Tag: stanley tucci

The Silence


The Silence (2019)
★★ / ★★★★

As one sits through the increasingly disappointing creature feature “The Silence,” one begins to wonder why the filmmakers felt the need to tell this particular story after the outstanding “A Quiet Place” has got everyone talking. The plot is familiar: A family attempts to survive in a world overrun by monsters that are sensitive to sound. A big difference, however, is in the effectiveness of execution. John Krasinski’s picture is told with great focus and alacrity while John R. Leonetti’s work does not appear to know where to go. And given if it did, it possesses minimal conviction.

At least the creatures are somewhat interesting from a visual standpoint. At first glance, they appear to look and sound like bats, particularly when they are discovered in a cave that has been hidden for quite possibly thousands of years. Upon closer inspection, they are orange-yellow, about the size of an eagle but featherless. They have sharp teeth and hunt in groups. As expected for having lived in the dark for so long, they have no eyes. We are shown webpages and newsreels about how they are quite similar to wasps. They look menacing indeed and the screenwriters find ways for the characters to trigger loud noises—even if it means making them seem as though they have minimal survival instinct. The violence of the attacks are occasionally, and appropriately, horrific. These creatures eat their meal to the bone.

But one of the elements that separates solid monster movies from merely passable ones is from which perspective the audience experiences the story. The Andrews family is, for the most part, a bore. Stanley Tucci and Miranda Otto play the vanilla parents; Kate Trotter as the grandmother who hides her lung cancer from the children; and Kiernan Shipka and Kyle Harrison Breitkopf as the elder sister and younger brother who emote a whole lot. Shipka as Ally is supposed to be the central protagonist but we only know this because she is given narration and no one else.

She tells us about having recently gone deaf due to an auto accident. We see her being bullied by some boys at school. Clearly, these situations are introduced in order to win our sympathy. Do not be fooled. Look closely. Notice she is not given anything special or memorable to do—an opportunity to show why she is our heroine in this story. Contrast this with the Regan character in “A Quiet Place” (she is also deaf). It is abundantly clear which of the two is the more compelling figure. Which one would you rather have on your side during a time of crisis?

A group of characters are introduced late into the film. Their tongues are cut off and so they do not utter a word. They are creepy, how they are dressed in black or brown clothing. The leader focuses on Ally. It is thematically inappropriate to introduce human villains so late into the story and then disposing of them just as quickly in a most uninspired way. I felt as though they are used only to extend a film already running on fumes.

Although many might argue that the real enemy are the ancient creatures, I claim it is more about our limitations to adapt quickly and efficiently in life or death situations, especially when loved ones are involved. The enemy is our lack of understanding of, or the lack of willingness to understand, what is initially unknown. But the screenplay by Carey Van Dyke and Shane Van Dyke are not interested in the more curious philosophical musings. I wager they themselves do not know what makes their story special and worth telling.

Patient Zero


Patient Zero (2018)
★ / ★★★★

Horror films without a third act must offer something so special in order for the final product to be satisfying, or least to avoid coming across as lazy. With a running time of around eighty minutes, “Patient Zero,” written by Mike Le and directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky, still feels bloated, from its interminable exposition, dialogue designed to explain rather than to further the plot, to generic flashbacks involving key characters being attacked by the rabid Infected for the first time. Just when it is about to get interesting, it simply… ends. I cannot imagine anyone begging for a sequel.

If being stuck in an underground bunker with uninteresting survivors is your idea of entertainment, then this picture deserves a most enthusiastic recommendation. Still, it is not without curious ideas. For instance, we learn that Morgan (Matt Smith), our protagonist, has been exposed to the rabies-like virus. But instead of being turned, he remains very much human and he is granted the ability to communicate with the Infected (side effect: intense headaches).

As a result, he has become an indispensable member in the government-sponsored research led by Dr. Rose (Natalie Dormer) to reverse-engineer a vaccine that might cure billions. To do this, they must find Patient Zero, the first human infected by the virus, and extract his or her blood. Morgan can essentially interrogate the physically restrained Infected—a species that, in theory, is so driven by animalistic urges, they are incapable of telling lies or deception.

Despite this intriguing idea, the character is a bore because there is a nagging subplot involving love interests. Every time romance becomes the focal point, the material screeches to a halt. It is maddening that Le is so uninspired by his own story that he felt the need to touch upon—but not explore in meaningful or fruitful ways—generic romantic feelings. It might have been different had such relationships commanded strong urgency—at least as urgent as the calamity that had befallen the planet. In a way, the screenplay, too, must function as an effective drama for us to buy into the human relationships, particularly a romantic kind, but it is clear that the material is not that ambitious.

The zombie attacks are not at all memorable. The makeup coupled with special and visual effects are convincing enough, but there is not one ambush or chase scene that stands out from either the technical standpoint or from a visceral perspective. Not once was I scared or was I forced to jump out of my seat. Both suspense and terror are so lacking, I found myself slouching in my seat just waiting for something—anything—to happen. The cast is exciting, from Smith and Dormer to Stanley Tucci, Agyness Deyn, and John Bradley, but not one of them is a standout. (Never mind the inconsistent American accents.)

“Patient Zero” is pedestrian to the bone. Due to the screenplay’s lack of commitment, a willingness to engage the viewer by assuming we are smart or that we had seen countless of undead pictures, not a minute of the film is believable. Even the underground base looks like a set.

The Daytrippers


The Daytrippers (1996)
★★★ / ★★★★

It appears to be yet another typical day in the D’Amico household. After Louis (Stanley Tucci) leaves for work, Eliza (Hope Davis) decides to clean the house. While putting things away, out of the corner of her eye, she spots a folded piece of paper lodged between the wall and cabinet. She picks it up and reads it. Her eyes reflect heartbreak: it turns out to be a love letter from a so-called “Sandy.” Following the initial shock, Eliza convinces herself not to make a big deal out of it. Her husband, after all, works in a publishing company so there is a chance that it is from a fictional work, all of it just a big misunderstanding. Still, she feels compelled to tell her parents about her discovery.

Written and directed by Greg Mottola, “The Daytrippers” is highly enjoyable because it is not clear whether it wants to be a comedy or a drama. It works that it is a little bit of both. Just about every giggle is almost immediately countered with a melancholic undertone. This makes the picture come alive, especially since we think we may have a true idea of what might be going on and where we expect the story is heading.

For instance, when Carl (Liev Schreiber) decides to talk about the novel he has just written about a man born with a dog’s head, it is funny because no one seems to really understand what it is all supposed to be about. Jo (Parker Posey), the dutiful girlfriend, appears to have his back. And yet at times Jo comes off somewhat desperate to try and pretend that her boyfriend’s novel has something profound to say. He looking good makes her look good. Many of us are likely to think Carl is being pretentious.

The script is clever and surprising because we often learn plenty about a character when he or she is not the center of attention. When I noticed that Eliza barely speaks, it made me question the method employed for characterization because the picture is supposed to be about her journey in finding out whether or not her husband is indeed loyal to her. Having realized that the material is also about how people react to those who have the chance to speak, there is a wealth of information embedded in the awkward pauses, subtle frowns, and looking (or not looking) someone in the eyes.

Eventually, Eliza visits the city to confront her husband with her family in tow for moral support. Although the car ride starts off relatively swimmingly, the travelers inevitably get on each other’s last nerves. Most fascinating is the way the emotional fissures in sharp-tongued Rita (Anne Meara) and taciturn Jim’s (Pat McNamara) longtime marriage are revealed. Rita’s little verbal jabs that most of us may consider sassy but entertaining later reveal an ugly sting. I wished that the older couple had more scenes together but at the same time I admired that the writing does not intend to iron everything out for the sake of our entertainment. In other words, it avoids feeling too movie-like.

It does, however, provide enough hints in terms of how each relationship will eventually turn out. We do not feel cheated from its seemingly lack of resolution because by allowing us to spend time with the characters, hearing them speak, and understanding their point of views, it trusts us to imagine what is next for them. “The Daytrippers” is smart about not putting people in defined boxes. Though its characters can be argued as archetypes, they are allowed to break the rules in surprise and welcome ways.

Big Night


Big Night (1996)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Primo (Tony Shalhoub) and Secondo (Stanley Tucci) were Italian brothers who ran a struggling Italian restaurant. On the verge of foreclosure, Secondo took Pascal’s (Ian Holm) offer, a fellow restaurant owner, of inviting a celebrity who he claimed to be his friend in order for the brothers’ place to gain a bit of popularity. The big night consisted of a wild party with a mix of great food, good friends and influential people. Directed by Campbell Scott and Stanley Tucci, the film was a delectable piece of work. It successfully captured passionate people who happened to lead a struggling business without having to result to the audiences having to feel sorry for them. Instead, the movie simply showed that Primo and Secondo had a great combination of talent and excellent palate, but the one thing they needed was a good word-of-mouth. Typical Americans just couldn’t appreciate the way they served their food. Primo wanted to make genuine Italian food but most Americans were doubtful of the strange. Early in the movie, there was highly amusing scene of a woman and her husband not understanding why the pasta didn’t have any meatballs. I had to laugh at their confused looks and frustrated voices because I recognized myself in them. There’s just something comforting about the familiar and having to step away from it most often causes friction. The film was also about the women in the brothers’ lives. Phyllis (the alluring Minnie Driver) loved Secondo but maybe he just wasn’t ready to be in long-term relationship. Money was near the top of his priorities but Phyllis didn’t consider it to be all that important. On the other hand, Primo was interested in Ann (Allison Janney), who worked at a flower shop, but he was too shy to invite her to attend the party. The best way Primo could communicate was through food. Luckily, Ann liked to eat. What I admired most about the film was its fearless ability to hold long takes. My favorite scene was when Primo returned to the kitchen after he and Secondo had an altercation. Secondo was initially by the stove as he prepared a dish for the feast. As a gesture of forgiveness, the younger one slowly inched away from the fire and allowed his older brother to be at the place where was most comfortable. Not a word was uttered. There was something assured and powerful about the way the camera was held and the manner in which it framed the two characters’ movements. A similar technique was implemented in the final scene when the space between the brothers grew smaller. There was no doubt in our minds that they would keep moving forward together. “Big Night” was beautiful film but not just because of the mouth-watering Italian food. It unabashedly explored the love between brothers without the clichéd epiphanies.

Captain America: The First Avenger


Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
★★ / ★★★★

America was at war with the Nazis and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wanted to enlist in the army. There were multiple problems. He had been rejected from joining for the fifth time because of his short stature, frail demeanor, and various health problems. When Dr. Erskine (Stanley Tucci), a German-American scientist, overheard Steve telling his best friend, Bucky (Sebastian Stan), about why he wanted to serve his country, he was convinced that Steve was the right man for his experiment: creating a super soldier. Based on the comic books by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” directed by Joe Johnston, suffered from a lack of focus in terms of characterization and motivation. For instance, Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), also known as Red Skull, worked for Adolf Hitler by searching for artifacts which could help the Nazis win the war. Naturally, Red Skull eventually wanted all the power for himself but his methods confounded me. In order to take over the world, he wanted to destroy it by attacking most of the world’s major cities. But why? It was confusing to me because I didn’t have a picture of what kind of world he wanted. If he wished to lead a world lacking in technology, making the cities go boom would somewhat make sense. But it didn’t seem like that was the kind of world he wanted, especially in the way he depended on technology to gain more power. He was megalomaniacal but the reasons behind his actions should not have been confusing. If I was a super villain, it’d be simple: I would assert my power by making sure that everyone paid attention to the one city I intended on destroying. The film was action-packed, gorgeously shot, especially the slow-motion montages where Captain America and the American troops demolished Nazi camps like an unwavering tornado. It was almost like watching a well-done commercial aimed to convince young people to sign up for the military. However, character development done right was critical for this movie because it had an underlying message about the costs of war. That is, in terrible times of war, the umbilical cord of friendships could be cut in the blink of an eye. All it takes is a bullet, wild or perfectly aimed, puncturing the body’s critical spot and the person drops dead. Since the screenplay by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely was not efficient in terms of developing supporting characters with subtlety, they were either only good or only bad, the scenes when an important character was about to die felt rather flat, almost unconvincing. To make room for those necessary details, the romance between Steve and Peggy (Hayley Atwell), a woman in the military, could have been either watered down or taken out completely. The scenes in which one of them would get jealous of the other when one interacted with the opposite sex a certain way were not fun and completely predictable. “Captain America: The First Avenger” had several great moments, namely the action sequences, but it needed to work on the story of the man behind Captain America’s mask, through those who cared for him, in the latter half. If those two are equally strong, then the material becomes more than a movie which happens to have a superhero in it.

Easy A


Easy A (2010)
★★★ / ★★★★

Olive (Emma Stone) was invisible like most of us when we were in high school. But when a false secret that she confidentially told her best friend (Alyson Michalka) was overheard by a Jesus fanatic (Amanda Bynes) in the ladies restroom, word traveled around the school like a virus that she was willing to sleep with anyone and everyone. Her newfangled reputation made her popular, which Olive admitted she enjoyed at first, but soon she began to feel harrassed by her peers and adults. “Easy A” had an effervescent charm and edge that most teen flicks could only wish they had. It caught me by surprise because I thought it would be another raunchy movie about teens with nothing on their minds but attaining empty sexual encounters. Or worse, the teens ending up as the jokes’ punchline instead of the situations in which they were thrown into. Instead, we had a bona fide main character with a brain, a sense of humor, and effortless charisma. The film’s heart was immediately established within its first few minutes so we willingly stood by our lead character as she attempted to navigate the uncharted waters of high school rumors and ugly backstabbing in which a friend was readily able to betray. We may not always agree with her actions but we like her all the way through. Stone injected buckets of enthusiasm and made the material better than it should have been. I liked that she was very sarcastic, fully equipped with references to teen movies of the ’80s, and came with progressive parents (the hilarious Patricia Clarkson and the sublime Stanley Tucci) who seemed to await the opportunity to share way too much information with their kids. The picture had a very funny rising action as Olive explained to us, through a video blog, what had happened and why she eventually came to regret her decisions. She even had time to explain to us the plot of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlett Letter” and why it was relevant to her life. It was a good decision on the writer’s part because I was one of those students who only pretended to read the book in high school. I thought it was unfortunate that the movie’s swift pace came to a screeching halt when Olive started to acknowledge her feelings toward the sensitive guy under the school mascot (Penn Badgley). I thought that aspect of the movie was unnecessary because it shouldn’t have been about her finding a man. The film’s message about owning up one’s actions and being free of labels were somewhat muddled by “the first romance” angle. Directed by Will Gluck, “Easy A” might have dealt with sexuality and the power that comes with it in a commercial way but it needed to because its intended audiences are teenagers. It worked because the script was full of rat-tat-tat witticisms, self-awareness, and even small ironic touches adults might l enjoy.

The Lovely Bones


The Lovely Bones (2009)
★★★ / ★★★★

“The Lovely Bones,” adapted from Alice Sebold’s novel and directed by Peter Jackson, was about a fourteen-year-old girl (Saoirse Ronan) who was murdered by a child predator (Stanley Tucci). As years went by after her unsolved murder, the protagonist watched over her family (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Rose McIver, Christian Thomas Ashdale) and the monster who killed her in cold blood. I’ve read a plethora of reviews claiming that this was a mediocre picture and was underwhelming. Maybe they expected too much considering Jackson’s power as a director but I thought the movie was above average. It felt painfully personal. I was moved when Ronan realized that she was dead but she was stuck between the real world and heaven. I thought it was very sad when she realized that her family was slowly being ripped apart after her death. Those dramatic elements worked for me because the exposition was consistently strong. It immediately made me care for the lead character because she wanted to do so many things in life. I couldn’t take my eyes off the fantastic imagery when Ronan lived in “the in-between.” I thought the images were magical, inspired and intelligent because the images she encountered almost always related to the things that were happening back in the real world. As great as the images were, I argue that they didn’t overshadow the picture’s emotional resonance. In fact, the imagery took the emotions to the next level. As for the villainous creepy neighbor, I thought Tucci was electrifyingly effective. Tucci excelled with his character’s eccentricities and the way he lured Ronan to her grave gave me the shivers. However, I thought the film came up short when it came to consistency. The last third lacked the momentum of the first hour and twenty minutes. About two-thirds into it, I started questioning when it was going to wrap itself up. Essentially, I think the movie would have benefited from a shorter running time. The scenes of Weisz’ struggle with the loss of her daughter (an emotional breakdown?) felt like it didn’t need to be there. I understood right away that everyone in the family was impacted by the tragedy so it didn’t need to hammer that point again and again. Luckily, Sarandon had a good amount of screen time to alleviate some of the seriousness by means of perfect comedic timing. If I were to describe “The Lovely Bones” in one word, it would be “misunderstood.” A lot of people thought that the CGI became the main focus and not the characters. I would advice those same people to watch the movie again and do what I did: ignore the fact that Jackson directed the film and swallow it as a “regular” film from a not-so-popular director. It may not have been as consistent as I would have liked but I thought it was able to deliver when it needed to.