Baby Driver

Baby Driver is a 2017 American crime comedy thriller film with musical elements written and directed by Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World director Edgar Wright and starring Ansel Elgort, Lilly James, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, and Jamie Foxx. The film follows Baby, a young man and extremely skillful driver who unfortunately became indebted to criminal mastermind “Doc” at a young age. Baby is forced to work off his debt as a getaway driver for various jobs organized by Doc. Baby meets an attractive diner waitress named Deborah and falls for her, hoping to have a normal life after reluctantly working off his debt. Baby is coerced into a series of increasingly high-risk jobs and must balance the criminal part of his life with the life he wants to have with Deborah.

I’m just going to tell you right off the bat, Baby Driver is an amazing movie. Edgar Wright has, quite simply, outdone himself in every imaginable way with this film. This is certainly the very talented writer and director’s magnum opus. I cannot think of a single thing I didn’t like. It’s hard to review this movie because, in my opinion, everything was so good.

Ansel Elgort was an amazing lead, every line he spoke was almost dripping with charm. Kevin Spacey only had about ten minutes of screen time, but he was excellent, as is to be expected. Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm were the perfect mixture of crazy and unstable that made portions of the film wrought with tension and fear, but in a good way. Lilly James was also excellent as Deborah.

I feel now is a good point to mention something I found excellent about the script; there is no dialogue in the film that doesn’t need to be there. Baby as a character is very laconic and Doc is a man of all business, so when they talk, you need to listen. Every word spoken in this film is very important. In fiction, no matter what the medium, everything that is in a scene should be there for a reason. Wright takes this idea to heart. There is not a single breath nor frame of film that is wasted. In so many films, there is a lot of dialogue that doesn’t need to be in there; this is not the case for Baby Driver and it is all that much better for it. Whether dialogue is meant to be sly and comedic or deadly serious, it all serves a purpose. Make no mistake, although this is Wright’s most serious movie so far, there are portions of it that had my friend and I cackling out loud. Such is the true genius of a filmmaker like Edgar Wright.

The best aspect of this film by far is its use of music to inform, and sometimes even propel, the plot. Baby was stricken with a case of tinnitus following a car crash, so he listens to music constantly in order to drown out “the hum in the drum.” As such, the majority of the scenes in this film are given a score of their own. During the opening scene for example, Baby is rocking out to Bellbottoms by Jon Spencer Blues Explosions in the midst of a bank robbery. This musical motif runs throughout the entire film. In the hands of a lesser filmmaker, this could be a horrible decision. Thankfully, Wright is as good a DJ as he is a director, turning what could have been the most annoying parts of an otherwise good film, into the most memorable part of an amazing film. It is almost reminiscent of an actual musical without cheesy showtunes or dance numbers. My musichead friend is considering getting this soundtrack on vinyl, and I’ll just say that if there was ever a soundtrack to get on vinyl, it would be this one. It is just great.

The action in this film is also nothing short of a grand achievement. At about the halfway point of the film there is a shootout set to Tequila by Button Down Brass that may very well be my favorite scene of the entire movie, although the opening car chase presents a fierce competition. The car chases are extremely well-done and well-shot, like everything else in this film. I have not seen Bullitt but I can say with certainty that the opening car chase alone outpaces The French Connection. The car chases might not be the best put to film, but they are some of the best that I personally have seen.

Even scenes without action or bare-knuckled chase sequences are masterfully filmed. There are a number of brilliant long takes and deftly edited sequences. There is a three-minute long coffee run set to Harlem Shuffle by Bob & Earl, and thanks to Ansel Elgort’s acting and Edgar Wright’s filmmaking and never-ending supply of style, it is captivating.

To put it simply, Baby Driver will certainly end up being one of my favorite films of the year. It is full of awesome music, amazing acting from all involved, unique and inventive chase sequences, and a well-written script, all masterminded by one of the most underrated directors of my generation. Everything about it is well-done. Even if you are not an action movie fan, there is enough different stuff there, whether it be romance, comedy, or music, to draw you in. It puts every other movie Wright has done to shame, and he has already made some films that might as well define my generation. Baby Driver, especially its soundtrack, will stay with me for a very long time, and I will be telling people to see it as long as I live. It has broken both mine and my friend’s personal Top 10, possibly even Top 5. You should go see it.

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Shaun of the Dead

Shaun of the Dead is a 2004 comedy horror film co-written and directed by Edgar Wright and starring Simon Pegg (who also co-wrote the film) and Nick Frost. Shaun of the Dead is the first in Wright’s “Three Flavours of Cornetto” trilogy, followed by 2007’s Hot Fuzz and 2013’s The World’s End, all of which were written and directed by Wright and star Pegg and Frost. Shaun of the Dead lead to Wright’s mainstream success, cult status, and popularity as a director.

Shaun of the Dead follows Shaun, an underachieving electronics salesman with no direction or sense of purpose in life. He lives with his old friend from college, Pete, and his childhood friend Ed. Ed is a slacker and moocher who does nothing with his life and constantly holds Shaun back from his potential. After Shaun’s girlfriend Liz breaks up with him, the two go out for a night of wild, raucous drinking, which annoys the increasingly ill Pete. They awake in the morning, initially oblivious to the zombie apocalypse that had been slowly taking form over the past few days.

(Note that Ed asks Shaun for a Cornetto. In the proceeding films, similar references are made to the popular ice cream brand, hence the informal title for the trilogy.)

After comically realizing the gravity of the situation, Shaun and Ed make plans to A. Kill Shaun’s (conveniently infected) mean step-dad, B. Save his Mom, C. Save Liz, and D. Hide out at the pub the two young underachievers frequent.

As one can expect, none of this goes entirely according to plan, leading to both mishaps of the comical variety, and some of the less-comical variety as well.

Shaun of the Dead is both hilarious while also managing to be very heartfelt and meaningful when given the chance. It is also very stylized and very fast. Director and writer Edgar Wright does a wonderful job here, assisted in the writing of the script by star and future frequent collaborator Simon Pegg. Pegg’s acting, as it always is, is excellent. Pegg is a masterful comedian, especially in movies like Star Trek Beyond or any of the recent Mission: Impossible films, because he is never a buffoon. In fact, in every movie I’ve seen Simon Pegg in, his character is a competent person who also just happens to be funny, which is something a lot of comedy actors don’t seem to think is a thing. Yet, it is this that makes Pegg so good at comedy, both in his writing and in performance. Shaun is neither a bumbling moron nor is he a supremely effective hero protagonist, he is simply a guy, an aspect that works to the film’s tremendous advantage. Nick Frost plays a great obnoxious but lovable douchebag, for what that’s worth.

Of course, good acting and performances is not what makes a comedy movie good, it’s the comedy that does that. Thankfully, as I mentioned before, Shaun of the Dead is a very, very funny film. Unlike most parody films of this generation (although the film does not lampoon a specific zombie film, so I wouldn’t necessarily call it that), Shaun of the Dead never really goes for the lowbrow, sophomoric humor, except for an actually funny (Yeah, I’m dead serious!) fart joke that comes back in the end, opting instead for some really intelligent humor and gags.

Readers should be made aware of the upcoming minor tangent. Before I decided to review The Cornetto Trilogy this weekend, I decided to watch the historical romance film Allied that came out last year. I have a friend who saw it in theaters and it made her cry. I, on the other hand, also cried… tears of boredom. I was more emotionally invested in the entirety of Shaun of the Dead than I was within the first hour of Allied. I know that sounds like I’m not saying much (which I’m not), but there are some truthfully emotional moments in this film, which is more than I can say for Allied.

Shaun of the Dead, like most of Wright’s films, as well as the man himself, has gained a very large cult following in the years following its release, and for good reason. Shaun of the Dead is a hilariously impressive comedy film by itself, and a more than admirable start to a comedic trilogy that I have been told for years is rather excellent, but never bothered to check out until now. Boasting great acting, a great script, and some great filmmaking on the part of a great director, Shaun of the Dead is a brilliant comedy film that I feel I was late to the party on; it’s one that everyone should check out if they haven’t already.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is a 2005 American neo-noir crime comedy film written and directed by Shane Black in the Lethal Weapon screenwriter’s directorial debut. The film stars Robert Downey, Jr, Val Kilmer, and Michelle Monaghan. The story takes place in Los Angeles, California. Harry is a petty thief who accidentally wanders in into a screen test while running from the police. Harry, who had his witnessed his partner-in-crime be shot and killed moments earlier, has a mental breakdown, which is mistaken for character acting by the producers. He is sent out to L.A. and is to be given private detective lessons by experienced P.I. Perry Van Shrike, A.K.A Gay Perry. Harry also reconnects with an old friend and the girl of his dreams, Harmony, an aspiring actress. Harry and Perry accidentally stumble upon a murder mystery while on a routine surveillance job, while Harmony and Harry attempt to solve the mysterious death of her twin sister.

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is a great film in every way. I don’t think I really have anything bad to say about it. It is hilarious while also providing a tight and interesting mystery plot. It accomplishes everything it sets out to do, it definitely gets the neo-noir feel right, it’s an interesting mystery, and it is laugh out loud hilarious. Harry regularly provides sarcastic, fourth-wall-breaking commentary throughout the film, delivered in only the way RDJ and Ryan Reynolds can do. Shane Black is a witty comedic genius, with a sense of humor unlike even the most experienced screenwriters. The “Definition of an Idiot” scene had both me and my friend dying of laughter, and it may be the most simplistic joke in the history of comedy, and it is awesome.

The movie is able to keep the laughs going throughout, but it also makes you genuinely feel about the characters. This is, I think, Robert Downey, Jr’s specialty. Even pre-rehab and pre-Iron Man, Downey as an actor had been graced with likeable “everyman”-type qualities that are in full effect here. You root for him, you root for Harmony, you root for Perry. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, in addition to being hilarious and even engaging from a mystery aspect, also has a very honest and sweet quality about it, and that is what takes the film from “great” to “excellent.”

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is so good, in my opinion, that I honestly can’t think of a whole lot more to say. The film, full of hilarious, endearing, and downright interesting moments, owes a lot to its actors and their abilities, but owes a whole lot more to its brilliant and underrated writer/director Shane Black, who, a decade and change later, still does not get the credit he deserves. Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang is a cult classic film and a high watermark for both the comedy and neo-noir mystery genres that should be enjoyable for everyone, and you should definitely check it out. Although I just discovered this film recently, it is now one of my favorites.