42 – The Cornetto Trilogy – The World’s End

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The World’s End is the most recent film directed by Edgar Wright, and written by himself and Simon Pegg. Before I watched this film I was really worried that it wasn’t going to be up to the same standards of the other two films. I think these worries were misplaced as I actually enjoyed the film. The plot of the film focuses on Gary King (Pegg) who reunites with his four childhood friends and drags them along on a pub crawl around their home town of Newton Haven which coincides with an alien invasion and the pub crawl becomes a desperate attempt to survive the night.

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My main criticism from the start is that the first half of the film was a bit dull and without any major laughs. Most of this first half was introducing the characters which takes a while when there are 5 main ones and foreshadowing, but this isn’t like the foreshadowing that was so brilliant in Shaun of the Dead it’s just not as clever. There was still humour but just not as much as you’d come to expect from a film from this trilogy. It’s only when the robots appear that the film starts getting really interesting.

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The film certainly gets interesting once these robots or blanks, as they get named, there are some seriously awesome fight scenes. The fight scenes are the BEST thing about this film. They are so well done as they are fast and brutal while being hilarious at the same time. Nick Frost definitely stood out in these sequences as he is so aggressive in the scenes and it’s when his character who has gone from being restrained and mature to super violent and angry.

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The cast is great as usual. This time there is the six central characters of Gary, Andy, Oliver, Peter, Steven and Samantha played by Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine and Rosamund Pike. It’s great to see this film have such a great selection of actors in a team or the five musketeers as Gary calls them. Also the Pegg and Frost dynamic is mixed up a bit in this film as Pegg is more of the goofball and Frost is the more mature and sensible one which is refreshing to see and allows for new comedy. There are some great cameos in this film as well as you’d expect but like Hot Fuzz this film’s best addition to the cast is a former bond. This time it’s Pierce Brosnan who plays a drama teacher turned robot and delivers a great and funny performance in this film. I also loved seeing Mark Heap turn up as a landlord and deliver some of his usual strange acting style to the film.

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There are some great sci fi concepts in this film in the form of how the aliens ‘invade’ the planet and how there plan is morally ambiguous and I’m still questioning wherever or not they were evil and should have been stopped from finishing their scheming, and that coming from a doctor who fan who has pretty much seen every way an alien civilisation could invade a planet is a big deal. But also the sort of robot lego man like Blanks were a really great design and culminate the zombies from Shaun of the Dead with the community manipulating N.W.A who disguise themselves within a small society and control it for themselves. The first moment where one of the Blanks lose their head and you see what they’re like for the first time was really awesome and the way they can sort of mix and match their body parts and their heads break like eggs was really original and visually impressive to watch.

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I love the way this film has more of a quest as the focus of the story which resembles the fight for survival in Shaun of the Dead. It’s even more interesting in this as Simon Pegg’s character Gary has an a different motivation to the rest of the group which is all he has got left and is desperate to succeed no matter what, this goes against the other characters who just want to survive. But then underneath those core quests there is Gary King’s mid life crisis and how the other men in the group have grown up and moved on and he is left behind trying as hard as possible to relive his youth. Nick Frosts character Andy was wounded by Gary in the past but still sympathises with him to the extent that he chases him to The World’s End and tries to save him from himself. Gary’s quest to The World’s End inadvertently ends the world as they know it. It’s a really captivating and interesting story to watch and I’m prepared to say it’s a step up from Hot Fuzz even if the presentation of the story at the start is a bit dull.

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Reviewing this trilogy has been fun for me as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz have always been some of my favourite films and as I said I was seriously worried about watching the film as I honestly expected it to be terrible. But this film once it gets going is excellent and it was a joy to watch. I would be prepared to put it on par with the other two as it was a great new story with brilliant visuals and great fight scenes. As far as picking my favourite from the trilogy goes I think my mind has slightly been changed since re watching these films. I always would have used to say Hot Fuzz, but I’ve changed my mind. Each film has it’s merits, Shaun of the Dead is a gripping Londoners horror film that is extremely original and unlike any other zombie film that has been made, Hot Fuzz is an engaging crime thriller that entices my own love for murder mystery style stories but brings it to the British countryside which makes it even more special for me and The World’s End builds upon the comedy in the first two but add’s seriously cool fight scenes and the most interesting Pegg and Frost dynamic to date (including the only fight scene between the pair). So I’ve now decided that rather than one of the films being my favourite, they all are. The Cornetto Trilogy started off as a joke in an interview but for me at least has earned it’s place as my favourite film series ever and re-watching the first two and finally watching The World’s End has been a real joy for me and I will most likely keep re-watching them for years to come.

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41 – The Cornetto Trilogy – Hot Fuzz

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Onto the second film in the not so official Cornetto Trilogy and if you read my previous blog seen here https://08stockdaleb.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/40-the-cornetto-trilogy-shaun-of-the-dead/ (smooth plug of a previous blog ;)) then you would know that Hot Fuzz is possibly my favourite film ever. So as far as blog posts go, this is one of the most personal for me that I’ve done so far. If that doesn’t make you want to read on then you might as well never read this blog again.

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So why is this my favourite film you ask. Or maybe you don’t but I’m answering anyway. First of all, I’ll begin with the story. I am a big fan of crime drama’s. Anything with a mystery where the audience have a chance to try to work out what might have happened really excites me as it adds that extra layer of audience participation. You can sit and watch the film and put yourselves in the position of the characters and take note of clues and information as the characters do. So this murder mystery element coupled with large scale action sequences where two characters take on a whole village and of course the hilarious comedy that you come to expect with a Pegg, Wright and Frost film creates a spectacularly satisfying film to watch.

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Also one of the reasons the whole trilogy is such a favourite of mine is that every film is set in Britain and stars a predominantly British cast. This film sees Nicholas Angel played by Pegg is a big city cop who is transferred to the countryside. This is another reason that I love this film as it then becomes a american style action thriller that is set in the British countryside. It’s rare enough to see films set in the British countryside let alone action films. This is part of the irony of the story as the village in which it’s set, Sandford, is seen as a sickly sweet community where everyone knows everyone but in reality there is a murderous group who are manipulating the village who are armed to the teeth which is so unexpected and funny to watch. A lot of the action scenes take place in very British landmarks including market squares and supermarkets which are such ordinary locations which yet again is so great to see as it is so rare to see that in films.

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The cast is a step up from Shaun of the Dead, many of the same cast are present however great additions are made in the likes of Jim Broadbent as a corrupt police officer, Timothy Dalton as the suave red herring who owns the local supermarket. There is also Olivia Colman, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Bill Bailey, Steven Merchant and the returning faces of Martin Freeman and Bill Nighy. The cast really do give great performances and every cast member gets at least one funny line to say and every joke hits home.

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Simon Pegg and Nick Frost turn in another great double act together, this time we see it develop more as Simon’s character Nicholas is quite abrasive towards Nick’s character Danny at the start of the film but as the plot progresses Danny turns Nick into a more well rounded character who isn’t just focused on his job. There was actually supposed to be a love interest for Nicholas called Victoria in the original drafts of the script however Pegg and Wright, who also wrote the film, decided the character was arbitrary and that the real ‘romance’ in the story is the ‘bromance’ between Pegg and Frost’s characters. Apparently some of Victoria’s lines were directly given to Danny with little change to them at all. I believe this was a good idea as a love interest would, as they suggested, just been a pointless addition to the film, a lot of films and television shows seem to feel it necessary to have a romantic side to the story so much so that it’s difficult to create an original love story anymore. So it was definitely a wise decision and I think it’s much more of a pleasure for the audience to see as much as possible of the Pegg and Frost dynamic that make there films so great to watch.

As usual Edgar Wright brings his signature style of very fast cuts hyperactive camera shots and editing in general that he has brought to practically every film he’s worked on. It works particularly well in this film when there is a murder being cross cut with a more average scene for example when George Merchant’s house is being exploded which is cross cut with Nicholas and Danny watching action films. This technique was used a lot in Spaced where Pegg’s character Tim would be playing video games and this would be cross cut with a more dramatic scene. Wright can make seemingly average events like a pint glass being filled with beer feel really dramatic and because of this every film he does is really interesting visually and exciting to watch even at the moments where relatively nothing interesting is actually happening.

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Now I started this post by saying that this was my favourite film ever, however I hadn’t seen Shaun of the Dead for around three years before last night and I had forgotten just how great that film was. Now that I have seen it and Hot Fuzz within the same couple of days has confused me on which one I prefer. On one hand Hot Fuzz has more action, guns, a larger cast, a murder mystery and the thrill of seeing a gun fight in a British village while on the other hand Shaun of the Dead features a really engaging survival story, more iconic scenes and a story that has a much bigger scale (i.e a huge zombie attack on the world). On reflection I now see the films as on par with each other as my favourite two films ever.

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40 – The Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead

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Shaun of the Dead was a zombie/comedy film that was directed by Edgar Wright and written by himself and Simon Pegg. This film came out 9 years ago now and has since become a cult classic that helped to launch the trio of Wright, Pegg and co star Nick Frost to fame. If you watch it, it’s easy to see why. The film manages to blur so many different genre’s but in a coherent and truly enjoyable way.

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Recently I did a blog post about Spaced (https://08stockdaleb.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/35-spaced/) which was a sitcom that was also co created by Pegg and Wright and this film builds off the back of that series, even including references and much of the same cast. And like Spaced a lot of tension is built up in scenes that eventually lead to an anticlimax, although in this film it is much more ironic as the audience (if they know anything about the film) know that zombies will be in the film so every time tension is built up the audience expects to see a zombie. This becomes the real genius of the film as because of all this build up, which involves numerous small bits of information that hint towards the impending danger in ranging values of subtlety, once the zombies actually appear they do so in a very average way, so much so that the main characters are completely oblivious to the zombies for a long time which is incredibly funny to watch.

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The first half of the film follows Shaun trying to juggle fixing his relationship with Liz, giving his mum attention and going to the pub with his mate Ed. However throughout this first half there is a large amount of foreshadowing. At one point Ed basically foretells the events of the second half of the film. One whole scene of Shaun going to the local shop is repeated in an almost identically filmed shot once the zombies are present which is one of the best moments of the film as Shaun has a hangover  and is unaware of the danger around him.

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There is also a very iconic scene where Shaun and Ed are discussing their plan to survive the event which is done in a montage of short snappy shots which is one of Edgar Wrights distinct signature styles. It’s such a funny scene as Pegg and Frost have such a great on screen chemistry which is present throughout the rest of the film and in every film they’ve done since. It’s also their bromance vs Shaun’s and Liz’s relationship that is one of the core underlying plots of the film and reaches quite an emotional outcome towards the end of the film.

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I think one of the reasons this film is so good is that it has such a simple empathatic plot behind it. It’s main focuses are on 6 people trying desperately to survive in a tragic situation and the struggles that they have because of this, and also the more generic plot of a man and a woman struggling with their relationship which is where the genre’s blur but because this very average situation between a couple and their bickering is played out with the backdrop of a zombie survival film it becomes a hilarious thing to watch.

As the film get’s on the tone becomes darker and darker but manages to still have humour which is a testimony to the brilliant way in which it is written and acted. The audience feel empathy towards all the characters as they are all very relatable. There’s Shaun as the wannabe hero who has troubles with his love life but is good hearted, Ed is the rather foolish but funny best mate, Liz is the frustrated partner and the mother who fusses around other people but doesn’t want to worry them with her own problems. Those four core characters feel like movie archetypes, but as Pegg and Wright love to reference other films and made this film as they are huge fan’s of the horror genre, this will have been done consciously as a way to achieve the most empathy from the audience as possible.

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As the title suggests this has become the first film of the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’. I bought a blu-ray boxset of this trilogy this week which is why how I’ve watched this film, I’ve watched Hot Fuzz before but I am intending to watch it again tomorow night and I am yet to watch the third film The World’s End. So I can’t say how it compares to The Worlds End but personally I prefer Hot Fuzz to Shaun of the Dead simply because I am not a big fan of horror films in general. In addition Hot Fuzz is possibly my favourite film I’ve ever watched but the reasons I love that film is for the same reasons I love this film except Hot Fuzz is an easier watch for me I suppose. Shaun of the Dead would definitely get high up in my list of favourite films because of the fact that it hasn’t just slipped away in the almost decade since it’s release, it has earned a place in pop culture and will most likely remain there for a long time because it is so brilliant and hilarious and even besides the comedy is a well written and captivating survival story.

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35 – Spaced

The World’s End, Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead form the half joke title of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy which were all directed by Edgar Wright, produced by Nira Park and star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. However before these feature films there was a series called Spaced on channel 4.

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I finally decided to watch the series this weekend. I have been tempted for a long time as Hot Fuzz is probably my favourite film or at least the film I have re watched the most times. So I finally decided to give the series a chance.

I’m glad I did. This series was actually written by Jessica Stevenson, who also stars in the series, and Simon Pegg who as you might expect also stars. Everything that is great about Shaun of the Dead is present in this series and tenfold at that. The humour is even more ridiculous and the way the series is shot is just as bizarre and unique as Shaun of the Dead. Edgar Wright appears to have a real skill at adding drama and tension to scenes where relatively nothing out of the ordinary is happening but the audience is tricked into expecting something. Often in this series a character will slowly walk around a flat with tense music building up only to discover nothing, similar to the first appearance of Shaun in Shaun of the Dead where you think he is a zombie but ultimately is just yawning.

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The series follows aspiring comic book artist Tim (Simon Pegg) and work shy writer Daisy (Jessica Stevenson), both are incredibly likeable and relatable characters. What’s not so relatable is the rest of the characters though which notably include Mike (Nick Frost) who was discharged from the territorial army because he stole a tank in an effort to invade Paris.

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The dialogue is also brilliantly written and so are the characters themselves. One great character is a man who lives downstairs called Brian who is played by Mark Heap who I personally know for playing another strange neighbour in Friday Night Dinner. I didn’t think it possible but Mark Heap is even more off the chain in this series and is even more strange and hilarious to watch. He plays a very weird aspiring artist, in one episode in an attempt to not adhere to the stereotype of painting with a brush he uses his own genitals.

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The rest of the cast all deliver a more subtle performances but they are still ridiculously funny performances. There is a whole bunch of cameos as well including Bill Bailey, Ricky Gervais, John Simm, Keith Allen, David Walliams and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss.

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One of the reasons I enjoyed the IT Crowd, Graham Lineham’s geeky british comedy was because of the pop culture references and this one has them in abundance. One such moment was where Tim is noticeably upset and Daisy claims that it’s been so many months and that he should have got over it, leading the audience to think it’s his recent break up, but ultimately he’s actually upset about how bad the Phantom Menace was. There is also a great nod to Scooby Doo where Tim and Daisy appear like Shaggy and Velma, and many more. Even the way it is filmed is reminiscent of sci fi and horror films.

Overall if you loved Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz or The World’s End (which I haven’t actually seen yet but is arriving this week :D) then you will love this series.

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