The World’s End (2013)

The World's End (2013)

It’s weird how most successful film franchises come in threes. It seems we all like a trilogy, but get a bit bored when a series hits four or five films, for some odd reason. Indeed, the era of the four-to-five film franchises seems to have ended in the early 1990’s / late 1980’s. Well, on the whole anyway, as it seems that horror movies have no problem pumping out sixth and seventh instalments in franchises (I’m looking at you Saw). But then again, they’re typically low budget, high return films, so it’s no surprise. That’s not always the case with the pricier films. So with all that said, we now see a film emerging to conclude a trilogy. And this is no typical trilogy. In fact, the only tenuous link between the three films are its two lead actors and director / writer… oh, and an obsession with talking about that classic coned ice cream treat: the Cornetto. Yes, the thrilling conclusion to the The Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy is here… enter, The World’s End.

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Strawberry, vanilla or mint? Pick your flavour!

Confused how this is a trilogy? Can’t remember the films that went before? How can this be true?! Almost a decade ago we had the awakening of Shaun of the Dead: a film about romance set to the backdrop of the zombie apocalypse in London. Three years later we had Hot Fuzz, a buddy cop movie about life in rural England with murderous, bombastic undertones. And now, some six years later, we have The World’s End, a film about a pub crawl with an apocalyptic setting. What ties the films together? The Cornettos, the acting talent on display and the most valuable asset of all… British humour.

The World’s End, at its core, stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with director Edgar Wright who co-writes with Pegg. This time around, Pegg plays Gary King – the leader of the gang (from school). He’s intent on reliving his youth and completing a 12-pub pub crawl he couldn’t finish with his buddies when he was 18. So, he reunites the gang, rounded out by estranged best friend Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan) and Steven (Paddy Considine), to once again undertake his crawl some 20 years later. But things are awry in Newton Haven (a typical British town)… everyone’s acting somewhat oddly. Yes, Gary and the gang uncover a somewhat sinister secret of a global takeover by an extra-terrestrial force. Best reach for the Cornettos then.

The World's End (2013)

Shaun of the Dead is a hard act to follow for Pegg, Frost and Wright. I’d argue that Hot Fuzz didn’t live up to my expectations and fell somewhat flat. Others would say that Hot Fuzz was superior to the zombie-fuelled exploits that went before it. And obviously, people will argue where The World’s End fits into this threesome. Plus, for the sake of argument, we’re not including Paul in this debate, as Wright had no part in the film… and it’s set in the US. We’re strictly British here I’ll have you know! Where do I figure that The World’s End lands? Keep reading… Or skim to the end if you’re bored of reading already.

What I particularly enjoyed about The World’s End was the dark tone of the movie, particularly Simon Pegg‘s Gary King. In previous films you’ve been able to warm to Pegg‘s character almost instantly. Particularly in Shaun of the Dead. But here? I found myself strongly disliking him almost immediately. I was worried actually, as the first 20 minutes dragged somewhat for me, as I found myself unwilling to take Pegg‘s King under my wing and care about him. He has issues. He needs to grow up. And therein lies the message of this film… we all have to grow up and move on at some point. Life marches onwards and sometimes you have to march on alongside it or be left behind.

The World's End (2013)

Sorry, I went a bit deep there didn’t I? Aside from Pegg‘s character and the plot’s undertones, the film is replete with laughter-inducing moments. Not many belly laughs, I must add, but a lot of smiles and sniggers. But then again, I’m a hard Phage to impress; some might say I’m a snob for comedy. What I like? I really like. What I don’t? I detest. But The World’s End worked in the humour stakes. It also worked well in the plotting stakes too. The film constantly twists and turns to try and buck the viewer off its back, right up to the final scenes. I like this. Especially when it’s coupled to the deliciously British dark humour that the film draws on.

The World's End (2013)

As for the acting talent on show… we’ve got some fine British acting on show here. Recently, we’ve seen an explosion of talent marching across the world stage thanks to “newbies” such as Martin Freeman, Benedict Cumberbach and James McAvoy. You can also say the same of Simon Pegg nowadays, as he’s in hot demand, which is good to see. Arguably, it’s Nick Frost‘s character that was the highlight for me. A somewhat stifled lawyer who’s clearly shellshocked from his past. But when he lets rip? He lets rip. His character had the most interesting arc for me here. But having said that, the whole ensemble add real weight here thanks to Wright and Pegg‘s scripting fleshing out each character. Similarly, this is definitely an Edgar Wright film, from the stylistic shots of pints being pulled to the flavour of the dialogue. Let’s hope he can bring the same bold style to Marvel’s Ant-Man when that hits in 2015…

The World’s End will definitely be a hit with old Cornetto fans; it brings back the humour, the bromance and the clever social commentary that was present in the previous two films, but adds a new plot on top of it. Having said that, there are slow moments and it’ll take you time to warm to all of the characters, but once the film really starts rolling towards the apocalypse you’re sucked into the world entirely. Once again, us Brits show the world how humour should be done… less raunch, dick jokes and boobs, and more sarcasm, wit and use of the c-word. Yeah… we know how to offend and amuse in equal amounts!

So which Cornetto flavour is my favourite? Is it strawberry (Shaun of the Dead), vanilla (Hot Fuzz) or mint (The World’s End)? In the real world, I’d plump for mint. But perhaps it’s telling that my last trip to the supermarket saw me return with a box of five strawberry Cornettos (for 99p! Cheap!)… it was an omen. For me, Shaun of the Dead will remain the best in this series of three films, like your first true love, it’s sometimes hard to top (but can happen). The World’s End is a very close second though and is one I could go back and watch again. I’m always partial to a bit of mint, especially if its sprinkled with some truly dark chocolate / humour…

Phage Factor:

4 Star

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Comic-Con 2012 Film Round-Up

Comic-Con… An event that used to be regarded as the time of year when pale, socially awkward creatures would gown up as their favourite science fiction character, brave the Californian sun, and make their pilgrimage to meet the stars of thatshowyou’veneverheardof and itwasbiginthe80’s. You need look no further than that barometer of public opinion, The Simpsons, to see how these events were seen… Remember the baying hordes asking Lucy “Xena” Lawless the most absurd and nerdy questions in a scene from 1999’s Treehouse of Horror X? Or for those less familiar with the intricacies of the series, you’re surely aware of Comic Book Guy, the rotund, sarcastic and single comic book shop owner? Well, fill a hall with people of this calibre and that’s how this event was rightly or wrongly seen back in yesteryear. No more.

Jump forward a decade and Comic-Con is firmly marked on every film enthusiast’s, entertainment magazine’s and large film studio’s calender next to the award ceremonies. Why? Well, it’s not to catch a glimpse of some of the phenomenal Cosplay costumes, but to hear about the latest announcements on the current darlings of Hollywood: the comic book movie… and this year was exceptional.

Ant-Man: Coming soon to a cereal bowl near you!

The  “House of M” (Marvel), coupled with the “House of Mouse” (Disney) really brought the goods this year; probably their best outing since the entire cast of Avengers Assemble was erm… assembled on-stage at the 2010 expo. It really is telling of how far Comic-Con has come in recent years that Robert Downey Jr. and Don Cheadle – two of Hollywood’s leading men – were in attendance. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s take this sequentially as opposed to tackling this with the reckless chronological abandonment of Quentin Tarantino.

Proceedings were kicked off with the confirmation that Edgar Wright‘s Ant-Man will indeed see the light of day. Yes, that’s right – that little punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids has harnessed Rick Moranis’ awesome shrink gun powers and become a superhero. Ok, I jest… in fact, that little kid grew up and became, well, no-one. Last film? 1992’s Honey, I Blew Up The Kid. Not all film roles are kind to you. Funny that these two films perfectly encompass Ant-Man‘s eventual powers: the ability to shrink to the size of ants (and control them) and become gigantic. Though if Wright puts him in a bowl of Cheerio’s at some point we’ll know where the inspiration came from. Kidding aside, every comic fan worth his/her salt knows that the introduction of this hero into Marvel‘s cinematic Universe could spark some very exciting film plots down the line… Tickle this Phage excited.

Next up, we’ve got Tony Stark Robert Downey Jr. – a man who needs no introduction, but this doesn’t stop him giving himself one courtesy of Luther Vandross. If this man wasn’t so damn charismatic, talented and infectious you’d want to tell him to come off the pompous juice every now and again. Downey (himself / Iron Man), Cheadle (James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine), Shane Black (director) and Jon Favreau (Happy Hogan / exec. producer) of course were on hand to show off footage from the Iron Man 3 film. As The Phage is a bit wet behind the ears and not based in California, we weren’t there to explain the footage to you, but needless to say it sounds fantastic. Notably, it was confirmed that Ben Kingsley will indeed be the Mandarin, although I think the only people unaware of this casting are those that are holed up in bunkers awaiting the nuclear fallout caused by the Millennium Bug to clear in 2023, or you know, they have a life that’s not based on the internet… It’ll be nice to see Kingsley flexing his serious acting chops again after whatever The Dictator was. Due in May 2013 (April for the UK), this is sure to be one to mark on the calender.

In a back-to-back onslaught, the final announcements from the Marvel stable caught some off-guard for polarising reasons. Firstly, the good. We find that the uniquely named Thor 2 and Captain America 2 have been morphed into Thor: The Dark World and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Although the Thor title has left some room for ambiguity in what’s to come in November 2013, ol’ Cap’ doesn’t. Expect the return of Bucky Barnes, who was last seen falling off a train in an Arctic looking Germany, in 2014.

Oops, there goes the neighbourhood! That, or Marvel’s current run of form.

Now, I like to think of myself as a bit of a comic book fan (see The Amazing Spider-Man review), but the confirmation that Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t just some ludicrous rumour was… well, imagine the feeling you’d get if you’d just woken up in an alternate reality where Keanu Reeves doesn’t act like a soulless robot from the planet “Woody Woody Wood Wood” and Justin Bieber now fronts Napalm Death… Sure, it might seem like a pleasant surprise on the surface, but it’s just odd. So with Marvel soon introducing an intergalactic Peace Corps led by a talking raccoon, we can expect the “grounded” take on superheroes to evaporate quicker than that punk from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids‘ career. Here at the Phage, we can see the connection clarifying the *Avengers spoiler* Thanos appearance in Avengers Assemble, but do we really crave these heroes…? “They may be the ones the Marvel Cinematic Universe deserves, but not the ones it needs right now…  Because they’re not known heroes. They’re unknown guardians, watchful protectors… a difficult sell to the public.” Speaking of which…   

Ok, DC didn’t launch in with a Batman quote, nor clips from the imminent The Dark Knight Rises… Nor does it need them as that particular hype machine is in danger of exploding amid reports it could topple  Avengers Assemble‘s opening weekend take and that negative reviewers are being cyber-lynched left, right and centre.

Man of Steel. Not shown practising Blue Steel. Just moody.

No, DC had but one film to show for what is arguably their poster boy: Superman, with Man of Steel. Both Henry Cavill (Clark Kent / Superman) and director Zack Snyder (thankfully at a normal frame rate) were on hand to show off some footage and answer fans’ questions. Once again, The Phage was overlooked for a press pass, so no in-person viewing (this will have to wait for The Dark Knight Rises trailers), but the main thing we learn is that yes, General Zod is the villain. Yes, that’s right – the same villain from Superman II back in 1980. Hopefully they’ve updated the General’s fashion sense since then; although they say the 80’s are back in fashion again so maybe he’ll still be sporting some high rise black trousers. Reports on the frames-per-second of Snyder‘s Superman are still pending. Expect to see the return of the other guy who sports red and blue in June 2013. Thankfully, this shouldn’t be an origin story…

I wish there was more to balance out the weighting of Marvel vs. DC Comics in this report, but DC doesn’t have that many burning franchises, aside from Superman and Batman, who’s soon to be retired and rebooted following Chris Nolan‘s trilogy. Rumours abound about a Justice League movie (like the Avengers’ ensemble cast), as well as a Green Lantern reboot (yes, just 2 years after the original), but nothing concrete has been announced.

There really was something for every comic book movie fan at Comic-Con this year. The Phage won’t dip into the reams of other announcements regarding non-film franchises such as The Walking Dead, but needless to say it stood out in so many areas.

So whether you’re a fan of men flying around wearing a cape, Norse Gods with washboard-like ab’s, or talking racoons from space, there was something to get excited about.

And there’s always next year for “that punk” from Honey, I Shrunk The Kids to make his unexpected and unneeded return to the silver screen…

“Bring back Nick!” Campaign 2012