By G. Michael Dobbs
This week’s film review column has a satisfying end to a great movie trilogy and a second new silent film.
In Theaters: The World’s End
The team of performers Simon Pegg and Nick Frost with director Edgar Wright have produced two excellent comedies: “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.” Now a third takes its place along side the other two and I’m happy to report “The World’s End” is just as funny and inventive as its predecessors.
What I liked most about this film is that it did not try to repeat the format of the other two pictures, except in the sense that appearances are not what they seem.
In “Shaun,” we had Pegg playing a complete slacker who finds a purpose for his life when there is a zombie plague in the United Kingdom.
The film is a wonderful romantic comedy and zombie movie parody. Frost played his screw-up pal.
In “Hot Fuzz,” Pegg is now the super efficient police officer in a film that clearly pokes fun at the typical buddy cop drama and Frost plays an earnest, but untrained copper.
In “The World’s End,” movies such as “The Big Chill” – the reunion of friends after many years – are the target. Pegg is Gary King, the high school’s bad boy who realizes that at age 40 he has never completed anything in his life. The one thing he decides to try once more is a pub crawl in his home town of a dozen bars culminating with “The World’s End.”
Through deception, King assembles his former friends who had attempted the crawl in high school. All of them are settled and professional and wonder how they were snookered by King in joining him.
King’s best friend out of the group is Andy – played by Frost – and he has a very good reason why he pretty much hates him. Despite that, Andy also agrees to join the group.
The goal is to drink a beer at every pub and the effort takes an extreme turn when the town’s secret is revealed. Written by Wright and Pegg, the film does a great re-working of several science fiction classics.
Like the first two films, the audience is given plenty of reasons to identify with the lead characters on a human basis – these are not simply comic buffoons. That approach gives the film its necessary dramatic weight, which adds to the comedy.
I really hope that this will not be the last collaboration between Frost, Pegg and Wright. They not only understand comedy well, they also know how to bring characters that seem very real to the screen.
On DVD: Blancanieves
For many people “The Artist” was their first silent film and I hoped the experience of seeing that Oscar winner would compel people to seek out and watch some films from the 1920s that deserve to be part of their cinematic experience.
I didn’t expect that other filmmakers would follow with more silent movies and “Blancanieves” certainly surprised me. Spanish director and writer Pablo Berger uses the fairy tale of Snow White as the basis for this interesting and moving film.
Famed bullfighter Antonio Villalta is gored in the ring, an event so shocking his wife gives birth prematurely and dies. Rejecting his daughter, the handicapped bullfighter retreats from view with his new wife, his former nurse.
When her grandmother dies, Carmen is sent to live with her father and her stepmother treats her as a servant. She is able to unite, though,with her father, who teaches her the fundamentals of bullfighting.
After many years, the stepmother decides to rid herself of Carmen and attempts to murder her. The assault leaves the young woman alive but in a state of amnesia. She is discovered by a traveling band of little people who have a bullfighting act.
After seeing this film, I can’t imagine attempting to bring this script to the screen as a live action production with sound.
There is such an unreal nature to the story that it demands special treatment and, in this case, that is the lack of recorded dialogue and a beautiful orchestral score.
While the performances are somewhat exaggerated and reflect the style of 80 years ago, they are still emotionally potent. Macarena Garcia is wonderful as grown-up Carmen.
Although I think the director ended his story in an off-putting manner, “Blancanieves” is still very much worth seeking out and watching.