Film Review: Baby Driver (dir by Edgar Wright)


Baby Driver, the new film from director Edgar Wright, is awesome!

That’s the succinct way of putting it and, if you really want to fully enjoy this film, I suggest that you stop reading this review now. There’s no way that a review cannot, to a certain extent, spoil a movie.  Baby Driver is a kinetic blend of action, comedy, romance, and music and it is a movie that you should see without any preconceived notions and expectations.  It’s a movie that earns the right to surprise you with just how good and entertaining it is.  It’s a movie that you should experience fresh.

So, go see the movie.  Seriously, go right now.  GET OUT OF HERE AND SEE THE MOVIE!  This review will still be waiting for you when you get back.  Who knows?  Maybe, while you’re watching the movie, I’ll actually correct some of the typos.  Or maybe not.

Anyway, go away.  I’ll wait for you to return.

la dee da la dee da…

Okay, did you see the movie?  It’s really great, isn’t it?

As a result of the childhood car accident that killed his parents, Baby (Ansel Elgort) has been left with a permanent case of tinnitus.  He uses music to drown out the constant ringing in his ears.  There’s almost never a time that Baby isn’t listening to his ipod.  When we first see Baby, he’s sitting behind the wheel of a car, singing along with Jon Spencer and the Blues Explosion.  The second time that we see him, he’s getting coffee while listening to Harlem Shuffle.  In a delirious homage to Singin’ In The Rain (and in a scene that puts the opening traffic jam of La La Land to shame), Baby literally dances across the streets of Los Angeles.  For Baby, every day is a musical.

Of course, Baby doesn’t just use music to block out the ringing.  He also uses the music (and an ever-present pair of sunglasses) to keep the world out.  He rarely speaks or even makes eye contact and, as long as he’s listening to his ipod, he has an excuse not to interact.  He doesn’t have to explain the small scars around his eyes or how he makes his money.  The few times that he does speak to people, it’s to record their voices, which he then turns into music.  Music and the driving are the only two ways this orphan can express his feelings.

When the movie begins, Baby appears to be close to only two men.  One is his deaf foster father, Joseph (CJ Jones).  Baby lives with Joseph, in an apartment where Baby regularly stashes thousands of dollars.  Joseph always watches in disapproval as Baby hides the money under the floorboards.  Joseph signs at Baby that he deserves better than the life he’s leading.  Baby always signs back that he’s only a few jobs away from being done.

Baby’s other father figure is Doc (Kevin Spacey).  Doc is a rich and connected man.  At times, he seems to sincerely care about Baby but there are other times when Doc is just as quick to threaten to kill him and everyone that he loves.  Doc plans bank robberies for a living.  Doc may change associates from robbery to robbery but one thing always remains consistent.  Baby is always his driver because Baby is the best.  As Doc explains it, the first time he saw Baby, he was stealing Doc’s Mercedes.  Baby drives for Doc as a way of paying off his debt to the older man but you still believe Baby’s sincerity when he tells Doc, “We’re a team.”  (One the film’s best throw-away jokes is the line where Doc reveals that he knows where Baby got the idea to say that.)

Things start to change for Baby when he meets Debora (Lily James), a waitress who appears to love music just as much he does.  For Baby and Debora, it’s love at first sight but Doc has one more job that he needs Baby for.  It’s their most dangerous job yet and, making thing even more complicated, are the three people who Doc has recruited to work with Baby.  Buddy (Jon Hamm) is a former wall street banker who is eager to prove what a badass he is.  Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) is his wife, who enjoys talking about how many of their former partners have died.  And finally, there’s Bats (Jamie Foxx), a complete and total psycho who brags about never telling a single story that doesn’t end with someone getting killed.

Baby Driver is a propulsive blast of pure adrenaline, perhaps the closest that we will ever get to a genuine pulp musical.  The action scenes left me literally breathless.  I saw the movie at the Alamo Drafthouse and, before the film started, there was a clip of Edgar Wright listing his favorite car chases.  He listed all of the usual suspects, Bullitt, The French Connection, Mad Max: Thunder Road.  The chases scenes in Baby Driver can proudly be listed next to all of those scenes.  This is genuinely exciting crime film, featuring wonderfully over-the-top turns from Foxx, Hamm, and especially Spacey.

But you know what?  Baby Driver may be a great action film but what makes it special is that it’s also a film with a heart.  Rather bravely, Edgar Wright has not only made an action musical but he’s also mixed in a very sincere and unabashedly sentimental love story.  You never doubt for a second that Baby would give up everything — music, driving, even his life — for Debora.  The scenes between Baby and Debora are almost deliriously romantic.  Ansel Elgort and Lily James both share a very likable and very real chemistry.  You want things to work out for Debora and Baby.  You feel like they belong together and, when it looks like either Baby or Debora might be in danger, you worry for both of them.  As exciting as the film’s action sequences were, it was the ending that brought tears to my eyes and that was almost totally due to the performances of Elgort and James.

Baby Driver is one of the best films that I’ve seen so far this year.  See it this weekend!  If you’ve already seen it, see it again!  This film deserves to be rewarded.

 

 

A Movie A Day #172: Sensation (1994, directed by Brian Grant)


Doctor Ian Burton (Eric Roberts) is a college professor who believes that objects retain impressions of the past.  To prove his theory (and hopefully, not lose tenure), Burton recruits one of his students, Lila Reed (Kari Wuhrer), who has shown that she may have psychic abilities.  Lila holds objects and she sees the past.  At first, she is intrigued but then she realizes that she keeps seeing the same woman in her visions.  The woman was a former student of Burton’s.  She was murdered and the good Doctor Burton is the number one suspect.  Can Lila use her power to solve the crime and clear Burton’s name?  Or is Burton guilty and using her for something more sinister than just testing a thesis?

Sensation is one of the many softcore neo-noirs that used to regularly appear, “after hours,” on HBO and Cinemax in the 1990s.  Sensation has a tagline (“An experience in terror”) that it never lives up to but it is still watchable because of the combination of the sexiness of Kari Wuhrer and the strangeness of Eric Roberts.  The tawdry mystery will not fool anyone and Wuhrer’s visions were all done better in The Dead Zone but Sensation deserves some credit for at least trying to be a little more creative than the average 1990s straight-to-video release.

Keep an eye out for Ron Pearlman, as the lead detective on the case.  He does not get to do much but he’s still Ron Pearlman!

 

4 Shots From 4 Films: Happy Birthday Ray Harryhausen


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking. Special Effects wizard Ray Harryhausen was born on this date in 1920. A protogee of Willis O’Brien, Harryhausen created some of the most iconic monsters in fantasy film history. Here are 4 shots celebrating the genius of Ray Harryhausen!

It Came From Beneath The Sea (Columbia 1955)

20 Million Miles to Earth (Columbia 1957)

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Columbia 1958)

One Million Years BC (Warner Bros-Hammer 1966)

 

Music Video of the Day: Sour Girl by Stone Temple Pilots (2000, dir. David Slade)


My introduction to Stone Temple Pilots was the album Tiny Music…Songs From the Vatican Gift Shop–not my recommended way to start listening to STP. I remember liking this song, but when I bought the album, it felt generic and instantly forgettable.

The video for Sour Girl on the other hand is still something I remember to this day. Apparently, despite the fact that they look like a creepy version of Teletubbies, they were inspired by a dream that Scott Weiland had. At least that’s according to the Wikipedia article that draws from the Songfacts page on the song and video. The song was written about his divorce from his first wife. I’m assuming this is the same wife who he wrote Interstate Love Song about since according to Scott Weiland’s memoir [Not Dead & Not for Sale: A Memoir]:

[About Sour Girl]: “Everyone is convinced that it’s about my romance with Mary [Forsberg, second wife],” Weiland writes in his autobiography Not Dead and Not For Sale. “But everyone is wrong. ‘Sour Girl’ was written after the collapse of my relationship with Jannina [Castaneda, first wife]. It’s about her. ‘She was a sour girl the day that she met me,’ I wrote. ‘She was a happy girl the day she left me… I was a superman, but looks are deceiving. The rollercoaster ride’s a lonely one. I pay a ransom note to stop it from steaming.’ The ransom note, of course, was the fortune our divorce was costing me. And the happy state, which I presumed to be Jannina’s mood, was because she had finally rid her life of a man who had never been faithful.”

[About Interstate Love Song]: “She’d ask how I was doing, and I’d lie, say I was doing fine.”
“I imagined what was going through her mind when I wrote, ‘Waiting on a Sunday afternoon for what I read between the lines, your lies, feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame, so do you laugh or does it cry? Reply?”

That explains the bleak video, why she is returned to a happy-looking state while in the dark world of the video, and why Weiland is left in the dark world with the creepy creatures.

Considering Weiland’s life and the meaning behind this song and video, it’s interesting that it was directed by David Slade. You might remember him as a producer and director of episodes of American Gods and Hannibal. He also directed The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010).

Yari Schutzer was the production manager. Schutzer seems to have worked on around 25 music videos as well as some movies.

Martin Coppen shot the video. He has worked on at least 25 videos. Since his credits date back as far as 1988, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many more.

Bronni Bakke was the casting director, which I guess mean she picked out Sarah Michelle Gellar and the people in the suits. She worked on The Bogus Witch Project (2000) and a few other things. According to her IMDb profile, she “impersonates Britney Spears, Marilyn Monroe, Felicity Shagwell and Lara Croft.” From what I can find, it looks like she passed away in 2016 from breast cancer.

Enjoy!

30 Days Of Surrealism:

  1. Street Of Dreams by Rainbow (1983, dir. Storm Thorgerson)
  2. Rock ‘n’ Roll Children by Dio (1985, dir. Daniel Kleinman)
  3. The Thin Wall by Ultravox (1981, dir. Russell Mulcahy)
  4. Take Me Away by Blue Öyster Cult (1983, dir. Richard Casey)
  5. Here She Comes by Bonnie Tyler (1984, dir. ???)
  6. Do It Again by Wall Of Voodoo (1987, dir. ???)
  7. The Look Of Love by ABC (1982, dir. Brian Grant)
  8. Eyes Without A Face by Billy Idol (1984, dir. David Mallet)
  9. Somebody New by Joywave (2015, dir. Keith Schofield)
  10. Twilight Zone by Golden Earring (1982, dir. Dick Maas)
  11. Schism by Tool (2001, dir. Adam Jones)
  12. Freaks by Live (1997, dir. Paul Cunningham)
  13. Loverboy by Billy Ocean (1984, dir. Maurice Phillips)
  14. Talking In Your Sleep by The Romantics (1983, dir. ???)
  15. Talking In Your Sleep by Bucks Fizz (1984, dir. Dieter Trattmann)