CALLERI: ‘A Quiet Place Part II’ is coming. Will it save Hollywood?

The south Grand Island bridges in metropolitan Buffalo are the center of attention in “A Quiet Place Part II.” (Paramount Pictures)

Remember when a lot of people in Hollywood, especially director Christopher Nolan, himself, thought his woefully mysterious mind-bending action film “Tenet” was going to change pandemic moviegoing for the better? Well, that was a bit of a bust.

People were leery of leaving the house, and the box office was weak. The feature did score two Academy Award nominations, for visual effects and production design. The Oscars are April 25.

The ultimate result was that big movies were still shuffled about on major studio schedules, with some promising hits going directly to streaming. Do you recall when “straight-to-video” was an insult?

We now have a new rallying cry, and fingers have never been more tightly crossed. May 28 is the target date. The upcoming “A Quiet Place Part II” has been dubbed the new cinematic savior.

Filmed primarily in metropolitan Buffalo-Niagara, especially in the burgs of Akron and Olcott, the horror movie sequel, which is written and directed by John Krasinski, stars him, his real-life wife Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Cillian Murphy, Noah Jupe, and Djimon Hounsou. The picture has a heavy burden on its shoulders. Will vaccinations help deliver a literal groundswell of support? Stay tuned.

There was a glimmer of hope when a lot of film loving folks dashed out of their bunkers to see “Godzilla vs. Kong” the other weekend. The box office numbers were good, but not pre-pandemic good. There’s now a kind of hush all over the world as “A Quiet Place Part II” beckons.

Regarding “Godzilla vs. Kong,” it’s not a vital or important movie. It doesn’t have the magic of the original 1933 “King Kong,” and it pales in comparison to “Kong: Skull Island” from 2017, which I quite enjoyed.

“Godzilla vs Kong,” which is fun, nothing more, doesn’t really tell a brand new story about two madcap beasts battling each other, but rather it re-framed old tropes. However, and this is key, it entertained millions of people who wanted to go a theater and see something familiar, something previously lost to a detrimental virus. It was a chance to partake of cinematic comfort food, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

WHAT TO DO WHILE YOU WAIT FOR KRASINSKI AND COMPANY.

The locally-owned Dipson Theatres chain reopens its Amherst Theatre on April 30 with a line-up of independent films, including “Together Together” and “Four Good Days.” Following this duo will be “Those Who Wish Me Dead” on May 14, and “Dream Horse” and “Final Account” on May 21.

Dipson’s Eastern Hills Cinema has the same April 30 openers, with some similar titles following, but also “Finding You” on May 14. “Cruella” and “In The Heights” are on tap. Dipson’s Flix returns earlier, on April 23, with key releases, including “Mortal Kombat” and “Demon Slayer The Movie: Mugen Train.”

On its website, Dipson is delivering the opportunity to watch the nominated short films for this year’s Academy Awards – animation, documentary, and live action. All fifteen nominees can be seen through the Virtual Cinema program, which charges a fee.

Also on Dipson’s Virtue Cinema schedule is the wonderful new documentary, “Stray.” This is the feature debut of director Elizabeth Lo, who made the movie as a tribute to her own beloved dog. In 2004, Turkey enacted a law protecting stray animals. It mandates that they not be treated cruelly and are fed and given water by average citizens.

A true technical achievement, “Stray” follows the adventures of three specific dogs, who roam the streets and lanes of Istanbul, Turkey. Lo delivers Istanbul from the point-of-view of the stray dogs – Zeytin, Nazar, and Kartal. Their eyes are the eyes of the audience. We see areas of Istanbul far off-the-beaten path and we witness endearing examples of the public’s compassion and kindness.

In “Kedi,” from 2016, director Ceyda Torun pointed her camera at Istanbul’s huge population of stray cats in what is also a truly lovely movie. The equally fascinating “Stray” is a must for dog lovers.

“Moffie,” which is available on VOD and from some streaming services, is why independent cinema is essential. The powerful film offers the chance to go to a time and place we’ve rarely experienced on screen: South Africa in the early 1980s.

The nation is using its war against communism in the nearby country of Angola to strengthen its separate and unequal Apartheid policies. Every healthy white South African male from 16 to 60 must serve in the military in some capacity. The word moffie is a slur for weak or effeminate men.

The movie is uncompromising. The basic training shocks some of the recruits; the more raucous revel in it. The brutal war is terrifying to many who have been called up. The experience is even harsher for two young men, Nicholas (Kai Luke Brummer) and Dylan (Ryan de Villiers), who realize they have strong feelings for each other that go beyond the emotions of battle. They fear being discovered. Their companionship is an island in a sea of stark tension.

The acting in “Moffie” is exceptional and cinematographer Jamie Ramsay’s visuals are superb. Oliver Hermanus directs from a multi-layered screenplay he wrote with Jack Sidey, based on Andre Carl van der Merwe’s biographical novel.

Hermanus’s gripping film delivers a harsh exploration of violence and an honest understanding of love and human complexity.

Michael Calleri reviews films for the Niagara Gazette and the CNHI news network. Contact him at moviecolumn@gmail.com.

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