Baby Driver

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Baby Driver  (B-).  Hm, I didn’t know until just now that this highly rated movie (Metacritic score 86) was directed by the same fellow (Edgar Wright) who directed Shaun of the DeadHot Fuzz, and The World’s End.  It’s a crazy little movie about a getaway driver savant called Baby (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars) who works for a criminal mastermind called Doc (Kevin Spacey, L.A. Confidential).  There’s a very good and elaborate car chase at the beginning, and the climactic pursuit at the end seems to go on forever, and in between there’s not too much of note.  Lily James (Cinderella) plays the sweet li’l waitress who steals Baby’s heart, and Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls) plays a crazy gangster named Bats.  Jon Hamm (TV’s Mad Men) has a lot of screen time as another gangster, but I’m afraid I will always see Don Draper whenever he’s on screen.  Eiza González (Jem and the Holograms) makes an impression as a gangster called Darling.  On the whole, an okay and disposable summer movie.

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Wonder Woman

The Movie Snob gets to the party late.

Wonder Woman  (B).  This movie has been riding high at the box office, so everyone who’s going to see it has probably already done so.  Anyhoo, I finally got around to seeing it, and I liked it just fine.  The plot struck me as kind of wacky–the Greek god of war Ares is supposedly a real being (god?) and he is out there on the loose stoking mankind’s warlike passions.  The Amazons are hiding out on some paradisiacal Mediterranean island, but when American WWI pilot Steve Trevor (Chris Pine, Into the Woods) crash lands just off shore and brings tidings of the carnage of total warfare, beautiful Amazon princess Diana (Gal Gadot, Batman v. Superman) decides she must leave the island with him so she can track down and kill Ares.  There is some amusing fish-out-of-water stuff as Diana makes her way through old-fashioned WWI-era London.  Then there are some mean Germans that Steve and Diana have to confront (at the front) in the final reel.  All in all, this is a perfectly competent and enjoyable superhero movie, and it didn’t even feel long at 2 hours and 21 minutes.  And I must say that Gal Gadot is, like, supernaturally beautiful in the role of Wonder Woman.  I certainly noticed her in her small role in Batman v. Superman, but here she just owns the screen.  If I were caught up in her magic lasso, I might even have to say she’s more beautiful than Nicole Kidman.

Art: A New History (book review)

A book review from The Movie Snob.

Art: A New History, by Paul Johnson (2003).  This 750-page tome is about the size and shape of your old college art-history textbook.  But, because it is by Paul Johnson (Churchill), it is probably much more enjoyable to read.  Johnson sets out to survey the whole history of art, starting with the surviving fragments of prehistoric art, spending lots of time with the Greeks and Romans, and then gradually working his way up to the present day.  Well, maybe not the WHOLE history.  The focus is overwhelmingly on Western art; there is very little on Asia, Africa, Australia, or any part of the Americas other than the good old US of A.  Subject to that limitation, he covers an amazing number of artists—although “cover” is probably too strong a word since only the really big names like Michelangelo, Caravaggio, and Picasso get more than a paragraph or two.  But rest assured that you will meet, however briefly, a vast array of interesting artists.  There are plenty of color pictures in the book, but Johnson mentions so many more artworks that you’ll probably want to have a tablet handy as you read so you can look up some of the paintings he describes that aren’t reproduced in the book.  He also covers architecture in fair detail, which I found interesting.  An enjoyable read if you have an interest but no real background in art.

The Beguiled

New review from The Movie Snob.

The Beguiled  (B-).  Director Sofia Coppola is back with another quiet, moody little flick (see, e.g., Lost in Translation, Somewhere).  The divine Nicole Kidman (Dead Calm) stars as Miss Martha, the headmistress of a girls’ boarding school in 1864 Virginia.  (For all my Millennial readers out there, 1864 was during the Civil War.)  Most of her students are gone, but a few are still stranded there, along with one lonely teacher, Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst, Wimbledon).  The ladies are getting by, but everything changes when one of the younger students goes out to gather mushrooms and returns with Corporal McBurney, a handsome Union soldier (Colin Farrell, The Lobster) with a nasty leg wound.  The ladies’ fascination with the Irishman easily overrides their initial impulse to alert the Confederate authorities, and soon they are all vying for his attention—especially the oldest student, Alicia (Elle Fanning, Super 8).  And McBurney quickly figures out the school could be a nice refuge from the rest of the war if he plays his cards right.  But can he manage the ladies’ rivalries and his own building passion?

The movie held my interest, thanks mainly to nice performances from all involved—even the younger actresses get a few scenes in which to shine.  But the plot is rather slight, there are maybe a few too many languid shots of the stately plantation house and the surrounding forest, and I wasn’t convinced by one of the character’s behavior at the end.  Still, it was nice to see the luminous Ms. Kidman in a movie that wasn’t terrible.  And at 93 minutes, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome.  Finally, I learned in some long ago trivia game that Elvis Presley’s hit song “Love Me Tender” is written to the melody of a Civil War era song called “Aura Lee.”  I had never heard “Aura Lee” before, but I’ll be danged if one of the characters in this movie doesn’t sing a bit of it.  Nice.