Baby Driver: Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
The Big Sick: Even when “The Big Sick” is making jokes about terrorism and the “X-Files” it is all heart, a crowd-pleaser that still feels personal and intimate.
Call Me By Your Name: This is a movie of small details that speak to larger truths. Director Luca Guadagnino keeps the story simple relying on the minutiae to add depth and beauty to the story. The idyllic countryside, the quaint town, the music of the Psychedelic Furs and the languid pace of a long Italian summer combine to create the sensual backdrop against which the romance between the two blossoms. Guadagnino’s camera captures it all, avoiding the pitfalls of melodrama to present a story that is pure emotion. It feels real and raw, haunted by the ghosts of loves gone by.
Darkest Hour: This is a historical drama with all the trappings of “Masterpiece Theatre.” You can expect photography, costumes and period details are sumptuous. What you may not expect is the light-hearted tone of much of the goings on. While this isn’t “Carry On Churchill,” it has a lighter touch that might be expected. Gary Oldman, not an actor known for his comedic flourishes, embraces the sly humour. When Churchill becomes Prime Minister his wife, Clementine (Kristin Scott Thomas) makes an impassioned speech about the importance of the work he is about to take on. He raises a glass and, cutting through the emotion of the moment, says, “Here’s to not buggering it up!” It shows a side of Churchill not often revealed in wartime biopics.
The Disaster Artist: The key to pulling off “The Disaster Artist” is not recreating “The Room” beat for beat, although they do that, it’s actually about treating Wiseau as a person and not an object of fun. He’s an outrageous character and Franco commits to it 100%. From the marble-mouthed speech pattern that’s part Valley Girl and part Beaker from The Muppets to the wild clothes and stringy hair, he’s equal parts creepy and lovable but underneath his bravado are real human frailties. Depending on your point of view he’s either delusional or aspirational but in Franco’s hands he’s never also never less than memorable. It’s a broad, strange performance but it may also be one of the actor’s best.
Dunkirk: This is an intense movie but it is not an overly emotional one. The cumulative effect of the vivid images and sounds will stir the soul but despite great performances the movie doesn’t necessarily make you feel for one character or another. Instead its strength is in how it displays the overwhelming sense of scope of the Dunkirk mission. With 400,000 men on the ground with more in the air and at sea, the sheer scope of the operation overpowers individuality, turning the focus on the collective. Director Christopher Nolan’s sweeping camera takes it all in, epic and intimate moments alike.
The Florida Project: This is, hands down, one of the best films of the year. Low-budget and naturalistic, it packs more punch than any superhero. Director Sean Baker defies expectations. He’s made a film about kids for adults that finds joy in rocky places. What could have been a bleak experience or an earnest message movie is brought to vivid life by characters that feel real. It’s a story about poverty that neither celebrates or condemns its characters. Mooney’s exploits are entertaining and yet an air of jeopardy hangs heavy over every minute of the movie. Baker knows that Halley and Moonie’s well being hangs by a thread but he also understands they exist in the real world and never allows their story to fall into cliché.
Get Out: This is the weirdest and most original mainstream psychodrama to come along since “The Babadook.” The basic premise harkens back to the Sidney Poitier’s classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.” In that film parents, played by Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, have their attitudes challenged when their daughter introduces them to her African American fiancé. The uncomfortable situation of meeting in-laws for the first time is universal. It’s the added layers of paranoia and skewered white liberalism that propels the main character’s (Daniel Kaluuya) situation into full-fledged horror. In this setting he is the other, the stranger and as his anxiety grows the social commentary regarding attitudes about race in America grows sharper and more focussed.
Lady Bird: Greta Gerwig’s skilful handling of the story of Lady Bird’s busy senior year works not just because it’s unvarnished and honest in its look at becoming an adult but also, in a large degree, to Saoirse Ronan’s performance. I have long called her ‘Lil Meryl. She’s an actor of unusual depth, a young person (born in 1994) with an old soul. Lady Bird is almost crushed by the weight of uncertainty that greets her with every turn—will her parents divorce, will there be money for school, will Kyle be the boy of her dreams, will she ever make enough cash to repay her parents for her upbringing?—but Ronan keeps her nimble, sidestepping teen ennui with a complicated mix of snappy one liners, hard earned wisdom and a well of emotion. It’s tremendous, Academy Award worthy work.
The Post: Steven Spielberg film is a fist-pump-in-the-air look at the integrity and importance of a free press. It’s a little heavy-handed but these are heavy-handed times. Director Spielberg and stars Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep are entertainers first and foremost, and they do entertain here, but they also shine a light on a historical era whose reverberations are being felt today stronger than ever.
The Shape of Water: A dreamy slice of pure cinema. Director Guillermo del Toro uses the stark Cold War as a canvas to draw warm and vivid portraits of his characters. It’s a beautiful creature feature ripe with romance, thrills and, above all, empathy for everyone. This is the kind of movie that reminds us of why we fell in love with movies in the first place.
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The story of a mother’s unconventional war with the world is simple enough, it’s the complexity of the characters that elevates the it to the level of great art.
Wonder Woman: Equal parts Amazon sword and sandal epic, mad scientist flick, war movie and rom com, it’s a crowd pleaser that places the popular character front and centre. As played by Gal Gadot, Diana is charismatic and kick ass, a superhero who is both truly super and heroic. Like Superman she is firmly on the side of good, not a tortured soul à la Batman. Naïve to the ways of the world, she runs headfirst into trouble. Whether she’s throwing a German tank across a battlefield, defying gravity to leap to the top of a bell tower, tolerating Trevor’s occasional mansplaining or deflecting bullets with her indestructible Bracelets of Submission, she proves in scene after scene to be both a formidable warrior and a genuine, profoundly empathic character.
Richard and CP24 anchorTravis Dhanraj have a look at the weekend’s new movies, pedal-to-the- metal action of “Baby Driver,” the Coppola-ness of “The Beguiled,” “Despicable Me 3’s” million dollar Minions and the eco satire “Okja.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Erin Paul to have a look at the big weekend movies including the wild-and-wooly action of “Baby Driver,” the Coppola-ness of “The Beguiled,” “Despicable Me 3’s” adorable and funny Minions and “Okja’s” tale of super pigs, the people who love hem and the people who want to eat them.
Ever had one of those moments where a random song playing on the radio is the perfect soundtrack for your life in that instant? Director Edgar Wright calls that a #babydrivermoment.
“I think so many times you have things in life where music syncs up with the world,” he says. “You’re sitting there and the windscreen wipers are going in time with the music and you think, ‘Isn’t life great? The world is bending to my music choices.’”
He had one of those moments 22 years ago when the idea for Baby Driver flooded into his brain after listening to The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion track Bellbottoms on repeat. In that instant he imagined the song’s choppy rhythm as the soundtrack to a car chase, filing the idea away for future consideration.
“In 2002 I felt I had potentially squandered the idea by using it for a music video (Blue Song by Mint Royale) and I was mad at myself for doing that,” he says. “Later, after Hot Fuzz I thought, ‘I still have to do something with this idea.’”
With the opening already mapped out, Wright spent years creating the film’s story of a get-away driver named Baby (Ansel Elgort) who wants out of his life of crime and into the arms of a diner waitress played by Lily James. But before they can run off to the happily-ever-after, the driver must square his debt with gang boss Doc (Kevin Spacey).
“It was a slow building up of what the movie and the structure was and finding the main theme of the main character’s relationship with music; this getaway driver who can’t drive unless he has the right music. Then it became, ‘Why is he obsessed with music?’ OK. He has tinnitus and he has to listen to music. What was an escape for him becomes an obsession.”
“A hum in the drum” is how Doc refers to Baby’s tinnitus. In real life it’s a hearing condition that causes an internal, loud ringing or clicking. As the sound can interfere with concentration, Baby plays music to drown it out.
Although it contains more music than most tuneful movies, Baby Driver isn’t a musical in the West Side Story, Sound of Music sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n’ roll songs on the soundtrack, it’s a hard-driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
“The strange thing is people say it is a departure from the other films,” says the Poole, Dorset, England-born Wright, whose other movies include cult favourites Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, “and it is but it is also my oldest idea. I couldn’t have made it 10 years ago. I had to live in North America a bit more. I have lived in Los Angeles and Toronto. I drove across the States twice. I also did lots of research. That all factored into bringing this dream I had when I was 21 to vivid life.”
This weekend Wright will see that dream hit theatres. “I don’t know whether to feel like a proud father or whether it is like my kid is leaving home,” he says. “I feel like when the film is out I may get empty nest syndrome. It has been with me for so long and now it is out. It is a beautiful thing and I don’t know how to describe it.”
Although it contains more music than most tuneful of movies “Baby Driver,” the new film from director Edgar Wright, isn’t a musical in the “West Side Story,” “Sound of Music” sense. Wallpapered with 35 rock ‘n roll songs on the soundtrack it’s a hard driving heist flick that can best be called an action musical.
Long before he made “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” Wright conjured up the idea for the wild ride while he listening to the John Spencer Explosion track “Bellbottoms” on repeat. He visualized a car chase to the song’s choppy beat and the idea of a young getaway driver on a doomed caper was born. Question is, does Wright keep the pedal to the metal or is “Baby Driver” out of gas?
“The Fault in Our Stars” star Ansel Elgort is the title character, an orphaned get-a-way driver with tinnitus who owes gang boss Doc (Kevin Spacey) a favour. Baby wants out of the life of crime and into the arms of diner waitress Debora (Lily James). Before they can run off to the happily-ever-after, however, he must square his debt with the older gangster.
The gangster uses different crews for every robbery, but Baby is always the driver because he’s “Mozart in a Go Cart. “He had an accident when he was a kid,” says Doc. “Still has a hum in the drum. Plays music to drown it out. And that’s what makes him the best.”
With his debt cleared after a wild and woolly robbery, Doc makes Baby an offer he can’t refuse, a gig doing another get-a-way job. It’s a job he can’t turn down. “What’s it going to be?” Doc asks, “behind the wheel or in a wheelchair?”
“One more job and we’re straight,” says Doc. “Now I don’t think I need to give you the speech about what would happen if you say no, how I could break your legs and kill everyone you love because you already know that, don’t you?”
Teaming up with an unhinged band of baddies, Buddy (Jon Hamm), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and loose cannon Bats (Jamie Foxx), Baby soon discovers this heist is not like any that came before. Perhaps it’s because he now has Deborah on his mind, or perhaps it’s because his partners-in-crime are a few spark plugs short of an engine block.
Even when there are no cars on screen (which isn’t very often) “Baby Driver” is in motion. Working with Sia choreographer Ryan Heffington, Wright has created a stylized dance between his camera and actors. It’s frenetic, melodic and just a dance step or two away from being the world’s first car chase musical.
Elgort is the engine that drives the movie. With dark Ray Bans and tousled hair he recalls Tom Cruise in “Risky Business.” His character has suffered great loss and copes by thrill chasing set to a soundtrack provided by stolen iPods. Baby doesn’t say much—“You know why they call him Baby, right?” says Buddy. “Still waiting on his first words.”—but the character takes a journey, physical and metaphysical. He has a wide arc summed up by the old cliché action speak louder than words.
Spacey is more verbose. He plays Doc as a gangster who talks like a character out of a Raymond Chandler movie. Instead of “get rid of the car,” Doc instructs Baby to “sunset that car.” It’s a small but important role that adds flair and some laughs to the film.
James is all sweetness and light as Debora, a woman whose life is changed in the space of just a few days. Hamm, Foxx and González, meanwhile, bring various levels of badassery to contrast Baby’s ever-developing sense of morality. The movie’s tone is light, but this isn’t an outright comedy like Wright’s other films. Hamm and Foxx toss off the odd funny line but both bring the fire when necessary, bringing a kinetic undertone of danger to every scene they’re in.
“Baby Driver” succumbs to cliché near the end but for most of its running time is an exhilarating ride, fuelled by a tank full of adrenaline.
When Andre Benjamin and Antwan Patton, better known as Andre 3000 and Big Boi of the Atlanta-based hip-hop group Outkast, decided to branch out into film they didn’t look to MTV for ideas. Instead they cherry picked inspiration from a variety of sources such as Moulin Rouge, hip-hip culture, Warner’s cartoons, Six Feet Under and gangster movies of the 1930s, creating a frenetic fusion of old and new.
Idlewild, named for the Georgia town in which then action takes place, is both rooted in the past and very forward-looking. Hip-hop collides with jazz, dancers mix the jitterbug with break dancing and the star of this 1930s road show is a rapper. Think of it as a remix of The Cotton Club.
Set against the backdrop of a 1930s southern speakeasy, Benjamin and Patton play Percival and Rooster, friends since childhood, despite the differences in their personalities. Percival is the shy son of a mortician who plays piano at the speakeasy. Rooster on the other hand is the flamboyantly dressed star of the show who flirts with all the women in the movie except his wife. When a mob boss is slain by his underling (a terrific Terrence Howard) Rooster must take over the speakeasy and learn to do business with the violent and unreasonable gangster who now controls the flow of booze into the club. Meanwhile Percival falls for a beautiful new singer in the club, and comes out of his shell just in time for the violent and bloody finale.
Idlewild manages to skirt around my usual problem with musicals—people bursting into song at the drop of a hat is silly!—by setting most of the musical numbers in a Prohibition era speakeasy ironically called The Church. Here we get the movie’s strengths—spectacularly choreographed dance numbers mixing dance styles old and new, cool new retro-modern sounding music from Outkast, Macy Gray and newcomer Paula Patton and a rich and interesting visual pallet.
Good thing we have lots of eye and ear candy to distract us from the movie’s faults. Benjamin and Patton are sturdy performers, but their acting chops pale by comparison to their co-star Terrence Howard who owns the screen each time he steps into frame.
The script doesn’t do either of the neophyte actors any favors—it must have been tough for Benjamin to sing a love song to a corpse in his big screen debut—and is a bit of a hallucinatory mess—what did you expect from a former music video director?—but Idlewild’s energy, beauty and verve make up for its shortcomings.