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On this week's illegal-payoff-free weekly Independent comics page: The K Chronicles throws out the "few bad apples" argument; This Modern World talks abortion prevention; Jen Sorenson ponders climate-change dystopia; Apoca Clips chats with Kevin Spacey about his new film's actual, real opening-day haul; and Red Meat goes to pick up the kid from camp.

Published in Comics

On this week's unseasonably cool weekly Independent comics page: This Modern World explores Donald Trump's crisis-management system; Jen Sorenson serves the 1 percent; The K Chronicles reminds us about the self-shooting gun; Apoca Clips gives Kevin Spacey a trim; and Red Meat spends the night in the tree house.

Published in Comics

Geeks like me have been bitching about director Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man exodus for several years now. Wright was hard at work on Ant-Man for the better part of a decade, but left abruptly during production due to “creative differences.”

My initial reaction to that news was: “Farts!”

We wound up getting an OK Ant-Man from director Peyton Reed, while Wright announced his next project would be a car-chase movie, written by himself. The final product is Baby Driver, starring Ansel Elgort as a getaway driver with tinnitus—and it truly is a great time.

It’s a nice antidote to The Fate of the Furious, a movie that made me never want to see a car-chase movie again. The Baby Driver soundtrack is one of the year’s best, and the guy in the title role is a major star in the making.

Elgort plays Baby; we see him in the film’s opening sequence driving the getaway car for a robbery, a kinetic chase choreographed to the great Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms.” The scene snaps with a colorful energy that’s been missing from car-chase films of late.

The best car-chase movie in recent years, Drive, also featured a lonely driver and great vroom-vroom scenes, but the soundtrack and look for that film were more meditative and hazy. (I’m not complaining; it worked beautifully.) Baby Driver opts for a more clear-eyed, zippy approach, and it pays off.

Baby winds up on various crews run by a criminal kingpin played by Kevin Spacey, here reliving the angrier portion of his Glengarry Glen Ross role. Baby owes the man, and he has to drive until he pays him off—at least that’s what he thinks the deal is.

The chases go off with precision editing, and are filmed in a way that makes you feel like you are in the car. The soundtrack, featuring music ranging from Simon and Garfunkel to Focus to Queen, perfectly complements the scenes.

The supporting cast includes Lily James, who enchants as Baby’s love interest, diner-waitress Debora. (Cue the Beck song.) Jon Hamm gets a chance to go psycho as Buddy, a role that is deceptively laid back until Baby flips his switch. Jamie Foxx has a killer turn as Bats, the hothead of the crew who is equal parts smart and paranoid maniac. In one of the year’s great cameos, the one and only Paul Williams (the man who penned The Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection”!) shows up as a gun dealer. I’m a child of the ’70s, and I love that little guy!

Wright has called the movie an homage to the likes of Reservoir Dogs, Heat and The Blues Brothers. He also cites Point Break, an influence that is evident in the use of Halloween masks during heists, and the presence of Flea as one of the robbers. In a different sort of homage, Elgort sports a jacket that has a Han Solo look to it—perhaps a nod to the fact that he was in the running for the role of young Han Solo last year.

If you plan on seeing Baby Driver in theaters, make sure that theater has a premium sound system. The one I saw it in had sound that was a little too muddy and soft. There was no bass in my theater. I was a little sad.

The summer movie season had stalled out a bit after that Transformers fiasco, but Baby Driver gets things back on track. Does this movie make up for the loss of Wright on Ant-Man? Nah; I’m still going to bitch about that. But it is a nice addition to the Wright movie canon, and proof that the guy can do no wrong.

Baby Driver is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

There’s a truly weird story behind the real picture of Elvis Presley shaking Richard Nixon’s hand in the Oval Office—and director Liza Johnson does a funny job of telling it.

One morning in December 1970, Elvis (Michael Shannon) showed up, uninvited, on the White House lawn seeking a meeting with the president. Elvis was determined to become some sort of undercover narcotics agent—prepared to bust fellow rock stars for drugs and make the entertainment world a safer place. Nixon (Kevin Spacey) begrudgingly let him in, because his kid wanted an autograph.

It’s impossible to say how much of this movie is really factual, but Spacey is awesome as Nixon, while Shannon makes for a nutty, soft-spoken Elvis. The two are great in their scenes together, and the movie works as a biography for both figures. They give the icons some nice dimension within the movie’s 86-minute running time.

Special Features: There’s an audio commentary with the director and producer Jerry Schilling, a friend of Elvis’ who was on the trip to Washington, D.C. with him.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing

While the first Horrible Bosses got by on the charms of its three main stars, the second one falls a bit short.

Nick (Jason Bateman), Kurt (Jason Sudeikis) and Dale (Charlie Day) have decided to go into business for themselves after the events of the first film. They wind up on TV pitching a stupid idea called the Shower Buddy, where they are seen by Rex (Chris Pine), the son of billionaire businessman Bert Hanson (Christoph Waltz). This leads to that, and the boys wind up in a kidnapping scheme involving Rex trying to double-cross his dad.

The screenplay strains to bring back Jennifer Aniston as the naughty dentist and Kevin Spacey as the embittered ex-boss. It also doesn’t help that Day and Sudeikis are a bit overwrought this time out; their acts are getting a little tired.

Bateman is easily the funniest thing about this movie—effortlessly smarmy, as always. I laughed a fair amount of times, but these characters would be better-served with all-new material and a new premise. I like seeing them together, but they need a new place to play.

Horrible Bosses 2 is playing at theaters across the valley.

Published in Reviews

A good time for a good cause was the goal at the Will Powered Golf Classic, held Monday, March 3, at Palm Desert’s Bighorn Golf Club, and the Desert Smash tennis tournament, held Tuesday, March 4, at the La Quinta Resort.

The events were hosted by actor/comedian Will Ferrell and cancer survivor Craig Pollard, the founder of Cancer for College.

Players competed in a “shamble” format in the annual golfing fundraiser, which has been funding scholarships for cancer survivors since 1994. The golf tournament kicked off Cancer for College’s 2014 Desert Showdown, which continued on Tuesday, March 4, with the Desert Smash tennis tournament, as well as a concert featuring Nelly and Boyz II Men at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa.

Ferrell and Pollard were joined this year by Kevin Spacey, the two-time Academy Award-winning actor and star of the hit Netflix series House of Cards. Since 1994, Cancer for College has granted more than $2 million in college scholarships to more than 1,000 cancer survivors.

At an impromptu press conference on his way to tee-off on Monday, Ferrell touted all of the charity-centric activities included in this year’s expanded Desert Showdown. In particular, he expressed excitement about the concert at The Show, modestly called Will Ferrell’s Epically Awesome Desert Showdown Concert Extravaganza.

“I don’t think that Coachella music fest will be able to compare! And that’s a scoop, by the way,” he said.

Regarding the serious cause underlying the fun and games, Ferrell explained the perspective he and Pollard share.

“We use humor to kind of talk about cancer,” said Ferrell. “You know, it’s such a taboo subject, because people don’t want to talk about having gone through the disease, but we kind of mix it up. One of the best parts is hearing the recent scholarship recipients’ speeches, where they talk about everything they’ve gone through, and how motivated they are to make a difference.”

Moments later, just after the celebrity groupings were announced on the first tee, the crowd was told that Will Ferrell would face the No. 2-ranked tennis player in the world, Novak Djokovic, at the Desert Smash tourney on the next day.

“I’m going to be playing with my driver,” deadpanned Ferrell as he waved his golf club in the air.

On Tuesday, March 4, however, that driver was nowhere to be seen, as fans of tennis and celebrity star-gazing flocked to the La Quinta Resort’s tennis club. Desert Showdown Day 2 got under way with celebs and amateurs filling many of the back courts for short doubles matches. Comedian/actor Jon Lovitz, singer Redfoo, actor Joel McHale of Community and actor Timothy Olyphant of Justified were among the stars who participated.

In the afternoon, fans ringed the stadium to watch the featured matches. Ferrell decided serenade the crowd during his opening remarks with a flawed rendition of the Canadian national anthem. No. 2-ranked tennis pro Novak Djokovic, who was teamed with Ferrell in one of the most entertaining doubles matches, played while wearing a wig as an homage to Will Ferrell’s character Jackie Moon from the film Semi-Pro.

Also competing were Bridesmaids actress Rebel Wilson, two-time Academy Award winner Kevin Spacey, 2014 Australian Open winner Stan Wawrinka, the top-ranked doubles team of Bob and Mike Bryan, and former BNP Paribas Open winners Ana Ivanovic and Daniela Hantuchova, among others.

As play was about to begin, Will Ferrell told the crowd, “I’ve been practicing for this moment my entire life! Make sure you hydrate. I’m doing that by drinking a lot of tequila and vodka.”

The contests were frequently interrupted by impromptu fundraising auction events, the proceeds of which all went to Cancer for College. One highly successful auction was inspired by valley resident and WBO world welterweight boxing champion Timothy Bradley, who provided two ringside tickets to his upcoming bout with Manny Pacquiao. As bidding escalated rapidly, Kevin Spacey taunted his doubles opponent Ferrell to bid higher, saying, “Come on, Will! Anchorman did better than that.”

Ferrell responded by urging Spacey to pony up some of his earnings from his Netflix series House of Cards.

“Netflix only pays us in DVDs,” quipped Spacey.

It’s fair to say that a good time was had by all.

Scroll down to view a photo gallery.

Original version published at 10:45 a.m., Tuesday, March 4; updated version published at 10:15 a.m., Wednesday, March 5.

Published in Snapshot