This Week in Geek (9-15/04/18)


In theaters: With A Quiet Place, John Krasinski has crafted a horror film about parental anxieties, in which he and Emily Blunt try their best to protect their children in a postapocalyptic countryside overrun by alien monsters (my friend Marty dubbed them the Silencers) that home in on sound. So I expect a lot of reviews to be about how much noise the audience was making during the silent parts of the film (which is most of it, lest the characters get eaten), and indeed, because of the film's conceit, you do become acutely aware of munching, coughing and other sounds. (That said, our packed theater was very respectful of that conceit, and we had no problems.) The silence of course provides opportunity for jump scares, but they're justified by the premise, and therefore don't come off as cheap. This is also an efficient film that does not, and cannot, rely on exposition, and yet finds a way to explain what has happened and what rules the family must follow if they are to survive. Tense, clever, emotional... A Quiet Place is a great nail-biter where smart characters are placed in impossible situations. I don't think our theater was quiet just out of respect. I think the audience was quiet because it was holding its breath through the third act.

At home: Robert Pattinson is nigh unrecognizable in the Safdie Bros.' Good Time, a tale of stupid criminals shot on the cheap, but still managing a glossy look thanks to colorful night photography. After a bank robbery goes wrong, Pattinson's character gets his mentally handicapped brother in trouble, and proceeds to try and save/protect him in the worst possible ways, compounding his panic moves with more of the same. The script feels at times unpolished, but the digressions smack of naturalism, and make the story believable despite its more outrageous turns. Its synth score gives it a nice urgency that at once pushes the action forward and makes the protagonist feel like the hero he isn't. But up until the end, this was just a "good time" watching bad people screw up abominably. The coda pushes it over the edge, a subtle and touching release from all the movie's tension. Is this what catharsis feels like?

The People vs. Larry Flynt paints an interesting picture of a man who only really ever wanted to make a buck, but somehow became a symbol for Freedom of Speech. Even with the added benefit of the biopic giving depth, dimension and pathos to the creator of Hustler, at no point in the film did I think anything other than he was fighting against censorship to protect his business and/or as a publicity stunt. It might have gone horribly wrong at times, but that still seems his prime motivation (give or take his Christian years, which I don't know how to interpret, the movie fails to make me understand it). As a biopic, it's fine and even fun at times. I might question some of the casting. Woody Harrelson is strong, but I'm not sure about director Milos Forman's non-actors. Flynt as one of the judges is wooden, but it's a limited part. Courtney Love is actually good, but distracting given her personal history and what happens to her character. Pulled me out of the film at various points. Oh an if you're wondering about the film's sexual content, it is surprisingly tame. That's just not what it's about.

Cold War II picks up straight from the first film and is in some ways a more straightforward film, or is it just that I've already been introduced to its cast of characters? Like the first Cold War, the focus of this Hong Kong police thriller is on the upper echelons, as a conspiracy from within tries to discredit the new commissioner. It's still a bit less talky than the first one, and the action set pieces are quite exciting. When I saw Chow Yun-Fat was in this, I might have feared he would be relegated to a very small part as Andy Lau was in the previous chapter, but no worries, he's got a sizeable role. While Cold War isn't textured enough to really be the Infernal Affairs of the 2010s, it's rewarding my patience with what is perhaps a more subtle character story, spiced up by an intellectual chess game and strong action. I plan on checking out Cold War III when it comes out.

Doctor Who Titles: Based on one of Lisa Gardner's D.D. Walker mysteries, the TNT movie-of-the-week Hide could conceivably be a series pilot, or else why bother us with disposable romantic entanglements (which I found confusing, D.D must have a "type" because I couldn't generally tell the actors apart)? The convoluted mystery is pretty good - about a mysterious stalker who may have taken to killing women who look like his obsession - and I'm game to watch anything with Carla Gugino in it, but Hide almost always falls flat. Visually, it's workmanlike television, with nothing differentiating it from an episode of any of a dozen cop dramas on TV in the last 20 years. It's even less edgy than its plot would suggest, and the dialog feels written rather than naturalistic. The only bit I found memorable was the passing reference to a few in a university math department, which had nothing to do with anything, but I can confirm is based on a very real (and completely stupid, in my opinion) issue.
#The TARDIS lands in the film... The stalker may well be an alien when the 11th Doctor, Amy and Rory get on the case.
Some more classic MST3K movies (Netflix just added a dozen), regardless of comedy commentary... Female wrestler Peaches Paige stars as herself in Racket Girls, an aimless and badly-acted wrestling/crime movie, and while the former is mind-numbing trash where women walk around in their 50s underwear, the latter is even duller and had me shouting "Bring back the ladies!". The Girl in Lovers' Lane is a teen melodrama that keeps abandoning its plot for another; its only redeeming value is western character actor legend Jack Elam's lanky creep. The Touch of Satan proves to be a turgid witch movie with what might have been a good mystery, if it were paced and edited correctly, though it probably wouldn't have been feature-length. Kim Cattrall and James Earl Jones can't save City Limits, an irredeemably 80s biker postapocalypse with bad sound and worse fashions. The generically-titled Beginning of the End has Peter Graves and giant locust that actually attack Chicago rather than stay in the wild like most movies' giant insects; the effects are actually fun even if the plot is thin. Laughable editing is only one of Girl in Gold Boots' problems, a drive-in melodrama in which a girl ends up on the criminal end of a love triangle while looking for a career as a go-go dancer - it's also got a confused plot, ridiculous dialog, soppy songs, and casting problems.


Anonymous said...

I put it to you that "Girl in Gold Boots" is actually a pretty good movie at heart, and its biggest problems are superficial. It's strongly character-driven, to a degree you almost wouldn't see today: the characters' personalities and failings are established early, and serve to drive their choices (both good and bad, mostly bad). I buy the plot, for the most part. And the MST3K riffing is great.

A smarter person than me once observed, this is a movie about a person who fears death more than loneliness or powerlessness, meeting two people who respectively fear loneliness and powerlessness most of all; that would be Oscar bait by today's standards. Also, the writers know more than the characters, which means the characters sometimes behave in ways they don't understand. All that in a greasy oily little film from the 60s that, despite itself, seems to accurately represent facets of the human condition. Yeah, I enjoy this movie unironically (though I am happiest with a frosting-like layer of MST3K).

Also: think about Harry Blatz's jail heist. Now I can understand most of it: it's a low-security facility (the first thing that makes the heist possible), there's an inattentive guard who lets Harry Blatz come and go more or less at will, and like Cerberus he's not paying much attention when people enter the prison. All that works. But then how does Buzz get past the guard again, and especially without Harry Blatz? Then I realized: Buzz can teleport. Even that tracks with how this movie establishes its characters early on! Not even Joss Whedon could have done better.

The club owner was married to Judy Garland when this film was made.


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