TV Review: Spaced (1999-2001)

Original Run: September 24th, 1999 – April 13th, 2001
Created by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson
Music by: various
Cast: Simon Pegg, Jessica Stevenson, Nick Frost, Mark Heap, Julia Deakin, Katy Carmichael, Lucy Akhurst, Anna Wilson-Jones, Bill Bailey, James Lance, Peter Serafinowicz, Michael Smiley

Big Talk, London Weekend Television, Channel 4, 14 Episodes, 25 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Marsha, they say that the family of the twenty-first century is made up of friends, and not relatives, and if that’s true, then you’re the best aunty I’ve ever had!” – Tim

I’m not from the UK so I didn’t know about this show until about a year after it aired. I discovered it when a friend from the UK sent me the first season to check out because he thought I’d like it. I did and it actually became one of my favorite shows of all-time and still is. But since I haven’t watched it in nearly a decade, I wanted to dust it off and revisit it. Especially, after I just revisited and reviewed the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy.

The show is directed by Edgar Wright and stars two of his long-time collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It also stars Jessica Stevenson, who co-wrote the show with Pegg. The two of them had previously worked together in a short-lived show called Asylum, which Wright also created and directed.

Seeing this now, it’s very ’90s but at the same time, it’s absolutely timeless. This isn’t something I would’ve picked up on in the past but the struggles of these twentysomethings is pretty damn real and I think it’s still relatable. In fact, I guess I didn’t realize how much I related to it in my mid-to-late 20s.

While I’m younger than the cast and the age they represented when I first watched this, it was only a few years later before my experiences lined up with theirs. Also, being someone in a creative field that is both an artist and a writer, I think I relate to both of them even more, looking back at where I started and where my career and hobbies led me over the last two decades.

All that being said, I almost love this show even more now, as I realize how much heart and soul went into it and how genuine and authentic it truly is. And I think it comes from the fact that these people are also creatives and were probably going through similar struggles as the characters they wrote and played.

Beyond that, this was a unique show in how Wright didn’t shoot it like a standard sitcom but he used techniques typical to horror and sci-fi films. He went for extreme angles and quick motion, as opposed to fixed, static cameras focused on a set. Quite a bit of the show was also shot outside and Wright employed the same techniques outdoors, giving the Spaced world more energy than that of a typical show. 

Also, everyone in this is perfect. It’s just really well cast and that’s not just the six core characters but also the reoccurring ones that pop in and out.

The show also goes for pretty surreal situations and humor but it works well, fits the style and isn’t overdone to where this becomes a bizarre “brainy” show that dolts pretend they like because they don’t want to appear as if they don’t “get it”.

Unfortunately, the show ended at least a season too early, as you kind of pick up on the fact that the two leads are going to fall in love, as the story rolls on. By season two, it’s regularly hinted at and even though the ending to that season was satisfying to that season’s arc, I feel like the show and its fans deserved at least one more seven episode helping before everyone moved on to things like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Man, I knew I loved this show but I guess I forgot how much. And now, that love has grown even more, as I appreciate Spaced on new and deeper levels thanks to how well it has held up and how technically savvy it is. Plus, the experiences and issues these characters face are timeless and they’re presented in a way that’s kind of pure, which transcends generations and cultural changes.

Spaced, to me, is a near perfect show. I can’t call every episode a classic but they all have something really worthwhile and they all do a superb job of building up these characters, their lives together and the audience’s love for each of them.

In the end, even after two decades and a dozen watch throughs, it’s hard to say goodbye to them in that final episode.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, as well as Pegg’s other comedy series before he became a film star.

Film Review: The World’s End (2013)

Release Date: July 10th, 2013 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Music by: Steven Price
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman, Eddie Marsan, Rosamund Pike, Pierce Brosnan, Bill Nighy (voice), David Bradley, Darren Boyd, Michael Smiley, Sophie Evans, Rose Reynolds, Peter Serafinowicz (uncredited), Rafe Spall, Mark Heap, Nicholas Burns, Edgar Wright (voice, uncredited)

Relativity Media, Focus Features, Universal Pictures, 109 Minutes

Review:

“Hey it is our basic human right to be fuck ups. This civilization was founded on fuck ups and you know what? That makes me proud!” – Gary King

When I first saw this movie, I was fairly disappointed by it and I remember many others being as well. However, I think my initial assessment of it was faulty, as its actually not a bad film and after having nearly eight years to digest it and reflect on it, I thought that maybe I needed to give it another go, knowing what I was getting into this time.

So seeing it now was actually kind of refreshing. I had forgotten a great deal of the film and its story. Sure, I remembered the gist of it, as well as the ending but I hadn’t retained all of the context and nuance. And now that I’ve re-experienced it, I think that I just wasn’t in the right headspace or hadn’t experienced enough of life to find things in it that resonated so deeply in the way they do now.

The thing is, the power trio of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are all about 5-10 years older than me. Well, seeing this somewhere within 5-10 years after its release, makes me roughly the same age that they were when they made it. Why’s that important? I’ll explain.

The main thing is that the film deals with guys approaching the midway point of life and thus, right at the age that the midlife crisis stage can begin in many males. Now that I’ve also reached this point, I can relate to how one character in particular is obsessed with the greatest night of his life, which came in his youth, and how his future then was a clean slate for him to do anything but now, years later, life hasn’t panned out as greatly as he had anticipated or hoped. I think everyone has these thoughts around 40 or so but some people can take it to the extreme.

Additionally, this same character, you find out late into the film, recently tried to commit suicide and was dealing with massive depression caused by the immense weight of his own disappointment in himself. Depression at that level is something I have dealt with for my entire life and I’ve had friends who were even worse off and have taken their lives. Two of them hit me really hard in the last few years. But having now lived through that in my own life makes the emotional parts of this film much more real and gut punching. Luckily, I’ve mostly overcome my issues in the last few years.

While I can sympathize with Simon Pegg’s Gary and understand his issue first hand, I feel like I more closely relate to Nick Frost’s Andy, as the guy who realizes the pain his best friend has been in and feels immense guilt for not being there for him. I think that’s something that all good people feel when they’ve lost a friend or a loved one to suicide.

Now mixed in with all that emotional stuff that I didn’t appreciate as deeply as I do now, we have the larger group of friends, who also have to try and work out their issues with each other. And then on top of that, we have a pub crawl marathon in a small quaint town that has seen its citizens replaced by manufactured shells controlled by a high-tech alien species who have been secretly invading and assimilating the planet for quite awhile.

So there’s a lot in this movie to take in but it’s really well-balanced between the real human drama and the really awesome sci-fi action plot. And frankly, the plot is pretty cool, as are the special effects and the solid soundtrack that may be Edgar Wright’s best in how he used it throughout the film to set the tone and to properly generate the right level of nostalgia.

Additionally, the acting in this is the best out of the three films in the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy. By this, the third film, these guys are just so perfect together and the surrounding cast is full of many people who have worked with these guys multiple times that they all just feel like an onscreen family. To put it simply, everyone has great chemistry but the bond between Pegg and Frost has never been stronger than it is here. I’d also say that this is Nick Frost’s greatest performance, as he actually was the more serious character for the first time and with that, had to help uplift his broken friend and become the real hero of the story.

Still, this is my least favorite film in the trilogy. But that’s like saying oral is your least favorite type of sex. In the end, it’s still really fucking good.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Film Review: Octopussy (1983)

Release Date: June 6th, 1983 (London premiere)
Directed by: John Glen
Written by: George MacDonald Fraser, Michael G. Wilson, Richard Maibaum
Based on: the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming
Music by: John Barry
Cast: Roger Moore, Maud Adams, Louis Jourdan, Kristina Wayborn, Kabir Bedi, Steven Berkoff, Desmond Llewelyn, Lois Maxwell, Robert Brown, Mark Heap

Eon Productions, United Artists, 131 Minutes

Review:

“You must be joking! 007 on an island populated exclusively by women? We won’t see him till dawn!” – Q

This is a James Bond film that I hadn’t watched for several years. While I love Roger Moore, his era was the cheesiest of the Bond franchise. I’ve never held most of his films in the same regard as I do Connery’s or Dalton’s or the one that Lazenby was in. However, Octopussy, while cheesy, is still a pretty good chapter in the franchise. And like other Moore Bond movies that I’ve revisited recently, it’s better than I remembered.

A lot of this film takes place in India, which is really cool. The series has gone to different parts of Asia but the Indian element enhanced the film. Also, the country felt like a character in this movie. There are a lot of cultural jabs, however, which may seem weird and cringy in modern times, where we live in an overly politically correct society, but it’s not anymore offensive than Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. But the beauty of the environment and the architecture really gave this film a cool visual aesthetic.

Speaking of which, I absolutely love the set design in this picture. It may have the best set design and attention to detail of any James Bond film before the modern Daniel Craig era. Everything in this film looks great from the villain’s war room, the villain’s palace and every other prominent interior set.

This chapter in the series also has one of my favorite opening sequences in the franchise. The plane through the hangar scene still looks great today.

I also like the Bond Girls in this film. Maud Adams was spectacular and Kristina Wayborn blew me away with her beauty. I was crushing on her hard when I was a kid in the ’80s.

Octopussy may have been a name I was afraid to say in front of my parents in the mid-’80s but it was a film I liked and one of the first James Bond experiences I ever had. My uncle used to rent this thing on VHS constantly.

It is also worth mentioning that 1983 saw the release of two James Bond movies, this one and an unofficial remake of Thunderball, which starred former Bond, Sean Connery. This film is the better of the two and the public and critics agreed at the time.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: The other Roger Moore James Bond movies.