Sunday 21 January 2018

Film review - Baby Driver: Foxx stands out amongst the cast

Baby Driver, Cert: 15A; Now showing

Revved up: From l-r, Baby (Ansel Elgort), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez ) and Buddy (Jon Hamm) in Baby Drive
Revved up: From l-r, Baby (Ansel Elgort), Bats (Jamie Foxx), Darling (Eiza Gonzalez ) and Buddy (Jon Hamm) in Baby Drive

Ever since a childhood car accident that claimed the lives of his parents, Baby (Ansel Elgort) must constantly play music on his headphones to keep his tinnitus at bay. The songs are a soundtrack to this protagonist's life that he uses as a timing rhythm for everything he does. Thus, there is rarely any let-up in Edgar Wright's super-slick heist thriller from pumped-up song numbers that are tackily synced in with bullet-fire, engine revs, even the preparation of a light snack in the kitchen. Are we watching a movie or a sequence of music videos, you wonder.

Immediately, this becomes tiresome and redundant. When Baby walks past graffiti and logos that sneakily echo the lyrics of the tune playing, you want to scream at how gimmicky and trite it is.

There is another inescapable issue with Baby Driver - Baby himself. As the gifted driver for a sophisticated bank-job team (Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Eiza Gonzalez) led by Doc (Kevin Spacey), he regularly comes across as invincible and carefree, despite his tender years and the physical and mental scarring of his orphaning. It's implied that a better life awaits him should things work out between him and Lily James's roadside-diner waitress but life seems OK as is. In a nutshell, there is not enough of a sense of vulnerability or struggle to Baby, meaning we don't really care that much what ultimately happens to him either way. This is a cardinal sin in the writing of any protagonist.

Wright is more concerned with cartoonish, linear hijinks, an achingly cool soundtrack and one or two admittedly nifty car-chase sequences. Foxx stands out among the cast as a dangerous ex-con. ★★ Hilary A White

The House

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Just as Scott and Kate (Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler) are looking forward to a summer of doting over daughter Alex (Ryan Simpkins) before she goes off to college, they find out that the fund they'd set up for her tuition has been emptied. They need to think of something fast if their pride and joy is to follow her dream to study at Berkeley.

A solution arrives via hapless chum Frank (Jason Mantzoukas) who is floundering after his wife leaves him. He feels his large empty home would be perfect as an underground casino, and a desperate Scott and Kate come to agree. If the house always wins, as they say, then they would become the house.

So ensues a badly-behaved indoor carnival of mob-movie send-ups, piles of cash and gormless buffoonery as director Andrew Jay Cohen and co-writer Brendan O'Brien go for broke with the silly stakes. Over a trim 88 minutes, a tone akin to an episode of The Simpsons is maintained, even if quite a few jokes are failing to find their targets. Just enough do, however, and when the bullseye is struck - such as during the housewife boxing matches or when they decide to teach a card counter a lesson - you may struggle to stifle a belly laugh.

Ferrell remains in the love-him-or-hate-him bracket but forms a sturdy double act beside the excellent Poehler. Completing the trio is Mantzoukas, as - and I use the word lightly - the brains of the outfit. So-so. ★★★ Hilary A White


Club Cert; Now Showing IFI

In Ireland we have had ample cause to consider both the role and treatment of whistleblowers. There is a difference between a whistleblower who reveals a wrongdoing and someone who leaks secrets. Inevitably, the line between the two will blur but this is not something that Laura Poitras discusses with the man who has become the poster boy for that blurred line, Julian Assange, co-founder of WikiLeaks.

Filming on Risk began as Assange is not put through to Hillary Clinton to warn her of the imminent leak of diplomatic cables. Although following Cablegate, Assange becomes a person of great interest to the various US agencies. Poitras films again in 2012 as Assange loses his appeal for extradition to Sweden on sexual misconduct charges and claims asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. We meet Jacob Appelbaum, WikiLeaks's tech expert. She shows him in Egypt confronting the tech companies who colluded with Mubarak before he too faces allegations of sexual misconduct. Poitras then takes several years away from the story to make the Edward Snowden doc CitizenFour that would earn her an Oscar. When she comes back to Assange in 2015 nothing much has changed for him. They still don't discuss the principles behind Wikileaks. Information is power - power as a guiding force in corrupting. They're the main issues of our time and Risk doesn't discuss them in depth. The result is an interesting but ultimately unsatisfying documentary. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Halal Daddy

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Raghdan (Nikesh Patel) has made a nice life for himself in Sligo town. Love is provided by girlfriend Maeve (rising star Sarah Bolger) and his kindly aunt and uncle (Deirdre O'Kane and Paul Tylak). Meanwhile, his two besties are always up for a smoke-fuelled jaunt down to Strandhill to hit some waves. 

A sizeable cat lands among the pigeons with the arrival from the UK of his controlling Muslim father (Art Malik). He has eyed up a run-down meat factory as the site for a new halal abattoir and he wants Raghdan to run it alongside former manager - and Maeve's old man - Martin (Colm Meaney). Very quickly, Raghdan is not only butting heads with his imposing dad but Maeve has also got the hump with him over his jealousy.

The great Mark O'Halloran pens this charming culture-clash comedy that perhaps relies a little too heavily on Meaney's frowning gaffe-laden interactions with his new Muslim boss and potential son-in-law.

The real bounty of Conor McDermottroe's film is its core cast - all of whom beam with sparkle and vigour. ★★★ Hilary A White

Despicable Me 3

Cert: G; Now showing

In the opening minutes of Despicable Me 3, two Nemo-like clownfish are blasted out of the way by cackling minions on an underwater scooter. Pixar ain't the only show in town, they might as well be saying.

Of course, we already knew that - these films and the Minions spin-off they spawned have done huge business at the box office. This suitably giddy addition maintains high standards of juvenile silliness while still providing the requisite cheeky winks for mums and dads too.

Gru (voiced by Steve Carrell) has been sacked by the Anti-Villain League after failing to capture dastardly (and 1980s-obsessed) baddie Balthazar Bratt. When his long-lost twin brother makes contact, Gru sees a way to both help fulfil his brother's villainous family aspirations while also fixing Bratt's wagon. ★★★★ Hilary A White

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