The World's End
Starring: Simon Pegg, Mark Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Feeeman - Dir: Steven Wright
I thought it would be pretty hard to top Hot Fuzz, or, for that matter, Shaun of the Dead, but the comedy team of Wright, Pegg and Frost have certainly equalled them with this rather brilliant comedy take on middle aged angst and alien invasions.
The four actors listed above are a group of friends who once went on a legendary (at least in their minds), pub crawl in their small hometown, failing to reach the final pub, the eponymous World's End. Refusing to grow up, Simon Pegg drags the others back for one more crack. Along the way they bicker, meet old acquaintances – Pierce Brosnan, Rosamund Pike – and then, just as the others are about to leave in disgust at Pegg's self-deluded wide-boy, there's an alien invasion, bodysnatcher-style.
It's sterling stuff. The characters are precise and real and Pegg's longing for a life that never really eventuated taps into universal anxiety. There are also some cracker gags about the homogenisation of small-town England. It's hilarious.
And it'll always have a special place for me, since the person I saw it with was (unbeknownst to me), unaware of the impending alien takeover. I assumed she'd seen the trailer. Half an hour in, after nothing but domestic comedy, there's a pub fight. Someone gets their head ripped off; their neck starts spurting blue blood. She just about fell off her seat. It was almost as funny as the movie.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was never exactly what you'd call a short film, yet – as has become traditional – it now arrives on video shelves with an extra eight per cent, the added 13 minutes pushing the run-time to more than three hours. The new stuff comes in short scenes scattered throughout; some enriching the story, some adding character or colour, none even vaguely essential (and unfortunately there are two more songs). Fans will be happy; there is a commentary and some nine hours of ‘appendices' to wallow in. And there's only about 20 sleeps until the next one.
The Bling Ring is Sophia Coppola's new film; another investigation into the strange attractions of privilege, and one ripped straight from the True Crime pages of Hollywood. It documents the incident when a group of spoilt rich kids took to breaking into celebrity homes (Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Rachel Bilson etc), and stealing clothes and accessories. The media gave them the titular handle. This tells the story pretty straight, complete with celeb cameos from some victims. The problem is, as with Coppola's previous films, that it's all rather superficial, though with these vacuous completely self-absorbed protagonists perhaps that's the point.
In Welcome to the Punch we're back in the slick polished London of The Sweeney and James McAvoy is again in the middle of a bank robbery. That's how it starts, his cop unsuccessfully chasing motorcycle-riding Mark Strong and his gang. Three years later with his son in trouble Strong returns to England. McAvoy – mentally and physically scarred – is waiting along with a whole bunch of trouble and political police double-dealing. A classy roster of Brit thesps (Peter Mullan, Andrea Riseborough, David Morrissey, et al), add heft to a tight gangster drama, the character work matched by a satisfyingly layered plot.
Once again with The Conspiracy we're back in found footage territory and, just to prove that it's not the format but what you do with it, this makes the now rather stale approach seem fresh. The set-up has a couple of young aspiring filmmakers decide to make a documentary about a ‘conspiracy nut', allowing for an entertaining glance at favourite conspiracy theories du jour. Then suddenly their subject disappears, and, as they try to track him down and understand his wild theories, strange and sinister things occur. It gets weaker as it goes along, but the initial ride is most entertaining.