A Quiet Place (2018)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

The world has been overrun by monsters. The creatures are blind, but have incredibly sensitive hearing. If you make any sound at all, they will find you, and kill you. Now, a little over a year into the invasion, a family survives by living a completely sound-free lifestyle. They communicate through sign language, use their hands when eating, and cover the footpaths around their house with sand. A year back, their youngest son was killed when he played with an electronic rocket toy. Now, they mourn his loss, and do their best to survive. And… that’s about it.

A Quiet Place is a movie I was very excited to see. First of all, it’s got a great concept; monsters that track you through sound, so you can’t ever make any noise. So much tension can be wrung out of that premise alone. On top of this, I was glad to see another comedian, John Krasinski, getting the chance to direct a horror movie. Jordan Peele did that last year with Get Out, and it totally worked. It was also cool to see Krasinski and his actual wife, Emily Blunt, playing a couple in a movie together. And, having watched the picture, I can tell you, they are easily the best part of the film. They’re the most experienced performers, and their chemistry is effortless. The child actors who play their kids are also very good, and definitely deserve credit for their work. And, technically, this film is competently crafted, with the editing, sound design and cinematography all working fine. So why, then, did I walk out of the theater not loving this film?

It all comes down to the fact that this movie is not a movie. It’s an idea. In my review for Downsizing, I talked about how some films get made just because their central concept is super original, even if the filmmakers don’t have a complete story mapped out when they start shooting. A Quiet Place has an interesting idea, a world where everyone needs to be silent because if they make noise, they’ll die, but not much else. You don’t really know anything about the main family, I don’t even think we learned their names, and they don’t really want anything concrete. They’re just kind of surviving. Yes, in real life, people don’t constantly pursue solid, tangible things, like lost arks, or the meaning of the word rosebud, and just kind of mosey along, but this is a movie. Characters need solid, tangible things to achieve, otherwise we’re just kind of watching them shuffle along, aimlessly, for two hours. And that’s a large part of this movie; watching this family just live their lives, but without sound. Now, granted, every now and then, someone will drop something, or something will break, and then the creatures will show up, and it’ll be super intense. Those sequences are awesome. It’s just, the rest of the time, not much is happening, and, honestly, the main family is kind of boring. As I said, we know next to nothing about them.  They don’t really have personalities. And while you could make the argument that thats’ the point, they’re meant to be a broad stand-in for every family in peril, you can have characters in monster movies with distinct quirks. Case and point; Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host. All the various members of the Park family are extremely unique, and distinct from one another. The Aunt, Doona Bae, is a super-competitive olympic archer, the Father, Song Kang-Ho, is a lazy, neglectful pothead, the Uncle, Park Hae-Il, is an alcoholic, disillusioned former student radical, etc. They have personalities. You can tell them apart. I couldn’t tell you anything about the family in A Quiet Place, other than that the daughter is deaf.  That’s not good.

Still, the film’s interesting central premise, strong performances, and intense scenes of suspense do elevate it, slightly, above other “idea” movies. Did I love it? No. Will I ever go to see it again? Probably not. But if you want to go to the theaters, and watch some intense, well-staged suspense scenes, maybe give it a look. As for me, I’ll never think about it again.

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The Host (2006)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

When a huge amount of formaldehyde is dumped down the drain, strange things start happening in Seoul’s Han River. First, all the fish in the area mysteriously die off. Next, pedestrians start noticing something big, and creepy, skulking below the surface. Then, after four years of waiting, a giant monster bursts from the water, eager to eat, and kidnap, humans. One of those taken is Park Hyun-Seo, the daughter of a neglectful Snack Shop Owner, who, with the help of his aging father, alcoholic brother, and athlete sister, sets out to bring her home. But things get complicated when the American military, the group responsible for creating the monster, block off the river, and release a poison, Agent Yellow, into the air. WIll the Parks save their daughter in time? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie to find out.

When it came out back in 2006, The Host was a smash hit. Not only did it become the highest grossing Korean film of all time, it also garnered glowing reviews, and launched its director, Bong Joon-Ho, from a popular local filmmaker to a global talent that Hollywood was eager to work with. Because of this, and the upcoming release of Okja, Bong’s newest film, I decided to give The Host, and a few of his other movies, a look. See, It’s very rare for Asian directors to become big in Hollywood. There are exceptions, like Ang Lee and John Woo, but, for the most part, Asian filmmakers are relegated to the periphery of the popular conscience. So what about The Host is so special? Why does Hollywood know this film, and its director, and not others? Simple; its entertaining and well-made.

The Host takes a very basic premise–family tries to save daughter from monster–and tells it with just enough skill, and heart, to keep you engaged. And unlike many foreign films, which feature jokes that really only make sense in the original language, The Host is completely universal in its characterization and humor. I don’t speak a word of Korean, and the first time I watched this movie, it was without subtitles. And yet, I still knew what was going on, and who everyone was. That’s because Bong did a brilliant job of using costumes, hair styles, and other bits of visual shorthand to establish who the characters were. The film also looks amazing. Seriously! Anyone hoping to direct great monster movies should give this flick a look. It is a masterclass in how to shoot a blockbuster. Now, with regards to complaints, I do have a few. I think that the film, which is over two hours long, could have been shortened. I also couldn’t get over the fact that the Monster kidnapped Hyun-Seo, and didn’t just kill her. I understand that she needs to stay alive, because otherwise the story won’t happen, but, still. That seemed like a logical error. Granted, most people probably won’t care, and, even for me, its a nitpick. Beyond that, though, I have no comments. The Host is an entertaining, well-crafted monster movie, which transcends linguistic barriers to deliver high thrills and huge laughs. Don’t hesitate to give it a look.

Colossal (2017)

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Gloria is an out-of-work writer, struggling with alcoholism. When she is unceremoniously dumped by her boyfriend, she returns to her hometown in the Midwest, hoping to get her life back on track. There, she reunites with her childhood friend, Oscar, who helps her move in, and even offers her a job waiting tables at his bar. While settling in, Gloria sees news reports of a giant, Godzilla-like monster terrorizing Seoul, South Korea. And as if this weren’t strange enough, Gloria finds, to her horror and amusement, that when she walks through a park at 8:05 in the morning, she can control the creature. How? Why? Well, you’ll just have to watch the movie, and find out for yourself.

In a world where every film is either a sequel, remake, spin-off or adaptation, a movie like Colossal, which is none of those things, and whose premise has honestly never been done before, stands out. The concept alone–a random person in America somehow being able to control a giant monster halfway around the world–should be enough to get you in the theater. And that’s not even considering how the concept itself is executed. This is an extremely well-acted, highly compelling movie, with some very impressive visual effects, especially when you consider how small the budget is. The dialogue is also very good, with each character having a specific, individual voice, and there being some very fun exchanges in the first half of the movie. I really think that more people should see this film, and I’m hoping that good reviews and a strong enough box office gross will convince studios to start making original content again.

That being said, Colossal does have problems; the foremost of which is an inconsistent tone. See, the movie is marketed as a comedy, and, for the first half, it’s just that; a comedy. The set-up is pleasantly absurd, and there are jokes a plenty. But around the 50 minute mark, the film stops being plain silly, and shifts into drastically darker territory. And when I say dark, I mean just that. Murder, drug addiction, emotional and physical abuse; these are just a few of the thinks that get brought up halfway through this movie, and that end up taking the spotlight. And the transition between the two tones is not handled well. The film also tries to throw you for a loop by having certain characters who you think will be good turn out to be bad, and other characters who you imagine will be important just kind of vanish without explanation. And while I normally love it when movies try to avoid cliches, and play with your expectations, I don’t like it when they don’t provide you with any kind of build up, and just go “You see this character who we’ve spent 30 minutes establishing is one way? Uh, yeah, he’s actually not like that at all. Sorry!”

That being said, I do believe that the film’s performances, its effects, and, above all, it’s originality, make up for whatever flaws it might have, and I do highly recommend you go see it. Go out and give it a look.