Thursday, March 28, 2019

[Film Review] Us

Following the excellent horror hybrid Get Out, writer-director Jordan Peele returns with another eerie nail-biter called Us. And while it doesn’t match the boldness and pure originality of Get Out, it’s still a solid and effective, mostly straightforward slasher flick. 

The story reflects upon a family played by Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke, along their two kids (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex). Just as they settle down for a nice and relaxing beach house vacation, they’re each abruptly approached by their own demented doppelgängers, forcing them to fight for survival and figure out what the hell is going on.

Between the creepy opening sequences that involve houses of mirrors and white rabbits in cages, and the initial doppelgänger showdown (the croaky voice of Lupita’s double is enough to raise the hair on the back of your neck), Us gets off to a really strong start. It’s forbidding and tense and genuinely scary. This thing is also very well shot, and the camerawork is as tricky as the film itself. The music is piercingly dreadful and nerve-racking, and the most impressive thing about the whole film is that it manages to turn Luniz’s 1995 hit “I Got 5 on It” into a haunting horror score. 

But as the film progresses, it gets a little repetitive, to the point where it doesn’t feel like it’s doing much different from a typical slasher or zombie flick. It’s a well-crafted one, but not necessarily a bold or inventive one. It also isn’t as thematically rich as Get Out, which can’t help but make the film feel like it’s missing a link. The “WOW” factor isn’t there. It sets sight on the duality of humans, but doesn’t exactly leave us with a provocative impact. Don’t get it twisted though, this is still a very entertaining film when taken as it is. 

In Us, our biggest enemy as a whole is ourselves, and the scariest person could be the one looking back at us in the mirror. Or is it the other way around?


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

[Film Review] Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel introduces a new player in Marvel’s continuously expanding Cinematic Universe, and this aggressively humdrum installment can’t help but feel like a soaring letdown. 

Oscar Winner Brie Larson takes on the role of Carol Danvers (who we will come to know as Captain Marvel), an ex-fighter pilot who possesses bursts of powerful energy and strength. The film’s convoluted plot sees her travel between different planets, fighting against alien shapeshifters with the help of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

You’d think a superhero movie with such a valiant title would be more exciting and uplifting than what we witness in this forgettable pile of formulaic space junk. It’s somewhat amusing at first, as the film hits us with some nostalgia bits as Danvers lands on planet Earth during the ‘90s. Oh, there’s Blockbuster! There’s an AOL screen! But those elements eventually wear out their novelty when the film plummets down an eye-rolling list of superhero origins. The story is so stale and unoriginal that the movie feels like it actually could’ve been made in the ‘90s... one didn’t age well. It’s even ugly to stare it. The special effects and production design are dark and dour, and the film’s villains look like something out of the “Power Rangers” TV series.

For being so impressive in films like Short Term 12 and Room, Brie Larson is glaringly bad here as the central hero. Each line is delivered like a a half-asleep college student ordering an Espresso from Starbucks, and each bored facial expression mirrors how I felt during the entire duration of this film. Even considering the underwhelming material Larson is given, she completely brings this ship down. She appears to be so detached and emotionless that she might as well have been one of the cardboard cutouts used to promote the movie. 

The orange cat that tags along with the crew is the only good thing about Captain Marvel, and it deserved way beetter. 


Sunday, March 3, 2019

[Film Review] Fighting with My Family

The WWE Studios production Fighting with My Family is a fun romp that takes a leap off the top ropes into the amazing story of the rise of superstar professional wrestler, Paige.

Florence Pugh plays Saraya (whom we will come to know as Paige). She’s an all black-wearing, metal-listening teen who comes from a family of wrestlers, including her parents (Nick Frost and Lena Headey) and her brother Zak (Jack Lowden). For a chance at a big break, Saraya and Zak land an audition for the WWE, and well, it’s not a painless gig. The film enthusiastically details Paige’s journey from underdog to fan-favorite. 

Director Stephen Merchant (who also makes an amusing appearance in the film) stages the scenes with vigorous energy and light-hearted humor. But there’s just enough conflict to add some weight to the plot, especially as Paige begins to surpass her brother in the wrestling world, which creates some tense sibling grapples, while exploring the ideas of the “It” factor and chasing dreams, as well as the devastating blows you face when you don’t reach those dreams. Florence Pugh gives a solid central performance, demonstrating dynamic and versatile range throughout the main event. Megastar and possible future president Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shows up for a few scenes, essentially playing himself and once again proving that the guy has enough charisma to part oceans. Also impressive is Vince Vaughn, who plays a no-holds-barred trainer with a keen sense of how the cutthroat industry works. He’s brash and sharp and he possesses great comic timing, all while managing to a likable and memorable character. He’s definitely a highlight. 

As the bell rings, Fighting with My Family delivers plenty of charm, warm emotion, and just like the WWE itself — good old-fashioned entertainment.