REVIEW: BABY DRIVER (2017)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

BABY DRIVER (2017)

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a music loving getaway driver for crime boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Doc caught Baby stealing his car, but was so impressed by his technique and driving that he is letting him work off his infraction by employing the orphaned young man to get his robbery teams out quick. Baby has almost worked off his dept and wants out, especially when he meets beautiful and sweet waitress Debora (Lily James), who steals his heart. But Doc isn’t about to let Baby get away that easy and when a big job brings in loose cannon Batz (Jamie Foxx), Baby might be in for the ride of his life…and maybe his last ride, too!

Written and directed by Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead), this is a routine crime thriller energized by having the action synced up with the film’s awesome soundtrack of classic tunes. In this aspect the film is impressive, especially on a technical level and does have some really energetic chase sequences when the law are in hot pursuit. The romance is also very hip and sweet between Baby and the captivating Debora and we believe these two kids are in love. The film is, overall, fun from start to finish, but does falter once the soundtrack syncing starts to wear out it’s novelty and we realize that underneath Wright’s showmanship is just another crime thriller about a good man in with some bad people. It follows the formula very closely, so it’s no spoiler to know that Baby’s plans to go away with Debbie are going to be thwarted by Doc, the last big job will go awry and we know Baby will be forced to go up against his former “friends” when Debbie gets caught in the middle. Even while very predictable, this is still an enjoyable thriller and Wright’s style of telling the familiar tale does freshen things up for a while. Edgar Wright may not always be the most original filmmaker in terms of his stories, but he is one of the more innovative ones when it comes to how he tells them.

The cast is really on target with Ansel Elgort being a handsome and charming young rogue with the beautiful Lily James being quite captivating as the sassy and sweet apple of his eye. They have chemistry and their scenes together are engaging, as they should be. Kevin Spacey is having a blast as the eccentric Doc and even manages to give the crime boss a little bit of heart underneath the bad guy veneer. Jon Hamm and Eiza González also sizzle as a married couple who are a modern day Bonnie and Clyde with González being a suitably sexy bad girl and Hamm being a likable bad-ass who becomes a real beast when things go wrong. Jamie Foxx is fine as Batz, though the character sometimes seemed a little too reckless to have lived this long in this business. Jon Bernthal also appears briefly as another member of Doc’s rotating crime team who doesn’t like that Baby never gets his hands dirty. A good cast who get the tone of the material and has a good time with their characters.

In conclusion this was a fun movie with a great soundtrack and some top notch action and editing. The romance elements were hip and sweet and the film only falters when it’s soundtrack syncing gimmick looses steam and we realize we’ve seen this movie many, many times before…thus making it predictable. It’s still worth watching, though, especially for the hip cast, fast action and awesome tunes, but by the end we do realize that this car is actually an old model, just one with shiny new rims.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 bullets.

 

 

bars

COOL STUFF: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 on BLU-RAY

MZNJ_cool_stuff

now playing

amazing-spider-man-2

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014) DVD/Blu-Ray

I have mixed feelings about The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (click on the title for full review), though will admit I have softened my stance a little after watching it again. Not having done quite as well as previous installments, this summer blockbuster has been rushed onto home media before the summer is even over and comes loaded with extras to lure us in. But is it worth the buy?… Let’s take a look…

TASM2 may  have it’s flaws but, it was a great looking and well designed movie and the digital Blu-Ray image is gorgeous and even crisper on your HD TV then blown up on a movie screen. The colors are rich and the complex action and FX really look great and hold up under the scrutiny of being up close in your living room. The sound is great and the film may, overall, actually play better at home where it’s somewhat convoluted story can be absorbed better with the more intimate setting. The deciding factor when considering picking up a somewhat flawed film are the extras… and this disc has a generous amount of them to sway us. First off we get about a dozen deleted scenes. Not all of them are gems, we can see why some did not make the cut but, we do get to see more of the Green Goblin, a few more scenes with Felicity Jone’s character of Felicia Hardy and a scene between Peter and his father which was interesting though I understand the decision to not go that route. The real draw for me is over 100 minutes of production footage and interviews and as an amateur/wannabe filmmaker myself, I can eat this stuff up and it was cool to see how this complex production came together. There is also the traditional director’s commentary and even a music video from Alicia Keys for “It’s On Again” from the movie.

So, whether you want to pick this up depends on how much you liked the flick. The film plays a bit better at home, looks and sounds great and has a generous amount of extras to add to it’s appeal. As a movie geek, who loves this kind of stuff, I found myself being a bit more forgiving of it’s flaws the second time around and really enjoyed the in-depth look at how the film’s production came together. Unless the movie completely failed to interest you, or, you consider it to be a far greater disappointment then I did (see review) then I’d say it’s worth having, especially as most retail outlets have it on sale for it’s release, as well.

bars

REVIEW: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

amazing-spider-man-2-poster

bars

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)

While I can safely say The Amazing Spider-Man 2 avoids some of the epic badness of Raimi’s bloated Spider-Man 3… which also has some good stuff too, it wasn’t a complete disaster… it certainly is a disappointing and schizophrenic film to say the least. Sequel’s biggest problem is that the story is all over the place and so is it’s tone. It’s Dark Knight serious one minute and Batman Forever campy the next and trying to have it both ways. The scatterbrained story is hard to paraphrase but, it has Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield) trying to deal with his feelings for Gwen (Emma Stone) while also trying to deal with the guilt from the death of her father (Denis Leary) and the promise he made to him before he died to stay away from her. When he is not getting all emo over that, he is still pining for the truth about his mother and father (Embeth Davidtz and Campbell Scott) and their disappearance. In the middle of all this moping we have the arrival of a new villain named Electro (Jamie Foxx) who is a nerdish Oscorp power expert and Spider-Man groupie whose fall into the wrong vat (it’s always a vat of something!) turns him into a Spider-Man hating live wire… very similar to Batman Forever’s Riddler storyline, hence my reference. And if that’s not enough, Peter’s old friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan) returns home from abroad to take over Oscorp when his father passes away. But, Harry has inherited more then the company from dear old dad, as he also has his degenerative disease… and his research indicates only Spider-Man’s blood can save him… still with me? Needless to say, Peter/Spider-Man is up to his webs in bad guys and emotional turmoil as he tries to figure out his relationship issues, parental issues and Electro and Green Goblin issues as Harry’s efforts to save himself have a disturbing effect… at least he didn’t fall in a vat…oh, and did I mention The Rhino (Paul Giamatti)?

Despite some very top notch effects and some impressive, though frantic action, scenes Amazing Spider-Man 2 has far too much story to tell for it’s own good and very little of it comes to a satisfying conclusion. It can be slow moving at times and there are long stretches where not much is really accomplished, though there is a lot to get done considering all the conflicts the script, by Roberto Orci, Jeff Pinker and Alex Kurtzman, sets up. Director Marc Webb also seems a little uncertain as to the tone he wants for his complicated film and seems to wing-it scene by scene. Sometimes he wants the film to have a serious dramatic impact but, sometimes he wants to have what he interprets as comic book style fun and the constantly changing tone between campy and dire is disorientating and creates a distance from the proceedings. I never felt really involved in the story which had a lot for me to get involved in, if any of it really had the focus and strength it should have. Sometimes we get some very serious sequences such as the before mentioned emotional torment Peter is suffering and then we get some very campy and goofy scenes such as Jaime Foxx’s dorky Max Dillon before he becomes a human Die Hard battery. And that is a big shame because Electro could have been a real imposing villain if his set-up wasn’t so silly and cliche’. His powers are portrayed with some real effectiveness and he has a tremendous battle with Spidey in Times Square… one of the film’s best scenes… but, then he all but disappears till the script needs him again to join forces with the desperate Harry. At least TASM2 avoids SM3‘s mistake and let’s Spidey have it out with Electro before a certain goon on a glider makes his appearance. And as for Harry, we have no grasp of Peter’s relationship with him, as this is the first time in this new series he is seen or mentioned. So it has no resonance. At least Raimi always had Harry present and it took two films before he became a villain. Here we don’t even get to know Harry well enough for his transformation into the Green Goblin to have the weight it needs. And once the credits roll, we feel like we’ve sat through a middle film in an undesignated trilogy as there seems to be no solid beginning or end to the story. It seems like an episode in a larger story arch that is ongoing, so, we leave the theater feeling like we’ve seen an incomplete film. It sort of just ends with only a few story elements resolved. That’s OK in comics because they are monthly, here we have to wait another two years to see if this is going anywhere.

The cast are all good, though no one really gets the screen time their character deserves except for Garfield. And he is a good Peter/Spidey though, those who felt Tobey Maguire’s Spidey was a bit too weepy, be warned, Garfield catches up a bit here. Jaime Foxx is very effective as Electro in what he is given to do though, I thought his Max Dillon was a bit too goofy and campy considering how serious we are supposed to take him when he turns spider-hating electrode. DeHaan is a bit flat as Harry in the earlier scenes but, seemed to respond better to the villainous turn and he makes a pretty effective Green Goblin, though again, isn’t utilized enough to make a real impact. Emma Stone is once again charming, perky and feisty as Gwen Stacy but, her character also disappears for stretches and sometimes her place in the story seems more to frustrate Peter then anything else. She and Garfield again have a nice chemistry but Gwen is another character that needed more important things to do then just emotionally confuse our hero. The character and actress deserve better. Sally Field is once again a solid Aunt May and she and Garfield also have a nice chemistry in the few scenes they have together. Supporting players Colm Feore, Felicity Jones and Paul Giamatti are fine enough in small roles that hint at having more importance in a future installment. Again, the film focuses on things to come and neglects what’s going on now.

So, in conclusion, the second Spidey flick in this new series is somewhat of a disappointment and attempted far too much for it’s own good and then can’t make up it’s mind on exactly what tone to present that convoluted story in. There are long stretches where not much really happens, though it never got boring or tedious but, could have used it’s 142 minute running time more wisely. There were some spectacular FX and action scenes and there are elements set-up and some left unresolved that could make a solidly thrilling third flick if, they tighten the script and Webb settles on a tone and sticks with it. It’s not a train wreck, just a bit of an overloaded one that can’t decide what track it’s on sometimes.

2 and 1/2 webs.

amazing spider-man rating 2

bars

THE “D” IS SILENT: A LOOK AT DJANGO UNCHAINED (2012) AND DJANGO (1966)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing
DjangoUnchainedDJANGO UNCHAINED (2012)

As Tarantino’s hit Spaghetti Western homage comes to blu-ray on 4/16/13, I take a look back at Django Unchained and the film that inspired it…

Quentin Tarantino has become one of America’s most innovative filmmakers in that he takes his unapologetic love of movies, B movies in particular, and crafts original films out of bits and pieces that pay homage to the movies he loves. No more obvious than his latest ode to the Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained.

This epic story of ex-slave turned bounty hunter, Django (Jaime Foxx) has it’s main character named after the lone gunslinger played by Franco Nero in Sergio Corbucci’s classic Spaghetti Western of the same name. And in case you didn’t get that point, not only does the film open with that 1966 film’s theme song, but sports a delightful cameo from Franco Nero himself. The story opens with a slave, Django being bought in a humorously violent scene by German bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz ( Christoph Waltz). Schultz promises Django his freedom if the slave will help him track down three wanted men Django has seen, but Schultz has not. Django has quite a knack for bounty hunting and after their quarry is gunned down, in a great scene involving a hilariously sleazy Don Johnson as a racist plantation owner, the two team up. When Schultz hears of the plight of Django’s German speaking slave wife, Broomhilda (Kerry Washington), he agrees to help him search for and free her. This brings them to the door of a vile plantation owner, who specializes in slave fights, named Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Will Django and Schultz be able to rescue his wife from the devious and well armed Candie? A lot of bullets and blood fly before that question gets answered. Django Unchained isn’t perfect. It is definitely a bit too long and the last act could have been structured a bit more efficiently, but Tarantino has always been a bit overindulgent and we let him slide because of all the things he gets right…and because his films are usually so damn entertaining.

And one of the things he gets so right here is the performances out of his cast. Jaime Fox is impressive as Django bringing both a sly humor and a smoldering strength to the slave turned bounty killer. I’m not usually a fan, but he won me over here. Christoph Waltz is an absolute delight as the German bounty hunter with a heart and sense of honor. He gives Tarantino’s crisp and witty dialog vivid life and creates an instantly classic character from the pages of the director’s script. The same could be said of the phenomenal performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, whose wonderfully over the top Calvin Candie practically steals the show. DiCaprio is having a blast playing the vicious and sleazy dandy plantation owner whose charm oozes out of every pore, but only to cover up that this snake has fangs filled with venom and he will strike first chance he gets. And if that triple threat isn’t enough, we have a side splitting performance by the great Samuel L. Jackson as Candie’s cantankerous head slave Stephen. Stephen may be a slave, but sometimes his manipulation of Calvin makes you seriously wonder who is really running the Candie Land plantation.

Tarantino once again gives this top notch cast some wonderful Tarantino dialog to work with and, as usual, shoots Django with his trademark luscious camera work. QT’s love of film fills every frame. He skillfully mixes controversial topics such as the horrors of slavery and racism with some very sly and funny humor and peppers it with some blood spattering action and violence. Basically it’s a Quentin Tarantino movie…and that’s exactly what we paid to see. A fiercely entertaining movie with a great supporting cast featuring the likes of Jonah Hill, Bruce Dern, Don Stroud, Russ and Amber Tamblyn, Dennis Christopher, Michael Parks and James Remar to name a few.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated a solid 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) pistols

Django_rating

**************************************************

BONUS REVIEW:

django--original-poster

DJANGO (1966)

As 1964’s A Fistful Of Dollars was a huge hit, director Sergio Corbucci answered with his own Spaghetti Western in 1966, the classic, Django. Where Sergio Leone filled his films with beautiful sweeping vistas and made good use of the Spanish locations, Corbucci’s look for Django was very nihilistic and bleak as was it’s tone. Filmed in winter, the landscapes are barren and dead and the streets of the town are filled with mud and the sky seems mostly always gray. The films’ heroes Couldn’t be more different, too. Eastwood’s “Joe” is an opportunist who plays two rival gangs against each other in a dangerous game to profit from both, while Franco Nero’s Django, on the other hand, is a former soldier who returns to a small town dragging a coffin behind him and seeking vengeance for the loss of a loved one. Django is a man whose heart and soul have been torn out by the Civil War and the murder of his wife and he doesn’t care how many have to die before he exacts his revenge on the evil Major Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) for her death. And death is indeed what lies within the coffin he takes with him everywhere, as Jackson and his men will soon find out. The loner gunslinger Django also plays two gangs against each other for his own gain, but his gain is far more personal than profitable. The film’s graveyard shootout finale is also very bleak and makes one wonder if Corbucci is asking us whether Django’s surrounding himself with so much death has made him an outcast amongst the living. Django is a hard and violent tale under Corbucci’s direction and Franco Nero’s Django is a hard and violent man who, unlike Eastwood’s charming anti-hero, is a man on a path to hell and plans on taking as many with him as possible. His flashes of humanity are brief and seem only directed at the saloon girl Maria (Loredana Nusciak), who falls for the dark loner. But, even Maria is not immune to the violence that follows this man wherever he goes. Django is an interesting entry in the Spaghetti Western genre and seems to be the dark opposite of Leone’s series with Eastwood. And as such has earned it’s own classic status and is rightfully regarded as one of the genres best examples.

-MonsterZero NJ

Also rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) pistols

Django_rating

**************************************************