Thomas Wolfe said you can't go home -- but the movie The World's End suggests that you can go back, get drunk, and battle identity-stealing robots.  Or something.  This movie is a comedy that's both funny and wildly inconsistent.
Gary King (Simon Pegg) is the textbook definition of an aging loser focused on reliving his youth.  The movie opens with Gary recounting how, on graduation from high school in 1990, he and four friends tried to complete the "epic" Golden Mile: drinking a pint at each of twelve pubs in their sleepy little town of Newton Haven, with the last one being the World's End.  When Gary realizes they never actually finished the Golden Mile, he decides to get his buddies together to try again.  Andy (Nick Frost), Oliver (Martin Freeman), Steven (Paddy Considine), and Peter (Eddie Marsan) all have grown-up jobs and families, plus they don't like Gary much; something Gary did led Andy to quit drinking.  But Gary pleads, lies, and fast-talks the guys to meeting him back in their old town to try the Golden Mile again.  They're also joined, off and on, by Oliver's sister Sam (Rosamund Pike), who Steven has a crush on and Gary had a brief fling with.

The trip down the Golden Mile starts as expected, with Gary being a jackass constantly and the others going along (even if Andy only drinks tap water).  But a run-in with some teens in the men's room reveals that some, perhaps many, of the townspeople have been replaced with robots (called "Blanks") filled with blue liquid who attack Gary and his buddies with outstretched hands.  The friends don't know how far the conspiracy goes -- or who are Blanks and who are townspeople going along with them -- but Gary persuades the others that they have to finish the Golden Mile to avoid attracting attention.  And so there's lots of drinking, with frequent robot battles and bits of philosophy -- with the ultimate goal of the World's End.

The World's End is pretty silly, and in some ways quite clever.  Pegg makes Gary a pretty unlikable character, someone who resolutely refuses to grow up -- he even has his car from 1990, complete with the same mix tape that was in it them -- and who gets his friends to go along with him by simply talking and talking until they give in.  There are also jabs at the small towns, from the sameness of the local pubs to the small-town paranoia of outsiders; and the supporting cast all have plenty of comic moments.  But the attempt to switch from a simple drinking comedy to nature of humanity feels like tacking on some unnecessary gravitas to a goofy film.  The movie is also conveniently inconsistent when it comes to the Blanks -- at times the fight like martial arts masters, at other times the guys can beat up dozens of them -- and the film completely glosses over the pretty horrible fate of those who are replaced.  The World's End is a funny movie that would have benefited from more consistency in both its story and its universe.

Overall grade: B-
Reviewed by James Lynch




The horror movie where a group of people are trapped and under siege is nothing new.  You're Next could have been just the latest in this tradition (not to mention the attackers being masked), but this horror movie adds something fairly new: a would-be victim who can fight back.
The Davison family --three sons, one daughter -- is getting together to celebrate their parents' 35th wedding anniversary.  They meet up at the parents' giant, fairly isolated house (there is a house close by, but since the movies opens with those folks getting killed, the isolation factor is maintained) for dinner and conversation.  Crispian Davsion (AJ Bowen) gets the most grief from his relatives, whether teasing from his big brother Jake (Joe Swanberg) or disappointed comments from his father Paul (Rob Moran).  Crispian also brought Erin (Sharni Vinson), his Australian girlfriend, to meet the family.  (Everyone else brought a date or spouse too.)
The family dinner is interrupted in the worst way possible: by crossbow bolts.  Three people wearing animal masks lay siege to the Davison house, using a crossbow, machete, and ax to kill everyone they can.  (And, of course, one of them is inside.)  But it turns out that Erin is good at everything from survival to making booby traps to killing, and soon the victims start turning the tables on the attackers.  But the Davisons weren't chosen at random...
You're Next works quite well as a simple variant of the slasher flick.  There are plenty of nods to horror movie cliches (frequent slow motion, synthesizer music that feels like it came out of the 1980s, slow camera shots that drift closer, the "shock" ending) but they're done well enough that the movie doesn't feel cheap or derivative.  The actors don't have much to do besides scream and run (except for Vinson, who gets to be a kick-ass take-charge hero) but there are plenty of scares (with a decent amount of gore) and twists to keep You're Next entertaining -- and pretty nerve-wracking from start to end.

Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch



For me, one of the highlights of comic book/fantasy/sci-fi conventions is the costuming. Some of the attendees are cosplayers (costumed players) who create amazing costumes of characters from all fantasy genres, and some of the work is truly spectacular. The Syfy Channel has taken on this world with their series Heroes of Cosplay, looking at the folks who are professional cosplayers -- or who are trying to be.
Each episode of this series looks at several different cosplayers as they prepare to compete in the cosplay competitions at America's biggest fantasy conventions. Some are longtime cosplayers, some are new (the second episode had someone with an online cosplay program who wanted to experience the world firsthand), some want to make a profession from it (like Jesse -- the show's only male competitor so far) and others want to make their living winning the grand prizes. Then there's Yaya Han, a former competitor who became so famous she retired from competiting and works as a judge at cosplay competitions. She also feels the need to keep creating amazing costumes to maintain her reputation -- and to keep getting the judging jobs, presumably.
While Heroes of Cosplay does a good job of showing how these people put their costumes together (with lots of help from friends, family, and significant others) and approach competition, the show is maddeningly vague in other areas. Are these people geeky in other aspects of their lives, or just when it comes to costuming? How much money can they actually make from competing, and are their other folks besides Yaya who sustain themselves solely through cosplay? How do they balance their friendships (lots of the cosplayers meet for dinner at the conventions the night before the competition) with the fact that they're competing with each other? And what is it like when the conventions end and the real world returns?
Heroes of Cosplay is less manipulative than other reality tv shows and makes less fun of the fantasy world than other shows (such as King of the Nerds), but it still could have gotten a little more in-depth with both the world of cosplay and the lives of these uber-competitors. It's a decent look at the costuming side of conventions, but there should be a bit more. Overall grade: B- Reviewed by James Lynch



As the years go on, more and more people find out the surprise in The Empire Strikes Back -- one of cinema's biggest surprises -- not from the original movie, but rather from comedies like Spaceballs, Robot Chicken, or YouTube videos. Fortunately, I didn't feel a similar sense of being ripped off from seeing Starship Troopers for the first time while it was being endlessly mocked by the Rifftrax folks. This is a testament to their comedic skill -- and the many weaknesses of the original movies.

Rifftrax: Starship Troopers was the latest live movie theater showing of Rifftrax, the talking-during-the-movie comedy of Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett. (It's also the first Rifftrax project funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign.) The three mercilessly attack the almost-campy space action/melodrama that is Starship Troopers. Some jokes come from the movie's recurring elements (such as which drags more: the innumerable bug battles or the slow shots of model spaceships gliding through space), some from the cast (from Denise Richards' vapidity to Neil Patrick Harris being the only big successful member of the cast). The three hosts even find a... unique way to deal with the two big moments of nudity from Starship Troopers.
Rifftrax: Starship Troopers is a lot of fun. While there are several times when the explosions and gunfire of the original drown out the jokes, Nelson, Murphy and Corbett keep the funny flying fast and furious. It would have been hard to take Starship Troopers seriously before -- but at least it provided some good fodder for comedy! Overall grade: A- Reviewed by James Lynch



What happens when a bunch of misfits decide to pose as a wholesome all-American family so they can smuggle drugs? You get We're the Millers, a profanity-filled, predictable comedy.

David (Jason Sudekis) is a small-time drug dealer who winds up getting mugged, losing his stash, his money, and the money belonging to his rich boss, Brad Gurdlinger (Ed Helms). Normally Brad would just have David killed, but Brad has an alternative: David travels to Mexico, picks up "a smidge and a half" of marijuana in an RV, brings it back to the states, and Brad will void what David owes, plus pay David a hundred thousand dollars.
Too bad David looks like a scumbag drug dealer -- until he realizes that no one looks at families twice, so he decides to hire a family. He recruits Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a stripper, to be his wife; nice-but-dorky Kenny (Will Poulter) and tough homeless girl Casey (Emma Roberts) pose as his kids. Together they become the Millers, head to Mexico, pick up the drugs (a few tons' worth), and return to the U.S. Unfortunately, the drugs belonged to Pablo Chacon (Tomer Sisley), a rival of Brad's who'll kill to get his merchandise back. It also doesn't help that the Millers keep running into the Fitzgerald family (Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn, Molly Quinn), who are as wholesome as the Millers pretend to be -- and that Don is a D.E.A. agent.
I suppose We're the Millers might have had some sort of commentary about what lies just beneath the surface of everyday society -- but the movie skips that for some very obvious laughs. There are numerous unbelievable action scenes, pretty obvious set-ups (such as stripper Rose not just performing, but with perfectly choreographed moves, lighting, and machines; or someone walking in on Kenny at the worst possible time), a tendency to use cursing as a substitute for jokes, and the sadly inevitable shift towards sentimentality. There are some funny moments in We're the Millers, but overall the movie is more coarse and obvious than amusing. Overall grade: C- Reviewed by James Lynch