Baby Driver (2017)

In a summer full of franchise movies and mediocre sequels, Baby Driver is nothing short of genius, a hyper kinetic, music-infused, symphony of destruction. Edgar Wright has assembled an all star cast and strewn them across a beautifully stylised heist thriller. 

Ansel Elgort’s Baby is our almost silent protagonist. Orphaned in car crash as a child, Baby listens to music constantly to drown out his tinnitus. After stealing a car he shouldn’t, Baby is forced into getaway driving for bank jobs, by Doc, a mysterious criminal (Kevin Spacey). 

Baby spends his time between jobs creating songs mixed with secretly recorded audio clips  from his criminal work and dancing, oblivious throug the world around him.  Oh and falling in love with a beautiful waitress named Debora. Or is it Jonathan? Either way she’s played by Lily James channelling Madchen Amick, uncanny how much she looks like Amick’s Twin Peaks’ waitress Shelly Johnston . James is charming and her relationship with Baby is pure Hollywood and I loved it. 

Like a mix of both Ryan Gosling in Drive and Kevin Bacon in Footloose , Baby owns the screen and Elgort really steals the show. When you’re acting alongside Kevin Spacey, John Hamm and Jamie Foxx, that’s pretty good going. 

The mix tapes are a handy metaphor for the movie. You’ve seen it all before, but never chopped up and mixed like this. Every bullet hits the beat of a song, every door slams to a drum, Wright using his trademark editing to stunning effect. Remember in Wright’s own Spaced how drugged up bicycle courier Tires would dance to music made from everyday sounds? It’s like that, but to the Nth degree. It’s truly breathtaking. The soundtrack is chosen masterfully, Wright combining the right song for the right scene perfectly every time. 

The ensemble cast adds a level of pedigree and weight that makes Baby Driver just feel solid. It’s Baby’s story but everyone else has enough quirkiness or depth to be memorable. Its a world I’d liked to have spent more time in, so hopefully we will get some prequel comics or blu ray extras. Wright did this with Shaun of the Dead so fingers crossed. 

Every character has a cool code name, Hamm is Buddy, Foxx is Bats, Spacey is Doc, Eliza Gonzalez is Darlin’. Randomly, Flea, bassist with Red Hot Chili Peppers pops up as Eddie No-Nose, formerly Eddie The Nose. There are a few great gags during Doc’s heist meetings that I wouldn’t want to spoil, but those scenes are all hilarious and must have been a joy to shoot. Tons of room for improv. 

A film about driving has to have some excellent  car stunts right? Of course.  The stunt team did an amazing job, Wright saying in a pre-film intro that they used as much practical driving as possible and no CGI. It shows. It feels gritty and rough and real. 

The soundtrack is as much of a character as anyone.  Baby’s multitude of ipods, each one for a different mood, filled with killer tracks. From the opening scene set to the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion track Bellbottoms, you get the sense of how Baby’s hearing and love of music will shape the flow of the film. I noticed a lot of heads bopping in the audience during the movie and one guy even tapping his leg as he strutted down the aisle to go to the bathroom during the movie. 

It’s almost like a musical in some ways, the songs driving the pace of the film. Wright has always had an ear for perfectly fitting songs and Baby Driver is the product of that.

Whilst not being the most original story you’ll ever see, Baby Driver is a beautifully made film that will surely stand the test of time, or at least the next few years. For me, it was like if Tarantino had grown up in the ipod generation. Snappy, quotable, violent and funny. 

It’s been a while since we’ve had a film that was just this cool. 


For Fans Of: 

Hot Fuzz 


True Romance 

Horrible Bosses 

The Mummy (2017)

Shared movie universes are all the rage these days. Well, since Marvel gave themselves a license to print money, anyway. DC Comics,Transformers, the Fox X Men films and many more are all in development so it’s only natural that Universal Studios who practically invented this concept with their monster movies, back in the 30s and 40s have decided to throw their hat back in the ring. 

The first entry in Univeral’s Dark Universe, their new series of shared universe horror films, is The Mummy. Starring Tom Cruise and Sofia Boutella, The Mummy has been savaged by critics and flopped theatrically and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe people expected too much, but I enjoyed The Mummy for what it was, an action packed, horror-tinged adventure film. A mash of genres and full of excitement, even if it never manages to be truly scary, The Mummy nonetheless maintains tension and pulls the viewer along at a fast pace. The film only ever slows down when introducing the shared universe stuff, even then, never becoming boring. 

Tom Cruise stars as Nick Morton, a sleazy army officer more concerned with stealing artifacts along with his pal Vail,  played by Jurassic World’s Jake Johnson. While attempting to loot a tomb in Iraq, Nick encounters Jenny (Annabelle Wallis) An archaeologist he has some history with and together they accidentally unleash something ancient and evil. Sofia Boutella plays Ahmanet, a vengeful Egyptian Princess sentenced to be mummified alive for murdering her father and his son. Along they way she also tried to summon Set, the God of Death and control the world. Basically, if you’ve seen the Brendan Fraser version, she’s Imhotep and Tom Cruise is Rachel Weisz. 

Packed with awesome effects, some big laughs and loads of violence, The Mummy is a great romp. I kept waiting for it to get bad, but it never did. Sure, Cruise is not giving it his best, but it never dips into being unwatchable. If you’re into cheesey horror adventures, you’ll love it. This one has a huge budget and TOM FUCKING CRUISE in it.

One scene that absolutely wowed me was the plane crash, as heavily shown in all of the trailers. What a dizzying, thrilling set piece that is! Breathlessly shot and very tense, it creates a sense of dread and Cruise sells the whole thing. Like a spooky Mission Impossible stunt. 

Sadly, I can’t say The Mummy is Oscar worthy or even massively original. In fact you can play “spot the influence” all the way through. Personally, I found a huge John Landis influence, the zombies had a Thriller vibe and the ghostly apparition of a dead friend warning of trouble was straight out of  An American Werewolf in London. It had that typically Landis darkly comedic tone all the way though, the main character cursed, yet seeing the funny side. It also felt at times like the Uncharted games, very quippy and dry, with a similar desert setting. Cruise was actually dressed a little like Nathan Drake too. 

Cruise himself has had a fair bit of a critical bashing, which is undeserved. The romance angle between Nick and Jenny didn’t fully work, but it fits his character and by the end, everything does make sense. The scenes with Cruise and Jake Johnson were great, Johnson surely has to end up leading his own franchise at some point. He’d make a good Boomerang if they ever do a Superior Foes of Spider-Man movie. 

The film looked great, with each setting looking different and reflecting the tone of the scene, kind of how Bond films do it. Or maybe it’s furthering the Uncharted influence and acting like video game levels. I particularly liked the Prodigium headquarters with all the references to other monster films. 

Okay, so let’s talk Dark Universe. At the time of writing, The Mummy is getting buried at the box office, surely affecting future creative plans. I hope nothing too drastically, as what is set up here is actually very cool. I also LOVED Russell Crowe as Henry Jekyll and his old pal Eddie Hyde. As a pair of supporting characters Jekyll and Hyde will hopefully pop up in the next Dark Universe film, Bill Condon’s Bride of Frankenstein. Due to open February 2019, staring Javier Bardem and if rumours are to be believed, Angelina Jolie. Everyone’s favourite hat wearer Johnny Depp is the Invisible Man too, but where he will appear isn’t certain. All puns fully intended. 

Don’t listen to the critics, judge The Mummy on your own terms. I found a lot to like and was left wanting more from this world. Great action, effects and funny, worth the time of every horror fan. Even if it’s not truly a horror film. 
The Mummy is still in cinemas now 

For Fans Of :
The Mummy (1999)

An American Werewolf in London 

Mission Impossible 

The Relic 

John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)

For some reason, I missed John Wick: Chapter 2 at the cinema. So it was an essential home video purchase, as I absolutely loved the first one. A throwback noir-action film with modern intensity and some outstanding choreography. Would the second one live up to the first?

Yes. Yes it would. 

Keanu Reeves returns as the titular John Wick, a hitman with an almost supernatural ability to kill. The first film saw John tragically lose his wife and while still reeling from her death, have his car stolen and his dog murdered by a particularly unlikeable Alfie Allen. He enacted his revenge by killing his way through hordes of bad guys, in one of the best action films this side of the 80’s. 

This movie, while largely being more of the same, expands the rich mythology introduced in the first one. the “Chapter 2” subtitle is spot on, it truly is a direct continuation as opposed to an unnecessary cash-grab sequel. Reeves takes his intensity and performance to the next level, bringing a new sense of desperation to Wick. When there’s nothing left to avenge and he’s forced back into the business, Wick’s survival instincts kick in. It’s great to see Keanu back as an action star, especially supported by such an amazing supporting cast. 

The plot is fairly simple, after a blistering, intensely violent opening gun battle, John Wick heads back to retirement. However, he owes a favour to Italian mobster Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio), who blows his house up and drags him instantly back out of retirement. Santino wants John to perform a hit on his own sister, Gianna (Claudia Gerini) in Rome. Shit hits the fan, as you’d expect and Wick calls upon all his skills, resources and contacts to help him survive. 

One thing I couldn’t shake while watching was the feel of a noir James Bond movie, sort of a Bond antidote in some ways. Dark, über violent and on the wrong side of the law. His visit to the tailor and gunsmith feeling like a trip to a twisted Q branch. 

Chad Stahelski
is directing solo this time, with John Wick 1 co-director David Leitch scooting off to make Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Not a bad trade to be fair. The two stunt performers turned directors also did the second unit work on Captain America Civil War, clearly cornering the market in big action scenes. 

Mind you, saying action is all Stahelski is good for would be a huge disservice, as JW2 looks gorgeous. From the swathes of neon light to the highly stylised subtitles, the whole movie feels it’s been expertly choreographed, everything flows perfectly. 
The supporting cast, as I mentioned above, is truly phenomenonal. Outside of our leads, we have turns from Peter Stormare, Ian McShane, John Leguizamo and Common. Everyone is chewing the scenery (except for a mute Ruby Rose, who solely uses sign language). David Patrick Kelly’s Charlie was sadly relegated to the blu ray deleted scenes. My interview with David, where he talks about the John Wick movies, amongst other things, can be found here

We also get to see Laurence Fishburne and Reeves back together for the first time since The Matrix movies, and what a reunion it is. Definitely more of the Fish to come in the JW Universe. Maybe even an appearance on the spin-off TV show that’s in development, The Continental,  based around the film’s chain of hotels,where in the assassins conduct business 
I really enjoyed John Wick Chapter 2. It’s a blisteringly paced action thriller. It has genuinely great characters inhabiting the it’s world, some you feel are placed just in case they choose to pull the trigger on them, so to speak, for use in a sequel. 

For Fans Of


Punisher War Zone


Split (2017)

M Night Shyamalan’s Split is a remarkable film. A psychological horror – thriller, darkly comic at times and frighteningly intense at others. 

The story of three girls taken captive by a man with multiple personalities, this could have been a torture porn or exploitation film in other hands, but M Night Shymalan raises the tone and crafts something special. Layering flashbacks, subplots and different characters perfectly, Split never loses track of its multiple strands, each one getting it’s time in the light. 

The unsettling opening scene sets the tone for what follows, as we see Dennis, Kevin’s bespectacled, intense personality, systemically take town three girls, whilst remaining so stoic and calm. It’s a frightening statement of intent from a writer director at the top of his game. 

Anya Taylor-Joy, star of 2016’s horror masterpiece The Witch, plays Casey, a withdrawn, damaged girl, who’s deeply upsetting backstory is revealed slowly throughout the film. One of the three girls taken by Kevin, Casey is held prisoner along with Jessica Sula as Marcia and Hayley Lu as Claire, in an unknown location. Taylor-Joy is carving out a career as a modern day horror icon, next appearing in 2018’s X Men horror film The New Mutants as Magik. 

James McAvoy, also formerly an X Man, gives the performances of his career so far here. He plays a man with 23 different identities, each one that were shown is completely distinct. I feel if this wasn’t a horror/thriller, we would be looking at an Oscar nomination for him. From Barry the fashion designer, Hedwig the dopey 9 yer old to Patricia, a stern British woman, McAvoy is unbelievable. Every single personality inside Kevin is fully realised and an individual character in it’s own right. McAvoy really gives a virtuoso performance here, showcasing his talents and proving himself as a top tier talent. What’s more, nothing ever comes across as silly. Even when he’s dressed as a woman, McAvoy commands your attention with his intensity, never appearing anything less than a fully developed character. It’s a stunning achievement. 

The rest of the cast is great too , especially Brad William Henke’s creepy uncle in the flashback scenes and veteran actress Betty Buckley as Dr Fletcher is particularly great. Dr Fletcher’s character drops lots of the information about Kevin’s disorder. Other movies would use her character for exposition dumps and not much else, but Shymalan makes her so compelling and Buckley herself has such a warmth and heart that you can’t help but feel the fear and the compassion yourself.

This being an M Night Shymalan movie, there are two things you’d always expect. One is his gratuitous cameo, and the other is a plot full of twists and turns. Both are present here. Shyamalan’s career renaissance has been impressive thus far, Split only proving his ability to shock and thrill even more. The Sixth Sense was a huge bar to set for himself, so seeing him returning to that level is nice.  It’s difficult to go into detail without spoiling a lot of what makes the movie great. I do feel that while Split’s twists are why it works, that multiple viewings would only improve the film. 

Leaving spoilers out of it, both the ending and credits scene made my jaw drop. A huge talking point for sure and the recently announced sequel sounds very interesting indeed!

Split is a rare thing, a hybrid of genres and influences, ending up as strong as the sum of its parts. Rather like it’s main character. 


For Fans Of: 

Silence of the Lambs


Raising Cain 

10 Cloverfield Lane 

La La Land (2016)

Since becoming obsessed with film as a kid, I’ve always been fascinated with “old Hollywood”. The old studios and their politics, the backlots and the movie stars. Damien Chezelle’s La La Land feels very much like a throwback to that time, an unashamedly proud musical, filled with lush, vivid colours, tap dancing, fantasy sequences and some incredible songs. Why La La Land works so well, is that it grounds itself with a modern flavour while still maintaining that classic movie aesthetic. 

For some reason or another I missed La La Land at the cinema, but recently picked it up on Blu Ray. I knew very little about it going in, other than the actors and that it was a musical. I’d tried to avoid any trailers, as I feel with a musical, knowing the songs ahead of time is a bit of a spoiler. 
Exploding with a huge, colourful song and dance number, atop a freeway overpass in the middle of a traffic jam, La La Land sends a message of intent right away. “Another Day of Sun” is an uptempo, piano driven number, reminiscent of something from West Side Story, causing all the car drivers to leap out and sing and dance. I was instantly in love, before we’d even met either of our main characters. 

Emma Stone plays Mia, a coffee shop barista struggling to make it as an actress, being humiliated in auditions and overlooked by casting directors. Ryan Gosling’s Sebastian is a serious Jazz musician who wants success, but on his own terms. We’re introduced to them separately, both stories happening in parallel,until they eventually meet, when Seb is unceremoniously fired by a cameoing JK Simmons.

Telling a love story, for our time, in the style of a classic musical, yet making it work on both levels is a hell of an achievement. Whimsical, breezy and funny, it never gets cheesey, or silly which I think is down to the acting. 

Sebastian is a snarky grump, but totally sincere and real, Mia exudes desperation and frustration at her career. When they meet, the chemistry is real and heartwarming. When they argue the pain feels true and cuts like a knife. Gosling and Stone have worked together twice before and they’re probably the closest we get to the classic Hollywood “couples” of yesterday. 

The score and songs by Justin Hurwitz is note perfect. Every song works. The music cues are stunning, leaving the film feeling like a live action Disney movie or a modern Singing In The Rain. City of Stars, the opener I mentioned above Another Day of Sun and Someone In The Crowd stand out and will be in your head for weeks. Mia and Sebastian’s theme will SURELY go down in history as one of the great movie themes. Slow, mournful piano sweeping but with a classical touch and flowing into some quirky jazz, it’s breathtaking.  

Told in seasons, Mia and Seb meet in winter and spend the next year growing together as people and as artists. A very real journey juxtaposed against some very nifty tap dancing and songs. When John Legend shows up as an old colleague of Seb, wanting him to join a band and go on tour you sense the tension between our couple. Mia’s envy of Seb’s success is obvious, which is never good in any relationship. 

I’m going to refrain from ruining the last act , no matter how tempted I am to discuss it in depth! If you’ve not seen the film yet I would hate to spoil it for you. However I will say it floored me. A bold choice that paid off massively. 

The city of Los Angeles is the third main character in the film and looks like the greatest place on earth, from its sunny skies, old theaters and the beautiful Griffith Observatory. An idea we always got from the old movies. Chezelle is clearly in love with this city, showing its beauty and it’s heart. Underneath the business side, is a very real group of people who want to be artists. We all start somewhere. 
For me, La La Land is a masterpiece, full of primary colours, dancing and fantastic songs. Two stellar lead performances and some brilliant directing. Damien Chezelle is our Woody Allen, albeit with a more overtly musical sensibility. 

The last time a film grabbed me like this, it was Mad Max Fury Road, equally bright, but with a little less singing. 


For Fans Of:

Everyone Says I Love You 

Midnight in Paris 

Singing In The Rain 

Beauty and the Beast (1991)


Wonder Woman (2017) 

It’s no secret that the DC Comics Extended Universe has had a rocky start. Finally, with its fourth film, we have a movie that’s more than just OK, in fact you could say it’s WONDERful. Too much? Yeah too much. 

Patty JenkinsWonder Woman not only surpasses the other DC movies, it manages to outdo a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films too. Epic in scale, this is an origin story that seems fresh, Gal Gadot giving a performance so assured and so measured, she owns the screen every time we see her. Personally, I feel like Gadot has attained the level of Hugh Jackman or Christopher Reeve already. She just is Wonder Woman. 
Wonder Woman’s story is an origin tale, but without too many of the usual tropes. Opening with a scene in the present, Diana recieves a photo from an unseen Bruce Wayne and reminisces about her life. We’re shown the gorgeous Themyscira and the Amazons who live there. Young Diana Is trained to be a warrior by her aunt and life seems to be going great. It did remind me of the start of Moana, and I mean that as nothing but a compliment. 

By rescuing Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), the first man she ever laid eyes on, Diana is thrust into World War I. A German fleet attacks her home and Diana decides she has to stop this war, blaming Ares, the God of War for the atrocities. 

The second half of the film feels less like a superhero film and more like Fury or Saving Private Ryan but with a Greek Mythological twist. Wonder Woman manages to be action packed, thoughtful and universe-building while still maintaining its own tone. The scene in which Diana marches across No Man’s Land, deflecting bullets was breathtaking and powerful and sums up Wonder Woman in one short piece.

The tone and feel is perfect. Yes, it has to fit into the already planned DCEU but Patty Jenkins has managed to make a beautifully shot movie that’s very much it’s own thing. We get an adventure movie that’s so much more than I expected , a new cinematic hero with unwavering sincerity. This film never gets cheesey. It bold and earnest and is proud of what it is. I’d compare it with Captain America The First Avenger,  another period comic book movie, but Wonder Woman is a much more complete film overall.  

Diana’s connection with our world is mostly played for laughs at first, before she realises the horrors of war and what man is capable of. 

By man, of course,  I mean humanity. The recent outcry over a female only screening of this film was both stupid and hilarious. Of course they should do a female only screening, it’s a great publicity event and it makes sense! The irony, however, that men would object  to and criticise this women-only screening of a movie that features a women-only island being attacked by men, is not lost on me. 

 The ensemble cast of Wonder Woman is not overly stacked with A-List names, relying instead on Gadot’s instantly iconic performance and some solid supporting actors. Chris Pine is great as Steve Trevor, a layered character, not just a one dimensional love interest. Following his turns in 30 Days of Night and X Men Origins: Wolverine by playing Ludendorff, Danny Huston’s comic book movie villain streak continues! His snarling warmonger teams with Elena Anaya’s porcelain masked Doctor Poison. The rest of the cast is largely quirky character actors,  Ewen Bremner, Said Taghmaoui and Eugene Brave Rock form Trevor’s diverse band of mercenaries, providing laughs, heart and depth to the film. David Thewlis pops up as Sir Patrick Morgan while Connie Nielsen and Robin Wright play Diana’s Mother and Aunt respectively. I really liked Lucy Davis as Etta Candy. Absolutely hilarious and in fact coming close to stealing the show, shining in all of her scenes. 

Wonder Woman is a film with very few flaws. It’s intelligent, deep, exciting and most importantly FUN. A character filled action romp that takes its self seriously but is never po faced over dour. Proving why the character is the perfect counterpoint to Batman

Thankfully and indeed similar to Marvel’s recent Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2, this is a movie in a larger Universe that doesn’t feel the need to serve any other story than its own. Respecting itself and the audience, I’m greatly appreciating that we got a complete story and I was left wanting more. The best DC Movie since The Dark Knight and a fantastic primer for Justice League. Don’t miss this one. 


Wonder Woman is in cinemas now. 

Superman (1978)

Spider-Man (2002)

Captain America The First Avenger (2011)

Gladiator (2000)

Ben Fenlon 

Baywatch (2017)

Baywatch, starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron, is a turd of unparalleled proportions. I didn’t expect high art, I didn’t even get decent dick jokes. 

Sadly, this film simply doesn’t work. The jokes don’t land, the soundtrack is achingly contemporary and absolutely hollow. It’s a shame, because the concept could have been a smash hit in the right hands. Instead it just comes across as if the creative team had a few drinks watching 21 Jump Street on Netflix and thought “fucking hell, this is easy, I could do this!”  

It’s the almost the exact same story as Jump Street too, with similar reveals and “twists”. Except where that film was clever, sharp and extremely funny, Baywatch falls flat nearly every time. 
Trying to catch drug dealers operating in the bay, Mitch ( a clearly embarrassed Dwayne Johnson) is forced to team up with unwanted new recruit, Brody (an excessively muscular Zac Efron).  Brody is a douchey ex-Olympian who can’t work as part of a team and is forced to work as part of a team, because he needs to work as part of a team. 

You can clearly see where this is going. Unfortunately the film thinks we are idiots and has to spell this out for us every five minutes. Neither of the two leads is likeable which really hurts the film, as you’re just not engaged or invested in any of these characters. A two hour movie that loses you in the opening 10 minutes, is a brutal chore to endure.

The cast, however, is actually pretty good, Alexandra Daddario as Summer doesn’t get much to do but does it well.  Kelly Rohrbach takes the Pamela Anderson role as CJ. You’d never be able to recast someone as iconic, so I didn’t mind the decision to make her into an Anna Faris style slightly goofy character. Jon Bass as Ronnie was funny, but seemed to be doing a Josh Gad impression the whole time. I guess Gad was busy or too expensive. Or maybe he read the script. 

The Get Down’s Yahya Abdul-mateen II plays the long suffering cop forced to deal with these rogue lifeguards.  He is one of the few in the film who manages to come out of the film with his reputation unscathed. I look forward to seeing him as Black Manta in next year’s Aquaman movie. 
One thing I liked was that the cast was racially diverse and the villain was an Asian lady, Leeds, played by Priyanka Chopra, again not given much to do but, shining nonetheless. 

Baywatch, the TV show, while not being entirely realistic, at least managed to remain sincere. I feel the movie tried to both laugh at and nod to this unflinching sincerity, yet failed in the process. None of the meta jokes about Baywatch worked. None of the slow mo stuff was funny. At one point they even make the same “We’re based on a far fetched old TV show”  joke from 21 Jump Street and THAT doesn’t work. 

I wanted to like Baywatch, I’d have even liked to have said “it’s worth a watch”  but it isn’t.  It’s a total piece of shit, brand damaging for all involved. It managed to make comedian Hannibal Buress come across as boring and flat, a feat so spectacular it should win some kind of award. 

Seth Gordon, who made King of Kong and the first  Horrible Bosses, is usually a quality director, so I was shocked to see some terrible editing, ADR additions and woeful camera angles. There are so many over the shoulder conversation shots where mouth moments don’t sync and Zac Efron’s fringe changes position. I would not be shocked if news of reshoots or extensive editing came out. Something felt off. 

So don’t waste your time or money. Wonder Woman is out soon, go see that instead!

For Fans Of:

The Dukes of Hazard 

21 Jump Street 

The House Bunny 

Ben Fenlon