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: Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Also known as: Tea-Time of the Dead (working title), Zombies Party – Uma Noite… de Morte (Portugal), Zombies Party – Una Noche… de Muerte (Spain)
Release Date: March 29th, 2004 (London premiere)
Directed by: Edgar Wright
Written by: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Music by: Pete Woodhead, Daniel Mudford
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Jessica Stevenson, Peter Serafinowicz, Rafe Spall, Martin Freeman, Tamsin Greig, Matt Lucas, Julia Deakin, Michael Smiley (uncredited)

Working Title Films, StudioCanal, Rogue Pictures, Universal Pictures, 99 Minutes

Review:

“As Mr. Sloan always says, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in pie. And there’s an “I” in meat pie. Anagram of meat is team… I don’t know what he’s talking about.” – Shaun

The first time that I watched Shaun of the Dead, I knew that it would not only be a cult classic, right out of the gate, but I knew it would go down as a comedy classic and one of the best of its era. I wasn’t wrong and it helped Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carve out really nice careers for themselves.

It also kicked off the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, which included 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End.

Out of those three films, this one sits in the middle for me, as I like Hot Fuzz more and thought that The World’s End was fairly underwhelming.

This movie is pretty simple and straightforward, though. It also came out before zombie movies and television shows really blew up and became oversaturated in entertainment. So when I saw this for the first time in 2004, it was pretty unique and immediately became one of my favorite horror comedies.

There have been a lot of horror comedies since, especially in the zombie subgenre. But this and the original Return of the Living Dead are the only two I’d consider true classics.

The cast in this had great chemistry but most of them are good friends and had worked together previously in the TV shows Spaced and Black Books.

Shaun of the Dead also feels like a natural extension of Spaced, even though it features familiar actors in different roles. The style of the comedy, the two main characters’ camaraderie and the film’s general tone match up with Spaced, though. That also probably has to do with Edgar Wright helming both.

The story sees a lovable and well-meaning loser have to step up to the plate when the zombie apocalypse kicks off in London. He needs to win back his girlfriend, save his mum and his friends and try to survive the undead outbreak with a pint in his hand.

This doesn’t need a complicated story and it’s better that it’s simple and allows the characters the time to develop and win you over. It’s funny though, as this was the first time I saw Dylan Moran and by the end, I thought he was the biggest prick in the world. And he was, in this film, but he’d actually become one of my favorite comedians and comedic actors after seeing a lot of his standup, as well as his roles in Black Books and a slew of other appearances over the years.

Shaun of the Dead was my introduction to a lot of actors I’ve grown to love over the years. Kate Ashfield, the female lead, is actually the only person in this who I haven’t seen in anything else. Still, she’s really enjoyable in this and added a lot to this group’s dynamic.

I’m glad that I revisited this again, as it’s been so long since I’ve watched any of the movies in this trilogy or Spaced. But after seeing this, I’m going to work through them all again for future reviews.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Edgar Wright comedies, as well as his television show Spaced.

Film Review: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

Release Date: December 10th, 2016 (Pantages Theatre Premiere)
Directed by: Gareth Edwards
Written by: Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, Gary Whitta
Based on: characters created by George Lucas
Music by: Michael Giacchino
Cast: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Riz Ahmed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Michael Smiley

Lucasfilm Ltd., Walt Disney, 133 Minutes

rogue-oneReview:

“I have a bad feeling about th…” – K-2SO

I would never say something like this carelessly; I may have a new favorite Star Wars film. Time will tell if it holds up for me but it is the closest thing to the Original Trilogy that we have seen since it ended in 1983. Also, Rogue One really just magnifies how flawed last year’s The Force Awakens is.

Rogue One is its own film. It is not a rehash of anything you’ve seen before in the Star Wars cinematic universe. It is also darker and a lot more realistic. It is the grittiest Star Wars film but it is also full of optimism, more than any of the previous pictures.

When it comes to the art of filmmaking, I would have to say that Rogue One takes the cake out of all the movies in the franchise. It’s the most beautiful Star Wars film ever made. It is also the best written and the best acted. The cinematography is beyond majestic. The score, even though it isn’t done by John Williams, is pretty fantastic. While Empire Strikes Back will probably still reign as champion, as far as the majority’s favorite movie, Rogue One is a better film. And to be completely honest, I didn’t think that was possible.

Sure, this film isn’t perfection. It has some flaws. But it has less flaws than any Star Wars film before it. And compared to The Force Awakens, this picture has some really big balls. It isn’t built with the blueprints to an old house. Also, it isn’t afraid to draw from the Prequel Trilogy, as it brings in some characters and vehicles from those films. It was actually really cool to see Disney acknowledge the prequels, as I thought they were trying to ignore them.

I don’t want to spoil it for those who haven’t seen Rogue One yet but there are several familiar faces that pop in and out of this movie. Great characters from the Original Trilogy and the Prequel Trilogy. Some of these are very iconic characters.

Before this movie, the world probably assumed that a Star Wars movie devoid of Jedi would be a boring ride. Rogue One proves that to be completely false. While the Force is mentioned heavily, there is only one actual Force user in the movie but he doesn’t even do anything until the end and it happens very quickly.

The big final battle in Rogue One is breathtaking. It reminds me a lot of some of the great battles you could have in the old Rogue Squadron games. They feature classic Rebel Alliance and Galactic Empire warships, X-wings and TIE Fighters. There are even some cool new vehicles mixed in. The planet is a pretty sight with its pristine beaches and the AT-ACT is a really cool alternate version of the iconic AT-AT from the Battle of Hoth in Empire Strikes Back.

When I wrote my review of The Force Awakens, last year, it was really long because there was so much to pick apart. I just can’t find anything to really criticize this film for. Everything about it just felt right. It gave me the experience I have craved since being disappointed with The Phantom Menace in 1999. And being that it is the best looking movie in the franchise, it gets extra kudos for that.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope