Friday, April 13, 2018

"A Quiet Place" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "A Quiet Place" as well as DVDs "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" and "Father Figures."  The Book of the Week is "Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Two or Three Things I Know About Her."]



A Quiet Place


There could be monsters in our future.

Imagine having to go barefoot everywhere, live in a basement, communicate in sign language, eat off of lettuce leaves so plates and cutlery don't make noise, play Monopoly with cloth tokens or, worse, give birth in complete silence so that you won't call attention to yourself and get eaten by a monster.


Such are the lives of the Abbott family.


It's some time in the apocalyptic future and somehow really, really ugly and scary monsters have taken over the world. There is no backstory as to how that happened, but it doesn't really matter.  They are here and now everyone has to deal. The good news is that they are blind.  The bad news is that they have very good hearing and track their prey - you - through sound, so even the slightest sound out of the ordinary can bring those monsters a calling.


Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) and their three children - Regan (Millicent Simmonds), who ironically is deaf, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Beau (Cade Woodward) - have all worked out a routine of living in silence, but one day on an outing to pick up supplies in the deserted town Beau finds a little toy rocket ship.  Lee takes it away from him and removes the batteries, but young Regan, feeling sorry for her little brother, secretly gives it back to him not knowing that he has also grabbed those batteries.  On the way home he fires up the little rocket which makes a loud noise and as soon as that happens he is grabbed and eaten by a monster right in front of his horrified family.  These monsters are not playing!


So now it's a year later and it's just the four of them. Regan is wracked with guilt and the family is grieving but they have figured out a way to survive even though 
Evelyn is now pregnant. One wonders how that's going to work out.  Not only does Evelyn have to give birth quietly but they will have to keep the newborn baby quiet somehow. Life is not easy for the Abbotts. 

This is what I call "adult horror." 


It's slow to get started as we get to know the family and settle into their lives.  Like most horror films that bank on huge amounts of blood and gore to make you clench your armrest, this one doesn't, but that doesn't mean the film isn't scary.  It is, but what is scary is watching ordinary people living in extraordinary circumstances beyond their control, parents trying to take care of their children against all odds. Instead of the cheap thrills of chainsaws and blood spewing everywhere, this film is all about people who could be you or I having to adjust their lives to a life of intense silence in order to survive, every day, every hour, every minute, a war of survival as they try to stave off the inevitable sound that will bring the monsters while still living their lives, loving and protecting their children. We are the Abbotts, and though it's slow going at first, once this film gets going, there are plenty of jolts to go around.

Because the family must live in silence, they communicate in sign language and there is little dialogue. There is an irony in the fact that the monsters have acute hearing and Regan is deaf, though that explains why the family knows American Sign Language and her deafness also is a plot line that plays into the ending of the film, another irony.  The silence gives the actors the opportunity to show off their acting skills, because they must rely on facial expressions and body language to express themselves and their characters and this ensemble cast is up to the job.  It isn't long before you are drawn into their world and you become part of the silence. 


Emily Blunt is wonderful here but we are used to seeing her in dramatic roles.  Such is not the case with Krasinski, who is Blunt's real life husband and who is more known for comic roles than dramatic ones, but here he holds his own with his wife. Millicent Simmonds, who made a big splash in "Wonderstuck," and who is deaf in real life, has a wonderfully expressive face, and young Jupe, who you might remember as Jack Will, Auggie's friend, in "Wonder," rounds out this impressive cast.  Oh, and the monsters do their part, too.  They are also impressive.

Krasinski stars but has also written and directed the film (screenplay co-written with Scott Beck and Bryan Woods), and this is 90 minutes of nail biting intensity, though I have to say that the ending, though empowering, was a bit too pat.  But that doesn't mean this wasn't a really, really good horror film.  It was and is one of the best.


Rosy the Reviewer says...a terrifying experience and one of the runaway hits of the year that you don't want to miss. 




***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD





Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017)



Four teenagers are pulled into a video game and must figure out how to win the game in order to get back to reality.

This is the sequel (of sorts) to the 1995 original which I have already forgotten, but homage is paid here to the first film when a kid finds the Jumanji game on a beach and gives it to a friend.  The friend puts it on a shelf where it stays until it transforms from a board game to a video game.


Fast forward to the present day where we meet Spencer (Alex Wolff), a nerdy teen who is also a nervous germaphobe; The Fridge (Ser'Darius Blain), a high school football player; Bethany (Madison Iseman), who is obsessed with selfies; and Martha (Morgan Turner), the smart girl who really wishes she was a hottie like Bethany.  All four of them find themselves in detention together where they find the old Jumanji game which has transformed into a video game. They turn it on and when the game tells them to choose their avatars, they do, but instead of just playing the game, they are pulled into the video and become the game.  


Spencer has transformed into Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson). 
True to his name, Bravestone looks like a dashing character known for his brave exploits and smoldering look.  Unfortunately, in real life Spencer is a scaredy cat. The academic Martha has become sexy Ruby Roundhouse (Karen Gillan); the big, tall football player Fridge is now the short, wimpy Franklin "Mouse" Finbar (Kevin Hart); and Bethany, thinking Shelly was a girl's name chose Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) as her avatar, not realizing that Shelly was a male cartography professor. Right from the moment they all start the game they are fending off monsters and on the run from bad guys.  I knew detention was bad but not this bad.

They eventually figure out the point of the game: to lift the curse of the Jewel of Jumanji and return it to it's rightful place.  It had been stolen by the evil Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale) from the eye of the jaguar statue and a curse fell over the land.  The four must use their skills to return the jewel to the jaguar's eye and thus get themselves out of the game and back to reality.

"Return the jewel and lift the curse!"


Directed by Jake Kasdan with a screenplay based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, the film showcases a series of comic adventures as the four seek to find the jewel and return it to the statue, but it's also the story of four diverse school kids who would never have been friends in real life, but just as the four game characters have their own strengths and weaknesses, so, too, do the real life kids and they all come to know and respect each other for those differences. 

The actors all do a good job of playing their characters within their characters.  Despite their video game personas, we never forget who they are in real life.  For example, Jack Black may look like a chubby professor but the self-absorbed fifteen-year-old Bethany is still apparent. Kevin Hart is, well, Kevin Hart, a particular favorite of mine.  His double takes, wide-eyed expressions of fear and mumbling asides under his breath always make me laugh. Karen Gillen, who I remember as Nebula in the last "Guardians of the Galaxy" movie pulls her weight here, which isn't easy with those two comedic power houses to deal with.  


And then there's The Rock.  I am fundamentally opposed to body-builders and wrestlers becoming actors and leading men.  It's just wrong so I have never wanted to like Dwayne Johnson but, darn it, I can't help it.  He is just so damn likable and self-deprecating, and he is very good at these action films. Here he does a good job of looking like a he-man but reminding us that he is really the nerdy and fearful Spencer.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you can suspend disbelief, it's a lot of fun.








Father Figures (2017)

When two fraternal twins find out their mother has been lying to them about who their father was, they hit the road to try to find their real Dad.

It can be quite a shock to realize that not only the man you thought was your Dad wasn't really your Dad, but also that your mother was kind of a slut.

Such was the case for Peter (Ed Helms) and Kyle (Owen Wilson) when their mother (Glenn Close) tells them that she had lied about their Dad.  He didn't die when they were young.  She just told them that because she wasn't sure who their Dad was.  Hey, it was the 70's!  When they find this out, Peter and Kyle, who up until now had not been that close and had lived very different lives, embark on a comic odyssey to find their real Dad.

Peter is a doctor but he's not happy and it doesn't help that he's a proctologist and has to deal with a**holes all day long - literally.  He is divorced and his own son doesn't even really like him.  He's a lonely guy and a bit of a sad sack.

However, Kyle is living the good life in Hawaii.  He is the face of a BBQ product that has made him millions.  He is the opposite of Peter.  He's happy and positive.  The two come together for their mother's wedding and that's when they discover their Dad was not who they thought he was.  In fact their mother tells them their real Dad is ex-football star Terry Bradshaw.

So it's a road tripping buddy film as the two brothers fly and drive across country to try to find their real Dad.  Kyle lists their top mission: Find Dad.  However, Kyle also has what he calls some sub missions - Get Peter laid followed by eating some salt water crabs and swimming with dolphins.

First stop, Terry Bradshaw.  Peter couldn't be happier.  A real life Hall of Fame football player is his Dad!  When they meet Terry, Terry remembers their Mom, thinks it's possible that Peter and Kyle could be his sons, embraces them, and invites them over to his house where they all bond. However, they soon discover that Terry is not their Dad and so, disappointed, they are on to the next possibility: Roland Hart (J.K. Simmons).  

Roland lives with his Mom, played by June Squibb (If you need an actress to play a foul-mouthed old lady, she's your gal) and paints himself as a repo man, but is in fact a car thief, and when the brothers accompany him to a "job," they get embroiled in the theft of a Ferrari, Roland ends up in the hospital and they discover their blood types don't match so possible-Dad number 2 - nope.

On to possible Dad #3 - who turns out to be a dead cop.

And so it goes.

In the meantime, there is a funny scene when the brothers pick up Katt Williams, an amiable hitchhiker.  They make him swear he's not a serial killer and then tie him up in the back seat just to make sure.  

Oh, and Peter finally gets laid.


I have to say, I know that fraternal twins don't necessarily look alike but Owen Wilson and Ed Helms are not even in the realm of familial possibility.  But maybe that was the joke and I just missed it. Wilson has made a name for himself playing happy-go-lucky and often irritating surfer dudes and here he is again.  He is a likable actor so I don't really have a problem with him.  But Ed Helms?  I just don't get him at all.  Maybe it has something to do with his teeth.

Directed by Lawrence Sher with a screenplay by Justin Malen, once again here I am with hopes high, watching a comedy and... I don't think I laughed. More and more I am questioning my sense of humor.  Why?  Because I never find any of these newer comedies to be very funny.  They are rife with old ladies saying inappropriate sexual things, pratfalls, and cheap puerile humor, not to mention far-fetched scenarios. For example, for all of the predicaments the brothers found themselves in - stealing cars, getting hit by a train, Peter thinking he has slept with his sister - there are no consequences for any of it. 

But, my peeps, in the interests of not becoming redundant in my bitching about the state of comedies in the world, I have decided to lower my standards. I will try to at least chuckle a couple of times.

Rosy the Reviewer says...So I will say, I didn't hate this film.  Katt Williams made me chuckle a couple of times.




***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


148 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1967)


Only Godard could tell the story of a bored Parisien housewife/prostitute (Marina Vlady) and manage to work in the Vietnam War and the evils of commercialism.

The film is narrated in a whisper, as if the narrator is telling us things we aren't supposed to know.  The movie is already irritating me.

Director Jean-Luc Godard was a huge influence on many American directors, but sometimes when I watch movies like this, movies that are so far beyond comprehension that you must dig deep to figure out the point, I can't help but think that the director is having a laugh at our expense and there really isn't a point.

From what I can figure, this film is about the Vietnam War, the evils of commercialism and TV, we are all slaves to the industrial complex
and we are all going to die.  Godard also doesn't seem to like women much. He also likes to use the Brechtian technique of distancing us from the actors and reminding us that that is fiction. I found it to be unwatchable.  

I had to drink way more wine than usual to get through this film.  It's one thing to try to use film to make a statement, to educate, even be poetic but when you create a film that requires that I spend more time trying to figure out what the hell is going on than enjoying the story or caring about the characters, then what is the point? And speaking of telling a story, there really isn't one. It's just people going about their boring mundane lives living lives of quiet desperation. But does a movie have to be boring to make the point that most of us live boring lives?  Do I have to be made to feel desperate while watching this to understand that most of us are?  Even if I understood what was going on here, the film would still not be enjoyable.  For me, a film needs to be an enjoyable and worthwhile experience on some level at least.  And this wasn't.

Why it's a Must See: "[This film] is one of several ...Godard films that take prostitution as a metaphor for life in the modern capitalist state.  For Godard, a woman selling herself for money provides a perfect image of how what is most personal and life-enhancing --the sexual act -- becomes, like everything else, a commodity.  The human being becomes alienated from herself, a mere thing to be bought and sold."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Godard's movies are lovely to look at but this felt like an in-your-face blatant diatribe about commercialism and human stupidity.  I didn't need to sit through 90 minutes of this to figure that out, though I felt stupid watching it.  Eight of his films made the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. I just don't get it.  Godard supposedly didn't work from a screenplay but rather improvised as he went along.  It shows. 

And I never did find out the two or three things...

Rosy the Reviewer says...I have one more Godard I need to see as part of my "1001 Movies" project and then I am done with Godard!



***Book of the Week***





Bachelor Nation: Inside the World of America's Favorite Guilty Pleasure by Amy Kaufman (2018)


The inner workings of "The Bachelor" revealed!

How is it that a 69-year-old long-time-married woman finds herself reading a book by a 32-year-old single woman and agreeing with her on everything?  What could those two possibly have in common?  Why the same guilty pleasure as millions of others: "The Bachelor!"


Kaufman clears up many questions and suspicions and I learned some things that I didn't know, though not as much as I had hoped.  Mainly what I learned was that I already knew way more about "The Bachelor" than I should.


What I suspected:



  • The producers do ask the Bachelor to keep on certain women who are "good TV," even if they don't have a chance at the Final Rose.

  • Producer Mike Fleiss is related to the notorious Hollywood Madam, Heidi Fleiss.  They are cousins. Must be something in their genes that tells them how to market what people crave: love and sex.

  • Yes, there is sex in The Fantasy Suite. Duh.



What I learned:



  • The Bachelor Mansion is called Villa de la Vina and is located near where the Kardashians live and is owned by Marshall Haraden.  He and his family live there ten months out of the year and leave when production for "The Bachelor" is underway.  Twice a year the production staff removes everything from the house and then spends two weeks setting everything up the way they want it including repainting the walls and adding props - big lanterns, stone sculptures and over-sized candlesticks are popular. 



  • The big room in the Mansion where everyone hangs out is called "The Mixer Room" and the foyer that leads to it is called the "Tink Tink Spot," because that's where Chris Harrison stands and taps the glass to get everyone's attention.



  • Believe it or not, the Mansion only has three bedrooms and contestants sometimes sleep in bunk beds twelve to a room.  Everyone does their own laundry and cooking and absolutely no distractions are allowed - no TV, no books, no computers.  And the contestants have to bring all of their own clothes.



  • The editing process is done by staffers who never have any interaction with cast members.  Loggers - employees who watch the raw footage - transcribe it all and give it to the story producers who tell the editors how they want an episode to go and then "Frankenbiting" is used to create certain narratives.  A "Frankenbite" is a sound bite that has been re-cut so that it has a different meaning.  For example, if the Bachelor says "I do not want to go on a date with Mary," an editor can take out the words "do not" and change it to "I want to go on a date with Mary."  Just think of the possibilities there!



  • Warner Brothers has a whole consumer line of Bachelor products - wine, candy and the "Will You Accept This Rose?" Bento Box.



Kaufman imposes a little armchair psychology to the whole proceedings:

"I think we watch The Bachelor because we're anxious about our own love lives, and the show gives us an outlet to express our fears about the modern dating world.  It allows us to see a world filled with courtship, chivalry, and romance -- and while we may scoff at the helicopters and hot tubs, deep down I think many of us still long for those kinds of things while we're spending hours swiping left on Tinder."


Rosy the Reviewer says...well, like I said, Kaufman is 32 and single but that certainly doesn't explain what I'm doing watching "The Bachelor!" If you just can't bring yourself to watch every week, check out Reality Steve.  He has the whole thing figured out before it even airs. 






Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 


for my review of 



"Isle of Dogs"

 and
  
The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 
  
I Die Project." 




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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.


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