A QUIET PLACE PART II and CRUELLA: A Return to the Cinema

No-Spoilers Movie Reviews by Katherine Valdez

I sank into the Luxury Lounger at my local Cinemark theater, grateful for the COVID-19 vaccine, and set my popcorn and water bottle on the tray table. I removed my mask and stuffed it into my purse.

Freedom.

Yesterday was my first foray back to the cinema after 14 months (and counting) of the global pandemic. For this Memorial Day weekend, I chose A Quiet Place Part II and Cruella.

The movie theater went dark and after the requisite Coca-Cola and other commercials, we saw the familiar green screen and “The Following PREVIEW Has Been Approved For All Audiences By The Motion Picture Association of America.”

“I forgot about previews,” a woman a few seats away whispered to her companion.

I appreciated every bit of the 20 minutes of trailers showing highlights of upcoming summer blockbusters (even if they do tend to reveal too much of the plot). I appreciated the pandemic-era messages encouraging audiences to watch movies on the big screen, as they’re meant to be seen, alluding to the now-common practice of streaming movies since March 2020 when the pandemic shelter-in-place restrictions began.

A Quiet Place Part II writer/director/actor John Krasinski even recorded a special message thanking audiences for choosing to see this movie in the cinema.

Logline: “The sound-hunting monsters are back for a second helping in this tension-filled sequel. Evelyn Abbott leads her children into the wider, and more dangerous, post-apocalyptic world.” (TheCherryPicks.com)

What’s awesome about this movie

  • A fast-paced, first-rate screenplay.
  • Well-drawn, complex characters. Cillian Murphy is a welcome addition as one of the townspeople trying to survive the invasion of alien monsters that strike victims who make the slightest noise.
  • The trusting and loving relationship between mother Evelyn (Emily Blunt), daughter Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and son Marcus (Noah Jupe).

What’s different about this movie

  • As in A Quiet Place, the women are intelligent, brave and resourceful.
  • One character wears a hearing aid and communicates with her family in American Sign Language, which is subtitled. It’s great to see actors of different abilities cast in feature films and for the character to be treated no differently than others.
  • The people behave like real human beings, realistic in their fear and compassionate when appropriate. (At least this is the case for the “good guys.”)

After a prologue, which shows what happened earlier in Day 1 before the events of the first movie, Part II picks up soon after. The family has survived and now they want to find other survivors. There’s strength in numbers, and besides, who wants to live the rest of their days in isolation from other people? The COVID-19 global pandemic has taught us we need each other.

Krasinski’s storytelling is tight (there are no wasted scenes), the bits from Regan’s point of view are compelling, and I especially enjoyed the final act, in which the young adults dig deep down and step up in ways we don’t expect. This was a satisfying handing off of sorts, a coming of age during an unprecedented time when a new bug (albeit gigantic and alien) threatens the entire world.

Sound familiar?

By the way, it was fun to be scared. I startled at one suspenseful scene and bumped my knee against the tray table. Ouch.

A Quiet Place, Part II
PG-13
Drama, Suspense/Thriller, Science Fiction
1 hour, 37 minutes
Release date: May 28, 2021


Cruella a Fun, Fashionable and Surprisingly Deep Origin Story

Logline: “The origin story of an iconic Disney villain gets a live-action 70s London punk makeover in this sassy crime drama.” (TheCherryPicks.com)

I didn’t read anything about this film before I saw it, and frankly, had low expectations. (I don’t remember much about the original Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961) and don’t plan to re-watch it.) But I love Emma Stone and the other movies I considered weren’t showing at convenient times, so I decided to go for broke with the 3:15 pm showing today.

OMG. The fashion! The humor! The 1970s London punk scene! If you have any appreciation at all for fashion, you’ll be in vibrantly colored, richly textured heaven. If you love music, especially blast-from-the-past hits such as “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ ” written by Lee Hazlewood and recorded by Nancy Sinatra (1966) and “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps” recorded by Doris Day, you will love this film.

If you love a good story with themes of love, family (birth and chosen), friendship, creativity and believing in yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

There’s a debate about whether Cruella is a feminist role model, and a controversy because the original Disney character famously made a coat out of Dalmatian hides. (You’ll have to watch this film to see how they handle that, 21st century-style.) What are your thoughts? Add a spoiler-free comment below.

What’s awesome about this movie

  • A feminist tale and sympathetic treatment of a future villain, in the tradition of Maleficent.
  • Emma Thompson as the evil Baroness is a Disney Devil Wears Prada. She’s the most one-dimensional of all the characters (a narcissist to the cartoonish extreme), and Thompson portrays her with gusto.
  • Several talented pups, including the ferocious Dalmatians. Cruella’s sidekick is especially winning.

What’s different about this movie

  • Emma Stone injects humanity into a character we Gen-Xers knew only as cruel. Fascinating to learn how she got that way.
  • The men characters appreciate the intelligence of the women they serve: Mark Strong as the Baroness’ valet, Joel Fry as Jasper, and Paul Walter Hauser as Horace.
  • John McCrea is a delightful surprise as LGBTQ+ fashionista character Artie

Be sure to stay for a few minutes of the credits, to watch an extra scene that reveals the origin of the famous Disney song named after the title character.

PG-13
Comedy, Crime
2 hours, 14 minutes
Release date: May 28, 2021


Closing thoughts: Although case numbers are down and many people have been vaccinated, we’re still in a COVID-19 global pandemic. I happened to see these two movies at Cinemark – please consider patronizing your local independent movie theater as well – whose website lists all the ways in which they’re disinfecting and cleaning each theater, chairs and high-touch surfaces.

The website also states that those who are fully vaccinated may go without masks. However, signs at the main doors ask all who enter to wear masks. As a courtesy to others, I wore my mask. Except, that is, when I was indulging in buttery, delicious popcorn.

It’s a whole new world, but one we can live with: movie theaters are back!

Katherine Valdez laments the proliferation of trailers that reveal too much of the plot. But she plans to see the following hugely-anticipated summer blockbuster films anyway, with pleasure: Black Widow, Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins, Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings, etc.

This post was originally published at No-Spoilers Movie Reviews and later published at KatherineValdez.com. Type your email address in the Follow box to receive posts directly to your inbox, about two per month.

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