Last year was the worst slate of summer films I can ever remember. How is this summer shaping up? Not much better. Transformers 5? Nope. Pirates of the Caribbean 5? No chance. A rare miss from Tom Cruise with the Mummy. Baywatch? No female nudity, no $15 bucks from me. Alien Covenant? Netflix. Wonder Woman? DC has burned me too many times so Netflix again. Didn’t bother with Guardians of the Galaxy 2 as the I was one of the few in the minority who didn’t like the first. With the exception of WW, Alien Covenant, and GOTG2; the summer blockbusters have all underperformed. I haven’t seen anything this FF8 in the theater so a couple of came out this weekend that appealed to me.
I’m a sucker for gambling stories and comedies. When I saw Jason Mantzoukas was playing his Raffi from, “The League” character, I couldn’t resist. The idea of 2 parents not having enough money for college to open up a neighborhood casino is the theme of the film. Mantzoukas plays the friend who’s trying to get his wife back by inviting them to open said casino. Poehler and Ferrell are both 2 generic, suburban parents who eventually transform into hardened “criminals” as the plot progresses. The neighbors come by to gamble, participate in boxing matches, and partake into a Vegas style pool scene. Nick Kroll plays the role of a councilman, hell bent on shutting down this casino while he’s busy, pilfering from the town’s budget. Loved Kroll in this as well as, “The League.” Although every time I see him in something, he looks like a praying mantis. Oh well, he’s making movies and I’m writing reviews so he wins this battle.
The reviews for this have been AWFUL. I don’t get it, this film is funny throughout without having the typical sappy moments that comedies can have. Plenty of LOL moments without making cookie cutter jokes. Ferrell moves through this film with ease and Poehler is pretty solid as well; although she does have a couple, “I’m trying too hard moments.” But Matzoukas is the star of the show and I think this is the vehicle for him to get to the next level. He was underutilized in the League and he can easily move ahead of most of the comic actors on the scene now.
Is this film a must see in the theater? Definitely not but I’m glad I did.
6.5 out of 10
And now, let’s discuss the film that EVERY critic mentioned in their top films of the summer as well as the year. Edgar Wright wrote Ant Man and directed Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so his resume may not be as well known the masses but this makes one hell of a entrance theme to the real of public knowledge. “Baby Driver” is the story of Baby (Ansel Elgort); who is a getaway driver for Kevin Spacey while he pays off his debt to him. The twist is that Baby who has tinnitus and is constantly listening to music to drown out the ringing in his ears. His song selection ranges from classic rock, to Jazz, and even to soul. Interesting choices made by Wright when you would figure that most driving music would be categorized as adrenaline/high energy. He also has the peculiar habit of recording conversations and mixes them with beats on cassette tapes. Baby watches over his deaf friend and previous guardian, Joseph, while socking money away to eventually leave. While eating at a diner, he meets a waitress, Debora, (Lily James) another music enthusiast also looking to get away from everything and everyone. As previously stated, Baby is a wheelman for local bad guy, Spacey. Spacey hires Buddy, (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Elza Gonzalez) to rob a bank and Bats (Jamie Foxx) to steal money orders.
The chemistry with all of the actors is fantastic. Foxx plays a meticulous psychotic quite well. Hamm and Gonzalez are the modern day Bonnie and Clyde. Spacey excels as a heinous evil dickhead. There is a “Heat”-esque element to the film with plenty of nice surprises, twists, and callbacks. I’d even say it has a nice “Reservoir Dogs” feel but not as dialogue laden as Quentin Tarrantino has been known for. Of course, things go awry and that’s when this kicks into overdrive.
This film is a great ride and without question, the best so far of the summer. Then again, that’s not saying much with the crop that’s been released thus far. I do have higher hopes for the new Spiderman film coming out this week. And the new Planet of the Apes film also looks promising. But just like a great meal at an expensive restaurant, the portion sizes are small.
I give it an 8/10