Crazy, outlandish, masterful horror
Us (2019): A family's serenity turns to chaos when a group of doppelgängers begins to terrorize them.
This movie is WILD. Us is an insane step inside Jordan Peele's crazy mind. While Get Out was the film Jordan Peele (apparently) made so that we would all accept him as a legitimate filmmaker, Us is the end result of a studio giving the man that made Get Out a blank check to do whatever he wants. And I LOVE it. It has resonated with me far longer than the average studio film, with a chaotic story, amazing filmmaking and a TERRIFIC performance from Lupita N'Yongo.
That said, there are a few things that are harder-to-swallow. Jordan Peele's mind is a bit of an insatiable one. There are several moments in this film that feel entirely too self-indulgent. As if Peele is saying, “Hey! Really made you think there, didn't I?” Nowhere is this felt more than the forced twist ending. While it was unexpected, it felt somewhat unnecessary and rather forced. I think I may ultimately be in the minority on this one, but I felt like this twist ending was there primarily just to have a twist ending. To give us, the viewers, something to talk about as we exited the theater. It painfully detracted from an otherwise brilliant screenplay.
And yes, the rest of this film's screenplay is brilliant, in its unabashed outlandishness. While Jordan Peele wrote a much more safe and systemic (and still brilliant) screenplay in Get Out, his sequel feels more like the film he wanted to make. There's a lot of passion behind this script, both behind the camera and in front of it. The film's core characters are great, led by Lupita N'yongo, SOMEHOW in her first led role after her groundbreaking, Oscar-winning performance in 12 Years a Slave. Only took her 4 years, right? N'yongo CARRIES this film with two polarizing yet mesmerizing performances. It breaches all acting norms: a performance that's both subtle and over-the-top, all dependent on the individual scene. The year is still very young, but this may be one of the best I see throughout all of 2019. Her performance is so powerful that it's kind of easy to forget that both Winston Duke and Elisabeth Moss are fantastic as well. They will likely be mostly overlooked ion what is certainly Lupita N'yongo's (second) career-defining performance.
And it's all surrounded by some truly amazing filmmaking from Jordan Peele. The master auteur puts on a clinic in crafting meaningfully suspenseful sequences that are equally scary and resonating. This film, while weirder than Get Out, is also more terrifying, delivering some breathtaking jump scares that are not just in the film for the sole purpose of scaring you. If you're not a fan of the horror genre, be forewarned: this film is legitimately scary. It'll resonate with you too: I saw the film Thursday and I'm still dissecting individual scenes. This film is every bit as captivating as its spiritual successor was, well worth the watch as it stretches across genres with a crazy, supernatural story and wonderful filmmaking. It proves that Get Out was not just "lightning in a bottle" and firmly establishes Jordan Peele as one of the greatest masters of suspense Hollywood has ever seen. Make it a date night and check out the latest from the wild mind of Jordan Peele. You'll thank me later.
My Number: 8/10
A mildly fun time that doesn't offer much else
Captain Marvel (2019): Carol Danvers becomes one of the universe's most powerful heroes when Earth is caught in the middle of a galactic war between two alien races.
Captain Marvel is a charming film. It has some witty dialogue, a few surprisingly intimate moments (for a Marvel film) and decent action sequences. But, the incredible one-two punch of Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, two films which brought powerful new voices to the overbearing Marvel formula, feel like an eternity ago following a string of bloated (Avengers: Infinity War) and hopelessly mediocre films. (Ant-Man and the Wasp) The eye-rolling self referential humor is in full force throughout this origin story, and a rather disappointing villain (after Killmonger and even Thanos himself) left me yearning for so much more as the third phase of Marvel's plan for global domination comes to a somewhat uneventful close.
That seemingly damning intro aside, Captain Marvel is.... fine. The film's title character (Brie Larson) leads Marvel's first female-led superhero movie, and Larson brings her wonderful brand of quick-witisisms, and eyebrow-raising charm we've come to know and love in full force. This film basically answers the question, “What would happen if Envy Adams became a superhero?" and I'm so happy it does. I had lofty expectations for one of my favorite actresses in the business, and she didn't disappoint, even if I know she's capable of a lot more. (See: Larson's truly unforgettable performance in Room) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is himself, but I'm more amazed by the magic of movies with his character: the 70 year old actor looks like he's roughly 40 in this film, and it's rather disconcerting. Uuuuuuuntil he runs. Or fights. Or does anything requiring strenuous physical exertion. But that's besides the point! Fortunately directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck don't do much in this regard, so Fury mostly just has a sly remark to offer every now and again, and strikes a friendship with a CUTE kitty, Goose. That cat is the real MVP of this film. Not gonna lie.
The filmmaking here is also pretty good. There are a few shockingly intimate moments in the second act, and there's even some silence during these emotional peaks! As someone who's been frustrated by the sheer noise for the sake of noise in seemingly every Marvel movie, the intimate moments scattered throughout were a WELCOME change-of-pace, even if the audience I saw this film with were visibly bored during them. (I think about 7 people got up to go to the bathroom during one such intimate moment - learn to recognize great filmmaking, people!) The emotionally intimate moments are a staple of directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, (1co-directors of It's a Funny Story and Sugar) and really allow them to flesh out the characters and emotional foundations of this story. Seriously, so many Marvel movies blaze past this so we can have another action scene, so it is very welcome here.
That said, the faults of this film start with its villain. We have squarely returned to the realm of the forgettable in Marvel's villain problem. You see the “twist” with the character coming from a mile away, and the villain basically has 15 minutes to make an impression on screen, with very little to do to make a lasting impression. No thanks. While the villain is topically tied to a great statement on our current administration's fear mongering with immigrants, the character itself is extremely forgettable.
End of the day, Captain Marvel is fun and charming, as most Marvel films are, but outside of it being the first female-led Marvel film, there's not a whole lot to differentiate it from the other 22(ish) Marvel films that preceded it. Maybe history with prove me wrong, but this time I'm feeling pretty confident that my opinion of this film, groundbreaking or not, will stand the test of time. (Unlike Black Panther, a film I enjoyed early on but only saw the true gravitas long after its initial release) See it because of its societal importance, and the fact that Brie Larson is wonderful, but don't expect much other than an ok fun time.
My Number: 6/10 Above Average
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