Tag Archives: John Krasinski

Wanted: Friends with More Imagination

IF

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker John Krasinski—whose directorial output thus far has aimed at terrifying audiences soundless—turns his attention to something that’s never been scary in a movie: imaginary friends.

No, actually, except for the rare exception, every film about imaginary friends is horrifying. But Krasinski’s channeling Harvey, not Donnie Darko with his family friendly IF.

IF for Imaginary Friend, harmless beasties that are running rampant near Coney Island. You see, kids grow up and just forget all about their old, reliable imaginary friends. Once that happens, the IFs lose their purpose.

Bea (Cailey Fleming) is staying nearby with her grandmother (Fiona Shaw) while her dad’s (Krasinski) in the hospital. She keeps running into these IFs and decides to help their grumpy (if handsome) handler (Ryan Reynolds) find them new homes.

The whole affair has a throwback quality to it, which suits its unabashedly sentimental attitude about childhood and imagination. The existential crisis recalls Toy Story films, but Krasinski is more concerned with the humans in his tale.

Fleming does a fine job as the 12-year-old who’s decided she’s all grown up, and a dialed down Reynolds is sweet enough. The film boasts an assortment of vocal talent for the various IFs: Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Steve Carell, Louis Gossett, Jr., Amy Shumer, Maya Rudolph, George Clooney, Jon Stewart, Sam Rockwell, Richard Jenkins, Blake Lively, Bradley Cooper, Matt Damon, Keegan-Michael Key, Bill Hader and Emily Blunt (wonder how he got her).

What IF lacks is a wild imagination. Everything is so very tame. The wholesomeness blunts any edges of the grief and fear at the heart of Bea’s story. And Krasinski’s story takes any number of turns without really deciding on a direction.

Krasinski’s movie looks good, but the tale he’s telling wanders in a lot of unfinished direction and leaves you with nothing to really remember.

Not Bird nor Plane nor Even Frog

DC League of Super-Pets

by Hope Madden

Y’all should have a pet. That’s the message of the feel-good, sometimes surprisingly dark, wildly well-cast animated feature DC League of Super-Pets.

It’s not a tough lesson, really. That’s why one pet has to learn something different. Krypto (Dwayne Johnson), Superman’s dog, doesn’t really know how to be a dog. He figures out something about pack animalhood when he’s robbed of his superpowers, Superman goes missing, and the shelter animals up the road develop their own special skills.

Who’s to blame? Is it evil Lex Luthor (Marc Maron)?

Oh, no. No, this villain is a far, far more dangerous creature. Look out for Lulu (Kate McKinnon), a hairless Guinea pig once saved from experimentation in Luthor’s lab!

Guinea pigs have not done this much animated damage since that South Park episode.

There are lessons aplenty in this film, but just one I want Hollywood to take away from it: McKinnon should voice all animated bad guys forevermore. She couldn’t be more perfect, couldn’t be more fun.

She’s not alone. The supporting voicework in this film delights. Other scene stealers include Keanu Reeves as a brooding (what else?) Batman and Natasha Lyonne as a cantankerous yet horny turtle.

Sure, the actual stars are Johnson and Kevin Hart, and they’re about as fun an odd couple when they’re cartoon dogs as they are when they’re CIA agents or board game buddies. But the real story here is the supporting cast, which also includes John Krasinski, Diego Luna, Jemaine Clement, Daveed Diggs, Vanessa Bayer, Dascha Polanco, Jameela Jamil and Olivia Wilde.

Wow, that’s a lot of people, which indicates that DC League of Super-Pets suffers from the same bloat as almost all DC films. There are too many characters, too many tidy endings, too little for everyone to do.

Co-directors Jared Stern and Sam Levine, along with co-writer John Whittington (writing with Stern) have collectively created a solidly unremarkable set of animated films and episodes. This is no different.

There’s a lot going on with not much really happening. It looks good, not exceptional. It’s fun and almost immediately forgettable. It does expose the diabolical side of the Guinea pig, though. Fear them!

Walk Softly

A Quiet Place Part II

by George Wolf and Hope Madden

For a few well-placed and important seconds, there it is: the much-discussed nail from A Quiet Place. And like most everything else in writer/director John Krasinki’s thrilling sequel, the nail’s return carries weight, speaking visually and deepening our investment in these characters’ terrifying journey.

But before we see that the Abbotts have learned to avoid that nail, we go back to how it all began on “Day 1.” And Krasinski knows it doesn’t make sense now to tease us with monsters we’ve already seen up close, so beginning right from that pulse-pounding prologue, he keeps ’em coming.

So while there’s no shortage of exhilarating, squirm-inducing and downright scary moments, Krasinski instills it all with an impressive level of humanity.

As Evelyn (Emily Blunt), Regan (Millicent Simmonds), and Marcus (Noah Jupe) continue traveling on foot with baby Abbott in tow, they enter the fortified compound of old friend Emmett (Cillian Murphy), who is not nearly as welcoming as they hoped.

But when Regan heads out alone to find the permanent safe haven she’s sure exists, Evelyn convinces Emmett to follow, and bring her daughter back to the family.

From that point, the film splits into two parallel narratives that Krasinki layers with some nifty intercutting and clever, crowd-pleasing plotting. As the threats keep coming for Regan and Emmett in the wild, and for Evelyn, Marcus and baby back at the compound, the tensions build simultaneously via storytelling that’s primarily visual and wonderfully economical.

The editing gives the enterprise a welcome retro feel and Krasinski’s flair for visual storytelling has only strengthened since the last film.

Jupe is tenderly terrific, and it’s no surprise that Blunt and Murphy—two exquisite actors who never let you down—carry their own, but the one who carries the most weight in Part II is Simmonds. Regan is the film’s believable and capable hero this time, in a narrative choice that underscores the entire film’s optimism for our future and Krasinski’s reminder that there are always “people worth saving.”

AQPII is lean, moves at a quick clip, thrills with impressive outdoor carnage sequences and yet commands that same level of tension in its nerve- janglingly quiet moments. Krasinski had a tough task trying to follow his 2018 blockbuster, one made even tougher now having to prove the sequel was worth saving for a theaters-only release.

On both counts, we’d say he nailed it.

Shush!

A Quiet Place

by Hope Madden

Damn.

So, John Krasinski. That big, tall guy, kind of doughy faced? Married to Emily Blunt? Dude can direct the shit out of a horror movie.

Krasinski co-writes, directs and stars in the smart, nerve-wracking gut-punch of a monster flick, A Quiet Place.

Krasinski plays the patriarch of a close-knit family trying to survive the post-alien-invasion apocalypse by staying really, really quiet. The beasts use sound to hunt, but the family is prepared. They already know sign language because their oldest, played by Millicent Simmonds (Wondertruck) is deaf.

A blessing and a curse, that, since she can’t tell if she makes noise, nor can she tell if a creature comes calling.

Simmonds is wonderful as the conflicted adolescent, her authenticity matched by the tender, terrified performance given by Noah Jupe (Wonder) playing her younger brother.

As their expecting mother, Emily Blunt is magnificent, as is her way. Simultaneously fierce and vulnerable, she’s the family’s center of gravity and the heart of husband (onscreen and off) Krasinski’s film.

But you expect that from Emily Blunt. She’s amazing.

What you may not expect is Krasinski’s masterful direction: where and when the camera lingers or cuts away, how often and how much he shows the monsters, when he decides the silence will generate the most dread and when he chooses to let Marco Beltrami’s ominous score do that work for him.

The script, penned by Krasinski with horror veterans Bryan Woods and Scott Beck, stays one step ahead of your complaints. Just as you think, “Why haven’t they done this?” a clear explanation floats across the screen, either as translated sign language, a prop on a table or a headline in Dad’s gadget-laden basement bunker.

It’s smart in the way it’s written, sly in its direction and spot-on in its ability to pile on the mayhem in the final reel without feeling gimmicky or silly.

And the monsters are kick ass. That’s a big deal.

At its heart lies a sweet sentiment about family, but sentiment does not get in the way of scares. A Quiet Place works your nerves like few films can.





Bay Really Tried

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

by Hope Madden

While it may be tough to separate the release of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi from the US presidential race, there’s little question that the tale itself offers the kind of compelling material suitable for the big screen.

Director Michael Bay helms the film chronicling the disastrous consequences of understaffing the security detail surrounding an American ambassador and a secret CIA installation in one of the globe’s most unstable nations.

The trivia section for this film’s IMDB page notes that this is Michael Bay’s third film based on true events, after Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain. That does not inspire a lot of optimism. And yet, for a Michael Bay film, 13 Hours is surprisingly restrained, respectful, and solid.

Had it been any other director, the word “restrained” would probably not appear in that sentence, but Bay dials down his own bombast to a degree that is genuinely surprising.

The screenplay, written by Chuck Hogan from Boston Globe reporter Mitchell Zuckoff’s book (co-written by surviving members of the security team), offers the point of view of the veteran security detail hired by the CIA to police and protect their compound. Staffed by retired Marines, Navy SEALs, and Army Special Forces, the security team on the ground on the 11th anniversary of the September 11th attacks had the skills, but not the number, to contend with the organized militant attack.

John Krasinski and James Badge Dale anchor the film with believable if under-dimensional performances of two of the security contractors in a by-the-numbers combat procedural.

Sidestepping politics in favor of nerve-shredding action, Bay creates set piece after explosion-and-firebombing-ready set piece. His tendencies and crutches are on full display, though the film feels relatively simply crafted when compared to his other atrocious efforts. It’s a welcome change of pace because self-congratulatory violence would undermine this truly harrowing ordeal.

Yes, CIA agents are painted as one-dimensional pencil pushers jealous of and abusive to their physically superior security guards; yes, individual character weaknesses are exaggerated; yes, tragedies and fatalities are telegraphed from the opening scene. And, yes, the story these survivors have to tell would likely have been better handled by another filmmaker.

13 Hours, though, is not a terrible film. It’s no Zero Dark Thirty, not even a Lone Survivor, and perhaps the sheer volume of blood spilled for the sake of excitement and hoo-rah is too great to consider the film deeply respectful of its subject matter. But I think it’s safe to say that Bay really tried, and, to a limited degree, he succeeded.

Verdict-2-5-Stars