I own around 6 DVDs and Shaun of the Dead is one of them. It’s gone down on my list as a classic apocalyptic comedy from the makers of Spaced (cheer here) Simon Peg and Nick Frost. Then came the likes of Hot Fuzz and Paul, both of which I never quite saw eye to eye with. They were entertaining, but lacked that spark that makes me want to watch again and again. Their latest venture slots neatly beside their more recent work; it’s entertaining, there are some good comedic lines, but it feels like there is little substance.
I suppose substance is wanting from many of the ‘end-of-world’ movies. So caught up with running away and bashing everything over the head, there is little time for character development and engaging the audience on an emotional level, rather than just the basic blood thirsty one.
Pegs Character, Gary King, is an alcoholic waster who drags his five school chums on the pub crawl they were unable to finish some twenty years ago, hoping to rekindle his sense of invincibility and hopefulness he felt on his last day of school. The plot takes a twist when the first fight scene ensues and rather than humans, their opponents are blue-blooded robots. As the pub crawl continues we discover, along with our pub crawlers, that the majority of the town have been genetically copied and are now non-human. Rather than fleeing, the troubled Gary King insists they continue with the crawl to the final pub The Worlds End, and so the chasing, beating and general dismemberment commences.
The final scenes at The World End are entirely expected, a conversation with the alien which results in them leaving Earth to its fate. Refreshingly, the Earths fate isn’t all green and smelling of roses, as is explained is Frosts final monologue.
The plot, characters and setting are not entirely unoriginal, but cannot be described as ground breaking. Many of the plot ‘twists’ are expected, and although the film is well written, the gags are more amusing than full-blown stomach churning hilarity. If you’re expecting something new and exciting then don’t, this movie is Shaun of the Dead packaged in a new wrapping with a different coloured bow. It’s entertaining, but that’s about as far as it goes.
The Way Way Back is a typical ‘coming of age’ tale about a teenage boy who is struggling with the break-up of his family and the introduction of the step-relations. The film begins by introducing our protagonist Duncan (Liam James) as the tormented geek, and the supremo jerk step-father Trent played by Steve Carell whilst driving to his holiday home by the coast for the summer. It’s clear from the off that Trent is the embodiment of everything that can go wrong when families collide, with snide comments and power struggles abounding. Audiences with experience in step-families will instantly identify with the trying-to-please-everyone mother, the apparently-overconfident-but-secretly-insecure-and-jealous step-father, and unaccommodating step-siblings.
The plot gets a needed kick in the right direction when Duncan discovers the nearest waterpark and its owner Owen played by Sam Rockwell. Owen instantly takes a liking to Duncan, taking him under his wing and giving him employment for the summer. Duncan now has a retreat from the forced family happiness and space to discover himself, gain confidence and grow as a character. Owen is perfectly played by Sam Rockwell, friendly but not forceful, confident and comedic, care-free but with an underlying desire to achieve happiness for those around him.
The plot thickens when Duncan witnesses Trent cheating on his mother. It takes a few more days, but his new stronger, more confident self is enraged by the betrayal and his mother’s inaction. Exploding with rage at a garden party, Duncan forces his mother to confront her partner’s infidelity, resulting in them packing up and abandoning their holiday early. Duncan escapes the car and flees to the waterpark with his mother following in confusion close behind. The final scenes draw together Duncan’s two worlds, his escape and those he is escaping from, for final words and final moments.
Combining comedy with realism, the Way Way Back is a worthy watch, with some stellar performances and great scripting.
Ayoade has given us some awesome viewing material over the last few years, from Garth Marenghi’s Dark Side, to Saboo in the Mighty Boosh and the successful TV comedy the IT Crowd. Submarine is no exception, its dark in places, it’s comedic and it kept me glued to the screen throughout.
Our protagonist, Oliver Tate, is an insensitive control freak lacking boundary all wrapped up in the insecurity and selfishness of a teenage body. He’s the intelligent kid who can’t get past his creative, number crunching brain to stick to social convention long enough to become accepted. He wants to be accepted by his peers, willing to bully the fat kid, but also is plagued with guilt when said fat kid moves schools, over analysing details to the point of distraction. His social deficiencies are magnified by his love interest throughout the film, the pretty, popular pyromaniac Jordana. Banning all emotion, the pair embarks on a romance unlike other teenage relationships: No hand holding, no sloppy kissing behind the bike shed is permitted under her strict governance.
As many teenagers experience, family life is not easy for either of our young lovers. Oliver has his mother under infidelity surveillance whilst Jordana’s mother is critically ill. Rather than supporting each other, Oliver finds that he cannot share he worries as Jordana’s problem trumps his, so tries to play the part of the supportive boyfriend. This comes crashing around him as teenage selfishness and fear step in and he fails to make it to the hospital when he is most needed. From this point Oliver’s two goals are to prevent his parents separation (however unorthodox his methods) and rekindle his romance with Jordana. I wouldn’t want to spoil it, so will say no more.
Overall the film is confidently produced for Ayoade’s first shot at movie production. There are some beautiful and desolate scenes which portray both the scene and emotion fantastically, and truly beautiful use of light and dark. The characters are connected to their landscape in the way I believe many teenagers do, exploring and affirming their presence in the world through small acts of violence (burning junk, throwing stuff and generally sitting around in their patch, or bath tub in this case). There are some great comedic moments throughout which lighten an otherwise dark narrative. The flick generally feels quite self-aware, and the characters are perhaps a little exaggerated in their weirdness, but this is a great watch and I personally look forward to seeing more from Ayoade in the near future.
- Netflix Review: “Submarine” (jcclay7.wordpress.com)
- Submarine (silviajos.wordpress.com)
- Submarine (2010) (visualark.wordpress.com)
Into the Wild is a 2007 biographical drama from the US directed by Sean Penn. It is a film adaptation of a novel if the same name published in 1996, which tells of the last years of Christopher McCandeless’ life … Continue reading