|One of my favorite sights... Photo by the author|
Two movie reviews plus thoughts on moviegoing - in 1000 words.
I’m sensitive to spoilers, so I’m not giving more away than the trailers!
People used to ask me why I chose to run a movie theater. To me it was simple: you’re supposed to go into business doing something that you love, and I love going to the movies. Running a theater let me pour my energies into providing the best possible movie-watching experience, for my own pleasure… and for my customers. Now I don’t operate a theater, but I still love going to the movies.
Notice that I say "going to" the movies. A huge part of it for me is the act of leaving home to be in a theater and sitting in that darkened auditorium with my fellow audience members.
Immersion is the biggest difference between theaters and home for me. In a dark theater, my “monkey mind” turns off and I can lose myself in what I’m watching. Watching a movie uninterrupted is a huge part of it; once that film starts, you’re locked in - as unable to hit “pause” as if you are on a roller coaster. Recently I've watched more films at home, to prep for a biweekly TV show. I’m not proud of this, but I wind up watching them in chunks, hopefully of at least 30-45 minutes, but often not. This crushes the dramatic flow of a movie.
In the last week, I had two intense moviegoing experiences: I saw A Quiet Place in a packed theater on its opening weekend and Rampage the next week in a D-Box seat. Both films made me appreciate the physical act of going to the movies and inspired me to write this review.
A Quiet Place
Watching “A Quiet Place” was a stunning event; never have I sat in such a full, but silent, theater. The entire audience held its breath, in support of the characters on-screen. (You do NOT want to be the candy-rustler at this movie!!) The film’s tension held us all in its grip, an effect that I can’t imagine working as well at home. It would be different in your living room with ambient noise from people, pets, and devices. At home you’d only be watching, but in the theater it’s a more tangible thrill – especially with a lot of other people (full theaters are definitely the best way to watch both Horror and Comedy).
As a movie, A Quiet Place works exceptionally well. Throughout (even with the ending) I was thrilled with the film’s tone and execution. To be picky, there were a few wrong notes: it felt weird that so many neighbors remained alive after such a long time. (Yet the convenience store was well-stocked?) I’m sorry, I don’t think that many people could survive that long in those conditions! The filmmakers also underplay the terror of introducing a baby into a world where any noise can be fatal for everyone. There’s a whole level of darkness they could have explored there (e.g. Rosemary’s Baby), but they didn’t dwell on it.
Having a real-life husband and wife on-screen worked well here. She had chemistry with him, although he was a distant husband. How much of that is the character, and how much the man, we don’t know. Another quibble: they are too perfect as parents to be believable (a home-cooked sit-down dinner?), but if I were writing a script about myself as a parent, I’d pretend, too.
Probably the weakest part of A Quiet Place were the monsters. Like sprinting zombies, they were too efficient – and thus less terrifying. (This is why I say that the humans wouldn’t last long.) If the monsters were a little weaker, the audience raises its hopes, which makes the frights that much scarier.
While “A Quiet Place” enthralled with anticipation and pacing, my viewing of Rampage from a D-Box seat was artificially immersive. If you haven’t tried D-Box yet, it’s a seat that can vibrate and move in all directions. Somebody watches the movie and programs seat movements tied to the onscreen action. (Seriously, I want that person’s job!) When characters get into a helicopter, you fell the thwup-thwup movement of the blades. When the helicopter lifts off, you tilt forward. When giant monsters slam into buildings, you feel the shock waves.
In short, Rampage is excellent for D-Box. It’s essentially a 2-hour theme park ride.
As a movie, my backhanded compliment is that Rampage is better than it had to be. Making a film from a simplistic video-game (that has a cameo in the villain’s office!) could result in true crap. That this one isn’t horrible is a credit to the script, which takes time to add some character development before the final showdown, and to Dwayne Johnson who manages to inject personality into his relationship with a CGI gorilla. On the downside, all the characters are caricatures (beautiful scientist, nerdy comic relief, ex-special forces ass-kicker), but the movie hums along towards its final showdown, which doesn’t disappoint. I was a little miffed that they took some liberties with Chicago (that’s not where Dave and Busters is located!), but it was kind of scary/cool to see the destruction unleashed on familiar sites in the Loop.
Outside of the moving D-Box seat, the theater experience is key for Rampage because of the huge screen and giant speakers. Watching this movie on a home screen or (god forbid) a phone/computer screen wouldn’t do it any justice. When you’re watching giant monsters wrecking a city, it helps when they’re 20 feet tall with bass speakers making your chest rumble – even without the D-Box seat.
Ultimately, my recommendation is to see A Quiet Place in the theater, and my suggestion is that Rampage is a great choice if you want to check out D-Box. Otherwise, skip Rampage and get a taste of what the Rock recently cooked in Jumanji (2017) or Central Intelligence (2016).