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Baby Driver – ★ ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Baby Driver

In Baby Driver, writer/director Edgar Wright has combined music and action to create one of the most exciting and stylish heist films I’ve seen in a long, long time.  It may have been a little heavier on style than it was on plot, but the mix made it incredibly entertaining.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best getaway driver criminal mastermind Doc (Kevin Spacey) has ever met, but now Baby wants out.  The timing couldn’t be better, he’s paid off the debt he owes Doc, and he’s just met an attractive waitress named Debora (Lily James).  But getting out of a life of crime is never as easy as one would think.  Doc has another robbery planned, which could be the most dangerous yet, not just because of the target, but because of the crew: Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza González) and Bats (Jamie Foxx).  Buddy and Darling are a couple and Bats is ….. well it’s probably best to describe him as batty…. or bat-shit crazy.  Baby is a great driver and when he’s behind the wheel he can escape any situation on the road, but once Bats discovers that Baby is trying to leave the crew on the night before their heist, he also discovers who Debora is (and where she works), then the real escape plan begins.  Baby has to find a way to get out of the heist, get Debora and get out completely, all without anyone following him, and without getting hurt.

When you heard talk of Baby Driver you probably heard people talking about the soundtrack, and it was incredible.  A fantastic mix of music that meshed organically and naturally with the action on screen.  It would be a shame if the film is not nominated for a few of the more technical Oscars this year.  I could see it getting nods for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing, and possibly even for Film Editing.  The thing about Edgar Wright’s films that I love is the amount of detail that goes into the script, the planning and that ends up on the screen.  During the opening credits, Baby is dancing along to the music (Harlem Shuffle) while on a coffee run and several of the lyrics appropriately show up on the screen, hidden in graffiti in the background at just the right time.  As in several other of Wright’s films, key plot points of the film are subtly foreshadowed well ahead of time.  Lines overheard on television end up being lines used by characters, and lines you think are throwaway lines end up coming true.

Solid acting was guaranteed with two Best Actor Oscar winners in the cast in Foxx and Spacey, but James and Elgort gave equally excellent performances as well.  The stunt work was top notch too, especially the driving (obviously).  I even managed to resist the urge to speed on my way home after seeing this in theatres.  Usually after seeing a movie that features a lot of car chases, I want to drive just like the people I saw on screen.  Heist movies are always fun, but Baby Driver managed to be more than just a simple summer popcorn flick.  It balanced the action, music, drama and even humour perfectly, creating a film that will be enjoyed for many years to come.

Bottom Line: I can’t wait to pick this up on Blu-Ray.  Wright usually puts a “trivia” track on the home video releases of his films so we can see exactly what he was thinking when a shot plays out, or we can see the Easter eggs he had hidden throughout the film.  I like to think I pick up on a lot of them, but it will be nice to see how many I miss!


Ant-Man – ★ ★ ★ ½ Theatrical Review

Ant-Man23.5 Stars

Did Marvel strike gold again by putting out a movie with a minor character, that not a lot of people know about?  Ant-Man reportedly opened to the second lowest box office take for a Marvel film.  So, while this wasn’t Guardians of the Galaxy, I found it really enjoyable.  I also think it will turn out to have played a very key role in setting up the future films of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe).

Hank Pym is Ant-Man, and Giant Man, and Goliath, and Yellow Jacket…at least in the comic books he is.  In the film, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is a retired scientist who had developed a formula for “Pym Particles” that allowed him to control the space between atoms allowing him to shrink and grow both objects and people.  With his special suit he shrank himself to become the Ant-Man, and carried out covert operations for SHIELD in the 1980s.  After an accident causes the death of his wife, and seeing the potential harm that can be wrought with his technology, he quits the super hero/secret agent game and takes his formula with him so that it can’t be used by anyone.  That of course doesn’t mean that someone won’t try to recreate it.  That someone is his former protege Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) who is coming very close to cracking the secret and creating a weaponized version of Pym’s technology in the form of the Yellowjacket armour.  Teaming with his estranged daughter, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and a reformed burglar named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), Pym plans to prevent this from happening.

Now, remember, this is an origin story, so we get a fair bit of exposition and quite a few montages as Lang learns to use the shrinking and growth abilities, as well as mastering his communication with ants.  All that being said, it really worked for me.  I had a blast, as the movie was light enough to entertain me and serious enough to fit with the rest of the MCU.  There weren’t a lot of fight scenes, at least not until the climax really, but that was okay because Ant-Man’s “training” sequences carried the action.

Originally Edgar Wright wrote a screenplay for Ant-Man, which was apparently not accepted or approved by the powers that be, and had to be re-written.  Some of his material must have remained as he did get a writing credit for the screenplay that was used, along with Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd.  I was a little worried that the film would be too comical with Paul Rudd as the star and with Edgar Wright’s script.  Fortunately that didn’t happen, and there was an incredible amount of balance.  We got Lang’s backstory, Pym’s backstory, and they both were parallel stories of redemption.  Scott is a released felon who wants to go straight and do right so he can get visitation and reunite with his young daughter.  Hank sees the potential danger and wants to come out of retirement to set things right, and reunite with his estranged daughter.  Piecing all this together with the other parts of the MCU, it just seemed to “click”.  That all being said, I’m now very curious to know what Wright’s unused story was all about.

I saw this one in 3D, which longtime readers will know, I try to avoid.  This time the scheduling of the 2D versions was terribly inconvenient for me, so I had to go 3D.  Fortunately the 3D seemed to work with the story, and didn’t just feel it was there because “everything has to be 3D”.  Ant-Man surprised me several times, and I was thankful.  I had expected the climax to be either Ant-Man growing giant for the first time and defeating Yellowjacket, or Hank Pym coming to rescue Scott and defeat Yellowjacket.  Both of which I still think would have been plausible plots, but I’m glad they didn’t chose to go that way.  Mainly because it leaves me hopeful that I haven’t seen every storyline played out and that I can still be surprised.

Watch for Stan Lee’s cameo, it’s another classic, and doesn’t turn up until nearly the end of the film. Is Marvel putting these off until later in the films because they know we’re watching for them, and therefore are paying more attention to their movies? If so, I have to applaud the move. If not, it still worked for me, because I was watching and waiting all along for Stan the Man. There are two “after the credits” scenes, so be sure to catch them both.  The first relates to Ant-Man specifically and occurs about two minutes into the credits; and the second, after ALL the credits, ties to the next film…Captain America 3: Civil War.

Bottom Line: For a multi-million dollar company, no one at Cross Technology/Pym Tech ever notices that they have an ant problem and puts down a few traps?

Sightseers – DVD review 3/5 stars

Product Details 3 Stars

“You’re giving to the world.  Take carbon footprints.
By reducing people’s lifespans, technically, you’re reducing their emissions.”
“So you’re saying that murder is green?”

A friend at work told me she watched this one and really liked it.  I’ll admit that at first, from her description I wasn’t all that interested until she said it was a British film.  That piqued my interest, and when I found out is was from Edgar Wright’s production company I was definitely on board.  Starring and written by Alice Lowe and Steve Oram, Sightseers is a road trip love story with some murder thrown on top.

Chris (Oram) takes his girlfriend Tina (Lowe) on her first real holiday as they drive in their caravan (or RV, or mobile home if you prefer) around the quaint English countryside, stopping at all sorts of kitschy little tourist spots like a railway site, the pencil museum, assorted caves and other spots of local interest.  Tina has had a very repressed life, living with her aged mother, and had been deeply affected by the death of her dog.  (Tina had been knitting on the couch when the doorbell rang, throwing a toy into the room to get Poppy away from the door the poor dog impaled himself on her upward pointing knitting needles.) After Chris accidentally runs over a man who was rude on their train tour, their holiday gets even darker.  Chris nearly runs another camper off the road in the race for a trailer site.  Chris and Tina meet the couple (Ian and Janice) afterwards and discover they have a dog (Banjo) that looks nearly identical to Tina’s dog Poppy.  In the morning, Chris kills Ian while out on a rocky hike, and then reluctantly brings along the only witness (Banjo) as he and Tina leave the campground while Janice tries to find her husband.  Now, was that first death so accidental?  Tina witnesses Chris go off on a small killing spree along their carefully planned holiday route and eventually joins in herself which thoroughly upsets Chris.  He kills people who annoy him, and who he thinks deserve it, Tina kills people who befriend her boyfriend.

Sightseers was a very dark comedy but also a smart movie.  Full of murder, the film should be quite disturbing, and I suppose to a degree it was, but the intelligence of the filmmakers shows through with every death.  The quiet but vicious Chris, and the awkward but creepy Tina compliment each other perfectly and both were well developed through the story.  You sympathized with them each time they killed someone, and just when you could be offended, they bring in the cute dog to balance everything out with a nice taste of innocence.  Very clever, and very real.  For the most part, Sightseers seemed to show a typical couple on a typical vacation which made the end of the movie all the more…shocking?  incredible?  funny?  fitting?

Bottom Line: if the English countryside were so quaint and safe how come there are so many murder mysteries set there?

The World’s End – DVD Review 3½ stars

Product Details3.5 Stars

As the third movie in Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright’s “Cornetto trilogy”, The World’s End may suffer a little bit with comparisons to the trio’s prior films.  The World’s End was quite funny and action packed, but in my opinion was the weakest of the three films.  Shaun of the Dead was brilliant, but Hot Fuzz was my favourite, as a fan of British crime drama the spin it took was fantastic to me.  Perhaps The World’s End was trickier because it wasn’t the first, there had been lots of humourous science fiction films before it.  Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz kind of paved the way with their humourous spins on their respective genres and were something that we really hadn’t seen before.

In The World’s End we follow a group of five childhood friends who are reunited by their ringleader Gary King (Pegg), who wants to relive what he feels was the greatest night of their life. The night they tried to complete the “Golden Mile”, a pub crawl through their hometown consisting of twelve pints at twelve pubs. They couldn’t complete it in their younger days, but somehow Gary convinces his friends, who have all moved on to seemingly successful lives, to come back to Newton Haven and try it again.  The only one who hasn’t moved on is Gary, who still drives the same Mk 2 Ford Granada he was driving 20 years ago.  Andy Knightly (Frost), Peter Page (Eddi Marsan), Steven Prince (Paddy Considine), Oliver Chamberlain (Martin Freeman) all fell out with Gary years ago and but because Gary said he got Andy to go along the others commit too.  As the “five musketeers” start along the pub trail, they discover that things in Newton Haven are not what they seem.  The town has been taken over by alien robots who have replaced most of the human citizens.  The action now kicks into high gear, as the terrifically choreographed fight sequences start, turning Nick Frost into an action hero.  The five friends meet up with Oliver’s sister Sam (Rosamund Pike) who joins them in their escape from the town.

What I love about these films is the reward you get if you pay attention; the films are full of foreshadowing and full of Easter Eggs. Did you notice that the main characters surnames all have royal/court connections: (Gary) King, (Andy) Knightly, (Peter) Page, (Steven) Prince, (Oliver) Chamberlain?  Or that Edgar Wright basically tells the entire story in the opening scenes?  The characters essentially meet the same fates that they met when they originally attempted the Golden Mile.  Even the names of the twelve pubs of the Golden Mile foreshadow the events that will take place there:

  • The first pub they visit is The First Post.
  • The second pub, The Old Familiar is exactly the same inside as The First Post. 
  • The Famous Cock is where Gary was banned for his actions as a teenager.
  • They get into a fight at The Cross Hands.
  • The drug dealer Reverend Green is met in The Trusted Servant.
  • They meet twin sisters in The Two-Headed Dog.
  • The characters are tempted to their downfall by beautiful women at The Mermaid, and the pub’s sign depicts a redhead mermaid with a blonde on each side, just like the “marmalade sandwich” that they meet inside.
  • They fight off swarms of robots enemies at The Beehive.
  • At The King’s Head, Gary King makes a last stand and decides to continue his journey without anyone else’s help, and the pub sign is a painting of Simon Pegg’s face.
  • Gary’s car is driven through The Hole in the Wall, leaving a hole in the wall.
  • Finally the events that transpire at The World’s End lead to the end of the world.

A nice switch in The World’s End, was that this time out Nick Frost played the kind, responsible friend and Simon Pegg played the much less likeable character.  He was a jerk, a drunkard and a bit of a loser at first.  Once things reveal themselves though, we understand how and why all the characters are where they are in their lives. The World’s End developed it’s characters very well through their various personal reveals and flashbacks.  I really enjoyed the journeys that all of them took, and it really made me care about them which added to my enjoyment of the film.

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