Category Archives: Movies

HIgh Praise for “A Quiet Place”

KEEP QUIET — OR ELSE

One of the best ‘silent films’ in years

Chris Knight gives A QUIET PLACE ★★★★★ out of 5

PHOTOS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES Millicent Simmonds, left, and Noah Jupe are silent siblings on the run from out-of-this-world monsters in the movie A Quiet Place. Top: Emily Blunt also stars.

A QUIET PLACE ★★★★★ out of 5 Cast: John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds Director: John Krasinski Duration: 1h30m

The general rule in horror movies is that things always get very quiet before something horrible happens. So how does it work if it’s quiet all the time?

It works magnificently in A Quiet Place, directed by John Krasinski and starring him and his wife, Emily Blunt. They play a married couple living in a postapocalyptic world that has one rule to keep you alive: Shhh.

We’re thrown into things on “Day 89,” the onscreen title tells us, and left to piece together what’s going on. But the screenplay, by Krasinski and horror writers Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, never leaves us in the dark for long.

It’s immediately obvious that the family has to be quiet. The reason why comes in the form of a headline screaming from what I’m guessing was the final edition of The New York Post. And a possible way out tiptoes into the picture about halfway through its 90 minutes, making you want to shout at the screen for the characters to notice it too. But shouting would be unwise.

There’s also some delicious tension. Early in the film, a pair of AA batteries signals a catastrophe waiting to happen. Later, a rusty nail will loom larger than the snow globe in Citizen Kane, or the Maltese falcon in that other old movie.

After the opening credits, we’re suddenly a year and a bit later: Day 472 if you’re keeping score. The family — I don’t think we ever hear their names — is living on a farm, where they grow corn (the silent grain?) and play Monopoly with fuzzy felt tokens. (So many other games are out — Trouble, Uno, Boggle, Operation, KerPlunk.) Communication is aided by the fact that the daughter (Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, so everyone knows sign language.

But the family is about to get bigger. Blunt’s character is clearly pregnant and, regardless of what you may have heard, newborns are notoriously noisy, as is the act of having them.

This seems a good place to mention the monsters. No one knows where they came from, but they clearly have some DNA from Ridley Scott’s Alien, although that’s true of almost every beast of the past 40 years. They’re leggier with heads like overripe melons. And they can hear better than your kids in the next bedroom. Scary, I know.

Family-affair movies can feel like vanity projects — see Guy Ritchie’s Swept Away, or Will and Jaden Smith in After Earth — but about the worst you can say about this one is: Great chemistry between the leads? Well of course: They’ve had 10 years and two children together to build it!

There are some lovely moments as well between Simmonds and her movie brother (Noah Jupe), one of whom is carrying a load of guilt on tiny shoulders. Let’s hope they know how to suffer in silence.

And the film is a technical triumph, too. Cinematography is by Denmark’s Charlotte Bruus Christensen, who knows exactly how to direct your gaze to where it’s needed — unless, like me, you are watching much of the movie through spread fingers. And Marco Beltrami’s score is not only beautiful but essential in a film with so little spoken dialogue.

Finally, let us turn back to Krasinski, who doesn’t just direct the film — he conducts it. A Quiet Place joins Get Out, It Follows, The Babadook and The Cabin in the Woods as one of the great horror movies of the past decade. It’s one of the best “silent movies” of the past hundred years. And it has such a fantastic ending that I wanted to dive back in just to experience again the way it sneaks up on us. Silently. Of course.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

 Warner Bros. Pictures

Published on Mar 13, 2018
 Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – In Theaters November 16 http://www.FantasticBeasts.com/ https://www.facebook.com/fantasticbea… https://www.instagram.com/fantasticbe… https://twitter.com/FantasticBeasts Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second of five all new adventures in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World™. At the end of the first film, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald (Johnny Depp) was captured by MACUSA (Magical Congress of the United States of America), with the help of Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne). But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escaped custody and has set about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings. In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore (Jude Law) enlists his former student Newt Scamander, who agrees to help, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world. The film features an ensemble cast led by Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, with Jude Law and Johnny Depp. The cast also includes, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Claudia Kim, William Nadylam, Kevin Guthrie, Carmen Ejogo, and Poppy Corby-Tuech. “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is directed by David Yates, from a screenplay by J.K. Rowling. The film is produced by David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Lionel Wigram. Slated for release on November 16, 2018, the film will be distributed worldwide in 2D and 3D in select theatres and IMAX by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

A Couple of trailers for upcoming movies

Trailer for Lost in Space

The Robinson family, part of a highly trained mission to establish a new colony in space, is unexpectedly pulled off course forcing them to crash land on a lost planet. Danger will find them. Lost in Space premieres April 13, 2018.

Mary Poppins Returns Official Teaser Trailer

This Christmas, a new story begins. Here’s your first look at Mary Poppins Returns.

Super- and Not-So-Superheroes: A Roundup

Super- and Not-So-Superheroes: A Roundup

Scroll down to 10 Most Hated Retcon Changes In Marvel Comics–this is a topic which will be covered in a couple of MonSFFA discussion groups: the debate Marvel vs DC, and the presentation on retconning. Click the menu item for MonSFFA programming in the left hand margin.

Compiled by Carl Slaughter:

SUPERMAN

  • 10 Stupid Arguments About Superman That Don’t Make Sense

ANTMAN

  • Antman Easter eggs

MARVEL

  • Infinity Stones

  • 10 Most Hated Retcon Changes In Marvel Comics

TERMINATOR

  • Was Terminator Genisys Really That Bad?

Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger are back in the franchise together for the first time since Terminator 2 in 1991.  The chronology will be a sequel to Terminator 2 and the movie will be the first in a new trilogy.  Filming begins in March 18.James Cameron is producing, Tim Miller is directing, No one else has been cast.  There’s no synopsis, trailer, or poster yet, David Goyer and Josh Friedman are among the writers.

THE TICK

Amazon decided to take on the quirky superhero spoof The Tick in 2016 despite the fact that the last live-action version of the comic was cancelled before it could complete a single season. But that risk seems to be paying off because Amazon has now greenlit a second season of the show even though the first season isn’t yet finished.

DOCTOR WHO

  • When Doctor Who Completely Jumped The Shark

So, is everyone dead then?

Steven Moffat is famous for not quite killing characters off. In River Song’s first story, for example, she dies in reality but has an afterlife when her conscience is downloaded into a library computer (which, based on my experience working in a library, would still be running on Windows XP). Amy and Rory were horribly killed by living a normal human lifespan. In the Capaldi era, Clara dies but is then brought back by the Doctor and given a theoretically infinite fanfic shipping situation. Bill Potts is turned into a Cyberman, but retains her personality and the Doctor believes she will not survive the events of The Doctor Falls. Nardole, too, is presumed to live life on the run but it’s hard to know if he can die (what with being decapitated in his first appearance).

A SHIMMER OF HOPE

A SHIMMER OF HOPE

The makers of Annihilation offer up a different feel for latest big-screen sci-fi adventure

PHOTOS: PARAMOUNT PICTURES Actress Natalie Portman’s character stares into a literal — and metaphorical — abyss in Alex Garland’s new movie Annihilation.

We have mapped the Earth’s surface, but the creatures that live on it continue to elude us. Every year brings news of thousands of newly discovered plant and animal species, some large (a new kind of orangutan was confirmed last year), some small (the dragon ant of Papua New Guinea) and many whimsical, like a spider that looks like a Harry Potter sorting hat, named Eriovixia gryffindori. The biosphere will always surprise.

So perhaps the root of the story that is Annihilation is not as farfetched as it might at first seem. The first third of the Southern Reach trilogy, written by Jeff VanderMeer and loosely adapted for the screen by director Alex Garland (Ex Machina), it imagines a corner of Florida where biology has run amok, creating monstrous creatures and playing havoc with radio waves and even the brainwaves of those brave or foolhardy enough to intrude.

The latest team to enter “the Shimmer,” as it’s become known, is led by psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and includes a paramedic (Gina Rodriguez), an anthropologist (Tuva Novotny) and a physicist (Tessa Thompson). As the team’s only Oscar-winner, Natalie Portman gets top billing on the poster. But her character also has an interesting background, being both a biologist and a soldier. And her husband (Oscar Isaac) was the only member of a previous team to return, although something about him is off-puttingly different.

The screenplay, a little out of chronological order as though refracted through a prism, throws this team and viewers alike into a confusing but captivating mystery. Three or maybe four days into their trek through the Shimmer, the women realize they’ve completely lost track of time. They come across a weirdly, wildly overgrown and hard-to-kill crocodile. Later they will be visited by a bearlike creature that is almost guaranteed to make a return appearance in your next nightmare.

Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack teases us with familiarity, only to yank it away: acoustic guitars one moment, the next it sounds like a drunken church choir trying to sing during a thunderstorm. There’s even a love song, Helplessly Hoping, by Crosby, Stills & Nash.

The novel and the movie exist as separate and equally enjoyable entities. I scurried out to buy a copy of the book after watching the film, and found it refreshingly unique. Garland says he read the source material but once and then set it aside and basically filmed his memory of the experience of reading it.

The result is the feeling of entering a dream or a trance, but the enigma never feels capricious. There’s an underlying, fractured logic at work here. Note, for instance, the weird deer that Portman’s character sees moving in perfect unison, and keep an eye out for other duplications and replications. Annihilation is a film that doubles down on both its science and its terror.

The actors do a good job of inhabiting the twilight zone between professional curiosity and personal fear, each one clearly trying to make sense of the oddities that surrounds her, and suppressing the amygdala’s fight-or-flight messages with varying degrees of success. The all-female cast is lifted from the book (published in 2014) but feels oddly of-the-moment as Hollywood continues to grapple with #TimesUp issues. Refreshingly, little is said of the team’s same-sex makeup. What do they have in common? They’re all scientists.

POETRY IN STOP-MOTION

Wallace and Gromit creator goes prehistoric with latest flick

As a child, Nick Park was enchanted by the animated dinosaurs in the 1966 movie One Million Years B.C.

LOS ANGELES The kooky caveman characters that come to life in Early Man have been kicking around in Nick Park’s imagination for decades.

Long before he created Wallace and Gromit, Park was taken with Ray Harryhausen’s animated dinosaurs in the 1966 Raquel Welch movie One Million Years B.C.

“I just couldn’t believe real dinosaurs moving around with people,” Park said, recalling the film he saw as an 11-year-old that would inspire his love of animation.

Early Man translates Park’s vision into an epic claymation adventure about a tribe of colourful cave people who stake the future of their homeland on a soccer showdown, despite not knowing how to play.

An ambitious young caveman, Dug, and his loyal pet warthog, Hognob, believe the plucky tribe can prevail.

“I’ve never seen a prehistoric underdog sports movie before,” Park mused.

U.K.-based Aardman Studios tapped its largest production team yet — with nearly 40 animators and sets working at once — to make Early Man, which uses stopmotion animation techniques essentially unchanged since Harryhausen’s day.

It’s a slow and painstaking process to bring clay characters to life.

“We’ve used some of the most advanced filmmaking techniques in post-production, together with stop-motion, which is as old as cinema itself,” said animation director Merlin Crossingham.

Stop-motion animation (or “stop-frame,” as Park calls it) creates the illusion of movement through a series of still images. For Early Man, Aardman’s team of artists built a cast of puppets based on Park’s sketches that serve as the film’s actors. Each seven-inch-tall silicone puppet has a jointed metal skeleton inside so it can move.

“They’re like expensive action figures,” Crossingham said.

The faces are made of modelling clay — except for the noses and eyes, which are hard plastic and serve as “grab points” for animators while changing the puppet’s expression.

Mouldable brows and more than two dozen removable and interchangeable mouths allow for a variety of looks.

Animators pose the puppets for each frame — every movement, every gesture — with 24 frames in each second of film. Mouth movements are synced to pre-recorded vocal performances. (Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Maisie Williams lend their talents here.) For every shot, the puppets are bolted into place on exquisitely detailed sets that stand about two feet high.

“Getting about five seconds of finished film is a really good week,” said animation director Will Becher.

Because the process is so timeconsuming, artists make duplicates of every set and puppet so multiple animators can work on various shots simultaneously.

Park also personally worked with the vocal performers, something he wasn’t always comfortable doing.

“I used to find it quite nerveracking working with actors, especially if they were quite famous actors,” he said.

“I find it much easier to manipulate a puppet or a clay character, because they do as they’re told. And if they don’t, you can squish their head in or whatever you want. With actors, you have to be a little bit more tactful.”

THE PLASTICINE AGE

I expect a knowledgeable review of this stop motion movie by Keith and François for WARP!   They are, apparently, planning a Plasticine stop motion for our next MonSFFilm production.  Is Nick Park worried about the competition?  –CPL

THE PLASTICINE AGE: Caveman movie’s jokes stand the test of time

Early Man, while not exactly a laugh riot, is amusing enough to be enjoyed by both adults and children.

How much you get out of the latest animated shenanigans from Aardman studios may depend on your reactions to the following bits of visual and aural humour: a zebra pelt is used as a crosswalk; and a soccer team’s cohesion has someone referring to them as “early Man United.”

The first gag is a play on Britain’s “zebra crossings,” the second a pun on the name of its Manchester football team. Early Man is a funny romp through prehistory, but it’s staunchly British, and makes no apologies. Though to be fair, most of its caveman humour doesn’t know any geographical boundaries. And most of its cavemen don’t even know how to spell that.

The time period is somewhere between the Late Pleistocene and the Early Plasticine era. Dug, voiced by Eddie Redmayne, is the brightest member of a tribe of cave dwellers whose simple, rabbit-hunting-and-gathering lifestyle is given a shake when they encounter a society that has figured out bronze. The newcomers are led by a Frenchman (Tom Hiddleston doing a Monty Python-style French accent) and his band of Euro-baddies (more Brits). There’s a weird Brexit subtext to the whole matchup, although given the time period maybe it’s more pre-Br’entrance.

The bronze-agers take over the cavemen’s valley, until Dug challenges them to a football match to win it back.

He’s confident, after discovering ancient rock paintings that suggest his tribe invented the game. But the players of “Real Bronzio” have all the latest tech, including puppet-driven instant replays that favour their team. You’ve heard of fake news? This is fake sports.

And so we have the classic setup in which a bunch of underdogs (and one under-pig, a sabretoothed hog voiced by director and co-writer Nick Park), must band together against seemingly impossible odds. They’re aided by Goona (Maisie Williams), a soccer-lover from the bronze side, fed up with not being allowed to play because she’s female.

The humour is all over the pitch, which means some jokes will fly over the heads of younger (and/or non-British) viewers, but also that there’s something for almost everyone to enjoy. (Though I must pause here to make a formal request to comedies: You know that scene where several characters are startled by one another, and the camera cuts from one of them screaming, to another, to another? Please. Stop.)

The stop-motion animation is up to the usual Aardman standards, as is the studio’s unusual but endearing obsession with rabbit characters. It’s not quite the equal of 2015’s Shaun the Sheep Movie, but it’s a step above The Pirates! from 2012. If Early Man was an Olympic competitor, it wouldn’t be breaking any records but would easily qualify for a third-place medal.

CLAWS & EFFECTS: Black Panther a solid outing

CLAWS & EFFECTS Black Panther a solid outing

Reviewed by Chris Knight  Montreal Gazette, 

PHOTOS: DISNEY Ryan Coogler’s use of women in Black Panther — such as Danai Gurira as Okoye — is much more than window dressing for a Hollywood production, writes Chris Knight.

BLACK PANTHER

1/2 out of 5 Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Letitia Wright, Andy Serkis Director: Ryan Coogler Duration: 2h14m

It’s been 20 years since we saw Wesley Snipes fighting vampires in Blade and 10 since Will Smith’s turn as the foul-mouthed Hancock, which means it’s time for another superhero movie with a central black character. (No, Michael B. Jordan in the 2015 Fantastic Four reboot doesn’t count, because that movie doesn’t count. It doesn’t even count to four.)

Black Panther is that movie, but it’s something different too — a step up. For starters, it’s the first mainstream superhero film to feature a black director — I said mainstream, Meteor Man! Ryan Coogler was already a force, with his breakout debut feature Fruitvale Station in 2013 and his Rocky sequel Creed two years later.

It also has black writers: Coogler and Joe Robert Cole. And not only is the hero the leader of an African nation, (the fictional) Wakanda, he’s got a kick-ass allfemale posse backing him up.

It’s also more proof that the best movies in the increasingly crowded Marvel and DC cinematic universes are the ones that tell individual stories. Wonder Woman was much more enjoyable than the busy Justice League and give me a Thor-Hulk buddy movie over an all-Avengers melee any day.

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