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Jul 21 2017

Brief Notes on Baby Driver and Spider-Man

by Nathaniel R

I'd be remiss if I didn't publicly thank Chris Feil for the extra work he did while I was away.Such a good hire.(Send him your love andfollow him on Twitter!) Herewith 150 words each on two movies Chris already reviewed but I wanted to chime in briefly just cuz.

As some of you know I just returned from theNational Critics Institute.In one session we read a curated batch of stellar articles and we discussed in fine detail as a group what made them pop and resonate...

One wasManohla Dargis's Times review ofBaby Driver.I bring this up because everything I truly felt the need to say about this movie she already said!(This is nothing like my normal response to reading reviews).There's such verve to her language in this piece — a lithe quick-footed muscularity that is perfect for the subject at hand.Even more impressive is the incredible specificity of opinion the review conveys.You have absolutely no doubt that she thinksBaby Driveris both a) special and b) lacking but c) doesn't want to be churlish about it because Edgar Wright is such a singular talent.Same,Manohla,same.B+

We didn't need a third version of Spidey within a 15 year span but since we got it,bless Tom Holland for being so perfect for it.He's charming,believably agile,and has the right mix of teen angst and smart-ass comedy.  Bonus points for pairing him with a firecracker of a scene partner in Michael Keaton as the Vulture.Their scene together,sans costumes,is the highlight.Three cheers,too,the diverse casting and for dumping any hint of "origin story". Pity then that there's a whiff of the corporate generic.Nothing feels lived-in,not the vague high school,not the new relationship with Aunt May (wasting Marisa Tomei is a federal crime!),and certainly not the action sequences which are murkily shot and confusingly edited.With Holland at the center,we pray the sequel steps up its game in the filmmaking department to prove worthy of him.B-/C+

Further Reading
TFEFeil's review ofKong Skull Island(brand new on DVD & Blu-ray)
TFEFeil's review ofFree Fire(brand new on DVD & Blu-ray)
TFEFeil's review ofSpider-Man Homecoming
TFEFeil's review ofBaby Driver

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Reader Comments (17)

Baby Driver is terrible - doesn't even make a dent in Walter Hill's masterful 1978 vehicle,The Driver.
And Ansel Elgort's obnoxious and smug - hated him,hated the movie.

Spider-Man Homecoming is not a great movie by any means - but it did do many things right that the previous movies did wrong.
They skipped the origin story - thank fucking god!
The cast a Spider-Man who actually looked like a teenager!
Tom Holland captured the essence of the character better than Tobey and Andrew.
The plot did not involve the end of the world,which was nice - the baddies were just selling guns!
The motivation of Michael Keaton was human and relatable for once - it wasn't world domination or desctruction - he did what he did to make a good life for his family.
Spidey's friend Ned was great fun and a nice touch.
Great,exciting set pieces.

Bad things:
Laura Harrier as Liz was terrible - I applaud the diversity,but she wasn't good at all.
Not even pretty,which is weird - her having worked as a model?!

The Iron Man/Tony Stark thing featured too heavily in my opinion - I hope Spidey stands more on his own in the next movies.

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Ulrich -- Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,but saying that Laura Harrier isn't pretty just seems objectively incorrect.

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterCash

Ulrich when did you first know you hated black women?

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

I'm not on the Baby Driver train.I just found it so self consciously cool while also feeling surprisingly bland.The action scenes never sung for me - it says a lot that my favourite was the foot chase - because of the action framing and the editing.The actors didn't sell it for me,either.

Spider-Man was good enough,but people calling it the best one yet?Wow.The action scenes are so boring.

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

^Not that it dignifies an answer -
but I can say I don't think Laura Harrier's a good actress or very pretty
without "hating black women",right?

Again,tt shouldn't be necessary to defend myself but some of my favorite new(ish)
actresses are
Tessa Thompson,Zazie Beetz,Kiersey Clemons - all three lovely AND talented.

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Sorry Glenn,you came in the middle there!
My above post was of course meant for Jeremy!

July 21,2017 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

Hazily shot and confusingly edited?Maybe invest in some glasses?It's almost verbatim what you tend to write about the action sequences outside of Fury Road,but hey,you do you,of course.Just pointing out that at least two action sequences (set pieces,if we don't wanna call them 'action' outright) take place in broad daylight.

Aunt May's and Peter's scene at the Chinese restaurant I thought felt pretty lived-in,insomuch as it made me believe they weren't just playing aunt/nephew.Same with the scene right after the ferry sequence.

Again,though,to each their own.

We definitely agree that Holland is Tops Spidey,though,so there's that.

July 22,2017 | Unregistered CommenterManny

I love the new Spider-Man.IMO,Tom is the most fit to the role.And that's enuff reason why we need this reboot -- well,aside from the fact that the character has 'officially' joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

July 22,2017 | Unregistered Commentermykeskye76

Manny -- my eyes work fine.If i have the same complaints about many action movies,it's possible that Hollywood just sucks at action.They rely so much on CGI and "night"scenes -- i'm hardly the only one to make this complaint.Look around the internet,especially with DC pictures (i realize this is not a DC picture but)-- that they've forgotten important action boosting things like spatial relations,clarity in editing,rhythm and so on.

some recent movies with terrific action directing


recent movies without it


July 22,2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

the new spiderman was fun but it isn't even in the same league as the first two raimi films.The second spiderman is the best one by far!!

July 22,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJosh

I just watched TERMINATOR 2 again - it was for the 3D rerelease,but the 3D is almost nonexistent so it felt just like watching the original again on a big screen,which is great because it's absolutely brilliant action filmmaking and it boggles my mind that people could watch for (just as a for instance) and claim the action filmmaking in any Marvel/post-Nolan DC movie was of similar quality.

July 23,2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Glenn -- i've said a gazillion times if you watch any Cameron picture you can see how great action directing can be.It would be humiliating for most action movies to be paired in a double feature with any of his.Not that every movie is a masterpiece but in terms of action directing,about 99% of the current hot directors would do well to study his technique.

July 23,2017 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R


Most multiplex hacks love Cameron,and worship at his altar.But hero worship does not inform artistic integrity and technical comprehension.Were Fincher an action auteur,Cameron would have his heir.

July 23,2017 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Agreed.Cameron is a top-class action director.The clariy and the pacing and the organisation and the thrill...his sequences have it all.I'm not a massive fan of his work in general (though I do adore Aliens and super-respect both Terminators) but boy does he know how to stage action.

July 23,2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

Agreed.Cameron is a top-class action director.The clarity and the pacing and the organisation and the thrill...his sequences have it all.I'm not a massive fan of his work in general (though I do adore Aliens and super-respect both Terminators) but boy does he know how to stage action.

July 23,2017 | Unregistered CommenterEdward L.

I hated everything about the new and not improved Spider Man movie- the Raimi films are still the best

July 23,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

"Were Fincher an action auteur [...]"


July 24,2017 | Unregistered CommenterJake D

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