'Quiet Place' thrills, emotion rules 'Lean on Pete'

By Tom Von Malder | Jul 15, 2018
Photo by: Paramount Home Entertainment John Krasinski and Noah Jupe star in "A Quiet Place," with Krasinski also directing.

Owls Head — A Quiet Place (Paramount, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 90 min.). Co-writer/director John Krasinski's third film is a wonder of suspense, despite being an almost completely dialogue-less film. The film concerns a family, trying to survive in a broken world that has been invaded by aliens with super-acute hearing to make up for their being blind. As the shocking opening demonstrates, even the smallest of noises can trigger an attack by the voracious beasts Because the film is so silent -- even Marco Beltrami's music is muted, when heard at all -- any noise makes the viewer jump, ratcheting up the intensity.

The viewer immediately bonds with the Abbott family, who are nearly the only characters in the film. They go barefoot on sanded paths and mostly communicate in sign language to eliminate noises. Where to walk in their home is painted on the floor to avoid any squeaky boards. The parents are Lee (Krasinski of TV's "The Office" and director of "The Hollars") and Evelyn (Emily Blunt of "Edge of Tomorrow" and the real-life Mrs. Krasinski). Their children are Regan (Millicent Simmonds, who is deaf) and Marcus (Noah Jupe of "Wonder," "Suburbicon"). Not much background is given -- just a few newspaper headlines on a table -- and the family's future is left in doubt, but we live and fear with them for nearly 90 minutes.

Complicating the need to keep silent is that Evelyn, and this is some year-and-a-half after the invasion, is pregnant and due to give birth in 20 days. How does one keep a newborn infant quiet? Within the family, there is some tension as Lee takes Marcus out for training and fishing trips. Marcus does not really want to go and Regan wishes it were her, but she fears she has lost her father's love and trust due to an earlier incident. All the acting is excellent, with Blunt, in particular, displaying a range of emotions in silence. The creatures are effectively horrific and unique, and not fully revealed until late in the film.

Bonus features are good as well and include a behind-the-scenes look (14:45) that features co-writers Bryan Woods and Scott Beck. It explains how the film came together -- Krasinski was involved in making the "Jack Ryan" series and Blount was starring in the new "Mary Poppins" film -- and was shot in 40 days. Because they are so important, there also are looks at editing the sound (11:44) and the visual effects by ILM (7:33). A second "Quiet Place" film is on the drawing boards. Grade: film 4.5 stars; extras 3 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Lean on Pete (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 121 min.). Writer/director Andrew Haigh's adaptation of Willy Vlautin's acclaimed 2010 novel packs several emotional punches as it follows 15-year-old Charley Thompson's (Charlie Plummer of "All the Money in the World") attempts to find a home.

Charley's single dad (Travis Fimmel as Ray) has moved from Spokane, where Charley played high school football and had some friends, to Portland, Oregon, where he knows no one. Charley's mom left when he was very young. Charley is alone most of the day while his father is working and his runs take him past the Portland Downs racetrack (the real Portland Meadows track was used). One day, Charley encounters racehorse owner Del  Montgomery (Steve Buscemi of HBO's "Boardwalk Empire," in which Plummer played Buscemi's nephew, both with the last name of Thompson coincidentally), who needs help fixing a flat. This leads to a job helping Del out at the track, especially caring for aging Quarter Horse Lean on Pete (played by Starsky). Charley bonds with the horse and often stays overnight next to its stall. Chloe Sevigny has a 20-minute appearance in the film as a jockey (Bonnie Durand) that Del sometimes uses. Her advice to Charley is not to get attached to the horses, as they are not pets, but just horses to race.

The second half of the film starts after Ray's dalliance with a married woman literally knocks him out of the picture and Charley learns that Lean on Pete is going to be sold and destroyed in Mexico. Charley steals Del's truck and trailer and sets off with Lean on Pete. His only hope is to find his long-absent Aunt Margy (Alison Eliott) who lives somewhere in Wyoming (he does not even have her telephone number). "Lean on Pete" then becomes a road movie that turns ever more depressing. While walking through resplendent views of the Northwest, Charley's heartbreakingly tells Lean on Pete all the sadness in his life, including the loss of his mother and his school friends, and recalls a very good weekend with his aunt.

During his trip, Charley comes across the downside of the American Dream, including a couple of young war veterans (Lewis Pullman and Justin Rain) who have meals delivered by a man (Bob Olin) and his obese daughter (Teyah Hartley), whom the father treats horribly, and the homeless in Denver, where Charley has to sleep on the streets. In Denver, he meets Silver (Steve Zahn), who is homeless but lives in a camper), but Silver turns mean when he is drunk.

Plummer, who recently won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Emerging Actor at the Venice Film Festival for his work in this film, is tremendous, especially since he is in nearly every scene and often only has a horse to act with. He is the emotional heart of the film, and it is a very emotional journey that seems to keep getting worse throughout the second half of the film. The only extra is a solid making-of feature (27:34), including interviews with the cast, director, book author Vlautin and producer Tristan Goligher. Grade: film 3.75 stars; extra 2.5 stars

A Ciambra (Italy, mpi Media, NR, 117 min.). This is another story about a youngster growing up, but 14-year-old Pio (Pio Amato) lives in the Ciambra neighborhood of Gioia Tauro in Calabria, the most southern section of Italy, where Italians, Romani gypsies and African migrants co-exist in uneasy tension. Despite his age, Pio, a Romani, smokes -- a lot -- and drinks, and has a friendship with an African (Koudous Seihon as Ayiva), who lives in a refugee camp. He also hangs out in bars and nightclubs, but has little fun himself, although a woman or two spark his interest.

Presented by executive producer Martin Scorsese, the film was Italy's entry for the 2018 Academy Awards. It is the second feature by director Jonas Carpignano and is centered around Pio, a minor character in his first film, "Mediterrania." Pio seeks the respect of his older brother, whom he emulates in every way, including being a petty thief. In an early scene, Pio is shown how to hotwire and steal a car. In one amusing scene, the illiterate Pio has to ask a girl to read the text message that has arrived on the cell phone he was given.

Pio is part of a large, 15-member family, who live all crammed together. One dinner scene  is as if one were watching a real family for, in fact, you are. All 15 members of the Amato family are playing themselves in the film. Although the story is fictional, many in the film are non-actors, just being themselves in their real-life circumstances. This gives the film a very documentary feel.

When Pio's brother is arrested for a crime and, at the same time, his father is arrested for stealing electricity, Pio decides to step up his thievery, including stealing luggage from a train (which he just happens to fear riding because it goes so fast), so he can be the bread-winner for his family. However, one night, Pio goes too far and angers an Italian, who unbeknownst to him has a connection with his family.

The film, which is expanded from an earlier short (the 16:14 early version is included as one of the extras), almost constantly centers on Pio's face or the back of his head, even when it is the background that is in focus. At times, the youthful Pio comes to the surface, such as playing street soccer, but by the end he has become a "man," being invited to join the men in the garage, while looking longingly at some children playing. One guesses, it will continue to be a hard life for Pio.

In addition to the short film, extras include a making-of feature (51:02) that includes a history of Ciambra and behind-the-camera shots of some of the filming; a look at bringing the film to Cannes (2:35); and three deleted scenes (6:03), with the best being Pio playing in bed with one of his younger brothers. Grade: film 3.5 stars; extras 3 stars

Chappaquiddick (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 106 min.). The film recreates the week in the life of U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy that began with a regatta boat race off Edgartown and a party for the Boiler Room Girls, a group that worked on his late brother Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign, then the tragic automobile accident in which Mary Jo Kopechne was killed and Ted Kennedy's strange behavior and his backers' attempts at a cover-up thereafter.

The film tries to be as factual as possible. It is neither a hatchet job on Kennedy nor a white-washing. Perhaps the most controversial aspect is the film implies Kopechne died of asphyxiation rather than drowning as she remained alive in a small air pocket for some time after the car left the bridge and landed on its roof in the pond on Chappaquiddick Island. However, even if that were true, it appears nothing could have been done to save her. Kennedy tried to get her out of the car, but could not open the doors nor smash the windows, and he then walked back to the lodge and brought back family friend Joey Gargan (a very good Ed Helms) and U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan) to try and rescue her. In the scenes in which Kopechne is shown struggling to breathe, never is there any indication of the man trying to break into the car. Remember, this was a time before cell phones, July 18, 1969.

It seems Kennedy and Kopechne simply drove off to talk, as he was trying to have her stay and work on his possible 1972 campaign for the White House. It never has been explained how Kennedy escaped from the car and Kopechne did not. However, he certainly bungled things afterwards, most likely in fear of what the incident might do to his political career. In fact, the film has Kennedy (Jason Clarke of "Zero Dark Thirty") arrive at the cottage and the first thing he says to Gargan is, "I'm not going to be president." (In fact, while Kennedy became the fourth longest-serving U.S. Senator, he was denied his party's nomination when he tried for the presidency in 1980.) Kate Mara plays Kopechne, but very little of her life is shown.

Gargan serves as sort of a moral compass during all the maneuvering by the high echelon team that Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern in a non-speaking role, as the character had recently suffered a stroke) assembles to handle the incident. Among them are Robert McNamara (Clancy Brown) and Ted Sorenson (Taylor Nichols). The film tries to make a connection with Kennedy's assassinated older brother President John F. Kennedy, with repeated breakaways to TV news coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing. JFK initiated the space race with Russia.

As always with movies set in and around Boston, the accents are give or take. One at least is legitimate, as a TV interviewer of Kennedy is played by Gary Tanguay, currently an on-air anchor for NBC Sports Boston. (It was kind of a shock to see him.) Extras include a making-of featurette (25:19) and a look at the editing (12:45). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2 stars

Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In: The Complete Fifth Season (1971-72, Time Life, 6 DVDs, NR, 1,239 min.). Time Life continues to issue individual seasons of the show that made household names of Dick Martin and Dan Rowan. All 24 episodes have been remastered. Guest stars include Raquel Welch, Steve Allen, Johnny Cash, Bing Crosby, Gene Hackman, Rita Hayworth, Hugh Hefner, Bob Hope, Liza Minnelli, Carroll O'Connor, Carl Reiner, John Wayne  and Henny Youngman. This season, former "Hogan's Heroes" POWs Richard Dawson and Larry Hovis join the cast, which already includes Judy Carne, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, Jo Anne Worley and Teresa Graves.

The season saw the show's 100th episode, and had Robert Goulet, Charo and Three Dog Night perform the Laugh-In news song. There also is a "Salute to Santa" and a very modern Christmas Carol.

If you appreciated reading this news story and want to support local journalism, consider subscribing today.
Call (207) 594-4401 or join online at knox.villagesoup.com/join.
Donate directly to keeping quality journalism alive at knox.villagesoup.com/donate.
Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.