Tag Archives: Nick Frost

Shaun of the Dead (2004) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Shaun of the Dead

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Kate Ashfield, Lucy Davis, Dylan Moran, Penelope Wilton

I was first introduced to Simon Pegg in an early episode of “I’m Alan Partridge” in it’s 1st series and then again a couple of years later and more predominantly in his own TV show “Spaced” in 1999. This would also be my introduction to Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. Spaced was a terrific sitcom based on Two Friends Tim and Daisy, 20-something North Londoners with uncertain futures who had to pretend to be a couple to live in the only apartment they can afford. The early signs of their humour and style that would transcend onto the big screen four years later is all there to be seen in the now classic sitcom.

Fast Forward to the year 2004 and I highly anticipated the release of this film. I have admitted numerous times on various blogs and podcasts that I have never been a massive fan of the horror genre or that buzzed about the latest zombie film. I was anticipating a funny and stylish film starring the collaborative talents of Wright and Pegg together again in a feature film. Shaun of the Dead is about Shaun (Pegg) who decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend Liz (Ashfield) reconciling his relationship with his mother (Wilton), and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.

This would of course head up the now classic “Cornetto Trilogy” and having already reviewed “Hot Fuzz” and “The World’s End” I felt it was about time I reviewed the best of the trilogy and the one that would send Wright, Pegg and Frost on to superstardom. Back in 2004 the Zombie film wasn’t exactly the most popular type of film to be making unless it had a George A. Romero stamp of approval on it. Films like “28 Days Later” from 2002 would try a different slant on the genre by calling them “The Infected” The remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) Directed by Zack Snyder and written by George A. Romero and James Gunn would have some success but never surpass the 1978 original. I think it was fair to say that this take on the genre would be different and successful in its own right. I would go as far to say that it paved the way for other similar films to be accepted to the movie goer that you could have a successful comedy / horror film. Take a look at the likes of 2009’s Zombieland which had terrific feedback from fans and I think this film owes a lot to Shaun of the Dead.

Pegg and Wright’s writing is sharp, witty and most of all memorable. The film is a quotefest and if you had seen the television series Spaced you will understand and see how their collaborations are a mighty success. Shaun is a loser, in fact this is the kinda of character that Simon Pegg thrives to play and has since. Shaun is almost like Tim from Spaced in everyday. Wasting his life, no career prospects, no commitment to his long standing girlfriend Liz, who has had enough of him and bums his way through one day to the next. Shaun of the Dead plot opens up that opportunity for Shaun to change his life around and save the day. Either that or go to the Winchester for a pint and wait for the whole thing to blow over. *wink*

There is also an array of talent from Pegg’s previous work and also a few names from The Office which was at the height of it’s popularity here in the UK at the time. Overall the cast is brilliant. Frost as Shaun’s best friend and more of a loser Ed. If he wasn’t so funny he would be annoying. Kate Ashfield as Liz doesn’t stand Shaun’s nonsense and knows him better than anyone (apart from his Mother) Penelope Wilton as Barbara is funny in a bewildered way. I don’t think at any point Barbara knows the severity of the situation until it is too late. She appears to float through her happy little life in a bubble and what should be an annoyance is actually very funny. Dylan Moran plays David who is clearly in love with Liz (although she doesn’t know it, but sadly his girlfriend Dianne (Davis) does detect it) and has absolutely no time for Shaun is great. I have been a fan of Moran for a long time and here he plays the sniffling little toad perfectly who gets his comeuppance in quite a graphic yet satisfying scene.

Edgar Wright would go on to do some great things, most recently “Baby Driver” with his trademark cuts and fast paced wipes all there to be seen. Shaun of the Dead is no different. I was certainly intrigued to read earlier this year that Wright was linked and wrote a draft of his vision for Marvel’s Ant-Man as far back as 2003. I think he would have gave a unique and most certainly a fresh approach to their superheroes with a style that would suit the comic book genre, although I believe his film would be a complete standalone with no connection to the MCU. Nevertheless, that did not happen and he must have had some level of input to the finished film as he is credited with a producers role in the Peyton Reed film.

Overall, Shaun of the Dead is a fast, quick witted Zombie Comedy that has paved the way for Television Series and other films to follow suit. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost would go on to appear in further films together with their brilliant chemistry and relationship, which I have heard can be strained at times during filming, but still remain friends to this day along with Edgar Wright. This film kicked it all of for all three of them cinematically and none of them have looked back since. If you haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead yet, I must admit in being Jealous of that situation as the first time viewing of this movie will stay with you a long time it’s that enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong it has a rewatchability value to it anyway but that first time is special. Highly Recommended.

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The World’s End (2013) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

WORLDS END

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Simon Pegg,  Edgar Wright
Stars: Simon Pegg,  Nick Frost,  Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan

“The World’s End” is about Five friends Gary King (Pegg), Andy Knightley (Frost, Oliver Chamberlain (Freeman), Steven Prince (Considine) and Peter Page (Marsan) who reunite (or tricked into reuniting by Gary) in an attempt to top their epic pub crawl from twenty years earlier unwittingly become humanity’s only hope for survival.

“The World’s End” was the concluding film to the infamous “Corneto Trilogy”. On its release it had been 9 years since “Shaun of the Dead” and 6 years since “Hot Fuzz” and the audiences anticipation was high and I don’t mind admitting it, but at the time of watching this at the time I was a left a little underwhelmed. In fact, this review may have been a lot different if I was basing this on my first experience of watching this movie. I decided to go back and watch the movie this week and I have to say that my experience this time around was surprisingly enjoyable.

Whilst I’m admitting stuff here I confess of making the cardinal sin of “expecting” this part of the trilogy to top both “Shaun” and “Fuzz” and this is where my first time viewing destroyed my expectations. How could any Edgar Wright movie (at the time) top his previous two? What was I thinking? Anyway……..

“The Five Musketeers” head for Newton Haven, a small town where the five friends grew up, moved on and never gave the town a second thought. Well apart from Gary a a 40-year old man trapped in the mindset of his teenage years, who drags his reluctant four other friends to attempt to reach the pub, The World’s End. As they attempt to reconcile the past and present. Until a shocking truth is uncovered whilst Gary has a fight with a teenager in the toilets of one of the pubs. The five realise that there is more going on in their old stomping ground than they initially realised.

One of the things I enjoy about this movie is the parts both Pegg and Frost play. In “Shaun” both of them portrayed losers. In “Fuzz” Pegg portrays a career driven serious character up against Frost’s bumbling and slobbish PC Danny Butterman. In this movie Frost finally plays the straight man, the business man and to a point the sensible man up against Pegg’s gormless, immature and relentless Gary. When you back these characters up with the excellent supporting roles played by Freeman, Considine and Marsan you know the banter between them is going to be “a fried slice of gold”

The character’s are quite fleshed out early on and the script allows the audience to understand the insight to all five characters without the storyline being bogged down or losing its way. The other thing about Edgar Wright films is watching out for cameos throughout the movie that will always have been related to past projects by the director and it’s always nice to see that he is willing to use them and I assume the actors themselves are equally willing to appear no matter how brief their appearance may be.

With the movie being 4 years old now I will have divulge in some spoilers (so if you haven’t watched this movie yet it may be an idea to stop reading now) to allow my view and opinion on some of the scenes that may have to reveal certain aspects of the film.

I mentioned the toilet scene earlier and briefly. This scene to me is the Mark of a great director and again just like previously from Wright he can take any scenario and make it look like an action packed adrenaline rush sequence……yes even in the Gents loo. The fighting sequences and the reveal to me on first viewing was actually of shock when the teenagers Head was smashed against the urinal by Gary only for the head to explode and all this blue dye spraying everywhere. What had just happened?

What had just happened in fact was the key plot point. Personally I would have just have enjoyed a movie about these five guys on a pub crawl and that would have satisfied me to an extent but here we had a situation and more importantly a gamble by the writers (Wright and Pegg) on whether an invasion by blue dyed robots posing as regular people would go down well. Well did it? Well for me on first time viewing as I explored earlier although the initial reveal was surprising and shocking there was another hour of this movie to go and I was concerned that the storyline peaked too early.

Watching this again I realised that the script for the second half of the movie was as consistent as the first half and it was my expectation back in 2013 that soured my outlook on the movie initially and nothing else. “The World’s End” is a good movie. Not as great as “Shaun of the Dead” or as interesting as “Hot Fuzz” but still strong enough with a great cast having a good script. The Direction for the movie was always going to carry it regardless and with a 1990’s “indie” soundtrack, audiences of a certain age (my age) will enjoy reliving their youth (much as Gary King did in this film) “The World’s End” was always going to be up against it billing it as part of that trilogy and perhaps that affected it slightly with its expectations. If you haven’t watched it yet I recommend you do, just don’t go into it the way I did back in 2013. Instead, do what I did last week and just enjoy a two hour film that will make you laugh.

Hot Fuzz (2007) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

HOT FUZZ

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg
Stars: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Martin Freeman

With Edgar Wright’s upcoming “Baby Driver” hitting our screens I felt it was time for a “Movie Burner Retro Review” and what a way to kick the season of retro reviews off than 2007’s “Hot Fuzz” yes that right TEN years ago Edgar Wright treated us all to the second instalment of “The Corneto Trilogy” and it didn’t disappoint.

Top London Police Officer Nicholas Angel is the best of the rest in his line of duty, in fact he’s that good he is making the rest of the force look inefficient. As a result he is being reassigned to a quiet village that goes by the name of Sandford without a say. The opening scene in this situation is very well played out as we are first introduced to Angel’s direct superior the MET Sergeant played by Martin Freeman. Unsatisfied with the direct order Angel request to speak to a higher authority in Metropolitan Police Inspector played by Steve Coogan who supports his colleague the MET Sergeant that it would be good for Angel to take a step back. Still not taking the news well Angel demands to speak to the  Met Chief Inspector (Bill Nighy) who again feels it’s time for a change of scenery for Nicholas.

After the success of Shaun of the Dead it was always going to be a difficult task equalling or surpassing on its indirect follow up. Never the less with this success meant Hot Fuzz might just have a few cameos from actors who are fans of Wright, Pegg and Frost who have been a successful formula since the days of Spaced (1999) I didn’t know this at the time but in the very first few moments of the film there are cameos by Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett which you can work out by yourself where they appear and as previously mentioned it was nice and unique to see four comedy legends in the one scene in Pegg, Coogan, Freeman and Nighy.

Angel is paired up with Danny Butterman (Frost), who endlessly quizzes Angel on the action lifestyle in LON DON. Frost although plays the more comedic character in “Hot Fuzz” he also shines as the story unfolds and becomes the unlikely hero. Just as Danny is in awe of the City Cop, Angel finds adjusting to country life at first a struggle and his by the book approach ruffles some feathers amongst the village folk. It isn’t until two actors from the local theatre workshop who Angel watched perform the night before are found decapitated in their convertible (look out for David Threlfall as Martin Blower) . It is assumed the incident is a traffic accident, but Angel isn’t going to accept that theory, especially when more and more people are turning up dead.

Hot Fuzz is obviously influenced by American action films and in particular Cop action films. Wright and Pegg don’t just simply spoof these films but draw inspiration from them and honour some of the scenes (scene for scene) from movies like Point Break and Bad Boys II. Strangely, although set in an English Country Village “Hot Fuzz” is precisely in line with some of the American mainstream action adventure with the way it’s shot, the music and the action are all very impressive for a low budget movie.

Simon Pegg’s performance as Nicholas Angel is so well developed as a self assured, confident and a workaholic Police Officer it is a work of genius. Pegg’s character is such a far cry from the bumbling Shaun in Shaun of the Dead. In fact it’s Nick Frost’s Danny who picks up the mantle of that role in Hot Fuzz.

One surprise performance and you may say “comeback” at the time is from former Bond star Timothy Dalton who stars as Simon Skinner the manager of the local Supermarket. Dalton surprisingly is credible as a comic actor in the movie and delivers some funny lines and for me is one of the movie’s highlights. Looking back over the last ten years since this movie’s release it is rather disappointing that Dalton’s performance and role didn’t catapult a second wind in his career with more similar roles but nonetheless I think he can look back on his role as Skinner with some pride.

As I previously mentioned the cameos are always nice to spot in the movie and give you a real joy an excitement the first time you watch the movie but you can’t help commend the casting of Hot Fuzz and in particular the supporting cast of Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Kevin Eldon, Billie Whitelaw, Bill Bailey, Rafe Spall and the brilliant Olivia Colman. The filmmakers really pull out all the stops and they all have ample time on screen to make an impact and considerable presence.

The direction by Edgar Wright again effectively captures the feel of the type of film and he leaves his fast paced visuals and comedy stamp on this fine film. The cinematography and editing are what make Hot Fuzz enjoyable to watch visually and with an excellent soundtrack that most Hollywood filmmakers would be jealous of really sets the scene in particularly the legendary Kinks “Village Green Preservation Society” giving us a musical landscape over the village of Sandford.

Hot Fuzz is a unique hybrid film that actually works because of the acting, because of the writing, because of the directing and although many might see it not as good as Shaun of the Dead it has to be said that it shouldn’t be compared to that in the first place. Sadly though people will because of its part of a trilogy of films that naturally people will compare to with the previous. I have already been guilty of that with the final instalment of “The Cornetto Trilogy” in viewing 2013’s “The World’s End” which I will leave for another day.