Edgar Wright is the kind of virtuoso director that gives action cinema a good name. In his hands, chases nimbly streak down city streets and fights are a symphony of intertwined punches and gun shots – when characters move, you have no choice but to pay attention, due to the sheer kineticism of his storytelling.
After bringing that contagious exuberance to his British Cornetto Trilogy – Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and World’s End – he’s turned his focus stateside with his new film Baby Driver, a crime caper set in Atlanta. Fortunately, the change in setting doesn’t detract one bit from his trademark manic energy. And in fact, a special new element is added to his usual tale of a good guy trying to get out of a tough scrape – the vroom vroom of a car’s engine and the call of the open freeway.
Our good guy here is Baby, played with an appealing sweetness by Ansel Elgort. He’s in that arrested development place where he’s not a kid anymore, but still hasn’t assumed the heavy yoke of adulthood. But Baby’s not a typical 20 year old – instead of dealing with nagging parents or student loans, he lives with his deaf foster father (played by real-life deaf stand-up comedian CJ Jones) and works as the getaway-car driver for a crime syndicate headed up by Kevin Spacey’s Doc. And man can this kid drive. The opening heist, involving him and some bank robbers in a high-speed pursuit from what seems like every unit the Atlanta PD can deploy, involves so many break-neck turns and close calls, the audience I saw the film with broke into spontaneous applause at its conclusion. There’s no CGI on the screen, so it looks amazingly real (not too fast or too furious, if you get my meaning), so you’re gripping your armrest and holding your breath as they take another tight corner at over 100 mph.
Now that’s telling you a lot about the scene, but I still haven’t even mentioned the most important part – that the whole spectacle is set to “Bellbottoms” by the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion – a righteous jam that builds with the chase’s intensity and sets the stage for what is probably one of the most impressive fusions of visuals and music in modern cinema. As song after song rolls through with each scene (and you will be buying the soundtrack, so just go ahead and factor it into your budget now), sounds from the movie’s action are cut in to the beat – and not just the sounds you might expect like the swish of windshield wipers or the reloading of a glock – all the little noises we don’t normally register, as someone makes a peanut butter sandwich or sets down a thick stack of money, are incorporated too. It takes the concept of “diegetic” sound to a whole new level.
See, Baby always has a song playing in his head, usually through his earbuds, which start to just feel like an extension of his body – like the endless sunglasses and Ipods he shuffles through. He has to in order to drown out the ringing in his ears – a bothersome symptom of the tinnitus he got in a car crash years ago – the same crash killed his parents and resulted in him ending up in a kind of indentured servitude to crime boss Doc. The funky soundtrack drowns out something else for Baby too – the cries of the victims and bystanders who actually get hurt as a rotating cast of more hardened criminals – played with some really fun scenery-chewing by Jon Hamm, Jamie Fox, Jon Bernthal and more – enact Doc’s elaborate robberies. We see that Baby isn’t cut out for that life from the beginning – he’s the guy who goes out of his way to throw the old lady’s purse back to her, even as he steals her car to get away. But however loud he turns up the volume, he can’t deny that he is a part of it. And the moment he meets Lily James’ Deborah, a lovely and equally wide-eyed waitress with a yearning to get out of town, it all becomes about how he can leave behind the fast lane, for a shot at a normal life with her.
And so it becomes Baby and Deborah vs. the world. Someone calls them “Bonnie and Clyde” at one point and the movie does develop that romantic, fatalistic drive. How can their young love, which feels so pure, survive in a place where everything feels a little bit…well, bananas. Luckily they have Edgar Wright’s vision to keep them moving, one step ahead of the cops and robbers, and luckily we have him to keep us on the edge of our seats, toes tapping for the whole ride.
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm