There's nothing "ooh ducky" about being Judge Erich Asperschlager.
"Ever had one of those nights that starts out like any other, but ends up being the best night of your life?"
There are lots of different kinds of movies. Some are best experienced with crowds. Some are better at home. Some achieve cult status, earning endless midnight reruns. Many more are enjoyable only once. These movies tend to focus on convoluted plots and big action instead of characters, so that after you know what's going to happen there's no reason to go back. Summer is a breeding ground for disposable blockbusters that fall apart in hindsight, if you can even remember them at all.
Then there's Edgar Wright. Through a handful of films over the past decade, the British director has built a rabid fanbase in part because he's pulled off the rare trick of making movies that get better with each viewing. His latest, The World's End, reunites the filmmaker with writing partner Simon Pegg and mutual pal Nick Frost to complete their so-called Cornetto Trilogy—a series of genre comedies that have little in common besides the creative team, pre-packaged ice cream cones, and being awesome. The first two Cornetto films, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, tackled zombie and action movies respectively. The World's End is technically science fiction, though it's as much about substance abuse, lifelong friendships, and cultural homogenization as it is about alien invasion and killer robots.
Edgar Wright movies are famous for being full of clues, references, and hidden meaning. His home video releases are just as packed. From Shaun's DVD debut through 2010's uber ambitious Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, no one does bonus features like Wright. The World's End carries on that tradition with a Blu-ray combo pack that makes the best film of the year even better.
Facts of the Case
June 22, 1990 was the best night of young Gary King's life. On the last day of high school, he and his friends set out to complete the "Golden Mile": 12 pints in 12 pubs winding through the heart of their hometown of Newton Haven. It was such an eventful night, no one minded that they never actually made it to the final pub, The World's End. No one, that is, except grown up Gary (Simon Pegg), who refuses to let go of the past and decides he's ready to retry the Mile, whether his estranged friends Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), Peter (Eddie Marsan), and Andy (Nick Frost) want to or not. So the group returns to Newton Haven to pick up where they left off, joined along the way by Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike). With each pub and pint, the increasingly inebriated schoolmates fall back into old patterns and rivalries, at the same time coming to the realization that the town has been taken over by alien replicants.
When The World's End hit theaters, it seemed like a lot of discussion centered around where it ranked in the Cornetto Trilogy—a pointless exercise that resulted in many critics declaring it not quite as good as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I have a feeling that will change now that people can watch Wright's latest whenever they want. The World's End is different than the previous Cornetto flicks—from the lack of movie references to the larger cast and reversal of the established Pegg-Frost dynamic—but that just shows that Wright and Pegg are growing as filmmakers.
One of the biggest changes to the Cornetto formula for The World's End is that Pegg and Frost share top billing with an insanely talented cast, including Paddy Considine as second-banana Steven, Eddie Marsan as meek Peter, Martin Freeman as yuppie Oliver, and Rosamund Pike as the lovely and capable Sam. Freeman might be the most recognizable of the bunch to a US audience, thanks to his starring role in Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, but everyone is amazing. Considine, who has appeared in films like The Bourne Ultimatum and Hot Fuzz, comes to The World's End on the heels of his directorial debut of 2011's brilliant, brutal Tyrannosaur—a film that featured Eddie Marsan playing an abusive psychopath, the opposite of the bullied Peter. Pike doesn't get as much screentime as the boys but she is equally great here as love interest and action star. When it comes to action, no one is more impressive or surprising than Nick Frost. He's as great as a drunk Hulk dual-wielding bar stools as a wounded friend letting out years of pent-up frustration. It's fitting that a movie about conformity and individuality would have a cast with different strengths who are uniformly great. The supporting cast is too impressive to ignore, and too huge to call out by name with one exception. Pierce Brosnan (the Cornetto Trilogy's second Bond) has a memorable turn as the group's "cool" teacher—the kind of guy as comfortable handing out life advice after school as trying to persuade you to join a secret alien collective.
As wonderful as everyone else is in the film, The World's End belongs to Simon Pegg. Aging Goth Gary King is as different from Pegg's other Cornetto characters as Andy is from Frost's, but it's not just stunt casting—flipping the dynamic to make Pegg the screw-up. Simon Pegg has grown outside of Wright's films as a movie star, but he shines brightest when he's working with friends. Gary King is both the villain and the hero, going from unsympathetic to vulnerable—sometimes in the same scene, sometimes in the same shot. With impeccable timing and a deep understanding of the character and material, Pegg gives the kind of performance that would win an Oscar if Academy members were required to watch movies more than once before voting.
The same is true of the film itself. Edgar Wright movies are notoriously dense with jokes, references, and multiple meanings. I've watched The World's End four or five times in the past week and am still finding new connections. Wright's movies reward repeat viewings, but they are more than mere cinematic Easter egg hunts. Unlike so many modern movies and TV shows, his references are not for their own sake. In The World's End, Wright and Pegg use genre trappings and action to address weighty issues. The first half of the film is dominated by five actors sitting around drinking and talking about the problem of trying to recapture youth. The tone shifts when the fighting begins, but the action supports the dialogue, revealing more about the characters, under stress and the influence of alcohol. Some films are jewelry stores lined with glittering trinkets. Wright's films are vast deposits of fried gold reaching deep underground. The World's End makes a striking first impression, but its true wealth is revealed to those who are willing to dig deeper.
That attention to detail spills over to Wright's home video releases. The World's End carries on the tradition beginning with Shaun of the Dead of filling every spare bit without sacrificing audio-visual fidelity. The World's End comes to Blu-ray with a stunning 2.35:1 1080p transfer that accurately represents Wright and director of photography Bill Pope's vision for the film, shot on traditional 35mm (with a brief dip into 16mm for the opening montage). The hi-def transfer has enough detail to satisfy remote-wielding fans scouring the background for clues; with rich colors and deep blacks, from warm pub interiors and deep amber beer to gallons of shocking blue goo.
The film's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is as densely layered as the visuals. As with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The World's End soundtrack is full of cues and subtle effects. Cell phone interference pops in when blanks are around, as the Britpop mixtape soundtrack lines up with the onscreen action a la "Dark Side of the Rainbow." During the drive to Newton Haven, Gary is pulled over just as the Happy Mondays' Shaun Ryder sneers "Call the cops!" The group has deja vu drinks in the Old Familiar during the Pulp song "Do You Remember the First Time?" Gary's questionable decision to drink abandoned lager is backed by the Stone Roses' "Fools Gold." The soundtrack is killer on its own (it has been in heavy rotation on my iPod since the summer) but the way the songs meld with the movie makes both better. The lossless surround mix on this disc gives Wright's ambitious audio design the vast, balanced soundscape it deserves.
The World's End looks and sounds spectacular, but the reason to shell out for the Blu-ray is the extensive list of bonus features:
• Feature Commentary with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright: The first of three commentaries, this is the only one that appears on both the Blu-ray and DVD copies of the film—for good reason. Pegg and Wright are informative and entertaining, sharing behind-the-scenes tidbits, and the origins of characters, themes, and the "Let's Boo-Boo" catchphrase.
• Technical Commentary with Edgar Wright and Bill Pope: The second commentary focuses on the technical aspects of the production, with Wright and veteran DP Pope digging deep into film stock, lighting, and special effects.
• Cast Commentary with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Paddy Considine: The last commentary trades information for laughs, as the trio makes up for the missing cast members with goofy banter and "guest appearances" by Peter Jackson, Sir Ian McKellan, Wright, and others.
• Deleted Scene (0:55): The lone deleted scene has the gang take a breather at the B&B before the big bender.
• "Out-Takes" (10:44): A collection of flubbed lines and mid-take hijinks.
• "Alternate Edits" (4:32): Different versions of several scenes, including the opening montage, pub chat, the Trusty Servant, Beehive fight, Gary and Andy hashing things out, and the Network confrontation.
• "Completing the Golden Mile—The Making of The World's End" (48:06): This thorough production documentary, divided into two chapters, covers the film's origin, the writing process, themes, and character/cast member profiles.
• "Featurettes": Four promotional profiles—"Director at Work" (2:33), "Pegg + Frost = Fried Gold" (3:28), "Friends Reunited" (3:46), and "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy" (5:13).
• "Filling in the Blanks: The Stunts and FX of The World's End" (27:40): This nearly half hour featurette breaks down the impressive array of practical and CG special effects used to create the hollow-headed "blanks" and the film's character-driven fight sequences.
• "Animatics" (11:17): Early animated storyboards with voiceover for the "Prologue" and "Catacombs" sequences.
• "Hair and Make-up Tests" (4:07): Test footage of the cast in costume.
• "Rehearsal Footage" (6:20): Fight choreography, blank blocking, and actors practicing playing drunk.
• "Stunt Tapes": Rough edited versions combining storyboards, stuntmen, and cardboard props of the "Bathroom Fight" (3:22), "Twinbot Fight" (1:53), and "Beehive Fight" (3:31).
• "VFX Breakdown" (8:39): Visual effects supervisor Frazer Churchill narrates a detailed look at the mix of practical and CG effects.
• "Bits & Pieces" (3:23): Quick takes, alternate lines, a montage of green screen blank head smashing, and the crew cheering at each milestone slate.
• "There's Only Only Gary King" Ð Osymyso's Inibri-8 Megamix (4:36): As he did for Scott Pilgrim, the British DJ creates an original dance track mixed with dialogue from the film.
• "Signs & Omens" (7:51): This montage reveals the film's various Easter eggs, including the ways the pub names foreshadow what happens there.
• "Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart" (13:08): One of the earliest clues that Wright and Pegg were writing the next Cornetto film was a photo of this flip chart—a key tool in their writing process. This featurette is a guided tour through its oversized pages, pointing out differences and similarities in the final names, themes, scene outlines, and the massive list they compiled of synonyms for being drunk. Quote Pegg: "It's like the journal of a serial killer."
• Trailers: This collection includes the "Domestic Trailer" (2:31); the fake travelogue "Newton Haven" (0:56); and "The Man Who Would be (Gary) King" (2:00) with Gary & Andy overdubbed by Michael Caine and Sean Connery soundalikes.
• TV Spots: "Shaun Fuzz" (0:32), "Shaun Fuzz Bathroom" (0:32), "These Guys" (1:02)
• "TV Safe Version" (3:41): This "funking" good edit of the film continues the Blu-ray tradition of goof edits.
• Galleries: "Production Photos" (3:40), "Animatronics & Prosthetics" (3:00), "Theatrical Posters" (1:00), "Concept Art" (4:20), and "Hero Pub Signs" (0:48).
• Trivia Track: An optional subtitle track that plays over the film.
• U-Control: This feature gives you the option of watching the film with storyboard overlays.
• DVD and Ultraviolet Digital Copy.
Where many movies are barely worth watching once, Edgar Wright has built a career out of films that get better with each viewing. This twisted Arthurian tale of Gary King and his drunken robot-smashing knights will satisfy fans looking for Wright's trademark clues and connections, while also rewarding those who dig deeper into its themes and characters. The World's End joins the ranks of must-own Edgar Wright movies, not only for the film itself but also for the quality of the Blu-ray. With a near-flawless audiovisual presentation and bonus features that go above and beyond, Wright and company once again rob themselves of the opportunity to make fans double dip down the road. As much as The Cornetto Trilogy deserves its own Criterion Collection box set, I can't imagine what they could add to the existing Blu-rays besides a fancy case, better menu art, and essays by an obscure European director. Is The World's End the best Cornetto film? Who cares. It's the best movie and Blu-ray of the year. Buy it.
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• TV-Safe Version
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