Baby Driver

At the time of writing this introduction, Baby Driver was listed on Wikipedia as a British-American action crime comedy jukebox musical film, and when I first read that my heart skipped several beats. I am now dead. [Editor’s note: I have gotten better, and the Wikipedia article has since been shortened.]

Those genre’s together just seemed too good to be true, and it was. Because a jukebox musical means, 1) It is a musical, and 2) That the songs that the character sing already exist and come from the charts. But I knew this wasn’t a musical, just a film that really, really, really, loved music. Music that yes, at different times, may have hit the charts. And even if the main character sings some of them, they still don’t qualify it as a musical.

Which is sad, but I am mostly certain no one will turn a plot like this one into an actual musical. Or at least, not for film, but you never know with Broadway turning out 2 or more “Movie title, the musical!” films a year.

Elevator
“Elevator, the musical!” is coming up and down this fall.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) loves music. It is a major part of his identity, there are always earbuds in his ears with an iPod playing a song to help the situation. When Baby was a kid, his parents got into a car accident with him in the back seat. They died, he survived, and he gained an ever persistent noise in his ears that won’t go away. The music helps dull it out.

Baby unfortunately got into some trouble. He became very good at cars, being one of the best drivers around despite his young age. But one day, he messed with the wrong man, Doc (Kevin Spacey), and lost a lot of his merchandise. And now, to pay Doc back, Baby has been the driver for several bank robberies in the greater Atlanta area, with his share always going towards his payment. But as soon as he pays off Doc, he wants out. He just wants to drive and be free, he definitely doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

Baby works with criminals, however. And criminals can be erratic and put his family in danger. His family being his foster dad (CJ Jones), who is now in a wheel chair, deaf, and needs a lot of attention. And Deborah (Lily James), a waitress at a diner he frequents who shares his passion of music and is generally a free spirit. So when the criminals start doing bad things, it is Baby’s duty to get out of it while protecting those he cares about.

We have quite a few criminals played by actors like Jon Hamm, Jon Bernthal, Jamie Foxx, Eiza González, Flea, and Lanny Joon. Also featuring Sky Ferreira and Hal Whiteside.

Diner
Everyone knows that diners are the best place to go for music and pie.

Baby Driver, from start to finish, will keep you on the edge of your seat and the edge of your car seat as well when you are heading home. Don’t watch this movie during the day, because you will want the roads empty so you can blast music and drive (responsibly) maybe a little bit faster. It will take over you, especially if you are a movie goer with varied music tastes.

Elgort has been in quite a few teenage romance / young adult films. The Fault in our Stars, Paper Towns, Divergent, even the Carrie remake. But Baby Driver is finally his jumping off point into something greater than all of his parts before combined. He is now part of a cinematic masterpiece, playing a role unlike his other characters, and hopefully will lead him to a lot of better roles in the future. Elgort might be a star, especially lucky after he didn’t get the Star Wars gig.

The cinematography, the action, the variety of characters, the dialogue, and of course, the music, make Baby Driver a must see film. I especially appreciate at how diverse the music ends up being, from all sorts of decades and genres. In addition to that, having the action FIT the music is an incredible achievement and allowed me to sit in my seat in awe.

I can’t talk enough about how wonderful an experience Baby Driver was. It is a film that I want to see again in theaters and will pick up on Blu-Ray day one of its release.

4 out of 4.

Allegiant

The official name for this film is not Allegiant, but The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 1, and that is down right terrible for a few reasons.

One, the first movie was called Divergent, not The Divergent Series: Divergent. You knew there would be more movies, you shouldn’t try to change the series names after you have already started.

Two, I didn’t name my review for the second one The Divergent Series: Insurgent, I just did Insurgent like a sane person.

And three, of course they took the third book of a trilogy and split it up. It will make them more money, regardless of how much it hurt the product (see Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2). But they have absolutely no reason to throw “Part 1” at the end of the title. You know why? Well, the title of the fourth movie isn’t even The Divergent Series: Allegiant – Part 2. It is The Divergent Series: Ascendant. There is no Allegiant – Part 2 officially, even though the fourth and final film is the second half of the Allegiant book.

What a fucking clusterfuck of a titled series.

Group Shot
Thankfully we have teenagers with attitude to save us.

At the end of the first film, I thought out gang was leaving the walled city of Chicago behind, to advance the plot. I was wrong, they just went to the woods outside of Chicago. At the end of the second film, I thought everyone was leaving the walled city of Chicago behind, unified and scared, to advance the plot. I was wrong there too apparently.

Right away, Evelyn (Naomi Watts) now in control, decides it is best for the gates to be sealed and everyone be locked in. Security is ramped up and there to be trials for everyone on the losing side. Mentally at this point, I was about to throw my pen at the screen and walk out. If they don’t ever leave Chicago I will freak out.

Thankfully, I guess, our small crew of characters still wants to break out and see the world. Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and Tori (Maggie Q). This makes them traitors, so Evelyn has Edgar (Jonny Weston, our wannabe Jai Courtney) to hunt them down.

So what’s on the other side? Well, a lot of desolation. Some war shit happened. Nukes and all. But they are found by the Bureau of Genetic Welfare, a scary sounding company for sure, who let’s them know that Chicago was an experiment and more secrets about the world. I will let them stay secret. It is led by the director (Jeff Daniels), who is happy for Tris being Divergent, because it means their experiment worked!

Tris is now a hero who will save the world, and maybe save the impending war in Chicago. The remaining crew are working surveillance and security for the BGW while she has all the fun.

Returning actors include Octavia Spencer and Daniel Dae Kim. New people are played by Nadia Hilker, Andy Bean, and Bill Skarsgård.

Bubbles
The future is so weird and full of fucking CGI.

I have a lot of problems with this film and I have to get specific to let you know some of the things that really irked me. So there will be spoilers, arrr. But here is what it has to boil down to: the writers. No, I don’t mean Veronica Roth, the writer of the book. I don’t plan on ever reading them, but I have heard the final book is terrible. So maybe the studio agreed, because they hired three people to write the screen play, Bill Collage, Adam Cooper, and Noah Oppenheim. The first two co-wrote The Transporter Refueled (sigh, with Luc Besson) and Exodus: Gods and Kings among other things, and Oppenheim was one of three people on The Maze Runner.

They do not have the best credentials behind them, but more importantly, none of them worked on the previous two films. So not only did they apparently stray away from the source material of the books, but they collectively just went off the rails with no regard for continuity, characters, or sensibility. This movie is, dare I say, stupid. A childish word not meant for a serious movie review like this one, but the only one that really fits. Scenes are loosely connected by the plot, but with people who seem to not remember the past in any way shape or form.

All of my best actions seem to be about Four and when he gets to the Bureau so let’s just use him. He is put on security, told it will take him a long time to get used to the new future tech before he can go on missions. He figures it all instantly, of course, he was a fantastic fighter dude. He wants to go on the next mission, is told no, but like in a “No, wait don’t do it, no” apathetic way. Literally no one tries to stop him doing anything. Getting on the space ship, interacting with the natives, seeing what they really do with the natives. There was no resistance at any way, as the writers didn’t even know what they were doing.

While on the mission, he is yelled at by a commander who thinks he shouldn’t be here because he is too new and should stay out of trouble. You know who is sitting two seats away from him? Fucking. Christina. Also from Chicago. No way as good of a fighter as Four. But apparently she also did everything in the short amount of time (despite barely acknowledging her once they arrive), can also go on missions, and is given no shit. Hell, she even gets to interact with the natives and let Four know what is up, in front of everyone, and no one still cares. It was terrible to watch as the film was full of these tiny -> big inconsistencies.

Redcamo
But hey, at least the camouflage makes sense for this film!

This happens to be the type of film where 90% of the problems would be solved if the main characters would just actually talk to each other. Of course, lazy writing prevents this, turning it into a lame RomCom, without the Com and very weak Rom.

And really what really boils my corn is the ending. Look back at my description of how the first two films ended. This one ends with everyone ready to leave the walled city of Chicago behind, unified and scared. What makes me so upset about this ending is that it is almost exactly the same ending as the second film. Sure, things happen in this film, but outside of some knowledge gained, every single relevant person is in the exact same position they were a movie ago, totally going to do the things they promised to do this movie. Shit. This film series is like a horrible time warp, making me relive the leave Chicago plot over and over without ever really getting to do so.

I fully expect the final film to begin with everyone collectively breaking their legs, so that they all have to stay in Chicago for the whole film. That is the level of quality of writing I have come to expect from this franchise and next summer cannot come soon enough so that it can finally be over.

0 out of 4.

Insurgent

The Divergent series has the honor of being the next Hunger Games series, movie wise. Even if The Hunger Games still has one more movie yet to come out. You know. Successful trilogy, third one split into two boring as fuck movies to milk more money out of teenagers. Whatever.

I wanted to like Divergent a lot more than I did. But, TL;DR, it wasn’t a completely original dystopian plot line like it made it look like. It was kind of nonsensical at points, left a lot of questions, and it ended up just being a damn high school clique movie, in its most basic form.

HOWEVER. Insurgent can be something completely different. If the ending of Divergent is any indication, Insurgent shouldn’t be a shitty high school clique movie. It should be a smarter sci-fi dystopian action movie. Class warfare shouldn’t be an issue. Just rebels vs the government. Good. This one can be a huge improvement.

Pls don’t let me down. Plsssss.

Food Fight
I was just as surprised as everyone else over the erotic lunch based three way scene.

The last movie ended with our heroes, Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) escaping out of Chicago and heading past the wall into the magical world of the unknown. After all, the wall was put up to protect them from the dangerous outside that had monsters and bad people and shit.

Wait a minute. Sorry. No. They just go into the forests outside of the city? Not outside of the wall? Oh…well then…okay. I guess they are just hiding out from the hippies, trying to figure out what the hell Jeanine (Kate Winslet) wants to do, now that she took out all the working class selfless people. That’s right, only four factions now fuckers. The nerds, the jocks (which are scattered and small), the student government, and the hippies. Because it is still a high school in Chicago. Speaking of those factions, we get to see things from the hippies and the student government finally. The hippies are lead by Johanna (Octavia Spencer) and the SGA is lead by Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim, of Lost fame!).

Either way, the plot of this movie is our heroes on the run. Not physically, because apparently it is super easy to hide from almost everyone in Chicago, despite them only using like 5 buildings for most of the population. Their GPS systems must all be out of wack. Also, Jeanine found this mystical box under Tris’ old house that her parents were hiding. That is why she killed them by the way, looking for the box. Didn’t you know that they wanted it from the first movie? (I literally don’t remember it, but it may have been hinted or mentioned). The thing is, this box has a message in it, written by the founders of the caste system. It will let them know how to deal with all these Divergent assfaces. They just need a really strong divergent to open it. Hmm, wonder who that could be…

This movie has a huge number of other people of course. We get the return of Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, and Zoe Kravitz. But we also have new people, like Naomi Watts and Keiynan Lonsdale! Woo~

Wires
Oh, and didn’t you hear that this one featured Bieber?*

As soon as I finished this movie, I was immediately asked by people what I thought about it. And I shrugged. I didn’t know. It took me a long time to figure out exactly what I liked, disliked, and how I thought about the film as a whole.

Here is one thing I know for certain: Insurgent is better than Divergent. For sure. I had a lot to complain about Divergent. You might have heard about me doing so in my review of Divergent. But I still thought it was at least okay. So here is another thing I know: Insurgent is not good enough for me to give it a 3 out of 5, the like it category. It is a 2 out of 4 like Divergent, just a better 2 out of 4.

I was able to see this movie in IMAX, only my second movie to do so after Edge of Tomorrow, and it did feel good on the gigantic 3D screen. It had a lot of CGI based special effects going through these tests or whatever they were called and for the most part the looked pretty decent. It had more action than the first film. Real action, not bullshit “dangerous training”.

On the other hand, the plot was pretty basic. It was very predictable, especially when it came to reality versus simulation. The only wild card was Miles teller. We mostly just had teenage angst carrying the rest of the plot, so it was pretty linear. Major plot points seemed like they were added on as an afterthought (read: that box thing that wasn’t mentioned in the first film at all). And of course, this film still doesn’t feature outside Chicago, which to every one that isn’t a book reader, was pretty sure how this one would start. But whatever.

The film also still features a huge amount of confusing plot decisions and material. Maybe reading the books would fill the gaps, maybe they are shitty in the book too. Who knows. I know this is still entertaining enough to warrant a watch, but not enough for me to want to buy any of the series still or read the books. And the last movie being another shitty two parter means the franchise is probably at its high point right now. So sad. Please go back to Spiderman, Shailene.

* – Bieber jokes are still funny, right?

2 out of 4.

The Fault In Our Stars

If there is one thing that has been made abundantly clear over the last few years, it is that teenage based romance novels turned into movies make a lot of money. Why? Fan girls, mostly. But as long as it is teenage and romance, then it will make money. Most of them have seemed to do well, assuming they actually have a big following, unlike random shit like Vampire Academy.

Which is why it should come to no surprise that The Fault In Our Stars was breaking presale records.

Even if the movie ended up being shitty, I can’t get mad at it being made. Because after it gets made, then it is done and over. This is not a trilogy that will have the third book getting broken up into ten parts. Just one complete story, no cliff hangers, no bull shit. And really, that makes this feel a little bit more special for me.

Hilary Rodham Clinton
I can see they are also showcasing the Hillary Rodham Clinton look in this movie.

Speaking of being special, Hazel (Shailene Woodley) is a girl who had cancer when she was thirteen, got over it, then had some lung issues. Now she has problems breathing, has one of those oxygen tanks by her at all times, going into her nose. Kind of hard to be a normal teenage girl like that! She can’t make friends, or even a boyfriend.

Until she goes to a support group. There she meets Isaac (Nat Wolff), a guy going blind from his eye cancer. But he isn’t important. His friend, Augusts Waters (Ansel Elgort), who is there to support Isaac is the important one. He had some cancer stuff, lost half of his leg, but now he has survived and wants to live life to the fullest. No worries. No problems. And he wants to do it all with Hazel.

Hazel is of course unsure of this boy. How could anyone like her? She has plastic in her nose!

Well, after finding out he is also pretty smart, willing to read the same book she likes and discuss death in a nice way, then yeah, she kind of likes him.

They have some goals. Like figuring out a way to go to Amsterdam, not for debauchery, but to see a recluse author (Willem Dafoe) and his assistant (Lotte Verbeek) to figure out what happened to the characters after the book ends and to talk about life and death. Augustus wants to be remembered when eventually goes away. Hazel just wants to be loved before she goes away even earlier.

Also starring Sam Trammell and Laura Dern as her very optimistic parents.

Mom
It is good to see Dr. Ellie Sattler still getting work. Even if it is awkward.

The first half of this movie, I was sitting in the theater wondering what is the point? It felt extremely basic, and almost a shitty non realistic love story. Bordering on disliking the film entirely.

Then the second half happened.

If there is one thing you hear about this book/movie ahead of time, it is probably that it is sad and to bring Kleenex. Well, that seems to be absolutely true. I can’t actually point out the number of times I cried, just that it happened on multiple occasions, sometimes for scenes that were pretty long. They just kept happening, both from being sad and beautiful/sweet.

And that literally is most of the reason I have to talk about this movie. Very touching and sad and beautiful. A first half that drags, and a second half that is a tear jerker. Does that mean it is great? On its own, it just means it knows how to tug on our emotional strings. Yet at the same time, I loved it for doing so.

I didn’t think the acting was anything special. I hated a few of the plot points. But at the same time, I think this is the type of movie I could watch multiple times and still feel an emotional connection with it, knowing what happens or not. That is a solid enough reason for this rating, in my eyes.

3 out of 4.

Divergent

Divergent, or as I like to call it, the next fucking recent young adult sci-fi/fantasy series to have taken off, has been turned into a movie. Weeee.

A lot of these lately have been terrible. Did you see The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones? I did, it was ghastly. So was Vampire Academy. The only recent successful one of these was The Hunger Games, which had a dystopian aspect, just like Divergent, and just like this random other movie The Maze Runner later this year.

So, will it actually be a nice parallel of society? Or will it just be made to make teens feel special? That’s the important question with these adaptions.

Poster
And here is the main characters ass as promotional material.

Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is an Abnegation tribe member. What? Okay. This story takes place in Chicago in the future, after a big war, they have built a big wall around the city. They have split members into big tribes, each having a trait. Abnegation people are selfless, run the government, wear grey, simple lives. The Amity are peaceful, hippies, farmers. Not really talked about in this movie. Candor wear white, are honest, and just say whats on their mind. Yeah, another kind of pointless tribe I guess. Erudite are the smart people, doing smart stuff and wearing blue, the smart colors. Dauntless wear black and leather, the brave, the cities police force and protectors.

Well, Beatrice is about to go to her choosing ceremony, where she picks her faction she will live in from then on. Her parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn) are big in Abnegation, and want her and her brother (Ansel Elgort) to stay in their area. Well, during her test to see who she actually fits in with most, her results are inconclusive, equally selfless, brave, and smart. It is called being Divergent, and it should be secretive, because people don’t like free thinkers?

Well, Beatrice, now Tris, chooses Dauntless, as she always liked them. Now she has new friends (Zoe Kravitz), and has found out that just because she chose Dauntless doesn’t mean they have picked her. Of the recruiting class of like 40-50 students, half will be cut after weeks of training based on physical skill, and then another half will be cut after emotional/mental training. So only like, 10 or so people will actually make it. Yep. This movie is mostly a training movie. Ha ha! Fooled you guys!

This gives us characters like Four (Theo James), her main trainer and probably love interest. Or Eric (Jai Courtney) a much meaner training guy. Kate Winslet is a mean smart woman, Miles Teller is a mean new Dauntless recruit, and Ray Stevenson is a mean Abnegation leader.

Ninjas
And shit, this movie has ninjas too!

So I felt like again, if I had read the book, parts of this movie would make a lot more sense. Just like every other damn young adult adaption. Here are brief thoughts about my ramblings, that as far as I can tell didn’t get answered in the movie. Some are just world building questions that would have been very helpful.

How often does this choosing ceremony take place? Multiple times a year? How old are you when it happens? I guess the main character and her brother are not twins, but born close enough that they have to choose the same year? Does every faction have a long ass training process for when people join? I wonder how strict it is to train to be a hippie. Why did Tris not learn about what a Divergent is until her test, and only because she was one, but as soon as she does, it seems to be common knowledge for every other person what it is? With all the cuts the Dauntless people made, they literally only gained like what, ten recruits? How the fuck is that helpful? Did the plot really need to wait for the ten new recruits for something other than training to start taking place?

If the point of the faction system is to keep people in their place and get rid of human nature, why even let them choose what faction they live in after some random age? It seems like it’d be better to have the false notion of a choice, but in general, make everyone stay where they came from. Honestly, how does early life in other factions like Dauntless even work? Are there any parent type people there at all? It seems very messy to have people trained in a faction type for blah many years, and switch to a different faction, giving them awkward skill sets, that clearly they never lose after switching factions.

Really, this movie is literally just a high school movie, put into a Sci-Fi setting. We have cliques: jocks, nerds, hippies, normal people, and I guess gossipers or something. We have a high school girl, Tris, who feels like she doesn’t fit in with just the normal people, so she tries sports. She tries to also be smart. So she is a nonconformists, and all the conformists want to get her for being different. Or something like that. That is what the movie boils down to.

It was a cool concept, but I also feel like the writer has no idea what the fuck she is doing. Just making an interesting story and hoping it works out. There is a good chance the second movie is better, given that it will take place outside of Chicago. Wait, why is Chicago now bad? They beat the main bad guys? It should be easy to fix now? Eh, whatever.

I guess I should also note the trailer is pretty misleading. It makes it look like because she is Divergent, she joins some group of underground fighters who train her and then they attack the government or something. Nah. Well, she gets trained, but the Divergent-ness seems to be mostly pretty pointless overall.

2 out of 4.

Carrie

This may not be a popular opinion, but I am willing to say it: The original Carrie is not that scary of a movie. Or at least it isn’t scary anymore.

When it first came out it was probably shocking, sure. Part of the reason it would have been terrifying is not knowing the bloodbath that would occur at the end of the film. There was no internet, spoilers didn’t run rampant, people could watch it and actually see something new.

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t know how the original Carrie ends. They might not know the finite details or how it occurs, but they know blood gets dumped on a poor girl, who then takes out a school who bullied her.

So why bother with a Carrie remake in 2013? The only real reason is to either change the story so that audiences won’t see the ending coming or ramp up the creepy details to a new notch in order to make it more of a horror film. You know, give us a different reason to remember her name.

Mothery
“How do we make Julie look crazy?” “I don’t know…frazzle her hair a little bit!”

Carrie (Chloe Grace Moretz) came from humble beginnings. She used to be home-schooled, but the state of Maine intervened and forced her to go to public school. Not sure why. Her mom (Julianne Moore) was a perfectly adept teacher. She taught Carrie about Jesus, God, and she even gave her a nice tiny prayer closet under the stairs to “study” in.

Despite the fact that she is a senior in high school, she gets her period for the first time in gym class. Must be Satan at work in her loins. The other girls find her fear amusing, make fun of her, and promptly get in trouble by the gym teacher (Judy Greer). They have two options, put up with a week of grueling physical activity, or get suspended and miss prom. Clearly neither option is ideal, and it must be Carrie’s fault putting these girls in that situation.

Which is why the mean girl (Portia Doubleday) and her boyfriend (Alex Russell) do the whole dump pigs blood on her head at prom thing. That’ll show her.

That’ll show everyone.

Gabriella Wilde plays the nice “mean girl,” and Ansel Elgort her boyfriend.

Bloody
Huh, she looks cute in red.
Really, the reason anyone came to see this movie was to watch the prom scene and see the path of destruction that Carrie would lay in her wake. The rest of the film could be boring, but as long as the prom scene is excellent, the director will have delivered. The prom scene is longer in this version, there are more creative deaths with less hoses, and there is more destruction outside of the school, but miraculously a lower overall body count. Huh.

Basically, this film is identical to the 70’s version in terms of…well most things. Even the dialogue is basically the same, minus the upgrades in time/technology.

The few things that are changed are who lives and dies at the end, one other “twist”, and making the mother a bit of a masochist. Okay, a huge masochist, she loves that self infliction stuff. Basically their attempt at making the film a bit more creepy throughout.

Overall, I would say that this film was a bit disappointing in that it was made so similar to the first film (and maybe the book, no idea on their closeness). It really doesn’t add anything new to the mythology, and was made to upgrade a film literally everyone already knows the plot about. I hated most of the no name actors, but surprisingly I enjoyed Ansel Elgort as the nice boyfriend. He was so good at being kind to a weird red headed girl.

If you are looking for scary movies in theater for Halloween, unfortunately Carrie is your only hope. Somehow, this is the only horror movie the entire month.

2 out of 4.