em>, the world is threatened by aliens, and the hero is...yeah. Also: when you add all that supersized drama, something tends to get lost. There's something here about the dangers of nostalgia, and something about the awfulness of corporate sameness, and something about the value of stubborn individuality shining through a haze of drunken belligerence, but the film's chief pleasures come from the interaction of its five stars (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan), out to finish the twelve-pub crawl they bailed on back in the day. It's fun to relate the pub names to the action inside, and fun to watch soused Englishmen attempt to navigate the complexities of dealing with alien invasion. Just don't push it too hard.

Find showtimes

Welcome: The World’s End expands the principal cast to include Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, and an expert Martin Freeman. The five fellows play former high school chums reuniting in middle age to finish the Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl through their hometown of Newton Haven. (Yes, it’s fun to relate the name of each pub — the Good Companions, the Beehive, etc. — to the action that takes place there.) The banter and dynamics between the former crew mates — everybody else has gotten on with life, but they still can’t resist Pegg’s half-manic call to join him in regressing to their past debaucheries — are probably the film’s chief pleasure.

Less welcome: The World’s End ups the special-effects budget and raises the stakes to...well, you’ve seen the title. And it’s when the film has to deal with those raised stakes that it stumbles, wanders off-course, and turns from a fine drinking buddy telling a rollicking story into a tiresome drunk who’s lost the point and is just trying to keep your attention.

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The World’s End: Sending one down the hatch before everything goes down the tubes.
The World’s End: Sending one down the hatch before everything goes down the tubes.

Ah, raised stakes. Is there any movie you can’t weaken, even as you seek to ratchet up the significance and tension of the crisis at hand? My top-of-the-head answer for favorite film of Summer 2013 is Mud, which tells the story of two boys attempting to help a wanted man escape from an island in the middle of a river. That’s it. No fate of the galaxy, no conquering the world, not even a few million lives at stake. Just one man in a jam, looking for understanding and a boat motor.

Movie

Shaun of the Dead **

thumbnail

British takeoff, or send-up as you prefer, of George Romero's imaginative, morbidly witty zombie film, <em>Dawn of the Dead</em>. All of the imagination in this one has gone into the humor and none into the horror. Put more simply, all of it has gone into Shaun (and his associates) and none into the Dead, who could pass for direct spillover from the outskirts of Romero's Pittsburgh. Co-writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg make great sport, early on, playing on our expectations — raising false alarms — by zeroing in on the zombie-like demeanor of the ordinary man on the street. But while the real zombies await their cue in the wings, the first order of business is to scope out, at leisure, the social dynamics of the central ensemble: the title character (Pegg), a white-shirted clerk in an electronics store, who neglects his long-suffering girlfriend (Kate Ashfield) and uncomplaining mother (Penelope Wilton) in preference for the company of the slobby slacker (Nick Frost) with whom he has been best friends since boyhood; and a romantically linked couple (Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran) who take the side of the girlfriend, the male of the couple taking her side so ardently as to arouse the suspicions of his own girlfriend. Where the Romero film, and its vision of America, was centered around the shopping mall, this one, and its vision of twenty-something Brits of arrested development, is centered around the pub. (Rhymes with hub.) The only place our Shaun can ever think to go — whether to make up to his girlfriend on a Special Night Out or to fortify himself against an army of zombies — is the place he goes every night of his life: "You got your pint. You got your pig snacks. What more do you want?" There would be no insult in saying that, nimble and diligent though this comedy is, it is not quite as funny, and not nearly as scary, as the Romero prototype. Or to say it another way: the joke in the Romero is not only more double-edged — the zombies and the humans both have their own reasons to gravitate to the mall — but at the same time it is less of a joke. The shopping mall as a refuge is a genuinely good idea.

Find showtimes

So. There’s this great movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg’s character is stuck in a rut; either life hasn’t worked out because he hasn’t quite grown up or he hasn’t quite grown up because life hasn’t worked out. Either way, he’s a little too fond of the pub. But a zombie outbreak — one that initially goes unnoticed because of certain aspects of modern English society — forces Pegg to confront his failings. That film is called Shaun of the Dead, and it came out in 2004.

So. There’s this other movie directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg’s character is stuck in a rut; either life hasn’t worked out because he hasn’t quite grown up, or he hasn’t quite grown up because life hasn’t worked out. Either way, he’s a little too fond of the pub. But an alien invasion — one that initially goes unnoticed because of certain aspects of modern English society — forces Pegg to confront his failings. That film is called The World’s End, and it comes out Friday.

There are, of course, differences between the two — some of them welcome, some less so.

Movie

World's End *

thumbnail

The final chapter in Edgar Wright's Cornetto trilogy, and very much a raised-stakes version of the first entry, <em>Shaun of the Dead</em>. In <em>Shaun</em>, a town was taken over by zombies, and the hero was forced to confront his failings. In <em>World's End</em>, the world is threatened by aliens, and the hero is...yeah. Also: when you add all that supersized drama, something tends to get lost. There's something here about the dangers of nostalgia, and something about the awfulness of corporate sameness, and something about the value of stubborn individuality shining through a haze of drunken belligerence, but the film's chief pleasures come from the interaction of its five stars (Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, and Eddie Marsan), out to finish the twelve-pub crawl they bailed on back in the day. It's fun to relate the pub names to the action inside, and fun to watch soused Englishmen attempt to navigate the complexities of dealing with alien invasion. Just don't push it too hard.

Find showtimes

Welcome: The World’s End expands the principal cast to include Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, and an expert Martin Freeman. The five fellows play former high school chums reuniting in middle age to finish the Golden Mile, a 12-pub crawl through their hometown of Newton Haven. (Yes, it’s fun to relate the name of each pub — the Good Companions, the Beehive, etc. — to the action that takes place there.) The banter and dynamics between the former crew mates — everybody else has gotten on with life, but they still can’t resist Pegg’s half-manic call to join him in regressing to their past debaucheries — are probably the film’s chief pleasure.

Less welcome: The World’s End ups the special-effects budget and raises the stakes to...well, you’ve seen the title. And it’s when the film has to deal with those raised stakes that it stumbles, wanders off-course, and turns from a fine drinking buddy telling a rollicking story into a tiresome drunk who’s lost the point and is just trying to keep your attention.

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If this is the same team that gave us Shaun of the Dead, I WILL BE THERE!

Aug. 23, 2013

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