Hot Fuzz: Shaun of the Dead Remix?

Danny, Nicholas and two cornets

Now that the Cornetto trilogy has come to an end, it is a little saddening to watch the trio of  films. Starting with Shaun of the Dead, moving to Hot Fuzz and ending with The World’s End the latter two can be seen as  remixes of the first yet, despite that lump in the throat, because *sob* it’s all over, all three are funny and clever as hell.

The trio of Nick Frost, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have done their last gig together, and some people do not like Hot Fuzz, or for that matter The World’s End, as much as “Shaun” and will point out the many reasons why the first in the trilogy is the best. But really, it does not matter in the end because all three films bring something to the party.  Shaun of the Dead,  fans say, was not only the first, but it was more than brilliant.

I agree…to an extent. Shaun of the Dead was insanely clever. If one takes the time to watch the commentaries at the end it becomes blazingly obvious that Wright and Pegg were firing on all cylinders for that one.

Pub shot from Hot Fuzz
You got red on you…

But in my humble opinion, Hot Fuzz is much more than a Shaun of the Dead remix. In this second film, Simon is Nicholas Angel “There’s that Sgt. Angel, check out his arse!” a super cop who cannot “shut off” and lives his job 24/7. He is doing such a good job that, as his big boss the MET Chief Inspector says, “you’re making us all look bad…letting the side down.” The answer is an instant promotion to a small sleepy village in the country.

It is here that he meets Nick Frost‘s character PC Danny Butterman, son of local Inspector Frank Butterman. Danny is following in his father’s footsteps after the death of his mother because he doesn’t know what else to do. A fan of cop movies like Point Break and Bad Boys II “You ain’t seen Bad Boys Two??” Danny grows attached to Angle (Don’t rush to correct the spelling, watch the film, you’ll understand.)

Without going into the plot in any further detail, no spoilers here, the film does for cop films what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie flicks. Again, like the first in the trilogy, to really get the genius of Wright and Pegg, “ya gotta watch the special features.” Especially the commentary, that will point out all those references that any film geek, ahem…like me get overly excited about.

Bill Nighy Hot Fuzz Screen Shot
“Of course I can, I’m the Chief Inspector.”

Bill Nighy appears in a brilliant cameo as the Met Chief Inspector and shows just why this man is a British cinematic treasure. *Tip, watch his face at the beginning of the film while he’s talking to Nick Angel, priceless.*

Other familiar faces in this comedic homage to all things “cop” includes the creme de la creme of the English acting world. Edward Woodward, Kenneth Cranham (who I’ve actually worked with once), Billie Whitelaw, Paul Freeman, Timothy Dalton, Rafe Spall, Paddy Considine, Bill Bailey and a great many more of the best that Britain has to offer.

The humour is top notch, “He is not Judge Judy and executioner!” The plot is excellent and the gags non stop. This bromance continues the Shaun and Ed theme from the first film, only this time it’s Danny and Nicholas, “By the power of Greyskull!” The Frost character is not a repeat of Ed, “Can I get any of you c*nt’s a drink?” Danny is more a hapless chap, “Another pint, Mary?”  who doesn’t have a clue until the new sergeant in town shows him the way.

This 2007 film is an excellent fit in the trilogy, “Anything from the shop? Cornetto.” It is also the last time that Edward Woodward appeared in a feature film, although he did television and a TV movie after Hot Fuzz came out.  The exploits of Sergeant Angel are much more than a remix of Shaun of the Dead, although the film does follow the cleverness of the first film with all its action movie references and the real cop nods and winks. “You can’t be the Sheriff of London.”

It is highly recommended that this film be watched on DVD, one that has special features – remember that commentary – and not just streamed on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon. Sure the film will be still be as funny, but you’ll miss out on all that good “colour.” As loathe as I am to use a star rating system, in this instance I will. Hot Fuzz is a 5 out of 5 stars film, and to answer the question in the title, no it is not a remix of Shaun of the Dead.

18 February 2015

Action Films Equal Bodybuilding

Scene from BladeThings have changed in the action film world, to the extent that these types of movies equal a bodybuilding extravaganza for the actors involved. Take, for example, the Blade trilogy (1, 2 and 3) where in the last DVD  “Blade Trinity,” special features, the actors all talk about the inordinate amount of time spent weight training.

Actions films by the very definition of the genre include a lot of action sequences; car chases, shoot outs, heavy-duty fight scenes, et al. More emphasis is now place on action heroes looking more like professional athletes. As mentioned in the special features on the final Blade film, “more actors want to do a lot of their own stunts.”

This move toward shrugging off stunt performers who specialize in making the less athletic, or age challenged, actor is relatively new. Certainly the more “jock-like” actors have always wanted to do as many of their own stunts as possible, but now everyone wants to get into the act.

The “making of” documentaries on the third DVD point out this trend and watching films since the trilogy ended it appears that whether the movies are action oriented or not actors want to do more of their own stunts. This move seems to have broken the stunt world into three camps.

These seem to be: Coordinators, professionals who do the real risky stunts (like being set on fire) and standby performers (in case the actor cannot do the gig because of physical limitations or insurance, or “bottles it.”) *Losing one’s bottle, or “bottles it” and all the various iterations of this phrase equals Brit Speak for chickening out.*

Still of Dwayne Johnson

A lot of actors specialize in action features because they are athletic or former athletes. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is the perfect example of a sports figure (we won’t go into the debate of WWE being mostly staged, these guys and gals are athletes…period.) who is forging a new career playing roles that are action heavy and he does a lot of his own stunts. Not only that, but Johnson’s acting is very impressive on top of his physical attributes.

But what about actors who aren’t natural athletes or, as stated above, limited by age?

With action films putting a lot more emphasis in actors at least looking like they could perform their own stunts, bodybuilding is the order of the day. This visual believability is crucial if the audience is to suspend their disbelief enough to buy the screen action equaling reality.

Gone are the days when attitude alone made a character deadly in terms of combat. Take for example, the television show “The Equalizer.” The late Edward Woodward, that brilliant actor from across the pond, played Robert McCall aka the Equalizer. McCall was an ex government agent of some sort, an assassin type, who hires himself out as a private detective. He is there to help the “little guy” who needs someone to fight the bullies.

Edward Woodward as Robert McCall

Woodward as McCall didn’t need to look like “The Rock” or Arnold Schwarzenegger to convince the audience he was deadly or tough. His acting skills and the character’s psychological makeup did that. McCall used guns to take out the villains, along with some physical action, and this did not require him to look like a bodybuilder or professional athlete.

Fast forward quite a number of years and Denzel Washington played Robert McCall as a very athletic and martial arts type of ex government killer. Guns were used very little as his McCall used a lot of “The Book of Eli” moves in his version of “The Equalizer.”

The character of McCall becomes less about shooting and more about being creative in dealing out death with something other than bullets. He was also more physical, in keeping with the new millennium’s perception of age; people are lot more active in their “twilight years” now than in the 1980s. Being in one’s late 50s or early 60s “back in the day” meant more reliance on walking frames, canes and a general lack of energy. In 2015 the retired generation have much more get up and go as well as being in better shape physically.

At least in the acting world, fitness is being stressed in terms of time spent in the gym prior to filming. Physical training, fight training and so on all take place in the run up to shooting and throughout the production. “Making of” documentaries on DVD’s feature a lot of “normal” actors talking about “beefing up” and getting “ripped” for a feature film.

It may well be that the action film equaling bodybuilding for its participants is now the norm. Certain actors, like “Resident Evil” star Milla Jovovich, have discovered that they enjoy the more physical aspects of doing stunts and, more importantly, are very good at it. The real dangerous gigs are still done by professionals, but the emphasis on the actor’s looking fit makes it easier for the viewer to believe in the action onscreen.

7 February 2015

The Equalizer: Why is Denzel Washington More MacGyver than Robert McCall

The Equalizer: Why is Denzel Washington More MacGyver than Robert McCall

From 1985 to 1989 English actor Edward Woodward was The Equalizer, aka Robert McCall, a former well armed shadowy governmental agent who “had gun and traveled,” albeit not very far, to help the innocent; why then, in the big screen adaptation is Denzel Washington more like MacGyver than Robert McCall? Anyone watching the film its opening weekend would have noticed that, unlike the small screen version of the character, McCall used quite a number of implements to kill the bad guys. Implements that were not guns. It should also be pointed out that in Mr. Woodward’s televised, and fairly violent, series the villains were mostly homegrown rapists, murderers, blackmailers, et al versus the Russian baddies in the film versio

The Equalizer: Denzel Washington Thrills as Robert McCall

The Equalizer: Denzel Washington Thrills as Robert McCall

This big screen version of the 1980’s series The Equalizer, which starred English actor Edward Woodward as Robert Mccall thrills just as much, if not more, with Denzel Washington playing the former governmental tough guy. The audience certainly enjoyed seeing the star dish out punishment to the bad guys with spontaneous applause breaking out whenever McCall took out another baddie. Widespread laughter in all the right places and a good amount of cheering went on as well. Despite the obvious satisfaction displayed by the majority of the audience there were a few things that could have been changed to enhance the story onscreen.