A Quiet Place among the Pines

A Quiet Place, or:

Don’t Make a Sound or You Might Be Dead in the Morning, or

Whisper Softly, My Dear or It Will Be Your Last Whisper, or

I am Woman, Don’t Hear Me Roar, or

Do Go Quietly Into That Good Night, or

Have I Told You How Much I Love You Lately?  No?  That’s Coz We’d All Be Dead, or

Hush Now Baby, Don’t You Cry… or You’re Really Gonna Cry, or

Silent Running II, or

Silence is Golden

or… you get the point… is full of premise holes, like the idea that people can go about their lives without ever sneezing, snoring, or coughing.  Or that an entire family walking around barefoot outside for miles and miles every day could ever happen.

A sort of cross between Alien and Don’t Breathe from a couple years back, A Quiet Place would have been a lot better had it not taken itself so seriously.  Because once you take everything so seriously, so literally, your film peels open and is exposed to the logical errors.  Had it taken the obvious path of a farce, e.g. Grindhouse movies, Fido, Teeth, Zombieland, etc., we’d be doing a lot better here.

But John Krasinski wanted to demonstrate that he can be a serious actor and filmmaker, so we don’t get to see that farce.  Only his sober non-reality.

And despite all that lead up, I can say I was largely engaged.  That it all works anyway… until the conclusion.  The movie does a good job of conveying the feeling of getting into hotter and hotter water, and the atmospherics aren’t bad.  Krasinski & Blunt provide solid performances.  But, that conclusion.  Without giving anything away, part of the conclusion I liked, and another part of it served to re-focus all the fundamental flaws of the picture.

Some movies require a suspension of disbelief.  The successful ones allow that suspension of disbelief to happen.  But when a movie is trying so hard to be hyper-realistic in all other ways, it defeats its purpose.  The trailer is good, though.  Maybe just watch the trailer.

5/10

Comparison Notes: besides the above-mentioned films, 10 Cloverfield Lane, It Comes at Night, Jurassic Park, I Spit on Your Grave, John Dies at the End, The Last House on the Left

P.S.  The Purge is a film that on a dramatic level might be right up my alley.  But the whole premise is so utterly nonsensical, I refuse to watch it or any of the various sequels.  Point being: premise is important.

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Film Brief: Isle of Dogs

Like most Wes Anderson films, Isle of Dogs bears weakness in its plot, especially as the film wraps.  But he brings a lot more to the table than straight plot.  Chris Klimek, NPR:

…by the time Anderson’s animators show us a meal of sushi being prepared in meticulous close-up, I was ready for any trick Anderson wanted to perform for me.  Isle of Dogs takes Best in Show.

Wes Anderson’s movies are event films, and no less this time.  Don’t miss it.  8/10

Comparison Notes: all other Wes Anderson films, Life is Beautiful

* * *

P.S.  Bryan Cranston was on the Colbert show, and brought a model of his character “Chief.”  He demonstrated what it took to make this movie, painstakingly nudging the models one whisker at a time, photographing each step.  Isle of Dogs must be the ultimate stop-motion film.  He said the film took FOUR YEARS to make.  That clip included below.

Film Brief: Thoroughbreds

Going into Thoroughbreds, I thought it would be little more than an update on Heathers, styled to the tastes of contemporary youth, and set with a bevy of up-and-coming starlets to match.  Luckily, there’s a little more to it than that.  Whenever you have good strong characters, or at least characters with attitude portrayed well, half the work is done.  Characters make up for a lot, in this case a story that is hardly original.

In other words,  Thoroughbreds is entertaining but less than great.  7/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended, and better): The Housemaid, La Cérémonie, Heathers, Fletch

Annihilation: Sci-Fi Gone Awry

Annihilation, with a meaningless adultery side-story that figures into the main plot not in the slightest, brought back another off-track sci-fi film, Lucy.  I was going to say that at least there was no odd “Wild Kingdom” theme in Annihilation, but in a sense you could say there was.

The movie held my interest fairly well, and was a lot better than the similar Arrival, but boy what a disappointment for the writer-director of Ex Machina.  A HUGE leap backwards.  And now, a week later, I’ve mused on how corny it largely was, and worse, how unoriginal.  But, if you like the nutty imaginings of puerile set decorators mixing up animal and plant forms, Annihilation might be for you.

The ultimate failure here is a clear understanding of the very alien presence one is trying to articulate.  Failure to understand something — anything — yourself makes it impossible to communicate to others.

There’s a theme out there — apparently began by one of the film’s producers — that the comparative box office failure of Annihilation is due to it being too intellectual.  Puh-leease!  Must be the same folks who thought Arrival was “thoughtful.”  When you get right down to it, and especially considering the ridiculous conclusion: this movie is just plain stupid, and egregiously slapped together.  4/10

Comparison Notes: Life, Lucy, The Mist, The Ruins, Alien, a dozen or so episodes of Star Trek, the TV series Lost, Jurassic Park

Film Brief: Double Lover

At first, I loved Double Lover.  In the early going especially, the storytelling was strong, driven by the leads’ performances.  But the story was uneven, eventually falling into a derivative doppelgänger tale crossed with silly, even absurd, David Cronenberg-esque elements.  David Lynch has proven to be the master of the doppelgänger / film as soufflé .  A key to his success is that he doesn’t belabor the point.  The doppelgänger isn’t the story itself, as it was with Double Lover.  For Lynch, it’s almost incidental to the larger story at hand.

As the doppelgänger elements were mishandled here, a better tack would have been more the approach displayed in Thelma.  That is, the approach of a better movie.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Vertigo, Cronenberg films, Mulholland Drive + other Lynch projects.

Dinner and a Game Night at the movies

Lets play a game, of sorts.  A guessing game.  Why does Mark have a blog?  Roger Ebert.com, in no way speaking as Roger Ebert would have, and, further, very much sallying his name, is generally in agreement with the Rotten Tomatoes consensus:

…a raucously funny film that has a knack for going right up to the edge of nastiness.

WRONG!  I was actually enjoying Game Night, if mildly, until the latter third or so when it bounced between implausibility and trite stupidity.  Lesser critics describe it as edgy; they haven’t any idea what true edginess is.

So what started off nicely in thumbs-up territory devolved into yet another silly pseudo-crime action flick with overly contrived “plot twists” and inane action sequences involving, for instance, airplanes that never get off the ground when attempting takeoff.  The best part of the film by far: Jesse Plemons (Fargo season 2)  If there is any reason to see Game Night, it is the hilariously creepy Jesse Plemons.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Due Date, Neighbors; no opinion: Date Night