Film Review: Baby Driver

Since Spaced I’ve been a fan of Edgar Wright as a director and his big screen work has been of a pretty high standard, with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim Vs The World all being firm favourites of mine. Two of his hallmarks are skilled, clever editing and his use of music, and his latest effort is largely based around this.

The film follows Baby (Ansel Elgort) an extremely talented and skilled getaway driver who works for underworld figure Doc (Kevin Spacey), in order to pay back a debt incurred when he stole a car full of drugs by mistake.

Doc puts together different teams for different jobs, the only constant being Baby at the wheel, his “lucky charm”. But Baby has almost paid off his debt and having fallen for waitress Deborah (Lily James) is thinking of a life away from crime. Will it be that easy?

The music aspect comes to the fore as Baby’s ears are damaged as a child and he uses music to rid him of distractions and also to perfectly time his runs. This means that the car chases are all set to music and turns this into a kind of action musical. The perfectly choreographed chaos is glorious and great fun.

The movie has its roots in genre movies and this is shown in the dialogue which for me called to mind the unnatural cool back and forth of old action movies. The film is extremely stylised in all aspects, but it works in its favour and makes it stand out. 

There’s no great depth here, and it’s a case of style over substance, but what style. And it never presents itself as anything other than a fun thrill ride. And there’s something charming about the light tone and joyous execution.

Also Elgort is likeable as the lead, winning you over with his cheery energy and almost naive, dreamy way of moving through life.

The supporting players are fine across the board, with Spacey downplaying Doc throughout. There’s something decidely everyday and unflashy about his performance, and it’s testimony to his skill that Spacey still manages to convey a quiet menace and command the screen alongside flashier performances.

These include Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx. Foxx plays Bats, a loud, dangerous figure with a leaning toward violence and fraying mental stability. Hamm is the suave Buddy, who bonds with Baby over Queen and who has a cool swagger about him.

The plot is fairly simple and familiar, but unfolds well and presented with flair. Hugely entertaining, bursting with action and powered by some cracking tunes this is a step away from Wright’s comedy roots but is an accomplished action movie.

One of the most fun, flashy films of the year.

8/5.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Advertisements

Walt Disney World: Animal Kingdom Top 5

Much as we enjoyed Animal Kingdom, it was definitely my least favourite of the parks. Given how much I loved Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom this isn’t harsh criticism.

It’s just that I left both of those parks with a list of things I still wanted to do, whereas here it felt like I got everything out of it in one day.

I loved the wildlife aspect, but Pandora was a dud. Anyway, here’s the top five:

5. Feast of the Lion King

A fun show featuring animatronic characters alongside dancers, acrobats and Timon. The performers work the crowd well and it’s fun and vibrant.

4. Finding Nemo: The Musical 

A clever show which sees performers use large puppets of the characters to provide a condensed, musical version of the story. Fun but a little lightweight. Also don’t take little kids as the death of Nemo’s mother and siblings broke a few younger audience members.

3. Kali River Rapids

Fast paced river ride with fast turns and drops. You will get wet but this is very much part of the fun and it packs in plenty of thrills. Very entertaining.

2. Rivers of Light

Animal Kingdom’s nightly firework show this works off the theme of light, water and life. Using boats, lights and projections this was visually striking and the theme of how all life is connected is cool. The skill, artistry and technology on show are admirable and it’s wonderful.

1. Kilimanjaro Safari

As a nature lover the safari was a big draw for me and it didn’t disappoint. The reserve is set out in a clever way which provides the animals with plenty of space. The bumpy ride adds to the atmosphere and the guides provide interesting and entertaining commentary.

There are wonderful animals to see and for a Brit it’s nice to see the animals of Africa basking in the sun and not sulking in drizzle. The kids aboard were fascinated and anything that gets children into loving nature and conservation is a good thing.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Walt Disney World: Meeting Characters

I have a friend who went to Walt Disney World and refused to have pictures with the characters. I guess they saw it as childish or lame.

I think they were wrong. Meeting the characters is a lot of fun.

Sure, I felt a little odd and self conscious at first, but like the whole Disney experience it goes a lot better if you just throw yourself into it all. Don’t try and resist or act cool, just go with it and let the Disney atmosphere sweep you along. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun. 

For me the easiest moment to go with it came when my inner child came rushing to the surface. Why? Because I met the towering galactic hero that is Chewbacca.

We were waiting in line and next up when Chewie came around the corner to greet us. In that moment I didn’t think about the fact it was a staff member, I just was overjoyed to be face to face with a character from one of my favourite movies. Look at the photo below, look how childishly happy I am. 

There were other great moments in meeting the characters from Tigger jumping on me as I walked through Magic Kingdom to Peter Pan consoling me into having been tricked into marriage and growing up. Also there was the knowledge that our nephew back home had been amazed to see photos of his aunt and uncle with Mickey Mouse.

I really wanted to meet Stitch, one of my all time favourites, but was told he probably wasn’t going to be about. So, when we found him a few days later I was stoked to add him to my photo album.

I’ll admit that I found it easier with the masked characters than those without (e.g. the Princesses) but they were all magnificent and fun. I got really into meeting as many as possible, and seeing how great they were with guests was heartwarming.

So if you go to Disney do yourself a favour, get an autograph book and go meet these iconic characters.

Let out your inner child, your outer adult will enjoy it just as much. 

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Walt Disney World: Magic Kingdom Top 5

WOM favours Hollywood Studios but for me this is the best of the parks. It’s got the iconic castle, a variety of different themed areas and more rides. It even has a section devoted to my favourite Disney movie Tangled.

With so much here narrowing down a top five was tough, so here are a few honourable mentions: The Muppets’ Great Moments From History show, Journey of the Little Mermaid and the Monsters Inc. Laugh Floor.

And now the top 5:

5. Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin

Similar to the Toy Story games at Hollywood Studios this sees you riding an armed cart through various stages trying to hit targets. The difference here being that there are no 3D screens, just a laser pointer. It made it more challenging but I still managed to beat WOM twice and max out the scoreboard.

4. Pirates of the Caribbean

An old ride but with new updates and appearances from Jack Sparrow, means it continues to appeal. It’s surprisingly dark with scenes of pirate debauchery and one where they auction off female prisoners as “wives”. That’s probably part of the appeal and what sets it apart from most of the park which is bright and happy.

3. Jungle Cruise

A boat ride in a jungle setting with animatronic characters this was elevated by our guide, who delivered a stream of cheesy gags, puns and one liners, all delivered in wonderful deadpan. 

2. Festival of Fantasy parade

All the characters appear aboard some fantastic floats. The cheerful vibe is infectious and it’s hard not to become a big kid and return the waves of the characters. Simply joyous. 

1. Haunted Mansion

The best ghost train ride I’ve ever been on, thanks to some great effects and delightfully creepy design and flourishes. It’s also helped by a sense of humour and flair reminiscent of Vincent Price or old Hammer movies. Great macabre fun, but please, don’t take little kids on it.

Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.


Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

You don’t watch a Pirates of the Caribbean movie expecting fine art, but you usually expect a fun diversion. Unfortunately, despite having rather enjoyed the fourth film the wheels come off here.

It all feels so lazy and half arsed. They’ve thrown in a bunch of familiar features- OTT stunts, some kind of magic, shifty British officers and various double crosses but it feels flat.

Javier Bardem hams it up as the villain, but the sound and fury can’t cover up that his character is woefully underwritten. He hates pirates, and wants to break the curse, but unlike Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa in the first movie he’s utterly unsympathetic. He’s shown in flashback to be a d**k and while he’s a villain you still need to care.

The design hampers the crew too, while Bardem’s hair, which bobs about as though underwater, is a nice touch the idea to have the cursed sailors miss parts but act as though they still have them is daft. A hand floating in mid air just looks silly.

The rest of the cast aren’t much better. Returning players seem to be going through the motions and the new ones are woeful. Brenton Thwaites is utterly bland as the young hero and Kaya Scodelario is given a character who clearly is meant to be a strong female but who just walks around telling everyone how smart she is.

And finally there’s Johnny Depp, who still raises a few smiles as Jack Sparrow. But is that good enough? It feels like Depp is happy to stay in his comfort zone and Jack has become a one note character, a living cartoon who like Wiley Coyote manages to walk away from whatever catastrophe befalls him.

Lazy, loud and uninvolving this seems like the right time to call it a day on the series.

Verdict: 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Walt Disney World: It’s A Small World

Having a pint of Guiness in Dublin. Placing a bet in Vegas. Taking a photo so it looks like you’re holding the Tower of Pisa up.

There are somethings that you pretty much have to do in certain places.

A trip to Walt Disney World wouldn’t be complete without a go on one of their most famous rides. The slow boat ride through various settings showing small animatronic children representing various nations. They are accompanied by the eponymous song, a cheery, upbeat number about peace and brotherhood. (The song written by the Sherman brothers who wrote the songs for Mary Poppins and The Jungle Book)

The ride is often dismissed as cheesy and a little naff. Even Disney themselves have poked fun at it.

These criticisms are fair enough, although the quaint, optimistic tone has a certain charm. But for me the major problem is that it is creepy as hell.

I should clarify that I have a minor case of pediophobia. This is the fear of dolls, and dummies. Ventriloquist dummies, old china dolls, they freak me the hell out. After clowns they are my major phobia. Clown dolls are literally the worst thing I can encounter.

WOM had warned me it might creep me out, but I put on a brave face and climbed aboard. Right off the bat there was a problem, the bench was painfully low and so my knees were up by my chin, not the most comfortable ride.

Made worse by the fact that the dolls stare at you with their dead eyes. And there are seemingly thousands of the buggers.

I tried to enjoy the ride but it’s hard to when you’re trying to keep your eye on every single doll just in case one moves from it’s cycle. Had one of them done so there would have been a Chris shaped hole in the wall and I wouldn’t have stopped running until I was out of the state. 

I was glad when the ride was over, and having unfolded my legs got off quickly, and now done I never have to do it again.

Kinda bummed they don’t actually sell the badge below as I earned it.

The dolls have slipped into my subconscious now, to haunt future dreams, while the impossibly catchy song is bound to make an appearance on the Random Mental Jukebox, so it might be that of all the things I saw and did at Disney this will be the one that stays with me the longest.

 Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.


Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios Top 5

We started our honeymoon here, at WOM’s favourite of the four Disney parks. Boasting some traditional Disney stuff alongside Star Wars and Pixar things, this park seems geared at the middle range of pre-teens to adults. There’s plenty to do here and it was good first taste of what the parks are like.

Here’s my personal top 5 things to do:

5. Toy Story Midway Madness 

You hop aboard a ghost train style carriage with a buddy, armed with a string pulled cannon each. As it whips you around you fire at 3D screens, each themed around a different Toy Story character or setting. It’s hugely entertaining and it keeps score to add a competitive aspect. WOM bested me here, leaving me vowing revenge.

4. Muppetvision 3D.

I absolutely love the Muppets and this 3D extravaganza is loaded with their trademark silliness in charms. Light on plot it basically serves as a framework for daft gags and 3D trickery. It’s great fun and the fact that several characters appear in the theatre is a nice touch. 

3. Star Tours

This is what used to be called a 4D ride, which mixes a 3D screen with actually throwing the audience about.

You get on board with C-3PO and R2-D2 and take flight. You’re pitched about as the ship takes you through various settings. As a huge Star Wars fan I loved it especially making the jump to hyperspace. 

A cool touch is that there are several storylines for the ride meaning that the two times we rode it were different adventures, encouraging you to ride again. 

2. Indiana Jones’ Epic Stunt Spectacular

A live show filled with actions and explosions, its appealing cheesiness is carried off by the great cast, who play the crowd well and inject humour. Also the big stunts are genuinely impressive.

1. Fantasmic

WOM saw this on her previous visit to WDW in 2007 and still raves about it, so expectations were high. But boy did it deliver.

A journey into Mickey’s imagination this makes great use of fireworks, fountains, lights and projections cast onto the mist. The show is about the power of imagination and sees various Disney villains try to use it against him. This sequence might be too scary for some younger kids but good prevails.

The finale which features many Disney characters is a massive crowdpleaser and the whole show is guaranteed to charm and impress all ages.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Kung Fu Trip by Benjamin Zephaniah

There are very few living poets I could name and even less I could recognise. In fact other than Zephaniah, I can’t think of any.

Having been impressed by an interview he did with Russell Howard I decided to check out some of his stuff and found this quick read. It follows him on a trip to China to train with Kung Fu masters.

Zephaniah writes with warmth and humour, a keen observer of the people he meets and captures the sense of place wonderfully. He writes with enthusiasm about his love of martial arts and what he gets from it.

The journey includes odd characters and bizarre events like the writer being mistaken for the long dead Bob Marley.

It’s a short book, but an entertaining one and a good one to read on the go. 

Verdict: Zephaniah is a charming, fun and likeable writer and this short trip is an interesting one to join him on. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Reader, I married her

As I sat in the hot tub on Sunday evening, the warm bubbles rippling around me I looked back over the previous weekend and felt a wave of relaxation wash over me. I would never need to make a seating plan or chase up RSVPs again. It was a state approaching inner peace, a world away from where I had been on Saturday morning.

Nerves hadn’t been a factor until then, as utter disillusionment with wedding planner meant I had reached a stage where I just wanted it done and over. I have no idea why Liz Taylor enjoyed doing this so much as one wedding is definitely enough.

However, having every single person asking you if you feel nervous will start fraying your nerves. Should I be nervous?

On top of a terrible night sleep (shout out to Travelodge for keeping their rooms about the same temperature as the surface of Mercury), the constant pestering ensured that the butterflies in my stomach meant I only had one helping from the all you can eat cooked breakfast. As a man who likes to get his money’s worth I usually abuse these things until I can barely move and need to be rolled out.

It being an afternoon wedding I had a few hours to kill, I managed to ease my stress levels by reading some George R. R. Martin in bed. 

This good work was undone by the fact I mixed up the time I had to leave, 13:00, with my checkout time at 12:00. This led to a rushed shower and me having to dress in my best man’s room.

I also had to sit down and write my speech, as I wasn’t sure what the groom says. It turns out to be mainly thanking people, but my groomsman Mike’s partner Samantha walked me through it.

Thankfully, we fitted it all in and got to the church at about 13:20, enough time for me to meet and greet, go for a nervous pee and get asked about my nerves another hundred times. 

As two o’clock neared the nerves were cranking up a little, but luckily Best Man Dan came through with a short, low key pep talk which calmed me.

I hate to sound sexist but I wasn’t upset or surprised as the start time passed, having been resigned to the fact that eight ladies (the artist formerly known as MWF, 6 bridesmaids and my mother-in-law) would struggle to get there on time despite having started their prep at 7ish.

I told Best Man Dan and my groomsen I was expecting them to be at least ten minutes late and I wasn’t far off.

I’d been surprised that the vicar had told me that I needed to keep eyes front as MWexF entered. I think in movies and cheesy reaction photos the groom looks and breaks down, which is what my soon to be wife wanted, having threatened to walk right back out if I didn’t cry. During the vows I would wobble, but managed to keep it together. 

I felt odd not knowing what was going on but managed to catch a few bridesmaids in the corner of my eye. And then there she was.

My bride looked beautiful, and I was glad I’d followed my Nan’s superstitious footsteps in not seeing her in the dress until the day. We exchanged nervous smiles and got going.

I was slightly distracted by a Ladybird who had hitched a ride on the bridal bouquet and then flew onto me. But after that I followed BMD’s advice and shut out everything but for the vicar and the lady at my side.

The service went smoothly, and quickly. It seemed like we were sitting to sign the register in moments. And then walking out triumphantly to The Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”.

We were married, and I was filled with relief, happiness and love. Photos were taken, confetti thrown and congratulations received.

And then to the reception. There were no dramas, no scandals, no fist fights. Sorry, reader but it was a lovely evening. Among the highlights:

  • Great speeches from the Maid of Honour and BMD. Funny, sweet and just the right level of mocking.
  • Not messing up my own speech.
  • A bouquet toss. Having agreed that it was outdated and undignified, we went and had one anyway. And I’m glad we did, as it was brilliant fun, especially as you got to see who was taking it a bit too seriously and the faces of some nervous boyfriends.
  • BMD launched a charm offensive which won him many fans and led me to let a couple of girls down gently and say that yes, I am sure he’s gay.
  • Far too much drunken dancing.
  • Seeing my Dad dance for the first time ever.
  • Man hugs and back slaps galore.
  • Being blamed for making people cry with my speech. 
  • Being called a prick by a bridesmaid who had believed us when we’d told them our first dance was going to be Rick Astley and was then caught off guard by the real one.

As for my misgivings about the suits? Well, I’m still not a fan and would rather have been more casual, but I did get a few compliments.

Luckily, before my head could swell to much a friend informed me that their dad reckons I look like Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones. No disrespect, to John Bradley but I’m sure he knows he isn’t the show’s heartthrob.

When we got back to our lodge in the wee small hours we crashed out, happy but exhausted.

Sunday was hectic, running errands, tidying up and trying to see as many of the guests as we could before they hit the road for home. Our first real down time came sitting in the hot tub, relaxing in the warmth.

“How are you feeling?” 

“Pretty damn good, Mrs Page, pretty damn good.”

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Why the anorexia hoody shouldn’t be banned

There’s been a bit of controversy this week because Amazon have been selling this hoody;

Understandably the crass, unfunny top which mocks two eating disorders has come under fire for its insensitivity and many are calling on the online giant to remove it from their site.

I can understand why many feel this way but I don’t think it should be banned. And here’s why.

It’s late September and a new university year begins. And that is who this hoody is geared to, a certain type of student.

Invariably male, they find themselves free of parental objections and flushed with student loan and overdraft. They’re online buying a Scarface poster when they see this hoody. It’s an obviously dark joke, so wearing it will show how edgy and grown up they are. They don’t shy away from jokes about eating disorders, no sir, and they’ll buy this to show the world how brave they are.

And that’s why they need to be able to buy it. Because they need to show the world, and the world needs to be shown.

Other students can see their unfunny attitudes early, before they waste more time on them. It’ll warn people to stay away, and move on to talk to someone who’s t-shirt doesn’t wear something so nastily stupid.

And if someone else sees them and thinks “funny, cool shirt” then two morons can come together and spend the next three years laughing at mean memes and playing Pro Evo leaving everyone else to enjoy their university experience.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.