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World's End, The

Universal // R // November 19, 2013
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted November 7, 2013 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
The pub crawl to end all pub crawls

Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: Edgar Wright, great bonus features
Likes: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Sci-fi
Dislikes: Disappointing endings
Hates: Those gods, those faces

The Movie
I've always had weird tastes when it comes to movies and TV shows when compared to those I interact with on a regular basis. Sure, I eventually cultivated a cadre of similarly-minded friends, but most people I know (and the vast majority of people I've never met) don't enjoy the kinds of entertainment I do (and as a result, I rarely get to enjoy a favorite TV show for more than a season or two.) It's been this way a long time, since I was the rare child in my school who was watching British imports like Benny Hill, Dr. Who, Monty Python, The Prisoner and The Young Ones. I always had an affinity for these accented folk and their odd sense of humor and unusual drama. So it's no surprise that the work of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, including Spaced and Shaun of the Dead, is right in my wheelhouse.

The World's End, their latest, the finale in their loosely-connected Cornetto trilogy, may be the most complete of their films to date, marrying all-out action, hilarious comedy and a great story about not living in the past. Gary (Pegg) is a man whose best days, when he was a teen, hanging with his friends and getting blotto, are behind him, and he's never been able to grow up, unlike his pals, including lawyer Andy (Nick Frost), who have moved on into adulthood, even if it has been a boring transition. Gary's biggest accomplishment in life was almost completing the Golden Mile, a drinking adventure through 12 pubs in their old hometown of Newton Haven (which they failed to finish.) Realizing it's his biggest regret, he decides to get the boys back together and give it another shot.

Though the story of Gary's immaturity and the conflict it creates with his friends (including Sam (Rosamund Pike), the sister of Oliver (Martin Freeman) and the childhood target of the affections of Gary and Steven (Paddy Considine)) is the core of the film, the reason we're here is the conspiracy story involving alien robots that have infiltrated Newton Haven, a situation Gary and company have stumbled upon, realizing that their old hometown has certainly changed in their time away. The five decide to stick to the plan of completing the Golden Mile, to avoid being noticed, but as the pints go empty, they are drawn deeper into the robot's clutches, and they will have to fight their way to freedom.

The World's End is a fantastically layered story, which is tremendous, energetic fun on a surface level, with big, exciting fights between the boys and the baddies, and the fun interplay between the characters, especially Gary and Andy, but there are plenty of other levels the film works on, including Gary's tale, which is revealed effectively in fits and starts, while there's a bigger-picture plot about life and the idea of identity, even getting quite dark and serious at some points. Wright and Pegg are experts at the kind of storytelling that made The Twilight Zone so good, hiding a story about humanity in a pop-culture skin, giving both parts sufficient weight, resulting in a highly satisfying film.

Wright's sense of style and thoughtful construction fills every inch of the film with interest, making The World's End the kind of movie that rewards multiple viewings. Though there are several revelations along the way, the film is not dependent upon surprising the viewer, and subsequent viewing will let you enjoy the clues and hints interspersed throughout that you probably won't catch the first time around. That's mainly because you'll be too busy enjoying the excellent performances (Freeman is a hoot to watch even when he's just reacting to what's going on, while Pierce Brosnan is a great deal of fun in a perferct role for him) as well as the tremendous effects work, which includes the utterly creepy look of the robots when "activated." I've seen a lot of wire-fu fights, but rarely have they worked as well as the ones in this film, which constrains the battles to enclosed spaces, making them more visceral and entertaining.

The only issue that cropped up was at the end. After a rather triumphant moment that would have served as a fine finish, the movie continues on, which results in another fun blow-out effect-driven scene, but then there's a wrap-up that may be a bit unnecessary, even if it does provide a very cool visual to go out on, not to mention delivering on much of the foreshadowing earlier in the film. It may just be a matter of personal taste, because it's hard to argue that Wright and Pegg don't know what they're doing.

The Disc
This film arrives on two discs in a standard-width, dual-hubbed BR keepcase (which is held in an embossed slipcover.) The Blu-ray features the standard Universal curve menu, offering the option to watch the film, select chapters, adjust languages and check out the extras. Audio options include English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1 and English DVS 2.0 tracks, while English SDH and Spanish subtitles are available.

The Quality
The 1080p, AVC-encoded transfer for The World's End is impressive, with a rather high level of detail throughout, showing off the texture present all over the movie, and appropriate color, which does a fine job handling the film's mostly cold tone (and the bright hues later in the movie) and the rather pale skintones of the majority of the characters. The horrifying faces of the blanks look particularly good. Black levels are deep as well, keeping the darker moments easy to read, though some scenes reveal some heavy grain (mostly a result of the film's multiple filming techniques) and occasional noise (the bathroom fight scene being one.) You've got to be looking for problems though in order to find them here.

With all the action and fun audio effects in this film, I expected a 7.1 track, but the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sounds great nonetheless. Dialogue mainly emerges from the center channel, sounding clear and distortion-free, while the surrounds have plenty to do, whether its the fantastic soundtrack, the atmospheric effects filling out the soundfield or the dynamically mixed bombast (featuring strong activity on the low-end) during the big fights. Wright's films make audio just as important an element as anything else, and this presentation lets the mix sing.

The Extras
The extras start off with Universal's "U-Control" concept, which lets you flip on picture-in-picture storyboards as you watch the movie. It's a welcome way to check out such content, since you get to compare the film to the prep-work, but it's certainly not for everyone and it's unlikely to be watched more than once. If it had been integrated with more content, like New Line's old Infinifilm idea, it would be much more interesting. You can watch two sets of these boards animated with audio, one for the prologue and one for the catacombs, which run a combined 11:17.

A trio of audio commentaries offer you plenty of reasons to watch the film a few more times, starting with a writer's track featuring Wright and Pegg. Considering their involvement, it makes sense that they have plenty to say about the film, and their friendship makes for a an enjoyable chat, touching on a bit of everything, including Chris Evans's Nazi-ness, their thoughts on commentaries and some explanation of the Cornetto trilogy. Wright is back again for the second commentary, this time joined by DP Bill Pope, for a track that has more of a technical focus. They discuss the budget, the shooting techniques and how many of the more involved scenes came together, aiming for film geeks and cinephiles. For the final commentary, Wright steps aside, but Pegg is back, accompanied by Frost and Considine for a (partial) cast commentary. This is three pals shooting the breeze, enjoying their work and plenty of references to The Godfather and guest appearances by "Ian McKellan." It's more of a fun time than an info dump.

While you're enjoying one of the commentaries, you should flip on the trivia text track, which contains plenty of details about the movie, including locations, soundtrack songs and bits of info all over the place, covering a wide variety of topics, including some small bits you might otherwise miss, like all the foreshadowing done early in the movie. Admittedly, between the three commentaries, the trivia track and the pile of extras to come, there's quite a bit of overlap and repetition, but there's more than enough unique content to make it worth exploring it all.

There is one brief 55-second deleted scene from early in the film with the boys, but it's repeating material that's done better elsewhere in the movie, and was best left out of the film. Working from a similar angle, "Alternate Edits" (4:32) is a collection of, well, alternate edits to several scenes, with variants on the dialogue (and sometimes the action.) "Bits and Pieces" (3:23) is a similar collection of alternate takes from across the film, but instead of changing the dialogue, the way lines are said is changed.

A good-sized reel of outtakes, running 10:44, is a cornucopia of screw-ups and silliness, including Freeman messing around, trouble with Gary's big, apparently difficult-to-remember run-down of their itinerary and evidence of what looks like a fun set to act on.

"Completing the Golden Mile - The Making of The World's End" (offered in one 48:06 play-all option or twp chapters) is an epic behind-the-scenes featurette loaded with interviews and on-set footage covering the origin and production of the movie, including the writing and casting, as well as the characters, the story, what it's like working with Wright on-set and how this film fits together with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Wright and Pegg's insistence that their films are not parodies of the genres they work in is particularly interesting, but the piece as a whole is just great.

A quartet of featurettes goes a bit more in-depth on the ideas in "Completing the Golden Mile," starting with "Director at Work" (2:33) and "Friends Reunited" (3:46) which are simply segments lifted from the larger featurette. "Pegg + Frost=Fried Gold" (3:28) is actually different content, focusing on their work together in TV and movies, with praise for the duo from on-high. "Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy" (5:13) starts out with some new material, but then segues into scenes from the "Golden Mile," with a few new bits sprinkled in.

"Filling in the Blanks: The Stunts and FX of The World's End" is another extensive featurette, checking in at 27:40, this time putting the spotlight on the film's fight choreography and special effects work, most of which is practical, which is a truly welcome revelation. Watching how it all was done lets you appreciate some of the smaller details which weren't quite as apparent on the first pass. If you want to get more into the VFX details, the "VFX Breakdown" has what you need, as effets supervisor Frazer Churchill walks you through how many of the effects shots were achieved, showing various layers of footage that were composited and picture-in-picture views of the different elements. Churchill could have been a bit more energetic, but it's great to see how it was all done. Once that's done, you can check out the stunt tapes (8:16), rough versions of three big fights done on a practice set by the stunt men. Considering how awesome the stunts are, this is a great way to give them some credit. There's more practice to check out in "Rehearsal Footage" (6:20) which shows various clips of pre-production footage and special-effects tests, including the actors' stunt testing, extra choreography and drunk walking.

There are still more featurettes, including "Signs and Omens" (7:51), which points out a ton of Easter eggs in the film, including how the number of each pub was shown on-screen, the visual representations of their names, symbolism and all the foreshadowing in the film. It's rather ingenious how it smoothly lays all this out. Then there's "Edgar and Simon's Flip Chart" (13:08) a continuing series on their DVDs, where they take you through the flip chart they use to structure and outline their screenplay, and you can see where changed ideas along the way. The way they use standard screenplay structure is also rather interesting.

"Hair and Make-Up Tests" (4:07) may be the most unnecessary extra here, as it's just footage of the actors in-costume turning around silently in front of the camera (or other actions), set to a somber score. However, if we're going for completeness, we're one step closer.

For remix fans, "There's Only One Gary King - Osymyso's Inibri-8 Megamix" (4:36) is a dance track with dialogue taken from the film. I've enjoyed similar work, like DJ Steve Porter's brilliant remixes of Community, but this one doesn't come together nearly as well.

Five still galleries are available for auto-play purusing (a combined 12:48), with topics like Production Photos, Animatronics & Prosthetics, Theatrical Posters, Concept Art and Hero Pub Signs. There's a lot of good photography and illustration here, but the posters are the most interesting, if only because the French one described the movie as the product of the creators of Paul, rather than referencing the other films in the trilogy.

We're not done yet. Three trailers are included, including the theatrical preview and two viral pieces, one an old tourism spot for Newton Haven, while the other, "The Man Who Would Be (Gary) King," is a collection of redubbed scenes from "Michael Caine." There's also a trio of TV ads for the film, which aren't as creative.

One of the sillier extras is the "TV Safe Version" (3:41) which takes several scenes featuring hard language and replacing the dialogue with more family-friendly words. The results are so ridiculous that it can't help but be great. Cheese and rice, this is funked stuff.

Also included is a code for a digital copy of the film.

The Bottom Line
I don't know if there's a director working today who unleashes more creative style and energy in his films than Wright, and if there is, they certainly aren't playing the same cult-friendly playground as this fantastically fun sci-fi take on the idea of the mid-life crisis. Though the ending is a bit anti-climactic, overall it's a blast to watch, and based on my wife's reaction, it will appeal to a wide audience.When it comes to the disc, the presentation is excellent and you couldn't ask for more, or better quality bonus content. Fans of Wright and Pegg's previous work can't own this quick enough, while anyone who enjoys a bit of quirky comedy and sci-fi will have a good time on this pub crawl.

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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