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

 

 

STAR WARS-THE FORCE AWAKENS (2015)

star_wars_force_awakens_4

This is NOT a film review.

“Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish……..what you started.”

To begin, there will be NO mention of plot points or scenes, if you want spoilers, jog on. Remember, this is not a film review.

Wow. What an emotional experience.
As the deadline approached, I found myself getting more and more excited, the force was truly awakening and JJ had seemingly, possibly, maybe, hopefully pulled off a coup; to make a sequel that honoured the originals yet managed to remain in the present (as far as film-making goes). Could this be true?

Everybody is feeling The Force at the moment.

Sat in the foyer on Thursday 17th December, 2015 in Sydney, Australia, the tension was palpable. We took our seats and waited, sat through some god-awful adverts and trailers and then It began (yes, I capitalized the I in it). No Fox fanfare as Lucasfilm is now owned by Disney, simply the Lucasfilm logo and then the opening crawl accompanied by THE music. Shit, it’s been a long time since I felt this. As excited as I may have been in 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out, this far superseded that feeling. I remember leaving the cinema back then sort of making excuses for it in my mind but a second viewing cemented my feelings about it, it was shit. Not so, here.

Could JJ Abrams really pull it off, after the travesty that was Eps 1,2 and 3, they shall, for me, remain in the depths of unneccessary along with the tv movies: Caravan of Courage-The Ewok adventure (which I never saw) and The Star Wars Holiday Special (2.5 on IMDB), mere distractions that came nowhere near close to the greatness of Star Wars, Empire and Jedi.
In my mind, I have erased the inclusion of 1,2 and 3. They are appendices, written badly, at best.

I can say, with confidence that JJ with The Force Awakens has done what Lucas (maybe/hopefully) wishes he could have achieved with 1,2 and 3.

And then some.

By selling the company and passing it along George Lucas has allowed the Star Wars universe to grow and become more relevant to today’s audiences as opposed to some outdated idea of what passes for entertainment these days.

That’s what it needed, a fresh approach from a skilled director who loved the originals as much as we did.

I never expected to have tears in my eyes at various moments during the watching of TFA, but they happened, I’m not ashamed to say it. I’m proud to say it. JJ hooks the audience emotionally by playing on the narrative themes of A New Hope and twisting them in a way that doesn’t seem plagiaristic (is that a word? Just looked it up, it is…..yes). The simpler, the better; gone are the overblown CGI that manages, like most 3d films, to distance you from the film and back are the creatures built by hand, the human touch. There are CGI characters in the film but never do you feel they are not real and a grounded part of this world (stand up and bow-the creators of Maz Kanata, brilliantly played by Lupita Nyong’o). Gone are the overblown, confusing messy politics and gone is Jar Jar Binks (mesa says thank goodness). What is left is the real essential elements of the originals, mythology, a bad-ass bad guy, an Empire that is stronger than it ever was, new characters that belong in the universe and a narrative that follows the rules add a pinch of seasoning and we may have an award winner, ladies and gentlemen.

Pause.

I’m currently listening to John Williams’ incredible score and still reeling from the experience of what I have just seen, it hit me emotionally. It is brilliant.

BUY ON iTUNES HERE

BUY THE DELUXE CD EDITION HERE

JJ has done the seemingly impossible and made a film that is both current and manages to directly link to the originals. All I know is I’m looking to see it again and soon, like in the next day or so. I never thought after all these years that the magic could be revived, let me tell you, it can.

I could just go on and on and on (I KNOW I already have), I just can’t help it. I’ve written a lot and said little but my enjoyment of the film is like MANY others’; an emotional one. Mark Kermode said recently how easy and how much of a joy it is to write about great films. He’s not wrong at least on an emotional level.

Shit, what can I say without spoiling anything?

The cast are all great, the set pieces are tight, exciting and tense, there are quotes, the appearances of old characters get the tingles going, new characters surprise and entertain, there are laughs, tears, heart in mouth moments and more than a touch of humanity.
Excitement, adventure, drama, emotion; this has it all.

Hats off Mr Abrams, you rock.

For me, the film of the year.

Go see it.

5/5