Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Image is property of Studio Canal and WT²

Shaun of the Dead  – Film Review

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz

Director: Edgar Wright

Synopsis: With his life going nowhere, stuck in a dead-end job and failing to win over his on-off girlfriend Liz, Shaun (Pegg) tries to get his life together, and must do all this, in the middle of a Zombie apocalypse…

Review: Like many fictional beings that don’t really exist in our world, humanity has seemingly always had an interest in all things Zombies. Ever since the first Zombie film debuted back in the 1930s, these horrifying creatures have been an ever present, creating their own sub-genre of horror films. But in the first film of what is now known, as the Cornetto trilogy, director Edgar Wright and his two leads Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, devoured this genre and blended a bit of romance and comedy, all while giving it a very uniquely British taste.

Shaun and his best mate Ed (Frost) are both aimless in their lives and careers, seemingly content with going nowhere, and more than happy to pass their time playing video games, and getting drunk at their favourite pub. However, when Liz (Ashfield) decides she has had enough with Shaun’s laziness, she dumps him.  Being jilted gives Shaun the kick up the backside he needs to get his act, and life together and win her back. To make matters even more complicated, the city of London is now experiencing a Zombie apocalypse that throws many undead obstacles in Shaun’s path, which Shaun and Ed must now do battle with, all while on a quest to win back Liz’s heart.

Impersonate a Zombie day was not a roaring success..

Right away, it’s clear that Shaun is not initially the most likeable of protagonists but, probably in no small part due to Simon Pegg’s charisma and charm, he has a good heart that ultimately brings you round to his cause. That being said, having Ed by his side definitely doesn’t help matters. Though Ed can be extremely entertaining in his own right, his lazy, reluctant attitude brings out the worst qualities in Shaun. Yet, despite the massive flaws in both their personalities, that there’s something that’s very sincere and hilarious about their friendship that you cannot help but want to see them succeed, even when Liz and her best friends Diane (Davis) and David (Moran) are less than supportive of Shaun’s efforts.

Edgar Wright and Pegg’s screenplay is consistently hilarious. From the very first shots of people on their commute, who already look like they are members of the undead, to the very first scuffle with a pair of zombies, to the moment where the Zombie Apocalypse has fully taken over the city. Much like a Zombie apocalypse, the comedy never lets up. Wright fuses the excellent comedy of the script and at the same time, turns on the style with the action. From a fight in a back garden to the climatic final showdown in a pub of all places, the comedy compliments the action, and vice versa.

Even in the midst of all the uproarious and absurd action scenes, there are quite a few moments of intense drama and emotion. In addition, of course it wouldn’t be a Zombie film, without its fair share of blood and guts, with a fair number of London’s citizens meeting some rather grim fates. However, having cut his teeth on A Fistful of Fingers and the Channel 4 TV show Spaced, it was just the start of an upward trajectory for Wright as a director, and likewise for Pegg and Frost as actors. Each of their careers, and indeed the Cornetto trilogy, would later go from strength to strength, whilst presumably giving sales of Cornettos an enormous boost at the same time.

Consistently hilarious, with an exciting blend of comedy, drama and horror, and an excellent ensemble cast ensured that the Cornetto trilogy got off to a tasty start.

Posted in 2000-2009, Film Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Image is property of Walt Disney Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films and Buena Vista Pictures

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – Film Review

Cast:  Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Stellan Skarsgård, Bill Nighy, Jack Davenport, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Kevin McNally

Director: Gore Verbinski

Synopsis: Captain Jack Sparrow and the crew of the Black Pearl set sail in search of a chest that contains an item belonging to the ominous Davy Jones, but this item is also sought after by several other people, all of whom want this item for their own ends…

Review: Pirates, there’s something about these scallywags that cinema audiences certainly seem to like, and enjoy watching, as was evident by the phenomenal critical and commercial success that the first film in this franchise enjoyed. A sequel (or two, or three) was always going to happen. Sequels, however can be the equivalent of cursed treasure, in that if you get them wrong, it can place upon the preceding film a terrible curse that’s hard to shake off. Or it can be like finding a glorious stash of treasure that makes everyone rich and happy. In the case of Dead Man’s Chest, this is perhaps somewhere in between it’s not a curse, but it’s not a perfect stash of treasure either.

We begin when the wedding of Elizabeth Swann and Will Turner is rudely interrupted by Lord Cutler Beckett (Hollander) who’s after one man, yes Captain Jack Sparrow of course! After the latter was allowed to escape by the hands of Will, Beckett condems the bride and groom to be to the hangman’s noose. Jack meanwhile is desperately seeking to avoid the debt that he owes Davy Jones (Nighy) and so begins a spiral of events that stretch out this film’s run time to an incredible two and a half hours, that really really could have been trimmed down in one or two places.

Screenwriters Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio do ensure that there is some fun to be had of course, but there’s quite a lot of meandering as this ship steers its way through some very exposition filled waters that threaten to run the film aground. A common path for sequels to sail, is to make the tone that bit more darker, and this is the route that this film chooses to take, and in doing so much of the wackiness and the fun that the first film brought is replaced by a more serious ominous tone, though the film doesn’t lack some very entertaining sequences that returning captain Gore Verbinski helms to a similar standard as he did with the first film.

The ominous is perhaps best exemplified by Davy Jones, though we don’t find out much about him and why he looks the way he does. Nighy brings a very menacing presence, that is aided by some truly excellent CGI. Being in this creature’s presence could cause even the bravest of souls to quiver in fear.  Though the CGI for some of his crew aboard The Flying Dutchman is very obvious, it is for the most part very well done and the recipient of the Oscar for Visual Effects. Despite the meandering script, there are some rather splendid action sequences to enjoy, and the acting across the board remains at a solid standard.

Not someone you want to mess with…

With Depp again on splendid form as Captain Jack, and Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley also in fine form reprising their roles as Will Turner and Elizabeth Swann. Newcomers Stellan Skarsgård and Tom Hollander give the most memorable performances of the newcomers as Will’s father Bootstrap Bill and the pesky Cutler Beckett.  It’s not the swashbuckling adventure its predecessor was, but there’s more than enough rum on this ship to ensure it has the right amount of wind in its sails.

A choppy plot, coupled with some clunky dialogue could have resulted in an unpleasant shipwreck, but an ample amount of fun action ensures it’s steered home to a satisfying conclusion.