A Quiet Place Part II (PG13)
97 minutes, opens June 17, currently in sneaks
Let's get the obvious thing out of the way. For a franchise with a story grounded in the real world, this series takes enormous liberties. For example, the main Abbot family - mild spoiler alert for the first movie - chose to have a pregnancy and raise a baby in the midst of an invasion by aliens who can hear a pin drop. This, after losing one child who was too young to know that a noisy toy is a no-no. Also, it has aliens who have mastered space travel so they can beat humans to death, one at a time? Talk about grudges.
After a flashback scene establishing the day the human-hunting creatures came to Earth, the action moves to the aftermath of the 2018 movie. Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and her children Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) abandon their ruined farm in search of safety. Along the way, they meet other survivors, including Emmett (Cillian Murphy) and a nameless man, played by Djimon Hounsou.
Plot holes abound in this strangely illogical yet hugely entertaining work, the long-delayed follow-up to the original. But by this reviewer's reckoning, both movies have a great excuse.
They take the template of the marooned family, ringed by terror - think the Lost In Space series, recently revived on Netflix (2018 to present) - and locate it on Earth, in the present day, immediately making the survival situations more relatable. For example, that dystopia-movie staple of characters scavenging in a shop is always interesting because viewers wonder what they would pick up if they were in the scavengers' shoes.
An Earth setting, however, prevents screenwriters from inventing science-fiction tools and scenarios that stick characters into, or extricate them from, sticky situations. So director, co-writer and actor John Krasinski gets a massive pass because his job is to make events so gripping, viewers do not notice the goofs. And he largely succeeds.
This is a terrifically tense movie with carefully edited and clearly filmed scenes of entrapment and escape. The use of Regan's point of view - Simmonds is a deaf actress and her character is also deaf - adds an especially nerve-racking touch.
Also, Krasinski has on his side a gifted actress, Blunt (his wife in real life), whose job in the sequel is to convey terror and vulnerability. She excels in this regard. Jupe and Simmonds are, like Blunt, actors who have no reason to be this good in a monster movie.
Another Round (PG13)
117 minutes, opens June 10
A myth that has been going around for years is that because water was dangerous to drink before the age of industrialised sanitation, much of the world was in a constant state of drunkenness. It is false, of course. (The reasons include: People then knew how to boil water and the alcohol content of liquids peasants could afford was too low to kill bacteria.)
An ancillary hypothesis is investigated in this Danish drama-comedy. Humans are born with an alcohol deficit, it says, because without a certain amount of it in the bloodstream - enough so it can be felt, but not so much as to hinder movement and thought - people are doomed to muddle through life lacking confidence and creativity. It sounds far-fetched on paper, but this movie, winner of the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film this year, makes a thoroughly convincing case for why everyone should always be a wee bit soused.
Martin (Mads Mikkelsen), a teacher, and his friends and colleagues Tommy (Thomas Bo Larsen) and Nikolaj (Magnus Millang), among others, are men in a mid-life crisis. With not much to lose, they test the alcohol-as-elixir hypothesis, taking nips throughout the day at work and avoiding it at night and on weekends. The results are miraculous, but things soon take a turn.
Danish writer-director Thomas Vinterberg picks up the "booze is magic" idea to explore what happens when people living in an uptight Northern European culture give themselves permission to let go of their inhibitions, to break the rules and not feel bad about it later. Shots of how binge-drinking is normalised, but only under specific social conditions such as graduation parties, reinforce Vinterberg's notion that alcohol is necessary so Danes can act less Danish, while paradoxically being even more Danish for being drunk only under certain conditions.
Along the way, Mikkelsen and the other actors deliver beautifully subtle performances as men living lives of quiet desperation, estranged from their wives and work as teachers. Sometimes, therapy comes in the form of a psychiatrist. Other times, uncorking a bottle releases not just the wine, but years of repression.
Love Will Tear Us Apart (PG13)
105 minutes, opens June 10, not reviewed
In this romantic drama from China, high-schooler Qinyang (Shaw Qu) confesses his love for schoolmate Yi Yao (Zhang Jingyi), but nothing comes out of it. A decade later, after he receives news that she is about to be married, he wonders if it is too late for another try at winning her heart.