Movie Review: The World’s End (2013)


Title: The World’s End
Release Date: 19 July 2013
Director: Edgar Wright
Production Company: Relativity Media | StudioCanal | Working Title Films | Big Talk Pictures | Dentsu
Summary/Review: After Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this is the third in the trilogy of Three Flavours Cornetto genre comedies directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg plays Gary King, a 40-year-old manchild whose greatest memory is the night in 1990 when he finished school and did a famous pub crawl in his hometown of Newton Haven. Since Gary and his friends made it only to 9 of the 12 pubs, he feels that he will only find satisfaction by getting the group back together for another try.  His friends are now all successful professionals in stark contrast to Gary’s endless childhood.  The group includes Andy (Frost), Steven (Paddy Considine), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and they are also joined by Steven’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike).

The movie is good contrast of youthful ambitions to middle-age concessions.  Amid the great comic moments are some really great moments of these men opening their hearts about their troubled lives.  And if that wasn’t enough, there is the strange alien feeling of returning to one’s childhood hometown to find that everything seems different and no one remembers you.  In the case of this movie, it’s because Newton Haven has been taken over by actually aliens who have replaced the populace with android duplicates.

The movie blends together the science fiction story perfectly with the comedic beats and heartfelt moments.  It also has a great soundtrack of early 90s Madchester tunes, including the perfect deployment of Primal Scream’s “Loaded” in the denouement. If I have one criticism it may be the cast is too large and a friend group of 3 or 4 may have been more manageable than 5.  But it’s a small criticism in highly-entertaining movie that may just be my favorite of the trilogy.

Rating: ***1/2

Movie Review: Arrival (2016)


In the final installment of my miniseries of Space Exploration Movies of the 2010s, the aliens come and discover us!

Title: Arrival 
Release Date: November 11, 2016
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Production Company: FilmNation Entertainment | Lava Bear Films | 21 Laps Entertainment
Summary/Review:

A dozen strange spacecraft arrive in various parts of the Earth.  One of them is in the United States in a remote part of Montana.  The US Army recruits Louise Banks (Amy Adams), a renowned professor of linguistics, to help them learn the aliens’ language so they can communicate.  With the help of physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Dr. Banks races to create some rudimentary form of communication the giant squid-like creatures before the more military-minded in the US and abroad take defensive action.

I like how this movie has a slow build.  We see the arrival of the alien ships from Banks’ perspective as it goes from a news story that interrupts her work day to something she’s personally involved in. The design of the ship and how the alien “heptapods” interact with the human scientists has brings a nice level of strangeness.  I’m sure actual linguists can poke lots of holes in how linguistics is used in the movie, but it works as a plot device for novices like me.

The basic premise of the film is one that goes back at least to The Day the Earth Stood Still, in that aliens are trying to help humanity from our own self-destruction.  Having recently watched Gravity and Interstellar, I also see a lot of common plot points, expressing our present-day concerns.  One weird overlap between Arrival and Gravity is that the lead woman character is grieving the death of a daughter (although that plays into a plot twist in Arrival).  The movie rests on a terrific performance by Amy Adams and the interesting direction and design of the spacecraft and aliens.  The rest of the cast doesn’t get to do much and various subplots are kind of “meh,” which keeps this from being a great film, but it’s still a pretty good one.

Rating: ***