Thursday, April 19, 2018

Beirut and Short Takes on A Quiet Place

      Disturbing Horrors, Past and Future

                                             Reviews by Ken Burke

                              Beirut (Brad Anderson)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Beginning in 1972 Beirut we find top diplomat Mason Skiles in a secure position, given his previous studies of Arabic language and culture; however, his pessimistic-tranquility is shattered when gunmen invade an Embassy party to grab his teenage ward, Karim, with unintentional gunfire accidentally killing Skiles' wife, Nadia.  Jumping ahead to 1982, Mason’s in Boston in a new career as a negotiator (not entirely successful) when he gets an offer (more of a demand) to return to Beirut to give a lecture.  Once there he finds his real purpose is to negotiate the release of kidnapped CIA agent Cal Riley, his former close friend.  To further complicate matters, the Palestinian terrorist group making the demands is headed by Karim who wants to exchange Cal for Karim’s notorious brother, assumed to also be held but it’s unknown as to who has him.  There’s a lot of well-crafted-tension in this drama set in a time when civil war was brutally tearing Lebanon apart, with Israeli invasion on the horizon, so there’s constant deception, infighting (even among the U.S. diplomats and spies), along with danger as Mason tries desperately to resolve his time-dictated-crisis, ultimately with aid from CIA agent Sandy Crowder, initially more of an antagonist to him.  Critical response to Beirut is mostly positive, but there are also complaints that despite its previous-century-setting this story continues to stir contemporary Islamophobia with further complaints it was shot in Morocco without the use of Lebanese actors; you can examine some of that controversy below without getting into spoiler territory if you desire.

Here’s the trailer:  (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or your “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: In 1972 we meet Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a seasoned-yet-properly-cynical-career-diplomat (Deputy Chief of [Embassy? It's not clear—to me anywayas I tried desperately to follow the narrative.] Mission) stationed in Beirut, Lebanon with his wife, Nadia (Lïela Bekhti), and a formerly-homeless 13-year-old, Karim (Idir Chender), who’s been living with them for awhile.  Their relatively-peaceful-lives are disrupted one night at a lavish U.S. Embassy party when authorities show up wanting to take in Karim because his older brother, Rafid Abu Rajal (Mohamed Attougui [according to one cast site but noted as Hicham Ouraqa at another—some list him as Raffik but that’s not how it’s spelled in the trailer’s subtitles—where Karim is listed as Yoav Sadian Rosenberg, with neither name appearing elsewhere so the actors may be as oblique as some of the plot; sorry for any mistakes presented here]), was just part of the atrocious Palestinian attack on the Israeli Olympic team in Munich where 11 hostages died (actual killers were from a group calling themselves Black September but in this film they’re referred to as the Militia of Islamic Liberation).  Skiles objects, tries to hide the boy, but the party’s interrupted by masked terrorists (including the brother) with one of them holding a hostage while Mason’s friend Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino)—either a diplomat or a CIA agent, hard to tell what the difference might be in this film's political situations—sneaks up for a shot at the guy which kills him but as he dies he pulls the trigger on his semi-automatic-weapon with the resulting hail of bullets killing Nadia.  By 1982 Mason’s in Boston as a conflict negotiator (as well as a serious alcoholic) trying to bring unlikely resolution to a labor-management-dispute which is going badly enough already when the partner in his 2-man-firm tells him he’s leaving for another job.  Mason soon gets another opportunity, though, when former contacts at the State Dept. tell him he’s been invited to lecture at Beirut’s American University, an offer put to him in such a way that he has no choice but to accept.  Back in the Middle East he finds he’s been assigned to CIA agent Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike) as his handler because he’s there to negotiate the release of captured hostage Cal, thus Mason has been specifically requested.

 When the kidnappers arrange a meeting with Skiles their angry leader’s complaining about various irrelevant things when he’s suddenly shot from behind by a young guy who turns out to be Karim, offering to trade Cal for Rafid who’s being held by someone, probably the Israelis because he’s been involved in so many gruesome attacks on them.  They refuse to acknowledge having Rafid in custody but imply they do, say they’ll turn him over if the U.S. provides them info on military installations in neighboring Syria (which are assumed to actually be Russian bunkers—the situation on the ground doesn’t seem to have changed much over the decades, has it?) because they’re about ready to invade Lebanon anyway.  Matching the locations of devastated neighborhoods everywhere is the anger shown by Cal’s wife, Alice (Kate Fleetwood), when she meets with Mason at her partially-destroyed-former apartment, then the intensity rises as a bomb goes off during Mason’s lecture allowing him to evade Sandy, then be taken by Karim to meet briefly with Cal to verify he’s still alive (although time’s running out for him because no progress has been made on finding Rafid)⇒Through some coded words with Cal, Mason returns to that apartment to search for something when Sandy finds him there, tells him she already retrieved what he’s looking for which is evidence Cal was gathering on crimes by some of the American diplomats (giving us reason to think they may have aided in his abduction).  At this point Mason and Sandy decide Rafid’s actually being held by the Palestine Liberation Organization in an attempt to prevent this more-radical-splinter-group from drawing Israel into an invasion of Lebanon (with misguided hopes from Rafid’s group they’d be better able to battle that fierce army on what they now know as “home turf,” I assume) so she steals $4 million from the Embassy, they make a deal with the local PLO honcho, an exchange is set up (with the usual nail-biting-scenes of Mason and Sandy getting through various obstacles to deliver Rafid), but as Cal is freed one of the snipers Sandy recruited to keep things honest gets carried away, shoots Rafid.  As it all wraps up, Cal’s exposé leads to some Embassy/CIA arrests clearing Sandy of her unauthorized actions while setting her up to take over the operation with a hint that she might be in contact with Mason again sometime in the future.⇐

(In all honesty, to acknowledge the naysayers about Beirut here's a comparison between then and now.)
So What? Beirut marks the second cinematic story I’ve seen this year presenting Lebanon in what could be considered a negative light.  The first was The Insult (Ziad Doueiri, 2017; review in our February 1, 2018 posting), an Oscar finalist for Best Foreign Language Film which was focused on contemporary problems in this oft-maligned-country, exploring intense tensions between native Lebanese—especially Christians—and the many Palestinians who’ve been relocated there into refugee camps because of the hostilities with Israel, with the irony that it found little opportunity to be screened in the director’s home country as a result of his having shot his previous film, The Attack (2012), in Tel Aviv,  Israel, marking him as a traitor in the eyes of many of his countrymen.  Beirut’s come in for a lot of criticism as well but this time from Lebanese and other Arabs/Muslims (there’s no automatic overlap between these ethnic and religious groups, just a strong likelihood) who’ve taken offense at what they perceive as Islamophobia, depictions of the Arabs in this film as being vicious terrorists, as well as complaints it wasn’t even filmed in Lebanon nor does it feature Lebanese actors.  You can begin to get the complaints from a video (8:23) featuring a young Lebanese woman railing on the trailer—which she hadn’t even seen, so we watch her immediate, dismissive reactions (although she seems to be citing the contemporary situation in her country rather than focusing on what the film depicts in 1982, when she was likely not born yet), then there's a more nuanced response by the New York TimesSopan Deb: "What seemed to bother viewers most was the trailer’s almost exclusive focus on Americans, signaling that the film might reduce Lebanon’s complicated, sectarian civil war to a flashy backdrop for Mr. Hamm. Some worried that Lebanese people would not only be bit players in their own history, but violent ones at that. [¶] There are so many stories to draw from the civil war," Ms. Charafeddine said, but the filmmakers 'chose o overlook all of that because they wanted to portray Lebanon in a certain light." 
 Screenwriter/co-producer Tony Gilroy (who admits he's never been to Lebanon but does have an extensive résumé producing successful scripts focusing on dramatic conflicts and/or extensive action—including Dolores Claiborne [Taylor Hackford, 1995], The Devil’s Advocate [Hackford, 1997], The Bourne Identity [Doug Liman, 2002], The Bourne Supremacy [Paul Greengrass, 2004], The Bourne Ultimatum [Greengrass, 2007], Michael Clayton [Tony Gilroy, 2007], The Bourne Legacy [Gilroy, 2012], Rogue One: A Star Wars Story [Gareth Edwards, 2016; review in our January 4, 2017 posting]) counters the above complains (in a 4:40 video where he’s facing a similarly-oppositional-interviewer, but she's not seemingly of a Muslim/Arab heritage) by noting such explanations as there are no notable Lebanese actors because there are notable Lebanese characters (he sees all of the primary cast—American, Palestinian, Israeli—as being invaders) and the film was shot in Morocco for insurance purposes (with locals for the minor roles and extras) as well as Tangier offering neighborhoods that still have the bombed-out-appearance needed to depict 1982 Beirut while the actual city has been notably rebuilt, yet he still considers the country’s former status as being “the Riviera of the Middle East” as now reduced to “Paradise lost” due to the constant invasions, occupations, and surrogate governments representing powerful players in these regions.
 Noting the script was written in 1991 but not financed until recently, Gilroy said this about his revived-tale of a bygone era: I was impressed with the research when I went back and checked all the research and had the benefit [of] the internet at that time. Also, there had been a lot of other journalism and books that had been written about the period of time that had closed down the verdict on a lot of things that were kind open-ended back in 1991. [… ¶] I really accurately set this down in the winter of 1982, and the competing ugly forces that were wreaking havoc on Lebanon at that point, from the PLO to the Reagan White House, to Israel and Syria, and Russia. Those forces all coming down on this one moment in time, which is why I picked that moment in time. ¶ Several months after this movie is over in real time, everything is gonna fall off the plate. Everything is just gonna get so much worse. If you went back and told people in 1982 in Beirut that as bad as things had been and as bad as the civil war had been, and the city destroyed, and everything, that things were gonna deteriorate from there in the Middle East, they’d think you were out of your mind.

 So, your response to this film may well depend on what you wish to encounter in such a scenario.  If what you prefer is something meticulously exploring the myriad factions within and beyond Lebanon (including their Civil War which began after the 1972 events of this film) in 1982 prior to the Israeli invasion, the stationing of American and Western European peace-keeping-troops which resulted in a 1983 Hezbollah terrorist attack in Beirut killing 241 U.S. Marines and other service personnel [plus about 58 French in a separate assault]), and related matters of this period then you’ll have to consult some historical sources prior to watching Beirut because all you’ll get is Skiles’ assessment about Lebanon being under duress for centuries from a variety of internal and external sources.  But if all you want is a well-crafted-drama where tensions mount as the protagonists are put under intense pressure to provide some semblance of justice (debatable as to what that means, depending on whose perspective you believe) even when it means going rogue to rescue one of their own despite opposition from their superiors/allies, then Beirut delivers in the midst of (in my opinion) a story that does indeed use a Palestinian terror group as antagonists (not untrue to the history of the time) but counters that with a view of our U.S. intelligence operation as being just as devious, much more concerned with protecting state secrets than the life of a career spy.  I agree this film won’t do much to soften the attitudes of those who put the blame on Middle East atrocities (and their expansions into Western nations) on all Arabs/Muslims, fomenting hate campaigns (and travel bans) against all members of these cultures including peaceful people who’ve tried hard to assimilate into our foreign-to-them-industrial-societies, completely ignoring the counter-impact of centuries of Western colonialism and financially-lucrative-pacts with hard-liner-dictators, but if you can accept this story on its surface as the sort of thriller Gilroy’s famous for in his Jason Bourne plots or even see why the antagonists in this film can be found in all of its oppositional factions then I think you can get some enjoyment out of a fast-moving, surprise-ridden rescue story, as long as those regular bursts of formerly-allied-violence aren’t too disturbing for you.

(Hey, Jon, don't go all Mad Men on us, OK?)
Bottom Line Final Comments: As my wonderful wife, Nina Kindblad, would say “I’d listen to Jon Hamm read the phone book” (for those of you not born in the 20th century—especially way back in that century, like me—you may need to Google what a “phone book” is), a statement I agree with, setting up the first reason for us to be intrigued by Beirut, probably a more compelling interest than seeing devastation of a personal and national kind in a too-often-occupied Middle Eastern hotspot, especially given the animosity toward the presentation of Muslim freedom fighters/terrorists (take your pick; until—if ever—a truly peaceful 2-state-solution is agreed upon between Israel and Palestine, along with a cessation of proxy wars between Saudi Arabia and Iran [with destabilizing-intervention from the Russians wherever they can push themselves into these conflicts, now that the U.S. may—or may not—finally be ready to stop pushing our destabilizing-interventions into these conflicts, I have no dog in these fights—as a Southern saying goes—just a hopeful wish the other dogs would finally declare a real truce]) in this film, as noted in the segment just above.  Other critics weren’t totally overwhelmed by it either, with those surveyed by Rotten Tomatoes offering 77% positive reviews, those at Metacritic yielding an average 70% score (more details in the Related Links section much farther below if you'd like to explore them); of those who support it, Richard Roeper (of the Chicago Sun-Times) offers the type of frequent praise that often surfaces: For a guy who’s been out of the game for a decade and drinks so much he can barely stay awake even when the stakes are life and death, Mason transitions into a foreign espionage superhero in rapid fashion.  ¶ Ah, but that’s the genre. The stakes in ‘Beirut’ are deadly serious, but the film itself is not presented as a major political statement or commentary beyond: The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is an old-fashioned spy thriller, and as such it succeeds.”  Representative of counter-opinions, even those that aren’t focused on topics of political correctness, is the New York Times Manohla Dargis: “Mr. Hamm certainly makes it easy to care for Mason and all that he signifies, and it’s a pleasure to watch him just silently nurse another drink, a lifetime of regret weighing on him. Yet as Mason sits alone, the shadows closing around him, you also catch sight of a character whose past — including a cozy association with Henry Kissinger — suggests a tougher, harder and more interesting movie than the one you are watching.”

 Audiences haven’t been overwhelmed with Beirut yet either, with only $2.1 million in domestic (U.S.-Canada) grosses since its debut about a week ago; of course, it’s only playing in 755 domestic theaters so far (compared to the weekend’s box-office-champ, Rampage [Brad Peyton] with its worldwide $154 million [$38.3 million of that domestically] playing in a standard-wide-release of 4,101 domestic venues), thus it remains to be seen if audiences will find reason to pay for Middle East intrigue and deaths as a form of cerebral entertainment when they can get plenty of that on their nightly newscasts, just with the location shifted to Syria (but with the same sort of international intrigue and horse-trading as depicted in this fictional version of atrocities mostly committed during the Lebanese Civil War [1975-1990]).  I found this film to be engaging to watch (although the rapid flow of characters, locations, and conflicts do make it a bit difficult to carefully follow every plot point at times, but the main thrust of finding Rafid in order to free Cal is always clear enough, even as intended strategies of the protagonists keep going awry) as long as you don’t intend for this to be any more of a precise history lesson than Argo (Ben Affleck, 2012; review in our October 19, 2012 posting) was, even though actual events—in various, somewhat-fictionalized ways—inspire both films.  Bringing these comments to a close with my usual device of a Musical Metaphor I’ve chosen a song being sung in the background in Beirut (when Mason’s first in his hotel bar bickering with Sandy about why he’s been dragged into this “mission impossible” where he’d like nothing better than to not accept the assignment), Air Supply’s “I’m All Out of Love” (from their 1980 album Lost in Love) at (a 2013 performance in Hong Kong by this Australian band in an attempt by me to show a little intercultural acceptance amidst these frequent charges of intercultural hatred presented—if not valid in intent—within Beirut).

 Ultimately, this song’s about a failed romance with the singer begging for forgiveness (appropriate for the film’s scene where we see Mason still miserably distraught over Nadia’s death, lost in drink over the last 10 years, wising he could somehow reverse the horrid events of her tragic demise), but in a—metaphorical, don’t forget—sense those lyrics about “I wish I could carry your smile in my heart For times when my life seems so low It would make me believe what tomorrow could bring When today doesn’t really know […] I’m all out of love, what am I without you I can’t be too late to say that I was so wrong” also speak to me of how the love Karim once felt for his “foster parents” has almost dissolved along with any sense of humanity he might feel for anyone else until such time as his brother’s been released.  The State Dept. and CIA folks Mason’s working with don’t seem to have much love for anything either, except protecting the vital information Cal carries in his head while Sandy’s clearly long ago put personal feelings aside in favor of maintaining her career in an environment where trust, respect, and caring will likely get you shot when you least expect it.  All of these characters could use an immersion in the shared feeling of musicians and audience shown in this video, but the lot of them may be too “all out of love” to even consider such (you might not be able to find such spirit in Hong Kong anymore either, but I hope that doesn’t stop any of us from trying to rise above the mistrust, personal priorities, or downright hatred which permeates this film).
(still attempting—but not succeedingto achieve) SHORT TAKES 
(please note that spoilers also appear here)
                               A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)
In the very-near-future vicious, hostile aliens (blind but with precise hearing, extremely dangerous) have invaded Earth, wiping out most of humanity; one family’s moved to a farm where they constantly keep quiet, communicate via sign language, living from moment to moment with this horrid danger even as tensions grow between the father and his deaf daughter.

Here’s the trailer:

        Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.

 Although I don’t generally have an after-the-fact-trauma concern* about horror movies that keeps me from attending them, I’ve just found I’m no longer much interested in this genre—especially the demented-psycho-stories such as Saw (James Wan, 2004) and its ilk or the current demon-infested Truth or Dare (Jeff Wadlow)—although if the content’s got something extra going for it, such as with Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017; review in our May 11, 2017 posting [although I put off seeing that one for awhile, based on misleading implications of standard-slasher-fare in some early reviews I read, until I finally realized the powerful social satire content which was making it such a media sensation]), then I’ll make an effort to see it for myself.  That’s largely what happened for me with the initial release of A Quiet Place 2 weeks ago, with what seemed to be no more than an unusual idea involving a fairly-standard-horror-trope of almost-defenseless-victims being stalked by grotesque monsters. Then I began to get the idea there’s something more to be found here as well. 

*That’s not always been the case: As an undergrad in 1968 I was barely able to get through Night of the Living Dead (George Romero), then in summer 1974 when I worked up enough courage to see The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)—sometimes even first-run-blockbusters took their sweet time to get to Austin, TX in those days—I purposely saw it at a 2-screen-theater (another quaint concept) where I could exit in daylight, walk into the mall for some dinner, then go back in the dark to watch a re-release of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland (Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske; 1951) just to insure I could cleanse those supernatural encounters from my Catholic-upbringing-psyche.  By the end of that decade, though, I could see Dawn of the Dead in a projection booth during a film festival, eating a fried-chicken-lunch while watching a screwdriver being driven into a zombie’s head, then at a later date I attended a late-night-re-release of The Exorcist, only to have the house lights accidently go on during a tense scene, bringing laughs from me and everyone else.

 Thus, I came to the … Quiet Place party a bit late after becoming better aware of how it’s being universally-critically-lauded (RT with an astounding 95% cluster of positive reviews, MC with a notably high for them 82% average score; more details in Related Links just a bit below), how it’s being compared to Get Out as one of those rare springtime offerings that might actually be remembered months from now when awards season’s in full bloom (with Emily Blunt especially powerful as Evelyn, the determined-to-survive mother of the Abbott family), noting how its box-office-impact’s been quite impressive ($154.3 million in worldwide grosses already [$102.6 million of that from domestic venues]), especially compared to its bare $17 million budget.  So, with the assumption I’m not adding much to what’s already becoming known as a pop-culture-phenomenon I’ll just make a few comments here to encourage attendance if you haven’t seem it already (easily done in northern North America where it’s expanded to 3,589 theaters) as long as increasingly-building-tension,* an isolated family in constant danger, and a huge, menacing creature stalking a woman trying to silently give birth in a bathtub (she also stepped on a big cellar-staircase-nail while trying to avoid these predators, giving her extra reason to cry out in pain) aren’t enough to give you a month’s worth of nightmares (yet, none of this is in my spoiler realm, as you can see all of it in the trailers).  In brief if you want to know more, the setting’s roughly 2020, some sort of blind-but-armored-aliens have invaded Earth seemingly wiping out most of the human population using acute hearing to locate their prey leading the Abbotts (engineer Dad Lee [Krasinski], physician Mom [Blunt’s also married to Krasinski off-set], young teen daughter Regan [Millicent Simmonds, a deaf actor portraying a deaf character], slightly-younger Marcus [Noah Jupe]) to leave NYC for an upstate farm where they communicate in sign language (subtitled for those of us who need the help), walk barefooted, making every effort to remain silent (except where a louder sound masks their utterances, such as when Lee and Marcus can finally talk behind a waterfall out in the woods).

*In this Notes on a Scene video Krasinski explains how he built tension in his movie, which uses half of its 90-min.-running time to keep us on edge even before these creatures terrorize the farm.

 OK, here come the real spoilers: Early on very-young-son Beau (Cade Woodward) makes the fatal mistake of putting batteries into a toy space shuttle, making enough noise to lead to his swift death; Regan blames herself for giving him the toy (although he secretly grabbed the batteries) leading to a strained relationship with Dad; Regan goes one night to visit the marker on the bridge where Beau was whisked away; Lee and Marcus out in the woods for the day see Evelyn’s turned the lights around their compound to red indicating danger, so Marcus runs to the cornfields to set off fireworks, drawing the creatures away; Evelyn gives birth (we begin on Day 89 of the invasion, then jump to Day 472 so the parents’ passions for each other and love for their kids must have resulted in her pregnancy despite the myriad difficulties a baby will bring); Lee finds his children then sacrifices himself to the creature so they can escape back to the house; Marcus huddles with the baby in a corner of their relatively-soundproof-basement while Evelyn readies her shotgun as Regan discovers feedback from the failed cochlear implant/hearing aid Dad made for her causes discomfort for the creature when it stalks them again so she intensifies the feedback using Lee’s array of shortwave gear (with which he tried unsuccessfully to reach other human survivors) causing the ear-sensitive-monster to open its head armor at which point Evelyn shoots it dead.  With this strategy in place, Mom and daughter prepare to take on the others roaming their area (seen on the video monitors Lee set up for surveillance) by cranking up the noise, cocking the deadly firearm.⇐

 That’s essentially what happens in A Quiet Place, a successful horror movie* playing on primal fears of invasion by hideous forces, isolation, loved ones in great danger, desperate concerns about finding useful resistance to such powerful antagonists.  If that sort of thing intrigues you this movie delivers it well (creatively using a minimal soundtrack also), even for moviegoers who don’t like reading subtitles (most of this action needs no dialogue, so it flows smoothly with limited verbiage).

*We can easily assume (given the scant info provided on these creatures, their means of arrival on Earth, what defenses we can possibly muster against them) this story has roots in the sci-fi stories of malevolent aliens (no, Mr. Trump, this has nothing to do with building border walls) but it’s truly constructed as a horror movie with the focus on imminent, personal threat from mysterious, grotesque forces as laid out eloquently by Bruce Kawin in his “Children of the Light” exploration of these genres (most of which is available at this site—a book preview of Barry Keith Grant’s Film Genre Reader III [2003]; you might have to scroll down to chapter 22 to reach Kawin’s contribution)—although I still consider The Thing from Another World (Howard Hawks, 1951) and Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979) to be more sci-fi than true horror, such as Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931) and Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965) but it would take too long to explain why to you or Kawin here.

 However, with my limited time in a given week to go forth to current cinema I must admit I was also intrigued by something else that would often be categorized as a horror-movie-monster-story (as Kawin would call it, based on that article cited above), Rampage (Brad Payton), but that’s because of my mutual affection for both the silliness of giant-beast-tales (what I call “creature features,” as a subset of fantasy because their “science” is something along the lines of what Trump EPA administrators would consider valid) and the appealing-on-screen-presence of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson; but having just seen him in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (Jake Kasdan, 2017; mentioned, not really reviewed, in our April 5, 2018 posting) plus I was aware (thanks to my friend Barry Caine) of David Ehrlich's scathing dismissal (but still fun to read) of Rampage I fortunately allowed curiosity to lead me instead to A Quiet Place so I’ll lead you, to finish off this review, to my final Musical Metaphor, Carole King’s “A Quiet Place to Live”* (from her 1973 Fantasy album) at with its lyrics about what the Abbotts wistfully dream of whenever they can take their minds off stalking monsters: “All I want is a quiet place to live Where I can enjoy the fruits of my labor Read the paper [no longer published in ... Place, although somehow power and water supplies remain stable] And [be able] to cry out loud [because these parents must constantly worry] What will become of us What about the children […] What will the answer be.”  One answer you can count on is more cinematic commentary from Two Guys in the Dark so we hope to see you again soon, wherever you may find us in the world, even Beirut.

*I could have used Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” in honor of the love these besieged parents maintain for each other despite constant crises, in that Evelyn and Lee dance to it at one point each sharing an earbud; however, you can always find that song at the end of any Two Guys posting by scrolling to the end where I keep it in ongoing tribute to Nina, my own loving wife of so many years.
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

Here’s more information about Beirut: (12:30 interview with director Brad Anderson, screenwriter/co-producer Tony Gilroy, co-producer Mike Weber, actor John Hamm, and a few others who don’t say anything—audio quality’s not great but listen carefully and you can hear it all)

Here’s more information about A Quiet Place: (seems to come up with local theater options) (8:50 video on 32 things you missed in this movie plus the origin of the creatures)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 19,336; below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:


  1. I found both of these films to be interesting with Beirut being the overachiever of the pair. Low budget films like Quiet Place that depend on gore and recycled Alien monsters are sometimes a diversion but never quite achieve the effectiveness of a true psychological masterwork like last years Get Out.

    Concerning Beirut, I was expecting a slow moving drama along the lines of 2001's Spy Game with Redford and Pitt but found a much more satisfying experience with a well crafted film lead by Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike. Rosamund is a personal favorite who impressed in Gone Girl, which is certainly a modern day classic of which I would recommend over these two 2018 releases.

  2. Hi rj, Thanks as always for the comments, even if we diverge slightly on the merits of what's in the above posting. I certainly agree with you on the effective screen presence of Ms. Pike as well as agree Gone Girl is better than either of these even though I gave it 4 stars just like A Quiet Place which, in short-term retrospect, probably means I was a bit too generous with the latter (I did mull over 3 1/2 for it but maybe went to 4 just because it hit me better than most of what I've seen lately--although Get Out's better than the current two as well, so yeah, maybe a bit generous with A Quiet Place; sometimes it becomes more difficult than you'd think trying to be consistent over the years with these ratings--at least for me; I wonder if Roger Ebert ever second-guessed himself). Ken

  3. Roger Ebert always had Gene Siskel to keep him in line, at least in their glory days.

  4. And that's what you should do for me, which I gladly accept. Ken

  5. Interesting movie review... Keep up the good blogging... May I share an article about the Last Supper in Milan in
    Watch also the video in youtube

    1. Hi Stenote, Sorry I’ve been so long in getting your comment published and replying to it, but there was some kind of glitch so I wasn’t even notified you’d sent it in. In the future, I’ll go into my Blogspot mailbox once a week to make sure I’m aware of any submitted comments Thanks for the marvelous info on The Last Supper. Ken Burke