Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.
Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.
When Paramount Pictures’ A Quiet Place opened the SXSW Film Festival last month, the reviews were deafeningly loud – and positive.
“Critics in attendance for the Austin, Texas-based film festival called Krasinski’s third feature film ‘a tight thrill ride,’ ‘a kick-ass horror flick,’ a ‘crowdpleaser,’ and a ‘technically sleek’ and ‘terrifying thriller,’” Entertainment Weekly’s Nick Romanowrote at the time.
They may want to quiet down. Set in a post-apocalyptic America overrun by sonically super-powered insectoid predators that will feast on any human who makes the slightest sound, A Quiet Place’s tiptoeing world of caution and fear is no place for raving critics.
That hasn’t slowed them down. With the film opening in theaters today, the stream of enthralled reviews has turned into a deluge, most of which go something like this take by Cinemablend’s Conner Schwerdtfeger:
“… even in the face of heightened anticipation, nothing could’ve prepared us for how good this film is. Using its simple concept for maximum effectiveness, A Quiet Place blends horror with drama, and the result is a near-perfect horror film that isn’t just the best scary movie of 2018 so far; it is one of the best films of the year, period.”
The film stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinski (who also co-wrote and directed), Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. They survive by wit and prudence and patience, with sign language and with poured sand trails to walk on and within a padded living space designed to mute every sound. Hanging over their bunkered but secure-for-the-moment existence is the fact of Blunt’s pregnancy, promising the inexorable arrival of a screaming baby into a world of omnipresent sound-hungry monsters.
It’s an intriguing meta concept, and one that is masterfully executed in multiple dimensions. Here’s a closer look at the elements that A Quiet Place’s critics are shouting about:
It transcends horror
From its opening scenes, it is clear that A Quiet Place has a larger purpose than scaring audiences out of their seats (though “Every second of A Quiet Place is filled with oppressive dread…” notes GQ’s Tom Philip). In its insistent focus on Mom and Dad Abbott working together to keep their kids alive under horrific circumstances, the film is as much about the overwhelming responsibility and challenges of family life as about anything else.
“The question Krasinski tackles is what defines a family and what’s needed to preserve it?” asks Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “’Who are we,’ asks Mom, ‘if we can’t protect our children?’ The answers are worked out with satisfying complexity and genuine feeling, proving indeed that home is where family is.”
Left to right: Noah Jupe plays Marcus Abbott, Millicent Simmonds plays Regan Abbott and John Krasinski plays Lee Abbott in A QUIET PLACE, from Paramount Pictures.
At least part of the reason this resonates so deeply is that the survivalist couple is married in real life. “… the success of the film hinges almost entirely on the way in which real-life couple and parents Blunt and Krasinski pour their fears about raising children into their performances here,” writes Joanna Robinson in Vanity Fair. “As is the case with most successful, spare horror films of late, A Quiet Place has much more to say about its humans than its monsters and is especially invested in the ways families fail to communicate even their most basic needs to each other.”
Krasinski is a great director…
Krasinski the actor is familiar to a non-monster-infested America, which has been laughing along with him since the mid-2000’s heyday of The Office. Here, in his debut helming a film for a major studio, we meet Krasinski the director. We are impressed.
“Directed with first-rate visual flair by John Krasinski (who knew?), this riveting near-silent thriller exudes the despair of a broken world with the concision of a Cormac McCarthy novel folded into a simplistic B-movie premise,” writes Eric Kohn in Indiewire. “… the director’s capacity to mine suspense out of inventive scenarios (sinking in a sea of corn, or grasping for a mattress to stifle a baby’s cry) means that every new showdown comes with a few unexpected tricks.”
… supported by an outstanding cast
That one of the Abbott’s children is deaf – meaning the family can all sign fluent sign language – perhaps contributed to their survival in a world where sound is poison. That Krasinski cast a deaf actress in that role most certainly helped transform a surreal world into a believable one.
“Simmonds, a deaf actress, is as commanding here as she was in her astonishing breakthrough turn last year in Todd Haynes’ Wonderstruck,” writes the Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang.
The rest of the cast is just as strong. “… Blunt, Krasinski, and Jupe all contribute credible intensity to their scenes with a degree of sophistication rare for this type of material,” writes Indiewire’s Kohn.
With summer creeping right up, it’s time to plan your trip to the amusement park that has something for everyone: there’s a porcupine in the petting zoo, an oft-collapsing chairlift, an assortment of contraptions that explode or shoot at you, and a “ride” that appears to be a Medieval-style catapult that slings riders into the side of a barn. Good thing there’s free beer for every patron.
Unsurprisingly, this zone of dysfunctional chaos is under the purview of Johnny Knoxville, who returns to Paramount Pictures, home of his hit films Jackass and Bad Grandpa, for this homespun David-versus-Goliath tale of the scrappy little park-owner-who-could improvising to battle the new corporate megalith down the road. It’s a fight that is apparently best won with the assistance of negligent lifeguards, unstable slides and ziplines, and bears, both real and as costumed mascots.
Action Point, which will hit theaters on June 1, is directed by Tim Kirkby and stars Knoxville, Chris Pontius, Dan Bakkedahl, Matt Schulze, Eleanor Worthington-Cox, Johnny Pemberton, Brigette Lundy-Paine, Joshua Hoover, Conner McVicker, and Eric Manaka.
Following a long tradition of naming buildings after pioneering women in film, Paramount Pictures has renamed its Dressing Room building after prolific director Dorothy Arzner.
The only working female director in the country in the 1930s, Arzner helmed films starring the glitterati of her day, including Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, Maureen O’Hara, and Lionel Atwell; mentored the now legendary Francis Ford Coppola in his UCLA film school days; changed production sets forever with her invention of the indispensable boom microphone; and became the first woman director admitted into the Directors Guild of America.
1927: American film director Dorothy Arzner (1897 – 1979) and Alfred Gilks, her cinematographer, survey a scene as they stand by a camera on the set of her film, ‘Get Your Man’. Arzner is leaning on the camera and holding a combination megaphone and viewfinder. She was Hollywood’s only female director of the Thirties. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
“We’re incredibly proud to honor Dorothy Arzner, who is one of the early pillars of Paramount’s success and an enormous part of its legacy,” said Paramount Chairman and CEO Jim Gianopulos. “As Paramount, and the industry as a whole, works to increase our efforts to build more diverse and inclusive workplaces, including our film sets, Dorothy serves as a beacon for that movement in filmmaking.”
Gianopulos joined Coppola at a naming ceremony for the Melrose Avenue building on Paramount’s Hollywood lot earlier this month, where the director remembered Arzner stuffing her hungry students with crackers and teaching them the nuances of getting the most out of actors on set.
Francis Ford Coppola and Jim Gianopulos attend the Building Dedication Ceremony in honor of Filmmaker Dorothy Arzner at Paramount Pictures Studios on March 1, 2018. (Photo: Alex J. Berliner/ABImages).
“You’ll make it, I know. I’ve been around’,” Arzner apparently told a forlorn and starving Coppola step-sitting on the UCLA campus.
She was right – Coppola went on to direct dozens of films, including the Oscar-winning The Godfather, one of the most iconic films in Paramount’s deep library.
Arzner’s own 19-picture filmography includes The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Bride Wore Red, and The Wild Party (on the set of which she cobbled together that first boom mic). She joins actresses Lucille Ball, Clara Bow, Marlene Dietrich, Edith Head, Mary Pickford, Gloria Swanson, Mae West; costume designer Carole Lombard; and former Paramount Pictures CEO Sherry Lansing as Hollywood legends whose names grace Paramount buildings.
Anchored by a visually stunning fantasyland setting, a cerebral cocktail of plot and theme, and a fierce cast of women warrior-scientists, Paramount Pictures’ Annihilation hits U.S. theaters today to a flood of positive critical reaction.
“In just about every respect, it’s the finest cinematic sci-fi in years—or, at least, since [director Alex] Garland’s prior Ex Machina,” wrote The Daily Beast’sNick Schager, echoing the popular sentiment for this adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s novel of the same name.
The premise is simple enough: a meteorite crashes into a Florida lighthouse, unleashing a mysterious rippling force field dubbed the Shimmer. This dancing wall of color and motion slowly expands, and the zone within changes, like a puncture in reality, filling with enormous genetically mutated animals, overgrown plants sized and shaped like humans, and other oddities alternately novel and terrifying. Eleven expeditions have entered – only one person has returned: Kane (Oscar Isaac), the husband of ex-soldier/biologist Lena (Natalie Portman). He is diseased and dying and has been reduced to a sub-human state of mumbling and fear.
Partly in hopes of saving him, Lena joins an all-woman expeditionary force – led by psychologist Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and also including another doctor, Anya (Gina Rodriguez), physicist Josie (Tessa Thompson), and anthropologist Cass (Tuva Novotny) – on an exploration and recovery mission. Within the Shimmer, they lose communication with the outside world. Their compasses and other instruments fail. As they trek through the increasingly wild landscape, the DNA mutations transforming the forest creatures infest their bodies, their memories fail, they lose their sense of space and time.
What happens between there and the final wrenching scenes has critics elated. “Annihilation is a ferocious, feral, female-centric update of fearsome monster classics like The Thing and Alien,” writes Todd McCarthy in the Hollywood Reporter.
Here’s a deeper look at what the critics love most about Annihilation:
“This is a serious, considered film,” writes Richard Lawson in Vanity Fair.
And it is. At once a thriller, a science fiction thought piece, a horror flick, and a tale of environmental catastrophe – while hinting at humanity’s ultimate helplessness against a huge and ruthless universe – Annihilation manages to accomplish many things at once with an expansive and intricate plot.
“For those willing to put in the effort, Annihilation achieves that rare feat of great genre cinema, where audiences are not merely thrilled … but also feel as if their minds have been expanded along the way,” writes Peter Debruge in Variety.
Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh in Annihilation from Paramount Pictures and Skydance.
Wandering this other-Earth burbling dreamlike within the Shimmer, the explorers amble over a landscape that resembles some videogame fantasy world, where predators roar with the screams of past victims and the intensifying light elides the distinction between illusion and reality.
The message is cryptic, the voice scratchy and resigned to whatever befalls him – the man in captivity has a message for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise).
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it. I wonder, did you ever choose not to? The end you always feared is coming, and the blood will be on your hands – the fallout of all your good intentions.”
This is the first full trailer for Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible – Fallout, the sixth installment in the studio’s leaping, punching, gun-fighting, vehicle-chasing adventure saga.
This time, there will be: betrayal, Paris, packed dance clubs, remote armed outposts, boats cascading through sewers, a man thrown through a bathroom mirror, and at least one game of chicken between a Hunt-driven helicopter and a semi. And plenty more.
Mission: Impossible – Fallout, directed by Christopher McQuarrie and starring Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Simon Pegg, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Sean Harris, Angela Bassett, Vanessa Kirby, Michelle Monaghan, Alec Baldwin, Wes Bentley and Frederick Schmidt, will be in theaters July 27.
Each year, thousands of Viacom employees around the world unite for Viacommunity Day, helping to rebuild and revitalize their local communities with a series of service projects. At Paramount Pictures – which for the past two years has had the highest percentage of employees from any Viacom company division participating in projects – the day has special resonance.
To commemorate the titanic efforts of their employees at last year’s event, Paramount’s social responsibility team put together A Day for Unity, a rousing video recap of the landscaping, painting, organizing, and volunteering at zoos, community centers, soup kitchens and food distribution centers that took place across the Los Angeles area on Viacommunity Day 2017.
This video testament to Paramount’s efforts is now part of the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship International Corporate Citizenship Film Festival, an annual event that honors the best in corporate social responsibility. Click here by Feb. 19 to vote for Paramount’s submission.
“You know how Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore?” asks Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “Well, Downsizing is here to fix that.”
The movie indeed presents as a highly original concept: an everyone-wins-the-lotto fantasia, a hypothetical near-future where every middle-class worker drone with fifty thousand in the bank can shrink themselves and relocate to a miniaturized consumerist paradise where everything is cheap and easy. And the shrunken crowds, with their shrunken environmental footprint, get to save the world in the process.
That’s what gets our attention, but what keeps it is a vividly accurate parable on class struggle and the inherent unfairness of global imbalances in rights and status. This turn happens when hero Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) – left behind by his wife (Kristen Wiig), discontented with his new world’s opulence – stumbles into a miniature tenement outside the walls of diminutive mansion-dotted Leisureland and discovers an underclass of refugees who have been downsized against their will.
Galvanized, Safranek sets off to find the meaning that financially amping up his lifestyle could not deliver. Cue the critics:
“Downsizing … is the rarest thing in today’s movie industry: a big movie for big people — adults, you could call them,” writes Jake Coyle in the The Associated Press.
He’s not the only one who was impressed. Here are some highlights:
Director Alexander Payne continues his record of excellence
“It’s hard to say what’s better about the first half of Alexander Payne’s wonderfully weird – or is it weirdly wonderful? – Downsizing: the audacity of its premise, or the delicious skill with which Payne executes that premise, detail by comically ingenious detail,” Jocelyn Noveck writes for The Associated Press.
Payne has directed six previous feature films, including Paramount’s Academy Award-nominated Election and Nebraska, as well as the Academy Award-winning Sideways and The Descendants (both won for Best Adapted Screenplay).
Matt Damon and Director Alexander Payne on the set of Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
“Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers who’s never made a bad movie, and he’s not about to start now,” writes Micah Mertes in the Omaha World-Herald. “…in its sense of place, in its existential dread, in its deadpan comedy and late-inning optimism, Downsizing is an on-brand continuation of a career still running strong more than two decades in.”
Supporting actress Hong Chau is remarkable
Chau, who plays a Vietnamese refugee shrunken against her will and forced to labor as a Leisureland maid after losing a leg to gangrene, delivers a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a supporting actress.
“Hong Chau, best known from Inherent Vice and HBO’s Treme, achieves nothing less than an acting triumph,” writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Her Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild are just the start of the honors coming her way.”
Hong Chau plays Ngoc Lan Tran and Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
One thing that drew Chau to the role was a high-concept framework that acted as an approachable vector for important issues.
Now, thanks to the studio that brought you the explosive Transformers film series and the tech magic-makers at virtual reality (VR) group Viacom NEXT, fans of the heroic Autobot can play as Bumblebee in Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard, a free experience launched today to coincide with the 4K Ultra HD release of the five-movie collection on iTunes.
Cade’s Junkyard, created in augmented reality (AR) using cutting-edge VR technology from Apple, incorporates content from Transformers: The Last Knight – the latest installment of the blockbuster franchise – to transport users to the virtual junkyard of protagonist Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg).
“We’re excited to give fans the opportunity to get in the driver’s seat and take Bumblebee for a ride,” said Howard Hsieh, vice president of Paramount Home Media Distribution.
The experience overlays eye-popping 3D graphics onto your surrounding physical space, allowing you to maneuver around (or into) barrels, wooden crates, rusted-up jalopies, gas tanks and all sorts of other obstacles at breakneck speeds in the iconic automobile. Careful you don’t drive off your desk, though. The action really heats up when you transform into Bumblebee and show those pesky barrels who’s boss. Blowing stuff up with your phone has rarely been this fun. And in case you’re more of a builder than a demolisher, the app allows you to choose and place objects to expand the virtual world wherever you wish.
Smashing up Viacom’s New York City offices with an augmented reality app created by Viacom NEXT.
The sharp gameplay is the product of putting Apple’s new ARKit platform in the hands of the expert engineers and developers at Viacom NEXT. This is the group’s second time building an AR experience with ARKit – in September, Viacom NEXT released ARQUA!, an artistic building game in which users transform their physical environments into rainbow-colored aquariums.
They survive by speaking in signs, by padding their footsteps with painted and powdered trails, by rolling dice on folded blankets. They survive by never making a sound.
In the floodlit dystopia of A Quiet Place, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt cautiously guide their family through a terrifying landscape where something vicious stalks them. And everything will be OK – if they can just keep quiet.
Directed by Krasinski, the film also stars Noah Jupe and Millicent Simmonds. A Quiet Place will be in theaters April 6, 2018.