A Quiet Place

April 25, 2018 by  
Filed under Movies

Given how low key John Krasinski’s remote family thriller “A Quiet Place” is, it might be a complete shocker that it was co-produced by Michael Bay. While there are flashes of explosions and explicit CGI, the best moments of the film are in its silence. Credit that to Krasinski and the cast, and the writing–that had to play all the notes you don’t hear.

The story takes place a few months after an apparent invasion of creatures that can attack by sound. Evidenced by numerous newspaper clippings (they apparently still will exist in 2020), we have figured that out, but can do nothing to stop them. Even the military gives up and says, “We can no longer protect you”. The Abbott family is couched away in the countryside of an unnamed area, away from the loud cities and condensed populations. We don’t get an “Independence Day” or “V” here. We get to see what an alien invasion would look like out in the middle of nowhere. Though touches of this were displayed by “10 Cloverfield Lane”, that was more of a “who’s the real monster?” type of creature feature.

Here, we know exactly who to root for and against. The creatures are lethal, gruesome, and horrifying. They look like a cross between a giant insect out of “The Mist”, and Venom. As said above, they hunt by sound only. Put up all the lights you want, cook all the fish you like, it won’t catch their attention. But scream, play with an electronic toy, or even run a TV with static–and, you’re dead.

When we’re introduced, the Abbotts have done a pretty good job of keeping up with how to protect themselves. Lee, the father (Krasinski), is very caring and attentive to his family of two boys and a girl–the girl, being deaf. His wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), becomes pregnant, complicating things further. But she, too, is protective and strong, and both of them appear to make a good team of husband/wife/mom/dad, to stave off the monsters. The young boy, Beau (Cade Woodward), is trying to be good, but is attracted to some things that can get you in trouble. We first spot them rummaging through an abandoned grocery store in town, finding things to provide sustenance. We also find later that they can still fish in the river nearby, and make food with grains and vegetables. But, they cannot eat on plates or with silverware. Yep, even those noises can attract the creatures.

After shopping, the family makes their way through a path, when suddenly it’s clear that Beau forgot to play by the rules. His brother Marcus (Noah Jupe) and deaf sister Regan (Millicent Simmonds, deaf in real life too), try to keep him safe. But the creatures are extremely deft, and it becomes a race for the father to try and save him.

We’re thrown about another year in, and now Evelyn is getting close to bearing a child. Lee has finished making a soundproof baby room in the basement, and also has developed a new hearing aid for Regan, who still thinks it’s a waste of time to do so. But, the hearing aid becomes an important plot point further in the story. And, it paints a good picture of Lee as a guy who really wants to do whatever he can to ensure his family survives. Obviously, a hearing aid will alert Regan to danger. Without that, she is oblivious to where the creatures are and when they can pounce on you.

What drives the stakes up for this family is how disconnected they are from civilization–Lee makes vain attempts to communicate through Morse code in his work room; and, the fact that they have a baby on the way makes it clear that no matter how quiet you can try to keep your kids, a newborn is nearly impossible. Not to mention, with no medical aid or hospital visits, it’s impossible to know when Evelyn’s going to give birth.

The writers know how to play with the sound complications as well–you can tell they must’ve drafted quite a bit of rewrites to get it accurate, because it’s completely believable in its execution. We are always on pins and needles, waiting for someone to stub their toe or run into something when they’re not looking–all the mundane things we’re vulnerable to. It’s interesting to note there’s a scene where birds are flying around, indicating that these things can’t fly obviously. They clearly would be affected by the sound of the birds, but they can’t kill them. Just a nice little touch added.

Krasinski’s direction is pitch perfect, always building tension and giving us white knuckles. The performances are outstanding; but probably the best is Blunt’s because of what she has to endure while trying to be quiet, but also carrying a human being inside her and protecting him when he’s born. Simmonds also does a great job of being very aware for someone who can’t hear. And it’s also nice to see that the whole family can speak in sign language, clearly showing how much they don’t consider Regan a handicap or a burden. They’re a loving family and we are fully invested emotionally in them.

And it is an emotional experience watching this film as much as it is visceral, and thrilling. The whole film works, throughout, never a dull moment, and never a moment where we’re waiting for that other shoe to drop. And once it does, and we’re seeing the creatures in full, it’s pretty terrifying.

My rating: :D

Looper

October 7, 2012 by  
Filed under Movies

Typically I get a very uncomfortable feeling whenever I see “time travel” being advertised in a sci-fi film. Time travel is one of the great deus ex machinas that just permeate the sci-fi genre and has had mixed results. Sometimes you get a good yarn like “Back to the Future” or a silly but smart little ditty like “FAQ About Time Travel”; sometimes you get a pretentious laborious bore like “Primer”. In “Looper”, Rian Johnson tries his best to not focus on time travel as much as characters. Much like what he did in his brilliant film “Brick”, Johnson balances character study with high concept plot devices.

It works enough in “Looper” overall, although I must admit the first act of this film is very dizzying and in some ways, downright sloppy. The film revolves around a story about time traveling being outlawed in the year 2074 but there is a crime syndicate that utilizes what are known as “loopers” to assassinate†any target of the crime bosses (sent back to the past) and have cases of silver strapped to their backs. Our hero, Joe (played marvelously by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is one of these loopers. In rare instances, you are going to come face to face with your old self and will have to kill yourself, ultimately. This is known as “closing a loop”. A futuristic megalomaniac known as the Rainmaker is trying to close all loops; so Joe’s older self (Bruce Willis) tries to warn Younger Joe and tell him he can change their paths if he can kill the Rainmaker when he’s still a boy. It leads Younger Joe to a farm in which a woman named Sara (Emily Blunt) is protecting her son (Pierce Gagnon, in a role that should receive Oscar attention if there’s any justice in the world). The three of them actually form a unique bond, and this is where the strength of the film lies.

But it takes a very, very long time to get to this farm, and that is the biggest weakness in the film. This is not a film that stresses time travel; and yet, there is way too much exposition in the beginning of the narrative that makes you think there will be some sort of reveal or twist at the end that never comes. Instead, we do get a very deeply involved three way plot between the before-Rainmaker Cid, Joe, and Sara. I feel like if the film was simply these three on the farm most of the movie, it would’ve been stronger. There are so many ancillary characters that don’t lead anywhere and a few red herrings that almost seem like they would’ve been weeded out after a table draft of the shooting script. It doesn’t necessarily take away from the overall enjoyment of the film, but it does make it seem longer than it probably should.

Johnson didn’t seem to have these pacing problems when making “Brick”. Perhaps he was a bit too ambitious with this film. It still works overall, and it’s still dazzling at times, and completely enthralling as a thriller. It just buckles under its overly complicated storyline and sometimes gets weighed down too much by exposition. I feel as though if this film were tighter, it would’ve been close to a masterpiece.

I can accept it as a fine sci-fi thriller with some great character scenes that are so rare in sci-fi films, or mainstream films in general, and recommend it based on the simple fact that it does deliver when it needs to.

My rating: :-)

The Wolf Man

February 15, 2010 by  
Filed under Featured Content, Movies

Out of all the movie monsters we’ve been subjected to throughout the history of Hollywood, I still think the wolf man is one of the most haunting and frightening, and engaging. There’s something mysterious and horrifying about a wolf man for some reason. Lon Chaney, Jr. perfected the look and feel of what a wolf man would have to suffer and live through back in the 1941 film. In this day and age, with the advent of CGI, the question would be: can you have a synthetic wolf man FEEL real?

I think back to the two “Hulk” movies that were made in the past decade. It’s practically the same story, and both borrow from “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” anyway. The problem with both movies, though less of a problem in the latter film, was that the Hulk wasn’t played by a person. It was a CGI construction. While the second film presented a more realistic and poignant version of the Hulk, you could still tell it was computer animation, and not a person (“Avatar” suffered from this flaw, as well). I was afraid that this film would present the same issue.

However, the only time that the wolf man is all CGI is when he’s bounding around on all fours, which does look unrealistic. But sometimes you do have to ask yourself: am I really of the knowledge of how fast a wolf man can travel? Do I know any wolf men? Am I a wolf man?

CGI is also used during the transformation scenes–but they look great. I still think that the best transformation scene of any werewolf film occurred in “An American Werewolf in London”, but this one passes as well.

As for the story, it’s fairly run of the mill. It borrows a bit of the original story from the 1941 film, but there’s one little twist that’s different. You see it coming a mile away, though, so it’s not really all that effective. It involves a man, Lawrence Talbot (played by Benicio Del Toro) who returns to London after learning of his brother’s death (whom he only knew as a child) and meets his beautiful fiance, Gwen (Emily Blunt). Lawrence visits his father (Anthony Hopkins) who still lives in the castle that he raised the boys in. As the story progresses, details about his brother’s death (and his mother’s years prior) start to unfold and Lawrence’s life becomes ultimately more complicated when he is bitten by a werewolf one evening.

The performances by all four leads – Del Toro, Hopkins, Blunt, and Hugo Weaving as an inspector from Scotland Yard, are all top class. Hopkins just revels in seeing his son suffer, and Del Toro’s expression never strays from anguish and despair.

This film bounced around release dates for a while, and was pushed back several times. Typically this means the movie will be rubbish. But in this case, I still think it’s a solid film even if the character development is lacking and the relationship between Gwen and Lawrence is contrived (they share one moment skipping rocks and suddenly they’re in love)–the film still works. And the wolf man design is pretty terrifying. It’s loyal to the original design, and doesn’t look cartoonish.

It’s interesting that it was released on Valentine’s Day weekend. In a strange way, I guess you could call this a romantic movie.

Werewolves can be sexy too, no? Why do vampires get all the fun?

My rating: :-)