Tag Archives: Peter Pettigrew

Cornetto Trilogy: The World’s End

The-Worlds-End-posterThough not really a trilogy, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright have now created three loosely-linked comedies that they’ve dubbed the Cornetto Trilogy.  The first two films were, of course, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.  I love those movies, so I jumped at the chance to see a movie marathon this week.  From 5:30-midnight, we watched all three, culminating with the new film, The World’s End.

Let me just take a minute to say I really like Shaun of the Dead, but I absolutely love Hot Fuzz. It’s one of my favorite comedies of all time.  I don’t think The World’s End will replace it in my top 5, but I still enjoyed the new movie very much. Watching the whole trilogy also gave me a chance to compare and contrast the three movies and the characters each actor plays throughout.  Lots of food for thought there.

In The World’s End, Simon Pegg plays Gary King. He was your typical badass teenager in 1990, leaving school and full of optimism and hatred for authority.  20 years later, he’s…exactly the same person, but a lot more depressed. He wears the same clothes, has the same coat and dyed black hair.  He failed to grow up.  His gang of teenage friends, on the other hand, have all become proper adults with trench coats and nice cars and retirement plans.  Gary convinces himself that the best way to get a new lease on life is to go back and finish the epic quest they started when they were teenagers–a 12-pint pub crawl in their hometown of Newton Haven. The eponymous World’s End is the last pub on the route.

He re-enters the thoroughly normal lives of his former friends and convinces them to go along on this trip.  Though they react to him like an unwelcome re-emergence of herpes, they all show up.  There’s

Eddie Marsan as Peter

The_World's_End_6a car salesman who still works for his dad.  He is your typical bored married man, 2 kids, needs some excitement in his life.

 

Nick Frost as Andy

worlds-end-poster-nick-frost-405x600For once, Nick Frost gets to play the smart guy who is frustrated by his friend’s low IQ/responsibility.  This is a real departure, considering the near opposite roles they had in Hot Fuzz. Andy is a lawyer with a big fancy office, and he’s quite angry at Gary (Simon) because of something that happened when they were teenagers.  A slight flaw in Gary’s plans for a pub crawl is that Andy no longer drinks-at all.

 

 

Martin Freeman plays Oliver

worlds-end-poster-martin-freeman-405x600People forget that Martin Freeman has been in both of the previous movies, but he has!  He had a very tiny scene in Shaun of the Dead, as Yvonne’s boyfriend.  And he was a member of the Metropolitan Police Force in Hot Fuzz. Here, he finally gets a proper part of the action. Oliver is a realtor with a hot sister (Rosamund Pike) and a curious birthmark.  I love Martin Freeman, but I cannot possibly be remotely attracted to anyone with a bluetooth headset, so that spoiled things a bit.

Lastly, Paddy Considine plays Steven

worlds-end-poster-paddy-considine-405x600You should recognize Paddy (though he no longer has the glorious mustache) as DC Wainwright–or was it Cartwright?–from Hot Fuzz. In this movie, Steven is something of a rival to Gary–or that’s how Gary saw it in school–and the two are both interested in Oliver’s sister.  Of course, he’s dating his 26-year-old Pilates instructor, so that’s a little awful, but what can you do.

 

At any rate, the 5 guys get together for a night in the old town.  Gary hasn’t changed at all. His clothes, his attitude about life, even his car–all the same.  He plays an old song from their youth, and Steven points out that he once put that on a mixed tape for Gary.  It’s the same tape; it’s been in the tape player ever since.

Everything else is different.  The town is different.  A few pubs have been turned into soulless outlets of a chain of pubs with the same decor and the same offerings.  The local drug dealer from school is now a suit-wearing businessman. Peter’s worst bully doesn’t even recognize him.  Oh yeah, and the town is now controlled by body-snatcher-style robots filled with blue inky goo.

The movie is many things simultaneously.  It’s a nod to movies like Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stepford Wives–the robots just want to be model citizens and obey the laws, etc.  It’s a different take on the mid-life crisis movies/bromance drinking movies like The Hangover and Grown-Ups.  It’s a discussion about growing up and changing, and what happens when you don’t do that.  And what happens when you do it too much.

As expected, it was very funny.  I think sometimes the pacing was a little uneven.  Feverish action moments, and then things slowed to a crawl.  When you compare this to the slow build of the other two films, it’s a bit of a weakness.  And Rosamund Pike’s character isn’t given much to do, except to be a girl who exists in this world.  Something to save and a prize for the hero at the end.  These never were movies about women, let’s be honest. And I really don’t know how I feel about the ending.  Unlike Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, this is a proper apocalypse movie with a dystopian future left at the end. I don’t know how I feel about that, except that I feel like I can’t take any more books/movies about Armageddon.

Some of the in-jokes and homages were presumably lost on me because I’m not up on kung-fu movies or comic books.  But the other thing about this trilogy is you catch new jokes each time you watch.  This time through Hot Fuzz, I realized that there is a really blatant reference to the classic Jack Nicholson movie, Chinatown (which, if you haven’t seen, I recommend it but please have some Xanax ready afterward because it is a downer).  But I’d never noticed that before, and it really made me chuckle.  I predict that I will need to watch The World’s End at least 3 more times before I can really evaluate my long-term opinion of it.  But I’m happy to make that sacrifice.

Also, can I end with some ridiculous trivia I have just discovered?  As I said, most of the actors have been in all three movies.  As have a lot of other actors that just come in for brief moments. Bill Nighy was step-dad Phillip in SotD, and the Chief Inspector in HF. He lends only his voice to tWE, but he was there. David Bradley (aka Argus Filch) was in HF and plays the town conspiracy theorist in tWE.  And most amazingly is the story of Rafe Spall.  First bit of strange trivia–he’s the son of Timothy Spall, aka Peter Pettigrew.  In tWE, he has a brief cameo as a man looking to buy a house, but you will remember him from HF as DI Cartwright (or was it Wainwright?!?).

86032_1298092156469_fullIn addition to playing Shakespeare in that heinous movie Anonymous, I stumbled on his part in Shaun of the Dead.  He was the fat obnoxious kid, Noel??

NoelYup.  That kid, grew into this man:

article-2142708-13066EBD000005DC-602_224x423Also, Petter Pettigrew has a son that looks like this?!  What the fuck.

 

The Cuckoo’s Calling by JK Rowling

jk-rowling-cuckoos-calling-reviewI’m not ashamed to admit that I purchased this book immediately after I heard the news that it was secretly written by JKR.  What on earth else would you expect of me?

I understand why she would publish a book without her name attached to it.  Imagine the incredible pressure she’s under every time she wants to publish a book. Every pseudo-intellectual wants to prove that she (and that Harry Potter) doesn’t deserve so much praise because it’s not Proust.  Every Harry Potter fan inevitably compares all her other work to Harry Potter.  For this book in particular, using not just a pen name, but the pen name of a male author, makes sense.  It’s a male dominated genre, and her protagonist is a pretty butch dude.  Reading 2 different reviews compare him to Hagrid and Alastor Moody (though I see absolutely no similarities) was enough to make me understand why she wanted to be anonymous.  I’m sort of glad she didn’t stay anonymous, though, because I want to read whatever she writes and I’m glad I got to read this.

This sort of mass market crime fiction isn’t really my genre of choice, I’ll say that first.  I’ve read a few Agatha Christie, some of Poe and Conan Doyle’s detective stories, but they are all firmly ensconced in the ‘period fiction’ world and have little in common with your average James Patterson or …I can’t even think of another one. Is Lillian Jackson Braun still putting out those Cat Who detective books?

So, I’m not up on the genre.  But if I look back to Harry Potter, there was a lot of mystery.  And I was almost always fooled.  I remember I spent a good time yelling at everyone while reading Chamber of Secrets, because obviously it was Percy all along!!! Oh wait… And there were always threats of undercover agents and false identities (Mad-Eye Moody, Peter Pettigrew), and just general turncoats (Quirrell, Pettigrew again).  I never saw any of it coming.  JKR is really great at red herrings and distractors, so this sort of book is right up her alley.

The plot of The Cuckoo’s Calling centers around Cormoran Strike, a private detective in London, who has just broken up with his fiance and has his last few dollars sunk into his failing business.  A second protagonist is Robin, his temporary assistant from Yorkshire, who has always wanted to solve mysteries.  Strike gets a case from John Bristow, who grew up in the same small town as Strike.  Bristow wants Strike to look into the apparent suicide of his adoptive sister Lula, who was an up-and-coming model and tabloid favorite before she jumped out of her apartment window to her death.  Bristow is convinced it was murder, despite Lula’s history of bipolar disorder and messy relationships with drug-users. Suspects include her drug-addicted on/off boyfriend, her fashion industry friends, family, her biological parents, her neighbors.

In many ways, it’s your typical mystery novel.  Private detective with personal and financial problems, a seedy and mysterious backstory, convenient police and street connections used to acquire delicate information.  He talks to everyone who knew Lula, he runs down small clues and keeps notebooks of information.  He doesn’t share much with the reader about his thought process.  We see him ask questions, but he keeps his thoughts to himself about their possible interpretations.  He shares no theories, even with Robin. Sometimes it’s a little too much–it’s as if the characters know they shouldn’t give away too much and ruin the fun for the reader–but it’s part of the genre.  The author has to give you just enough that you have a decent chance of guessing correctly, but not so much that you can actually figure out the solution.  I think while I was reading it, the correct villain did occur to me but every other possible combination of perpetrator and motive also occurred to me.

In the end, the ‘who’ and ‘why’ reveal both surprised me and didn’t.  The thought had occurred to me, but I had dismissed it because it made no sense.  I still feel it doesn’t make tons of sense, and that is a little irritating. But I often find that, after a killer is revealed, I don’t feel satisfied by the explanation given, so this may not be entirely the fault of the novelist.  I may just find it hard to accept that so little is required to kill someone.

JKR has already announced a sequel that is written and ready to be published next year.  I will continue to read whatever she writes; that’s a given.  If this was written by someone else, it’s unlikely I would have read it in the first place–I had certainly never heard of it before the day she was ‘outed’ on Twitter.  I enjoyed the book enough to say I will enjoy the sequel. It was certainly much less bleak than A Casual Vacancy. For its genre, the book is enjoyable and well done.  Even though the genre isn’t really my thing, I still liked reading it.

And yet.  As much as I understand why JKR would want feedback on her writing from a position of anonymity, and as much as I comprehend her desire to write different things as she matures as human and as writer…I can’t help but wish.  I liked A Casual Vacancy, and I’d venture to say I liked Cuckoo’s Calling a bit more, but…  I’ll just come out and say it.  It’s no Harry Potter.

One of the most spectacular things about JKR’s writing, and certainly the most important part of her talent for storytelling is her ability to imagine and build worlds full of wonder and beauty and fate and everything we wish was plentiful on Earth, but is somewhat scarce in reality.  She creates amazing worlds that I could spend the rest of my life occupying.  Give me a cottage in Hogsmeade and I’m set for life. I’ll work at Flourish & Blotts and have a wand with unicorn hair and I’ll be happy.

Having her eschew the work of imagination and the worlds of fantasy and magic, to exist in the grim and gray reality that we all occupy, is unsatisfying for me.  It’s unsatisfying because she’s not utilizing a large part of what made her incredibly successful.  Like watching Picasso give up paints and work with washable Crayola markers. Worse, it’s like watching Dali color only in the lines in a coloring book. One of the super-conservative Christian coloring books my grandmother used to give me.

It’s also unsatisfying because I, as a reader, would just rather spend my time at Hogwarts, or the Ministry of Magic, or 12 Grimmauld Place. I enjoyed this book.  But that enjoyment is about .000002% of the enjoyment I would get out of a new Harry Potter short story.  Even a poem.  Even a Haiku!  So it will always be a bit of a let-down, a bit unsaturated, comparatively.

July 31st and my life with Harry Potter

I was planning to do a post on the Royal Baby today, but I care far more for another British boy, and it being July 31st, I really would rather talk about him.

Happy Birthday Harry Potter!

Happy Birthday HarryAs Joyce fans line up to celebrate Bloomsday every June 16th, Harry Potter fans continue to note and celebrate Harry’s Birthday every year.  It has been over 6 years since the final book was released, but the fandom is alive and well.  Perhaps not as active as they were back in the heyday, but still there nonetheless. There’s a local fish & chip shop here doing a 2 night HP trivia competition. There are special performances of HP-related music and plays in NYC, London, LA tonight.

It should also be noted that J.K. Rowling’s birthday is also July 31st, so Happy Birthday, Jo!

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the first book’s release, Scholastic has commissioned new paperback editions with new artwork. They just released the final cover image to celebrate today.

Deathly Hallows

So what is it about this book series that has an enduring hold on people? Who better to answer this question than me? I reread these books every year at Christmas. I would say I’ve read the first four books maybe 30 times (each).  I thought I would take today to share a short account of the difference these books made in my life.

My first exposure to Harry Potter was actually through the first movie.  There I was, firmly entrenched in the nadir of my life’s journey.

My mother died when I was 15, and that event had put me on a strange course in life, and led me to a pretty crippling bout with depression.  My aunt and uncle were appointed my guardians (sound at all familiar?), and they were the first people to ever make it clear to me that I was not good enough as I was.  They made me really feel the need for their approval, and (simultaneously) the complete absence of it.  I went to a university I didn’t care for in an attempt to please them, but my perilous emotional state made excelling (or even passing my classes) a bleak proposition.  They controlled the money, so as long as I was in school, I was under their control. So I left university halfway through my second year. I viewed this as temporary; I never wanted to not finish my degree. But life sort of spiraled after that.

So at 20, I was to be found living with a boyfriend who cheated on me, working two jobs to pay my bills, not reading or writing anymore (two activities that had truly defined my childhood), eating $1 frozen meals 3 times a day every day, wasting my entire life.  It was the worst my life has ever been, and I’m pretty confident the worst my life will ever be. Depression is a hell of a thing for making you hopeless and bleak and like you’ll never be cheerful again.

Then I went to see this movie everyone was talking about. I didn’t know anything about the story, I didn’t even know it was about magic.  I didn’t know Harry was a wizard until Harry knew.  I remember that exact moment, and a sense of wonder that broke through the haze of my own desolate mind.  Something literally clicked in my brain, and I remembered the amazing quality that stories have to take you out of your own experience and put you somewhere better.

I couldn’t afford to buy the books, as you might have guessed by the two jobs, $1 meals bit mentioned above.  The next day, during my lunch break, I walked to Barnes & Noble and sat myself down in the kid’s section and started to read.  I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next, so I actually skipped the first book and started the second right away.  I read every day on my lunch break–thank you B&N for not throwing me out–even though it was the holiday season at the Mall of America, and the crowds made me almost literally ill.

The only thing I asked for Christmas was the (then) 4 Harry Potter books.  I remember my grandmother asked me if I wanted to wait until they came out in paperback.  I laughed.  I didn’t want to wait until Christmas, let alone longer.

My family obliged, thank god.  I finished all four books in less than two weeks–impressive when you consider that I didn’t get holiday time off from either job.  Then I read them again.  And again.

At first, it was an escape.  Nothing more, really.  I could be completely immersed in a different world.  I loved the idea of fate, the humor, the fact that every new chapter could mean a totally unexpected event (I remember gasping at Ron’s flying car, and when I got to Peter Pettigrew unmasked as Scabbers, I actually turned back the pages to see if I’d read it wrong.). As an escape, it worked. I wasn’t depressed anymore; no time for depression when you have an obsession.

Over time, I found communities of other Harry Potter fans.  I found great friends (online, but still) to share this passion with. It’s a nerdy period of my life, with nerd keywords like fanfiction, chat room, role playing.  It’s also the period in my life when I found my my joie de vivre. I found my passion again. For reading, for writing, for all the things about the written word and the process of storytelling that have been so important to me since.  Not only did I read and reread Harry Potter, and read and write Harry Potter fanfiction, but I started reading again full stop. I read Jane Austen, Tolkien, Vonnegut, the Brontes, Nabokov, Dickens, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, The Bell Jar, Fahrenheit 451, and numerous other books that further expanded and changed my world view.  It was this period in my life that defined who I became as an adult.

My first trip to New York City came when I wanted to see J.K. Rowling speak, so she’s responsible for that too. For my first views of the Empire State Building, Washington Square Park, my first proper English beans on toast, my first subway trip.

All the reading and writing also directly led to me going back to school; this time as an English major.  It took me a long time to get back to a university that I liked, but once I did it I really did it right. I graduated with honors from one of the top 5 universities in the country. Harry Potter was the subject of my application essay.

The books led me to resume my own writing habit, and I’m now 65,000 words into my first novel.  When I finish it, I’ll know that Harry Potter led me to that moment as well.

The books led me back into university, but they also led me to study abroad in London–the best 6 months of my entire life. During that time in the UK, I saw 10 countries, 11 plays, approximately 20 museums and 15 churches, participated in a two week program backstage at the Globe Theatre, and got to go inside the Gringott’s Building (across the street from my uni.).

australia house

In fact, Harry Potter led me to my entire obsession with British culture, so it also led to this blog.  It has made an absolutely momentous impact on my life, and has shaped how I am and who I am today. No matter how long I live or how much I change in the course of my life, nothing is going to change how I feel about these books.  They saved my life.  Gave me a life worth living.

So Happy Birthday Harry, Happy Birthday Jo, and thank you both.