SXSW2018 Coverage @hammertonail, Part 3

Part 3 of my ongoing Hammer to Nail coverage from this year’s SXSW Film Festival consists of another 8 pieces: this time it’s 5 reviews and 3 interviews. Here are links to all of them:


SXSW2018 Coverage @hammertonail, Part 2

Part 2 of my ongoing Hammer to Nail coverage from this year’s SXSW Film Festival consists of another 8 pieces: 6 reviews and 2 interviews. Here are links to all of them:


SXSW2018 Coverage @filmfesttoday and @fogoftruth

In addition to my ongoing 2018 SXSW coverage at Hammer to Nail, I also ran two items this past week about the festival on my podcast and at Film Festival Today. In the case of the former, Episode 201 – the first of our second season – featured 4 interviews with people from the following films: A Little WisdomOn Her Shoulders, Science Fair and The World Before Your Feet. In the case of the latter, I wrote a series of capsule reviews on my favorite films, art installations and VR experiences. Here are links to both pieces:


SXSW2018 Coverage @hammertonail, Part 1 (+ review of “Leaning into the Wind”)

8 days ago, Hammer to Nail started to run my coverage from this year’s SXSW Film Festival. For now, we have 7 reviews + one accompanying interview, as well as one non-SXSW film I reviewed last week:: Leaning into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy. There is plenty more to come. Here are links to all nine pieces:


Podcasts on #Oscars2018 (@RoughlySpeaking) and #SXSW2018 (@fogoftruth)

Yesterday, we posted another special bonus episode of my podcast on documentaries  – The Fog of Truth (available on iTunes, Soundcloud and Stitcher) – this past week, on the documentaries of the upcoming SXSW festival. Earlier in the week, on Monday, Linda DeLibero and I joined Dan Rodricks on his Baltimore Sun podcast, “Roughly Speaking,” to discuss the Academy Awards of the night before. Here is the link to that episode. Enjoy!

The Bouncy “Baby Driver” Speeds Marvelously Along, Occasionally Slowed by Soggy Sentiment

Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017)*

If only the entire movie were as good as its first act, Baby Driver would be a near-masterpiece of dazzling mise-en-scène and editing. Snappy, brisk and wildly inventive in its opening third, the film, from British director Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz), follows “Baby” (Ansel Elgort, The Fault in Our Stars), a getaway driver for a bank-robbing team headed by the shadowy Doc (Kevin Spacey, Elvis & Nixon). As two men and one woman make their way inside the target, Baby sits in the front seat, jamming to the tunes on his iPod. Wright cuts each shot to the sharp beats, shifting angles and frame sizes in a dizzying display of filmmaking bravura, subsequently upping the ante even more when the gangsters jump back into the vehicle, prompting one of the best car chases to make it to the screen in years (with more to come). Get ready for a wild ride, the director proclaims in bright, bold letters, and then more than delivers the goods. Later, Wright shows he can handle staging and blocking, as well as editing, when his camera pursues Baby on a single-shot pedestrian coffee run. Is it too much style, in danger of overwhelming the substance? You bet! Is it terrific fun, so you almost don’t care? I’ll see you and raise you another.

Unfortunately, this virtuosity falters midway through, when the script turns maudlin, and for a while we fear that Wright has lost his way. Fortunately, the ending sees him return to form, though the final scenes are still a bit soggy. Joining Elgort and Spacey – both excellent – in the madcap mayhem are Jamie Foxx (Django Unchained), Eiza González (El Rey Network’s From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series), Jon Hamm (AMC’s Mad Men), and Lily James (Cinderella), among others in a great supporting cast. If you like your adrenaline rush set to a catchy soundtrack (in many ways, the film feels inspired by Wright’s favorite playlist), and don’t mind the messy middle section, then this could be the film for you. Be forewarned, however, that like so many action-oriented films of today (and yesterday, to be fair), the gun violence is extreme, if cartoonish. Only you can be the judge of whether cinematic entertainment justifies the collateral damage … or not. I can guarantee that you won’t need caffeine when you leave the theater, however.

*Adapted from a capsule review I wrote for my post-SXSW coverage at Film Festival Today.

SXSW2017–Part 8 @hammertonail (5 More Reviews + 1 More Interview)

Finishing up my coverage of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival at Hammer to Nail (minus one interview, which HtN will run when the film premieres on HBO in a few weeks), here are six more pieces: 5 reviews, plus 1 interviews to accompany one of them (Mommy Dead and the Dearest is the one with the interview still pending). Here are links to my five previous SXSW 2017 posts on this blog: firstsecondthirdfourthfifthsixth and seventh. Here are links to the above-mentioned articles:


“Free Fire” Offers a Delightful Bloodbath for Sociopaths

Free Fire (Ben Wheatley, 2017)

A sublimely trippy action movie (of sorts, given that it mostly takes place in one location), Free Fire profiles a gun deal that goes very bad, very quickly. The title refers to the shooting, which starts soon after our cast of characters arrive in the deserted waterfront warehouse where money is to be exchanged for weapons. That cast includes Brie Larson (Room), Armie Hammer (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Cillian Murphy (In the Heart of the Sea) and Sharlto Copley (Hardcore Henry), among others, bedecked in outfits and hairstyles (including, for the men, facial hair) appropriate to the 1970s setting. There’s a lot of directorial flash (beyond that from gunfire) on display here, and Ben Wheatley (High-Rise) keeps things moving in a marvelously kinetic way that belies the static setting. If ultimately there is not a lot of there there – beyond the unspoken mantra that violence begets violence, etc. – it almost doesn’t matter, since Wheatley tells his story in a frenzy of panache that leads us to laugh at the sadistic excess as each bullet (and there are so many) hits its mark. In many was a nihilistic tour de force, it’s probably not for everyone, but it’s mostly good fun for those who like their carnage with a dash of wit.

We know we’re in the hands of a master stylist in the very first full scene, one of the few that takes place outside. As the petty criminals bicker, Hammer (I’ll be honest, I don’t remember the character names and I don’t care), emerges from the distant shadows, a well-dressed man with wide lapels and a bushy beard, slowly approaching the group. It’s the kind of relaxed saunter he should have perfected in the fiasco that was 2013’s dismal The Lone Ranger. Here he’s all business, ignoring the unsettling sleaze of his clients as best he can, determined to take his cash and go. That is not to be. Murphy heads up the team, such as they are, of purchasers – members of the Irish Republican Army, it seems – with Larson as the go-between. Ostensibly in league with Hammer, hothead Copley cannot keep his temper from flaring at every insult, which leads to mayhem, and the resultant “free fire.” The subtitle should be “what happens when stupid people get their hands on guns.” Wheatley knows a thing or two about camera movement, production design and editing, and so whatever the occasional inanity (which may be the point) of what plot there is, he whips us through the chaos as if we, ourselves, are the bullets.

Beyond Hammer, Larson, Murphy and Copley – all excellent (and Copley has more than annoyed me before, so this is a nice change) – the rest of the large ensemble more than hold their own. I did not much care for Wheatley’s High Rise, which seemed to take itself too seriously, overwhelming the director’s playful mise-en-scène with heavy messaging. There are no such issues in Free Fire, which offers delightful anarchy in lieu of deeper substance, thereby actually saying a thing or two of weight. Blood, guts and brains flying through the air have rarely offered such visceral joy and laughter. The motley crew more than deserves what it gets, and if you can stomach the bloodbath, you, O Sociopathic Cinephile, will get what you deserve.

SXSW2017–Part 7 @hammertonail (3 More Reviews + 4 More Interviews)

Continuing my coverage of the 2017 SXSW Film Festival at Hammer to Nail, here are seven more pieces: 3 reviews, plus 4 interviews to accompany them (2 interviews for one of the movies, my favorite of the festival, Easy Living). Still others have already been posted on the site, but I continue to only post reviews (where I have also conducted interviews) after their accompanying interviews have been posted. More to follow (for a little longer). Here are links to my five previous SXSW 2017 posts on this blog: firstsecondthirdfourthfifth and sixth. Here are links to the above-mentioned articles: