What We Learned This Week: July 1-14

LESSON #1: SCARLETT JOHANSSON IS A THERMOMETER FOR CASTING HEAT— The Avengers star sparked social media fires the last two weeks by initially accepting a role as a transgender male for the film Rub & Tug.  The movie is helmed by her Ghost in the Shell director Rupert Sanders, creating quite an echo to the whitewashing backlash she received there.  Detractors rightfully cited the inequality of opportunities for transgender performers to be cast in transgender roles, or any mainstream role for that matter.  Johannson’s callous comeback to the criticism did not help and the Twitterverse reacted with smite. Luckily, Scarlett thought the wiser, left the role, and offered a statement of contrition. Between this and Ghost in the Shell, this is two strikes for Johansson when most people barely ever get one.  She needs to think before she signs or hire better management. On the bright side, she’ll always have Black Widow to save her Q rating and that long-planned solo film just picked up a director in little-known Aussie filmmaker Cate Shortland.  At least that’s good news for her.

LESSON #2: MOVIE EXECUTIVES ARE AWARE OF OBVIOUS POINTS— Short-sighted armchair movie audiences (and people with their own outlets) like to throw their hands in the air and wonder how studios can honestly produce and release what they see to be terrible movies compounded from a mountain of bad choices.  Guess what, the powers that be aren’t as blind as you think. “Candid” is just a nice way to say “bluntly honest” and solid example (other than the usual awesomeness of Kevin Feige) cropped up recently.  In June, Warner Bros. film chairman Toby Emmerich opened up for a very frank interview with Entertainment Weekly.  When asked about film performance and what types of films are working right now, Emmerich simply stated “I think the good movies work better. Somebody once said the best business strategy in motion pictures in quality.” Countering when Rotten Tomatoes was brought up on DCEU films, he followed that with “I would say no matter what, the better the movie is the more advantage it is.”  See, that’s a guy who gets it and a classic case of “it’s easier said than done.” Even with the bottom line in mind, they know improvement is needed.

LESSON #3: IT’S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START AN OSCAR CAMPAIGN— It’s not arm-twisting “For Your Consideration” swag quite yet, but the PR firm that represents Emily Blunt and John Krasinski recently sent out a small and simple reminder package for A Quiet Place, complete with a letter of superlatives and copy of the film.  Yes, the Oscars are almost eight months away, but if you’ve got a good film, flaunt it and shout it from the mountaintops.  If a February release like Get Out can last over a year to remain in the minds of Oscar voters, so can March’s successful blockbuster surprise.  You don’t have to push hard, but you do have to keep on pushing. Go get you some hardware, John!

LESSON #4: THE UGLY DETAILS ARE COMING— A Harvey Weinstein interview ran this week in The Spectator where he admits “I did offer them acting jobs in exchange for sex, but so did and still does everyone.”  This was just a sitdown for a magazine. Imagine the court transcripts of sworn testimonies when the time comes.  Names have been named all over, but when the ugly details get put into print or words, this deplorable chapter of Hollywood is going to get worse.

LESSON #5: ONLINE JOURNALISM IS BECOMING AN ENDANGERED SPECIES NEXT TO ITS PRINT ANCESTOR AND GOOD CREATORS ARE THE CASUALTIES— Because there are so many to choose from in a saturated internet, film and entertainment websites come and go all the time.  Few notice because they move on to the next bookmark or scrolled headline. What people don’t realize is that closures (like The Dissolve) mean precious paying jobs for so many freelance writers and critics.  I’ve had an outlet suddenly (Examiner.com) close on me before and now it’s happening to colleagues of mine over at The A.V. Club, whose parent company is financially sputtering to the point of putting its shingles up for sale.  Other than deep-pocketed benefactors and advertising revenue, money has always been hard to scratch together on the free internet.  Newspapers at least get your quarters and dollars every time you pick one up. Websites don’t unless you’re clicking away on their borders.  Resources are scarce and when the money disappears, so do the opportunities. It’s a shame.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson and also on Medium.com where he is one of the 50 “Top Writers” in the Movies category.  As an educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. He is a proud director and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film now for over a year, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends while chipping in with guest spots and co-hosting duties, including the special “Connecting with Classics” podcast program.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, and Medium to follow his work.

Now Available: July 10, 2018

Welcome to Now Available, where we’ll give you a quick review of a film we didn’t cover when it was released in theaters that’s releasing for home viewing this week, along with a list of everything else and where you can see our coverage on it. 

Late on July 18, 1969, a vehicle driven by Senator Ted Kennedy swerved off of a bridge, landing on its roof in Poucha Pond on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. While Senator Kennedy was able to get out of the vehicle and safely make it to shore, his passenger, the 28 year old Mary Jo Kopechne, died in the vehicle. Kennedy fled the scene of the accident and didn’t report it for over 9 hours. Due to conflicting accounts over the years by Kennedy and his associates who were were with him both in the hours before and after the accident, as well as coroner reports that indicated Kopechne died of suffocation, not drowning, have led to much speculation over the past 49 years about what actually happened that night. Did the accident happen as described by its only survivor? If so, why did he wait so long to report it? Were Kennedy’s actions properly dealt with or was this a case where the influence wielded by one of the United States’ most powerful families allowed justice to be undermined?

John Curran’s Chappaquiddick efforts to retell this murky story in a way that focuses on established facts to show the social and political ramifications of the incident while responsibly filling in some of the holes in the official version of the story. Jason Clarke leads an impressive cast as Kennedy, proving to be more than up to the task of transforming himself into the “Lion of the Senate.” Most everyone has a generic Kennedy impression somewhere in their repertoire, but Clarke surpasses mere imitation by playing the character as a man weighed down by his perceived responsibility to be who his father expects him to be as the only surviving Kennedy son following the assassination of his brother Robert just a month prior to the incident. His brother John’s shadow also looms large in the film, as much of the background noise is of televisions and radios tuned in to hear about Apollo 11’s journey to the moon, an endeavor fiercely supported by the late president that occurred on the same weekend as the accident. Ed Helms gives a rare but capable dramatic performance as Joseph Gargan, the cousin to Kennedy who became the estranged from the family as a result of the incident. Gargan is the conscience of the film and most of the blanks filled in on the story are consistent with the real life Gargan’s recollections of the incident in the 1988 book Senatorial Privilege: The Chappaquiddick Cover-Up by Leo Demore. Jim Gaffigan gives a surprisingly balanced performance as Kennedy family friend and Massachusetts District Attorney Paul F. Markham, a man burdened by his loyalty to the Kennedy’s as he goes about the icky business of effectively spinning the death of a young woman in a way that would salvage a promising political career. Curran’s direction and the screenplay are tight, giving the film an even pace and the feel of a thriller. I’m always impressed when a director is able to make a well-known event feel like anything could happen, and Curran is able to accomplish that here. It’s a well balanced film that avoids promoting salacious conspiracy theories but doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the senator either. 

Overall Chappaquiddick is an impressive film buoyed by a dynamite lead performance by Clarke. It’s definitely worth the price of a Redbox. It’s probably even still worth it if you forget to return it for a day or two.

Also available this week:

A Quiet Place: Patrick and Aaron discussed this film with special guest Patrick Willems on Episode 104 of the podcast and Aaron wrote a review here.

The Leisure Seeker

Lean on Pete

211

Future World

Sweet Country


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.

What We Learned This Week: April 22-28

LESSON #1: STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA UNTIL YOU SEE ANY HOTLY ANTICIPATED MOVIE— The internet is not a kind place with secrets. Trust Aaron White and I in our reviews of Avengers: Infinity War that you’re going to want this one untarnished. Total social media darkness is recommended (especially over in the gladiatorial arena of unchecked internet courage known as Twitter).  The full plot is already posted on Wikipedia and the casting and trivia sections of IMDb give notes away as well.  Come back when the coast is clear.  As the teacher-preacher around here, I will testify and extend the advice that all of us should be treading lightly when it comes to social media with any big film, not just Avengers: Infinity War.  All of the noise is worth filtering all the time.

LESSON #2: SPEAKING OF SOCIAL MEDIA, THE STARDUST APP IS FUN AND YOU NEED TO GET IN ON THIS— Color this with a shade of shameless self-promotion, but if you do like social media and the quick interactions that are possible out there, give the new Stardust app a look for Apple and Android devices.  Tidier that Periscope and tagged to match movies and TV shows, their user-created personalized video takes are a lot of fun for audience engagement.  Find Aaron White’s username of “FeelinFilmAaron” and mine at “movielessons.”  We promise a good time!

LESSON #3: PUT UP OR SHUT UP OR, FOR THAT MATTER, S–T OR GET OFF THE POT— I’m sure there are classier parables with glass houses, stones, and kettle colors when it comes to James Cameron’s recent silly and incendiary comments rooting for superhero fatigue to help his own Avatar sequels.  I’ll stick with my cruder ones.  Adding more gasoline, the Titanic and Terminator director is calling The Godfather thunder of comparisons to his upcoming epics.  You know, Jim.  Read this lesson.  Your clout looks a lot more legit when you can actually deliver.  Avatar was a long nine years ago.  I get it.  An artist on your level can’t be rushed.  That’s cool, but then focus on your precious work and leave the success you’re not getting to those who worked and earned it.  Call me when the Pandora dinner is ready.  I’ll be the old graying man on the couch snacking and enjoy the heck out of the reruns of MCU films that have passed you by.

LESSON #4: SOME FILMS DO NOT NEED SEQUELS AND A QUIET PLACE IS ONE OF THEM— The news of John Krasinski’s hit thriller getting a greenlit sequel at Paramount stands as troublesome.  This is another item of industry proof that this is a business first and an art convention second.  This is a studio exec who cannot help but try and capitalize on a hit.  The real trigger for any sequel should be the story, not the earnings report.  I know A Quiet Place ends with a door-opener for more and beats Cloverfield (coincidentally from the same studio) when it comes to wider-world potential, but the remarkably successful film will last longer and be better as itself with no imitators.  Leave it be.

LESSON #5: YOU DON’T GET TO SELF-LABEL YOUR OWN WORK AS MASTERPIECES— Last but not least, it’s Avengers: Infinity War weekend and battles are center stage.  I will revisit a common battlefield of mine.  Even after seeing the MCU epic, the best fight I discovered and observed this week was this rapid war of words between two celebrated directors: William Friedkin of The Exorcist and The French Connection and Nicholas Winding-Refn of Drive and Neon Demon.  Take in this very short 90-second video of the extremely pretentious Refn calling his own film a masterpiece and watch the old school Friedkin (who has actual masterpieces on his resume) pricelessly react and retort:

As the Masterpiece Division Cop of the Feelin’ Film Tone Police, William Friedkin just became my spirit animal.  He preaches what I preach, that masterpieces take time to assign because films have linger, live, and hold up.  Audiences and historians decide that, not the filmmaker themselves.


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

What We Learned This Week: April 8-14

LESSON #1: INFUSE HEART INTO HORROR FILMS FOR ELEVATED IMPACT— John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place is making a killing at the box office for a multitude of reasons.  First, from a business standpoint, it’s a well-marketed horror movie with a PG-13 rating to increase the potential audience compared to R-rating fare.  Second, and more importantly, Krasinski and company made an intelligent and resonating film compared to the usual shock value thrills of the genre.  I believe their secret ingredient was heart.  Strip away the monsters and you have a family survival film comprised of characters you care about and invest in, not a cast of hollow and unmemorable stereotypes occupying a buffet menu for carnage.  For most disposable horror films, you kind of root for the creative kills but once the surprises are gone, so is the repeat value.  In A Quiet Place, you dread any potential for loss and the journey of avoidance becomes more compelling than any swift action.  That’s a powerful draw worth revisiting.  You’ll find three over-the-moon reviews of A Quiet Place between Aaron White’s take, the main episode here on Feelin’ Film, and my own on Every Movie Has a Lesson.

LESSON #2: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DECEASED ACTORS?— The rumor is out there that Meryl Streep could replace Carrie Fisher as Leia in the next Star Wars film.  Naturally, the purists… errr… I mean… hardcore fanboys led the charge of torches and pitchforks against such an idea, forgetting needs and logistics of the story in place.  If you have noticed (as the cited article points out), each returning Original Trilogy great has led the main focus for each film (Han had The Force Awakens, Luke had The Last Jedi), and Leia was the planned centerpiece of the third in J.J. Abrams’s script before Fisher’s death.  If that is true, it’s going to take quite a rewrite.  With shooting due to start this summer, it’s going to be very interesting to see how filmmakers are going to modify the plan.  What would you do?

LESSON #3: HOW DO YOU PROPERLY REPLACE DISGRACED ACTORS?— Comic actor T.J. Miller keeps adding to his sh-tstorm and diminishing reputation.  After reports of sexual misconduct and violence and transphobic bigotry surfaced last winter, he’s added federal fake bomb threat charges this week.  Even before this week, many, including a film critic peer of mine Danielle Solzman and an excellent Scott Mendelson piece in Forbes magazine, have questioned why Miller hasn’t received the Kevin Spacey treatment and been replaced or cut from Ready Player One (a simple ADR replacement you would think) and the upcoming Deadpool 2.  I have to believe the answers aren’t always as simple as a replacement, between the hangups of effort, time, negative impact potential, contracts, or the sliding scale of morality trying to define punishments that fit crimes.  In the end, I’ll sound like a teacher to say “fair is not always equal.”  What worked for Ridley Scott and TriStar Pictures might not work for Steven Spielberg and Warner Bros.  The only part that is up to moviegoers is whether to support films with these questionable cast inclusions with your ticket money.  For a critic like myself, it’s about checking biases at the door and judging the film not the people.

LESSON #4: THE SECRETS OF NETFLIX— I can’t be the only person who wastes time scrolling Netflix menus looking for something the sparks my interest while running into the same promoted and retreading menu preferences.  Word is there are codes to unlock and directly navigate to the narrow subgenres appearing within the evolving algorithms on Netflix that contain thousands of underrepresented movies.  Has anyone tried these?!  Follow this link and let us know!


DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson.  As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical.  He is a proud member and one of the founders of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle.  As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends.  Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on FacebookTwitter, and Medium.

 

Episode 104: A Quiet Place

This week we’re discussing the new horror thriller A Quiet Place a couple of weeks sooner than we planned after a surprise opening weekend in which it hauled in over $50 million. John Krasinski’s film is an intelligent, family-centered, emotionally-driven creature feature that is as great as it is unique. Joining us for this conversation is special first-time guest Patrick Willems, YouTube Video Creator and host of the We Heart Hartnett Podcast. 

What We’ve Been Up To – 00:01:17

(Aaron – Sleeping Beauty)
(Patch – A Kim Jong Il Production by Paul Fischer)
(Patrick – Unsane)

A Quiet Place Review – 0:20:57

The Connecting Point – 1:34:18


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MOVIE REVIEW: A Quiet Place

A QUIET PLACE (2018)

1 Hour and 30 Minutes (PG-13)

A Quiet Place first came to my attention when its marketing team released one of the best teaser trailers I’ve ever seen. Edited brilliantly and with no dialogue, it created a mysterious tension that left viewers anxious to find out more. So as to not be spoiled, I immediately avoided any further promotional material, and my viewing experience was definitely the better for it.

Directed by John Krasinski (Jim Halpert of The Office fame) this horror thriller follows a family of four who must live life in silence while hiding from creatures that hunt by sound. It is based on an original story idea by childhood friends Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, and though not Krasinski’s first time in the director’s chair, it does mark the first time he’s starred in a film with (and directed) his wife, Emily Blunt. Krasinski lead the film as Lee, the family’s loving and protective patriarch.

It takes no time at all for A Quiet Place to start building its world. In an opening sequence, we meet Lee’s family as they scrounge for food, medicine, and supplies in a deserted town. It’s the kind of post-apocalyptic setting that many viewers will be familiar with having spent a majority of the last decade following survivors around in The Walking Dead or playing video games such as The Last of Us. Lee’s family seem to be on their own and have developed a unique sign language that allows them to communicate without speaking. We also see them tip-toe carefully around and it is immediately apparent just how much these people fear whatever it is that is out there causing them to live in silence. It is a fantastic beginning and one that sets the stage perfectly for the unexpected story that is about to unfold.

A Quiet Place is really three things. It is a monster movie, where an unknown species has arrived on earth, possibly via meteorite crash (but honestly it doesn’t matter how). They are blind, heavily armored, and instinctively attack any sound they hear. Lee’s family lives in isolation and must carefully manage to avoid drawing the attention of these creatures, which have slowly eradicated most life from the area. For them, whatever else may be happening in the world is of no consequence, because A Quiet Place is also a survival story. Lee, his pregnant wife Evelyn (Blunt), and their two children, Marcus (Noah Jupe) and Regan (Millicent Simmonds), have developed a system of life that keeps them safe and relatively happy, considering the circumstances. They’ve worked hard to prepare for the arrival of their newborn and Lee is beginning to teach the children some of the tasks he is responsible for. A Quiet Place is also an emotional family drama. Children growing up in an awful monster-filled world still must go through stages of maturation. Lee’s family deals with the feelings of both children, all while coping with some pretty massive grief. It is in these relationships between each of the characters that A Quiet Place becomes something great. The choice to keep this story small with a one-family cast creates more time for character development of the entire group and the incredible acting by all elevates the film significantly. This is a movie where the first line of audible dialogue doesn’t come for 40 minutes, so the heavy lifting is accomplished entirely through facial gestures and body language.

When it comes to the monsters, their design is superb. They are reminiscent of a xenomorph from Alien, and there are a couple of scenes that definitely feel like an homage to that classic. What makes them terrifying, though, is the film’s sound design. For a movie called A Quiet Place (with almost no dialogue) to succeed, sound design had to be phenomenal, and it is. Every creek of the floorboard, breathless scream, and clicking of the monster’s vocal chords can be felt. This is an intense film, and the sound design coupled with incredibly strong cinematography keeps you anxious for nearly its entire runtime. Oh, and there are jump scares, but they are fairly spread out and expertly placed. This isn’t the kind of film that relies on them to carry it. The horror comes from the emotionally draining family situations as much as it does the big scary monster.

VERDICT

What Krasinski has accomplished with A Quite Place is really something special. It’s also staggering to see Michael Bay’s name attached to this (as producer) and have it turn out this good, but here we are. The technical elements of the film are top notch and the performances are marvelous all around. There may be minor plot holes or slightly unrealistic scenarios, but this is a creature feature and none of that detracted from my viewing experience one bit. To sum it up, this is the best Cloverfield Universe film ever made and it’s not even part of that series. A Quiet Place sets a new standard for what a horror thriller can be by providing an experience unlike anything audiences have experienced in a very long time. It is emotionally draining, intelligent, and clever. All while maintaining a constant sense of dread. Krasinski has made a terrifying, must-see film for fans of this genre.

Rating:


Aaron White is a Seattle-based film critic and co-creator/co-host of the Feelin’ Film Podcast. He is also a member of the Seattle Film Critics Society. He writes reviews with a focus on how his expectations influenced his experience. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter to be notified when new content is posted.