Author: cphilpott Page 3 of 10

MOVIE REVIEW A Quiet Place (2018)

Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

Well, that was intense.

A Quiet Place is the latest horror phenom – written and directed by John Krasinski (better known as Jim from the American remake of The Office), and co-starring his real-life wife Emily Blunt (Edge Of Tomorrow), the film follows a family of four as they move on with their lives in an isolated rural community while dealing with the loss of their youngest son/brother, Beau.

Oh, and there are creatures that hunt anything that makes a noise louder than a bare foot lightly walking on carpet.

I almost forgot to mention the creatures because – in terms of the story and the characters – they are secondary to the grief the family, which includes a fearful older son Marcus and deaf daughter Regan (brilliantly played by actually-deaf actress Millicent Simmonds), is feeling in the wake of their tragic loss.

The film has become famed and acclaimed for the world in which it exists: sightless, vicious, fast and heavily-armoured creatures with hypersensitive hearing have all but wiped out humanity by attacking anything that makes noise, and it uses that limitation in how the characters behave to its advantage.

The result is a film that is silent for long stretches, utilising sound to great effect – whether it is a toy space shuttle going off at the wrong time, or a new-born baby crying, or father Lee and his son Marcus making as much noise as they like near a waterfall. As a viewer, you get into the swing of this silence, meaning that every sudden noise becomes something dreadful, and every tense situation – like mother Evelyn walking down a creaky staircase – is amplified by the potential for noise.

This also made it a fairly unique cinema experience. Even though the theatre I was in was at least two-thirds full, you could’ve heard a pin drop at certain points of the film. I found myself carefully timing when I took a sip of drink or grabbed a Malteser, consciously breathing through my mouth and not shuffling in my seat so as to make as little noise as possible.

It was an intense experience – and one of my absolute favourite cinema experiences in the past few years.

But my enjoyment of the film itself all came down to those characters, and how beautifully they portrayed the narrative and their grief while barely using dialogue. And in that way, this is one of the better horror movies in recent times.

The limitation on sound makes for an intense viewing experience for cinema-goers, but that same limitation means that the characters have repressed so much of what they’re feeling. Regan, for example, feels responsible for the death of her brother, and feels that her father blames her for what happened, but can’t outright ask him about it.

And Lee, for his part, can’t just tell his daughter that he loves her. The art of conversation is distilled down to its strategic use, to a series when and where and for how long stats that inhibit real communication.

A Quiet Place isn’t just an exploration of what living in this world does to this family; its an exploration of what not dealing with this grief does to this family. And Krasinski, Blunt, Simmonds and Noah Jupe play it perfectly, wearing that grief on their tatty sleeves, their outward appearance – worn out clothes, exhaustion, fear, bare feet – mirroring what they’re feeling inside.

By the time we reach the conclusion of the film, the family has welcomed a new member and Regan has made amends with her Dad, and the family is confronting their fears head on, striking back at the so-called “death angels” with all they have.

It’s a beautiful conclusion, a happy ending to a film that is intense to watch but ultimately affirming of the human condition.

Highly recommended.

A Quiet Place is written and directed by John Krasinski, from a screenplay by Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and stars Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward. It is in cinemas now.

REVIEW Pacific Rim: Uprising (2018)

Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

“It was Independence Day: Resurgence,” my flatmate said, as we started to leave our seats and head for the foyer.

After we saw the Independence Day sequel together back in 2016 (a lifetime ago in terms of blockbuster film releases), we had spent a large amount of time discussing the fact that it was essentially the same film as the original: scientists make puzzling discoveries in the first act, the aliens reveal themselves and move against humans in the second act, leading to a final confrontation for the survival of humanity in the third, complete with humans trying to escape the mothership.

Resurgence didn’t bring anything new to the Independence Day franchise. Nor does Pacific Rim: Uprising really offer anything new to its franchise; this film isn’t giving us anything that the original did not.

To be clear, I’m not saying it is as bad as Resurgence. The Independence Day sequel was monumentally bad, a misstep – and a somewhat unexpected one at that – that surely brought a swift end to any further plans they had for it.

Uprising isn’t that bad. It’s just unoriginal.

We start with a quick recap of the events of the first film, followed by a quick rush through the next decade: the kaiju (the giant monsters) haven’t returned (yet) and society is rebuilding, though some coastal areas are still devastated – including the home of Jake Pentecost (played by the energetic John Boyega), the son of war hero Stacker, who is living in a half-destroyed beachfront mansion and working as a thief, specialising in high-end parts from decommissioned jaegers (the giant robots).

It doesn’t take long for Jake to get caught red-handed and dragged back into the PPDC by his big sister Mako (first season returnee Rinko Kikuchi), where he is immediately given his former rank (Ranger) and put in charge of training the new batch of cadets. After a scene or two, Jake – and his former pilot partner Lambert (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint), flying their jaeger the Gypsy Avenger – is assigned as the honour guard for Mako, now the head of the PPDC, who is going to a world council vote on whether to switch from manual jaegers to automated drone jaegers.

That is where the fun begins: the council vote is interrupted by a rogue jaeger, assigned the name Obsidian Fury, leading to the activation of the drones, a rogue element in the drone company, a surprise bad guy, an attack on the PPDC base and the re-emergence of the kaiju themselves.

If it sounds like a lot, it is; Pacific Rim: Uprising is a fast paced film that never really rests on its laurels for long – a lot happens in around two hours, as the world expands to include all manner of crazy science, and then retracts again until it becomes the simple giant robots-vs-giant monsters film that audiences will be heading to the theatre to see.

Yet for all the plot the film burns through – the drones and the thieving and the voting and the rogue jaegers – it doesn’t ever really feel like it offers anything new, it’s more like a remix of what worked the first time. In fact, I’m kind of reminded of the last couple of Metallica albums: I know they’re different songs but they kind of just sound the same.

It isn’t all bad. I like Boyega and I thought he made a fine lead, even if the sheer amount of things that happened in this film made the few moments of levity – as he looked back on the legacy of his father – seem rushed and out of place. There was some very cool world-building going on in the background: the idea of rogue jaegers built from robots scrapped during the war is an interesting one that would lend itself to further exploration, and a later scene that showed some of the precautions taken by cities to ensure the safety of citizens in the event of another kaiju attack was intriguing.

And the robot-vs-robot action in the early going is fun, but totally outdone by the eventual robot-vs-monster action in the conclusion of the film. This is a massive spoiler, but the final battle in Japan – with the four remaining jaegers fighting against three kaiju was exciting, especially when the three kaiju combined into one humongous mega-kaiju. Though at some point, it all stopped looking real: the sheer amount of CGI meant that the final battle eventually turned into a cartoon.

It was all in good fun, though. Unoriginal though it may be, Pacific Rim: Uprising was at least entertaining. Just go in with low expectations and high amounts of popcorn, and you’ll be fine.

Pacific Rim: Uprising is directed by Steven S DeKnight, from a script by DeKnight, Emil Carmichael, Kira Snyder and TS Nowlin, and stars John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Jing Tian, Charlie Day, Burn Gorman and Adria Arjona. It is distributed locally by Universal Pictures, and is in cinemas as of March 22.

MOVIE REVIEW Annihilation (2018)

Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

There are two things that stick in my craw about this film, and both detract from how good it is.

Okay, so Annihilation is a pretty great science-fiction/horror movie; the latest film written and directed by Alex Garland – who was behind the incredible Ex Machina – and based on a book series by Jeff VanderMeer, the film stars Natalie Portman as Lena, a biologist who is recruited to a rescue mission into a mysterious (and otherworldly) area called The Shimmer, the same area where her recently-returned husband also went missing a year earlier.

Accompanied by a team of scientists – played by a stellar cast of women: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez and Tuva Novotny – Lena ventures further into The Shimmer to discover its origins and find out what happened to her husband (who, as mentioned earlier, returned) and the rest of his team (who did not).

The mission leads Lena to a lighthouse, where The Shimmer was first observed, and she discovers that the phenomenon is being caused by an extraterrestrial being – but not before losing the rest of her team, encountering an alligator with shark teeth, fending off a bear-crocodile-human hybrid, and watching one of her teammates turn into a plant.

Honestly, you need to watch this film to get the full effect – Annihilation is one of the most inventive science fiction stories I’ve seen in a while, and boasts a fantastic cast and a truly visionary director with an eye for dramatic, unique visuals (as well as a vibrant and engrossing score, courtesy of Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury). And the good news is that if you have Netflix, you can watch it right now because they released the film on Netflix.

Well, except for in the USA. For some reason – and this is the first thing that sticks in my craw – Paramount Pictures commissioned the film with a not-small-but-also-not-big budget of around $50 million (USD), then held test screenings that showed it may be “too intellectual”, then a Paramount financier, David Ellison, demanded changes from the production team (including changing the ending), at which point they were met with a “hell no” since producer Scott Rudin held final cut approval and backed director Garland.

In response, Paramount Pictures announced in early December that they had sold the international distribution rights to Netflix, who released the film everywhere (except for in the USA) on March 12. If you think this sounds like the movie-making equivalent of throwing your toys out of the cot, you’re not wrong.

“But, Chris,” you may be saying, “this is all business, why do you care where it’s released? You got to see it!”

Well, for two reasons. First, and least importantly, I would’ve loved to see this on the big screen. It seems like a great number of the years biggest upcoming films have a science-fiction bent – just in the next three months, Avengers: Infinity War will surely traverse the galaxy, Solo: A Star Wars Story will delve into the Star Wars universe, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom promises more genetically-enhanced dinosaurs than you can shake a lysine supplement at.

But very few films released into cinemas could be described as thought-provoking, smart science-fiction. Annihilation is that rare film which offers visual spectacle on the level of any of those films and a storyline that actually dares to be profound.

And secondly – and this is the second thing that sticks in my craw – the cast is insane. Natalie Portman is great in the lead role, Jennifer Jason Leigh is in the middle of a renaissance following her supporting turn in The Hateful Eight, Gina Rodriguez is an award-winner for her role on Jane The Virgin, and Tessa Thompson is having a moment thanks to roles in Creed, Thor: Ragnarok and TV’s Westworld.

And in the era of #metoo, why wouldn’t Paramount Pictures wide-release a smart, thoughtful movie with a cast led by incredible women, that totally bucks the trend of everything Hollywood is accused of being?

It astounds me that Paramount cut their losses and allowed a bad test screening or two to determine how they handled this film. And in doing so, they missed the chance to be ahead of the curve, to be talked about as a a dynamic and diverse studio that is one of the first to embrace the direction of New Hollywood.

Annihilation is an astounding film. It just bugs me that nobody releasing it seemed to see that.

Annihilation is written and directed by Alex Garland, based on the first novel in the Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer, and stars Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Oscar Isaac and Benedict Wong. It is available to view on Netflix now.

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