Blind Spot 75: Shaun of the Dead

Hey everyone! This month’s blind spot, Shaun of the Dead, is a film I have been wanting to check off my list for a while. I didn’t see it when it came out because I was on my mission in 2004 and didn’t watch movies during that time. Plus, I am admittedly squeamish when it comes to violence and I knew this was a bloody comedy. However, the whole point of this series is getting me out of my comfort zone and I did enjoy Anna and the Apocalypse, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Warm Bodies so I figured let’s give it a go.

Well, maybe zombie romances are my thing because I quite enjoyed Shaun of the Dead. In fact, I have long felt Edgar Wright was a little overrated (thought his Scott Pilgrim and Baby Driver were just ok and really didn’t care for Last Night in Soho). Now after seeing this film I feel like i finally get it and the appeal of what he does.

The story centers around the title character Shaun (Simon Pegg) who begins the day getting dumped by his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) and putting up with his leach of a friend Ed (Nick Frost) who has been slumming on Shaun’s sofa for 5 years! To say Ed is high maintenance would be an understatement. Then a little thing called a zombie apocalypse happens to complicate Shaun’s life. Despite having been dumped Shaun goes to save Liz along with her friends and his Mum (Penelope Wilton- who is always great) and his step-dad Phillip (Bill Nighy). Together they make an eclectic team that is figuring out how to fight off zombies along the way.

You have to give a lot of the credit for Shaun of the Dead to Pegg who pulls of the comedic and more emotional moments quite well. He also has an easy chemistry with both Frost and Ashfield and the film has a nice message about the importance of friends even if they drive you crazy at times. Shaun of the Dead is also paced very well. The characters are constantly either fighting the zombies or figuring out a way to keep them out of whatever structure they are in. Shaun in particular is scrappy and figures out creative ways to kill the zombies- at one point they try to use his record collection to kill them without much luck.

There is also a very effective scene using Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” to perfectly punctuate the action. Wright is excellent at using his soundtrack to add energy and spice to his films and this no exception.

I actually think Shaun of the Dead would make a good date movie. It has a friendship and romance at its core and has humor and action to entertain everyone. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would so if you can handle an R rated film (for language and violence) I’d say give it a watch!

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 40: ‘Scott Pilgrim vs the World’

It seemed appropriate during the month of an epic comicbook movie release I should finally watch one of the most popular entries from the genre I have yet to have seen for my blind spot series: Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

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Released in 2010, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is based on a graphic novel called Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It tells the story of a dopey 22 year old kid named Scott (Michael Cera) who enters a video game world when he plays with his band the Sex Bob-Omb. He goes through many women, but he in particular loves a multi-haired girl named Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). In order to be with her he must defeat Ramona’s 7 evil exes in the video game using music and sometimes a little action.

For the most part I enjoyed watching this film. It is very well cast with a crop of young talent that would go places including Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brandon Routh and Jason Schwartzman. The visual effects and style of the film is unique and continually surprised me. It both feels like you are inside a video game and a comicbook at the same time. scott pilgrim5I also thought Scott Pilgrim vs the World was pretty funny. The big set up jokes like Brandon Routh having super vegan powers really paid off and made me laugh. I also really liked Kieran Culkin as Scott’s gay roommate. He was very funny.

What I didn’t like as much is Scott is kind of the worst. He’s selfish, inconsiderate and doesn’t respect women. He goes through them like candy and yet they all seem more than willing to put up with such nonsense. The main excuse the movie seemed to give is he is lovable and nerdy but that’s not a very good excuse. I got the feeling we were supposed to judge Ramona for having so many ex-boyfriends when we saw Scott go through multiple girlfriends in just a few days!

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All that said, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a pretty fun movie. The soundtrack is great and it has a ton of fresh energy to it. If you are tired of the same old story it’s definitely worth a try. I think I prefer it to the other Edgar Wright film I’ve seen Baby Driver.

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

(This is my 40th Blind Spot pick! What a fun series it has proven to be!)

smile worthy

Baby Driver Review

So yesterday I went to my first Edgar Wright film. I’d always heard great praise for his films but the hard R content turned me off. With Baby Driver I heard from multiple sources it was a pretty mild R and that it was great so I decided to give it a shot and I’m glad I did. While it does require some suspension of disbelief to enjoy, Baby Driver is a very entertaining, kinetic film.

Baby Driver is about a boy named Baby (Ansel Elgort) that is an amazing get-away driver for a crime boss played by Kevin Spacey. Baby is indebted to the boss so he does what he is told. However, because of tendonitis in his ears he requires constant music to be played to drown out the pinging.

The key to making this film work is the visceral engaging action sequences that are so well edited with the music. It draws you in and is entertaining to watch. I hate the phrase turn off your brain but this is a movie that might be easy to over-think, so you ruin the experience. This is not a gritty realistic crime story. If you try to break down the heist and plot elements there are problems but it doesn’t matter because you are quickly on to the next engaging sequence. The only way I can think to describe it is a Fast and the Furious movie but with way more skill than even the best of those films. Those are more guilty pleasure films where this more naturally works at being what it is trying to be.

It’s a very bro-tastic movie with the two women being a sexy assassin or an innocent waitress. Both require saving and are more tools to demonstrate the male character’s story arc then anything on their own. For example, Debora played by Lilly James, exists not to tell her own story, but to provide conflict and tension for Baby. This isn’t a big problem but I do think they could have added a few moments to flesh out her character more- especially to justify some of the decisions she makes.

But that is a small criticism. Like I said, I found it very entertaining and engaging. The acting across the boards is good even if a few parts are underwritten. Nothing ever detracts from having a great time at the theater.

The sound design and editing is near flawless, which helps you get engaged in the heists and chase sequences. The soundtrack is really great because it’s not obvious. One of my complaints about the recent Guardians vol 2 soundtrack is the songs were so on the nose with what was happening. Here it is a little more creative and leaves you often wondering why Baby chose that song for that moment.

Baby Driver is an R rated film and does have some strong violence and profanity but I didn’t think it was too bad or offensive.

So what did you think of Baby Driver? Did you find it entertaining? If you can stomach the R rating then I would encourage you to see it on the big screen as it is such a fun time at the movies. Enjoy!

Overall Grade- B