Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017)

What's it about? Baby (Ansel Elgort) is a getaway driver for his boss (Kevin Spacey) and various gang members (including Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx and Eiza Gonzalez). Constantly listening to tunes on his iPod, he perhaps get a chance to escape his life of crime when he meets waitress Debora (Lily James).

Is it any good? So this is an car chase action movie, but set to music. That makes it a musicar-l, I guess. A musiCARl? Eh? Yes? AMIRITE??!! 
(WARNING!! Readers of a nervous disposition better strap themselves in for some reckless car-related punnery). 
At first glance, it looks and sounds very sleek and shiny, with a bank robbery and a street scene smoothly choreographed to the tunes on the soundtrack. So far, so good. But it's a flashy gimmick that can't really sustain itself and once we settle in for the ride, its performance is actually bit stop-start, with some awkward gear changes and a few aimless diversions along the way. It never seems entirely sure of the direction it wants to take, beyond looking and sounding good, and the warning light soon comes on as it runs out of gas and ends up puttering to a rather unsatisfying stop in the ditch. The tunes still work however, and all those carried along for the ride do look cool. Ultimately, the ambition of the design is commendable, pity the assembly of the doesn't quite do it justice.

Anything else I should know? If you find the opening scene familiar, that might be because Wright has already put this idea on screen in the music video for Mint Royale's Blue Song, starring comedians Noel Fielding, Julian Barratt, Michael Smiley and Nick Frost. Restricted to 3 minutes or so, it works quite well.

Elsewhere, Wright has explained his love for the car chase movies (such as The Driver and To Live and Die in LA) that influenced Baby Driver, several of which he put together as guest programmer for the BFI under the banner Car Car Land. Truth be told, these are all better than Baby Driver. Then again, I don't even like cars, so what do I know?

What does the Fonz think? Third gear. 

Shortlisted! Blog Awards Ireland 2017

Looks like my scandalous behaviour at last year's ceremony didn't have any lasting effect, because The Fast Picture Show has again made the Shortlist for Best Film & TV Personal Blog in the Blog Awards Ireland 2017. I'm happy about this because as we all know:

Now, let's just hope they've forgotten about that incident with the vicar and the bucket of soapy eels

Le Heist Double Bill

With the release of Logan Lucky this weekend, it's a good chance to search out some heist movies to whet the appetite. Only one thing cooler than pulling off a robbery and that's if you are French and do it without making a sound. Silence, s'il vous plaît!!'

In Le Cercle Rouge (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970), a recently released prisoner (Alain Delon) and a recently escaped prisoner (Gian Maria Volontè) team up to pull off a jewel heist in this stylish and minimalist crime thriller. Melville’s direction is stately and it’s always thematically interesting, especially when things inevitably go wrong. However, it is rather overlong and a little contrived, with the meeting of the two leads in particular rather improbable. But Delon is très fleek, despite being encumbered with a silly moustache, and Yves Montand lends class to the whole affair as another member of the gang. Best of all, the heist itself, carried out in almost complete silence, is marvellous stuff and just as good as the celebrated one in Rififi.

Speaking of which, Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955) is a classic film noir and a justifiably celebrated cornerstone of the heist genre. The three act formula is cleanly executed as we see a team of specialists (including Dassin himself as safe-cracker Cesar) meticulously planning, and then carrying out a difficult diamond theft, before some human failings results in things going tragically awry. It is of course most remembered for the central 28-minute heist, a sequence featuring no dialogue or music, which is unbearably tense and ingeniously detailed. Indeed, Rififi was banned in some countries after wannabe thieves adopted the tactics depicted to carry out real-life robberies. But the rest of the film is brilliant too; in the best traditions of film noir, the B&W photography is atmospheric and claustrophobic, there's no sense that this can possibly end happily and everyone smokes their heads off. It was a resounding success for Dassin, who only made the film because he needed the work after being blacklisted in Hollywood because of his Communist party membership. He moved to Europe, brilliantly adapted the film from a pulpy novel, won Best Director at Cannes, met his future wife at the festival and provided the blueprint for heist films ever since. He did okay, n'cest pas?

Okay, if those have inspired you, meet me at the old abandoned warehouse to discuss a job I might have for you. *taps nose* Just one last job and we'll be home free, promise! Just don't mention it to anyone or post it on the Internet or anything stupid like that.

Coming-of-Age School Double Bill

With pupils across the country panicking about exam results, what better time to check out a couple of school-based teen films that sympathise with their plight. Only with much better looking pupils.

In The Edge of Seventeen (Kelly Fremon Craig, 2016) high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) is a bit miffed when her cooler, more popular older brother starts dating her best friend. Feeling increasingly isolated, she lashes out at those around her, before learning a few truths about herself and her life. As 'nobody understands me' teen fare, this doesn't do much with a tried-and-tested formula - unrequited crushes, accidental texts, awkward romance, uncomfortable sex and general teen angst are all present and correct. But it's well-observed, sharply-scripted and well-played by the young cast. The multi-talented Steinfeld makes for a likeable lead, equally comfortable with both the comic and dramatic elements, whilst Woody Harrelson (as a sardonic teacher) and Kyra Sedwick (as her despairing mother) give good support. It's no classic, but it's a sweet and enjoyable film - it did make me feel old, but also glad not to be young again.
Grade: B+

Handsome Devil (John Butler, 2017) is not quite as polished a film, but it too is a nicely-observed and warm film, which has proven a hit with Irish audiences in particular. Set in a posh Irish boarding school, sensitive loner Ned (Fionn O'Shea) is bullied for not being a rugby-loving lad like the rest of the school. He is aghast when he is forced to share a room with new student and talented rugby player Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), but soon finds there's more to Conor than meets the eye. As above, this runs along reasonably predictable plot-lines, but the performances (including Andrew Scott as inspiring teacher) help it along to a feel-good ending. The voiceover framing device was a bit clumsy and it could have perhaps been a little sharper in tackling the central issues, but it's worth a try. Try? Rugby? SeewhatIdidthere? That, my friends, is why I was so popular at school.
Grade: B

So to all students struggling with results/parents/friends/love/exams/relationships/all of the above, watch these and realise you are not alone. Then go and get drunk*

*only joking.

War for the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2017)

What's it about? Caesar the smart chimp (Andy Serkis) only want to live in peace with his fellow apes, but a bunch of pesky humans, who have survived the Simian Flu which virtually wiped out humankind, forces him to fight back. If you need a refresher, check out my reviews of Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

Is it any good? A satisfying conclusion to the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, which again succeeds by placing characters we can root for in crowd-pleasing scenarios to rousing effect. This time round, we get the furry Spartacus theme of the first two films mashed into a Vietnam war movie (primarily Apocalypse Now), with a little bit of The Great Escape mixed in for good luck. Once again, the motion capture special effects is just astoundingly good - watching an orang-utan and a chimp discuss the morals of war has never seemed so convincing - and this helps invest us in the fates of the various apes. On villain duties, Woody Harrelson has great fun impersonating Colonel Kurtz as he barrels from shouty scenery-chewing to quieter moment of angst, which includes a nice father-son theme running through proceedings which demonstrates a bit of thought has gone into how it plays out. I could have done without the comic relief of Bad Ape, which jarred somewhat with the rest of the film, and there's the usual implausible developments which go with blockbuster territory. But for the most part, this is engaging, enjoyable stuff.

Anything else I should know? People smarter and more dedicated than me have of course written elsewhere about all the nods and easter eggs to the original Planet of the Apes franchise. If you have nothing else to do, you can read about them here. I'm off to watch the football.

What does the Fonz think? Ape-pocalypse Now. Bet no-one else has thought of that.