Baby Driver

ratings5

After being coerced into working for a crime boss, a young getaway driver finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

Edgar Wright is easily one of the best directors working right now, especially in comedy, so it’s no surprise he has made the best film of the year by far. Baby Driver is filled with action, energy, humor, and brilliant filmmaking. Wright directs every single shot and action scene without flaw, mixing every song from the soundtrack and every gunshot, car screech, and sound together perfectly. Every line delivered is hilarious, and there isn’t a single moment that didn’t entertain me. The way we learn about the protagonist, Baby, is done interestingly, as we learn enough information about him at first but only learn everything by the ending. Ansel Elgort, who had his breakthrough as a popular main role in The Fault in our Stars, and he’s even better here, bringing everything we needed to root for Baby. Kevin Spacey is great as Baby’s boss, who never overracts and always entertains. Jamie Foxx is extremely over-the-top in his role but undeniably one of the best parts of the film. The rest of the cast, including Lily James as Debora, Baby’s girlfriend, as well as Jon Hamm as Buddy, a bank robber working with Baby, are also terrific.

Wright has never failed to impress me before with his marvelous work on comedies such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pligrim vs. the World, all of which are among the best comedies of recent years. His style is extremely recognizable and extraoridnary. His cinematography, soundtrack, editing, and dialogue decisions are all part of what brings so much life to all his films, and this one does not fail to stand out. The action scenes are excellently shot, and none of the comedic moments miss their mark. Some of the scenes are built on the song in the background and these scenes are some of the coolest in the movie. The final 30 minutes are an epic ride of blood, gunshots, car chases, and pure entertainment. Whether you like action or comedy, this is a much better choice to go watch than Wonder Woman or what is mostly advertised everywhere. If you want a special and truly perfect modern action film, Baby Driver is the one you should see.

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Cars 3

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After suffering a serious injury on the race track that could threaten to end his career, Lightning McQueen decides to give it his all and prove that he’s still the best race car out there, despite the more advanced technology in the new rookie racers around him.

There have been movies that I have watched an incredible amount of times as a kid, and among that list is the original Cars. Even eleven years after I first saw it, I still see it as an inspirational and touching flick, despite the idea of all the characters being talking cars. Pixar has made what are to this day the greatest, most touching, and mature animated films. Cars 3 may not reach the heights of the first film which is such a classic to me, but it’s a huge recovery from the awfully messy and disappointing mess of Cars 2, which is by far Pixar’s worst and a huge misstep for the franchise and the studio. Thankfully Pixar has been back on its feet lately and this film feels much more like the first than the second. The events of the second film even had absolutely no impact on this movie! Cars 3 is definitely the kind of sequel this film needed since 2011. The time lapse since the first film is used to the story’s advantage, bringing more challenges that McQueen must face such as new technology and forms of racing, and tackles the themes of generation differences and retirement, things we wouldn’t get from a studio that isn’t Pixar. Cars 3 also introduces new themes to the franchise that we need from a 2017 film, such as diversity, as a new main character, Cruz Ramirez, is a female car who is determined to be a racer no matter how much other cars discourage her, and her last name also implies a foreign ethnicity for the character. She is voiced very well by Cristela Alonzo, who I hope to see in more voice roles in the future. There are also other instances in the film which female characters are mentioned not stopping at any obstacles to get what they want, which you will notice in the film. There’s also the theme of mentorship as Lightning recounts his time from the first film with Doc Hudson, and later even becomes a mentor himself. The movie knows how to pay great tribute to the late Paul Newman, the legendary actor and voice of Doc Hudson in the first film. Owen Wilson is great as always as one of the most iconic animated characters. The film begins with the famous line, “Speed. I am speed.” and Wilson still has all the energy and fun that made McQueen so great 11 years ago. The movie doesn’t make the mistake of not making him the main character again, like in Cars 2. Chris Cooper and Armie Hammer also join the cast as interesting characters, and characters such as Sally and Mater return from the previous films, but this time in much smaller roles, although we still see the support and motivation McQueen gets from his loyal friends of Radiator Springs.

Ever since Inside Out was released to critical acclaim, Pixar has been on a winning streak, recovering from films that weren’t as well-received such as Brave and Monsters University, and I can’t say that Cars 3 is the one to break that streak. This movie still has plenty of heartwarming dialogue and themes, and some fun humor as well, Some of the callbacks to the original are especially entertaining. Director Brain Fee isn’t able to create sequences that are up there with the racing sequences, Lightning and Mater tipping tractors, or Doc training Lightning in the first film, or even close, but the plot is at least enjoyable and thankfully returns to the sports drama tone of the first one rather than the action spy thriller tone of the second one. Moments will have your young ones laughing and cheering, and will especially inspire younger viewers to pursue their dreams and there’s also plenty of great animation in the film, but younger ones won’t feel the intelligent spirit and heart built by the first one. It would be unfair if I just said this film isn’t great because it’s not as good as the first one, because I already knew it couldn’t and most likely wouldn’t be. However, some of the dialogue in the beginning isn’t written with much thought and feels just there to add to the film’s runtime. The first 5 minutes of the film is a quick montage of events that I think should have been stretched out to slightly longer. Although there are important events going on the dialogue did not intrigue me like it could have. Sometimes the film needed dialogue to build the rest of the scene and I don’t think those parts were handled very well. Similar literally every movie that is released nowadays, the film tries to deliver some smart lines from certain characters to inspire our leads but not every line sounds as wise as the script thinks it is. The humor is at first amusing but at one point gets too recycled and sometimes even unfunny at a few moments. Like I said before, the film delivers some poignant messages that I didn’t think an animated film like this one would handle, in a way that kids would enjoy, but once I understood the themes and messages the film was trying to convey, I immediately knew how the rest of the film would play out. It became very predictable yet somewhat heartfelt by the ending, which was fine but felt a little out of place and could have used improvement. At times the film relies on throwbacks to the first film a little too much just to carry the runtime forward, such as a scene in which Lightning and Cruz are training in a field of tractors. However, this did not stop me from having a fun time with this pleasing and lighthearted sequel that overall did not disappoint, and will entertain families, especially younger audiences.

Cars 3 is a step up from the disappointing second film and a strong finale to the Cars trilogy, that fans are sure to enjoy. It has some witty themes like most Pixar films, and even though it can’t be compared to the first film, the nostalgia and empowering messages are sure to be enough to make this worth a watch and anything but underwhelming. Also, make sure to be there on time for a short film before the feature, titled Lou, which wasn’t among Pixar’s best shorts but still a very sweet story about kindness that you’ll be sure to enjoy. So there’s another reason to buy a ticket for this sequel that’s fueled with family-friendly humor and fun!

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It Comes at Night

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It Comes at Night is a film you should go into knowing as little as possible, so I’m sorry but I can’t discuss the plot. It’s such a divisive film that you can’t go in with a single expectation. It’s the kind of film that challenges all audiences with its horrifying imagery, intense and surreal filmmaking, and it’s ambiguity. It’s being marketed as a horror film but it’s hard to fit it in a genre. It’s definitely not a horror film, it’s a psychological thriller more than anything. It’s a film about fear, hopelessness, darkness, sadness, and paranoia, but it’s also a film about love, family, and protecting what you love. This makes for such a powerful and unique story piled into an hour and a half of pure terror and suspense. The title does not suggest a supernatural threat yet a mysterious psychological threat that is never really revealed. The acting from the five main actors, Joel Edgerton, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr., and Riley Keough, is an a higher league than any of the film performances delivered this year. Each of their character’s lines and physical reactions are incredibly realistic and brilliantly scripted. Edgerton especially brings depth to a protective and strict but loving father and husband who will protect his family at any cost. Harrison is also especially talented, with his performance as Edgerton’s character’s son being outstandingly fascinating with plenty of believable emotion.

Director Trey Edward Shults knows how not only to use dialogue and actions to the story’s advantage, but also using slow camera movements and cuts to create tension. He makes every shot last long and advance slowly, and every shot feels so crisp and edited so well. Shults also loves experimenting with the film’s aspect ratio, making it smaller as the tension increases during certain scenes. It’s cool in the first few times this is done, but during the climax, the smaller aspect ratio was distracted from the terrific acting and writing in that scene, which were made harder to appreciate during that scene because of that editing choice. We’re often given shots that may or may not represent dream sequences, and you’re left to think about whether those shots were dreams or really happening. Despite how pessimistic, dark, and saddening the film may seem, it’s also somewhat about the love of family. All the characters aren’t without their family, and they all care about nothing more than their family. When a character makes a horrific decision, you can somewhat understand what their motives were because of how fleshed out all these characters are. This is a film about how fear and paranoia can be the true villain and can dominate over us sometimes. The final shot is deep, moving, quiet, powerful, and extremely haunting at the same time. Lots of it is left unanswered to be ambiguous and left for the audience to think about, which is what has made this film receive backlash from audiences. Audiences have been unsatisfied with the film’s ending, which I will not spoil in this review. It Comes at Night is so different than what we usually see in theaters, and people just want to watch the same robots, monsters, superheroes, and ghosts over and over again. This is a film that does something unique: It leaves you with zero exposition in the beginning, and almost no explanation of how the film ended. The lack of exposition did not bother me at all, as it is easy to assume what is out there and what conflict the main characters are facing, but we are never told why they are alone and what is making everyone sick. Giving us only the same amount of information as the characters is such a clever choice that builds even more fear throughout the film’s runtime. The choice to make everything in the end ambiguous has mostly been criticized about the film, but I think that the way lots of things are left for interpretation at the end is just far more haunting and majestic than if everything was answered in the end. The film is not treated like a movie, with a regular formula and closure in the end, but another chapter in the main family’s life, and a reflection of the real demons inside us, not paranormal demons like many would expect from a film like this. This movie is being loved by critics but panned by audiences, and has only made $6 million dollars at the box office. Please don’t let It Comes at Night be a failure, and go see it in theaters. It’s so much better than any superheroes, pirates, mummies, aliens, talking cars, comedies, or biopics out there right now.

It Comes at Night is by far the best film of the year. It’s dark, violent, chilling, and unsettling, but it’s more beautifully made and incredibly acted than any other movie this year. Audiences have been divided by its misleading marketing and title, as well as its ambiguous ending. But I promise you, It Comes at Night is a masterful work of art worth paying for. Whether or not I’m worth trusting is up to you, but I implore you, before you judge the film based on any trailers or reviews, go see it for yourself.

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Wonder Woman

ratings4

Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons and trained warrior. When a pilot crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, she leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.

I’ve had much less faith in DC ever since the disappointments of Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad were released last year. The plot and development of the universe in both films were rushed and horribly written, yet one thing stood out to me from DC’s films last year – Gal Gadot’s performance as Wonder Woman. She brought lots of heart into the character and didn’t let me down, so DC made a wise choice by making her the lead of their next film. Here, she’s even more impressive as one of the most surprising and entertaining superhero protagonists in a long time. Gadot showed us that she had talent in her minor role in the Fast and Furious films, but she does better when she carries the film in the leading role. Her charm, emotion, charisma, and determination build a fantastic heroine who kicks ass and brings hope to not only the discouraged and devastated soldiers of the war in the film, but to the DCEU franchise and its future. If it weren’t for Gadot’s outstanding performance, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the movie as much. I hope we see much more of her talent and her character in the future. Chris Pine is more than just the love interest, he’s also an interesting and well-written hero who has great chemistry with Gadot.

Wonder Woman not only has great leading roles but also very good directing and action scenes. If you liked seeing Wonder Woman fight alongside Batman and Superman last year, you’ll definitely enjoy seeing her beat up Germans as she deflects bullets and explosives and smashes through buildings with her shield. The action is very well-realized and although there is too much slow-motion at some points, it’s very exciting to watch how the action plays out in the film. Although the movie’s runtime isn’t too focused on action, plenty of the writing is there to develop the characters and give them interesting moments. The story of a god/goddess searching for their destiny outside of their home reminded me of Thor, and the WWI setting is reminiscent of the WWII set pieces in Captain America: The First Avenger. I loved the scenes in which Wonder Woman explores her motivation to fight, what she believes in, and her view on mankind, yet this time they made me care more about it than in Man of Steel and Batman v Superman because it isn’t delivered through slow montages and boring dialogue. Although it was produced by Zack Snyder, and he’s also credited for the story, which shows through the excessive use of slo-mo and some unbalanced pacing like in the other DC films, I’m sure glad he didn’t direct it, because Patty Jenkins was able to deliver a groundbreaking female superhero story in a much higher league than what Snyder has done. Thankfully this movie also doesn’t try to build on the universe and set up a sequel too much, it just left me wanting more films with Gadot in the main role in the future. There are villainous roles that are horribly written, including a villain reveal in the messy and CGI-heavy climactic battle that I really didn’t care about, and it took a while for me to really get into the story in the beginning, which starts with exposition and dialogue that could have used improvement. I’m glad that what follows is a fun and thrilling origin story for one of the most awesome and interesting female superheroes on the big screen.

Wonder Woman improves on DC’s underwhelming disappointments from last year, with a fantastic leading performance and well-shot action sequences. The writing could have used some improvement, but this film overall raises the bar for female superhero films and the DCEU’s potential. I can tell this won’t be the last of Gadot’s on-screen glory as the titular badass heroine.

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