Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Simon Pegg”

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

The IMF seems to be one of those bad-luck crime-fighting organisations that is constantly going off-piste and being sanctioned by the Powers That Be. Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his pals (Simon Pegg’s Benjy played for laughs, Ving Rhames just for old times’ sake) once again go rogue in their diligent efforts to stop The Syndicate – a band of former spies now intent on bringing the world to its knees. Cue the usual gadgets, chase scenes and a brand new female protagonist (a breakout role for Brit-Swede Rebecca Ferguson, who admirably did her own stunts and steals every fight scene) and you have all the elements of a solid, if unspectacular, spy game.

Writer-director Christopher McQuarrie made his name two decades ago writing the fantastically tricky The Usual Suspects, and despite some inconsistent quality in the years that followed, he has hauled himself back into Hollywood’s good books working with Cruise in Jack Reacher and Edge of Tomorrow. Here he writes and directs, both with thorough competence, though the plot suffers (as they all do nowadays) from a third act lull where four men must stand around and talk us up-to-speed before the inevitable face-off between Cruise and the baddy.

But the in-between is spiced up enough with a Bondesque jaunt around the world, a nail-biting motorcycle race, and a wonderful cameo from Tom Hollander (if only he were the British Prime Minister, I’d move back and vote Tory).

MI:RN offers welcome respite in a cinematic world overcrowded with comic book superheroes, and though its rendering of British Intelligence is a far cry from the “reality” of Spooks, it’s nevertheless all fun and games.

 

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Man Up

Bridget Jones has grown up, lost weight, dropped the dopey posh voice and, best of all, found some chutzpah.

American actress Lake Bell was until now 13 years into a largely unremarkable movie career. (To be fair, she won several awards for the indie flick In a World which she wrote, directed and starred in, but a far larger audience will have not noticed her in films such as It’s Complicated). From now on, however, thanks to her unexpected casting in this British rom-com (from the director of The Inbetweeners Movie but way better) she should have quality film roles bashing down her door.

Adopting a flawless English accent with the intonation of Kristin Scott Thomas, Bell plays 34-year old Nancy Paterson, a single girl fatigued by a life of cringy blind dates which showcase her verbal diarrhoea and knack for clever but awkward puns. In the cutest of meet-cutes, Nancy accidentally meets Simon Pegg’s equally single Jack, and before she can protest that she’s not the girl he’s looking for, they’re in a bar chugging tequila and having a brilliant time.

Cue a series of near-reveals and a growing strength of connection as the couple hop from bowling alley to dance floor, encountering various ghosts from their past en route (the usually po-faced Rory Kinnear finally gets to break type as the utterly vile school chum whose recollection of Nancy’s teenage years is hilariously creepy).

This is screenwriter Tess Morris’ debut feature, and her script is absolutely sensational – it’s fast and well-choreographed as an effortlessly natural Bell and Pegg volley zesty lines which well understand the contemporary predicament of 30-something singledom. Their chemistry is infectious and even the brief moments of slapstick (which this reviewer normally abhors) are enjoyably, laugh-out-loud squirm-inducing.

Despite its terrible title and an unjustly bog-standard trailer, Man Up is only as mildly predictable as you want it to be and utterly delightful from beginning to end.

Hector and the Search for Happiness

This is a bit of a yo-yo of a film. The longwinded title is a little off-putting, suggesting children’s story meets self-help book. But then you notice the font used is like the Tintin books! and following a thrill-seeking intro that sees a Tintin lookalike in peril in a small plane, the adventurer’s curiosity in us all is surely piqued.

So too there is an ambivalent enjoyment as the story unfolds. The set-up is terrific in wit and pace. Simon Pegg plays the titular psychiatrist who spends his days being paid benevolently low fees to coax his clients to happiness. His own life seems perfect – a beautiful girlfriend Clara (Gone Girl’s Rosamund Pike) ensures everything is in order (“Time to rise, time to shine!” she crows as he removes his anti-snore strips), and the bonny clarinet soundtrack shows us Hector is comfortable, stable and loved. However, something is (inevitably) missing – so Hector heads off on a voyage of Tintinesque proportions to discover What Makes People Happy.

Pegg has the perfect demeanour for a boy-explorer and had Peter Jackson’s Tintin film been live-action, he would have been an obvious casting choice (ironically Pegg was instead one of the animated Thom(p)son twins). His naïve British charm is aptly suited to Hector’s well-meaning, slightly bumbling exploits as he encounters a raft of international characters from China to Tibet to Africa. Pegg skips easily from physical comedy to genuine warmth as Hector’s connections with strangers play out a timely indictment on first-world problems and malaise.

Director Peter Chelsom presumably has “Means Well” as his middle name, with a career in lightweight fare such as Serendipity and Shall We Dance? Here he has corralled a heavyweight cast (Stellan Skarsgard, Jean Reno, Toni Collette) in a smorgasbord of exotic locations, and it is thanks to fine actors like Collette that the narrative mostly stays on message (even if the message isn’t new).

Reminiscent of Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty in tone and story, we have a slightly daft, grown man with good intentions having unexpected revelations so that we, sitting in a movie theatre, can open our own minds to the endless possibilities our world offers. None of us is going to encounter a drug cartel or Skype from a Tibetan monastery, but it’s nice to live vicariously. It’s just a shame that, by treading so lightly when the underlying message is so potent, Hector will probably leave most of us largely unaffected as we trudge back into the real world.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 18th December 2011

Tom Cruise is back as IMF agent Ethan Hunt, busted out of a Russian jail in the frenetic and exciting opening scenes of the latest Mission: Impossible adventure.  Teaming up with Simon Pegg’s eager Agent Benji and the beautiful Paula Patton (from Déjà Vu), Hunt sets out to save the world from impending nuclear disaster when weapons codes fall into the hands of the wrong evil maniac (a fairly orthodox baddie performance from Dragon Tatttoo’s Michael Nyqvist).

With technology and gadgets to rival James Bond and exotic locations Jason Bourne hasn’t yet been to, the film is one huge spectacle best experienced in Imax, as the camera swirls around Dubai’s Burj Khalifa – only the tallest and most challenging settings for Cruise, surely one of the most committed movie stars around (who apparently did his own abseiling stunt in the incredible tower-climbing scene).    

Director Brad Bird made The Incredibles, proof if any was needed that he can more than handle a live-action blockbuster.  Wisely including all the hallmarks of the Mission series, you’ll be laughing and gasping in equal measure. Mission accomplished.

The Adventures of Tintin

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 11th December 2011

After patiently waiting several years and negotiating plenty of hype, audiences might be nervous and excited in equal measure about this latest blockbuster to combine innovation in computer graphic technology with the translation to screen of childhood treasures. The good news is Messrs Spielberg and Jackson clearly care as much as we do and have worked tirelessly to produce a thrilling tribute to a well-loved cartoon strip.

What hits you from the opening scenes is the quite simply extraordinary animation. A painter’s easel, hair ruffled in the wind – it all looks so real you can’t be sure you’re not watching a normal live-action film. It is with relief and delight that Tintin looks just as you might have hoped, his boyish face mature enough to convince as the young Belgian reporter whose adventures have taken millions of young (and not so young) readers on jaunts to exotic foreign lands for the past 80 years. Immediately we are swept up in an adventure that never loses pace as it melds three of author Herge’s early stories into one cohesive plot.

Purists may baulk that the movie doesn’t take one book and depict it exactly but the creators wanted to introduce key characters such as Captain Haddock (a superbly rambunctious Andy Serkis beneath all that motion-capture technology) and the detectives Thompson and Thomson (British comedy actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) into the first movie. (Yes, there are to be more.) Thus we get a very effective mash-up as Tintin and Haddock traverse oceans and deserts in their efforts to solve a great mystery.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve never read Tintin. This family-friendly rollercoaster ride suits all ages, producing a story that not only shows off awe-inspiring illustration of dust, shattered glass and light flares, but exhibits “cinematography” – the chase scene from a North African palace includes a two-minute take that could never have been possible in live-action film-making.

Much of the story is necessarily shown in flashback but the segues are handled with great wit, and if Snowy’s eyes seem ever so slightly too close together, we can let that go. Roll on Prisoners of the Sun.

Scott Pilgrim, qu’est-ce que c’est?

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Well, for starters – Scott Pilgrim isn’t really up against the world; he simply has to fight his new girlfriend’s seven evil ex-es, but as he seems to have a pretty high self-opinion and a great support network of friends/band members, a wise older sister and a cool gay flatmate (a scene-stealing Kieran Culkin), he doesn’t really need your sympathy.

Scott (played with increasingly typecast dreamy-slackerness by Juno‘s Michael Cera) falls for punky-hair-dyed Ramona Flowers, eschews his sycophantic 17-year old Chinese girlfriend, Knives Chau, and then lives out his very own videogame of duels in order to win Ramona’s heart.  Or, at least, some peace and quiet from her past.

British director Edgar Wright (whose early success with the wonderful low-fi comedy TV series Spaced saw him blessed with excellent writers and stars in Simon Pegg and Jessica Stephenson, before he hit cine-stardom with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz) has nicked our graphic novel and given us back a computer game.  The opening credits had me in stitches, and gave me a false sense that “this is going to be something altogether different” – which, to be fair, it kinda is, in that this the first time I’ve watched a film that uses gaming features and in-jokes to such effect (whereas we’re now used to seeing films that derive from videogames, like Final Fantasy or Tomb Raider).

The fight scenes are initially very clever and entertaining, and visual tricks abound: the hero’s ability to earn points by spouting cool lines; the depleting “pee bar”; the comic book THWACKs and BIFFs, reminiscent of the early Batman films.   But once Scott has overcome the first two ex-es, it’s hard to care how he’s going to drop the other five.  Rather like playing the multiple levels of a video game where it simply gets more difficult but the action is basically the same each time, the fight scenes soon fail to deliver anything new.

I could complain that the characters are a bit two-dimensional, but you might rightly argue that in “Soul Blade” we don’t necessarily know why Seung Mina fights like she does (although a quick Google does bring up her backstory, telling me she’s blood type A, a Scorpio, and born into a family of Korean martial artists – so there you go!).  But perhaps in keeping with the fantasy element of Scott Pilgrim’s predicament, it’s not desirable to know (or question) too much.

Understandably, the film is every boy’s dream – the devoted younger girlfriend who thinks you’re cool just because you’re older; playing in a band in front of hundreds of screaming fans; the quirky-but-excitingly-aloof tough chick who actually likes you back; the capacity to kick some ass and win said girl.  The world Scott Pilgrim is up against seems pretty cool to me.

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