Baby Driver (2017)

★★★★★

After a four-year wait, Edgar Wright’s next film, Baby Driver is here. And it was definitely worth the wait. The soundtrack, the setting, the characters, all seem so incredibly like the Edgar Wright in the very British Cornetto trilogy (Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007), The World’s End (2013)) while also reminiscent of his direction in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). And what we get with Baby Driver is funny, romantic, and so thrilling that it may give you a sheer heart attack.

At the center of it all is Baby (Ansel Elgort), who can’t catch a break. He wants to get out of crime but he has to payback Doc (Kevin Spacey). Then he meets a girl, Deborah (Lily James) and the movie tends to shift from a heist movie to something much more. Almost a character study of Baby, and our sympathy towards him.

The most important part of Baby Driver is the varied, deep-cut heavy soundtrack. The firing of bullets in the shootouts follow the beats of the music. The music creates the scene for the bank robberies in a way I wouldn’t have expected. This is because we never actually see the robbing of the banks but instead we see Baby, listening to his iPod, waiting in the car outside of the heist. While we do miss out on the intense bank robberies, the car chases more than make up for it. Wright makes use of multiple camera angles to create chase scenes that only have been surpassed my Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).

The film has fun with Atlanta being it’s setting without being to “in your face” about it. People who have been to Atlanta will notice the Marriott Marquis, the Peachtree Center, and other landmarks of the city mentioned or pictured in the film. It just has a very genuine feel to itself. Just like Personal Shopper (2016) did with its Paris setting.

Baby Driver is a film that I believe has broad appeal to both audiences and critics. Just like this year’s Get Out had. Which is a rare quality for a film to have these days. Beautifully shot and full of color, Baby Driver reminds us that sometimes the going to the movies is about escapism. Whether driving away from our problems physically or mentally.

All Eyez on Me (2017)

★★

Benny Boom’s All Eyez on Me feels more like a TV movie rather than something that was released to theaters. The nearly two and a half-hour run time and some of the worst editing I’ve seen in a wide-release makes this film not worth even the biggest Tupac fan’s time.

As far as the cast and acting goes, it was refreshing to see pretty much all unknown actors cast in this film. Demetrius Shipp Jr., who played Tupac Shakur looked exactly like the real-life Tupac which was pretty incredible casting. Sadly, the acting in pretty much the whole movie was just mostly everybody chewing the scenery instead of giving any thing considered a proper rendering. Everything seemed much too dramatized for its own good. Something like subtlety in a movie exists for a reason. It provides grounding for some films and All Eyez on Me is an example of its importance.

This movie also suffers from showing too much rather than telling. Text shows up at the bottom of the screen to tell us the specifics of where we are. As if these chosen vignettes were taken directly from Wikipedia highlighting the life of Tupac. Flashbacks are shown to previous scenes in the movie at some parts which ruins all chances of being subtle. One character, who does not really look like Dr. Dre at all, has to be directly addressed as Dr. Dre by Tupac as a way for people to know who the actor is portraying. It is actually surprising how many storytelling errors this and The Mummy (2017) have in common sometimes, as both tell the audience directly too much information.

The editing so shoddily done too. Graphics used for news headlines look like something a film student put together quickly in Final Cut. We flash back, then flash forward, then flash back, and then flash forward countless amounts of times and all this does is just complicate the plot. The nonlinear way the story of Tupac’s life is told for a good part of this picture does not add anything except confusion. Also, at certain points in the movie, there is a poorly done slo-mo possibly for “dramatic effect” but it just comes off as lazy and unprofessional. Once this is used together with music to create a slo-motion music montage that almost seemed like it was bordering on parody.

Overly long, preachy, and melodramatic, All Eyez on Me is a dreadful music biopic that is edited in such a way that perplexes me. You could say that this could be worth watching for the comedic overacting of everyone as well as the by-the-numbers plot that most biopics seem to follow. But Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) does much better satirizing this genre then even something as bad as All Eyez on Me can do unintentionally.

Rough Night (2017)

★★½

Is a comedy film any good when only about a dozen jokes make you laugh? This odd Weekend at Bernie’s (1989) and The Hangover (2008) hybrid starts out slow and barely is even worth a chuckle and by the end becomes an ordinary and mediocre comedy.

Rough Night takes the dark comedic premise of killing a stripper at a bachelorette party but provides main characters that are not very funny or interesting. Jess (Scarlett Johansson), is played as the straight character but you could argue that Blair (Zoë Kravitz), also could fit that bill. Alice (Jillian Bell) is the planner of Jess’ Bachelorette party and a stereotype of age-old tropes of the crazy best-friend of the main character. Frankie (Ilana Glazer) plays a far-left hippie activist who has her moments but still remains quite static as a character. Then we have Pippa (Kate McKinnon), who fits the quirky foreign-friend archetype (this time Australian) and her shtick gets old as soon as she is introduced.  The parts of Rough Night that actually were funny, mostly had to do with the supporting cast. Jess’ fiance in the film, Peter (Paul W. Downs who also co-wrote the film) had a very funny plot-line more interesting than the central story. Peter is also joined by his friends at a wine and cheese tasting bachelor party in the first act, which include characters played by Eric Andre and Bo Burnham. Ty Burrell and Demi Moore are also the film’s other saving grace, playing next-door swingers to Jess and her friends at their Miami beach-house. So, in other words, everything (at least character-wise) is great about this movie except the main cast.

Rough Night is a film that will not be that memorable past this summer. Despite having a funny supporting cast, it still manages to fall into screenwriting clichés such as characters fighting then making up as a way to provide an illusion of a character arc. I would only recommend seeing Rough Night if you are a very big fan of writer’s Lucia Aniello and Paul W. Downs work on their TV show Broad City and are in dire need of something to watch before the season four premiere in August.

Author’s Note: If you do see Rough Night, try to spot the actor who played Buzz from Home Alone. He shows up in a funny minor role.

 

The Mummy (2017)

Before setting up this “Dark Universe” and planning out all the future installments, Universal should have just focused on making a good film and going from there. While The Mummy was only directed by Alex Kurtzman, it was written by six different people. You can very much tell, as it is tonally uneven and poorly paced.

Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) was not really likable nor provided anything interesting other than make goofy faces and scream awkwardly. This is surprising, because Cruise has picked mostly good movies to star in in the past. But, at the center of the “Dark Universe” we have Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russel Crowe) which, while being by far the strongest performance of this film, is mainly just there to provide exposition and set up more movies. The idea that Jekyll has a museum and tries to stop all of these Universal Monsters just makes us want to focus on what he does instead of focus on just the mummy. And as for the actual mummy (Sofia Boutella), was more or less, dull and uninteresting compared to the previous incarnations of the character. The mummy just felt very nonthreatening. Imhotep (the previous mummy) in The Mummy (1999) seemed to have much more interesting abilities other than just sucking the life out of people.

The Mummy also thinks its audience is stupid. Title cards of where we are flash at the beginning of the movie which is unnecessary. If the set design is good enough and the script is tight enough, viewers will figure out the setting without needing it spoon-fed to them. Flashbacks are also provided to scenes from earlier in the movie as if we forgot what had happened. It could be because they too know that The Mummy is forgettable drivel.

The Mummy is like if they took all the problems and tropes plaguing blockbusters and decided to make it a movie. Taking the horror-based source material and turning it into the most cliched of action-blockbusters. Caring more about setting up endless sequels rather than the actual central plot, overusing CGI, and falling back on dream sequences to create much more interesting imagery than what is actually happening in the film. Or in other words, The Mummy is terrible.

 

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)

★★★

Should you probably see the good blockbusters this summer like Wonder Woman (2017) or Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)? I don’t know, because those don’t have a Paul McCartney cameo in them. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is about as good of a fifth installment any franchise would be able to produce. As convoluted and bloated the Pirates franchise has become, I found myself enjoying this entry more than even Dead Man’s Chest (2006). This was because of how little it tended to digress as well as get caught up in minor details that didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. While the run time was about the same as most other films in the series, the pacing felt much smoother and natural compared to any of the other sequels.

The budget may have been scaled-down compared to record-breaking production-cost of 2011’s On Stranger Tides, but that doesn’t mean the effects are any less spectacular. The design of the haunting Captain Salazar (Javier Bardem) is a good example of how CGI can be used correctly. I also think that the special effects will age gracefully throughout time as The Curse of the Black Pearl is fourteen years old and still has great visual effects. When there is no computer-generated effects involved, (so pretty much only the scenes on the mainland) the film has a bright, tropical-feeling. The camera shots may not match the Verbinski-era Pirates films level of cinematography, but it still manages to have comparable direction to most other blockbusters.

As far as the story goes, it has some problems. The story opens strong however, it re-introduces Jack in a comedic manner as well as provides an exciting chase scene. But as the plot continues it soon shows its problems of heavy exposition, cliches, and plot contrivances. How many times do we need to see Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) “almost” get killed and survive to tell the tale? This plot point has been used in every single film in the franchise and is not worthy of being repeated on multiple occasions. Many lines of the dialogue are written in as a series of dead-end quips which it worked for the type of film Dead Men Tell No Tales was going for as a light-hearted swashbuckling adventure.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales is a passable and hopefully final entry in this franchise. The return of both Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) was a major disappointment, as Bloom, has a couple lines and Knightley does not have any speaking lines at all. But, as a good friend of mine said “Ham fisted closure is better than no closure at all.”

 

It Comes at Night (2017)

★★★½

After watching Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night I would recommend watching something to boost your spirits as well as trust in the human race. Because It Comes at Night is the most disturbing film I have seen all year.

It Comes at Night is a horror film but not in the traditional sense of the genre. Shults makes sure to not give any exposition on the universe surrounding the movie because it does not need to be stated. Instead, we need to figure out what is going on for ourselves. Shults sets the world with great camerawork and very well let scenes.

As far as acting, Joel Edgerton is the best of the small cast of characters. Riley Keough was not as good as she was in other films, like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and American Honey (2016) and Will (Christopher Abbot) had a rocky start at the beginning but his acting improved by the end of the film.

As far as pacing is concerned, the film is paced incredibly well until the end of the film where everything unravels so unbelievably quickly. (This could have been the purpose of the film however, so when re-watched this gripe could be laid to rest). The beginning opens slowly as it has to setup what is going on without confusing the viewer. But it really does not take long for things to start picking up.

It Comes at Night is hard to write about because it is an experience that I would not want to ruin by giving too much information away. It is an excellent movie that feels almost like a short film turned into a full-length picture.

Baywatch (2017)

★½

Some words to describe Baywatch would be: lazy, uninspired, crude, unfunny, and harmless. This film is not the atrocity that many are making it out to be, but it still does not go beyond something to view while flipping channels on a boring afternoon.

Dwayne Johnson is likable as Mitch Buchannon because, Johnson just has that natural charisma that makes him such a popular star today. The other actors like Zac Efron and Alexandra Daddadrio do passable jobs in the acting department, with the exception of the stereotypical nerd character, Ronnie (Jon Bass). Bass’ performance is annoying and the shtick is unfunny. Who comes off as a poor-man’s Josh Gad (which is a phrase I thought I would have never said).

The plot in Baywatch is purposefully foolish, but it doesn’t change the fact that it is riddled with clichés. If something is self-aware of itself it has to be more than self-aware to pass as actual good entertainment. Comedian Hannibal Buress shows up for a bit, for no reason and then just disappears adding little to nothing to the story, which is odd. For a comedy there is also very little of anything that is funny long stretches go on throughout Baywatch where the bland plot takes center stage and the comedy is suppressed. Which is not how a comedy should be.

As far as cinematography goes, the shots are all very boring and predictable. There seemed to be no direction for the camerawork and instead, it is mainly just medium shots. Even the special effects felt cheap as a green screen was used in many of the action sequences, which is disappointing for a big studio film.

Paramount thought they had a 21 Jump Street (2012) on their hands by adapting popular 90s TV show Baywatch into a R-rated comedy. But the film version of Baywatch lacks the creative team and effort put into it that made 21 Jump Street such a popular and acclaimed comedy. And insteadBaywatch becomes a forgettable experience.