Friday, July 7, 2017

"Baby Driver" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Baby Driver" as well as DVDs "Before I Fall" and "T2 Trainspotting."  The Book of the Week is "Downsizing the Family Home" by Marni Jameson.  I also bring you up-to-date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Zero For Conduct"]

Baby Driver

Baby has tinnitus as a result of a car accident that killed his Mom and Dad when he was young, so he constantly wears ear buds and listens to music to drown out the ringing in this ears.  Oh, and did I also say that Baby is a getaway driver?

Writer/director Edgar Wright, who directed the "Cornetto Trilogy," three British dark humor movies: "Shaun of the Dead," "Hot Fuzz" and "World's End,"  "Shaun of the Dead" being one of my all-time favorite movies, has written and directed yet another black comedy, but this film is a bit of a departure for Wright. Still the same kind of humor but more along the lines of "Pulp Fiction" than a replay of his earlier films. 

Despite being a getaway driver for a bunch of baddie robbers, Baby (Ansel Elgort) is really a good guy.  He lives in Atlanta and takes care of his deaf and disabled foster Dad, Joseph (CJ Jones) and doesn't want to hurt anybody.  But Baby has gotten himself into a bit of a pickle.  He is beholden to Doc, (Kevin Spacey), an armed robbery mastermind and also a very bad guy and, Baby is forced to drive a getaway car in a series of robberies in order to pay him back. 

Baby is a bit of a savant when it comes to driving getaway cars. We see Baby do some spectacular driving to get the bad guys away from a couple of successful robberies and, when Baby finally pays Doc off, he happily walks away from a life of crime so he can go on a romantic road trip with Debora, the sweet waitress he meets in a diner (Lily James). 

But bad guys have a way of coming back and dragging you back in and Doc forces Baby to do one more robbery - this time, the U.S. Post Office. Will that one be successful so Baby and Debora can live happily ever after?  Mmmm....

Besides our bad Guy, Doc, we also have Buddy (John Hamm as you have never seen him); Bats (Jamie Foxx as a really bad guy and we have kind of seen him like that before) and Buddy's wife, Darling (Eliza Gonzales ) who is one badass lady, with the guns akimbo trope.  Doc prides himself in never using the same team twice so that group is broken up by Eddie (Flea), Griff (Jon Bernthal) and JD (Lanny Joon), all well-cast but neither of whom last long for various reasons.

Baby doesn't talk much and wears sunglasses most of the time which means that Elgort has to get his character without dialogue or much facial expression, and he does that by using his body language - mouthing his songs, breaking into a dance a la "La La Land" and driving along to his carefully chosen songs.

Elgort made his mark as a teen heartthrob in the YA dying girl movie "The Fault in our Stars." James is an appealing love interest, who "Downton Abbey" fans will recognize as Lady Rose and who also did a lovely job as "Cinderella." James and Elgort have a touching chemistry that is a nice break from the high energy of the driving and violence.  Spacey is his usual prickly self, a role he has perfected, and Hamm, Foxx and Ramirez are all appropriately evil in a darkly comic way.

Since I mentioned "La La Land," I am wondering if "Baby Driver" is a new kind of musical.  Just as "La La Land" was a breakthrough modern musical, so is this film in its own way. The film was basically written and directed around the soundtrack, rather than the other way around, and it's an eclectic mix of songs from the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion's "Bellbottoms" to Dave Brubeck to Barry White and all kinds of other songs in between. There are 44 songs on Wright's personal mixed tape, and the film is choreographed to the music with gun shots, villains walking to their robberies and even text messaging all cued to the beat of the music playing inside Baby's head. There is one scene toward the early part of the film where Baby is bopping and dancing to his music on the street reminding me of the opening of "La La Land."

This film has it all: thrilling car chases and driving sequences, violence, humor, snappy dialogue, interesting characters and plot, and a love story, all presented in a new memorable way. But most of all, it has energy!  This is a must-see!

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a fresh, stylish and original movie that could very well get Oscar consideration.

***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


Before I Fall (2017)

Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch) is a teenaged girl who seems to have it all...until she doesn't.

"Maybe for you there's a tomorrow.  Maybe for you there's 1,000 or 3,000 or 10 - So much time you can bathe in it.  So much time you can waste it.  But for some of us there is only today and what you do with it matters - into the moment and maybe into infinity. But I didn't know any of that... Until right before I fell."

So begins this film about young Sam.  She's pretty, popular, and well-off.  She hangs with her three friends, Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu) and Elody (Medalion Rahimi), and I have to say, these girls are mean girls who have turned their sights on Juliet (Elena Kampouris), a young girl who clearly has issues.  It's February 12th, Cupid Day at school where roses are distributed to the girls by their admirers.  Sam gets many roses and one is from a classmate, Kent (Logan Miller), who is clearly an admirer, but Sam loves the popular Rob (Kian Lawley) and is finally planning to make it official, if you know what I mean (wink wink).

Sam and her friends all attend a party where everyone is drinking too much and doing god knows what else.  There is an ugly incident with Juliet where she is humiliated and runs off.  The girls get into the car with Lindsay driving, they are talking and texting and at exactly 12:38am on February 13th, BOOM! A car accident.  Sam dies, right?


Sam wakes up in her bed as if nothing happened...until she realizes it is once again February 12th and she is reliving that day again...and again...and again...
After several days of this Sam decides to just say and do whatever and vary her day to see if it changes anything.  She alienates her girlfriends and starts acting irrationally until she realizes "I knew I had to do something...something good."

Her mother tells her "One good thing.  Just follow one good thing and see where it leads you."

"If I was going to live the same day over and over I wanted it be a worthy day - but not just for me." 

So she tries to make things right with Juliet.

Think "Groundhog Day," with teenaged angst and the dying girl genre thrown in.

I was not a big fan of "Groundhog Day" or movies like that where the day is repeated over and over until the protagonist discovers what he or she needs to discover to stop the cycle.  It can be very boring to see those scenes over and over, except here the writer has Sam relive just enough of the day for us to be reminded it's the same day and to recognize what she is doing differently.

You know that old butterfly effect? - that one little butterfly flapping its wings in Chile that could influence something happening thousands of miles away? Or something like that.  Anyway, the point is: Just making one small change in our behavior that helps someone else could have major impact.

"Certain moments go on forever.  Even after they're over, they still go on."

Watching these teen films I sometimes wonder why I am drawn to them when I am clearly not the demographic the film is aimed at.  I particularly ask myself that when I don't like the film, but that is not the case here. Sometimes when you choose to watch a film that seems outside your usual wheelhouse, you find a little gem.  And this is one of those.

Written by Maria Maggenti (based on the novel by Lauren Oliver) and directed by Ry Russo-Young, I really liked this film, and Zoey Deutch is a lovely young actress who carries this film well. It's a new take on the "Groundhog Day" theme, has a good message and a good story.

However, I have to take issue with the fact that this film employs yet another Power Walk. It's getting ridiculous how many movies use that trope. I am going to start counting the number of movies that have Power Walks in them. and then write a letter of complaint to the cliché gods.

Rosy the Reviewer is a YA film that you and your teenaged children can watch together and enjoy and it actually has some depth.  It asks the question "If you could live the last day of your life knowing it was your last day, how would you live it?" - a good question for both you and your teenaged children to ponder.

T2 Trainspotting (2017)

We get caught up with Sick Boy, Renton, Spud, and Begbie 21 years later.

Here is another reason I don't like sequels which I may or may not have mentioned before:  I can never remember what happened in the first one.  And for this film in particular, with a sequel 21 years later, no wonder I didn't know what was going on.  I can't remember a movie I saw last week let alone one I saw 21 years ago.  So if you see this, and you want to understand the past relationships and the grudges, I recommend watching the first one again or at least get caught up by reading the Wiki synopsis.

As you may or may not recall (and if you don't, see the first one or read the wiki synopsis), in the first film, Renton (Ewen McGregor) ran off with the 16,000 pounds the guys made from a drug deal.  Since then he has gotten married, had two children and has been living in Amsterdam.  However, newly divorced and homeless, Renton has returned to "the scene of the crime," Edinburgh where his mother has died.  

Spud (Ewen Bremner) is still addicted to heroin, Sick Boy AKA Simon (Jonny Lee Miller, who - little known fact - was Angelina Jolie's first husband - I am full of these important facts!) is now addicted to cocaine, runs a pub and engages in porno blackmail schemes with his Bulgarian dominatrix girlfriend, Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova).  Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is in prison and has just been denied parole because of that temper of his, but escapes and wants to continue his life of crime by employing his young son to help him.  However, his son wants to go to college, not live a life of crime.

Renton has come back to make peace with his old friends, and when he visits Spud, he finds him in the midst of committing suicide.  Renton saves Spud and tells him he will help him get clean.  When they meet up with Simon, there is an altercation but eventually Renton and Simon reconcile and decide to go into business together and open a brothel. Can't these guys find straight jobs? They even apply for a small business loan to get it.  Meanwhile, when Begbie finds out that Renton has returned, he decides to seek revenge on Renton for running out on them with the money.  But revenge has a way of backfiring.

Directed by Danny Boyle, who also directed the first film, this film uses short flashbacks to the earlier film and employs the same pulsating music that infused the first film with so much energy. Don't get me wrong.  Boyle is a masterful filmmaker. One example, there is a scene where Mark, after learning that his mother has died, is seen sitting at a table with his Dad and  you can see a shadow of a figure on the wall over the chair where his mother would have sat.  I love those kinds of moments in films. That's what good filmmaking is all about.

So Boyle's credentials are not in question here.  And the actors are great, but one has to ask if anyone cares about the original film anymore or these characters, characters that weren't very likable to begin with and still aren't.  I have to ask why it was necessary to make this sequel. The first movie was ground-breaking. It was full of energy and who can forget that scene with the dirty toilet. So let's leave a ground-breaking film alone.  Let's not take the chance of sullying its memory with a subpar sequel. That's another reason I don't like sequels.

However, there is a certain nostalgia seeing these four actors together again, all of whom still look very much the same 21 years later.  I love Ewen - you can always count on the fact that he will be naked at some point and this film does not disappoint - and Carlyle is an actor we don't see enough of.  And Nedyalkova was a surprise stand-out.  However, despite my enjoyment at seeing these actors, the film itself was disjointed and if you haven't seen the first film, it will seem even more so. And I have to admit that the Scottish accents were so thick at times, the dialogue was difficult to understand.

Simon says to Renton, "You're a tourist in your own youth."

And that's what it felt like watching this film.  I was 21 years younger when I saw the first one, and it spoke to me.  This sequel resolved what happened to the characters from the first film, but it didn't have that thing the original film had - a freshness, a "Hey, this film is really different and special" vibe, so in that way it was a letdown. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...I guess I just really didn't care about these characters anymore.

***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


195 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Zero For Conduct (Zero de Conduite: Jeunes Diables au College 1933)

Four young boys in a repressive boarding school decide to rebel.

This short early talkie film (only 45 minutes) is about a run-down French all-boys boarding school.  When the boys return from break, they have a new teacher and instead of the usual heavy-handed types they have grown used to in the tyrannical school, this new teacher, Huguet (Jean Daste), is a fun guy who entertains his charges with handstands on his desk. However, the main focus of the film is the prank planned by four of the boys who escape from the school and run amok in the local village ending up on a rooftop. It's all very surreal and silly, but represents the exuberance of youth and rebellion against tyranny.

Director Jean Vigo was a French director in the 1930's who "invented" poetic realism.  He was also an influence on the French New Wave of the 1950's which is amazing because Vigo only made four films between 1929 and 1934.  This film also inspired the ending of Lindsay Anderson's "If." One can only wonder what he would have produced had he lived.

Why it's a Must See: "...the experiments with slow-motion, animation, and trick photography are prodigious and wondrous...cinema as a magic act."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...I always struggle with the early films.  I can appreciate the accomplishments these films represent but I usually don't enjoy them so here is another film I could have died without seeing.
(b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Downsizing the Family Home by Marni Jameson (2015)

The difficult, emotional journey of downsizing your or your aging parents' home.

I wish I had had this book when I had to help dismantle my mother's and father's home after my father died and my mother needed to go to a nursing home.  But I am glad to have it now as it's time to downsize my own home and move back to be nearer to my grandchildren.

Nationally syndicated home columnist Marni Jameson guides readers through the daunting process of sorting through a lifetime's worth of possessions and helps you untangle yourself from your things, especially those things that hold memories.  It's also a practical guide on how to store what you want to keep, how to ship items safely and even advice on how to fix up the old homestead so it will sell.

Using personal anecdotes as illustrations, Jameson explains the differences between a garage sale, a rummage sale (you rummage through stuff) and an estate sale and helps with strategies to get you through this process as painlessly as possible with insights and tips from national experts—antiques appraisers, garage-sale gurus, professional organizers, and psychologists.

Rosy the Reviewer says...OK, after reading this, I know how to downsize. Now I just have to DO it!

Thanks for reading!

 See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"The Beguiled"


 The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."
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