SXSW Thoughts: “Ready Player One,” and “A Quiet Place.”

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SXSW isn't necesarilly a festival that is known to produce a game-changer title. I mean, it does happen every few years that a great movie will premiere, but, for the most part, the festival is content with its assorted titles of low-budget hipster indie movies. If anything, the top-tier press will show up to the fest for the world premieres of an eventual wide-released film and this year those titles were "Ready Player One," "A Quiet Place," and "Blockers." I watched much of the competition title entries and didn't find much to be excited, to tell you the truth. I still have a few more films to see but there hasn't been a film on the same leve as past game-changers like "Krisha," Short-Term 12," and "Hush."

Instead, here are excerpts from my reviews from The Playlist of Steven Spielberg's "Ready Player One," [Full Review] and John Krasinski's "A Quiet Place," [Full Review] both graded a "B" from yours truly:

“Ready Player One”

Ready Player One,” Steven Spielberg’s dizzying foray into ’80s pop culture fandom, is a return of sorts to the pure pop escapism that pervaded his filmography in the late ’70s and early ’80s, with such films as “Jaws,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” “E.T.” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The sheer playful joy in filmmaking displayed by Spielberg in this sci-fi riff has not been seen from the 71-year-old filmmaker since the cat and mouse hijinks of 2002’s “Catch Me If You Can.”

"Tackling Ernest Cline‘s nerdgastic 2011 novel of the same name, Spielberg sets his meta-y sights on a dystopian feature brimming with Easter Eggs, virtual reality, and an endless layer of discoveries which pay tribute to ’80s pop culture nostalgia, the latter of which Spielberg clearly left an indelible mark on. Dazzling in form and a chase film at its heart, “Ready Player One” is exhilarating, but it also can’t sit still. Fitting to the content perhaps, the movie still arguably suffers from troublesome A.D.D. with its hyper fast cutting and its tendency to wander narratively."

“Ready Player One” is such an extravagantly conceived product that one feels pummeled by the end of its 140 minutes. Spielberg infuses every frame with countless details that will invite repeat viewings for those who want to catch every last drop of nostaglia. If that’s the sort of thing you place a premium on.  In this hyperkinetic world Spielberg has created, “Ready Player One” pays faithful tribute to Cline’s novel and for that, it will please its ardent fans. For the rest of us, there are enough breathlessly realized sequences that may help you forget that you don’t actually care about any of the characters." 

"A Quiet Place"

"Actor/filmmaker John Krasinski has kept audiences guessing and made quite the transformation over the years. Starting out as the nebbish, mild-mannered Jim Halpert on “The Office,”over the years, Krasinski has evolved into a screenwriter (“The Promised Land,” co-written with Matt Damon), a writer/director of comedy and drama (“Brief Interviews With Hideous Men,” “The Hollars“) and even beefed up as a tough guy action star (Michael Bay‘s “13 Hours,” and his upcoming turn as the star of “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” for Amazon Prime). Perhaps naturally then, for his latest directorial effort, Krasinski switches gears yet again to craft the horror-ish post-apocalyptic thriller, “A Quiet Place.”"A thrilling, near-silent film that brilliantly toys with the audience’s nerves while deftly avoiding familiar cliches, Krasinski shows a surprisingly assured and suspenseful touch within the horror genre. For a director that has mostly dealt in smaller scale humanism, “A Quiet Place” is impressively cinematic and a brilliantly constructed blend of sight and sound.""..... the overall craft is well-honed and credit the writer/directing for pushing the PG-13 rating to the brink of its limits; “A Quiet Place” feels much more R-Rated. Kudos must go to Blunt and Krasinski whose performances have to rely on facial expressions and subtle gestures like twitchy hands, hunched postures or even simple shots of emotionally-drained baggy eyes. Krasinski struggled to find his directorial voice in the past, but his facility here indicates a stark clarity and talent for the horror genre. A nail-biting perfectly staged scene involving a grain elevator (one you won’t soon forget) is alone enough goodwill capital earned for another excursion into genre if he so chooses. As his surprising journey as an artist continues, it’ll be interesting to see where the filmmaker takes his directorial vision next as “A Quiet Place” marks a solid step in the right direction."