The World’s End (2013)

The World's EndReleased: August 23, 2013. Directed by: Edgar Wright.  Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman. Runtime: 109 min

Back in 2004, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (director/co-writer, star/co-writer and star, respectively) began their Cornetto trilogy with “Shaun of the Dead,” a satire of zombie flicks. The second in the trilogy came in 2007, called “Hot Fuzz,” a satire of buddy action films. This year, they are back to finish off their trilogy, with “The World’s End,” a satire of apocalyptic and science fiction features.

Gary King (Simon Pegg) is the so-called King of his friends group, when they were seniors in high school. Now, they’ve drifted and are all living individual lives. To gain a sense of achievement, he gathers his old friends to finish what they attempted 20 years ago; The Golden Mile, an epic pub crawl across twelve of their hometown pubs. The World’s End is the last pub on their tour, and reaching that pub becomes the least of their worries – as they unwittingly become humankind’s only hope for survival.

In King’s friends group is Andy Knightley (Nick Frost), Gary’s wingman. Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) and Peter Page (Eddie Marsan) are the two buddies who were kept around mostly for comic relief; and Steven Prince (Paddy Considine) was Gary’s rival for women’s affection. Joining the guys on their adventure is Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Gary and Steven constantly fight over.

The main difference between Gary and the rest of his friends is that they have responsibilities, and he is suffering from Peter Pan syndrome, because he hasn’t yet grown up. Gary’s arc is poignant and emotionally captivating, and it also makes this have a great analysis on the difficulty of aging; or in Gary’s case, not aging. He’s the same old Gary, but he is a funny guy; so that isn’t so bad for the audience.

The friendship between Gary and his wingman, Andy, is well-written. It’s heartbreaking in scenes; and possibly the most emotional relationship shared between the two stars. It’s interesting to see the shoe being put on the other foot for Frost in the trilogy. Both of the characters these stars have portrayed, they have had a lot of growing to do – but Frost’s characters have had, arguably, more memorable arcs from an emotional standpoint. They are both the main characters of each of the film, but Frost has played the slackers and Pegg has played characters that actually have ambitions. It’s interesting to see Pegg as the slacker, and Frost as the successful one.

Wright makes a comment through the characters that people’s hometowns don’t change over the years, but those who leave it do, and when they come back it’s really weird because it feels the same, but many can’t pinpoint why it feels different; and why they feel like strangers in a place once so familiar to them. The story is a fun way to embrace that idea, and answer it in a hilarious and creative way. The film is layered with heart, brain and hilarity – and it’ll keep you guessing throughout. The characters all get their chances to shine, whether they be comic relief or completely badass at kicking otherworldly robotic ass.

The special effects are impressive and there are tons of laughs throughout the film. It has a fun satirical edge, and it’s a blast of a science fiction film. It further complements the fact that the Wright-Pegg-Frost is one of the strongest teams in satirical comedy, and that their films are great satires and wickedly fun additions to the genre. With “The World’s End,” Wright brings his signature directing style, and makes an ambitious and worthy end to his trilogy. I really can’t wait to watch this in a marathon with the others.

Score88/100

 

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Life of Pi (2012)

Life of Pi

Release Date: November 21, 2012

Director: Ang Lee

Stars: Suraj Sharma, Irrfan Khan, Rafe Spall

Runtime: 127 min

If 1997’s Titanic won eleven Oscars, this should get twelve.

Based on the best-selling novel by Yann Martel, this is an incredible story of adventure and discovery, centering on Pi Patel, the curious son of a zoo keeper. He and his family hail from Pondicherry, India, but they want to move to Canada to seek a better life. They hitch a ride on a large cargo ship that is destined to sink. After a shipwreck, Pi finds himself adrift on a 26-foot lifeboat accompanied by an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a fearsome Bengal Tiger called Richard Parker.

The film starts out with a beautiful opening sequence with multiple animals running all over the screen, as if they are running off of Noah’s Ark. Then from there, it gets right into the story.

An older Pi tells his life story to a writer through flashbacks and reflection. Since an older Pi is telling the story, there’s no question of whether or not he survives or not. The story is not about that question, it is about how he survives. Irfan Khan (that one Indian guy from Slumdog Millionaire and The Amazing Spider-Man) portrays the older Pi, while the younger Pi is portrayed magnificently by acting newcomer Suraj Sharma. Like Dev Patel’s film debut in Slumdog Millionaire, this is a great and promising start to a career. We, the audience, have the pleasure to watch a star being born. The only other really known actor (to the Western World, at least) is Rafe Spall (Anonymous, Prometheus, Hot Fuzz), who portrays the writer who may just sell Pi’s life story.

Pi’s story is a very interesting one. We see him grow up as a very curious boy that gets mocked at school because of his name (he gets called Pissing for a short period of time because his real name is Piscine). He is also a young boy of self-discovery who is interested in Hinduism, Catholicism and Muslim beliefs. He doesn’t know who he is quite yet, a feeling all of us experience when we are young. When Pi and his animal friends set adrift to the center of the Pacific Ocean because of the unfortunate shipwreck, the majority of the animals don’t last very long. They say their hello’s, and then soon enough the quick good bye’s come around and Pi and Richard Parker are the two remaining beings. They start off as sort of how an only child might feel if an adopted child is brought home, they both are skeptical of each other, and because of that they must keep their distance. Over time, the bond grows, and Pi and Parker become beings that must rely on each other. This transition is quite beautiful. Who said a man’s best friend can only be a dog?

The measure of faith that Pi possesses is inspirational, and brings some great themes of religion and hope to the feature. The CGI effects are great and the visuals are magnificent. The hailing of this being the next Avatar is quite accurate (in regards to the visual beauty, only). The story is about as great as Slumdog Millionaire, and the shipwreck sequence is both thrilling and terrifying, comparable to both White Squall and Titanic.

This film is not fit for the faint of heart. The shipwreck sequence is exciting and terrifying and very intense. There are also many sequences involving the tiger and other aspects. The viewer knows that the tiger is in the lifeboat, but we do not know where exactly he is, or when he will jump out and roar. This really brings on the conflict of man vs. carnivore. Other conflicts are: man vs. nature, and man vs. self (oh, and man vs. CGI; ha, ha). Both Pi and Richard must fight against waves and crazy storms. Pi struggles with his own faith and wicked hunger.

Life of Pi is a near-perfect film that gets its pacing thrown off at the ending. The ending raises questions of all the events that have preceeded it, and it adds a great sense of ambiguity. Nonetheless, it is very thought-provoking.

Life of Pi is a visually beautiful film, it’s surprisingly funny, it has a great story, great direction, wonderful cinematography, great conflicts and relationships, and it has many aspects of it that can be magnificent, terrifying, thought-provoking and saddening. The actors bring it all to the table, and short list of performers carry the film very well. This is one of the best films of the year that will be a large Oscar contender. If you’re going to see this, see it in its full 3D glory.

90/100