Baby Driver’s been a passenger in the Edgar Wright career vehicle for over twenty years. Having conceived the concept – that of a getaway driver with a unique relationship to music – in the nineties, it was in directing the music video for Mint Royal’s ‘Blue Song’ that Wright first had a play. There Noel Fielding played the eponymous driver in an electrically entertaining four minute venture of boogieing to put shower singers to shame. Wright could quite easily have parked the idea there and then. What a sign, then, of his sheer brilliance and audacity as a director that he held on and has now produced something even more spectacular. Baby Driver is breathtaking. A film that will be treasured for generations to come.
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Not for the first time in the past twelve months, I was struck with an intense yearning to disagree with the majority of the American population on viewing James Ponsoldt’s The Circle.
It would be fair to say that critics across the Atlantic were not exactly kind to Ponsoldt’s adaptation of Dave Eggers’ best selling novel in the wake of its Tribeca debut. Audiences too failed to warm to the film, in spite of a mightily impressive cast roster of Emma Watson, Tom Hanks and the late Bill Paxton to name just a few.
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There’s a moment in Karl Freund’s original 1932 The Mummy – a then original feature designed to replicate the themes and successes of Universal’s contemporary horror films: Dracula, Frankenstein etc. – in which the Mummy himself (Boris Karloff playing Imhotep) is awoken from his sarcophagus slumber behind an unaware Ralph Norton (Bramwell Fletcher). It’s a scene that’s not quite as effective as it might have been but one that works by virtue of the brilliant tension of expectation that comes with viewers knowing exactly what is coming.
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On paper, the plot of Marc Webb’s Gifted reads as being somewhat saccharine, clichéd and kind of generic. It’s the story of a bachelor, Frank (Chris Evans, sans lycra for once), bringing up the precociously ‘gifted’ Mary (Mckenna Grace). She’s the daughter of his similarly progenic sister, whose life of pressured genius led to her suicide some six years earlier.
When Mary’s school teacher, Miss Stevenson (comic, Jenny Slate), discovers the girl’s intellectual brilliance and spreads the word, it is not long before her Grandmother (Lindsey Duncan) appears on the scene, demanding custody and promising a future of elite education leading to greatness. A court case ensues, with Frank fighting for the right to give Mary the right to the life he claims his sister wanted for her: ‘Just dumb her down into a decent human being’. Sounds rough, but he means well.
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It’s a biographical performance that Albert Finney, Richard Burton and Michael Gambon have all taken on. Here, in Churchill, Sir Winston, named in a 2002 poll as the Greatest Briton of all time, is played with aplomb by Brian Cox. This is however, from the directorial eye of The Railway Man’s Jonathan Teplitzky and the pen of historian Alex von Tunzelmann, a far more destabilising depiction of the icon and well represented caricature. Churchill has both the bull and black dogs of its protagonist’s life at heart but is unfortunately every bit as conflicted and flawed as the man himself.
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