A Quiet Place

Wow. This movie was an experience. The premise is simple. There’s big creatures that will hunt you if you make noise. So STFU and you’ll survive.

I’ve said before that for me, the best horror movies are about something other than the scares. At its heart, this film is about family. How far would you go to protect them? Take the creatures away, and you’ve got a compelling familial story, anchored by real life spouses Emily Blunt and John Krasinski (who also directed). They are what make the movie work.

And then it’s scary as #*$^ on top of that. Silence can be such an effective tool. I’ve heard stories of people walking out of the theater and freaking out at the first noise they hear. I for one had to stifle a couple of sneezes during the movie. But the thrills are so much more intense because you’re so completely invested in the characters. This is horror well done!

Another point, I love that the deaf daughter is played by a deaf actress. Apparently this point was non-negotiable, and I love that. Watching this made me wanna get back into my ASL classes. I was even inspired to do my Stardust reaction in sign language. I had to look up almost every word and I likely got some of it wrong, but I tried.

This is easily making my top ten of the year, and I’m so excited to see how well it’s doing.

A Quiet Place – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Out of Africa

Meryl ventures from middle America to the wilds of Africa. This movie had been on my watch list for a very long time, but I gotta be real with you guys (all 5? of you). I wasn’t really paying too much attention. So let’s just take the summary straight off IMDB.

“In 20th-century colonial Kenya, a Danish baroness/plantation owner has a passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter.”

I don’t know, I just couldn’t do it. I was more of a period piece than I expected, and it wasn’t the story I thought. I guess I thought it’d be more safari less stuffy (it wasn’t really stuffy, but again, unexpected).

Yeah I wish I had more substance to bring to this post, but sometimes, I just don’t have it. Thankfully Meryl does have it, so we’ll have more to talk about soon!

Ironweed

And she does it again! Meryl pulls out something completely different we haven’t seen from her, and the Academy has no choice but to award her with her fifth lead nomination, seventh total.

Her role here is a lead in that it’s substantial, but the story is really about Jack Nicholson’s Francis. Francis is a drifter who has just returned to his hometown of Albany. He hasn’t been back since he left decades earlier after a mistake that tore his family apart. Meryl comes in because she’s his kind of girlfriend on the street. They pal around together, both supporting each other and allowing each other to avoid their problems.

This is some major character work from Meryl. An accent and an attitude that is unlike anything we’ve seen, because she is inhuman. Nay, she is a goddess! She has this amazing scene early on where she performs a lounge number, and if you watch no other part of this film, watch those five minutes. They’re extraordinary.

Rampage

Guess who got to go to an early screening thanks to the wonderful awesome that is Stardust?! It wasn’t even so much about getting to see the movie early. It was about the 90 minutes of schmooze time pre-movie and the excited commentary post-movie with a bunch of other film afficionados, geeking out over every movie that came to mind, and excitedly chattering away on my favorite subject with others who also never get a chance to talk movies so intensely. I’ve never felt so comfortable in a crowd of people I hafta interact with, and I’m starting to really love these friends I’m seeing again and again.

But this wasn’t purely a social hour, there was a movie to see! Very loosely based on a video game (which they had set up to play before the movie, which was key to getting an extra bit of context), Dwayne Johnson is the caretaker of an albino gorilla at a primate sanctuary. Big boy gorilla George comes in contact with something science-y and starts getting bigger and angrier. Come to find, he’s not the only creature to start getting big and bad, and soon three creatures are converging on Chicago with an eye for destruction.

Look, with a movie like this, you know what you’re getting and what you’re coming for. You’re not going for the plot, which was pretty thin and thrown together. Oh and their concept of science? Totally laughable. There was no need for all the exposition because we just cared about big monsters, not why there’s big monsters, esp when your reasoning isn’t very plausible. You’re also not going for the acting, which was mostly cheesy and over the top. The baddies were particularly bad offenders there. The Rock was fine, but it felt like his charisma was wasted on this film. I loved the early scenes of him interacting with George in the facility, and would have gladly watched an entire movie of just them interacting as such. But even big guys gotta step aside when bigger creatures are on screen.

What you do go see this movie for is the fun factor. There were so many surprises in this movie that caught me off guard: unexpected jokes or jumps in action. My Stardust friend next to me said she even felt me flinch and recoil during one of those. There were whoops and cheers and gasps in the crowd. It’s def one you’re gonna wanna see with friends (maybe after a couple drinks) because it won’t be the same level of amusement on your own.

The other reason you go see this is the effects. Those monsters did indeed look pretty dope, and the destruction was well done. I’m typically not into that sort of thing, but when it’s the forefront of hte movie, it had dang well better be good (and it was).

Look, you know what you’re getting with a movie like this. If you think you can make a good time of it, then you most certainly will. Otherwise, maybe just find a barcade somewhere and play the game instead.

Rampage – \m/ \m/ \n

Sherlock Gnomes

I was strangely excited to see this. Gnomeo and Juliet had been surprisingly enjoyable–well thought out and clever with a great soundtrack. I expected more of the same, including the lovely music from Elton John. My God was there a huge drop off in quality

Our previously feuding gnome clans have now combined families and moved into a new garden. Soon after they begin to settle in to their new home, the gnomes are kidnapped. It’s up to Gnomeo and Juliet and their new friends Sherlock Gnomes and Watson to find the missing miniatures. Sounds a little thin, but not too bad, yeah? If only they put some effort in.

The whole thing just felt so dang lazy. We started strong with great jokes and that kicking soundtrack, but as the film dragged on, the quality continued to drop. There was nothing to distinguish it from the generic kids fare that otherwise fills the theater. It even seemed as though they forgot about Elton partway thru because I don’t remember any of his songs in the later half.

The whole thing was just predictable and dumb and boring, in no way worthy of its predecessor or its music.

Sherlock Gnomes – \m/ \n

Silkwood

Now we’re getting into a large block of first time watches. What’s surprising me (and it really shouldn’t) is how different each role I’m discovering is from the one before. I personally like to see actors get Oscar nominations when they do something completely different for them, so just allow me to point out these string of nods she got in the 80’s. Silkwood scored her third consecutive lead nomination.

This time, in a screenplay by Nora Ephron, Meryl plays the real life Karen Silkwood. She worked in a nuclear processing plant, and becomes very active with their union after realizing how unsafe the working conditions really are. Of course, the big bosses in charge aren’t having that, and she’s attacked and abused and ultimately dies under mysterious circumstances.

So Madame Meryl is coming off of Sophie’s Choice and takes a total 180 to play a small town middle America woman. She’s not just some morally driven activist. She’s a complicated character, dealing with a life of making mistakes and being looked over who has just had it. She’s finally standing up for herself (as well as her friends and family) and is brought under attack. Not exactly what she was hoping for, but at this point, she has nothing left to lose.

Isle of Dogs

I only just got the memo that the title of this movie is meant to be a play on words that sounds like “I Love Dogs” and now I can’t stop trying to say the title like that.

Y’all know I have cats, yeah? I’m sure I’ve talked about Lestat and Nosferatu (who is currently standing on my thigh) many times. But the truth is, I’m actually a dog person *gasp* (sorry, Fehr, I still love you and your sis), as a result, I found this to be the sweetest and cutest movie that served as a reminder that we as humans do not deserve the beautiful creatures that are dogs.

In a dystopian Japan, an epidemic has infected the entire canine population, which leads the government to decree all dogs are to be quarantined on trash island. A little pilot boy crash lands on the island in search of his beloved doggie companion, where he’s found by a pack of dogs who roam the isle together. The dogs, being the sweet loyal creatures they are (minus the one reluctant stray) vow to help the little pilot find his friend.

Before I get into the details of the movie, I just wanna take a second to acknowledge the cultural appropriation controversy. I don’t feel that I’m in a position to properly talk about it. I just want to try and be sensitive to the concern, and say that I’m open to learning more, and I’m going to skip over certain aspects of the film that I may have talked about otherwise.

In general, for me when it comes to Wes Anderson, it’s hit or miss how much I enjoy his films, but I always appreciate his style and unique vision. This had his fingerprints all over it.
The animation was so beautiful, typical Anderson fashion. Stop motion has become a lost art, and I love that he keeps bringing it back. My one biggest problem (which is the most common problem I have with his work) was the pacing. As much as I was loving the story and the characters and everything, it took too long to do anything. I was simultaneously enthralled and bored.

The voice cast was incredible. Bryan Cranston handily led the pack as Chief, the stray dog reluctant to trust the humans. Then there was Edward Norton, a new Anderson staple, as the dog who was always eager and loyal. I also loved pack member Jeff Goldblum, whose unique cadence fits perfectly into Anderson’s strange little world.

Overall it was such a sweet and positive film. Sometimes I really do wish my kitties were puppies.

Unsane

I went into this pretty cold. I try to tell myself I’m immune to most advertising, but I saw a billboard. I didn’t understand what the picture was saying. I didn’t know who the actress was (I incorrectly guessed Kate Winslet). But I saw the name Steven Soderberg, and the title suggested psychological thriller. This was a combination I was ALL about. I mean, it worked well for Side Effects.

The movie is about a woman who has just recently relocated to a new city for a new job. You soon find out the main reason for the life upheaval was to escape and heal after an intense stalker experience. When she goes to discuss her subsequent anxieties with a therapist, she finds herself involuntarily held at a mental hospital. As everyone is questioning her version of the truth, she herself starts to question what’s real.

Unsettling is really the more appropriate word to describe this film, on so many truly psychological levels. I just had this overwhelming feeling of helplessness watching this. Again, not being believed and not know what was real is a terrifying concept to me. Then there were some really close up shots that made it all the more uncomfortable (point where I make the obligatory mention of the fact that the whole film was shot on iphone). I feel myself gasping for air just thinking about it.

I don’t know that I’d seen Foy’s work before (I def haven’t seen The Crown) so I kept on thinking I was watching Sarah Paulson. I don’t know that that really has anythign to do with anything, just an anecdotal aside I felt like including. But yeah, as someone who loves a good psychological thriller, this was a good psychological thriller.

Last minute addendum, something I wanted to talk about that struck me during this movie. For part of the film, I felt infuriated. This was when they were exploring the consequences of her having a stalker. I was infuriated because why the heck should she have to drastically change her life because someone else has a deep seeded psychological issue they aren’t getting help for? Why does the system fail her so hard that there’s nothing to be done to protect her? That fury exacerbated the helpless feeling I had during the film.

Unsane – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Sophie’s Choice

Another nomination, and this time her first win as leading actress. There’s no question in my mind that this is Meryl Streep’s best performance. However, in rewatching this, I realized that it might be the single greatest performance of all time.

I made that realization about 25 minutes into the movie, still two hours away from THAT scene. THAT scene would be enough to justify an Oscar win for anyone. But there’s so much more to this movie than just THAT scene. Hell, if you knew nothing about this movie, you’d be impressed with her performance, wanting to give her all the awards and then be completely blindsided by what happens.

Why is it the greatest performance of all time? There are so many layers and levels to it. You have happy post-war Sophie. You have sickly fresh from the concentration camp Sophie. You have trapped in captivity Sophie. So many different sides of Sophie, all of them drastically different in her physicality and demeanor, and every one distinct in the hands of an expert. AND on top of that, there’s accent work (including Sophie at various stanges of knowing English) AND there are entire scenes in other languages (I think Polish primarily). Just a fraction of these factors would be impressive. This is all one role in one movie (and can I get a shout out for such a weighty and complicated role being written for a woman!) and yes THAT scene.

I’m gonna be real with you guys, this is a really hard movie to watch. It has some of the darkest subject matter in our planet’s history. But the experience of watching Meryl Streep in this role absolutely makes it worth it. This is a must watch at least once in your lifetime.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman

We move on to Meryl’s first lead nomination, and the first on this list that I’d never seen. Let’s be real, with a title like that, only Meryl would have drawn me to it.

This one surprised me in how I responded to it. In this film, Meryl has dual roles in a parallel story. First is the actual story of the French Lt’s Woman, who in the 19th century (maybe?) lives this life of an outcast with a questionable reputation, and the engaged man (Jeremy Irons) who is drawn to her. Not something I’d typically go for. What I do go for is the parallel story of a film adapation of this story, where the leads live out a love affair that plays out much like the story they’re adapating.

Here’s what surprised me. I expected to be into the film storyline more, but it was the original that I was more invested in. The “real world” story just didn’t draw me in. I think part of it was that the “fictional” story got a disproportionate amount of the screen time. So when we did get the modern story, I felt jolted out of the one that was taking up more of the time. I think I also felt less sympathy for the characters that were obviously engaging in an extra marital affair that would hurt both spouses, than I did for the relationship where their biggest obstacle was society’s views.

Anyhoo, we’re talking Meryl and of course good performance and two very different sides of her. Honestly, I’ve seen the next movie on the list (Sophie’s Choice) before writing this up, so I really can’t make any real judgement of her performance here since it pales in comparison to her next. But we’re not talking about Sophie’s yet. IMDB trivia does say that Meryl thinks this is one of her weaker roles, but weak for her is still miles above normal people.