Us – Movie Review

Credit: Universal

Us is Jordan Peele’s follow-up to 2017’s Get Out, but this time follows a family (including Winston Duke and Lupita Nyong’o) who travel to their beach home and are hunted by people that look exactly like them.

I hold Us in equal regard with Get Out, which was one of my favorite movies of 2017, but for somewhat different reasons. Both Us and Get Out work at the surface level as a couple of really entertaining movies, but what’s interesting about this one is that it plays more as a puzzle that slowly decodes itself and leaves a chunk of itself for you to figure out, whereas Get Out reveals its deeper meanings and layers the more you think about it. There are many ways to interpret Us, but I think the multitude of ideas that this plays with makes the overall impact a bit less punchy than it was with Get Out. But I’m gonna stop comparing the two and go into what makes this so great.

Credit: Universal

As I said before, purely as a horror movie, this works in spades. It’s Jordan Peele, so you expect more than just a standard horror flick, and there is more, but as far as the horror aspect, this delivers. You can feel the atmosphere that he creates here constantly. This is supported by both his phenomenal script and the performances in this. Lupita Nyong’o gives the (double) performance of a lifetime. She’s captivating to watch as Red, and what she brings to her double’s character makes it so much more disturbing and at the same time interesting to watch. On the flip side, as Adelaide, she’s just as good, and you buy into her character completely and really want to root for her. This is, at the core, a story about her character. The entire supporting cast is great, though. Winston Duke brings a lot of levity here, and is often pretty hilarious as Gabe, Adelaide’s husband, playing into the suburban dad in a way that doesn’t seem like it’s trying too hard to wring out laughs but also works during the horror set-pieces. Both of the kids are great, and equally creepy as their doubles. Elizabeth Moss and Tim Heidecker also bring a lot to the couple that the family is friends with.

Credit: Universal

Also, the score here really stood out, and was creepy in all the right moments. Regarding the script, it’s able to balance horror and comedy really well. The jokes never stick out in a bad way, and (probably because it’s Jordan Peele directing, who’s spent so much time in comedy), the movie feels just like a really dark comedy sometimes, and has this ability to scare you and then have you crack up seconds later. It also injects social commentary into this in a way that has you asking more questions as it goes on, and you form your own idea of what the movie’s trying to say when commenting on duality. The script is, as we would expect from Peele, twisty, but I’m not gonna say another word about that because it’s best left unspoiled.

The movie does loosen its grip on the narrative as it goes along, which both works for and against it. It makes the plot a little messier and more susceptible to “plot holes.” It starts as more or less a home invasion thriller, but turns into something more, and while this is compelling, it leads to a lot of questions. Another remarkable thing about this is the way Peele packs the screen with motifs, clues, Easter eggs, and foreshadowing about what’s to come, similar to how he did in Get Out. It’s fun to pay close attention to the screen, and try to find hints about what everything means. A common complaint about this movie is that there’s a big exposition dump around the end that removes some of the mystery from the movie, and while it does lose a bit of intrigue, it still leaves questions that aren’t answered yet, and I don’t think it’s as big of a down as many say.

Overall, Us was a well-directed, darkly funny, and, yes, creepy horror thriller that not only is great at being a horror movie, but provides a lot to unpack.

Rating: 9/10

Credit: Universal

Shazam – Movie Review

Note: This is an advanced, spoiler-free review of Shazam! , which opens on April 5.

Credit: Warner Bros.

Shazam follows Billy Batson (Asher Angel), an orphan, who, by saying “Shazam,” turns into an adult superhero.

I really, really enjoyed Shazam. Though there isn’t much competition, Shazam is probably my favorite DCEU movie. The obvious inspiration for this is Big, but I got some Spider-Man: Homecoming vibes from this too. A lot of DCEU movies have tried, and failed to go for a lighter tone, including Justice League and Aquaman, but this one hits the mark on how to properly incorporate humor.

Credit: Warner Bros.

The chemistry between Jack Dylan Grazer (who I LOVED in IT) and Zachary Levi is super fun to watch, and it balances the wish fulfillment with some nice comedy. I didn’t expect to like the actual kid who plays Shazam, but he did a pretty good job despite not being in the movie a ton. You sympathize with his character, and seeing his relationship with Jack Dylan Grazer’s character develop is fun.

One of my biggest issues with Shazam is how it falters with a lot of the mythology it deals with: the film’s corniness works sometimes in the larger context of the movie, and comes off as earnest, but when it tries to explain the Shazam powers, the dialogue isn’t great, and it felt pretty campy. Mark Strong’s villain, as most times happens in superhero movies, is not the best. Nothing to do with his performance, but he gets a cliche, predictable backstory and is a pretty generic villain throughout.

Credit: Warner Bros.

One thing I really do appreciate about Shazam is the third act. In different circumstances, it would not have worked and been similar to something like Wonder Woman, which ended in a big CGI mess, but this (and I won’t give away anything) put a nice twist on the familiar superhero movie third act that kept the audience more engaged. But overall, the tone of the movie was the standout. Most of the gags worked, and worked well, and this was one of the funnier recent superhero movies. I’m excited to see more of Shazam, and this is the rare DCEU movie I walked out of with a huge smile on my face. It also uses the fact that it’s in the DCEU for some fun references and Easter Eggs, but definitely stands on its own.

Shazam! is a really heartfelt, earnest, super fun movie, and a big recommendation here.

Rating: 8/10

Credit: Warner Bros.

Captain Marvel – Movie Review

Credit: Marvel Studios

Captain Marvel, set in the 90s and directed by Ryan Boden and Anna Fleck, is the story of Carol Danvers (Brie Larson), a pilot, who finds herself with extraordinary powers and in the middle of an alien civil war. She crashes on Earth and encounters Nick Fury (a de-aged Samuel L. Jackson), who accompanies her in the latest entry to the MCU.

I really wanted to like Captain Marvel more than I did. By no means is it a bad movie, and there are a few enjoyable sections, including some exciting action sequences, but nothing in this movie stuck out to me. The alien world that we find Captain Marvel on at the beginning is nicely designed, but we barely get to see it. The movie has glimmers of ideas that could work really well if they were fleshed out, but none of them are, and the plot is too unfocused to succeed. One on hand, you have her other life of being a pilot playing out at the same time as the Kree/Skull politics, with the buddy-cop aspect with Nick Fury sort of there for the first half.

Credit: Marvel Studios

But most of all, Carol Danvers felt flat. I couldn’t really feel her personality. Brie Larson tried, but a lot of her dialogue, and just general dialogue in the whole movie came out far cornier than the script intended. It’s hard to connect with her character, and overall, sign on to the movie when the titular character is one of the least interesting parts of it.

The script on this is probably the weakest thing here. In a lot of Marvel movies, when the plot isn’t working, the movie’s entertainment value is still present in the witty banter between the characters, but here, neither were really present. Some jokes worked, but a lot of them faltered. The whole setup with her team when she was a Kree did not work one bit for me, and Jude Law’s character fell flatter than any attempted character arc in this.

Credit: Marvel Studios

As far as highlights, the score was interesting, the de-aging on Sam Jackson, and his performance in general were nice, and Goose the cat (pictured above) was surprisingly funny. Ben Mendelsohn, surprisingly enough, was probably the best performance, getting to do his usual evil businessman villain but with a fun twist. There is also some fun camerawork used here that gets repetitive pretty fast.

The 90s vibe felt cool and nostalgic, but added very little to the story. More than anything, it made Captain Marvel feel like a Phase 1 movie done poorly with an retro filter on it and 90s songs that would play during action sequences. On that note, the last act falls apart, and I couldn’t find myself caring about what was going on in most of it.

Overall, there was fun to be had in this, from Goose the cat to either of the post credits scenes, but the cons outweigh the positives in this one.

Rating: 5.5/10

Credit: Marvel Studios