‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation’ continues to up the ante for spectacular set pieces. More importantly, this is the fourth script penned for Tom Cruise by McQuarrie, who understands how to maximize Cruise’s particular skill set. Their collaboration, along with stunning cinematography and a solid supporting cast, makes this, arguably, the most entertaining entry in the series.
At 34, Nancy (Londoner-accented Lake Bell) is a flakey journalist on the reluctant look for love at the pestering of friends and family. Through a case of mistaken identity hinging on a self-help book, she winds up on a date turned epic day with Jack (Simon Pegg), an online marketing manager. Charming, right? It’s this on-the-nose “charm” which will divide audiences into lovers and haters (with this viewer falling more towards the latter). In spite of a stellar cast, Man Up falls flat on its promising premise of being a rom-com for nonbelievers.
There’s a burgeoning subgenre of films about people in existential crisis setting out on a globe spanning adventure to find themselves, to figure out how to really live. These movies are ostensibly inspirational, but for several reasons, they often play out as somewhat depressing. For one thing, they seem to suggest that all it takes to feel alive is a costly globe-spanning adventure. Even more troublingly, they tend to turn the problems and wonders of the rest of the world into just more glib lessons for their heroes to learn. To the ranks of films like Eat, Pray, Love and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, we can now add Hector and the Search for Happiness.
Before Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright wowed international audiences with their horror comedy Shaun of the Dead, they were part of the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced. This show was one of the first sitcoms to use a single camera setup without a laugh track. Spaced also featured quick hitting pop culture homages almost a decade before Community and blend of dry and surreal humor. However, the show’s greatest strength was its interesting characters who could be simultaneously hilarious and heartbreaking. These endearing characters are what made Spaced an enduring cult phenomenon in both the UK and United States.
Without much fanfare, Edgar Wright has molded himself into one of the best action directors in the world. Shaun of the Dead had many effective moments of zombie slaughter, and, with Hot Fuzz, Wright matured into someone who could simultaneously parody Michael Bay and deliver Bay-type material more effectively than the man himself. The third film in Wright’s so-called Cornetto trilogy of films made with actors Nick Frost and Simon Pegg, The World’s End, goes even further. It becomes a sharp and riveting action-comedy that has few peers in the last decade.
To exit a film directed by Edgar Wright is to be reinvigorated by the state of modern cinema. He’s now made his fourth feature-length film, The World’s End, and it’s tempting to rate it as his best work yet. But when you consider his others—Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World—the challenge becomes differentiating these by how many slight nitpicks may crop up from story to story. Like most directors of his generation, Wright’s work is heavily influenced by the pop culture of his childhood. Unlike many of his peers, though, Wright is able to translate that affection and hyper-literate awareness into something fresh, exciting, and intelligent. As such, The World’s End is as peerless as a mainstream film gets.
Many pilot episodes focus too much on exposition and establishing who the series’ characters are. In those instances, pacing and humor frequently fall by the wayside. Spaced’s first episode is anything but a slow, disappointing introduction of characters and grating jokes. From the opening scene, intercutting Tim Bisley (Simon Pegg) and Daisy Steiner (Jessica Stevenson) leaving (or in Tim’s being thrown out of) their current flats, “Beginnings” is a surreal look at two people who meet by accident and form a friendship of necessity.