‘Baby Driver’ Review

Director: Edgar Wright

Writer: Edgar Wright

Cast: Ansel Elgort, Lily James, Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez, CJ Jones, Jon Bernthal and Kevin Spacey

Synopsis: After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway drivers himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

I’m not going to make this a secret – I love Edgar Wright. Every movie he’s done I’ve either loved or thoroughly enjoyed to no end. So when he dropped out of Ant-Man and moved on to Baby Driver, I was both a little upset (I was really looking forward toward his Ant-Man) and excited to see what he was going to do with this. Thankfully, from the very first trailer I was completely in. Then the early reviews and reception came out and everyone was saying how great and awesome it was. However as the release date loomed, and the reception kept getting better and better, I started wondering, is it really that good? Yes, yes it is.

Baby Driver centers on Baby (Ansel Elgort), a skilled, but reluctant getaway driver working off his debut to Doc (Kevin Spacey). However, he’s a not a normal getaway driver, he constantly listens to music to drown out his tinnitus in his ears that was a result from a car accident where he lost his parents as a child, and it’s his inner soundtrack that makes him the best. One day he meets waitress Debora (Lily James), and finally sees a future where he doesn’t have to be a getaway driver. However, as he and Debora get closer, Doc ropes him back into the game on a big job alongside Bats (Jamie Foxx), Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza Gonzalez). What follows is Baby trying to escape in more ways than one.

Like I mentioned, Baby is constantly listening to music and acts like not only his own personal soundtrack but ours as well, giving us a sense at what Baby is feeling at the certain times. At one point, during Baby’s second job working with Jaime Foxx’s Bats – when he’s introduced – JD (Lanny Joon) and Eddie (played by Flea), Baby restarts a song because the timing in off. The funny thing is that it doesn’t come off as awkward or weird, it comes off as funny and almost necessary. I read somewhere that the film is almost a reverse musical, instead of people bursting out into song, its Baby’s music that pushes the story forward a bit.

I don’t know how people will feel with music almost constantly playing, but Edgar Wright makes it work so well that it is rather impressive. Also, the fact that the music syncs with the action and the choreography to perfection makes the film that much better. Speaking of the action and the choreography, it’s highly impressive what Wright was able to bring out of everyone, and what he’s able to accomplish with all the car stunts is damn cool.

When it comes to the cast, they are also all fantastic. I’m not the biggest fan of Ansel Elgort, but he’s not that bad here as Baby. He’s a man of few words – expect when he’s talking to Debora – and lets his soundtrack and driving do the talking for him. Kevin Spacey chews up every scene he’s in, which isn’t many, but he does leave his impression felt. Jaime Foxx as Bats is, well, crazy and a bit unhinged and does act as the primary villain, although you can argue that they’re all bad guys, expect Baby who’s a reluctant bad guy. Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez play the happy couple of Buddy and Darling, who are crazy about each other and Buddy actually likes Baby and sees something special in him, which plays a bigger factor than you think in the film near the end.

Lily James as Debora is, unfortunately, a little underdeveloped. She does have a story behind her, but it’s only her telling it so it could have helped if we’d see a little more of her. Jon Bernthal isn’t underdeveloped, he’s underused. Bernthal is part of the opening heist of the film, but isn’t seen after that. It’s a bit of a shame, but he’s great in the time that he’s there. CJ Jones also appears as Joseph, Baby’s deaf foster father who wishes Baby would leave the criminal life.

All in all, Baby Driver is a fantastic film with great car chase sequences with an awesome cast and an equally great soundtrack that perfect fits with the action and how Ansel Elgort’s Baby is feeling. Moreover, while Baby Driver isn’t as personal as Edgar Wright’s other films, it is as stylized as them and filled with more action. Do yourself a favor and go watch Baby Driver in the biggest and loudest theater you can find.

Baby Driver

4.5 out of 5

‘Divergent’ Review

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Dir: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Maggie Q, and Kate Winslet

Synopsis: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late

*Reviewer Note:  This will be a spoiler free review.*

Based off the popular Young Adult Novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in a dystopian, post-war Chicago where its citizens are divided into five factions, each one emphasizing a particular personality trait: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (kindness), Erudite (intelligence), Candor (honesty), and Dauntless (bravery).  Each one is assigned certain jobs, e.g. Abnegation runs the government, Erudite handles science, and Dauntless are the soldiers.  Every citizen must choose their faction and are given a test to see, which faction suits them best.  When Abnegation citizen Beatrice Prior (Woodley), who later calls herself Tris, takes the test, she comes up as “Divergent”, which she has to hide because it will make her a target against the higher ranks that including Jeanine (Winslet).

Divergents “threaten the system,” as we’re told over and over by various characters in urgent and cryptic whispers. Why they pose such a danger is not revealed until later in the movie and even then it doesn’t pack much of a punch (at least for me).  Despite that, the movie has an interesting world, but we never fully grasp what it really is. We see a somewhat ruined Chicago (which is cool because it’s the home city) with some futuristic touches and we get the idea of the Fraction-less.  But the only real concept we see is Beatrice’s Abnegation house when the family eats dinner around a single, tiny light bulb.  There are conflicts between the fractions, Erudite and Abnegation, although we don’t see it and are only told through Peter (Teller), who bashes Tris any chance he can get.

Of course being based off a young adult novel, Tris has a love interest in her instructor and Dauntless member Four (James). I’ll admit Woodley and James’ chemistry is one of the best things about Divergent but at the same time it takes away from the other relationships that Tris has with spunky Christina (Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen).  Even her “rival” Peter and ruthless instructor Eric (Courtney) don’t feel bad, although Eric is menacing at times.

Again, Woodley is probably one of the better parts of the movie. She brings her A-game when need be and adds some depth to the scenes, even when it’s not necessarily needed.  Theo James adds some mystery to Four and tries to lead Tris in the right direction.  On the other hand, there is some wasted talent when it comes to Kate Winslet’s Jeanine, who feels like she’s evil for the sake of being evil.  Even Ray Stevenson’s Marcus, the leader of Abnegation, and Ashley Judd who plays Tris mother feel like they could have gotten other people to do them and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Thankfully, it does make an effort to deliver on the action, although some feels a bit anti-climatic.  The zip-lining across Chicago skylines is pretty cool.  Even the “fear tests” have some vivid imagery and is the only time the movie allows itself to go into “dark territory” which I kind of wish the movie had more of.

All in all, Divergent is kind of all over the place. For a movie that’s about two and half hours long, it kind of feels like it’s running fast to get through a lot of story that it misses the details that could make it come alive and the plot points that could help it make sense. Although it sounds like I’m bashing it, there were some moments that I did enjoy. While it’s not any different from the other Young Adult Novel adaptation, I’m guessing fans of the book will enjoy seeing the story on the big screen. I know the five pre-teen girls sitting behind me did.

Divergent

3 out of 5

‘Carrie’ Review

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Dir: Kimberly Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss)

Cast: Chloe Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Gabriella Wilde, Portia Doubleday, Alex Russell, Ansel Elgort and Judy Greer

Synopsis: A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler review as always. I do want say I know it’s going to hard for some not compare this to the original Brian De Palma version. I even found it a bit hard because this movie is a real homage and shares some similarities (and even lines) but I’m going to review this movie for what this movie is.*

 

The movie starts with an interesting scene of Margaret White (Moore) that gives you the sense of how Margaret sanity truly is when he daughter Carrie is born. We fast forward and see Carrie (Moretz) as a teenager in high school. She’s shy, unpopular, a social outcast, and a bit naïve of her body. When Carrie has her period in the school shower she’s truly concerned with what’s happening with her body, even to the point where she thinks she’s bleeding to death. Of course instead of helping, the other girls lead by our main bully Chris (Doubleday) laugh at her and record her pain. It’s at that moment when we start to notice Carrie has something special about her.

It’s also here when we see popular girl Sue Snell (Wilde) take some pity on her and gym teacher Ms. Desjardin (Greer) who shows Carrie some kindness.  After everything calms down, Carrie is told that her mother is coming to pick her up and we see that besides being put on the spot, she’s afraid of her mother.

We don’t blame Carrie for being afraid of her mother. Her mother runs a very strict house, so to speak. She’s very religious and will at times quotes things from the bible (sort of) to Carrie because she’s “misbehaving.” She’ll be even punish herself sometimes to make Carrie stop. Needless to say, she’s a bit unstable.

Moore does do a good job of playing up Margaret. She is subtly frightening and fierce and there is an interesting addition to her character that I kind of wanted to see more of. But, on the other end she can show that she truly loves her daughter and wants to protect her but when she turns on her it makes us look at her differently.

But let’s not forgot, this movie belongs to Chloe Grace Moretz playing our title character. Many believe Moretz was miscast or even saying that they can’t see why they cast Moretz because she’s to pretty to play someone who in the book is not pretty. I don’t think that any of that really matters. Without sounding like most of the pervs out there, Moretz is pretty but it’s her acting that makes her Carrie. Her performance as someone who has been raised in such a horrific, abusive home by her mother is what makes her so uncomfortable in her own skin and withdrawn around her classmates. Some of her strongest moments are when she’s acting across from Moore, especially the final scene, and as Carrie tries to stand up to Margaret and gaining more self-confidence her powers get stronger.

The rest of the cast do their parts as well as they could. Greer as Ms. Desjardin who plays Carrie’s protector and even tries to cheer Carrie up does okay in the small role she has. Wilde and Ansel Elgort are likeable as the school’s it couple, Sue and Tommy, who decide to do something positive for Carrie, after Sue can’t get past her guilt over joining in on the cruel incident with Carrie, so you kind of feel for them at the end.

Of course everything leads up to the infamous prom scene. It’s still a bit disconcerting to see Carrie having a good time at prom only to know she going to have pig’s blood dumped on her. It’s there of course where everyone that’s made fun or laughed at her learn what happens when you push someone to far. Carrie taking out her classmates is a bit terrifying especially when you see she’s kind of enjoying it and doesn’t care who’s in her way.

All in all, Carrie isn’t a bad movie. There are some standout moments and the acting from Moretz and Moore is top notch. However, the movie never really reaches it’s full potential even with the pay off prom scene. Again, there’s nothing wrong with the movie but for my only original movie comment, some of this has been done before.

 

Carrie

3.5 out of 5