Sunday, July 23, 2017

Ape Shall Not Kill Horse

I'm currently working diligently on my War For The Planet Of The Apes review. In the meantime, check out this scene from the film:

Man, I feel sorry for that horse on the right! One rider at a time, please!

Any second I expect to see this happen in that scene.

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!

The new trailer for Season 8 of The Walking Dead premiered this week at the San Diego Comic-Con.

There's not much of note in the trailer until the very end, when we see a long, lingering, gauzy shot of a visible older Rick waking up in bed, complete with a comical Rip Van Winkle beard.

Predictably, many fans have taken to the internet, announcing that this shot confirms the ridiculous "The Entire Series Is A Nightmare In Rick's Head As He Lies In A Coma In The Hospital" theory that's been going around for many years.


Anyone who thinks that has obviously never read the comic. The trailer means the show's doing the "Time Jump" that happened in Issue #127 of The Walking Dead comic. See, after the events of the "All Out War" storyline (between Rick's and Negan's forces), the book jumped ahead approximately three years. I won't get into spoilers here, but let's just say a lot of things had changed for the characters during that time.

And just in case you don't believe me, the shot of the cane right before we see Older Rick confirms the Time Jump storyline. In Issue #127, Rick had to start walking with a cane for reasons. So there you go. Time Jump, not Coma Dream.

The Time Jump has quickly become something of a cliche in serialized TV shows the past few years. It's generally used when the writers want to change the status quo of a series, but have neither the time or the talent to show the audience how the characters got there.

The most famous example of the Time Jump occured in Battlestar Galactica, which skipped ahead an entire year during the final moments of its Season 2 finale. That "One Year Later..." caption was a shocking, game-changing WTF moment, and made a huge impression on the audience and Hollywood writers alike. Suddenly dozens of other series were using the Time Jump trope, hoping to capture some of that same magic. It rarely if ever worked.

Doctor Who famously did a "One Year Later" jump in Last Of The Time Lords, although it was undone by the end of the episode. There've been many other actual Time Jumps during Steven Moffat's tenure as showrunner.

Fringe may hold the record for furthest time jump, as it leaped ahead to 2036 in its fifth season.

Many other shows have used it as well, including The 100, 24, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., Angel, Hannibal, House, Mad Men, Once Upon A Time, One Tree Hill, Parks & Recreation, Supernatural, True Blood and The X-Files.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

It Came From The Cineplex: 47 Meters Down

47 Meters Down was written by Ernest Riera and Johannes Roberts. It was directed by Johannes Roberts.

Riera and Roberts co-wrote The Other Side Of The Door, which I've never heard of. Roberts previously wrote and directed a bunch of other films I've never heard of, including Hellbreeder, Darkhunters, Forest Of The Damned, F and Storage 24.

As an aside here, I feel obligated to point out that Roberts' Storage 24 is noteworthy as one of the lowest grossing movies of all time. As part of a TV deal, it was released in exactly one theater for one day, where it earned an amazing $72.

47 Meters Down is a perfect example of the "survival horror" genre, in which the characters are placed in highly contrived and deadly situations, and have to figure out a way to escape. Think Frozen (the one about being trapped on a ski lift, not the Disney thing), The Reef, The Canyon, The Ruins, and Eden Lake, among others.

Jaws is the granddaddy of all shark movies, and even though it came out over forty years ago, it still casts a long shadow in Hollywood. Any similar movie is automatically going to be compared to Spielberg's classic, so if you've got the chutzpah to attempt to make a shark movie these days, it'd better be a damned good one. Sadly, 47 Meters Down is not going to be dethroning Jaws anytime soon.

47 Meters Down was originally shot as a direct-to-video film, scheduled for release in August, 2016. Dimension Films then sold the rights to Entertainment Studios (which has to be the blandest possible name for a business). They were apparently so impressed with the film that they scheduled it for a theatrical release in June, 2017.

As we all know here at Bob Canada's BlogWorld, any time a movie is delayed for ANY reason, it's ALWAYS a bad, bad sign. And so it is with 47 Meters Down. It's not the worst thing I've ever seen, but there's no tension, zero scares and very little in the way of sharks. It really does feel like a Siffy Channel movie that somehow found its way into the cineplex.

Somehow the film's a modest hit, grossing $41 million against its minuscule $5 million budget. Even subtracting marketing costs (if there were any), that's not a bad return. Look for 94 Meters Down in theaters next year!


The Plot:
We start with the usual urban horror movie setup— sisters Lisa (played by Mandy Moore) and Kate (played by Claire Holt) are attractive young Americans vacationing in Mexico. Lisa's boyfriend Stewart just broke up with her because she's "boring," so she's traveling with Kate to prove him wrong. She hopes once Stewart sees she can be spontaneous, he'll come running back to her. Sounds like Stewart's better off without her if you ask me.

Kate drags Lisa out for a night on the town, where they meet two local men, Louis and Benjamin. They hit it off and have a great time, thanks to blessed alcohol. The men tell them they're going shark diving in the morning, and invite the girls to come along. Kate's up for it of course, but Lisa's not so sure, because she's boring. Kate eventually talks her into it.

They meet the guys at the dock the next morning, where they're introduced to Taylor (played briefly by a vacationing Matthew Modine). Taylor's the captain of a comically decrepit boat that you'd only find in a movie, complete with an alarmingly rusty shark cage. No one in their right mind would ever step foot on this tub, but of course Kate's somehow able to talk Lisa into going.

Taylor asks the girls if they've ever been diving before. Kate has, but of course Lisa hasn't because she's boring. She lies and says yes, and Taylor knows she's lying, but takes her money anyway. They chug out onto the ocean, where Taylor's "crewman" Javier starts chumming the water to attract sharks. Kate points out that this is illegal, but Javier says it's OK because they're in Mexico. Charming!

Soon a couple of sharks show up, and Louis and Benjamin get in the cage. Seems odd that the two guys would dive together, but whatever. Taylor lowers the cage just under the water, and the guys get a spectacular view of the sharks swimming around them.

When it's the girl's turn, Taylor infodumps a bunch of expository dialogue, carefully explaining to them (and the audience) how scuba tanks and depth gauges work. He lowers them just under the water, and after a few minutes the girls see an impossibly huge Great White shark cruise past.

Lisa starts getting nervous (because she's boring), and uses her scuba mask's' hi-tech communication system to tell Taylor to bring them up. As he does, his rickety winch malfunctions, and the cage suddenly drops a dozen feet or so. The girls panic and try to get out of the cage. Before they can though, the winch chain breaks and the cage plummets to the ocean floor, 47 Meters Below (Houston, We Have A Title!).

They try to radio Taylor, but unfortunately they're too far down (really?). Kate opens the hatch at the top of the cage and swims up to 40 meters, where she can finally contact Taylor. He tells them to stay put in the cage, as ascending too quickly will give them the bends and kill them. He says he's sending Javier down with a cable to pull them back up with his "spare winch."

The girls huddle in the tank as they watch their oxygen supplies slowly dwindle. They see a flashlight in the distance, and realize it's Javier. They start banging on the cage to attract his attention, but the flashlight hangs motionless in the gloom. Kate's oxygen is dangerously low (because she swam up to contact Taylor, I guess?), so Lisa reluctantly offers to go meet Javier and bring him back.

Lisa hugs the ocean floor as she slowly makes her way to the flashlight. She comes to a terrifying sheer drop-off, with no discernible bottom, and  forces herself to cross it. Suddenly a shark appears, and she hides in a small cave until it leaves. She makes it to the flashlight, but doesn't see Javier anywhere. She sees his speargun lying by the light.

She grabs the flashlight and spear and swims back to the cage. She's horrified when she spots half of Javier's body on the ocean floor, along with the cable. She pulls the cable back to the cage and attaches it to the top. She then swims up to 40 meters to tell Taylor to start pulling them up. Lisa gets back in the cage, and sees Kate's air is almost gone.

The cage begins rising slowly, so as not to give the girls the bends. Hilariously, when they get to 20 meters this cable snaps as well (!), and the cage falls back down to the bottom (!!!). Unfortunately Lisa's leg is pinned under the heavy cage, trapping her. Kate swims up to tell Taylor they're still alive, and he says he's sending down extra oxygen tanks for them. He warns Kate that switching tanks can cause "nitrogen narcosis," and they may start hallucinating (?). He says he's alerted the Coast Guard, which should arrive within an hour to rescue them.

Kate sees two tanks and some flares fall to the ocean floor and swims out to get them. Her air's almost gone, and she manages to switch to one of the new tanks in the nick of time. A shark appears (a rarity in this film) and she hides against some rocks until it swims away. Just as she reaches the cage, the shark reappears and carries her off, presumably killing her. She drops the other tank just outside the cage.

Lisa weeps for her sister until her oxygen gauge starts beeping, indicating she's almost out of air. Unfortunately she can't reach the extra tank just outside the cage, as her leg's pinned. She uses Javier's speargun to try and drag the tank to her. She accidentally fires the gun, slicing open her hand. Eventually she manages to hook the tank and is somehow able to swap it out like a pro seconds before her air runs out. She then inflates her BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), which lifts the cage just enough for her to rip her leg out from under it.

She swims out of the top of the cage, and miraculously runs into a badly-wounded Kate (hmm...). The two swim slowly to the surface, stopping periodically so they don't get the bends. They decide to light the flares, hoping they'll ward off sharks. They light one, and when it goes out, Kate lights the other, but drops it. Lisa lights the third and last flare, which reveals they're surrounded by a dozen hungry sharks.

Somehow the girls make it to the surface. Louis and Benjamin pull them out of the water. Just as Lisa's almost in the ship, a shark leaps up and chomps on her leg. She jabs it in the eye, causing it to let go. She lies on the deck of the boat, laughing in relief.

Suddenly Lisa wakes up, and realizes everything after Kate's death was an elaborate hallucination and she's still trapped in the cage (!). She sees Coast Guard divers come toward her and remove her from the cage. The movie ends as they lift her slowly to the surface. Or maybe this was another hallucination, who knows?

• For a film that advertises itself as a "shark movie," there really aren't all that many sharks in it. The movie's only eighty five minutes long, and less than ten of them actually features sharks.

• 47 meters is only about 154 feet. Put that way, it doesn't sound like all that terrifying or dangerous. Amazingly though, you don't have to go very deep before you start feeling the effects of the sea. Water pressure increases one atmosphere for every ten meters you descend. So at 47 meters it would feel like almost FIVE atmosphere's pressing against your body!

• Matthew Modine shows up for a few minutes in the movie as the "Day Player." 

See, low budget movies can't afford an all-star cast, so they usually hire one big name actor— usually an older star whose fame has faded a bit. The producers can usually only afford to hire them for one day, two at the most. They then use that day to film as many scenes as they can with the actor. Then they sprinkle those scenes throughout the movie, to give the illusion that they're in it much more than they really are.

This is an old, old trick employed by thousands of cheap B-movies.

This is definitely the case here with Matthew Modine. He appears in a couple of brief scenes at the beginning of the movie and then completely disappears. His voice is occasionally heard on the radio a couple times afterward, but that's it.

• It occurred to me while writing this review that this is the first ever Mandy Moore movie I've ever seen in my life. I guess at long last I can finally cross that item off my bucket list.

• James Van Der Beek was cast as Lisa's boyfriend Stuart, and filmed several scenes with Mandy Moore. All his scenes ended up on the cutting room floor though, as the final film just references him briefly. 

For some reason, Louis and Benjamin get in the shark cage together, leaving the girls up on the ship with Taylor and Javier. When they're done, Kate and Lisa pair up in the cage. Doesn't that seem a little strange?

Presumably they're all on a date, right? So why wouldn't each guy pair up with one of the girls for their dive?

Answer: Because if the experienced Benjamin paired up with Lisa, he'd have known exactly what to do when the cage plummeted to the ocean floor, and the movie would have been fifteen minutes long.

Plus, like it or not, women are generally seen as more vulnerable than men, so it's supposedly scarier to have two frightened gals trapped on the ocean floor.

This is what you call your Plot Contrivance. There was no logical reason to have the girls dive together, other than to make the movie scarier.

• For someone with such a ramshackle, derelict boat, Taylor's scuba gear has a surprisingly sophisticated communication system. The characters have no difficulty talking to one another, even under water.

That said, this comm system seems to have an extremely limited range. The cage falls to the ocean floor, and the two women can't contact Taylor on his ship, which is only 47 meters, or 154 feet away. Kate eventually has to swim up to 40 meters, or 131 feet, before Taylor can pick up her signal.

154 feet doesn't seem like all that big a distance. It certainly doesn't seem like enough to cause a radio signal to fade. Does water somehow block radio waves?

• I've never been scuba diving in my life, so my knowledge of it's pretty limited. From what I've read though, the scuba science in this movie is woefully inaccurate. Laughable, even. Here're a few examples of things the movie got wrong.

As the girls get in the shark tank, Taylor explains that they have an hour's worth of oxygen. But the amount of time you can breathe a tank of compressed air decreases with depth. A scuba tank might well last an hour near the surface, but at 47 meters you'd only get twenty five minutes. Even less if you're panicking or exerting yourself, like the characters were.

Taylor constantly warns the girls that they'll get the bends if they surface too fast. Unfortunately going down is just as bad as coming up. At the high rate of speed the cage fell, the girls' eardrums would have likely burst, possibly causing permanent deafness!

Taylor also warns Kate and Lisa about "nitrogen narcosis," saying it could cause them to experience elaborate hallucinations. Yeah, that's not how it works. It doesn't cause you to dream up fully-realized fantasy worlds, it just makes you dull-witted, like you're drunk.

The question is, do these inaccuracies really matter?

My first instinct is to say yes. A screenwriter should always try to be as accurate as possible, especially these days when looking up facts and figures literally takes seconds.

But then I start thinking about Jaws. It's one of the greatest movies ever made, yet it features some truly eye-rolling shark behavior (contrary to popular belief, real sharks don't stalk people like the villain in a slasher film). 
It's not fair to give Jaws' scientific inaccuracy a pass while mocking 47 Meters Down for doing the same thing.

After thinking about it a while, I came up with an answer to the accuracy question. If a movie features a particular procedure in a brief scene that isn't integral to the plot, then scientific accuracy isn't that big a deal. But if the ENTIRE PLOT revolves around that specific procedure (like scuba diving), then it absolutely needs to be as accurate as humanly possible.

• Near the end of the film, Lisa and Kate make it to the surface and swim to the boat. Just as Lisa's pulled from the water, a shark jumps up and bites her on her leg. Somehow she manages to free herself and is pulled to safety. She lays on the deck, happy to finally be out of the water.

Annnnnd then she comes to, realizing her whole "rescue" was just an hallucination, and she's still sitting on the ocean floor! So basically she created an elaborate fantasy in which she attacked by a shark during her "rescue!" I dunno about anyone else, but I don't think I'd incorporate something like that into my imaginary world.

47 Meters Down is a survival horror film that's light on thrills, scares and, well, horror. Worst of all, for a film that's ostensibly about sharks, there're very few of them on display. In fact the biggest danger in the movie isn't from man-eating fish, but from shady tour guides with dilapidated boats. The movie's also filled with nonsensical and inaccurate "science" that'll have scuba enthusiasts in the audience rolling their eyes till they sprain 'em. Do yourself a favor and rewatch Jaws instead. I give it a C-.

Putrid Posters: Spider-Man: Homecoming (Again!)

There was a time when a movie poster was just as important as the film it promoted, if not more so. A good poster would tease, inform and pique your interest about a particular film, whipping you into a frenzy until you couldn't wait to see the movie.

That time is long past. Gone are the days when movie posters were beautiful examples of graphic design and illustration, and works of art in their own right. Classic movie poster design has been replaced by nightmarish collages, poorly stitched together in Photoshop.

Case in point: the Sony/Marvel Studios joint venture Spider-Man: Homecoming. The movie may be a critical and box office hit, but its marketing campaign is one of the worst I've seen, as each poster released is more appalling than the last.

Like this one, for example. Oy gevalt! Where do I start? Obviously this poster was deliberately designed to be bad, as it's supposed to look like a page from Peter Parker's personal scrapbook. Because scrapbooking is totally a thing that teens are into these days, right? Especially male teens.

It perfectly captures the amateurish look of something cobbled together by a person with no artistic talent, so in that respect it's actually successful.

But... why would any sane art director think this would be the perfect way to advertise a multimillion dollar movie from a major studio? It's like spray painting "DIAMONDZ INSIDE" on the outside of an upscale Beverly Hills jewelry store. I... I just don't get it.

And then there's this one. At first glance it's better than the scrapbook poster, but it's got more than its share of problems as well. There's way too much dead space in the upper left corner, and it uses a really unappealing section of the New York skyline.

Worst of all, THERE'S NO ACTION! A movie poster's supposed to be electric and exciting! It should look like it's in motion even though it's a still image. This poster's so goddamned boring that Spider-Man fell asleep at the bottom of it! Does this poster make you want to see the movie? If he's bored by his own film, why would I want to pay to see it?

Plus he's inexplicably wearing his school uniform jacket over his costume. Yes, he does this briefly in the film, but there's zero context for it on this poster, which makes its inclusion beyond odd.

And to whoever designed this poster— tilting everything at a 35ยบ angle in a desperate attempt to generate visual interest is the oldest trick in the book, and doesn't work here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Happy 30th Anniversary To Robocop!

Happy 30th Anniversary to Paul Verhoeven's classic film Robocop, which premiered on July 17, 1987. For the two or three people out there who've never seen it, it's a truly subversive movie that offers a scathing commentary on 1980s business and politics, wrapped up in the guise of a violent sci-fi film. It's the thinking man's action movie!

The movie's definitely a product of its time, as it satirizes the Reagan era, corporate takeovers and the growing divide between the rich and poor. It also completely failed to predict both the cell phone revolution as well as the internet.

Despite this, the movie's somehow eerily prescient. It correctly predicted the influence the media has on our lives, the dumbing down of popular entertainment, and the contradictory way technology actually tends to isolate us instead as it brings people together. It even accurately predicted the deterioration and downfall of Detroit!

Best of all, it's ultra violent and gory as hell, and damned near got an X-rating back in 1987! What more could you ask for?

Jesus Christ, I remember sitting in the theater watching this movie first run back in 1987! Where the hell has the time gone?

I'd buy that for a dollar!

It Came From The Cineplex: Baby Driver

Baby Driver was written and directed by Edgar Wright.

Wright previously wrote and directed Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and The World's End. He co-wrote The Adventures Of Tintin with Joe Cornish and Steven Noffat (of Doctor Who fame!). He also co-wrote Ant-Man along with Joe Cornish, Adam McKay and Paul Rudd.

Baby Driver is sort of a throwback to late 1990s gangster/action movies like Go, The Big Hit and The Way Of The Gun. Others have described it as Tarantino-esque, but I didn't get that impression at all.

Fair warning— for a movie called "Baby Driver," it doesn't contain much actual driving. Think Nicolas Winding Refn's Drive, which generated similar complaints about its lack of vehicular action. If you're looking for a character-driven (heh) relationship drama, then Baby Driver's the film for you. If you're hankering for Fast & Furious-style car chases and non-stop action , then you're gonna have a bad time.

Oddly enough, unlike all of Wright's previous films, Baby Driver is not a comedy. It's a straight up action/drama, with a few slightly quirky elements thrown in here and there.

Contrary to most of the internet, I don't worship at the altar of Edgar Wright, as I think he's a very uneven and overrated talent. I LOVED his debut film 
Shaun Of The Dead, as it's one of my all-time favorite movies. Unfortunately Wright's output quickly went downhill from there (for me at least), as I found each successive film worse than the previous one. I was baffled by the popularity of Hot Fuzz, even after giving it the benefit of a second viewing. I wasn't a fan of Scott Pilgrim either, and didn't care for The World's End. Fans lamented the day Wright was fired from Ant-Man (for refusing to tie it to the Marvel Cinematic Universe), but I thought it was cause for celebration.

That's why Baby Driver is such a pleasant surprise, as Edgar Wright finally made a good (but not great) film 

Even more amazing is the fact that a decent movie like Baby Driver is distributed by Sony! Yes, Sony, the gold standard of movie studios (and my former employers!). Why, in just the past three years, they've produced such wonderful films as:

The Monuments Men • Robocop (2014)
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 • 22 Jump Street • Think Like A Man Too
Sex Tape • The Equalizer • Fury • The Interview • Chappie
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 • Aloha • Pixels • Ricki and the Flash 
Hotel Transylvania 2 • The Walk • Goosebumps • Freaks of Nature 
Spectre • The Night Before • The 5th Wave • The Brothers Grimsby
Money Monster • Angry Birds • The Shallows • Ghostbusters 2016
Sausage Party • The Magnificent Seven • Inferno • Passengers
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter • Underworld: Blood Wars
Life • Smurfs: The Lost Village • Rough Night

That's quite the grim track record, making Baby Driver's success all the more surprising. I guess when you swing at enough pitches, you're bound to hit a homer now and then.

Critics and audiences are both absolutely in love with this movie, which genuinely mystifies me. I must have seen a different version of the film, because I honestly don't get all the praise. It's got some decent performances and there's one really good action scene at the beginning, but the overall storyline is one we've all seen a hundred times before. I'd call it watchable at best. 

So far the film's a modest hit, racking up $73 million here in the States against its $34 million budget. It's grossed $14 million overseas, for a worldwide total of $87 million. Those are decent numbers for a small film that premiered in the middle of Summer Blockbuster Season. Due to marketing, most films today need to gross twice their production budget just to break even. I doubt Baby Driver did much in the way of advertising, so I'm betting it's turned a decent profit for Sony.


The Plot:
A car parks across the street from a bank in Atlanta. Three criminals— Buddy (played by Jon Hamm), his wife Darling (played by Eiza Gonzalez) and Griff (played by John Bernthal)— run into the bank, while their getaway driver "Baby" (played by Ansel Elgort) waits outside. Baby calmly listens to music on his earbuds while he waits. The three crooks return with cases of loot and hurriedly pile into the car. Baby peels out, still jamming to his music. Several police cars pursue them, but Baby expertly performs a series of impressive driving maneuvers, easily losing them.

They return to the headquarters of Doc (played by Kevin Spacey), the mastermind behind the robbery. Baby brings back coffee for everyone, his earbuds still blaring. For some reason this annoys Griff, who asks why Baby has to constantly listen to music. Through the magic of expository dialogue, Doc explains that as a child, Baby was in a car wreck that killed his parents. As a result of the accident he has tinnitus, and listens to music to drown out the constant humming in his ears.

Doc divides the money among the crooks, and gives Baby his small cut. He tells Baby that after their next job they'll be square, as his debt to him will be paid off. Baby goes home to Joseph, the man who raised him after his parents died. Joseph's now an elderly deaf man confined to a wheelchair, so their roles have reversed, as Baby now takes care of him.

Baby stuffs his share of the stolen money into an impressive stash under a floorboard in the apartment, as Joseph watches. He signs to Baby that he knows he's involved in something shady and to be careful. Baby takes a mini-recorder from his pocket, which he uses to capture everyday conversations around him. He uses a sample of Griff's tirade earlier that day to compose a "song." We see he has hundreds of such tapes, including a special one labeled "Mom."

Later Baby goes to Bo's Diner, where he "meets cute" a young waitress named Debora (played by Lily James). They chat for a while and Baby secretly records their conversation. Later at home he turns Debora's sample into a song.

Doc calls Baby in for his "final" job, and introduces him to the new crew: Eddie No-Nose (played by Flea, of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame), JD (played by Lanny Joon) and Bats (played by Jamie Foxx). This time the target is an armored truck. Bats becomes angry with Baby because he listens to music the whole time Doc outlines the plan. He shuts up though when Baby's somehow able to recite their agenda word for word.

Baby drives the criminals to a bank, where they wait for the armored truck to arrive. Bats becomes incensed again when he sees that JD bought the wrong masks for them to wear during the robbery (Mike Myers from Austin Powers instead of Michael Myers from Halloween).

The three rob the armored truck, but things go south when Bats kills a guard. They run back to the car, and Baby, who's shaken by the murder, takes off. A marine witnesses the robbery, firing at the robbers as he uses his truck to block the getaway car. Baby somehow drives between a row of parked cars and a wall to escape. 

They make it to a highway, with the marine in pursuit. He forces the front of the getaway car under a semi truck, trapping it. Bats starts to shoot the marine, but Baby frees the car and drives off before he can take the shot. JD realizes he dropped his gun back at the bank. Back at Doc's hideout, Bats asks Baby if he deliberately stopped him from killing the marine. Baby says no, but Bats doesn't believe him.

Baby goes to the diner again to flirt with Debora. She jokingly says it's not fair that there are few if any songs about "Debbies," but thousands with the name "Baby" in them.

Later Baby meets with Doc to get his cut of the money. When he mentions they're even now, Doc laughs and says Baby's his good luck charm and he plans to keep on calling him. He orders Baby to dispose of a car, which he sees has JD's body in it. Apparently Doc wasn't happy that he lost his gun during the robbery.

Baby takes the car to a junkyard, where he flashes back to the accident that killed his parents and injured his ears. Baby tries to go straight by taking a job as a pizza delivery man, using his driving skills to impress the customers. He takes Debora out to a fancy restaurant, where he's interrupted by Doc, who wants him for another job. When Baby refuses, Doc threatens to harm Debora and Joseph. Baby grudgingly agrees to the job. He takes Debora home and they share their first kiss.

The next job is stealing blank money orders from a post office, and Doc sends Baby in to check out the security. While there, he interacts with a friendly teller (foreshadowing!). Later on, Baby calls Debora and says he wants the two of them to drive far away from Atlanta, someplace where Doc will never find them. Despite the fact that she's known him for less than a week, she agrees.

Doc gathers Buddy, Darling and Bats for the post office job. But first he sends them to buy guns from an arms dealer called The Butcher (inexplicably played by singer/songwriter Paul Williams). They arrive at a warehouse where they're met by The Butcher and his army of thugs. As they look over the guns, Bats notices the boxes say "APD" on the side (for Atlanta Police Department, I guess?) and realizes The Butcher's a cop. Bats shoots The Butcher dead, which causes a massive firefight. Doc's crew manages to kill all the undercover cops, but Darling's shot in the arm.

On the way back to Doc's, Bats says he's hungry and wants to stop at Bo's Diner (um... shouldn't they be getting medical treatment for Darling?). Baby doesn't want to stop, as he doesn't want Debora to see him with a bunch of criminals, plus he's afraid of what Bats might do to her. Bats insists though, and they all go in.

Debora waits on them, and luckily she's smart enough not to say anything to Baby. Bats senses something between the two, and asks Baby if he knows Debora. He lies and says no, so Bats pulls his gun on her. Baby grabs his hand and stops him. The crew leaves, and Baby slips Debora a note that reads, "Road Trip— 2 am." I guess Debora will automatically know where to meet him.

Back at Doc's, he asks how things went with The Butcher. Bats says he killed him and his men because they were all cops. Doc says he knows that, as they worked for him (!). Bats lies and says The Butcher fired on them first. Buddy and Darling also lie and back him up. Doc wants to call off the post office heist, but for some reason Baby tells him to go ahead with it.

Doc orders the crew to spend the night in his HQ. Baby tries to sneak out to meet Debora, but he's intercepted by Bats and Buddy. Bats grabs Baby's recorder and discovers he's been taping all their conversations (to turn into songs). This leads Bats to believe Baby's an informant, and he knocks him out.

Baby wakes up back at Doc's, and sees Bats apparently raided his apartment. He's sitting in Joseph's wheelchair, and there's a pile of Baby's tapes in the middle of the table. Doc asks Baby to explain the tapes, and fast. Baby plays one, and they all realize he's just making crappy techo songs from their conversations.

The next morning, Baby drives the crew to the post office. Buddy causes a distraction inside by pretending to take Darling hostage. Meanwhile, Bats sneaks in the back to steal the money orders. As Baby waits in the car, he sees the friendly teller from the previous day. He shakes his head to warn her not to go in. She runs off and comes back with a security guard, just as the crew approaches the car. Bats kills the guard and orders Baby to take off. He hesitates, until Bats points his shotgun at him. Baby floors it and deliberately rams into a truck in front of them, which causes a piece of rebar to crash through the windshield and impale Bats in the chest (!). They all jump out of the car as the cops arrive.

Baby runs through the city in an epic footchase scene. He eventually steals an old woman's car, but not before grabbing her purse from the front seat and tossing it to her (more foreshadowing!). He runs into Buddy and Darling, as they're all surrounded by cops. Darling fires at the cops and is killed. And enraged Buddy fires back, and in the confusion Baby gets away.

Baby returns to his apartment (which seems like the first place the cops would look) and finds Joseph on the floor where Bats dumped him. He grabs all his money from under the floorboard, stuffs it in Joseph's pockets and takes him to a nursing home.

He shows up at the diner to pick up Debora, but is shocked to see Buddy sitting at the counter, having apparently got away from the cops. When Buddy threatens Debora, Baby shoots him in the chest. He and Debora run from the diner and steal a car.

Baby drives to Doc's and begs for help. Doc tells him to get lost, as he's preparing to leave town. For some reason, when he sees Baby and Debora together he has a change of heart and agrees to help them. Just then more of The Butcher's men arrive. Doc gives Baby a bag of money and says he'll hold off the thugs long enough for the two lovebirds to get away. Doc's shot several times before killing The Butcher's men.

Suddenly Buddy arrives in a stolen cop car, and runs over Doc, killing him (!). Baby rams into Buddy's car, knocking it over the edge of the parking garage. It falls several hundred feet and explodes. Baby's sure that's the end of Buddy, but anyone who's ever seen a movie before knows that's not true. Sure enough, Buddy appears again like the killer in a slasher movie. He grabs ahold of Baby and fires his gun next to both of his ears, causing his tinnitus to go crazy and deafen him. He then goes after Debora, but Baby shoots him in the leg, causing him to topple over the ledge and fall onto his burning car, which explodes for good measure.

Cut to the next day, as Baby and Debora are heading for a new life on the West Coast. For some reason Debora's driving, and she stops when she sees a road block ahead. She wants to try and run it, but Baby stops her and turns himself in.

At Baby's trial, Debora, Joseph, the post office clerk and the purse lady all testify that Baby's a good kid who just made some bad choices (!). The judge sentences him to twenty five years, with the possibility of parole after five. Debora sends him postcards of the places they plan to go once he's out. Five year later Baby's released, and Debora's there waiting for him.

• The movie wastes no time as it jumps straight into the action with a lengthy and impressive old school car chase scene.

Baby's first getaway is downright awesome, as he effortless performs dozens of vehicular stunts, flying between cars and obstacles with inches to spare as he outwits the police.

Unfortunately that first action setpiece is the best one. Baby's next two getaways are nowhere near as much fun. He's almost caught on numerous occasions, and he continually smashes into cars, trucks and telephone poles before eventually escaping. For a movie that's ostensibly about a professional driver, these later stunts aren't very impressive. Heck, anyone could smash up their car during a getaway!

By the way, according to director Edgar Wright, the car chases were all filmed practically, with no CGI or green screen. That seems unbelievable in this day and age, but I guess we'll have to take his word for it.

• Edgar Wright dusts off two of his trademark directorial tricks and uses them again in Baby Driver.

Right after the first getaway, Baby exits Doc's HQ and sashays down the street to a coffee shop (to the tune of Harlem Shuffle), passing numerous extras along the way  He sweeps into the shop, picks up his order and dances his way back to HQ, all in one long, unbroken take.

Wright used this exact same "long take" shot TWICE in Shaun Of The Dead, as Shaun walks from his apartment to a shop and back, passing numerous extras along the way.

Later on when Baby and the crew meet with The Butcher, there's a violent shootout. Baby's got his ever-present earbuds in, and the gunshots are all timed to the beat of the music he's listening to.

Again, Wright used this same technique in Shaun Of The Dead, during the zombie shootout in the Winchester pub.

In the first scene of the movie, Baby walks down the street, into a coffee shop, buys several coffees and walks back— all in one continuous shot.

• Apparently Edgar Wright's a big fan of the Back To The Future films (but then who isn't?). Kevin Spacey's character's named "Doc." John Bernthal plays "Griff" (the name of Biff Tannen's grandson). Flea has a bit part in Baby Driver, and played "Needles" in Back To The Future II and III. And lastly, Doc mentions a previous caper called "The Spirit of '85," which was the year Back To The Future premiered.

• CJ Jones, who plays Baby's hearing-impaired foster father Joseph in the film, is deaf in real life.

• Doc uses a completely different crew for the first two robberies in the film. At one point he says he never works with the same team twice, with the exception of Baby.

Then in the very next scene, we see that his next crew is made up of members from Team #1 and #2.

I guess technically Doc is correct here, as this new team isn't exactly the same, but... it's still composed of previous members!

• Everyone and their dog has already pointed this out, but I noticed it right off so I'm joining in too. For much of the movie, Baby wears an odd jacket that looks very much Han Solo's iconic costume in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Actor Ansel Elgort was supposedly on the short list to play the lead in Disney's upcoming Young Han Solo film (whatever it's called), before they ultimately went with Alden Ehrenreich. Was Baby's costume choice just a coincidence? Homage? Or was this Edgar Wright's way of blasting Disney for not hiring Elgort?

• Speaking of Elgort, I'm not sure he was the best choice for Baby. Yes, I get that he's a damaged loner who rarely speaks or lets anyone get close to him. A role like that demands someone who can really emote— someone who can tell us what they're thinking with just their eyes. Unfortunately, Ansel Elgort is not that actor. He comes off as little more than a mannequin, and gives new meaning to the word "wooden."

• Lily James plays Debora, the friendly waitress at Bo's Diner. The second I saw her I honest to god gasped, as she looked exactly like Madchen Amick, who played waitress Shelly Johnson in Twin Peaks. In fact for a second I thought it WAS Madchen Amick there on the screen, until I realized she'd be close to fifty by now. It's an amazing resemblance!

• The biggest surprise in the film was cherubic singer/songwriter/actor Paul Williams in a cameo role as ruthless crime lord The Butcher. Williams spent most of the 1970s constantly popping up on every single variety and talk show on TV, belting out We've Only Just Begun in his strangled, warbly voice. 

I'm assuming that the diminutive Williams' casting as a violent criminal in Baby Driver was meant ironically.

• At one point Baby flips through the TV channels in his apartment, and we see a brief shot from Disney/Pixar's Monsters Inc. Apparently it was a big deal to get permission to show footage from a Disney film in an R-rated movie. In fact Monsters Inc. director Pete Docter even gets a special thanks recognition in the end credits!

For some reason, in the third act Buddy suddenly transforms from a laid-back criminal into a slasher movie villain. Baby seemingly kills him at least twice, and each time he returns from the dead (just like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees) before he's finally put down for good.

I wonder... earlier in the film there's a Michael Myers Halloween reference. Was that some kind of weird foreshadowing of Buddy's storyline?

• Oddly enough there are actually two songs titled Baby Driver. One's by Paul Simon, and is featured during the end credits. There's also one by KISS, which is NOT used in the movie. 

Either Edgar Wright liked the Paul Simon song better, or Gene Simmons wanted way too much money to license the KISS one.

• As regular readers of my blog know all too well, I am very critical of modern movie posters. I hate the fact that illustrated posters have seemingly gone the way of the dodo, replaced by horrible Photoshopped montages.

That's why I'm happy to report that Baby Driver features an honest to goodness, actual ILLUSTRATED poster! And it's glorious! Take a moment to stare at this rare example of illustrated screen art, and soak it all in.

One tiny complaint about the poster— is Baby's 2006 Subaru WRX supposed to be going backwards? Based on the "speed lines," that's certainly how it looks. Speed lines generally flow away from a car, not toward it! Plus we can see the text on the "Downtown Atlanta" highway sign, something that wouldn't be possible if the car was coming at the viewer. 

It's certainly possible that the car's meant to be going backwards here, as Baby drives it that way several times in the film. I just thought I'd point it out.

There's actually a second illustrated Baby Driver poster as well. This one's got a nice retro vibe to it. I don't like it as much as the character poster, but the fact that it's been illustrated rather than Photoshopped elevates it quite a bit in my humble opinion. I wish more studios would give us posters like this.

Baby Driver is a competent little film that's long on character and drama, but short on vehicular action. It's also the best thing Edgar Wright's done in many a year. Somehow I doubt it'll have the rewatchability of Wright's Shaun Of The Dead. I wouldn't recommend rushing out to see it at the cineplex, but it's worth a look on home video. I give it a B-.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Doctor Who?

Welp, it finally happened.

In an effort to try and control spoilers and leaked info, today the BBC announced who'll be playing the Doctor in Season 11 of Doctor Who.

 And the winner is.... Jodie Whittaker, whoever the hell that is.

Take that, Patriarchy! In your face, old white men! You just got served! Women can play fictional characters traditionally written as male just as well as you can!

So what do I think of this decision, you ask? Well, Mom always told me, "If you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all," so...

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