History-making box office projections for Todd Phillips’s “Joker” (2019)

With critics raving about Todd Phillips’s Joker (2019) en masse at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, long-range box office projections for the film have skyrocketed, according to Comic Book Resources. If its forecasts prove accurate, then the movie will rake in the fourth-highest opening of all time for an R-rated release, behind Tim Miller’s Deadpool (2016), David Leitch’s Deadpool 2 (2018), and Andy Muschietti’s It (2017). As for the DCEU, it would outpace Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2017) and match Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman (2017), and even if Joker performs at the lower end of its estimates, it will still surpass Ruben Fleischer’s Venom (2018) as the top-grossing October opener ever.

Hulu review: John Krasinski’s “A Quiet Place” (2018)

First, Alan Crosland’s The Jazz Singer (1927) popularized talkies. Then, Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974) distorted a single recorded word of dialogue just enough to influence the remainder of the narrative.

Next, A Quiet Place omitted spoken lines altogether for a mainstream, feature-length release, and the findings of this experiment are some of the most radical in the renaissance following the release of Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook (2014).

If you don’t know what to watch next, John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018) is available to stream on Hulu. The postapocalyptic science fiction horror thriller was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Sound Editing.

Krasinski also co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in the production.

Lee Abbott (Krasinski) and his pregnant wife, Evelyn (Emily Blunt), along with their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe), are living in a world where almost all life has been hunted into extinction by alien creatures attacking anything which makes noise.

Fortunately for them, Regan is deaf, so the family knows American Sign Language and can communicate with each other in silence.

When one of the monsters kills the Abbotts’ youngest child, Beau (Cade Woodward), the rest of the family resolves to fight for themselves and one another.

Krasinski and Blunt are married with children off-screen, and so the filmmaker directs out of himself as well as his leading lady thoroughly personal performances, characterizing a husband, wife, father, and mother desperate to protect their home.

Simmonds is also deaf in real life, marking a sensitive casting choice for the disabled community. Rather than functioning as a handicap to overcome, Regan’s disability empowers her to survive.

What’s more, Krasinski’s directorial debut is a masterwork of its genre. Post-James Wan’s Saw (2004), jump scares have proven themselves to be most powerful when the sudden sound is paired with a horrifying image, instead of something cheaper and more mundane.

The hushed diegesis lends itself to effective jump scares like a dream (or a nightmare).

As progressive as the picture is with its positive, diverse (though not altogether intersectional) representation, and as much as it gets right about the scary movie formula, it is problematically regressive with what many critics interpret to be pro-life, pro-gun, conservative themes.

Some have even gone so far as to dismiss it as the antithesis to Jordan Peele’s social horror masterpiece, Get Out (2017).

Indeed, Evelyn still decides to give birth in spite of the mortal danger it poses to herself, and, by extension, her children.

While Lee’s altruistic parenting is good parenting, intentionalism is a critical fallacy, and it is irrelevant that Krasinski cites Get Out as a source of inspiration.

Art belongs not to the creator, but to the consumer, and one hopes Krasinski will learn throughout his promising career to handle his sociopolitical subtext with greater care.

A Quiet Place is important, effectual, “pure” cinema (according to the Hitchcockian school of thought), speaking to us with no words at all.

Scarlett Johansson comes out in defense of Woody Allen

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Scarlett Johansson has joined the likes of Anjelica Huston and Javier Bardem in defending Woody Allen against sexual abuse allegations from his adopted daughter, Dylan Farrow, according to The Guardian. Other artists, such as Timothée Chalamet, Greta Gerwig, as well as Colin Firth, say they regret working with the filmmaker, who is waging a legal battle right now with Amazon over their termination of a four-film agreement after remarks he made about #MeToo. Johansson, a founding member of Time’s Up, starred in Allen’s Match Point (2005), Scoop (2006), and Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008).

Rebuilding the Afghanistan film industry under the Taliban

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For six days a week inside a windowless room, four men clean and repair sixteen- and thirty-five-millimeter film one strip at a time. (Image Courtesy: The Washington Post).

With the United States and the Taliban negotiating to end their eighteen-year conflict, archivists at Afghan Film, the nationalized filmmaking company, are conserving and digitizing reels not yet destroyed or decayed since the civil war began in 1992, according to The Washington Post. After taking over Kabul in 1996, the Islamic militants, enforcing the strictest interpretations of religious modesty, banned music and motion pictures to keep women’s faces from appearing onscreen with uncovered hair, lusting for a leading man. Actor Mamnoon Maqsoodi says Afghanistan cherishes movies because they function as a coping mechanism in a rich culture devastated by decades of war.

Three monologuing rules for actors at a film audition

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Unless explicitly directed to use theater, the movie monologuist ought to always read from screenplays. (Image Courtesy: Backstage).

Because of Google, YouTube, and Netflix, the temptation for actors to audition with overly imitated monologues has never been more accessible, according to Backstage. Instead, contributor Suzanne LaChasse advises her readers to first learn about performers with a similar casting type, researching their screenplays without watching their films, and then to read the entire script to contextualize the speech with the rest of the story, since acting is storytelling. Finally, LaChasse writes that her audience should find more “active” dialogue which encourages another character toward a clear objective, as internal monologues can be too often sentimentalized and a role is more arresting when the deliverer is advocating for a cause.

Amazon Prime review: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s “Pet Sematary” (2019)

Sometimes, the book is better.

Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s Pet Sematary (2019) is available on Amazon Prime, and if you don’t know what to watch next, this one is better left alone.

An adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by Stephen King as well as a remake of the 1989 Mary Lambert cult classic, the supernatural horror film was released to a mixed reception. Just fifty-seven percent of critical reviews aggregated on Rotten Tomatoes are positive.

Doctor Louis Creed (Jason Clarke) relocates from Boston to Maine with his wife, Rachel Goldman (Amy Seimetz), daughter, Ellie (Jeté Lawrence), and son, Gage (Hugo and Lucas Lavoie).

New neighbor Jud Crandall (John Lithgow) warns the family about the pet cemetery in the local woods, where children bury their dead animals in the hope that they will come back to life, even if demonic forces are at play.

Once tragedy strikes the Creeds, Louis is faced with the opportunity to play God, and must live with the consequences of it.

The movie is not without its redeeming qualities. As an adaptation and a remake, it is confronted with scaring the audience as horrifyingly as did the original, and it does so through its own edits to the twist and turns in the source material.

For example, the denouement harkens back to Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007), one of the superior King interpretations.

Otherwise, the picture is a mediocre and forgettable affair. The pacing is better suited for King’s literary medium, which is empowered to internalize the themes of death more vigorously than the cinematic arts can articulate.

Pet Sematary isn’t so much an embarrassment against its production team as it is a waste of the viewer’s time.

They just need to let it die.

Forty years since Ridley Scott’s “Alien” (1979), the cinematic extraterrestrial is changing

 

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Sidney Perkowitz, cofounder behind the National Academy of Sciences’ Science and Entertainment Exchange, says Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival (2016) is an outstanding depiction of non-humanoid aliens pursuing intelligent contact. (Image Courtesy: Business Insider).

Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) was released forty years ago this May, and since then, the Hollywood extraterrestrial has evolved into something more scientifically feasible than the xenomorph, according to Business Insider. Before CGI, science fiction films in the 1950s and 1960s dressed actors in alien costumes, and because sci-fi is often an allegory for society’s fears, these humanoids are almost always hostile, even though physicist and author Sidney Perkowitz says no lifeform is evil for the sake of itself. With mosquitoes carrying viruses farther due to climate change, and filmmakers concerning themselves more with box office figures than scientific accuracy, Daniel Espinosa’s Life (2017) realistically posits that alien life will be discovered microscopically, but still villainizes it.