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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!


A few crossed off the list…

Product DetailsProduct Details4 Stars

Apparently gangster/crime movies were on my mind this week as I just finally got around to watching a pair of films I’ve been meaning to see for a while.  Both films were quite enjoyable and actually similar in several ways.  Both dealt with crime and assassinations; both had infamous underworld figures (Harry Waters played by Ralph Fiennes in In Bruges, and Keyser Söze played by someone else in The Usual Suspects).  Both had good “hype”, and both had strongly written stories and strong casts with everyone involved delivering a strong performance.

In Bruges is the story of a pair of hitmen; Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson); who are sent to Bruges (it’s in Belgium…) by their boss Mr. Harry Waters (Ralph Fiennes) after a job they are on has an unforeseen innocent victim.  In Bruges, they are told to relax until the heat is off back in London; until Mr. Waters tells Ken to kill Ray as a consequence for the results of his last hit.  Harry just wanted Ray to enjoy the fairy tale-like city before he died.  Along the way, Ray turns suicidal, falls in love, assaults several people and (along with Ken) argue the politics of race relations with a midget shooting a movie in town.  The film was full of dark humour and beautiful scenery as we are shown the wonders of the “best preserved medieval town in Belgium”.

The Usual Suspects should be well known to most, as there has been plenty of hype and conversation about the film which was the launching pad for Bryan Singer’s career.  Following a truck hijack in New York, five innocent criminals are brought together for questioning.  As they are in jail, Michael McManus (Stephen Baldwin), Dean Keaton (Gabriel Byrne), Fred Fenster (Benicio Del Toro), Todd Hockney (Kevin Pollak), and Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey) plan a job that they can do that will both net them riches and throw shame on the police department as well.  The job leads to another which leads to the involvement of a legendary criminal mastermind named Keyser Söze.  It is revealed that each one of the men has wronged Söze at some point in their criminal careers and now he is asking them to pay him back with another job.  Their final job leaves only one of the men alive to tell the tale but the real question that arises is who is Keyser Söze?  From the previews and the discussions it becomes obvious that the movie contains a massive twist, and knowing that you will be trying to guess who Keyser Söze is from the moment his name is mentioned.  I’ll say that Söze’s identity is pretty obvious given the hints that they drop throughout the film, but still it is an enjoyable and rewarding ride.  A few months ago someone made a joke to me about the identity of Keyser Söze not realizing that I hadn’t seen the movie yet.  Fortunately I blocked it out and allowed enough time to pass that I forget what they had said.   Did the inadvertent reveal spoil anything for me?  I can’t really be sure.  On a conscious level I’d forgotten, but perhaps subconsciously I hadn’t.  I did guess the ending, perhaps that was because I was looking too far forward, perhaps it could have been because I’ve seen a lot of movies in my day, or perhaps I did remember.  Whatever the reason, it didn’t stop me from enjoying the movie.

In Bruges came out in 2008, and The Usual Suspects is from 1995…well, four years late sounds a lot better than seventeen years late to the party, but at least now I know who Keyser Söze is.

I hope you enjoy these ramblings of mine and invite you to follow me on Twitter @G_Switzer .

Father of Invention

Product Details3.5 Stars

Did you miss me?  Fifth review in six days, hmph.  Wonder what that’s all about….

I just finished watching Father of Invention with Kevin Spacey, Camilla Belle and a host of others in what I found to be a quite enjoyable, light comedy.  Kevin Spacey plays Robert Axle, king of the infomercial pitch-men, head of his own 1.6 billion dollar empire.  Axle is not an inventor, but a fabricator, he takes two previously invented ideas, and combines them into one new, better product.  A night light and a vaporizer; a golf club and a weed trimmer; an ab cruncher and a television remote control…..well that last one didn’t work out so well because people kept chopping off their fingers in Axle’s fabrication, which lands him in jail for 8 years, and costs him his family and his fortune.  What some people have panned as being a poor satire, I think I enjoyed more because I got it; the film is not meant to be a satire of infomercials, or their products.  Father of Invention is light-hearted entertainment with the simple message that we should value and appreciate our families and be careful not to get too obsessed by our work.  Ironic that I enjoyed it, being a workaholic, or was it just that I could relate to the subject matter?

I will say that the plot is fairly predictable; you know that the down and out Axle starting from square zero will try to rebuild his empire.  You know that he will hurt people as he tries to dig himself out, and it is entirely likely that he will redeem himself by the end of the movie.  You will see Axle connect with every other character in the movie except his daughter, and he will be oblivious to this.  Still a predictable plot line does not mean the journey cannot be entertaining and enjoyable in itself.  Sometimes the humour was obvious, sometimes just reactionary (like a painting falling off a wall), sometimes slapstick, and  other times it did feel a bit forced, but the actors were all really good in my opinion, and helped move things along.

Camilla Belle as Axle’s daughter, Heather Graham playing her “angry lesbian” roommate, Anna Anissimova as her other roommate; Johnny Knoxville, John Stamos, Michael Rosenbaum, Craig Robinson and Virginia Madsen all make for an excellent supporting cast, and play well off Spacey, who is in nearly every scene.

Father of Invention is by no means a “must watch”, but it was an enjoyable film to pass the night, with a few laughs, and a chance to enjoy some talented actors.

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