March 24, 2019

Movie Review #57 US With Talking Flick Appearance

US (2019) Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, and Directed, Produced, and written by Jordan Peele

In 2017, Director Jordan Peele made my favorite movie of the year (Get Out 7.0), it was smart, poignant, and remarkably moving (perhaps not incredibly re-watchable as its one knock once you know the twist). Because of how much I loved Get Out, I had raised expectations for Peele’s 2nd major film US. I think those raised expectations are the biggest reason I didn’t love this film, but they are not the only reason. 

MILD SPOILERS (I keep the spoilers very mild but read at your own risk)

The story centers around Adelaide Wilson and her doppelganger Red (a tour de force Lupita Nyong’o performance). The gimmick here is that everyone has a “tethered” doppelganger who live in tunnels under the known world as part of this presumed government control “mole people” program?? (it isn’t very well explained). At some point, these “tethered” feel that their time has come and they start their revenge on the living the good life “un-tethered” (still following?). Peele never really forms a complete story or back story, or even side plot story clear enough to set the rules of this world very well. The family who also features Winston Duke (Black Panther) and great performances by Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph as the duel kids are the most interesting thing in this film by far, but Peele, at times, chooses to steer away from them and expand on a universe that I’m not sure any of us could follow or cared about, including Peele. Peele does get perhaps mildly political (as he previously did as good as anyone ever has in the horror genre) with this mild attack on maybe “divided America” today, although I didn’t really feel anything from that or any other mild statements made in this film, because I was getting more and more frustrated as the 2nd and 3rd acts were given to me. Peele may have had an interesting premise here and the style, sound, casting, and cinematography are very commendable, but the story was either incomplete or unnecessarily over stuffed. Perhaps he did have a cut of this film where we just focused on the family but maybe it didn’t test well so he added this weird, convoluted and unexplained conspiracy element to it for some reason? Peele is a great talent and again the performances (given the degree of difficulty) are excellent, but I left US disappointed for the most part. SEE IT (but don’t rush).

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A very commendable 1stAct, a brilliant soundtrack, and strong performances save this film from the “disappointments” category (anything that rates below a 5.0). I feel good about Peele going forward and I look forward to the CBS All Access Twilight Zone show coming in a few weeks (in fact US may have worked better as an episode rather than a feature film). I’ll give US a reasonable 5.5 on The Shawshank Scale and hope for a better story next time around. (Unlike many of my colleagues Peele won’t get a free pass from me, but I, like many are still rooting for him!). 

Let me know your thoughts on US! Submit a comment below. 


Talking Flick: Listen to my guest spot on Talking Flick a great movie podcast where we talk about Jordan Peel's US! Available on iTunes, Sticher, Anchor, or wherever you listen to Podcasts Links below. 

Podcast on Anchor    (The US Episode)
Podcast on Itunes    (The US Episode)

March 10, 2019

Movie Review # 56 Captain Marvel With Talking Flick Podcast Appearance

Captain Marvel (2019) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Annette Bening, and Directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck

Frequent Indie film partners Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck (Half Nelson & Mississippi Grind) come together yet again to bring us something a little more mainstream in Marvel’s 20th film as part of its Cinematic Universe (and the first of these to have a female lead) in Captain Marvel. Brie Larson delivers a stellar performance as Air Force test pilot turned superhero Carol Danvers in a somewhat derivative origin story that doesn’t blow you away but gives you enough of what you’re looking so that you leave the theater happy. Credit Marvel for now really starting to lean into the Indie film directors, however this film doesn’t let the creators have as much fun as Taika Waitti has in Thor Ragnorrak, in part because it is yet another origin tale. I hope Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck get another crack at this character after she is more established in Avengers: Endgame (April 26, 2019). 

The story centers around a well-known Marvel comic book arc called the Skrull/Kree war (shades of Israel/Palestine) where we find Carol Danvers (now called Vers) fighting on one of the sides with a group called the Starforce (her officer in charge is weird contacts wearing Jude Law), after a mission goes awry she falls to earth in 1995 (in what else a Blockbuster video?) where she meets a more cheerful Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The fact that marvel used this opportunity to do a period piece I think is worth commending (look out because we will soon be seeing Wonder Woman 1984 which sounds amazing). The soundtrack is a great mix of female artists like Garbage, Hole, TLC, Salt n Pepa, and Heart and although the editing and integration of the music are not as skillfully done as Guardians as the Galaxy, it is still fun to hear them.  

The movie does take some time to get off the ground and if you are not well versed in the KREE SKRULL political scene you may be left confused, however hang in there because once we get back to Earth and Carol starts to unravel her old life with the help of  her earth friend Maria Rambeau (played well by British Actress Lashana Lynch) the film gathers some momentum. We get to see a lot of fairly well-placed cameos (Lee Pace’s Ronan, Dijmon Hounson’s Korath, and a nifty Stan Lee as Stan Lee cameo), but great actors like Annette Bening and Ben Mendelsohn are sort of wasted either because of the plot moving lackluster writing or the heaps of make up on them (why are some Skrulls Australian?). I suspect easy to please Marvel fans will be very pleased to finally meet their first female superhero who can really go toe to toe with any of the boys and enjoy some of the Avenger/Nick Fury origin stuff also (I didn’t love the scene but we see how Nick loses his eye). All in all I’d say this is a better than average origin story from Marvel that offers some much needed girl power, Larson’s wit and comfort in the character will allow her to play off the others very well (I’m glad she was chosen for this role instead of J-Law, E. Blunt, or C. Theron), her casting keeps this character more in that kinda funny space Marvel does so well. Now that said it isn’t as good as Wonder Woman (7.0 in 2017 and holding the 4thspot for that year’s top ten film’s list). I think perhaps the need to really fit it into the rather large Infinity War story coupled with the often silly and uneven tones (that can feel out of place given the supposed stakes Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos character cracks some awkward lines) keep this film slightly behind Wonder Woman (and Gal Gadot’s great and surprising performance), but nonetheless this is worthwhile summer film (better than Ant Man, Doctor Strange, and maybe even Thor and the first Captain America). I can’t wait for Captain Marvel to join the rest of the gang! SEE IT (ALSO 2 END CREDITS SCENES STICK AROUND). 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) A great turn from Brie Larson and some good chemistry with Lashana Lynch and Sam L. Jackson, save this film from some silly writing and uneven tones, also a cool soundtrack and some much needed estrogen filled power blasts let me give Captain Marvel a solid 6.0 on the scale (that puts is just behind Infinity War 6.5 and on par with Black Panther 6.0 and firmly in front of Doctor Strange 5.5 and Ant Man and the Wasp 5.5).


Talking Flick: Listen to my guest spot on Talking Flick a great movie podcast where we talk Captain Marvel! Available on iTunes, Sticher, Anchor, or wherever you listen to Podcasts Links below. 

Podcast on Anchor    (The Captain Marvel Episode)

Podcast on iTunes    (The Captain Marvel Episode)

Avengers: Endgame trailer:

Confused by the timeline after Captain Marvel? This will help:

I enjoyed this article and agree (although their turns in marvel are not as good as their original stuff):