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Rhythm is what ties everything in this movie together. Rhythm defines Edgar Wright’s style.

Edgar Wright had a disappointing couple of years, I think. Getting over all that work he put into Ant-Man must have been rough but I’m so glad it meant that this movie, which Wright first developed in the 90’s, got to exist. As pointed out elsewhere, Wright might have a little Marvel still stuck in his teeth but ultimately I think everybody is going to agree that he hasn’t lost a step. Baby Driver is full of the inventive filmmaking and action he’s known for while also being vastly different from his other movies.

What most people are saying about Baby Driver is how fun and entertaining it is. I’ll echo that while also adding that it’s a surprisingly dark and consequence-laden movie. Wright has always been deft with tonal shifts and messing with genre conventions and while Baby Driver does balance a light-hearted romantic tone with some heavier elements, it’s actually kind of refreshingly straightforward when it comes to its genre. Wright has made his version of a Michael Mann film in a film where every character thinks they are in their own movie. Wright’s genius here is that he’s making all those movies by referencing, recycling, nodding, and reinventing parts of them.

I think Baby Driver is destined to be a crowd-pleaser. There’s too much to like about it and it’s kind of universally appealing, I think. Part of that is the really joyous way it uses music, and part of it is just that everybody loves a crime movie. If there are any complaints to be made, they’ll probably arise from the nuts and bolts mechanics of the story and its somewhat misleading structure. The last act will not fully work for everyone, but I think it’s not going to really damage anyone’s enjoyment of the movie overall. I’ll talk about these issues later, but I really think they are likely to end up being footnotes on a masterpiece.

SPOILERS RACING BY!

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This image is a nice commentary on the movie itself.

Ant-Man has arrived in the echo of The Avengers: Age of Ultron, offering itself up as a sort of palette-cleanser removed from the world-ending stakes we’re used to. In that sense, the movie works fairly well in the same way that Guardians of the Galaxy did. It’s a nice change of pace from the bustle of the MCU and its growing cast of recognizable characters. But it’s not a change of pace from the usual Marvel formula. If you’re the type of person who is bothered by that, you’ll probably be more sour on Ant-Man than it deserves. Not that the movie doesn’t deserve criticism, because it does. Unfortunately, that criticism has to be tempered with an awareness of its more-troubled-than-usual production. It would have been nice if they’d managed to put together and release a movie where the scars and stitches of Marvel’s falling out with Edgar Wright weren’t so obvious. Unfortunately, they failed and you really do notice the better movie lurking beneath the altogether solid in spite of itself surface of this one. I won’t waste much time on shoulda-coulda-woulda stuff, but I will be talking about the satellite choices for plot, character, and motive that are often baffling if not outright bad. A glaring example is the movie’s treatment of Hope van Dyne, the main female character. Expect think-pieces about her, as this movie bungles her story that fucking badly.

I still love the Marvel movies and I liked Ant-Man just fine, though many of my comments may suggest I didn’t. It’s a very enjoyable, fun movie, and that’s to be expected at this point. Marvel doesn’t really deserve extra kudos for doing the expected. Their movies have to be more than just inoffensive for someone like me to not spend a few thousand words on whatever went wrong. That said, not a lot went wrong here and that’s why so much of what’s being said about this movie boils down to “it’s solid!” However, there’s this failure to commit that haunts the emotional beats and character development. This problem makes the first half of the movie feel restrained, like you’re waiting to get to the “good stuff”. The good news is that the “good stuff” does come along eventually. The third act in Ant-Man is among the best Marvel has done. With a couple of minor exceptions, it’s got everything this movie needed to have all the way through. Of course, the charm, peculiarity, and eccentricity of the third act was probably seen as controverting to the “more grounded” approach it seems they wanted for the movie. This is probably why Wright walked or got fired or whatever really happened. The third act feels like it belongs in the movie he would have made, and I think Marvel made a minor miscalculation in not trusting to that. Maybe they thought that Guardians of the Galaxy was crazy and energetic enough, but more of Ant-Man could have used that verve. Read the rest of this entry »

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A movie by and for beer.

This has got to be one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2013 if you go off how people felt (and still feel) about Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Yet, I’ve had to explain to people what movie I’m talking about when I say I saw The World’s End. Maybe the title just isn’t memorable. Fuck knows. It should be, though, because it’s perfect. The partnership of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost is the sort of stuff from which perfection is made, if you ask most people. Personally, I’ve never been quite as captivated by the thematically-linked Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy as many others. I’m not the guy who quotes Shaun or Hot Fuzz like I invented it (I’ve never said “Yarp”) but I do love all three films. Perhaps I connected with The World’s End the most, though, and it is almost certainly going to remain my favorite of the three even when the afterglow of the first viewing fades some.

Anyone who has seen the others will already be aware that these aren’t just regular comedies with genre wrappers. Each has its things to say about masculinity, friendship, personal responsibility, and growing up in general. The World’s End further explores some of the same thematic ground as the other two, but they are a spiritual trilogy rather than some kind of narrative one, and as such the familiarity is potent without being overwhelming or repetitive. The beating heart of these movies has always been, well, heart and The World’s End has massive, beautiful heart. Enough heart for days.

It’s also more of an action film than Shaun of the Dead. It’s sort of like Hot Fuzz with bar fights instead of gun and a gleeful commitment to the kind of whiz-bang editing and chop socky that Wright picked up doing Scott PilgrimThe World’s End sometimes feels like three movies in one, any of which more than capable of being expanded into fullness on its own. Yet all three inner movies remain tangled up with everything else the whole shebang is doing in some kind of weird alchemy that shouldn’t work and somehow does. It’s the kind of movie I must spoil, but should be engaged by those who haven’t yet seen it with as little foreknowledge as possible. I saw it only knowing its basic premise (which is enough) and not really having an idea of where it was all going until it got there. Coupled with its surprising climax and one of the all-time great (audacious, even) epilogues, it’s probably best if you see The World’s End without having read this review first.

FAIR WARNING, KIDDIES. DO NOT READ ON IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM. Read the rest of this entry »

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