A Quiet Place (shh, the movie is playing!), and the Death of Player One, Stalin

I haven’t been writing as intensely these past few months, which has left me with some extra free time. Which I’ve been using to spend at the cinema.

The best of which is undoubtedly the per-screening of A Quiet Place, the directorial debut of John Krasinski. It’s a masterfully directed horror powerhouse that’s taut as piano wire and so intense it’s almost painful. This is a film that demands an audience’s attention, and deserves it. Popcorn went cold and chocolate remained uneaten, my audience was so engrossed in the raw intensity unfolding they didn’t want to make noise that would shatter the moment. This film knows its core concept is a horror goldmine, and they ran with it to the hilt.
The film’s not scary in the traditional scene, but there’s a scene where my blood felt like it was running cold – you’ll know it when you see it. No small feat for a film with less than ten lines of dialogue. Go see it with the biggest, most crowded audience you can.

I also Ready Player One with my dad tonight. Y’know, the movie that underpaid Buzzfeed  and Huffpost journalists and one-note Twitter attention seekers are declaring to be the downfall of Western civilization (and for the record, if such a movie existed I’d like to know about it). Rob Boffard covers the subject of not dog-piling on Ernie Cline’s vision better than I do, so give that a read. And RPO isn’t perfect. It’s not even mind-boggling. I was hating it for the first half an hour, and there’s dozens of quirks with the world-building and logic and I could pick at, not to mention the writing and the film’s determination to make you eat nostalgic until you burst. That pop-culture reference you like? Get ready to have it shoved down your throat until you choke. That film you treasure, that video game you enjoy? Here, have a bucket full of it, with extra salt and sauce and a free side of exploitation of everything you love. The film is iconoclasm in motion, and it knows it. And they’re banking on you seeing it because you want to see every pop culture thing you know and love mashed into a bowl and blended with everything else that might be treasured by some geek around the world.

And yet…and yet…despite all those problems, I had fun. I walked out of the cinema happy. I enjoyed my time in OASIS. That, I think, says a lot about a film’s quality if you’re able to enjoy it despite its flaws. My dad said it best when he said it’s a kids film that everyone can enjoy. There’s a scene that plays off The Shining that’s borderline sacrilegious, but jaw-dropping and worth the price of the ticket alone. Still, it demands to be seen on a big-screen, with as many pop culture junkies as possible.

Your enjoyment may vary on how much the phrase “geek culture” and its accessories makes you cringe. Me, I’ve got my reservations on doing the “geeking out” mode and drooling over every obscure reference in Marvel trailers while wearing Doctor Who PJs and sipping soft drinks out of a Superman straw. The stereotype of an overweight white guy who lives in his mum’s basement with a neckbeard is a frustrating one, mostly because it’s not always untrue. But that’s a whole other conversation; go over and read what Simon Pegg has to say on the subject (who, on many ironic levels, stars as one of the OASIS co-creators in Ready Player One.)

Then, there’s The Death of Stalin. Its almost outrageous how it manages to be dark as pitch and still out-right hilarious in its portrayal of total disregard for human life, and the madness of politics. Iannucci is King of political satire, and his scathing attack on socialism and Marxism is profound as always. It’s a better movie than RPO, but I wouldn’t see it again, whereas I might with RPO.

Finally, I checked out A Wrinkle in Time. It’s a classic example of style over substance, pushed to the hilt. There’s nice costumes, but everything else is hollow and cloying. It means well, but the writing and directing is so scattered it comes across as suffocating. It’s hard to believe this comes from the same director who brought us the nuanced and moving Selma. DuVernay didn’t just not stick the landing, she fell face-first and splattered over the ground. It’s a real shame.

As far as three excellent films out of four goes, it’s not a bad week. I’ll likely be checking out Pacific Rim 2 soon, because mechs and robots.

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