Commentaries

Friday, June 23, 2017

BABY DRIVER



MUSIC, ACTION SYNCED

Film Review by Fiore 


If you take a quirky capper film, like Guy Ritchie’s LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS, and mix it with the primary concept of Jason Statham’s TRANSPORTER, you’ll have the foundation for BABY DRIVER.  The film is an enjoyable action-thriller which is helped tremendously by a top-notch acting ensemble and a clever celluloid ploy. 

Baby is Ansel Elgort.  He is a driver extraordinaire, and a two-bit car thief.  He makes the mistake of boosting the car of one of Atlanta’s biggest crime lords, Doc, played by Kevin Spacey, and is in indebted to Doc to serve as a getaway driver for robberies until his debt is repaid.  Baby had an accident when he was a young boy which left him with a severe case of tinnitus.  As an aide, he constantly listens to, and bases his driving off music.

Doc is a smooth operator.  He orchestrates major heists throughout the Atlanta area, but never uses the same crew twice.  This enables us to see a nice collection of villains including: Jamie Foxx as Bats; John Hamm, as Buddy; Elza Gonzalez as Darling; and Jon Bernthal as Griff. 

Bernthal’s role is a mere cameo.  It’s too bad THE PUNISHER didn’t have a larger part; he is intense in his short screen time.  Lily James enters the story as Debora, Baby’s love interest. 

Foxx is exceptional in his part.  Normally, he has a contract which restricts the types of characters he can portray.  He always requires he play the role of a positive black man with solid values.  That clause is ignored in BABY DRIVER, thankfully.  The clause was truly limited Foxx’s characters.  He plays Bats, a psychotic thief who justifies his ruthless actions through misguided victimization.  It’s one of Foxx’s best roles in a number of years.

While much of the story is told in flashback, we pick up the tale just as Baby is on the verge of repaying Doc.  Naturally, once the debt is paid, there is one more job Baby is coerced into doing, and it is the heist that envelopes Murphy’s Law.

1.1        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE OPENING GETAWAY
2.      THE MASKS
3.      DISCOVERY OF THE TAPES


Bill Pope, one of Hollywood’s camera icons, provides bone-jarring shots during the action sequences, with the assistance of Stunt Co-ordinator Darrin Prescott.  He compliments them with close-ups during the dialogue shots, except for Doc, who isn’t seen in close up until the film’s conclusion.  It’s solid cinematography, and I would expect nothing less from Pope.

Steven Price orchestrates the soundtrack, which consists of over thirty contemporary and classic songs.  The music is essential to BABY DRIVER.  All the film’s action, and even select parts of the dialogue, are set to the beat of the song playing.  Carl doors, racking gun slides, footfalls, counting money, all are done to the rhythm of the music.  It’s a cool celluloid ploy.  I don’t know if I like to watch every movie like this, but for BABY DRIVER, it works just fine and provides fun, even in the film’s slow points.

For those slow points, blame Editors Paul Machliss and Jonathan Amos.  Most of the film is delivered with a quick pace, even the flashback sequences, but something goes terribly wrong in the middle of the second act.  The film lags, and all the momentum built dissipates quickly.  The beginning of act three requires a new wave of intensity. I’ll blame this, once again, on the use of more than one editor.  It is proving to be a maxim with augmenting proof.   

Let’s take a look at the report card for BABY DRIVER:

1.2       ACTING = B

1.3       ACTION = B

1.4      CINEMATOGRAPHY = B

1.5       SOUND/MUSIC = A

1.6      EDITING = C

1.7       LIGHTING = B

1.8      SCRIPT = C

1.9      SFX = B



Director and writer Edgar Wright crafts a nifty action thriller with BABY DRIVER.  The action/music syncing ploy brings the film to a higher level.  If you are looking for a few hours of cinematic conflict, tossed with a bit of humor, an odd-ball main character and a solid supporting cast, BABY DRIVER will fill the bill. 






Tuesday, June 20, 2017

SAMI BLOOD



PREJUDICE BY ANY OTHER NAME

Film Review by Fiore


I am constantly amazed at the vicious prejudice exhibited by Europeans and Asians in Independent films.  It’s a favorite ploy of the H3L to condemn America’s majority population of cruel prejudice, especially between races; but many of those charges pale in comparison to the prejudice our so-called enlightened neighbors over the pond demonstrate.

The latest film to put this abhorrent behavior on display is SAMI BLOOD.  It demonstrates the hatred between Swedes and Lapps.  It is a bit disconcerting, because Sweden has a reputation, most likely erroneous, of being a bastion of an all-loving, tolerant nation; one exemplifying the Kumbaya attitude sought by the progressive left.
SAMI BLOOD is winning over audiences at numerous film festivals, whose judges seem to thrive on themes of this ilk, including Sundance, Berlin, Venice and TIFF.  It will open next week on the Left Coast, and be available on VOD the following week.

Amanda Kernell directed and wrote SAMI BLOOD, based on the tales of her grandmother.  It involves a young girl, Elle Marja, who, once exposed to the prejudice against her, opts for a better life by abandoning her friends, family and current lifestyle.  Center to the story is the alienation with her sister, and the eventual reconciliation of the siblings.

The movie stars Lene Cecilia Sparrok and Mia Sparrok, two real life sisters who have no acting experience and were cast in these roles primarily because they are Sami.  Also starring are Maj Doris Rimpi and Olle Sarri.

Personal tales often make interesting reading, but generally do not translate well to film.  So it is, with SAMI BLOOD.  While the conflict of racial prejudice is quickly established, there are massive gaps in the story which cause it to feel more like propaganda than narrative.   For example:  Elle Marja’s ability to stay in the boarding school, despite not having the tuition if fluffed over; and her eventual break from her family and her chosen lifestyle, are never detailed.  When reconciliation with her sister is eminent, it is never clear whether Elle Maja’s life was worth the sacrifice.

1.1        KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:

1.      THE VISIT TO NICKLAS’ HOUSE
2.      THE FIGHT WITH THE BOYS

There is something to be said for the strength and courage of people who opt to abandon their current status in life for a better one.  Even when racial prejudice was rampant in America, there were scores of Negroes who would not accept their status in society and strove to make a better life for themselves.  Those folks are celebrated today and established different destinies for their families.  SAMI BLOOD seems to send the message that one should be satisfied with their lot and life, and not strive to be something else.  I don’t know if I can concur with this ideology, so the film’s focal point is irrelevant for me. 

Let’s take a look at the report card for SAMI BLOOD

1.2       ACTING = D

1.3       CINEMATOGRAPHY = C

1.4      SOUND/MUSIC = D

1.5       LIGHTING = D

1.6      EDITING = D

1.7       SCRIPT = D

1.8      SFX = D

1.9      ACTION = D


SAMI BLOOD offers nothing of note technically.  Cinematography, sound, and lighting are all wanting.  This is common with Indie films, but augmented with Swedish filmmaking techniques, which are not on a Hollywood level, the presentation leaves much to be desired.  
The racial prejudice America experienced in its early days, and which was rejuvenated during the Obama Regime’s policy of division, was against two different races, with clear physical differences.  The prejudice demonstrated by the Swedes is more perplexing because there aren’t major physical differences between Swedes and Sami.  The fact Elle Marja can easily slip between the two groups is evidence.  It makes the absurdity of prejudice more highlighted and less comprehensible. 


History, anthropology students, and those who still believe the tripe Bernie Sanders spews may find SAMI BLOOD entertaining.  The rest of us, seeking a few hours of entertaining escapism, will not enjoy the film.