Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Rapid Reviews: Wonder Woman and Baby Driver

With inadequate disappointments such as Man of Steel, BvS: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad paving the way for the budding DC Comics film universe, something needed to jump-start this hypothetical super-world. And that film has finally arrived, courtesy of Monster director, Patty Jenkins, and what's only her second feature film. Wonder Woman tells the epic origin story of a god-like princess-warrior with some insane battle moves. What more could you possibly want?

Raised on the island paradise of Themyscira, a young Diana (Gal Gadot) develops a fascination with hand-to-hand combat training. Under the tutelage of her aunt Antiope (Robin Wright), a skilled army general, Diana becomes the most gifted warrior among all her people. And when a British spy named Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) crashes his plane off the coast of the island, Diana learns of the first great World War and accompanies Steve back into the heart of Europe in order to confront an ancient prophecy.

If the premise sounds a bit messy, well that's because it is. But Wonder Woman's hybrid-blending tale of mythology and chronicled world-history is a beautiful mess indeed. The film's first act details Diana's life on an island paradise hidden from the rest of the world. Surreal and other-worldly circumstances mold effortlessly with reality the moment Steve Trevor enters the picture. Chris Pine injects a much-needed energy that's complemented to perfection by co-star Gal Gadot's idealistic and infectious persona. Furthermore, Diana's obliviousness to the real world acts as a clever genesis to Wonder Woman's exceptional comedic elements. The banter between Steve and Diana is well-written and organic, which also allows for their characters to develop as the story progresses. But not only is the writing stellar, Pine and Gadot prove to be extremely capable leads as well. Perhaps, more surprising is Gadot's natural transition into the spotlight. Her charm, talent and beauty make stardom look so easy, it's impressive. And despite a finale that achieves its goal in a less-than perfect fashion, Wonder Woman is too smooth and enjoyable of a ride to shy away from.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

One of the hottest films out of this year's SXSW lineup was Edgar Wright's high octane action-comedy, Baby Driver. Wright is best known for his singular style with critically acclaimed titles like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World's End. This time around, though, Wright dives deep into the crime underworld of bank-robbing with a unique vision that only he can deliver.

Baby (Ansel Elgort) is the best get-away driver around, so he becomes the key cog in the operation of a powerful crime boss (Kevin Spacey) who masterminds bank robberies. But as Baby tries his hardest to give up this secret career, his waitress girlfriend (Lily James) and foster father find themselves entangled in the dangerous racket. This leaves Baby no choice but to take part in a heist that feels doomed to fail.

Baby Driver utilizes a phenomenal soundtrack to its advantage. The film's title character suffers from a constant hum in the eardrum following an accident as a child, and he's always listening to music in her earphones to drown out the noise. Consequently, Wright uses this behavior to edit his film accordingly in an uptempo and rhythmic sequence that keeps the pace flowing. Baby Driver moves without a hitch throughout its first two acts, lining up insanely-choreographed stunt driving with a witty dialogue that's become a staple in Wright's oeuvre. However, for no good reason whatsoever, Wright ditches his rhythmic approach during a third act that falls completely off the rails in both a realistic sense and structure. Baby Driver bounces from what feels like ending, to ending, to ending in a roundabout fashion that does absolutely no justice to the film. A once compelling effort becomes tarnished by cheaply dramatic flashback sequences and a forgettable finale. Thankfully, a thrilling and comical majority of the film makes its blemished conclusion worth sitting through.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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