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 Dead, Hot 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.
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.
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.
A new movie review from the desk of The Movie Snob.
The Hero (B-). That voice. That mustache. The unmistakable Sam Elliott (Tombstone) has an unusual starring role in this little indie flick. He plays a washed-up actor who spends his days smoking marijuana with a buddy (Nick Offerman, We’re the Millers) and doing voiceover work for commercials. And, we quickly learn, he’s facing a serious cancer problem. So he wants to reach out to his estranged daughter, Lucy (Krysten Ritter, Big Eyes). He also, somewhat less credibly, starts dating a woman about half his age (Laura Prepon, TV’s Orange Is the New Black). Katharine Ross (The Graduate), who is actually married to Elliott, has a very small part as his ex-wife. All in all, the movie is a little pedestrian, a little predictable, a little off at times, but Elliott managed to keep me invested. And at 93 minutes long, it doesn’t overstay its welcome.
P.S. I forgot to give a shout-out to Max Gail, who has a small part in this movie. I don’t know that I’ve seen him since his glory days at Detective Wojciehowicz on TV’s Barney Miller, but I recognized him as soon as he popped up in The Hero. Judging from IMDB, he has been working pretty steadily since his Miller days.
Logan (A-). Yes, this is an awfully high grade to give a rated-R comic-book movie with all sorts of severed heads and spurting arteries and such. But what can I say? I thought this movie was excellent. Hugh Jackman (Scoop) returns for his millionth turn as Wolverine, the irascible, indestructible mutant with the retractable claws. Only now he’s not feeling so indestructible. The year is 2029, and he is old and sick and not regenerating like he used to. He’s lying low somewhere near the U.S.-Mexico border taking care of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Excalibur), who is not only old and sick but also having seizures that cause all sorts of mayhem for everyone around him because of his uncontrolled psychic powers. All the other mutants we’ve come to know and love in the other X-Men movies are apparently dead, and no new mutants have been born in many years. Wolverine is just trying to scrape together enough money in his job as a limo driver so he can buy a boat and sail out to sea with Professor Xavier (thereby saving mankind from the effects of Xavier’s seizures, I think). Then everything goes sideways when a desperate woman finds Wolverine and begs him to transport a young girl to Canada—a girl with mutantly powers awfully reminiscent of Wolverine’s. Of course, there are bad guys hot on her trail, and the movie quickly turns into a quasi-remake of Children of Men (which is not a bad movie to borrow from, if you’re going to borrow). Despite all the crazy, bloody fight scenes, the movie really worked for me as a meditation on mortality and the meaning of family. And newcomer Dafne Keen does a nice job as the mysterious little girl with anger-management issues.
P.S. I forgot to mention this when I initially posted this review–I think this is the first time I have ever seen a movie in the United States that features Spanish subtitles. Some of the movie was in Spanish, and those parts had no subtitles. I wonder if those parts were subtitled in English in other showings?
The Movie Snob checks in with a new review of an old movie.
Gaslight (B+). This 1942 classic stars the beauteous Ingrid Bergman (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) as Paula Alquist. In the opening scene, we see a very young Paula being escorted away from the London townhome where she has just discovered the body of her murdered aunt (her guardian since birth). Flash forward a few years, and Paula is living in Italy. She has followed in her aunt’s footsteps by studying music and singing, but we learn she has just been swept off her feet by a debonair foreigner named Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer, Fanny). Anton is strangely eager to move to London, and into the townhouse Paula inherited from her aunt. And once they are ensconced there, Paula seems to start to lose her grip on her sanity, and Gregory becomes ever more controlling. What is happening? Straight-arrow Scotland Yard detective Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotten, The Third Man) senses something is amiss, but can he figure it out in time to help Paula? I quite enjoyed this classic old noir. Watch for a young Angela Lansbury (TV’s Murder, She Wrote) as a saucy housemaid.
Their Finest (B+). It doesn’t have the grabbiest title, but this picture by Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) is my favorite of the year so far. The year is 1940, and Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton, Quantum of Solace) has moved from Wales to London with her artist husband Ellis (Jack Huston, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). But his dour art isn’t selling, so Catrin gets a job as a screenwriter on a propaganda film about the evacuation of Dunkirk. She clashes with the obnoxious head screenwriter Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), learns to massage the bruised ego of past-his-prime movie star Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy, I Capture the Castle), and generally gets a crash course in the trials and tribulations of moviemaking. Jeremy Irons (Appaloosa) pops up unexpectedly as a pompous war minister. The sexism of the era is conveyed effectively without being overdone. On the whole, I quite enjoyed the movie.