Movie Review: Us

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Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o) faces her worst nightmare in Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out. (Source: Deseret News)

“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight?”

Jordan Peele exceeded audiences’ expectations with 2017’s Get Out. After the five-season run of the hit sketch series, Key and Peele, he made a directorial debut that perfectly balanced humor and thrills. Due to winning his first Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, he digged deep with the allegory of the Black Lives Matter movement that has been discussed since its theatrical release. As the host of the upcoming Twilight Zone reboot, it’s no surprise he’s going to become the next Alfred Hitchcock. His filmmaking skills show in his slightly superior sophomore film Us, an allegory of killing the American Dream.

Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) spends vacation at her childhood beach house outside Santa Cruz with her husband Gabe (Wilson Duke) and her children, Jason (Evan Alex) and Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph). Although stricken with fear and anxiety after a creepy incident on the boardwalk when she was a child (in the film’s spine-tingling opening sequences), she and Gabe befriend a wealthier couple–John (Tim Heidecker) and Kitty Tyler (Elisabeth Moss). Maybe she will have a fun, peaceful time after all. One night, Adelaide’s past begins to haunt her when a family ends up in their driveway. It reveals they are their doppelgangers in nastier appearances. All hell begins to break loose.

Nyong’o leads a great ensemble as the overbearing mother whose horrifying dreams would soon come a reality. The audience emphasizes with her as she attempts to keep her family safe during this horrible event. Her interactions between her husband and the kids does generate some good laughs and is never a dull moment.

The core theme of Us involves the biggest evil of all is ourselves. However, In an interview with IndieWire, Peele decided to dig deep with his own interpretation. “I was stricken by the fact we are in a time where we fear the other,” he said. “Whether it is the mysterious invader that we think is going to come and kill us, take our jobs, or the faction that we don’t live near that voted a different way than us. We’re all about pointing the finger and I wanted to suggest that maybe the monster we really need to look at has our face. Maybe the evil is us.”

Peele’s writing and direction is wonderful. The suspense is not shaky and the humor is never shied away. Kudos to Mike Gioulakis’ unnerving cinematography, the atmosphere in this is guaranteed to generate chills and gasps. There is also something so subtle it would require plenty of rewatches to catch what everyone didn’t catch up on before–from the images of Jeremiah 11:11 to the rabbits roaming around in the underground hallway. One of the obvious influences is Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, which both have a similar tone. Like the timeless horror movie classic, Us will be discussed about for many years to come. I’ll never listen to The Beach Boys the same way again.

10/10

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Movie Review: Glass

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Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson), Kevin (James McAvoy), and David (Bruce Willis) are checking into a mental institution in Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s conclusion to his Eastrail 177 trilogy. (Source: The Atlantic)

In 2000, M. Night Shyamalan made a movie where it used the superhero genre with a twist. While a modest hit in theaters, Unbreakable became one of the greatest cult classics of all-time. Filled with originality, subtle performances by Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson as David and Elijah, two individuals who discuss a comic-book theory after David survives from a tragic train crash without breaking any bones, and Shyamalan’s clever writing and directing approach by having a comic-book feel to every shot (e.g. the greens and purples during the characters’ arcs).

After years of mishaps, Shyamalan returns to form with Split, an unnerving psychological thriller about the effects of dissociative identity disorder. James McAvoy’s wonderful performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb, inspired by the real-life DID patient Billy Milligan, will send chills down one’s spine. These three people would eventually meet each other for the first time in a third movie.

Enter Glass, a movie with every intention to become a satisfying finale to one of the best trilogies in existence. Unfortunately, this is half-true.

After the events of Split, security guard David Dunn (Willis) works at a security firm in Philadelphia. Taking the alias The Overseer, he uses his supernatural abilities to see crimes people have committed by bumping into them. He learns from his now-adult son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) that Kevin (McAvoy) is holding a group of cheerleaders hostage in an abandoned factory. After an intense fight, they are sent to the same psychiatric hospital that wheelchair-bound Elijah Price (Jackson), who has Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta (a rare disease in which his bone breaks really easily), has been staying at for years. While under the supervision of doctor Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) specializes in patients who believe to be superheroes (which sounds far-fetched beyond repair. There is something about her motivation that makes it somewhat captivating), all hell begins to break loose,

While not a complete disaster, it’s great to see Shyamalan return to his familiar roots after the surprise of Split. Jackson and Willis aren’t given much to do, but they do have their shining moments. However, McAvoy steals the spotlight once again as Kevin. While Split showed only nine of his 24 personalities, this movie shows 20 of them. Just like before, some of his personalities–particularly Hedwig–can be funny in an unnerving way. I swear, one of his personalities almost reminded me of Nic Cage. There is also more backstory surrounding him and other characters.

Along with his cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, he uses a lot of clever film techniques (ranging from POV to its flashbacks). I love the shot where Elijah escapes in his wheelchair while a fight ensues in the background. The first two acts are gripping enough. It reunites the characters we know and love. It’s also surprising to see the return of some supporting characters from the previous entries, like Kevin’s former hostage Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard). There is a lot of patience given as the three characters start to evolve and learn about Elijah’s theory about the existence of superheroes, in which Glass does a great job exploring deeper into. There are plenty of twists throughout the film, in which Shyamalan is known for, which is part of the problem.

Without giving anything away, the last act, while exciting, feels a little too busy. It comes off as being preposterous and pedestrian, even by Shyamalan’s standards. It leaves people scratching their heads once the credits start to roll. Despite the disappointing final act, Glass is still gripping as it is fascinating. I’m more than glad these movies exist.

7.5/10