A Quiet Place (2018)

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Pretty good film. Very suspenseful and tense, and Spielberg-lite at times, channeling the original Jurassic Park quite directly in certain scenes, especially (**SPOILERS**) near the end in the grain silo, and with the kids hiding in the car as the monster alien thing tries to get them. Wasn’t expecting Krasinski would sacrifice himself, though, which was a very nice touch and just about assures he won’t have to pull double duty if he decides to direct the sequel, probably. It was also quite an emotional scene without being corny, wrapping that story element up in a perfect little bow. Well done.

The monsters, though, seemed pretty stupid, and I had a hard time believing humans wouldn’t have figured out a way to kill them before all this. It’s kind of obvious; the monsters have ultrasonic hearing, so maybe turning up the volume to a frequency that would irritate them might be the way to go. It’s not rocket surgery. (**END SPOILERS**)

Anyway, a good film overall. They probably could have milked the suspense a bit more, or done more with the monsters, and some scenes were a bit stupid or didn’t make much sense, like the (**SPOILERS**) water cascading into the sound proof underground booth thing. What the heck was going on there, exactly? All that water came from Blunt’s character leaving the faucet on? Really? And this is the end of the world, you’d think they’d be more careful to not leave potentially valuable water running like that for so long in the first place. (**END SPOILERS**) A really out-of-place moment in an otherwise pretty logically sound film.

But as a film that’s almost entirely silent, and made up of only a handful of characters, it’s incredibly effective, especially thanks to the acting, which is across the board excellent. An effective, entertaining, highly suspenseful little film.

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Your Name (2016)

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About 2/3rds genius and 1/3rd melodramatic, but the brilliant stuff is so brilliant, it’s easy to dismiss the rest. Fantastic, original story that asks and answers and surprises at every turn, and such astounding visuals, stuff that gets burned into your brain long after you’ve watched it. And a perfect ending, one of the best I’ve ever seen. Hand in glove perfect.

Two scenes in particular have stuck with me: the one with the lead girl, Mitsuha, in the field looking up at the asteroid as a chunk of it breaks off, a moment later revealed to be incredibly important to the story and the first real clue that there’s more to this movie than meets the eye, a storytelling brilliance that goes well beyond the simple body switching story we’ve watched thus far. And the second was the wacky dream sequence after Taki, the male lead, drinks Mitsuha’s sake, which is hard to put into words but is so damn visually poetic and brilliant, with the asteroid spilling drops of water on a globe-like map of Japan. Pure filmmaking genius. Just great.

This film is spellbinding. A must watch. Yes, there’s some goofy stuff, like the music video sequences, all 80 of them, and the romance is fluffy and over the top, like a soap opera, but eh, small potatoes, I say. It’s one of the best films I’ve seen in years. It’s everything that’s great about anime, and why I prefer it in some ways as a visual storytelling tool than live action. Just incredible.

Jackie (2016)

Jackie was brilliant. Philosophical and bold in ways I wasn’t expecting, painting these iconic figures of American history as massively flawed and petty, and, ultimately, victims of their own power and self-created image.

The writing and perspective are just incredible, and some scenes are damn shocking in their frankness. It’s not a historical piece so much as a desperate, angry, violent diatribe against the passing of time and the inevitability of death. And that’s just one possible interpretation.

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This film is one of those rare pieces of cinema that’s truly greater than the sum of its parts, which, given how dismissed it’s been compared to fluff like La La Land and Get Out, and even Moonlight in a way, suggests it went over the heads of many who watched it. Or maybe it just hasn’t been seen by enough of them. Or maybe I’m just crazy and seeing things in it that aren’t actually there.

Regardless, it’s a masterpiece. Watch it.

Green Room (2015)

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Blah. A vile, grisly, excessively violent film with an unrealistic plot and an unbearably oppressive atmosphere that makes for one of the least pleasant watching experiences I’ve had in a long, long time. It is mostly watchable though thanks to some nice cinematography and a few decent performances, except Patrick Stewart who is incredibly, mind bogglingly miscast here, I mean, my god. What accent was that supposed to be, exactly? British American Southern?

But hey, at least it’s better than Blue Ruin, the director’s previous film, which a lot of people seemed to also love despite it being terribly cast and having an even less realistic story than this did. And the main character from that movie actually has a role in this one too, and he’s not in over his head physically and dramatically like he was there. Progress!

Anyway, the film is well shot and all that, and very much grounded in reality, especially the moments of gruesome violence throughout which come quickly and mercilessly. A lot of care was obviously put into making the film as realistic as possible, so it’s baffling to me why the hell the story wasn’t handled with the same degree of care.

The basic premise of the story is ridiculous. I’m not going to get into spoilers, but come on. Who would ever do this to cover up a murder? No matter how evil a group of people, and these are neo-Nazis so you know they’re evil with a capital E, as the film makes clear repeatedly through its generous use of swastikas and tough looking bald guys with thousand yard stares and psychotic dialogue, no one would think the best way to cover up a murder is to engage in the kinds of things they do here. The plan is ridiculous, just an excuse for the film to be extremely violent and gory and over the top, and boy is it ever.

Overall, extremely unpleasant and overrated, much like Blue Ruin. It’s better than that was, sure, and the director clearly knows a thing or two about how to direct (most of) his actors and how to make it all look real great, and, hell the first 12 minutes or so of this film were actually extremely enjoyable with all that stuff with the band before the actual main idiotic plot kicked in. But then it does and it turns into this weird pseudo horror thriller gore fest drama that I actually debated turning off in parts, it was so unpleasant. I don’t mind violence and gore and darkness in a film, but when it’s all strung together by such a thin, haphazard, idiotic plot, it becomes little more than an exercise in visual sadism. Skip.

The Look of Silence (2014)

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Jesus, this film. Where to start. Well, I’d be hard pressed to say it’s an enjoyable or particularly fun film because it isn’t, in any way. It’s not even all that clear what the hell the film is actually about at times, especially the first 45 minutes or so, but, much like The Act of Killing before it, patience is rewarded, and once it gets going and the main “thrust” of the narrative is revealed, it’s one of the saddest and most disturbing documentaries ever made. And then some. Christ.

The main guy followed here who conducts the interviews, Adi Rukun, is arguably one of the bravest human beings ever captured on camera. The stuff he says and does, and ultimately doesn’t say and do, is just incredible. To summarize: Rukun’s brother was killed in the Indonesian genocide, and thanks to a fine mix of intimidation and overall powerlessness/poverty/ignorance/brainwashing of its citizens, those responsible for the killings were never prosecuted, nor, in some cases, removed from power.

The film, which takes its sweet time revealing, involves his confrontation of said characters and, in some cases, their families, about the murders, and the man holds nothing back, which makes for some of the most uncomfortable, nail-biting sit down interviews I’ve ever seen. And such vivid descriptions of murder, man. For a film that’s completely bloodless, it paints quite the vivid scene at times, particularly during the described reenactment of just how his brother was murdered. Seeing Rukun’s face as he watches footage of these killers talking about the murder, knowing those responsible lived long and prosperous lives as heroes in their respective communities, is nearly unbearable.

Overall, and man do I need to start making these reviews shorter, it’s just a bold, bold film. Not very pleasant or enjoyable to watch, and the beginning is a bit of a chore to get through, but once it gets going, it pays off in ways very few films ever can, with moments that will be burned into your mind forever. The interview with the daughter and her murderer father and her reactions to his horrific stories, and her subsequent response to Rukun once he tells her about his murdered brother as the father awkwardly tries to end the interview, was one of the saddest, most shocking things I’ve ever seen.

An important,  extremely powerful, but very, very disturbing film. I’d say a must watch, but given the slow, somewhat aimless beginning and the lack of superheroes or explosions or pop culture references, I doubt many ever will.

Don’t Think Twice (2016)

…and we’re back.

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Good film, funny, and kind of terrifying/disturbing at times, though I doubt many would see it the same way. The film plays pretty conventionally, a bit too much so arguably, and the relationships, though solid and well acted, are a bit too clean and well put together to be entirely believable, especially considering the cutthroat, unforgiving nature of their career ambitions.

When one of the characters finally “makes it,” the film doesn’t seem to quite be able to make up its mind as to whether or not this is a good thing for him, or the other characters for that matter, resulting in their being stuck in this weird limbo of uncertainty that I guess is realistic but doesn’t make for much of an interesting story.

That’s the main issue with the film; though it speaks of passion and ambition, none of these characters ever truly reflect any of that passion or ambition in a believable manner. They all seem to want it, or seem to think they want it, and god knows they talk about wanting it, to death even, but there’s never a moment or an exchange that convincingly expresses any kind of true passion for what they’re trying to do. It’s all talk but very little gusto, if that’s the appropriate term to use there.

And it’s not because of the performances; the film is extremely well acted, especially from Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs who do a hell of a job handling the drama. Two comedians who can also handle drama? Who’d have thunk it?

It’s just the characters here aren’t as developed as they could have been, especially Mike Birbiglia’s character who we’re made to think is this bitter, passionate, succeed at all costs comedy loser type who then gets his “bum” handed to him multiple times throughout and reacts to each blowback with the emotional equivalent of an “eh,” except near the end where he punches a guy. But beyond that, come on man, your dream, the thing you’ve wasted most of your life pursuing, is ***SPOILERS** coming to an end with next to nothing to show for it, ***END SPOILERS** and that’s how you react? You just get a little angry and walk away? And talk about an abrupt ending. Bah.

Anyway, I did enjoy this movie, really I did, though it seems like I tore it a new one. It’s funny and emotional and extremely effective, I just thought it could have been even better had they developed the characters more.

What surprised me was that the film is a rather accurate and disturbing depiction of the desperation involved in the pursuit of fame and wealth, and the horrific sacrifices such pursuit often demands of those poor, poor artist folk who think their thoughts, words, and actions are worth paying attention to. And that’s what’s most disturbing about this film: knowing there are people just like this in many major cities in the US, in their 30s and 40s and beyond, living in squalor or near poverty, with little to no marketable or useful skills, with no other solid plans for their lives, who day in day out kill themselves in the pursuit of this ridiculous dream that ultimately probably isn’t even all that worthwhile.

And what a great Lorne Michaels-like depiction here.The creepiest moments in the film are shared by the interactions one of our main characters has with him. Changes the tone entirely every time he appeared, like something out of a horror film. Wonder how accurate that is to real life. Hmm.

Anyway, pretty good film, worth watching, and very funny!

Pacific Rim (2013)

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Okay film with a really stupid plot but some of the most fantastic robot-on-monster visuals you’re likely to see outside of an anime, which, uncoincidentally enough, this movie might as well have been. Though, no, it is impressive that they managed to pull this off as a live action, thin plot and all. If only the story had been as good as the visuals, or made sense even, and not instead felt like something out of a terrible B-movie at times.

The whole Charlie Day side plot is ridiculous; funny, yes, but so dumb, especially when contrasted with some of the more powerful, downright terrifying battle scenes. The one at the **SPOILERS** beginning especially scared the crap out of me. **END SPOILERS** Very impressive. I was almost dreading the battles after a while they were so intense. A first. And the scene with **SPOILERS** the Asian woman’s flashback to her encounter with the monster as a young girl **SPOILERS** was brilliant and scary and extremely effective all at once. Shame most of the rest of the movie couldn’t be as good. Talk about squandered potential, at least where the story and characters were concerned.

Overall, okay, nothing great. Good mindless action, forgettable save the incredible visuals and a few well crafted scenes here and there. And what was with all the accents? Put some subtitles under there if you’re not going to require your characters to be comprehensible. Geez.

Anyway, watch it for yourself: Pacific Rim

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