SXSW 2018 FILM REVIEWS:
A QUIET PLACE
Director: John Krasinski
Starring: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds
Hey Movie fans,
A Quiet Place is co-written and directed by John Krasinski. In the beginning we see a family—Krasinski plays the unnamed father, his real-life wife Emily Blunt plays the mother, and Noah Jupe, Millicent Simmonds, and Cade Woodward play their three children. The eldest, the girl, is deaf (and so is the remarkable young actress who plays her). A title card says it’s “Day 89,” and we can tell we’re in a recently-post-apocalyptic world. The family very slowly—on tiptoes—moves around a small-town store, taking some of the few remaining supplies and some prescription drugs for the older boy, who looks like he has the flu. They communicate in sign language and are incredibly careful not to make a sound, but the youngest boy draws a picture of a rocket on the floor—the thing that he signs will take them all away.
We quickly discern that sound in this world is dangerous. And the danger is intensified in the following sequence as the youngest child finds a toy that makes noise and … things don’t end well. The bulk of “A Quiet Place” takes place over a year later, as the family continues to grieve and the mother is about 38 weeks pregnant. Preparing for the arrival of a newborn baby in a world without noise is difficult, and the father continues to pore over newspaper articles and research, looking for a way to stop the creatures that kill at the slightest sound.
Krasinski is incredibly smart about the way he brings the viewer into this movie. He often—but not too often—he sets up what could be called future auditory expectations. He’ll show us a shotgun or an exposed nail in the floor or a timer in silence—and we know full well what sounds those are likely to produce. Krasinski doesn’t overplay it at all. It’s a very subtle, clever storytelling tool to build tension when a director and his co-screenwriters aren’t allowed to use dialogue to do so, and it pulls us into this world in a way that’s unexpected and incredibly enjoyable.
“A Quiet Place” is nerve-wracking. It’s a movie shot to make you an active participant in a game of tension, not just a passive observer in an unfolding horror. I really enjoyed this movie and highly recommend it. It’s not like any other horror I’ve seen before. There is little dialog but a lot of tension that only keeps your nerves on edge.
I wholeheartedly give A QUIET PLACE 5 out of 5 reels
Director: Sarah Dagger-Nixon
Starring: Olivia Wilde, Morgan Spector, Betsy Aidem
Hey Movie fans,
A Vigilante written and directed by Sarah Daggar-Nickson and starring Olivia Wilde is about a woman(Sadie) who was once in an abusive marriage frees women from their captors, while hunting for her abuser. Upon receiving a code word, Sadie uses whatever force necessary to free the women in need, all the while continuing the hunt for her husband who brutalized her in order to kill him.
I liked this movie for several reasons. One being the acting. Olivia Wilde takes a big step away from her normal roles to play a a quit, haunted and damaged woman. Olivia plays Sadie with a quit intensity. The second reason is the writing
and directing by Sarah Daggar-Nickson. In her feature film debut, Sarah shoots the movie with a coldness, lean plot with basic shots and soundtrack. I highly recommend this movie.
I give A VIGILANTE 4 out of 5 reels.
YOU CAN CHOOSE YOUR FAMILY
Director: Miranda Bailey
Starring: Danielle Campbell, Samantha Mathis, Anna Gunn, Jim Gaffigan
Hey Movie Fans,
“You can choose your family” is decent movie starring Jim Gaffigan and directed by first time feature director Miranda Bailey.
Gaffigan plays a man with two sets of wives and kids
Gaffigan’s Frank who runs the family ketchup factory, expects his son Phillip to follow the same hum drum path. He’s the kind of
who says “I don’t expect you to understand” to his wife (Anna Gunn) and forces his kid to have a mock interview at home before applying for a job he knows he’ll get, Frank is never going to let Philip go off to NYU. He barely tolerates the boy’s guitar playing.
While Dad leaves for one of his regular, extended business trips to Japan, Philip sneaks off to a lakeside resort town, intending to spend spring break pursuing the girl who won’t give him the time of day back at school. But before he can start humiliating himself, he spies Frank from afar. Assuming Dad’s having an affair, he tails him to a nearby house, where he sees a whole family — a loving wife (Samantha Mathis), sporty son (Gage Polchlopek) and a daughter (Isabelle Phillips’ Kelly) Philip was flirting with just minutes before.
After Frank leaves, Philip visits the family, pretending to be the son of Dad’s best friend Richie (Frank has told both families about this fictional work buddy as part of his cover-up routine). He’s waiting in the living room when Frank returns.
Giving Philip the upper hand over the father who has made his life so unpleasant has promise, but the boy decide he wants to help Frank keep the secret from both his wives. The new partnership turns a reasonably novel comic scenario into a stale one as the men run around trying to patch up emerging holes in the web of lies Dad has constructed. The movie tries out some serious moments between the two characters, as Frank explains how he got in this situation and argues that he had good intentions. Gaffigan is persuasive enough, but the emotions don’t land.
While all this is happening, a dangerous attraction is brewing between Philip and Kelly, who doesn’t know they’re half-siblings and thinks she can make him as cool as he wants to be. ( Throw in a criminally misused Alex Karpovsky, as a stoner grown-up enlisted to stand in for the fictional Richie, and you have the ingredients for a lakeside family reunion that nobody, onscreen or in the audience, should want to attend.
I thought that this was a decent movie but it could have been better. The Plot was a perfect setup of comedy situations for Jim Gaffigan to mine but the script let him down and did not make full use of his comedic skills
Because of the missed opportunities, I give it 2 out of 5 reels
Director: Jenn Wexler
Starring: Chloe Levine, Jeremy Holm, Granit Lahu
Hey Movie Fans,
The Ranger pays homage to classic punk rock horror films of the 80’s directed by Jenn Wexler in her debut feature film. Punk rocker Chelsea played by Chloe Levine and her punk-ass friend get caught up in a police raid and go on the run to avoid getting picked up with a huge quantity of a new party drug called “echo”. When one of the punks stabs an officer while saving Chelsea from certain doom, the crew decides it’s time to go underground and they head into the woods of upstate New York. Chelsea’s uncle had a cabin in the woods where they can hide, however these woods hold a lot of conflicting memories for her, and you soon find out that her past catches up with her in the form of a deranged ranger with an ax to grind. Literally.
The Ranger played by John Holm wants Chelsea to himself, and will plow through her friends one-by-one to get to her. There’s a complicated history between the two involving Chelsea’s uncle, played by Larry Fessenden, and his unfortunate violent demise. Chelsea is not having it, so the
Ranger goes on a spree, dispatching her friends in violent ways.
I’m kind of in the middle on recommending this movie. If you’re looking for a movie with a message, lesson or meaning then don’t go see this film
If you’re looking for an energized slasher film set to a punk rock soundtrack and want to have fun go see this film.
I give it 4 out of 5 reels
Director: Eddie Alcazar
Starring: Abbie Cornish, Courtney Eaton, Leonardo Nam
Hey Movie Fans,
“Perfect” the 2018 movie was written by Ted Kupper and directed by Eddie Alcaraz. This movie was strange, very strange. I’m not sure if I even understood the plot of this film but I’ll do my best to describe it.
The main character is Garrett Wareing’s a nameless teenager and a murderer. Big time. “Perfect” opens after he’s murdered a naked girl. Who she is and how it happened doesn’t figure into the plot. Wareing’s character, referred to in the credits as Vessel 13, doesn’t even seem to know. He and his emotionally distant mother (Abbie Cornish) just want to make sure it doesn’t happen again, not so much out of a concern for his victims but just a vague vanity that his inner self be as radiant as his model good looks. And so the boy is shipped off to a forested clinic to become flawless through a procedure where he cuts out cubes of his own flesh with a box cutter and replaces them with clear silicone. Yes, there’s blood. But he’s too numb to feel pain.
I did not like this film, I did not understand this film and I do not recommend this film.
I give this 1 out of 5 reels
Gary Winogrand: All Things are Photographable
Director: Sasha Waters Freyer
Hey Movie Fans,
This 2018 SXSW entry is a documentary about the life and photographs of Gary Winogrand, a renown photographer. The film spans his 30 years of work as well as his personal life. Highlights include background on what led to some of his most iconic images caught on film.
The editing style of this documentary is confusing. The way that other photographers’ works are inter-mixed with his is disjointing and at times very hard to follow on whose photographs we are viewing.
The film is a bit long and confusing, leading to boredom for the viewer. Although some of the facts and the behind-the-scene information is interesting, there just isn’t enough to keep the viewer interested for the full 90 minutes it runs.
This is why this one rates a 2 out of 5 stars for me.
UT RTVF Longhorn Denius Student Showcase
Hey Movie Fans,
A collection of shorts ranging from good to odd to entertaining by the UT RTVF department students.
3 August Days – A story of Eva and Kir who find friendship over Cocoa-Cola and Sunflower seeds in a war town country that finds them on opposite sides.
Simple but nicely done. I would give this one a 3 out of 5 stars.
Animal Facts Club Presents: The Biodiversity of Texas – This short looks at two endangered native Texas wildlife species: the Houston Toad and the Attwater Prairie Chicken. The film talks about the Texas Department of Wildlife’s conservation and repopulation programs of both species.
Although this is a very interesting film, the odd stage puppets mixed with real footage of the animals is very off putting. It felt like it was aimed to be an educational film for a very young audience. I would give this one a 2 out of 5 stars.
The Capital City – A short film about the Internment Camps during World War II. The film depicts the many Japanese and German immigrants that were detained and treated as war criminals due to their heritage. It intercuts with footage of what was the camp and what is there now. Several of the barracks were leveled to make a baseball field.
This one is cut together in a confusing way and because of that, it takes a while to figure out what they are showing you. I would give this one a 2 out of 5 stars.
Under the Covers—A one night stand becomes a humiliating event to a young man, who in his haste to leave, drops his wallet. He must return to face his one night stand to retrieve his wallet. This is a very funny and entertaining tale.
Well done and easily the best in the collection. I give this one a 5 out of 5 stars.
Pardonme (Forgive Me) – A very sick woman begs Isabella to steal drugs from her work so that she can end her fight with cancer once and for all. Isabella finally gives in and steals morphine and helps the old woman commit suicide.
This is a very disturbing and uncomfortable subject matter that leaves the viewer not sure what to feel about this one. It’s filmed well but I just can’t give this one more than a 2 out of 5. It felt unfocused and without a point.
Maryann Joon – A single father from India is trying to educate his daughter on her heritage and cultural rules, as well as a woman’s place in society. When she finds a video hidden in the bottom of her dad’s grocery bag, she begins to question his teachings and longs to be her own woman.
You don’t get a lot of history of these two characters and are left with a lot of questions. It’s filmed well and you are intrigued by the character. I would give this one a 3 out of 5 stars.
August 22 – Mott – A short about a 21 year old man suffering from cancer. He talks about having to face such a scary thing as such a young age. He talks about treatments and procedures and losing his leg to help increase his odds at defeating his illness. He talks about the difficulty of learning to walk again with a prosthetic leg.
I give this one 5 out of 5 stars. It is poignant and real and well put together.
A Woman Loves – A woman seems to be fantasizing about other men while picking out engagement rings with her fiancé. She tries to seduce a young man who turns her down.
From the very strange opening due to odd images edited together to the unresolved ending, this is a weird and very strange story. I give this one 1 out of 5 stars.
Lullaby—A hooker dreams of being a famous singer on stage and is awoken by the cries of her baby coming from the other room.
Simple story, but made confusing with the collage of images at the end. I give this one 1 out of 5 stars.
Open—A very strange fan shows up at a musician’s apartment, claiming to have found her missing guitar out in an alleyway after her shift and wanting to return it. The musician offers to pay her a reward, but the stranger only wants to “hang out with her” and play her a song that she wrote. The musician tries to refuse but the woman begins playing her song regardless. After the song, when the musician criticizes the fan, the woman becomes enraged and steals her instrument and runs away.
I’m not really sure what the point of this story was. It shows a struggle with wanting to believe that humans are innocently good, but in the end this stranger becomes a stalker and a thief. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.
Death by Script – A young script reader is faced with a dilemma when he comes across a cursed script. The horrible script has been passed around the business and every script reader that passes on it, has ended up dead in some freak accident. When he goes to his friends for help, they dismiss him for being insane. He must decide if he should pass or consider this script because his life depends on it, but passing it would end his career.
Interesting story and almost a Tales from the Crypt feel. Entertaining and intriguing. I would give this one 4 out of 5 stars.
Texas 1955 – June – A college professor brings his young wife to a faculty mixer. She runs into a perplexing situation when she leaves to go to the restroom. She sees two signs: “Whites Only” and “Colored Only”. Being Oriental, she is confused on which restroom she should use. The urge is too great and she runs out into the alleyway to relieve herself where she is seen by others walking by. Humiliated, she returns to her husband to ask to be taken home, but he refuses. She sits in a corner alone.
Another poignant subject, well done and well executed. I give this one 5 out of 5 stars.
Overall, the collection touched on various topics while some are more poignant and resonating, others seem lost in translation. There is some very promising talent in the wings to watch for out of the UT RTVF department. Overall, I give this collection 3 out of 5 stars. I wished more had been more impressive, but glad of the two that really stuck out.
Neurotic Quest of Serenity
Directors/Screenwriters: Paulinho Caruso and Teodoro Poppovic
Cast: Tata` Werneck, Vera Holtz, Bruno Gagliasso, and Daniel Furlan
Hey Movie Fans,
A self-centered movie star, Kika, and a book store clerk begin a relationship when they work together while trying to track down the identity and whereabouts of a ghost writer. When they find him hanging from the rafter in his apartment, it is clear that they have stumbled onto something dangerous. When her new beau goes missing, she must rely on her own self to face her stalker and save her love.
Interesting story that keeps the viewer intrigued until the end. It could use some story work and some editing tightening, but overall, it was entertaining. I give this one 3 out of 5 stars.
While I really enjoyed the festival this year, I was freaking frustrated with the bus system, I missed several movies for waiting for transportation to arrive and that was really getting on my nerve a lot.
In closing, SXSW does a bang up job, I love the choices of films each year and I try to vary what I watch each year, This year most everything ran smooth, but the transportation; please fix this by 2019.