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

 

 

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CHEF (2014)

Chef

 

After the massive successes of his Iron Man films where Jon Favreau proved to the studio system that he could helm the big budgeters with confidence and make a LOT of money, this is a welcome return for Jon Favreau making simpler more intimate films.
‘Chef’ or How Carl Casper got his groove back is a feelgood comedy of sorts, there are no serious dramatic stakes here, more a man simply doing what he can to reclaim his mojo.

Carl Casper (Favreau) is a very successful chef at a popular restaurant in L.A. but finds himself in somewhat of a creative rut, some plot contrivances happen and he goes on his journey. It is a light-hearted film that doesn’t break the dramatic bank

The cast are all clearly having a blast especially John Leguizamo and Bobby Cannavale both of whom lift most of the films they appear in. The best scenes are in the kitchens where the actors engage in a playful dance that is filled with charm and fun.

The rest of the supporting cast do really well, the legendary Dustin Hoffman, a histrionically toned down Sofia Vergara, the ever sexy and stalwart Scarlett Johannson, the brilliant Oliver Platt and Sir Robert of Downey Jr are all a delight to watch. Amy Sedaris has fun with her scene as a publicist and she manages to hit all the right tickles. Emjay Anthony dials down any emotional blackmailing playing Favreau’s son and thus the scenes between father and son work nicely.

The things that stood out were the music, the food and the power of twitter.
There is a plethora of really fun music, especially very cool renditions of A Message to Rudi, Oye Como Va, Sexual Healing and of course, El Michels Affair’s quality version of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M.
Music and food go together here beautifully and the clear love and attention when it comes to the food preparation is in full effect. And twitter. Yes, there are simplifications but the gentle comment on the world of social media is here played out fairly intelligently, most effectively the generational understanding (or lack of) and the sheer possibilities of it.

Unlike most other feelgood films, there are few emotional manipulations, Favreau keeps it as real as he can within the parameters of the undertaking, which he also managed to do with Elf.
All the actors plum for real over caricature with their performances and the film benefits greatly from it, creating some lovely moments reminiscent of the repartee he had back in 1996 with Swingers.

It is a fun, entertaining film that will put a smile on your face and have you racing to the nearest quality restaurant. Eat before you watch.

3.5/5

BUY THE BLU-RAY DVD HERE

DOWNLOAD THE FILM ON iTUNES HERE