Review: Baby Driver


 

There are people in the world who put on music simply to fill the silence. There are people in this world who drive simply to get where they need to go. Then there are those whose music expresses the very sounds in their soul…and who drive to feel freedom, adventure, and possibilities.

Edgar Wright’s latest film is dedicated to that second sort of person.

Baby Driver is about a young man named Baby (Ansel Elgort). As a boy, Baby was in a car accident that took both his parents, and ever since then, he has kept an iPod on with at least one earbud in at all times. It helps him block out the tinnitus he still suffers…and also locks him in as one of the best getaway drivers you could imagine.

His skills behind the wheel are at the beck and call of a man named Doc (Kevin Spacey). As a boy, Baby boosted Doc’s car and made off with a lot of money. Doc didn’t hurt or kill the kid; he simply started making him work off his debt. Doc could see just how talented the kid was, and wasn’t going to let such talent go to waste.

As the film begins, we watch Baby take the wheel for two separate heists.

One has him working with a bunch of pros named Buddy, Darling, and Griff (Jon Hamm, Eiza González, and Jon Bernthal respectively). The second job has him surrounded by a more thuggish team headed up by Bats (Jamie Foxx). That heist goes sideways, but is ultimately successful – leading Baby to think he’s square with Doc and “out”.

No such luck.

Doc tasks Baby with driving yet again – this time working with Buddy and Darling again, with Bats sitting in as the third. To say that these kids have trouble playing nice with each-other would be putting things mildly, but Baby still tries valiantly to do his part.

Probably because in the background there’s Deborah (Lily James). Baby first comes across her at the diner he frequents and is instantly smitten. She takes an equal shining to him in that girl-meets-boy sorta way, and before you know it, they’re sharing earbuds.

When one considers a story featuring a character with one earbud in at all times, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that music is key to the tale. What’s more, when one remembers that the film is being told by director Edgar Wright, it should come as absolutely no surprise. Wright has a knack of timing both the massive and the mundane to the tempo of his track list – and Baby Driver does that on steroids.

It’s charming, in its way. Letting us not only experience the world through the eyes (or ears) of Baby, but of anyone who loves music and measure time by songs. At times, it makes some truly horrible people seem a little bit cooler. Other times, it makes a simple coffee run into something joyful.

Have you ever been walking down the street, listening to a song you love and noticed that the paces start matching the song? Baby Driver does that over and over…and every time, it fills the audience with that same joyful feeling.

None of this would work if we didn’t buy Ansel as Baby. The very concept of a kid who always has to have one earbud in pretty much begs the audience to roll its eyes. Seriously – if such a person worked in your office, you would be talking about them at the water cooler in record time. With Baby, though, we don’t just endure the quirk – we embrace it. Perhaps it’s because we can see that he doesn’t really belong in the world of these hoodlums. Perhaps it’s because we sense his shyness about his dependence on the tunes. Or perhaps it’s because he’s just so darned cute.

Whatever the reason, we fall for him – much the same way Deborah does. We trust him to get us where we’re going, and we want to know what he’s listening to.

Would you like to know more…?

Hot Docs 2017 Review: 78/52


 
 
Director: Alexandre O. Phillipe (Doc of the Dead, The People vs. George Lucas)
A Documentary on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, specifically the shower scene.
Producers: Kerry Deignan Roy, Robert Muratore
Starring: Walter Murch, Elijah Whood, Karyn Kusama, Peter Bogdanovich, Danny Elfman, Jamie Lee-Curtis
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 


In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller PSYCHO redefined the horror landscape.

In the process of bringing his cinematic vision to life, Hitchcock was afforded a whopping seven days to film the iconic shower scene. From the moment the shower faucet is turned on to the moment the Marion Crane meets her fate, a mere 146 seconds pass. In two minutes and twenty-six seconds, there are 78 setups and 52 cuts.

78/52 is an examination of that incredible cinematic execution, the psychology at play, and how it affected pop culture for years to come.

Throughout the doc, PSYCHO’s shower scene is broken down detail by detail – including precisely which melon was used to create the sound effect of the knife stabbing the skin. Artists and fans of all sorts discuss the impact and psychology of the work, all in tones that are equal parts reverie and delight.

There is an inherent joy in seeing the talent gathered for 78/52 just watch PSYCHO. Elijah Wood, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Guillermo del Toro are but a few of the fans that gather for the documentary. Repeatedly, the documentary pauses for a moment, and we can see studious delight on their famous faces as they watch Hitchcock’s twisted tale unfold before their eyes.

PSYCHO is a film about coveting through watching. So, what about it do these fans covet? What, in turn, do we?

The temptation with a documentary like this is to geek-out a little too hard. Hitchcock is a master who has inspired volumes. His works have been broken down frame-by-frame and studied to the enth degree. Could there possibly be more to say? Well yes, as it turns out.

As we close in on sixty years past the PSYCHO’s release, it’s easy to take for granted the films place in the lexicon. Like STAR WARS, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and JAWS, PSYCHO has become “something other”. It is a touchstone, cinematic shorthand, something people know even if they don’t know – but there’s the rub. So very many now do not know PSYCHO. With that in mind, the time is right to examine the work, and concentrate so much time on the most iconic scene in this truly iconic work.

For films like 78/52, the trick is to find the sweet spot. Remind people of things they may have heard before, bring ideas to the table that few may have considered, and wrap it all up with talk of impact and legacy on works that would follow. If the film doesn’t do enough, it gets met with a shrug. If the film does too much, it loses the audience. The happy medium is about as wide as a knife’s edge.

Happily, 78/52 knows just how to wield that knife.

Review: Beauty And The Beast

Director: Bill Condon (Kinsey, Gods & Monsters, Dream Girls)
Remake of 1991 Beauty and the Beast
Screenplay: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay), Evan Spiliotopoulos (screenplay) Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont (Tale By)
Producer: David Hoberman
Starring: Emma Watson, Dan Stevens, Luke Evans, Josh Gad, Kevin Kline
MPAA Rating: PG
Running time: 129 min.

 

 

My original posting of this review can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 


Something unexpected happens when familiar tales are re-imagined for new audiences. Since much of the story is well-known, it allows those gathered to focus less on the story, and more on the voice doing the telling. Plot and prose take a back seat to cadence and inflection, which can bring new life and luminosity to a well-known story…

…or it can screw up the story entirely.

It’s a tale as old as time.

Once there was a young prince (Dan Stevens) who lived a lush life in a grand castle. One night, as he’s holding a lavish ball when disheveled beggar woman comes calling, he mocks her before turning her away. Seeing the vain and uncaring nature of the prince’s heart, the beggar – actually an enchantress – casts a spell on him, his home, and everyone in it.

He is turned into a hideous beast, and his court all household items. So they will stay until their master can learn to love.

Years later, in the town at the foot of the hill, a young girl named Belle (Emma Watson) is the misfit of her town. While other girls her age pine for marriage, she seeks independence. While others slave over the washing, she invents ways of doing chores faster. While others in town drink and gossip, she only has eyes for the pages of her books…and her loving father (Kevin Klein).

When her father takes his wares to sell, his wagon gets lost on the road. After surviving a wolf attack, he seeks refuge in an isolated castle that seems largely abandoned…but for the roaring fire in the hearth. Inside, he meets what has become of the court; Lumiere, now a candelabra (Ewan McGregor), Cogsworth, now a clock (Ian McKellan), Mrs. Potts, now a teapot (Emma Thompson)…and the furry and frightening lord of the manor. The Beast doesn’t take kindly to strangers – especially ones who help themselves to roses growing in his garden, so Belle’s father becomes his prisoner.

After fighting off advances from the beefy and smarmy Gaston (Luke Evans), Belle is alerted to her father’s disappearance. When she makes her way to the castle to search for him, she bargains with The Beast to take his place instead.

The Beast agrees, sends father on his way, and holds Belle in his place. The court sees this unfold and wonders aloud if she might be the one to teach their master to love and break the curse?

But who could ever love a beast?

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Silence

Time and again throughout history, humanity has been lost due to hubris. There is a spiritual arrogance that we are often guilty of that has a way of taking a delicate situation and making a quick mess of it. This pride comes from a deep place in our guts and hearts – a place that believe it knows. It has listened to teachings, studied the supposed Truth, and parlayed that word into action.

People believe, people testify, and people suffer in the faith that they are doing the right thing. But how do they know for sure? Silence is a seventeenth century quest for Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson).

As the story begins, his brother missionaries back in Portugal are learning of his committing apostasy in Japan after his followers are tortured by the ruling class. His status and whereabouts are now unknown. The case prompts two young priests named Father Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Adam Driver) to strike out to Japan in search of their missing brother missionary.

The quest is a dangerous one. The Buddhists in charge of Japan do not want Christianity to take root in their society, and have been making a point to persecute anyone declaring themselves a Christian. Followers are routinely rounded-up and persecuted, but the prize target is a man of the cloth. Followers are merely victims; leaders are something to make an example of.

When the missionaries arrive in Japan, they soon split off in the hopes of greater safety and better results. It is Rodrigues we follow for most of the rest of the trip. The priest goes from village to village, seeing firsthand evidence of Christian persecution. Some is even in the hopes of smoking out Rodrigues himself, since the governing bodies have heard rumour of his arrival. All the while, Christian followers are turning to him, looking for guidance. He, in turn, speaks to God…who responds only with silence.

Eventually, Rodrigues faces his oppressor (Issei Ogata). Like Christ in the desert, Rodrigues is offered bargain after bargain if he will just renounce. Lives will be spared, whole communities left in peace…all he needs to do is disavow his God. Like Christ in Gethsemane, Rodrigues pleads with The Almighty to take the task away from him, and instead allow him to worship and serve in peace.

The only response is silence.

Would you like to know more…?

TIFF 2016 Review: American Honey

 

Hero cookies to guest publisher, Ryan McNeil, for this review.
The original post of this article can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 

In America, when you have nothing else to sell for a living, you can always sell yourself. Your enthusiasm, your wits, your company, your gumption? All of it can be sold.

What happens when one sells it may vary.

American Honey is about one young woman and her desire for anything resembling a way out. When we meet Star (Sasha Lane), she is dumpster-diving behind a K-Mart to try to take care of two small children. While inside the shop, she encounters a group of late-teen/early-twenties boys and girls that seem to be high on life. One of them – Jake (Shia LaBeouf) – approaches her and asks if she wants to come with them and earn money.

Soon after we discover that the children she is caring for aren’t hers, so after they are nudged back towards their birth mother, Star is off on the road in search of opportunity.

Officially, the group is making their cash peddling magazine subscriptions. Unofficially, they are hustling for cash any which-way they can get it, and kicking it up to the queen bee of the group, Krystal (Riley Keough).
Would you like to know more…?

TIFF 2016 Review: Buster’s Mal Heart

 

Hero cookies to guest publisher, Ryan McNeil, for this review.
The original post of this article can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 

One thing is for sure in the wake of Buster’s Mal Heart: I will never look at the people taking care of me late at night ever again. All of those cashiers, gas station attendants, hospital employees, hotel clerks? All of them now get painted with a very different brush.

It’s the early 90’s when we first meet “Buster” (Rami Malek); a hermit avoiding law enforcement in the woods. He is squatting in luxury cottages left vacant for warmer climates and telling anyone he encounters that the end is coming. Once upon a time, “Buster” was Jonah – a mid thirties husband and father who worked the night shift as a concierge at a middle-of-nowhere hotel.

One day he meets a mysterious stranger (DJ Qualls) looking for a room without ID or a credit card. He’s convinced that the end is nigh, and doesn’t want to become part of a system that’s about to come crashing down around him.

buster-mal-heart-feat

So how does the stranger affect Jonah and send him on a path of wandering? Well, that’s sort of a long story.

Director Sarah Adina Smith works wonderfully in concert with her star to tell a story that is becoming more and more apt with every passing year: how much is too much? While we live in an era where many who join the workforce seem averse to “paying their dues”, there’s “dues” and there’s “overtaxation”. Jonah is clearly overtaxed; already doing something to provide for others, and even then beings asked to do far more of it than he rightfully should.
Would you like to know more…?

TIFF 2016 Review: The Bad Batch

 

Hero cookies to guest publisher, Ryan McNeil, for this review.
The original post of this article can be found at TheMatinee.ca

 

How do you know you’ve taken a wrong turn on your journey?

Maybe if you happen upon a preacher testifying on top of a giant boom box? What about an ex-con missing an arm and a leg? Perhaps a knife-wielding beast of a man, strewn with tattoos, who finds serenity drawing and painting to pass the time.

What about all of it in the same place? Yeah – definitely a sign you made a wrong turn back around Albuquerque.

The Bad Batch is a designation given to a class of criminal all interred before a great fall of civilization – they are caught, branded, and kicked into a massive, fenced-off wasteland with nothing but a jug of water. A bad-batcher named Arlynne (Suki Waterhouse) manages to walk straight into the path of a band of cannibals – a sort of tribe within The Bad Batch. She is captured, her right arm and right leg severed, cooked, and consumed…all inside of the film’s first fifteen minutes.

Eventually, short two limbs, she manages to escape the cannibals and is dropped at the gates of Comfort; a sort of post-apocalyptic cult compound. After she is taken in and given a prosthetic leg, she happens upon two more cannibals outside of Comfort’s gates. She kills the woman, and takes in the little girl.
Would you like to know more…?

Hey Man, Nice Shot 2015

[post brought to you courtesy of Ryan McNeil from The Matinee.ca]

Film can do so much with one incredible scene, and often just as much with one amazing line. For my money though, film is often at its most powerful when it unleashes everything into one great shot.

It’s with that in mind that we return to an annual tradition at this site for the fifth year.

After a year dedicated to the abstract, this year the iconic imagery seemed to come back to the characters and the actors who portrayed them. Some of the best shots took us so far away a person was dwarfed by their surroundings; others brought us right up into their grill. A lot of pain and sorrow, but some profound joy dropped in for good measure.

Each photo can be identified by hovering your cursor, and clicking any of them will take you to a bigger version of the shot.

Hey Man, Nice Shot (2013)

NiceShot

Today, we begin wrapping up 2013 by returning to an annual tradition originally posted over at The Matinee. It occurred to me some time ago that when you think back on a film, sometimes you think about one solitary image. When you bring those images together, it turns into a neat little tapestry of the year on the whole.

The idea started back in 2010, and continued through 2011 and 2012.

Decide amongst yourselves what it means that I have been choosing more and more images as the years have gone on.

Would you like to know more…?

Review: Inside Llewyn Davis

Inside Llewyn Davis

A few years ago, Tom Waits did a spot on The Daily Show with John Stewart. Before the taping began, Tom was using the men’s room at the television studio, and the bathroom roof fell in on him. In some ways, this seems like the sort of thing that could only happen to Tom Waits. In both his demeanour and his artistic output, he comes across as a grizzled, weary, and down-on-his-luck. Why would anyone be drawn to someone so sad-sack and alone?

Inside Llewyn Davis spends one week in the life of its titular hero (Oscar Isaacs), a folk singer in 1961 New York City. As the film begins, we are given a clear picture of what sort of singer he is. While some of his contemporaries are singing plucky tunes bound for AM radio play, he takes to smokey stages in dank clubs singing from the point of view of a criminal about to be hanged.

Llewyn is talented, there’s no denying that. Sadly, he’s also broke. After his first performance in the film, he awakes on the couch of The Gorfeins – music appreciators that open their Upper West Side apartment to Llewyn when he needs a hand up (which is often). As he goes to leave, The Gorfeins’ cat slips out. Unable to get the cat back home, Llewyn scoops it up and begins looking after it until he can return it.

That’s Llewyn in a nutshell: locked out of the last place he called home, holding more baggage than he carried walking in.

Llewyn’s week will find him crossing paths with friends and family. Most reach out their hand to help him, but few help him for long, and few help him to the extent that he needs. With his musical career stuck in neutral, his greatest need is monetary. Besides not having a place of his own, he cannot even afford a winter coat. Slowly, Llewyn is becoming less and less of a folk singer than he is becoming a character in one of his own songs.

As a greater need for money crops up with an old friend (who now mostly hates him), Llewyn hits the bricks with his guitar and cat in hand hoping he and get something going. Of course, if he’d listened to the lyrics in the songs he sings so often, he’d know exactly how his mission will play out.

Would you like to know more…?