Tag Archives: movie reviews

The World’s End (2013) Dir. Edgar Wright

The World's End

And so the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy continues, first with Edgar Wright’s SHAUN OF THE DEAD, HOT FUZZ, and now finally THE WORLDS END.  The story is about 5 men in the town of New Haven, who in their youths went on the Golden Mile:  12 pubs for a pint of beer each in one night, but they never made it to the final pub, The World’s End.  Now 23 years later, Gary King (Simon Pegg) the leader of the group, wants to band his buddies together again to redo their pub excursion and finally make it to THE WORLDS END.  Only once they return they find a lot has changed about New Haven, one of them being an invasion of alien robots that have taken over citizens of the town.

The film is at times hysterically funny, and it’s interesting to watch as these guys aren’t exactly in the prime of their youth anymore.  It becomes more of a quest to succeed for Gary King, as that night 23 years ago was the greatest night of his life, and somehow he doesn’t think his life will ever be complete without being able to relive that night and reach the holy grail of bars.  His friends of course have all grown up, but, as Gary points out, they have become slaves to their adult lives, which is not to dissimilar to the robots that have taken over the town.  One of my favorite scenes in the movie was a fight in a bathroom at one of the pubs between Gary’s friends and 5 robots that looked like teenagers.  In terms of really great storytelling, the scene has a lot to say, considering these men are fighting with versions of themselves, the forms of blank empty teenagers.  Thankfully the sci-fi portion of the story is well woven into the grand scheme of the movie, and the men are forced to continue their journey to not alert any other robots, and pretend to be going about their business.

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My problem with the movie however was that I did find the robot story started to become long and extraneous after awhile, especially in the final moments where there is a tiresome amount of exposition trying to explain the purpose of the robots, why they had come and are doing what they’re doing.  And yet because of that, I felt more and more that I was starting to lose my investment in what started as a great hysterical ride between these five guys on their journey of the Golden Mile.  The robots add a lot of the extra fun to the movie, but the problem too was that once all the explanations started, the film stopped being funny.  It’s a hard thing as well, because my favorite of the three Edgar Wright films, HOT FUZZ, keeps the laughs brilliantly going, and not only is it funny, it gets even funnier and more outrageous as the movie goes along.  There is exposition in that film leading to the next step of what the characters are going to do to solve their problem, but that’s the thing:  it actually goes somewhere that makes the characters active and leads us into the brilliant final act.  THE WORLDS END actually ends the film on exposition, and it sucks the film dry by the time its over.  There’s no final note for it to land on to have everybody cheering.  It’s frustrating because the first and second act work so well, that by the time we get to the end the whole thing just kinda slumps.

That’s not to say THE WORLDS END is a bad movie at all.  Far from it.  It’s funny, and at times charming with its own human touch that made SHAUN and FUZZ work so well, it continues here with END.  It’s a little gutsy for them to do this, but I like the role reversal between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, making Frost the more serious minded one this time around and Pegg being the total jack-off.  Pegg is quite funny as Gary King, and it’s funny to watch Frost once he starts to lose himself into alcohol, having no choice because of the robot invasion.  For a good portion of the movie, the story holds itself together, with themes about getting older and breaking out of the servitude of society and finding your own freedom as an adult.  It plays on both extremes with Gary King who has no rules, and the rest of the pack who have been bogged down by the rules of society.  That all changes by the films end, and the surviving characters have their slates wiped clean, a new mission in life and a place to start over.  Of course, like I said, the ending would have worked better had the filmmakers continued our investment into the characters and allowed us to watch them find their way instead of having it just be explained to us.  It’s not the greatest way to tell a story.

THE WORLD’S END overall is a good time, and should be seen because it does carry the charm of the previous Edgar Wright films.  For such a crappy 2013 summer, this is one of the better films and a nice way to cap off the summer.

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After Earth (2013) Dir. M. Night Shyamalan

AfterEarth

I have a strange soft spot for M. Night Shyamalan’s work.  I don’t know why.  Like most people, I think his best three films are Signs, Unbreakable, and The Sixth Sense, with Signs being my personal favorite.  But maybe it’s just that, through all the disappointments, I feel that he is still an artist with a vision and something to say.  It’s just…something went off in a different direction with his style of filmmaking, and the acting choices he wants from his actors.  Whatever the reason, I still manage to pull something meaningful out of his films, even if they aren’t as great as they once were.  With After Earth, that Shyamalan mediocrity that we’ve had to get used to is unfortunately still there.  But after difficult First Act, I actually found myself warming up to the movie.  Once young Kitai was off on his adventure, there was less talking from him and more action.  Jaden’s Smith’s performance may not have been perfect.  But I did feel something for this kid, who only ever wanted to make his father proud.  Even if the conclusion is inevitable and we know that things are going to turn out okay, I enjoyed the movie.  It had some positive messages about facing fear, knowing that it is an illusion, and how when worse comes to worse, remembering to ground yourself in the present moment.

One of the things I do admire about M. Night’s movies is that you can usually count on the danger being taken seriously, and he does a good job building the rules of the universes his characters inhabit.  The film has a few moments of humor to relieve the tension, but it never got too bogged down into seriousness like some of his other films have.  There was actually a favorite scene I had in the film.  It’s where Kitai gets bitten by a poisonous leech, and in order to stop the poison from spreading, he has to stab a needle in his heart with the antidote medication for it to spread through his system.  The scene had me on edge to watch the poor kid have to stick something in his heart to save himself.  It’s the one scene where I really felt I saw a kid having to overcome his fear to save himself from death.  Strangely with the scene of him jumping off a log to fly, not so much.  I didn’t see the fear in his eyes the way I did in that earlier scene.

Part of the story involves an alien creature known as an Ursa that can “smell fear” through a release of skin pharamones when a person becomes frightened.  Kitai’s father learned a technique, called “ghosting”, which purges fear and makes the creatures unable to sense their victim.  As you can guess, Kitai discovers this technique in himself when he has to face the creature in the climax of the movie.  But personally, the moment didn’t feel earned.  The film in my opinion didn’t build the stakes enough in its danger scenarios for me to believe that this kid found it in himself to conquer his fears.  The problem also lies in the first act of the film, where Kitai comes off as whiny and spoiled.  I couldn’t quite understand how I was supposed to feel the conflict between him and his father, when for the most part, his father is right.  There wasn’t enough of a build up in the conflict between them in those first scenes to relate to Kitai for me to want to side with him.  Kitai seemed more relatable to me once he was away from his father, facing danger, and having to make choices to survive.

When it comes to movies, one of the things I can’t do is judge child actors too harshly, because many times I think some of the criticism is unwarranted when we’re talking about a kid who is trying their best at a performance.  Admittedly, Jaden Smith has some trouble when it comes to his dialogue scenes, and he’s a bit difficult to understand when he voices the opening monologue.  But for a child actor, I found he was very good at being physical, such as with the needle in the chest scene, which I thought he pulled off well.  It might have been more of a challenge if he had to pantomime act through the movie, but the less he talked and the more he did in action scenes, the more I was engaged with him.  It’s more issues with the script than him where the film has its problems.

Overall, I kind of liked After Earth.  It’s not a great movie by any means but it was enjoyable and fun at times.  I think it’s also a decent film for parents looking to take their kids to a movie this summer, one that actually has perilous moments taken seriously that kids can relate to.  It’s certainly better than most of what you’ll seen in the theater right now.  It’s a story that doesn’t need to be too big or too epic to make it’s point.  It’s fast paced, and for the most part it’s an enjoyable ride that I recommend you check out.