Category Archives: Pierce Brosnan

Movie Review: The World’s End

“The World’s End” marks the end of the Cornetto trilogy, a trilogy connected only by theme and named after ice cream. It’s as much about a trilogy of humans as it is about a trilogy of movies: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost have created a pitch perfect cinematic universe where the code of law is alcoholism and arrested development.

Clearly, I will stay away from all possible spoilers, yet it is important to know that “The World’s End” comes full circle in the most, well, circular way possible: it starts and ends with people talking in a circle. In the beginning, it’s Gary King (Simon Pegg), a man who is a former shell of himself. Gary is a recovering alcoholic who can’t quite erase the memory of the best night of his life: The Golden Mile Pub Crawl.

The pub crawl covered all 12 pubs in his small English hometown of Newton Haven. Craving to relive the magic of that night from 20 years earlier, Gary reunites his whole gang. While they’ve all advanced forwards, he’s stayed exactly the same. Gary has some unfinished business in form of the World’s End, the last stop on the pub crawl and the one place they never got to.

The beginning of the film compromises of a bunch of montages of misery as Gary attempts to reunite the team. All of his friends have now split off and got respectable office jobs, wives, and children. Gary thinks that because he has no responsibilities, he has absolute freedom. What he doesn’t realize though is that having nothing doesn’t always help you get to a better place.

I wish I brought a timer into “The World’s End,” because the buildup is so impressive. It goes an extensive stretch of time as a buddy comedy about a bunch of friends getting drunk and reminiscing. That would be a fine movie by itself, but what makes it even better is the fact that Edgar Wright then takes it to the complete next level. The buildup is what makes the stakes so much higher once the robots invade and bleed blue paint everywhere. Yes, you read that right.

It takes a really long time for “The World’s End” to get to the robots, but that makes the first attack even more surprising and worth the wait. Up until that time, Wright and the guys show their brilliant knack for recurring jokes. The beautiful thing about “The World’s End” is that I already feel like I need to watch it again because of how much I must have missed the first time around. In one subtle sight gag, Gary drives his old, beat up, gas guzzling car past a billboard for an electric car. Few directors are as good at understanding visual humor as Edgar Wright.

“The World’s End” is yet another of Wright’s satires of small town life. In making fun of suburbia, “The World’s End” eventually brings life to the mundane. It is in the little everyday things that Wright seems most interested in, which is why watching a beer get poured in one Wright’s movies can be as cool as watching a robot get his head kicked off. And yes, the fight scenes are better than any Hollywood movie I’ve seen this summer.

“The World’s End” also shows Wright’s proficiency in the language of cinema. “The World’s End” is a perfect sci-fi homage. It borrows from everything from “Blade Runner” to “Minority Report” to movies I haven’t even seen. However, Wright is no thief. He takes things from different genres, blends them together, and then adds his own thoughts to it. What brings it to the next level is that it is also a perfect look at the nostalgia that runs popular culture. Just like the zombies in “Shaun of the Dead,” the robots of “The World’s End” aren’t too different from the humans. Like Gary (who could be a stand-in for a lot of the people who attend Comic Con), the robots are programmed with selective memory.

Of the three characters that Pegg has played in the Cornetto trilogy, Gary is by far the most pathetic, but ultimately the most entertaining to watch. If the Oscars took movies like “The World’s End” seriously, Pegg would be a frontrunner for Best Actor. His self-denial is as sad as his snark is hilarious. Luckily, Pegg is backed up by a great supporting cast, especially Nick Frost, who is one of the most talented comedic actors working today. He spends most of “The World’s End” as a subdued recovering alcoholic. Once that does change (that’s not a spoiler because come), Frost becomes a master of casual slapstick. Oh also this cast includes the guy who plays Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) as well as Pierce Brosnan, who sports a Trotsky/Evil Abed goatee.

Perhaps if “The World’s End” does well, people will start taking comedy a lot more seriously. Maybe a line like “he’s my cock!” doesn’t belong in a movie like this, but it is a line of dialogue that this story needs. It is the humor that gives “The World’s End” life and ultimately what makes its satire even sharper. Here lies the best damn movie so far this year. While “The World’s End” heavily debates the idea of slavery and whether freedom can be obtained by being a slave to something. Maybe I am missing the point by saying this, but Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost have my undivided attention and servitude for the rest of their careers.


Top 5: James Bond Movies

The jetpack from “Thunderball”: the peak of bad special effects humor.

This weekend, “Skyfall” opens in theaters. “Skyfall” marks a remarkable 50 years of the existence of James Bond onscreen. Directed by Sam Mendes (“American Beauty,” “Road to Perdition”), “Skyfall” has already been receiving early raves.

No matter how repetitive or ridiculous it gets, I will have a strong fondness for the Bond series. Thanksgivings of my childhood were usually marked by watching the Bond marathons on AMC or TNT (or whatever other network showed them) with my dad and brother. From my years of watching, I compiled a list of my favorite Bond films, building up to number one. Here are my five favorite Bond films:

5. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

It’s hard to fill the shoes of Sean Connery, but I believe Roger Moore did as good a job at it as anyone could. This is my favorite Moore installment, and it certainly doesn’t shy away from the Cold War inspired madness of the time. While the villain’s objective of creating a new civilization under the ocean should be completely ludicrous, it doesn’t feel as unrealistic in light of climate change. Plus it’s got a hot Bond girl, and Jaws, one of the few villains in the Bond series who got to come back for another film. If only Oddjob didn’t meet his end in “Goldfinger,” him and Jaws would have made a great team of villains.

4. Dr. No (1962)

This is where it all began. Bond had much less weapons to use, so he mainly relied on his own cunning. And while ejecting car seats are cool, it’s even cooler to see Bond having to use his own wits, like watching “Spider-Man” try and scale the city when his web blasters run out. And speaking of spiders, there’s a great scene where Bond battles a tarantula, which has the kind of slow-burning suspense rarely seen in movies anymore. I had the distinct pleasure to go to a beach screening of “Dr. No” while at Cannes this summer. To say that “Dr. No” has aged is an understatement. To say that because of that “Dr. No” is no longer funny or exciting to watch would be a lie.

See my Top 3 after the jump:

3. You Only Live Twice (1967)

“You Only Live Twice” might be one of the most insane Bond films, yet it still manages to keep its cool. It’s hard to disagree with an intoxicating theme song by Nancy Sinatra. This one has a space ship that steals other spaceships, a secret volcano lair, and Bond pretending to be Japanese. It is also the first glimpse we got of bald, kitty-loving bad guy Blofeld. “You Only Live Twice” was one of the Bond films I would always watch the whole way through every time there was a Thanksgiving marathon. But it is hard to deny, without “You Only Live Twice,” there might not have been “Austin Powers.”

2. Casino Royale (2006)

In 2006, “Casino Royale” both brought Bond back to his roots and reinvented the Cold War spy for the modern age. Many balked at the idea of a blonde Bond, but Daniel Craig effortlessly fit into the role. This was a much grittier Bond film, and the first time our hero actually seemed like a vulnerable human being. Plus, the gravity-defying opening chase is absolutely magnificent. Not to mention, the action replaces implausible death rays and such with the simplicity of guns and knives. Its greatest achievement, however, is turning a poker tournament into a breathless life or death situation. “Quantum of Solace” couldn’t quite follow in its footsteps, but I have a good feeling that “Skyfall” will bring back the Bond promised to us by “Casino Royale.”

1. Goldfinger (1964)

This seems too obvious but the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to put any other Bond film first. This was the first time Bond went high tech, but there is more to it than just that. It has one of the most simply sadistic villains in the entire series (he kills people by painting them gold!). It also had the audacity to (SPOILER) kill off the girl early on and replace her with another one. If anyone needs a perfect example of the witty intelligence of James Bond and the awesomeness of Sean Connery, look no further than “Goldfinger.”

Most Underrated: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)

George Lazenby was the first Bond after Connery and he only got one shot at 007. He’s definitely not on top in the Bond caliber, because “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is actually a classic. It has a famous ski chase in which no one can remember which Bond film its actually from. Most notable about “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” is that it is the most self-aware Bond has ever been. At the beginning  after the girl gets away, he turns to the camera and says, “this never happened to the other fellow.”

Worst: Die Another Day (2002)

I was close to choosing “Moonraker,” both for its “it’s like “The Spy Who Loved Me” in space” premise and the fact that it gave Jaws a love story. Yet, “Moonraker” is campy fun. “Die Another Day” represented the breaking point of Bond. The series had gone too ove-the-top for its own good. The need to see shiny lasers totally overshadows the plot. The only things I could pick up were a beam that harnessed the power of the sun, a hotel made of ice, and a Korean dude who was reincarnated as a white dude. Sure, it tried to be relevant by making the bad guys North Korean. Yet, it didn’t tap into any plausible fears like the Bond of the Soviet Era. Pierce Brosnan, who actually fit the Bond label very well, deserved better than this. And we ended up getting better. Four years after the mess of “Die Another Day,” Bond arose from the ashes in the form of “Casino Royale.”

Movie Review: The Ghost Writer

During the preceding months, much of the buzz about Roman Polanski has been focused more on his twisted personal life, rather than his twisted new film, “The Ghost Writer.”

“The Ghost Writer” combines contemporary political intrigue with the two things Polanski does best: mysterious thriller, and the utter darkness that humanity is capable of. It begins with a struggling British writer (Ewan McGregor). He’s never given a name, he’s simply referred to as “The Ghost.” It’s fitting, as his character seems more like a spirit than an actual human beings to the rest of the characters.
Anyway, McGregor’s writer accepts a high paying job to be a ghost writer on the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). Lang is forced to live in the United States after being convicted of war crimes for ordering the torture of several terror suspects. The Ghost is brought in after Lang’s previous ghost writer is found dead on the beach. As The Ghost finds out more about Lang’s strange life and personality, he unravels a shocking and dangerous mystery.
“The Ghost Writer” comes out at the heals of another fascinating psychological thriller from a legendary director: “Shutter Island.” “The Ghost Writer,” however, is one that exists much more in reality. Yet, they both deal with characters we would’ve seen in films by these directors during their finest hours. The Ghost is the typical Polanski lead: he is the good guy who tries to do good in a world filled with wrong. However, his good intentions always go awry.
Polanski is the rare director who fully incorporates both his life experience and world views into his work. Over 40 years on, and he is still capable of producing some of the darkest visions that will ever hit your local cinema.
“The Ghost Writer” is raised up by a trifecta of brilliant male leads. McGregor not only plays The Ghost, but he transforms himself into a true ghost of a man. He never seems content with his situation as he quite simply floats through life. He always contains the restless, red-eyed look of a disheveled insomniac.
Meanwhile, two of the films character whom can be classified as villains fit into the Polanski category of the “genial villain”: that bad guy who hides their evil under a mask of false kindness. In just a few scenes, Brosnan stole the show and totally erased his Bond image. You may be tricked by his humor and good personality, but he never lets you forget why he’s on trial in the first place.
The other scene stealer is the always dependable Tom Wilkinson. He also has a talent for obscuring what may be bad intentions. The scenes in which The Ghost converses with Lang and Paul Emmett (Wilkinson) gave me a strong vibe of Polanski’s masterpiece “Chinatown,” specifically the scene where Jake questions Noah Cross. In that scene, we all know Cross is a guilty, despicable human being; but Polanski chooses not to show him behave that way. In this way, both Wilkinson and Brosnon channel John Huston fully. It also brings out Polanski’s theme that most times, evil prevails because evil can disguise itself.
Despite the great performances, this is entirely Polanski’s film. He turns what could’ve been a trashy thriller into intriguing film noir. The mystery is great because we never give up on it, we want to know what the answer is up to the film’s very final frame.
Polanski’s voice is ever present. He uses both sight and sound perfectly to emphasize mood. Dark shadows mixed with a creepy score heighten the mystery, while the film’s often oddly cheery musical beats will mislead you into thinking things might just be going right for once. Don’t believe that. The film also takes full advantage of the camera, as it heightens tension with the use of longshots. The longshot is key turning an edge-of-your-seat chase scene as well as one pivotal scene at the film’s end.
“The Ghost Writer” is one of those films that doesn’t leave you after you’ve finished it. You’ll talk about the twist, and you’ll likely talk about the modern political worldview the film opens up. You’ll see that things just might work in ways you never even imagined.
After this film was released, many have been harsh toward it because of Polanski’s personal struggles with the law. While his actions in real life may be deplorable, they must remain separate from the artist. Art should not be judged on morality. However, it does seem to be that personal conflict is often what inspires people most in their art. Polanski’s dark films are likely inspired from the unimaginably dark events that have shaped his life. Perhaps without this struggle, without this intrigue, without Polanski, “The Ghost Writer” would not have been the great film that it truly is.