On DVD & Blu-Ray: October 10, 2017

On the DVD for Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace there was an extended making-of feature titled "The Beginning" and in it George Lucas talked about his screenwriting process. At the tender age of twelve, when I first caught a glimpse of the film business via this featurette, I was not only enraptured in all that this world contained, but I was also struck by something the writer/director said concerning his action scenes. Lucas commented that rather than having a detailed description of the lightsaber battle he desired to create on screen it would simply say, “they fight,” on the page. This always struck me as odd considering the amount of planning that would seemingly have to go into such an involved sequence. It was too easy. I could understood Lucas’ idea of leaving the choreography and blocking to professionals who could better bring to life the style and aura of the battle he imagined, but to not give even an indication of what might have been in his brain always seemed a strange decision even if there would be countless meetings about it before the start of production. Even if it proved to be nothing more than a place to preserve those original ideas and remind himself, if no one else, of what inspired the sequence in the first place it would at least be that. This isn’t to say such an approach doesn’t work as I still believe that final lightsaber battle in The Phantom Menace to be the best the series has ever produced, but I bring this up to say that I’m pretty sure writer and director Edgar Wright didn’t simply insert, “they drive,” when he was penning the screenplay for his latest, Baby Driver. Rather, it would seem Wright, who is known for his ferocious energy and encouragement of innovative editing techniques, put on the paper every detail of what he wanted to happen in his action sequences as not only do they present a personality trait of the titular Baby as played by Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars), but they too are choreographed both in direction and motion. Motion meaning they not only hit the beats of an action sequence, but the beats of the soundtrack Wright has written the film to and integrated so intricately it would be impossible not to describe how exactly they went down if he wanted anyone else outside himself to understand his vision. This is all to say that Baby Driver is yet another unique and wholly original creative endeavor from a filmmaker who not only continues to push himself to come up with different ways to bring our similarly diverse world to the screen, but who captures an essence of cool in his work that we all aspire to have. Wright crafts the ideal out of situations that are not and Baby Driver is no exception to the standard he holds himself, and movies in general, to. Full review here. B+

When it comes to Sofia Coppola I tend to be indifferent; both towards viewing her films and, when I do see them, in my response to them. Granted, I need to re-visit many of her works that were released and that I saw when I was likely too young to comprehend what they were aiming for or even discussing, but even as I've grown, expanded my pool of cinematic knowledge, and have been very much excited to see her newer releases a la The Bling Ring (which, admittedly, is likely her worst effort) I was disappointed by the lack of any real vision or any signature voice in her films. That changes with The Beguiled. The Beguiled has made me more anxious to go back and experience The Virgin Suicides and Lost in Translation again while prompting me to finally make an effort to see Marie Antoinette and Somewhere. The Beguiled is a game-changer of sorts because it brings Coppola onto a plane where she is not only indulging in the type of cinema she finds comfort in creating, but because it simultaneously provides a large entertainment factor. It's deliciously enjoyable in a way that feels fresh to this work specifically. Though I haven't the authority to compare and contrast Coppola's features with one another for, as I've mentioned, some I haven't seen at all and others I haven't seen in quite some time, but by a general gut feeling The Beguiled feels like the kind of jump-start Coppola's career needed to once again find inspiration. Everything about the film creates a sense of restraint around what is a boiling pot of truths and temptations just waiting to be acted upon. Coppola creates this potboiler effect by capturing the musky air of 1864 in visuals that elicit the season's soft southern sunlight and the lack of any bulbs whatsoever. Candlelight provides the majority of our illumination here and it is the glow, the aura of these yellow-tinged flames, that underscore that air of courtesy that is all too often rendered just that by the bluntness with which our characters interact with one another. A gorgeous interpretation of the way in which people can read others based on their circumstance and furthermore, a fascinating study on the ways in which you sometimes can't-the true motivations of one or several never revealing themselves leaving any action taken to be forever contemplated. A million ideas about currently relevant social issues could make their way into one's interpretation of The Beguiled, but the truth of the matter is that it is very simply a smoldering tale of intuition and war. Full review here. A-

It's a sad day when one of your comedic icons who you grew up watching seemingly puts the nail in their proverbial comedy coffin, but that seems to be where we're at with Will Ferrel's career. Ferrell needs another Adam McKay collaboration and stat. After a rather stale streak post-Anchorman 2 (which I loved) that has included Get Hard, Daddy's Home, and Zoolander 2 I was personally hoping for something of a turn in what would be Ferrell's first R-rated comedy since Get Hard which also happens to be the directorial debut of Andrew Jay Cohen who has written or co-written the screenplays for both Neighbors films as well as last summer's rather surprising Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Needless to say, Cohen and writing partner Brendan O'Brien have crafted a premise that is a perfect jumping off point for a Will Ferrell comedy, but it's pretty clear from the get-go that this is going to be one of those comedies that falls into the cheaper-feeling, amateur hour-type category. The House was never going to reach the intelligence levels of Ferrell's work with McKay, but it isn't able to even touch something like Blades of Glory which too felt cheap, no doubt, but was so consistently outrageous that it held itself up. Rather, The House is a movie that would have been a hotly-anticipated comedy five to eight years ago as it is the first time Ferrell has been paired with the ever-endearing Amy Poehler, but as things stand today there are seemingly no other marquee movie stars left besides *maybe* Kevin Hart, but even he has to be in the right vehicle for the box office to reward him. Ferrell is the last of a nearly dead breed and you can see the wear on his exterior as he sleepwalks his way through The House. It's not only a little sad to behold, but disappointing in that I've previously always looked forward to a Will Ferrell comedy and even if no one else in the world might understand why-I was still excited for The House in hopes that Cohen might offer a new voice in the comedy world; someone who was hungry to jump start what has felt like an unusually stale output from the likes of Ferrell and his normal co-horts over the past few years, but instead of reinvigorating anything Cohen has made a film that fits snugly between the letdowns that have been Ferrell's last few films. Full review here. D

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