“Baby Driver”

For those who think “Baby Driver” is a “Drive” rip off, I respectfully say you’re wrong. “Baby Driver” has more in common with “Reservoir Dogs,” “Point Break,” “Heat,” “The Town,” “The Driver,” “The Blues Brothers,” and “La La Land.” I don’t normally call movies cool, but “Baby Driver” is pretty damn cool.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver, who’s the best in the business. He’s a reluctant accomplice who focuses more on his music during robberies than watching his accomplices. Doc (Kevin Spacey) promises him that they’re square after one more job, but what happens when Doc interferes in Baby’s reformed life and romance with the sweet Debora (Lily James)? A frenetic and unpredictable series of robberies, shootouts, chases backed by a killer playlist!

“Baby Driver” is Edgar Wright’s fifth film and he once again demonstrates his auteurship by splicing musical numbers with action sequences. Whether Wright perfectly edits and paces the opening chase sequences to match they rhythm of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms,” or he choreographs gunfire to stay on tempo with Focus’s “Hocus Pocus,” “Baby Driver” is an innovative piece of action filmmaking.

It’s not just the action sequences that are worth watching. There are romantic jukebox musical moments of Baby and Debora rocking out to T. Rex, bromantic moments of Baby and Buddy (Jon Hamm) rocking out to Queen, and one amazing long take of Baby dancing and singing along to “Harlem Shake.” Wright hits all the right notes with his song choices.

Elgort delivers a quiet, expressive, and physically demanding performance as Baby. He’s a well-rounded and empathetic protagonist. All Baby wants to do is enjoy his music and spend time with Debora, but he’s trapped. In the last thirty minutes of the film, Baby turns into an unpredictable force of nature and Elgort displays impressive stunt work and facial expressions in his performance, putting him on par with Ryan Gosling and Tom Hardy.

The supporting cast excels with Spacey, Hamm, and Jamie Foxx as charismatic psychos with surprising depth. Doc is hyped as the main antagonist in the first act, but he’s later humanized and shows surprising concern for Baby. Buddy wants to be everyone’s buddy, but he later turns into a homicidal maniac; Hamm is quite versatile in his performance. Foxx is a scene stealer as the self-proclaimed crazy Bats. Bats is chaotic evil and causes all sorts of problems for the group, but he also acts as a mentor figure to Baby.

Each character in this film acts as a family member to Baby. Doc is Baby’s father figure, Baby, Bats, and Darling (Elsa Gonzalez) are Baby’s dysfunctional siblings. Baby seeks salvation in Debora and she’s the one innocent character. Don’t be fooled! She’s not a damsel-in-distress and makes a great foil to Baby. I loved this narrative because it balances style and substance evenly.

Wright is on fire with “Baby Driver;” he not only has made the best film so far this year or summer, but he’s quite possibly made the best film of his career. I’ve seen it twice now and wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

Grade: A+

 

 

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“Nine Lives”

A little note about the writer – Austin Maggs hadn’t ever walked out of a movie halfway through. This changed after he saw “Nine Lives.”

“Nine Lives” follows Kevin Spacey as Tom Brand, a workaholic tycoon with a much younger wife Lara (Jennifer Garner) and a loving daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). When Rebecca asks Tom for a cat, he rudely adopts one from an eccentric pet store owner (Christopher Walken) and then finds that he’s now trapped inside the cat.

One of my biggest pet peeves in film is a movie that’s marketed as a kids movie when it’s clearly not. “Nine Lives” belongs in the 90s when false kids movies like “First Kid,” “Jingle All the Way,” and “Milk Money” were a trend.

SPOILERS AHEAD! BUT DO YOU EVEN CARE IF I SPOIL THIS CRAP FEST?

In the 45 minutes of “Nine Lives” that I watched, this movie had more aesthetics and narrative tropes of both a bad Lifetime drama and a TV comedy. This includes:

-Tom treating his grown son like an employee and insulting his masculinity.

-Lara befriending Tom’s unlikable ex-wife (Cheryl Hines) without any explanation as to why.

-The ex-wife’s snooty daughter having an annoying frenemy relationship with Rebecca.

-Lara revealing her extramarital affair.

-Tom’s disgruntled vice president trying to kill him.

-At least five boring business meetings filled with exposition and scotch. Those scenes alone belong in “Mad Men.”

Barry Sonnenfeld (the “Men in Black” trilogy) directed this disasterpiece, and the mighty has fallen. His overuse of whip pans, quick zooms, and bad CG make me wonder if the budget was actually thirty million dollars. Imdb and Wikipedia say it is, but I still don’t believe it.

I know I shouldn’t review this movie since I didn’t even finish it, but I saw enough of “Nine Lives” to determine this is the worst movie of 2016. And 2016 isn’t even over!

Grade: F