(On Cable TV, January 2018) The appeal of Edgar Wright’s role as a director is multifaceted (you can like his impeccable editing, highly structured scripting, hip pop-culture references or ability to get great comic performances from his actors), but he is without peers in his use of music as an essential counterpoint to the visual aspects of his movies. Nearly all of his films so far have included at least one sequence that perfectly blend sound and images, and he pushes that facet of his work to its limits in Baby Driver, a movie in which nearly the entire film seems built around its soundtrack. I mean it in the best way, as the opening sequence proves: Wright dares to synchronize an entire feature film around a selection of underexposed songs and the result is a frizzy delight. Sure, it’s all in the service of a criminal revenge story … but why use labels when the entire film is a tour de force? From beginning to end, Baby Driver is a choreography of sound and visuals as it takes us in the mind of its music-obsessed protagonist. A movie experience with few peers, Baby Driver is meant to be listened to as much as seen—while I’m a big fan of watching movies with the sound down as so not to disturb other members of my household, I made an exception for Baby Driver—and it deserves to be played at the appropriate volume. Ansel Elgort is fine in the lead performance, but the supporting actors are far more interesting, in-between what is likely to be Kevin Spacey’s last high-profile performance, Jon Hamm leaning on his comedy and action skills, Jamie Foxx as a dangerous sidekick and Lily James as the love interest. Much of the overall plot is familiar, but it’s the execution that truly shines—Baby Driver is filled with cool little moments, set pieces and the usual amount of Wright’s clever writing that becomes more apparent upon viewing the film a second time. It’s a lot of fun and it’s a particular treat for anyone who’s been following Wright’s career so far.
(On Cable TV, August 2015) I really wasn’t expecting to like this film as much as I did. Or even, having recently seen a friend die of cancer, to like it at all. But The Fault in Our Stars prides itself on being quite unlike any of the other cancer movies out there in telling us about two teenagers meeting at a cancer support group. The sarcastic dialogue and caustic gallows humor that follows is almost immediately charming in its own way, with both Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort being likable teenagers stuck in terrible situations. Heartwarming without being cloying, merciless without being hopeless, The Fault in Our Stars makes much out of depressing material – it’s an enjoyable and funny film about something terrible and sad. The stars motif is interesting, the comic set-pieces are memorable, and Willem Defoe brings an element of mystery, then frustration in the mix. The script is on-point and if the film does feel a touch too long during its Amsterdam segment, it’s ruthlessly curt coming back from it as it destroys expectations. Telling you more about the film would be a disservice; take a look and enjoy it for yourself.