Tag Archives: simon pegg

Terminal

Annie, a beautiful and enigmatic waitress in a grimy, 24-hour, train station diner, greets shady customers and serves out hash with a side of sass.

Bill (Simon Pegg) is a dying English teacher whom she challenges as he tackles a greasy stack of fries. Vince and Alfred are a pair of hitmen who appear and disappear with various mysterious briefcases. Annie (Margot Robbie) sees everything and seems to lead a dangerous double life in the shadows of her underground employment. She and a janitor (Mike Myers) are the only two mainstays in this seedy, forgotten place.

Director Vaughn Stein unleashes all the cliches in his tool belt to evoke a film noir. MV5BMjNhYjllN2QtZTQwNy00ZWRhLWE4MGMtYjA3Mjc1ZTRiMTQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_Smog obscures the screen as a trench-coated silhouette walks down a path illuminated only by neon light: is this a recycled set from Sin City or are you just happy to see me? There’s really nothing new to see here and the whole thing is just a bit uninspired – or, well, inspired rather obviously by other, familiar things. Luckily for Terminal, I can’t keep my eyes off Margot Robbie. She’s an exceptionally eye-catching woman, but as her past few films have indicated, she’s also quite an actress. So while she’s the only reason to watch this film, it’s also a shame how badly it wastes her. The movie wants to be cleverer than it is. It wants to throw some real curve balls at you, but it has simply cut and pasted the Wikipedia entry for curve balls and put it on the screen. Yes, Robbie is sexy as hell, and sure, many men, and most women, would follow her down the depths of hell without too many questions. But she deserves to be a real character, flesh and blood, with machinations and motivations. Instead, Stein fails to ground this movie in anything solid – what are the rules of this universe? Where have these people come from? Why should we care? It’s all smoke and mirrors, it lives for  the atmosphere but once the smoke clears, there’s just not much there, except Mike Myers being a distraction, acting like he’s in an SNL sketch.

And then the final 15 minutes are fantastically bad. The movie should have ended where those 15 minutes begin, and the movie still would have been empty and pointless. Instead we are punished for having endured the movie thus far and it veers off into such an unearned place that you could decorate the set of your own film noir just with the steam that’ll come out of your ears.

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Mission: Impossible -Fallout

lead_720_405Aside from the awkward colon in the title, the most annoying thing about the Mission: Impossible series has always been Tom Cruise’s massive over-reliance on rubber masks (yes, even moreso than his ridiculous excessive arm-pumping while running). While Mission: Impossible – Fallout doesn’t totally avoid the rubber mask cliché, it tweaks it enough to feel fresh. And every once in a while, despite how familiar the M:I formula has become after six attempts, the movie will sneak one by you, winking as it does.

In Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team (Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg) are tasked with saving the world (again) by recovering a bunch of stolen plutonium before a terrorist group can use it in nuclear weapons. The stakes are high so Ethan and his crew need to be at the top of their game, and doubly so when we’ve seen them in action so many times already.

M:I-F is up to the challenge in all respects. This is the best entry in the franchise so far. Not because it does anything surprising or anything we haven’t seen before, but because it delivers exactly what it promises and because it’s flawlessly executed, without a single misstep.

Action-packed and entertaining from start to finish, M:I-F is better than I expected, better than it has any right to be, and better than it ever needed to be.  This is 2018’s best summer blockbuster, hands down.

Ready Player One

We got to see Ready Player One with Steven Spielberg himself at SXSW – it was truly one of the most seminal moments I am likely to ever experience as a movie reviewer, and more importantly, as a movie fan. Sean wrote about it weeks ago, but I realized that I had something to add to the conversation.

I read Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One back in 2011 and I thought it was a tonne of fun. But it’s a highly nerdy book and I am not remotely nerdy. I do, however, know some nerds, and I eagerly pushed the book on them (it made for an EXTREMELY easy Christmas season: it knocked all the brothers-in-law off my list at once). I seem to recall Sean reading it in Mexico, and as I’d anticipated, he ate it right up. But for the many references that I just didn’t get, I still felt the energy and excitement of the book were translated to me. So while we were excited to hear that Spielberg was taking this on, we were less than thrilled to sit back and wait for three years for it to become reality. And then when we were finally treated to a trailer I thought: holy moly, I don’t think I remember this book! So I reread the book a few months ago and prepared myself for its big March 29 release date – yes, we’d be busy in 2 different cities celebrating Easter, and Grandma’s 95th birthday, and my sister visiting from over 1000km away, and making the great variety of baked goods requisite for such a long weekend – but surely we’d be able to squeeze it in. But alas, no need! While in Austin, Texas for the SXSW festival, Ready Player One was revealed to be the secret screening. Both Cline and the movie’s star Tye Sheridan are hometown boys, which READY PLAYER ONEmeans 300k of the festival’s attendees were vying for just 1000 seats in the venue. Some people may be discouraged by those odds, but not Sean! He gamely spent hours lined up outside (while I watched Blindspotting, which was an incredible festival revelation) but his dedication paid off, and we got in, got some pretty fabulous seats actually, and sat among people who were just so incredibly excited to see the movie they hardly stopped cheering for a single second of the film’s 140 minute run time.

First of all, for fans of the book: the movie Ready Player One carries all of the novel’s essence but none of its spoilers. The big, showy challenge scenes are all-new for the movie, so you get to enjoy it and be surprised by it, and if I may say: delighted by it. It hits exactly the right tone but it’s new and it’s exciting. And some of the new stuff IS REALLY FUCKING COOL. But Spielberg HIMSELF asked me not to spill the beans, so I won’t. And I wouldn’t want to in any case: not every movie is capable of enchanting us, and I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of that simple little thrill of pleasure.

Second, to fans of Speilberg: this is the most ‘Spielbergian’ film of the century. By which I mean, Spielberg himself has really gotten away from Spielberg-type movies. He hasn’t done blockbustery, popcorny movies in years. Lately he’s concentrated on smaller films, like The Post, and Bridge of Spies, which I have actually loved. It’s a different, more grown-up Spielberg; they’re movies that feel almost indie in nature, if not for the souped up cast. Dramatic stuff, more grounded, dark and moody, and often political. But little Stevie finds his inner child, indeed his inner fanboy, and allows himself to just express exuberant joy once again on the big screen – and even, and I do honestly believe this was hard for him, allow his own film legacy to be paid homage in this film right alongside other iconic pop culture moments from the 1970s right through the early 90s.

Ready Player One feels like Steven Spielberg has thrown himself a parade, and he’s got every one of his time-honoured tricks riding big loud floats. It’s fantastic. I’ve heard the Internet shitting on the fact that this film is loaded with pop culture nostalgia and I can’t for the life of me understand that. I mean, the first time you see the film, you won’t notice half, or likely a third, of what’s hidden in there. Spielberg himself doesn’t know every single thing that’s been recreated in the film – he was surprised readyplayerone-56b7d103-d459-4ff3-89ac-e6342be40e01to find a Gremlin long after he’d already approved the scene, and he’ll continue to be surprised by Easter eggs (how fitting, for this weekend!), as will we. In subsequent viewings, you could easily play a drinking game with friends, or a Bingo game would be fun, just spotting all the cool things the brilliant art department and visual effects people slipped in there – it’s like the hoarders of movies with so many layers it’ll take forever before you reach the dead cat layer.

I still haven’t even told you what this movie’s about, but you’ve already gleaned that from elsewhere, haven’t you? It’s basically about the near future where the world has gotten so bleak that everyone prefers to live in this virtual world called the Oasis. The creator of the Oasis dies, and leaves the rights to it to whomever can win a little game that he’s rigged. Now, the Oasis is definitely worth a kabillion dollars, but it’s worth even more politically. So while our protagonists are kids, they’re up against not just adults but corporations in order to win control of this thing. And the Oasis creator (played by Mark Rylance) is a guy just enamoured with the 80s, so everything he does is basically a loving tribute to the “golden age” of gaming. But you don’t need to be able to pick up on those references in order to enjoy the story – they’re just the window dressing on a dystopian tale as old time.

The fact is, the world in Ready Player One is not so far from our own, and it feels worrying possible. The real trick, the one the movie keeps bumping up against, is to ask yourself: what are we taking from this virtual world, and how are we using it to make meaningful connections in the real world? Though this fight is online, the repercussions exist in the real world, and this creates an interesting duality between the avatar characters online and their real life counterparts. Though it looks and feels like a game, the stakes are high and the consequences dire. There’s some really flashy editing that allows us to move back and forth between worlds, and some truly exceptional visual effects mean the movement between the two feels natural but looks distinct.

And at its heart, this movie tells a story like many of Spielberg’s best: that of friendship, trust, and human connection. The film omits some of the book’s more subversive themes – race, gender, class – and given its scope and run time, it’s no wonder. There simply isn’t enough space to explore this world from corner to corner (read the book!). Instead, this movie submerses you in a world of pure imagination.

Paul

There’s just something right to me about a Nick Frost – Simon Pegg pairing. And this movie celebrates their inherent dweebitude. Graeme (Pegg) and Clive (Frost) are just a couple of nerds visiting the U.S. for comic con and then an alien-themed road trip, you know, Area 51, Roswell, New Mexico, all those popular conspiracy theorist tourist traps. Only this road trip just happens to bring them a real alien, and his name is Paul (voiced\motion captured by Seth Rogen).

MV5BMTQxODA4NDc2Nl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjQzMDQ2NA@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpgPaul crash-landed here decades ago and has put up amiably with interrogation and testing, but he’s making his escape now that the only thing left is to slice and dice him. Is the government simply going to let him get away? Of course not. Jason Bateman, Bill Hader, and Joe Lo Truglio are all hot on his tail (he doesn’t have a tail). Graeme and Clive have an RV and a religious one-eyed woman named Ruth (Kristen Wiig) and that’s about it: not ideal fleeing-the-government provisions, but it’ll have to do.

Paul is a love letter to science fiction fans. Pegg and Frost made the film’s pilgrimage in real life, and based the script on some of their odd encounters. The idea first came to them on a rainy night on the set of Shaun of the Dead, where they quickly sketched the character. Cameos and references to pop (science) fiction abound – how many can you spot? Paul is a real tribute to the genre but also just genuinely funny, even for those of us without an intrinsic love of extraterrestrials. This isn’t an excellent movie, but it’s a good enough movie, and frankly, it’s funnier than anything presently in theatres.

Star Trek Beyond

vag96xveob5rjf34m2mqWe were treated tonight to a marathon of the new trilogy of Star Trek movies, including a screening of Star Trek Beyond. Seeing the first two reminded me how good Star Trek and Star Trek Into Darkness are, and seeing them all in a row made me all the more sure that Star Trek Beyond is my favourite of the three.

The most difficult part about the movie is how it reminds us that we’ve lost both Leonard Nimoy and Anton Yelchin from the Star Trek family. Nimoy was a larger part of the first two than I remembered, and his presence served as a nice reminder that there’s a whole alternate universe of adventures waiting to be rediscovered. He receives a nice tribute in this movie, which I was glad to see.

8_-_nurovgqYelchin, having died so tragically after filming was complete, is a key cast member in all three and is excellent in Star Trek Beyond (as always). But it’s bittersweet to watch, as his posthumous presence is harder to take than his absence would have been. Every one of his scenes serves as a reminder that there will be no more Chekov in the instalments to come.  He will be sincerely missed but it feels right that his role will not be recast. May he rest in peace.

A lesser movie would have been overshadowed by those real-life lossses. Star Trek Beyond is instead comforting and uplifting in their face, providing a classic trip to a strange new world, plenty of humanoid aliens (some good, some bad, almost all English-speaking), and some fantastic interplay between the series’ seven main characters. This time, Bones and Spock are the standouts, getting a ton of one-on-one time and delivering banter that is consistently hilarious and completely fitting for this odd couple. Writers Simon Pegg and Doug Jung do a Star-Trek-Beyond-photo-11wonderful job of capturing the sarcastic Bones and the quiet pleasure Spock takes in driving Bones crazy, while letting us see that underneath it all there is nothing but love and respect between them.

That is the way all these beloved characters get treated – with love and respect. I just wish Sulu’s coming-out moment had not been such a source of controversy leading up to the movie’s release, because in the movie it comes off as another nice nod to the original cast that also fits with the diversity that is the series’ staple.

I cannot say enough good things about Star Trek Beyond. It provides a massive amount of fan service while remaining accessible and enjoyable to all. Star Trek Beyond is a welcome and worthy addition to this classic franchise and a fitting sendoff to two absent friends.

 

Sean & Jay enjoyed the Starfleet Academy Experience – hear about it in our podcast:

 

For The Love of Spock

I know very little\almost nothing about the Star Trek universe, but I do know Mr. Spock. He’s a pop culture icon who transcended the television show with his message of peace and reason. William Shatner soon learned that though the captain’s seat was his alone, the spotlight would have to be shared. The man behind the pointy ears and the Vulcan salute was none other than Leonard Nimoy, hand-picked by Gene Roddenbury to portray this cool and calculated character.

tumblr_nv1msf7Hdg1ug3pr6o1_400The documentary For The Love of Spock was originally a collaboration between Leonard Nimoy and his son Adam but Nimoy Senior got sick and died very quickly, leaving his son to alter their plans somewhat, honouring the character, but also his father. It’s clear Adam Nimoy’s knowledge of the Star Trek universe is encyclopedic; the footage of the original series is a lot of fun, but also well-chosen and well-timed. A part of me badly wants to gush about all the cool things I learned watching this documentary, and I’m barely restraining myself so that you’ll have your own joyful moments of discovery upon seeing it for yourself.

Almost all of the original cast members are interviewed, and most from the new Star Trek movies as well (including J.J. Abrams), and everyone’s got glowing things to say. It’s nice when the man behind such a beloved character is a nice guy himself. In fact, the only person who seemed to have a problem with him was his son, the film’s director. So no, this isn’t a puff piece. It’s an honest look at intriguing and sometimes enigmatic man who put a lot of himself into his character, and gave a lot of himself to his fans.

Watch this documentary to see Jason Alexander to a spot-on Kirk impression, to hear Shatner Spock_Good_Evilpronounce who was the better singer, to get George Takai’s take on the Spock-Kirk slash fiction, to find out who came up with the Vulcan salute, to hear how Harry Belafonte inspired the character, to learn where Nimoy’s kids had to watch the show’s premiere, to note who once called it a “treadmill to oblivion”, and to discover who spent hours responding to Nimoy’s fan mail. You don’t have to be a Trekker to enjoy this movie, but by the end of it, you might just be one.

Adam Nimoy says that his father was eternally grateful to have created this character, never jaded by the experience or the fame. Clearly, the apple doesn’t fall far from the Vulcan tree. Though Leonard’s work kept him away from the family and Adam often felt he was competing tumblr_inline_nkfyuoaAP21rlqxn6with fans for his father’s attention, he still describes Star Trek as “hitting the lottery.” Creating this film was an act of mourning for the son, and absolutely an act of love. At the end of the documentary, Adam asks the many interviewees to describe his father in one word. People offer: hope, integrity, love, but the final word comes from Zachary Quinto who plays Spock in the rebooted version, with Nimoy’s blessing. Quinto throws it back to the documentarian and the son, asking “What’s yours?” Adam Nimoy was at the screening of this film at the Fantasia Film Festival, and he was able to answer that question for us in person.

He said “Passion.”

Man Up

I have next to nothing to say about this movie. On the one hand, the title is so generic and irrelevant to the movie that I kept passing it up on Netflix because I believed I’d already seen it, and on the other hand, the title is sexist and mildly insults me, while still being 6a00d8341c7f0d53ef01b7c7eb94b0970birrelevant to the movie, which makes the insult all the more infuriating.

I suppose Simon Pegg is the dolt who needs to “man up” though why is unclear. He’s just come out of a bad divorce and is set to meet a young woman on a blind date, only Lake Bell hijacks it instead, and of course they spend a lovely day together until it is discovered that she is the wrong date, and worse still, not 24, which was both the allure and the point of the original blind date.

What does it mean to “man up”? It’s defined as: to be brave or tough enough to deal with an unpleasant situation. Because bravery and toughness are male traits? Becatesticle-festivaluse the person who came up with this expression has never seen a man with a simple head cold? To “man up” implies a manly scenario, and a failure of a certain man to fulfill his obligations or responsibilities as a man. In the movie’s case, Pegg has an unfaithful ex-wife, and a charming if slightly mendacious new flame. How exactly do either of those scenarios require testicles in particular? And what would become of this movie if “man up” didn’t mean create a big, Hollywood-style hullabaloo where you declare your undying love for a woman you just met in front of a crowd of rowdy strangers, but instead “man up” meant, admit your fears, communicate haW58NWyS2SSSRbEln8iNSXm0bhonestly, be flexible, be vulnerable. Or what if being this kind of bold and brave didn’t require a Y chromosome and it could be Lake Bell, in all her ovarian glory, reaching across the void? The phrase “man up” implies such a rigid view of masculinity it punishes both the sexes (and all the sexes in between) and leaves us all sitting in painful little boxes having to watch insipid little romcoms the world could do wiman_up_1thout.

And do you know what the worst part is? It isn’t even a terrible movie. Simon Pegg and Lake Bell are quite good together. It’s never been more fun to be a third wheel on a blind date. So while I’m not claiming it’s groundbreaking or anything, it does deserve a better title than this weak offering. End rant.