Hot Fuzz

  • Title: Hot Fuzz
  • Director: Edgar Wright
  • Date: 2007
  • Studio: Rogue Pictures, Working Title, Universal Pictures
  • Genre: Comedy, Action
  • Cast:  Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighty, Edward Woodward, Ron Cook, Martin Freeman, David Bradley
  • Format: Color, Widescreen
  • Video Format:  Blu-Ray

But the fact is, you’ve been making us all look bad.” – Met Chief Inspector
“I’m sorry, sir?” – Nicholas
” ‘Course we all appreciate your efforts but you’ve been rather letting the side down.” – Met Chief Inspector
“It’s all about being a team player, Nicholas.” – Inspector
“If we continue to let you run around town you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that. You’ll out us all out of a job.” Met Chief Inspector

“You can’t switch off, Nicholas.” – Janice

“I just feel like I’m missing out sometimes. I wanna do what you do.” – Danny
“You do do what I do. Why on Earth do you think you’re missing out?” – Nicholas
“Gun fights, car chases. Proper action and shit.” – Danny
“Police work is not about proper action! Or shit! It you’ve paid attention to me in school you’d understand. It’s not all about gun fights and car chases.” – Nicholas

Nicholas Angel is an excellent police officer – excelling in training, as well as academically, and has an arrest record 400 percent better than his fellow officers in the London Met. He is completely dedicated to his job and extremely good at what he does. But that becomes his problem as well. His girlfriend tells him he “can’t switch off”, and his fellow officers find his talent for policing annoying because he “makes them look bad”. So the Met comes to a decision – Nicholas is promoted to sergeant and transferred to the quaint English village of Sandford. Nicholas protests – but to no avail. So he and his Japanese Peace Lily plant head for Sandford.

In Sandford, Nicholas has trouble fitting in, though he gradually becomes friends with his new partner, Danny. But Nicholas also begins to suspect something strange is going on, as a series of fatal accidents occurs in the quiet village. Nicholas suspects these accidents are murders – but everyone from the villagers to the other police officers insist they are accidents. It’s obvious the murders are murders, and Nicholas can’t understand the reluctance the police have to investigate them as such. Slowly Nicholas even suspects the random acts of violence are linked.

Nicholas investigates, and also becomes acclimatized to the village and it’s rather odd inhabitants. But soon his investigations turn up a vast conspiracy – of actions and silence, that even reaches into the police itself. Nicholas is forced to leave.

However, he soon returns, and with the help of his partner Danny, he cleans-up the town in a symphony of violence and action.

Trust me – it’s funnier than it sounds. Hot Fuzz combines a satire of American action thriller films (such as Lethal Weapon, Point Break, and Die Hard), an English Village horror story (The Wicker Man, which starred a very young Edward Woodward, who also appears in this film), and a surprisingly sensitive story of a man’s coming into his own. Simon Pegg is the main character, Nicholas Angel, but he plays the role as the Straight Man. It isn’t Angel who’s the comedian – what makes the film funny is how Angel reacts to the outrageousness around him. And Nicholas also grows, not simply learning “to switch off” but to embrace his inner nature, but to take the time to form friendships as well. The arc of the relationship between Nicholas and Danny is well told, and parallels many classic American buddy cop films.

Yet it isn’t simply Nicholas’ story that Hot Fuzz tells and tells extremely well. Danny’s favorite passtime outside of work is watching the American action films that Hot Fuzz will ultimately parody, especially in the action-packed final sequences. A central scene in the film has Danny talking Nicholas into a real night out at the pub, with the two both drinking lagar, rather than Nicholas having his one cranberry juice then leaving. After several beers, the two head to Danny’s for an action movie binge night. Danny however grows as well, learning self-confidence and ultimately stepping out of his police inspector father’s shadow.

Yet this film, for all that it borrows and parodies from American action thrillers, is also quintessentially British, in that the actual plot that Nicholas discovers is that of the “perfect English village that gets it’s perfection from weird cults and strange sacrifices or conspiracies”. It’s a story that’s been around for awhile (the film The Wicker Man is a prime example, but I’ve seen versions of the story on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) (2000), Torchwood, and even the Neil Gaiman novel American Gods, and I’m sure there are more examples.) But Hot Fuzz combines an insane amount of violence, lots of action, including a bit pulled from Lethal Weapon with Pegg and Frost firing two hand guns each while moving diagonally through the frame, car chases, confrontations, explosions, and just lots and lots of gunfire and sight gags. It’s hard to describe how such over-the-top action scenes can be funny – but because they are so over-done they are. Yet the film never loses sight of it’s characters or the characters unique points of view (even the villagers’ conspiracy, as misguided as it is – makes sense to them). Throughout the story the characterization rings true – even when the action and violence hits the ludicrous level (which makes the film funny). Nicholas Angel isn’t someone the audience will laugh at in this film. He’s someone the audience will sympathize with, especially as some of the other police officers, especially at the beginning, bully him,  and ignore his knowledge.

In the end, Nicholas gets to the bottom of things, and not only is all well – but the trio of inspectors from the beginning of the film arrive in the village to ask Nicholas back to the Met. Nicholas declines, deciding he likes his little village.

Hot Fuzz is a great movie, full of wonderful bits, great acting, and a top-notch cast. The films blends genres effortlessly and showcases the talents of Nicholas Pegg, who really is the central character of the film.  I highly recommend it.

Recommendation: A must see!
Rating: 5 Stars

Cloud Atlas

  • Title:  Cloud Atlas
  • Directors:  Tom Wykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
  • Date:  2012
  • Studio:  Warner Brothers
  • Genre:  SF
  • Cast:  Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC
“The world spins from the same unseen forces that twist our hearts.”  – Robert Frobisher (The Composer’s Assistant)
 
“Our lives are not our own.  From womb to tomb we are bound to others, past and present, by each crime and every kindness we birth our future.” – Sonmi-451 and also Prophetess
 
“Knowledge is a mirror and for the first time in my life I was allowed to see who I was and who I was meant to be.” – Sonmi-451
Cloud Atlas is a visually stunning and mind-blowing film.  I loved it when I saw it in the theater last November, and it’s no less appealing on DVD.  Cloud Atlas takes the theme of reincarnation and treats it seriously, by weaving together six stories, with often the same actors playing different roles.  The acting in this is phenomenal.  The actors, collectively, don heavy make-up, different clothes, different hairstyles, and sometimes even switch genders as the same “souls” are re-born over and over again.  This film is also unique in that all the scenes in “the Valley” on the Island, 106 years after The Fall – are largely in Pigeon.  (Pigeon is a real language, and it makes sense that a Pigeon would develop in a situation where the few survivors of a presumably, nuclear holocaust, would need to communicate with each other despite initially not speaking the same languages).
A birthmark re-occurs, as does a certain piece of music, but this film doesn’t go the obvious route to bang into your head who is who.  Often, it’s more a matter of recognizing an actor over and over despite how different he or she looks.  And sometimes the same “soul” is implied to have switched not only races but genders – if the shooting star birthmark is meant to suggest he/she is the same person.
I’m not much of a fan of Tom Hanks – but in this, he really manages to bring a number of different characters to life.  Halle Berry is incredibly good, and a far cry from the “sex kitten” roles she usually plays.  British character actors Jim Broadbent and newcomer Ben Whislaw (whom I had seen in the BBC’s “The Hour”) are awesomely good.  And Hugo Weaving  gets to play a number of villains, including a mad nurse and an assassin.
Visually the film is stunning, and mind-blowing.  The imagery, especially in the sections of the film in New Seoul, is incredible.  But even in the historical sections, or the opening shot of an ancient, aboriginal Tom Hanks telling a story, are unforgettable. Identical women, in identical outfits, walking across a fishpond, Tom Hanks’ face as he speaks in firelight, a ship tossed in a gale at sea, Whislaw and D’Arcy trashing all the china in a shop — over and over the images are just breath-taking.  This is a film to be seen.
The first hour or so of Cloud Atlas may seem confusing, though it does pull you in quickly, but stick with it, it is well-worth the long running time to see the story play out.  Any one of the six stories would have made a good or even great film, woven together like an intricate tapestry, they form an incredible, cohesive whole, that is simply brilliant and must be experienced.  A true must see!
Recommendation:  See it!
Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film:  Goldfinger

Original Reaction – Cloud Atlas (2012) – A Truly Unique Film

Cloud Atlas is a most unusual and mindblowingly awesome film.  The first hour or so (I’d estimate) will have you thinking, “What the … is going on?” over and over, but if you stick with it, all will become clear.  And the film just keeps getting more and more complex, and more and more awesome as it goes on.

The film is a serious treatment of the idea of Reincarnation, however, to describe it as “just that” does not do this simply brilliant film justice.  The storyline follows a pair of lovers over and over through different time-lines and parts of the world – yet it doesn’t do so in a straight-forward, “yawn”, sort of way.  The film is brilliantly shot, but, again, not simply in the “oh that is gorgeous” sort of way or even in the “WOW – what an effects shot” sort of way either.  It’s just simply mind-blowing, especially as you start to figure out what is going on.

Each of the principle actors of the film plays multiple parts, so yes, part of the fun of the movie is spotting Jim Broadbent, Tom Hanks, and Halle Barry over and over again in different times and as different people (as well as most of the rest of the cast including:  Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bea, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, and James D’Arcy among others).  But this film isn’t simply brilliant because all the principles play multiple roles in different times and places.  The world building – which is multi-dimensional – is just as complex and convoluted as the interconnected plot.  That the plot finishes and makes sense and works is part of what makes this such an “omg” film.  I saw it in a small theater and the audience sat in stunned silence for a few minutes before anyone even got up, moved, or left.

The actors are brilliant in this.  Even Hanks, whom I don’t personally like and I find very over-rated does a good job playing multiple characters without always being “Tom Hanks”.  Halle Berry, normally type-cast as a “sex kitten” is phenomenal.  Ben Whishaw and James D’Arcy are simply incredible — and it took me until after I gotten home to finally realise where I’d seen Whishaw before (In the BBC drama – “The Hour” and as Q in “Skyfall”).  Broadbent, of course, is a British character actor who can do anything.  And at the heart, the film revolves around Doona Bea and her characters — all I can say is, “what an actress!”

Quite simply a must see film.  It’s almost impossible to describe why this film is so incredible, but it simply is.  I think I now know what people in the 1960s first thought when they saw the famous film 2001 – because this is just as mind-blowing if not more so, and it’s not centered on European/American culture.  Brilliantly, brilliantly done.

Moulin Rouge

  • Title:  Moulin Rouge
  • Director:  Baz Luhrmann
  • Date:  2001
  • Studio:  20th Century Fox
  • Genre:  Musical, Romance
  • Cast:  Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham (Cameo)
  • Format:  Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is to love and to be loved in return.”

“You expect me to believe that scantily clad, in the arms of another man, in the middle of the night, inside of an elephant, you were rehearsing?”  — The Duke

“Hurt him to save him.  There is no other way.  The show must go on, Satine.  We are creatures of the underworld, we can’t afford to love.”  — Zidler

Moulin Rouge is an incredible, incredible film.  The color, music and dancing all reflect a surreal, hyper-reality feel.  Yet the story is a simple story about love — an impossible love.  Christian is a young naive Englishman who makes his way to Paris, to the heart of the Bohemian Revolution to become a writer and experience love.  He quickly falls in with a group of Bohemian artists, and is chosen to write their new show.  Needing backers, they go to the Moulin Rouge and Howard Zidler, and his head courtesan, Satine.

Through a misunderstanding, Christian meets Satine, and they fall in love.  However, Zidler needs money to convert his nightclub and bordello to a real theatre.  He promises Satine to the Duke.  The Duke even gets Zidler to sign over the deeds on the Moulin Rouge to him.

Satine is shocked to discover the man she’s really falling in love with isn’t a rich Duke after all, but a penniless Bohemian writer.  The plot revolves around their love triangle — Christian and Satine and Satine and the Duke.  And the question is:  Will Satine, a Courtesan, choose true love with Christian or go for the money she can get from the Duke (which Zidler also encourages, since he’ll lose the Moulin Rouge if she doesn’t).  The love triangle is even built into the show that Christian is writing to debut on the new stage of the Moulin Rouge.  It may seem like a simple and traditional plot — but what pulls Moulin Rouge out of the commonplace is it’s style and look.  A style that’s surreal, hyper-reality, more real than real.  And Ewan McGregor as Christian and Nicole Kidman as Satine really do give the performances of their lives.  And my gosh can they both sing!

The majority of the music in Moulin Rouge is modern music.  Rather than keeping to a historical look and feel to the film — Baz Luhrmann goes completely in the opposite direction — accentuating the way it would feel to someone in 1899-1900 to be in such a remarkable place.  The opening dance number is a whirl of lights, color, movement and loud music.  One knows this won’t be your typical musical when the can can girls and the men in white ties and black tails are singing and dancing to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

Satine’s song that she performs as a courtesan is a medley of  “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “Material Girl”, though the song she sings when she’s on her own is, “I’ll Fly Away”, because her ambition is to be a real actress – or at least to get out of the Moulin Rouge.  Christian first courts her with Elton John’s “Your Song”, but he’s most impressive with the song he writes for her, and the only original song in the film, “Come What May”.  (Though “The Pitch/ Spectacular Spectacular” could be argued as original – only the lyrics are, the music is The Can Can.)

But it’s surprising and even amusing to hear the modern music in the film, though the mood always fits.  “Elephant Love Melody”, for example, is an argument between Christian and Satine where they throw lines from romantic pop songs at each other.  Zidler gets to sing “Like a Virgin” to the Duke, when he’s trying to come up with an excuse as to why Satine has missed a date.  There’s also a very impressive Latin Tango done to “Roxanne”.  And many others.  It’s also common for lines of dialogue in the film to be quotes from famous music (Christian even gets his writing job by quoting “The Sound of  Music”).  Yet, somehow, it fits, it’s like when you and your friends quote lines from movies you’ve seen or books you’ve read.  Christian, Satine, and even Zidler quote lines from music.

There are also some remarkable special effect sequences in the film – and as showy as they are, it merely emphases the point at the time.

But the most remarkable aspect of  this musical is the end – it really is astounding and surprising.  I’ve seen this film now several times and I always enjoy it and appreciate it more with every viewing.

Recommendation:  See it!
Rating 5 of  5 Stars
Next Film:  Network