US (2019)

us

 “Who are you?”

“We’re Americans”

A scathing attack on the polarising, binary state of American (and many other countries’) politics and today’s society or just a straight up horror film? You decide.
Commentary on class, race and privilege is on show here but never gets in the way of a good ‘ole scare.

It’s clear Jordan Peele has lots to say and chooses to do it via the often maligned or nichey, horror genre. Not usually the normal route for the passing on of opinion and criticism, although George A Romero did it brilliantly with ‘…the Dead’ zombie series as did John Carpenter with They Live and it’s attack on consumerism. Any shopping mall within the world at the moment doesn’t seem so different from the zombie overrun one in Dawn of the Dead and looking at the way the advertising hordes are after your mind and your money, how far are we really away from many aspects of They Live?

Peele delivered a cutting commentary of the deep wounds of racism and the current effects of the race relations in the magnificent Get Out and now he tackles the ‘Us and Them’ opposites of the way the country is in the uber-relevant midst of in 2019.

The film begins in 1986 with Adelaide Wilson, a young girl on holiday with her parents in Santa Cruz. She strays away from them and enters a funhouse that will forever change her. Cut to present day and now played by Lupita Nyong’o, she is heading to her old family vacation home in Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke) and her two children, Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex). Adelaide is apprehensive about returning to the place of the disturbing incident from her childhood but tries to get in the spirit of the trip. They meet their aspirational friends Josh & Kitty Tyler (Eric Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss) and their twin daughters, Becca (Cali Sheldon) and Lyndsey (Noelle Sheldon) at the beach close to the eerie funhouse from Adelaide’s childhood and things take a strange turn from here.

I will not reveal anything more about the plot. I had been excited about this for a while and stayed away from any information about the narrative or even the set up.

No trailers, no reviews, no nuttin’. Recently I’ve been trying to see films with as little information as possible to maximize my own enjoyment. I managed to do so pretty well with Captain Marvel. Again, not trailers, no reading, no nuttin’. No mean feat. It’s a fun experiment.

Hands across AmericaHands Across America

There is commentary here about the duality in humans and shadow and light plays a big part, the fear of the other and the self adorned illusion that these are separate and not two sides of the same coin. This division is happening in America and across the world.
We seem to be in an “Oh, East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet” place and this is definitely on show here.

Lupita Nyong’o continues to shine and add to her stellar collection of work and it’s great to see Winston Duke getting a bigger turn and more coverage, his comedy chops are on display here and his star is also on the rise. Elisabeth Moss (always brilliant) and Tim Heidecker (of Tim & Eric fame) who owns the best named boat in film to date ‘The B’Yacht’Ch’, have a LOAD of fun as the protagonists friends and the two main kids (Joseph & Alex) feel rooted in the world, as crazy as it gets.

There are plenty of scares and eerie tones at play and the soundtrack by Michael Abel works very well with the images. Anthem is especially strong as a creepy theme. Not to mention the killer tunes and beautiful placement in the film.
Luniz, anyone? N.W.A., anyone?

Whilst not as tight or sparky as his debut, his sophomore effort shows that Peele is no fluke. His knowledge of cinema and horror films, and referencing amongst others, Hitchcock, Kubrick and Spielberg, is real and I’m looking forward to watching this new director’s work as he traverses through the map of this business called film-making.
And all this from one half of the mighty Key & Peele sketch comedy duo.
Who’da thunk it? I had 5 on it.

It’s not about drugsIt’s a dope song.”

4/5

 

 

THE BEATLES: EIGHT DAYS A WEEK-THE TOURING YEARS (2016)

the-beatles-eight-days-a-week

Directed by Ron Howard and collating footage from many various sources, some of it having never been seen by the public, Howard sets out to appease and delight the die-hard fans and introduce the millenials to the phenomenon of The Beatles to show how extraordinary the group, the time and their journey was.

It is indeed a story worth telling, again and again.

Almost everything has been said or written about the fab four from Liverpool…..almost, which is why this is such an entertaining, enlightening documentary.

A call was put out to fans in 2013 to acquire film footage, photos and audio recordings of the band between the global touring years-1963-1966, the results speak for themselves. Over two hours (including 30 minutes of The Beatles live at the Shea Stadium, New York) of old footage, photos, new interviews with Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and archive conversations with George Harrison and John Lennon alongside reminiscences by Whoopi Goldberg, Elvis Costello, Sigourney Weaver, Eddie Izzard and more, this is a fine meal and well worth your attention.

This film charts that time during these four young lads’ journey into stardom, success and fame, not being without its price. You get to see these talented young dudes being swept up in a fervor like never before. They unleashed an energy the likes of which have never been seen before. Sure, bands can enjoy extreme popularity, longevity and still remain relevant for years after but the experience of The Beatles emergence onto the world’s stage was a game-changer for the world of music.

Speaking of fervor, it occurred to me as I saw the hordes of screaming fans greeting them all over the world that this was a new occurrence at that time. Teenagers didn’t really exist until the 20th century. What I mean is ‘teenagers as we know them’ (as we were one), it started in the late 19th century and grew into what we know it to mean here in 2016. It is a generalization but before that you were a child and then you went to work as an adult. So, in 1964 when The Beatles went to America, and with the massive popularity of their single I Wanna Hold Your Hand, teenage girls took adoration to a next level. These images of young girls screaming and fainting have been seen time and time again since but never to this level in a world where it didn’t exist before. This helped catapult The Beatles into the annals of history. Look at most boy bands today, they are effectively marketed towards young girls, that’s where the dollar is.

Interestingly, we find out that The Beatles were the first musicians to play at the famous Nippon Budokan arena in Tokyo, Japan. It was originally a martial arts arena and the concert was met with opposition from protesters that felt the music would defile the sacred martial arts space. This venue went on to become host to many great concerts over the years.

Ron Howard directs this documentary with skill and style in what must have been a mammoth task, trawling through all the audio and visual footage and manages to create this hugely enjoyable film that will most certainly appeal to fans and the uninitiated alike and is a phenomenon to behold and definitely worth a watch.

This will be in the cinemas for one week only. Don’t miss.

4/5