Tag: Jon Hamm

Tag

tagIt’s hard to believe that among the homes and workplaces of ten “ordinary” men, there is a very serious and highly spirited game of tag happening. Director Jeff Tomsic has teamed up with screenwriter Mark Steilen to tell their story. 

Better known for their TV comedies, the duo have adapted for film an article written by Russell Adams in The Wall Street Journal that outlined the aforementioned group of grown men who every February enter into a month-long season of tag. The only taboo? You can’t tag the tagger—other than that, hunting season is open right across the country. 

Wary of overcooking his cast Tomsic has wisely narrowed the film’s focus to five friends; Hoagie (Ed Helms) who is the spiritual hub to the group, Randy (Jake Johnson) the drug-addled goof, Callahan (Jon Hamm) the successful businessman, and Sable (Hannibal Buress) the fragile and intellectually curious one. 

And then there’s Jerry (Jeremy Renner). He has never been tagged, much to the umbrage of the other four.  His “untouchable” status is a comical MacGuffin that provides the film with its narrative direction. However, at its heart Tag is just as concerned with exploring the bonds of their friendship. Any comedy worth its salt does more than just make you laugh and Tag does a wonderful job of hilariously endearing you to their relationships. Not just with each other, but also with Hoagie’s ultra-competitive wife (Isla Fisher) who acts as his support crew and tipping him off against an impending tag.

But the film’s real strength lies in its physical comedy and lets the reigns loose on some downright hilarious hijinks and clever slapstick moments. Yes, it’s very commercial and incredibly silly; but it’s also fun, irreverent, sometimes awkward and often cringe-worthy—the kind that’ll have you watching between your fingers. It’s normally everything I shy away from but here they’ve got the balance bang on … and right now there are not many comedies that can touch it.
 

See my reviews for the NZ Herald and NZME here.

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Baby Driver

bdLike all Edgar Wright movies, Baby Driver is a kinetically charged explosion of style. A lively thrill from start to end laced with musical sensibilities. But considering his previous work (Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, to name a couple) this should come as no surprise. He is a restless director who seemingly enjoys turning simple plot-lines into hyper-jazzed feature length films … and he does it so well.

Ansel Elgort is the eponymous Baby. A talented getaway driver forever in debt to a criminal king-pin named Doc (Kevin Spacey).  Baby suffers tinnitus, a “hum in the drum” as the po-faced Kevin Spacey describes, meaning he wears earbuds with a carefully chosen iPod playlist to drown out the constant ringing—a distraction which he finds insufferable. The iPod also provides the soundtrack to his life. He is, in a sense, living in a musical as exemplified in an early scene (that ventures unabashedly into La La Land opening sequence territory) where Baby dances down the street to Bob & Earl’s Harlem Shuffle.

Baby Driver is a fine example of a genre film owing a lot to the crime, heist, and car-chase films of yesteryear.  But its musical sensibilities are what sets it apart in which everything is cut and choreographed very sharply to Baby’s pumping iPod soundtrack. The result provides a modern-retro vibe.  Yes, iPods are now retro (*sigh* … I feel so old).

Elgort’s background in dance is a casting choice that pays off—his sense of movement to the music being vital to the entire movie.  Wright also gets solid (if somewhat predictable) performances from his supporting A-listers. It’s an ensemble cast of pretty big hitters who all seem to be enjoying themselves.  Jon Hamm stands out as a delightfully loathsome Casanova. Fox and Spacey are in fine scenery chewing form, and a twee young-love subplot comes courtesy of Lily James.

By no means perfect, Baby Driver does threaten at times to become an overcooked mess stomping heavily on well-used tropes and pumping out every cliche in the book, but thankfully Wright’s pin-sharp direction keeps things in check. He knows exactly what to do with this material and never loses sight of his audience. Baby Driver is a joy to watch and it’s clear that Wright loves making cinema. This is a pure cinema rush.

You can see my published reviews here.