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As the late, great director, John Hughes proved, the combination of a coming-of-age movie with an incredible soundtrack is a powerful thing.  Marvellous filmmaker though he was, I wonder if even his brilliant imagination could have fathomed mixing those potent ingredients with aliens, kung fu and his protagonists maturing from the wrong side of forty.  I also reckon he might not have considered substituting a liver-endangering English pub crawl for the big prom.  It is the quirky fusion of all these offbeat elements with a genuine freshness and likeability that is oddly reminiscent of a Hughes movie that makes The World’s End such a victory.

Nobody gives you a chance or a dollar in this old town…  In a small, sleepy English burg, a group of restless youths yearns to test the boundaries of their ensuing manhood before larger forces sweep them from this bucolic life.  The close-knit collection of oddballs, nerds and basic misfits opt to go on a legendary quest to conquer the twelve pubs that serve as the area’s only source of entertainment (- In a town so small, there’s nothing left to do).  Quaffing down a pint at each of the dozen stops, the team loses members along the way, but shepherds ever onwards before falling just short of their goal.  The failure will haunt the group’s leader well into adulthood, where we find him decades later with the same adolescent mindset and attention span and the same determination to finish that mythical pub crawl.  Indeed, life seems to have stopped in 1990 for Gary King, so it’s with momentary consternation that he discovers his former running buddies aren’t quite as welcoming of their hellraising old pal as he assumed, nor as enthusiastic about the thought of returning to their hometown on a teenager’s errand.  Obfuscation, exaggeration, prevarication; none of these are excluded from Gary’s retinue as he blatantly lies to meets his ends and soon enough even the most hostile and resistant former mate is putty in his hands.  Off the pals go, packed into their old bucket of bolts, listening to the same mixtape cassette playing Britpop’s finest tunes, lulled into believing that this could be a pleasurable outing.  Soon enough Gary’s erratic behaviour and outright untruths come to light and threaten to end the reunion, but not before they notice some new things about their old town.  Why do all the pubs now look alike (“Starbucking, man, it’s happening everywhere.”)?  How come people they’ve grown up with, and in some cases been attacked by, seem neither to have aged nor remember them?  Why is everyone so relentlessly pleasant?  The answer naturally comes to them in the men’s room of pub number four.  While no one was looking or bothered noticing, the entire town and all its citizens were replaced by aliens from outer space.  The ETs seem only to want to promulgate their ethos of niceness, adding to their numbers via body snatching.  They are a collective of one mind and one strong hand against anyone disturbing the peace or threatening exposure.  The conflict for the guys is how to get out of town without giving away their awareness of the galactic visitors, or in Gary‘s case, whether they even want to leave.  As part of their lure to the dark side, the aliens make it possible for the friends to live out some of their pubescent fantasies thanks to their duplication of the sexiest girls in school who conveniently now have a thing for middle aged men.  All the drama of  interstellar domination means naught to Gary, who is determined to finish the crawl come hell or high water, alien invasion, laser-beam eyes, Xeroxing of his friends, or not.  It’s Gary’s single-minded determination to have one last lager at the mythical World’s End pub which may decide the fate of the planet.

Edgar Wright understood a long time ago that the key to a good review from Miz Diva was plying her with an audacious concept, rollicking action sequences, comedy that makes the viewer one with the floor and a bitchin’ soundtrack.  My introduction to the Crazy World of Edgar Wright began as many others did with 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, a novel, engaging spin on the zombie flick, wherein a commitment-shy electronics salesman finds himself suddenly a hero, fighting for the lives of his loved ones against a growing army of undead.  The chemical combination of Wright and his two stars, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, abetted by some of the UK’s funniest TV folk was unforgettable, and yes, the music was as significant a part of the film as any of the players.  Witness his application of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” during the big zombie fight - in a pub, mind - and the guys’ first unwitting walking dead exposure to the tune of Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines.”  The World’s End has many of those same components (Which also appear in 2007’s cop-action-buddy movie, Hot Fuzz); the ordinary man’s struggle in a small town against a much bigger, unseen evil, which brings about scenes of clever violence (In Shaun, items found around a pub, like a cricket bat deterred the bad guys. In Hot Fuzz, it was Bruckheimer-level firepower, and in The World’s End, it is time-tested, hand-to-hand barroom brawling against alien MMA.).  There is once more a fabulous soundtrack: Here it is based around the friends’ favourite era of music; late 80s-early 90s Britpop, featuring Pulp, The Stone Roses, Blur, Primal Scream, and, of course, The Housemartins’ “Happy Hour.”  Wright’s perfect placement of Suede's glistening, haunting “So Young,” elevates the guys’ simple stroll across the village green to Armageddon-like epicness.  It is hard to wait until the end before hearing “This Corrosion” by Sisters of Mercy, and you know it’s coming because of the threadbare SoM t-shirt that is seen on both younger and older Gary.  Reigniting their previous chemistry are Pegg and Frost, reunited with Martin Freeman (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) and Paddy Considine (Hot Fuzz), while Wright ensemble newcomer Eddie Marsan as the meekest member of the group fits in as if he’d been there all along.  Through the epic pub crawl, unresolved issues will come to light, resentments will be aired and battled over, long-buried crushes unearthed and possibly some growing up might be done, though purely coincidentally.  The film veers a bit into the awkward when trying to broach the (unspecified) accident that Frost’s Andy still suffers from, the cause of which falls squarely into Gary’s wobbly lap.  Gary’s drug addiction and bipolarism almost makes one feel uncomfortable and guilty for laughing at his antics, but I suppose that’s where the character development was meant to go.  Whatever.  All else is handled so breezily and once the race to The World’s End picks up speed, you’ve already identified with and liked the guys, even the obnoxious, nihilistic Gary King so much that structure issues stay small.

During my conversation with Director Wright, he told me clearly that although we’ve reached the end of what he calls “The Cornetto Trilogy” (Diva: “We don’t have those, you know, Cornettos.”  Edgar Wright:  It’s basically like a King Cone”), it in no way meant that he through working with his muses Pegg and Frost.  While The World’s End doesn’t quite spark with the same audacious freshness as Shaun of the Dead, it is a definite improvement over the fizz-free Hot Fuzz and certainly more than enough to keep viewers impatient for the next Wright-Pegg-Frost collaboration.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

August 23rd, 2013

 

Easter Egg: 

Small chat with Edgar Wright.

 

The Lady Miz Diva:  The World’s End was filmed after you’ve gone off and done your own film (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World) without Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and they’d made a film (Paul) without you.  What was it like to have spent that creative time apart and come back together for this film?

Edgar Wright:  Oh, it was great.  Me and Simon actually had the idea for this movie when we were promoting Hot Fuzz and we had the story and pretty much everything, including the end scene and the title and the idea and sort of based it on a number of things.  One of them was the fact that Hot Fuzz was shot in my hometown, so I had the experience of being back in my hometown very vividly and so it was very much sort of preying on my mind and that’s where it starts to factor into this; the idea of the homecoming.  Then we decided that we would go our separate ways and do separate projects.  And in a way, I think we wouldn’t have written the same script six years ago, cos almost like the nice thing is, not to get older, but to actually deal with that in the movie.  Shaun of the Dead, which we shot ten years ago, is a film about a twenty-nine-year-old about to turn thirty, and now in this film, they’re forty.  When I watch the American manchild comedies, sometimes I think it’s kind of forced because there’s that thing of being a big kid forever, which I think is glorified, but never really scratches below the surface, but in reality a lot of those actors are married and have kids.  So I think it’s a good thing to do these movies and actually acknowledge that the characters are older.  I think in that way, it was great me and Simon going away.  It’s not like we didn’t see each other for six years, cos we’re best friends, but it was the first time we’d written together in five years.  It was great.

 

LMD:  Was it different?

EW:  No, if anything, I think it was easier in a way.  I think out of the three, Hot Fuzz was the most difficult one to write because I think we realised that Agatha Christie is a genius. {Laughs}  We would have constant headaches about trying to figure out the murder-mystery plot.  With this, the nice thing about it was that we had the story and we had the plot and then there was just a huge outpouring of personal experience; everything from our upbringing.  I think the first thing that we did when we started talking about it was just start talking about personal experience and all of that stuff giving strength to the movie.  Shaun of the Dead, too, but this one is definitely the most personal of them because so many scenes in it are just straight from our experience.  Everything from the sister is based on a real person, the teacher is based on a real person, the bully is based on a real person.  The bully is the experience of my going back to my hometown a number of times after I’d left to live in London and then vividly one of the things that sparked the whole thing was going back to my hometown, going to a pub and seeing a school bully who didn’t recognise me, and I wasn’t sure if he didn’t know who I was anymore, or didn’t care.  But the fact that he didn’t like acknowledge me at all made me so mad.  I didn’t want him to acknowledge me, and I certainly didn’t want to get into anything, but I was so mad, thinking, ‘Does he not recognise me? This guy….’  So things like that just stuck.  That’s something that happened fifteen years ago that sort of stuck with me.  So that’s what’s great about doing these films is that things you didn’t think about for a long time then just come flooding in and it becomes a whole part of the movie.

 

LMD:  I must congratulate you on your excellent use of Suede’s “So Young.”

EW:  Yaaaah!  It’s one of my favourites.  That’s my favourite Suede song.  And I think the thing is that this film is like about nostalgia sometimes being a bad thing, and a positive form of nostalgia is music, in terms of, like, I can listen to “So Young” by Suede and be transported straight back to 1993, and be in a car with my friend, listening to an audio cassette and the two of us singing along and belting it out, and it immediately makes me kind of misty-eyed, that song.  All of the songs on the soundtrack are all from a certain period, late eighties, early nineties, when I was at school and Simon was at college and it’s sort of all of those gateway songs into more alternative music.

 

LMD:  When you’re on set or going over the editing, do you have that music playing?

EW:  In that particular - funny you should mention particularly that song – in a couple of scenes in the movie, the actors are listening to the song, and with the Suede song, they had it in their ears.  So when they’re swaggering along, it’s kind of why I think the slow motion looks really cool is cos they’re listening to Suede.  They all had these things called earwigs in and even though it’s in slow motion, it’s not in time with the music, and I said, “I think the scene would be better if you just listen to Suede.” so they all are listening to it.  So it was great, every single take of that scene, just before we would actually run, Paddy Considine would be singing along.  If you see the scenes, he’s always sort of singing that bit just before he goes into it.

But there’s a couple of scenes like that; like The Doors sequence, we had that playing.  I mean, it’s all choreographed to that song {“Alabama Song”}.  That was before we absolutely knew that we could afford it.  “We better get The Doors. Otherwise, we’re completely fucked.” {Laughs}

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

August 16th, 2013

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Exclusive Photos by LMD/ Stills Courtesy of  Focus Features)

 

 

 

 

 

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