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.

Elvis & Nixon

Presidents in the modern era meet with almost everyone. Celebrities, athletes, civil rights leaders, union leaders, foreign leaders, gym leaders, you name it. So it isn’t weird to see a picture of Obama hanging out with Justin Bieber.

But maybe back in the day it was a bit more odd. Like, a famous picture of Elvis Presley shaking hands with Richard Nixon. One of the biggest entertainers of the last few decades and a president with a lot of…well, character, I guess. It was a really famous image and sort of set the country into jubilee at just the thought of these two larger than life men in a single room talking about who knows what.

And just what led to this monumental meet up and what did they talk about?

Well, it would take a movie named Elvis & Nixon to get to the bottom of it I suppose!

Meeting
This really just feels like fanfiction. Who wrote this? When do they get undressed?

In 1970, the US was in disarray. There was a war going on that not everyone loved, the parties were divided, drugs were big in the news and in our suburbs. Basically, not too different from today.

But one man was sick and tired of it all. His name was Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon). He was tired of these drugs, these gang fights, people stoned at concerts. He was in the army before and people loved him, so he figured he could go undercover as himself, into their events and protests. And maybe convince them to say no to drugs and put an end to it all. He could be a really big help, hell, he knew karate!

So he wants to head to the White House. He has a damn plan. He will talk to President Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey), he will convince him to swear him in as a federal agent at large to work secretly for the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. Brilliant, great, wonderful. Except Nixon didn’t care to meet with him. Even if a meeting could boost his popularity with the youth and the south. Except Elvis doesn’t want to hold a concert, he wants it all to be a secret, no publicity.

Sure, these men might not see eye to eye, but they want similar things, so maybe they can work together. Or maybe their assistants and staff can force them to work together. On Elvis’ side, we have Jerry (Alex Pettyfer) and Sonny (Johnny Knoxville), with Jerry trying to get out of working with Elvis to focus on his own life and maybe engagement. The president aides include Krogh (Colin Hanks) and Chapin (Evan Peters), both people later involved with the Watergate scandal, fun fact!

And so yeah, the meeting is of course them setting everything up and what their conversation may have entailed in that mysterious room.

Handshake
Here is a picture of a recreation of that picture!

Two powerhouse men can only be played by two powerhouse actors, and we certainly get that with Shannon and Spacey. When I saw the casting, I was almost flabbergasted with excitement. To repeat, almost flabbergasted, not fully flabbered nor gasted. Despite loving each actor from many of their recent and older roles, I still found both of them hard to see in their collective role.

Now, in this film, they both did great jobs. But Shannon has such a unique face, I never really fully believed he was Elvis, he was always an actor. Basically the same for Spacey. For both of these roles, it could be due to the fact that these characters over time have become very exaggerated and in real life they weren’t so intense, but it just never really fully clicked.

The story itself is decently amusing. The cast of characters while small added a lot to the film. The movie is also under 90 minutes long, so it never drags and a good third or more to it is actually focused on their actual discussion in the white house.

The film just has a lot of build up for this moment and honestly, doesn’t go too many places. Elvis & Nixon won’t take up a lot of time and is pretty amusing. Hell, you will learn a lot about an event that is just all sorts of weird in American history. But one that never really elevated more than cool tidbit.

2 out of 4.

The Green Inferno

I have not seen a lot of actual horror films made by Eli Roth. He is supposed to be a big name, but when I looked at his directed list I had seen…well, zero. I thought he had directed Aftershock, but I was wrong about that.

But I am sure I will watch Knock Knock at some point! That is some sort of Thriller and it is on VOD exactly when it was supposed to be. Apparently The Green Inferno was not as lucky. Made in 2013, it was supposed to come out in 2014, but shit hit the fan, and it got delayed over a year. Which is why Eli Roth even has two movies coming out only roughly a month apart.

Speaking of intro small talk, the film was clearly inspired by Cannibal Holocaust. That is a film from the 1980’s which introduced found footage before it was even a thing. It was very gruesome, realistic, and basically the same plot of some white people heading to the rain forest to get eaten. In fact, people insisted at the time that it must have been a snuff film! The title itself was the name of the movie that was being made in Cannibal Holocaust.

Hair Mmm
“Ooooh hair, my favorite.”

Being an activist in college is one of the easiest things to do with your free time. Once you walk through a quad or a pit or a hallway, you will find dozens of protests happening all around you. Every day. Guaranteed. All you have to do is stand around, do a chant, and maybe (maybe!) hold a sign.

Justine (Lorenza Izzo) is just a bright eyed and bushy tailed freshmen in NYC. She gets interested in the activism, but her roommate (Sky Ferreira) thinks the local group on campus is too crazy. They plan to go to Peru! There is a logging company who is illegally taking out trees and threatening to remove local tribes from their homes! They will dress up like loggers, tie themselves to trees and record their actions straight onto the internet. That should stop them from hurting them and get people to care about their group and hate on the one company. Sweet. That goes fine enough. Outside of spoiler stuff.

The real issue occurs when they drive to leave the jungle. Something goes wrong with their plane, killing half of the crew as it crash lands back into the jungle. This is where they are quickly found by the local friendly natives. Just kidding, they are all painted red and totally scary. They tranq those college students and capture them to bring them back to their village.

And guess what? You already know what. They eat people! Yay!

Now they have to figure out how to survive the tribe, run away, survive in the jungle, and get back to America as soon as they can. And guess what, again! They ruined their best chance of escape by making the logging company stop their illegal actions. Life is a bitch some times.

Starring Ramon Llao and Antonieta Pari as the main two village people. As for our other activists, we have Aaron Burns, Nicolas Martinez, Magda Apanowicz, Daryl Sabara, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Ariel Levy as our leader.

Mmmm human
“What? Tribal mom got your tongue?”

I have heard some of Roth’s movies have been very graphic and hard to watch. Why the fuck would I ever want to go back and watch Hostel if that is true? The first major torture porn right, outside of some Saw movies? Well, The Green Inferno, if you didn’t already guess it, was very graphic and hard to watch.

I had to look away numerous times throughout the movie, my stomach unwilling to negotiate with the eye terrorists on the screen. Eating people it turns out can be pretty gross. Unfortunate, if everyone was simply just eaten, that’d be a boring and just gross film. They do a good job of keeping more of the deaths diverse so that it doesn’t get stagnant. Although watching that boy from the Spy Kid movies felt very weird for me.

As a horror film, it did its job in terms of grossing/creeping out the viewer. It definitely isn’t boring, outside of some of the earlier moments before they make it to the other country. It is super violent and should make you uncomfortable.

But it feels all very cheap at the same time. Overall the film lacks a lot of substance. It is trying to make a statement about social justice types, or America butting into things, or…something else. It just does it in a terrible way. “Don’t do this, or you will get eaten by the natives.” Cultural exploitation aside (which I do not care about), it isn’t a strong link and ruins any message it was trying to make.

For those who like gross stuff, this is your movie. If you want anything besides that, well…uh, not this movie then.

2 out of 4.

Buy It! – This movie is available now on {Blu-Ray} and {DVD}.