Simon Pegg – Man Up

December 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

He might be breaking box office records this week with his role in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” but British actor Simon Pegg says he’ll always keep independent film close to his heart.

In his new indie British romantic comedy “Man Up,” Pegg, who broke into the mainstream in 2004 with the zombie parody “Shaun of the Dead,” stars as Jack, a 40-something guy trying to land on his feet while maneuvering through a messy divorce. Making a first attempt to meet someone new, he agrees to a blind date with a woman only to see it get hijacked by another girl (Lake Bell) who finds herself in the middle of a case of mistaken identity.

During an interview with the me, Pegg, 45, who has been married for 10 years, talked to me about how thankful he is not to be part of the dating scene, dancing on film to Duran Duran, and what was up with all the “Silence of the Lambs” references in his new rom com.

What do you think the biggest difference is between British romantic comedies and ones made in the U.S. and what was it about “Man Up” that you found so interesting?

I don’t know if there is a huge difference, really. I mean, it’s dealing with the same thing, which is the quest for love and the kind of misadventures we get into on that road. Obviously the attitudes are different slightly. The British…there is a lot of drinking involved in this one. (Laughs) People seem to rely on that in order to loosen themselves up socially. I think ultimately, though, they tend to be about the same thing. It’s a very human idea – the search for love in a sea of confusion and mistakes. [“Man Up”] is particularly full of those things because the whole thing starts with a misunderstanding or a deception and takes place over one crazy night. It was a real fun screenplay to read.

What characteristics, if any, do you think you share with your character Jack?

Well, I’m happy married. Jack is a 40-something divorcee. I can only imagine what it must be like to suddenly be “out there” again like Carrie Fisher in “When Harry Met Sally.” The idea of your entire reality sort of breaking down and you suddenly being back out in the trenches having come away from all that to settle down, I can’t imagine how awful that must be. (Laughs) I’m sorry if you’re going through that. So, one thing you can look forward to is a lot of meaningless relationships for a while before you try and find “the one” again. It’s a terrifying world, I think, for people who are dating.

How do you think you’d fare if you were thrown back into the dating scene today?

I don’t know. I was never really out there anyway. A lot of girls I had relationships with I had met at parties. I didn’t do that thing where you designate a time and place and you sit opposite each other and decide whether or not you want to have sex, which is kind of what a date is, really. (Laughs) I just went straight to the sex. I don’t know. I think I would probably be terrible. I think I would try and use my meager celebrity to impress girls and go home miserable when it didn’t work.

If you were a single guy and you decided to hang out with Jack for a night on the town, who would have better luck with the ladies?

Well, Jack is not as famous as me, but he might get a lot of the backwash. (Laughs) I’m really making myself laugh. I don’t know. Jack is very damaged and burned from his previous relationship. But there is something vulnerable and sweet about him for that reason. Once he stops trying to be someone he’s not, he’s actually a sweet guy who is just trying to find his partner in the modern world. I think that’s an appealing thing. He’s not as funny as me. And funny is the key. Looks fade, man. Funny is forever.

What would be your first instinct if you were at a club in real life and someone started playing Duran Duran? Were some of those your best moves we saw in this movie?

Yeah! That was something [screenwriter] Tess [Morris] came up with. At this point Jack and Nancy (Bell) are at odds and arguing. The deception has been revealed. But somehow they find themselves in sync by this weird dance routine that they somehow remember from their younger days. It’s a way of showing Jack and Nancy in perfect harmony as well as having a fight. It’s really a clever little device. We choreographed the dance. If you hear the song in a discotech, you would, of course, jump up. When I was 16 and that song came out I was like, “Ugh, Duran Duran.” Now it’s a stone-cold classic.

Instead of Duran Duran, was there ever any talk of you dancing to “Goodbye Horses” since there are so many Silence of the Lambs references in the film?

(Laughs) With my tail between my legs? Yeah, I think that might’ve been just too creepy. (Laughs) That would’ve just pushed it one note too far.

Are most people picking up on the “Silence of the Lambs” edit in the final scene?

Yeah, I think that’s a lovely little nod. Obviously the film is referenced early on in the movie. It pays off. I’m a big fan of that sort of foreshadowing. I know for a fact that Tess, who is currently in Los Angeles, is screening Man Up as a double bill with “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s one of the most eclectic double bills in film history, but not without some sort of connective tissue.

Is it pretty effortless at this point in your career to go back and forth between smaller projects like “Man Up” and then jump into things as massive as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek?”

Yeah, it seems to be. It’s not like their different buses, really. You go script by script. It’s not like I specialize in blockbusters. I’ve been fortunate enough, maybe because of J.J. Abrams and my friendship with him, to latch on to some of these huge movies. I’m from independent film. That’s where I started. I always want to have some place there. I love the industry and the passion that goes into independent filmmaking. It’s something I want to stay with.

This interview first ran at sacurrent.com.

 

Ep. 48 – Tomorrowland, Poltergeist, Slow West, Simon Pegg’s comments rile up the internet, Reese Witherspoon to play live-action Tinker Bell, and we wrap up our visit to the San Antonio Symphony’s John Williams concert

May 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Podcast

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Click here to download the episode!

In this week’s episode of The CineSnob Podcast, the guys from CineSnob.net review “Tomorrowland,” “Poltergeist,” and “Slow West.” They also discuss the San Antonio Symphony’s Star Wars and More – John Williams tribute concert, Simon Pegg’s controversial comments about spectacle movies, and Reese Witherspoon being cast in a live-action Tinker Bell movie.

[0:00-21:15] Intro, 1 year anniversary, San Antonio Symphony – John Williams tribute concert wrap up
[21:15-37:56] Simon Pegg’s comments on fanboy movies make people angry
[37:56-45:24] Reese Witherspoon to play live action Tinker Bell for Disney
[45:24-1:05:04] Tomorrowland
[1:05:04-1:16:10] Poltergeist
[1:16:10-1:27:22] Slow West
[1:27:22-1:38:19] Teases for next week and close

Subscribe to The CineSnob Podcast via RSSiTunes or Stitcher.

To give your feedback, e-mail us at podcast [at] cinesnob [dot] net, or leave a voicemail at 920-FILM-210.

The World’s End

August 26, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine
Directed by: Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”)
Written by: Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”)

Dating back to their British TV show “Spaced” which debuted in 1999, writer/director Edgar Wright, writer/actor Simon Pegg and actor Nick Frost have been inextricably linked. Their zombie comedy film “Shaun of the Dead” launched the trio into cult status, paving the way for what became known as the “blood and ice cream” or the “three flavours Cornetto trilogy,” a series of loosely related comedic takes on certain film genres.  Now, the three have come together to finish off the project by tackling sci-fi elements in “The World’s End.”

In an attempt to finish a legendary pub crawl that was attempted and failed at 20 years ago, Gary King (Simon Pegg), an immature man stuck in the past, gathers his reluctant friends lead them on a of night of binge drinking one last time. As their journey proceeds, memories surface, beer flows and past demons are faced. When an army of identity-stealing alien robots crash their party, the five childhood friends must do everything they can to save the human race (not to mention throw back a few more pints).

In a bit of a role reversal from the first two films in the series, Pegg plays the more immature character while Frost is the straight-laced one. Unsurprisingly, Pegg excels, injecting comedic energy, physical comedy, and perfect line delivery. Pegg is easily one of the best comedic actors around today. For the more buttoned-up character, Frost plays it straight for the first half of the film. But as he loosens up, he shows a surprising knack for fight sequences and becomes progressively funnier. A scene in which he leaves a bar and accidentally breaks the door’s window is the biggest laugh of the year. As for the other three friends in the supporting cast (Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsden), there are some mixed results, but Marsden has the biggest impact, especially as we watch him get soused.

Wright’s signature visual and comedic style is on full display, with plenty of rapid-fire cheeky dialogue, clever wordplay, jokes that stem from unique editing or zooms, and the occasional bit of slapstick. The humor is perhaps a little less subtle than the other films, but in terms of sheer volume of jokes and laughs, “The World’s End” competes for the top spot in the trilogy. Where “The World’s End” is separated from the pack is its inability to successfully have anything to say in terms of the sci-fi genre. Part of what made the first two films so successful is that they were able to poke fun at genres, but also stay convincing and well-executed enough to become worthy entries into the genre itself.

When the night turns more dangerous and alcohol-fueled is when things get amped up. Smashing robot heads in, dismembering limbs, and getting covered in the blue “blood” that follows, the boys don’t pull any stops. Surprisingly, Wright doesn’t opt for the obvious “you’ve got blue on you” reference and connective tissue to “Shaun of the Dead.” While these scenes are well choreographed and entertaining enough, they run their course relatively quickly. The sci-fi elements never feel like a potential genre game-changer or even strong parody.

While Pegg and Wright’s themes work fine in the context of the film and are vehicles for a great performance from Pegg, those thematic elements and more emotional scenes pale in comparison to the themes of arrested development and reluctance of commitment seen in “Shaun of the Dead,” for example.

When compared to the other films in the series, “The World’s End” is a clear rung below “Shaun” and “Hot Fuzz.” While it lacks the razor-sharp genre lampooning of its predecessors, it is still quite easily the funniest film of the year so far.

Simon Pegg – Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Star Trek Into Darkness,” the second film of the series directed by J.J. Abrams, actor Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz”) reprises his role as Montgomery Scott (AKA Scotty), the chief engineer on the Starship Enterprise. In this sequel, Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) leads a man hunt for a former commander (Benedict Cumberbatch) who has gone rogue.

Was it always a given you would be returning to play Scotty for a sequel or was there a lot of deal making that had to be done before that happened?

I was excited to do it. We spent the years between the first “Star Trek” and this one just waiting for the call because we had such a great time on the first film. Doing the second one was a no-brainer.

J.J. Abrams, of course, was so instrumental in the success of the first film. Do you think you would’ve reprised your role if he had decided not to direct “Into Darkness?”

The thing is, J.J. was always going to be involved in “Star Trek.” Even if he came back as a producer his stamp would have always been on it with Bad Robot Productions. If the film had nothing to do with Bad Robot and J.J. Abrams, then, yeah, that would have been a concern, but that was never a possibility.

How has Scotty changed after the events of the 2009 film?

Well, we worked out that the events of this film take place about six months after the first “Star Trek.” Scotty is fairly ensconced in engineering on the Enterprise. He has the job he wanted and is very happy tending the warp core and doing his thing down in engineering. Then the events of “Into Darkness” somewhat upset that.

When a start date for a “Star Trek” sequel is up in the air for so long like this one was, how does it affect you as an actor and planning what projects you work on until a date is set?

You just have to get on with stuff. The organization is good in that they give us advanced warnings so we can keep that time free.  We’d run into trouble otherwise. But they have the option on you as well, so they can basically just pull you out of anything. When you get involved with something like “Star Trek” you agree that when they say go you say OK. But it worked out well for everybody. We were all there front and center on the first day and available for the five months it took to shoot the movie.

Now that we know this new series of “Star Trek” movies isn’t going anywhere for a while, as an actor is it exciting to know that even if everything else goes to shit, you’ll have a “Star Trek” movie to do every few years or so?

I would be very lucky if that was the case. It’s a great film to work on and a great bunch of people to hang out with. I think any actor would be foolish not to see that as a blessing.

I was never a fan of the TV series or the original films, but I really enjoyed what J.J. Abrams did with his version. Was creating a new fan base something that was important to you?

I think what was most important to us was making a good film.  We made a film for film lovers. Whether people enjoyed it in the moment as a single film or joined up with the allegiance of lifetime “Star Trek” fans out there, the important thing was that the film itself was an effective and enjoyable piece of cinema. We all worked our asses off to make sure that happened. Everyone around J.J. commits themselves 100 percent as J.J. does. He leads by example. All of us just wanted to do our very best for the film.

What was it like having a fellow Englishman, Benedict Cumberbatch, join the cast as the villain?

Well, we had him and Alice Eve, too, who is also British, and Noel Clarke, even though we don’t see him as much. We had our own little British contingent on this movie, which was kind of nice. But we didn’t sit in a corner alone drinking tea and eating cucumber sandwiches. It was a very integrated cast. We all welcomed our new team members with open arms. Everyone settled in really nicely. Even if Benedict was playing the bad guy, he was still accepted into our conversations off set.

What are your thoughts on the film being converted into 3D in post-production? I know as an actor those decisions are out of your control, but in the past, we’ve seen films go through this conversion and not really work.

I wasn’t worried because we didn’t make a 3D film. We made a 2D film. J.J. wanted to shoot anamorphically and you can’t shoot like that with 3D cameras. The compromise J.J. came to with the studio, whose decision it was for the film to be in 3D, was to shoot the film in 2D and then convert it and also push the technology of conversion in doing so. I saw the film in 3D and even though I’m not a huge fan of it as a narrative device – because it has no value at all – there is definitely value in the sensation you get watching environments like the Klingon high world or deep space or the future. There are environments that are genuinely awe inspiring. It’s another dimension of enjoyment you can participate in if you want. If you don’t, you can watch it in 2D. I strongly recommend watching it in 2D because then you’re solely concentrating on the characters and the story rather than the effects. Although I have to say the effects are very important in a story like this because it is a science fiction story and you are looking at an imagined world.

Are you a fan of secrecy behind making blockbusters like “Star Trek?” Studios spend so much time making sure nothing about the film leaks and then release photos and posters and clips little by little. As a fanboy yourself of certain things like “Star Wars,” does that drive you crazy or really build up excitement?

I think it’s necessary. Sometimes I think [studios] release too much. I think secrecy is vital because it’s all about protecting the experience of the audience. It’s not just about protecting the film. People can be weak minded and want to know what’s coming, so they need to be protected from themselves. I think you’d want to enjoy any film as it was intended by the writers, with every twist and turn revealed to you as you see it for the first time and not after you see it in some magazine or on some website prior just because those people want to sell advertising. The kind of people that want to spoil the things we do by leaking secrets or revealing plot details are the enemy as far as I’m concerned. I owe those people nothing least of all the truth. I feel very strongly about that.

I can definitely feel that you do. But in this day and age, some asshole is going to see “Star Trek Into Darkness” opening night and after he or she comes out of the theater – or even during the movie itself – is going to jump on Facebook or Twitter and give something away on purpose.

Yeah, unfortunately, there are assholes out there. That’s what we learned from this.

Really? Did anything specifically happen?

Well, I just think people won’t relax and allow it to happen naturally. People are so impatient and have to speculate. In a sense, that even spoils things. Then people are disappointed because they think they know and then they are wrong. It’s intensely childish, really. Just wait until it comes out and then you’ll have all the answers. But some people enjoy that kind of speculation. I guess some people have fun in guessing what’s going to happen. But, ultimately, spoilers are for the weak minded. Spoilers are like a big torch that illuminates the darkness. They’re for people who are too frightened to experience the film and already know what is around the corner. I think if you carry around one of those torches, you’re no friend of mine.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t just happen when people are following movie news. We saw a lot of speculation with the Boston Marathon bombings where networks like CNN basically started reporting rumors as fact during that entire week. I found it insane how much bad information was circulated during that time.

Yeah, I think the dissemination of information is just so intent. Theories can suddenly become fact in a heartbeat. I think that’s the fault of the internet. Anybody can start a website and anyone can appear like they are a printed journalist. People who have no journalistic instinct can pass things as fact. It’s very dangerous when people who don’t have the skill and the sensitivity and the credentials and the integrity of real journalists start spreading rumors around. It’s a very difficult thing to regulate, really. You can’t do anything about it. The best way is to not look at it and to choose your news sources carefully. That’s for both factual news and for entertainment news. If you don’t want to know what’s going to happen in a film, don’t go looking at websites run by nerds.

Star Trek Into Darkness

May 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko

Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch
Directed by: J.J. Abrams (“Star Trek”)
Written by: Roberto Orci (“Star Trek”), Alex Kurtzman (“Star Trek”) and Damon Lindelof (“Prometheus”)

Already having given audiences the best “Mission Impossible” film of the series with the third installment in 2006 and the best “Star Trek” movie with his hip revamp in 2009, director J.J. Abrams attempts to top himself again by joining up with the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek Into Darkness,” a solid follow-up to Abrams’ first foray into space seven years ago. It’s more proof that you don’t have to be a Klingon-speaking geekboy to find this franchise one of the more fascinating big-budget sci-fi projects to hit the mainstream in the last four or five years.

Of course, if you are one of those hardcore “Star Trek” fans that won’t be happy with the shape of Mr. Spock’s ears in comparison to Leonard Nimoy’s or looking forward to nitpicking any number of creative choices Abrams makes that are different from the original TV show, then it’s probably best if you stay home and Netflix “The Trouble with Tribbles.” This isn’t your grandfather’s “Star Trek.” For those interested in another fresh take from Abrams and have the open-mindedness to let things go, then “Into Darkness” just might be the popcorn movie of the pre-summer.

Working loosely off 1982’s “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” which is what most “Star Trek” aficionados agree is the best of the original films, we join the crew of the Enterprise as they search for John Harrison (Benedict Cumberbatch), a former commander who has gone rogue. On his trail and reprising their roles from the 2009 film are Chris Pine as Capt. Kirk, who was recently relieved and then reinstated as Captain; Zachary Quinto as Mr. Spock; Zoe Saldana as Uhura; Karl Urban as Bones; Simon Pegg as Scotty; John Cho as Sulu; Anton Yelchin as Chekov; and Alice Eve as new and attractive science officer Carol Marcus. When they catch up to Harrison on a Klingon planet, the crew is shocked to learn there is more to their manhunt than simply eliminating a powerful villain.

Aside from the outstanding action sequences and set pieces that packed its predecessor, “Into Darkness” also takes an effective emotional turn with the relationship between Capt. Kirk and Mr. Spock. Kirk’s massive ego and bullheaded nature and Spock’s reluctance to break regulation frame their interaction very well. Pine and Quinto once again take command of the characters in the same way William Shatner and Nimoy did in the late 60s. Sorry, purists, but those roles are theirs now.

With today’s technology catching up to Gene Roddenberry’s creation, the universe feels even more volatile, which makes for an exciting adventure with this crew. Who knows how long Abrams will stay on board (now that he’s been dubbed to lead the new “Star Wars” movie in 2015), but he’s laid some great groundwork for a dozen more and has taken the storytelling to a place few directors have gone before.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

December 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, Simon Pegg
Directed by: Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”)
Written by:  Andre Nemec (TV’s “Alias”) and Josh Applebaum (TV’s “Alias”)

The “Mission: Impossible” franchise is an odd one.  As the only, “Hey, let’s update an old TV show!” film series to make it out of the ’90s alive (“Lost in Space,” anyone?), the movies have been a mishmash of styles, each film having little to nothing to do with the one that preceded it aside from the character of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).

The first one, released 15 years ago and directed by Brian De Palma, was Tom Cruise’s answer to James Bond with elements from the TV show, like fantastic disguises and self-destructing messages,  grafted onto the plot for name recognition alone. “M:I- 2” in 2000 was a balletic John Woo-directed fever dream that featured things like a motorcycle fight and slow-motion doves. In 2006, “Mission: Impossible III,” directed by J.J. Abrams, brought a lens-flared grittiness to the series. Hunt took a beating after finally being held accountable to the laws of physics, and the franchise was given new life, as if a tiny explosive device had been shot up its nose.

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol,” directed with ease by animation veteran Brad Bird (“The Incredibles”) ends up being the first true sequel in the series. Continuing the tone set by Abrams (credited here as a producer) “Ghost Protocol” opens to find Hunt locked away in a Russian prison. With the help of agent Jane Carter (Paula Patton), recently-promoted agent Benji Dunn (Simon Pegg) and Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head,” Hunt manages to stage an elaborate escape. The IMF needs Hunt, because it seems the recent murder of IMF agent Trevor Hanaway (Josh Holloway) has resulted in the loss of Russian nuclear launch codes that could bring about the end of the world. After a mission to infiltrate the Kremiln and obtain a launch device goes awry, resulting in the IMF being branded as terrorists and disavowed, it’s up to Hunt, Carter, Dunn, and analyst-turned-agent Brandt (Jeremy Renner) to stop global nuclear war.

While you can’t deny the slickness of the presentation, it’s the mechanics of the plot that dampen the enjoyment. The film’s big action set piece, featuring Cruise sprinting vertically down the side of the world’s tallest skyscraper, ends up being the end result of an incredibly robust network firewall, of all things (not to mention that his stealth is undone by running on the outside of building on actual windows), and the back story of Renner’s character (rumored to be a replacement for Cruise in future missions) is unceremoniously defanged by the time the credits roll. The gadgets range from innovative and fun, like an iPad-powered cloaking device, to complex and contrived, like a magnetic hover suit/robot combo. As villains go, Michael Nyqvist’s Kurt Hendricks is a disappointing bore, especially following Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliantly psychotic turn as Owen Davian in “M:I-3.” While Cruise’s Hunt remains a cipher, Renner and Pegg combine for some welcome bursts of humor, and the chemistry of the pairing is reassuring for the day Cruise decides to step away.

The stakes have never been higher and the spectacle has never been greater, but the plotting has never felt more episodic. After raising the bar with the third movie, you can’t help but feel a little let down that Cruise, Abrams, and Bird merely maintained the status quo.

Paul

March 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Seth Rogen
Directed by: Greg Mottola (“Adventureland”)
Written by: Simon Pegg (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Nick Frost (debut)

In the hands of anyone else but Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and “Paul” might’ve been a disaster on any intergalactic planet. As it is, the alien comedy written by the stars of the incredibly funny zombie rom-com “Shaun of the Dead,” has just enough originality to keep the nerdy movie references and obvious extraterrestrial gags from turning into a shameless sci-fi parody.

In the film, Pegg and Frost play Graeme Willy and Clive Gollings, best buddies on a road trip that starts at Comic Con in San Diego and sends them trekking through the heartland of America in their RV in search of the geekiest landmarks they can find. The boys hit the motherload when they come upon a living, breathing alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen), who has escaped a military base after spending the last 30 years kicking back and working as a consultant to help create many of the science fiction classics the world has come to love. Sure, the story is a stretch, but at least a Steven Spielberg voice cameo makes up for some of the narrative’s weaker plot points.

On Paul’s trail is a crack team of the FBI’s finest, led by Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) who is looking to recapture the pot-smoking alien before he finds a way to get back home. Actors Bill Hader and Jo Lo Truglio round out the agents with little panache. Kristen Wiig also can’t seem to find her footing as the religious daughter of a trailer park owner who is forced to go along on the harmless misadventure.

Directed by Greg Mottola (“Superbad,” “Adventureland”), raunchy humor takes a backseat to the jokes and scenarios fanboys will be glad to see pop up on screen, including references to “Star Wars,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” and “E.T.” It’s not nearly close to the laughfest the Pegg/Frost combo has been in the past, but it is passable entertainment for those moviegoers who would throw a fit if someone misidentified Jango Fett for Boba Fett. If that last sentence made any sense, “Paul” will probably play to perfection in your personal geekdom.