Baby Driver

Baby Driver (2017) Working Title Films. Written and directed by Edgar Wright.

I really like Edgar Wright’s work. Going right back to the television cult classic Spaced (1999-2001) I’ve been a fan. But Wright was around before that, working with British comedy luminaries such as Bill Bailey and Alexei Sayle and making music videos.

Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World’s End (2013) (collectively known as ‘The Cornetto Trilogy’) are all excellent movies, though I’m still not entirely sold on the second half of The World’s End. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) is, in my opinion, an often overlooked minor masterpiece, using some interesting methods to bring Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel to the screen. (If you haven’t seen it, go do it – you can thank me later).

So, what about Baby Driver? First, and arguably foremost, it’s a heist film, in the classic tradition of The Italian Job (1969) and a car chase movie, paying homage to films such as The French Connection (1971). Into this frenetic mix, Wright has put an amazing soundtrack and a solid cast. Many of the characters are archetypes but I found by the final act, I was totally invested in Doc (gloriously played by Kevin Spacey), Baby (Ansel Elgort) and his love interest, Debora (Lily James), who has surprisingly few lines but makes the most of her screen time. John Hamm, Jaime Foxx, Eiza Gonzalez and C J Jones are excellent in support.

While Wright is on record as saying most of the car chase scenes were done without a lot of CG assistance, I think the real unsung heroes of this film are cinematographer, Bill Pope and editors, Jonathon Amos and Paul Machliss. Their work here is exemplary, with the end product being possibly the first Car Chase Heist Musical.

This is a project that Edgar Wright has been wanting to make for many years. There’s echoes of Baby Driver in much of his previous work, (have a look at the music video for ‘Blue Song’ by UK duo Mint Royale from 2003) and he finally started it properly when he famously (and some would say wisely) walked away from Ant-Man (2015).

Apart from possibly spawning a new sub genre, there’s nothing new or groundbreaking with Baby Driver – but it’s incredibly entertaining, and surely with the current state of our world, that’s not such a bad thing. On reflection, I’d rather have Baby Driver than a Wright-directed Ant-Man 😀

We’ll Keep On Going – Remembering Tony Cohen

Back in the dim, dark reaches of the last millennium, I was making music with a great bunch of folks here in Hobart. Together with Michael Turner, Dan Tuffy and Mel Fazackerley we made up Wild Pumpkins at Midnight.

Through Michael and Jo Volta (Stevens back then), we managed to get in Tony Cohen’s ear and he agreed to work with us on our first recording. It was a frantic, funny, at times frustrating but overall, an incredibly rewarding experience. Tony was insane, shambolic, intense – but literally amazing to work with. And for a new band, we knew how lucky we were to have him for the project. Working with him also led to meeting Chris Thompson, his great friend and the other very prominent engineer/producer in my time with WPAM.

These first sessions with Tony though, became the self-titled, bright yellow EP, with the little dancing figures in the bottom corner. People still talk to me about that first recording and even after 30 or so years, I’m proud of it. Looking (and listening) back, I can see how good Tony made us sound, and for that fact alone I will always be grateful.

We worked with Tony again over the years, hung out, made some questionable choices but always ended up falling about laughing courtesy of that razor-sharp Cohen wit. But, like so many people from those days, I lost touch with Tone over the years as other relationships, kids, physical distance and different lives got in the way. Occasionally Jo Volta would let me know what he was up to and I was always thinking I must catch up next time I’m in Melbourne.

And of course, now it’s too late and that makes me very sad.

It was only a brief moment in Tony’s stellar career, but I’ll leave you with my favourite track from that first EP.

 

Vale Tony, and thank you ❤

Rules of Conduct – A Rant

It was a damp Sunday afternoon, so I decided to go and see Baby Driver today at the lovely State Cinema in North Hobart. I’ll write a review about it in the next few days when I’ve had a chance to think about the film a little more but suffice it to say, I loved the music, the performances and the incredible editing. I’m just not certain about the ending – but I’ll talk about that soon.

What I want to discuss today are that unspoken guidelines that I’ve lived by all my life, the core rules of conduct in movie-going – that is to say, one is always silent while the movie is playing! The only exception is laughter. I’ve been heartened to see that people like Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo actively encourage this through their podcast but sometimes I wonder if it’s just because they’re a similar vintage to me and we’re just showing our age.

For those of you who are interested, here’s The Moviegoers’ Code of Conduct  from the Wittertainment wiki. Alternatively, Kermode and Mayo made this short video version a few years ago, which is recommended and very entertaining.

I grew up in a movie-loving, very cine-literate household, where both my father and older brother had their projectionist’s licence so trips to the cinema were our regular special event, and even when watching movies at home, the rules of conduct would be enforced. Even whispered conversations with my sister were discouraged during movies and I remember us being given oranges and a hand towel to take to the Saturday matinee because it made less noise. I do recall seeing my mother and father snogging once on a trip to the pictures, something they used to do when they were “courting” but never to the disruption of anyone else’s viewing.

Well, this afternoon, my friend and I got a coffee (in a china mug – not a disposable cup ❤ ) along with our tickets, wandered downstairs 10 minutes before the session started and selected a seat in the half full cinema and drank our coffee in relative peace before the feature started. Just as the trailers started, an older couple (maybe 60s) came in and noisily eased past the couple behind me. For the purposes of this blog, I’m calling him Mr Ignorant.

First, what I can only imagine was a biscuit packet came out, and a loud crunching and crackling. Then he started. Mr Ignorant talked all the way through the trailers, oohing and ahing at Charlize Theron and James McAvoy in Atomic Blonde, as well as Dunkirk and I found myself gripping the seat, hoping he was just getting it out of his system before the main feature started.

Alas, this was not to be.

Unfortunately, he kept up a near constant stream of chatter through the opening scene and drove me almost to distraction before the movie had even really begun. In an effort to stem the tide before the film really got going, I turned, and in the darkness asked in a loud voice “will you please stop talking?” Now, any of you who know me in the real world will know I have no trouble making myself heard, something to do with all that vocal training I’m sure! He stopped mid-sentence, almost affronted there was anyone else in the cinema and seemed to contain himself for the next scene.

Then the biscuit packet came out again. And the chatter started again. And I leaned in closer to my movie companion, who fortunately knows me well enough to not be freaked out by such behaviour!

So, with my head as far away from Mr and Mrs Ignorant as possible, I tried to lose myself in Baby’s shenanigans, only to be brought back again and again by the sheer ignorance of particularly the man behind me and that damned biscuit packet. I feel I need to go back and see the film again, without interruptions.

As soon as the film finished, they got up very noisily and left, making no illusion about their disdain towards me. Then, as the lights went up, two other patrons came over and thanked me for speaking up. They said they wanted to but felt they couldn’t.

But they should – we all should.

In fact, I should’ve gone out and found an usher and complained about Mr Ignorant. The only reason I didn’t is I’ve been waiting to see this film for a few weeks and didn’t want to miss a frame – or cause any more disruption to my fellow cinema patrons.

What do you think?

In the meantime, here’s a lovely, calming photo of some lovely, calming clouds. Take care friends and remember the Rules of Conduct next time you go to the cinema ❤

 

 

Spider-Man: Homecoming

Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) Columbia Pictures/Marvel Studios. Directed by Jon Watts.

It’s Saturday night and I’ve just got home from the movies. I wanted to see Edgar Wright’s latest release, Baby Driver and probably should’ve seen Wonder Woman (yes I know, it’s shameful I haven’t seen it yet!) but I’m really pleased I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming!

From the opening credits that riffed the Avengers theme music around the old Spiderman TV series theme, this was fun! Tom Holland is really excellent as Peter Parker/Spider-Man, and at 21 can just about pass for a geeky, awkward 15 year old high school student who’s discovered he has superpowers. And I think that’s what I really found charming about this film, it was as much a coming of age story as a superhero film. The scenes that involved the young cast were really well done, and although not aimed at a middle aged audiences like me, I really found myself caring about those kids. My standouts were Ned, beautifully played by Jacob Batalon as Peter’s best friend and Zendaya (playing against type) as the mouthy and happily dysfunctional Michelle.

Among the grown ups present, Michael Keaton made a wonderful villain as Adrian Toomes/Vulture, Marisa Tomei was sympathetic and lovely as Aunt May and of course, Robert Downey Jr. ate up every scene he was in. I was really pleased to see Jon Favreau reprising his role as Happy Hogan too.

A lot has been said about the necessity for yet another reworking of this franchise for the big screen, but I think the Marvel makeover was warranted and definitely a success. I do think it owes a great deal to the Sam Rami 2002 Spider-Man – especially the school scenes. I still think Rami’s take on the material was excellent for two of his three films and today, somewhat underrated. But this is Marvel, so the set pieces are well choreographed, intense and the CG is for the most part very well done. Unlike some of their more recent efforts, the final battle didn’t overstay its welcome and like most of the MCU features, this film made great use of music. The scene with Spidey swinging around New York to The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Pop” was fabulous.

Perhaps above all, this movie made me laugh out loud more than once, and I left the cinema with a smile on my face – a fun popcorn movie 😀

 

Love – Things That Grow

I’ve had a really rewarding and busy week. There’s been lots of weeding, planning out what seeds I need for spring, making loads of chicken stock for a sick friend and a dizzying amount of research into a paper I have to write about fan cultures. Above all, I’ve really been noticing how much lighter it is when I get up, and this morning (after some very cold and wet days) it was wonderful just to see kunanyi (Mt Wellington) again.

In my last post, among other things, I wrote about a project I’ve started with the Food Gardening crew at Oak Tasmania, growing Snow Peas in eggshells. Well I’m thrilled to update you all that we now have baby pea plants 😀

Everyone seems to have got involved, making sure they were carefully watered every day and it’s been a great success so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to get them outside to harden off once they’re all up and showing a couple of leaves. Then we need to find somewhere to plant them – space is tight at the moment!

And speaking of OAK, an advance notice for Hobart/southern Tasmanian readers. I’ll be performing with The Superstars on Friday 11th August (about 3 weeks time) at a fundraiser quiz night. We’re all looking forward to it and had a fabulous rehearsal this morning 🙂 Finally, I got away from the garden and uni on Wednesday and attended the launch of Smoke One, a collection of highly commended and winning microfiction, published by Transportation Press and sponsored by Fullers Bookshop. It was a lovely, intimate event, and a selection of stories were read to a very appreciative audience. I was particularly taken with Andrew Harper’s story “Antlers” and Madeleine Habib’s harrowing but beautiful piece, “Hope Floats”.

Creating a cohesive story in such a short format is a very difficult thing to do – if you don’t believe me, try it sometime! – and I’m thrilled there’s such an international competition based in Hobart. If you’re interested in different forms of short fiction, I highly recommend this! I’m planning a quiet weekend of gardening, reading and a trip to the movies – either Spiderman – Homecoming or Baby Driver, I’m not sure yet. But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, take care friends ❤

 

 

 

Excalibur (1981) – Movie Review

As many of you know, I’m doing a Bachelor of Communication at the moment. I’ve recently read one of Mark Kermode’s books and that’s also inspired me. While I’m busy with study, work, gardening and music, from time to time, I want to exercise some of the things I’ve been learning at uni and indulge in two of my greatest pleasures in life – watching movies and writing. I hope you enjoy my musings 🙂

Excalibur (1981) Orion Films. Directed by John Boorman.

I remember seeing this on first cinematic release back in the day, and it’s become something of a guilty pleasure that I like to revisit every year or so. It’s cheesy, at times very theatrical but there’s something about it I really love.

English director John Boorman created (for its day) an incredibly violent yet a very tender retelling of the Arthurian legend. The late Nigel Terry stars as Arthur and brings both tremendous strength and an aching innocence to the role and is surrounded by a “who’s who” of the cream of UK’s up and coming thespians, including Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds, Gabriel Byrne, Cherie Lunghi and Patrick Stewart. But the reason I continue to re-watch this is the brilliant portrayal of Merlin by Nicol Williamson. He eats up the screen, and his scenes with a very young Helen Mirren as Morgana Le Fey are simply riveting. Legend has it that Mirren and Williamson absolutely loathed each other at the commencement of shooting but became “very good friends” by the time it was completed. Irrespective, their performances are outstanding.

The original music by Trevor Jones is for the most part excellent but there’s a few times where I feel it intrudes on the scenes. Much of the action is informed by the sumptuous cinematography of Alex Thompson and it’s no surprise to me that he was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. The Irish countryside stands in for Arthur’s England and all its grey, bucolic green and muddy glory is well on display here. Interestingly, I recently read that Boorman had chosen many of the sites for his Lord of the Rings project, which never got off the ground. The similarities as well as the appeal of Ireland isn’t lost on me, and I wonder if Peter Jackson ever watched this and had similar thoughts.

Yes, the practical effects and fight scenes are dated and at times it looks and feels more like stage play but to my eyes it’s the best cinematic retelling of this classic tale – far more entertaining and engaging than either Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur (2004) or Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017). I can’t help but feel that Boorman has a real fondness for the Arthur myth, which shows throughout.

Have you seen Excalibur? Let me know what you think. Also, if you have particular films you’d like me to watch, let me know – I’ve always got time for a good movie!

The Good, The Bad and The Multiplex by Mark Kermode – Book Review

Hello friends,

I’ve been off with study/work commitments for the last month or so but I’ve been reading some interesting bits and pieces and watching a lot of films in between. Here’s a short review of a book I only finished last night and published on Goodreads.

Hope you’re all well on this first day of southern hemisphere winter 😀

 

The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies?The Good, the Bad and the Multiplex: What’s Wrong with Modern Movies? by Mark Kermode
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m a fan of Kermode and Mayo’s podcast and currently doing a major in Screen Studies at university. While I’ve read a lot of academic papers about the topics covered here (including the death of celluloid and projectionists, the rise of automated multiplex cinemas and 3D, the roles and functions of film critics and how bad is Michael Bay) it was great to read something less formal and more passionate about the current state of cinema.

Yes, Mark Kermode is incredibly opinionated and renowned for his on air rants but he seems to be well aware of his own shortcomings, which I find refreshing. (This is particularly well noted in the final section, “American Without Tears” about the constant English language remakes of perfectly fine foreign language films). His style is conversational, a little rambling, includes some language he can’t use on air, and quite often laugh-out-loud funny (passing Dr Kermode’s own “6 laugh test” he imposes on screen comedies).

If you are interested in film give this a try – it’s really good entry level fodder to screen studies and one man’s journey in film criticism. I loved it but as Kermode often says, “other opinions are available”!

View all my reviews

Previous Older Entries