(Netflix Streaming, January 2019) There are quite a few things I don’t like about A Quiet Place from a strict logical standpoint. The premise of the Earth having been devastated by murderous aliens with a keen ear doesn’t survive a critical look. There are plenty of plot holes, dumb decisions and nonsensical implied backstory here, and by the time the normally quiet characters speak normally near a waterfall providing aural cover, one wonders why there aren’t human settlements near Niagara Falls, windy mountain passes, wavy beaches or heavy metal concerts. But A Quiet Place does a bit of essential misdirection in asking us not to think about those things—by focusing its story on an isolated family, paying careful attention to tactile details and featuring a soundtrack that could have been largely lifted from a silent movie, it sets up a simple but effective suspension of disbelief. Actor/writer/director John Krasinski, accompanied by his off-and-on-screen partner Emily Blunt, shows a clear and effective intention for his movie. He ends up making a very effective, very careful use of sound, especially in building up the suspenseful sequences. There is a lot of implied background in the way it simply shows us details about a family having been able to survive in a dangerous world. I’m not that happy with elements of the conclusion, nor the wider perspective of the imagined universe, but it works on a nuts-and-bolt level, and it certainly offers a different watching experience—there’s been a few sound-conscious horror movies lately (Hush and Don’t Breathe among others) but A Quiet Place has something slightly different to say by heading into the Science-Fiction realm. I’m not sure that the announced sequel has anything left to explore, but if this film is anything to judge, then we shouldn’t bet against John Krasinski undertaking further challenging projects.
(Video on Demand, August 2015) Wait, what? Cameron Crowe wrote and directed Aloha? The rather competent filmmaker behind such films as Jerry Maguire, Almost Famous and Vanilla Sky somehow ended up putting together this grotesque mishmash of disparate story element forced together? Huh. The frustrating thing about Aloha is that it does feature some very strong elements: Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone are two highly charming performers and it’s maddening to see them struggle with a script that doesn’t serve any substance. There is a provocative idea in trying to match Hawaiian mythology with the hard-edged world of military space technology, except when neither element seem to play off each other. The film’s lackadaisical lack of plot isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in keeping with the setting) except when it flips out ten minutes before the end credits and then suddenly try to cram some artificially-urgent conflict with a deeply dumb resolution (“Let’s blast it with sound! IN SPACE!”) with no built-up stakes at all. It doesn’t help that, as adorable as Emma Stone can be, she is profoundly miscast in a role that should have gone to someone both older and more ethnically representative. (I’m thinking of Tia Carrere, but lesser-known actresses would have been just as good) There are some terrific scenes here and them (Specifically, I’m thinking about a pair of hilarious near-wordless scenes with John Krasinski), but the script goes all over the place with no discipline nor focus –I’m actually astonished that no one suggested a further rewrite to take better advantage of its strengths. It amounts to a frustrating mess –not a bad movie to watch on pure undemanding entertainment value, but one that fails to reach even modest success at delivering what it should have been capable of achieving. Cameron Crowe; what happened to you?