guppy's film reviews

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Year: 2007
Director: Edgar Wright
Notable Actors: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost
Score: A-
Summary: A ton of fun, everything Shaun of the Dead wasn't.

Hot Fuzz is the story of crack London police officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg), a cop so good at his job that his colleagues arrange for his transfer to the sleepy town of Sandford, where he can be out of the way and stop making them look bad.

Fuzz was made by the same team that made 2004's acclaimed Shaun of the Dead; while Shaun didn't grab me, it received a warm public reception. Fuzz, on the other hand, is incredibly funny and the best time I've had in a movie theater in quite some time.

Pegg is perfect as Sergeant Angel, which, frankly, I didn't think he would be. Angel is a by-the-book, hard-nosed cop, and having associated Pegg with his role as mild-mannered Shaun in Shaun of the Dead, I expected him to have trouble with such a different part. Pegg co-wrote the film with along with director Edgar Wright, and his involvement in the script helps his fit with the role. Also worth a mention is Nick Frost as Angel's inept partner, Danny Butterman. Frost does a great job, and his character is charismatic rather than irritating, unlike his character in Shaun.

While Pegg and Frost are front and center, the supporting cast members -- all of whom are equally familiar faces -- are top-notch as well, and the film wouldn't work nearly as well without them. Of particular note are the other members of the Sandford Police Service, all of whom are memorable individually rather than as a collective.

One concern I had going in was that, while I had enjoyed the jokes in the previews, I wasn't sure the rest of the movie would maintain the same high standards. I was also a bit worried that some of the gags seemed contrived. Happily, neither of these concerns were warranted. The movie is more or less continuously funny, and even the more absurd jokes flow smoothly with the plot. Something I particularly liked: in addition to the "primary" jokes, there are a whole bunch of subtle throwaway jokes you might miss if you're not paying attention.

Besides its function as a traditional comedy, Fuzz is also a spoof of over-the-top action movies. One might expect the Hot Fuzz team to encounter difficulty in shooting action scenes, given their previous projects, but quality camerawork and direction are used to great effect and the end result comes out looking superb.

Hot Fuzz
is a spectacularly entertaining film from start to finish and one of the best movies I've seen this year. Highly recommended.

Monday, April 16, 2007


Year: 2007
Director: Zach Snyder
Notable Actors: Gerard Butler, Lena Headey
Score: C
Summary: A great big pile of mediocrity.

When I first saw previews for 300, it didn't really grab my attention and I was prepared to dismiss it, but then people starting telling me how much they were looking forward to it, so I gave it another look. I ended up with a free ticket courtesy of Best Buy, and it still took me over a month to get around to seeing it. Having finally done so, it appears that I should have trusted my instincts.

300 is based on Frank Miller's graphic novel (read: comic book) series about the battle of Thermopylae, and follows King Leonidas of Sparta. You may remember Miller's name from 2005's Sin City, which is likewise based on one of his graphic novel series, and comparison of the two is virtually inevitable. There are some similarities -- both films are highly stylized and extremely violent, for example. The big difference? Sin City is a much better film.

If you've seen any of the previews, and it's difficult not to have done so by now, you've almost certainly seen the "This is Sparta!" clip. If you haven't, well, there isn't much to tell. Leonidas kicks some guy and yells "This is Sparta!" with overly long pauses in between each word. If you've watched that scene, you've basically watched most of the movie, which consists almost entirely of only two elements:

  • Fight scenes, in which the superbly trained Spartan warriors kill a huge number of people
  • Yelling scenes, in which the Spartans scream and shout at their opponents about how great Sparta is
As you can imagine, this makes the movie's 117 minutes drag on far too long, as you've already seen everything the movie has to offer inside the first half hour. By the first hour I was ready for it to be over. Add in a dull script and directing that sets new records for overacting and you've got a film that just isn't very interesting to watch.

What 300 does right is the effects. A lot of money was thrown at this movie, and it shows. Visually it's an interesting affair, with dashes of surreality sprinkled liberally throughout the film. The CGI effects are also superb; it's sometimes difficult to tell where the CGI ends and the rest begins. I've been told that much of the film is actually acted in front of a green screen, which speaks to the talent of the cast (and helps place the blame for the hamminess at the director's feet). The stylized art style works well for the movie and helps convey its graphic novel roots.

You should know going in that the movie isn't even close to historically accurate; that's not a negative, but it's definitely something to remember.

300 isn't the worst film I've ever seen, but it does very little to distinguish itself. For a two-hour movie, there just isn't very much there. Save your money and see something less average.