*NEW* BABY DRIVER REVIEW *NEW*

Oh baby, that weren’t too shabby.

Fast, furious if a little frantic. One of the better ones.

After being coerced into working for a crime boss (Kevin Spacey), a young getaway driver (Ansel Elgort) finds himself taking part in a heist doomed to fail.

I’m not going to lie. The opening 15 minutes didn’t really give me high hopes.

Despite ticking all the boxes on the Edgar Wright movie checklist; cracking soundtrack (check), quick-cut editing (check), great humour; I wasn’t convinced about the main man.

Watching Elgort strut, prance around and mime badly to some killer tracks annoyed the hell out of me. I was actually wondering whether I was going to be able to put up with this cocky pillock.

However, as soon as the heist began and the chase was on, my griping subdued.

The car chases were exhilarating and tense with some brilliantly choreographed stunts and set pieces.

I was more empathetic towards Baby after we delved into his past and discovered the reason for the “hum and the drum” (Or should I say the reason for his insufferable need to have a music device plugged in his ear holes).

Baby’s relationship with his deaf foster father Joseph (CJ Jones – if you have a spare minute, read up on this guy. Inspirational) allowed the Fault in the Stars man to work his charm and charisma.

The supporting cast was an incredibly talented mixed bag. What the hell was Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers doing in this?!

Kevin Spacey was fantastic. Not enough of the big man. He almost stole every scene he featured in.

I was a little disappointed at how small Jon Bernthal’s (The Walking Dead) role was. I kept waiting for his character to return. Reduced to nothing more than a measly cameo.

Eiza Gonzalez was mere eye candy. Nothing more than a trigger to set off the tumultuous partnership of Jon Hamm’s (Mad Men) Buddy and Jamie Foxx’s Bats.

It made a change to see Don Draper go dark. Hamm nailed it. BUT in the battle of scene stealers, Foxx won the prize. He was menacing and brought uneasy tension to the piece. He channelled a lot of Motherf*cker Jones (Horrible Bosses fans, am I right?). The cogs always turning.

Lily James (Cinderella) was a little lost in the mix. Some of the dialogue didn’t quite come off as clever or as cool as it should have BUT the pair had great chemistry.

I felt their blossoming romance was rushed to catch up with Baby’s ongoing drama. I would have been happy to have a little more time spent on them. Anything over Elgort’s song and dance numbers.

The pair’s relationship had an echo of Scott Pilgrim as they bonded over music. Steven Price’s selections were a mad mix of hits from T-Rex to Golden Earring. Hell yes!

BUT despite my grumblings about their rushed romance, I did like the conflicted Bonnie and Clyde set up as Baby’s life of crime reached breaking point.

And this is where the film really won me over (as did the protagonist).

The quick witted humour, along with Bill Pope’s glossy cinematography, made this seem like an easy going crime caper.

Especially when one of the criminals made an almighty howler with the Michael Myers masks. Brilliant.

BUT the second half of the film (without spoiling anything) took a darker and more violent turn than I expected. The light super cool tone completely changing.

I should have realised that Wright was never shy of blood and gore. I forgot how brutal Hot Fuzz was (Man, I love that film. Need to watch it again . . . Moving on).

I was hooked. Hell, there were even a few twists along the way.

It was a fast and furious riot that made up for a stumbling and predictable middle act.

And by the time the credits rolled, I actually walked out the cinema smiling.

3.5/5

PLEASE ENJOY THIS KILLER TRACK (AND MY FAVOURITE) FROM THE ECLECTIC MOVIE SOUNDTRACK

 

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MINIONS MOVIE REVIEW

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Not as despicable as I thought but nowhere near as good either. I know. Whaaatttttt?

This Minion fan was left feeling a little blue. For all the promise and the crazy cast, this lazy offering did enough to keep things watchable for the little ‘uns but failed to really make a mark like its predecessor.

Minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob (all voiced by Pierre Coffin) are recruited by Scarlet Overkill (Sandra Bullock), a super-villain who, alongside her inventor husband Herb (Jon Hamm), hatches a plot to take over the world.

As soon as the Universal logo emerged and those funny little yellow buffoons started humming the theme, I could feel a guilty smile spread across my face.

The animation was brilliant. The pace zipped along. The minions had enough charm and silliness to keep things lively. However, my smile soon faded as the opening 15 minutes were exactly like the heavily flogged and overlong trailers. If you were lucky enough not to see them then it’s fun enough. BUT for me all the best bits were spoiled.

I honestly thought that Gru had made the little yellow money makers. But it turns out they had been on this Earth long before man. The only surprise that I got from the film. That and the fact this script got through editing.

We watch the Minions as they desperately search for the biggest, baddest villain to serve and somehow manage to eliminate them instead. I did laugh at the gang as they knock a T-Rex into a volcano, blow Napoleon Bonaparte out of the sky and wipe out Count Dracula after opening the curtains during the day to surprise him with a birthday cake.

Geoffrey Rush’s voiceover was entertaining. If anything I wished there was more of it BUT there were only so many times the man could pronounce the word, “BA-NA-NA!” in a funny way. Thankfully, all the heavily flogged bits were wrapped up in that opening act.

And things did take a more interesting turn when the Nelson family were introduced. Michael Keaton and Alison Janney were on fine form. To be honest, I wish the Minions had stuck with them. They were mental!

I liked how you were able to tell Kevin, Stuart and Bob apart. Each with their own unique personality. Not bad considering they all sound the flipping same with their helium induced broken English, Spanish and gobbledygook.

Sandra Bullock did her best to bring the notorious Scarlett Overkill to life but her lines were not nearly as funny or memorable enough. She fell short of Jason Segel’s villainous Vector (“Curse you tiny toilet!”) and wasn’t even half as crazy as Benjamin Bratt’s brutish El Macho.

She had the odd one liner, “What are your names? My knights in shining denim”. But as she blathered on about her crusade for the Queen’s Crown Jewels, I realized how much I missed Steve Carrell’s Gru.

I couldn’t believe Jon ‘Don Draper’ Hamm was voicing Scarlett’s hub Herb. Completely out of character and lapping it up. He did his best to steal the show as the dimwitted scientist.

The sixties soundtrack was rocking, man. The Who, The Kinks, The Doors, Jimmi Hendrix. Loved it.

The premise was a little weak with our heroes, I mean villains, tasked with stealing the Crown Jewels. Cue a lazy montage of the Minions minion-ing up London as they breeze through a number of landmarks; The House of Commons, The Tower of London, Trafalgar Square. One little landmark did get a laugh that I didn’t expect.

BUT there just wasn’t enough. The gag ratio was low. Don’t get me wrong. The little devils still delivered in parts. Stuart wearing a thong while bathing in a hot tub with two yellow fire hydrants got a chuckle and the song and dance number homage to Singin’ in the Rain’s ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ was brilliant.

I just felt that the writers went for lazy gimmicks. Resorting to old stereotypes for a quick titter. The whole British people with bad teeth and constantly drinking tea spiel has been done to death. I’m not just saying that as a Brit but come on! Really?

Not even the legendary Jennifer Saunders could save the day as Her Majesty. It was too OTT and just not funny. The bobbies on the beat running around with tea cups and shouting “Cor Blimey!” just infuriated me and the scene with the Beefeaters was just weird. No, seriously. It was a strange Full Monty-esque moment. Desperation?

The dark undertones were handled well. The macabre bumping off of “leaders” and the torture chamber scene luckily went over the little ‘uns heads. A joke involving Kevin and a noose may not have been the best thing for a kid’s film.

The Minions were always the funny scene stealers in the Despicable films but this movie proved that you can have too much of a good thing. And maybe that there was a reason why they were only minions.

It’s not all bad but it’s not that great. Disney and Pixar have proven time and time again that you can have films that appeal to everyone. This has enough for the little ‘uns but for the bigger kids (at heart) you may be left disappointed.

2.5/5

MILLION DOLLAR ARM REVIEW

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Disney + Don Draper = one easygoing sports movie.

Jon Hamm takes the helm as J.B. Bernstein, a sports agent who stages an unconventional recruitment strategy to get talented Indian cricket players to play Major League Baseball. From the opening speech with JB attempting to sign a major player to his firm, the pitch and delivery just reminded me of Mad Men and how much I will miss it after next year. It felt like a what if scenario. What if Don Draper left advertising and became a sports agent? Hamm has proven yet again that he can take the lead and deliver a charismatic performance.

I fear that this could be the beginning of Hamm being typecast to play more Draper-esque roles. But it’s early days and for some people, certain actors will always be certain TV or film characters. For now, it works. He carries the film where the story may drag or dip into familiar cliched territory. I mean at least this story was worth telling. I didn’t realise that this had only happened recently. The fact that JB channel flicks to Susan Boyle’s Britain’s Got Talent audition. A perfect metaphor for judging a book by its cover. The very lesson this film aspires to teach.

Alan Arkin is . . . pretty much playing Alan Arkin. Sleeping, moaning and whining about the curry he ate the night before. Some of his quips were funny but he has played this character before and so much better in Little Miss Sunshine. He definitely has been typecast. He grumbles and has the odd liner but disappears all too quickly to make a good impression. He inevitably reappears and justifies his character’s relevance. Only just. Bill Paxton played his part well and to be honest, there wasn’t enough of him but this isn’t his story. But my God, he has aged. The years have suddenly caught up with him. I know he was probably made up to be a little older for the role but yikes. Anyway, the main story is on our three Indian protagonists.

Pitobash as the eccentric Amit was brilliant. Scene stealing at every moment. From taking every little phrase literally;

Arkin: “He’s got juice”

Pitobash: “You want juice. I get you juice”

To his documentary film making catching all the things JB wouldn’t want in a PR video, he always brings a smile. Shuraj Sharma as Rinku with a unique stance for pitching baseballs and Madhur Mittal (Slumdog Millionaire) as Dinesh play the parts brilliantly. At first, Lake Bell’s (What Happens In Vegas) character of the hot doctor lodger that rents JB’s outhouse bungalow was a little annoying and so predictable. However, Bell and Hamm manage to convey enough chemistry to stop it from spoiling too much of the fun, even if the outcome is so obvious. Aasif Mandvi (The Internship) was wasted in his role, bar one good joke about recruiting the only three Indians who can’t stand cricket. This did make it all the more interesting that the very pitchers they are looking for are field hockey and track athletes.

To be honest, the length didn’t really bother me. I normally complain about the wavering length and at over two hours, I thought there may have been more moments in which I would be glancing at my watch. Not so! The opening may have been slow burning but there was enough easy going humour, charm and story to get away with it. Director Craig Gillespie catches the hustle and bustle of Bombay perfectly and has a cheeky poke at their politics. “We don’t bribe. We simply bypass the busy system by offering a little money”, offers Darshan Jariwala’s incompetent but loveable aide Vivek.

The first hour allowed time to be spent on the character’s backgrounds and upbringings which gave them a more rounded dimension. It also allows for a compelling contrast when the lads are put up in a hotel and are lost in translation with an elevator and escalator. I expected a little more tension with Dinesh’s family with his strict father but an unexpected heart to heart surprised me. I also feared that the film would baffle me with baseball statistics and terms as I’m not a baseball (or sports in general) fan but they use only a few slang words which are easily explained.

However, it’s funny, easy going with a nice uplifting, if slightly abrupt, ending. A somewhat mish mesh of Jerry Maguire and Slumdog Millionaire. The cast work brilliantly together as their fractious relationship and unexpected union are tested as they work against the odds to prove everybody, and themselves, wrong that nothing is impossible. Awww. Nice stuff.

3.5/5 Certainly one of the better ones. Not without its imperfections but worth a watch.