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Movie Review: “Baby Driver”

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In the serious comedies of writer-director Edgar Wright, genre is putty, and he loves confounding us with the shapes he creates. As he proved in his breakthrough—and still probably his best film, though I have doubts as I type this—“Shaun of the Dead,” few contemporary directors can shift styles as fluidly, suddenly and completely as Wright. “Shaun” began as a deadpan zombie parody and became a frightening zombie horror film, full stop.

“Baby Driver,” his imperfect but intensely likable new feature, maintains a similar generic freedom as it skids from too-cool action-comedy to poignant character study to bombastic thriller to outlaw romance, all of it anchored by a carefully curated soundtrack. Because above all of these categories, “Baby Driver” is most transcendently a music movie, as cultish and precise in its pop selections as Wright’s “Scott Pilgrim Versus the World.”

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In “Baby Driver,” it’s Ansel Elgort versus the world. The millennial heartthrob plays Baby, who, thanks to a traumatic backstory, drives getaway cars for Doc, a strong-arming Atlanta crime boss expertly (and effortlessly) played by Kevin Spacey. Like the laconic wheelmen of cinema’s past—Ryan O’Neal in “The Driver,” Ryan Gosling in “Drive”—Baby doesn’t say much, partly because he’s constantly listening to music through earbuds and a collection of mood-tailored iPods.

Music is both his trump card and crutch, his salve and escape. Baby has had permanent tinnitus since suffering a tragic car accident as a child, and the tunes block out the tones. He’s a driver of superhuman skill and dexterity, as the movie’s thrilling opening sequence reveals, but he’s also a little OCD and a little Asperger’s-y, refusing to touch the accelerator until the right song is cued up just so. This irks the traditional, heavily tatted and frankly one-dimensional baddies that pull off Doc’s crimes—Jamie Foxx’s “Bats,” Jon Hamm’s “Buddy”—and it’s only a matter of time until the morally compromised Baby winds up on the wrong side of their gun barrels.

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The final third of “Baby Driver” succumbs to silly action-movie overkill. But it remains a film of captivating sound, if only pedestrian fury. Everything from gunshots to windshield wipers to screeching tires moves to the rhythms emanating from Baby’s devices, and what a mix it is. We hear Beck and The Damned and The Commodores and T. Rex and Jonathan Richman and Dave Brubeck and Young MC and Queen; Simon & Garfunkel’s “Baby Driver” plays during the credits. The movie is like plugging into the most eclectic radio station in America for a couple of ear-pleasing hours.

Wright’s visuals complement his audio mastery. Whether behind the wheel of a variety of jacked cars or on foot, each urban landscape becomes an obstacle course our hero must deftly navigate, from parking garages to bustling streets to mall interiors, as he evades criminal psychopaths, spooked pedestrians and hopeless police officers alike. “Baby Driver” is the rare non-dance film that features a choreography credit, and it shows.

If the narrative itself leaves you a bit hollow, the dynamism of the direction and sound design are everything but. No matter what you listen to, you’ll want to buy this soundtrack.

“Baby Driver” opens today, June 28, at most area theaters.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
the banyan

Food Review: The Banyan Restaurant & Bar in Pineapple Grove

Lynn Kalber Lynn Kalber wasn’t born in Boca Raton, but she attended elementary through high school there, so she might as well have been. She’s a graduate of the University of Florida and has been in journalism most of her life, including 26 years at The Palm Beach Post. She’s written feature and food stories, […]

Lynn Kalber wasn’t born in Boca Raton, but she attended elementary through high school there, so she might as well have been. She’s a graduate of the University of Florida and has been in journalism most of her life, including 26 years at The Palm Beach Post. She’s written feature and food stories, and edited food copy among other jobs, including blogging about wine (The Swirl Girls). Her husband is writer and author Scott Eyman. They live in West Palm Beach with an assortment of cats and dogs.
Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

Review: Weezer at SunFest 2017 in West Palm Beach

Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

Rivers Cuomo, photo by Ron Elkman

See more images of SunFest Day 1 here


SunFest 2017 is officially here! Downtown West Palm Beach is closed off to traffic so that ticket holders can leisurely peruse the vendor stations, lounges, and of course, listen to live music.

On Wednesday night, Weezer headlined SunFest on the Ford Stage off Clematis Street. Paying homage to Los Angeles roots, the show started with a tape recording of Weezer’s “California Kids” playing through the speakers on a dark stage.

When the colored lights came on and the huge “W” emblem glittered onstage, lead vocalist and guitarist Rivers Cuomo was front and center in a bright orange bomber jacket, his signature black hipster glasses and his trademark green electric guitar covered in stickers.

The show’s unofficial theme comprised their greatest hits from “The Green Album,” and “The Blue Album,” with favorites from “Pinkerton,” “The Red Album” and “The White Album” thrown in for good measure. The set was a dichotomy: upbeat alternative rock melodies, lengthy guitar solos and speakers so loud they reverberated in your chest followed by mellow, indie beats and comical lyrics.

Weezer opened their 13-song set list with “Hash Pipe,” then launched swiftly into “My Name is Jonas.” After “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” fans rejoiced at the opening notes of “Pork and Beans.”

The crowd was enthusiastic throughout the show, with a notable trend of parents and their kids spanning the landscape. Fans whooped and clapped excitedly to the opening strains of “Beverly Hills,” and Cuomo appeared on stage wearing a sombrero. The tempo felt a bit quicker than the recorded version, but fans managed to sing along without any trouble.

Next, there was a smooth transition into “Dope Nose/Back to the Shack/Keep Fishin’/The Good Life/Surf Wax America.” Cuomo and his band mates Patrick Wilson (drums, backup vocals), Brian Bell (rhythm guitar, keyboard, backup vocals) and Scott Shriner (bass, backup vocals) took turns showcasing their musical talents, with drum solos, bass and electric solos and unexpected melody and tempo changes.

The mood slowed with “Island in the Sun,” only to pick up again with “King of the World.” Cuomo made another costume appearance with a gold plastic crown and red cape decorated in white fur bearing the “W” from the Weezer logo. The show closed with the slightly angsty, ever popular, “Say It Ain’t So,” and the stage went dark.

But no Weezer concert is complete without “El Scorcho” and “Buddy Holly.” After playing these two songs for the encore, Weezer thanked the crowd, made “W” signs with their hands, and  left the stage. Find the complete set list here.

Allison Lewis is the associate editor at Boca Raton Magazine and a native St. Louisan. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. In her spare time, Allison enjoys cooking, playing Ultimate frisbee, reading, traveling and watching sports.
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Review: “Baroque Brilliance,” Symphonia Boca Raton

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The Symphonia Boca Raton is back in session for its 2017 Connoisseur Concert series. The world-class chamber orchestra performed its second show at Roberts Theater in Boca on Sunday led by guest conductor Brett Karlin. He is the artistic director and conductor of the Master Chorale of South Florida.

Guest director Brett Karlin

Guest director Brett Karlin

Entitled “Baroque Brilliance,” the concert truly lived up to its name. Sunday’s concert took audiences on a listening tour of 18th century music, beginning with German/British composer George Frideric Handel.

A light, playful mood was evident during the first half of the concert. Most of the pieces offered happy, energetic notes, which kept toes tapping. Melodies were often carried from one instrument, such as the violins, to the oboe, the bassoon or the French horn.

Trumpet soloist Jeffery Kaye and vocal soprano soloist Sherezade Panthaki were harmonious throughout the entire performance. Panthaki revealed her wide vocal range and Kaye often imitated her song on trumpet. Their natural musical talents, combined with technical skill and interpretation, made Handel’s “Water Music Suite No. 2 in D Major” and a troika of arias (three movements) come alive on stage.

Soprano soloist Sherezade Panthaki

Soprano soloist Sherezade Panthaki

After a brief intermission, three additional pieces were played. Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi’s “Alma oppressa da sorte crudele” was followed by a French-style Baroque work, which translated to “The Egyptian,” but wasn’t listed in the original program. Both scores were a bit slower and heavier, which allowed the audience to spend time in thoughtful reflection.

The final arrangement was a selection from Johann Sebastian Bach called “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen.” It was organized into five movements, the first and last being most joyful. Panthaki and the violins offered a slightly mournful tone during the middle movements, which offered another opportunity for silent reflection.

Most in the audience were on their feet at the end of the performance. Jeffery Kaye led a champagne toast after the concert.

Allison Lewis is the associate editor at Boca Raton Magazine and a native St. Louisan. She earned a Bachelor of Journalism and a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Missouri in Columbia, Mo. In her spare time, Allison enjoys cooking, playing Ultimate frisbee, reading, traveling and watching sports.