director Edgar Wright
viewed: 07/02/2017 at AMC Dine-in Kabuki 8, SF, CA
Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver is a pop confection heist car chase action flick comedy. It’s a genre picture, made of genre stuff, and interpreted through an array of popular music selections. There is verve here, quite a lot of it at times, and it’s fun. It’s inventiveness does not lie within pure originality, but rather through its remixing and comic play.
For all its buzz, the trailer didn’t really “sell” me on the picture. Star Ansel Elgort is better than he looks in the trailers, the driver with an endless collection of iPods and sunglasses. He’s “Baby” as Kevin Spacey is “Doc” and Jon Hamm is “Buddy” and Jamie Foxx is “Bats”. Everyone is a nickname and a derivative caricature, and it’s almost as if Wright is daring you to think there should be more to this whole thing.
It’s all surface and action and some decent humor, playing out to syncopation, tuned to the music. Honestly, I enjoyed it throughout.
That said, since watching it, the excitement and fun has diminished and further thoughts have sort of petered out on it. Some movies tend to grow as you contemplate them. Baby Driver has sort of sat there in Park since the viewing, not even idling, just with its engine gone cold.
I’ll see where I’m at with it by the end of the year. It may still be one of the better films of 2017. It may even be a genre classic, cult or otherwise. We’ll have to see.
director William Fruet
Killer Party is a mess, a meta-horror-comedy not committed enough to one direction to succeed fully in any, and yet, I found it kind of fun.
It’s not so much the sum of its parts, nor mostly any one part in particular, save one. And that one, for me, anyways, is Sherry Willis-Burch as Vivia. Willis-Burch has only one other screen credit, a 1981 slasher, Final Exam, but she brings a level of wit to Vivia, carrying off some of the better lines. She’s a bit like a far less polished Kate McKinnon, in looks and character.
The plot, a prank-filled hazing April Fool’s party in a haunted derelict mansion, is almost besides the point. While it’s easy to see why others shrug this film off, I found it amusing.
director Jim Sharman
Movies are hard to make. It takes a lot of talents: writing, acting, cinematography, editing, directing, music. There is also the notion that comedy is hard, and by comparison death is easy. Add into that musical numbers, songs that have to take the front stage center of a film. I would suggest that musicals would be the most difficult genre to succeed in.
Add onto all of this, making a follow up to a cult hit, the midnight movie to rule over all midnight movies, The Rocky Horror Picture Show. What Jim Sharman and Richard O’Brien took on was massively unlikely to be a success. And surprise. It wasn’t.
But the annals of cult film are wide and broad, deep and tall, and even a failed cult film can become a cult film success in a minor way too.
Bringing back a lot of elements of Rocky Horror (though leaving out the most popular stars and some of its key elements regarding sexuality), Shock Treatment is a strange comic musical with a lot of similar-sounding rock-n-roll pop tunes and characters named Brad and Janet.
Frankly, I don’t think it’s really half-bad. It does get a bit tedious but it’s also quite fun. Watching Rocky Horror outside of a midnight movie house loses a lot of its charms as well.
Actually, it’s cool to see Jessica Harper again. She made quite a few appearances in cult musicals in her day.
director Adam Rifkin
From the shadowy depths of the psyche of the early Nineties comes The Dark Backward. It’s a garbage world dystopia of filthy streets and filthy homes and even filthy, sweaty protagonists. Judd Nelson plays against type as Marty Malt, a nebbish dweeb with a dream of stand-up comedic genius (perhaps one of the most Nineties aspect of the film).
Sadly, Marty is only funny is a deadpan not funny, semi-surreal sort of way, which no one but his wingman, Gus (Bill Paxton RIP) ever laughs at (and even then, only when he’s really concentrating.) When Marty begins to grow an arm out of the middle of his back, his freakshow appearance scores him opportunities even though his general appeal seems to remain in the gutter.
The Dark Backward is a pre-fab cult film, one whose cult following has had years to grow. On initial release, its oddities seemed strained. Embodied perhaps in Paxton’s volume 11 performance of wackiness, pushing so hard to be funny and weird.
Wayne Newton is spot-on as the sleazy agent, Jackie Chrome, while Lara Flynn Boyle seems kind of wasted in her bit.
While it definitely has its charms, it’s more of a semi-classic than a full classic.
director John Landis
Into the Night is a mid-Eighties comedy about an average American man (Jeff Goldblum) suffering from insomnia, who discovers his wife is cheating on him and finds himself adrift “into the night” and all over LA. Circumstances being what they are, he meets up with a beautiful woman on the run (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is being hunted by some Persians from whom she stole some smuggled jewels.
I’d remembered it being one of those kind of cool comedy thrillers of the era, but it’s not really so sharp or funny. Director John Landis, though, seemed to have a great time playing a voiceless killer in the pack of Persian thugs.
Landis also seems to have had a great time packing cameos into the film by some great and though probably-not-recognizable-to-the-average-filmgoer movie notables. Really, when you get right down to it, it’s the cameos and surprising faces that make the film a little more fun than it really is.
The other points of interest are perhaps the streets of LA and Hollywood and the locations caught in their mid-Eighties states.
director Stewart Raffill
It’s hard to know how intentionally stupid/comic this space comedy is supposed to be. Such as the entire premise, worked into the title, that somewhere in the universe, interplanetary ice is a scarce commodity. Honestly, I didn’t do all that well in Chemistry, but this seems kind of ridiculous. But then so is so much else of it, too.
The Ice Pirates is cheap and hammy and seems perfectly at home with itself about the exact amount of “quality” stuck in here. It’s not quite a parody as Mel Brooks’ later Spaceballs (1987) would be, but at times seems like its cousin of sorts.
And yet, it’s kind of entertaining as well, never stopping to ponder its shortcomings or strive too hard.
director Jon Moritsugu
Endowed with financing from PBS and the NEA, Jon Moritsugu crafted a film about the Japanese-American experience. Even at the time, Moritsugu and crew wondered if the grantees had seen any of his movies before, because when he delivered Terminal USA, it was a bit of a shock to the Public Broadcasting System and the National Endowment for the Arts.
For Moritsugu, this was by far the biggest budget he’d contended with, and so even though a lo of the film remains lo-fi, you can see the production values in the cinematography, set design, and casting.
It’s a Japanese-American nuclear family going nuclear. Think the Ramones’ “We’re a Happy Family” and you’ve got this TV-esque clan in which mom is a drug addict, dad has delusions of the apocalypse, one son is repressed and closeted, the other (played by Moritsugu himself) is a drug-addled punk with a stylin’ girlfriend (Amy Davis), and the sister, a knocked-up teen who is sex crazed.
There is blood and piss and other bodily fluids in this demented comedy/satire. The punk rockness was in producing this for television in the early 1990’s. It’s pretty awesome.
director Trey Parker
Saturday night, combing through my queue at Amazon Prime, the kids spot South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut and respond “A South Park movie? Is that a real thing?” We’ve spent part of the past 6 months working our way through the series from the beginning and we’re almost caught up with the present. At 13 and 15, I think they’re mature enough to appreciate and consider South Park.
It’s actually been an interesting thing, time traveling through the show, which at best is wickedly funny, spot-on, and clever and interesting. At its weakest, it’s rather tone-deaf on gender issue and transsexuality, climate science, and a couple other things. Still, valuable as starting talking points.
The movie is, like the show, at its best, quite hilarious. The “Uncle Fucka” song and Cartman’s V-chip in his skull are classic ideas from Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and company, and very funny. Taking on the issue of swearing seems very appropriate for a show of foul-mouthed kids suddenly unleashed on an R-rated platform, and that they get their cursing from a movie they like, apropos.
But the satan/Saddam Hussein thing, and the whole apocalypse brought about by killing Terrance and Phillip is a bloated, and a lot less funny. Really, the movie could easily be pared down into on totally great episode of the show, and maybe should have been.
Who knows? Just my opinion.
director Jonathan Demme
A girl calls out a guy who she caught sneaking out of a restaurant without paying. She’s super quirky, he’s super straight-laced and she cajoles him into her car and into an impromptu adventure.
It’s Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels as the respective girl and guy in Jonathan Demme’s 1986 road comedy Something Wild. It’s kind of a flimsy plot that doesn’t seem to add up at first but as the characters reveal themselves through the film, the logic starts to play out. The only thing really impromptu was the guy-selection, Griffith’s Audry/Lulu was always planning on hitting her 10 year high school reunion. She didn’t necessarily count on Ray Liotta, her estranged husband fresh out of prison, to show up and make things difficult.
As much comedy as there is, it’s also quite a somber affair, not fully darkened, but troubled at heart. Ultimately, it’s about the characters. Griffith and Daniels and Liotta give the movie emotional depth and weight, and the soundtrack of cool 1980’s music gives it cult hepness. The backroad byways they travel down offer a glimpse of a lost America.