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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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: The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is too laggy and too pat to knock anything out of the park.  Still, it’s poetic and beautiful, often, especially in the early going, with the look and feel of a classic French film.  The City of Lost Children comes to mind.  And Sally Hawkins is great.

What we have here is a failure to communicate… no, that’s not the failure.  The failure is unfulfilled promise — so much is here except an original-enough story.  7/10

Comparison Notes: E.T., Splash

Blade Runner Revival: Big on Atmosphere, Short on Story

I never would guess that a sequel to Blade Runner starring Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford would make the original look like some kind of masterpiece by comparison.  The deeply flawed original, at least, had some compelling narrative elements and methods, and a unique design sense.  The sequel has a lot of great visuals and impressive loud bassy sounds (at least in my Dolby 7.1 theater), and even a few entertaining scenes.

But mostly, it’s a lot of conversations that amount to nothing — much like P.T. Anderson’s Inherent Vice.  Like the Anderson flop, almost nothing happens in 2049.

Without those visuals and dynamic audio — the ambience of the film, and a little fun dramatic wrangling, we’re talking 2/10 and at nearly 3 hours, a colossal bore.  As-is: 4/10.  Still boring, but not as bad as nails on a chalkboard.

* * *

A couple more comments about this movie.  First, it’s another one critics swung and missed at.  Same incompetence which would lead to panning Oldboy or the English version The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I reckon.

Now the whole thing about Replicants being some evil force, without ever depicting, and indeed barely explaining, why they’re such trouble.  With The Terminator, you know the cyborgs are bad.  In Alien, the robot is out for corporate interests at the expense of the crew.  In The Matrix, humans have been enslaved by the machines.  But Replicants don’t seem like much of a threat.  That is the utter failure of both Blade Runner and its sequel.

One more thing:  I appreciate slowness.  A movie taking its time.  David Lynch can just hold the frame whilst holding the audience in his grip.  Kubrick, with his slow scrolls and pans, kept you enrapt.  2049‘s director Denis Villeneuve is no David Lynch, and no Kubrick.  You see, that only works if you are already in the midst of compelling tale.  And if you are a competent director.  I liked Prisoners, but boy Villeneuve is in a slide.  To the abysmal Sicario, and lame Arrival, add 2049 to the growing pile of overrated claptrap by Villeneuve.

Comparison Notes: Recommended: Her, Ex Machina, The Fifth Element; Not Recommended: Inherent Vice

Film Brief: War for the Planet of the Apes

War for the Planet of the Apes features lots of great visual sequences, and a sense the filmmaker knows what he’s doing — which is refreshing.  A generally well-executed story, if a not particularly original one.  (SPOILER:) See Comparison Notes to understand why not particularly original.

War is inferior to the last episode of the franchise, but it’s still good.  Note: despite being billed as “the end,” it won’t be.  A fourth film is in the works.  7/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

A Colossal Mistake?

Colossal starts slowly, and I felt completely neutral through the first half.   In other words, it lacked zest.  Some audience members were laughing at what I guess were attempts at light humor which for me fell flat.  In this chunky manner it rolls along, until it turns in unexpected, even daring directions.  The film doesn’t gel into the compact punch it might, but it ends nicely.  6/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Fido, John Dies at the End

 

The Life of a scary space octopus

FRAUDULENT TRAILERS ANNOY the heck out of me.  And it’s very clear what I mean by a fraudulent trailer: one that includes content which is completely devoid the film.  That was one of the problems with the insipid Silver Linings Playbook.  In the Life trailer, audio of JFK’s speech about the USA’s moonshot is featured prominently, as if to give a greater context to the film.  Why then the speech, and its full implications, go AWOL come movie-time can be explained by only one reason: incompetence.

And so what you’re left with is a scary space octopus version of Alien.  Like Alien, the nascent forms of the alien life-form are quite intriguing.  Unlike Alien, that’s the best Life gets.  Life quickly devolves into a very second-rate monster-chase film.

I did like the sequel-ready ending of Life, but overall there’s too much mindlessness.  Having to introduce a new tag “trailer perjury” doesn’t help.  5/10

Comparison Notes (all recommended): The Ruins, Alien, Moon, Passengers, The Mist, Splice