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Reviews of Baby Driver, great fun, The Big Sick, charming rom com and Despicable Me 3 noisy animation

Also war’s real victims in Nowhere to Run, sexual unease for The Beguiled and mortality hovering over The Hero

Hope you have a happy Canada’s 150th and notice what The Cinematheque has for you. A whole week of free Canadian movies, starting appropriately enough on Saturday, July 1.

They’re among Canada’s best ever, including the well-known classics like Mon Oncle Antoine, Going Down the Road and The Sweet Hereafter. Also lesser-known titles like 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, Jesus of Montreal and Dead Ringers (by Cronenberg).  Mommy, one of Xavier Dolan’s best is playing as well as arcane oddities like Leolo and Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg.

You can find more about these, several others and some accompanying shorts, and how to get tickets at this website: http://www.thecinematheque.ca/

 The regular new arrivals are these:

Baby Driver: 4 stars

The Big Sick:  4

Despicable Me 3:  2 ½

Nowhere to Hide:   4 ½

The Hero:  3

The Beguiled:  2 ½

The House:  not made available for review

BABY DRIVER: The title doesn’t begin to set you right about what this film is or the pleasures there are in watching it. They’re immense, by the way.

 

Baby is just a nickname for a teenager (Ansel Elgort) forced to work as a getaway driver in a series of bank heists. That’s to pay off a debt to a crime boss (Kevin Spacey) whose car he once stole.

The gang he drives to and from the bank jobs (Jon Hamm, Jamie Foxx, Jon Bernthal, Eiza Gonzalez) all have nicknames too and in good movie fashion the plot has him coming up to that one last job. Good thing too because Baby is becoming increasingly distracted by his attraction to a server (Lily James) in a diner he frequents.

Sounds like so many other Hollywood plots and vaguely Tarantino-like at that but Edgar Wright, English but working in Atlanta this time, does so much with it to make it cool yet exciting and great fun.

It’s in the details. The robbers are eccentric in varying degrees. Two are aggressively suspicious of Baby. He’s constantly listening to music, to cover up the tinnitus bothering his ears, and experiencing flashback memories to a childhood car accident where he got it.

His driving when the police pursue is some of the most exhilarating ever put on film. It’s wild, almost cartoonish and perfectly in sync, as most of the movie is, with a killer soundtrack. It’s the classic rock Baby listens to ranging from familiar and obvious (Radar Love) to little-known (Bellbottoms).

The mood gets darker up ahead but not mean-spirited like in many American films I’ve seen. Wright with his background in comedy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc.) keeps it lighthearted as long as he can. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5

THE BIG SICK: Here’s a romantic comedy that’s truly refreshing. That’s because it’s real, although maybe a bit fictionalized. The sentiments and the main incidents are surely genuine. For that reason alone, the film works. Also the actors are endearing.

 

Kumail Nanjiani, the Pakistani-born comedian now well-known from TV’s Silicon Valley, plays himself in this recounting of how he met and courted his wife, Emily V. Gordon. They wrote the script together although she’s portrayed by Zoe Kazan.

They met when Emily made a comment during one of his stand-ups in a comedy club and he took it as heckling. Their first of many lively interchanges is about what really to call it. Two big impediments arise in their romance. First his family and tradition require he marry a Pakistani girl. Curiously every time he’s home for dinner, one drops in because she just happens to be in the neighbourhood. Those scenes are funny and Kumail will have to find the courage to assert his own way.

The bigger problem is illness. Emily develops a lung infection, has to be put into a medically-induced coma and lies near death. Her parents (Holy Hunter and Ray Romano) enter the story at that point and everybody has to confront their prejudices. The film presents it with humanity and humor. Lots of that, plus ample respect for ethnic attitudes and some sharp putdowns of actual bias. (5th Avenue) 4 out of 5 

DESPICABLE ME 3: Uh, oh. They’ve taken much of the charm out of the saga of Gru and the minions. And put in a lot more frenetic noise. The first film had loads of charm, the second and that Minions follow up had less but this one veers away in two ways. Its attempts to keep some of it in there feels more mandated than sincere. They’re also brief and overpowered by action and by sly jokes aimed at teenagers. Minions in prison? With a shower scene and a Lady Gaga send-up? Quaint and stereotypical old-time Europe? Ex-TV star bitter that his series was cancelled? The film goes off in many directions seeking out its jokes.

 

More in New Movies

A new and creepy It, perky Reese in Home Again and a contrary view of those volatile Paris suburbs

Also a fun trip with an elephant named Pop-Aye and bizarre doings in the Canadian film Blood Honey

News and notes from the VIFF look-ahead press conference

Wonderstruck, from a YA novel, is the VIFF closing film this year.
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