that ep and san junipero ep are my favorites in the series
San Junipero is everything. I think about it quite often.
Baby Driver | Edgar Wright | 2017 | USA | 1h 52min | Action| Crime | Music
While Edgar Wright is one of the most stylistically distinctive directors working today, as of late, it feels like he’s been stuck in a bit of a creative rut. Yes, I enjoyed every entry in the so-called “Cornetto Trilogy”, but by the time 2013’s The World’s End rolled around, and we got yet another quirky relationship comedy wrapped inside of a loving genre parody, I was starting to get a bit fatigued with the whole deal. Fortunately, while I’m still disappointed that the suits at Marvel refused to let Wright inject his undeniable personality into the rather homogenous “MCU” with AntMan, Baby Driver is still a strong consolation for that cinematic loss, and a welcome shake-up to Wright’s still-young career.
The basic plot of Baby Driver should be familiar to anyone who’s ever seen any “One Last Job” films; a criminal who’s The Best At What He Does (the titular “Baby Driver”) plans to ride into the sunset with his Designated Love Interest (Lily James’s innocent, naive Girl Next Door Deborah) after he pulls off his OLJ (the robbery of an armored truck) for his local criminal boss (Kevin Spacey’s superior, perpetually in control Doc), a boss who’s in the habit of making people Offers They Can’t Refuse. Of course, just when Baby Thought He Was Out, They Pull Him Back In, he quickly gets In Over His Head and absolutely Nothing Goes According To Plan, and he has to go on the run from both the fuzz and his fellow thieves as he discovers that Getting In’s A Lot Harder Than Getting In, and blahblahblah yaddayaddayadda seen it all before.
But Wright obviously knows we’ve seen all this before, and doesn’t try to pretend otherwise (at one point, Baby literally even says his next heist will be his “one last job”). Instead, Baby Driver displays a refreshing sense of self-awareness about the familiarity of its cliches, while also refusing to coast on them, injecting some new life into the ever reliable Crime Thriller both through its unique, unusual protagonist, as well as through applying Edgar Wright’s hyperactive, idiosyncratically one-of-a-kind style to the genre, all while Wright takes steps to avoid simply repeating what’s worked for him before. Ansel Elgort of The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series takes a much-needed break from the Young Adult adaptations to portray Baby, the painfully young but supernaturally-gifted driver, who uses his various IPod mixes as both the soundtrack to the heists he facilitates, as well as an escape from them, attempting to avoid seeing or hearing any innocents being harmed by his “coworkers” by just dancing in his seat to the beats in the hopes of keeping his hands clean (a hope we all very well know will be dashed by the end of the film).
Baby’s relationships with the other characters form the heart of the film, whether it be the way he takes care of his deaf foster father who is far too old to look after him anymore, his uneasy, Stockholm Syndrome dynamic with Doc, or his love story with Deborah, the waitress at a local diner. Rather than just being the obligatory Girl Of The Film, Wright takes the time to properly, genuinely develop their relationship, whether it be showing the two of them bonding over their mutual love of music and a desire to just hit the road and leave it all behind, or the true sympathy she shows when she learns that his mother died in a car crash when he was a child (while he was in the car, with a 1st-generation IPod that he now carries with him as a memento), or the way she loyally waits for him at the diner all night, after he promises (futilely) to make one final getaway with her.
All these small (but essential) details results in BD easily having the best character development a Wright film has had since Shaun Of The Dead, which, along with the surprisingly complex, detailed plot, and unexpectedly serious tone here, helps to create the freshest work from this director since, well, that acclaimed debut. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some moments of levity and comic relief here, but for the most part, Baby Driver can hardly be called a parody of anything, as it plays its Crime Thriller tropes rather straight, and, unlike most of Wright’s previous material, when the characters are supposedly in life-or-death situations here, they actually act as if they are, resulting in a Crime film as legitimately thrilling as anything Michael Mann ever put his name on.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t praise Wright for retaining his signature directorial style and taking it in a different, more action-oriented direction here. Of course, his in-your-face, hyperactive-but-focused style, with its energetic, constantly active editing, cinematography, and neat little visual gimmicks, and his always perfect, mood-setting song choices do a lot to spice up the calmer scenes, but it really shines during the action, as the dusty story beats are brushed off by the musical ones, and it becomes harder & harder to tell if the last beat came out of Baby’s ever-present IPod, or from a nearby gunshot. This movie really does have some of the finest action scenes (with all-practical stunts!) since Fury Road, and Wright simultaneously livens up both this tired old genre, and his own personal style, with what is one of the best movies of the year so far. Don’t let this Baby drive away from you.
Watching Eldorado XXI and the movie literally has a steady shot that lasts for at least thirty minutes with voice overs. Takes courage to do something like this.
Baby Driver is my 4th “actually go out to the theater” movie this year. Worth it.
Spider-man: Homecoming | Jon Watts | 2017 | USA | 2h 52min | Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi
I admit, I had almost negative interest in Spider-Man: Homecoming prior to it’s release; I was never a big fan of the overly campy Sam Raimi trilogy (2 was the only one I really liked), I avoided the first Amazing Spiderman out of apathy for another origin story so soon, and everything I heard about Amazing 2 made me (and a lot of other people) stay far, far away. Fortunately, that film’s failure had a silver lining, as it lead Sony to share the character’s film rights back with Marvel in order to steer the franchise back on course, leading to the release of the Homecoming you see before you. Its title obviously refers to the fact that, despite playing a supporting role in 2016’s strong Captain America: Civil War, this is the webbed one’s very first solo film within the “Marvel Cinematic Universe”, but, of course, despite the MCU never even coming close to releasing a bomb in 9 years and a whopping fifteen film’s, that alone didn’t guarantee the success of Homecoming, since I was never the biggest MCU fan. However, despite my inconsistent relationship with both the previous Spidermans and the Marvel films, and an overall fatigue with the superhero movies that have been dominating Hollywood in the decade & a half since the original film’s release, director Jon Watts still managed to deliver a rather fresh and entertaining new start for your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman here, proving that you can teach an old spider new tricks… or something.
After a flashback to the backstory of the film’s antagonist (Michael Keaton’s The Vulture) and an amusing little recap of Spidey’s involvement in the events of Civil War (done from the novel angle of Peter Parker filming Instagram-style selfie vids), the (Iron) man himself Tony Stark drops Peter back off in his home swinging grounds of Queens, with a shiny new suit, and an exhortation to just be a “friendly neighborhood Spiderman” for the time being, and not try to bite off more than he can chew. And refreshingly, both Peter and the film itself manages to do just that for the 1st half, “grounding” him in, well, his local neighborhood, showing Peter struggling to balance the duties of being just another high schooler who has to worry about studying, bullies, and how the girl of his dreams feels about him, alongside his “extracurricular activity” of being Spiderman after class, lifting up an entire row of lockers to access his stash of web fluid and webbing his backpacks up behind dumpsters (which still doesn’t prevent them from getting stolen) as he apprehends petty bike thieves, use his plentiful downtime to send multiple, unresponded-to texts to Tony’s assistant in the hope of being let inside the Avengers loop, and just generally try prove his worth as a hero to the (sometimes justifably) not-always appreciative locals.
And, instead of every action scenes here constantly taking place high up amongst the skyscrapers and cityscape that define Spiderman’s hometown, Homecoming balances sort of the large-scale setpieces you’ve come to expect from Spiderman (such as him using his webs to steer a massive, crashing cargo plane, attempting to hold together the Staten Island Ferry as it splits in half, and a truly “spectacular” scene set all the while on top of a crumbling Washington Monument) alongside action beats set in far more domesticated, mundane locations, such as a robbery inside a small local ATM, a Ferris Buller-style chase in a sleepy residential neighborhood (a cinematic similarity the film itself acknowledges in an amusing little aside), and a fight that takes place on the bus parking lot of the local school while the film’s titular 80’s themed homecoming dance goes on inside, unaware of the chaos occuring outside.
It is this dichtomy, this contrast between Spiderman’s larger, more typical superheroics and the unexpected, down-to-Earth relatablity of Peter’s dilemmas, both in and out of the costume, that ultimately makes Homecoming successful, and a relative breath of fresh air in an overdone, incredibly overcrowded genre. Don’t get me wrong, as this isn’t a perfectly film or anything; at times, it overrelies on using its connections to the larger MCU as a story crutch, some of the characterizations were lacking (such as Peter’s incredibly cliched, one-dimensional school bully, or Zendaya’s annoyingly “ironic”, pointlessly off-putting MJ), and the overall film can’t help but help but have a general air of familiarity if you’ve seen any number of modern superhero movies, but despite all that, Spider-Man: Homecoming was still a fun, entertaining time at the local cinema, and one I wouldn’t hesitate from recommending you swing on in to check out.
Dunkirk | Christopher Nolan | 2017 | USA | 1h 46min | Action | Drama | History
On May 26th, 1940, almost half a million Allied troops stood stranded on a grey, chilly beach in the north of France, as the German war machine furiously blitzkrieged its way toward them across the country, and indeed, the entire continent. Only about 20 miles of the English Channel lay between those stranded men and the salvation of their homeland, so close that on a clear day, you can see the white cliffs of Dover from the other side, but for the hundreds of thousands of men waiting on that beach, it might as well have been on another planet. That beach’s name? Dunkirk.
Christopher Nolan’s film of the same name is the story of the evacuation of those troops, shown from the viewpoints of the men who were on the ground, at sea, and in the air there, showing the event from almost every concievable angle, both military and civillian alike. While such a cinematic undertaking would be more than ambitious enough as is, Nolan goes one step further with Dunkirk, and resharpens his fascination with non-linear storytelling and playing around with our cinematic concept of time, by interweaving together every single story thread and presenting them simultaneously here, meaning that the scenes of an hour-long dogfight with Tom Hardy’s low-on-fuel RAF pilot, struggling to protect the troops on the beach below from the enemy planes above, are intercut with the story of the week-long escape of those troops from that beach.
With this unusual structure, Dunkirk compresses the already dramatic event down to its most dramatic moments, basically becoming one long, cinematic climax for 2 hours straight, an experience that could’ve (should’ve) became tedious and exhausting very, very quickly, but under Nolan’s immersive, skillfully intense direction, it’s what is instead what distinguishes and raises up Dunkirk as a war film, lifting it high, high above most of its peers in the often tired, overcrowded genre. For the most part, Nolan avoids the cliche of shoehorning in unnecessary backstory for the characters here, with no scenes of the frontline grunts sitting around and talking about how much they miss their family or their high school sweetheart or their sleepy little town back home, just so the film can act like it did something to make us care about these men just before they inevitably get blown away a minute later.
Instead, the primary method the film connects us with its characters is to simply place us in their boots, sometimes literally, with cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema’s up close and personal POV perspectives (which contrasts nicely with his epic, aerial MOVIE shots here), and make us feel what they felt waiting for rescue from that ugly, godforsaken beach, and what it must’ve been like to see the sight of an enemy plane rapidly diving towards your defenseless position, to hear the whir of an incoming shell that may be the last thing you ever hear, to feel the apocalyptic shudder of a ship that’s just been torpedoed by an invisible enemy, just before the cold ocean rushes in and cuts every light onboard off, leaving you desperately flailing for a way out, literally drowning in darkness.
It is this intense, personal immersiveness that gives Dunkirk its great cinematic power, and left me constantly feeling as though I was on the verge of having a heart attack right there in the theater (but in a good way, at least, as good as a heart attack can feel). And, while one can criticize this for having certain historical & military inaccuracies, for mostly “Britwashing” the evacuation of the multi-national forces off the beach, or giving in somewhat to a more traditional sentimentality towards the end (a sentimentality that I would argue the film earns through its mostly unglamorous depiction of warfare), all of that pales far, far in comparison to what this gets right. All in all, Dunkirk is one of the purest, most memorable cinematic experiences I’ve ever had, and as far as I’m concerned, is THE film of the year to date.
It was a perfectly fine film but I feel like I should have just trusted my gut on this one. Still, if you do want to see it anyway, I recommend going to watch it now unless you have a good stereo set up.
Baby Driver is the shit
The Defenders is pretty cool. Way better than Iron Fist.
Well, if you weren’t already deathly afraid of the sea, Dunkirk should do the trick.
Great reminder that Nolan is a beast of a director.
IT | Andy Muschietti | 2017 | USA | 2h 15min | Drama | Horror | Thriller
Like a demonic, shapeshifting clown popping his hideous head out of the sewers of Derry, a new adaptation of Stephen King’s epic novel It has arisen, 27 years after its last go-round onscreen (specifically, on the small screen, as a 1990 ABC miniseries), after going through various rewrites, multiple directors, including Cary Fuganaga of True Detective fame (who sadly, wasn’t allowed to direct the final project here), and what felt like an eternity in development hell. This time, only the childhood portion of the “Losers Club”'s decades-long struggle with Pennywise has been adapted, the film’s timeframe has been bumped up from the 50’s to the 80’s, which seems like the hot new thing post-Stranger Things (which shares an actor with It, even) and Andy Muschietti of Mama fame is the lucky one who ended up directing. The important thing here is, is It any good? Well, flaws aside, my answer to that question would have to be yes, but ironically enough, that result is due less to Pennywise’s presence here than just about any other aspect, to be honest…
We’re introduced to Pennywise (portrayed here by Stellan Skarsgård’s other son, Bill) in the film’s opening scene, where he lures 7 year-old “Georgie” to a sewer drain with promises of balloons, popcorn, and the boy’s lost sailboat, before baring his fangs (literally) and dragging him down in the depths to a particularly gruesome demise. In this scene in particular, Skarsgård puts in a memorable performance that’s somehow equal parts cheerful and predatorially creepy, and the idea that such an obviously evil figure could get away with both charming and preying upon the children of Derry for decades, like some sort of demonic Pied Piper, seems almost plausible due to the strength of his performance, which is unfortunate, since the film never lets the actor shine that much again.
Don’t get me wrong, as I did enjoy It as a whole, but I was still somewhat disappointed with its treatment of Pennywise; I mean, Skarsgård was already somewhat buried as an actor underneath the hideous clown makeup that accompanies the role, but Muschetti doesn’t do him any favors in further burying him and his various incarnations underneath a reliance on unnecessary special effects, repetitive, obnoxious jumpscares, and loud noises on the soundtrack to make sure you know that this is one of the scary parts. A lot of the moments in It that actually would’ve been creepier had they just been delivered with a lighter touch are grossly overblown instead (one scare involving a literally giant Pennywise popping out is pretty much just straight-up schlock), and the film’s prologue was the only time where it felt like Skarsgård just got to play Pennywise, before the annoying modern horror gimmicks began to get in the way of his performance, which, based off his acting in the opening scene, is a real missed opportunity. I mean, say what you will about the miniseries, but at least it let Tim Curry just PLAY Pennywise a lot more, and let him put his own stamp as on actor on the part.
That being said, not every “horrific” moment in this movie was a complete waste, as, while I was never actually scared by any scene here, I was mildly disturbed by some of the twisted, imaginative imagery that It packed (one scene involving a sink and an old haircut coming back to haunt a character was particularly messed up), which kept me entertained enough during some of the “scary” moments to keep them from being a total waste, and made decent use of the film’s R rating, an advantage it holds over the watered-down-for-TV content of the miniseries. And, what ultimately makes It worthwhile, despite its faults, is actually the various coming-of-age, innocense-lost dramas that the Losers Club experiences over the long, hard summer depicted in the film, whether it be Eddie discovering his mother has been feeding him placebo pills in order to make him believe that he’s chronically ill, Beverly simultaneously dealing with the difficulties of puberty, the peer pressure of being unfairly slut-shamed by both the children and the adults of the community, or the molesting advances of her father, who’s determined to keep her as his “little girl” for forever, or the way that Bill uses Pennywise’s illusions of Georgie in order to say goodbye to his memories of the real Georgie, and finally move on from his death, a detail that, hacky jumpscares aside, nicely dovetails the fantastical horrors of the film with real-life traumas in a much more elegant manner than a certain other 2017 horror movie (coughSplitcough).
Anyway, like I said before, It is not a perfect film; in addition to its over-the-top jumpscares and silly, computer-generated effects, it has the occasional bit of tonal whiplash, and is rather loose structurally, generally going from scene to scene rather haphazardly, with certain characters just floating (no pun intended) in and out of the story seemingly at random. But, all of that being said, it’s ultimately the film’s sense of heart and soul, the way it cares enough about its young characters to take the time to develop almost every one of them (even one of the bullies!), that goes beyond not just what most horror films attempt in terms of character development, but what just a lot of movies have in general, that redeems It, and makes it a worthwhile cinematic experience. Warts and all, this is a fundamentally good movie, and if you see it, then I think that… you’ll float too? I dunno, I just felt I had to shoehorn that into my review somewhere. Anyway, just go see It already!
yo Blade Runner 2049 is
Rewatched OG Blade Runner last night in anticipation for the new one. Fiance’s first time watching it. Don’t think it was really her thing, but she enjoyed it. Haven’t seen it since the first time I watched it like a decade+ ago. Loved it now more then ever, felt like I grasped much more than when I was younger.
Also, the “seduction” scene with Rachael and Deckard was waaayyyyyy more rapey than I remember… Really the only thing I have to dig about it
Hopefully catching the new one this weekend.
Blade Runner 2049 | Denis Villeneuve | 2017 | USA | 164 min | Mystery | Sci-Fi | Thriller
The year is 2049; 30 years have passed since blade runner Rick Deckard “retired” his last skin job, and vanished into the non-existent sunset with the (fellow…?) replicant Rachel. A wave of fugitive “reps” arise from the ashes of the Tyrell Corporation, as another generation of replicants is given birth, models that have been engineered to be obedient, even to the point of hunting down and killing their own kind, like Ryan Gosling’s K (short for his serial number KD9-3.7, or his “real name”). But, when a routine case leads to the discovery of the remains of a replicant who apparently died giving birth (something believed to be impossible), K will go on a world-shattering journey that will force him to question everything that he believed to be real, alongside a couple of ghosts from the past that haven’t been seen in a long, long time.
So that’s the basic pitch of Blade Runner 2049 on paper, Denis Villeneuve’s unlikely, long-in-in-the-works sequel to Ridley Scott’s original 1982 classic, but how does it play out on film? Well, for one thing, Villeneuve & company have more than stayed true to the world that Scott helped create over 3 decades ago, while still finding new, refreshing ways to expand on that vision; the massive cityscape of 2049 Los Angeles still feels just as monolithic and oppressive as it did in 1982, especially when lensed through the eye of modern cinematography icon Roger Deakins’ epic, dizzying visuals, as hints of Vangelis’s legendary original score wash through the soundtrack, and, while the Tyrell Corporation is no more, many real companies from the original that went bankrupt are still around in 2049, such as Atari and Pan Am (even the Soviet Union still exists in this timeline, to demonstrate the film’s fidelity to Scott’s canon). Writing-wise, Hampton Fancher and Michael Green find new ways to delve back into the original’s signature themes of identity, just exactly what it means to have a soul and to be “human”, and the ever-thinning line that supposedly still separates man from his creations, while stylistically, Villeneuve’s direction strongly recalls the slow, leisurely pacing, and overall cryptic, alienating tone that keeps Scott’s film such a haunting experience all these year later.
…recalls it a bit too much, if you ask me. Don’t get me wrong, as 2049 is still a worthwhile film on the whole, and I didn’t regret paying extra to see it in theaters at all, but I still couldn’t help but feel it would’ve been better if Villeneuve hadn’t tried so hard to exaggerate certain traits from the original as if to try to give us the ultimate Blade Runner experience; 2049’s surreally slow pacing is sometimes pushed to the absolute breaking point, and I ended up feeling almost every single minute of the film’s 2 & 1/2 hour-plus running time, and the inclusion of certain overly bizarre, dehumanized moments (especially with Jared Leto’s reclusive blind industrialist Niander Wallace, who substituted creepy cataracts and pretentious, “poetic” ramblings in place of actual character development) just felt very forced and unnecessary, and was a bit of a cinematic turn off in the end.
Still, 2049 is at its best when Villeneuve allows its sense of humanity to shine through, like with the inner pain and utter confusion that Gosling’s K displays as his entire world and very sense of self gets turned completely upside down as his investigation goes deeper and deeper, or with how surprisingly touching his relationship with his holographic “girlfriend” Joi is; the moment where she finally gets to go outside their cramped apartment after K gives her a portable emitter, and she gets to feel rain on her “skin” for the first time was simply beautiful to witness, and a scene where Joi synchronizes her movements with a real woman to give K a sort of one-on-one lovemaking session is one of the coolest sci-fi visuals I’ve seen in recent years. It even retroactively makes the memories of Deckard & Rachel’s relationship more engaging to hear about than it was to witness in the original (classic film or not, that particular aspect of Blade Runner always struck me as rather obligatory and perfunctory), but I’ll stop right there, at the risk of spoiling 2049 any further than I already have.
Anyway, like I said before, Blade Runner 2049 isn’t a perfect film, and I can’t help but feel like it could’ve been better with a shorter running time and a slightly more accessible tone on the whole, but I also can’t help but find it a compelling cinematic experience anyway; the visuals are breathtaking, the concepts and themes are fascinating and genuinely thought-provoking, and it’s the rare sequel to an iconic original that (mostly) avoids just coasting on nostalgia audiences may hold for the first film, but rather, actually does something to further develop the world created in the original, making for a “blade” that, flaws and all, I didn’t regret running at all.
The first episode of The Punisher was great.
Oh yeah went and saw Thor 3. Was p fun and funny. Did a job.
I guess I don’t need to write a review for that then.
He says so much with so little. One of the great critics of our time.