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‘Quiet Place,’ ‘Horizon’ uninspired franchise flicks – Play It Again, Tim

A Quiet Place: Day One
Written by Tim Miller

Watching a certain new prequel, I kept hearing the voice of Elmer Fudd.

“Be vewwwy, vewwwy quiet,” Mr. Fudd kept saying.

The movie, you might have guessed, was “A Quiet Place: Day One” (PG-13, 100 minutes, in theaters). The third film in the “Quiet Place” series – the first two starring Emily Blunt – this one, directed by Michael Sarnoski (“Pig”), depicts the experiences of cancer patient Samira (Lupita Nyong’o) as blind aliens with super-sensitive hearing attack Earth and start destroying everything in … well, not their sight, but ours.

Samira is in Manhattan as these giant critters drop down from the skies, with immediate, horrific results. If someone makes the slightest sound, an alien is likely to plow into them like J.J. Watt sacking a quarterback, only with the velocity and impact of an oncoming bullet train.

It’s time to get out of Dodge.

A Quiet Place: Day One

Lupita Nyong’o and Joseph Quinn appear in a scene from “A Quiet Place: Day One.” (Paramount Pictures)

But while most Manhattan survivors make their way (vewwwy quietly) en masse to escape by water (these aliens can’t swim), Samira heads in the opposite direction on a mission to get some pizza in Harlem. That might seem weird, but she says it’s really, really good pizza. Besides, she figures, given her terminal cancer, she only has so much time left anyway, so why not make the most of it?

Along the way, she makes a friend, Eric (Joseph Quinn), a Brit who was studying law in the Big Apple and at this point is struggling to keep his emotions in check.

Nyong’o, who won the best-supporting-actress Oscar for Steve McQueen’s “12 Years a Slave” and was extraordinary in dual lead roles in Jordan Peele’s “Us,” provides “Day One” with a gravitas it might otherwise be missing. It’s a privilege to watch her at work, and Quinn gives a heartfelt performance in support.

But, even with Nyong’o and Quinn, and even with the movie’s emphasis on how people deal with impending death, “Day One” comes across as a familiar, slight, routine horror flick. How many times can we watch characters slowly tiptoeing around for fear of making a sound? How many times can characters cover someone else’s mouth, stick a vertical index finger across their own lips, and give a silent “Shhhhhh!”? How many times can we watch something fall with a thud or rip or otherwise make a sound and a nearby character having an “Uh-oh” reaction?

No wonder I couldn’t get Elmer’s warning out of my head.

Vewwwy, vewwwy, scawwwy? More like vewwwy, vewwwy wepetitive. **½ (out of four)

Costner’s grandiose ‘Saga’

Kevin Costner’s new epic Western has two strikes against it from the get-go.

Both are in the title: “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1” (R, 181 minutes, in theaters).

“An American Saga”? Sounds mighty pretentious.

“Chapter 1”? Thanks for the warning, but who knows if we’ll want more?

It all seems a bit much, and we haven’t even started the film. And then, once we do, it’s soon we realize that, yes, “Horizon” most certainly is a bit much, and also not enough.

Costner certainly isn’t lacking ambition. His fourth go-round as a director – following the Oscar-winner “Dancers With Wolves,” “The Postman” and “Open Range” – is his attempt at an old-fashioned epic on the scale of “How the West Was Won” (without the all-star cast). It weaves several  storylines, in different Western settings over several years, that, presumably, will somehow dovetail when this saga reaches its conclusion. (Four chapters are planned, the second slated for August release.)


Kevin Costner directed and stars in “Horizon: An American Saga – Chapter 1.” (Warner Bros.)

Costner stars in one of these stories as Hayes Ellison, a quiet loner (yup) who becomes involved with a young prostitute, Marigold (Abbey Lee), in a mining town. After an encounter with a trigger-happy sadist, Hayes winds up on the run – with Marigold and infant in tow – from a small gang of killers. Other stories involve a wagon train, the widowed survivor (Sienna Miller) of an Apache attack who finds protection at an Army post and in the arms of a lieutenant (Sam Worthington), and a group of white men seeking Apache scalps for vengeance and profit.

As he did with “Dances With Wolves,” Costner, to his credit, tries to be evenhanded, showing the Native American point of view as well as those of the intruding white settlers. But in trying to accomplish this, along with following multiple plots involving multiple characters, he only skims the surface. That’s a problem with the whole film. J. Michael Muro’s cinematography beautifully captures the landscapes, but mostly this seems a perfunctory attempt to recapture, with stock situations and characters, the glory days of the movie Western.

The only exception – so far in this saga, at least – is Luke Wilson’s wagon master Matthew Van Weyden. Wilson plays his character as an honorable pragmatist who’s just trying to do his job the best he can without making situations any worse than they already are. Wilson is compelling here because, unlike most of his other castmates, he doesn’t seem merely filling a role or following a formula; he seems genuine, human.

Whether Costner is able to follow up with plot developments worthy of Wilson’s work is still a mystery. This first chapter provides mostly a slow buildup – for three-plus hours – with little payoff. Instead, the film ends with a montage of uninteresting clips that at first baffle – Are we skipping through chunks of the story in fast-forward? – until you realize that these are previews of coming attractions for the next chapter or three.

If they’re any indication, we’re in for a long ride. **

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller

Tim Miller, Movie Critic

Tim Miller is co-president of the Boston Society of Film Critics and a Tomatometer-approved critic. He teaches film and journalism at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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