Tag Archives: Jamie Foxx

Baby Driver

Baby Driver posterFrom the moment Edgar Wright’s latest film Baby Driver begins with a full volume blast of The Jon Spencer Blues Explosion as we focus on Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ sat in a high-powered car waiting for a heist to take place while rocking out to the sounds of his iPod it’s clear this isn’t going to be a normal crime thriller.

What this instantly sets up is something that has become a hallmark of Wright’s work, just taken to a new level, of combining two somewhat improbable genres at once. So, following the romcom/horror of Shaun Of The Dead, the teen movie/comic book movie of Scott Pilgrim Vs The World we get a musical comedy crime thriller.

A fairly simple plot device sets this up and is very well handled through the tale of Baby’s involvement with a criminal gang and his attempt to remove himself from this life.

While the part of Baby is fairly stoic Elgort brings a great presence and depth to his role and, as he in virtually every shot of the film, delivers a very impressive performance.

Ansel Elgort as Baby in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort as Baby

Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx meanwhile all look to be having a great time letting their villainous sides out and pitching it with a great deal of humour but really turning up the threat when needed (Foxx and Hamm switch to a scary level of intensity very impressively).

Like Wright’s other work though the director’s style really is the co-star as the camera flies and spins around to create some of the best driving sequences I’ve seen in along that never lose the point of the story or get lost in cgi and puts the increasingly overblown Fast & Furious movies to shame with its structural simplicity.

Along with this of course Wright adds a matching level of camera movement and action to the most mundane of tasks like making breakfast or buying coffee, making the whole film move seamlessly regardless of what’s going on and even the romantic sub-plot doesn’t feel forced.

Kevin Spacey and the gang in Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey and the gang

What all this does is create a film that takes Wright away from the ‘Cornetto trilogy’ much of his reputation is based on, and show he is more than capable of translating his style into a more action centric movie Hollywood prefers without losing the thing that makes his films what they are, leaving us with one of the most entertaining films I remember in sometime with a soundtrack to rival any in recent memory.

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The Amazing Spider-Man 2

the amazing spider-man 2 posterWith the contractual obligation, basic, but enjoyable, Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man a couple of years ago, things seemed to be heading in a reasonable direction for the web slinger.

Certainly that film had its flaws but its focus on the relationship between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), along with some new intrigue based on a slightly tweaked Spidey origin story made for an enjoyable watch.

In The Amazing Spider-Man 2 we start off in a reasonable place as, after a bit of a more in-depth look at what happened to Peter’s parents, we are dropped into the middle of a pretty well conceived chase through New York with police heading after a hijacked truck and Spider-Man joining in from above.

This does go a bit CG heavy in places (particularly as our hero juggles small orange phials of plutonium – surely it should be green?), but it gets the ball rolling pretty well as it sets up Peter’s clash between his life fighting crime and his life with Gwen.

Peter and Gwen

Peter and Gwen

What it also does is introduce us to Max Dillon (Jamie Foxx) who is to become one of the films main problems, in a couple of senses.

The next portion of the film seemingly tries to pointlessly re-introduce us to everything the introduction has already re-established in terms of Peter’s relationships, whilealso setting up the film’s villain, comic book mainstay Electro, in one of the most convoluted super villain origins in a while, that never quite works.

Also introduced are Harry Osborn (Dane Dehaan) and his father Norman (who cameoed in the first movie) and the film tries to establish Harry and Peter as best friends in a way that never convinces, leading to some serious problems later on.

Then we get another big action scene in Times Square as Electro’s powers are introduced following some more relationship stuff between Peter and Gwen. While the first film handled this side of the story well, here the supposed emotion feels generic and empty and, while both actors do a decent job, they really don’t seem to have much to work with.

Electro

Electro

Another villain is introduced as things go on and we start to head in the same direction of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 as the movie becomes over burdened with super villain exposition to such a degree that any hope of coherence or emotional attachment is lost and it all falls into by the numbers crash-bang-wallop.

While, thankfully, there aren’t the three villains of Raimi’s movie and there’s no ‘evil-emo-Peter’ song and dance number to cope with, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 descends into a bad video game like mess in its supposedly climactic action sequences, that totally negates the potential emotion of the film’s denouement.

Peter and Harry

Peter and Harry

This climax, which must have had Empire Strikes Back levels of potential on paper, is also completely blown by the scenes that follow which seem entirely inserted to set up not one but two possible sequels (I’m assuming The Amazing Spider-Man 3 and The Sinister Six… who knows what happened to 1 to 5).

These scenes may have worked, condensed, as a mid and post-credits sting, but, in the main body of the movie, just feel like a cop-out ending that is, in one case, the equivalent of hitting the ‘Reset’ on a SNES or Mega Drive.

While it could be argued there is a good film somewhere in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 it is, unfortunately, buried in a layer of extraneous villains, product placement and sequel bait, that leaves the whole thing feeling messy and generally incoherent which, in a climate of Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Solider, just doesn’t cut it.

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Django Unchained

Django Unchained posterI’ve been a fan of Quentin Tarantino since I first saw Reservoir Dogs one Sunday evening in the late 1990s on Channel 4, through a sea of interference on my little old 15” TV, with his second movie, Pulp Fiction, standing out as a highlight among highlights once I had seen it and only Jackie Brown failing to ignite my interest (possibly I need to give it a rewatch and study up on Blaxploitation first).

So it was I came to Django Unchained with high expectations, but thankfully tempered by the time between the hype and controversy around its release and my watching.

Starting off as it means to go on we are introduced to Django (Jamie Foxx) and Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) right away as Tarantino demonstrates he’s not lost any of his ability to create a tense standoff that he seemed to perfect in Dogs and has continued to develop since.

From this scene on the film really does belong, for the most part, to Waltz, as he leads the first half of the movie, carrying most of the dialogue, which as ever from Tarantino is a unique mix of current and period that is at once perfectly suited but also hugely incongruous, but then the same goes for the style of many of his movies, especially since Kill Bill.

Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz

Christoph Waltz as Dr. King Schultz

Waltz really is only challenged once Schultz and Django arrive at Candyland and meet Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie and his manservant, Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson) who stand up in both performance and charisma with Waltz.

As ever with Tarantino what we get a mixture of extended dialogue (that in other hands could feel too long), stylistic montage and obscenely over the top action and violence, which, here, he balances as perfectly as he ever has making for a film that, while certainly never short, never seemed to drag and kept things tense throughout.

Leonardo Di Caprio as Calvin J. Candie

Leonardo Di Caprio as Calvin J. Candie

Of course, as with all his films, this is Tarantino’s version of a previously tired genre, and its here he seems to have missed the mark a bit. Supposedly aping the Spaghetti Western what we get here is a movie that keeps many of the conventions, revenge, gunfights and the old west, but actually locates them in a recognisable America, something that Spaghetti Westerns really never did, in my experience, as they were famously made in Europe, generally in Spain and financed by Italy, hence the name.

This though is a minor thing as, for the duration of the film, I was swept along in its action-adventure-revenge plot so all the other trappings are only things brought to mind after the film is over.

Another Tarantino mainstay is the way he courts controversy and, once again, here it’s through his use of language and, specifically, the use of “the N-word” (to use the standard euphemism). While I understand why this word is loaded and a challenge, in Django Unchained its use never felt uncomfortable due to the context, and simply, the fact that this is what we’ve come to expect from Tarantino and he’s pretty much created his own universe now where the standard rules don’t really apply.

Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen

Samuel L. Jackson as Stephen

To me this is a major achievement as he manages to create a total sense of escapism like few others outside of the sci-fi or fantasy genres – after all, how else could the ending of Inglorious Basterds worked in any other way.

After watching Django Unchained I am intrigued to go back and watch Sergio Corbucci’s original Django, just to see where Tarantino started from to create this, and also rewatch some of Tarantino’s own earlier work, but, for now, this has entered the list of his works certainly above Inglorious Basterds and possible almost reaching as high as Pulp Fiction – certainly this was all round an excellent movie combining action and performance with real visual style.

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