Top 10 performances of Bill Paxton

About a year or so ago I saw Bill Paxton in Nightcrawler, a rather excellent film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. It got me thinking that Paxton is a funny actor, in that he’s been around a long time (since the start of the ’80s), turns up fairly frequently, often delivering performances which elevate a scene or the entire thing – yet he’s not really got the plaudits he perhaps deserves.

And he’s 60 now (if you can believe it) which, given his body of work, means he’s approaching legend status in my book. Add to that his distinctive Texan drawl that’s perhaps only matched by Matthew McConaughey and you’ve got someone that should really be given more roles. C’mon Hollywood, you can do it.

And on that note, it makes picking ten of his best a tall order (his filmography turns up some gems, ‘Punk Leader’ in The Terminator anyone?) but here are my choices, in random order:

Private Hudson, Aliens (1986)
Morgan Earp, Tombstone (1993)
Simon, True Lies (1994)
John Garrett, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (2014)
Bill Harding, Twister (1996)
Master Sergeant Farell, Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Joe Loder, Nightcrawler (2014)
Fred Haise, Apollo 13 (1995)
Jerry Lambert, Predator 2 (1990)
Chet Donnelly, Weird Science (1985)

From his slimy and sleazy used car salesman seducing Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies to his gung-ho soldier immortalising lines like ‘Game over, man!’ and making them gold, Paxton has had a varied and compelling career. And in recent years he’s kept his output high, popping up as the bad guy in season 2 of Marvel’s blossoming Avengers spin-off, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and the good guy opposite Gyllenhaal’s sociopathic baddie in Nightcrawler. That’s range.

So hurrah for Mr Paxton. Keep on acting, you’re a legend and we love you.

Game over? Never!

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The World’s End and a marmalade sandwich

Just one Cornettoooo, give it to meeee! Is what I imagine fans have been singing outside Edgar Wright’s door for the last six years, demanding the final chapter of the Cornetto trilogy. God, has it been that long?

worlds-end-new-trailerWe had a mere three years between Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz (2007), yet it’s been twice that wait for the final instalment. Was it worth it? Largely…yes. I consider that a definitive answer. More than my usual balanced, sitting-on-the-fence reviews anyway. I’ll explain why but first, a quick run down of the plot.

Now, for those not in-the-know, me referring to The World’s End as the final of a trilogy can be somewhat confusing.

What links them?

Maybe unofficial trilogy is more accurate. Essentially, in-jokes, small telling references and the core team of Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost. Plus the very British tone and setting of each film. Oh – and actual Cornettos. Other than that, you’ve got a zombie comedy (Shaun essentially coined the term ‘zom-com’), a playful poke at ’80s action buddy cop movies, and now a sort of warped, apocalyptic, alien sci-fi.

It all begins with Garry King (Pegg) at an AA meeting, recounting the best night of his life; a pub crawl round his home town during his teens with childhood pals. 12 pubs, 12 pints.worlds-end-set-photo However, they never finish the crawl. A plan forms. Reunite the old gang and finish what they started. The crawl begins innocently enough, however they quickly realise the sleepy town is not what it once was, having quite possibly been taken over by aliens…or robots. They can’t quite decide as they’re drunk.

The issue I have is I’m guilty of comparing this to their past work. Ultimately you should judge a film on its own merits. It should stand on its own two feet. Unless of course, it is part of a true trilogy. As this isn’t I feel slightly torn comparing it to Shaun and Hot Fuzz. The former a comedy classic, the latter not far behind and improving with every viewing. This outing is a familiar, yet noticeably different beast.

Largely, The World’s End feels more epic in scope, the characters more layered and complex, and Wright’s direction feels more assured and technically accomplished (he’s clearly learnt how to direct good fight scenes from Scott Pilgrim). 48-the-worlds-end-filmAn interesting twist has Frost playing against type as the straight one for much of the film, as lawyer Andrew Knightley. Pegg’s Gary King is the loose, cavalier wildcard – brilliantly described by one reviewer as a cross between Neo and David Brent. As Mark Kermode says, ‘Damn, I wish I’d said that first!’

If you were to judge this as the final part of a trilogy, I’d say you can see clear progression. Shaun felt like a youthful, exuberant romp with zombies as a backdrop. Hot Fuzz offered a little more of the same, yet felt a shade more developed in terms of storytelling, comedy and action set pieces. The natural, easy chemistry between Pegg and Frost has also grown. The World’s End feels like the natural conclusion – easily the most grown up of the three. A comedy, but with more to say and more complex yet subtle ways of saying it.

That’s not to say it’s not free flowing and a barrel of laughs. Pegg and Frost – in some ways – feel like they picked up where they left off in Hot Fuzz and, whilst (sort of) new additions (Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike) all get some juicy lines to sink their teeth into, it is and always will be the Pegg and Frost show – and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

Oh, and the title of this piece refers to a redhead flanked by two blondes. If you’ve not seen the film yet, pay close attention to the fate of the marmalade/redhead, administered with gusto by Frost’s character. Gives new meaning to the phrase, ‘Until death do us part.’

On that note…the-worlds-end1