film

Review: A Quiet Place

Written by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and John Krasinski and directed by Krasinski, “A Quiet Place” is an intelligent and intimate thriller that expertly showcases Krasinski’s skill behind the camera as well as in front of it. This is Krasinski’s third time in the director’s chair when it comes to features, his first two, “Brief Interviews with Hideous Men” and “The Hollars” were both comedies with drama sprinkled in, though he also directed a few episodes of The Office. None of which suggest the talent and brilliance laying dormant within Krasinski for his third time at bat in “A Quiet Place”. I didn’t know what I was about to witness after buying my tickets to this particular showing, I had a night off from work so I looked at the showings and randomly happened upon the monster movie- some word of mouth around the internet from critics I trust seemed to suggest it would be a good time at the theater, and they weren’t wrong in the slightest. In the opening scene we’re introduced to the family Abbott in an abandoned grocery store. The parents (Krasinski and Emily Blunt) and three children all seem tense, barely making a sound as they carefully scatter about on the balls of their feet looking for supplies. They use sign language to communicate between others and through some clever use of sound editing we notice that one of the children (Millicent Simmonds) must be deaf. As they leave the store newspapers flutter in the wind as you can see the headlines read in bold letters, “IT’S SOUND!” consuming the page. I won’t divulge into details that one might consider spoiler territory, but it’s quickly established that any noise above a muted whisper is met with brutal violence from the monsters lurking just beyond sight.

5ac388737a74af1a008b45b3-750-422

This film is a masterclass in efficiently showing you everything you need to know about every member of the family and how they all interact with each other through this world changing scenario. Since there is almost no spoken dialogue in the film and few signed lines, we’re inclined to study each character’s face and body movements more than a film might normally require of its audience. The film’s world and sense of danger are exquisitely portrayed in the first half of the movie. We’re introduced to the threat outside and how very real it is, we see how they survive through careful planning and awareness of their surroundings, and we see them trying to live a normal life amidst this ever present terror. At the beginning of being seated in my theater, I was worried that the crowd might be too noisy for this film. The audience was laughing and chatting, eating and coughing all throughout the trailers- but as soon as the opening scene captured everyone’s attention with rapt bated breath, I knew I was in for a treat. This is a film where precise sound design is key, it was utilized with such perfection in order to ratchet up the suspense as much as possible at any given moment that it seemed almost cruel in it’s execution, it was almost too good!

screen-shot-2018-02-12-at-180058

What I loved most about the film was that, much like “Jaws”, the focus wasn’t on the unseen threat awaiting our characters, it was on the people at risk themselves. The monsters, or aliens, or whatever they were (it’s really unimportant as to what exactly they are) weren’t overused, though they do show themselves eventually, the simple fact that they were nearby created an unsettling atmosphere that was prevalent throughout the film’s runtime. The second half of the film is almost entirely steeped in suspense. Krasinski pulls from masters like Hitchcock here in that once things start to go off the rails for the family Abbott- there’s always another problem that exponentially increases anxiety and tension. He never lets the audience go once he’s got you, splitting up the various family members for one reason or another comes with a lot of variables and everything that can go wrong does!

a_quiet_place_still_3

After this film, I know I’ll be paying attention to whatever projects Krasinski’s working on, because this shows great potential. “A Quiet Place” is a classic thriller that’s incredibly clever on several fronts and I imagine it will be a favorite among audiences from here on out! This film may be the evolution of a master at work, only time will tell!

Final Score: a million unsaid things and several screams!

film

Review: Pacific Rim – Uprising

Written by Emily Carmichael, Kira Snyder, T.S. Nowlin, and Steven S. DeKnight and directed by DeKnight, “Pacific Rim Uprising” is the sequel to Guillermo del Toro’s initial film featuring giant robots fighting giant monsters in 2013. Uprising takes place ten years after the end of the first film and focuses on the son of Idris Elba’s Stacker Pentecost, Jake (John Boyega). As the film likes to point out on several occasions, Jake is not his father, and there’s a feeling that the screenwriters’ would like you to measure your expectations as this film is not Guillermo’s either. Which isn’t to say that the sequel isn’t fun, it has plenty of giant robot fighting action to sate the core audience, rather the film simply lacks the stylistic touches that Guillermo brought to the genre film the first time around. When the action does begin though, it is pure genre fun.

Pacific-Rim-LA-RIVOLTA

This film has a harder place to begin with than the first, how do you follow up cancelling the apocalypse after all? Set during a rebuilding post-war society, there’s less inherent drama to drum up the tension, so the focus falls to Jake and his run in with Amara Namani (Cailee Spaeny) a young upstart Jaeger engineer who’s built her own pint-sized mech. While Jake had reaped the benefits of a broken world on the black market, Amara had built something from it- illegally though. When they’re both caught and turned in, they are given a choice, recruit to the PDCC (Pan Pacific Defense Corps) or imprisonment. Once they arrive at the shatterdome the story follows some atypical Top Gun style cadet infighting with Scott Eastwood using his father’s likeness to great effect as the lead Ranger Nate Lambert (Jake’s former Jaeger co-pilot) before turning our attention to the returning characters from the first film.

Pacific-Rim-Uprising-Trailer-2-30

Gratefully, one of the best attributes of this film is that it very much lives and breathes in the world created by the first “Pacific Rim”. The quirks and peculiarities of the first are kept in place, each Jaeger still needs two pilots who need to be drift compatible in order to pilot them, the headquarters of each base the PDCC runs are still called shatterdomes, there are even a few breaches and plot points from the first film that come back in surprising- but spoilery– ways that I feel would be best discovered through a watch of Uprising itself. Speaking of twists and turns, I won’t divulge the details, but I personally found them to be delightfully weird and a fun contribution to the world of Pacific Rim as a whole.

Now, as for the downsides of the film, there’s a noticeable lack of style and atmosphere that the first film was steeped in. There was a few questionable choices throughout the story as well. While Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi), Dr. Newton “Newt” Geiszler (Charlie Day), and Dr. Hermann Gottlieb (Burn Gorman) all return in various scenes, the lead from the first film, Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam), is only mentioned once. His absence from the story is never explained whatsoever, not even a line to say that he’d died in-between films. Another equally confusing decision is the lack of use of the score, or theme, from the first film. It’s brought back for one short montage and never noted on again- which is a shame as the first one used that signature theme as often as possible and helped to craft the tone of the film. Another palpable vacancy is the sense of scale and weight that accompanied the Jaegers and Kaiju in the first film. They were gigantic, yes, but slower in movement while the angles and framing accented the towering nature of these behemoths. Uprising certainly has gigantic and thrilling action sequences, but the Jaegers here are so unrealistically nimble and graceful in their actions that immersion becomes more of an afterthought to the Power Rangers style choreographed fight sequences. My last nitpick here is of the flat lighting. Which, yes, might seem incredibly nitpicky of me, but while this provides admittedly more visual clarity during some fight scenes, it speaks to the overall theme of lacking atmosphere and the touches of artistic quality that comes from a more deft filmmaker.

merlin_135716733_21ef312b-3d76-455d-bef7-f2584c9988a6-master768

Overall I have to say I honestly really enjoyed “Pacific Rim Uprising”. It might not have everything that made the first film special, but it certainly has a lot of what works in this genre of movies- beautiful special effects and lots of visually stunning fight scenes. The film introduced some good new characters and an intriguing evolution to the mythos that I didn’t expect. You probably already know if this is a film you’d enjoy or not, but if you liked the first film, this is a solid sequel- even with a few detracting factors.

Final Score: 3 Kaiju, 4 Jaegers

film

Rant Time: Godzilla better hit the Gym to prep for Kong

The Summer of 2014’s blockbuster season opened with a bang in the form of Legendary studio’s re-imagining of the King of all monsters, “Godzilla”. The film soared to new and exciting heights for the big budget monster mash with word of mouth and generally favorable reviews helping to boost its solid earnings. As a self proclaimed lover of the giant monster sub genre of B movies I understand the love of a cheesy monster romp and I adore some of the old Gojira classics, even some Gamera flicks have won my heart in years past. However, I did not particularly love this new iteration of the famed atomic fire breathing baddie/hero/savior/destroyer.

My issues lie in the fact that the movie is incredibly slow for a towering slamfest between monolithic legends, er or at least one legend. I can handle slow movies, (there’s a special place in my heart for “The Good The Bad and The Ugly”) that’s not my personal issue, it’s that if the human melodrama had been compelling in any sense of the word then I would have been fine. The subpar, disinterested, and wooden acting from Aaron Taylor-Johnson was borderline unbearable though. He is the most useless character I have seen in a movie in a long time. He frequently mentions his character’s purpose of disarming, or arming I forget, EODs (bombs) but never once utilizes this skill and somehow gets close to some of the monsters for money shots, but that is the breadth of his character’s usefulness, getting a good shot down. It’s a real shame they wasted Bryan Cranston here as well because while he was onscreen, he was brilliant. Quite a shame. There were several outstanding moments of action that were phenomenal, but an entire movie can’t ride on “That one awesome scene”. And I will give credit where credit is due in that the visual homages to Toho’s Godzilla flicks over the decades of their work was right on the money, specifically in the colorization.

I bring all of this up because recently it was rumored, then confirmed, that Legendary studios will be utilizing their new King Kong feature as an eventual set up for another clash between cinema’s greatest monsters of all time. This is worth getting excited about if you love the genre and the B movie mayhem that flows through the vein of these movies. I certainly do! But my concern here is that if we’re going to have this film exist, then we must at least try and make it compelling when the titular beasts are not onscreen, right? If we’re taking a moment to harken back to the last Kong movie as well and compare it to this latest Godzilla flick, well, I’d have to give it to Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” as the better movie overall. It’s, simply put, a more entertaining film. and structurally I believe it is superior, especially when concerning pacing.

My point being that if this new “Godzilla VS King Kong” movie is to be any good then we have to reassess what makes a monster movie good. There will be several movies before the big showdown between the two heavyweights however so there is plenty of time to prep and train. Godzilla will be getting a sequel in which he will be taking on both the continually underestimated Mothra and the immense brutality of the space dragon known as King Ghidorah as well, that should be a blast. Kong will also be making his debut (again) in a period piece that takes place before the events of last year’s Godzilla flick, along the lines of how Captain America’s origin tale fit within the Marvel Studios universe at the time. At one point both Michael keaton and J.K. Simmons were attached to roles within this film and I am deeply saddened that they will reportedly not be in the flick if reports and rumors are to be believed. This movie can be both bombastic AND compelling if the people involved are willing to learn from their (granted they are “perceived”) mistakes and transcend the expectations of the genre to create something grand. or just fun, as long as it’s good ole escapist fun I will be sated and drunk with happiness.

In today’s world of filmmaking the threat of spectacle may be overwhelming to some, but I say there is room for all types of movies to coexist and this is one I’d gladly see right alongside Spielberg’s upcoming cold war drama “Bridge of Spies”, different stories come with different rules and expectations. Such is the rich world of cinema we find ourselves in today, we can go out and see Danny Boyle’s cold and calculating “Steve Jobs” biopic, or the next offering from Marvel Studio’s pantheon of morality tales. it’s all up to choice at this point, and the future is what we make of it. Hopefully that is a future in which I will not be groaning in the theater at the sight of Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s unmotivated face again but one where I am awash in the glory of giant fisticuffs soaring through skyscrapers with at least an ounce of acting charm thrown in for good measure.